Jesus and My Regrets
I’m going to invite you to John, chapter 21, where we’re going to be today. John 21, this is a beautiful section to the end of the Gospel of John. Next week, we will end the Gospel of John the day after Christmas. We’ll end the Gospel of John together, which I have really enjoyed going through. This is the longest we have ever taken through a book of the Bible, but I’ve just appreciated the depth that we have walked through John together and being able to discover a relationship with the Lord and what that should look like in our lives.
And when you come to the Gospel of John, chapter 21 especially, as scholars have studied this chapter, they have found it rather interesting because John, chapter 20 is really… It’s just a nice inning to the Gospel of John. When you get to the end of John 20, verses 30, 31, the way that the author ends that chapter is to talk about how… It says… There’s many more things that he could have written in the Gospel of John, but he says the reason he chose the stories that he chose is for one simple purpose, that you might find life in Christ and live in light of that life in Christ.
And that could have been it. We’ve seen the resurrection of Jesus. He gives us the last couple of verses to think about the whole point of why he wrote the Book of John so that you could find life and relationship in Christ for now and all of eternity, and done. But had he ended there, I think we would’ve ended the Gospel of John with a strong tension point, and that tension point would’ve been, “Yeah, but what about Peter?”
Because if you remember how this story has unfolded, Jesus, we studied chapter 13 to chapter 17, in the upper room with his disciples. He’s declaring he’s going to die. Peter says, “Over my dead body.” And Jesus says, “You think you’re big and bad, Peter? But before this night’s over, you’re going to deny me three times.” And when Jesus goes to the cross, sure enough, Peter does. Peter denies Jesus and walks away.
And so, if you get to the end of John, chapter 20… I mean, if you’ve read the gospels before, Peter is the one where Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter says, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus says, “You are right, and I am the rock. And upon you, Peter, the rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Now, in that story, Jesus identifies himself as the great rock, and he changes or he titles Peter by the name Peter, which means a little rock.
He’s saying, “Look, on your identity in me, who is the great rock, you yourself become a pillar for helping lead God’s people forward. And I would say the same is true for you.” Peter goes on later in 1 Peter, chapter 2, he tells us, “Jesus is the cornerstone and we’re all living stones in Christ. So when your faith is rooted in Christ, who is the great rock, then you become a rock in representation of who Jesus is.”
But Peter, after this incredible proclamation of his faith in Christ and all that Jesus says about him and recognizing that he is a rock rooted in the great rock, you look at all this about Peter, and he’s the leader of the 12 disciples, right? And now all of a sudden, he’s denied Jesus. And what do you do with that? And where does that put Peter? If you ended with John, chapter 20, it would be unsettling. It would create a tension.
But in John, chapter 21, John goes back to the story with Peter, and he helps us to begin to understand not only how Peter deals with his failures before Jesus, but he also helps us begin, through Peter’s example, to understand how we work through our own regrets in life. What happens when we mess up, and what do we do in our failures? Inevitably, when you serve the Lord, you will fail at some point. You’ll mess up. What do you do? And how could God use you?
More specifically, I could say, how do we deal with regret? Regret is a… It’s a difficult emotion. As people, we like to handle things on our own, but regret communicates that there’s something that’s happened within our life that now is beyond our control, and we can’t change the past. We say things like, “If I’d known they hurt that way, I would’ve done more,” or “If I had known it was my last time,” or “I would’ve done it different if,” or “If I could just go back and do it over again, this is the way I would have done it.” Regret.
The message spoken into your heart in the moment of regret is critical. And if you take, for example, even at the end of Jesus’s life, there were two people that denied Jesus. One of them, Judas, found death, and the other, Peter, finds forgiveness in life. And if we could perfectly follow God’s word, we definitely wouldn’t have regrets as people. However, because we’re human, we all have regrets, because at some point, we will disobey the Lord. To be human is to carry regret. And if you battle regret, it shows that you’re normal.
I think it is completely healthy to have some experience of regret in your life because it’s showing that you’re wrestling within your soul in how to move away from the kind of decisions that lead you down that path. And not just that, if you’ve walked that path, how do you deal with it where you are? And so, we all experience it to a degree, and I don’t think regret in itself has to be wrong, but rather, I think holding on to regret is where it becomes dangerous.
