Four Things We Can Learn From Peter’s Failure and Jesus’ Response

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I was so certain I had finally conquered this weakness. Yet here I was again, confronted with my big, fat failure. I felt like such a loser—especially since just a short time prior I vowed I wouldn’t mess up in this area again. As I emerged from the stupor of denial and rationalization, I found myself soaked in shame and regret.

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The last thing I felt like doing was preparing a Sunday School lesson. “I’m such a train wreck, God. How can I possibly go into that class and teach. Maybe I should just quit.

But, I couldn’t quit the day before class, so I flopped down on the couch with my Bible and flipped open the Sunday School booklet to the next lesson. As my eyes took in the topic, my stomach churned with anxiety.

If you’ve been reading my blog long at all, you know God asks me to teach and write from my struggles more than from my strengths. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the topic for the lesson: failure.

Some failures you can experience privately. But when you lose or gain weight it is out there on display for the world to see. I thought I had finally won this battle when I lost 40 pounds a couple years ago. I remember declaring I would never allow myself to gain back all that weight.

Yet here I was with all 40 pounds back in place. And it wasn’t the first time I had done this. Failing once is bad enough, but to fail repeatedly in the same area is excruciating. The shame and self-reproach (and possibly the reproach of others) debilitate us from fulfilling our purpose if we stay stuck there.

Everyone fails, but how we respond to our failure will determine our future.  Let’s look at an example in Scripture and don’t forget to request the free reminder sheet I’ve made for you.

The apostle Peter experienced blowing it. And like me, he didn’t just fail once, he repeated his blunder again and again.

Take a few minutes to read John’s account of Peter’s failure and Jesus’ response to it. You’ll find the account in John 13:33-38 (Peter vows to lay down his life for Jesus); 18:15-18, 25-27 (Peter denies knowing Jesus); 21 (Jesus restores Peter).

Jesus didn’t abandon Peter despite the fact Peter abandoned Jesus. And Jesus didn’t abandon me either. And he won’t abandon you.

Responding to Failure

When we mess up, it is tempting to ignore it or run from it. Anything to spare us from owning up to it. But denial, rationalization, or blaming others only offers an illusory reprieve.

The consequences continue wrecking havoc whether we acknowledge them or not. We can’t move forward while still mired in the mess. The failure has to be acknowledged and addressed so we can begin again.

Perhaps, if we just retreat to the comfortable and easy things we did before, we can forget the hard thing we tried, but failed, to do. That may have been why Peter was back in Galilee fishing just as he had done before Jesus called Peter to follow him.

However, Peter didn’t have such a good result with that and neither will we. Returning to our old way of life, no matter how easy or comfortable, is not going to satisfy us because it is not who Jesus has called us to be or what he has called us to do.

Relationship Changes Our Response

Our relationship with Jesus changes everything. As you read through John 21, did you notice these things:

  1. Upon recognizing Jesus’ presence, Peter vaulted out of the boat and lunged toward him with all his strength.
  2. Jesus prioritized their relationship over the tasks he gave Peter to do. “Do you love me?” preceded “Feed/take care of my sheep” every time.
  3. For every instance of failure, Jesus offered an opportunity for reconciliation and restoration. Peter failed three times. So, Jesus initiated three opportunities for Peter to repent. And he did so with grace and in a way that put the focus on the relationship not the failure.
  4. Jesus told Peter that whatever happened in the future, Peter was to follow Jesus.

So what does that have to do with us when we fail?

Well, for me I saw these applications:

Jesus is the way out of failure.

Jesus comes to us when we flounder in our failure and reminds us of the way to get back on track: our relationship with him. He doesn’t hide from us, but be we may not always recognize his presence. But once we do, we, like Peter, are best served by getting to him as fast as we can. Don’t hesitate to accept the reconciliation and restoration he offers you.

Relationship leads to responsibility, but relationship doesn’t flow from how well we perform our responsibilities.

His love is not conditioned upon our performance. Rather, our relationship with Jesus provides what we need to fulfill our purpose.

For every failure, Jesus provides us with the opportunity to repent—to turn things around and get back on track.

No matter how many times we mess up or how big a mess we make, his grace is sufficient. (“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

Whatever hardships come, and they will, the way through the hardship is to follow Jesus.

The way through the inevitable challenges is following Jesus. The writer of Hebrews encourages faithful endurance with these words:

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV

Run to Him

When you experience the heartbreak of failure, see and respond to his offer of reconciliation and restoration. Run to him and let his grace and love provide the safe space for you to come to terms with your failure and get back on track.

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Question: How do you usually respond when you fail at something? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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