Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, April 10, 2017

It Matters How You Finish

There’s a book on Amazon.com called, The (Incomplete) Book of Failures:  The Official Handbook of the Not-So-Terribly-Good Club of Great Britain.  The book itself should be mentioned within, though, because when they printed it they left out the first two pages and had to add them in later.  Even the book itself was a failure!

Everyone has a failure at some point in their live.  We all fail; we fail at school; we fail at work; we fail in our walk with Jesus.  The problem with failure is that people often fail and then think, “That’s it – it’s over!” but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true.  Today, I want to post on coming back from failure.

Proverbs 24:16 (NKJV)
24:16 For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

Failure Happens

A righteous man may fall seven times – So our failure doesn’t mean that we’ve been bad.  Failure isn’t a judgment by God.  It can happen to a righteous man, but the righteous man can rise from the failure.

Peter is a perfect example.  Peter was Jesus’ chosen leader, but Peter wasn’t perfect.  Not by any measure of perfection.  Peter was impulsive.  He did things without thinking.

Jesus is walking on the water – Peter gets out of the boat. On the mount of Transfiguration – Peter blurts out that he wants to build tabernacles for Moses and Elijah.  Jesus says He’s going to suffer – Peter rebukes Him.  In the Garden of Gethsemane – Peter cuts of Malthus’ ear.  Jesus sees them on the Sea of Galilee – Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.

That’s just who Peter is – He’s all enthusiasm, but no foresight.  He means well, he just doesn’t always think about the consequences. God can use people like that. 

It speaks of boldness.  He’s not afraid.  It speaks of zeal.  He’ wants to do something for God.  It speaks of action.  He’s not one to sit around and think, think, think.  He does! He’s the original NIKE® man, “Just Do It!”

This is a good thing in some ways.  It makes things happen.  He’s a leader.  He’s not sitting around waiting to be led.  A church can use a guy like that, but when you’re a man of action, there’s always the potential for failure.

Taiwan is an interesting place.  People live under enormous pressure to succeed.  Bosses have unrealistic expectations, sometimes.  There’s no room for failure.  I’m not saying that failure is good. I’m just saying that if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried to do anything difficult. 

People are going to fail.  Edison didn’t invent the light bulb on the first try.  Lincoln lost a lot more elections than he won.  I know men who’ve tried to pioneer a church, and are back in their home churches because they couldn’t make it work. 

In businesses they have methods for doing things.  Do you know why?  It’s because there were failures along the way that taught them that this is the way to make it all work.  If you want to be successful, there’s going to be failures along the way.

I’ve learned things, because I’ve made mistakes.  I’ve changed because I learned that some things I’ve done and said weren’t helpful in church building.  It’s been a sixteen year process to get where I am today – and I’m still not perfect.  I still make mistakes.  I want to clarify something, though.  If the failure is because you’re lazy, or you’re not putting a hundred percent into it, it’s not a mistake.  It’s not a learning moment.  It’s a decision – You’re looking for failure!  Leadership is hard – you have to be willing to work at it.

Peter wasn’t lazy.  He was always willing to do things.  He was a successful businessman.  He ran a business.  Peter has to learn how to be a disciple.  He’s learning how by making mistakes.

Matthew 16:21-22 (NKJV)
16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

This is a perfect example – Jesus is telling them about all the things that have to happen to Him, in order for him to fulfill the will of God for him and for us.  Peter say, “Oh no, that’s not happening!”  He’s actually rebuking Jesus.  This is a failure; this is a mistake.  These things have to happen.  This is God’s will that Jesus be crucified.  Look at what happens:

Matthew 16:23 (NKJV)
16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Ouch – Jesus called Him Satan!  “You’re not mindful of the things of God.  You’re thinking about the things of men.”

You can see where Peter is coming from – He loves Jesus.  He doesn’t want Him to have to suffer and die.  He’s talking without thinking again, and Jesus has to tell him, “It’s not about you, Peter.”

Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)
16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

If you want to be my follower you have to deny yourself.  It’s not about what Peter wants – It’s about what God is trying to do for everyone.  Peter’s being selfish, “I don’t want that to happen!”  Jesus said that Satan using you, Peter.  It’s sin – Sin is failure.

Peter’s Biggest Failure

I want to show you the biggest failure in Peter’s life.  This is where things really come apart for Peter.  It takes place on the night of the Last Supper.  Jesus has already sent Judas out to arrange His betrayal.  He’s washed their feet to teach them about leadership, and they are on their way to Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane.  Of course, the disciples don’t know that, yet.  They think they’re just going to watch Jesus pray.

Matthew 26:31-32 (NKJV)
26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."

Jesus begins to warn them that there will be failure for them.  “All of you will be made to ‘stumble’ because of me.”  That word stumble comes from the same word that we get our word scandal from – it means to ensnare – to trip up – to cause to sin – There will be failure, because of what happens to Jesus this night.  Look at what Peter says:

Matthew 26:33 (NKJV)
26:33 Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble."

“Oh no; no, no, no; Not me, that’s not happening!  They may stumble but not me!  I’m not stumbling.”

Matthew 26:34-35 (NKJV)
26:34 Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." 35 Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples.

We all know what happened, though, don’t we?  Take a look:

Matthew 26:69-74 (NKJV)
26:69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee." 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are saying." 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 But again he denied with an oath, "I do not know the Man!" 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.

What happened to “I will follow you even unto death!”?  The Book of Luke says that Jesus looked at Peter and Peter heard the rooster and saw Jesus look at him.

Matthew 26:75 (NKJV)
26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So he went out and wept bitterly.

This is a great failure on Peter’s part.  Where was all the boldness?  Where was all the bravado?  He’d used his sword in the garden, but the boldness went out of him.  His failure was in his fear!  He’d bragged that he would follow Jesus even to death, but at the moment of crisis – He lost his nerve and saw through himself.  He saw the weakness and failure and he wept bitterly.

This could have been the end for him.  This could have been the failure that destroyed him.  We’ve all been knocked down by failure.  We don’t read about Peter at the crucifixion.  When Jesus rises from the dead and they tell him:

Luke 24:11 (NKJV)
24:11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

He didn’t believe it – even though Jesus clearly spoke that it would happen.  He’s broken and discouraged – He’s failed – and it could be all over.  For many of us it would be.

It Matters How You Finish

It’s not failure in life that matters – I’ve told you failure happens.  It happens to everyone who tries to do difficult things.  Living for Jesus isn’t always easy.  People fail at living for Jesus, but failure doesn’t have to define us.  It doesn’t mean that it’s over.  It doesn’t matter how you do in life – It matters how you finish.  Peter finished well.

We all know the story Jesus appeared to them on the sea.  Peter finally recognizes Him and jumps into the water and swims to Jesus.  Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep.”  Three times – because Peter denied him three times.  He restores Peter to usefulness.  Failure wasn’t his end. 

We can read about things Peter did in the Book of Acts.  He stood on Pentecost and led the early church into revival.  He healed the man at the Gate Beautiful.  His shadow healed the lame and sick on the streets.  He preached to Cornelius and saw his family saved and foiled with the Holy Spirit.  He set the church on a trajectory to reach the world.  You can’t look at the early church and remember only Peter’s failure.

I want to tell you one more thing:  Peter’s failure was his denial of Jesus at His trial.  He’d said he would follow Jesus even to death and yet, out of fear, he denied Jesus and wept bitterly.  In the end, though, Peter was crucified for preaching the Gospel in Rome.  He was crucified upside down, because he made a stand for Jesus.  He did end up following Jesus even to death!  It doesn’t matter what you do in life – It matters how you finish.

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