Grace after the FallJohn 18:25-27
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
I often try to put myself into Peter’s shoes at this very moment in time. To think of the level of fear that must have gripped Peter in these moments for Him to deny His lord must have been something that I have never experienced in my life. Peter, the “Rock”, the first among the disciples, had fallen into a shocking denial of Jesus! Peter had failed, and it crushed his very soul.
This fall was so monumental and so soul shaking that Peter went back to the only thing he knew for certain…fishing. Peter was so discouraged by his failure to his Lord during Christ’s greatest earthly trial and became so dismayed by his tremendous denial that he resigned himself to be a fisher of fish again. If God could not count on him during the most important of times, how could he count on him with the smallest of tasks? And so in John 21 we see a defeated and deflated Peter casting his nets in the wrong location. All night he toiled casting his nets in every direction with no luck. Peter did not catch a single fish for all his work. Every place that his net landed was the wrong location. However, in reality, the entire Sea of Galilee was the wrong location. You see, Peter was called to be a fisher of men, not of fish. His toiling was to be done for the sake of men. His toiling was to be done for the sake of the Church.
It took a very intense conversation with Jesus to bring him back to his senses in John 21:15-17! Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me? And after Peter answered “You know I do.” Jesus told him to feed His sheep and to once again lay down his fishing nets as he had done several years before when Christ first called him. Peter was to spend his time caring for the people of God, not trying to catch fish. To spend his days toiling for the sake of The Gospel and the Church. You see, the guilt and heavy cloud of Peter’s denial also led him to deny his call.
When we fail, we often find ourselves returning to the only thing we are sure that we can excel at…feeding our flesh. We often cast our nets feverishly and foolishly during the night into empty waters. Water that will never yield a crop of spiritual growth and of kingdom growth. We try to fix the problem ourselves. Like Peter, we think that retreating to our “safe space” is the proper solution. We go back to what we are comfortable and familiar with. We respond with fleshly instincts many times. I have experienced in my own life that during spiritual failures it is easier to abandon hope and give up our striving in favor of admitting defeat.
How many of us I wonder have been discouraged by the sheer difficulty of life and of living for God and following the Truth of His word no matter the circumstances? How many of us have stumbled and fallen into various levels of despair, anger, guilt or become exasperated because of our fall? Maybe you’ve seen your fire for the Lord wane, maybe you’ve seen your desire to seek the Lord with all of your might become an after-thought. Maybe you’ve seen your relationship with God or God’s people to become strained and confused. The Lord desires to remind us of our call. Our call is to be fisher of men and to feed God’s sheep. We are all called to cast our nets into the waters that are teaming with God’s work. Gospel work and the work of being a blessing to the people of God. Don’t let the circumstances of your life dictate your work or your attitude in the work. Jesus wants to use our stumbles and outright failures to remind us that without Christ, there is nowhere to go. There is no work that can be done that is of lasting importance. It is often out of the ashes of our failures that the Lord works in us for our greatest growth!
This past year, I know all of us have experienced various levels of failure and difficulty. Have you grown through these times? Have you been able to refocus on doing God’s work and are you casting your nets in the right place? Are you feeding the sheep and being fishers of men? Or are you still feverishly casting your nets in the darkness of the night into empty waters?
Yours in Christ,