Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:20-22)
Have you ever had a moment, even a brief one, where you’re in the middle of a project at work and you start thinking about… someone else? One of your coworkers, maybe.
You and your coworker started around the same time, and he or she is experiencing great success and you’re… well, you’re not.
You’re slugging away at your job, just trying to make it through the day, and you can’t help but—just for a second—think, “Man, why does [insert name here] get all the breaks? I’m busting my tail and what do I have to show for it?”
I’ve certainly been guilty of this on more than one occasion. I have some very talented friends, who are very gifted in many areas—including areas of ministry that I gravitate to. And in the past, I’ve found myself feeling really insecure about at least one of these folks, who I really don’t need to feel insecure around.
So I read this passage, and Peter’s attitude wrecks me. He’s talking to the resurrected Jesus, and he’s told, essentially, that it’s his job to lead the fledgling church, and that he’ll be following Jesus into a life of terrible suffering. Afterward, Peter immediately turns to look at John (the disciple whom Jesus loved), and wanted to know what Jesus’ plans were for him.
So, Jesus looks him square in the eye and tells him the truth: It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t make one lick of a difference what Jesus’ plans are for John. Jesus’ plans for him don’t affect His plans for Peter.
What matters for Peter, ultimately, is what Jesus has planned for Peter.
Perhaps I’m overstating things, but think about it: How much time to we waste fretting about what other people are doing? Feeling insecure about other folks who might outshine us in our area of ministry or our jobs or wherever?
How much time do we spend thinking about things that actually don’t affect us in the least?
There’s only one thing for us to be concerned with, and that’s doing what Jesus has called each of us to do. And maybe for many of us, what He wants us to get through our thick skulls is to stop worrying about what so-and-so is doing. What does it matter if this person over there is doing something better than you or getting more accolades than you or whatever?
“You follow Me!” Jesus told Peter—and He tells us, too.
We are all only responsible for what God has charged each of us with, whether that’s something “glamorous” or “mundane.” Whether you’re leading doing set up and serving coffee on Sundays. There’s no varsity service in the eyes of God. There’s only the task He’s given to you and I.
I get really convicted when I see this crop up in my life, because I don’t want to compete with anyone. I recently let Emily know when we were talking about envy with the kids that sometimes I’ve felt that way when she’s received a lot of praise and attention for her artwork. And that’s just silly. I’ve had it happen when I’ve heard legitimately great news, like a blogger contact getting a deal with a big-name publisher, and had (just for an instance) a little pang of jealously (never mind that I’ve got two books with a great publisher already).
I could go on, but you get the idea.
The point is, these things shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter to me when someone else has great success aside from having an opportunity to rejoice with them. Their successes are not mine, nor are mine theirs.
“You follow me,” says Jesus. That’s got to be enough all of us.
An earlier version of this post was originally published in August 2009.