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Jesus’ Mercy for Our Failures

Pastor, failure in ministry is inevitable. Every leader will fail at some point. We’re tempted to think that Jesus is quick to condemn us when we fail. But that’s not what the Bible says.

In the most critical hours of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter failed him. We can learn about how Jesus responds to our failure by looking at how he responded to Peter’s failure. When you look at the example of Peter, you’ll see these five truths.

1. Jesus isn’t shocked by our failures.

Jesus knew beforehand that Peter would be tested. In fact, the night before Peter betrayed him, the Lord said: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to test all of you as a farmer sifts his wheat” (Luke 22:31 NCV).

Jesus isn’t surprised by your failure either. The Bible tells us God “knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NCV). God made us and knows we are frail. Other people may put us on a pedestal because we’re pastors, but God knows better. He knows every trick Satan will try to throw at us, so it doesn’t surprise him when we fall.

2. Jesus prays for us.

Jesus knew Peter would fail, but he also prayed for God to strengthen him: “I have prayed that you will not lose your faith” (Luke 22:32 NCV).

Jesus is praying for you too. Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “That is why he is always able to save those who come to God through him. He can do this because he always lives and intercedes for them” (GW). Jesus lives to intercede for you.

Even before you fail, God is praying for you to be strong. That’s God’s mercy working in your life. 

3. Jesus believes in us.

Jesus isn’t impartial about our recovery from failure. He expects us to recover. Even before Peter’s failure, Jesus told him: “When you recover, strengthen the other disciples” (Luke 22:32 GW).

Jesus didn’t say if you recover; he said when. Jesus believed in Peter, and he believes in us too.

As pastors, we need to keep Proverbs 24:16 in mind: “A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again” (GW). Even good guys fail at times. We’ll make wrong decisions. We’ll hurt people we care about. Worse yet, we’ll fail repeatedly.

But God’s belief in us isn’t limited by our failures. On Easter morning, just days after Peter’s failure, notice who was especially told about the resurrection. When the angel told the women in Mark 16 about Jesus’ resurrection, he said, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7 GW).

The angel could have just said, “Go tell the disciples.” Peter would have been included. But God wanted Peter to know that he was still part of this amazing story.

Even when you fail, God knows your name and wants you to be included in what he is doing in your community and around the world. He believes in you—and he’s not finished with you.

4. Jesus shows us mercy when we’re down. 

Two weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, it’s safe to say Peter still felt the weight of his failure. 

In John 21, Peter and other disciples went fishing. They fished all night but caught nothing. That’s when Jesus showed up. 

Jesus could have easily told Peter that their poor catch overnight was what he deserved after his failure. But that’s not what Jesus did. He told the disciples to cast the net on the right side of the boat, and they were able to catch more fish than their net could hold. Then they had breakfast. It’s one of the most tender and caring stories in the Bible.

God’s mercy never depends on what we deserve. It depends on who he is. You may have failed big, but the Bible tells us God still has more mercy for us: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

God always has enough mercy for tomorrow!

5. God will use our failures to build his church. 

It’s easy to believe that our failures as leaders will be fatal to our ministries, but that’s not how God sees them. 

Do you remember the walk Peter and Jesus took at the beach in Galilee (John 21:15-17)? Peter had failed miserably in his faithfulness to Jesus, but the Lord responded by commissioning him: “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15 GW).

Both Judas and Peter turned their backs on Jesus. Judas became a traitor; Peter became a teacher. 

Pastor, be like Peter when you fail. God is building his church on people who have failed because everyone has failed. 

God will use your failures the same way he used Peter’s.

Will you respond to your failure like Peter or Judas? That’s your choice. Peter chose a breakthrough—and lived to celebrate the mercy of God.

That can be you too. Fifty days after Peter’s greatest failure, God chose Peter to preach at Pentecost, where 3,000 people were saved at the birth of the church.

Your most significant ministry may be just around the corner. 

Will you let God use you?

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