Shortly before his ascension, Jesus had a significant conversation with Peter.
John 21: 17-22
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
Jesus was telling Peter what kind of ministry he would have, and how his death would glorify God. It was a sacred moment as the Lord revealed Peter’s destiny – one of suffering, but blessed by God. Yet, rather than respond to what Jesus had just told him, Peter looked around at his fellow disciples. Casting a glance on one of them, he asked, “Yes, but what about him?” Instead of considering what the Lord just showed him, Peter did what comes naturally to all of us – he immediately wanted to compare his assignment with that of others!
Peter may have stumbled, but he soon regained his focus on the Lord, preaching the gospel with boldness, and following Christ right up to his death. So, too, we may stumble or get distracted at times, but when we regain our focus on Christ, he’s right there to lead us forward.
Run in Your Lane
A well-respected church leader once said to me – “Find the lane you’re supposed to run in, and stay out of everyone else’s.” He had been teaching about following Christ in the path he has laid out for you and not getting distracted by what everyone else was doing. He was showing me that I should stop comparing myself to others. If you’re doing what the Lord has called you to do, get busy doing it, and don’t worry about what other people think.
His illustration was one I could relate to.
My Humbling Track Experience
All through my school years, I never tried out for sports, but finally in my last semester of college, I joined the track team. I figured track didn’t require much skill – you just run. I chose the sprints because the races were short and didn’t require a lot of work. It was a humbling experience. I would try to run fast, only to look up and see a wall of runners far ahead of me already crossing the finish line!
However, there was one event that required four sprinters – the 440-yard relay. That year we happened to have three very good sprinters on our team, but they needed a fourth – me. They placed me second, thinking that the first guy could grab the lead, and hand me the baton. And hopefully the final two runners would be fast enough to repair the damage after I had run my stretch.
It turned out to be a repeat of my previous experience, except that for the first few glorious seconds I was actually in the lead! Then the wall of runners would fly past me on both sides while my teammate waited anxiously for the baton to arrive. Seeing everyone pass by took all the steam out of me.
The Coach’s Words Changed Everything
After losing several meets, my coach took me aside and taught me how to ignore the other runners and focus on my own lane. He only needed me to do the best I could, but without distraction. After our talk, once I started doing what he told me, we started winning some of the races.
The joy of being part of a winning team made me forget my own limitations. I never became a star runner, but I was more focused and did all the coach required of me. By season’s end, our four man team made the divisional championship and placed first against some much larger schools.
Everyone Has a Lane
We all have a unique function in the body of Christ – a “lane” the Lord needs us to run in.
Romans 12:4 – 6a
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly”
1 Corinthians 12:12, 18
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ… But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired”
The Scriptures are full of “ordinary” people that God used in extraordinary ways to accomplish His purposes. Aquila and Priscilla had a little business that served as a venue for Paul to work in to further his mission work (Acts 18:2-4). Lydia had a fabric shop and provided a place for Paul to plant the first church in Europe (Acts 16:13-15). Ananias was just a simple disciple going about his life when the Lord gave him a critical assignment – to go and pray over Saul, who later became Paul, leader of the early church (Acts 9:10-19). Luke was called upon to accompany Paul on his journeys, serving as his personal physician. Later, Luke’s calling changed – to writing the books of Luke and Acts.
Your function may change from time to time too, depending on your life’s situations and the needs of the church.
Jesus’ final words to Peter were significant – “Follow Me.” They are the same command for us today as his disciples – we are to follow Christ. He is our shepherd and our Lord.
“the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
Notice it says in verse 4 “he goes ahead of them.” Christ must go before us to prepare the way, and then we follow him. To follow Christ means that we have to let him lead us, not vice versa. Jesus doesn’t follow us around, we are supposed to follow him! He leads. We follow. A simple command. But, boy, how we can complicate it sometimes!
What About You?
So where is Christ leading you today? Are you clear about what lane you should be running in? Are you focused on Christ, or are you comparing yourself to others in the body? Are you trying to do what they’re doing without seeking the Lord’s guidance first? Are you more concerned with what others think about you instead of what Christ thinks? Do you need to spend some time with the “coach” in order to get your game back?
Christ needs all of us to function in his body in the unique capacities he has called us to. Let’s keep the eyes of our hearts focused on him. If we follow Christ where he leads us today, and every day, then we will finish our course with joy. Then we will share in the ultimate victory when our Lord returns, and we hear him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Hebrews 12:1b – 2a
“…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”