Failure (Matthew 26:69-75)

By | January 22, 2012

F-BOMBS: Struggling With the F-Words of Life #3
F-Words That Cripple, F-Words that Wound, F-Words that Haunt Us Every Day


      Unfortunately, much our society is run on the idea of success and perfection. Beautiful girls and women are made think they’re ugly or overweight. They compare themselves to the models in magazine’s and on TV. The truth is, most of those pictures have been photoshopped, all the imperfections have been taken away through the art of computer editing. Why is that?

     We don’t really want anything other than First Place. How many Silver Medalists or Bronze Medalists from the Olympics get invited onto talk shows. We only want the Gold Medalist.

     Even if somebody has given it their best shot, if they fail, then we think something has to be wrong with them. But that’s not true. Just because you fail doesn’t mean that YOU are a failure. It just means you had faith enough and courage enough to try. There wouldn’t be any success stories if there weren’t failures. Often times, failure is first step to success.

     In 1902, the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly, returned a sheaf of poems to a twenty eight year old poet and said, “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.” The poet was Robert Frost.

     In 1905, the University of Bern turned down a PHD dissertation as being irrelevant and fanciful.  The young physics student who had written it was Albert Einstein.

     In 1894, the Rhetoric teacher at Harrow in England wrote on the sixteen year old boy’s report card, “a conspicuous lack of success.” That sixteen year old boy was Winston Churchill.

     As a ball player he struck out 2,597 times in his career? You probably wouldn’t him on your team would you? But you’d be making a big mistake. Reggie Jackson holds the current title for number of strikeouts but he also hit 563 Home Runs and 1,938 RBI’s.

     Today we’re going to look at the F-Bomb Failure.


     Nobody in the New Testament know more about failure than the Apostle Peter. He missed the point so many times and stuck his foot in his mouth more times than you can count. And on the night when Jesus needed him most, he blew it. He failed and ran away. Let’s look at the passage from

Matthew 26:69-75 (NRSV)

[69] Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”  

[70] But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”  

[71] When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  

[72] Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”  

[73] After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”  

[74] Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.  

[75] Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

      Peter failed miserably. But there are a couple of lessons we can learn from Peter, because there’s more to the story than just his failure. His failure became the first step to his faithfulness and success. But Peter teaches us that SOMETIMES WE GET IT WRONG, BUT FAILURE IS REDEEMABLE AND FAILURE ISN’T FINAL.


      A. A number of years ago in a column titled News Of The Weird there was a story about a spy cat. You heard right. Not a spy plane or a spy but a Spy Cat. It seems that former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told London’s Daily Telegraph that the CIA had a project in the 1960’s called “Acoustic Kitty.” The central figure was a cat which had batteries and wire surgically installed, with an antenna for a tail. It sounds like something out of Austin Powers but unfortunately it’s very real.

     The purpose was that the cat could be placed close to enemy operatives and transmit eavesdropped conversations back to the monitoring devices. It took five years of development to perfect the “Acoustic Kitty.” And on the day the first kitty was deployed, almost immediately after sending it out as a field agent, it was run over by a taxicab. (1)

     You can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes we get it wrong.

     B. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work at being good, no matter how many good deeds we do, we just get it wrong. We blow it. We have the best of intentions but we stumble and fall. We make promise after promise to God but fail to keep them.

     The American scientists at NASA were thrilled. For several years they had been trying to get detailed photos of the moon’s surface. Every time a Ranger satellite was sent, there was some type of glitch that ruined the effort. This time Ranger 7 sent down superb footage of the lunar surface. The scientists in California quickly sent the tapes to Washington, D.C., so that President Lyndon Johnson could view them the next day with his chiefs-of-staff. A special Air Force jet took off and flew throughout the night to bring the films to the White House. The next morning, the President and others gathered excitedly to see the landmark images. Unfortunately, the images from the moon were not seen that day. The projector at the White House failed to work properly! (3)

     We’re a lot like that. Just when we think we have all our ducks in a row; just when we think nothing can go wrong, something does. We forget who we are and whose we are and we turn away from God. We fail. Sometimes we do it deliberately and sometimes we blindly stumble into sin. The truth is: SOMETIMES WE GET IT WRONG.


      A. But that’s what Grace is all about. That’s why Jesus came. FAILURE IS REDEEMABLE. God doesn’t give up on us. Paul says that because of what Jesus did on the cross, we now have access to this Grace. He says that once we were salves to sin, but now through our faith in Christ Jesus, we have access to the forgiveness offered to us by the Son of God. Through our faith in Christ, we can be redeemed which means our Failures can be redeemed as well.

