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Stronger - How Hard Times Reveal God's Greatest Power

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 18, 2015 6:00 am

Stronger - How Hard Times Reveal God's Greatest Power

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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J.D. Greear

What's up, Summit Church? Welcome to church today.

I'm so glad to be back. I have had such a great relationship with you for so long. I met Pastor JD back in the 1900s. That's how old we are. I met JD in 1995. He was a student at Campbell.

I was a student at Gardner-Webb because JD wasn't smart enough to get into Gardner-Webb. We've kind of grown up together in ministry. He's watched me getting married.

I've watched him getting married. We have families now. I remember preaching at the Summit Church when it was called Homestead Heights. So for me to see God's faithfulness to this church and to see how God is using the Summit to send out people all around the world for the sake of the gospel, I am honored to preach to you today for the next two and a half to three hours. It's a real joy for me to be able to be here. Anytime I get to serve JD is a great blessing.

I know that you understand, I hope you do, what a great blessing you have to not only have the staff and the pastors that shepherd you, but to be led by a humble servant and a humble under shepherd like Pastor JD. He is one of the greatest men I have ever met in my life. And I get choked up when I think about it. And it's not because he's cute, because I don't think he's cute. But his wife thinks he's cute. I think he's ruggedly handsome. But I love being able to be friends with a man of God like that and to preach to his people. So thanks for having me back today. My name is Clayton King.

I live in Anderson, South Carolina. I'm an evangelist, a pastor, and an author. I'm a dad and I'm married. My lovely wife and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary today.

Can you believe that? I'm with you on my anniversary. I really love you guys. So today is our 16 year, five month, and 18 day anniversary. And we have two kids. Jacob is 13. Joseph is 10. We homeschool our kids.

Yes, we are those people. We homeschool our kids, but they are completely and totally normal. They have conversations with grownups like mature little gentlemen. They can read.

They wear shoes. And we do not churn our own butter at an organic free range farm. Okay? We're normal. We shop at Publix. Both of my boys love the Lord. My 13 year old feels like God may be calling him into ministry. And so pray for me and my family.

Our summer camp ministry called Crossroads has been partnering with this church for many, many years and your students will be attending camp with us again this summer. So it's a real treat for me to be with my people today. Now I've heard, let me just say it, every campus and every location, I've heard that this service is the most fun and most rowdy service of the entire weekend. Don't let me down. No pressure, but don't let me down. Let me dive right in because I want to be respectful of time and I want to watch the clock, but I've got something to share today.

So let me just begin by asking you a question. Now when you think of the word stronger, if you want to get stronger, what are some things that pop into your mind? Imagine with me right now, just when you think about the concept of strength, what pops into your mind?

I think of things being bigger or more successful. For instance, it's an election cycle, so we want a strong candidate. When you think about the military, I want a strong military.

As a matter of fact, I want our country to have such a strong military, that we never have to use it, that we deter people from attacking us because our military is so strong. What about the national economy? Don't we all want a stronger dollar?

We all want a stronger economy. You want stronger personal finances. What about even just physically? Like if you want to get stronger, what are some things that you have to do?

Well, you need to eat better, you need to go to the gym. For me, if I want to be stronger spiritually, you're probably thinking I'm going to say, I should read my Bible and pray and tithe and volunteer at my church. Well, those are important, but if I want to be stronger spiritually, I need to drink a lot of coffee.

I'm just going to tell you straight up, like I thought I would get a better laugh out of that. Coffee makes me not only a stronger person, it makes me a better Christian. It makes me a better dad. It really spiritualizes my mindset.

Some of you are not drinking coffee yet in your life, and I just want to tell you, you too can repent of your sin, and you too can find the hope in the grace of God that he gives us in coffee. But when we think about strength, we think about winning teams. Whether you love them or hate them, the New England Patriots are the strongest football program of the last 15 years. I don't care if you hate them.

I don't care if you wish Tom Brady would jump off a cliff. They are a dynasty. Back in the 1900s, my team, the Dallas Cowboys, were the strongest team and we're in a rebuilding decade or two or three. If you're an NC State fan, you remember what it was like to watch five slamma jamma? You remember that?

