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Peter God Will Give You Hope

By John C. Maxwell

2199 2021-03-25

Good morning! What a delight it is to be at the Crystal Cathedral. My wife and I were going on a cruise to see the fjords of Norway and about two weeks before we were ready to leave on the cruise, I looked on the calendar and I realized it was a two week cruise to see the fjords of Norway. So I said to my wife Margaret, I said “sweetheart, don’t you think that’s a little long, I mean to see the fjords of Norway? I mean God created the heaven’s and earth in six days and we’re going to take two weeks just to look at fjords of Norway. Can’t we go for a week and take pictures?” So we talked it all out and we had a marvelous two week cruise. Anybody that shares with me that they don’t believe in compromise has never been married.

But we did a deal, we did a compromise. We did a deal and the deal was that I would go on the two week cruise with her if she would let me write a book, so that at least while I’m watching the fjords of Norway, I could be doing something profitable.

So we had this wonderful room right up at the front of the ship, a suite with all windows. And we’re going into those endless watching and seeing the fjords of Norway. Well I write by hand, so I’m sitting at a desk right by the windows and I’d just be writing away, my Failing Forward book, and all of a sudden there’d be a fjord and I’d say “hey, hey babe, look, look, there’s a fjord. Wow. That’s something.” A little bit later, I’d say “honey, honey, look, look, look, another fjord. Honey, that fjord looks just like that fjord.”

By the end of the two week cruise, I’d written the book and when I write it, Margaret pulls off the pages and she reads it and then makes it better and corrects it. So she slowly got the legal pad kind of manuscript under her arms as we go off the ship and she stops halfway off the ship, and she turns around and she says “John,” she said, “I love the book, I love the book.” I said “thanks honey.” I said “tell me, what do you like about the book?” Oh she said, “Your candidness.” She said “on every page of this book, you talk about your failures and you’re so open and you’re so honest and when the reader picks up the Failing Forward book, they’re going to be so encouraged because they’re going to identify with all your failures.” She said “there’s only one problem.” I said “what’s the problem?” She said “you didn’t get all your failures in that book.” She said “I see a series! Failure 101, 201, 301, 401.” She says “you have a whole series of books to write on failure.”

And it’s very, very true. It’s true in my life and it’s true in your life. We could do a success seminar in one day but if we wanted to do a failure seminar, it would take a week because we’ve all failed. I shouldn’t assume that. There may be somebody out there that hasn’t failed. Let me ask you: have any of you ever failed at getting a job or a promotion you wanted in life? How many of you have ever been impatient with a child? How many of you have ever fallen asleep during a sermon?

We’ve all failed. Well okay, maybe when I gave you this list you didn’t raise your hand because you’re just kind of like the only perfect person in the world. But let me ask you a question. How many of you have never failed but you’re sitting beside somebody who has failed miserably. You see we’ve all failed. We’ve all failed and we all understand that failure has a way of dampening our spirit and causing us to give up. You know so many people that we look up to today are what I call famous failures. Bill Gates, a drop-out out of Harvard, spent $50 on computer technology, started a business and hasn’t done too bad. Mark Hanson and Jack Canfield, the authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul went to 50 publishers to get their book published and were rejected by 50 publishers until they found one that would publish the book and now it’s sold 75 million copies. There are a lot of famous failures.

And in the bible, what I love about God’s word is God’s word takes some of the most significant, important people, people that we look up to, people that we want to pattern our lives after, He takes these significant people and talks about their failures.

The one I want to talk about today is Peter. In fact, the lesson that Peter learned from God about failure was that God will give you hope because in Peter’s failure, he had a tendency to give up hope. Now let’s go to the beginning when Jesus saw Peter. He saw this strong muscular, square jaw looking leader, and said I’m going to change your name. We’re going to call you the rock. You’re strong and you’ve got capacity and you’ve got a physical presence. We’re going to call you the rock. Now this is not a bad thing. I mean here is Peter the disciple and he’s kind of intimidated with Jesus. But Jesus looks at him and says we’re going to call you Rocky. You’re going to be Rocky. You know I think Peter said, ho, ho, ho. I’m the rock.

But if you look at Peter’s life, there were a lot of chisels cutting away on the rock; mistakes that he made. You turn the pages and you see that he’s speaking out of turn a lot of times. He takes his eye off Jesus when he enters into the water. He went to sleep at a very important time in the Lord’s life when He asked him to pray with Him. He takes things into his own hand - attacked a soldier with a sword. You can go down the list and you can see all kinds of shortcomings, mistakes and failures. But of course the classic one, the one that you and I know about, is when his best friend Jesus needed him the very most. When He depended upon him to speak out for Him and to stand up for Him, you know the story. Peter denied knowing his best friend.

