So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:15-19).

Usually, people only need to be asked once whether they love someone else, or at least once a day, and never thrice in close succession the way Jesus asked Peter. In fact, Peter was sorely grieved when his Master asked him a third time whether he loved Him. “Lord, you are the only begotten omniscient Son of God who knows everything. There is not a single thing hidden from you. In fact, you have known everything every single person would ever do and think before the foundation of the world. And yet you ask me whether I love you? Do I need to tell you that I love you when you already know all things?”

Certainly, Jesus Christ knows all things but do we who call ourselves Christians and his followers actually know what it means to love Him? You see, to love God is not merely a say-love; it is a do-love and most often a do-not-love. Peter was so sure that he loved Jesus, and indeed there is no doubt that he did, but he had to learn the do-love by feeding God’s lambs and sheep, and also that this kind of feeding more often than not ends up in your final demise here on earth. Let us remind ourselves at this stage how Jesus defines love for Him.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15).

That seems to be concise enough for everyone to understand what He meant, no so? For the sake of clarity, we need to ask ourselves to which commandments Jesus referred when He said this. Was He referring to the Ten Commandments? He could not have referred to the Ten Commandments because in his Sermon on the Mount He repeatedly said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,  . . . but I say unto you . . .” His Sermon on the Mount commandments are more stringent than the Ten Commandments because they reveal the heart of man and not just his powerless and measly little efforts to keep the Ten Commandments.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9)



Shall we now journey through the Bible to learn what it means to love God?  We have briefly looked at the do-love in Peter’s life. We shall now look at the do-not-love. Israel’s journey through the wilderness after God had rescued her from her bondage to slavery in Egypt will help us to understand the do-not-love. Let us turn to the book of Deuteronomy.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments (and love Him), or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

God’s concern for the condition of your heart is more important to Him than your daily food sustenance. In Egypt, the Israelite suffered as slaves but they had enough to eat. In that sense, they could at least be content with their suffering as slaves in Egypt. However, in the wilderness where they were finally and completely liberated from their suffering as slaves, God allowed them to suffer the pangs of hunger and thirst to teach them what it really meant to be free when God sets you free. They had to learn how not to live by bread alone but by every single word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Instead, they began to grumble and bemoan their circumstances in the wilderness, to the extent that they threatened to rid themselves of Moses and Aaron. Their lack of the do-not-love which God required of them began to eat away their souls.

Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. (Psalm 106:7-15)

Christian, beware of murmuring, complaining, grumbling and ill-feelings toward God whenever you suffer in sickness, monetary loss, loneliness, rejection, hunger, or whatever it may be. God may be proving you to see whether you love Him with all your heart, mind and strength. The do-not-love opens your eyes to the meaning of Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Be of good cheer because your love for Him and his love for you cushions all the things that cause your suffering. It teaches you to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. And by the way, you should never seek your joy in the betterment or improvement of your circumstances. That’s a see-saw kind of joy. Today you are in the clouds and tomorrow you are in the doldrums. No! Your and my joy is a Person and His Name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. (Philippians 3:1)


The other side of the coin of the do-not-love concerns false prophets and their hideous false teachings.

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 13:1-3).

God’s desire to prove his children’s love for Him seems to have intensified exponentially in these last of the last days. There has been a relentless increase in the number of false prophets and teachers that provide genuine Christians ample opportunities to prove their love for God. The only thing they need to do is “not to hearken unto the words of these false prophets.” Those who do, have already proved that they do not love God.

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:6-8).

Loving one another is more than hugging and telling others how much you love them. Loving one another is to feed the lambs and the sheep with God’s unadulterated Word so that they may learn that they cannot live by bread alone but by every single word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD, and NOT from the mouths of false prophets and teachers.

I know a man and his wife who’ve been missionaries for Christ many years, despite their physical shortcomings. The man is lame in both his legs and recently his wife started to suffer from Parkinson’s disease. They are both bedridden at the moment. Yet, they always end their missionary letter with His happy slaves. They know by experience what it means to have been liberated from their slavery in their own Egypt to being slaves of Jesus Christ. I salute you, valiant soldiers of the cross. Your lives are solid proof that his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Remember! Your rewards are in heaven; not on this earth. Your example of being hopelessly in love with our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is contagious.

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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

8 Responses

  1. I love this article Tom! I pray many listen and learn.

    I am not boasting by any means, I have many Christians asking me how I just accept that I am ill and just love Jesus Christ no matter how bad things get in my life. I know He is looking after me.

    They tell me that they are constantly questioning God as to why the are ill, or why their life is so terrible. “Why would God allow a child of His to be ill?” they say. Others command God to heal them and travel from faith healer to faith healer, waiting for that moment when their faith hits it’s peak and God heals them.

    I have told people to be careful what they say to God, their continuous unhappiness with their situation can turn into hatred towards God. “Oh no!” they cry, “I would would never turn my back on God or stop loving Him”. Is that really true I ask them? Much to their disgust. Ending my conversation I state that if they carry on like this at stage of their illness, what are they going to be like when are are ever sicker?

