Derek Smith, Lead Pastor LHBC 

John 21:1-17 

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 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.” 16 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.” 17 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.”

Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest presidents in American history; however, his path to notoriety was filled with failure. His resume reads: 

1831 – Lost his job

1832 – Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature

1833 – Failed in business

1835 – Sweetheart died

1836 – Had nervous breakdown

1838 – Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker

1843 – Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress

1846 – Elected to Congress

1848 – Lost re-nomination to congress 

1849 – Rejected for land officer position

1854 – Defeated in run for U.S. Senate

1856 – Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President

1858 – Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate

1860 – Elected President

All this failure leading up to his presidency is what led him to say, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Oswald Chambers, whose devotional My Utmost for His Highest is considered one of the greatest of all time, put it like this: 

“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”

One of the leading examples of failure during the ministry of Christ is Peter. He’s the one who said he’d never turn his back on Christ; yet, when Christ was on trial he denied even knowing Him on three occasions. We find him in John 21 out of ministry and back to fishing. He had lost all hope of being used of God ever again, but in steps Jesus. Two things here: never underestimate your ability to fail. The moment you think you’re above sin, you’re headed for a crash. However, we can also never overestimate God’s ability to redeem our failures! 

How do you learn from failure? It’s so simple yet unbelievably difficult at the same time. First, we must face our failures. Peter went back to fishing, back to his old life. He tried to run from the Lord, but the Lord pursued him even to the sea. The sad thing is he fished all night and didn’t catch a thing. I’m sure in his mind he was thinking, “I couldn’t cut it as a disciple and now I can’t even catch fish! I am such a failure!” Up walks Jesus and interrupts his pity party with grace, now Peter comes running again to Christ. Here’s some good news: you’re going to fail. So will, and do I. Don’t run from God, run to Him. If you face it you will be better for it. 

Secondly, after we face our failures head on we must focus on the future. We must learn from the past, but we can’t live in it. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and all three times Peter said yes. Upon the admission of those words Jesus reaffirmed his call to ministry by telling him to lead the sheep. Don’t miss the significance: the prerequisite for leading the sheep is loving the Savior. When Peter got his eyes back on loving Jesus everything fell back into place. 

If you’re in the midst of a failure today, don’t quit, don’t get depressed, just turn to Jesus. Pray and seek His face. Face it, fix it with the Lord’s help and some accountability, and move on. The Lord is not done with you yet; in fact, He’s just getting started. Your best days are in front of you, so press on. If you do, then your worst failures can become your greatest teachers. 

Father God, I have failed you so many times that I have lost count. But Lord I know You love me more than I can fathom. I’m sorry for my sin. Lord, help me walk in Your ways and please send another believer across my path that will pray for me and help me overcome sin. Lord, I know you’re not done with me yet. I trust in You and thank You for Your grace. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.