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Dedication: Do You Have What it Takes?
I remember the first time I tried to run track. At five-foot-four and around eighty pounds, I mustered all the strength I had to attend a week of practice. But going from never running to running five miles every day for a week did not provide much hope.
Quickly, and might I add painfully, I had swollen and purple ankles. It did not matter that the boys on the sidelines cheered me on during my two-mile time trial. I was weak. I was undernourished. And I was certainly not fit at this time to run.
Growing up, my parents told me that if I started something, I had to finish it. Dedication meant doing what I needed to do, even if it was hard. Dedication meant staying the course even if I did not want to.
This was the one exception.
After a week, the lead coach told me that this probably was not the best time for me to run track. So while I technically “quit,” this recommendation felt like a failure. I wanted to be dedicated, but I could not be. And looking back on that moment, I am glad I listened to him, because I may have caused my body further damage.
Are You Dedicated?
Today, I never imagined that I would be someone dedicated to running and staying and shape. And why? Because dedication is hard. It takes worth and mounds of effort. I remember what it felt like to give up at that moment, and I promise you that feeling feels worse than the dedication and work it takes to remain dedicated.
As Christians, this got me thinking about our willingness and dedication to other things. And in particular, our dedication to the Lord.
In John chapter eighteen, Peter faced a much more serious situation with dedication than I did during my sophomore track season. In fact, it is one that I feel each of us could learn a thing or two from here and now.
Would You Stand?
Shortly after Jesus’ arrest, Peter cut off the ear of a high priest because they were going to harm Jesus. One would think he was surely dedicated to the Lord (John 18:1-18). But beginning in verses 19-24, Peter denied Jesus not just once, but three times.
“Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there, and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself” (John 18:15-18, New International Version).
Peter was willing to be a follower of Jesus but at a distance. He was happy to cut off an ear when it was convenient to him, but not stand up for Jesus when his own reputation was on the line. And that got me thinking this:
Are we truly dedicated to Jesus? More than sports, more than failed attempts to run track, more than relationships, school, or college degrees. And do we take that relationship seriously? Do we take that priority and dedication to Him seriously?
Are we only willing to stand for Jesus when it is convenient for us, or will we stand even when it means our own judgment and reputation are at stake?
Stand Like Jesus
In verses 19-24, Jesus was bold about who He was, what His Father’s mission was for Him, and the purpose of His Disciples.
“Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest” (John 18:19-24, New International Version).
Jesus spoke plainly and boldly before He was arrested, and He would speak that way now. And why? For He was confident in the one who sent Him, and He was confident in who He was and is. But was Peter?
While Jesus said, “I said nothing in secret,” (verse 20) Peter was warming himself with an open fire, openly denying that Jesus was His Lord.
“Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow” (John 18:25-27, New International Version).
While Jesus stood for Peter, Peter threw Him under the bus. And as that rooster crowed, I wonder if he knew. I wonder if he knew that Jesus was before Pilate. Speaking the truth- a truth Peter claimed to know, but was not living out. I wonder if he heard Jesus’ words, “before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
When he later saw him on the cross, I wonder if his heart grieved. If those words echoed in his mind. If he felt remorse. If he thought, “how could I deny Him? Truly He was the Son of Man.”
But as much as we throw shade at Peter, Pilate, Annas, or Caiaphas, we have all done the same.
Spat in His face.
Not shared Him with others.
Ignored His advice.
Been too afraid to take a stand.
And yet, He died for us anyways.
The True Measure of Dedication
What a beautiful testimony of love. What a beautiful story that should compel us to stand. To dedicate ourselves to Him even when it is hard.
Because do you honestly think dying on a cross was easy?
Having nails placed in your hands easy?
Being lashed a hundred times–easy?
Don’t you think it would have been easier to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9)?
But that was never the plan. And though we were not dedicated to Him, He was always dedicated to us.
He always will be.
More dedicated than I was trying to run twenty-five miles in a week.
More dedicated than we will ever be.
The least we could do is strive to do better than Peter was at this moment. Or Annas. Or Caiaphas. And better than we were in each of our failed moments. The least we could do is dedicate ourselves to Him.
Not because He needs us.
But because we need Him.
We all have what it takes.
But it takes dedication.
“Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18: 36-37, New International Version).