A while back there was a story was in the news about Marius Els, a South African farmer who had a hippo as his pet. He adopted the hippo as a 5-month-old calf and named him Humphrey. He said, “Humphrey’s like a son to me, he’s just like a human. . . . [People] think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa.”
You can probably imagine how the story ended. Tragically, Humphrey the hippo turned on his owner and killed him.
Sometimes we treat sin in our lives the same way. We may think that we have control of it and that it never will overtake us. Then one day it does. But if you mess up and learn from your mistakes, that’s what I would call failing forward.
The Bible tells the story of a man who probably never realized that one thing would lead to another, and he fell away from God. He was a full-fledged apostle of Jesus Christ, and his name was Simon Peter.
Jesus had given Simon a new name, Peter, which means “rock.” I think the other disciples might have had a little bit of a chuckle at that, because he was sort of vacillating and impulsive at times. But Jesus knew that Simon Peter would grow into his new name with time.
Of course, we don’t see the potential in our lives that God sees. We see a lump of clay. God sees a beautiful vase. We see a blank canvas. God sees the finished painting. We see a piece of coal. God sees a refined diamond. We see problems. God sees solutions. We see failure. God sees potential. We see an end. God sees a new beginning.
Peter’s 4 Steps Down
On the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, Jesus told the disciples, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there” (Mark 14:27–28 NLT).
But Peter said, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will” (verse 29 NLT).
Then Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me” (verse 30 NLT). Peter was going to have a fall, and Jesus told him he was going to have a fall.
Peter’s first step down was self-confidence. He was placing unfounded confidence in himself, directly contradicting what Jesus said, and almost boasting at the expense of others: “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” It’s never a good idea to boast about how much you love God. Rather, boast about how much He loves you. Our love is fickle, but God’s love for us is consistent.
His second step down was prayerlessness. Peter was sleeping when he should have been praying. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had asked Peter, James, and John to keep watch and pray. Then Jesus went away by Himself and prayed, only to return and find them sleeping.
There in the garden as Jesus contemplated the horrors of the cross, all He asked for was a little companionship from Peter, James, and John, but they fell asleep. Jesus was getting them ready. He knew that a storm was brewing, that hard times were ahead, and they needed to be praying.
It’s a reminder to us that prayerlessness can be as much of a sin as breaking a commandment. And if we were honest, most of us would admit that we need to pray more.
Peter’s third step down was trusting in human effort instead of God’s power. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew a sword, took a swing, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.
So Jesus reached down, picked up the man’s ear and reattached it. I find it amazing that Jesus’s last miracle before He died on the cross was healing a man who had come to arrest Him. Not only that, but Jesus also was covering a disciple’s blunder.
This is a reminder that we’re in a spiritual battle, and we need to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons.
Peter’s next step down was warming himself at the enemy’s fire. After Jesus’ arrest, they brought him to the high priest. Peter followed at a distance into the courtyard, where he began warming himself by the fire.
Have you ever tried to go undercover as a Christian, to sort of hide your faith? Peter didn’t think that anyone would recognize him. But one of the servants of the high priest did. And ultimately, Peter denied Jesus three different times while he was there.
It Wasn’t the End
Matthew’s Gospel gives us this interesting detail: “But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end” (26:58 NKJV).
That’s exactly what Peter thought it was—the end. There was no more hope. Everything had gone off the tracks. In Peter’s estimation, Jesus was supposed to establish His kingdom and drive out the Romans. But Jesus had been betrayed, and He was going to die on a cross.
No doubt Peter was thinking, “I guess I’ll just stay here and see the end.” But it wouldn’t be the end; it would be a new beginning.
Know this: Temptation can be resisted. And every temptation is an opportunity to run to God. The Bible even promises a blessing to the one who resists temptation: “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 NLT).
Maybe you have fallen away spiritually in recent months or in the last year. The past cannot be changed, but our response to it can be. God can take our endings and turn them into new beginnings.
Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.
This article was originally published at WND.com.
Used with permission from Greg Laurie.