Numbers 14:18-20 

     In Numbers 14:18 the author says ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,    forgiving iniquity and transgression.” And then in 19-20 the writer pleads with God:

[19]  Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”

[20] Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked;  [NRSV]

     “I do forgive, just as you have asked.” Those are powerful words that remind us that FAILURE IS REDEEMABLE.

     C. D. “Bigboy” Blalock, of Louisiana State University, was a boxer in the 1930s. Bigboy was a 6’6” giant; a powerful man with a devastating roundhouse swing. He had the fight of his life against a boxer from Mississippi State. But it seemed like a mismatch, because Bigboy was taking on a shorter, stocky fellow.

     In the second round, Bigboy let loose his famous roundhouse punch. The Mississippi boxer stepped in, and his head caught Bigboy’s arm just inside the elbow. With the opponent’s head acting as a lever, Bigboy’s arm whipped around in almost full circle, connecting with destructive force on his own chin. He ended up hitting himself in the face instead of his opponent.

     He staggered, grabbed the rope, walked almost all the way around the ring, and fell flat on his face for a full count. Bigboy’s big claim to fame is that he is the only prizefighter in the history of boxing who ever knocked himself out with a right to his own jaw.

     What Bigboy did with a mighty right to his own jaw, many of us do in our own lives. It’s not what others do to us that causes havoc in our lives, it’s what we do to ourselves and to those we love that wreaks havoc.

     We become own worse enemy. We let our mistakes and failures knock us to the canvas. We give up hope. In those times we need to remember that God Lord specializes in picking us. God is in the redemption business. God will help us go the distance.

     We need to remember that Everybody Fails from time to time. The difference for us, the difference for believers is that we have a God who is a God of Second Chances, a God of Forgiveness and Grace. 

     Look at Peter. Peter rose from the despair of publicly denying his savior and friend and rose to become one of the greatest preachers and apostles the world has ever known. On that first Pentecost Sunday, three-thousand were saved in one sermon. He gave leadership to the early church and he wrote two of the letters in the New Testament. FAILURE IS REDEEMABLE. God built the church through a man who in the eyes of many was a failure.

     B. That means that our Failures can be redeemed as well. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, Christ is with us, and we are made strong in the faith.

     Booker T. Washington, author of Up From Slavery wrote: “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

     Jesus picks us up when we fall and pulls us up when we fail in order to empower us to accept the forgiveness and redemption God offers so we can do that which God has called us to do.



      A. The last thing we learn this morning from Peter is: FAILURE ISN’T FINAL.

     The only one who failed Jesus more than Peter was Judas. Yet Peter became the leader of the early church. Failure isn’t final.

     The fact that we don’t always succeed doesn’t mean our lives can’t be successful! Failure isn’t all bad. Failure isn’t fatal and it sure isn’t final. We don’t need to be anxious over failure. If we are, then we’ll never take a risk.

      There’s a great scene in the movie Facing the Giants. David Childers is the smallest guy on the football team. He is the backup kicker, perhaps the person with the least power on his team. When his name is called at a crucial point in the game, he faces his biggest fear. WATCH

      He failed but through his faith and his father’s teaching David found out that FAILURE ISN’T FINAL. And later in the movie he makes a much needed field goal.

     God wants us to know in a deep spiritual way that there’s a difference between “Who I Am” and “What or How I Do.”

     God doesn’t love us because we’re perfect. God doesn’t love us because we never fail. God loves us unconditionally. As we serve God and try to live out our Christian faith, we’re going to blow it. At times we’re all going to experience significant failures along the way. But God’s love doesn’t and won’t change because of those failures. Christ gives us permission as well as the faith and courage to RISK and to FAIL. All we have to do is let Christ have control.

     B. FAILURE ISN’T FINAL. MIT turned down Jack Kilby’s application for admission because his Math scores were too low. As a result, Kilby never received much training in physics and didn’t get the education he desired. But on December 10, 2000 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences gave him the Nobel Prize in physics.

     Why? Well, he invented something that has changed your life and has definitely changed history. He invented the microchip. FAILURE ISN’T FINAL.


      Sometimes we get it wrong, but sometimes others get it wrong. Everybody was ready to write Peter off just like they did Judas. But there was more to Peter than that act of denial.

     Someone wrote a little poem I think is worth reading.

          “When the fears and tears abound,

          When the ship’s just spinnin’ round,

          When the world’s turned upside down,

          Trust God’s grace to abound.”

     SOMETIMES WE GET IT WRONG AND FAIL. But the Grace of God through Christ reminds us that FAILURE IS REDEEMABLE and FAILURE ISN’T FINAL.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.




1.   Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Star-Time, pg. 70, November 16, 2001

2.   Daily Uplink,