Faith After Failure

I have some favourite faith stories in the Bible. Daniel - My goodness. Every day he loved getting off by himself and having conversations with God. His biggest problem was God spoke back and gave him profound advice for the most powerful king in the entire world at that point in time. When you listen to God, there are always those who want to discredit what you say. There are always those who are jealous if you succeed. That’s not a new thing. And when the advisors schemed to remove Daniel, he didn’t change his rhythm even though it may cost him his life. He was prepared to face the consequences. 

When it comes to faith, I have a lot of heroes. Some I can't relate to because, frankly, they were amazing people who’s faith surpasses mine. But they encourage me to believe. My expectations of God are bigger because of their stories. Those testimonies help me to keep pressing in.
And then there are some that stand out because of their willingness to keep trying even after they failed. Peter is a person like that. What does the opposite side look like; to try again when you know you failed. The struggle of believing and receiving what we know we do not deserve, and the difference it makes going forward.

A quick overview of Peter’s life:
He’s an average guy. Blue collar job. He’s a fisherman. Married.

He understood his ordinariness. The first miracle he ever saw is while he’s still fishing. After fishing all night and catching nothing, he listens to a man’s advice who’s standing on the shore. Everyone wants to give you advice when you're fishing. So Peter put his nets out on the other side of the boat and he catches more fish than he and his partners could bring in - Peter’s response? (Luke 5:8) When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” His ordinariness.

There was a boldness in him that made him rash ~ In a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, when they thought they were going to die. Just when they thought it couldn’t get worse, they see in the darkness, through the rain and blowing water, what they think is a ghost. Think of your absolute worst day and add a ghost to it. ~ Peter response? “If that’s you Jesus, tell me to get out of this boat and walk on water.” He didn’t always think through the implications of his words. Peter’s the one who said, “Even though everyone else betrays you Jesus, I won’t." (Mt. 26:35) It was Peter, when Jesus knelt to wash his feet, said, “No way! My Master doesn’t wash my feet.” Then Jesus said, then you can’t be my follower. So Peter flips, just like that. “Well then Lord, don’t just wash my feet. Give me a bath.” (John 13)

There was a recklessness in him that got him into trouble, but it was also one of his great strengths. It was Peter who, when Jesus was about to be arrested, pulled out a sword and cut off a guy’s ear. He put them all at risk of being killed. If Jesus had died on that mountain in a sword fight, Satan would have won that round. (John 18)

Peter wanted to know truth, regardless of how foolish or impossible the answer sounded. And when Jesus would teach in parables, it was often Peter who would ask later, “Jesus, explain that story to me.” He asked Jesus practical questions like, “How many times do I need to forgive my brother?” (Mt.18:21) (If you have a brother, you’ll understand why he’s asking the question.)

Peter wasn’t complex. His faith was simple. He saw Jesus do the impossible. He listened to him teach. He had a heart that loved God. As a result God showed Peter things that others weren’t prepared to declare. When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, it was Peter who said, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16)

Jesus affirmed him on several occasions. He changed his name from Simon to Peter. He implied that Peter was going to be a leader in that group.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends.

In one moment, when Peter’s best friend Jesus is compromised and everyone else seems to desert him, Peter follows at a distance to see what will happen. There’s that loyalty; that recklessness. But he’s discovered. “You’re one of Jesus’ followers aren’t you. You’re with that lunatic Jesus.”  And in that moment, Peter breaks. He cusses and flatly denies even knowing Jesus.

He had thought he was stronger than that. He thought he would have done anything for Jesus. He had come right out and stated it in front of others, but in one evening, when his own safety was at risk, his courage melted.  

Matthew 26:
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Everyone of us have regrets.

Who has never done something you have later regretted? Who has never betrayed a friend? Who has never struggled with shame and embarrassment when we failed to measure up to the standard we had set for ourselves? Who has never felt like a coward or a failure? ~ Welcome to life. It is not the mistakes in life that shape the person. It’s our response to the mistakes we make that will define who we really are.

Shame and embarrassment is always filled with accusation and condemnation. There will always be those who want their pound of flesh. Yet your greatest battle is not going to come from out there. It’s going to be withinWe can be very hard on ourselves.  At times it takes great faith to believe we are not condemned when we know we have failed. In my times of failure, my first tendency is to punish myself, to allow my shame to tell me I don’t deserve to be able to come Jesus and expect him to treat me as if I’m forgiven. To believe “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” requires great faith.

Peter was the one who ran to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. But it’s interesting, after he found out that Jesus was alive, he headed back home and he started fishing again. There seems to have been a lasting shame resting in his heart. He had declared he would never leave Jesus. He would die for Jesus. And in less than 12 hours after saying that, he had betrayed Jesus 3 times. He seems to have felt disqualified to continue following this man he loved so much.

So Jesus goes after him, down into Galilee. He finds him fishing and they don’t recognize that the man on shore is Jesus. The man tells them to try fishing on the other side of the boat. When they do, they can’t pull in their nets because they have so many fish.

