Have you ever taken a step of faith and failed? Like you genuinely thought you were doing something good, but then it either fell apart or you blew it? I know I have.
Melissa and I started the School of Kingdom Writers five years ago. (We’ve made some changes of course, and we’re now The Company.) In that time, we’ve taken one step of faith after another. Generally, those decisions have a tendency to bear fruit, but there have been some things, even big things, that just totally fell apart.
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I always take solace in the fact that I don’t know the full plan, I can’t see all of the moving parts. The best I can do at any time is to be obedient to what I think the Lord is asking me to do in that moment. In those things that didn’t work out, maybe I was just a seed planter or contributing to someone else’s journey that I can’t see.
It’s kind of selfish and egocentric to think that I personally should get to see all of the cool outcomes when we’re really all working in the same Kingdom. I am not, after all, the main character in the story.
The big building we bought in Zanesville is a good example. Despite our best efforts, we just hit one road block after another. We purchased the building in a big step of faith in 2019. We raised funds, Melissa and I took big risks personally to support the project, and we invested good Kingdom money into that project. But ultimately, it feels like we have nothing to show for it.
So did we make a mistake? Did we screw it up? Maybe (hopefully) we were just seed planters in the grand Kingdom plan, and God is using our first steps for something else He’s doing?
But from my perspective, that project sure seems like a failure. Did I make a mistake? Am I not a good steward? Did I hear wrong?
When things don’t go like we thought they would, or we can in hindsight see that we really screwed up…what then?
In Matthew 14, you’ll find the story of Jesus walking on water. The disciples see Jesus on the water and freak out. If you’ve never read it, check it out in Matthew 14:22-33.
Peter has a great idea though. “Jesus,” he says, “if it’s really you, then tell me to come to you on the water.”
I don’t know why Peter thought this was a good way to verify Jesus’s identity. What would stop a fake Jesus from saying “Come”? But that was Peter’s idea, and if you’ve heard the story before, you know that Peter climbs out of the boat and begins to walk on the water.
I imagine that at first he’s thinking, “This is so cool!” but then some piece of his brain kicks in and he says, “wait, this is crazy!” Matthew says that Peter saw the wind, was afraid, and began to sink.
If you’ve heard this story preached, the focus is usually on Peter becoming afraid, on his lack of faith. There’s a good message there.
I want to focus instead on what happened in the face of Peter’s failure.
“But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…”
(Matthew 14: 30-31)
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…
The word “immediately” is an adverb. It tells us the manner in which an action is completed. Adverbs are almost always unnecessary. You could remove the word “immediately” from this passage and the information of the story doesn’t really change. That means that it was included on purpose. That means it’s important.
Of course Jesus would save Peter. That’s what Jesus does all the time. But look at how Jesus saved Peter…immediately.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus didn’t let Peter suffer the consequences of his own failure. He didn’t give it a minute so that Peter would really learn his lesson.
Let me tell you, if my kids are being annoying in the pool, I know exactly how long I can hold them under water.
No, Peter cried out and Jesus immediately reached out his hand and saved him.
If your experience is anything like mine, you will sometimes fail. You will even fail when you take steps of faith.
If your experience is like mine, you will take steps of genuine faith, in which you know your heart is right, and you will fail anyway. Maybe you didn’t do a good enough job, maybe you gave in to doubt and fear, maybe you missed something important.
Here’s what I want you to know: it’s not God’s heart to leave you in that place of failure.
There may be natural consequences of our mistakes…I’m sure at least the bottom of Peter’s tunic was wet. But God’s not punishing you. He’s not waiting for the fullness of bad things to come in so that you really learn your lesson.
Peter took a real step of faith and failed. Eleven other guys stayed on the boat. In that failure, Peter cried out, “Lord save me.” Immediately, Jesus reached out and saved him.
To be sure, I think God will leave us in that place of failure if we insist. I’m miserable. I deserve this. I’m a no-good Christian. I can’t hear the voice of God. These bad things are a result of my terribleness. We always get to live in that place if we really want to.
But you don’t have to.
In those steps of faith that don’t work out (past, present, and future), cry out, “Lord, save me,” and then believe that it’s really done. If you fail in that belief, then cry out again.
Those failures and shortcomings of the past that haunt you, cry out. Again and again, until those memories only reveal the face of Jesus.
Jesus really likes you. He’s also a really good teacher. It’s not Him asking you to wallow in that failure. All He ever asks is that we turn our attention back to Him.
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