The Face of Failure: Simon Peter Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
On the contrary, the person best prepared for the way of discipleship is the one who confesses, as Paul did, “In my flesh there dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Paul had learned something that many of us believers need to learn, it is that in me (as far as that old nature is concerned) dwells no good thing. Have you learned that? Have you found there is no good in you? Oh, how many of us Christians feel that we in the flesh can do something to please God? Some people work so hard to please God, but they never make a vital connection with Him.
Let me make it personal. Anything that Tom Lowe does in the flesh, God hates. God won’t have it; God can’t use it. When it is of the flesh it’s no good. The Lord Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh…” (John 3:6) (And that is all it will ever be), but “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin…” (1 John 3:9). Isn’t that wonderful! We are given a new nature, and that new nature will not commit sin. When I sin it’s the old nature. The new nature won’t do it; the new nature just hates sin. But remember, there is no power in the new nature. Our only hope of avoiding failure is by wholly depending on the Lord and His strength.
Next, it is usually the case that failure involves a denial of Christ. As Peter tried to be inconspicuous in the courtyard, he was discovered. Three times he was asked if he was a follower of Jesus, who was then on trial. Each time Peter’s response was the same. He denied he had ever known the Lord. Because he suspected that his denial was not convincing the crowd, the third time even contained a religious oath made in God’s name and curses upon himself in the event he was lying.
Many of us have done the same shameful thing. It may have been by our words or by our deeds, but we denied Christ. Likely the circumstances under which we did it was not nearly so threatening, but failing our Lord is a shameful deed under any circumstance.
The second thing that can be seen in this story is the sorrow over our failure.
How can you tell if someone is truly sorry for their failure? I believe there is a sign of repentance, and I have seen it many times. True disciples weep over their failures. They are never proud or boastful about such shameful matters.
Peter’s sorrow began the moment he heard the rooster crow, reminding him of the warning the Lord had spoken to him. Then there was the look he had received from Jesus as he remembered. The Lord turned and looked at Peter, probably while He was being moved to a temporary cell. Although Peter had been guilty of a very great offense, Jesus would not call out to him, for that would shame him and expose him; He only gave him a look which only Peter would know the meaning of. Even though you would think that Jesus would have something else on His mind, His look showed that He knew everything Peter had said and done. The look must have radiated sorrow and hurt. It sent Peter out into the night to express his sorrow with tears. The thing that hurt so bad was that he had disowned Christ, but Christ had not disowned him. He felt that he should be cast off, never to see his Master again and that Jesus would deny him before the Father. I am so glad that Jesus does not deal with us like we deal with Him.
But Peter had taken a step toward recovery. The Scriptures assure us that God is near to those with a “broken and contrite heart.” If Peter had approached the whole ordeal with the same broken spirit that he had when he came out of it, he never would have failed. But he was soon to discover that his tears were not in vain. Our forgiving and compassionate God takes note of such sorrow. It is a true step toward recovery.
The last thing to see in our story is the comfort after our failure.
Peter’s experience is good news for every failing disciple. Our failures do not have to be final.
When we fail, we can have the comfort of forgiveness. Tears of repentance will bring us to the comfort of forgiveness. A poem describes God’s commission of a man to find the world’s greatest treasure. The man finally locates a tear of repentance that proves to be the most precious thing earth can produce.
Martin Luther wrote, “No article of the creed is so hard to believe as this: I believe in the forgiveness of sins. But look at Peter. If I could paint a portrait of Peter, I would write on every line of his head forgiveness of sins.”
How do we know that Peter was forgiven? After Jesus rose from the dead, he sent a special message to his disciples, and he instructed the women who carried the message to deliver it to Peter personally. Our Lord forgave Peter fully, and he will forgive us when we fail.
There is also the comfort of fellowship, which is available at those times when we fail. Much of the sorrow related to failure comes from our broken fellowship with Jesus. Knowing that we have disappointed Him, makes us uncomfortable in His presence. But after we receive His forgiveness, we can begin to enjoy His company again. This was true for Peter in the time he spent with Jesus after the resurrection. The fellowship was restored. He was not banished forever as he thought he might be.
How we deal with our failures is important. For Peter, a shameful failure, became a positive experience as he allowed his heart to be broken and struggled to gain another opportunity to show his loyalty.
Peter could repent of his sin, and that is the real test of a genuine believer. His tears flowed from a broken heart. The record of Peter’s ministry in the book of Acts after he was filled with the Holy Spirit is evidence enough of what a failure can become. Years later in his epistle he wrote, “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Peter knew that the Lord Jesus had kept him.
How are you handling your failures? This story teaches that when we fail and when we sin, we should repent; then we will receive the comfort of forgiveness and the comfort of fellowship with Jesus.It also teaches that when we fail our Lord; He doesn’t just throw us away. The Good Shepherd will not lose one of His sheep.If He starts out with 100, He will get all 100 home. If one of His sheep strays off and gets involved in sin, He will leave the 99 in comfort and safety, and go and get that lost sheep and bring it back to the fold.
If you are not one of His sheep, you can be. He said, “My sheep hear My voice.” Listen for a still small voice.
Jesus is tenderly calling thee home,
Calling today, calling today;
Why from the sunshine of love wilt thou roam
Farther and farther away?
Jesus is calling the weary to rest,
Calling today, calling today;
Bring Him thy burden and thou shalt be blest;
He will not turn thee away.
Jesus is waiting; O come to Him now,
Waiting today, waiting today;
Come with thy sins; at His feet lowly bow;
Come, and no longer delay.
Jesus is pleading; O list to His voice,
Hear Him today, hear Him today;
They who believe on His name shall rejoice;
Quickly arise and away.
Calling today, Calling today;
Jesus is calling, Is tenderly calling today.