How to Experience Forgiveness and Restoration After a Faith Failure

  • Betsy St. Amant Haddox
How to Experience Forgiveness and Restoration After a Faith Failure

I just love Peter. Impulsive, passionate, foot-in-his-mouth, sword-in-his-hand Peter. I think all of us can relate to this beloved disciple, whether we’re introverted or extroverted, loyal or fickle, aggressive or reserved—because Peter, at some point, was a little bit of all of these.

Remember when the disciples heard word from Mary on Easter morning that Jesus had risen? Peter and John raced—literally, because John pointed out that he won—to the tomb to see for themselves. John might have reached the tomb first, but Peter plowed inside straight away. We don’t know why John didn’t go in immediately. It could have been out of respect or fear; it could have been consideration for the potential stench in the tomb, or it could have been a hesitation born of extreme emotion. Regardless, John paused, and Peter didn’t hold back.

Remember also when Peter walked on water to Jesus? No one else in the boat that night volunteered for such a terrifying, exhilarating experience. Or when Peter cut off the ear of the Roman soldier in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Clearly, when Peter does something, he does it his full energy and full heart. Sometimes that passion might have gotten him in trouble, but it always got him written about. There’s so much to learn from Peter’s wins and mistakes.

And perhaps the mistake he’s most known for is his denial of Jesus.

Before we start lifting haughty noses or pointing fingers, we need to realize how much we relate to this part of Peter, too.

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How We’re Like Peter:

How We’re Like Peter:

In times of crisis, trauma, and hardship, it’s easy to lose grip on the truths we’ve been clinging to all our lives. When we lose a loved one, when disaster strikes, when the bank account runs dry, or when a relationship dies, it’s all too common to feel our faith quiver.

Maybe we don’t verbally deny knowing Jesus, but our hearts trip a little and we ask “why,” don’t we? We wonder how God could have let that happen. We might even turn away from God in confusion instead of turning to him for comfort. We’ve all been there. And we all beat ourselves up for it afterward.

Peter did too.

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Faith Falls Start with a Stumble

Faith Falls Start with a Stumble

The thing about faith falls is that more often than not, they occur after a few stumbles first. It’s usually a slow fade. Look at the progression Peter walked through in the below passage.

“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’ And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth’” And again he denied it with an oath: ‘I do not know the man.’ After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 69-75, ESV)

Peter started out strong—Jesus was captured, and Peter followed at a distance. He didn’t want to get out of eyesight of his Lord and best friend. That was loyal, typical Peter. But things go downhill from there, as Peter apparently lingered a little too close for comfort.

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3 Progressive Denials:

3 Progressive Denials:

First, Peter denied Jesus—probably thinking he could lay low and get away with it. “Who? No, not me. Wrong guy.” It was more of a casual dismissal, despite the way his heart had to be pounding and his palms growing slick. I can’t even imagine the layers of emotions Peter was dealing with here. The confusion, the fear, the anxiety. The “what next” and the “now what” and the “what about’s” rolling through his head.

Next, upon a second questioning, Peter denied Jesus with an oath—which is sort of the equivalent saying, “I promise.” A little stronger, a little more adamant. “I said no! I promise I don’t know him.” His panic had to be maxing out about here. The risk of his own life, the sadness of everything that was going down around him—it had to be overwhelming. Peter’s insistence of denial—as well as his panic and fear—clearly grew stronger with each accusation or question brought to him.

Finally, he cursed. This was the most extreme response possible. Think about it. If we deny something, we deny it. But when we promise that we deny it, it comes across stronger. Throwing in curse words or calling down curses from heaven along with our words, well—that’s next level. This is the point Peter reached that fateful night.

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Face to Face with Sin:

Face to Face with Sin:

When that rooster crowed immediately after his third denial, the Word tells us Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction, and the remorse set in. To make it even worse, the account of this circumstance in Luke points out that as the rooster crowed, Jesus looked at him.

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’” (Luke 22:61)

Have you ever been saying something not-so-nice about someone, and then realized they heard you? Or realized you left what you’d said about them on an accidental voicemail? Yikes. Take that feeling and magnify it by about a thousand, and we might get just a hint of what Peter felt in those heartbreaking moments. The man Peter swore his allegiance to mere hours ago (Matthew 26:35) heard Peter deny Him.

After Peter realized his sin, he experienced five phases that we can learn from and remember when we realize our own sin.

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1. Have Remorse (But remember mistakes don’t cancel out victories.)

1. Have Remorse (But remember mistakes don’t cancel out victories.)

The text states that Peter wept bitterly. Remorse, regret, repentance. He probably felt like it was too late, that everything good he’d done up until then—all his big adventures, all his giant leaps of faith with Christ—were null and void. Don’t we feel that after we sin? That our recent mistake just canceled out the victories of our past? That wasn’t true for Peter, and it’s not for you either.

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2. Express Regret (But remember Jesus came to offer grace for mistakes.)

2. Express Regret (But remember Jesus came to offer grace for mistakes.)

Whether you’re dealing with a fiery trial of faith or the intense regret of a sin recently committed, remember you’re not alone. Peter crashed too. And the fact that we do crash and we do sin is why Jesus went to the cross for us and why this gift of Gods’ grace was necessary in the first place.

The grace Jesus offered Peter after his big fall is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible to me.

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3. Repent

3. Repent

The disciples were out fishing—returning to what was familiar in the tumultuous wake of the Jesus’ death—when they realized someone was on shore, offering fishing advice and cooking them breakfast. Once again, our impulsive Peter didn’t hesitate, but dove into the water to swim to Jesus as fast as he could. He didn’t let it stay awkward. He didn’t start paddling in the opposite direction. He jumped in, headfirst, willing to soak his clothes because he needed to be soaked in grace.

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4. Be Restored

4. Be Restored

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

Jesus, in an incredibly generous and considerate manner, gave Peter the opportunity to fix in triplicate what he’d denied in triplicate.

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5. Forgive Yourself and Follow Jesus

5. Forgive Yourself and Follow Jesus

My sister in Christ, if Jesus offers this forgiveness to us, then we must forgive ourselves when we stumble. It is arrogance and pride to hold on to something the Lord has already forgiven and made right before the Father. Beating yourself up is the equivalent of saying the cross wasn’t sufficient for that sin.

So how do we respond after a big fat failure?

  • We don’t wallow in the boat.
  • We don’t hide.
  • We don’t run.

Instead:

  • We dive into the depths of His grace and forgiveness.
  • We come to shore, thank the Lord for His blood-bought mercy, and eat our fill.
  • And then we go feed some sheep.

Betsy_headshotBetsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of fourteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her newlywed hubby, two story-telling young daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she's not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with HarperCollins, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES, and POCKET PRAYERS FOR FRIENDS with Max Lucado. Visit her at http://www.betsystamant.com./

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