Have you failed God recently? When you think about the report card He would give you, are there red, magic marker F’s scrawled across the page? Don’t you sometimes feel like giving up? Like going forward is pointless anyway, because you’re only going to fail again? I have felt this, but I also found help from another story of failure.
All the disciples certainly knew about falling short. But, for whatever reason, it seems Peter’s mistakes, more than the others, have been preserved. Jesus, at His Last Supper, told His twelve friends, “I’ll only be with you a little while longer. I’m going somewhere you can’t follow. Not yet.” Peter naturally asked, “Lord, where are you going?” So Jesus repeated, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter, probably with frustration, pressed Jesus. “Lord, why can’t I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:31-37.)
We know the end of this story (or we think we do) and are quick to dismiss Peter’s sacrificial claim as the zealous words of a brash, but ultimately weak man. Why do we doubt his passion? Are we so quick to remember his after that we question the integrity of his before?
Peter’s intentions, at the moment his words flew, were good; he was not purposefully lying, though he might have been self-deceived. eter, sitting in that room, listening to Jesus’ ominous-sounding words, planned to die with Him, if necessary. He, like you and I, had every intention of giving his all for Jesus. But, in a very few minutes, we all know Peter will not die for Jesus. He will, instead, deny Jesus.
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for Me?” The room fell silent. Piercing Peter with the eyes he knew so well, Jesus publicly declared with all of His authority and omniscient sovereignty, “I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times!” Not once. Not twice. “Three times, before you even recognize what you’ve done” (John 13:38.) Can you imagine a greater failure than defiantly denying you know Jesus? (According to some theologies, Peter at that moment would have sacrificed his salvation!)
So, that’s it. End of story, right? Peter indeed failed his teacher and his Savior. With one sentence, he turned his back on his best friend. It wasn’t even a noble struggle; one of his denials took place before the “intimidating” presence of a servant girl. No reason to read the rest; we all know what happened. There’s even a convenient chapter break right there. In my Bible, you have to turn the page.
Don’t miss this: the red words continue.
After Jesus announced that Peter would fail Him three times, He kept speaking. If you’re ready to give up, listen. If you feel like a failure, let these words soak into your weary spirit like healing oil. Immediately after telling Peter, “You will disown Me!” Jesus continued, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; I would have told you if it were different. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you may be where I am.” Then, echoing His earlier grace-filled words, He nearly repeated, perhaps with a knowing glance around the room, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
The disciples were still trying to figure out the where and missed the how. This time, Thomas voiced the question: “Lord, we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
We pull these verses at funerals because we think they speak of heavenly mansions, but incredibly, here’s what Jesus was telling Peter, the other disciples, and us: “You’re going to fail Me, but trust Me. You’re going to fall short, but don’t give up. Trust Me, because I’m going ahead to prepare a place for you.”
Thomas, like the rest, missed where Jesus promised, “I will come back and take you to be with Me.” He thinks he has earn his place, to find his own way, when Jesus, with all of His authority and omniscient sovereignty, is saying, “I will take you. You don’t have to know the way. You simply have to know Me.”
After twenty-some years, I am realizing that my “walk with Jesus” isn’t about me keeping up with Jesus. It is more about recognizing, trusting, and standing in awe of the promise He never leaves me! He changed everything. Jesus is always closing the distance. Knowing that, I find myself telling Him more often how much I love Him, how amazed I am that He loves me! The more I focus on Him, on His life, cross, resurrection, and intercessory ministry, the more I love Him!
I’ll close with words from John Eldredge, author of Wild At Heart and, more recently, Beautiful Outlaw: “Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from His moment to moment presence and life within you. Your brokenness and sin are not something you overcome so that you can walk with God. They are the occasions for you to cry out for the life of God in you to rescue you. Not God outside you, up in the sky somewhere. Christ IN you, your hope of glory. Let this sink in: Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from His moment to moment presence and life within you.”
Walk WITH Jesus,