There are some athletes who have a big mouth. I’m thinking of the ones who deliberately provoke their opponents so that everything they say is posted on the other team’s bulletin board to inspire them to beat down the big mouth in the next game. Every time they enter or leave the locker room, they see what the big mouth said and the anger burns and the inspiration grows. Then comes game time and the big mouth has to deliver on his words. Very often, the other team is so motivated that the player who bragged before the game regrets his words.
Have you ever bragged about how you are going to help God? Have you ever bragged about how strong your relationship with God was only to fail the next time temptation came around? Be careful when you answer that. As sure as you say you’ve never experienced that, you will. And you’ll fall hard and feel really terrible. Jesus was getting ready to head to the cross and He and Peter had a discussion that must have made Peter uncomfortable. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:31-33)
Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times and Peter was hurt. He responded in typical Peter fashion: braggadocio. To paraphrase he said, “Deny you? Pfft! I am such a strong follower of You that I would be willing to go to prison, even die, before I would deny You!” Jesus isn’t the kind to laugh in your face when you make outlandish statements but He did tell Peter that not only would he deny Jesus, he would deny Him three times before he even heard a cock crow. We don’t hear much from Peter for a while, but when Jesus was arrested Peter pulled out a sword and cut the ear off of a servant. I wonder if he was hearing the words of Jesus talking about denial and thinking, “see Jesus! I’m willing to do what it takes even if they take me away too. The soldiers didn’t take him away and Peter followed the procession to see what was happening. Someone in the crowd outside the gate recognized Peter and noted his acquaintance with Jesus. Peter denied it and did so with two more people. Just as he denied Jesus for the third time, Jesus looked at him and the cock crowed; Peter wept in bitter defeat.
The grace of God is so great that Peter wasn’t left with that legacy of denial. Later, Jesus would deliberately restore Peter and he became a great champion of the faith. The key to understanding this story is not to focus on denial; not to focus on one small part of Peter’s life. The key is to look at the big picture and realize that Jesus restored Peter after the denial. All of us fail by saying or doing things we regret, or by being silent when we should speak. If you’re like me, you probably beat yourself up mentally after you do that. When a Christian fails to live like they ought in any way, there is a deep, godly sorrow. That sorrow though is not meant to be permanent. That sorrow should cause us to seek the face of God and receive His grace and forgiveness. Just as Jesus didn’t want Peter to wallow in self-pity after his failure and brought restoration, He brings restoration to us when we fail. Sometimes it’s because we recognize our failure and seek Him. Sometimes, though, He seeks us out when we recognize our failure and seek to run from Him. Even then, He loves us and seeks to restore us through His grace.
Oh Lord, when it comes to following You I am a failure. Yet, You love me. You restore me through Your grace. You never see me as a failure or condemn me no matter how much I deserve it; You see me as Your child who can still serve You. Continue to work in me so that my failures are fewer and farther between, continue to restore me with Your grace, and let me succeed in serving You.