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Failure is an event, not a destiny . Most of us know Babe Ruth set a record with 714 home runs in his baseball career. But few remember he struck out 1,330 times on the way to that record. .

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Most of us know Babe Ruth set a record with 714 home runs in his baseball career. But few remember he struck out 1,330 times on the way to that record.


Most people know Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, but few realize he had to fail two hundred times before he found the right one.


Nearly everyone who watches professional basketball agrees Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players of all time. But most people don't realize he failed to make

  • the basketball team his
  • sophomore year in high
  • school. He didn't quit
  • playing because of one
  • failure.

Thomas Edison failed over ten thousand times in his attempts to find the correct filament for the light bulb. When an aide urged him to quit after several hundred failures, he replied, "Why quit now? We know of at least a hundred things that won't work."


Learning from our failures is part of the process of being successful. None of these people could have accomplished what they did if they had listened to the fear of failure.


Two Kentucky horse racing stable owners had developed a keen rivalry. Each spring they both entered a horse in a local steeplechase. One of them thought that having a professional rider might give his horse an edge in the race, so he hired a hot-shot jockey. Well, the day of the race finally came, and as usual, their two horses were leading the race right down to the last fence. But that final fence was too much for both of the horses. Both of

  • them fell, and both riders
  • were thrown. But that
  • didn’t stop the professional
  • jockey. He remounted
  • quickly and easily won the
  • race.

When he got back to the stable, he found the horse owner fuming with rage. He really didn’t understand his behavior, because he had won the race. So the jockey asked, “What’s the matter with you? I won the race, didn’t I?”The red-faced owner

  • nodded, “Oh, yes, you
  • won the race. But you
  • won it on the wrong
  • horse!”

That jockey had the best of intentions. He intended to win the race. But he became distracted from the task. He made a bad decision. And, ultimately, he failed in what he was trying to do.

  • You know, often times we wind up
  • doing the same thing in our walk with
  • Jesus. We start out strong. We have the best of intentions. We are excited, and we want to succeed in the faith. We have a desire to be faithful followers of our Savior. Yet, so often, we become distracted from the faith. We allow the wrong influences in our lives. We experience a challenge or a setback. We make a bad decision. We experience the spiritual failure of allowing sin into our lives, and our relationship with Jesus suffers.

2 Simon Peter, Thomas (the Twin), Nathanael (the Galilean from Cana), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

  • Simon Peter (to disciples): 3 I am going fishing.
  • Disciples: Then we will come with you.
  • They went out in the boat and caught nothing through the night. 4 As day was breaking, Jesus was standing on the beach; but they did not know it was Jesus.
  • Jesus:5 My sons, you haven’t caught any fish, have you?
  • Disciples: No.
  • Jesus:6 Throw your net on the starboard side of the boat, and your net will find the fish.
  • They did what He said, and suddenly they could not lift their net because of the massive weight of the fish that filled it.

7 The disciple loved by Jesus turned to Peter and said:

  • Beloved Disciple: It is the Lord.
  • Immediately, when Simon Peter heard these words, he threw on his shirt (which he would take off while he was working) and dove into the sea. 8 The rest of the disciples followed him, bringing in the boat and dragging in their net full of fish. They were close to the shore, fishing only about 100 yards out. 9 When they arrived on shore, they saw a charcoal fire laid with fish on the grill. He had bread too.

Let’s join Peter, who feels like he failed Jesus, his mind a swirl of emotions–Embarrassment . . . Anger . . .  Fear . . .  Shame . . . Despair. He feels dirty and unworthy because he acted foolishly. As long as he lives, he will never forget that terrible night when he denied Christ.


The sun was in the water before Peter noticed it—a wavy circle of gold on the surface of the sea. A fisherman is usually the first to spot the sun rising over the crest of the hills. It means his night of labor is finally over.


But not for this fisherman. Though the light reflected on the lake, the darkness lingered in Peter’s heart. The wind chilled, but he didn’t feel it. His friends slept soundly, but he didn’t care. The nets at his feet were empty, the sea had been a miser, but Peter wasn’t thinking about that.


“What was I thinking? What a failure! I denied Jesus! How could I ever be restored? How could I ever be forgiven?” Peter mumbled to himself as he stared at the bottom of the boat. Why did I run? Peter had run; he had turned his back on his dearest friend and run. We don’t know where. Peter may not have

  • known where. He
  • found a hole, a hut,
  • an abandoned shed—
  • he found a place to
  • hide and he hid.

He had bragged, “Everyone else may stumble . . . but I will not” (Matt. 26:33). Yet he did. Peter did what he swore he wouldn’t do. He had tumbled face first into the pit of his own fears. And there he sat. All he could hear was his hollow promise. Everyone else may stumble but I will not. Everyone else . . .

