Hymn 283, “Strong in the Strength”
When I was very early in the work, the man who wrote that hymn came and spent a few days with my companion and me. My companion knew him well, as he had been his companion in Canada. That companion that wrote this hymn would often go to the piano and play it, and the one thing that has remained with me since is the thought, “You must keep the Master at the Helm.” A helm is a very small part of the boat and if the Master is directing it, that’s all that really matters. “Is the Master at the helm? Hear Him whisper, ‘Peace be still.’” We had a brother that came our way a few years ago who made a statement I have never forgotten, and perhaps you have heard it as well. He said, “Life is like a coin. We can spend it however you please, but you can only spend it once.” He said that a number of times over on our convention rounds, and it never left me. Really, we only pass this way once, and we want to make the best of our time that we have. We get the feeling that you folk spend your days carefully, in the will of God, otherwise you would not be able to share with us some of the things you have shared. We just appreciate our fellowship and what we have in this Kingdom of God.
Recently, I enjoyed reading about the Apostles and in particular of Peter. Peter was one of the first Apostles Jesus saw beside the Sea of Galilee. It says that He called Peter and John, two fishermen, and said, “Come and follow Me.” They rowed their boat to shore and left it there and followed the Master. It wasn’t because they didn’t know how to fish that they were called, and it isn’t because the Servants of God don’t know how to do anything else, but Servants are taken from every walk of life. Jesus said to them, “I will make you to be fishers of men.” They were not that naturally; they knew how to fish for fish but they didn’t know how to fish for men. That was a totally new experience for them, the same as it is for everyone who offers their life to God in this Work. He called Peter and John, James and Andrew and others; some were fishermen, others were businessmen. We don’t know who the rest were but Jesus made them fishers of men. We love the privilege of just going, just going forth with the gospel and feeding those who are hungry and seeking. If you know anything about fishing you know you can drop some bait in front of a fish and if he’s not hungry, he’ll pay no attention to it at all but will swim right on by. But if he is hungry, it is a different story. That’s how it is with the Gospel and those going forth with the Gospel, to preach. It is a story we tell that can mean life for your soul, but if no hunger and no need are there, it just doesn’t appeal to you at all. I know some people who have been raised under the influence of the Truth, that something which appeals so much to other members of the family, yet it does not appeal to them at all. Why? Because there is no hunger and no feeling of need; it just doesn’t appeal to them at all.
That man Peter knew he would live to be an old man. You and I do not know what Peter knew, whether we will live to be old or not. I wonder if we were told, and were fully convinced that we were going to live to be old, what we would do. Would we just drift along and then in old age straighten up and do the right thing? Or would we just live to the limit of our human nature before that? Peter never did. He wanted to keep as close to his Master as he could as he knew his Master knew exactly what he needed and what would guide him through his life. Even though I may live to be an old man, I need the guidance of the Lord Jesus. Jesus spoke to Peter one time about something that was hampering him. He asked him, “Who does man say that I am?” What are people saying about Me? Peter replied, “Some say you’re a Prophet, others say you are John the Baptist.” People can say all kinds of things. Then He asked, “What about you, who do you say I am?” And Peter spoke up and said, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” He had a clear revelation of who Jesus really was.
At a convention we were at, we heard about that man Zacchaeus. We have heard about Zacchaeus all our lives, a little man who ran ahead because he desired to see Jesus and climbed a sycamore tree. He just desired to see Jesus. Jesus was no different than any other man; He wasn’t handsome, as the Bible tells us there was nothing about Him that drew one’s attention to Him. He didn’t have the long flowing blond hair you see in many pictures of Him. He was no different than any other man. So, why did Zacchaeus want to see Him? He wanted to see Jesus in real life, to see the qualities He possessed, the love He possessed, the mercy He possessed, the care He possessed, the self denial He possessed, the willingness to die to self that He possessed that was so evident in His life. That is how the Lord lived and that is what Zacchaeus wanted to see.
