Portraits of a Mature Christian
A Sense of Mission for Christ
A 50-year-old woman sat weeping in her pastor’s study. “Pastor, I just feel so worthless,” she said. “I centered my whole life around my three children, and now that they are married and have their own lives, they don’t seem to need me at all. What am I going to do?” What happened to this dear mother? Feeling that you have no purpose happens all the time to all kinds of people. But God has given each of us a purpose that transcends every change in our lives. Our purpose is to help make disciples for Jesus until we take our final breath. There is a neat little story at the end of John’s gospel in which Jesus took the time to remind Peter and his friends of their true purpose in life. It comes after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter was in Galilee, and he said to his friends, “I’m going fishing.” They replied. “We’ll go with you.” It all seemed innocent enough, just some guys going fishing, right? Only God could see their hearts. They were floundering a bit. So, Jesus made sure they caught nothing that night. Just like when they were first called to fish for men, they fished all night and caught nothing. Then Jesus appeared and told them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat. Not much of a fishing tip, but as they pulled in the bursting nets they knew it was the risen Lord Jesus on the shore. What followed was a wonderful conversation where Jesus called Peter back to his life purpose—feeding God’s sheep and lambs. God wants every Christian to live with mission and purpose. He left us to bring the gospel to this lost world. Maturing Christians understand that there is no greater purpose for which to live. Before you go any further, get your Bible and read the story in John 21:1-19. After reading it, answer the questions below.
John 21:15: When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
1. Why do you think Jesus made sure the disciples did not catch any fish that night? Just like when he first called them in Luke 5, Jesus wanted his disciples to come to the end of themselves and to realize that they were totally dependant on him for everything. So, they could not control their own success at fishing, nor were they supposed to get their significance in life from their fishing prowess. Instead he was re-calling them to be fishers of men. His forgiveness covered their past failures, and he still had work for them to do.
2. Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him? It is hard to overlook that Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. It may have been to help Peter see that he was forgiven. It may also have been to emphasize for Peter and the others that if they truly loved Jesus who had saved them so selflessly then the way they could show that love was by being totally committed to the care and salvation of souls the way that Jesus was.
3. What do you think the “these” are in the question, “Do you love me more than these”? It could be the other disciples because Peter had said that even if all the others would run away that he would never leave Jesus and then he denied knowing him. Or the “these” could also mean the nets, the boats, and fishing. This second example seems to fit the context better.
4. What purpose did Jesus give Peter that superseded his job and his hobbies? Answer: Jesus was giving Peter the purpose in life to care for the souls of Jesus’ people both in outreach and nurture. Jesus was reinstating Peter and re-commissioning his life to the spiritual care of others.
FRUITS TO BEAR 1. Name three pursuits that tempt you to make them the number one purpose in your life. 1. Often the desire to be entertained in our affluent society tempts us away from serving Jesus (i.e. movies, television, video games, hunting, golf, tennis, fishing, skateboarding, etc.) 2. Sometimes it is the constant clamor inside to make more money so we can keep up with the materialism around us. 3. Sometimes it is the pursuit of prominence and power at work or among friends that distracts us from serving them with God’s Word. 4. Peer pressure.
2. Not all people are gifted to teach and lead like Peter, but how does this story still apply to you no matter who you are?
I can draw from this story that Jesus wants me to support the work of his church to care for souls by using whatever gifts, talents, time, abilities, and influences I can to advance his Word in the lives of people. It may be that by supporting a teacher more gifted than me that I help reach others for Christ.
3. List at least five ways any Christian can fulfill his or her life purpose no matter what stage in life. 1. By praying for others. 2. By sharing God’s Word in cards and e-mails. 3. By inviting people to church. 4. By sharing Bibles, books, DVDs, CDs, and other Christian media with people who need it. 5. By encouraging and supporting others who preach and teach God’s Word. 6. By witnessing from our sick bed or any other place God puts us. 4. Try to think of the person in your life who seems to live consistently with a sense of mission for Christ. Write that person a letter sharing how much his or her missionmindedness has helped you. By writing this letter you will help yourself to see how the mission-mindedness of others affects you. You will also help this person continue on in his mission to reach the world for Christ.
Other verses about mission-minded living ● 1 Corinthians 15:58 ● Matthew 28:19,20 ● Philippians 1:19-26
Contributing editor Donald Patterson is pastor at Holy Word, Austin, Texas.
This is the third article in a 12-part series on Christian maturity.
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © January 2010 reprinted with permission.