Jesus fishes for us, and it’s not catch-and-release
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
We make them every day. Big ones. Little ones. Some that we don’t remember just a few minutes later.
But there also are good ones and bad ones, and Dr. Tim Griffin focused on the latter – and what to do about them – in his Chapel talk Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena.
GCU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor reminded students that they probably have made a lot of decisions in their first few weeks on campus, including some they already regret.
“More than likely, you’ve already discovered some things you never thought you would learn in this short amount of time. Is that fair?” he said.
“Just a month ago, you were at home, I’m sure, with family and friends, getting ready to go off to college. And now you’ve been here almost a month, maybe a month, and God is teaching you some things.”
Sometimes, Griffin added, those discoveries are about your family or friends. Sometimes they’re about yourself. To make his point relatable to the students in another big Chapel turnout, he told the story of Uncle Slim and the alligator.
On a visit with family in Oklahoma when he was a youngster, Griffin discovered a tub in the backyard with an alligator in it. Slim had won it in a poker game.
Naturally, Griffin was curious and was disappointed when his uncle said he couldn’t play with it. He was determined to get another look on a visit a few weeks later but was disappointed to discover that it was gone – it had gotten too big for the tub, and Slim had let it loose in the city’s lake. (Imagine the surprise that awaited some unsuspecting resident.)
“I don’t know what happened to Sportsman’s Lake and that alligator in his or her life. I have no idea,” Griffin said. “But what I did learn is that there were some things about my family that I did not expect to learn.
“And as years have gone on, I have learned more and more about my family, and in the midst of learning about my family and related friends, I’ve learned a lot about myself.
“And my guess is, you are at a stage right now in this semester where you’re starting to learn about each other. That guy that you met, that girl that you met, all of a sudden, now you’re starting to learn what was a line at Welcome Week is not quite right right now.”
But the most valuable information for students, he added, is learning things about themselves – and their decisions, especially the bad ones. He wanted to counsel them about the times they’ll wake up and say, “Oh my word, what a terrible decision that was.” What should they do about it?
Griffin pointed to Peter’s experiences with Jesus. The Bible lists Peter’s famously bad decisions, chapter and verse. If anyone made some bad decisions, it was Peter, but Jesus still called on him to shepherd His flock.
“Peter has gotten a bad rap over the years, being the most outspoken disciple, and yet I think there’s a lot about Peter’s life that we can learn from and hopefully apply to our experience in walking with Jesus,” Griffin said.
Chapter 22 of Luke, the story of the Last Supper, details all the things Jesus said at that gathering. Among them was this exchange with Peter, aka Simon:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.”
Denying Jesus three times was just one of Peter’s mistakes, of course. He fell asleep with the other apostles when Jesus asked them to pray with Him. He cut off Malchus’ ear when the crowd came to arrest Jesus, only to watch Jesus heal the man.
And after Jesus was put to death, Peter went back to what was comfortable for him – fishing. When Jesus appeared to him in John 21:10-16, He asked Peter three times if he truly loved Him.
“Think about Peter,” Griffin said. “He’s had failure after failure after failure, and now Jesus has pursued him to the seashore to draw him back in.
“I know there are some of you here today, that you have fallen and skinned your knee in the last four weeks. And you kind of covered for it, but inside you’re going, ‘Man, I need to make this right with God.’”
Jesus will never stop pursuing you, Griffin added, and there are two things to note from that:
First, when you make a bad decision and feel shame and guilt, Jesus won’t let you go until you settle it with Him.
“Some of you, that conversation with Jesus, you’ve been avoiding,” Griffin said. “And He’s chasing you. He’s chased you to Chapel. He’ll chase you to class. He’ll chase you to church. He’ll chase you to the Promenade. He’ll chase you to the intramural field, to the fitness room.”
The second point, which Griffin considers equally critical, is to get busy and serve others. Jesus made that clear to Peter when He said, “Feed My sheep.”
“That was the charge to Peter, and in some ways I think it’s the charge from Jesus to you and me, is to not live our lives for ourselves but to live our lives for others. In giving it away, we find our lives,” Griffin said.
Which is the easiest decision of all.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
To hear the music of the Worship team and Dr. Tim Griffin’s talk in its entirety, click here.
The Gathering (7 p.m. Tuesday, Antelope Gymnasium): Worship Night
Next Chapel speaker (11 a.m. Monday): Jeff Dyer, Heartfire Missions