Yesterday morning, Noe Garcia, the senior pastor at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona, spoke at chapel for the annual Faith in Practice series. Instead of the familiar strum of the guitar and ring of the worship team’s voices, the chapel hall was filled with Spanish worship songs sung by Angel Lagune.
After being introduced by President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Garcia spoke to the audience about pain and the sanctification that comes through suffering.
He recounted his early life in inner city Houston, with a coke-dealing father, and his own “marriage” to the streets. When Garcia turned eighteen, his life changed after he gave his life to Christ, and then was called to ministry. Garcia explained that even though he was a believer in college at East Texas Baptist University, God was his savior but not his Lord.
He struggled with following Christ, and thus putting his faith in practice. This became a recurring theme he counseled students through later while he was the chaplain at the University of Arkansas. Garcia explained that “we stop allowing the gospel penetrate our hearts, we instead trade the gospel in for the things of this world.”
Although no student is alike, Garcia found that many struggled with finding happiness in earthly things, like high grades, and relationships. “People are trying to find their pleasure in the swipe right, and swipe left,” he said.
He continued to firmly state that grades, no matter how important they seem now, do not define you. The cross that our Lord and Savior died on, to save us from our sins, is what truly defines us.
“Joy is the eternal hope that cannot be taken away,” Garcia explained. “You cannot control your circumstances so choose joy.”
Garcia chose James 1:1-4 (NRS) to describe how our pain is not in vain, that God will never waste a tear, an experience or a circumstance.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The second point he made was that spiritual pain is often the path of spiritual growth, that the key of our growth is pain and brokenness. The last point he stressed was that the presence of pain is not the absence of God. “Take your eyes off the mountain,” said Garcia, “ and put it on the mountain mover!”
Garcia will return to speak in chapel Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m.