Getting Back In The Water - Part One
Scripture of the Week: Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 26:47-50, Matthew 27:1-4, Matthew 27:5,
Luke 22:54-62, John 21:1-7-8, John 21:15-17, Isaiah 40:31
Our minds are full of scenes, words, and emotions from our past. Some scenes stick with us and bring us great joy, like learning to ride a bike, a memorable birthday, or a first ride on a roller coaster. Does anyone want to share a great memory?
I don’t really need to give a talk on how to deal with these great moments in our past; they’re easy and enjoyable. We don’t need to move past those scenes. We want them to always be a part of who we are. I know of some people who keep a “Nice Notes File”—a collection of the positive notes and letters people have sent them—and they pull them out and re-read them whenever they are having a rough day.
Unfortunately, there are some scenes from our past that stick with us and cause us to cringe, or even bring us incredible pain. When I was a kid, my parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I lived with my mom and she was a serious alcoholic. It was a really hard life and I pray for any family going through that. Would anyone like to share a painful time?
In the movie SOUL SURFER, Bethany’s pain is obviously the loss of her arm from the shark attack. Every day for the rest of her life, she will have a reminder about what happened on that terrifying day. Watch this real-life clip of Bethany trying to return to her life after losing her arm.
Unfortunately, the painful scenes from our past are usually much more “sticky” than the good ones. The pain often refuses to just stay in the past and can actually impact our present experiences and even our future aspirations.
If someone tells you that you will never amount to anything in life, it’s hard to disassociate from that. It remains an annoying voice in your ear that can change how you live day to day and crush any dreams you might have for the future. I know this is true, because I lived it.
Maybe you made a really big mistake in the past (intentional or unintentional), and that painful mistake haunts you in how you live now. Maybe you always second-guess yourself. Maybe it overwhelms you with fear of the future, and you do everything you can not to make the same mistake again. I know, because I have made those kinds of mistakes.
The truth is…If you can’t make peace with your past…your past will tear you to pieces. If you can’t make peace about something awful that happened to you when you were younger, it will tear you to pieces. If you can’t get peace in a relationship where just the sound of that person’s name brings out all kinds of anger in you, it will tear you to pieces.
This is bigger than just moving on—your present circumstances and your future dreams hang in the balance, depending on whether or not you can gain that peace with your past.
The word “peace” can be a pretty vague concept, so I want to give you a definition:
Peace = no more stress. No more anxiety. The good news is that you can overcome this by using your faith in God and knowing that He has known you even before you were born and he has big plans for you.
I’m going to read two very important lines from Scripture:
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s break down the last sentence from these verses for a moment.
“And the peace of God…”: This is not some peace that you can muster up by yourself. It’s not about you trying really hard to have peace, but instead allowing God’s peace to live through you.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”: This is a peace that doesn’t make sense. It’s the kind of peace that allows you to move on, even amidst the worst of circumstances.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”: God will give you a peace that actually makes your heart feel lighter and your mind more at ease.
This is more than some psycho babble about how living with regret or fear will make you sad, and peace with your past will make you happy. Making peace with your past and moving on is actually a command from God. YOU HAVE TO DO IT. If you can’t make peace with your past, it will eventually tear you away from God.
There are two main ways that we can deal with the tough stuff from our past. Two guys in scripture who were friends give an amazing example of each. Which of these two men’s stories relate to how you deal with pain from your past?
The first guy was a man named Judas. Can anyone tell us who he was? Now I know that immediately everyone in the room is thinking, “I’m definitely not like him.” But here was a guy that walked with Jesus for three and a half years. He was very close to Him. Unfortunately, he was also the one that went down in history as betraying Jesus.
Many Bible experts say that maybe Judas didn’t really want to have Jesus killed. He probably wasn’t just a greedy man who saw a quick way to make thirty silver coins. Instead, his error was that he simply didn’t get what Jesus was doing. He believed Jesus was the Messiah, but his understanding of “Messiah” was as a political leader who would come and lead the Israelites out of slavery from the Romans.
