27 Jesus said to them, “You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep will go off in all directions [Zechariah 13:7]. 28 But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
29 Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.”
30 But Jesus said to him, “I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted, “If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” And they all said the same thing.
Luke reported that the argument among the disciples about which of them should be the greatest invaded even their Passover Supper with Jesus (cf. Luke 22:24-27). That may have been one trigger for Jesus to tell them they would all falter in their faithfulness. Peter offered no ringing endorsement of his fellow disciples—if anything, he “threw them under the bus” as far more likely to fail than he was.
Lord Jesus, you know me better than I know myself. Guide me today and every day, nudging and challenging me to become more fully the person you call me to be. Amen.
When I went away to college, I was very serious about my faith. My on-campus Christian group had two small group Bible studies; I attended both. In the second week’s meeting, I announced to the group that we all needed to find accountability partners tomorrow. Nobody was more serious about their faith than I was, and I made sure everyone knew how serious I was about my faith.
But something funny happened. It’s a little harder to build close friendships than I thought, so months went by and I had no accountability partner. I started struggling with depression and soon had trouble finishing all of my schoolwork, let alone attending two Bible studies on top of that. I never lost my faith or got into too much trouble. But all of those good intentions and bragging earlier in the year didn’t actually make me progress any faster than anyone else. College came with its own set of problems for me, and I had foolishly assumed I could just power through them without even knowing what they were.
There’s a brain chemical called dopamine, and it’s what gives us that sense of accomplishment after we do something great. When you expertly wrap up that big project and get a warm positive feeling--that’s dopamine. It’s God’s way of giving our brains a little reward when we do something good. But there are other things that can release dopamine. You know that feeling when you’re listening to a really good song and you get the chills? That’s a little shot of dopamine too. And it feels good, so we naturally seek out experiences that trigger dopamine releases.
Why am I mentioning this? Because, just like accomplishing something releases dopamine, telling people you’re going to accomplish something also releases dopamine. Have you ever bragged about your new exercise routine to all your friends and felt good about yourself, and then fizzled out and lost the motivation to stick with it? It’s because your brain got its fill of dopamine from all the bragging you did to your friends, so it wasn’t as motivated to actually accomplish something and get the dopamine that way. There are studies that have concluded that telling a bunch of people about your plans actually makes you less likely to follow through on them, and dopamine is the reason why.
We as human beings are hardwired to enjoy talking about our intentions almost as much as actually carrying through with them. This can lead to what I did in college: let everyone know how spiritual I am and then fizzle out because I didn’t seriously consider the challenges I would face. (Admittedly, the depression also played a big part in that, but the boasting didn’t help.) It can also lead to what Peter did in Mark 14: brag that you’ll never let God down, and then do exactly that when things get hard. If you actually want to carry through with something, it’s a better strategy to humbly consider the challenges than to proudly announce your intentions. Don’t let dopamine tell you that your intentions are just as good as your accomplishments.
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