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Stability is another character trait that must be found in the life of every Christian worker. Stability in character can be understood as stability in one's emotions. Some people are solid and unshakable before the Lord, but others are loose and shaky. They have no conviction in anything, and they turn with every turn in the environment. Many people are unreliable by nature, not because they want to be unreliable, but because their character is unreliable. As soon as something touches them, they change. They are not stable in their character. God requires a stable character of His servants, one that is solid, reliable, and unshakable.
In the Bible we find a man who was easily shaken, who is known to us as Simon Peter. Let us read some verses. Matthew 16:13-16 says, "Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of Man is? And they said, Some, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But you, who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." First John 5:1 says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God," and verse 13 says, "I have written these things to you that you may know that you have eternal life, to you who believe into the name of the Son of God." When Peter said "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," he must have at least touched the life of God. He had to have touched God's life in order to have known this. Read again Matthew 16:17: "And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in the heavens." Brothers and sisters, being with the Lord Jesus, following Him, and being beside Him do not guarantee one a knowledge of Him. One only knows Him through the revelation of the Father who is in the heavens. Our present attention is drawn to verse 18, which says, "And I also say to you that you are Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build My church." We must see that the church is something unshakable. The foundation of the church is unshakable, and the church itself is unshakable. This being the case, all the servants of the Lord should be unshakable as well. The Lord said, "Upon this rock I will build My church." The church is built upon this rock. We should pay attention to this rock.
In verse 18 the Lord seemed to be making a hidden reference to the words in Matthew 7, in which He spoke of those who build their houses upon the sand, and when rain and water and wind come, the houses totter to the ground. Then He said that we should build our house upon the rock so that it will not fall when the rain and water and wind come. The Lord said that the church is built upon the rock, which means that the church will never fall. The rain may come, and the water and wind may do their work, but the building will not fall. Even if the church is subject to the rain, water, and wind, it will never collapse, because it is firmly built upon the rock. It is stable, unshakable, and immovable. This is the underlying nature of the church. Paul told Timothy that the house of God, which is the church, is the pillar and base of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The church is like a pillar; it can never be moved. A chair can be moved and shaken, but a house can never be moved from place to place. The underlying nature of the church is a building that is upon a rock. Such a rock is stable and unshakable. God's children are little stones (lithos) upon the unique rock. In writing the second chapter of his first Epistle, Peter said that we are God's living stones, and that we are being built into a spiritual house (v. 5). Every brother and sister is a living stone that is built upon the rock. The superstructure of the church is of the same substance as the foundation. The material for the superstructure is the same as the material for the foundation. The church has no bricks; it only has stones. The tower of Babel was made of bricks, which are manmade imitations of stones. But in the church there is no brick, no manmade stability. The church is built upon the rock. Every one of us is a stone, and we are built together piece by piece into a spiritual house. Our eyes have to be opened to the intrinsic nature of the church. The Lord's church is something unshakable. In Matthew 16:18 the Lord continued, saying, "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." This is something unshakable; this is what the church is all about. The foundation of the church is a rock, something unshakable, and the church itself is made of stones which are also unshakable. Can we then say that the ministers within the church are shakable? This is what we are talking about here. We are not here to talk about the church. We are here to talk about the very person of the ministers. The ministers must not be shaken, because they are the stones. The Lord said to Peter, "You are Peter." This means, "You are a stone." "And upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Peter represents all the ministers of the church. A minister and servant of God must be a stone. Although the stone is not as big as the rock, it has the same nature as the rock, and it is equally unshakable.
