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Three Ways to Respond to Failure

Because we live in an imperfect world, we all will fail in ministry at times. Church leaders don’t get off the hook. 

But failure doesn’t need to be fatal. Both Judas and Peter denied Christ and failed miserably in the last hours of Jesus’ earthly life.

Judas rejected the mercy of God and killed himself. But Peter accepted the mercy of God and became the leader of the church. 

Peter illustrated three keys to recovering from personal failures. Follow Peter’s example next time you experience a failure.


1. Grieve.

You don’t minimize the failure. Nor can you go around it or over it. You must go through it.

You do that through grieving. Peter exemplified this. When the rooster crowed the third time and Peter came face-to-face with his failure, the Bible says, “[Peter] went outside and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 NIV).

Imagine how disappointed Peter felt. He spent three and a half years with the Son of God. He watched Jesus perform miracles, heal people, raise the dead, and teach like no one else ever had.

Yet the first time his commitment to Jesus was put to the test, Peter denied Jesus because he feared what three strangers thought.

But Peter owns up to his failure. He is humbled by it—and God heals him.

David writes, “The way to please you is to be truly sorry deep in our hearts. This is the kind of sacrifice you won’t refuse” (Psalm 51:17 CEV).

God wants us to be humble and contrite when we fail. We can’t heal and start over until we walk through our failure in this way.


2. Let other people support you.

Peter could have isolated himself after his failure. That’s what most of us would do. But it’s the worst choice we can make.

The Bible tells us that Peter was with the other disciples two days later when he heard about the empty tomb (Mark 16:10). In fact, over the next 50 days after Peter’s failure, the Bible tells us that he was constantly with his small group, the team of disciples. 

When we fail, we want to keep our failures a secret, but that’s the worse decision we can make. You don’t need to tell everybody about the failure, but you do need to tell a few people who love you, will pray for you, and will support you.

This is why you need a group of people you trust in your life. You likely spend a lot of energy encouraging others to be involved in small groups where they can get the kind of support they need. You need a small group as well.

You need those relationships before you face troubles—not after. The time to get your social support system in place is today.


3. Cast your cares on Jesus. 

Peter understood the mercy of Jesus because he experienced it firsthand. He faced massive failure in his life, but he didn’t walk around in condemnation and regret. 

Peter begins his first letter in the New Testament with this powerful verse about God’s mercy—and the hope that it brings. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV).

Later he returns to the mercy of God, urging his readers to, “Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). Peter tells his readers to do what he did when faced with failure.

What does it look like to cast your cares upon the mercy of God? It means praying something like this, “God, I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I blew it. But you are a merciful and forgiving God. So, I’m throwing myself on your mercy. I need a fresh start.”

When you cast your care, you lose your despair. Because that’s when Jesus moves into action. 

Don’t let your failure be the end of what God will do through your life. Instead, grieve, get the support of others, and cast your cares upon Jesus.

Then God will give you a fresh start.

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