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Learn from Peter’s Failures

Learn from the example of Peter, a man who denied knowing God

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: The night Jesus was about to be betrayed, he told his disciples that they would all fall away on account of him. Peter said that even if all the other disciples fell away, he never would. Jesus, however, knew this was an empty boast.

Part 3 of a 4-part series on “Overcoming Failure”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 4


In part 1 of this series on “Overcoming Failure,” you read about lessons we can learn from David’s sins. In part 2, you read about Paul’s sins.

In this study you will read about Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples. Although he was a key leader in the early church, he was far from perfect. In fact, he failed in several ways, even after becoming a believer.

Peter rebuked Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, be killed, and then be raised to life on the third day. Peter didn’t like the sound of that, so he took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying, “Never, Lord” (Matthew 16:22).

Jesus responded to Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23).

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Make it personal

1. Why did Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23)?

2. Do you ever reject something in God’s Word (the Bible)? If so, are you willing to ask God to help you understand and trust his Word? Why or why not?

Peter said he would not deny Jesus, but Jesus knew Peter was wrong.

The night Jesus was about to be betrayed, he told his disciples that they would all fall away on account of him. Peter said that even if all the other disciples fell away, he never would. Jesus, however, knew this was an empty boast.

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “’I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Make it personal

3. When Peter said he would never disown Jesus, do you think he meant it? Why or why not?

4. Do you sometimes say you would do something—or you would never do something—too casually?

Related: Do you tell the truth?

Peter fell asleep three times when Jesus asked him to keep watch.

Jesus told Peter and two other disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus left to pray privately, then returned to see Peter and the others sleeping. He said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Then he asked them to watch and pray, and he left a second time to pray. When he returned, they were again sleeping. He again asked them to keep watch and left a third time. Once again, they were sleeping when he returned. (Read Matthew 26:36-46.)

Make it personal

5. Why do you think Peter didn’t do what Jesus told him to do?

6. Do you sometimes do the opposite of what God tells you?

When Peter was asked if he was Jesus’ follower, he lied.

Later the same evening, Jesus was arrested and brought before the Jewish leaders. Peter stood outside while Jesus was being questioned. Three different times people asked if he was with Jesus. Each time, Peter denied that he knew Jesus.

Immediately after Peter’s third denial, a rooster crowed, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy. (Read Matthew 26:69-75.)

Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75)

Peter repented as he wept bitterly.

After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter said “yes” each time. Jesus then said, “Feed my sheep.” He also told Peter how Peter would die and said, “Follow me.” (Read John 21:1-19.)

Related: How can I please God?

Make it personal

7. Why do you think Peter disowned Jesus?

When God told Peter what to do in a vision, Peter said “no.”

One day Peter went up on a roof to pray. He fell into a trance and was surprised to hear a voice give him instructions to kill and eat “unclean” food which would violate God’s Old Testament laws. He knew it was God’s voice, but he was shocked at what God said and he said “no.”

Although Peter’s first reaction was to say “no,” he tried to figure out what it meant. A short time later, he understood God’s message, and he obeyed it. (Read Acts 10:9-35.)

Make it personal

8. Why do you think Peter said “no” so quickly, even though he knew it was God who was speaking?

9. Have you ever said “no,” to God, then changed your mind and said “yes”? Explain your answer.

Peter gave in to peer pressure and was a hypocrite.

Peter had been doing the right thing—eating with the Gentiles. However, when some fellow Jewish believers visited, he was afraid they might be upset, so he pulled away from the Gentiles. In other words, he gave in to peer pressure and became a hypocrite. (Paul later confronted Peter about his actions.)

Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians 2:12-13)

Make it personal

10. How did Peter’s hypocrisy affect those around him?

Related: Be an influencer, not an “influencee”

Lessons we can learn from Peter

We can learn a lot from Peter’s example. It is my prayer that you will be encouraged by the following points:

  • Everyone fails sometimes—even key Christian leaders.
  • God understands that everyone fails sometimes.
  • God forgives us when we fail.
  • God corrects us when we fail.
  • God expects us to learn from our failures.
  • God still loves us.

Make it personal

11. Describe how one or more of these “lessons we can learn from Peter” encourages you.

Memory verse

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Personal application

1. Peter said “no” to God. Have you ever said “no” to God? Explain your answer.

2. Why do you think Jesus said “get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23)? What did he mean?

3. Peter fell asleep three times when Jesus asked him to stand watch (Matthew 26:36-46). Have you ever been lazy when Jesus prompted you to do something? Explain your answer.

4. Pray, asking God to help you not be lazy when he prompts you to do something.

5. What are some ways you have given in to peer pressure in the past?

6. What do you think will be the hardest kind of peer pressure for you to resist in the future? Explain your answer.

7. Ask God to help you be faithful to him and resist peer pressure.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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