By Carol Becker
Proverbs 24:16 – For a just man falleth seven times, and rises again…
None of us are immune to the sting of failure. Even after we are saved, living with our old nature makes sure of that. Knowing that we will experience failure, that we will make unwise decisions and choose to sin, we find ourselves questioning if there is any hope for us in our failures. We don’t have to look any farther than Peter to see what God’s grace can accomplish in the midst of failure. From the life of Peter we can learn some helpful lessons on how to avoid and handle the failures of life.
1. Learn from the Past.
Matthew 14:22-33 tells the story of Peter’s great faith when he stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. We would no doubt classify this as a great success in Peter’s life, and even Jesus was pleased with Peter’s faith. Peter also must have realized in the midst of this success the central figure was Jesus. Success comes through Christ’s power alone. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink. That’s when failure comes. Peter had many other times in his life where Jesus gave him instruction. Like Peter, our past contains valuable lessons. Instead of wasting past successes and failures, we should use them as a catalyst for growth.
2. Learn to heed warnings from God and others.
Peter had the extraordinary benefit of getting to be with Jesus almost 24/7 for three years. Imagine the wisdom and instruction he received from Christ during those years. Peter even had the benefit of an especially close relationship with Jesus as he, James, and John were often called aside for greater instruction, revelation, and responsibility. Scripture records several times when Jesus patiently instructs Peter when he speaks or acts without thought. In Matthew 26:34 Jesus tells Peter that he would deny and forsake Him that very night. Jesus was warning Peter. Peter does not heed the warning. Instead of a humble response, Peter essentially tells Jesus he is wrong. But many times we are no different than Peter. We have the extraordinary benefit of God’s completed Word that guides and warns us. Once saved, we have the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives Who also provides instruction. Countless times God sends His warning through other Christians who are truly concerned for us and our walk with Christ. We need to heed the instruction and warning God places in our life. They are meant for our good.
3. Guard not only your weaknesses but your strengths as well.
Most of us are at least somewhat aware of our strengths and weaknesses. It’s wise to evaluate them often. While we tend to guard ourselves in areas where we are lacking and even concentrate on growth in those areas, we leave our strengths wide open for attack. Peter was a man of passion, a go-getter, zealous in all his endeavors; all commendable qualities. Yet this is where we find Peter attacked. In his last zealous act before Christ’s crucifixion and his denial of Jesus, Peter swung his sword cutting off Malchus’ ear as they were about to take Jesus away. Jesus healed and restored the man’s ear and then warned Peter concerning his zeal. Many of Peter’s failures actually stemmed from his unchecked, unbridled strengths. Our weaknesses keep us humble and our knees, but our strengths can often lead to pride and self sufficiency. Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Wisdom tells us to guard all aspects of our heart.
4. Failure is not final.
Peter must have experienced great torment the three days between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Sorrow and guilt is a needed response to our sin, but after we have repented and forgiveness has been given we can, at times, be our own worst critic. We may be able to give grace to others for their errors, but we don’t allow any grace for ourselves. We cannot bring ourselves to accept the gift of grace God freely offers. That grace was offered to Peter when the angel told Mary Magdalene to tell Peter that Jesus was risen from the dead. (Mark16:7). Later after Jesus’ resurrection, he met the disciples on the shore for breakfast. There he asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep. (John 21:15-17). He wasn’t done with Peter. God used Peter greatly at Pentecost when he preached the gospel and three thousand were saved (Acts 2:41). God worked through Peter’s life, his successes and failures, using him to accomplish His plan. Living perfectly and without failure is impossible. God never asks us to be perfect, but to always grow into Christ’s likeness. The key word is grow. Peter was a success for the Lord, because he continued to grow in grace. And God blessed him for that.
Peter failed. We will too. However, Peter was not a failure, and neither are we if we will learn and grow and do all for the glory of God.