Monday, April 15, 2019

Failure as a Prerequisite to Ministry

Luke 22:31 (ESV)
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Failure does not mean disqualification from ministry. What matters is what follows the failure. Jesus says to Simon Peter, “You are going to fail me. Then you are going to strengthen your brothers.” How is that possible? Shouldn’t a failure be strengthened by his brothers rather than the failure strengthening his brothers? Shouldn’t the failure be chastised, convicted, or corrected by his brothers? Shouldn’t the failure be taught a lesson about abandoning his faith? How can Jesus possibly mean that after Peter fails Jesus he will be given a responsibility of ministry? Failure does not mean disqualification from ministry. What matters is what follows the failure.

When hardness of heart, rebellion, or an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s sin follows failure then the failure leads to more failure. When brokenness and transparent honesty with God follows the failure then ministry can follow. That is why John wrote, “If we confess (agree with God) our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Agreeing with God about our sin leads to ministry.

How can that be? In John 21 Peter meets Jesus after the resurrection. He is happy to see Jesus, but he is uncertain about his own faith and future. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus. Three times Peter hedges his answer. Three times Jesus gives him a ministry. Earlier Peter has confidently said, “I’ll follow you to death.” Now Peter knows himself better. He knows his own failure. He can’t say, “I love you with unfailing, self-sacrificing love.” He doesn’t trust himself. That is the very kind of person God wants to use. He is not looking for the cocky, self-confident, “Just show me the task and I’ll do it” kind of people. He is looking for the one who in weakness and humility trusts not himself, but Jesus alone.

That is what the cross is about. That is what the resurrection is about. That is what grace is about. The problem is that we give those words and concepts lip service, but we don’t really believe them. We somehow believe that one failure disqualifies us or others from service. We wallow in self-pity and regret rather than running to Jesus. We insist on proof of dependability and faithfulness before entrusting someone with ministry. We give lip service to the cross and the resurrection, but we fail to understand their power to transform broken lives.

The resurrection is about new life. Romans 6 says that we are raised with Christ to newness of life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” What is interesting is the verse that follows. Verse 18 goes on to say, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” The resurrection makes all things new and equips, empowers, and employs us for ministry. Failure is not a disqualification to ministry, it is a prerequisite. A person cannot be made new in Christ until they have first recognized that they are failures. Failing is a prerequisite to ministry. Trust God to do in and through you what you are totally incapable of doing yourself. That is the power of the resurrection. God is looking for people who in weakness and humility trust not themselves, but Jesus alone.

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