If Peter’s story had ended with his denial, we might conclude he’s a failure. But he isn’t, because Jesus didn’t fail him. And He won’t fail us. When the Father saves us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, all of us, like Peter – who became the rock on whom Jesus built His church – are redeemed failures God wants to use for His glory and His kingdom purpose. Tweet this!
As we close our trilogy on Peter and end our Unshakable Hope in the Face of Persecution series, let’s take a look at twelve life lessons from Peter’s walk with Jesus we can apply not just in the face of persecution, but in the face of everyday life.
12 Life Lessons from a Redeemed Failure
1. Have faith, don’t doubt.
When Peter challenges Jesus to command him to walk to him on water, he starts sinking the minute he takes his eyes of Jesus, but Jesus stretches out His hand and saves him, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:24-33). When we doubt, we will begin to sink. Every. Time. “For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). We must keep our eyes on Jesus and our faith fixed firmly in Him and His power.
2. Be mindful of the things of God.
When Jesus begins to share with His disciples the things that he will suffer, including rejection and death, Peter actually pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him. In response, Jesus rebukes Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways aren’t our ways. We must remain mindful of the things of God, knowing if He has ordered or allowed something, we can trust Him and trust that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
3. Remember, pride comes before the fall.
When Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, He tells Peter exactly what’s going to happen: “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times,” and Peter argues with Him, as if Jesus would be wrong, insisting, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:34-35).
Peter has seen Jesus be right in everything, powerful, miraculous, authoritative, and prophetic, and he still argues that he knows better. And then he does what he insists he never will. He lives Proverbs 16:18, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (HCSB). A humble mindset that recognizes who we are (or are not) without God and trusts Him to be faithful in all things is our greatest defense against failing Him. Tweet this!
4. Accept the fact that we’re all prone to stumble.
Jesus said to His disciples, the very men who walked with Jesus every day, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’” (Matthew 26:31, emphasis mine). They all insist they won’t; they all do.
We’re all vulnerable to failing Jesus. Every one of us is just as susceptible as the next. Not one of us is immune. As 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 warns: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
5. Be encouraged that our faith can waver and still not fail completely, and the Lord can still use us!
Jesus prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail. In the same way, even now, He is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. The proof that Peter’s faith did not fail is in his return to Jesus and his faithfulness to strengthen his brethren when he did (Luke 22:32).
6. Know this: The spirit is willing but flesh is weak.
Here’s Peter – the one who insists that Jesus not wash his feet, who insists he will die for Him – and as Jesus sweats blood, Peter can’t even keep his eyes open. Jesus draws Peter in close, takes him deeper into the garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray while Jesus pleads with His Father, and Peter sleeps. Have you ever done the same thing? When Jesus finds Peter and the other two disciples sleeping, He says to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). These are words for us today!
When we are born again, we are given new life in the spirit, but not a new body. We remain in the flesh and will battle its pull as long as we live on this earth. The thing is, we can choose which one we want to feed and make stronger. Feed the flesh by satisfying its desires, and it will be the stronger influence in your life. As Paul explains in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
What does that mean? Galatians 5:24-25 holds the answer: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).
By the power of the Holy Spirit, when we make choices daily to crucify the flesh and feed the spirit, the flesh doesn’t go away, but the spirit grows stronger. Tweet this! These daily choices include drawing near to God, studying His word, praying continually, serving Him inside and outside the church, sharing life with a community of believers, worshiping, and obeying Him. Every time we say “Yes!” to God, it’s a strike against our flesh and a score for the winning team!
7. Heed Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus tells His disciples, including Peter, in John 16:1, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” His teachings are for our firm foundation. When we know and do what Jesus says, we are much less likely to stumble.
8. Stay close to Jesus.
Peter follows Jesus, but at a distance: “And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end” (Matthew 26:57-58).
Don’t we sometimes follow Jesus at a distance? Close enough to keep an eye on Him but not so close to be identified with Him, and therefore subject to His rejection? Get close to Him, living in a way that identifies you as His follower. And stay there. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you, give you courage, comfort, help, and fill you with power to boldly testify Jesus Christ.
9. Don’t get cozy with the very enemies of Jesus.
While Jesus is confronted by the high priest, scribes, and elders, Peter sits with the servants and warms himself by the fire (Mark 14:54). He sits where it’s warm and comfortable with the very people who arrested Jesus and brought Him to the high priest’s house. He sees that truth doesn’t matter; they are out for Jesus’ blood no matter what and probably want the blood of those who follow Him. He sees them lie to convict Jesus, spit on Him, humiliate and beat Him, and Peter is confronted with the reality of identifying with Jesus: what if they did the same thing to him? And so, in the comfort of the fire, he denies that he’s Jesus’ disciple. When we get comfortable with the very people who want nothing to do with Jesus, having everything to do with Him is going to become extra challenging. Tweet this!
10. Avoid making oaths.
Oaths are dangerous. Didn’t it all start with an oath for Peter? He swears he will never be made to stumble because of Jesus; he will not deny Him! The third time he does, he actually curses and swears with an oath, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” (Mark 14:71 HCSB). He promises his lies are truth.
