Summary: God's greatest servants suffered incidents of failure, but their recall of such a close relationship and personal experiences with the Lord in the past sparked repentance and renewal of faith.
FROM BITTERNESS OF RUINOUS FAILURE TO BOLDNESS OF RENEWED FAITH
Standing there in the Sistine Chapel with head craned backward as far as possible, gazing in awe and amazement at the ceiling above, my eyes beheld the wonder we had heard about but could not conceive of until we actually saw it – the magnificent masterpiece of the world-famous artist Michelangelo whose life was told in the book, and later the film, entitled The Agony and the Ecstasy!
What a remarkable human being - to have coped with and indeed to have risen above pressures from family . . . society . . . within himself, to give birth to some of the most magnificent works of art ever - his Sistine Chapel masterpiece being his final yet boldest achievement!
This artistic expression of Michelangelo’s passion for telling God’s Story occurred five hundred years ago; but professionals, and others who share his passion, continue to marvel at the end result of a gifted artist’s perseverance in spite of the pressures put upon him.
In the course of the Christian life we at times have to cope with and rise above pressures put upon us not only from without but also from within.
So, we know from personal experience how exhilarating it is to rise above bitterness and to give expression to our spiritual restoration that occurred when we confronted and confessed faults, failures, sins, mistakes, errors of judgment.
It was at that point of confrontation of ourselves and rejuvenation of our inner beings that we were empowered to give expression to our Christian faith – boldly and unhindered . . . (Acts 28:31).
A classic example of how God redeems His own from even the worst of failures is Simon Peter - who failed miserably but then relied on power from on high to be restored and to become useful once again in the service of his Lord – Luke 22:54-62 . . .
As we see here, it is true that if we fail, our failure will most likely be at the point of our greatest strength which, in Peter’s case, was his courage!
When enemies of Jesus came to arrest Him, Peter courageously drew his sword to defend Jesus. But later, when he found himself to be the only disciple in the courtyard outside the home of the high priest, Peter’s courage failed him.
Our hero cowered in an uncomfortable situation. Under pressure, Peter backed down . . . backed away from his commitment . . . backed himself into a corner to such an extent that he claimed he didn’t even know who or what they (his identifiers) were talking about. Colossal failure on the part of an otherwise courageous follower of Jesus! Others have done so:
Moses, the “meekest” man on earth (extraordinary strength . . . under control) lost control of his emotions and killed an Egyptian abuser of a woman.
Abraham, the father of faith, lied about who Sarah his wife was because, when his back was against the wall, he failed to show faith in God to protect him.
David, whose purity before God earned him the designation as “a man after God’s own heart”, committed the impure act of adultery followed by a cover-up.
All of these biblical characters failed at their strong points! We all have a tendency to leave our strengths unguarded! Then what happens psychologically and spiritually is that our unguarded strength degenerates to such a low point of resistance that Satan moves in and attacks.
Satan always lurks in the shadows, waiting for God’s truly faithful ones to “let their guards down”! Even so, and even though we may fail, never forget:
God is still sovereign . . . in control. Peter was reminded of this stark reality when the rooster crowed. God created the rooster, Jesus predicted the crowing of the rooster, Peter heard it and remembered.
We always remember the Word when we do wrong! “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee, O God.” Nevertheless, when we fail by letting our guards down and yielding to temptation, God is still in control - even “If we believe not, yet He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13).
God is sympathetic. The moment Peter denied knowing Jesus, he turned and saw the Lord. Their eyes met! What did Peter see in that look? I believe he saw love . . . sympathy . . . intense longing for Peter to come to his senses.
Whatever kind of look it was that Peter saw in the eyes of his Lord, he was haunted by it until he broke down and “wept bitterly” . . . remorsefully.
This was the “turning point” in Peter’s life, as it must be in the lives of all who have sinned and succumbed to the temptation to deny their Lord and their relationship to Him.