Failure Is NOT Fatal . . . IF – Part 2

Brooklyn Museum - The Third Denial of Peter. J...

The Third Denial of Peter - Jesus' Look of Reproach by James Tissot

Failure Is NOT Fatal IF . . . We remember that God’s love and forgiveness are not dependent upon our success.

No matter how you have failed, no matter what sin you have allowed into your life, the Savior who died for you still loves you.

He loved you and died for you when you were His enemy. Why would He love you less now? Your failure doesn’t change his love.

The story of Christianity is the story of failed men and women who found new futures through the forgiveness of Christ.

In Luke 22:61 we find a single sentence of explosive power: “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” What kind of look did Jesus give to Peter? We do not know, but we do know Peter broke down afterwards.

He went out and wept bitterly.

It is to Peter’s credit that all that the Lord had to do was look at him to bring him to the place of recognition of what he had done.

That is the beginning of repentance.

No matter how effective the look of Jesus, it would have been wasted on Peter if Peter had not been looking at Jesus.

But Peter was looking at Jesus.

Jesus had predicted a turning point for Peter back in Luke 22:32: “But I have prayed for you, Simon [Peter], that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

This was that turning point, for it was at that point that verse 61 tells us, “ . . . Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'”

Jesus knew Peter would fail. He knew Peter was not as strong as he thought he was. Still, Jesus loved Peter and prayed for him.

Jesus also knows us, loves us, and prays for us.

I am going to include the next passage of Scripture as if it were a poem, because it is so beautiful:

What, then, shall we say in response to this?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–
how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies.
Who is he that condemns?

Christ Jesus, who died–
more than that, who was raised to life–
is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that
neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

Failure Is NOT Fatal IF… We remember that God’s love and forgiveness are not dependent upon our success.

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Failure Is NOT Fatal . . . IF – Part 1

The capture of Christ (detail)

Peter and Malchus

Peter’s tale of failure scares us. It seems too close to our own, sometimes.

However, Peter’s story can encourage us when we realize what we can learn from it.

Jesus told Peter that after he had denied Him, he would return to the truth, and that then he was to encourage his brethren. (Luke 22:32)

If we follow Jesus, we are Peter’s brethren.

So what can we learn?

Failure Is Not Fatal IF . . . We recognize that everyone fails. Nobody is perfect and everyone sins. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

We have all fallen short. I have fallen short. You have fallen short.

Thank God that He forgives our “falling shorts”. (Okay, you can laugh, here. This is one of my husband’s favorite funnies.) Morally, we all have “falling shorts”, those failures and sins that leave us embarrassed. We did NOT mean to sin, however, we did. We all miss the mark.

“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” James 3:2

We start out well.

We have wonderful, amazing intentions.

We are excited and we want to succeed in the faith.

We have a desire to be faithful disciples of the Lord.

Yet, we become fearful and distracted from the faith.

We allow the wrong influences into our lives.

We have strong desires that we refuse to deny.

Then we make a bad decision and consequently we sin against our Lord.

Guilt and shame replace the joy of our salvation.

The truth about us appears in Romans 7:18-25:

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

“So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

When we let go of the perfection obsession, the fear of failure loses its grip on our lives.

Therefore, Failure Is Not Fatal IF… We recognize that everyone fails.

More tomorrow!

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Failure Is NOT Fatal!

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt, 1660. Jesus is sh...

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt

Last week I watched a children’s spelling bee.

The children had practiced for weeks. Several broke down when they were eliminated. Mothers comforted them, dried their tears, and assured them they were not failures.

Jobs! Marriages! Children! Friends! Failure can feel never-ending. It can make you want never to show your face again. We fear failure and refuse to try. And the worst is when we know we did wrong, failing Jesus.

What can we do? God’s Word tells us.

The Bible records many failures because it contains life as it really is: accounts of real people. Bible heroes are remembered for their successes, yes, but before success, sometimes there was failure, as we saw last week.

This week we will look closely at a couple more, and learn how to turn life’s failures into life-giving experience.

One of our stories is about Peter:

“Then seizing him [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

“But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.

“A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

“‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

“About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’

“Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:54-62

We need not be too hard on Peter. The story of the arrest of Jesus shows he was a man of courage.

  • In Luke 22:50, when the authorities came to arrest Jesus, only Peter grabbed a sword to defend Jesus. In this attempt, he not only displayed courage but also chopped off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. I believe that Peter would have died at that moment to defend Jesus, had Jesus not intervened.
  • During the arrest, Peter “followed at a distance.” That must have taken courage. The other disciples fled, but he did not do that. He followed Jesus—at a distance perhaps—but still, he was there.
  • Peter also managed to ease his way into the courtyard of the building where Jesus was being questioned. Then, “[. . .] when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.” What a dangerous place to be, then, in the courtyard amongst the soldiers who had just arrested his Teacher!