So when Jesus would do stuff like get down on his knees and wash the feet of his disciples, I bet that kind of stuff just infuriated Judas. “How can you be the man who’s going to lead our country if you’re talking about being a servant?” he probably thought. And then, when Jesus started talking about the bread being His body that needed to be broken and the wine representing His blood that needed to be poured out, maybe Judas was thinking, “Are you kidding me, Jesus? You have no idea how to lead a rebellion. Let me help you out a little.”
So then, Judas tried to light a fire under Jesus, so that He would have to fight back and start using His miraculous power to kick some Roman butt. But if this was his plan, it backfired, big time! We read that in less than a day after Judas betrayed Jesus, Judas realized that he had judged the whole thing wrong. Very wrong. Jesus did not fight back, and Judas was going to ultimately be responsible for his death.
Can you just picture the huge amount of guilt Judas was carrying? Think of someone that you admire, and then think how you’d feel if you were responsible for their death. And in this case, it wasn’t an accident; it was intentional. The passage says, “…he [Judas] was seized with remorse.” What an understatement! The text says that he tried to give the money back and do all that he could to make it right, but nothing worked. It was too late. Judas would have to carry the burden of killing his Messiah and Savior.
The chief priests’ response captures how I think so many people deal with pain from their past: “That’s your responsibility.” It’s your responsibility to figure out how to stuff that pain so far down that you don’t have to think about it very often. It’s your responsibility to live the rest of your life trying to make up for what you did to somehow remove the guilt. It’s your responsibility to ignore regret and remorse and convince yourself to be at peace.
So check out what Judas did.
Since Judas believed it was his responsibility, he just caved and said, “I can’t deal with it.” He looked at his future and saw it as completely hopeless. To him, there was no point in even trying. I wonder if he hung himself so quickly because he could envision the pain he would feel watching his friend and Savior die, and he thought, “I can’t face that. I need to die before Jesus does.” How tragic.
But the sad truth is that some people deal with the pain from their past in the same way as Judas using Method #1.
Method #1: “It’s my responsibility to find peace from my past.”
Some people think it’s their responsibility to find their own peace. But it’s impossible to do so on your own, and when they realize it, they give up. We stop caring or hoping or believing that we could ever really be truly happy again or that we could ever move on. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief [enemy] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It’s God who brings the new life, who brings the peace that passes understanding. But Satan is the Father of Lies, and he will try to get us to believe that it’s our responsibility to move ourselves on—or else we are helpless. I’m certain in this room there are people that are falling for that lie right now. I did once. But there is another way.
The second man we’re going to look at is our main man, Peter. In the same moments when Judas was in pain, Peter must have been carrying some pretty heavy pain himself. Just a couple hours earlier, Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him, and Peter had responded, “Not me, God. I will follow you to the end.” Then in Jesus’ greatest moment of need, Peter didn’t just remain silent…he denied even knowing Jesus. And he didn’t just do it once—he denied Him three separate times. This was the Jesus who had saved Peter’s life out on the lake when he’d begun to sink. This was the Jesus who had told Peter, “Your new name is ‘Rock’ and on this rock I will build my church.” Peter had blown it big time. You have to think that each time he denied Jesus, the guilt level went up. He must have vowed to himself each time that he wouldn’t do it again. But then he did…three times! (The last time, he did it to a junior high-aged servant girl. Talk about totally wimping out!)
Some of us carry pain like this, not just from one moment in our past—maybe it’s something that happened again and again and again. Get into Peter’s brain for a second: Later that night and on Saturday, he must have felt awful. He must have relived the scenes from the night before over and over again, wishing he could turn back time and have another chance. Maybe he rehearsed different lines he could have responded with: “Aren’t you a follower of Jesus?” –“Heck, yeah, and if you got a problem with it, I’ll cut off your ear…don’t tempt me.”
What was Peter doing when Jesus first called him three and a half years ago? He was fishing. But what had Peter been doing for the past three and a half years? He’d been following Jesus and telling people that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. He’d been healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and preaching to the poor. His life had changed dramatically. But after his one (big) mistake, Peter went slinking right back to his old trade, signifying that he didn’t feel worthy of the mission Jesus had called him to. Because of fear, he felt he no longer deserved to be used by God.
