Each piece of wood in itself is both unique and insignificant. They are rather dirty, oddly shaped, and rough enough to easily give your hand a splinter…. not much to look at. But I have a purpose for each one of them. And not only do they each contribute to the warmth of my house, each one seems to be able to contribute at just the right time. Each oddly shaped piece seems to coincide with another oddly shaped piece, both contributing to just the right combination that allows a healthy fire.
Peter (in John 21) had to be reminded of this same truth as it applies to Christ’s followers. At the end of the book of John, Peter had never before felt so low. I’m sure that certain scenes from the past few days keep playing over and over in his mind. His arrogant claim to follow Christ even to death, and his failed attempt at defending Him. The movement of his own mouth saying, “I don’t know him!” immediately followed by the unbearable look of knowing disappointment in Christ’s eyes as they met his own. Even though the shock of seeing Christ take His last breath had somewhat dissipated (Christ had thankfully proven His resurrection several times to the disciples by now), Peter’s memory seemed to slip back to the days and hours just before that. I imagine that every morning at dawn, the rooster’s crow was an agonizing sound to hear.
And there on that lake, just as Peter’s failures played through his mind one more time, the Savior graciously appeared to teach him something that will change him for the rest of his life. What was this lesson? I think it can be summed up by this phrase: ”I don’t need to use you … I want to use you!”
This happens through some similarly focused reminders found in verses 9-23. As soon as the disciples arrive back at the beach, the lesson begins as Christ is cooking breakfast. Notice what He asks them to do… “Bring some of the fish that you caught and I will cook those too.” He wasn’t asking them to do this because He realized that the fish He was already cooking wasn’t going to be enough. His point seems to be the truth that will become the theme of these verses: ”I don’t need to use you … I want to use you!”
In the verses that follow, Christ narrows His focus specifically to Peter, and the lesson continues. As Christ engages him in what is now a very familiar dialogue, the point becomes clear. While Peter seems to be struggling with the possibility of Christ still being able to use him, he is told very pointedly, “I want to use you!” “Feed my sheep.” God doesn’t use us because we have earned the privilege, He uses us simply because He delights in using us!
But Christ’s call for Peter to follow Him didn’t just follow Peter’s look back at his own failures, it also follows Peter’s looking around at others. Peter saw John walking over to them and immediately compared himself to that “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Christ didn’t waste any time debating which one of these disciples had an edge over the other … He just once again tells Peter, “Follow me.” Peter had to realize that it didn’t matter what anyone else did or didn’t do, God had chosen him for the greatest privilege man can have: to serve his Savior.
God hasn’t blessed us with the privilege of serving Him because He needs us, because we earned it, or because we are better than anyone else. God chooses to use us because He wants to! We all have painful memories that cycle through our minds from time to time. We all have feelings of unworthiness … and we should. We are unworthy! And that is why it is all the more wonderful that God has said to you and to me, “Follow me!”
Each of us are both unique and insignificant. We all have our lists of reasons why we can’t be considered well-suited for ministry. We all (if we are honest) know that we are insignificant and weak. Yet, just as those pieces of dirty, splintery, oddly shaped pieces of wood, we have been chosen to be a part of the work of God! God has a purpose and a place for each one of us to serve Him in a way that is greater than we deserve. Don’t sideline yourself because you don’t deserve to be used … none of us deserves to be used. None of us can say “God needs to use me.” But all of us can say “God wants to use me!”