The Making of a Disciple: The Pillar Principle

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God…I will write on him the name of My God. (Revelation 3:12)

As we begin our pursuit to deepen our discipleship as followers of Jesus Christ, it’s more than merely imaginable that some readers will feel doubtful about their capacity to rise to the dimensions of maturity one might expect to see in a settled servant of the Savior. Before we proceed any further, lay hold of this: If ever you may be tempted to doubt or to wonder about your potential as a disciple, take a good look at Simon Peter.

There’s a reason Peter is a favorite of almost every reader of the Bible. His stumblings seem to summarize the sum and substance (or lack of it) we all frequently feel about our own feeble steps as we attempt to move forward in Christ! Consider these extremes. With one utterance—“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16)—Simon Peter rises to the highest heights of insight and declaration. Then, just moments later, Jesus denounces another of Peter’s “insights” as satanic in origin, saying, “You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 23). (Such a thing should never happen to you!) On the night of Jesus’ capture, Peter declares, “I will never fail you!” (see Mark 14:29). But within hours he denies three times even knowing his Lord.

As we look over Peter’s life as a disciple, we see him as both a saint and sinner, a spiritual giant and spiritual dwarf. But in the end, we are touched and encouraged, because he is so much like us. He is everyman wrapped into a single person. He’s the reflection of our secret ambitions fulfilled and the picture of our visible embarrassments revisited. Yet at whatever point we see him in the span or spectrum of his exploits or his flops, whether at a pinnacle or a pratfall, Peter inevitably ends up at the right place, showing the right attitudes and aiming in the right direction en route to the right goal.

It’s the end of Simon Peter’s “becoming” that finally captures our hearts. He fumbles the ball, but he also picks it up and runs for a touchdown. He is decidedly not the person described by the modern-day concept that employs his name (but is actually named after the man who coined the term). The Peter Principle describes the corporate businessperson who rises within an organization to reach a point beyond his or her competence. Our man is quite the opposite. This Peter—Simon Peter—continued growing as a committed disciple, and he matured through and beyond his apparent limitations. He became a pillar—a tower of strength in his own generation.

That’s why I’ve come to think of Simon Peter as the Bible’s Rocky—not only because his name means the same thing (the Greek petras = “rock”), but because there are a number of similarities between the big fisherman of history and the fictional boxer portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in a popular movie series. Both are rough, unpolished men. Both are products of a distinct ethnicity. Both are laden with undeveloped potential (until trainers get hold of them). Both end up finding their possibilities maximized, and they rise to the level of a champion.

Peter is some kind of person!

But so are you! That’s a proposition Peter himself asserted in his first letter ( call it Peter or Rocky 1, take your pick). There we find Holy Spirit-inspired words that breathe hope and promise for every one of us who would become maturing disciples. Doubtless remembering how Jesus had first prophesied that he would be called a stone (see John 1:42), Peter harkens to the day Jesus leveled His gaze, looked deep into his eyes and said, “I say to you that you are Peter!” (Matt. 16:18, emphasis added). Moved by these memories of what Jesus had processed in his life, Peter declares something about every believer’s potential as a disciple: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5).

In light of these words of promise—words of prophecy—the Bible holds a similar word for us from Jesus Himself. Just as Peter’s experience speaks to you and me and points the way to the possibilities that Christ can bring about in our lives, so Jesus adds His own “pillar” promise:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore. (Rev. 3:12, NASB)

Here we are introduced to the elements of the Master’s program for exceeding man’s Peter Principle with God’s Pillar Principle; it gives us reason to believe we can pursue growth as disciples without being plagued with doubt as to whether we’re dreaming beyond reality. Christ’s words outline His program: faith (“he who overcomes”), creative power (“I will make him”) and stability (“a pillar”). to understand these words is to believe.

From Living the Spirit Formed Life Copyright 2001 by Jack W. Hayford, Regal Books, Ventura, California. Used by permission; all rights reserved.

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