    Unhappiness and discontent slowly breeds hatred.

    Just a note, this does in no way mean that I never complain to the Lord about my problems, the difference is, I don’t question His ways, and I don’t blame Him, or expect Him to heal me, etc.

  2. Colleen says:

    Thank you for this article. I used to complain and murmur about my difficult situations thinking that it is justifiable. I repent of it and will walk in obedience to the Lord no matter what circumstances I’m in. May the Lord give me the strength to go through them with a joyful heart

  3. Pieter says:

    Dankie Tom vir hierdie skrywe. Ons as mense mummureer so maklik want meeste van ons dink dat dit ons voorreg is. Ek gaan ook noual deur diep waters vir baie jare en ek het ook op stadiums gekom om vir die Here te vra: “Hoekom Here, hoekom vir so lank? Hoekom ek Here?” Die Here het berusting vir my gebring in my hart en siel en Hy het vir my gewys dat Hy my elke dag versorg en geondheid, krag en energie gee en ek het die liefde van die Here begin ervaar en nog steeds elke dag en ek het op ghou om vrae te vra oor hoekom en waarom ek ens.Ek loof en prys Hom elke dag met sang,Bybel lees en bid.

  4. Pieter,

    Baie dankie virr jou mooi getuienis. Mag dit ook vir ander van groot betekenis en ondersteuning wees.

  5. Helena says:

    Dankie Tom. So n bevestiging van my eie worsteling. Met groot dankbaarheid het dit tot my deurgedring dat God meer belangstel in ons siele as ons gerief hier op aarde. Oo al die vrae wat God moes verduur van my totdat ek Oswald Chambers se verklaring van Job gelees het. Job moes uiteindelik erken dat hy nie God kan bevraagteken nie want Hy is soverein.Dat dit nooit oor ons gaan nie maar oor Hom. So dankbaar God het my uit hierdie Positive & Prospery “speak your blessings into existince” gelei. Dit is hier waar ek begin vra het maar wat het geword van vra vir God en Sy Wil. Hierdie “demand your blessings” het nie sin gemaak nie want dit is nie hoe ek die Gospel verstaan nie. MICHA se “while I sit in darkness the Lord wil be my light” en JOB se “though You slay me, yet will I wait and trust Him” is my skild teen die vyand se pyle om in selfbejammering te verval. Die Woord se tog dat ons moeilik sal he hier op aarde en dat die smal weg deur min gevind sal word. Die opgee van die “self” is DIE moeilikste ding om op te gee. MAAR die rus is groot in HOM as ons dit regkry d.m.v. SY Genade en Jesus se intersessie.

  6. Daisy says:

    Thank you for these words!

  7. Koko says:

    Dear Tom, Thank you for this post and reminding us of these important truths that loving Christ also entails a.) feeding the sheep with the truth of God’s word and by extension earnestly contending for the faith for John 1:17 says,
    [17]For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Many of us have forgotten the “truth” part when there can be no true love without truth hence “grace and truth” which came through Christ. b.) Not murmuring when we encounter what the Bible calls “diverse temptations” ie the trials of life for they come for a purpose and that is to try/prove our faith to these two ends a.) To work in us patience seen here in James 1:2-4
    [2]My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
    [3]Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
    [4]But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. b.) So that our faith when tried will result in our praise at the coming of our Lord Jesus seen here in 1 Peter 1:7
    [7]That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. This reminds me of the response given by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when going through a fiery trial of their faith. Daniel 3:16-18
    [16]Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
    [17]If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
    [18]But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”. The trying of our faith which comes through affliction and/or persecution, tribulation, trials literally anything that tries your faith serves to separate the Wheat (true believers) from the Chaff (those who are offended and turn back as a result of the affliction and persecution that ariseth for the Word’s sake – Mark 4:17) and for us believers works patience in us or let’s us see what’s in our hearts and if needs be to repent (eg if we find ourselves murmuring). Let us therefore have this mindset towards the trying of our faith and that is God is good and that the affliction(s) God allows our way is for a reason(s) as stated above. Let us, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, trust and love God to the point where our joy and in Him is not dependent on whether we are delivered from sickness, tribulation etc. Let us also remember as 2 Corinthians 4:17 says that our light affliction is but for a moment. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”
    May you Debbie (big hugs and I can sooo relate to what you are going through. I know what it means to wake up everyday not feeling a 100%) and everyone going through one challenge or another be further comforted with these words seen here in “Romans 8:35-39
    [35]Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
    [36]As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
    [37]Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
    [38]For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
    [39]Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And also John 16:33 which says,
    [33]These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

  8. Mark says:

    Of course, another reason Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “…lovest thou me?” was a ‘rebuttal’ to Peter denying Christ 3 times before the cock crowed.
    Excellent article and very timely.

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