Luke 22:32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
This is Jesus speaking to Peter informing him that He has been praying for him that his faith remains strong and does not fail. Now we all know the rest of the story. Peter goes on to deny Jesus three times and then becomes depressed at the knowledge that during his time of trial, he failed and disowned Jesus.
What is interesting is that Jesus didn’t pray that Peter would escape the trial or be protected from the trial. No, Peter needed to go through this trial. It was all a part of him being prepared and galvanized into a strong leader.
Often, as leaders and pastors, we can be over-protective of people. We might pray that they won’t encounter trouble, difficulty or persecution. Yet, Jesus says we will all face trials and persecution. They come because of our association with Jesus and God uses the same trials and persecution to strengthen us in our Christian walk.
So, Jesus prays “that Peter’s faith should not fail”.
There are three things that will challenge our faith, or cause our faith to weaken, i.e. fail:
1. Not accepting God’s Word – If you find yourself “picking and choosing” what you will accept and what you will reject at church, this says two things: you are either in the wrong church and need to find another one, or you are in rebellion against God. Either way, you will never grow in your faith and God will never be able to use you.
2. Misplaced expectations – this is where we have unreal or wrong expectations of God and/or the Word of God. If we think God works like a genie in a bottle and His magic wand will protect us, or favor us, we will be disappointed.
A key misunderstanding is ‘trying God’ or ‘trying the Word of God’ to see if it works. People say, I tried praying and I confessed the Word for healing but nothing happened, or I tried speaking a Word of faith for a breakthrough over my finances but nothing happened. God’s Word is not for “trying” but “believing”. You just keep on believing.
3. Presumption or over-stepping our level of faith – Peter presumed that he would remain strong and not deny Jesus. But Jesus knew he still had to grow. He also knew that this trial would be integral to Peter's spiritual formation.
Peter would have learned that he wasn’t where he thought he was. He was perhaps a little arrogant and prideful. Pride and arrogance often have to be ‘hammered’ out of us because they are hardened vices. This trial certainly hammered these vices out of Peter. He became softer, humble and was now ready to lead the first church!
Don’t be disappointed at God when you face trials or difficulties or when you feel your faith is tested. It’s all part of your spiritual development as a disciple.