WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS PEOPLE RESPOND TO FAILURE?
We fail, but Jesus gives us hope. We often kick ourselves when we are down. “If I were a real Christian, I wouldn’t do that!” Peter knew something of failure – HIS BIGGEST? Denying Jesus three times. Our failures may not get THAT kind of attention (thankfully), but we need to experience that grace every time we fail.
The same grace we need for salvation is what we need to live out the Christian life. The hope we have in Jesus is grounded in grace – and that is what we need every day. It is a grace that picks us up when we fall.
DO YOU REMEMBER LEARNING TO RIDE A BIKE? Who taught you? Did you use training wheels? What did you do when you fell? How long before you tried again?
HOW IS THIS LIKE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE? We will all fall and need others to help us up. Failure is painful. The question is not IF we are going to fall, but what we will do WHEN we fall. I am thankful that I can learn from Peter.
When we consider the life and ministry of Peter, we see a common, hard-working man who by God’s grace came to know and follow Jesus. But, like us, he had some difficulties to overcome. The Holy Spirit did not give up on Peter – and He will not give up on us either.
READ John 18:15-18 and 25-27
Do you remember how Peter met Jesus?
READ John 1:35-42
Jesus identified Peter as “rock” – an appropriate name for Simon after his conversion. Later, Jesus came by the Sea of Galilee and called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John to follow Him.
When Jesus asked who the disciples said He was, it was Peter who said – “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus commended him and promised to build His church on that truth. Later, Peter (with James and John) witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration as He talked to Moses and Elijah. They heard a voice from Heaven – “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).
Jesus also prepared Peter and the other disciples for His death and resurrection – but I suspect that was hard to grasp. Going from a royal reception for His arrival in Jerusalem to being arrested not too long after no doubt shook up everyone in their group. This is the same Peter who even refused Jesus’ washing his feet – he did not want to accept the Servant Leadership Jesus came to demonstrate. But Jesus did tell him that he would be “sifted” by Satan and that Peter would deny Jesus three times.
Nonetheless, Jesus took Peter, James and John to the garden of Gethsemane. WHO WAS IT THAT TOOK OUT HIS KNIFE TO DEFEND JESUS? Peter, of course.
SO, HOW COULD PETER BE SO AFRAID OF BEING IDENTIFIED WITH JESUS?
We tend to see the men and women of Scripture as bigger than life. Their encounters with God, both their victories and their failures, seem so far beyond what we experience today. We might be tempted to say, “I would never fail Jesus like that” – but that is exactly what Peter said too, and he did it three times!
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THE SHAME OF FAILING OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
Murray Warmath, former head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (1954-1971), once said about his team’s pathetic win-loss record in 1958 and 1959: “If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.”
Do you feel like you too are getting nothing but a “good education”? Do you feel like you’re knocked down more times than you deserve, crossing the goal line fewer times than you should? We all go through stages of defeat — sometimes stages of extended defeat — but Warmath is right: this is where lessons are learned; it’s where we get the best education.
Bill Gates once said, “Success is a lousy teacher.” One of the world’s most successful men understands this principle: You learn more from your losses than you learn from your victories … that is, if you’re willing to take the time to evaluate your failures.
Ever had a bad day at work? When it happens, how do you respond? Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well; guess I wasn’t ‘on’ today.”? Do you ask, “I wonder what was wrong with those people today?” Or do you relive it moment by painful moment?
It’s the days of defeat that often teach us our most valuable lessons in preparation and dependence on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, I am thankful for the projects or activities that went awry. In the long run, they’ve helped me be more effective and more consistent.
This principle works in every area of life, IF you’re willing to learn from your past mistakes — jobs that didn’t work out, relationships that failed, ministry projects that fell short of expectations, and on and on. We need to get in the habit of using mistakes as a foundation for a good education. Failure is a good teacher if you’re willing to pay attention to what it says.
WHAT ABOUT PETER? Did he learn from this failure? Let’s hear the rest of the story…
READ John 21:15-19
At least ten times, Jesus appeared after His death:
- Mary Magdalene at the grave – John 20:1-18
- Mary (Martha’s sister) at the tomb – Matthew 28
- He appeared to Peter (no details) Luke 24:34
- He appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25)
- He appeared to the ten disciples behind closed doors (Luke24:36-39)
- A week later, He appeared to the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29)
- After that, he appeared to some disciples fishing – this is the passage we just read
- He appeared to many at a mountain in Galilee, including the disciples – Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)
- Later he appeared to his brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- Final appearance – (to all) He promised them the Holy Spirit and that they would “be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8)
DID YOU CATCH HOW MANY TIMES JESUS APPEARED TO PETER OF THE TEN? SIX.
There’s no doubt that Peter loved Jesus, but Peter may have wondered what his future with the twelve disciples would be. That may explain why Peter told some of the other disciples, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). The night’s fishing proved fruitless, until, at daybreak, a figure on the shore told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Then, when the catch was so large that they could not haul it in, John stated that it must be Jesus on the shore. In his usual fashion, Peter leapt out and went straight for Jesus.
This sets the stage for these passages and for the conversation between Jesus and Peter. The three charges to Peter from Jesus include feeding, guiding and taking care of the flock. Peter was charged to be the “rock” and provide whatever was needed to the new church.
From Peter’s experiences, we are reminded that each of us can and will fail at times. But as Peter’s life shows, Jesus is waiting to restore us.
READ Proverbs 24:16 – For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity
Experiencing failure puts you in pretty good company. There’s a long list of great people who have failed in the past.
Speaking only of financial failure (bankruptcy), do you know who this list includes? Mark Twain. Burt Reynolds. Walt Disney. Donald Trump. Milton Hershey, of Hershey Chocolate. H.J. Heinz, of Heinz Ketchup. Wayne Newton. Larry King. Mickey Rooney. Johnny Unitas. Even Johnny Unitas!
All of these experienced financial failure, but the label of failure doesn’t exactly fit them, does it? Why not? Because they got up and tried again.
The Bible says even a righteous man will fall seven times (in other words, again and again), but he gets back up.
That’s the difference. The wicked are brought down by calamity, but the righteous man gets up to try once again.
In which area of your life do you need to get up and try again?
- Be honest – about your failures and sins. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103:12 that He will toss those failures away as we confess them. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
- Seek reconciliation – sin rarely just hurts us – go and humbly ask for forgiveness – repair any damage you have caused
- Foster reconciliation in others – listen and pray with someone seeking forgiveness and restoration