Here we are, two months into a new decade… and I suspect many of us have already forgotten those well-intentioned resolutions we made just nine weeks ago. We’ve surrendered (again) to the reality that there’s nothing magical about January 1st. That new diet, exercise program, or goal to watch less TV has been an epic fail.
But our failure isn’t final. We’ll try again next year!
Some of us, however, are struggling with more significant issues and failure in our lives – situations that are far more serious than a broken New Year's resolution. Maybe you’ve even failed the Lord in a way that you think is unforgivable. You may be demoralized and filled with deep feelings of guilt.
Thankfully, those failures are not final either. God can work through everything that happens in our lives—even our own failings—to bring us closer to Jesus. Failure can actually provide an opportunity for the love and grace of God to be magnified! (See Psalm 103:8-14.)
Think of the major mistakes in the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah… etc, yet they went on to do great things for the Lord. Even Jesus’ own disciples were not immune to failure, as we’ll see in this example from the life of Peter.
Fear and Failure
One of the most familiar stories in Peter’s life was his denial of Jesus. We can find it in all four Gospels (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18). We may wonder how Peter could have done such a thing. As one of Christ’s closest followers, he had witnessed amazing miracles. He saw Jesus glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration. He declared Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16-17). How could he deny Him? What happened?
One word: FEAR.
Peter found out very quickly that he wasn’t prepared to face the formidable and life-threatening consequences of being associated with Jesus. But before we judge Peter too harshly, let’s ask ourselves, have we ever fearfully “denied Christ” in our lives -- in word or action? Perhaps not outright rejection, but maybe we’ve kept quiet or redirected conversations when we could have spoken out to defend the name of Jesus? It’s one thing to be a follower of Christ, but facing ridicule, abuse, torture or even death for your faith will rapidly redefine your commitment.
Pride and Denial
In the hours before the Jesus’ arrest, Peter demonstrated an air of arrogance. He talked a big line and even challenged the words of Jesus. In Mark 14:27, the Lord revealed that all the disciples would soon desert Him, but Peter dismissed the words of Jesus and replied, "Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
Jesus followed up with a more somber warning, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me."
Peter was indignant. “‘No!’ he declared emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!’”
We might question why anyone would even argue with Jesus. But in Luke’s account of this same night, Peter and the other disciples had a dispute about “who among them was the greatest,” so there were clearly some issues with humility. Peter soon got a tough lesson in “pride going before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
To his credit, Peter did stay with Jesus longer than most of the others. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples fled. But Peter and one other followed Jesus at a distance to the courtyard (John 18:15). There he quietly watched Jesus being accused and beaten. And there, despite his bold declarations earlier that night, he insisted he had no connection to Jesus.
At the moment of his final denial, the rooster crowed and Jesus turned and looked straight into Peter’s eyes (Luke 22:61). Can you imagine the searing wave of guilt and shame Peter felt at that moment? As he stumbled away, weeping bitterly, he must have felt like the biggest failure on the planet. And as the Lord was led away to trial and crucifixion, Peter surely thought Jesus was gone. He’d never have a chance to express his deep remorse and ask for forgiveness.
Forgiveness and Restoration
Thankfully, we know Peter's failure was not final. After His resurrection, the Lord appeared by the Sea of Galilee as some of the disciples were fishing. Peter was so excited to see Jesus that he jumped right off the boat and swam to shore (John 21:4-7).
Sometimes people who have failed in their Christian lives tend to avoid God. Perhaps in their shame, they feel like they have nothing to offer, or they assume the Lord has written them off. But Peter shows us the proper response – he rushes to Jesus as quickly as possible!
Jesus knew all about Peter’s guilty conscience, and showed him special attention that morning. Peter had denied the Lord three times, and now Jesus gently asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” He goes on to encourage Peter to live for the Lord and shepherd His people. (John 21:15-17)
Despite his shortcomings, Peter went on to be greatly used by God. His restoration is an amazing source of encouragement for us to trust in a God of new beginnings! If the Lord chose Peter as a disciple, even though He knew Peter would fail, we can be sure our mistakes come as no shock to Him. If He forgave and restored Peter even after his outright denial, we know He’ll forgive our mistakes as well.
1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Let’s take those words to heart, come to Jesus for forgiveness, and put our past mistakes where they belong – in the past.
- Ron Reid