And you think in terms of our relationship to the Lord, what Satan would love for us to do is to live with regret. Regret tends to trap us in our past. It tends to keep us from moving forward and enjoying life around us. And so, when you think about how do we deal with regret and how to move forward in that way, our goal isn’t to excuse it, our goal isn’t to compensate forward, our goal isn’t to ignore it. Our goal is to find a healthy way to move forward. And so, in this passage this morning, that’s what I want to talk about is, four points in dealing with regret.
Point number one, if you grabbed notes this morning, is this: Holding on to regret moves me further from Jesus. Holding on to regret can move me further from Jesus. We might even say, at the very least, it will distract you from your relationship with the Lord. And in John, chapter 21, verses 1 through 3, it says this, “After these things, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.” And he revealed himself in this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, who was called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the son of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples were together.
And Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” And they said to him, “We are also coming with you.” And they went out and got into the boat. And that night, they caught nothing. Now, I think sometimes we overstate Peter’s reactions here. Sometimes, people will say that Peter has given up on Jesus and he’s completely abandoned Christ. Now, I don’t think that this is true at all. You see Peter in this story. He’s definitely focused on going back and fishing, for sure, but I think people sometimes will take Peter’s actions too extreme and try to proclaim that once Peter had forsaken Jesus, as Jesus was going to the cross, Peter completely abandoned Jesus.
Now, I don’t think that that’s true. I think what Peter is going to who is towards something that’s familiar in his life. He was a fisherman before Jesus at this moment in his life. He’s not sure what to do. And so, he heads back towards what he was familiar with, which was fishing. In fact, just to be a little more gracious to Peter, in Mark, chapter 16, verse 7, at one of Jesus’s resurrection appearances, he told his disciples he was going to meet them in Galilee.
And so, the disciples are in this region now and they’re going back to fishing because that’s what they’re familiar with in order to, I think, pass the time in waiting for what Jesus’s next instructions might be. But the reason I say within the context of this story that Peter is dealing with regret isn’t so much about what’s happening in verse 1 to 3, though I think he’s starting to demonstrate this in his action, I think you start to discover that Peter is wrestling with this in his life, because when you get to verse 15 to 17, the way that Jesus chooses to deal with Peter, in fact, it’ll use this word in verse 17 that Peter was grieved.
Peter was grieved showing that within his soul, he was dealing with a turmoil. And I think that that turmoil is pointing to the regret that Peter had for denying Jesus. Peter hadn’t given up in his relationship with Christ, but Peter needed reconciliation. I think Peter, in this moment, felt aimless. He felt somewhat like a black sheep to the rest of the disciples. And you know what that’s like, because you’ve had regrets. You feel maybe the guilt and the shame. And maybe when you compare yourself to other people in relationship to God, you see yourself as the one who deserves less, the one who should be loved less. After all, you’re the one that messed up. And if you’re like Peter, maybe even messed up publicly. And how do you move forward? Because regret, regret can certainly hold you back, make you feel like you’re not a part, make you feel distant from God.
But what you find in this story is not only incredibly healing for Peter, but very powerful for our lives as well. What you learn in point number two is that while regret moves us or distracts us from our relationship with God, God’s grace is greater than my regret. That’s point number two. God’s grace is greater than my regret. And in verse 4 to 6, look at this, “But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach. Yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you?” And they answered him, “No.” And he said to them, “Cast the net on the right hand side of the boat and you will find the fish.” So they cast it, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great quantity of fish.
And one of the beautiful things that we find in God’s grace in the midst of this story is, notice Jesus is not showing up on the beach to yell at Peter? He’s not appearing as like, “What were you thinking?” Right? It’s like, that’s not what he chooses to do in this story. And just his demeanor here is proving to us the kind of character that God carries, the kind of patience, the long-suffering the Lord has towards us in our inadequacies, in our failures, in our sins. Rather than show up and yell at Peter and giving him a tongue-lashing over how Peter just publicly disgraced himself in denying Christ, Jesus shows up and performs a miracle. He doesn’t ditch Peter for ditching him.
And I think if anyone had an excuse to say, “It’s about time I give up on you,” it’s got to be Jesus, right? I mean, Jesus never sins. Jesus is perfect. Jesus went to the ends of the earth, to the entire extent of giving his life, becoming a servant of servants in order to show his love for Peter. If anyone had an excuse, it was Jesus. But instead, Jesus teaches us that his grace is greater than our regret, and I can’t help but think that it’s this kind of experience that led Peter in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 9, to say to us, “God is long-suffering towards you, not wishing that any perish, but all come to repentance.”
