God had you specifically in mind when he created you and called you to follow him. You are custom-designed for your calling. But when you face the difficulty of your calling, you may look at others and be tempted to wonder why they don’t seem to bear the same burdens you do. Don’t be discouraged; in John 21, the Apostle Peter faced the same temptation.
“What About this Man?”
After the resurrected Jesus served his sleep-deprived fisherman-disciples a seaside breakfast of miracle fish, he took Peter on a walk down the beach. Jesus wanted to tell Peter a few important things directly before Jesus parted physically from him for the last time in this age. John trailed them, about ten yards behind.
Toward the end of their conversation, Jesus dropped a bombshell on Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Then Jesus, as only he could do, peered right into Peter’s soul and said, “Follow me.”
Peter had already been dreading Jesus’s final departure, wondering how this small, fearful band of disciples would survive without him. Peter wondered how he would survive. Now Jesus informed him that he wasn’t going to survive. Peter was going to die for Jesus. Only this time Peter issued no over-confident proclamation like he had during the Passover meal. Now he knew how weak he really was. Left to himself, he was a coward.
But Peter remembered that he would not be left to himself like an orphan; Jesus, though gone, would somehow come to him in the future (John 14:18). Peter believed this. Jesus had never once failed to keep a promise. But how Jesus would come to him at the moment of his execution, Peter could not conceive. He already felt lonely.
And Peter wondered why Jesus hadn’t spoken of other disciples’ deaths. Was he the only one who would have to die? Peter looked around for the others and he saw John, who was walking just where the cool surf gently pushed up and bathed his feet. Peter knew how Jesus loved John, and he wondered if Jesus was going to spare John the cost that he was asking Peter to pay. Gesturing back, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus’s brow furrowed as he watched two gulls quarrel over a dead fish. Then he looked at Peter and responded with his familiar tender firmness, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
“What Is that to You?”
Jesus calls each one of us to follow him (John 15:16). All of God’s promises are yes to each one of us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We each get to share in Christ’s inheritance (Colossians 1:12) and as members of Christ’s united body we need each other (Romans 12:5).
But we do not all have the same function (Romans 12:4). Each disciple, each individual member of the body, has a unique role. And each of us must lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Corinthians 7:17).
The question, “What is that to you?” is one you and I need to ask frequently. How God deals with other people is often of excessive concern to us, especially if their paths don’t seem to be paved with the same pain as ours.
The fallen part of our nature doesn’t look at others and glory in how each of them uniquely bears the imago dei (Genesis 1:27). It doesn’t revel in their distinctive refraction of God’s multifaceted glory. It doesn’t rejoice in the sweet providences God grants to them. It is not grateful for the blessings of their God-given strengths. It does not want to deal gently with their weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2). Full of pride and selfish ambition, our fallen nature uses others to gauge our own significance, how successful and impressive we perceive ourselves to be.
“You Follow Me.”
But there is gospel in Jesus’s words, “What is that to you? You follow me.” Do you hear it? It’s a declaration of liberation. Jesus died to make you “free indeed” (John 8:36), and this includes freedom from the tyranny of sinful comparison and coveting another’s calling.
God had you in mind when he created you (Psalm 139:13–16). He knew just what he was doing. You, your body, your mind, and your circumstances, are not an accident. Yes, he’s aware of your deficiencies, and, yes, he’s calling you to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). But God does not expect or intend you to be someone else. Nor does he want you to follow someone else’s path.
Jesus wants you to be you. The faith that Jesus gives you is sufficient for the path he gives you (Romans 12:3). And the grace he gives you to face your trials will be sufficient for you when the need comes (2 Corinthians 12:9).
You are your truest you, not when you are analyzing yourself or measuring yourself against someone else. You are your truest you when your eyes are fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), when you are following him in faith, and when you are serving others in love with the grace-gifts God has assigned to you (Romans 12:4–8).
So, no matter what today holds, be free from saying in your heart, “Lord what about this man?” For Jesus chose you (John 15:16), promised to supply all that you need (Philippians 4:19), and wants you to simply follow him.
If you humble yourself under his mighty hand, trusting him to redeem all your suffering, “thorns” (2 Corinthians 12:7) and weaknesses, he will exalt you at the time and in the way that will bring him the most glory and you the most joy (1 Peter 5:6).