Forgive Your Failures
Forgive Your Failures
by Annette Capps
Most of us find forgiveness a difficult subject. After all, when someone “does you wrong,” YOU are the victim of injustice! But forgiveness is a broad subject – there is for-giving other people, forgiving groups, forgiving corporations, and governments who have failed you. Then, there is forgiving yourself.
Peter, the fisherman who left all to follow Jesus, swore his allegiance and undying love for the Master. So much so that when Jesus announced at the last supper that “one of you will betray me,” Peter boldly declared: “Though they all are offended and stumble and fall away because of you and distrust and desert you, I will never do so.” (Matthew 26:33 AMPC)
Jesus said, “…I declare to you, this very night, before a single rooster crows, you will deny and disown Me three times.” (Verse 34)
Peter’s response was strong and now bolder: “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny or disown You!” (Verse 35)
However, while Jesus was praying in agony, Peter could not even keep his flesh awake. We can argue that he really did not understand what the betrayal would lead to, but Jesus was clear when His response was that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. How many of us deal with the flesh being weak when we decide one thing and then end up doing another?
I will not respond in anger. I will respond in love. I will keep my mouth shut. Then, in stress, hunger, lack of sleep… your fleshly nature rises up and does it almost before you have a chance to consider your commitment!
I researched this scripture and the word “weak” means sick or infirm. In light of how God created us to be (in His image and a perfect creation) the flesh itself is a shadow of what it should be. Thank God that because of Jesus, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead quickens and makes alive our mortal bodies!
Peter may have thought he could live up to that commitment. He wanted to. He truly loved Jesus. But when push came to shove…literally… he was afraid of what others would think and when death became a very real possibility, fear took over and his boldness departed, and was replaced with self-preservation. He initially launched in defense by cutting off the ear of the high priest, but then denied he had been with Jesus to one maid and then another. Finally, he invoked a curse saying he did not even know Jesus.
He wept bitterly over his actions and his words, because he did not have the strength within himself to love the way he wanted to. He did not have the courage to resist fear. He did not have the honor to do the right thing. The flesh does not long possess the ability to turn the other cheek, ignore insults, and pray for an enemy. Jesus knew this. He also knew that Peter would find redemption.
I can promise myself that I will walk in love toward others or that I will commit to a thing, and like the apostle Paul, I sometimes end up doing what I didn’t want to and I don’t do what I told myself I would. (Romans 7:19) Sound familiar? There is redemption for all of us!
We do not have the strength within ourselves to love the way we want to.
Thank God, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
After Jesus’ death, Peter decided to go back to the occupation he knew (fishing) and forget the “ministry” in which he had so miserably failed. Failed at his calling, failed personally in his covenant relationship. What do you do? Go fishing. Caught NO FISH! Failed again. Can’t even be successful at what I used to do!
It was at this point that Jesus appeared. No big deal, you are just fishing on the wrong side of the boat. A lot of us have done that. We have feasted our eyes on our failures when if we just listened to Jesus and looked on the other side of the matter, the sea is full of fish (and success) just waiting for us to put out our net.
Here is the clincher, and I never saw it before. It sort of bothered me that Jesus seemed to rub it in by asking Peter three times if he loved Him. Then I researched the word meanings for love in each of these verses.
“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:15-19 NKJV)
The first time, Jesus said, “Do you love me with agape love?” Peter said, “Lord you know I have affection for you.” “Then feed my sheep.”
The second time, Jesus again asked, “Do you love me with agape love?” “Yes Lord, I have affection for you,” Peter replied. “Then feed my sheep.”
The third time, Jesus said, “Peter do you at least have affection for me?”
Peter was grieved, “Lord you know everything. You know I am not capable of agape love. I denied you three times. You know that I am only capable of a fickle affection. I failed at agape love though I committed to you by covenant at the last supper. I wasn’t willing to die, and I couldn’t even confess you before two women.”
Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to heal his 3 denials with 3 affirmations.
“Then feed my sheep. That is enough. That is all I require, because it is all you have at this point. However, I am telling you that something wonderful will happen and you will become capable of agape love and capable of giving your life for me when you are filled with the Spirit and receive power from heaven. You will not only be able to commit and feed my sheep and return to the ministry, but you will grow old and change the lives of people in all nations century after century. You will write of the things I have told you and your influence as a shepherd to my sheep will be mighty on the earth.” Then Jesus repeated the words he used the first time he called Peter to leave fishing and become His disciple, “Follow me!” (Matthew 4:19, John 21:19)
The fact that Peter denied Jesus and failed could not be ignored. It would have ruined Peter’s life if he did not face what he had done. How could he forgive himself? Jesus gave him the opportunity to heal his three denials with three affirmations. Each time Jesus called Peter back to the ministry, back to his position as a disciple and then back to his future as apostle of the church of Jesus Christ. The risen Lord was not calling attention to Peter’s failures; Peter knew he had failed. He was calling attention to this, “What you have to give is enough, even if it doesn’t measure up to God’s standard of love. You are capable of much more and the Holy Spirit of God will enable you to do things that are not possible in your flesh. Forgive your failures and trust Me.”
To read the end result of Peter’s success, check out Acts chapter 3, as his faith in the name of Jesus caused a crippled man to walk, and his leadership in the early church is shown. Read 1st & 2nd Peter for the glorious revelations that flowed from his heart.
What do you believe about yourself? Can you forgive yourself? Peter found forgiveness for his actions by admitting his failure and looking to Jesus who had already forgiven him. It is not in ourselves that we are capable; it is by the power of the Holy Spirit within. When we miss it and fail, or sin, 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He will forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I want to close with 1 Peter 1:21: “…God, Who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him honor and glory, so that your faith and hope are centered and rest in God.” (AMPC)
Who would know better than the Apostle Peter that our hope and faith are centered and rest in God alone?
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