God’s heart is not for your failure. God’s heart is for you. And so, if I could just say one thing that if you held on today, if you remember nothing else, it would just be to say this: The thing that will stop you from moving forward in Christ isn’t Christ. It’s you. It’s me. It’s our pride, when we fail to not see the opportunity that rests in a God who is long-suffering and patient towards us, who is working to transform our hearts into his image. It’s not taking the opportunity to come to him, because you see in verse 4 to 6, the grace that Christ carries to Peter, even after Peter denied him, even when Peter walks in this world with regret. And so, our hope in seeing this type of story is that our behavior would become much like Peter.
In John, chapter 21, verse 7, he says this, “Therefore, the disciples, whom Jesus loved, said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ So 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. But the other disciples came in a little boat for they were not out far from the land, but about 200 cubits away dragging the net full of fish.”
When you see this story, some people have asked the questions and see how Peter just… He sees Jesus and recklessly abandons everything just to get near to Jesus. But the way it describes him in this story is, he put on his outer garment for he was stripped for work, and people read this and they’re like, “Is Peter naked? Is Peter naked in this story?” And I will just assure you that Peter is not naked in this story. Peter is not the kind that likes to flash while he works, okay?
That’s not what it’s saying, but rather, what it’s saying is, most likely, either Peter has on a type of garment in order to handle the fish, and he knows he’s about to jump in the water. And so, it could translate that what Peter does is, he doesn’t put on his outer garment. Rather, he puts up his outer garment, meaning he kind of tucks everything in to be able to jump out into the water and run to Jesus, or Peter is in… He’s in something modest, but he’s only clothed enough in order to work with fish so he doesn’t destroy his clothes.
And so, Peter, then realizing that he’s going to be on the shore with Jesus, turns and grabs maybe something to put on his shoulders as he walks back to the shore and he can put on his full clothing when he gets to Christ. Either way, he’s not working naked, but one thing for sure, when he sees Jesus, the only thing Peter can think of is, “What I need in my life right now is Jesus.”
What Peter saw by the appearance of Christ is hope. Guys, can I tell you in your regret and the things that you might be ashamed of in life, if you don’t think Jesus can forgive you, can I just tell you graciously, kindly? You think too much of yourself and you think too little of God. What we need in a story like this is to understand God’s grace is far greater than my sin. When we deal with regret, we have plenty of reasons within our hearts to say, “Look, here’s why I feel unworthy or why I think I might be unworthy.” But when we hold on to that regret, what we’re communicating is that in that moment, we think too much about ourself and too little about the Lord.
Jesus is showing up, I believe in this story, to communicate just to the extent of how far his grace will go for you and for me, and how important it is to see Jesus this way, which brings me to point number three in your notes. A moment with Jesus can transform my life forever. Verse 9 of the story. So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already made and fish placed on it and bread. And Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” So Simon Peter went up and hauled the net to land, full of large fish. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to him, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to inquire of him, “Who are you?” Knowing that it was the Lord, and Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
This was now the third time that Jesus revealed himself to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. And Jesus, as part of the world, to be invited to dinner, is communicating something. It’s important to find fellowship and identity. And when you read the New Testament, especially in terms with Jesus, you see that really, most anything great that happens in the Gospel happens around a meal. You start in John, chapter 2, when Jesus begins his public ministry, it’s at a wedding feast. At the end of Revelation, John writes the Book of Revelation, the last thing John talks about in Revelation is a wedding feast with Jesus. One-fourth of the Gospel of John is one meal in the upper room with Jesus.
Everything great that happens in the gospels tends to happen around a meal, but the idea of a meal is communicating the importance of relationship and communing with God, and it’s to say to you, because when we deal with regret, the most important thing to do is to not look deeper within you, but to look to the goodness of who Christ is. Commune with God and see his greatness to take our eyes off of ourselves and look to him. And the Bible communicates over and over the greatness of God because we need him to be great, because as people, we fail in our nature and we fall and we stumble and we sin and we carry shame and regret and guilt from all of that, and the Lord, he doesn’t stop in his love and his grace and his forgiveness that he desires to offer.
