A Most Debilitating Question
1 by Arlo E. Moehlenpah

The scriptural setting for this question is found in John 21. One evening after the resurrection, Peter and a few other disciples decided to go fishing. This endeavor was totally unsuccessful in that they caught nothing. When morning came, Jesus, on the shore, asked how they did. When they admitted they had caught nothing, Jesus gave them the instructions which allowed them to catch a draught of 153 great fish. Peter and the others rejoiced over their great catch, any one of which might have been the type a fisherman would want to mount on his living room wall. After they ate the fish that Jesus already had prepared for them, Jesus reminded Peter why he had been called in the first place. He asked, “Lovest thou me more than these?” In other words, Jesus was asking, “Peter do you love me more than catching and eating fish?” Peter replied, “Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs.” To drive home the command, Jesus asked a similar question twice more and Peter gave similar replies while the Lord responded with similar commands.

Now for the “Most Debilitating Question.” The word debilitating means weakening or enfeebling. Probably everyone reading this article has asked it at some time. Most of us are too ashamed to ask it out loud, but we ask it in our mind. Peter, after looking at John, asked Jesus, “What shall this man do?”

An interesting fact about humanity is that people re usually satisfied until they start comparing themselves with others, which the Bible says is not wise. A man may be satisfied with his salary until he finds out another worker gets paid more. A person is happy with his bonus unless he finds out another person gets a larger one. The laborer in the vineyard was satisfied with the agreed upon wage of a penny a day until he found out that others got the same amount of money for less work. Saul was probably pleased with the phrase of the song, “Saul has slain his thousands,” until he heard the line that said, “David hath slain ten thousands.”

So Peter’s question of, “And what shall this man do?” could have had a weakening or enfeebling effect on the command that Peter was given if it had not been properly answered. Jesus, however, answered it perfectly when he replied, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” Follow thou me.” In other words, “Peter, what I am asking you to do should be done independently of what others do or fail to do.”

I don’t know what God is asking you to do. Perhaps you are being impressed to pray every morning, and your brother is not. The Lord may reply to you, “If I will that he sleep every day until noon, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” Or perhaps you have strong convictions against certain activities and your brother doesn’t. Maybe the Lord would reply to you, “If he spends four hours every day with that, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

Perhaps you feel you should give sacrificially and your brother is living in splendor. The Lord may be saying to you, “If I will that he live in a $400,000 house, have a cabin on the ocean, and two Cadillacs, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

Or maybe the Lord wants you to uproot your family and go to a home or foreign mission field. The debilitating questions would be for you to ask, “What about my brother who has a good job? What about the brother who pastors a sizeable church?” I believe the Lord would say to you, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

I am not saying we should not be concerned about the spiritual and physical welfare of others in need, but that we should avoid the debilitating question of comparing ourselves to others in possessions and accomplishments and tasks.

Questioning what others do or are not going to do in comparison to yourself can have a debilitating effect on what God wants you to do. You are a unique piece of the puzzle. Your brother can’t fit the role that God wants you to fill. Quit asking about others and thank God that he has chosen you to do what he wants you to do. Follow Him!

This article first appeared in First Love, volume 2, number 1, 1988

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