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Soul Surfer Series Sermon 3
~Getting Back in the Water~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church 
September 25, 2011
Philippians 4:13

When we remember some things they bring us great joy, like the day you learned to ride a bike, a memorable birthday, the day we were married, the day you moved into your dream house, the birth of a child, or the day you were reborn into Christ in baptism.

I don’t really have to try and explain these great moments in our past; they’re easy and enjoyable to remember. They are those times we always want to be a part of who we are.  Unfortunately, there are some times from our past that stick with us just as much that we would like to forget that cause us to cringe, or even bring us incredible pain.
[Story of learning about not being wanted at a party.]
When I was in 6th Grade, I began to notice girls... and there was one I really liked, and wanted to make an impression with.  But one of my classmates learned of my interest in her.  Unfortunately he was interested in her, too.  So he got to teasing me about liking her.  It got so bad, I rebelled and said, “You know, I don’t like her.  In fact, I think she looks kinda funny.”
I obviously made a bad choice to stop the teasing, but it was too late.  He saw the girl talking with her friends and went over to share with them what I’d just said.  In a very short time, the entire group of girls came over to me and told me how nice I wasn’t, and, “We don’t want you here why don’t you just go home.”

It was my first rejection by the opposite sex, it was emotionally painful, and ... it was the last time I tried for a couple of years.

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.

[Play the “First Day of Surfing with One 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 dreams.
If someone tells you that you will never amount to anything in life, it’s hard to move beyond that.  It remains an annoying voice in your ear that can change how you live day to day, and can crush any dreams you might have for the future.
Maybe you made a really big mistake in the past intentionally or unintentionally, 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.  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.
What we are talking about today is bigger than just moving on, because properly dealing with your past often determines whether or not you can gain peace in the future.

The word “peace” can be a pretty vague concept, so I want to give you a simple definition:

Peace = No more stress. No more anxiety.

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 any peace that you try and muster up by yourself. It’s not about you ‘trying really hard’ to have peace;  instead, its 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 protected and your mind more at ease.

This is more than just talking with a counselor about how living with regret or fear will make you sad, and peace with your past will make you happy. Making true peace through the Lord with your past and moving on is actually a command from God.

There are two main ways that we can deal with our pain from our past. Two very famous men in scripture give examples of each. Listen to both and decide which of these two men’s stories relate to how you deal with pain from your past.

Read Matthew 26:47-50
The first was a man named Judas. Now, I know that immediately everyone in the room is thinking, “I’m definitely not like him.”   But he 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.

Read Matthew 27:1-4

Many Bible experts believe that Judas never really thought Jesus would ever allow Himself to be arrested, put on trial, let alone crucified. In fact, he possibly thought he was helping Jesus move towards His proper place as King on earth through a final conflict ..., but that was not God’s plan.  Jesus was the expected Messiah, but He was first set to die for us.

Can you just picture the huge amount of guilt Judas was carrying when he realized what he had set in place?  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, “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 setting in place the means for the 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 or at least exist.
Many of you know, but I want everyone to know what often happens when we carry a heavy sense of shame and guilt  as our own responsibility.

Read Matthew 27:5

Since Judas believed it was his responsibility, he just 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.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 there are people in this room  that are falling for that lie right now. 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.

Read Luke 22:54-62

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’d 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!
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 re-lived 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?”
“Yes I am and if you got a problem with it, I’ll cut off your ear!”
But he didn’t and so what did he do to deal with his pain from the past?  He went back to what he knew best.

Read John 21:1-8

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 fishing for men.  He’d been following Jesus and telling people OF the Kingdom of Heaven.  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 right back to his old trade and his old self, 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 waiting there on the beach, and He invites Peter and the rest of the disciples to join Him for breakfast.  Jesus doesn’t bring up the betrayal… so neither does Peter.
John 21:15-17

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.”
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.

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.

Do you believe Jesus wants to do the same thing for you? One of the best verses in the Bible is:
2 Corinthians 5:17:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, (He’s the one who does the work) he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Close your eyes. Jesus is saying,

  • 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.”

If we draw near to Jesus and let Him deal with the pain from our past, two things will happen.
1) He will free you from it.
2) He will use your past to bring comfort to those in pain today.

God Never Wastes Our Pain.

That’s what is so powerful about Bethany’s story. Her decision to not give up, but instead to trust God with her future enabled her to be an inspiration to tons of people. God will do the same through your life if you will just choose not to give up.

Some of you have maybe done that before, but you’re still holding onto some pain from your past. You know what you need to do? You need to run to Jesus.
The world is yelling stuff like “Why are you still here” “Nobody wants you here any more”  “Go home!”  And it makes you feel like giving up.  If that is how you feel today you need to get really close to hear Jesus say, “I forgive you.”

The choice is yours…what are you going to do?