Hitting Re-Pete When You Fail
I’ve learned a lot about failure through baseball, marriage, fatherhood, and ministry. In baseball, you can fail to get a hit 70% of the time and that’s considered success. But that constant failure can get inside your head and mess with you. It did for me my senior year of high school when I called my baseball coach and said, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” He convinced me to stay, and I had a successful season (I failed 70% of the time!), but I was relieved when it ended. In 28 years of marriage, many of my sins, flaws, and weaknesses have been exposed, even those I never knew I had. Just ask my wife. What about fatherhood? Who doesn’t struggle with some level of guilt and regret?
And then there is ministry. Believe me, I’ve made my share of mistakes and poor decisions. There have been too many forgettable and regrettable moments to count. As a pastor, you also bear the burdens of the struggles of the church. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to call God on Sunday evening and say, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
This is why I can relate to the disciple Peter. He experienced his share of forgettable and regrettable moments. And the thing about them is that, for others, they never seem to forget them, right?
Who can forget when Peter tried to walk on water? What about when Jesus rebuked Peter for talking like Satan? How about that time when Peter told Jesus what to do—No, you shall never wash my feet—or when he fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asked him to keep watch and pray? And then, of course, there was Peter’s most memorable failure. It’s the forgettable moment that remains unforgettable to us. You can still hear Peter’s famous last words, “Even if I must die, I will never deny you.” Later in Peter’s life and ministry, Paul called out Peter publicly because his “conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Geez, thanks Paul.
Peter experienced his share of failures, but he was not done-in by them. His repeated failures became an opportunity for God to perform a redemptive “Re-Pete” in his life.
In John 21, we find Peter and six other disciples in Galilee waiting for the risen Jesus, just as they had been instructed. Peter decides to go fishing. Perhaps he was still processing everything, so he just did what was familiar to him. Plus, they had to eat, right? I also wonder if Peter’s three denials were still weighing heavy on him. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a disciple. Maybe I should just go back to being a fisherman. But he was failing at that too. They had not caught anything all night. And then Jesus shows up.
Here are three things to remember when you fail.
1. OUR FAILURES REMIND US THAT APART FROM JESUS WE CAN DO NOTHING.
Failure exposes our pride and self-reliance. We are reminded that our sufficiency comes not from our education, training, competency, skill, personality, and experience, but from Christ. I think about how God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being conceited. Failure humbles us in that way. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Peter caught nothing, and now the lesson he will learn is that apart from Jesus, he can do nothing. Jesus intervenes. He must. “Did you catch any fish,” Jesus says from the shore. “No.” They admit their inability to catch anything on their own. “Try casting your nets on the right side of the boat.” What a haul of fish, 153 to be exact.
2. WHEN WE FAIL, RUN TO JESUS, NOT FROM HIM.
The beloved disciple John shouts to Peter, “It is the Lord!” John outran Peter to the empty tomb, but not this time. Peter immediately jumps out from the boat and runs through the water to Jesus. Several years earlier when Jesus filled their fishing nets, Peter fell before Jesus and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Our tendency is to keep God at a distance when we fail. Failure drives us into hiding, both from God and from His people. Who wants to face people when you’ve experienced failure? But here in John 21, now several years later from that first fishing miracle, and after repeated failures, Peter sees the Lord, and this time, he runs to Him, not from Him.
3. WHEN WE RUN TO JESUS, HE PROVIDES FOR US OUT OF HIS SUFFICIENCY.
The huge catch of fish demonstrates Jesus’ abundant provision for them. If the haul wasn’t enough, Jesus already had fish on the grill, with bread, waiting for them. “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus restores him with food, a warm fire, and warm fellowship. These physical and tangible provisions point to the sufficiency of Jesus, the Bread of Life, who is able to satisfy not only Peter’s physical hunger, but his spiritual hunger. What does Jesus sufficiently provide for us in our times of failure? He provides His grace. He provides forgiveness. He provides the Holy Spirit to be His presence with us, convicting us of sin, comforting us, leading us, guiding us, equipping us for service, illuminating His truth to us, and assuring us that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.
I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. That’s right. I can’t. But Jesus can. I might be done, but Jesus is not done with me.
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Our failures give God a chance to work exceeding above what we can ask or imagine . Thanks for sharing
JP – Thanks for the encouraging words relayed from your own experiences as you live life in the biblical text. The challenges of ministry are daunting, but you give good reason to keep serving Christ’s bride and explain the solace we find in our Father’s care.
Wonderfully said, brother!