Rising Up From Life’s Failures

Read: John 21:15a When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’

With multitudes of self-improvement books, TED talks, get-rich-quick seminars, online success stories and the like, now everyone can be rich and successful… not!

Oftentimes, success stories glorify the end results rather than the unseen arduous process of getting there. We are told to maintain our positive thinking and don’t give up. But while being positive has its benefits, often it is not sufficient.

So, what happens when the business start-up sinks, the marriage breaks down, and bankruptcy knocks on the door, or worse, all three come at once? Is one doomed for unrecoverable failure? Can one survive from such a crash?

Two ways to go

Jesus had two disciples who crashed badly. What is significant is that each one moved in the opposite direction. No one knows for sure why Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:10).

After Jesus was condemned to be executed, Judas realised what a tragic mistake he had made. Judas could not find forgiveness for himself, much less repent and seek forgiveness from Jesus. In his despair, he went away and hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

Similarly, Peter had betrayed Jesus when he disowned his Lord three times. When the cock crowed, Peter recalled what Jesus had prophesied earlier (Matthew 26:34). Peter went away grief-stricken and wept bitterly.

After Jesus was crucified, Peter and a few of the disciples went back to fishing. The resurrected Christ called out to them from the shore (John 21:1-14). When they reached Jesus, there was already a fire with fish being grilled.

Peter’s encounter with Jesus

At the fire, Jesus looked at Peter (John 21:15-17).

“Peter, do you love me?”

Peter looked away guiltily and replied, “You know everything, Lord. You know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.”

With just three words, Jesus reinstates Peter.

Peter’s three denials required three reaffirmations of love

It must have been cuttingly painful for Peter to admit his betrayal. Yet, he could not escape the loving confrontation of his Rabbi. Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, in return his Lord asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Not that Jesus needed the assurance. Rather, the probing was for Peter. Peter’s three denials required three reaffirmations of love.

Inwardly, Peter needed to admit his guilt and failures before real healing could happen. Outwardly, Peter needed to respond to his Lord’s correction for reconciliation to begin. By reaffirming his love and loyalty to Jesus, restoration began to germinate from the cracks of defeat.

The difference between Peter and Judas

Actually, both Judas Iscariot and Peter crashed abysmally. But how each of them responded was a great contrast. One withdrew from others and turned inwardly to himself. The other was open to the Lord calling to him from the shore.

One rejects forgiveness from God and from himself. Another was open to receive forgiveness from Jesus, which gave him the ability to forgive himself. One chose death. The other chose life.

Which path we choose can determine whether we sink to destruction or rise to restoration

When we encounter failures in our careers, businesses, relationships, finances, or any other area in life, which path we choose can determine whether we sink to destruction or rise to restoration.

Just like Peter, we need to be honest inwardly and admit our failures. Outwardly, we need to reach out for help for an authentic audit of our lives in order for recovery and renewal to take place. Upwardly, we need to call out to God to lift us up so we can rise from the ashes of life’s failures.

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About the Author​​

Among the different vocations he has had, Wee Siong Tan was a door-to-door salesman, a self-learnt IT specialist, and a seminarian. Now, he contributes to digital marketing, theological review, and church ministry in Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. He thrives on coffee, commentaries, and cinema.


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