Summary: When we face failure, God will not abandon us, He wants to restore us, He can still use us and teach us.
When I was in high school I was on the swim team. As the years went by I became reasonably successful. In fact somewhere I have a small bag filled with medals I won during my swimming career. But if I looked at those medals today I’d be hard pressed to tell you anything about the swim meets where I won them. I don’t remember anything about the victories but I remember vividly the failures.
Take, for example, the time I was on a medley relay team in the CIF finals. CIF is the equivalent to the state championships here in Nevada. In a medley relay the first person swims backstroke, the second swims breaststroke, then butterfly followed by freestyle. I swam freestyle so it was my job to anchor the relay. The CIF finals were held at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, CA. There were hundreds of people present. Maybe thousands. The noise from the crowd was deafening. It was the biggest moment in my life up to that point. My heart was almost pounding through my chest.
When I got up on the blocks our relay team was trailing the leaders by a yard. Jim Lauderback was swimming butterfly. As he drove into the wall I let loose with every ounce of strength in my 16-year old body. To be honest I don’t remember a thing about how I swam except when I hit the wall I had won. Almost miraculously I had caught and passed the leader. The crowd went delirious. I looked up and there was Jim Lauderback leaning over the edge of the pool with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Steve you won! We did it! We won!” Jim kept screaming over and over. I was beside myself and I reached up to the edge of the pool and pulled Jim into the water in a fit of ecstasy. We were hugging and crying. We had won the CIF finals!
A few seconds later, one of the officials came over with a very serious look on his face. He told us that it was illegal to have two swimmers in the water at the same time during a relay. As a result, we were disqualified. It took a few seconds for that to register in my brain. I was stunned. I had just won the race of my life. I was the hero. I was the anchorman who brought home the bacon. A CIF champion. But now I was a goat. A knucklehead that got his team disqualified in a fit of emotion. Because of me, we didn’t win. We lost. I wasn’t the hero. I had failed.
When most of us look back on our lives we tend to remember the failures more than the successes. For example, I’ve spoken with countless people who’ve been happily married for years, but somehow it comes out that they were once married to someone else. Their first marriage failed. And the divorce left a scar that hung with them like a dark cloud. Maybe failure happened to you in a job. You were fired. Let go. Maybe it was a poor financial decision. You lost money big-time. I don’t know what you would list as your top five failures, but I know that we all have them. And so did the Apostle Peter.
As we leaf through the pages of Scripture we discover that Peter was always vocal and always out in front. He was exceptionally proud of his loyalty to Jesus. And so Jesus’ words stung deeply when the Lord told Peter that he would deny him. “Not me!” Peter insisted. “I’m your man! Even if everyone else falls away, I never will!” But Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Confusion and fear swept over Peter. Perhaps his voice trembled as Peter replied, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
That’s where we pick up the story in Luke 22:54-62. (Read) Every time I read this passage I can’t help but linger on verse 61. I’ve tried to imagine the look in Jesus’ eyes as he gazed across the courtyard. I’m sure that Peter would never forget the Lord’s penetrating eyes. The Lord had been right…again. Peter had failed Jesus when the Lord needed him most. Verse 62 says that Peter went outside and wept bitterly. The realization of his personal failure was overwhelming. Peter probably cried until there were no more tears left.
I wonder if you have ever gotten to that point? Have you ever been so disgusted with yourself, so horrified by your behavior that you felt like throwing up? That’s what happened to Peter. He failed. No excuses. No finger pointing. He was the man and he blew it. Plain and simple.