  • I will not. I will not.
  • I will not. A war
  • raged within the
  • fisherman.

At that moment the instinct to survive collided with his allegiance to Christ, and for just a moment allegiance won. Peter stood and stepped out of hiding and followed the noise till he saw the torch-lit jury in the courtyard of Caiaphas.

  • He stopped near a fire and warmed his hands.

Luke said: “Peter followed at a distance” (22:54 NIV).

  • He was loyal . . . from a distance. That night he went close enough to see, but not close enough to be seen. The problem was, Peter was seen. Other people near the fire recognized him. “You were with him,” they had
  • challenged. “You
  • were with the
  • Nazarene.” Three
  • times people said it,
  • and each time
  • Peter denied it. And
  • each time Jesus
  • heard it.

Jesus knew the denial of his friend. Three times the salt of Peter’s betrayal stung the wounds of the Messiah.

  • “Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:6 1 NW). ‘When the rooster crowed, Jesus turned. His eyes searched for Peter and they found him. At that moment there were no soldiers, no accusers, no priests. At that predawn moment in Jerusalem there were only two people—Jesus and Peter.

Peter would never forget that look. Though Jesus’ face was already bloody and bruised, his eyes were firm and focused. Though the look had lasted only a moment, it lasted forever.


And now, days later on the Sea of Galilee, the look still seared. It wasn’t the resurrection that occupied his thoughts. It wasn’t the empty tomb. It wasn’t the defeat of death. It was the eyes of Jesus seeing his failure. Peter knew them well. He’d seen them before. In fact he’d seen them on this very lake.


This wasn’t the first night that Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. After all, he was a fisherman. He, like the others, worked at night. He knew the fish would feed near the surface during the cool of the night and return to the deep during the day. No, this wasn’t the first night Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. Nor

  • was it the first night
  • he had caught
  • nothing.

There was that time years before . . .

  • Most mornings Peter and his partners would sell their fish, repair their nets, and head home to rest with a bag of money and a feeling of satisfaction. This particular morning there was no money. There was no satisfaction. They had worked all through
  • the night but had
  • nothing to show for
  • it except weary
  • backs and worn nets.

And, what’s worse, everyone knew it. Every morning the shore would become a market as the villagers came to buy their fish, but that day there were no fish.

  • Jesus was there that morning, teaching. As the
  • people pressed there was little room for
  • him to stand, so he
  • asked Peter if his
  • boat could be a
  • platform. Peter
  • agreed, maybe
  • thinking the boat
  • might as well be put
  • to some good use.

Peter listens as Jesus teaches. It’s good to hear something other than the slapping of waves. When Jesus finishes with the crowd, he turns to Peter. He has another request. He wants to go fishing.

  • “Take the boat into deep water, and put your nets in the water to catch some fish” (Luke 5:4).

Peter groans. The last thing he wants to do is fish. The boat is clean. The nets are ready to dry. The sun is up and he is tired. It’s time to go home. Besides, everyone is watching. They’ve already seen him come back empty-handed once. And, what’s more, what does Jesus know about fishing? So

  • Peter speaks,
  • “Master, we
  • worked hard all
  • night trying to catch
  • fish” (v. 5).

“We worked hard.” Scraping the hull. Carrying the nets. Pulling the oars. Throwing the nets high into the moonlit sky. Listening as they slapped on the surface of the water.

  • “All night.” The sky had gone from burnt orange to midnight black to morning gold. The hours had passed
  • as slowly as the fleets of clouds before the moon.
  • The fishermen’s
  • conversation had
  • stilled and their
  • shoulders ached.‘While the village
  • slept, the men
  • worked. All . . .
  • night . . .long.

“Trying to catch fish.”The night’s events had been rhythmic: net swung and tossed high till it spread itself against the sky. Then wait. Let it sink. Pull it in. Do it again. Throw. Pull. Throw. Pull. Throw. Pull. Every toss had been a prayer. But every drag of the empty net had come back unanswered. Even the net sighed as the

  • men pulled it out
  • and prepared
  • to throw it again.

For twelve hours they’d fished. And now . . . now Jesus is wanting to fish some more? And not just off the shore, but in the deep?

  • Peter sees his friends shrug their shoulders. He looks at the people on the beach watching him. He doesn’t know what to do. Jesus may know a lot about a lot, but Peter
  • knows about fishing.
  • Peter knows when to
  • work and when to
  • quit. He knows there
  • is a time to go on and
  • a time to get out.

Common sense said it was time to get out. Logic said cut your losses and go home. Experience said pack it up and get some rest. But Jesus said, “We can try again if you want.”

  • The most difficult journey is back to the place where you failed. Jesus knows that. That’s why he
  • volunteers to go
  • along. “The first
  • outing was solo; this
  • time I’ll be with you.
  • Try it again, this
  • time with me on
  • board.”

