We all make mistakes, and sometimes they are pretty bad. But a failure can become a stepping-stone to success. An incident from Peter’s life (Luke 5:1–11) illustrates this wonderful truth. One time Peter and his friends had been out fishing all night, but they had caught nothing. This was probably unusual, since Peter was a professional fisherman. He was definitely not a novice. He probably had the best nets, owned a good boat, and knew exactly where to catch the most fish. He had worked all night, as his income depended on a good catch. Still, Peter came up short. Even superstars strike out sometimes.

The next day, the fishermen were washing their nets on the seashore, feeling very tired and discouraged. At that moment Jesus came along and said, “Peter, I’d like to use your boat as a platform for a speech.” So Peter let Jesus into his boat, and they launched out a little way from the shore. There Jesus could speak from the boat to the crowd standing on the shore.

After finishing his message, Jesus said to the fishermen, “Now let’s go fishing. Launch out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Peter replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” When the disciples obeyed, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.


What does this story teach us about failure? Jesus never performed a miracle without a purpose. He always used his miracles to illustrate principles. This incident teaches us what to do when our best is not good enough.

Sometimes we give something our best shot but still come up ten feet short. We study diligently for a test and only get a “C,” or we work hard to make our marriage better but still don’t see any progress. Life can be tough at times, and it’s tempting to give up. We feel like saying, “What’s the use? I just set myself up for more failure. Can anything make a difference?”

The interesting part of the Bible story is the comparison between the two catches. The disciples had worked all night and caught nothing, but later they went out again for ten minutes and caught more than they ever had before. It was the same lake, the same boat, the same nets, and the same people fishing. So what made the difference?

There are actually three differences between the two fishing expeditions, and these differences give us principles to follow when our best attempts end in failure. I believe any person who applies these principles will be a genuine success in life. God intended them to be easy to understand, so that everybody could get in on the benefit.

But first you must realize that God is interested in your success; he’s not interested in seeing you fail. Suppose my daughter Amy said to me one day, “Dad, I’m a total failure in life. Everything I touch falls apart. My problems are insurmountable. I can never do anything right. I’m a total failure and I’ll never change.”

Would I reply, “Oh, I’m so happy you told me that! That makes me feel so good inside”? Of course not. As a father, I want my children to be successful, to be the best they can be. Likewise, your heavenly Father wants you to be successful in life—in your personal life, your family, your spiritual growth, and all your relationships.

Rick Warren, God’s Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).

We have just released a new Bible Study based on Rick Warren’s book, God’s Answer to Life’s Difficult Questions.

These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.

Lessons include:

How to Cope with Stress

How Can I Rebound from Failure?

How Can I Defeat Depression?

How Can I Live Above Average?

How Can I Have Peace of Mind?

How Can I Handle Discouragement?

How Can I Overcome My Problems?

How Can I Be Confident In a Crisis?

How Can I Ever Change?

How Did I Get Myself in To This Mess?

How Can I Overcome Loneliness?

Why Is This Happening to Me?