I know what you might be thinking: Pastor Tommy has lurched past the line of sanity in linking the words “privilege” with failure! I mean, who in their right mind would consider it a privilege to fail at anything?! I encourage you to read on. I think you will find today’s message a great comfort—regardless of where this finds you. There are countless places in Scripture to root this message, but I have chosen the point where Jesus foretells Peter’s denial.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)
In this passage we can clearly see that Peter was not only given the permission to fail, but it was a privilege to do so! Now, I am not suggesting that we go out and do our best to fail in serving our Lord. What I am suggesting is that when we do fail Jesus, we see it as a privilege. Why? Because of the One we are failing! Jesus called Peter into service, knowing from all eternity that Peter would fail. In this narrative we see both the permission and the privilege in our failure. Permission means Jesus knows we are going to fall short of the mark at times . . . many times. Privilege simply means Jesus is the One we are serving, and we should always see it as a privilege to serve Him, whether we are succeed or fail.
How often we are like Peter! We resolve to win the day for Christ, no matter what hardship or opposition may come, but along the way we stub our toes and collapse in hopeless defeat. We set out to walk on water, but all too quickly we take our eyes off the Lord and quickly sink into defeat and despair. Our falls do not catch Jesus by surprise. He told Peter exactly what was going to happen before it happened. He is telling us the same thing today. There will be times when we fail. Failure is a part of daily living for broken people living in a broken world. But our failure is never final. Satan asked for Peter but Jesus said no. Final, complete failure is not an option for those who are in Christ. And that is what makes it a privilege to risk for Jesus, regardless of the outcome.
You see, the privilege to fail brings with it the grace of forgiveness and permission to try again and again and again. We serve the God of second chances . . . and third chances . . . and so on. The unconditional and eternal love of God removes any dread we might feel about a mistake or a failure. Permission to fail frees to reach and risk—to advance the cause of Christ without constantly looking over our shoulder to see if God is coming after us for past errors.
Remember, after Peter’s abject failure—calling down curses on himself in an attempt to convince a servant girl that “I do not know the man”—Jesus restored him to fruitful service . . . but not perfect service! Scripture relates the occasion when Paul rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with Gentile believers because of the disapproving scowls from certain Jews (Galatians 2:11-14). Jesus was not angry with Peter’s failure at that time either, and He did not send Peter away. He urged him and encouraged him to continue to strengthen his brothers. Jesus loved Peter and died for Peter’s sins—all of Peter’s sins, just as He loves you and me and died for all the sins you and I did, do, and will commit.
Scripture doesn’t explain why, when Jesus appeared to Peter after His resurrection, He asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Many scholars believe it was because Peter had denied Jesus three times, and Jesus was sending this message: “Regardless of the number of times you fail me, I want you to remember that you are never disqualified from serving me and feeding my sheep.”
Now that is a comfort we need to be reminded of daily: we don’t only have permission, but the privilege to fail the One who has forgiven every failure.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!