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The Faces of Failure

Peter, Judas, and Pilate demonstrate different ways to fail in faith
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Searching the Soul". See series.

Sermon Five

There was a clip on the sports last night that was painful to watch. College basketball between Memphis and Louisville, championship game—the star freshman for Memphis was fouled with no time left, his team behind by two—75 to 73. And he gets three free throws because he was fouled on a three-point shot attempt. Hits the first, 75-74. Misses the second. Thunk, misses the third. And the young fellow crumbled. They had to help him off the floor. I realized I was wincing. Watching a failure is painful.

This morning you have heard the stories of three failures—Peter, Judas, and Pilate. And they are painful to hear. The consequences were staggering. What's more, none of them would have failed had it not been for Jesus. In fact, you might say that there's a sense in which Jesus brings out the worst in people. Jesus is good and gracious, holy and mighty, but he is surely not safe to have around!

Each of these stories represents a different kind of failure, and every person here is prone to one of these scenarios. We are all descendants of one of these men. So in order to avoid their devastating failures, let us pay close attention to the warnings of Scripture.

The devoted disciple fails by not preparing for weakness.

Turn to Matthew 26:69. Let's begin with Peter there in the courtyard, condemned by simply saying, "I don't know the man!" in oath-laced triplicate. Of these three failure stories, Peter's is the failure of a devoted disciple.

Years ago I heard someone describe how steel tubes were made in the mills of western Pennsylvania. A snake of molten steel is poured out and then spun, until by centrifugal force that steel opens from the inside out, forming a perfect, seamless ...

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Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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Sermon Outline:


I. The devoted disciple fails by not preparing for weakness.

II. The disillusioned follower fails by demanding of Jesus what Jesus will not do.

III. The put-upon decision maker fails by trying to wash his hands of responsibility.