When we think of the apostles, Peter, James, and John quickly come to mind. These three formed an inner circle with Jesus. They alone witnessed the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter. They alone saw Jesus transfigured. Jesus took those three with him into Gethsemane while the others remained behind.

But a fourth disciple frequently lingered, as it were, in the shadows. Though Jesus called him first, Andrew, Peter’s younger brother, never quite matched the fame of his sibling. But while he played second fiddle, he did so well and we can learn a great deal from him. Here are some things we can learn from Andrew.

Serious faith

First, we learn from Andrew the need for serious faith. Andrew’s call is recorded in John 1:35–40. He had previously been a follower of John the Baptist but, when it became obvious that Jesus and not John was Messiah, he quickly followed Jesus. He asked to learn more about Jesus to ascertain that he really was Messiah. Persuaded that Jesus was, indeed, Messiah, he committed wholeheartedly to following him, even if it meant losing a booming fishing business (Luke 5:11). He was willing to follow Jesus, regardless of what he had to forsake to do so.

The New Testament similarly calls us to serious faith. Jesus called us to soberly count the cost before embarking on the path to discipleship. Discipleship is costly. It may cost relationships. It may cost comfort. It may cost income. In some instances, it may cost the most precious thing of all: life itself. We must soberly consider what it will cost us to follow Jesus.

Shared faith

Second, we learn from Andrew the necessity of shared faith. Persuaded that Jesus was Messiah, he wasted no time in sharing his conviction with others—beginning with his own family (John 1:41–42). Later, when the apostles discussed the impossible task of feeding five thousand men, he learned that a young boy had volunteered his lunch and, while uncertain how such a small meal could actually be of any meaningful help, he nevertheless immediately brought the boy to Jesus (John 6:1–9). In John 12, a group of Gentiles came to Philip, asking to see Jesus. Uncertain of what to do, Philip informed Andrew, who once again wasted no time in bringing the people to meet the Lord (John 12:20–22). Here is the point: Andrew is mentioned infrequently in Scripture but, when he is, he is frequently seen introducing people to Jesus. We can learn from his example.

The New Testament places upon us the responsibility to share our faith. While some may have a particular evangelistic gift, and while it can be argued that the evangelist in the New Testament might be a formally recognised and appointed office, the New Testament also encourages every believer to share his or her faith. Acts 11 tells of Christians who were “speaking the word” (v. 19) and others who were “preaching the Lord Jesus” (v. 20). The word translated “preaching” is frequently used of formal proclamation. The word translated “speaking” refers to everyday talk. The picture is that, as these believers made their way through life, they shared their faith naturally with anyone with whom they had contact. They were not involved in formal Bible studies but simply spoke about Christ in everyday conversation.

Stretched faith

Third, Andrew teaches us the need for stretched faith. When the apostles faced the impossible task of finding food for five thousand men, Andrew highlighted a possible solution than a less believing disciple might have laughed off. He couldn’t possibly have known what Jesus would do, but he had seen Jesus do great things before and trusted that he could do something great again.

Andrew teaches us what it means to stretch our faith. When things seem impossible, we should pray for God to help our faith.

Not Short-Sighted Faith

Fourth, we can learn from Andrew’s deep-sighted faith. He held out hope for all, even those whom others considered hopeless. When a group of hopeless Gentiles asked to be introduced to Jesus, Andrew was first in line to make introductions (John 12:20–26). It is encouraging to learn about such faith from in-the-shadows Andrew because there are more andrews in churches than peters. We can learn from him to dispense with short-sighted faith.

The story is told of the famed violinist Itzhak Perlman who, near the beginning of a performance in 1995, experienced a snapped string on his violin. Experienced concert-goers realised the near-impossibility of playing a concert on three strings and expected him to stop and restring his violin. Instead, after a moment’s thought, he instructed the conductor to begin again and proceeded to play the entire concert on three strings.

At the end of the performance, the room erupted into applause. Perlman humbly silenced the crowd and said in a quiet voice, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

Andrew was a three-stringed disciple. He was not Peter, James, or John, but he was faithful with the strings that he had. He followed, found others, was faithful, and was a friend of sinners. Would to God that we would learn to be more like Andrew—that we would realise that, even with three strings, we can serve the Lord in a way that brings glory to him.