Peter didn't just blow it, he blew it badly. "Though they all fall away...I will never fall away" (Matt. 26:33). Peter's resolution we admire for its confidence and bravery. But it is a statement relying on one's own strength and it is doomed for shipwreck. A few hours go by and we find him alone and weeping (Matt. 26:75).
We can relate, can't we? We've made promise after promise to the Lord, resolution after resolution, only to come to the end of ourselves. The sinking feeling churns in our stomach, our earlier words of bold resolve pour like fuel on the fire of guilt and self-condemnation.
Godly sorrow doesn't remove the sting of sin's consequence. Falling short of the glory of God every day in word, thought, and deed is the norm, not the exception (Rom. 3:23). We may be surprised when we blow it, but our sins do not surprise the omniscient, holy God.
So often we want to hide from the Lord when we sin. Adam and Eve hid from God and tried to cover their exposure (Gen. 3:7-8). Yet after Peter's very public failure, he doesn't hide. He waits. Notice what Peter did when he heard it was Jesus on the beach. His exuberance leaps off the pages of the Bible when we read how he throws himself into the water and swims to shore (John 21:7).
Peter's interaction with Jesus instructs us on biblical restoration. It was Jesus who restored Peter. It was Jesus who knew He would bring Peter back to a place of useful service (Luke 22:31). In fact, Jesus knew Peter's journey through this dark path would only bring greater fruit as he ministered to the first century believers. The remarkable trials the first century church faced required humble, God-dependent leaders who knew their strength rested not within themselves.
Thomas Watson in All Things for Good writes encouraging words for those under the guilt of sin. "God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature."
The impetuous disciple resolved to be faithful, but his stumbling has served Christians for millennia who have looked at that event in Peter's life and found the comfort coming from a God of mercy (Ex. 24:6). The Lord overrules our frailty, restores the fallen, and grows His church.
This column is from the November 2008 issue of Tabletalk magazine.