Dr. Alan Redpath once asked an audience in which I was seated what we thought God expected of us. Mentally I answered, “Righteousness, holiness, love for God and my neighbor.” Dr. Redpath then repeated his question, so I silently continued my list, “Bible reading, prayer, obedience, service.”
Then, to my utter amazement, he answered his own question with these words: “All God ever expects of you is failure.” 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 out my response, Dr. Redpath 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 them in the past? Does your past failure discourage you at 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.
- How have you failed … as a parent? Sibling? Spouse? Friend? Church member? Christian witness?
- Describe your feelings after failure.
- From the following passages, describe Peter’s failures: Matthew 16:13-23; 26:31-35, 36-45, 69-75; John 18:10-11.
- How do you think Peter felt after his repeated failures to be a disciple?
Read John 21:1-22.
I. RECALLED AFTER FAILURE:
- 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 his fishing experience before he was a disciple in Luke 5:4-6 and after the resurrection in John 21:3-6?
- What do you think Jesus was trying to teach Peter? See 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?
II. REFILLED AFTER FAILURE:
- When Peter swam to shore, what did he find, in verse 9?
- What did Jesus tell Peter and the other disciples to do in verse 10?
- From what two sources did the fish that made up Peter’s breakfast in verses 12-13 come? 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?
III. RESTORED AFTER FAILURE:
- What similarities are there between Peter’s denial of Jesus in Luke 22:54-62 and his confession 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 commands did Jesus give Peter in verses 15-17? Explain what each of these commands 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 3:16-17.
- Regardless of past failures, what is your present attitude toward Jesus? Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Jesus? Do you even like Him at all? If so, what is the obvious conclusion from what He said?
- What encouragement do you receive from each of the following passages: Jeremiah 3:22; Ezekiel 37:23; Hosea 14:4; 1 Peter 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
IV. REFOCUSED AFTER FAILURE:
- According to church tradition, Peter died by crucifixion. Relate what Jesus said to him in verses 18-19 to what Jesus said to all disciples in Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-25.
- How did Paul describe his own “crucifixion” in Galatians 2:20?
- How did John imply he had a similar experience in Revelation 1:17? What is a physically dead man’s attitude? Is it ambition? Actions? Words? Thoughts? Relate this to spiritual death to 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 repeat twice to Peter in verses 19-22? Relate this command to 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 distracting your focus on the cross and hindering you from following Jesus? Name it and put it out of your life.
- As you embrace a second chance after failure, which of the following verses means the most to you? Write it out in your own words, then claim it by faith in prayer. Hebrews 12:1-3; Philippians 3:12-14; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Revelation 21:3-5.
Praise God! 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. So … 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 and the power and the glory and the crown! And maybe … just maybe … this is the year we will see Him face to face. ©2021 Anne Graham Lotz
This article is adapted from a study originally published in January 2006.
Anne Graham Lotz has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 40 years. Her newest book, which she co-authored with her daughter Rachel-Ruth Wright, is “Jesus Followers: Real-Life Lessons for Igniting Faith in the Next Generation.” It is available from major booksellers online.