Failure Isn’t Fatal With Jesus

By Ricky Chelette, Executive Director

I hate to fail. Don’t you? In fact, I hate it so much that it scares me, or at least that is the way it felt when I was young. If there was even a hint that I could not victoriously compete, I often simply did not participate. This isn’t a good trait (just to be clear) and seriously prevented me from trying many things that I might have enjoyed but feared I would fail.

When I became a Christian in my late teens, I realized that the American ideal of always being number one was not biblical.  However, I soon discovered that there was a new fear of failing, and this one was much more profound — I feared that I would fail as a Christ-follower.

As I have grown in my Christian faith, I have realized we all fail Jesus. In fact, He was and is the only righteous one. And unlike my perception of failure as a youth, my failures don’t have to be the end of the world.

Peter was like you and me. He failed.  There are few characters in the New Testament that lived more boldly or failed more profoundly than did Peter. I love that scripture doesn’t hide his frailty, his impulsivity, or his sin.

Peter was the first disciple chosen and the leader of the twelve apostles. This rough-around-the-edges fisherman was passionate in his love for Jesus.  When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter wanted not just his feet to be cleaned, but his whole body! (Jn 13:9)  When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who drew the sword to defend his master and cut off the ear of the priest’s servant (Jn 19:10). Despite this love for Jesus, all four gospels record Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s failure: “This very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” (Mk 14:30; Mt 26:24; Lk 22:34; Jn 13:38).

Imagine the horror Peter must have felt to hear those words from Jesus? But it gets even worse. At Jesus’ arrest, Peter lurks in the crowd and indeed denies Jesus three times. Upon his last denial, Luke records these few words that are pregnant with emotion and meaning:

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly (Lk 22:61-62).

Have you had a moment like that? You know you did something terribly wrong, and just as it happens, you realize you have sinned against God.  Your heart sinks. Your countenance falls. Your soul aches. You feel as though your failure will forever define you.

Peter was there, and we have all been there too.

But praise God, that is not the end of the story!  After the resurrection of Jesus, Mary meets the angel at the tomb, and he gives her a message, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you (Mk 16:7).”

“[A]nd Peter…” The angel specifically singles out Peter from the other disciples. Yes, Peter failed at one of the most crucial moments in Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus did not give up on Peter, and He doesn’t give up on you and me. Jesus saw Peter beyond the moment of failure to the movement of faith Peter would lead. He saw in Peter what Peter could not see in himself. Jesus sees that potential in you too.

Though we have all fallen short of the glory of God, our past failures do not define our future. Jesus invites us, as he did Peter, to repent of our sins and follow Him. The great hope in scripture is it is filled with people who failed but have a relentless Savior who redeems.

You may be struggling with the sins from your past that continue to haunt you, bad choices you made this weekend or even last night. Those sins are not who you are, and they don’t have to be how you live your life. Jesus tells us, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:15).”

After the resurrection and his restoration, Peter went on to be a great evangelist. Acts 2 records that Peter’s preaching at Pentecost ushered in some 3,000 new believers. He was a pivotal leader in the church in Jerusalem and was eventually killed for his faith. Allow your failure to fuel your faith. Seek forgiveness and repentance and see the great things God has in store for your future!