There are times when we all fail the Lord. It's guaranteed to happen—repeatedly. Was it worse when Peter denied knowing the Master whom he'd spend over three years traveling with and learning from? No! Failure is failure!
In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."
If we're honest, we will recognize the steps that led to Peter's denial of Jesus.
While he confessed in Matthew 16:16, "You [Jesus] are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Peter rebuked the Lord for saying that He would suffer and die. The disciple simply couldn't wrap His head around how the Christ could meet such an end.
And Jesus's response?
"Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Matthew 16:23).
Do we ever read something in God's Word that we simply don't understand? Do we come to the conclusion that the Lord can't actually mean what He says? We do this, as Peter did, all too frequently.
In Luke 22:31-33, we read Jesus's warning to Peter: "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 again, strengthen your brothers."
And Peter's response?
"Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death" (Luke 22:33).
Peter, although he loved the Lord and truly believed he would never deny Him, was overconfident in his own ability to withstand the enemy's sifting process.
Yet, Jesus knew the disciple's confidence was misplaced. Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me" (Luke 22:34).
How often are we overconfident, sure that we have the strength to live the life God calls us to?
Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
It's only through acknowledging who we are—frail, weak, sinful—that we can be strong.
In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul says, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Recognition of our own frailty and sinfulness need not result in ongoing anxiety and depressions, but we must discover our confidence, peace, and joy in the Lord and His ability.
Peter's despair over recent events caused him to deny knowing Jesus when asked by the slave girl. The disciple couldn't wrap his mind around what was happening.
The soldiers had only been instructed to arrest Jesus. They had let the disciples go when they'd arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Still, Peter was afraid and denied Jesus a second—and a third—time.
It was far easier for Peter to make sweeping statements when he was with his fellow disciples and the Master Himself. However, as it is with us, it was far more difficult to declare his allegiance when he was surrounded by unbelievers.
Satan sought to destroy Peter's testimony. And he seeks to destroy ours as well.
We must put on the armor of God as outlined in Ephesians 6. This armor includes prayer. In verse 18, we read we are to be found "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication."
Prayer is the only way anyone can have a true heart before God. Prayer is the only way to have a right spirit before Him, without hypocrisy, pride, and arrogance. The act of prayer is an act of humility.
When we rely on our own ability and do not humbly seek the Lord in prayer, we will fail Him as Peter did. And our testimony will be hindered.
Do we fear man more than we fear God?
Peter panicked when he was asked if he knew Jesus. And how heartbreaking it must have been for him when he denied the Lord a third time!
Luke 22: 61 says, "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.' And he went out and wept bitterly."
Not only was Peter so heartbroken that he abandoned his Master, he went back to his old life as a fisherman. He was overwhelmed by the situation and by his own failure.
While we can understand Peter's reaction, we must remember Proverbs 29:26, which says, "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
Jesus's warning in Matthew 10:33 is true: "Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."
But, thankfully, we see that there is a possibility of restoration. After his interaction with the risen Savior, Peter went on to accomplish many amazing things by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Restoration is also available to us when we repent and seek the Lord for forgiveness.
Peter failed Jesus because He did not understand God's plan. Jesus, however, has always known the Father's plan. That plan is why He came to earth and went to the cross.
In John 6:38, we read, "For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Peter failed because he was overconfident and did not recognize his own weaknesses.
Jesus, the Son of God Himself, humbly said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise" (John 5:19).
Peter failed because he didn't recognize the spiritual battle and, because of that, he didn't pray for strength and direction. Jesus, on the other hand, always overcame the power of darkness through prayer.
Peter failed because he feared man more than he feared the Lord.
Unlike this disciple, Jesus did not fear man—even when He was surrounded by those who would sentence Him to death by crucifixion.
We learn in Revelation 2:10 how we are to face persecution. "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Even though there are many ways we can identify with Peter, if we have committed our life to Jesus, if He is our Lord and Savior, we, like Peter, can come to Him for forgiveness and restoration when we fail. We can prayerfully rely on Him to provide the strength for us to bear testimony of who He is—even in the face of persecution.
Peter experienced victory in the face of heart-wrenching failure. We can too!