Today’s readings (click to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12, Philippians 2:1-13, John 18:15-18, 25-27
Bodybuilders know the secret to success is failure. A muscle grows bigger and stronger only when it is worked until it fails. They reach for more than they know they can do, because they know the reward will be a stronger body. Every successful workout teaches them the limit of their strength. Most of us are not experts at judging our own limits, physical or spiritual. When pressed we overestimate or underestimate our abilities. Many people who have gone through a crisis with a parent or child have said: “I didn’t know I could do it until I had to!”
Peter didn’t understand his own limits. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus predicted Peter would deny him three times. Of course Peter insisted he would never deny Jesus, but once the rubber hit the road Peter’s fear was greater than his faith. We can shake our heads at Peter, and insist just as hard as he did that we would not have been so faithless, but the truth is we don’t know. We have the advantage of knowing how it all turns out, but for Peter and the other disciples, Jesus’s death brought terror and confusion.
And yet … Jesus also predicted Peter would be the rock upon which he built his church. Jesus didn’t pick someone with a perfect faith, because that someone doesn’t exist. Later when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, he asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” For each failure, Jesus offered an opportunity for redemption.
Attempting only what we know is possible is not faith, it is fear. To grow our faith, we must be willing to test its limits – to trust God to carry us through things we don’t think we can do. When things don’t work out, remember Peter.
God knows we will fail. He can use each of those failures to make us better: more humble, more compassionate, less judgmental. We may need some recovery time – bodybuilders typically wait 24-48 hours before working the same muscles again – but after we recover we know our faith is stronger than it was before.
Comfort: Failure is always an option. Through God, so is redemption.
Challenge: Pick something you’ve been afraid to try, and trust God to see you through it. Even if you fail at it, God will be with you to dust you off.