Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in your time. Maybe your past has moved in like an unwelcome guest. Perhaps there’s condemnation running through your thoughts—a steady stream of fault-finding reminders. Maybe you’re living under critical words spoken to you in your youth, and, whether they were true or not, you still drag the weight of them along on your journey. If you find yourself living on the outskirts of joy, or even faith, here’s some encouragement.
By way of a brief recap, Peter, a disciple of Jesus, cut off a high priest’s servant’s ear (John 18:10) and a few hours later denied he knew Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Saul, renamed Paul, made a habit of persecuting Christians (Acts 8:3), and David slept with another man’s wife and precipitated her husband’s death (2 Samuel 11). These are just a few examples in the Bible of fallible, mistake-making people.
But their story doesn’t end there and neither does ours. God doesn’t write them off or deem them spiritually unfit because of their mistakes. He’s the God of forgiveness—the God of second chances. So, if you’re under the impression that you’ve blown it, that God has given up on you, that you’re unfit for his kingdom, or that he couldn’t possibly love you or use you for his purposes, think again.
Peter may have been rash and outspoken, he may have turned his back on Jesus, but Jesus goes to great lengths to let him know he is loved and forgiven and prophetically champions him for his coming ministry. This is what Jesus says of Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) For all his faults, this same Peter left his fishing business to follow Jesus, walked on water to meet Jesus, and spent the rest of his life proclaiming Jesus, dying in the same manner as Jesus for his faith.
Paul was literally stopped in his tracks from further persecuting believers (Acts 9). After his conversion, he covered over 10,000 miles, mostly through present-day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece, preaching the gospel for his remaining thirty-two years until his execution. Half of the New Testament writings are attributed to Paul. God took Paul’s zealousness and used it for His glory and honor. Paul says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)
Regarding David, “God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22) Although David coveted, committed adultery, stole another man’s wife, lied, and basically murdered, he was deeply repentant for his wrongdoing. He received God’s forgiveness—a deep peace we often forfeit. Though imperfect, David’s heart was pointed toward God and he sought to do God’s will. During great tests of faith, he continued to seek the Lord. It’s notable that Jesus is a descendant of David, the man also responsible for seventy-three of the Psalms.
Even the “greats” of the Bible had their faults and failings, and their stories help to remind us that we aren’t confined or defined by our own. There is more to our story than our mistakes. Repeatedly, the Bible details the lives of imperfect men and women who, despite mistakes and failures, ministered in profound ways.
Our spiritual growth is gradual. We can be merciful to ourselves—and others—in our growing pains. We can refuse to play failure on repeat—perpetually reminding ourselves or others of our mistakes—and instead make room for God’s redemptive, refining work remembering that it is through him transformation occurs.
The same transformative work that we see in Peter, Paul, and David is available to us. We don’t need to have it all together to come to God. We’re going to have mistakes and baggage. There will be junk. We aren’t too messy for God, and we don’t need to be polished to come to Christ. He does the clean up we can’t manage. No matter our mistakes, his forgiveness is readily available.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39