Recently, I have been preaching a series of sermons that I have vaguely titled, “Things We Deal With.”
These sermons are a collection of problems that we often face. I have gathered these topics together over the years of talking with people about what they are dealing with on a daily basis.
The most recent installment in this series of sermons looked at failure. As I wrote the sermon, I remember thinking, “I’m well qualified for this message!” Looking back over my life, I have had quite a few failures.
I thought back to failed relationships, failed academic endeavors, athletic failures, career failures, moral failures and so many more. I had plenty of personal material to work with as I put the sermon together.
Like all people, I often think back to my mistakes and failures. I’ll admit that they gnaw away at me sometimes. I even remember mundane things that I regret. For example, I did not go to my great grandmother’s funeral when I was a teenager. I did not have a good excuse. I was just being a typical teenager with poor priorities. I’ve long regretted that. Those failures just seem to hang around like annoying ghosts, trying to haunt my soul and steal my joy.
During some of those failures, I remember that I didn’t think I would ever recover and carry on with life. I have had to back up and punt quite a few times when I messed up. Failures have a way of making a person feel utterly alone and hopeless.
I can so often identify with characters in the Bible who failed miserably. I think of folks, like Peter, who really flunked. Matthew 26:69-75 tells a story of Peter denying his knowledge of Jesus three times. Three times!
While Jesus was being arrested, beaten and accused, Peter was warming up around a fire and pretending to have never met the man. Peter fell from great heights to a new low. I’ve been there. We all have. Those failures feel really terrible.
However, the amazing thing is that our failures do not mean we are failures. They do not have to define the rest of our lives, our worth or our ability to carry on. Peter is proof of that. He could have easily given up, sold refrigerators, went back to fishing, or whatever people did for money two thousand years ago. Likewise, Jesus could have easily given up on Peter after his failures. However, that is not what happened. I love that John 21:15-17 tells us what happened next with Peter. When Jesus needed to put someone in charge of the disciples and the church, he chose the guy who had failed so badly. He chose Peter to be the rock of the church. Jesus must have been able to see through his failures and see the best in him.
I get the feeling from my own life that Jesus is still doing that … still seeing the best in us when we are at our worst. Somehow, God has helped me to pull my life together and do some truly wonderful things. If Jesus hadn’t believed in me, I don’t know that I would have ever believed in myself. Do not let your own failures define who you are or limit what God will do through your life!