Good Intentions and Utter Failure

Matthew 26 

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd,     and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

This scene from the days preceding Jesus’ crucifixion comforts me. These guys were sincere. They loved Jesus. They still didn’t exactly understand Him. Even after 3 years, they didn’t fully comprehend the cost of following Him. Yet, they were sincere with what they understood at that point, and I believe in their minds they truly couldn’t comprehend denying Him.

But none of them had understood what Jesus was saying when He predicted His death. Each time Jesus brought it up, He and the disciples seemed to talk past each other. Only Mary of Bethany who poured perfume over Jesus in John 12 seems to understand what was going to happen.

The neat thing about this scene from Matthew 26 is that Jesus doesn’t just predict the disciples’ denial of Him, but He also predicts that He will rise again and gather them back to Himself, which He does a few chapters later. These disciples have walked with Jesus IN PERSON for 3 years. They have heard His instructions, thought they understood what He came to do, yet missed some pretty important truths. They have boldly declared their fidelity only to fall away exactly as He predicted. And He gathers them back up after His resurrection, reaffirms His plans for them, and sends them off with His affirmation of power and authority. And they change the world! It’s really quite beautiful and encouraging.

These are the very guys standing on the sidelines as the Cloud of Witnesses of which Hebrews speaks in encouragement to you and I.

Hebrews 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Thinking on their denial of Jesus and Jesus’ grace to them in return encourages me just as Hebrews says – to run with perseverance the marathon before me; to fix my eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of my faith that I may not grow weary and lose heart. Because it’s usually the unbelief within myself that most undoes me. It’s not persecution or outside sin with which I most struggle. It’s my own lack of trust in light of it all. It’s my fears of denying Jesus when I’m faced with troubling circumstances. Yet the disciples failed utterly despite their best intentions, and God used them anyway. And they cheer us on from the sidelines in our own walk with sin and unbelief outside of us and the sin and unbelief within us. Endure, friend, and look to Jesus. Such instruction never grows old.

7 Responses to Good Intentions and Utter Failure

  1. Natalie Thomas August 20, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    Thanks Wendy! Needed this encouragement today. The Lord's dealings with Peter, specifically, have always encouraged me. The words of 1 & 2 Peter are all the more powerful knowing his early failures, and how the Lord restored him.

  2. Wendy August 21, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Natalie, I feel the exact same way about I and 2 Peter. Love him and love the books he wrote.

  3. Ann Sandifer August 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Once again, rejoicing for your heart for the Lord, and giving thanks for your encouragement, Wendy! Just the lift I needed from the Lifter of our heads! O, how we stumble and fall, but do so with the “best” of them. You are SO right that it is not our circumstances that hurt badly, but rather the lack of trust in the Lord to bring us through these circumstances. Been there, done that, TOO many times. Painful. My 39th wedding anniversary came and went this weekend without my husband in the home. It was hard. But harder yet was when my eyes dropped off the Savior. It is good to think of Peter and the other disciples cheering us on from the sidelines. Of our Lord Jesus Himself cheering us on. The joy of the Lord is our strength! He is our Rock, our VERY great Reward! Praising God for all the encouragement there is in His word to know that in our fallen flesh and apart from Christ we are merely broken and hurting, stained and wayward people. But in Him, we have been washed clean and are His treasure, the sheep of His pasture, that He will never leave nor forsake, that He will hold onto with an everlasting love. I know we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, yet it is with God's grace that this will happen, as He picks us up time and again, renews a right spirit in us, until that Day we are perfected in Christ Jesus. We SO need the Savior! What can wash away the sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make us whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! O precious is the flow!!!!

  4. Lin August 22, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    Hi Wendy thanks for this post. I am going through a difficult season in my life and finding it hard to not deny Jesus amidst my pain. Since my miscarriage, I have been struggling with infertility and yes that is how I found your website. And praise the lord for your site! Thank you and please continue all these wonderful posts. 🙂

  5. upwithmarriage August 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Great post and thanks for the reminder. I have seen the pattern that my best growth comes from my uber failures.

  6. Wendy August 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Lin, I'm so sorry for your loss! I trust God will meet you in your pain in real ways. I'm glad you've found encouragement here.

  7. Elizabeth Vaughn Do August 24, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    I love your blog. It reminded me of an article I just read that quoted C.S. Lewis regarding courage. I hadn't thought before of courage being the one virtue that enables all others to be effective at the pivotal moments. It seemed to frame my whole past in a new and interesting way: loving the right things, but lacking the gumption to love them above other enticements. It's good to have a God like ours when, inevitably, my bit of courage fails me. http://www.thewifeofleisure.com