The quality of most fruit is judged by the richness of its color and its firmness. Not so the cranberry. Good quality cranberries will bounce like a golf ball. One way to determine if cranberries are ripe is to give them a bounce test. Sometimes they are poured down a series of steps, and the berries that bounce over 8 to 10-inch barriers pass the test.
God will sometimes put Christians through a bounce test, too. Let me share a good example.
We read in the Bible about a “bounce test” that the Apostle Peter endured. Just hours before Jesus was arrested, He turned to Peter and said “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32).
In other words, Satan was asking permission to shake up Peter’s faith so that he would turn his back on Christ. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. Notice, though, that Jesus didn’t pray that Peter wouldn’t be “sifted.” I’ll show you why in a minute.
Here is what happened. When Jesus was arrested, “…Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, ‘This man was with Him too.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’ A little later, another saw him and said, ‘You are one of them too!’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about…” (Luke 22:54–60a).
Peter’s faith was so weak that three times he wimped out and denied that he had ever even met Jesus. Why was Peter’s faith so weak? We find the reason back in Matthew 16:21-23.
Those verses tell how Jesus was making it clear to His followers that He was going to be arrested and crucified, but Peter (and the rest of the disciples) was hoping that Jesus would set Israel free from their Roman captors. Peter felt so strongly about it that he “took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matthew 16:22).
When Jesus was arrested and treated like a criminal, Peter’s faith in Jesus as a conquering Messiah was shaken. Satan saw Peter’s confusion as an opportunity to destroy his faith in Christ.
Experience has taught me that a lot of people are confused about why Jesus came to earth. Many believe that Jesus came to set us free from poverty, or ill health, or even loneliness. Jesus can help us with many of life’s problems, but those wonderful solutions are not why He came. We must be careful that we aren’t confused about this very important truth. Paul put it this way, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Back to our story, after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, Peter was understandably depressed and ashamed. I’m sure he felt like Jesus would never want him back, so he returned to his old life of fishing. He had no hope that he could ever be the “fisher of men” that Jesus had called him to be in Mark 1:17.
Peter’s faith was shaken (“sifted”), but did he bounce back? He did, of course! Let me show you how Jesus restored Peter. Instead of rebuking Peter for his lack of faith, or even reminding him of his three denials, Jesus helped Peter focus on the love he had for Jesus.
Jesus looked at Peter and said “… Do you love Me more than these?’ [I think that Jesus was pointing to the fish] He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep” (John 21:15–17).
Peter’s faith was weak, but the good news is that his love for Jesus was strong. Our love for Jesus will be strong, too, if we are His genuine followers who love Him because He, “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen” (Galatians 1:4–5). Are you in love with Jesus? If so, then when you fail Him, you too will bounce back.
Why did Jesus allow Peter to be “sifted” in the first place? It transformed Peter. Before his failure, he was self-confident and even prideful (see Luke 22:33). After his failure, Peter found a boldness to proclaim Christ to thousands (see Acts 2:14-36) because he learned that “… God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Love and follow Christ, and you can always bounce back from your failures. “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).