JOPLIN, Mo. —
Devoted readers of biography are not interested in those biographies that overlook failures and struggles in favor of the success stories.
We want, or sometimes need, to witness the good along with the bad, the successes and the failures. Only then do we have any hope of learning from people’s lives.
We have in the New Testament some biographical material of the popular disciple Peter, and both the good and bad are included. Because the successes and failures of Peter are catalogued, we are vicariously able to gain valuable insight and understanding.
Peter possessed many qualities we honor today. He was decisive, courageous and intelligent. He was successful in his vocation. He was a natural leader and people were readily drawn to him.
However, he could be impulsive and opinionated. He once took Jesus aside and dared to rebuke him about a statement he had made. This resulted in the famous “Get thee behind me, Satan” statement. But Peter overcame this setback.
His worst failure, however, might well be the best hope for many who have at one time walked tall on the road of faith, only to fall victim to disillusionment.
Immediately prior to the betrayal of Jesus, Peter was once again certain of his commitment. He was confident in his faith. At the last supper, he was adamant he would follow Jesus, even to death.
Sadly, he was mistaken. The soldiers came that night to arrest Jesus.
Judas stepped forward and greeted Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was arrested. A sword was drawn and an ear lopped off. Jesus halted the struggle. They led him away. Things moved rapidly and Peter began to unravel.
A few hours later, in the loud city streets, he denied any association with the Galilean, not once, but three times. Peter was left reeling.
Things were not supposed to work out this way. He thought he had it all figured out. He was strong. He was confident.
After all, there was the well-known “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” statement. Never in his wildest imagination could he see himself denying Christ.
But he did. He collapsed under the shame and embarrassment. He could stand no more.
“I am going fishing,” he announced. This is not to be interpreted as a trip to the lake for a day of fishing to get away and think through all this.
This was pure, unadulterated quitting. He was done. Peter was a commercial fisherman by vocation, and he was going back to that former life.
Later, however, Jesus appeared on the shore, near where Peter and his companions were fishing, and called out to them. They recognized the voice and hurried ashore. All was made well again.
It happens. Disillusionment stalks every person of faith. We put our faith in ourselves, others, our doctrine or our church, and not in God. Then when tough times come, disbelief and confusion reign and, like Peter, we crumble.
But as certain as disillusionment happens, God comes calling -- perhaps through a friend, a book, a sermon, a caring church or through Peter’s story. When we recognize the voice, the bed of coals is stirred, faith heats up and the fire burns once again.
We begin to see the past clearly, and we face the future bravely. We are better for it. We are stronger.
Owning our failure and examining our past can be painful. But having our faith held hostage by disillusionment is far worse.
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.