Everyone fails at something, sooner or later. Christians fail to follow Jesus as they ought to, too. How do we cope with failure? How do we cope with having failed God? Do we languish as persistent failures in our own minds, thinking that we can never do anything right? Do we give up trying to do better, not striving to reach our potential in serving God? How can we deal with past failures properly, completely, without minimising them or brushing them under the carpet, and without learning from our mistakes?
Peter failed doing things his way
Peter is a great example of someone who failed, repeatedly, to follow and understand Jesus. Despite some great insights intially, he failed to understand what Jesus’ mission on earth was all about. After being the first person to see and declare that Jesus was the Messiah, he then rebuked Jesus for saying that he needed to die on the cross. Jesus had to correct him, not for the first time (Matthew 16:23).
Yet, Peter went on to become one of the foremost leaders of the early New Testament church, preaching his first and most famous sermon at Pentecost.
Be restored and follow Jesus’ way
Peter was first called to follow Jesus on the shore of the Sea (lake) of Galilee. His restoration probably occured at or near that place too in John 21. While Peter denied him around a charcoal fire (John 18:18), Jesus restores him around a charcoal fire too (John 21:9). While Peter denied Jesus three times (John 18:15-18, 25-27), Jesus gave him the opportunity to restate his love for him three times (John 21:15-17).
Crucially, Jesus’ way is not to ask what we will do for him, but to ask whether we love him or not. If we love him, putting him at the centre of our lives, then we will not only do the things that he wants, but he will give us the strength to do them too (Phil 4:13).
It is costly but worth it
Jesus went on to tell Peter that he would, in fact, die for his sake after all (John 21:18-19). All of Jesus’ followers must not be surprised if they are persecuted for his name’s sake. We ought to take up our cross daily and follow him (Matt 16:24-25).
Yet, it is worth it by far: ‘Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.’ (Romans 8:18).
And suffering as a result of love for Jesus will not only result in living eternally with him where there will be no more pain, sorrow, suffering, instead of being punished for our sins in Hell forever. Suffering now also builds character (Romans 5:3-5).
Moving on from failure
Many people have failed, and still carry around the psychological scars of one failure after another. Yet, Jesus wants us to have our failures resolved through repentance, which is only possible because he died on the cross to atone for our sins, our failures. Only by turning our backs on past failures, through accepting forgiveness for what we have done, can we move forward with joy as we anticipate doing great things for God.
Praise God that we can move on from failure to following…