It’s why Malachi, chapter 3, verse 6, he says, “I am the Lord, and I do not change,” meaning his character is always consistent when we in ourselves are not consistent. In Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 8, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” In Philippians, chapter 4, verse 19, “He will supply all that you need.” And our tendency as people when we fail, our tendency has been to create religion to sort of compensate. But can I tell you one of the great fallacies of religion? Religion is often invented for those who have an inadequate God. God can’t forgive. God is not capable. Therefore, I must create something in order to show myself worthy of God, and therefore, man invents religion. But the whole point behind religion is to elevate who you are to impress God, but that’s not Christianity.
The point of Christianity is not to impress God with who we are. The point of Christianity is for us to be impressed with who he is. God is not impressed with us as human beings. And you think about what it means to create religion and then try to impress God. God is the one who gave you all the talent that you have. God already knows what you are going to say or what you’re going to do before you ever do it, and there’s nothing that you can do within yourself that God can’t do for himself anyway.
Christianity is not about impressing God. But rather, Christianity is about being impressed with God, and people tend to create religion in order to compensate for a God that they find inadequate to meet their needs or manipulate him. I’ll do this, God, so that you owe me. And therefore, the idea behind religion is, I will behave so that I can become something, and therefore, God will love me and I can belong, but that’s not Jesus.
If it were Jesus, Peter would have no position in John, chapter 21, and none of us ultimately would really ever have any hope because all of us at some point will fail. But Jesus rather is this way: Jesus invites us to belong so that we’d become, and ultimately, we’d behave. Meaning the motivation behind my living in this world isn’t so that God would love me, but my motivation in living in this world is because God loves me.
I don’t behave in order to be accepted. It’s because I’m accepted that I behave. Meaning when I see the type of love that God has for me, what wells up within my heart is to love him in response. It’s the only justifiable action for seeing a God who cares for us so greatly that he would become flesh to give his life for us. It’s because of that relationship that Jesus continues to offer when he shows up to the shores of my own life when I fail that I can respond in love.
Point number four: God can redeem my regrets and free me in him. One of the things I love about the end of this, and I’ll read this verse to you in just a second, is Jesus just doesn’t do a nice thing for Peter. Jesus, while he’s doing something gracious for Peter, also deals with the elephant in the room, which is their relationship. But I love the way that Jesus initiates dealing with the tension in their relationship, and the reconciliation that has to take place. What Jesus does in order to get to that conversation is he just offers nothing but grace and love towards Peter in a way that communicates from Christ to Peter is that, “I’m not here just to shame you. I’m not here to guilt you, but rather, I’m here to love you, and I am here because I am for you. I’m not fighting against you. I’m fighting with you and I’m fighting for you. My interest is in your heart and your wellbeing.”
That’s why when you start this story, Jesus doesn’t start off combative, he doesn’t start off yelling at Peter, but rather, he starts off building relationship with Peter in order to get where Peter is struggling in his walk with Jesus. And Jesus then approaches the conversation that he and Peter need to have in verse 15. He says this… Now, when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon, “Peter Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And he said to him, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
And he said to him, “Tend my lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And he said to him, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” And he said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” And he said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter was hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know all things, and you know that I love you.” And Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
It’s interesting, in this story, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” First time he asked, “Do you love me more than these?” People debate what exactly the “these” might be, but whatever the “these” are, “Do you love me more than these?” I think it’s intended to be seen as a distraction from his ultimate love for Jesus. “What do you love more? Me or this? Is it about the fish? Is it about others? What is it about, Peter? What takes priority in your life? Do you love me more than these?” And he asks Peter this question three times, and why would Jesus ask Peter this question three times, and why after the third time then as Peter grieved?
Well, I think the answer becomes obvious when you just study the recent history of Peter’s life. It was Peter who denied Jesus three times. And it’s as if without Jesus even having to say, “Remember when you denied me three times?” Without even having to say that, when has asked the question three times, I think Peter knew what Jesus was getting at. “Peter, I am completely aware that you denied me, but I still love you. Do you love me?”
When you study this word for love, you’ll know… In Greek, there’s three common words that’s used for love, and two of them are expressed in this passage. The first type of love is agape love. The first two times Jesus says, “Peter, do you love me?” He uses that word, agape. This unconditional, sacrificial love. “Peter, do you have that kind of love for me?” And then the third time when Jesus asks him, verse 17, he uses a different word for love. He uses the word phileo, which is where we get the word for… If you know the city, Philadelphia, it’s the city of what? Brotherly love, right?