Scripture is clear about making oaths, promises, pledges, or vows: “Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). I have a friend who for this very reason doesn’t allow her kids to make deals, promising this or that, because she knows when the time comes to pay up, they’re going to want out of the deal. I think she’s pretty wise!
Jesus Himself warns in Matthew 5:34-37, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Along the same lines, James says, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12).
If we give our word, we need to be sure we follow through. Better to not promise anything than to say you’ll do something and not do it. We can have great intentions, but as we see in no.6, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and the Lord knows this. Instead of making promises based on good intentions, let’s develop spirit-strengthening habits that heighten our ability to know and follow through with the “Yes!” God wants us to give. Tweet this!
11. Accept the fact that our good intentions, will, and determination will not be enough to remain faithful under the threat of suffering and death.
As we learned in The Peter Factor: Eight Interesting Insights from Peter’s Denial of Jesus, the Holy Spirit had not yet come. Jesus wasn’t resurrected. The promise of the Spirit was yet to be fulfilled.
We MUST have the power of the Holy Spirit! When Peter was endued with power from on high, he boldly preached the gospel and thousands were added to the church!
12. Know that we are Peter.
Again, we learned this in our interesting insights. We deny Jesus every time we know we should share the gospel and we keep silent because we’re afraid. Every time we disobey Him because we have a better idea or just don’t want to do what He’s telling us to do because of whatever we think it might cost us. Every time we compromise in our faith because we fear man and not God. We are Peter.
Thankfully for Peter, that fateful night by the fire was not the end God had for him. In the end, he does in fact endure to the end.
As we close our series, let’s ask ourselves some hard questions:
Will I lay down my life for Jesus’ sake (John 13:38)?
Will I lay down my life for others (John 15:13)?
Am I willing to drink the cup the Father gives me (John 18:11)?
Am I willing to stand alone (John 19:17)?
I am willing that God would make me willing to do whatever He asks me to do, and I am willing to believe that as His child, He will make sure I endure to the end, no matter what He requires of me.
Our persecution may not come in the form of a deny-or-die scenario. It may be a do-this-or-lose-your-friends situation. Or a do-this-or-lose-your-business choice. Whatever persecution might look like in our lives, let Jesus’ words of comfort to His disciples be words of comfort to us:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know (John 14:1-4).
Our end is eternal, not temporal. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for those who belong to Him, and He is coming again to receive us to Himself. Eyes fixed on Him, we can give Him our “Yes!” and know He is faithful to carry it out in us.
Lord, please give us wisdom and understanding, discernment and discipline to daily choose You, to daily choose the mindsets and habits that will strengthen our spirit so we can crucify our flesh. Our good intentions are nothing if they don’t line up with what You intend and aren’t backed by Your power. Please fill us fresh with the power of the Holy Spirit, and give us boldness to live a “Yes!” to You and a “Yes!” to Jesus every day, even if it means losing everything.
This concludes our Unshakable Hope in the Face of Persecution series. I hope it has encouraged and strengthened your faith! If you’d like to read other posts, click here. If you’d like the eBook I’ll be publishing with the entire series, just SUBSCRIBE here, and you’ll be the first to receive it! You’ll also immediately receive access to a free download of my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, the perfect companion to this series. In six weeks of scripture-packed study, you’ll learn to experience the fullness of God’s promises through obedience to His word, and find hope that is an anchor for our souls, sure and steadfast, no matter what. The result? Lives that are powerful platforms for preaching the gospel – the only true and eternal answer to our personal and national crises. Every Christian needs to read this book! Be sure to get yours, and then spread the word! This is the last week this free download is available.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
1. Peter challenges Jesus to make him walk on water, then he takes his eyes off Jesus and immediately begins to sink, to which Jesus replies: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:24-33). It’s so easy to do the same thing: believe and then doubt. Is there an area of your life that you desperately want to believe Jesus but you have doubts? Confess your belief and your doubts to God. He knows about them anyway! When a father brings his son to Jesus for healing, because a mute spirit causes him dangerous convulsions, Jesus tells him: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). And look at what the father says: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (verse 24). We can do the same thing. When we waiver with unbelief, let us declare our belief and ask Jesus to help us overcome our doubts.
2. When Jesus begins to share with His disciples the things that he will suffer, including rejection and death, Peter rebukes Him. In response, Jesus rebukes Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Can you imagine God confronting you as Satan? Is there anything in your life for which you’re rebuking God? When we remain mindful of the things of God – that His ways and thoughts aren’t our ways and thoughts – we can trust Him. Are you struggling to trust Him in anything right now?
3. When Jesus finds Peter and two other disciples sleeping instead of watching and praying for Him as He pleads with His Father to let the cup of crucifixion pass, He says to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Are there areas of your life where your spirit is willing to do exactly as Jesus says, but your flesh is weak? Confess these areas to the Lord, turn from indulging your flesh, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you scriptures you can stand on to be strong in the spirit!
4. Scripture is clear about making oaths, promises, pledges, or vows: “Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Jesus Himself warns in Matthew 5:34-37, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Peter made an oath he wasn’t able to keep. Are you in the habit of making oaths? Why is it better to not make an oath at all? What should we do instead?