Summary: We get a grip on life when we develop the proper frame of mind.

“Getting A Grip On Life”

John 21:1-23

I confess that I have never watched a full episode of the once popular television series The X Files. But I saw enough of it to know that it dealt with the super natural and the unexplainable in life. In its own unique way it demonstrated the struggle of trying to live a normal, peaceful life when everything around us is out of control. And let’s face it – life is often like that. So much of what happens is out of our control and we feel powerless, confused, panic-stricken. We dare not complain for fear we’ll be labeled as wimp or a wuss; we’re concerned that someone will label us a weak, emotionally unstable person, and exhort us to “Get a grip!”

Yet being told to “Get a Grip!” is not so bad, is it? After all, it’s really what Jesus said to his disciples following his resurrection. This 21st chapter of John, in fact, is all about getting a grip on life. Jesus made it clear and simple: WE GET A GRIP ON LIFE WHEN WE DEVELOP THE PROPER FRAME OF MIND. So how do we develop the proper frame of mind? Let’s revisit chapter 21.

The chapter opens with 7 disciples hanging out together following news of Jesus resurrection from the dead. He had already appeared to them twice. Then abruptly comes verse 3: “’I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you."’ Not sure what to do, getting restless from doing nothing, confused about what life after the resurrection was all about, they went back to what they knew best. But they were about to discover that WE MUST RELEASE OUR PAST. When times get tough, when the future – or even the present – seems uncertain, the familiar is very comfortable, what is known is appealing. Life often looks better looking back. So the disciples, at Peter’s suggestion, went back to that familiar territory of fishing. They fished all night.

Think about it: when the present is uncertain and the future is cloudy, THE NATURAL TENDENCY IS TO RETURN TO THE PAST. Israel, for example, endured for so long under a burden of slavery and oppression in Egypt that (Exodus 2) their groans rose all the way to the throne of God. So through a series of divine plagues God forced Pharaoh to release them. At long last they were freed. Soon they were in the wilderness, on their way to God’s Promised Land. But life wasn’t what they expected, and the first time things got really tough they clamored to return to Egypt. “Life was better in Egypt than here,” they said. The lure of the familiar over-rode their desire for the new blessings of God which lay ahead.

We can identify with the Israelites and with the disciples. We, too, have had those moments when the past appeared to be the best of all worlds. I can remember moving to Holland Michigan to be an associate pastor after a very short but wonderful ministry in Sioux Center, Iowa. After about six months I was just starting to settle in; then the Sr. Pastor informed me that He was looking to move. I really wanted to return to Sioux Center, to go back ‘home’ to the familiar and settled. Of course, I initially failed to recognize that home was no longer the home I knew. They had a new senior pastor and had made some change, and we had said our good-byes. But I’ll never forget the feeling.

Perhaps you’ve wanted to return to the moment you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior – the inexpressible joy and peace you felt was so powerful! But now this new life doesn’t seem so good anymore. Or maybe you even wanted to go back to life without Christ – after all, it seemed so much easier, less demanding. The temptation is strong at such times to return to all the old habits, to the old familiar haunts, to the comfortable routines. The excitement runs down and life seems different and difficult. You want to return to the way it was. But notice (verse 3): “So they (the disciples) went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” The old life was not productive; it never can be. Why?

Once Jesus has taken up residence in our hearts, WE CAN NEVER TRULY GO BACK AGAIN, FOR WE ARE NEVER THE SAME AGAIN. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 wrote: “...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” An old saying states that we can never step in the same river twice. It will always be different water and the river bed will not be the same as before; it will all be new. As the water flows the old is washed away and the new rushes in to replace it. So as the Holy Spirit flows through us the old is washed away and the new rushes in to replace it. When someone in a Binumarian village in Papua New Guinea becomes lawless and defiant for a long time, the people all gather together and place the offender in their midst. One after another, the elders talk to him for a long time, telling him how wrong he has been and that he will have to become a baby again and relearn everything right. This tradition has been useful in helping Binumarians understand some of the practical implications of what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” When we surrender our lives to Christ, we begin to relearn everything God’s way. Once we belong to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we begin to see and hear like Christ. We share His perspective. As an old hymn puts it: “Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is richer green; something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen.”

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