Ego and Dependence
Many of us are familiar with the apostle Peter’s often foolhardy and bombastic manner early on in his walk with Christ. He boasted about never leaving Christ’s side, attacked the servant of the high priest during Jesus’s arrest, his refusal to let Jesus wash his feet, among other things.
In John 13:35-38, Jesus has just begun to say farewell to his disciples, but Peter declares in verse 37 that he is willing to follow and even lay down his life for his master. Jesus then makes his prediction of Peter’s betrayal.
We all know what happens later, of course: Peter denies Jesus three times as predicted, and he gets farther and farther from Jesus each time he denies Him. It’s only after the Resurrection that Jesus restores him to the ministry.
Without a doubt, going into the ministry and serving the Lord takes commitment. If I were not committed to teaching, I’d have long left it—checking papers alone is probably something nobody with a soul actually enjoys doing. (I often tell my students and others who are not familiar with the task that it’s like doing the homework of everyone in the batch while making all the same mistakes and being unable to correct it.)
However, commitment here is more than just our own will asserting itself and applying itself to the task. Committing ourself to the Lord’s work more importantly requires our continuous dependence and submission to Him. In John 14:12, Jesus tells us the secret—faith in him empowers to such great extents that we can do things that even Christ was not able to do during his earthly ministry. In John 16:33, Jesus says that while we will encounter trials in the world, He has already overcome it. In Philippians 4:11 and 13, Paul says that he has learned to be content because I can do everything through Christ, who gives him strength.
This dependence and submission is a state that has to be maintained (and it takes effort to do so). The most obvious ways of doing so are of course, spending time in the Lord’s word and in prayer. These habits, in addition to so many other things, remind us of our dependence on the Lord’s empowering grace. Without this, no matter how strong-willed we are, we will eventually end up buckling under the pressures of fear, anxiety, and doubt—which happened to Peter.
Let’s not end there, however—this dependence also transforms us. Peter, for all his impulsiveness, writes to church leaders later in his life:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make your strong, firm and steadfast. to him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 5:6-11
I think this is a wonderful testimony of how submission and dependence can transform a bursting ego to a form that outwardly seems meeker, yet contains a deeper, more subtle power—the power to accomplish the Lord’s work and change lives.