In verse 19 the Lord said, "I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you bind on the earth shall have been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose on the earth shall have been loosed in the heavens." The Lord's promise to Peter was also a promise to the church. This promise became the church's possession in Matthew 18. But the Lord first gave it to Peter. This shows us clearly that the Lord considered Peter as one of the ministers. The Lord gave him the keys of the kingdom of the heavens so that he could open the doors. On the day of Pentecost, Peter opened one door, and at the house of Cornelius, he opened another door. He opened the door to the Jews, and he opened the door to the Gentiles. This is what one stone has done. Before Simon became Peter (a stone), he could not exercise the keys. Today not all who are called Peter are Peters, in the same way that not all who are called by the name of Israel are men of strength. A man can be called Israel yet be a weak person. Here was a person whose name was Peter. The Lord put the keys in his hand. But he could exercise the keys only after he truly became a Peter, a stone. When that day came, whatever he bound was bound, and whatever he loosed was loosed
The effectiveness of a minister has much to do with the stability of his character. This is a basic requirement. If a man is shaky before God, he cannot be a minister, and the church cannot follow him. A fundamental problem with some brothers and sisters is the lack of a stable character. They are constantly changing. They sway back and forth and are never steady and firm before the Lord. They cannot serve the church, because they cannot stand firm and upright, and the gates of Hades easily prevail over them.
Thank the Lord that Peter was chosen as a pattern. God is looking for a man whose nature is the same as the nature of the foundation under him and the superstructure of the building around him. A minister must be a stable stone. Thank God that Peter was chosen as a pattern, because his case shows us that God can make anyone stable. Here was a man named Peter, yet he was not always a "Peter." His name referred to a stone, but his character was like water. He was not reliable. He was one thing at one time and another thing another time. One minute Peter was bold and the next minute he was very weak. This was the kind of person he was. The Lord put such a person before us to show us how unstable a person's nature can be before he is dealt with by the Lord. Before such a person becomes a stone, he cannot use the keys and cannot be useful to God in any particular way. God can only use him after his wobbly nature has been dealt with by the Lord. We thank the Lord that a man's character can change; it is not unchangeable. Peter was a wavering person, yet he could be changed into a stable person. When the light of the Lord burns our tongue, our talkativeness will disappear. When a lazy man is rebuked, his laziness wilts away. The Lord cursed the fig tree, and the tree dried up. The Lord's rebuke brings in His curse, and where His curse is, there is wilting and death. If we have never touched Him, we can go on in our merry way. But as soon as we touch Him, our frivolity wilts away. As soon as God's light touches us, either through a message or through a brother's direct rebuke, something in us wilts away. The Lord's rebuke results in an immediate wilting away. Here we are talking about a reconstitution or a remake of our character. Many people have a character that cannot listen to others. Or they may have a character that is too cold, lazy, or weak. But as soon as God touches them, or a brother comes along and points out their insensitivity in listening or their weakness, they will receive the light, and something in them will wilt away. It is God's grace that Peter was chosen. Had it not been for Peter, all those who are weak and unstable would have no hope. But the Lord chose one man and called him Peter, and after He made him a "Peter," He gave him the keys to bring men into the church.
The Bible tells us that after Peter recognized the Lord as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord said, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in the heavens" (Matt. 16:17). This was entirely God's work. Peter did not deserve any merit, but the Father's revelation enabled him to see the Lord as the Christ and the Son of God. Peter received a revelation from the Father, a revelation from God. Such a revelation is unknown to flesh and blood, even to Peter's own flesh and blood. Let us go on with the same passage: "From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You! But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men" (vv. 21-23). In the previous passage Peter saw the vision, while in this passage Peter became an instrument of Satan. In the previous verses Peter touched God the Father; here he touched Satan. In the first instance he was able to say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." In the second instance he said, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!" The two statements are as far apart as the north pole is from the south pole. If we are not wrong in our understanding, we can safely say that no revelation in the four Gospels reached the height of Peter's revelation. It was the Father who had given Peter the revelation; he knew the Lord as "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then the Lord proclaimed that the church was to be built upon this knowledge, this rock. Peter indeed received a great revelation, one unseen by other followers and friends of the Lord. Perhaps the revelation that Peter received and saw should be considered the ultimate revelation. But in the same chapter, he fell to the lowest depth. He was speaking not only according to the flesh, but by Satan. One minute he was speaking according to the Father; the next minute he turned around and was speaking according to Satan. What an extreme turn this was! If the church is built upon such a minister, the gates of Hades surely will prevail against it. No, the church cannot be built upon such a wavering one; it needs to be built up by men of stone. The ministers of the church must be as stable as stones. They cannot be God's mouthpiece in one instance, and Satan's mouthpiece in another instance. This is a serious matter. Not long after Peter received the highest revelation, he fell to the lowest abyss. He was keeping the Lord from going to the cross. He was not setting his mind on the things of God. He was utilized by Satan. Whenever Satan's word is released, the gates of Hades are opened. If Satan prevails and the gates of Hades prevail, the church is defeated. Had the Lord not turned Peter into a stable stone, the church would be hopeless. Today we need ministers as stable as stones. They have to be firm and unshakable. They cannot be one way one day and another way the next day, saying one thing one moment and another thing another moment. If we are solid and firm before the Lord, we will see what the church really is, and we will see blessing and victory over the gates of Hades. But if we are weak and wavering, Satan will open his mouth immediately, and the gates of Hades will be opened. In Peter we see an extreme contrast; there were great discrepancies in his character. This is a picture of the old, unchanged nature of Peter.
