Do you truly love me
more than these?
The above question, posed by our Lord to Simon Peter, was one of the more significant questions to mankind and came at the end of His earthly ministry. The occasion was after the Lord had served seven of His disciples breakfast after an overnight fishing trip. It was only successful after the Lord had instructed them to fish on the other side of the boat! After their arrival on shore, Simon Peter climbed aboard and counted the fish, which numbered 153. After the Lord served them bread and fish, He then singled out Simon Peter and asked him the above question. Opinion varies as to what the Lord meant by “these.” Was He referring to the fish or to the other disciples, or something else? Peter certainly loved to fish-only a true fisherman counts his fish! For him, it was not only a vocation, but an avocation. I am able to identify with Peter in regard to loving to fish. Whether it be walleyed pike, trout or salmon, it is something I delight in doing. Some suggest that perhaps the Lord was referring to Peter’s relationship with others. What is clear, however, is that the Lord desired to know if anything stood between Peter and his complete devotion to His Lord. In that sense, it is an age abiding question, and one which we need to address continually in our lives.
Leroy Eims used the following illustration to help us understand the importance of complete devotion. He started by saying the following. Suppose that I were to take a trip across the country for a meeting and call back to my wife with the following story. “The meeting is going well here. By the way, I met a really nice gal today at the meeting and we are having dinner tonight and breakfast together tomorrow. But don’t worry, Virginia, you are still number one.” He then asks, “How do you think Virginia would feel?” Leroy then remarked that sometimes we treat the Lord similarly by regarding our relationship with Him like that of a horse race. “The Lord is ahead by a length, but “hobbies“ is coming up fast on the rail, and “work” is only two lengths behind.”
The Lord desires complete and total devotion to Him without any competition on the scene whatsoever. These competitors may be subtle. I have attempted to identify them in my own life by looking at the following four words-time, treasure, thoughts, and trust. How do I spend discretionary time? Do I use it to follow hobbies, business ventures, pleasure or relaxation?; or am I drawn to the Lord to spend this time with Him and in His word? How do I spend additional income which is not needed for current expenses? Is it spent for worldly things or invested in His kingdom? What do my thoughts entertain when not actively involved with daily matters of importance? Do they return in prayer, in worship, and in thankfulness to the Lord for His daily mercy and grace? In regard to trust, where do I look for my security? Is it in my employment?, a retirement account?, or is it in the Lord, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment?
What are the “these” in your life? Are there competitors for your devotion to the Lord? Based on the affirmation of Peter’s loyalty and devotion, the Lord gave the following commands to his disciple. “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” Only those who are fully loyal are able to walk closely enough with the Lord that His presence, His power, and His purpose are available through Him to shepherd others. Only in abandonment to Him are we able to realize and rely on Him to shepherd others through us. It is my prayer that your devotion to our Lord would be such that would enable His power to feed and to shepherd many sheep through your lives.