“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” John 21:18 (NIV).
The Lord requires of true followers a higher kind of death. This kind of dying will glorify God and is only possible when we choose to follow hard after the Lord, leaving behind our own agendas and seeking His will. I am not speaking here of physical death but of a deeper consecration where one dies to the right to rule one’s own life and follows hard after God.
In John 21:18 the Lord is sharing a truth with Peter, and within its words is a secret—a revelation for those of us who live today. Here the Lord is saying in essence, “Peter, I am giving you this truth: once you grow in maturity you will move from a place of independence to one of increasing dependence instead of from dependence to independence.”
A small child is needy and dependent upon his mother, but as he grows older he becomes capable of living without constant parental supervision, even to the place where he can live independently and take care of himself.
Interestingly enough, it’s just the opposite in the spirit realm. The more we mature in the things of God the more helpless we are to become, increasingly dependent on Him. We become “poor in spirit”--bankrupt regarding own self sufficiency and strength. At that point we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that apart from His power we can do nothing. Over time we learn that wisdom requires us to lean on the Lord, because without Him we are weak and vulnerable and prone to confusion, deception and failure, whereas when we attach ourselves to the True Vine, Christ Jesus, we are complete and competent to deal with whatever comes our way, and overcome.
The Lord desires to re-clothe us, taking off our independent, self-assertive, all-knowing attitudes and clothing us with humility, dependence, and a meek and contrite heart. “But when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you.”
Anything that is not of God is of the flesh and will hinder us from walking in power and anointing. It will also prevent us from hearing the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. As we lay down those things, He strips us of our old rags and clothes us in the beauty of holiness, as we yield to Him out of love and dependence, knowing that only in Him are we complete and victorious, able to live and move and have our being, all because He is The Life. In fact, our need for God grows with age if we can only admit it--as we become aware of how desperately we need Him, more every day.
Will we let the Lord exchange our rags for white robes? Will we allow Him to remove any garment of self and let Him lead us where we do not want to go? Warning: Our flesh is never happy when we yield to the Spirit to become needy children, dependent on our Father for even our very breath. In truth, He will often lead us down a difficult road which we would never have taken on our own. But it’s in this place of dependence and obedience where we are changed into His image, and become useful to His Kingdom, ready to answer when He calls us, to that place of surrender, no matter what the circumstances. It’s in that place that we follow where He leads and let Him carry us through every situation. It’s also in that place that we become more and more confident that He is a good God, who truly loves us more than we can humanly grasp, and that He will work out all things for our good and His purpose. That’s the secret place of safety and rest, where nothing can touch us in the natural, because no matter what happens our focus is on Him alone, as we lean on His breast and feel the beat of His heart. Can you imagine a better place to be?