Well, this man Peter, who was called to be an Apostle, loved what he saw in the Master. He had a clear understanding that this Man that is amongst us is the Son of God; He is the Christ, He is the One who will give His life that we may live. Peter encouraged Jesus all the way because he trusted Him with his life. There was a day when the disciples were on the sea and the wind and the waves were high, but Peter was used to that. Then the disciples saw someone come walking to them upon the water, and they thought it must be the Lord Jesus. Peter [shouted] out to Him, “If it be Thou, bid me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply said, “Come,” and Peter trusted his life into the hands of Jesus. First, the disciples thought He was a phantom and then they understood that no, this is Jesus. Peter actually got out of the boat, in the midst of the wind and the waves, and walked on the water to Jesus. He put his whole life in the hands of the Master when He said, “Come.” Peter, a seasoned fisherman, got out of the boat, in the midst of the wind and the storm because he had faith to believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the Son of God. It’s true that Peter eventually looked around him and got the feeling that this is no place for me, in the midst of a storm walking on the water, and he began to sink. He cried out for help and Jesus stretched forth His hand and took him back into the boat. This is a picture of a man that put his whole life into the hand of the Master.
There are so many things about Peter’s relationship with Jesus we would like for ourselves. After he had called out to Jesus, in Matthew 17, you will remember that Jesus invited Peter, John, and James to go up into a high mountain apart. It was there that He was transfigured before them and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was as white light. There appeared unto them Moses and Elias, and Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” In another Gospel, we’re told what Peter said to Jesus, “’Let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.’ For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” I really like that. Do we really believe that this is the way it was? Peter didn’t want to be far from his Master’s will. He wanted to build the tabernacles if it was God’s will, but it wasn’t, and Peter didn’t get offended. He left there with a profound respect because they had all heard a voice from Heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him.” They saw Moses and Elias talking with Jesus about the deceased. It would have been interesting to hear all that was said, but there is not much written on this, that which was spoken about the deceased. You can imagine that Moses and Elias were encouraging Jesus to go all the way — to go all the way to the cross, to shed His blood for the remission of our sins; otherwise, everything they had taught the people and lived themselves would be in vain. Can you imagine them encouraging Jesus to go all the way, to die and fulfill that which had been prophesied? Don’t ever give up, but go all the way. It tells us that a cloud came down and separated them from sight and then a voice came and said, “Hear Him.” When Moses and Elias went back to heaven and Jesus stood there alone with these four men, it made such an impression on Peter that in his second letter to the friends he mentioned that we saw Him transfigured before us: we heard His voice from Heaven and it has removed every doubt. The voice from Heaven just said, “This is My Beloved Son.” I don’t think they had any intention of not listening to Jesus, for they knew what He said was true and right, He was not selfish, He was living for others. There was every reason to trust what He said, and that experience was one these men of the Lord would never forget. Probably you have had experiences in this way of God that have also left you without a shadow of a doubt that this is the Way and this is the will of God. There was a man that came to our convention who had never been to a convention before. He was raised a Catholic, but I don’t think he ever attended church much. He married a girl in the Truth. After her family had spoken to her after many years, she felt a need to go back to the meetings and get something for herself. She went and professed again. Her husband hadn’t been against her the other way and he was very anxious that she attend the meetings, so he took her and their little family to the convention, and stayed for some meetings but missed others. He asked for a visit, and in that visit he made the statement, “These people seem so content and happy.” It wasn’t because they were laughing all the time or carrying on, but he could just see they were content. That is something people observe when they look at your life; they see you content and happy and satisfied.
