There is absolutely no way to be committed to everything. It’s just impossible. Commitment means choosing one thing over another. Saying yes dictates a no to something else. Being committed to God with our whole spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23) and giving ourselves wholly to His purpose (1 Tim. 4:14-15) requires us to ask and answer the question: Do I love God more than ____? We each have to fill in the blank with the thing(s) that test our commitment, and Peter is a perfect example of this.
When Jesus called Peter, he was a fisher of fish but Jesus was calling him to be a fisher of men (Matt. 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18). Peter (and his brother Andrew) were busy working, casting their nets into the sea of Galilee, but when Jesus called them they immediately forsook their nets and followed Him. In John 21, we find Peter back at the exact same sea where Jesus had called him, but this time it’s after walking with Christ.
Despite all Peter has seen, heard, and experienced, he gets back on a ship (with a group of disciples following him) and goes fishing again. Jesus shows up the next morning, and when Peter finds out it’s Jesus, he tries to cover up (since he had been fishing naked) and jumps overboard.
After the disciples sit down with Jesus to eat the fish they caught, John 21:15-17 shows Jesus initiating a conversation with Peter worth our attention:
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Tests of Commitment
When Jesus asked Peter “lovest thou me more than these?” in verse 15 and “lovest thou me?” in verse 16, “lovest” is from a form of the Greek word agapē (S:25, 26). In contrast, when Peter responded “thou knowest that I love thee” every time Peter’s “love” is a form of phileō (S:5368). This is key because while agapē love is at a level that is willing to give up everything, phileō is more of a fondness, a brotherly love. In essence, Jesus is asking Peter, “do you love me?” but Peter’s response is akin to “I like you – you know we’re cool.
I’m fine with you.” Major difference! Jesus demands our wholehearted love and commitment. He wants us to be willing to do anything for Him because we’re ALL IN, but how many times are we like Peter, back at the place where He called us from, doing the thing we used to do? How often are we not ready to love and serve God at the level He’s asking of us? How many times does He ask us if we love Him, and our actions show that we only like Him (and His benefits)? How often are we more interested in something or someone else, engrossed in our plans, priorities, and preferences rather than His?
When Jesus called Peter he was fishing, but he left his nets to follow Jesus and become a fisher of men (Matt. 4:20; Mark 1:18). When Jesus showed up again, what was Peter doing? Fishing, for fish. Peter’s test of commitment was centered around being a fisher of fish rather than being a fisher of men. Now, some would point out that being a fisherman isn’t wrong — it’s an honest way to make a living — and that is true. Still, Jesus called Peter from that because Jesus had a calling for Peter’s life.
Though we must lay aside every weight and sin to run the race God set before us (Heb. 12:1), sometimes our tests of commitment are about things we must give up that are not wrong. That is why Jesus asked Peter first, “lovest thou me more than these?” Peter, do you love me more than the fish? We would say, Jesus vs. fish, seriously?
But fishing was his livelihood, and even though it was not sin, it would have kept Peter from all that Jesus destined for him to do. Could you imagine Peter out fishing instead of preaching on the day of Pentecost when 3000 souls were added (Acts 2:1-41)? He didn’t know all God had planned but Peter had to make a choice.
The things we do and love outside of God can cause us to drift from God. Whether a career, a hobby, a habit, a friendship, a relationship, a place, a form of entertainment — if it pulls us from God, commitment says, it has to go. It doesn’t have to be just sin; if Jesus says give it up, let it go! Though Peter forsook his nets initially, he had to again decide to say yes and determine he loved Jesus more.
It’s time to be willing to give up ANYTHING that keeps us from accomplishing His will for our lives. Otherwise we may get what we want and lose out on what He has planned for us. When your commitment is tested, choose Him again.
In John 21, we don’t see Peter’s verbal response but when you watch his life in the book of Acts, it is clear: he passed the test and chose to be committed. Though it’s good to say it from our mouths, our works must demonstrate our yes (Matt. 21:28-32). Even in Acts 3 at the healing of the lame man, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).
He could have kept his profession and stuck with the norm and if he did, he might have had silver and gold to give to the man. Instead Peter said yes to God, and when a need was present that money couldn’t fix, Peter had what it took to help the man and fulfill the purpose of God. God used him and the effects are still felt thousands of years later.
No matter what tests your commitment and regardless of what your yes costs you, don’t let anything keep you from walking in your calling and doing what God destined you to do. You don’t know what God has planned for your yes, who will benefit from it, where it will take you, or how the plan of God will unfold in your life. Anything you lose cannot begin to compare to what you gain. Don’t go your way or do what you want. Don’t settle for what doesn’t last. There are things God has for you to accomplish. LOVE GOD MORE. Choose God FIRST. He is, now and forever, more than worth it.