After the last supper the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, "You will all be stumbled because of Me this night, for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered." Peter said, "If all will be stumbled because of You, I will never be stumbled" (26:31, 33). Peter's word was based on his disposition. He was saying the right thing; he was not lying, no, not at all. But we must remember that we do not know anything about many of the things that we say to the Lord at the time of our consecration and revival. Peter was a person who was rich in emotion. He said, "I will never be stumbled." But this conviction was merely in his emotion; he was not this kind of person at all. Many people who are rich in emotion have to learn to separate their emotion from their person. Sooner or later they discover that their emotion does not represent them. Some people live by their mind too much. They are always in their mind. When they pray, and others say to them, "You are praying only with your mind; your heart is not in your prayer," they answer, "What do you mean my heart is not in my prayer?" A man can be in his mind so much that when his heart is not into what he is doing, he can be deceived to think that his mind actually is his heart. One day when the light shines on him, he will see that his mind is not his heart. Some people feel a burning within their heart; they think that they love the Lord. They proudly proclaim, "I love the Lord." If another brother says, "You may think that you are loving the Lord, but actually you are not," they will argue, "If I do not love the Lord, who does?" When their emotion is dealt with by the Lord, they will realize that their heart and emotion are two different things. Their person is not the same as their emotion; there is a great difference between the two. In the same way there is a great difference between their mind and their person. Peter was speaking from his emotion. He thought that he was the one who was speaking. He boasted that even if all the others would be stumbled because of the Lord, he would never be stumbled. He did not realize that the "I" he was speaking of was not his person but his emotion. He did not realize how much his outward man was at work. He did not realize how much he was living in his outward man. He did not know what he was saying, and he was not clear about himself at all. Then the Lord said to him, "Truly I say to you that in this night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times" (v. 34). But Peter still did not know himself. He told the Lord, "Even if I must die with You, I will by no means deny You" (v. 35). Here were another two extremes. Peter said that he would never be stumbled, but he denied the Lord three times. He boasted that he would die with the Lord, but long before there was any call to die with the Lord, he failed and became fearful when the crowd pointed out that he had been with Jesus.
These two extremes show us that Peter was a very unstable person. Although his name indicated that he was a stone, his character was like water; it flowed one way one moment and another way the next moment. It constantly changed in shape, being rectangular one minute and circular the next minute. He was completely governed by his environment. He became a certain kind of person when he faced a certain kind of environment. In the garden of Gethsemane, he dozed off with the other disciples. During the heat of his boast, he claimed that he would never be stumbled, even if the others were stumbled. But in the garden of Gethsemane, he fell sleep just like everyone else. Here was a person who was so sure in his speaking and who felt the same way in himself, but who did everything just the opposite. He was living according to his feeling; he was not living according to his true self. A man can live in his feeling so much that he no longer knows what his true self is. He thinks that his feelings are himself. This was Peter. He said he would never be stumbled, and according to his feeling, he sincerely believed that he would never be stumbled. But even before he met any opposition from men, he fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak (26:41). A while later, he gathered up his energy, drew up his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and took off his ear (v. 51). He was bold to do this. He loved the Lord so much that he cast aside his personal considerations and stood at this height. Yet in a little while he slid back again. This was Peter.