But instead of continuing to allow the pain of his recent mistakes to tear him to pieces, at the first mention of Jesus’ name, Peter swam hard directly to Him. He didn’t want to waste time waiting for the boat to get to land. He didn’t care about the tons of fish they had just (miraculously) caught. He had to get to Jesus.
What must have been going through his mind with every stroke he swam in the water? Maybe he was thinking through an apology. But in the passage, it’s interesting that Jesus is just chilin’ there on the beach, and He invites Peter and the rest of the guys to join Him for breakfast. Jesus doesn’t bring up the betrayal… so neither does Peter.
Do you remember the words that Jesus used the first time he called Peter? He said, “I will make you a fisher of men.” In a sense, Jesus was saying, “I want you to join me in my mission. I pick you. I think you’re good enough to be like me.” Now what does Jesus say to him? “Feed my sheep.” Jesus says it three times, once for each time Peter had denied knowing Jesus. In this moment, Jesus is saying, “Peter, I still want you to join me in my mission. Peter, I forgive you. You are still my man.” Notice that he didn’t say, “You fed my sheep.” Jesus says it in the future command tense: “Feed my sheep.” He’s saying, “Peter, your job is not done. Nothing is wrong with being a fisherman, but I told you three and a half years ago and I’m saying it again to you today: Peter, I’ve got bigger plans for your life.”
Can you just imagine the weight that must have fallen off Peter? Jesus had given him a new start. He had given him the peace that passes all understanding. But Peter had to first get close to Him.
I’d love to give you three steps to make peace with your past, but when you truly break it down, there is really only one decision to make. Will I carry the responsibility of dealing with the pain? Or will I run to Jesus and trust Him with it?
Method #2: “Carry the pain from my past to Jesus and trust him with it.”
Judas thought it was his responsibility, and he couldn’t carry it, so he ended his life early and went down in history as the guy who betrayed Jesus. That’s the end of his story. If you looked on the list of most popular names for children, I’m pretty sure even today that Judas isn’t in the top 100. I’m pretty sure he never will be. (By the way, if your name is Judas, I apologize…I’m sure you’re a wonderful person.)
Peter was hopeless at first, too, but ultimately he swam/ran to Jesus just to be near Him. Through their interaction, Peter got to experience firsthand the peace that passes all understanding. That morning, he probably woke up thinking that moving on was impossible; yet here he was with Jesus that very day, being freed from the mistakes of his past. It can happen in one encounter with Jesus.
For Peter, unquestionably his best days came after his worst moments. By far, his best ministry came after his greatest sin and worst pain. If I had a friend who named their son Peter, I wouldn’t respond, “Peter? You named him after the guy who denied Jesus three times in his greatest time of need?” No, I would say, “You named him after the guy who allowed God to bring peace to his past, so that his life didn’t end with his pain and regrets. And once he moved on God changed the world through him.” Jesus wants to do the same thing for you? Give him the chance.
This sounds so great, but what does this look like in our world today? What do we mean, “run to Jesus”? What do we mean, “get close to Jesus”?
Did you know that when you hold a baby close to your chest, they can hear your heartbeat? It actually makes them more peaceful and enables them to sleep better. Not to get all mystical, but I think all of us need to hear the heartbeat of Jesus. How do we do that?
You draw near to Jesus by reading your Bible in a quiet place.
Or by spending some time in prayer where you share with God what’s on your mind and then just listen.
Or by using your spiritual gifts God gave you to serve others.
Or by being in tight community with other Christians who love you like Jesus.
When you’re doing things like that, you start to hear the heartbeat of Jesus. You’ve got to get close to Him.
Close your eyes. Can you hear what His heartbeat sounds like? “I forgive you.” “I’m alive in you.” “I love you.” “I made you.” “We can get through this.” “I see the best in you.” “I’ve got plans for you.” “I’m here with you.” “Your best days are ahead.” “I’m still in control.” “I died for you.” “Keep going.” “Stay close.”
You can open your eyes, but let those words stick with you. Isaiah 40:31 reads, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles...”