Failure is NOT an Option

Failure is Not an Option

In America, we love winners. We esteem champions; we adore achievers. We admire leaders, and we adulate the successful.

Nobody wants to be considered a failure. Many people will do anything—lie, cheat, steal, lower their standards, and compromise their morals—in order to succeed, but that is a pathway of destruction, not success. Why do we do that?

We fear failure. 1- We’re afraid of what it might do to us. What will other people think? Will we be rejected? 2- The fear of failure causes us to be indecisive, worried about what choice to make. What if we make the wrong choice? So we can’t decide. 3- The fear of failure causes us to be a workaholic. We work and overwork, trying to keep up, trying to get ahead, and trying to stay ahead. 4- The fear of failure causes us to be a perfectionist where we are always worried that it’s never good enough. And we’re never quite satisfied because we’re afraid people won’t like what we did, or how we did it.

The Bible teaches us that failure is not an option. It is a part of life, and I dare say, a part of success. Our scripture this morning highlights one of the greatest failures in the Bible.

Matthew 26:31-35 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

The disciples have just spent three years learning from Jesus. They were devoted to Him. Jesus was their teacher. He had been teaching them how to minister and how to serve. He had just given them the great example of servant hood by washing their feet. Now it was time to teach them about failure, because they were about to fail.

Notice Jesus didn’t say, you might fall away. He said with certainty that all of them would fall away. What we need to see here is that Jesus is talking to us, too. Failure is not an option. It is inevitable. We were born with a sin nature; thus, we will fail. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. If you are perfect, you don’t need this sermon.

This sermon is for the parents who failed to parent their children properly. This sermon is for the persons who failed to keep a marriage together. This sermon is for those who failed with addictions and bad habits. This sermon is for those who failed financially. This sermon is for those who failed morally. And this sermon is for Christians who failed Jesus.

Jesus knew that His disciples would fail Him that night. He wanted them to realize that He knew what they would do and He had prayed for their protection and restoration.

Peter was determined not to fail Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus told Peter that he would fail Him that very night. Right after this conversation on the Mount of Olives, Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus told the disciples to watch and pray. However, Peter and all the disciples fell asleep instead of praying with Jesus or keeping a look out for danger. Judas arrived with temple guards to arrest Jesus and take Him to the Jewish high council.

Peter defends Jesus for a moment by fighting the arresting officers and cutting the ear off one of them. Jesus stops him and heals the man’s ear and allows them to arrest Him. As they take Jesus away, everyone scatters. Peter followed from a distance. Then it happened.

Matthew 26:69-75 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter must have been saying to himself, “Jesus said I would fail and I did. I am such a coward. I wouldn’t even acknowledge that I knew who Jesus was, much less tell people that I was one of his followers.” Have you ever done something like that? I have.

I suspect the worst time in Peter’s life was between Friday, when Jesus was crucified, and Sunday, when he rose from the grave. With regret, his long night hours were probably spent weeping, tossing, turning, and kicking himself for failing so miserably.

I have done that, too. Many times in my life I have failed. Many times I have failed Jesus and experienced regret. How many can say that they have never let God down in their life? You see, failure is not an option. It is inevitable and Jesus knows it.

Fortunately, it is in our failures that we have opportunity to grow the most spiritually. God can use our failures to break us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. He uses our failures to strip us of the pride that we have in ourselves and bring us into a closer relationship with Him.

John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

This is known as Peter’s restoration. Jesus was assuring Peter, that even though he had failed, He still loved him and wanted him to continue in the work that He had for him to do.

Now what does Peter’s story tell us this morning? It tells us that we will all fail at times in our lives. We will fail as fathers and husbands, mothers and wives, sons and daughters. We will fail as friends and co-workers. And, we will fail as Christians. Amid our failures though, Jesus is interceding for our protection and restoration. He will forgive us of our failures and give us grace to be the Christian that He intends us to be.

There are four principles from Peter’s experience to remember when we fail. The first is this: God will not abandon you when you fail.

Peter may have felt terribly alone after he denied Jesus. But there was never one moment during that time when the Lord was not with him. Many times when people have done something wrong or when they’ve failed, they think that God has left them, but in truth, they have left God. That is why we need to repent and turn back to God—not run from Him. The Lord is right there with us, but we hesitate to turn to Him, because we think God will reject us.

This happens because our accuser, Satan, is quick to condemn us after we fail. He bombards us with thoughts like, “Of all people, you should have known better. What a disgrace you are. You’ve blown your witness; God can’t use you. Besides, God can’t forgive what you have done or else He would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” The weight of our failures becomes heavier and heavier with each lie the devil utters. It’s true that sin has consequences, but that doesn’t prohibit the Lord from doing what He wants in our lives. In fact, failure is one of God’s best tools to transform our hearts like His.

So, the first thing we learn from Peter’s experience is that when we fail, God does NOT abandon us. He will discipline us and that may feel like abandonment, but God loves us and wants to restore the relationship regardless what we have done.

The same Peter who failed Jesus in his time of greatest need would later write 1 Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

Secondly, God wants to restore us. After His resurrection, Jesus reaffirms Peter’s call to ministry three times with the other disciples present. Three times Peter had denied Jesus, and three times Jesus reaffirms Peter’s leadership in front of the other disciples.

This is the principle we need to see: Not if, but when we fail, God wants to restore us. This is crucial to grasp. Although failure is not an option, it also is not final. God always leaves the door open for the restoration of His children.

But two things are required to walk through the doorway of restoration. Those two things are repentance and willingness. Repentance means recognizing that we’ve sinned, admitting we were wrong, being remorseful, and then heading in the opposite direction.

