Learning from the Master

“Lifting Fog,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

To say I felt apprehensive would be an understatement.

Indeed, words cannot even begin to express my overwhelming fear.

My husband had no idea that the birthday gift that he so lovingly bestowed  would create such angst.

But so it did.

You see, because of his enthusiastic confidence in me, my husband decided to pay my tuition for an art workshop.  However, it wasn’t just any workshop.

Yup, he chose “nothin’ but the best” for me… He’s that kind of great guy.

And that’s how it happened that I simultaneously packed my suitcase and trembled in my Wellies.  After all, I prepared to meet my art hero, an internationally celebrated artist.

I worried about keeping up with the lessons.  I felt sure that I didn’t have enough knowledge or skill to follow.

Thrown into the deep end of the pool without the benefit of swimming lessons or even a life-preserver,  I prayed my doggie paddle would suffice.

I feared I would sink.

After all, I know myself well.  Like L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley, I tend to get into scrapes.

My fears were well-founded.  In fact, for me, the workshop proved every bit as disastrous as I could imagine.  And I have a huge imagination.

While I painted plein air, the wind blew my easel over and scattered my paints and palette far and wide.  At the beginning of one lecture, I accidentally hit the microwave fan instead of the start button, as I attempted to reheat my cuppa before taking my seat. A sudden roar, comparable to commercial airline lift-off,  disturbed my classmates.

My troubles only compounded.

One evening, when we met up for dinner at a local, seafood restaurant, I lost my footing on a slick, wood floor.

Face plant.

Obviously, I couldn’t have planned my humiliation better if I had tried.

After all, the other workshop attendees epitomized sophistication, maturity and extraordinary talent.

I will say this, though.  Despite my workshop faux pas, I exuded enthusiasm.

That’s right.  What I lack in sophistication and skill, I certainly make up for with chutzpah.

In fact, I habitually and impulsively jump into life,  feet first.

With that said, I’m sure it won’t surprise you when I say I relate to Peter.

After all, Peter initially did not appear to be the sharpest crayon in the box.  I doubt any of us would have hand-picked him for a discipleship program led by the Messiah.

Peter lacked impressive educational credentials.

His social connections left much to be desired.

He had achieved neither greatness nor glory in the political realm.

He sported no military honors.  He had little worldly charms to recommend him.

He was a fisherman.  Plain and simple.  A bit rough around the edges, to be sure. But no one can deny that Peter possessed plenty of  enthusiasm.

Most would say that Peter was “all in.”  The book of Matthew notes that Peter and his brother Andrew were the first called disciples.

In fact, Peter and Andrew immediately dropped their nets and joined Jesus.

Of course, we all remember Peter’s bold request to walk on water:  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter impulsively called, “tell me to come to you on the water,” (Matthew 14:22-33).

Peter obviously possessed a little chutzpah of his own.  Faith made a bold step.

Without hesitation, Peter followed the Master.

I’m there.  Any opportunity to learn is irresistible.  However, my enthusiasm out runs my courage and talent.

And like Pete, I frequently take the plunge first.  Only afterwards do I assess the risk.

I then cry, “I’m sinking!”

My panic begins to rise as the waves around me swell.  Soon, I shout over the roar of the storm.

Exactly.  Peter did the same.  Looking around at the challenge he’d taken on in his attempt to follow his Lord, Pete suddenly recognized that he was out of his depth.

“Lord, save me!” he shouted over the storm.

I love what happens next.  I think sometimes we take it for granted.  We’ve read the story so many times, that we casually accept the outcome.

Yet, as Peter sputtered sea water, the fear was extremely real.     I expect that he wondered why he had stepped out the boat.

He may have even questioned his decision to follow Jesus.  His fishing boat back home offered the considerable comfort of a predictable routine.

“What am I doing?” he may have questioned.  “Big mistake…”

Been there.  Said that.

I guess that’s why Jesus’ response to Peter brings such comfort.  The consummate of teachers, Christ simply stretched out His hand and took hold of Peter.

Jesus had allowed Peter to take steps on his own, but when Peter began to falter, Jesus stepped in to help.  Although our Savior allowed his enthusiastic disciple to be stretched beyond what Pete thought he could manage, Jesus did not allow Peter to go under.

The Master also did not scold Peter for stepping out of the boat.  He did not rue Pete’s lack of education or preparation.  Instead, Jesus reminded Pete to trust his Teacher.

Gently, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

You see, Peter’s success did not depend on his own abilities.  Peter’s spiritual growth and discipleship were under the care of the very best teacher to ever walk on terra firma. 

God incarnate had chosen Peter.  Messiah groomed the impulsive fisherman.  Christ graciously introduced Peter to each next step.

But Peter doubted.  “I’m not ready, Lord,” he essentially said.

