December 29, 2021

He Is Ahead Of You

Unsure of the future? Jesus is always one plan ahead.

Joanne Cortes

There is something beautiful, something thrilling, about every new year, which inspires to seek a better future, to try again, to envision how great the year can be.

But what happens when last year was filled with so many fears and failures that you hardly have hope left for 2022?

I Failed. Now What?

Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, walked with Him for about three years, seeing and experiencing many miracles up close; even bragging about walking on water, though it lasted only a brief while and wasn’t done very well. He saw a touch heal his mother-in-law, and witnessed a boy’s lunch multiplied to feed thousands. Peter experienced so many things that many would have said those were his best years.

But then, before you knew it, Peter failed: failed to stand up for what he believed in when it was time to do so; failed to speak up when he had the chance; failed to defend Someone who was innocent; failed to accomplish what he had promised; failed himself and failed his Master, Jesus, multiple times!

Have you ever done something that made you feel defeated, or led you to make a decision you wish you had never made?

Failure does not have to be fatal. Failure does not mean that you cannot triumph. A bad decision need not define who you are. No matter what we are going through, how many mistakes we have made, or how much of a failure we think we are, God thinks very differently about us. As He says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8).*

Jesus Loves You

Jesus loves you and will never, ever stop, because His love is not based on your behavior: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died  for us” (Rom. 5:8).

A few years ago my family and I were walking toward a restaurant. I was holding the hand of our younger child, Joel. He was so excited that we were going to eat together as a family: he was jumping, moving, and skipping away, full of energy, when suddenly he tripped and fell flat on his face. He almost made me fall too. Joel started crying loudly—the “loud” that makes everyone turn and look at you to see what bad thing you had done to your child.

I grabbed his hand tightly and picked him up. I confess that this was not my finest mommy moment. The first words out of my mouth were: “Shhhh. People are looking.” “Why aren’t you looking where you’re walking?” “See what happens when you don’t pay attention?”

Then I saw the tears in my son’s eyes, and saw my own blunder as well: I had just failed as a mom. I felt like the worst mom ever. Everyone may have their own failures. This was mine. I had failed because I was upset that he had fallen; upset that he had almost made me fall; upset that I had put the perceptions of others before the hurt of my child; upset because I had shown more concern about personal dignity than about the hurt my child was feeling. It may have been simple. But it was also terrible. In fact, it was simply terrible.

I apologized to my son for my behavior, asked him if he was OK, cleaned his knee, wrapped him in a big hug, and smacked him a great mommy kiss. His crying stopped, and we continued walking toward the restaurant together. We talked about how, in the past, he had fallen and gotten right back up. I mentioned the many times I had fallen, tripped, scraped my knee, and got through it OK. I assured him that it was not his fault. We all fall down at times. But getting up and knowing that everything will be OK helps us get through it.

When we fall, God’s concern is about much more than “people are looking.” He may ask questions similar to those I had asked my son. In Eden He asked Eve: “What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:13). And to Adam before that: “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (verse 11).

But God does not worry as we do about “people are looking.” He is the father in the parable about the prodigal, spreading out His arms and running down the road to meet us (Luke 15:20). When humanity fell into sin, He told the devil right away, while the man and woman were listening, how our tragic fall would end: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Gospel 101: God loves you and me more than we could ever love ourselves.  His compassion toward us will never fail (Lam. 3:23).

Picture Peter thrown on the floor, just lying there, hopeless, crying like a child, sad and depressed, and at times angry with himself and questioning why. Why did he do such a thing? Peter, who always had something to say, now speechless and not wanting to talk with anyone or even eat anything, and finding it hard to move forward.

Until his name was called. Mark tells us that when the women went to the tomb, two angels appeared to them and said, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7).

Jesus left a personal message for Peter, for the one who deserved it, for the one who had just betrayed Him multiple times. Jesus wanted to make sure that Peter knew that regardless of his mistakes and failures, He loved him. And when he heard what the women saw and were told, “Peter . . . got up and ran to the tomb” (Luke 24:12).

As soon as Peter heard his name he was energized. Rather than hiding from Jesus, he ran to look for Him.

Instead of staying in his room crying, he got up and ran toward the tomb because he needed to see Jesus.

He wanted to talk to Him, hug Him, and be in His presence again.

Peter reminds us that loving people in their mistakes frees them to run to us rather than running from us.

In the midst of your failures, mistakes, and sin, Jesus loves you.

He Is Ahead of You

The message to “go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’ ” (Mark 16:7) shows not only Jesus’ love to Peter, but also that He wanted Peter to know He would be ahead of him, just as He had promised. Jesus wanted Peter to look to the future, to look forward to what was in front of him with anticipation and hope, rather than looking back, to his past failures, burdened down with regret. Jesus wanted to assure him that nothing he would go through would catch Jesus by surprise, because Jesus was ahead of Him.

The same applies to us today.

As we enter the unknown of new year 2022, Jesus wants us to look forward to the future with anticipation and hope rather than focusing on last year’s failures.

Yes, we all faced challenges in 2021.

Yes, we all made mistakes—let down someone, or our church, or ourselves.

Whatever you did, know that you can get back up again and run to Jesus.

So don’t let what’s behind you cause you to miss what’s before you.

Jesus can’t wait to share with you all the blessings He has in store for you—an exciting, transforming life, a life filled with His unconditional love and faithfulness.

Peter made many mistakes, but those mistakes did not define him. Instead, he went on to be the preacher at Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, baptizing thousands; to be one of the founders of the Christian church; to be known for all the miracles he performed as “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by” (Acts 5:15).

This man who denied knowing Jesus, the one who had failed, was now being used by God to do great things. Peter discovered that Jesus loved him regardless of his behavior. He realized that Jesus was ahead of him and that he had nothing to fear. It filled him with purpose, impelling him to live his best life ever.

Today, you may feel like a failure, and that there is nothing special about you. I want you to know that you haven’t seen anything yet! God is not done with you. He still has so many great things He wants to do through you. Just as He used Peter, who failed him many times, He wants to use you to change your sphere, your community, your world: The best is yet to come.

So don’t let past failures dictate who you are and what God can do through you next.

Don’t let yesterday’s storm cloud the vision God has for you in 2022 and beyond.

Let go of your guilt and let Jesus love you. Get up and run toward Jesus, who is ahead of you, waiting for you with arms open wide, waiting to take you into a glorious future.

* Scripture citations are from the New International Version.

Joanne Cortes, a pastor of the Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church, is currently planting a church in Washington, D.C.