And the third time that Jesus asks Peter, he uses the word phileo, which is brotherly love. And it’s kind of interesting. I tend to think that it probably should go… Flipped with that, that Jesus should start off with the brotherly love before he gets to unconditional, sacrificial love, because that’s called costing your life, right? Are we brothers in love? Yes, we’re brothers. Okay. But will you die, right? That’s how I would typically think of it, but I think what Jesus is doing here, it’s important to recognize. What I think Jesus is getting at is to say this, “Look, Peter, are you willing to give your life for me in the cause, the mission for which I call you to in this world to represent me as your king? Are you willing to do that?” “Yes, king. I will die for you.” “But Peter, are we friends?”
Sometimes, we can get so task-oriented in life. Even in ministry, you can get so focused on accomplishing some sort of job that you forget the whole point of it. It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you’re becoming in Christ. It’s about your relationship with the Lord. Now, Peter could have gone on from this moment all day long and served and continue to serve and tried to serve to make up for his inadequacies in how he rejected Jesus. That’s not ultimately where Jesus wanted to end the conversation, is it? “Look, Peter, I’m glad that you want to serve. I’m glad you love me to the degree that you’ll give your life in that service, but here’s what I really want to know. Are we friends? Are we friends?”
When you mess up in a relationship with someone else, it’s hard to look them in the face, isn’t it? To experience that closeness that you had previous before you messed up, and the only thing that really reconciles that is forgiveness. It’s grace. And this is who Jesus is communicating to us that he is, right? “I am for you. I want to see you thrive.” I mean, Jesus indicates that by the way he talks to Peter after the question, “Do you love me?” because then he says, “Look, there’s still a place for you in this kingdom. Feed my sheep. You need to get back up. There’s a race that you’ve been called to run. There’s gifts that I’ve given you to make a difference, and here’s what I’m telling you is, we can put this in the past so that you can live for the reason for which I have called you to live.”
And I love Peter’s response here at the end. He said to him, “Lord, you know all things, and you know I love you.” He’s saying to Lord, “Look, Lord, I can’t hide my shortcomings from you. I mean, you’ve identified that you’ve recognized that I failed by asking me if I love you three times because you know I denied you three times, and you know where I am. But God, you also know I love you.”
God redeems our failures and regrets. And not only does he just redeem it, he works all things together for good. It’s one of the beautiful things that is so important to understand about the greatness of our God. In fact, Romans 8:28 is one of those famous verses we go to for that. It says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
And when I think Paul is writing this in Romans, he’s writing this to people that mess up. And in the midst of our mess-ups in life and our sin, we have a God who is more than capable and promises too to work all things together for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose. So let me just say this to you as a way of encouragement: If you’ve got regret in your life, you have a God who is big enough to redeem it all and promises to do so. And there’s a few ways that he does it. There’s ways that he can do it practically now, and there’s a way ultimately, he will bring all things together in the end. Practically, let me give you an example.
I cannot think how many people in life have gotten to John, chapter 21 and watch Peter fall in his face and say, “Thank God, I’m not the only one.” Right? I mean, that’s why this story’s here, isn’t it? So that we can relate to this and be like, “Oh, thank God. I felt like I was just the one that was out there that kept screwing up in life, but it’s not. If Peter can do it, now then I know that I’m vulnerable and I’m susceptible as well. And if Peter can get up from this, then I know that I can get up from this too, because I serve the same God and I love this Jesus as well.” So practically, our failures can be an encouragement to other people. God can redeem it. But ultimately, he’s more than capable of redeeming all of our pasts.
And the way that I know that, my example to my life is always the cross. When I think about the importance of the cross, as I look at the emblem of the cross, and I recognize that was the darkest day in history. People at their worst, beating up God in the flesh to the point that they’d kill him. And yet, Jesus turns that into the emblem of victory. If he can do that on the worst day of history, he can do that with my life too. God can work all things together for good to those who love God who are called according to his purpose.