Mark 14 also provides us with a record of Peter's denial of the Lord. At the beginning, "Peter followed Him at a distance until he was within the courtyard of the high priest. And he was there sitting with the attendants and warming himself in the light of the fire" (v. 54). A servant girl of the high priest came and said to Peter, "You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus" (v. 67). Peter denied this and answered, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about" (v. 68). Here was a man who had followed the Lord for three and a half years. Did he not know who the Lord was? One moment he could draw out his sword and cut someone, yet in the next moment he lost his boldness altogether. The Lord was being tried, and everyone was mocking Him. Under these circumstances, Peter's boldness was nowhere to be found. A little earlier, he was genuinely ready to die for the Lord. Now he was genuinely loving himself and shrinking from death. He turned from one extreme to the other. The second time the slave girl spoke, Mark tells us that she did not address Peter, but instead she spoke to those standing by, saying, "This man is one of them!" After the slave girl first spoke to Peter about being with Jesus the Nazarene, Peter denied it and went outside into the forecourt. But the slave girl saw him again, and she told those who were standing by that he was one of them. Then Peter made his second denial (vv. 69-70). Matthew 26:72 says, "And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man!" After a little while, those standing by again said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean as well" (Mark 14:70). Peter began to curse and to swear, "I do not know this man of whom you speak!" (v. 71). He began to curse and to swear! A little earlier he denied with an oath. Now he denied with cursing and swearing. When the slave girl first talked to him, he denied the Lord and moved to the forecourt because he could no longer remain in the same place. There he heard the slave girl telling those standing around that he was with Jesus of Nazareth. He denied the Lord again with an oath that he did not know Him. By the time those who were standing around echoed the words that he had been with Jesus, he did not just make an oath; he cursed and swore. In the original Greek, three different words are used to describe his denial. One was used during his second denial, and the other two were used in his third denial. He exhausted every means of swearing and cursing. In his second denial he made an oath by God's name and by heaven and earth. In his third denial, he simply cursed and swore. He not only invoked God's name to assure others that he did not know Jesus; he even cursed that he would be damned if he knew the Lord! His vocabulary was vulgar. Peter had degraded and fallen to the uttermost. Here was a man who was just the opposite of a "Peter," that is, one who should be solid as a rock. Instead, he was one way one minute and another way the next minute. One minute he was high in the heavens. The next minute he was Satan's instrument. One minute he could boast that he would never be stumbled even if others were stumbled. The next minute he fell asleep. One minute he was bold to draw his sword to cut off the ear of Malchus. The next minute he was even afraid of a slave girl. He denied the Lord with an oath. He even cursed and swore in his denial. Such a person surely had a serious flaw in his character.
Why was Peter so unstable? Generally speaking, a man is unstable for three reasons. First, he is governed by his emotions. Second, he is afraid of loss; that is, in seeking for his own happiness, he is afraid of the cross and of pain. Third, he is afraid of men in general; that is, he is afraid of offending men. He wants to please men and to please the environment. These are the basic reasons for instability in man.
Peter was this kind of person. He was tainted by his own emotions. If a man lives according to his emotions, at times he is carried to the loftiest heights, and at other times he is carried into the snare of Satan. Emotions are very unstable. We have never seen a person who can remain on the same emotional plane for a long time. If a man lives according to his emotions, he is conducting his life by the impulse of his emotions, by what capriciously drives him to be hot or cold within. Such ones can receive God's mercy and revelation. But they can also be driven by the impulse of their heart to exclaim, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You." Peter hindered the Lord. It seemed as if he was clearer than the Lord about what needed to be done. He "took Him aside and began to rebuke Him." All who are emotional like to be the Lord's counselor; they like to make proposals to the Lord. They have a plan for everything. An emotional person can act by the impulse of his emotion and turn around suddenly to rebuke the Lord, saying, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!" He is quick to feel, quick to speak, and quick to act. But in reality his speaking is Satan's speaking!
