By Christina Fox
The four of us met every week for several years. It was a time to share, encourage, pray, and grow together in Christ. Those girls were the ones to whom I revealed the wounds, scars, and sins in my heart. Along the way, we discovered that we needed each other in the journey of faith. We learned that in sharing our stories of God’s redemptive work in our lives with one another that we were encouraged in our own trials. We experienced what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
The Apostle Peter had one such story of redemption in his own life, and one which he shared with others. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. When Jesus first met him, he told Peter that his name would change from Simon to Peter because he would become “a rock.” To become that “rock” though, Peter would have to go through an intense trial and period of grief. Shortly before Jesus was arrested, he told Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Jesus then said, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
The Gospels tell us that Peter did deny Jesus. After the resurrection, Jesus met Peter where he had gone to grieve, at the lake where he always fished. He asked him three times if he loved him and three times Peter said yes. Simon was restored as Peter, the rock.
One thing that stands out to me in this story is what Jesus told Peter to do after he went through his trial–to strengthen his brothers. Peter would use the experience he went through to help his fellow disciples. Yet for Peter to use his painful story to strengthen his brothers, he would have had to be honest about his trial. He would have had to tell them the details about his denial. He would need to voice the shame he felt when Jesus looked him in the eyes as the rooster crowed that third time. Then Peter would need to share the story of how Jesus extended grace and restored him on the shores of Galilee.
Peter did share his trial with his fellow disciples for each of the gospels record it. John gently retells the restoration story that took place along the sea shore. We know from the book of Acts that Peter went on to further encourage the early church as he faithfully preached the gospel of Christ. He became the stone that Jesus told him he would be. He became that rock, not out of his own strength, but out of his brokenness and from his encounter with grace.
So what about us? Are we called to “strengthen our sisters” through our own stories of redemption? I believe we are. I believe we are called to share with others the stories of God’s grace in our lives, not simply to tell a good story, but to strengthen and encourage each other. As 1 Corinthians says, we are to comfort one another with the same comfort God has given us. As we see the power of the gospel at work in each other’s lives, it strengthens and sustains us in our own trials. I also believe that it is through these stories and testimonies of grace that Christ builds his church. When the world sees the healing and transforming power of the gospel through us, we become living testimonies of His grace.
We were all once a Simon. But through Christ’s redemptive power, He enables us to become like Peter, a stone–redeemed by grace, transformed by brokenness, and strengthened by Christ. May we, like Peter, strengthen and encourage each other with stories and testimonies of Christ’s amazing grace.
Christina Fox (@toshowthemjesus) has her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is licensed in mental health counseling. She is a writer, blogger, and regular contributor to ministry publications and websites such as Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She spends her days homeschooling her two boys and in her free time enjoys reading, writing, and antiquing. Christina and her husband of seventeen years reside in sunny South Florida. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/
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