Now this is a major failure. We know what happened. In the pressure of the crowd, while Jesus was on trial, three times Peter denied Him. And in denying Jesus the third time, the rooster crowed and the bible says, “And the Lord turned.” When the rooster crowed, the Lord turned and He looked straight at Peter. He never said a word. But as Peter saw the Master look at him, he could see the disappointment. He could sense that this was a failure that was of proportion like he had never experienced before in his life. And he was crushed. The rock was crushed as he went outside and he wept.

Yet on that first Easter morning, the women came down; the tomb is empty and the angels talked to the women. “He who was crucified is now risen.” And this brought great hope to the women. And then I love this. One of my favorite verses in the bible is this one. “The angels looked at these women and said, now go and tell His followers,” the followers of Jesus. Now notice this: “And Peter.” The angels said now we want you to go tell the disciples that the Lord is risen, but just let me clarify this: The disciples, the followers of Jesus, and Peter.

They wanted him to know that in spite of his failures, in spite of this terrible denial, that God loved him unconditionally; he was still a disciple, he was still in the inner circle, and he was still unconditionally, preciously loved. Now while all of this was happening, what does Peter say? Peter’s discouraged. Peter’s given up. The last time he saw Jesus, he saw that look in the Lord’s eye. He had denied Him and this was a failure that Peter could not overcome. And he looked at his disciple colleagues and says guys, I’m going to go fishing. I’m going to go back to the trade I used to before I met Jesus. A young man who had so much hope of becoming fishers of men now is going back to fish for fish. A young man who was called the rock now wants to slink away and get as far away as he possibly can to try to forget what he’s done and try to abandon all those ideals and values that he had. He was disappointed, he was discouraged, he had lost hope, he was in despair.
C.S. Lewis in Screw Tape Letters said, “Satan’s strategy for all of us is to get Christians preoccupied by their failures.” Because when we’re preoccupied by our failures, it causes us to take our eyes off of Christ. So Peter is fishing. He’s fishing with the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus the resurrected Lord now comes back. He’s on the shore, and He called out to His disciples out there fishing. He said “have you guys caught anything?” And I love this. The bible says this: the disciples said “no, no, we haven’t caught anything.” Now I’ve just got to stop here long enough because my sense of humor is just what it is, and when they said they had caught nothing, it’s the only I think time that a fisherman has been truthful. They said we’ve caught nothing.
He said “well cast your nets on the other side” and when they cast the nets over on the other side, they pulled up a huge hall, 153 fish. And John said to Peter, “It’s the Master! That is the Master on the shore.” And then Peter, as the boat started to slowly turn to go back to the shore, Peter dove into the water. And when he dove into the water, he was basically saying the boat’s too slow and I’m getting a second chance. I thought that I had blown it forever. And the Master is on the shore and as Peter is swimming, he’s saying things to himself like I’ve held onto this failure long enough. I’ve allowed this mistake to control my emotions long enough. I’ve allowed this to keep me from my potential long enough. I’ve got to get to Jesus; I’ve got to get to Jesus. And on the shore he came, and Jesus had a fire.
It’s interesting because the bible says that Jesus had a charcoal fire. Stay with me. Of all of the five senses, the sense of smell is the one that you remember the best. And when Peter came on shore to see Jesus, to get this failure off of his back, the first thing he sees is Jesus and the fire and he smells the charcoal. Now charcoal is only mentioned twice in the bible. You see Peter was sitting at a charcoal fire when he denied Jesus. And now he’s coming back to get these failures off of his back and again he smells the charcoal and it brings back that fresh reminder of that failure and that mistake. So how did Peter turn from failing Christ to following Christ? It’s in the dialogue in this passage of scripture.
If you’re going to start following Christ after your failures, you’re going to have to wake up to your problem. And Jesus, when he looked at Peter, He asked him a very simple question. He said “Peter, do you love Me?” Now to be honest with you, if I was Jesus, I would not have asked that question. I wouldn’t even have thought of that question. I’d have looked at Peter and I would have said something like this. Peter, I am so disappointed in you. Peter, I’ve spent three years of my life investing in you. I mean Peter, haven’t you been with me when we saw miracles, haven’t you been with me when we see the glory of God? Peter, Peter, Peter, how could you do that? Why did you do that? Those are the kinds of questions I would ask.

Jesus knew that those weren’t the questions. He knew there was one issue and He wanted to wake Peter up to the problem. He said, “Peter do you love Me?” He didn’t ask that question once or twice. He asked him three times. He said, “Peter, do you love Me,” and the third time, Peter is now beside himself, wanting to get this failure off his back and he said, “Lord, You know me; You’ve got to know that I love You.”