You remember watching the NC State wolf pack win that national championship with Jim Valvano and you're praying for the football program, right? Like, we want things to be stronger. Nobody really loves feeling weak. So, imagine with me, if we could hang out for a little while and if I got to know you and I ask you the question, just this one question, if we were having coffee or a meal or sitting on your deck or our families were sharing a meal together, if I were to ask you this one question, what would your answer be? What if I were to ask you what is the one thing in your life that has hurt you the most? I will probably never get to ask you that question over a meal or over a cup of coffee, but just me bringing that question up elicits an emotional response from us. Because even though you may never get to tell me that and even though it probably wouldn't be appropriate for you to tell me that because we don't know each other and we haven't built trust and intimacy yet, all I have to do is ask you to think about the most painful thing you've ever experienced in your life and you automatically know what it is. Because pain leaves a mark on us. Suffering changes us.

Weakness affects us. And so what I want to do for the next few minutes today, for every single campus and location, is I want to show you this strange odd way that God uses our pain and our weakness for our good and his glory. And I want to share some of my story as I parallel mine with a guy by the name of the Apostle Paul who also had lived through his own share of hard times and weakness. So I want to start off today by sharing a passage of scripture from 2 Corinthians chapter 11. We'll start off in verse 24 and then I want to share a story with you about the last 12 years of my life that I hope will give you some hope in your hard times and that I hope will be inspiring to you by the grace of God to let you know that if you're not dead, God's not done. This is 2 Corinthians chapter 11 beginning in verse 24. The background to this is quite simple. The Apostle Paul loves the people in this ancient Greek city of Corinth and he wants to instruct them and correct them because they're having some issues in their church.

They're struggling like we all struggle. But Paul takes a different approach as he attempts to influence them both practically and theologically. In Jewish, Greek, and Roman culture, if you were a philosopher or a religious leader or an expert of any sort, you would attempt to use your successes and your strengths to influence people and convince them of your perspective. That's how the Greek philosophers did it. That's how the Jewish rabbis did it. That's how the Roman rulers and Senate did it.

They tried to use their own personal strength and successes to prove their point and make a difference and exert influence. But the Apostle Paul takes a turn here and it's not subtle. It's pretty raw.

It's pretty brutal. It's pretty unmistakable to the church in Corinth in the ancient context. Paul does not talk about his strength and his successes to make a point. He does something that's counterintuitive to all of us.

He showcases his weakness. It says in verse 24, as Paul goes down the list of his own personal sufferings. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea.

I've been constantly on the move. And then he mentions eight specific sources of danger. Eight was significant to the Jewish mind.

Eight was the number of new beginnings. He mentions eight dangerous scenarios. I have been in danger from rivers. In danger from bandits. In danger from my own countrymen. In danger from Gentiles. In danger in the city. In danger in the country. In danger at sea.

And in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and I've often gone without sleep. I've known hunger and thirst and I've often gone without food.

I've been cold and naked. He's speaking of physical weakness. Now he speaks of emotional weakness in verse 28. He says besides everything else I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. And what mom can relate to this?

What dad can relate to this? When you love somebody you feel the pressure to pray for them. When you love your kids, your spouse, your cousins, your mom, your dad, your co-workers, you lay in bed at night and you worry about them and you wonder how they're going to turn out. And that is how Paul felt for the people in the churches that he loved and cared for. And then he asks two rhetorical questions in verse 29 and I want you to lean in and I want you to listen with your heart. If you're a believer this will speak to you as a Christian. But if you're not a Christian this is for you as well because here's the thing about weakness. You don't have to be a believer in Jesus Christ to be weak. You don't have to be a religious person to suffer pain and go through real hardship. As a matter of fact you can be an atheist or an agnostic.

You can be a Hindu or a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian. You can be a nun on the chart when you check what your religious affiliation is and you're still going to go through hard times in your life. People you love are going to die. You're going to experience a miscarriage or infertility or a prescription pill addiction or a closet problem with pornography. You're going to get laid off. You're going to lose your job. You're going to have a child that doesn't turn out the way you hoped they would. You're going to have a child that dates and maybe even marries someone you don't like. You're going to get physically sick. You're going to have health issues that you never predicted in your 20s that will attack you in your 50s or your 60s. Your life can be going great and everything can be moving up and to the right and the charts are all heading the right direction and you can have a pain in your stomach and one visit to the oncologist can totally change the outcome of your life. You can be living the dream.

