Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 19, 2009

Move Beyond Failure

    Peter, also known as Simon, is one of the most well-known characters in the Bible. His brother Andrew introduced him to Jesus (see John 1:35-42). Jesus looked at Simon and saw more than a fisherman. He saw a man with the potential to become a dependable leader. Jesus therefore gave Simon the name Peter (John 1:42), an Aramaic word which means “rock.” This new name would serve as a reminder of what Jesus expected Simon to become — a dependable and solid individual. The Gospels and the Book of Acts record how God transformed Simon into a dynamic leader of the early New Testament church. However, he did not become a leader overnight. Ironically, the name Peter aptly describes Simon’s “rocky” journey. Jesus patiently worked to help the selfish and often impulsive fisherman learn the lessons that would help him to mature. Peter learned many of these lessons in the school of failure.

    Peter’s greatest failure occurred on the night before the crucifixion. On that night, Jesus and His disciples shared a final meal together (see Luke 22:7-23). Jesus solemnly warned His disciples that Satan had demanded permission to sift them like wheat (see Luke 22:31). Peter failed to grasp the significance of Jesus’ warning and boasted, “Lord, with you I am ready to go both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Knowing that Peter would crumble under the pressures of the night, Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34). After their last meal together, Jesus led His disciples across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1). In the quiet of the garden, Jesus agonized in prayer concerning the events of the coming hours (see Luke 22:39-46). Soon, the silence of the night was broken by a mob led by Judas (Luke 22:47). The mob entered the garden “carrying torches, lanterns and weapons” (John 18:3) and arrested Jesus (John 18:12). Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, a former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, the present high priest (John 18:13).

Peter Denying Christ    Simon Peter and another disciple (perhaps John) followed Jesus at a distance (Luke 22:54) into the high priest’s courtyard (John 18:15-16). As Peter entered the courtyard, the girl on duty suspiciously asked, “You are not one of His disciples, are you?” (John 18:17). Her question suggests she expected to receive a negative answer. Peter replied that he was not one of Jesus’ disciples (John 18:17). As Peter warmed himself by a fire (v. 18), another person asked the same question (v. 25). Peter emphatically denied a second time that he was a disciple of Jesus. Finally, a relative of Malchus, the man Peter had injured in the garden (see John 18:10), thought he recognized Peter. Again, Peter strongly denied that he knew Jesus (see Matt. 26:74). At that moment a rooster began to crow (John 18:27) and Jesus “turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61).

   Following his failure in the high priest’s courtyard, Peter went out and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62) under the cover of darkness. The initial response of some people who experience failure is to withdraw from others. A period of solitude can give those who have experienced failure time to consider the impact and possible consequences of their failure. Withdrawing from others can also give people time to deal with embarrassment and regain their composure before facing others.

   Like Peter, everyone fails sometimes. People fail for several reasons. Some people fail because they lack confidence to stand up for what they know is true and right. Others fail because they ignore or despise the practical instruction that can keep them out of trouble (see Prov. 13:13). Like boastful Peter, some people fail when they are overcome by overconfidence (see Prov. 16:18). Others fail because they lack the strength or resolve to press on. Still others fail because they are overwhelmed by the frequency and intensity of life’s daily demands and trials. No one is immune to failure or out of its reach (see 1 Cor. 10:12).

   Failure can be a jarring and disorienting experience that robs people of their sense of worth and purpose. God however, understands that people fail and stands ready to help them rebound from failure. Someone wisely noted that failure does not consist in falling down but in staying down. Jesus did not let Peter remain a failure (see Luke 22:32). Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus appeared (John 21:14) to some of His disciples (John 21:4) as they fished on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-3). Jesus prepared breakfast for his weary disciples who had fished throughout the night (John 21:9,12). On this occasion Jesus asked Peter three searching questions (perhaps a reminder of Peter’s threefold denial) and then restored Peter to his ministry. Jesus’ questions hurt Peter’s pride but helped him realize he was forgiven and could again be useful in building Christ’s Church. Peter’s experience teaches us that failure does not have to be final. Failures can indeed open new opportunities.

   Failure gave Peter the opportunity to evaluate. I once heard someone say that we tend to celebrate in victory and evaluate in defeat. Peter’s failure caused him to remember the words Jesus had spoken to him on the night before the crucifixion (see Matt. 26:75). People who fail need an opportunity to evaluate and sort through the steps that led to their failure. Such evaluation can lead to renewed commitments to avoid the decisions and actions that will lead them to repeat that same failure in the future.

   Failure gave Peter the opportunity to learn lessons he might not have learned in any other way. Failure introduced proud and boastful Peter (see Matt. 26:33) to repentance and humility. Failure also helped Peter become more aware of his own weaknesses and of the need to rely upon God’s strength. Ultimately, failure helped Peter understand more of the meaning of grace and forgiveness. The lessons learned in failure provide mature foundations for new life adventures with God. As Jesus accepted Peter and gave him opportunity to reassert his love for Him, so God will open opportunities for people to move past failure into recommitment to God and His work. People who have experienced failure should look for and be open to these new opportunities.

   Failures can rob people of purpose and, in some cases, of the desire to go on. Peter was not the only person to fail Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. Judas also failed Jesus. Judas however, made failure the end of his life. Peter made failure a new beginning. With God’s help, people who experience failure can make failure a new beginning. Like Peter, we can renew our commitment to work with God and by so doing move beyond failure to become useful in God’s purpose.

You can move beyond failure if you will…

• Get up! Refuse to stay down when you experience failure.
Get real! Don’t sulk. Remember that everyone fails sometimes.
• Get away! Spend time alone with God. Evaluate the reasons for your failure.
• Get rid! Remove habits, actions, or attitudes that will lead you to repeat failure.
• Get help! Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable.
• Get busy! Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.
• Get serious! Apply the lessons you learn from your failure.


  1. Thanks for good teaching. I am keep learning “Move Beyond Failure.”


  2. One of the best pieces I’ve read. Lots of wisdom here.

    Thanks Omar.

  3. Mortuza and Chad…

    Thanks for your comments. I am so glad that God is gracious, merciful, patient, and committed to perfecting the good work He began in us.


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