I used to hang wallpaper. After redecorating a kitchen, bathroom or accent area, I would stand back to admire my work. To someone else it might look perfect, but I could tell you every flaw and difficulty I encountered during the job. In fact, even though the paper looked great, all I saw was the “failures.” When I look at my life, I tend to do the same thing: focus on those areas where I have fallen short or didn’t measure up—failed in some way, and I miss the big picture of God accomplishing His work in my life.
In the Bible we read about men and women who walked with God. Most of them stumbled, some of them fell, but we are encouraged by God’s work in their lives. Of all the biblical characters, no one failed more spectacularly than the Apostle Peter. At least 13 times the Gospel writers made note of Peter’s inappropriate statements, impetuous behavior, instability and insecurity. Jesus even rebuked him once and addressed him as “Satan!”
What changed Peter from Failure to Follower? What transformed him from the cowering spectator who disavowed Jesus to the courageous spokesperson for the early Church—even in the face of persecution? Of all the factors that contributed to Peter’s transformation, none is more meaningful than this: Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself, understood his weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, yet He never gave up on the impulsive apostle!
When Peter and Jesus last spoke in John 21, Jesus concluded their conversation with the simple invitation, “Follow me.” Despite a three-year history of failures, Jesus loved and accepted him, affirmed his role in the early Church as apostle, then charged him to “reproduce himself” in the lives of others around the world (Matthew 28:16-20).
When the author begins his first letter to exiled Christians by identifying himself as, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1), we are reading the words of someone who experienced both failure and the immeasurable power of the grace of God. If God’s love and power transformed a failure into a follower, surely He can do the same for us.
Next time you look in the mirror and see the flaws, imperfections, and failures, remember that Jesus didn’t give up on Peter, and he will never give up on you. His grace is sufficient, and your failure isn’t final!