John 20:4-6, "So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,"
This morning, the proper balance between guided bounds and personal identity need proper maintenance. Have you ever heard someone today say, "I'm just being me, and this is just who I am." More often than not, they are using that expression as a license for some sinful behaviour or lifestyle that they are engaged in. On the other hand, have you ever heard someone say, "I just want to be like so-and-so." This mindset, more often than not, is borne from a lack of comfort in being "who we are" by attempting to emulate someone else. No where is this discussion more pertinent than within the bounds of the kingdom generally and among the ministry particularly. We have guidelines and boundaries in the kingdom that MUST NOT be crossed. Morality does not change based on the times, but different personalities come and go with the passing of different generations. Therefore, we should seek to stay within the bounds of Scripture and use our proper gift as the Lord has given us. (I Corinthians 7:7)
In the context of our study verses, the disciples have just heard the news that Jesus arose from the grave. When the women that came early to the tomb brought this wonderful news, Peter and John rose up to see for themselves. From the verses above, we can glean that John was the superior runner, but perhaps Peter was the more curious seeker. Since the Scriptures are not explicit about John's reason for not entering the tomb and stopping at the entry, all surmising would be fruitless along those lines. Yet, even not knowing his reasoning, we can still see some rich insights into this lesson that apply for us today. We will try to investigate the primary thought as it relates to the gospel ministry and then broaden the thought somewhat to see how it applies to church-goers in a general way.
Sometimes when people hear something they have never heard before, we see those that "pick it up quick" while others are slower to get there. Sometimes these quick learners are even lauded for their ability to grasp harder concepts more quickly. Yet, sometimes it is those that grab things more slowly that seem to be able to "go further" in their understanding and depth of a subject. These men are sometimes lauded for their rich insights to see great things far and wide in God's word. Both abilities are admirable and certainly profitable in God's house and to God's people. Yet, notice that one of these apostles models one ability and the other models the other ability.
Would it have been right for John to feel uncomfortable that he was a faster runner than Peter? Would it have been right for Peter to complain that John was too fast? Should John have discouraged Peter from walking into the tomb when he did not, or should Peter have grabbed John's arm with the command, "Let's go in there"? Indeed, any of these situations, while well intentioned, may have led the other man to be uncomfortable. The point is that John ran faster than Peter did, and Peter went further than John did.
Today we see many problems that ministers have to fight: discouragement, fear, jealousy, etc. Yet, the more I travel and the older I get, I see many men that are just uncomfortable with who they are as a minister. They judge their efforts, goals, and successes (or lack thereof) based on other ministers. Since each man has his proper gift to preach, our measure of success should not be based on the men around us, but when we faithfully discharge the duty that God called us to bear. Too many times, a man becomes uncomfortable by another man's strength and thereby loses sight and potential of his own strengths that the other minister did not have. One of my weaknesses is that I have a difficult time with Biblical areas of prophecy and types and shadows. However, if I see another man – gifted in those areas – really push deep and pull out bright nuggets, my course should be to rejoice in those treasures not become uncomfortable that I am not gifted in those things.
What if Peter had arrived at the tomb – huffing and puffing – with the thought "John runs faster than I do"? Had that been Peter's foremost thought, he might have missed his great blessing of standing in the midst of the tomb taking in every detail of the rich scene. When we become uncomfortable with ourselves in our calling, we can miss some of the rich scenes from His word, His house, and His saints. On the other hand, our strengths themselves should never impede us from discharging our duty either. When a man believes the lauding that he receives from his strengths, he can easily be consumed with the pride that swells up. Therefore, may we have a proper understanding of our gift, and use it as God has prospered us.
Moving out a touch into areas outside the ministry, we can see some applications in this for those that are not preachers. Sometimes people come to the church and understand the beauty and glory there at an early age. Some people come to see these things late in life. Some are able to see better and clearer than others. Each member of each congregation has their own unique understanding level, and some in the church will know more than we do, less than we do, pick things up faster than we do, or pick things up slower than we do.
Yet, knowing that such is the case, we should never judge our comfort level based on how we measure up to everyone else. We should not try to be someone else. As the old saying goes, "When the Lord quickens us by His grace, or even calls a man to preach, He doesn't assassinate our personality." Since we have different personalities and associated skill sets, we should measure our growth in grace and knowledge by how we use what the Lord has given us, not what He has given to someone else.
Have you ever heard someone make excuse for laziness by saying, "Well, I don't have a mind like so-and-so does"? Such a question would be like Peter stopping his journey to the tomb by saying, "John runs faster." Whether or not we are quick learners or more detailed seekers, we should use what the Lord has given us heartily, not uncomfortably since we are different from someone else.
Therefore, whether preacher or not, may we take the news, "He is risen" with fervor and zeal to the best of our ability. Individuality does not excuse exceeding moral bounds, but individuality does grant comfort in knowing that we use what the Lord specifically gave to us. Whether you run fast, see more deeply, or both, always remember where the blessing came from to know and understand that Jesus ever lives with no power anywhere that can take us from Him. Knowing what the news is, seeking it with all of our ability, and desiring to praise Him in the effort will afford us the comfort not found otherwise. Run brethren. Run as the Lord has given you ability. Seek. Seek as He has given you the insight, and in your course, keep the peace that He is alive.