“Simon Peter said (to the disciples), ‘I am going fishing.’ They said, ‘And we are coming with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” ~John 21:3
There was a time when the apostle Peter felt more like a defeated soldier than a fearless leader. He wasn’t “catching” much of anything! His Savior had just been arrested. A valiant attempt to defend Jesus with his sword had brought the Master’s rebuke instead of praise.
Even worse, Peter had watched Jesus willingly face death like a lamb led to the slaughter. On the darkest of nights, Peter matched Christ’s three bold identity statements (“I am He”) with three denials of his own (“I am not;” see John 18).
Come to the sea of Galilee with me to understand how Peter must have felt at this moment - and what the Lord did to restore him.
At Jesus's crucifixion, Peter was haunted by betrayal and fear. His vision for the future was utterly shattered. Peter had lost his reason for living; everything he’d poured his life into for the past three years seemed useless; wasted.
Once known for fiery passion and a fierce commitment to Christ’s cause, Peter now experienced nothing but loss, grief, and powerlessness. This formerly exuberant minister of the Gospel threw off his mantle, returned to fishing, and began casting his net on the wrong side of the boat! Not knowing what else to do, several of the disciples followed Peter - right into his misery.
Peter’s story shows us a leader at his worst, sandwiched between past experiences and unfulfilled future glory.
The church's current spiritual condition is not much different.
THE ENEMY IS DEFEATING SOLDIERS
COVID-19 has effectively destroyed old methods of ministry. Our former religious models, like Peter’s dilapidated fishing boat, are ineffective and ill-equipped to carry a billion-soul harvest!
No one “flocks” to church anymore; like the fearful disciples, many believers are hiding behind locked doors, afraid of what’s happening in the world around them. Even anointed leaders we trusted seem to have disappeared.
Like Peter, many believers feel discouraged, depressed, and without a vision. Peter abandoned ministry altogether, symbolically discarded his anointing, and returned to a previous occupation. He is a symbol of a passionate but very frustrated, even misguided, leader.
Darker times like these should inspire leaders to wait on God and press in diligently for a new wineskin and fresh empowerment from on high. Yet the enemy is working hard to cripple God's people instead, hoping they'll throw in the towel instead of continuing to serve.
GOD IS RESTORING WARRIORS
Fortunately, God releases wisdom to help leaders in difficult times!
To shake Peter free from his darkest place, God uses two strategies. I believe these strategies are essential now in restoring present-day leaders and warriors.
First, God brings Peter a partner: John the beloved.
John is at first more intercessor and “silent partner” than fiery preacher. Yet he has cultivated a deep relationship with the Lord and walks in the kind of humility that doesn’t even mention his own name as he writes his gospel. His quiet but powerful gifts are essential to this partnership; a beautiful complement to Peter's zeal.
Although Peter and John follow Jesus together for years, it is not until a dark time in history that they begin to function as a team. The beloved John begins to emerge as a revelator, partner, and leader himself.
It is John who first recognizes Jesus on the beach after His resurrection. It is John who puts two and two together to understand that only divine math can produce 153 fish! It is John who steps into his prophetic role - which expands so much more later in the Bible - and says to Peter: “It is the Lord.” (John 21:7.)
With just four simple words, John sparks Peter back to life and releases hope for a better future.
From this point on, Peter and John are inseparable. They become a “dynamic duo” that prays together and stays together. The first post-Pentecost healing takes place as Peter and John walk towards the temple for daily prayers. They speak together; they are arrested together; and they are sent out together as missionaries by the early church.
It is Peter and John's partnership that helps carry the newly-released glory of the Holy Spirit to the nations.
Peter would not have crossed over from depression into glory without John. Neither would Elijah have advanced without Elisha; Paul without Barnabas, Timothy, or Titus; or the disciples unless they’d been sent two by two.
God’s first strategy for restoration is often to provide human assistance to weary, lonely leaders. Our God is a God who believes in the power of partnership!
Second, God knows Peter also needs spiritual empowerment.
Although the breakfast meeting at the Sea of Galilee is the third encounter Jesus initiates with His disciples before His ascension, Peter in particular has still not “rallied” to the warrior that he used to be.
Notice that the Lord meets Peter’s physical needs first, serving a meal of fish and bread. (Similarly, Elijah was fed “angel food cake” when he was weary.)
All the disciples know “without any doubt” it is the Lord serving them food. Yet the Lord knows Peter also needs a three-fold spiritual restoration to counter his cowardly denials (John 21:12-17).
Three personal reassurances of Christ’s love, along with what amounts to Peter’s commissioning, are enough to “settle” Peter into his new role as head of the early Christian church. When Pentecost comes, Peter immediately stands up and moves in the power of the Holy Spirit, finally confident in his own identity and God’s Presence with him.
LEADERS ARE BEING DEPLOYED TO WAR
Friends, I believe God is doing similar things today. A marked increase in supernatural encounters is strengthening and “galvanizing” the Church in this hour. Those who wait on the Lord will experience more and more of the infilling of the Lord until they are replenished and reassured of Christ’s Presence with them.
Someone has said that it is only a matter of time before intimacy with God results in manifestations of His power. I agree. God is clothing the present-day Church with “power from on high” to bring forth end-time moves of glory greater than history has ever seen!
Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. While partnership with each other - not avoidance! - is one strategy for this hour, the second is our confidence in the Lord’s ability to both restore and support His followers, as He did with Peter.
The Lord watches over our faith to ensure growth; it does not benefit God or man for God to abandon us! The Lord is a strong support in difficult times, and our trust in His abiding Presence will always be rewarded.
Even so, every leader needs a fresh encounter with the Lord of Hosts to continue on their mission. Ongoing, authentic encounters with the Lord through prayer, partnership, and the Word empower weary leaders and disciples to move past the enemy’s widespread attacks of fear, stepping into new seasons by faith!
God is raising up present-day Peters and Johns who encourage, support, and refuel each other through Spirit-led insight. Who are you supporting or inspiring with your partnership? What Kingdom relationships or tasks has God assigned to you?
The Lord has shown me that this present time represents a turning point in our spiritual battle, a place where we no longer interpret “having done all, stand” (Ephesians 6) as a passive or defensive mandate, but as a military charge: an offensive call to “take a stand” for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Warriors are arising who will take a stand for what is right, boldly speak against injustice, and ally themselves not with darkness or isolation, but with light-bearing lovers of God who are believing for greater things! How do you see yourself? As a defeated soldier or a mighty warrior?
Holy deployments are taking place now in the Spirit. In the midst of this "gross darkness," you will see restored leaders and warriors stand up as Peter did on the day of Pentecost. (Isaiah 60:1-3; Acts 2:14) Watch for your new assignments! Now is a time of deliverance for the Body of Christ; a time to sing:
“When the leaders lead in Israel, when people willingly offer themselves,
BLESS THE LORD!”
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.