First appearing in the early 1960’s in the Marvel Comics, Spider-Man is one of the most popular fictional superheroes of all time. His unique skill of shooting spider webs gave him the ability to attach himself to buildings and structures. This enabled him to move great distances at tremendous speeds, clinging from wall to wall as he fought his many foes. The recent popularity of a series of Spider-Man films reminded me of a story I once heard about an encounter Robert the Bruce had with a spider.
As the story goes, Robert the Bruce, the king of Scotland, once took refuge in a cave as he while he and his men ran from the armies of England. In the cave he noticed a spider diligently working at attaching its web to the corner of the cave. Every time it tried to attach its web, it failed. Finally after countless failures, the spider succeeded in attaching its web.
To be sure, the lesson of the spider is best captured in the maxim, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
The lesson of the spider teaches us we all need to be Spider-Saints! If at first we don’t succeed, we must try, try again.
To be sure, there are many Spider-Saints recorded in Scripture who refused to give up. King David comes to mind, as well as Jacob and Jonah. Yet, I am not sure if there could be a better example of living out this maxim in all of sacred Scripture than the impetuous and impulsive Peter.
Time and time again, Peter tried and Peter failed. In one breath Peter proclaims, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35), and in another breath Peter exclaims, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72) when a servant girl asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples.
In one breath Peter cries, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28), and in his next breath Peter sighs, “Lord save me or I perish” (Matthew 14:30) as he sinks to the bottom of the sea.
No other disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ spoke so mightily or failed so miserably. No other disciple acted so courageously or cowered so convincingly. No other disciple ever confessed so boldly that Jesus was the Christ, and no other disciple was ever so sharply rebuked by our Lord.
Yet in all of his failures, Peter always knew it was too soon to quit. By God’s grace, every time he was knocked down, he got back up. For Peter, quitting was never an option. Peter was a Spider-Saint!
Notice with me that in every case, Peter’s heart was always fixed upon His Savior. From the day Peter answered the call to follow his Lord, Peter loved Jesus with all his heart. One thing that could never be said about Peter was that his heart was cold.
In fact, just the opposite was true. His faults and failures were rooted in a heart that was on fire for his Lord. Yet, it was his hot heart that refused to give up or give in. It was Peter who preached the Pentecost sermon, and 3,000 were added to the church. In the end, Peter eventually died a martyr’s death by being crucified upside down at his request, because he felt himself unworthy of being crucified like his Lord.
I don’t know where this finds you today. You may be riding the crest of the wave of some great victory or buried underneath the crashing waves of defeat. You may be in the middle of your greatest harvest to date or the longest winter of your life. Regardless of where this finds you, God’s mercies are new every morning. He has a plan and a purpose for your life, and it is perfect even though you will always live it out imperfectly.
In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
God did not bring you this far just to leave you here. God did not give up on Peter, and He will never give up on you.
Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
If it’s renewed strength you need, He is your strength!
If it’s renewed hope you need, He is your hope!
If it’s renewed wisdom you need, He is your wisdom!
If it’s renewed vision you need, He is your vision!
If it’s renewed direction your need, He is your direction!
God forbid that you would allow any past failure to keep you from your promised future. Failure is never final unless you fail to get back up. Fall seven times get up eight.
Peter refused to allow his countless failures to control his future. He may have had a hard time understanding why he continually fell short of the mark set before him, but he knew that God was for him and that was enough for him to know. Father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, God is for you regardless of how littered your past may be with broken promises, discarded dreams and ultimate failures.
But you say, “Coach you just don’t know how many times I have tried and failed.”
You’re right, I don’t know, but Jesus does, and He is as much for you as He was for Peter who crashed and burned on many occasions. When Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, it was nothing less than His grace-filled way of gently reminding Peter, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try and try again.
Never forget that Amen!
Rev. Tommy Boland is the men’s and sports minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and teaches adult Sunday school. For more information, including Bible study resource materials, please send an e-mail to: [email protected] or [email protected]