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When you think of a faithful follower of Christ, you probably envision one who is righteous and does the right things. Sometimes, the life of a faithful follower of Christ looks very different than what we would expect.

For example, who can forget the time when Jesus walked on the water, and faithful Peter asked to walk on the water as well (Matthew 14:22-33)? It was impressive that he had enough faith to get out of the boat onto the water, but we all know he began to think about what he was doing, got distracted by his surroundings, and began to sink.

Later, it was also Peter who pulled out a sword and cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus but later would deny Jesus three times (Matthew 26:51, 69-75).

We also read about how Jesus’ apostles were fighting over who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom, but Jesus informed them that the greatest in the kingdom would be humble like children (Matthew 18:1-5).

Let’s not forget how James and John wanted to know if they could cast fire down on a Samaritan village that would not receive Jesus, but Jesus rebuked them for this (Luke 9:51ff).

After Jesus was put to death, His followers hid behind a closed door because of their fear of the Jews (John 20:19). Jesus appeared to them in that room, but Thomas was missing, and he doubted Jesus was raised from the dead even though his friends told him they saw Him. The next week, Thomas sees Jesus, and his doubt is removed (John 20:24ff).

We might be tempted to make excuses for the lack of faith these faithful followers of Jesus had because it was early on. However, we know that even after the church had been established, the apostle Peter was at it again, many years after the church was proclaimed in Acts 2, and Paul had to rebuke him because he was playing the hypocrite.

Galatians 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;  12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.  14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?

I am not pointing out the weaknesses of these faithful followers of Jesus to make fun of them or to make them look bad. The whole point is that living faithfully to God is not always pretty. We are probably going to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes, they will be small, and other times, they will be big mistakes.

What’s important is that we learn from our mistakes and become stronger in the Lord. Peter learned from his mistakes and repented of those things he did wrong. Not only did he serve as an apostle, but he also served as one of the elders of a congregation.

The apostles, who were fighting over a higher position in the kingdom, learned that those things were not important, and they continued being humble servants of God.

Like Peter, James, and John learned it was not their responsibility to destroy villages or kill people to defend the cause of Christ. Instead, they pressed on with the right attitude, taught the people the gospel, and gave them the choice to either accept or reject the message without any form of wrath from them.

Though all the apostles started out living in fear and doubt after Jesus died, they all, including Thomas, realized the truth that Jesus was raised from the dead, and nothing could stop them from proclaiming Jesus regardless of what the Jews or others might do to them.

So, we can use our mistakes to fuel our faithfulness to God and press toward the goal of heaven even harder than we did before. Making mistakes is not good, but they are also not the end of our faithfulness. The only way our faithfulness will be broken by mistakes is if we allow them to keep us down. Whatever you do, never allow this to happen. Instead, own up to your mistakes, repent, confess your sins to God, pick that cross back up, and continue forward.

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