Who was Simon Peter? Who was this citizen of Heaven and sojourner on earth? He's was a great leader, but he didn't start out that way. Let's look today at the life of Peter and discover how Jesus molded him into the great leader he became. If you see similarities in your own life, it may be that Jesus is also working to mold you into a great leader.
Jesus didn't create us to just be stagnant Christians or to live stagnant Christian lives. He created us to grow, and to be growing Christians—always growing in the grace and knowledge of Him.
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." II Peter 3:18
“Simon, Simon [Peter], behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat, much like he had Job. But Jesus Christ had plans to make Peter a great leader.
When we study the New Testament, we see in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts four, distinct lists of the twelve apostles. When we see these lists we notice that the first named apostle in each list is always Peter. He was a born leader!
Peter, James and John were with Jesus at all the major events of His ministry. They were what you might say, "in the inner circle", with Peter being the closest to the Savior. Although there were twelve apostles, these three seem to have a more intimate relationship with Jesus than the others.
Simon Was a Common Name
We see it mentioned at least seven Simons in the Gospels alone.
"He [Andrew] brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:42
Ironically, following Peter's name change, Jesus sometimes calls him Simon and other times calls him Peter. It seems when he's in trouble Jesus refers to him as Simon, and when he's not, he is called Peter. His new name became a constant reminder of who Jesus wanted him to be. But his given name still lurked in the background, rearing its head as a reminder when Peter didn't measure up. When Jesus called him Simon it was a signal that he was acting like his old self again. If He called him Peter, Rock, Jesus was commending him for acting the way he ought to be acting. Before long, these two names, and the experiences that intertwined them, would shape Peter into the leader Jesus planned for him to be all along.
Peter means ROCK, and Peter would become a rock. He would become a great leader, the rock of the early church, but the journey would not be an easy one. Have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Peter must of wondered. Maybe like He did for Peter, God is making you a great leader as well. For such a time as this?
Let's explore what it took for Simon Peter to become a great leader.
When Jesus first met Peter, he seemed to fit James' description in James 1:8 of a double-minded man perfectly. James says, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, and that was Peter. He was unstable and unpredictable. He made big promises that he couldn't follow through with. He jumped wholeheartedly into things, only to bail before finishing. He would of been the first to sign up for a marathon, only to run to the 20-mile marker and quit. All too often he was the first in and unfortunately, the first out as well.
Peter was born, equipped by God's sovereign design, to be a leader. When we take a look at his life, we see how God builds great leaders.
Three Elements That Make a Great Leader
Leaders are born with certain gifts. When properly shaped, they become great leaders. Peter had the God-given threads of leadership woven into his DNA from the beginning. God designed him that way knowing what his life's work would be. He was designed for a purpose. There were certain critical leadership features found in Peter. Three of these features are inquisitiveness, initiative and involvement.
Curiosity is a feature leaders need, and Peter's inquisitiveness was insatiable.
"People who are content with what they don't know, happy to remain ignorant about what they don't understand, complacent about what they haven't analyzed, and comfortable living with problems they haven't solved—such people cannot lead." —John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men
Leaders need to be hungry for answers, and that was built right into Peter's DNA! Some of the best problem-solvers are people who are driven with the need to know and understand.
Another feature necessity for leadership is initiative. A leader needs to be ambitious with drive and energy. Peter was all of this. Peter was the type of person that made things happen. He was a starter, a go-getter. He asked questions, a lot of questions, and he was usually the first to answer questions. In Matthew 6:13 when Jesus asked, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter was the first to speak up and say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (vs. 16) Peter was bold and decisive, and that is vital to leadership. Peter wanted to know what he didn't know. He wanted to understand what he didn't understand. He was the first to ask the hard questions, and first to answer. He took initiative. Seized the moment. Charged full-steam ahead. And that is leadership kind of stuff!
A third feature needed for great leadership is involvement. True leaders are usually found where the action is! When Jesus came walking on the water in the raging Sea of Galilee, who was the first to jump out of the boat to meet Him? Peter, of course. The others wondered if they were seeing a ghost. But before anyone knew it, Peter was out of the boat, walking on water! The others in the boat were still clinging to their seats, trying not to fall overboard. Peter was involved! Only after he was out of the boat and had walked some distance did he think about the danger and begin to sink. Many of us will look at that incident and criticize Peter for his lack of faith. However, before we do that, we should remember where Peter was when he started to sink. He was walking on water! That's probably more than you or I would ever have done!
That was the raw material that Peter was made of. He was inquisitive, willingness to take initiative, and had a desire to be involved.
Jesus made sure Peter had the right life experiences to develop him into the kind of leader He knew he could be. Peter had potential. Jesus knew that. He designed him that way from the beginning and for a unique purpose. But Peter needed that potential to be rooted and grounded in the right life experiences. Life experiences that would grow him into a great leader that people would want to follow. However, experience can be a difficult taskmaster. Peter found that out early on. Experiences, especially the difficult ones, were necessary to shape Peter into the leader he needed to be.
