Noe Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, recalled one of his recent failures, pulling that story from the place where he finds his greatest joy and accomplishment: his family.
He was watching his son play in a youth baseball game when a parent began heckling his 11-year-old son.
Garcia thought to himself: “Do I turn the other cheek? Do I take THAT verse? Or do I take the verse when Jesus flipped the table in the temple?”
He chose to turn the other cheek ... at first.
Then he saw his son go into the dugout teary-eyed, so when the heckling dad persisted, it was time for him to “be the protector of my family.” He decided not to flip the table in the temple, so to speak, but he would shake it just a bit.
He confronted the dad, as calmly as he could, and when the dad stood up, towering over him, joked to the Grand Canyon University audience at Monday’s Chapel that he not only said, “I’d appreciate if you’d stop heckling my son,” but also, “You know what? He ain’t that good … This is probably good for him, anyway.”
After that confrontation, he had regrets.
“I sat there, and I was unbelievably ashamed of myself, to some degree. On one end, I was proud to stand up for my son. On the other end, I thought I just made a fool of my son, my family, myself, my calling and my ministry.”
Garcia also shared another failure in his family that also ate at his heart.
He found that same son one day in his room, a punishment after doing a common big brother thing and teasing his little sister. He was sitting on his bed with the Bible open, and Garcia asked, “What are you doing?”
His son told him, “I’m trying to figure out … why I don’t love God the way I say I love God,” and sharing, “I keep messing up, Dad, I keep messing up. … I’m looking for Scripture to let me know that God forgives me and He still loves me even though I mess up all the time.”
As a dad, that made Garcia realize just how much his son is like him — just how much he inherited the worst part of him because he, too, has felt that way in the midst of his failures. It broke him to see his son questioning the love of God in his moment of imperfection.
The enemy has a field day in those times of failure, making you dwell in those dark places in your head.
“You cannot comprehend how God can keep loving you and forgiving you when you keep falling over and over again. The enemy is right, I am worthless. I have no value. I can’t do this … that’s the place the enemy wants to get you today, to that place of great discouragement that leads to great despair.”
In turning to Scripture, just as his son did, Garcia sees instances of man’s failure throughout the Bible: Moses failed and hid and ran from his failure; David had an affair and ran from his failure.
“Every time someone in Scripture falls, they try to cover, run or hide. ... The problem with that is God cannot cover what you can’t uncover. If you want God to cover your failure, you have to uncover your failure,” he said, then looked to the failure of Peter.
Peter, a fisherman, was not catching any fish until Jesus advised him where to cast his net and hauled in a huge catch. At that moment, Peter knew Jesus was the son of God and dropped everything in his life as a fisherman. He told Jesus that he would follow Him everywhere.
And he did, with excitement, with dedication, walking closely with Jesus.
Then Jesus told him: “One day you will deny me.”
An overly confident Peter did not believe that. “I will never deny you because I love you,” he said. But true to Jesus’ word, Peter failed Jesus by denying him three times. When Jesus looked at him after his denial, Peter ran and wept, recognizing his great moment of failure. He was so distraught he returned to his life as a fisherman.
Garcia told the GCU crowd: “So you have a choice this morning in what to do with this failure,” because humans are not perfect or sinless.
Will you run and hide? Will you lie and deny the truth?
“Failure is inevitable, and I say that to free you up today. Some of us believe we have to be perfect in order for God to use us, not understanding that your failure doesn’t disqualify you from the use or love of God.”
Garcia said in those times of failure, cling to Jesus, who will always give us hope. Cling to God, whose plan for you does not depend on what other people say or think about you.
In returning to the story of Peter, Garcia looked to John 21:3, when Peter went out to fish but caught nothing. God did not allow Peter to be successful without him.
Then Jesus finds Peter and tells him to cast his net on the right side of the boat. He and the other fishermen caught so many fish they could hardly haul their catch.
Jesus recreates this scene, Garcia said, to remind Peter of his calling.
“You have a choice this morning,” Garcia repeated. “Your character won’t be perfect, but I encourage you. What will you do with your failure? Will you self-destruct or will you cling to Jesus and let Jesus use your greatest failure to be your greatest ministry?”
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.