This devotional by Anne Graham Lotz was originally printed in the December 2005 edition of Decision magazine. A decade later, the truths still ring clear. God can be trusted with our past, present and future. Dive into this study below before charting your resolutions in 2016.
I once heard a speaker ask what we thought God expected of us. Mentally I answered, “Righteousness, holiness, love for God and my neighbor.” He repeated his question, so I continued my list, “Bible reading, prayer, obedience, service.” But then he stated, to my stunned amazement, “All God ever expects of you is failure.”
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I had to resist the temptation to raise my hand, wave it wildly and exclaim, “I can do that! I can live up to the expectations of God! I know I can fail!” But before I could blurt it out, the speaker said, “But He has given you the Holy Spirit so that you need never fail.”
As we begin the new year, have you stopped making resolutions because of repeated failure to keep the old ones? Do your past failures discourage you in the present and paralyze you for the future? Then join me in praising the God who expects us in our flesh to fail, but who is also the God of the second chance!
- Describe Peter’s failure in Matthew 16:13-23, 26:31-35, 69-75, 36-45; John 18:10-11.
- In what way have you failed as a parent? Sibling? Spouse? Friend? Church member? Christian witness? Describe your feelings after failure.
- How do you think Peter felt after his repeated failures to be a disciple?
Recalled After Failure
Read John 21:1-8
- What did fishing represent to Peter? See Matthew 4:18-20.
- Why do you think Peter decided to go back to fishing in John 21:3?
- What similarities are there between Peter’s fishing experience before he was a disciple in Luke 5:4-7 and after the resurrection in John 21:3-6?
- What do you think Jesus was trying to teach Peter? Consider John 15:5; Romans 7:18; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Galatians 5:1.
- If your repeated failure has led you to go back to an old way of life, how has God set you up for a recall to discipleship?
Refilled After Failure
Read John 21:9-14
- In John 21:9 what did Peter find when he swam to shore?
- What did Jesus tell Peter and the other disciples to do in verse 10?
- What two sources did the fish come from that made up Peter’s breakfast in verses 6-13? Where did the bread come from?
- What does this teach you about being spiritually fed and satisfied? See John 6:35, 51, 57-58, 63; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 2:2; Psalm 19:9-11; Colossians 3:16; Romans 15:4.
- Especially after failure, what are you doing to “feed” yourself? To be fed by others?
Restored After Failure
Read John 21:15-17
- What similarities are there between Peter’s denial of Jesus in Luke 22:54-62 and his confession of Him in John 21:15-17? What are the differences?
- If the similarities were intentional, how do you think the interaction with Jesus in verses 15-17 helped to restore Peter to discipleship?
- Instead of dwelling on past failure, what confession did Jesus provoke from Peter? What command did Jesus give Peter in verse 15? Verse 16? Verse 17? Explain what each command means, and give an application of each for your own life.
- Who are the hungry “sheep” in your life? See Mark 6:34; Isaiah 53:6; Luke 15:3-7; 1 Peter 2:25.
- What is the difference between a sheep and a lamb? Who are the hungry lambs in your life?
- Give practical ways you can feed the sheep and the lambs.
- What are some ways that you tend sheep? See Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:16-18.
- What is your present attitude toward Jesus, regardless of past failures? Do you love Him? Do you really love Jesus? Do you even like Him? If so, what is the obvious conclusion from what He said?
- Read the following verses: Jeremiah 3:22; Ezekiel 37:23; Hosea 14:4; 1 Peter 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. How do they encourage you?
Refocused After Failure
- According to Church tradition, Peter died by crucifixion. Relate what Jesus said to Peter in John 21:18-19 to what Jesus said to all disciples in Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-26.
- How did Paul describe his own “crucifixion” in Galatians 2:20?
- Relate the ambitions, actions, words and thoughts of a physically dead man to the spiritual death of self.
- What do you think taking up the cross in your life means? See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 8:12-14; John 12:24-25.
- What command did Jesus issue twice to Peter in John 21:19-22? What does this command mean for your own discipleship? See 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 15:5-6; Mark 10:17-21; John 10:14, 27-28; Matthew 19:27-29; Luke 9:57-62.
- What is distorting your focus on the cross? What is hindering you from following Christ? Name it and put it out of your life.
- As you gratefully accept a second chance after failure, which of these verses is most meaningful to you for the upcoming year? (Hebrews 12:1-3; Philippians 3:12-14; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Revelation 21:3-5)
During this new year, let your life, like Peter’s, bear witness that our God is Lord of the slim chance, the fat chance, the no chance and the second chance!
Answer His recall to discipleship now: Tune your ears to His voice as you read His Word and ask Him to refill you. Open your heart to be restored in love for Him and service to Him. Then refocus your entire life on Jesus as you follow Him. He will lead you to a cross. Deny yourself and take it up. But don’t forget, after the cross comes the resurrection, the power, the glory and the crown!
Rediscover—or simply find—your peace with God today.