And Peter reluctantly agrees to try again. “But you say to put the nets in the water, so I will” (Luke 5:5). It didn’t make any sense, but he’d been around this Nazarene enough to know that his presence made a difference.

  • So the oars dip again and the boat goes out. The anchor is set and the nets fly once more.
  • Peter watches as the net sinks, and he waits. He waits until the net spreads as far as his rope allows. The fishermen are quiet. Peter is quiet. Jesus is quiet. Suddenly the rope yanks. The net, heavy with fish, almost pulls Peter overboard.

“John, James!” he yells. “Come quick!”

  • Soon the boats are so full of fish that the port side rim dips close to the surface. Peter, ankle deep in flopping silver, turns to look at Jesus, only to find that Jesus is looking at him. That’s when he realizes who Jesus is.
  • What an odd place
  • to meet God—on a
  • fishing boat on
  • a small sea in a
  • remote country!

But he wasn’t the same Peter. It’s the same Galilee, but a different fisherman. Three years of living with the Messiah had changed him. He’d seen too much. Too many walking crippled, vacated graves, too many hours hearing His words.


Why did he return? What brought him back to Galilee after the crucifixion? Despair? Hope? That’s what brought him back. Hope. A bizarre hope that on the sea where he knew him first, he would know him again.

  • So Peter is in the
  • boat, on the lake.
  • Once again he’s
  • fished all night.
  • Once again the sea
  • has surrendered
  • nothing.

His thoughts are interrupted by a shout from the shore. “Catch any fish?” Peter and John look up. Probably a villager. “No!” they yell. “Try the other side!” the voice yells back.


Take away message:

  • The Lord allows us to fail in our own strength so that we may learn that only by his power will we succeed. This means that Christ is with us when we fail, and it is then that we may hear his voice speaking to us, showing us a new and better way.

There was once a weak and sickly man. His condition grew worse, but he could not afford a doctor. He lived in the deep back woods in an old log cabin, and out in front of his cabin was a huge boulder. One night he had a vision. God told him to go out and push the massive rock in front of his home all day long, day after day,

  • until he told him to stop.

The man got up early in the morning, and with great excitement, he pushed on the rock as long as he could. After a rest he pushed some more. The night vision was so real that it inspired the man as he pushed against the rock. It gave him meaning.


Each day he pushed a little harder and a little longer. Day after day he pushed. Days rolled into weeks, and weeks into months, as he faithfully pushed against the rock. After 8 months of pushing the rock, the man was getting tired of pushing the rock so much, and in his tiredness he started to doubt his dream.


He measured from his porch to the rock, and after pushing the rock, he would measure to see how much he had moved the rock. After two weeks of pushing and measuring, he realized he had not moved the boulder a fraction of an inch. As a matter of fact, the boulder was in the same place as when he started. The man was

  • so disappointed, because he saw
  • his work had accomplished
  • nothing.

He was tired and his dream seemed dashed upon the rock. He sat on his porch and cried, because he had invested so much time for nothing. But as the sun was setting in the west, Jesus came and sat down next to the man as he was sitting on his porch. He said, “Son, why are you so sad?”


The man replied, “Lord, You know how sick and weak I am, and then the vision you gave me built up a false hope. I have pushed with all that was within me for many months, and that old rock is right where it was when I started.”


Jesus said to him, “I never told you to move the rock, I told you to push against the rock.” Jesus told the man to step in front of the mirror and look at himself. As an act of obedience the man stepped in front of a mirror. He was

  • amazed. How could he have
  • missed this? He had been so
  • sickly and weak, and what he
  • saw in the mirror was a strong
  • muscular man.

He also realized that he had not been coughing all night. It dawned on him that he had been feeling better for months, and it was all because he had been pushing — not moving — the rock.


Then the man realized, that the plan of God was not to change the position of the rock, but to change him. It is when you push against the rock that you become strong — whether the rock moves or not. It is when you obey and cast your net on the other side that the net is filled, and a way is opened up for deeper fellowship with Jesus.


John looks at Peter. ‘What harm? So out sails the net. Peter wraps the rope around his wrist to wait.

  • But there is no wait. The rope pulls taut and the net catches. Peter sets his weight against the side of the boat and begins to bring in the net; reaching down, pulling up, reaching down, pulling up. He’s so intense with the task,
  • he misses the
  • message.

John doesn’t. The moment is déjà vu. This has happened before. The long night. The empty net. The call to cast again. Fish flapping on the floor of the boat. Wait a minute. He lifts his eyes to the man on the shore.

  • “It’s him,” he
  • whispers.
  • Then louder,
  • “It’s Jesus.”
  • Then shouting,
  • “It’s the Lord,
  • Peter. It’s the
  • Lord!”

