Summary: The third message in my SURVIVOR series, showing how we can receive forgiveness and restoration when we sin (09-29-2002).
Two Kentucky horse racing stable owners had developed a keen rivalry. Each spring they both entered a horse in a local steeplechase. One of them thought that having a professional rider might give his horse an edge in the race, so he hired a hot-shot jockey.
Well, the day of the race finally came, and as usual, their two horses were leading the race right down to the last fence. But that final fence was too much for both of the horses. Both of them fell, and both riders were thrown. But that didn’t stop the professional jockey. He remounted quickly and easily won the race.
When he got back to the stable, he found the horse owner fuming with rage. He really didn’t understand his behavior, because he had won the race. So the jockey asked, “What’s the matter with you? I won the race, didn’t I?”
The red-faced owner nodded, “Oh, yes, you won the race. But you won it on the wrong horse!”
(From 1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, by Michael Hodgin, p. 148.)
That jockey had the best of intentions. He intended to win the race. But he became distracted from the task. He made a bad decision. And, ultimately, he failed in what he was trying to do.
You know, often times we wind up doing the same thing in our walk with Jesus. We start out strong. We have the best of intentions. We are excited, and we want to succeed in the faith. We have a desire to be faithful followers of our Savior. Yet, so often, we become distracted from the faith. We allow the wrong influences in our lives. We experience a challenge or a setback. We make a bad decision. We experience the spiritual failure of allowing sin into our lives, and our relationship with Jesus suffers.
Today we are continuing our SURVIVOR series of messages. And as I talk about surviving failure … that is what I am really talking about … surviving the failure of sin. As followers of Christ, this is one of our greatest challenges in life … especially in the life of the church. Because so often our sin problems are not only between us and God … many times the sin in our lives is known by others. It has consequences that go beyond self. As believers, our failures and our sin can affect our families, our friends, and our church. Therefore, it is appropriate that we look together as a church to God’s word to find the guidance for surviving the failure of sin.
Transition to the Example of Peter
As a I prayed over this message and as I asked God to show me the perfect example of forgiveness, restoration, and survival after the failure of sin, God brought to my mind the name of one person … Peter.
Peter was a bold, brash, straight-talking fisherman. He was as honest as he was rugged. From my study of the life of Peter, I have the picture of a man who said whatever came to his mind. I also have a picture of a man who, when he committed himself to something, committed all the way. There was no wishy-washy half-heartedness to Peter. He left his life of fishing to go with Jesus and become a fisher of men. He was a sold-out follower of Jesus … and he didn’t hesitate to tell anybody.
Even when Jesus warned him that he would someday deny him, Peter said, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33) When Jesus attempted to explain his coming death, and how the disciples could not go with Him, but that they would follow later, Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37)
Yet we know that despite his enthusiasm and claims … when the moment of truth came … Peter did just as Jesus warned he would do. Look and see how Peter responded in that moment of decision … that moment of persecution.
Show Peter’s denial scene from Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Jesus of Nazareth, RAI/ITC Entertainment Ltd. / Bridgestone Group, 1977, videotape 3.
Peter did just as Jesus warned he would. He failed Jesus. He publicly denied him three times at that ultimate moment of decision. And as we look at that, we must think, “What a failure! He denied Jesus! How could he ever be restored? How could he ever be forgiven?” Yet he was forgiven and he was restored. The Bible tells us so. And so, today, as we look to God’s word for instruction on how we might survive the failure of our own sin, we can find no more perfect example than that of Peter.