What's in a name? God knows, says Griffin

University Pastor, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Tim Griffin referenced John 10 in his Chapel talk, the metaphor of the Good Shepherd and the sheep.

Photos by Ralph Freso/ Slideshow/ Chapel stream

Dr. Tim Griffin hasn’t always been known as just Dr. Tim Griffin.

In his first year of Little League, his teammates dubbed him “Bullwhip,” after an old 1967 Disney Western comedy no one has ever heard of, “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.”

Every time the fifth-grade Griffin would step up to the plate, he would hear them chanting, “Bullwhip! Bullwhip! Bullwhip!” then would strike out almost every time.

Considering those bad memories, Griffin — Grand Canyon University’s Pastor, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs — isn’t too keen on that moniker.

So he was more than happy to go by “Griff” in his later baseball years, before race car drivers started calling him “Chappie” when he was a young motorsports chaplain.

Griffin said students take the opportunity in college to shed old identities and re-define themselves.

But Griffin said at Chapel on Monday in GCU Arena that some of his best nicknames have come to him from GCU students: “A few students a couple of years ago would call me ‘Timmy D’,” as in “Whaddup, Timmy D!”

And then there was that time at a restaurant where a few GCU students worked. “One of the students was walking back and forth, and he just came over and very graciously, he stood there and said, “Excuse me. Do you work at GCU?” and after Griffin told him, “As a matter of fact, I do,” the student said, “Oh! It’s so nice to meet you, President Mueller,” mistaking him for University President Brian Mueller.

Griffin said that some of us have struggled with nicknames we’ve been saddled with in junior high or high school that we’ve been trying to live down, and “coming to college is a great opportunity to separate yourself from that chapter of your life.”

Can I encourage you, that there are verses of Scripture that speak to how God sees you and the value that He has for who you are?

Dr. Tim Griffin, University Pastor

As students are entering their fifth week of school, when they are settling into their classes, their clubs and their group of friends, when they’re taking this chance for a new start and are re-defining their sense of self, Griffin said, “I want to talk about identity, who you are, who you think you are and who others may think you are.”

He spoke of people, including GCU students, as falling into two groups.

Members of the first group have been wrestling with their relationship with God and Jesus. They maybe have gone to church for a while or tagged along with friends to Chapel and yet still are wondering, “What am I going to do with Jesus?”

Scripture makes references, he said, to the “lost coin,” “lost sheep,” the lost Prodigal Son. It points to people such as Nicodemus, who was a man of faith his entire life yet still felt vacant and still felt lost.

“Can I encourage you, that there are verses of Scripture that speak to how God sees you and the value that He has for who you are?” Griffin said.

He spoke of how, when Jesus died on the cross, it was for us, and when He rose from the dead, He did it so that we could have a more abundant life.

Alexandra Ramirez and the Worship team perform.

“So if you fit into that category, my hope is that you will believe in that incredible news — that Jesus gave His life for you — and that you decide today that you will receive Him” and will follow Him today. “… I hope that you won’t leave this room before you make that decision for yourself.”

The second group, Griffin said, already is dedicated to following Jesus, but those people are at that stage in their life where things are coming at them from a million directions.

“All of a sudden, you’re just spinning. It’s like a tornado of things coming your way. Sometimes we can get lost in all of that,” he said, and for those in this group, it may feel as if it’s time to pause and get a reference point for how God sees us.

Scripture shows us, over and over, how God sees His people. The Bible brims with metaphors about us as friends, disciples, heirs, soldiers, servants, the salt and the light.

But Griffin focused on one metaphor — that of God as the Good Shepherd and His people as the sheep of His pasture. He said maybe that metaphor isn’t for some people who don’t want to be compared to sheep: “That’s not who I am; I’m much more than that.”

Next Chapel speaker: Jeff Dyer of Heartfire Missions, 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 10, GCU Arena
Post Chapel event: Global Outreach Missions Fair, noon, Promenade

Griffin pointed to John 10 and three things Jesus says about Himself as the Great Shepherd and us as His sheep.

One is that God will lead us to an abundant life (John 10:10), and just as a shepherd guides his sheep, God, too, will shepherd and lead us.

The second is that a shepherd knows his sheep and that God knows you (John 10:27).

Griffin said for those who are lost, God is the Good Shepherd who will lead us.

Five weeks into the semester, Griffin said, and students might be worried they haven’t found their group of friends. “Be patient,” Griffin said. “… He knows the challenges that you are experiencing as a child of His. ... He knows who you are.”

The last thing John 10 tells us is that, just as sheep are safe in their shepherd’s hands, so are we safe in God’s hands (John 10:28). “What an incredible promise that the Shepherd makes about your relationship with Him,” Griffin said.

As students navigate the semester, as they start to find their stride in class, have those social experiences with friends and feel the weight of their academic program and what they need to focus on, Griffin said, “You have a Great Shepherd that is coming alongside of you to help you navigate this. I hope you’ll appreciate that He intends to lead you, to call you by name, and that you are safe in His care.”

Whatever nickname or identity you might have, no matter how you see yourself, no matter how others see you, no matter how lost you might be, God sees you.

God knows you.

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


Related content:

GCU News: Fiery talk burns with passion for living God

GCU News: Welch keeps it real, shows his zeal for Jesus

GCU News: Mueller marvels at spirit of opening Chapel

GCU News: Students step up to plate for campus worship


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Bible Verse

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

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