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Beyond Failure: Steps to Spiritual Success

James A. Scudder

The moment the apostle Peter committed his greatest sin, there is probably no one who felt his future was darker. But his faithlessness in the face of the Lordís faithfulness drives home a powerful point. Peterís failure brought him on a spiritual journey toward wholeness and holiness. If you dare to follow that same journey, then you too will learn how to get past those times of disappointment and frustration at your own inadequacies.

What did Peter do to turn his failure into a springboard for spiritual success? There were some definite steps that Peter took in order to move on in his walk with Christ. If you study them and apply them to your life, they will give you the support and strength you need to overcome the frustration that accompanies failure.

Step 1óDiagnose the Disease

Peter first learned to diagnose the disease. He looked at both the fact of his sin (denying the Lord three times) and the root of his sin (pride). He learned that if he nipped pride in the bud in the future, he would be less likely to commit greater sins.

Peter thought the chain of his spirituality was strong, but he missed a vital link. Once he was able to diagnose the problem, he was a changed man. When a huge tree stands in the forest, it might look strongóuntil it falls and all can see that the inside had rotted away. The decay from deep within finally caused the tree to fall. Peter learned to deal with the rotten core of pride in his life before it ruined him.

Step 2óStudy the Word of God

Constant study of the Word of God will bring spiritual success. Every day a new insight can strengthen your faith. This is something that Peter learned after his failure. He needed to meditate on the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did this so much that eventually the Holy Spirit prompted him to write two books of the Bible.

When we come to His Word with sincere devotion and a willingness to obey, God will show us our hearts as we have never seen them before and will warn us about what may happen if we donít follow His will. Study your Bible, attend church, talk of your faithóall these things will strengthen your resolve and help you to overcome failure, as they helped Peter.

Step 3óTrust God Even When the Way Is Dark

When Peter sat by that small fire warming his hands, with his heart in turmoil, he should have remembered that the Lord had predicted the exact events taking place. When he denied the Lord, he realized he should have continued to trust the Lord, even though there was no apparent reason for doing so at the time.

God does not work according to our rules or our time schedule. His thoughts and ways are above our own. So hang on the tightest when the night is the darkest. You will be tempted to let go. Whatever you do, donít lose faith. It is at those moments that Godís glory will have the greatest chance to shine.

George Mueller said, ďFaith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where manís power ends.Ē It is in times of desperation that we need to jump into the arms that are stronger than life itself. Even when the way is dark and questions remain, we need to make a conscious decision to trust His mighty strength.

Step 4óWatch and Pray

Peter was warned repeatedly that the events of the arrest and trial would be difficult, but he didnít heed. As Jesus said, ďWatch and pray that you enter not into temptation.Ē Jesus was aware that the spirit might be willing, but our physical bodies are weak.

Sometimes when trials come, there isnít much warning. At those times we have to cope moment by moment, relying on the strength of God. But sometimes there are hints that something is going wrong. Those hints need to be taken seriously. Learn to heed advice from fellow Christians and prepare.

Adequate nutrition and rest go a long way toward making us better able to cope in times of crisis. We also need to spend extra time in the Word of God and in prayer. This groundwork will give us the wisdom to face the trial. So take a moment if you are facing a difficult time and tend to the needs of your body. You will be better equipped to see Godís hand of guidance if you have prepared yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically.

The Final Lap

When we identify those things that are problematic to our spiritual growth, we learn that even our best efforts will not change them. Then it is to the Lordís arms we must fly. If Peter had determined that on his own he would alter his ways, he could never have really changed. The Lordís mercy caught him up, transformed him, and set him on a rock. This mercy brought healing to the deepest part of his soul.

Since he had already trusted Christ as his Savior, he didnít do this in order to go to heaven. The Lord paid the penalty for all of Peterís sins, even his denial, when He hung on the cross. But the fellowship that Peter had so enjoyed with the Lord over the past three years needed to be restored. He needed to confess the sin of denial. But deeper than that, he needed to confess his own pride before he could enjoy again that sweet companionship with the Lord. Peter understood the words of the psalmist, ďCreate in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.Ē Peterís confession brought renewal, new life, and restoration to His walk with Christ.

Are you in need of this mercy? As it was freely offered to Peter, so it is offered to you. It is up to you to accept it. You can stubbornly hold on to your own strength, or you can accept His towering strength. You can clutch the tattered garments of your own pride, or you can wear the flowing forgiveness of grace. You can cling to your arrogance or clutch His gentleness. You can exchange your tears of embarrassment for His tears of love. So set your mind to confession, your heart toward His forgiveness, your soul to study, and let the overflowing river of Godís pardon flood your entire being with newness of life.

Taken from Beyond Failure: Discovering Grace and Hope in the Hard Times of Life by James A. Scudder. Copyright © 2001. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 60187.