What do you do after a big disappointment? Your steps after a failure are of great importance. When you most don’t want to get out of bed to face the day, there’s something Jesus wants you to know.
We will learn this valuable lesson through the story of Peter. Remember, Peter is the gutsy friend of Jesus who always jumped to go first. He was all-in, then he fell all-out.
Anyone else feel that way? You’re all-in, then you stumble and you’re all-out. You struggle to find that steady middle ground where you just stay faithful. You’re up, then you’re down. You’re hot, then you’re cold. You’re in, then you’re out. It’s black, then it’s white. Ahhhh, Jesus likes you. He sees the potential in you! Just like he saw the potential in Peter, his hot and cold friend who sometimes made a mess of things.
Peter’s final interaction with Jesus before the cross was a harsh realization that he had denied knowing Jesus. Peter had been warned it would happen, which means Jesus always knew of Peter’s pending failure, yet he chose him as his friend any way. Jesus says in John 22:34, ““I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. Peter denies knowing Jesus once, twice, three times, then the rooster crows and Peter begins to weep bitterly.
The next thing that happens is Jesus hanging on a cross. Imagine the guilt and shame Peter must have felt. This was failure. This was disappointment. This must have been a “I want to crawl in a hole and never come out” moment. But, Jesus came back to pull Peter out of that hole and launch him into a greater purpose.
After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, Peter is out on a boat fishing. Yes, he had returned to doing the only thing he knew to do … fishing. And Jesus shows up on the shore. Peter and the other disciples had been fishing all night, and caught absolutely nothing. Jesus yells from the shore and says, “try throwing your net on the other side of the boat” and the nets became so full of fish, they nearly broke. That’s when they knew it was Jesus. It was THEIR Jesus. They had watched him die on the cross, they had seen him buried in the tomb, but here he was helping them haul in a load of fish!
So of course Peter is the first to jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus. Why? Because that’s what Peter does. He’s the all-in guy with a history of also falling all-out. When Peter gets to him on the shore, Jesus asks him a question. This is the same question he is asking you and I today, so listen closely.
John 21: 15-17, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Something very important is happening here. How many times did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Three. How many times did Jesus repeat his purpose for Peter? Three. Yes, once for each failure. Once for each denial. Once for each doubt Peter must have been carrying within him, questioning how he could have ever denied his Jesus and failed him to to point of leading to his death. And Jesus is saying, “Peter, if you love me, then you’re going to have to give up your disappointment, your guilt, and your shame over your failure. And once you give it up, I have something so much greater for you … your purpose!”
As I read this scripture this morning, I was reminded of the story of Jenny and the Pearl Necklace. I typically hear this story at Christmas, but it’s perfect for our study together today.
“Jenny is a little girl who had saved up all her money to buy a dime store pearl necklace that cost $2. Jenny loved her pearls, and she never took them off, even when they made her neck turn green. Every night when her Daddy came in to kiss her goodnight, he would say, “Jenny, do you love me?” “Yes, Daddy”, she would say. “then give me your pearls.” Each night she would hold tight to the pearls around her neck, and offer him something else instead. “Daddy, you know I love you. Here, take my teddy bear. Here, you can have my baby doll.” Jenny’s Daddy would say, “That’s okay honey, I love you, good night.” Every time her Daddy would ask if she loved him, she would say yes. But each time he asked for her cheap little pearl necklace, she would refuse and offer something else. One night, Jenny’s Daddy came in to tell her goodnight, and he found her little chin quivering, and a tear rolling down her cheek. She stretched out her hand and offered her prized pearl necklace, and said, “Here Daddy, you can have my pearls.” With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind Daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocked and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure.”
Notice in this story, for each denial, the Daddy would lovingly return and ask again. Do you love me? Yes, then give this to me. Each time he asked, it was an invitation to receive something better. This is exactly what Jesus was doing with Peter. Three times he asks him to feed his sheep, once for each shameful denial he had given before, and each time Jesus was asking for something Peter was clinging to.
What was Peter clinging to? His failure. His shame. His guilt. His disappointment in how all of this turned out. And what would Jesus give him if he would give all of that to him? A purpose greater than he could imagine. A calling on his life that would lead to his destiny. A mission that would take him out of the pits of his failure and propel him into so much more.
Imagine Jesus, just like Jenny’s Daddy, asking Peter, “Peter, do you love me? Can I have your disappointment? Peter, do you love me? Can I have your failure? Peter, do you love me? Can I have your guilt and shame?” And imagine Peter doing exactly what we do … we reason. We justify. We dismiss. We disqualify. And we play little. How could God ever use us? How could God ever redeem this? How could God ever make this right? So, we hold onto what is holding us back, and we offer something else instead. Here, Jesus, these are my excuses. I can’t because I’m not good enough. I can’t because I don’t have time. I can’t because I’ve failed so many times I can’t get my heart to try again.
But Jesus just keeps coming back and asking again. My girl, do you love me? Yes, then give this to me!
What will happen if you do? He will give you something so much better!
All Jesus is asking is for you to love him enough to let go of whatever you’re dragging around with you and receive something so much greater. Something of true value. Genuine treasure.
Calling and equipping. Supernatural guidance and holy confidence. Divine purposes and destined missions. An overflowing life! That’s what Jesus has for you! You want it? Then let go of the belief that you could never be good enough. Let go of the story you tell yourself that says you could never do anything great. Let go of your timeline that says it’s too late. Let go of your disappointment that it hasn’t worked out the way you had imagined.
And when you do … your hands are open to receive what Jesus has had for you all along.
Peter had to get over his own failure. He had to overcome his own disappointment. He had to let go of his guilt and shame for being the one who denied Jesus. All of that had to be given to Jesus, so he could receive the fullness of what Jesus was offering him. Calling, purpose, mission, destiny, fulfillment. And because Peter was willing to let go of everything he held and accept what Jesus had for him all along, he became the rock on which God would build his Church. He forever changed our lives, even today.
So, Sis, let’s talk about whatever you’ve been holding on to that has been holding you back. Jesus wants to know if you love him. Do you love Jesus? Do you love him enough to let go of this? Because if you do, he has something so much greater for you!