Finally, things got too “hot” and his courage weakened. Peter failed in a way he had sworn he would never fail. (Matthew 26:35)

As the intensity of his denials escalates, we want to say, “You were with Jesus three years! You saw the miracles! You heard His teaching! You had revelation knowledge! How could you fail so miserably?”

But what Luke wants us to see is that we have something in common with Peter: It is easy to fail.

  • Whenever we fail to share our faith because we’re afraid of what people might say about us, we deny Jesus.
  • Whenever we choose to do what we know is wrong instead of right, we deny Jesus.
  • Whenever we trust our own understanding instead of trusting His Word, we deny Jesus.

And, like Peter, something about us tells others we have been with Him . . .

At church, we say, “Praise you, Jesus! I love you so much! I’ll always be faithful to You!”

Peter was sure. But when the test came, he faltered.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12

Peter’s story encourages in that we can learn from his failure. That is what we will look at for the next few days.

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God’s Dishonor Roll – Part 3

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ

The Last Supper of Christ

Consider the times of Jesus. The whole New Testament demonstrates to the world that Jesus is the Son of God by His deeds and by His death. And His 12 Apostles had a front row seat for the whole thing.

Let’s look at what they saw, as recorded by Matthew the Apostle:

Jesus drove out demons, as recorded in Matthew 8. Jesus told the wind and the waves to be still in Matthew 8. They saw Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. They were there, we read in Matthew 12, when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees like no one had ever spoken to them before. In addition, in Matthew 26, they were there for the Last Supper, when Jesus established a new covenant with all of humankind.

Yet in spite of all these things the apostles were privileged to see, in spite of all the things that were designed to strengthen their faith, “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” Matthew 26:31

How could anyone fail God with Jesus walking alongside him?

The disciples swore they would not leave Him, but they were about to find out how weak they were.

They walked with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told them to watch and pray. However, they were so tired that they could not even keep their eyes open. Then the soldiers arrived and took Jesus into custody. The disciples were so scared and so startled that they turned and ran for their lives. Jesus was right. They all fell away. They failed Jesus and they failed to keep the faith.

What about us? In church, it’s easy to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ. But when we are out in the world, it is not so easy. Out there, we consider other things:

Our marriage.

Our job.

Our finances.

Our family.

Our health.

Our worries.

As much as we want to serve God, there are times when it is hard. We fail, we sin, we deny Jesus as Lord, and we fail to keep the faith.

Yes, we are in pretty good company with God’s dishonor roll of failures. Thank God, He is not finished with us!

Tomorrow: Ar-r-rgh! What to do! What to do!

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God’s Dishonor Roll

English: Abram's Counsel to Sarai, c. 1896-190...

Abram's Counsel to Sarai by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

I wonder how many have never done anything wrong.

How many could stand before God and say, “I have never made a mistake. I have never failed at anything.”?

The truth is that we’ve all made mistakes, experienced failure, sinned, falling short of God‘s plan, God’s intention for us.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

“Failure” is the one label we don’t want.

We fear failure.

If I fail what will happen to me?

What will other people think? Will I be rejected? Will anybody love me?

Will God send me to hell?

The fear of failure is universal, causing enormous amounts of stress.

Students fear failing a class.

Parents fear failing their children.

Others fear failing the Lord, failing in Christianity, failing to live sinless lives.

If these examples describe your feelings, I have good news for you: You are in good company.

Some of the Bible’s greatest men and women of faith were failures. If God had a dishonor roll, it would include MANY well-known Believers.

For instance, in the book of Genesis, Abraham, the man of faith, lied to government officials, two times, about his relationship with Sarah. Both times, he introduced her as his sister instead of his wife, because he was afraid that he would be killed because of being married to such a beautiful woman.

Consequently, poor Sarah was taken into a harem each time and each time, God had to rescue her from potential adultery.

After the second time, God could have said, “ABRAHAM, YOU ARE FIRED!

“You obviously don’t trust me to save you. You obviously feel that lying to people is necessary to save your own skin.

“I cannot work with you anymore.”

But God forgave Abraham both times. And the Lord went on to do amazing things in his life. Even though Abraham showed the fear of unbelief instead of faith on these occasions, God still made a covenant with Abraham, and Abraham learned to believe God. God accounted this faith as if Abraham were righteous.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23

More tomorrow.

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