Immediately Peter is taken back to that first miracle. Right then Peter knows who that man is. So he doesn’t wait. Jumps in and swims to shore. The Gospel of John says they were about 100 yards out in the lake. That’s Peter.

Jesus has a fire going. He cooks some fish.

John 21:15
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

I’ve been drawn to Jesus’ questions recently. They transcend time. It’s interesting how many questions he actually asks Peter.

Jesus now asks Peter a question and he repeats it. In fact, he repeats it two more times. That’s significant for several reasons. But what is the question? ~ “Do you love me?”

Have you ever heard Jesus ask you that question? “David, do you love me?” “Of course Jesus, I love you.” It’s the right answer.

“David, do you love me?”

Weeks before his death, Jesus began to prepare his disciples for what was to come. When he informed them that he would die, Peter said, “No way Lord. It wont happen.” Jesus blasted him for that one. Then he comes back and says this:

Matthew 16:24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

When Jesus said that every disciple must learn to deny themselves, he wasn’t telling us to stop doing bad things. Everybody knows, we shouldn’t do bad things. He was inviting us to make room in our lives to choose better things. We have only so many hours in a day. We can only do so much. We often feel we don’t have enough time to do things we know are important. The statement forces a personal examination. What do I want to hang onto that is actually counterproductive to my getting to know God? 

“David, do you love me?”

Peter’s struggle was with his view of himself. He felt he had disqualified himself as a disciple. The self-condemnation sat in his heart. He wasn’t sure how this resurrected Jesus would respond to him. He knew Jesus knew the truth about him. Jesus knew he had denied him 3 times. Now he asks a second time,  “Simon.” Jesus hadn’t called him Simon for a long time. He had changed his name to Peter. Now Jesus is talking to the man he met before he had been called to be a disciple.

John 21
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

3 times. Peter was hurt because he asked 3 times - I’m sure it reminded him that he had betrayed him 3 times. So what was Jesus doing? Notice what he says next.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.

Peter had been a confident, strong man. He wasn’t used to failing. He was proud. His denial of Jesus forced him to recognize that there are some things you cannot fix on your own. He recognized that without Jesus, he really wasn’t that strong. With Jesus he had:
security; a place of belonging; a clear identity (I know who I am). Because he walked closely with Jesus, he received what Jesus received

Without Jesus:

  • He lost his identity. (who am I now?)
  • He lost his best friend by his own betrayal
  • He lost the lime light
  • He was covered in shame and condemnation

To that Simon, Jesus now says, John 21:19 Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Lessons to remember:
Big Faith is not measured by accomplishments. It is measured by faithfulness. Faith simply believes God. Strong Faith is simple faith, done every day, all the time.

Failure is not your destiny. It is a beginning place to build history with God. It is not the place that disqualifies us from new and greater things. When you walk through grief, and loss, and pain ~ when you say I’m going to build history here with you God. I’m going to walk through this. Tell me again who I am. Tell me again what you want me to do. I’m not leaving you.

This is how faith grows. This is where you say, “I will not run.”

Faith is a byproduct of identity. When you understand your relationship with Christ, it creates the necessary longing to believe and obey him.

Jesus wasn’t scolding Peter when he asked him 3 times, “Do you love me?” Jesus was reaffirming his identity. He was saying, “Simon, I do not see you as one who betrayed me. I see you as a shepherd. I see you as Peter, the stone. Peter, your betrayal has not disqualified you. I am calling you out again. Step into your calling. The identity I gave you, is still your identity.”

Do you know how God sees you? Do you know how precious you are to him?

With God, you begin to believe the impossible. With God, the impossible begins to make sense.
When Peter did what no other disciple was willing to do, when he actually stepped out of a boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm so severe, they all thought they were going to die, in that context, he could walk on water. Why? Because he focused on One who establishes the laws of nature. If Jesus says, “Come,” it makes sense that “coming” ~ walking on water is possible. When Peter paused and realized what he had done; when he looked around at his situation and forgot the truth that got him out of the boat in the first place, he began to sink. Jesus asks him a question. “Why did you doubt?”

Have you ever risked for God? Have you gotten out of your only place of safety, out of your boat and put it all on the line - And then the severity of the circumstances around you caused you to wonder what in the world have I done? Did you begin to doubt? Did you begin to sink? Think about that time and hear the question of Jesus; “Why did you doubt?” It is worth your time to get alone with God, and record your answer. Write it down. “I doubted because…” Then allow Holy Spirit to speak you about each of those points.

The invitation today is to each of us. It’s to Big Faith. Big faith is measured by our capacity to believe the things Jesus says: Things about us; Things about our passions; Things about others; Things about what his Kingdom looks like and how we are part of that. You don’t measure big faith by what you do. You measure Big faith by what you expect.

Big Faith is simple faith, done every day, all the time.