Failure is everywhere, even with those who serve in ministry. Consider these examples: we fail to preach a knockout sermon, regularly; we fail to win every person to Christ; we fail to please some people; we fail to avoid conflict; we fail to reach goals. Some people have the unfortunate experience of being terminated from a ministry. Others face the threat of termination. Failure!
In John 21 we find an occasion when Jesus’ disciples failed. What made this failure significant, it came on the heels of a life altering failure. Remember, Jesus’ disciples turned their back on Him, as He headed to the cross. That was bad enough, but, as they went into recovery mode they decided to go fishing. Fishing is good for healing what ails you. These were professional fisherman. Surely, they would succeed in their chosen profession. No, they fished all night and caught nothing! As they came ashore, there stood Jesus. Jesus asked if they had caught anything. They confessed to empty nets.
There it was again, empty nets. They had failed the Lord. They had failed as fisherman. They must have been thinking, “We are failing at everything we do.” Failure has a way of intensifying. One or two failures will make you “feel like a failure.”
Good news, Jesus can transform failure into a new beginning. That happened with the disciples. What can we learn from them, as Jesus came to pick them up? The first lesson we must grasp is that failure is never fatal. It never killed anyone, even though sometimes it feels like we’re going to die. The hardest part is often getting over the guilt, embarrassment, and shame of our perceived failure. This was the case with Judas. He betrayed Jesus, but His guilt destroyed him. He committed suicide.
This reminds us that we must forgive ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy.
This is where pride kicks in. Pride will kick you when you are down. Pride will exaggerate your failure and make it seem worse than it really is. Our worst enemy is often the emotions of our own mind.
A second lesson we learn from Jesus’ encounter with His disciples, is to get up and get moving. Jesus challenged His disciples to go back and try again. The only difference is the second time they were to follow His instructions. Jesus is our spiritual GPS. He knows the source of fullness. He fills the nets for His disciples. This ties closely to lesson one. Just because we fail does not mean we are failures. Failure is not fatal.
A final lesson we learn is to never give up on yourself. Jesus did not give up on His disciples and He will not give up on you.
Take the example of Peter. He denied Jesus three times and failed as a fisherman. However, this same man was a key leader in the early church, wrote two books in our New Testament, and ultimately gave his life as a testimony to Jesus Christ. Peter was far from a failure and so are you.