This morning I was reading in the book of John, and came across one of my favorite stories of restoration. It happens in John chapter 21 - after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. He appears to His disciples, and makes them breakfast. During the meal He asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”. Peter answers yes, and then Jesus asks Him the same question two more times. Each time Peter answers yes, and Jesus gives Peter the command to, “care for My sheep”.
The thing that makes this story such a wonderful example of restoration is that Peter is the disciple who denied Jesus three times, right after Jesus was arrested. But in John 21, we see that Jesus forgives Peter, and gives him a serious assignment to carry out.
But as I read the story this morning, I was struck by how Peter responds to what Jesus has just told him. Listen to verses 20-21, which tell us: “Peter turned around and saw behind them John, the disciple Jesus loved. Peter asked Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’”.
It’s an an interesting respond because Jesus has just restored His relationship with Peter. He's extended forgiveness for Peter denying Him, and they've just had this wonderful time of being together again. Peter's guilt is gone, and he now has the opportunity to soak in precious time with Jesus. But instead, Peter's competitive nature kicks in, and all he seems to be focused on is comparing himself to another disciple.
But of course, the wonderful thing about Peter is that he's the disciple we can easily relate to because he’s so much like us. As I thought about it honestly this morning, I was reminded of all the times I've fallen into the trap of comparing myself to other believers - and of feeling almost a sense of competition with them, or of jealousy at the race God has given them. And that's not what God has for us.
Instead, what God has for us is laid out plainly in Hebrews 12:1, which says: “Let us run the race set before US". In other words, it's our own individual race that God has for each of us. So the goal is not to outrun someone else - the goal is to outrun the wicked influences that work to distract us and keep us from completing the race. And if we don't stay focused on that, it's so easy to slow down in the race, and then to justify our slow pace by pointing to other people still running behind us. Or to become jealous of what God has given to someone else. And the truth is, we should not be concerned with who is behind us, or with who is ahead of us. We are to run the race set out before US. God hasn't called us to run someone else's race, He's called us to run our own, and that needs to be where we keep our focus.
So today, let’s be intentional about focusing on what God has laid out for us - not others. Let’s thank God that He’s forgiven us, and restored us to fellowship with Him. And then let’s allow that to motivate us to fully serve God in what He gives us to do today.