One thing that keeps people from genuine repentance is blaming others. When we suffer the painful consequences from our sin, we may feel sorry for our behavior. We may have regrets. But as long as we blame our parents, or our situation growing up, or anyone or anything else, there won’t be genuine repentance. Why? Repentance, the kind that God responds to, never has any self-justification in it.

For example, a husband blames his wife’s inattention to justify viewing pornography. When he is caught, the husband may be sorry, he may regret the consequences of what he did, but that’s not repentance. Until he accepts 100% of the responsibly himself and stops blaming anyone else, he has not repented. He will do it again, because pornography and all sin is addictive and the addiction must be broken through confession and the pain of brokenness.

In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus told about the prodigal son who made some disastrous decisions. He failed miserably. Repentance began “when he came to his senses.” In other words, he realized that he’d blown it and sinned against his father. He repented, meaning he turned from his wickedness and went back to his father in humility and brokenness.

David demonstrates true repentance when he repented from his adultery and murder. David didn’t justify himself by blaming Bathsheba for bathing on her roof-top in plain sight. David didn’t justify himself by blaming his dad or his brothers for making him take care of the sheep. Nor did David justify himself because he was king and could do whatever he wanted.

When David repented, he offered no excuses. He didn’t blame anyone. He assumed full responsibility for his action and accepted the consequences without anger at God or anyone else. In Psalm 51:4 David says to God, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

The other thing necessary to be restored by God is willingness.

John 5:5-6 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?"

Doesn’t it seem strange that Jesus asked that question? It is an important question, because there are people who feel their failures are so terrible, they won’t allow God to restore them. They end up living in a self-imposed prison of self-pity, punishing themselves far more than God. God wants to restore, but we have to allow God to restore us.

Peter was not only repentant, but he was also willing to be restored. He didn’t protest by saying, “I’m a failure. You can’t use me, Jesus.” No, he allowed Jesus to restore him. So we learn from Peter’s failure that (1) when we fail, God will not abandon us; (2) God wants to restore us. But restoration requires genuine repentance and a willingness to let God restore us in His time.

There’s a third principle we can learn from Peter’s experience. When we fail, God teaches us.

When we first meet Peter in Scripture, he’s a proud, self-made man. He’s mister macho. It was Peter who walked on the water. It was Peter who made the Great Confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And it was Peter who took out his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.

However, Peter’s pride was his undoing. And Jesus knew that Peter would give up his pride only after he walked through the pain of brokenness. Pride and self-sufficiency will cut off the power of God. Through his failure, God taught the most important lessons Peter would ever learn.

When Peter stood up to speak on the day of Pentecost, he was a changed man. His pride had been broken. He stood up as a humble servant, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, because his selfish ego had been crushed out of him. He had learned from his failure and was transformed.

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

This is not a promise for everyone. Notice, it is for those who love God. God is working all things together for good, even their failures, to accomplish His purpose, His calling for their lives—that they be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That is our calling. God predestined that our character would be conformed to the character of Jesus. He wants us to act like Jesus; to respond like Jesus; to think like Jesus; to love like Jesus; to be holy like Jesus. Therefore, He uses everything, even our failures, to teach us important lessons and to conform us to His Son.

As you look back on your failures, ask yourself what can you learn? What did God want to teach me? At all costs, resist the temptation to point fingers and blame others. That will never lead to a productive outcome. Instead of blaming others, grow from the experience by learning the lessons that God wants to teach you.

There’s a fourth lesson we can learn from Peter’s failure. When we fail, God can still use us.

Virtually every major character in the Bible has at least one flaw mentioned. God used that flaw to break their pride. Then He used them for His glory. Peter was no exception. The man, who so infamously denied the Lord, went on to become a leader in the early Church. Peter’s name prominently appears in the opening chapters of the book of Acts as He preaches and performs miracles in the Name of Jesus. He wrote two letters that are preserved in the New Testament. And the gospel of Mark is based on Peter’s personal testimony. Do you see? Peter’s failure didn’t exclude him from being used by God. That’s good news! Even though we may have failed in the past, or even though we may fail in the future, God never abandons us. He uses the failure to break us and change us so that He can use us.

After Peter denied Jesus, he was broken. He came completely to the end of himself and all of his self-sufficiency. There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. Now, God could use him. In his state of destitution, Peter was finally ready to receive the Holy Spirit.

When we fail, the Lord gives us the chance to learn humility, mercy, and His love for us. So often, all we see are our failures, but God’s forgiveness is there, and He uses those failures to teach us how to give others the same love and mercy that Christ gives us.

We need to remember, it’s not the size of our sin that determines whether or not we recover from a fall. It’s our response to the Holy Spirit through conviction, repentance, brokenness, and restoration. To conform us to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit uses His Word, circumstances, trials, and even our failures.

As we go through this transformation of becoming like Jesus, never rely on the changes God has accomplished in you. All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. Rely only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Holy Spirit He gives. We can do all things through Him. Apart from Him, we can do nothing but sin.

Transformation is a life-long process, not a one-time act. When we come to the end of ourselves on a daily basis, we are able to be filled daily with the Holy Spirit. God takes residence in our life. He abides in us. He directs the course of our life, which is, following the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, we walk in the light as He is in the light.

When we do that, failure is not an option! As long as we follow Jesus, there is no opportunity for failure. That is successful living that leads to abundant life. By following Jesus, we will be in the minority, but we will be on the right path and it will be worth it.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

If you have never acknowledged Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then your life is a failure. Jesus can change that. You can enter that narrow gate today by believing in Him as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Repent of your sin and being your own god. Die to yourself through baptism and your sins will be forgiven. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will guide you on the pathway of life.