So when you think about regret, guys, I think the more important thing for us, rather than to get fixated on regret, is to think about repentance, because I think there’s a distinguishing point between those two words that are very, very significant to understand. When we deal with regret in life, the reason that we oftentimes hold on to it and not let go is because our primary focus is on us. We deal and battle with regret because we’re fixated on us, but we can make the transition in our life to deal with repentance when our hearts are fixated on him.
So I said to us just a few more months ago that people create religion because they see a God that they think is inadequate to meet their needs. And we deal with regret in life that tends to be how we view God. “Yes, God, you can forgive all of them, but not me.” Right? “God, all the verses that you write in the Bible about the greatness of your grace and the ability to overcome and how you’ve died for all people’s sins and said it’s finished on the cross. That was good for them, but not for me. I’ll hold on to this regret because my focus is on the magnitude of my sin.”
But repentance, repentance is a focus on the greatness of who he is. “God, I messed up over here, but Jesus, your grace is more than enough. God, I fell on my face, but God, thank you that you did not stop loving me. I thank you that you show up on the shores of my life. Thank you, God, that you are long-suffering and unending towards your goodness to me all of your days. And in this moment, I can turn to you.” That’s the beauty of this passage in Lamentations 3. Listen to this. It says, “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.” But God has all the excuse in the world to be done with you, because we’re not perfect and he is. But because of his great love, we’re not consumed, for his compassion, look at this, never fails. They’re new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. When I am unfaithful, I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion. Therefore, I will wait for him.” You know what I need? I need to commune with God.
I need to stop looking at me, and I need to look at the greatness of who he is, because his grace is more than enough. If we had to live in our past regrets, not one of us could do a thing for Jesus, but don’t let the pride of those moments keep you from where God calls you in him. That’s why Peter says, 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 13, “Set your hope fully on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And when my identity rests in the presence of Christ, it leads me to hope and freedom forevermore because he redeems it all. It’s to say stop telling yourself how big your sins are and start telling your sin how big your God is.
In 1904, there was a young man named William Borden, and William was the heir to the Borden Dairy, whatever that is, product, right? If you know the little milk cow on the side of dairy products, it was his family that ran that. In 1904, he graduated high school in Chicago. And by the time he graduated, he was already a multimillionaire. And in 1904, I don’t even know what that would be today, thanks to inflation, a quadrillionaire or something. He’s a multi-billionaire by now, but he was a millionaire graduating high school.
And if I could take his job… No, I’m just kidding. He was a billionaire coming out of high school. And part of his graduation present from his parents was what you give all 18-year-old kids when they graduated high school: It’s a world trip. He got to go on a world trip and go around all over the world and seeing different things. And as he went on this world trip, he ended up writing home to his parents because on that world trip, he saw a lot of brokenness around him. And he wrote home to his parents and he said, “I am not going to take over the family business, but rather, I want to be a missionary.”
And when he made that decision and he wrote that letter to his parents, he opened up to the back of his Bible and he wrote those words, “No reserves.” I mean, he’s not holding anything back. And then he went on to an Ivy League school. I believe he graduated from Yale. And when he graduated from Yale, he had all these job opportunities where it would’ve been very lucrative for him to take, but he rejected them and he chose to go on to seminary.
And while in seminary, he then opened up to the back of his Bible and he wrote these words, “No retreats.” He is not turning back from what the Lord’s called him to. And so, he goes on a seminary and then he ends up on the mission field. Once he graduates seminary, he takes a trip onto the mission field. I think he was ultimately going to India. And one month after he left home, before he even reached the land that he wanted to serve as a missionary, he contracts meningitis, and he dies. When his Bible is returned home to his family, they open the back of it and they notice below, those words, “No reserves, no retreats.” He had written one more word, “No regrets.” No regrets.
When you study a life like his by our worldly standards, we may look at a person like this and what happened to him and say, “You know what, it’s not a very successful life by worldly standards,” but you don’t measure success, at least in God’s eyes, by longevity of life. You don’t measure it by wealth. You don’t measure it by accolades. You don’t measure it by how good you look. The success of life is measured by your dedication to the Lord.
And guys, the only reason that’s possible is not because of us, but because of his faithfulness to you and to me. His mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. No matter how many times in life you fall on your face, the beauty of what we have every day is that we have an opportunity to come before the Lord as he meets us on the shores of our lives, and continues by his grace to transform us, not because we’ve impressed him with us, but because our lives have the opportunity to be impressed with him.