You should not be surprised if or when your disciple dramatically fails. An intense test of a disciple’s faith is part of the disciple making process and personal failure is an element of that trial. Your proper response to his failure is important.
In Peter’s case the test came on his last night with Jesus after having been with him for nearly three years. Peter had a misplaced confidence in himself boldly stating that he would go to prison with Jesus or even die with him. People often underestimate the fault lines in their character as they overestimate the strong points of their personality. Little did Peter realize on that very night he would experience the shame of his greatest failure.
Jesus had warned Peter:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)
Not only was Peter warned by Jesus about when the test would take place but he was also told how he would fail and still Peter walked right into the trap without realizing what he was doing until it was all over.
Jesus demonstrates with Peter how a discipler should extend grace and love to those who fail and betray. Personal failure provides an opportunity for the discipler to instruct and demonstrate for his disciple the mercy, acceptance, and love of God.
A couple of observations:
- A momentary lapse in a disciple’s faith does not remove him from God’s faithfulness.
- A disciple’s failure may be his rite of passage to kingdom ministry.
- A disciple’s failure is not a reflection on you as a discipler, but your response to his failure is a test of your understanding of how to extend the love, forgiveness, and gospel of Jesus.