How to Be Faithful to God After a Failure


Many times throughout Scripture—many times throughout all of history—epic failures, when handled with genuine repentance, have resulted in giant leaps of faithfulness.

from our partner

written by

Alex and Stephen Kendrick

Peter’s denial of Jesus. Most of us remember it well, down to the small details. The mob had come into the garden and taken Jesus away, hauling Him up before the high priest. Peter followed to see what was happening, but only at a distance, afraid of being seen, afraid of what being affiliated with Him might mean in such a volatile situation.

Three times he was recognized around the fire by people in the courtyard—“This man was with Him” (Luke 22:56); “You’re one of them too” (v. 58); “This man was certainly with Him, since he’s also a Galilean” (v. 59). Three times he outright told them No!—“Woman, I don’t know Him” (v. 57); “Man, I am not!” (v. 58); “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” (v. 60). A rooster crowed in the distance. Jesus turned and made eye contact. Recognition passed instantly between them, the memory of Peter’s promise that “even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you” (Matt. 26:35). Three of the Gospel writers reported he then “went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

Remember it? Of course you do.

But here’s the part we don’t remember so readily—not only about Peter, but also about ourselves, after our own failures. We remember what happened, we remember the looks in people’s eyes, we remember the angry questions we shouted at ourselves: Why? How could you do this? You knew better! What were you thinking? But do we remember who we are? Even now? After failure? Do we remember what Jesus did for us “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8), and “how much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, will we be saved through Him from wrath” (v. 9)?

Failure had not finished him; failure had made him ready for a new adventure of faithfulness.

The Peter you see bawling on his hands and knees after making the biggest mistake of his life is the same Peter who was in Jesus’ mind the night before the denial. As Jesus was praying there, praying for Peter and all His disciples, He said to the Father, “I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction [Judas]” (John 17:12).

Jesus told Peter and his friends to “remain” in Him like branches in a vine, because “just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). Obedience would always be expected of them. Dependent trust was essential. In fact, to help them produce even more fruit, Jesus promised that His Father would continue pruning them and working with them, to keep them growing a healthy crop of faithfulness. But “you,” Jesus said of Peter and the others, “are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (v. 3). They’d believed in Him. They’d believed His Word. They’d received the forgiveness of their sins by faith.

That’s why Jesus could tell Peter specifically, pre-denial, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Not only did He know what Peter would do; He was already painting a vision of what Peter’s life would look like after repentance.

It’s why He could also ask Peter specifically, post-denial, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15)—not just once but, symbolically, three times. Apparently His interaction with Peter in the days following the Resurrection had convinced Peter of how thoroughly Christ had forgiven him. Peter was confident enough to say, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (v. 17). Hearing Peter’s confession, Jesus challenged him to “follow me” (v. 19). You can do it, Peter. I will be with you. Failure had not finished him; failure had made him ready for a new adventure of faithfulness.

When people fail, when they’ve really blown it—whether it’s David’s fall with Bathsheba, whether it’s Peter’s denial of Christ, or whether it’s your own painful example of personal failure that you know so well— there’s no secret about how the enemy will react. He’ll leverage it as an opportunity to strike hard, below the belt, beating you down with the guilt that your sin has left behind, convincing you that God has ended your chance of ever being useful to Him again. To make things worse, he’ll take further advantage of the shame and hopelessness you feel by enticing you toward additional sin—anything to stop this heartache, to help you stop thinking about it any longer. Feed your lust. Feed your stomach. Medicate yourself with drugs, alcohol or even mindless social media.

That’s the devil’s way. That’s his predictable response to your failure.

But “if we confess our sins”—if we own what we’ve done and determine to learn from it—the Lord is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If you “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God,” He will “exalt you at the proper time” (1 Pet. 5:6). You can cast “all your cares on Him, because He cares about you” (v. 7).

Many times throughout Scripture—many times throughout all of history—epic failures, when handled with genuine repentance, have resulted in giant leaps of faithfulness.

Falling on your face may be what finally positions you in a place where you really start walking with Him, where God draws you into the deepest intimacy with Him you’ve ever known. The choice to fall forward is often how the pride that’s been keeping you stumbling and struggling for so long finally weakens to a whimper.

But only if you start remembering who you are. Not who you were, which is the only thing Satan wants you thinking about. You were dead in your sins; you were following the patterns and priorities of the world; you were enslaved in unrighteousness; you were without God and without hope of any peace or future. And according to your enemy, you are still all these things. According to him, you’re not in Christ anymore after everything you’ve done.

But that’s not what Scripture says. In light of who you are, the Bible says you were “buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). You are free then—even after failure—to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11). Nothing except the paralysis of regret or a posture of unrepentance is keeping you from being able to live out your real identity.

Peter was equally as loved after his denial as before his denial— equally called, equally a disciple, equally seated with Christ in heavenly places. The testimony of his life going forward became a passionate repudiation of the death that he surely thought had started at the sound of that rooster’s crowing. Instead, his future of faithfulness was primed to begin. So is yours.

Excerpted with permission from Defined by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick. Copyright 2019, B&H Publishing Group.

After serving in church ministry for 20 years, Alex and Stephen Kendrick write, speak and produce Christian films such as OVERCOMER, WAR ROOM, COURAGEOUS, FIREPROOF, FACING THE GIANTS and FLYWHEEL. They are New York Times bestselling authors and their new books, Defined, Revealed and Wonderful, are companion resources for the box office hit OVERCOMER.