“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your brothers.”
What happens when we fail?
Last week I spent 5 days in Daytona Beach, FL with the high school upperclassmen from my church. We attended an incredible youth camp hosted by StudentLife, and of course we had a blast. It was a much-needed getaway for students and adults alike. However, there are some things you can’t get away from.
Here’s my disclaimer that this post is totally inspired by one of Louie Giglio’s sermons from that camp, so… no plagiarism going on here, right?
I have been really struggling lately. The last few months have been a roller coaster in my private life, and it is frustrating to get these glimpses of hope and then feel let down. Back in May, I started a journey with the Lord that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I obeyed a directive he gave me, my faith grew as I was strengthened by the Word, and I trusted God when it didn’t make any sense at all.
Then it all fell through. The miracle I expected didn’t happen. All that faith and prayer and time… for what? Let’s just be honest here: I was really angry. Brokenness consumed me as I grieved my “lost promise” (which, in fairness to God, he never actually promised, I just perceived it that way in my own ambition) and I wanted to give up.
The truth is, following Jesus is hard, and sometimes I want to give up.
I know Simon Peter felt that way. Jesus had called him “the rock” on which Christ’s church would be built, and he was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He thought he had it all figured out, full of faith in Jesus as the messiah. (Check out Luke 22:33, John 6:68-69, and Mark 8:29 for a few of Peter’s “right” answers.) But here in Luke 22, Jesus calls him out as a soon-to-be denier.
Peter is shocked. “No way, Lord!” he cries. And yet, just a few hours later, there Peter finds himself hearing the rooster crow as he claims not to know his best friend and mentor. It was just as Jesus predicted. How would you feel if that were you? I know I would be ready to just give up. I failed the Savior, right?
Look back at what Jesus prayed for Simon Peter: “that your faith should not fail.” Jesus knew Peter was going to mess up. He knows we are going to struggle and stumble in our walk too. But his prayer was not for Peter’s actions; rather it was for his FAITH. Jesus knew that the situation would feel hopeless, and Peter would be tempted to give up.
Fast forward 3 days to when Jesus is resurrected. Some women go to the tomb to check on the body, and instead they find an angel announcing Jesus has risen, just as he said he would. This is kind of a big deal, you might imagine, so the angel gives them some instructions:
“Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter…”
Wait, what? Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers; why does the angel need to clarify the message is for him as well as the other disciples?
Because Peter felt like giving up.
Sometimes our situations and personal failures will leave us feeling like we don’t belong. Like it’s not worth the effort. Like we should just lay down and quit. But Jesus called Peter by name, because Peter needed to know he still had a place in God’s family. Yes, he failed personally, but Jesus knew that would happen. The prayer was for his FAITH to endure, and indeed Peter was the rock that founded the Jesus movement in the first century. (Check out Acts 2 for that amazing story!)
We all fall sometimes. Last month, I endured an emotional blow that really, really hurt. My failure was not sin or denial, it was the hopelessness that Peter felt. Is this really worth continuing? As much as I have struggled with my disappointment and continue to wrestle with my understanding of scripture, my faith endures. I know that God is good. I know that God is in control. I know that God is writing a beautiful story for my life. How do I know? Because he called me by name.
Your mistakes or disappointments or failures do not have to rob you of the future God has for you. Don’t let guilt about your past or fear of failure or loss cripple you from walking towards God. Jesus didn’t just die on the cross for the world; he died for YOU. My prayer is that you hear his voice calling out your name. You are not one lost in a crowd that he could never see. He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. You have a place and a purpose in his kingdom. And he is calling you.