Plenty of money in your Roth IRA 401k is growing five years from retirement and a drunk driver can run a red light and it's a different reality. So when Paul asks this rhetorical question, he's talking to us in verse 29 when he says, who is weak and I don't feel weak? Who is led into sin and I don't inwardly burn? Watch with me what this great man is doing.

He is not standing up on a stage or riding on a piece of parchment to try to make a case that he is strong or awesome. He is saying, if you feel weak, me too. If you are tempted to sin, so am I. I understand what you're going through. I know what it feels like.

Let me help you find hope in your hurt. Because he says in verse 30, so if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. Now I'm just going to be honest with you. This sounds like nonsense to me. I'm not going to try to be spiritual.

This just sounds crazy. Why would you boast in the things that show your weakness? Why would you brag about being a loser in any particular situation? Why would you talk about that?

I know what it feels like to be embarrassed of something that's not successful. My 10th grade year, the year was 1988. That's a long time ago. I had a Camaro and a mullet. If you don't know what a mullet is, ask somebody that was alive in the 80s. It's not a fish, it's a haircut. A really awesome haircut.

Business in the front, party in the back. You like that? In 1988, I made varsity football. I was the only 10th grader to start, and we had a perfect record that year. 0-11. We didn't win a single game. We were losing to JV teams and girls flag football squads.

I mean, we were awful. The only reason I will talk about my terrible football year in 1988 is to help you connect with me, to break down that barrier, to help you relate to me and me relate to you. That is exactly what Paul is doing here. He's saying, don't think of me as a super apostle. Don't think of me as a great church planter. I don't think of myself as being a mighty man of God. Let me show you my scars.

Let me tell you how weak I really am. Let me show you my brokenness, because I've learned that when I am broken, it's a blessing, not just a burden. Because in my brokenness, I find a connection to God's strength that I don't find when I'm full of myself and proud. And I've learned that and I'm still learning that, but I want to show you exactly how that played out in Paul's life because he tells us in the very next chapter. In chapter 12, the first 6 or 7 verses, he tells us this little story about this experience he had when Jesus apparently took him on a personal tour of a place called Paradise or Heaven. This shouldn't surprise us because Paul had met Jesus on the road to Damascus face to face when he converted to faith in Christ and God changed his name from Saul to Paul. But Paul had this amazing experience and after 14 years, he began to take pride in the fact that he had this experience with Jesus.

And that pride was a bad thing. So what God did to humble Paul is God took a bad thing and used it for a good purpose. God took a painful thing and he used it for this process Paul had to go through. And that is what God does with you and with me when we will open our eyes and open our hearts to the possibilities of what God can do through painful processes. We pray for God to deliver us from our weakness, but in reality, sometimes God in his grace and wisdom will actually allow us to stay in a painful, weak season so we will learn that we are not as strong as we thought we were and will take our eyes off of our own sufficiency and put them squarely on the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. The very thing that I have prayed for God to take out of my life has often been the very thing that God put in my life for a greater purpose that I would have never ever learned without that painful thing that drove me to my knees.

So if you will allow me, I'm going to clean myself out of spot and I'm going to preach and have a good time with y'all today. Because I have gone through hell and the good thing about going through hell is when you get out on the other side, you realize that by the grace of God, you can make it. Honey, I didn't just survive. I'm thriving now and I'm going to tell you why I'm thriving.

I'm stronger than I've ever been because I've never been weaker than I feel right now in this moment. Come on, girl. Talk back to me.

Help a preacher out. Every campus, you can say amen. Oh, I didn't mean right then, but wow, good. Right on cue. I love this church. Y'all don't say amen for JD nearly that much.

I know because I listen to the podcast. Tell him I said that. So Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 verse 7, to keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, i.e. a personal tour of heaven with Jesus, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with God to remove it.

Wow. Paul begged God to take away the painful thing. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away, but he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why for Christ's sake, not his own, not his own glory, not his own story, not his own platform, not his own influence, not to build anything for himself, but for the sake of Christ, that is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. And here it is, the big flourish at the end, the crazy paradox, the oxymoron that makes no sense, but is real and true in real life, for when I am weak, then I am strong. And I just have to say, what? You're kidding me, right, Paul? We all know that this doesn't make sense.

