Time Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Benjer McVeigh)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time,”Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” -John 21:15-19
Peter’s Redeemed Failure
Peter. The disciple who swore to Jesus that if it came down to it, he would rather die than turn away from his Teacher. The disciple who, only hours later, swore to strangers around him that he had never even met Jesus, let alone followed him. This is the Peter we read about in John’s gospel, talking with Jesus after breakfast. Jesus had been arrested, deserted by his friends, and executed after a brutal sham of a trial. The same trial that Peter tried to get a glimpse of, where he was recognized as a disciple of Jesus yet denied even knowing who Jesus was.
We would expect Jesus to forgive Peter. That’s just the kind of thing Jesus does. But what we often miss is that Jesus takes Peter’s failure and turns it into an invitation to serve Jesus. “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” To put it simply, Peter’s failure plus God’s grace equals Peter’s ministry.
Your Redeemed Failure
Now, let’s make it personal: Your failure + God’s grace = your ministry.
I’m going to assume that you have failed in some way. In fact, I believe that most ministry leaders have at least one failure in their life that they believe somehow makes them less of a leader.
A marriage that ended in divorce… because you weren’t willing to work out your differences.
A pornography addiction… that you keep hidden because of your shame.
Drug or alcohol abuse… you’ve been clean for years, but sometimes the temptation still gnaws at you.
Or simply failing to take seriously and live out Monday through Saturday what you teach on Sunday.
It may be a public failure that everyone knows about. Or it may be a private failure that you’ve managed to keep from everyone… everyone except God.
I want to tell you something about your failure that perhaps no on has ever told you: Your failure plus God’s grace equals an invitation to ministry.
Let me be clear: this passage in John is not an invitation to cover up or ignore any moral failures in your life. If you need help, please tell someone you trust and get the help you need, even if that means stepping down from your current leadership position. But know that your failures are not the end.
Refocus Your Failure
I hope you’ll allow me some liberty as a paraphrase Jesus’ words:
“Peter, I know you feel ashamed because you denied me. But your failure is not the end. Your failure — combined with my sacrifice — will be the strength behind your service. I not only forgive you, but I will redeem what you have done in order to tell of the love and mercy of my Father. Peter, your failure is not the end. Rather, my forgiveness that you receive is just the beginning.”
This is, in essence, what Jesus said to Peter. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, I wish Jesus could say that to me. He does. Read that paragraph again, this time inserting your name and your failure:
“______, I know you feel ashamed because you ______. But your failure is not the end. Your failure – combined with my sacrifice – will be the strength behind your service. I not only forgive you, but I will redeem what you have done in order to tell of the love and mercy of my Father. _______, your failure is not the end. Rather, my forgiveness that you receive is just the beginning.”
Your failure. God’s grace. Invitation to ministry. May you embrace that reality today, perhaps for the first time.
- In what area of your life have you failed morally and for which you need to ask God’s forgiveness and perhaps the forgiveness of others?
- In what ways have you hidden any of your failures because you believe it makes you less of a pastor or leader?
- In what ways have you seen God work through you despite your failings, or in what ways do you hope God will use you despite your failings?
Benjer McVeigh is a youth pastor in Ogden, UT, where he works with students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church. You can read more from Benjer at www.benjermcveigh.com or follow him on twitter
Posted on January 9, 2012