We must learn to receive some basic dealings. We are by nature emotional persons. We should not think that we are very much different from Peter. This weakness in character is the greatest hindrance to our work. If this obstacle is not removed, our Pentecost will not come. We cannot live our life according to our emotions or by the impulse of our feelings. We should not live by stimulus; rather, we should deny our own feelings. Our feelings will guide us to the left one minute and then to the right the next minute, to the east one minute and then to the west the next minute, and up one minute and then down the next minute. These feelings are not from the Lord but from the corrupted man within us. If such feelings occupy a central place in our life, we will be of little use to God's work. Only the weakest ones live according to their feelings. It is not a sign of strength to live according to one's feelings, but a sign of weakness. A strong man is one who can control himself, whose eyes are opened, and who puts no trust in his own feelings. Only those who do not trust in their own feelings, but rather deny them, will be able to learn what it means to live not by feelings. Otherwise, they will always regard their feelings as being themselves. Peter had a forthright character. He said what he thought was true. He said what he saw and what he felt. To others he was upright, honest, and not given to diplomacy or double dealings. But he was actually living by his emotions, and he was useless in the spiritual pathway. There was no alternative except for him to go through his dealings. Brothers and sisters, we may feel that we love the Lord, but actually there is no love for the Lord within our being. We may feel that we are for the Lord, but actually there is nothing for the Lord within our being. Our being is much deeper than our feelings; it is buried beneath our feelings, far, far beneath them. We may feel that we are willing to die for the Lord, but do we really know the kind of persons that we are? When we say that we are for the Lord, we do not know the very "we" to whom we are referring. We do not know the "we" that boasts of dying for the Lord or living for Him. Our real person is beyond and much deeper than our feelings. Peter thought that his outer man was his person. But the one who boasted of dying for the Lord was just the emotion of Peter's outer man. It only took a little time for his real condition to be exposed. Before a man is broken by the Lord in his emotions, he invariably lives by his emotions. He is prone to fluctuate back and forth. Although he may feel that he is very genuine, he is in fact being controlled by his emotions. We know that lying is detestable, and that it is pitiful when someone does not know that he is lying. In the same way, our fickle emotions are detestable, and it is pitiful when we do not know that our emotions are fickle. Those who are convinced that their feelings are an accurate reflection of who they are, are most foolish. They will have to experience what Peter experienced, a total and utter failure, before they know that their feelings are different from themselves. They feel one way at "the last supper," and they feel another way at the "garden of Gethsemane." They feel one way when they come out of "Gethsemane," and they feel another way when they enter the "courtyard." Blessed is he who can separate his feelings from himself. Only a foolish one assumes that his feelings are himself. Everyone who is taught by God knows that his feelings are not himself. Our feelings are something totally different from ourselves. Brothers and sisters, have we seen this? When our emotional impulses point one way, we are not necessarily the person our impulse portrays. As far as Peter's impulse was concerned, he was a heavenly man, one who would never fail. He was willing to cut off the ear of Malchus for the Lord's sake. But spiritually speaking, Peter's feelings could not be considered to be Peter's very person. He was bold according to his feelings, but he was fearful according to his own self. He loved the Lord as far as his feelings were concerned, but he loved himself more than the Lord as far as his person was concerned. He was willing to lay aside himself as far as his feelings were concerned, but he wanted to protect himself as far as his person was concerned. If this is the way the church's ministers are, and if the church follows the footsteps of such ones, surely the church will be as shaky as they are, and the gates of Hades will surely prevail against the church. God can never use such persons.