Peter turns and looks. Jesus has come. Not just Jesus the teacher, but Jesus the death-defeater, Jesus the king . . .Jesus the victor over darkness. Jesus the God of heaven and earth is on the shore . . and he’s

  • building a fire.

Peter plunges into the water, swims to the shore, and stumbles out wet and shivering and stands in front of the friend he betrayed. Jesus has prepared a bed of coals. Both are aware of the last time Peter had stood near a

  • fire. Peter had
  • failed God, but
  • God had come
  • to him.

We all fail. We all sin. So, perhaps the first important step is to stop beating ourselves up. There is nothing to be gained in that. But, sometimes forgiving ourselves is not as easy at it may look to others.


There was a man trying to cross the street. As he steps off the curb a car comes screaming around the corner and it heads straight for him. The man walks faster, trying to hurry across the street, but the car changes lanes and is still coming at him.So the man turns around

  • to go back, but the car
  • changes lanes yet again
  • and is still coming
  • straight toward him.

By now, .....the car is so close ...and the man so scared .... that he just freezes and stops in the middle of the road. The car swerves at the last possible moment and screeches to a halt right next him.The driver rolls down the window. The driver is .....a squirrel. And the squirrel says

  • to the man, ...."See,
  • it’s not as easy as it
  • looks?"

There is no forgiveness or restoration in hating and punishing ourselves for the sin we commit. If it is truly forgiveness and restoration that we seek, then we need to go directly to the giver of life and forgiveness … our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • God is able to forget
  • our past. Why can’t
  • we? He throws our
  • sins into the depths of
  • the sea and puts up a
  • sign on the shore
  • which reads, ‘No
  • fishing.’

If Jesus was truly human, he must have been hurt and then angry at Peter's disloyalty. After the resurrection as Jesus sat on the shore of Galilee and looked into Peter's eyes, he did not see an evil man; he saw a weak

  • human being
  • who desperately
  • needed a second
  • chance. And so
  • he forgave him
  • and restored
  • him in a very
  • gentle way.

Jesus (to disciples): 10 Bring some of the fish you just caught.

  • 11 Simon Peter went back to the boat to unload the fish from the net. He pulled 153 large fish from the net. Despite the number of the fish, the net held without a tear.
  • Jesus: 12 Come, and join Me for breakfast.
  • 15 They finished eating breakfast.
  • Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these other things?
  • Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.
  • Jesus: Take care of My lambs.

16 Jesus asked him a second time . . .

  • Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
  • Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You must surely know that I love You.
  • Jesus: Shepherd My sheep.
  • 17 (for the third time) Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
  • Peter was hurt because He asked him the same question a third time, “Do you love Me?”
  • Simon Peter: Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.
  • Jesus: Look after My sheep.

Peter could not go back and undo the statements he made.Peter could not go back and change his impulsive actions. Peter could not undo his three denials. In a way Jesus was saying, “Feed, lead, tend my sheep. Peter, you have been ..... re-commissioned. Put the past to bed. There is work to be done!

  • When Jesus was allowed to have His way with Peter, he reached full potential.

Take away message:

  • No matter what someone may have done, the Master wants the miracle of forgiveness to restore that person to be whom He made and called him or her to be.

If the Lord should say, “Do you love you me?” What would be your answer? In truth, the answer is not what you say but how you live. John 14:15, “If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you.”


Peter learned that he needed to be forgiven, restored, and to place himself totally in Jesus’ hands to be truly used. When we allow ourselves to be touched by the master’s hand - lives change’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his whileTo waste much time on the old violin, But he held it up with a smile,"What is the bid, good folks," he cried "Who’ll start the bidding for me?" "1 dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!

  • Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll
  • make it three?Three dollars, once; three dollars,
  • twice; Going for three --" But no,

From the room, far back, a gray haired man came forward and picked up the bow;Then, wiping the dust from the old violin And tightening the loose strings,He played a melody pure and sweet As the caroling angel sings.


The music ceased, and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low,Said: What is the bid for the old violin?" And he held it up with the bow."A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice, And going, and gone," said he.The people cheered, but some of them cried, "We do not quite understandWhat changed its worth?" Swift

  • came the reply: "The touch of a
  • masters hand,"

And many a man with life out of tune And battered and scarred with sin,Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violinA "mess of pottage," a glass of wine A game - and he travels on.He is "going" once, and "going" twice He’s "going" and almost "gone,"But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understandThe worth of a soul and the

  • change that’s wrought By the
  • touch of the Master’s hand.

Max Lucado: Finding Courage to Overcome the Past

  • Jeff Strite: The Peter Principle
  • J. Jeffrey Smead: Can You Forgive Yourself?