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Summary: We get in shape for God when we let Him use our failures to help others.

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Take a moment and look at the sermon title printed in your bulletin. Do you find it to be a strange title? Do you find it to be a contradiction?

Most of us do not like failure and many of us have been taught – consciously or subconsciously – that failure is not acceptable. In fact, we live in a “one strike and you’re out” environment these days.

I was recently talking with an acquaintance regarding our growing up years. And she noted to me that what used to get us a “slap on the wrist” or a “pat on the bottom” or “grounded” now will get us jail time or probation. For all our talk on tolerance these days there is often little tolerance for much of what in another time and place passed for foolishness. So failure in our day and age is not often tolerated, so how can there be a magnificence to failure?

We have begun 2004 with some ways of getting in shape for God as we: (Overhead 1)

Accept ourselves as God’s greatest creation

Learn to serve and be God’s servant

Discover and accept our place on God’s “team” – the church.

Accept ourselves for who we are while growing in Christian maturity

And this morning we are going to get in shape for the Lord as we let God use all of our life experiences including our failures and disappointments.

It does seem that failure and faith do not go together. But, I would remind us right up front this morning as we approach the Lenten season it was our greatest failure – the failure to obey that resulted in the disobedience that we call sin – that brought Jesus to the Cross and out of the tomb so that we could be free from that failure and be right with God through Christ! Failure is a tool in God’s hands to make things right in us and in this world – now and one day in the future at the final judgment.

Not only does God use our failures he also uses our pain and disappointments to bring others to him. All of us here this morning have experienced pain and disappointment in our lives. Some of that pain and disappointment has come as a result of our choices and some of it from the choices of others.

We have experienced the end of a marriage and the pain of divorce. We have experienced an unexpected pregnancy. We have mourned the loss of a child. All of which has changed our lives. But, God still loves us. God still wants us to be totally His despite the consequences - good and bad - of those choices.

We see this in our text for this morning. It is a familiar text and has often been used to remind us and encourage us that forgiveness is possible no matter what we have done or said because none of us, while we are still living, are beyond God’s forgiving reach and touch.

I want to again read the passage ending with verse 17: “After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. Once more he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

Now what does this passage have to say to us about God’s use of past experiences, especially the painful ones? Let’s start by noticing a couple of things.

First we must pay attention to how Jesus asked the same question three different ways. The first time Jesus asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” The second time He asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” The third time He again asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” What is Jesus asking?

First, He is asking, “Peter do you really love me more than those who are sitting around you?” And who was sitting around Peter? It was some of the remaining disciples. Now let’s stop and think about it for a minute.

Here sits a group of 7 men who have been together with Jesus for three years. They are a diverse group of men. They had their battles and disagreements. Yet, they were first-hand witnesses to the power of God through His Son, Jesus and would soon be given the assignment to go and make other followers of Christ by telling them of what Jesus had done for humanity. Don’t you think these 8 had developed a bond of love and commitment during those three years? But what Jesus wanted to know is, “Do you really love me more than these close friends and colleagues?” And Peter said, “Yes, you know that I really love you more than my brothers in Christ.”

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