Summary: Our failures are not final with God.
Recovering From Failure
Luke 22:31-34, 54-62
Rev. Brian Bill
People across the country tuned in this week to watch another former Illinois governor head off to prison. Seeing him shaking hands and signing autographs as the media followed his every step stirred up various feelings inside of me. I felt really badly for his wife and daughters even though he’s getting what his crimes deserved.
When I started out as a pastor over 20 years ago, a number of well-known televangelists failed and their sins became public. I remember not feeling very compassionate because I secretly thought that their excessive flamboyance somehow led to their failures. I think I was actually spiritually smug about their sins. Shortly after this, a well-known evangelical leader failed and I was really bummed out because I had heard him speak several times and had read a number of his books. He was one of my spiritual heroes. In this same time frame a pastor who was mentoring me in an internship imploded and then just disappeared.
I remember thinking, “How could all this happen so suddenly?”
To answer that, let me demonstrate using this tire from my bike. I hadn’t ridden my bike all winter and when I took it down this week I noticed that the tires were almost flat. Have you ever had a slow leak in a tire? Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out where the leak is coming from but you notice that air is escaping somehow. I’m told that tires can simply lose air over time, even if there are no punctures present.
Peter had some slow leaks going on in his spiritual life. In Luke 22:31-34 we’re going to see that our failures are not final with God: “‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’” Let’s pull out two truths from the passage.
1. Satan is our Adversary. Satan is out to take us out. He wants to sift us: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” The word “sift” is an agricultural term. When wheat was harvested, the kernel would be crushed and then the wheat would be tossed into the air to blow the chaff away. They would then put the grain into a square box covered with netting, turn it upside down and start shaking it violently. The idea is that all the dirt and junk would fall out, leaving behind the clean grain. Satan is out to turn us upside down and shake us to pieces.
1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” And in Revelation 12:10 we’re told that Satan accuses believers day and night. Behind every spiritual failure is a spiritual enemy. I find it very interesting that Jesus allowed the Adversary to attack a follower. Why didn’t He just tell Satan to buzz off? Here’s why. He knew that Peter would ultimately profit from this, though it would be extremely painful. Satan is on a short leash and can go no further than God allows.
2. Jesus is our Advocate. I love the fact that Jesus intercedes for us: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that you faith may not fail.” While Satan goes after everyone, he seems to have a bulls-eye on leaders because they are a threat to him. If he can torpedo Peter’s faith, others will be disheartened and discouraged. Jesus didn’t pray to keep Peter away from the sifting but for his faith to not ultimately fail.
I want you to notice that Jesus tells Simon that He is praying for him. Friend, take comfort that Jesus is pulling for you. Hebrews 7:25: “Because he always lives to intercede for them.” He knows Peter will stumble but He also knows that his unfaithfulness will only be temporary; he will not fail forever.
I see a three-step process in this passage that led to Peter’s recovery.
• Rebellion. Jesus told Peter that he would turn away: “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
• Repentance. Jesus told Peter that he would turn back: “And when you have turned back.” I love that Jesus uses the word “when” referring to Peter turning back. There’s no question but that he will repent.
• Restoration. Jesus told Peter that he would have a turnaround and would eventually “strengthen his brothers.”