The Effect of Failure on a Believer
No one listening tonight has not had a time in which they have failed the Lord since becoming a believer – times of disobedience to the Word of God. Many feel as if they have been a part of a “catastrophic” failure. Now, catastrophic is relative. What may not seem catastrophic to some may seem unforgivable to others. Regardless, we all know what it is like to fall short in our walk with God. This one of the reasons we all love the apostle Peter. He is a great example of someone who God used greatly but who also failed the Lord. Tonight, let’s look at one of his failures in an attempt to see restoration in the lives of those of you who are struggling with your own failures.
Most believers know about Peter’s denial of the Lord. The story is found in all four gospels. Jesus told His disciples about His arrest, and none of the disciples would stand with Him at His hour of trial but that all would forsake Him. This news vexed Peter. Now, Peter most likely wasn’t “blowing smoke”; He probably meant what he said. What he said made it very hard on him when he failed. If Peter’s story ended there, it would be a sad one indeed – one of lost purpose and broken relationship. But, it doesn’t end there. First of all, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times, the same amount of times that Peter denied knowing Christ. But, three is an interesting number in the Hebrew mindset. The number three means “completeness” although in a lesser degree than the perfection indicated by the number 7. There are 27 books in the New Testament, which is 3 x 3 x 3, or completeness to the third power. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He was placed on the cross at the 3rd hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the 9th hour (3 p.m.). There were 3 hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus was suffering on the cross from the 6th hour to the 9th hour. Three is the number of resurrection. Christ was dead for three full days and three full nights, a total of 72 hours, before being resurrected on Saturday, April 8, just before sunset.
Asking Peter three times if he loved Jesus and telling Peter three times to feed His sheep was a sign of complete forgiveness and restoration. But, there is another interesting thing here that can only be discovered if you study these passages in the original language of Greek. Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” The Greek term for “these” is ambiguous: it could refer to the boat and the net these men used to make a living. More likely, Jesus was asking whether Peter still thought his loyalty was superior to that of the other apostles. The Greek terms for love used in these passages are insightful. Jesus uses the word translated “agape” in the first two questions. So, Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Jesus in a self- sacrificing manner as he said he did at the Last Supper. Peter responds by saying, “Yes, Lord You know that I love you.” But, Peter doesn’t use the term translated “agape” but uses the word for love translated “phileo”, which basically means, brotherly love.
Peter is saying that he does love Jesus but not in a self-sacrificing manner but as a brother. Jesus responds to these answers by telling Peter that his honesty is a basis for God to use him. But, the final question hurts even more. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him like a brother. This questions Peter’s first two answers and causes Peter to get really real. Peter responds this way: “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” At the Last Supper, Peter said that Jesus’ assessment of his spiritual devotion was wrong. Peter said that he did “agape” Jesus and his denial proved him wrong and Jesus right. These interaction reveals the godly effect of failure upon the believer. The desired effect is to produce:
- Honesty: In response to Jesus’ three questions regarding Peter’s love, Peter no longer overstates himself but is honest about himself.
- Humility: Peter recognizes that Jesus knows everything and for him to try and be something he is not is foolish and a precursor to failure.
- Dependency: Peter realizes that without the forgiveness and power of God, he is unable to do anything of spiritual worth.
Now, for you who have failed God, the rest is beautiful. Jesus not only completely forgives Peter but He completely restores his purpose to reach others. Jesus also tells Peter that his failure is not an indicator of who he will be in the future. Jesus prophesies John 21:18-19 over Peter. What Peter was unable to do because of his weakness, he would accomplish later in his life if he followed Jesus.
Your failures are not intended to stop you but to get you to walk in honesty, humility, and dependency upon Jesus.
- Luke 22:33-34
- John 21:15-19
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