This was not all. Peter was very afraid of suffering. One of the reasons that a man is not stable is because he is afraid of suffering. Many people are bold before they encounter the cross or before they experience trials or tribulations. But when the day comes for them to give up their lives and everything, they shrink back. At other times they seem to love the Lord and to be willing to bear the cross. But when the critical moment comes, they cannot hold out, because they are afraid of suffering and because they love themselves. This is where Peter's problem lay. What Peter felt compelled to do in the courtyard was the same as what he had done in Caesarea Philippi in front of the Lord. His fear of suffering and self-love did not appear suddenly in the courtyard. When the Lord spoke to him face to face about the cross, he recoiled by saying, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!" He believed his words, and his statement revealed the kind of person he was. This was why he rebuked the Lord the way he did. He was afraid of loss and death. He did not want this to happen to the Lord. He was so hardheaded that he even took the Lord by the hand to rebuke Him. Brothers and sisters, only one kind of person is stable --those who will be faithful even unto death for the Lord. Satan can do nothing to those who do not love their own life. The weakest ones are those who love their own life. Once a man loves his own life, he will be stumbled as soon as something touches his life. This was what happened to Peter. He rebuked the Lord saying, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!" In other words, he was saying, "Lord, You can never go to the cross!" Later he tried various ways to escape the cross himself. He even resorted to cursing and swearing! A mind to suffer is a big thing. Later in his life, he spoke of having a mind to suffer. He knew that he was short in this matter, and he learned some good lessons. He began to arm himself with this mind to suffer. This attitude was unknown to him in the earlier part of his life. No one who is fearful of something is strong. We have to be brought on to the point where we can say, "Lord, I am happy and willing to bear Your cross. I am happy and willing to suffer any loss, to not seek after my own gain or my own pleasure." If a man stands on this ground, Satan will not be able to do anything to him. If you are not afraid of loss and pain, if you can be like Job, who said he would trust in God even if God were to kill him, or Madam Guyon, who said that she would kiss the whip that chastised her, your absoluteness will make you a strong man. If the cross cannot shake a person, nothing will shake him, for there is no greater requirement than the cross. If you can satisfy the greatest demand, you will have no trouble with lesser demands. If you cannot meet the demand of the cross, and instead shrink back from it, you will fail in the face of any test. You will be unsteady and unstable. You have to believe in the fact of the cross, and you have to enter the experience of the cross. You have to accept and submit to all God-given trials, tribulations, and pains. If you do, no trial or tribulation in this world will appear big. You are troubled because you do not know the cross. If you have never encountered a big test, you will be stumbled at a small one. But if you have passed through a big test, you will not be shaken by a small one. Peter was shaken because he was afraid of suffering and because he loved himself.
Another reason for Peter's unsteadiness was his desire to go along with the environment. He wanted to please those in the environment. He was afraid of men. We may not realize how much we are influenced by men's affections and displeasure. As soon as we try to please men and to avoid their displeasure, our way is no longer straight. We have to say this or that to meet others' expectations. We have too many ears to listen to what others have to say. Peter was afraid of the slave girl, and he was afraid of many other people. He was bound by his weaknesses. Brothers and sisters, are you trying to please men, or are you trying to please God? This question should be settled the first day you consecrate yourself to God's service. If you are here to please men, will you still experience persecution? Will you still experience trouble? If you are here to please men, the stumbling block of the cross will be annulled (Gal. 5:11). Brothers and sisters, if the problem of your fear of men is not resolved, you cannot run a straight course before the Lord. Those who have a fear of men change their course as soon as something affects them one way or another. They can never be stable and strong before the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, the church of God has the nature of a stone. The nature of the ministers should also be of stone. The foundation of the church is of stone, the building up of the church is of stone, and the service of the church should be of stone. Everything should be rock-solid, unshakable, and without any shadow of change. God cannot use anything flippant, shaky, or unstable in His divine work within the church. When something is stable, it is solid and trustworthy. When one stone is laid upon another, any unstable piece will endanger the whole structure. If one rock on a stone wall is unsteady, the whole wall will be in danger of collapsing. In the church of God, we are not the last stones; many more will be built upon us. The church is not composed of thousands of isolated stones; it is composed of stones that are built one upon the other. The many stones are built up together to become a spiritual house. When the stones are not on top of one another, there is no church. When the temple was destroyed, no stone was upon another. In order for the temple to be built, every stone has to be upon other stones. Today God is still building; He is still building up many spiritual things, piece after piece. If one piece shakes, the whole building will be in jeopardy; many lives will be at risk, and God's church will not be able to go on. This is why our character must be as solid as stone; it must be stable. If our character is shakable and unreliable, everything that is built upon us will be shakable, and sooner or later everything will collapse. First Corinthians 15:58 says, "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." We can go on positively only if we are steadfast and immovable. If our character wavers, being up at times and down at other times, being one way one minute and another way the next, God's work will be damaged.
