As a firstborn, I have a strong desire to please, but I’m realizing I have an even stronger desire not to fail! I asked the ladies in Bible study this week how they would complete this sentence, “More than anything else I fear____________.” I was the only one who wrote FAILURE in bold letters, but as we talked, we realized many of our responses were linked to a fear of failure.
- Fear of rejection – Will I fail to measure up, to be what another needs/wants me to be?
- Fear for loved ones – Did I fail to live out the gospel before them? To share effectively the plan of salvation with them?
- Fear of loss of health – Could my failure to exercise and eat properly cause this?
Why does failure (or even the possibility of it) threaten to undo us? I read recently that, “It’s because we lack the courage to be imperfect. We say we know we’re not perfect, but when failure comes we respond as if we thought we were.” That makes me think of Peter, the man who was convinced he had the stuff to stand with Jesus no matter what: “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”
Yet within hours of his bold proclamation, Peter had failed miserably, and denied three times the One he believed he would die for. As the cock crowed, “Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out, and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75).
Imagine Peter’s guilt and shame; the crushing realization of his depravity and imperfection. To think . . . Jesus had always known the depth to which he would fall! He had known the layers of fear and self-righteousness that existed in his heart.
And yet He had loved him. The thought only increased the torment of Peter’s soul. He didn’t deserve it! He hadn’t earned it. Failure cowered in the face of unrelenting grace. So he fled to a place of familiarity and past success . . . he would go fishing! Surely a sense of achievement would still the haunting memories and replace the never-ending reminders of his unworthiness. Yet even the familiar brought failure. Fishing all night produced nothing . . . not even one fish!
Then, when Peter had nowhere else to run, dawn began to break. As light permeated the darkness, the voice of the Master echoed across the sea, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”
Hear the tenderness as Jesus’ words imply, “I know you’ve failed. I know you’re unworthy, I know the depth of your sin. But My grace is greater. I love you still, and want to fill your emptiness.”
And oh, how He did!
Throw the net on the right side of the boat,’ said Jesus, ‘and you’ll have a catch.’ So they threw out the net and found that they were now not strong enough to pull it in because it was so full of fish!;
Relentless, unwavering love to underserving failures! That amazing grace caused the one who had failed so grievously to run toward His Savior. And that’s the message of hope Peter’s life continues to proclaim today through the pages of God’s Word.
What about you? Has your failure caused you to cower in shame? Or has it propelled you to your Savior?