And then Jesus said something interesting. After Peter said you have to know that I love you, He looked at Peter and says “Peter, do you love Me more than these?” Now when He said more than these, what did He mean? Oh He could have been pointing to the boats. Peter, do you love Me more than the fishing business that you’ve gone back to? Do you love Me more than the boats? Or He could have been waving His hand to the disciples. Remember the disciples that Peter said I don’t know if you can count on them but you can count on me. Now Jesus said Peter let me ask you, do you think you love Me more than these other 11 followers love Me?

He said I want you to wake up to your problem. It’s a love issue. I want you to break up with every rival love, whatever they are: the boats, the disciples. And then He said I want you to take up your ministry. I want to give you a ministry. And this next dialogue is very interesting. Jesus shared with Peter that from that day on, He was not going to control his life. He said “I’m telling you the very truth Peter. When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished. But when you get older, you have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to help Peter understand what kind of death he would experience.

Then He commanded Peter, “follow Me.” And turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple that Jesus sought. In other words, Peter turned his head and he saw John. And he said “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” In other words, he said Jesus I don’t mind having this kind of tough life as long as John has it too. In other words, just tell us we’re all going to suffer and I’ll feel better. And Jesus said, what is that to you? You follow Me. And Peter did.

And a few weeks later, he became the preacher at Pentecost that literally gave wind and birth to the greatest gift we’ve ever received outside of our salvation; that is the church of Jesus Christ. Peter, who lost hope and went back to fishing and then gave it all up, now all of a sudden has fresh wind beneath his wing and its all because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eighty one times in the bible you’ll see the word hope. Eighty one times you’ll read the word hope. One time before the resurrection, then 80 times after the resurrection. Eighty times after the Lord arose, there was hope for us. No matter what our mistakes, no matter what our failures, no matter what our problems, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what we’ve gone through, there’s hope. And Peter would tell you. He would tell me. The lesson he learned in his failure was that God will give you hope.
I close with this very personal story. About a month ago I was in Asia doing an Asian book tour, speaking to the corporate community. And I was in Thailand and my sister Trish, who is an RN, called me on the phone and said they’ve just discovered mom has cancer. So as soon as I could, I got back to the states and Margaret and I drove from our home in Jupiter Florida up to Winter Haven where mom and dad live. And we had a wonderful Thursday with her. I mean she had just gotten back from the hospital and I’ve never had a better day with my mom. She wanted to kind of get rid of some of the books on her bookshelf so I took all the books down from her bookshelf and I read her the titles, and she’d say I don’t want that one anymore, and I don’t want that one anymore, and then she said well I want that one.

And then she had one of my books on the bookshelf so I pulled that down and she said oh now what do I do with this one? Finally with a smile she said, okay, you’re here, I’ll have to keep that one. We just had a phenomenal day.

Toward the evening, my dad called me into his office, and said it’s not going to be long, is it son. I said no, dad, it’s just a matter of days. He said I want you to do the funeral. I said I don’t know if I can. It’s my mother. I mean I’ve done a lot of funerals and I’ve talked a lot about the resurrection and hope. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m emotionally able to do my own mothers funeral. And he looked at me, he’s a very good leader, a confident man. He looked at me and said son, God will help you, you can do it. I know that it would please your mom. So I said I’ll do my best, and so I put some ideas together and a few nights later, my mother went to be with the Lord.

So that Friday came for her memorial service. And I began the memorial service by talking about Atticus the Greek scholar in 125 AD, who described the funerals of Christians. He was trying to describe to the secular world why Christianity was contagious and was growing. But the people couldn’t understand so he said let me describe it this way. He said at a Christian’s funeral, they sing songs and they praise God. And he said they talk about the fact that they’re leaving this world and going to one that is eternal. And he said their viewpoint of death is different than any other persons.

So I talked about my mom and God did help me. I closed with the fact that my mother had a great sense of adventure. My mother loved to travel and she’s been blessed. And because of my brother and myself we’ve been able to take her around the world on many, many wonderful trips. And she always loved to plan the trip. She always loved to talk about where she was going. And I closed that day by saying to those who had come to say their last good-byes to her, “my mom has now taken the trip of all trips. She’s going to a place where God dwells. She’s diminished from our sight but on heaven’s shores, they’re saying she is coming, she is coming, she is coming.” And then I looked at her friends and family and said, “The reason I can stand before you and smile on the day of the memorial service of my mother is because I know where she is.”

My friends, here is my last word to you: hope. No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, God offers you eternal life, God offers you hope, and that is the star that causes us to rise above the difficulties and disappointments because we have a hope and a faith in a God that we can live with forever and ever. God bless you.


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