Understanding Failure
(Prov 24:16. Jas 3:2). We know that life is not an easy street even for Christ followers. Falling, stumbling, experiencing failure is part of the human experience. Nobody deliberately sets out to fail, however we are an imperfect people living in an imperfect world and we need to be aware that failure is one of those ugly realities of life we have to deal with to some degree. More so when we want to pursue meaningful goals in life.

There are some types of failures are easy to shake off like ‘ water of a duck’s back’, you get up and try again.  Then there are other types of failure that are not that easy to shake off. Where the sense of failure cuts deeper into one’s soul. The accompanying negative emotions like shame, guilt, regret, discouragement, condemnation gnaw at the soul and eventually affects one’s whole life. Causes a person to shrink back from exploring future possibilities or forfeit them altogether. Causes a person to lose their sense of self-worth and confidence. Causes people to end up sitting on the sidelines of life feeling washed out.

We can define failure as (a) To fall short or be wanting (b) To miss achievement  
The bible gives us some examples of people who experienced these in their lives:
Adam falls short by failing to manage what’s entrusted to him.  Feelings of shame cause him to hide from God. Moses in his zeal kills an Egyptian and runs away, thinking he had messed up. These people grappled with accompanying negative emotions of shame, loss of confidence, guilt, discouragement, regret. Sense of failure was real and it hurt !

At times, we may experience this in varying degrees and forms in our own lives. It could be in the area of financial, personal, relational, spiritual aspects of our lives and if not dealt with appropriately it can become a limiting factor over our lives.

A few things we need to keep mind. Failure is an event, negative experience or missed goal or standard.  A person is not labelled a failure, it is simply that he/she has had a negative experience in life. Failure is not final. God has the last say in our lives, no matter what the enemy says.

How we process and handle failure is very important.  
Learning from Peter’s failure. The disciple Peter had a massive failure in his life and we can glean some wisdom from Peter’s life in helping us handle our failures and our stumblings. Jesus prior to his arrest is with his disciples sharing supper and instituting communion with some final instructions.

Luke 22 : 31-32.  Simon Simon Indeed Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.  But he said Lord I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Then Jesus said to “I tell you Peter the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me”.

1. We have a determined foe.
Simon, Simon Satan wants to sift you like wheat. He wants to turn you inside out. He wants to mess with you.  Jesus let Peter know that he was on a collision course with a determined foe.

Think of all the goals you have right now and the enemy has the opposite to yours.

He comes to kill (dreams), steal (peace, joy) and destroy (God given purpose & potential).  He wants to take away everything of value in your life and will do so relentlessly.  He wants to reduce us to a junk heap. Resist the urge to isolate yourself at this point. The devil wants us to do just that so he can compound the feelings of guilt and shame. Peter and the disciples stuck together after their failure. Mourned, wept prayed together (Mark 16:10)

2. We have a Powerful Advocate and Intercessor.
Jesus but I have already prayed for you that you come out of it strong. (Jn 17). Jesus prayed for his disciples that God’s keeping power will preserve them, protect them the evil one. (Heb 7:25). He prays for us, he intercedes for us. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them
 
3. We need to surrender our failure to God.
V 61-62. Lord turned and looked at Peter. “Before the rooster crows you will deny Me 3 times. So Peter went out and wept bitterly.  Message says.  He cried and cried and cried. Peter grieved his failure. Didn’t minimise it. Didn’t pretend it didn’t happen. Didn’t blame people around him nor make excuses for it.

Likewise, we too need to surrender our failings to God, no matter what form they are in. We need to ask God for divine wisdom to walk through that moment.

4. We need to learn from our failure.
Jesus said. And when you have turned back.   
When we get back up on our feet and use that failure, setback as an educational tool.

Peter would have learned from his failure. A few decades later nearing the time of his death. He writes 1 and 2 Peter.  He is a changed man.    He has learned about God’s mercy, humility and independence of God.

Our failures are often rungs on the ladder of growth, if we will learn from them. 
Repetitious failure.   If you keep stumbling in the same area, check to see if your foundations are flawed. Don’t keep doing the same mistake over and over again. Learn from it.  ( Jn 4 )
Redefine failure. Comparing yourself with others, trying to fulfil unrealistic expectations and then seeing yourself as a failure is like to trying to reach this imaginary line or height or place that doesn’t exist.

5. We are to use our failure to build others 
In Lk 22: 21-38. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

The devil will seek to take advantage of some of these failures in our lives to keep us discouraged, down. He wants to bind us with feelings of condemnation and guilt and keep us ineffective.  But Jesus works in a totally opposite spirit.  Jesus reached down to the hilt of Peter’s failure and drew him back on his feet, breathed afresh upon his life and strengthened him.   I believe Jesus is saying to many who are grappling with failure “ I have prayed for you, I have given my life for you, now it’s time strengthen yourself, so that you can strengthen others.   Receive restoration.

There are people around us who are down, feeling washed out as failures and we need to reach out and help them back to their feet.   Pass on the good news that God forgives, heals and sets captives free!

Peter’s life is a testament to the fact that we too can change and move from failure to fulfilment and fruitfulness.

Discussion Questions 
1. Identify a time in your life where you experienced a setback or failure.
2. What damage did that failure have on your life or on those around you?
3. What appropriate steps can one take to deal with this?
4. Can you think of someone whom you can help strengthen through your own experience?

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