Have you ever had one of those days when seemingly nothing transpired the way you had hoped? Of course! We all have. How much worse are calamities of the self-inflicted variety, when pride prevents us from recognizing our limitations, accepting others’ correction, or soliciting their help! Consider, then, Peter’s very bad day. On arguably the most pivotal night in human history, this disciple refused to let Jesus wash his feet, naively vowed unequaled loyalty and then argued when foretold otherwise, slept when commanded to pray, and severed the ear of the high priest’s servant—all before denying Jesus three times! “And he went out and wept bitterly.”1 Who wouldn’t? Peter had experienced Spirit-led moments before, as when confessing Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,”2 but this was not one of them.
It is easy to point to Peter’s foibles and somehow feel better about ourselves by comparison or to find curious relief in a misery-loves-company sort of way. Peter’s very bad day, however, was a real-life illustration of the human condition, for we are by nature “unspiritual”3—unwilling and unable to lead a godly life in our own wisdom and strength. The apostle Paul’s confession could just as well have been Peter’s and ours: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”4 Without the Spirit, our mind is “hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”5
We find no relief in Peter’s perils, for they only parallel our own. The hope we take from Peter is in his God, for God does not abandon us to the hopeless task of changing our sinful nature as if to “fix” ourselves, rather He fills us with His Spirit and stirs our hearts to love Him and trust His ways. Wrote a wiser Peter, long since restored, “[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”6 Then we cease striving in our natural power, and we start thriving in God’s Spirit. He calls us to this, and He causes it to happen. Praise His name.
Father, you are good, and you seek only good for us. Deliver us from the temptation to please you in our own wisdom and strength, and be pleased to fill us to with your Spirit. You are our life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1 Matthew 26:75 ESV
2 Matthew 16:16 ESV
3 Romans 7:14 NIV
4 Romans 7:18 ESV
5 Romans 8:7,8 ESV
6 2 Peter 1:3,4