And Jesus’ response?  Trust Me.  I know where I am leading you.  I will not fail you.

Peter began to sink because he focused on his own abilities rather than trusting the extraordinary Master to lead him.

And I often do the same when I simply need to trust the wisdom of my Sovereign-Shepherd.  Unfortunately, like Peter, I frequently dwell on my own assessment of circumstances rather than on the greatness of our gracious God.

Enthusiastic?  Yes.  Love for the Savior?  You betcha.

Lots to learn?  Undoubtedly.

I smile as I recall Peter’s enthusiastic plan to build “tiny houses” for Moses, Elijah and Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Peter just didn’t get it.  Yet, our Savior gently correctly him.

I’m thankful that Abba doesn’t expect us to know it all.  In fact, the Psalmist writes, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust,” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Will He lead us out of our comfort zones?  Yes.  Will He both challenge and correct us?  Indeed, He will.

Yet, He does so with a gentle and compassionate touch.  He is the Master Teacher.  He doesn’t throw everything at us at once, but gently guides us into all Truth.  As with Peter, our Savior meets us where we are.

In great humility and love for Jesus, Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet that memorable night in the upper room.  Jesus, however, corrected the loyal but misguided fisherman.

“If I do not wash you, you have no part of me, ” Jesus said, (John 13:8).

Peter had missed the symbolic significance of Christ’s foot-washing.  Jesus knew that, and explained.  He didn’t leave Pete in the dark.

And Peter responded with the kind of zeal that you and I would expect.

“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head,” Peter declared.

Jesus again responded with patience.  He explained that having been redeemed, Peter did not need complete regeneration.  Jesus’ object lesson revealed the necessity of confessing one’s sins to God in order to maintain daily fellowship.  Peter’s salvation was secure.

And I’m sure Peter thanked God for that security again and again because of course, Pete later denied Christ three times.  And in fact, the resurrected Christ met his disciple on the beach.  The disciple still had lessons to learn.

Graciously, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Disheartened by his own failures, Peter claimed only brotherly love for the LORD.  I imagine he felt he could claim no more since his actions had not demonstrated full commitment to Christ.

Yet, Jesus asked three times. In this way, He specifically addressed his disciple’s three failures, and offered forgiveness and restoration in the simple command, “Feed my sheep.”

Peter’s calling did not depend on His own capabilities or lack thereof, but rather on the unconditional love and wise guidance of the Master.

Christ chose Peter, the fisherman.

Christ prepared Peter, the impulsive and enthusiastic student.

And Christ empowered Peter, the Good Friday coward,  through the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Of course, the transformation didn’t happen overnight.  Even after Pentecost, Peter  failed, (Galatians 2:11-16).

But the Master-Teacher never gave up on Peter.  And over time, Peter became a hero of faith.

Yup. The very best of teachers considers each student, and meets all where they are.

Undoubtedly, last month, I studied under a truly exceptional art instructor.  In fact, despite my “scrapes,” and bruises,  my mentor encouraged and perfectly paced my lessons.

That’s what a master teacher does.

And you can be sure that Christ–the omnipotent, omniscient,  God incarnate–outshines the best of all human instructors.

Our Savior certainly understands His students better than any other.

He knows you and me inside and out.

The Psalmist writes, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Thy presence?  …For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didn’t weave me in my mother’s womb…”  (Psalm 139:7, 13).

He knows.

He understands.

He loves.

He guides and directs with perfect grace and mercy.

And that is why the Psalmist could say without fear, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way,” (Psalm 139:23-24).

You and I can be completely transparent with Abba.  Because we have placed our faith in Christ, we are redeemed.  And now the foot-washing has begun (John 13).

Gently, Abba directs His beloved children.  He paces our growth perfectly.  Indeed, our education does not depend on us, but on our Sovereign-Savior.

The Master Teacher devised the perfect curriculum for an impulsive fisherman named Peter.   And He does the same for you and me.  In great love, He has mapped an Individual Educational Plan for each one of His children.

Thus, we can confidently rest in this: under His tutelage, we grow.

True, His mentorship requires us to face enormous challenges; when we step out of the boat, we may fear sinking.

But Christ walks with us.  He is the Master over every wind and storm.

Thus, like James, we can choose to “count it all joy” when we encounter those tidal waters outside of our comfortable boats (James 1: 2).

James actually reassures us, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:3-4).

And while we often fear and flounder on stormy seas,  we also know that Abba is bigger than challenges we face or mistakes we make.

At times, we falter along the way; yet Abba holds us.   He never fails, (Deuteronomy 31:6).

As Peter testified in his epistle,  God will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you,” (1 Peter 5:10).

And Pete should know.  He experienced God’s grace again and again.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you,” ~Deuteronomy 31:6