Last week, Pastor J.D. talked about oxymorons. He talked about paradoxes, things that don't make sense. And he used a couple of examples. You may remember jumbo shrimp, government efficiency. I've got one of my own, United Methodists.

A Presbyterian pastor gave me one, and this will only be funny to the seminarians, but a Presbyterian pastor said a happy Calvinist. Oh, come on, y'all, that's funny. I don't care who you are. These oxymorons don't make sense. How do we find strength in weakness? For instance, we all know the only way to lose weight, I don't care what the infomercials tell you, the only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more. So if anybody tries to tell you, you can eat more and never exercise and lose weight, they are lying to you and they are trying to steal your money with a product that is junk, right?

We know that. So this doesn't make sense, but it's true because it's the Word of God, but it's also true experientially in real life. Paul realized that God used the pain as a needle to puncture his pride, and that weakness was a way for God to show Paul who he really was. How does this work in your life and how does this work in my life? If I were to ask you, what's the most painful thing you've ever experienced?

Just the memory of that painful thing brings back the feeling. And for some of you it was the death of a spouse, or it was a terrible divorce, or it was a big mistake you made in college, or it was a decision that you made with your children, or maybe it was the affair, or maybe it was the fact that someone in your family died and you didn't have time to reconcile a broken relationship, or maybe it was sexual abuse, or physical abuse, or the fact that your mom or your dad cut out on the family and you grew up without them and you needed them and you're still mad and hurt and bitter about it. So there's no need in pretending to be strong.

Drop the facade. None of y'all are as awesome as you think you are. I'm not nearly as strong as I wish I was. And so if we will do what the apostle Paul did and just admit our weakness, there is a liberating freedom that will engulf us. Do you know how free I feel when I share this story with you that I'm about to share? If I didn't share my story with you for God's glory, it would kill me, because it's too heavy for me to bear alone. So let me tell you why I'm here today and this message and what it means to me and I hope what it will mean to you. I spent the last year and a half writing a book.

It's my 13th book and the last three and a half months preaching this message because I felt like God told me to. I felt like God told me to tell this story and I didn't want to because I had tried to put it to bed. I had tried to bury it. I thought I was getting over it and what I'm realizing is when you're hurt, especially when you lose something or someone, you never get over it. By the grace of God, you get through it.

But you might as well quit trying to get over it. So here's my story, at least a part of it. Over the course of 12 years, while I was raising my two children, leading a growing parachurch ministry, teaching pastor at a large church, campus pastor at a large Christian university, writing book after book for publishers, over the course of 12 years, I lost nine family members.

And when I say I lost them, I don't mean they got separated from me at the mall. I mean they died. It started with my grandfather. World War II vet, South Pacific in the Navy, dropped dead of a heart attack sitting on the couch. His brother dropped dead of a heart attack in my backyard. My grandmother who lived through the Depression had a stroke while she was working in her garden picking corn from her garden and died in the hospital.

And then fast forward to 2010, five years ago. On a Thursday afternoon, I went to see my mom and dad in South Carolina. I had lunch with them. My mom was sick. I didn't realize how sick she was. My dad was terminally ill at the time. My father had been sick for a decade, getting progressively worse.

Heart disease, diabetes, neuropathy, multiple heart attacks, triple bypass surgery, open heart, was on dialysis every other day. And my mom had been taking care of my terminally ill father as well as helping another family member who was struggling with a 20-year addiction to drugs and alcohol. And that particular day on a Thursday after lunch, my mom walked me out to the car and I told her goodbye but I noticed in the sunlight that her color didn't look right. And I asked her how she was feeling and she said, I'm not feeling well and I'm not doing good. And I said, what's wrong? And she said, I'm very, very sick and I've kept it a secret from everybody. I said, mom, tell me what's wrong. We can get you some help. She said, no, I've got to take care of your dad.

He's my priority. Your dad is dying and I'm going to take care of him. And then my mom paused and whether it was a premonition or the leading of the Holy Spirit or a lucky guess, here's what my mom said and it's killing me.

The stress and the worry and the pressure is killing me. Y'all are going to find me laying dead in the middle of the kitchen floor one day soon and you'll know what happened. That was Thursday. Sunday, I preached in Charlotte. Three days later, four days later, went to the airport, was flying to Toronto. On the way to the gate, called my mom, talked to her for 10 minutes. When I landed in Toronto, I got the message that my mom had dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of the kitchen floor, just like she told me four days earlier. Spent the loneliest night of my life in another country because I couldn't get back home because there were no flights.

