Tag Archives: leadership

What To Do When You Fail

Do you ever feel you have failed your Lord? Have you felt you have denied Him by your words, deeds, inactions—even your cowardice? Let Jesus’ redemption of Peter in John 21 encourage you.

Like Peter, we set high standards for ourselves in our discipleship. We have the best of intentions. We will succeed where others have failed. Yet not only do we fail, but our failure is miserable, humiliating, wretched.

Look at Peter, boasting of his loyalty and bravery. But when the test came, he crumbled. He denied Jesus Christ three times, with curses, cowering even before an unnamed, powerless slave-girl.

Now, even after he witnessed the resurrected Christ, he felt like a failure, unworthy of his calling as a disciple of the Lord of Glory. In consternation and confusion, he went off to fish, joined by several of his fellow failed disciples. They caught nothing. Another failure.

Enter Jesus, who first reminds Peter of His original calling by giving Peter another miraculous catch of fish (see Luke 5). Then comes a remarkable confrontation. “Do you love [agape] me?” Twice, Jesus asks Peter, using the word for perfect love. Peter can only say, “I love [phileo] you,” a lesser form of love. Can any of us honestly do any better than Peter? Then Jesus comes down on Peter’s level and asks a third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?”

Remarkably, Jesus accepts Peter’s imperfect love. It is not perfect, but real. Peter reveals himself as a “flickering flame.” His love flickers, but it still burns, and Jesus is a master at fanning flickering flames (Matthew 12:20).

Jesus responds to Peter in three ways. His responses in the Greek reveal that His call on Peter’s life has not changed.

Tend my lambs” suggests his future care of immature and vulnerable people in need of special attention. “Tend my sheep indicates Peter’s role as an overseer, a shepherd. The third response should read, Pasture the sheep,” indicating Peter’s role in preaching and teaching from the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s failures have broken him and given him humility, the very quality he needs (and we need) to perform his (and our) calling. We know from history that Jesus fanned Peter’s “flickering flame” into a refiner’s fire through the coming of the Holy Spirit. Days later, filled with the Holy Spirit, he stood before thousands, boldly preached his first sermon, and saw 3,000 people follow Christ.

Later, he stood before the same religious authorities who crucified Jesus, now threatening him with prison or worse if he continued to preach Jesus. Peter fearlessly responded, “It is better to obey God rather than man.” Jesus indicated that Peter would give his life for Him with a rare courage.

It is good for us to confess and grieve the times we deny Christ by our words, deeds and inactions, but it is better for us to remember how He has also filled us with the same Holy Spirit that filled Peter. He still says to us, as He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

In our families, communities, workplaces, schools, creative activities, governments, and around the world, we have opportunities to do just that. Jesus has even told us as He told Peter, “Greater works than I have done, you will do.”

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Appointed Leaders

Jan-2015Brutal, tyrannical, extravagant, persecutor, murderer, cruel, opportunistic.

These are just a few of the words that describe the Roman emperor, Nero. Roman historian, Suetonius, said that Nero “showed neither discrimination nor moderation in putting to death whomsoever he pleased.” He killed his own mother and other relatives, and kicked his pregnant lover to death.

Still, Paul urges Timothy to offer “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings…on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

The Bible was written by people who lived in times when the government was not friendly to the people of God. Yet Jesus says to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Paul had a clear sense of God’s sovereignty over both church and state. He did not regard God as part of one realm and human institutions as part of another. All rulers, he said, are in power because God ordained them.

In spite of the horrible tyranny of Roman emperors (Nero put Paul and many other Christians to death), the general peace made it possible for the gospel to spread rapidly through the Empire. The very regime so fiercely devoted to emperor worship became the catalyst for the proclamation of the gospel. A wicked government may have twisted aims, but God uses its dysfunctional rulers to accomplish His higher purposes.

Why does God appoint rulers like Nero, Herod, Pontius Pilate and Hitler to serve as rulers? We cannot know the full mind of God on these matters, but we can say this:

  • God has the long term in mind; though the short term looks bad to us, it always serves His larger purpose and works for ultimate good.
  • God’s ultimate aim is to complete the Great Commission and glorify Himself.
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God uses rulers to discipline His people and bring them out of complacency and ingratitude to depend upon Him.
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God demonstrates through wicked rulers that He is not limited by human wickedness in accomplishing His greater good.
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Bad rulers have a way of deepening our faith in God so that we call upon Him to work in marvelous ways.
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Bad rulers move us to pray better prayers, develop more godly voting standards, and seek more godly ways of persuasion and action to influence political leaders.

Whenever we fail to pray for our leaders, regardless of their political persuasion, we sin against God. Evangelist Billy Graham has met privately with all kinds of political leaders. He says, “We sometimes forget that some of the loneliest people in the world are those who are constantly in the public eye. They have spiritual needs just like everyone else. I have found many world leaders who sense that our problems today are so complex as to defy [human] solution. They know that the only answer is to be found in God.”

We often forget that the halls of government are also mission fields for the gospel. In India, we have had many opportunities to befriend numerous political leaders—not all of them Christian—who regularly come asking prayer for help with the deep burdens they carry.

Both church and state are God’s avenues to do His will. Let our prayers for our leaders come out of the abundance of our certainty in God and our own daily dialogue with Him so that we might prepare the way for completion of the Great Commission.

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