Peter learned a lot through difficult experiences. One difficult experience is found in Matthew 16. Jesus announced to the apostles that He would be going to Jerusalem. That he would be turned over to the chief priest, and that He would be killed. "And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.'” (vs. 22) In verse 23 we see Jesus' reply. "But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter did not understand the plan. He did not see the big picture. Peter learned from this experience is that Satan could use his mouth just as quickly as the Savior could.
"If Peter minded the things of men rather than the things of God, or if he did not do the will of God, he could be an instrument of the enemy." —John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men
Satan was sifting Peter like wheat, just as it says in Luke 22. Through this experience, and others like it, he learned just how much chaff and how little substance there was in him. He also learned to be watchful and careful, and that he must rely on the strength of the Savior. Here though is the beautiful thing about this experience. At the same time he also learned, that in spite of his own sinfulness and spiritual weaknesses, the Savior still wanted to use him.
All Peter's life experiences, whether difficult or wonderful, worked together to make him a great leader.
The third element needed to make a great leader is the right character. Great leadership is rooted in great character! The apostle Paul summarized the spirit of a great leader when he wrote in I Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." Peter echoed this sentiment.
"The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. What a man is survives him. It can never be buried" —J. R. Miller
What's far more important than what people think of us after we're gone is the impact we have while we are alive!
Character Qualities Peter Needed to Develop
Self-control, moderation and restraint don't come easy for one who lives life at the helm! Peter was a natural hothead. He was impatient with people who underperformed or lacked vision. He was easily irritated. Restraint was not a natural part of his DNA. Nowhere did that become more apparent than in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there where Peter drew his sward and tried to cut off Malchus' head! Peter was bold. He was outspoken with a bad habit of opening his mouth before engaging his brain. We all know people like that.
All too often leaders are caught in the trap of sinful pride and thinking more of themself than they should. Humility doesn't come naturally for most leaders. Pride is an easy trap to fall into when people look up to you, praise you with admiration and following your lead, . Peter was born with a tremendous amount of confidence. It's easy to recognize by the way he is first to jump into situations like walking on water. Peter needed a good dose of humility, but it would come at a price. He didn't just deny Christ once, he denied him three times. And to make things worse, he did that after boasting that he would never do so! He writes in his first epistle, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you." I Peter 5:5-6. Humility became a virtue that characterized Peter's life, message, and leadership.
Oh what irony! And what a lesson in humility and love. Did Peter learn to love? Love became one of the defining marks of his ministry. In I Peter 4:8 he wrote, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." Peter knew first hand all about the multitude of sins that love could cover!
Right along with love in a great leader's portfolio there needs to be compassion. They go hand in hand. But people with strong leadership capabilities tend to be short on compassion. They're not very good comforters either. They rarely have time to stop and care for the wounded as they push their way to the top. When Jesus warned Peter that Satan would sift him as wheat, Peter denied he would ever fall victim to temptation. But just as he was warned, it happened, and he did fall. He fell, and he fell hard! Satan rocked Peter's world. He put Peter to the test, and Peter failed miserably. Jesus said that He would allow Satan to toss Peter to the wind, to shake the very foundations of his life until there is nothing left but faith. That's exactly what happen on the night of Jesus' crucifixion. Peter denied Christ not once, but three times at the challenge of a simple servant girl. Peter's whole world was turned upside down that night, but his faith never wavered! Peter now understood human weakness, and this gave him a foundation for compassion.
Finally, Peter needed to learn courage. Not the false kind of courage that swung wildly at Malchus' head, but real courage. The kind of courage that would be willing to suffer for Christ's sake. Peter would need this more than any other virtue.
"The kingdom of darkness is set against the kingdom of light. Lies are set against the truth. Satan is set against God. And demons are set against the holy purpose of Christ." —John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men
The price of proclaiming Christ would mean death for Peter. There would be persecution, oppression, torture and ultimately martyrdom. Not only martyrdom for Peter, but also for his wife. Although the Bible does not recored it, historical documents tell us Peter had to watch his own wife being crucified before he was crucified. Peter would need rock-solid courage to persevere!
Shortly after Pentecost (Acts 4) we see the new Peter emerge. We see the great leader that Jesus Christ knew Peter would become. We see the secure in Christ Peter. He had seen the risen Savior. He knew that He had conquered death! He knew that no matter what earthly trials came his way they were merely that. and nothing to be compared to the hope of eternal glory! That hope is what gave Peter courage.
Peter learned all these lessons, many of them difficult, and his life was transformed. He become the great leader Christ knew he could and would be. He was changed from Simon to Rock. He learned submission, restraint, humility, love, compassion and courage. He had the raw materials needed to become a great leader. His life experiences helped hone and shape his leadership abilities. And his character qualities shaped through Christ's example.
That's exactly what Simon Peter did. He grew in grace and knowledge, and that's how he became Rock—the great leader of the early church.
How has this post helped you get to know Peter better? What life experiences have helped you become a better leader? Do you see God working to develop any of these character qualities in your life?
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