In a hotel room in the airport in Toronto, Canada, for the first time in my life, I experienced depression, panic attack, fear, anxiety, confusion. I've always fancied myself as being strong. I've always been big physically. I've always had a big voice. I've always been loud. I always draw a crowd.

I'm an extrovert. I love people. Then, after so many of my family members had already died and then my mom dies, my first thought is, oh no, I don't have a mom. My second thought is, who's going to take care of my dad?

My third thought was me. So I flew home the next day and I preached my mom's funeral a couple of days later. My mom dies on a Sunday.

I preached my mom's funeral on a Tuesday. Three days later was Thanksgiving. Two days after Thanksgiving was my birthday. Three days after my birthday was my mom's birthday. Three days after my mom's birthday was my brother's birthday.

Three weeks after that was Christmas. This is the worst thing I've ever gone through in my life. I'd always look down my nose at people who were depressed. I was an evangelical Pharisee because I had never felt that way. I had never known hopelessness.

I had never known grief like that. And I used to tell people silly things. This is good advice, but it was coming from a place of arrogance.

I would say, well, you're depressed? Just read your Bible more. You're filled with fear and anxiety? Just pray more.

You're doubting God? Tithe more. Volunteer more.

Go on a mission trip. That'll fix you. And then when something so heavy came on me, I realized I can't fix anything.

I'm too weak to even get up out of bed in the morning. Control is an illusion. I'm not in control of anything.

Control is a joke. I finally faced something that I could not fix. And some of you are facing things right now.

You can't fix them. You try and you try and you try and you worry and you fret and you weep and you cry and sometimes you even cheat. Whether it's too much alcohol or pills or gambling or porn or spending money indiscriminately or eating food that gives you comfort for a little bit. All of us are weak and we all need a source of strength in our weakness.

And every other source is a lie. Every other way that you cheat does not make you strong. The only way we can find strength in our weakness is to go to somebody who is bigger and smarter and stronger than we are, who has already defeated the greatest foe we will ever face, who has already beat the greatest enemy we will ever face and who has all the resources at his disposal to make us strong when we're weak.

And you know it's Jesus and I know it's Jesus but in our stubborn pride he's usually the last source of strength we go to. I'm just admitting I try everything else and so I began to take care of my dying father. And I saw my dad who was the strongest man both physically and spiritually I'd ever known. I'm one of the rare cases I had a great dad and a great mom who stayed married. They were not perfect by any stretch but my dad discipled me. When I felt called to ministry at age 14 my mom and dad were my biggest fans. My daddy was my Sunday school teacher when I was a little boy.

And to sit under the teaching of the word of God for my own father and then to watch him dwindle to the point where he could no longer hold a coffee cup. I eventually had to put my dad in a nursing home. I would bathe my dad. I would shave my dad, brush his hair, brush his teeth. I would rub diabetic cream on his feet. I would put him in the shower and scrub his body. And every single time I would drive to go visit my dad it was all I could do to control myself and compose myself from the heaving sobs of brokenness and grief knowing that my dad was going to die and it might be the last time I would see him. I would pull myself together.

I would quote scripture. I'd get out my Bible and read it and I'd walk in that nursing home and I would try my best for a couple of hours to be there with my dad and be strong for him. And then in June of 2012, a year and a half after I buried my mom, I got the phone call from the cardiologist. He said, your dad had another heart attack on dialysis today. He's alive.

He wants to speak to you. My family was, we had not had a vacation in a year and a half. We went to the beach.

We've been at the beach two or three days and I was just, we were on a pier fishing at Ocean Isle trying to relax, trying to finally just decompress and be with my family. I'd missed all the baseball games that year so far for both of my kids. And then my dad says, son, I'm ready to die. I'm too weak. I can't have surgery. They can't do a stent.

There's no more options. They're taking me off of everything except pain medicine. Will you come and stay with me until I die? And we drove six hours to the hospital and I stayed with him three nights, three days in the hospital.

We moved him to hospice and my dad died and I preached his funeral on Father's Day. I didn't know something could be so hard. I'm just going to be honest with you. I didn't really know what to do.

