Themes and Patterns

It ‘themes’ like time for another focus. Okay, I admit, a terrible pun, but that is a theme in my life! There are other themes, one of them is balance. I play Pickleball and sometimes people playing with me notice I seem to be using different hands and ask if I use my right or left hand. The answer is ‘yes.’ When I learned to play a few years ago I started serving with alternating hands and worked my left hand into the game. I often explain that I have better fine motor skills with my left hand and more power with my right (I grew up writing and eating left-handed, playing sports right-handed). This theme of balance began for me back in the 1980’s in terms of trying to engage in physical activities using both hands fairly equally, yes, I am getting old! Here is how it played out one time at work. I was delivering a presentation and someone commented that my writing on the whiteboard wasn’t terribly legible so I switched hands. That meant I had to concentrate more, but they said the writing was easier to read! Now, moving beyond my personal illustration, let’s move to scripture.  

We are going to look at themes, using Peter as an illustration and later Paul as an example. Peter’s themes related to boldness and fishing. Even his greatest failure came as a result of his boldness. When grace was removed, he fell!

Peter first appears in John,

40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). John 1:40–42 (NKJV)

For those of you who have heard sermons about Jesus calling Peter while he was fishing and Peter dropping everything to follow Jesus, sorry. Peter had already been introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew, a follower of John the Baptist. They spent some time with Jesus then went back to fishing in Galilee before Jesus came and called them (Matthew 4:18-20). We also find in the passage in John that Andrew told Peter Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) long before Peter really got it (Matthew (16:13-17).

            Those corrections aside, Peter combined boldness with failure. In Matthew 16:16-17 Peter knows by revelation rather than information that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. He follows this up by rebuking Jesus for saying He will suffer and die and get’s called Satan (Matthew 16:21-23). In Matthew 26:31-35 Jesus says they will all abandon Him; Peter insists that he won’t. However, he does just that (Matthew 26:69-75). The theme is boldness followed by failure, which continues even after Pentecost. Peter is the first to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-48) then later Peter separates himself from the Gentile believers over his fear of what the disciples from Jerusalem would say (Galatians 2:11-13).

            Another pattern in Peter’s life is fishing. He is called to become a disciple, which is what it meant to follow Jesus, while he is fishing (Matthew 4:18-20), he has a miraculous catch while fishing when he listens to Jesus (Luke 5:1-11). This is the same occasion as his calling in Matthew, Luke simply gives us more detail. Later in walking with Jesus he gets a coin from the mouth of a fish to pay the temple tax for Jesus and himself (Matthew 17:24-27) and finally while waiting for further directions from Jesus after the resurrection he goes fishing and is recommissioned to his life purpose (John 21:1-19).

            If we look at Paul as an example, consider what plagued his ministry. The major theme for Paul was opposition and persecution. He sowed the seeds of it in his own opposition to Jesus prior to his radical conversion and then it followed him until the day of his death.

The Judaizers, we might call them legalists, constantly followed Paul around trying to bring his converts under bondage to the Law. We see the seeds of this issue just after we meet Paul, still called Saul at this point.

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1–2 (NKJV)

What was Saul (Paul) so upset about? The believers were violating the Law, the very issue that later plagued him.

            Now, this all may be nice information but is likely not helpful if we fail to see how it applies to our lives. When we are born again, we receive a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21), Jesus in our reborn spirit. However, we then need Christ formed in us (Galatians 4:19). What we see in Peter’s life is that this was a long process with fits and starts. We read of no further issues beyond his failure in Galatia in the early years of the church. We also have his instructions on how to break the power of these thematic patterns in our lives in 2 Peter 1:3-11. For Paul victory was found in a recognition of Christ’s empowering presence in his weakness.  

9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

If we consider our lives, God is actively working in our present for our future. Given that do you see themes or patterns unfolding in your life? If it a path of victory, what do you need to do to stay on the path? If it is a path replete with frustration, what is the Spirit saying and pointing to as the path to victory? How is/has He been speaking to you?

I close with another theme in my own life. I know He has called me to His word and I know it well. However, when I listen to a message from a teacher or preacher, I find myself constantly assessing what they say in relation to scripture. I don’t have an off button for this function! My internal, and sometimes external response, used to be judgement. At present the assessing theme is still there but over time in paying attention to the Spirit my assessing has matured to following up to connect with the person if that is an option or praying for them. He has turned my weakness into a strength through His grace. Let’s all cooperate with His grace to see our themes redeemed.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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