Some brothers and sisters cannot participate in the Lord's work because they are too unreliable. If you build upon something that is unreliable, you may build a little only to find that it has to be torn down. In addition to being a waste of labor, it is also a waste of time. The amount of building and tearing down may neutralize one another, but the time wasted is irreparable. If a man is reliable, whatever is built upon him will be reliable, and no time will be wasted. Any collapse or damage in the work may be remedied by reconstruction, but five, ten, or twenty years may be lost in the process. This loss cannot be remedied. We have to pray that God would make us reliable men. We may not climb as high as Peter did, because such heights take time to attain. But at least we can be trustworthy and reliable, not building something that has to be torn down. Without such a reliable character, we cannot participate in God's work. When we are stable and trustworthy, we can meet the challenge of any responsibility that falls upon our shoulders. Otherwise, we will fall asleep when we are called upon to be vigilant. If a man is unreliable, always being up and down, he will fail in the Lord's call for watchfulness and go to sleep. When he is tired, he will fall asleep, not caring whether there is a need for watchfulness. He will want eight hours of sleep and will settle for nothing less, no matter how much he is called upon to be watchful. He may get his sleep, but he will not realize the loss he has suffered through his sleep. Suppose you fall asleep when the Lord calls upon you to be watchful. What will you do when the Lord calls you to work? You will not have any sense of responsibility. If a man is not stable before the Lord, he is not reliable, and if he is not reliable, he will not have a sense of responsibility. When he feels good, he will work more. When he feels bad, he will go to sleep. He will have no sense of responsibility. Hence, stability in our character is a fundamental need in the work; only stable ones can work for the Lord. They work when they feel like it, and they work when they do not feel like it. They work when the sun shines, and they work when it rains. They work when they are very happy, and they work when they are very sad. These are the stable ones. Unstable ones are affected by everything; even the weather affects them. If our work is affected by our environment, we have failed the Lord. Before Him we must have a strong spirit.
Brothers and sisters, are you reliable? Are you stable? Are you unwavering? When you have learned all that God wants you to learn, you will have the keys. These keys first opened the door to the Jews, and then the door to the Gentiles, and the church is built up this way. We must remember the principle that God secures ministers before He builds the church. God first looks for ministers, and then He builds the church. The doors in many places can only be opened when God finds suitable and usable ministers. If His ministers and servants are not stable and reliable, these doors will not be opened.
Thank God that Peter saw his weakness through his failure. His fall was severe and his failure great. He went away and wept. He knew that he could not make it by himself. Many brothers and sisters are likewise fully conscious of their own weakness, instability, and frailty. Let us pray to the Lord, saying, "Lord, I cannot make it!" Many people pray for light, yet very often great failures are a source of great light. These failures can provide as much a light as a severe rebuke or a seething message. A man should prostrate himself before God's word. He should prostrate himself before a severe rebuke. Likewise, he should prostrate himself before a serious failure. Such a failure is a light in itself. God shows through failures the kind of person one is. Peter wept bitterly. But God's mercy was upon him, and he became a real "Peter." He was changed from a weak and shaking person to a solid and stable person, and the door of Pentecost was opened through him. May the Lord be gracious to us so that we will witness a change in our character. Our character has to be changed, and the Lord can change our character. A lazy man can be changed into a diligent man; a talkative man can be changed into a man of few words; an insensitive man can be changed into a man who listens; a man who is afraid of sufferings can be changed into one who is fearless in the face of sufferings; a man who cannot control his body can be changed into one who is a master of his body. In the same way, a weak, shaky, and wobbly man can be changed into a strong, stable, and unwavering man. May the Lord have mercy on us.