Even thinking about it right now, I'm not trying to be melodramatic. I want to cry. I want to cry right now. I want to go back in that green room and sit down on the couch and just bury my head in my hands and just weep. I want to, and I do.

He's been dead over three years. So after I preached my dad's funeral, I was trying to process all of this going to scripture saying, Lord, if this is true, if your strength is made perfect in my weakness and I can boast in it, will you show me how? And I felt like the Holy Spirit said, write a book. Tell your whole story of all the nine family members, of all the discouragement, of all the depression because there is a good ending to this bad situation.

Don't focus on being a victim. Focus on the victory that you have in Christ. And I said, Lord, in prayer, if you want me to write this book and tell this story and preach this sermon, I'll do it. But you better save a lot of people and encourage a lot of broken folks because I'm going to have to kick this hornet's nest that I'm trying to put behind me. I'm going to have to wake up all these old monsters that have haunted me for a dozen years, fear, anxiety, grief, depression, discouragement. I don't want to wake those things up.

I'm done with them. Please, God, if you're going to tell me to do this, it better work. But you know that, if you're a Christian, the thing that you're going through is preparation for what God has called you to. And I didn't know that at the time, but I know it now. So I wrote the book and I released the book on Father's Day and I preached the message at my church on Father's Day, three years to the day that I buried my dad and preached his funeral. And by the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, through his strength alone, through my weakness by the power of the gospel, in the last three and a half months since I released the book, preached this message, and have told this story from 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, by the grace of God, I've seen almost 6,000 people publicly respond to the gospel, repenting of their sin and trusting Christ. For the glory of God, through weakness, his strength is made perfect. So can I share with you just a few things in the five minutes I've got left that I've learned?

I want to share this with you. Your scars tell your story. So don't hide your scars. Your scars tell your story. Paul would say in Galatians 6 17 at the end of his letter to the church in Galatia, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Christ.

Yes. Just simply, that first thing he mentioned in chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, when he said he received the forty lashes of minus one five times, just that one beating was enough to kill a man, and the scar tissue on his back, sides, and stomach was probably two to three inches thick from being beaten with a cat of nine tails five times. Paul showed his scars. Guess who else showed their scars to tell a story? Jesus of Nazareth. When Thomas said, I will not believe he is risen unless I can touch him and put my hand there, Jesus said, if you want to see a scar, I've got several.

Go ahead, Thomas. Thrust your hand into these nail scars. Put your hand into my side where the spear went. Scars tell a story. Scars tell us that we survived something hard, and when I tell my story and show my scars, even people that don't agree with my philosophy, my theology, my politics, they will lean in to listen, because we all relate to difficulty, because we've all been there.

And when somebody has the guts to lean in and tell their story, it touches something innately human in us. That's why Jesus was the suffering servant. That's why the Bible is so powerful. One of the reasons is because it shows us a God who didn't just watch us from outer space, but decided he was going to put skin on and get some skin in the game. He came down here and lived like us and died a terrible death in our place to say to us in our difficult seasons and most difficult days, I know how you feel. I've been there. That's why you should become a Christian if you're not, because there is no other faith in this world that gives you a God who knows what it's like to be you. But Jesus does. My scars tell my story, and I'm going to tell it for God's glory.

You can tell your story. You might be in a place right now in your story where you see no redemption and you see no purpose, but I promise you, if you'll stay faithful to Jesus through it, you will, because here's what I've learned, and this won't be on the screens, but it's good, so you should write it down. God makes a promise, and we want the payoff. I love God's promises.

No weapon formed against you will prosper. I will be with you always to the very end of the age. I'm going to prepare a place for you.

I will wipe every tear away from their eye. God makes a promise, and we want the payoff. But in the middle, there is this painful thing called the process.

Come on. We want the payoff, but you don't get the payoff if you don't go through the process, because the process is the point. I'm always praying for God to deliver me from the process, and God's like, no, no, no.

That's the point, son. The point is I'm going to use your weakness to make you like me, and I've prayed all my Christian life. Make me like Jesus. Make me like Jesus, and it dawned on me one day as I'm standing beside my dad's deathbed. If I want to be like Jesus, I'm going to have to suffer like Jesus.

There's no other way, because I'm not going to be raising people from the dead and walking across water. That's the kind of Jesus I want to be like, the glorious Jesus. But no, I've got to learn how to suffer, because he was a suffering servant who knew pain.

