We all have milestone moments in life. They are the moments that shape us — a first baseball game, a wedding day, a graduation, or the birth of a child.
We have moments like that in our faith as well, when God steps in and changes us in an inexplicable, but undeniable way.
These moments with God are significant not only for how they affect our lives right then, but also how they sustain us for the future. Because there are other moments, and even seasons of life, where we doubt God, where we rebel, and maybe question God’s goodness or purposes.
I have had seasons like this in my life. In high school, my best friend was antagonistic towards the church and my faith in Christ, and his doubts caused me to doubt. My philosophy and biology courses in college brought up new questions about God’s nature and character. And, I’ve had seasons of rebellion and sin, where pride, or lust, or selfishness reigned.
So, what do we do in those moments?
One of my life passages — one I turn to in moments like these — is John 21. This last chapter in the book of John gives us a glimpse into a moment in the life of the apostle Peter.
For context, before Jesus went to the cross, he explained to his disciples that he would be betrayed, arrested, and was going to die. Peter, being the impulsive and courageous man he was, immediately spoke up and promised Jesus that he wouldn’t let this happen, and that he would follow him and protect him at all cost. Peter had promised Jesus that he would never leave or forsake him. Jesus responded, “actually, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Sure enough, after Jesus is arrested, Peter is asked on three different occasions about his relationship with Jesus, and he denies him every single time. And then a rooster crows. Peter remembered what Jesus said, and the Scriptures say “he went out and wept bitterly.”
That is where we pick up the story in John 21.
Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
– John 21:2-3
Don’t miss what’s happening here. Peter is returning to an old way of living. Prior to Jesus’ invitation to be a fisher of men, Peter was a professional fisherman. “Going fishing” wasn’t evil, but it marked a return to an old lifestyle, one in opposition to the life and calling God had on his life. Likewise, when we run, we may not go do anything evil, but we can slip into a lifestyle that opposes God’s will. We might stop going to church, or drop out of small group, or forget to read the Bible, because “life is just busy right now.”
If we are honest, it is confusion, shame, or doubt, that really causes us to run.
Peter’s story doesn’t end in shame and confusion, and ours doesn’t have to either.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”
He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
– John 21:4-8
Jesus stepped in and recreated a moment for Peter. When he first met Jesus, years earlier, Jesus performed this same miracle. Jesus told him to throw his net on the other side of the boat, and then told Peter, from then on, he would make him a fisher of men. Peter was immediately reminded of who Jesus is, what he had done for him, and what he had called him to do.
Do you have a moment like that? When did you first understand the call of Jesus on your life?
When I was a freshman in high school, I was invited to go on a mission trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico.
One night, I saw some guys my age skateboarding in the city square. I joined them, and pretty quickly our conversation turned to why I was visiting their country. I got to share my story and the gospel and then pray with seven teenagers about their relationship with Christ.
I can vividly remember the Holy Spirit whispering, “This is what you are going to do for the rest of your life: sharing the gospel and praying with people. This is what you were created to do.” I didn’t know all the details, but it was a significant moment — the start of my desire to do ministry and be a pastor.
And I can still remember the warmth of that summer air and the smell of roasted corn cooking at the vender booths. In, fact the smell of roasted corn — still, to this day — reminds me of the moment I had with Jesus in Mexico.
When I graduated from seminary, I told this story. A few weeks later my parents gave me a gift: a framed picture of roasted corn with an inscription that read, “Always Remember.”
The frame still hangs on the wall of my office, and every day when I sit at my desk, I see that picture and am reminded of a moment that shaped me. God stepped in, and not only saved me, but he gave me a mission to be a part of, a calling on my life.
Jesus went to great lengths to recreate Peter’s transformational moment, and I believe God uses those types of moments throughout our lives to draw us back to him in seasons of sin, doubt, or rebellion.
God has forgiven you and called you to play a specific role in his kingdom too. He has called all of us to go make disciples, to love and serve our city, and to help usher in the kingdom of God.
So be reminded, today, and remember the moments that God stepped into your life. Remember them so that when seasons of doubt or rebellion arise, you can trust the God who not only saves but who sends you into the world for his purpose, his mission, and his glory.