There were many experiences that Peter had with His Master. You will remember the time when they had gathered together for the last supper and were partaking of the lamb together. Jesus made a statement that one would betray Him. He didn’t say it was Judas, no, not at all, and all the disciples looked inside their own hearts. They asked the Master, “Is it I?” They understood that if my human nature gets out of control I could do that. It’s possible for me to do it. Then it tells us that they eventually asked, “Is it I?” Poor Judas was in a corner. What was he going to say or not say? He would look bad. If I say it is me then what is in my heart will be revealed. Eventually, he said to Jesus, “Is it I?” and Jesus simply said, “Thou sayest.” It didn’t seem to dawn on the rest of the Apostles that Judas was the one that would do this. Jesus just encouraged him to do what he was planning to do. They went out into the Garden and it was then that Jesus revealed to Peter that Judas would deny Him. That was something Peter could hardly take in — Judas denying His Master, the One he loved. He said, “Even though all may forsake Thee, I will never forsake You,” and he meant those words in his heart. He really meant he would not deny Him. Jesus had to tell him, “Peter, tonight before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” That was a terrible day, a terrible day for Peter. The Lord told him He had prayed for him that his faith would not fail, that Satan hath desired to have you and sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail. Let us not forget today, that Satan desires to do the same thing to God’s people: he desires to take them and sift them as wheat. To destroy the wheat, the very best thing we have in our hearts, Satan wants to sift out and destroy our faith. We don’t want our faith to fail. Peter, on that day, could hardly believe the Master’s words were true, that he, before the sun went down, would deny his Master, and that’s exactly what happened. You will remember how Jesus was taken and bound and mocked, and slapped and spat upon, how He was taken to the high Priest and how Peter followed him. In the courtyard, a fire was made because it was cold, and Peter stood there warming his hands with the rest. The little maid who invited him in, said, “You are one of His disciplines, aren’t you?” and he answered, “No.” Then a cousin of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, whose right ear Peter cut off in the garden with his sword, asked him too. Peter had been prepared to fight to his death, but you remember what Jesus did? He told Peter to put up his sword; that is not the way to handle things, and He healed that man’s ear. No one would have ever known it was Peter that had cut his ear off from the side of his head. It was now completely healed. Someone asked Peter while they were warming themselves, “You are one of His disciples, aren’t you?” “Didn’t I see you in the garden?” And Peter again said “No.” That fellow would have had a real close look at Peter and would have known he was the one in the garden. He would know that Peter had a sword and had fought well. Eventually the cock crew a third time and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Can you imagine how he felt? I can’t, but Peter knew he had denied his Master three times when the cock crew. It tells us he wept bitterly. He was sorry and eventually that, too, was forgiven.
I like the commission Jesus gave to this strong disciple when He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” This was after He was raised from the dead. He was the one who ran to the tomb. John only looked in, but Peter went in. He saw the grave clothes folded in such a way that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head, sitting alone, and he was satisfied that what Mary had told him was really true — Jesus had risen from the dead. Why did it tell us that he saw the napkin by itself? I really think that Jesus did that. They would know that when Jesus lived amongst them, He lived a certain way. That would be known to them. We have a brother on our staff that we don’t need to know if he’s in the area or not if we went into his bedroom. We’d find everything neat and would just know he was there. Yes, the disciples knew Jesus is here somewhere. I get the feeling that was the way it was with Jesus, and Peter saw it and knew that was how Jesus would do it.
Then they went fishing. I don’t know why they went, and I don’t want to guess, but they went fishing, and Jesus appeared unto them. He asked them if they had anything to eat, and they didn’t, but He had meat for them. Then He said to Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” He was not talking about the fish. Of course Peter loved the Master more than any fish, but Jesus wasn’t talking about fish. Peter said, “If everyone forsake You, I will never forsake you.” I love you more than anyone I know. Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?” Are you going to stand by your word? Do you really mean what you say? Yes, I love you. And He asked again, “Do you love Me?“ Yes, you know I love you. “Feed My Lambs and feed My Sheep.” Peter, do you love Me? Yes Master, You know I love You. “Feed My Sheep.” Jesus was just telling Peter to keep true right where you are, right where you are placed, and feed the Lambs and feed the Sheep; you just be true where you are. Have you ever seen a sheep come to a fence and reach as far as it can to eat some of the green grass on the other side, while standing in green grass? Feed My Lambs and feed My Sheep; just be true where I have placed you. God has placed us where we are and we want to be true in our place. If we read those two letters over that Peter wrote, you will understand what he taught and what he fed the people and nourished them with when he spoke about Jesus to them. I have enjoyed all that we have heard about Jesus here; it’s been good fodder and good to feed on. We want to be true in our place as well.