“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
It’s the time of year for making resolutions. We make promises to ourselves and others that we will do better and be better in 2014. January is a month of fresh starts and a time to be hopeful. I wonder what February and March will look like? The day will come when we break our promises. We won’t lose as much weight as we wanted or quitting the bad habit didn’t happen as easily or quickly as we thought it would. We aren’t as far along on our spiritual journey as we had hoped. Today, I am not thinking about all the resolutions that I could make but all the ones that I have made. I’ve failed, and not just a little bit, I’ve failed miserably. I didn’t meet the expectations that I or others had for me, and I made the same sinful mistakes that I promised I wouldn’t make. Failure. It’s part of my life, but I don’t think I’m the only one that struggles with this problem.
“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.”
Peter is my favorite disciple. I think it is because he was a lot like me—passionate, stubborn and spoke his mind. For Peter, it was all or nothing. Just like the night before Jesus faced death on the cross. Peter wanted all of Jesus, and he was adamant that he would never leave the Messiah’s side. Hours later, though, when Peter should have been praying, Jesus found him sleeping. (How many times have I dropped the ball in prayer? Promising to pray for someone, I throw up a quick sentence or two and then get distracted. Or, preparing for a spiritual battle myself, I cannot seem to focus on the one thing I need the most—a word filled with hope and strength from the Lord.) That very night, Peter denied his best friend, his Savior, THE Messiah. After following Him for years and seeing countless miracles and lives changed, Peter denied it all, gave it all up. Listen to what happened next:
“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.”
I can just imagine the shame and despair that Peter felt at that very moment Jesus looked his way. He knew. He knew he had broken his commitment. His resolve to be a committed follower of the Lord had dissolved in a moment of fear, and he had turned his back on his Lord. Sometimes our failures seem to be unrecoverable. How could Peter ever come back from this? After all that time with Jesus, didn’t he know better? Remember the water walking scene? Hadn’t Jesus proven Himself in Peter’s life that night? Where was his faith now? I ask myself the same questions when I find my emotions taking over and lashing out in anger and hurt. It’s Monday (or Tuesday or Thursday . . .); where is the spiritual resolve I had on Sunday? I get so frustrated with myself. Can Jesus forgive my sin again?
“[Jesus] said to [Peter] 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.’”
Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter responded with a reassuring, “Yes, I love you.” It is no coincidence that three is the exact same number of times that Peter denied Christ. Jesus knew that Peter needed to be restored; Peter needed a fresh touch of grace. Oh, that is exactly what I am praying for right now—a fresh touch of grace. I have been walking with the Lord since I was just a child, and still, after all these years, His grace still amazes me!
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
Reading through Lamentations 3, I am struck by the compassionate and gracious love of the Lord. Phrases like “according to the abundance of his steadfast love” and “the LORD is good to those who wait” remind me that God is always good and He is completely forgiving. Day after day, my mistakes draw me more to Him. In my failures, I am reminded of His redeeming grace. In the darkness of night filled with bitter tears, I can remember Peter’s weeping and the sorrow of Jeremiah and know that dawn comes in the morning.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing;”
At the start of this new year, instead of focusing my attention on all the things I am resolving to do or do better, I think I am going to dwell on what God is going to do. What new things does He have in store for my life, my family, and my church in the months ahead? Thank you, Lord, for Your redeeming grace that saves me and restores me every time I fail!