On your Mark
The gift of a new identity
These are the twelve he appointed: Simon, (to whom he gave
the name Peter) ... (Mark 3:16, NIV)
Author and pastor Bruce Larson tells about the time when his
boy was 6 years of age. His son began compulsively sucking his thumb. Nothing
the parents did made him quit.
Finally, in sheer desperation, they gave him the nickname
Thumbsucker, hoping it would shame their son out of the practice. But things
only got worse. Someone who had once been a happy-go-lucky little boy now
became a saddened, eyes-to-the-ground, shoulders-hunched-down son with the
ever-present thumb in his mouth.
Bruce said he was praying one day when he felt the Lord ask
him — not audibly, but in the quiet way the Lord has of speaking to our
hearts — Is this the little boy you prayed to have? Are you happy with
"Yes, Lord," he answered.
Then why are you calling him Thumbsucker? the Lord
Bruce Larson felt he had no good answer.
He sensed the Lord speak again: I did not give you a thumb
sucker. I gave you a wonderful little boy, and I want you to call him that.
Right then and there, Bruce Larson decided on a new name,
“Mr. Wonderful.” He rose from his place of prayer, found his little boy sucking
his thumb as usual, picked him up, hugged and kissed him, looked into his eyes
and said, “Hi, Mr. Wonderful!”
Larson and his wife kept calling their son by his new name,
and it was only a short time until the son had stopped all thumb sucking and
returned to being his happy little self.
The Larsons had given their son the gift of a new identity
— a gift of grace from a greater to a lesser, a gift the son could have
never given himself.
That’s exactly what Jesus did when He renamed Simon as Peter
John tells us that when Jesus met Peter for the first time
He immediately renamed him Rock (John 1:40-42). There were many factors that
Jesus evidently did not take into account when He gave such a complimentary
name to Simon. Simon was impulsive, talked too much, and cracked under
pressure. But the Lord saw something in Simon that no one else saw — not
even Simon’s mother or Simon himself. Jesus perceived that Simon took
initiative and was willing to learn and obey. Rather than focus on Simon’s
weaknesses, Jesus determined to bring out his strengths, giving him the gift of
grace — a new identity. He renamed Simon as Peter, which means Rock.
We learn something from this. Too often, focus is placed on
our shortcomings, the areas we fail, our vulnerabilities and sins. Jesus is
aware of all that. But He also envisions what we can become.
Before we ever had faith in Him, He has faith in us.
Immediately upon our confession of Him as Lord, He calls us sons and daughters
of God, saints, and heirs of eternal life. He gives us the inexpressible and
inexhaustible gift of a new identity!
We are no longer sinners or thumb suckers — we are
God’s precious children!
A prayer of response
Lord, I am a lot like Peter. I don't deserve to be called Rock. I often feel like putty — I squish in all directions. But You are taking the fluidness and liquid nature of my life and changing it into solidity. You bring wholeness out of the fragmentation of my life. Thank You, Lord, for seeing something in me far better than I or others even imagine. Thank You for the upward call that lifts me. Blessed be Your name!
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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