I belong to him, and I want to be like my master. So weakness isn't wasted when it's the way God works in us. Weakness isn't wasted when it's the way God works in us. So that most painful thing that you've ever experienced, that weakness that you're going through right now, that health issue, that report you're waiting to get back from the doctor, that broken relationship in your family, that marriage of yours that you're fighting to try to save, those things that make you feel weak feel like a waste, and you wish that they would go away, but they're not wasted when you allow God to work in your life through that weakness. I'm stronger now than I've ever been because I'm more aware of my weakness than I've ever been. And when I see people respond to the gospel or make a decision to repent of their sin and follow Christ, I can honestly say I've never been more aware of the fact that it's not me. Because I know the crazy thoughts I have. I know the mental gymnastics I play.

If you knew how many times I'd wake up at two o'clock in the morning, freaking out and panicking over things I have no control over, and I don't know why, I'm just sharing my story with you, and I'm being transparent with you. When we will let Jesus come into our broken places, his strength will fill us up, and nobody will ever be confused about who's doing the work and who gets the glory. And here's why, because no one gets an exemption, but we all get a companion.

Nobody gets an exemption from this. Doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, hard times are coming, and if you haven't had any yet, just live a little bit longer. They're on their way. But just like smooth seas do not create skilled sailors, easy living does not produce deep faith. If we got everything we prayed for, we would all be completely ruined. Have you ever thought about how silly your prayers are?

Mine are. Praise God I don't get an exemption from hard times. I'm always praying for God to deliver me. Give me something good, give me something great, give me prosperity. Lord, don't ever let me go through hard times.

Just make my life easy. Man, praise God he doesn't answer our silly prayers. For instance, if he'd answered all my prayers, I would have been married to every good looking high school girl at every Christian youth camp I ever went to, married and divorced 13 times before graduation from high school. And so many times we're praying for an exemption. Fix this problem, but God isn't interested in making you happy. He's interested in making us holy.

So write this down. Hard times can help us if we will let them humble us. Because we don't get an exemption but Jesus will be our companion through those hard times. I wouldn't want to repeat what I've been through. And honestly it could get a lot worse for me.

In Jesus' name I hope it doesn't. But I would not trade the intimacy I feel with my companion Jesus Christ now for anything in this world. He has been faithful to me and he has carried me through. Even for me to be able to stand up here and share this story with you, five times just this weekend at the Summit Church I'm going to preach this message. Tomorrow my adrenaline levels will crash, I'll feel myself going into a dark tale spin, I'll make myself go to the gym, I'll read some scripture, I'll sit outside and get some vitamin D through the sun, I'll drink a lot of water and I'll drink a lot of coffee and I'll feel better.

But I'm willing to go through that because you need a companion. And I want you to know his name is Jesus. And I want you to know he cares about you and I want you to know he loves you. And I want you to know this, that you don't know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. You don't know it.

I didn't know it. I mean I loved Jesus. I was his disciple. He was my Savior and my Lord and my God and my Master and my Boss and my King. But I didn't really understand how precious he was. I didn't really understand how strong he really was until I had nowhere else to go.

Nobody could answer my questions. Nobody could make me feel better. There was no easy way out. I was going to have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But I love what Winston Churchill said once. If you find yourself going through hell, by all means keep going.

Don't pitch a tent in the middle of your weak season. Don't get sucked into self-pity. Don't put all the focus on you. Move forward in faith that a God who has conquered death can redeem any weakness in your life and make you strong through his Spirit. I'm not dead so I know God's not done with me. I also know that God can take your biggest mess and turn it into your signature message. I know that God can take your greatest test and make it your greatest testimony. And I know that as your scars tell your story, people will connect with what God's done in your life and they too can find hope in their hard times. And so my prayer today for every campus in every location is two-fold. If you're a believer that you'll find hope in God's grace through the most difficult seasons in your life and that you'll know you can keep going because if you're still breathing you can keep going.

And then my second prayer is if you're not a believer, if you're not a Christian, if you're on the fence, if you're skeptical, if you're critical, if you're cynical, if you've got real serious questions, I've prayed for you for months that today through the Word of God in this message the Spirit would draw your heart to salvation in Jesus Christ. Because I'm telling you, it's not like you just should give your life to Jesus so you can feel good and go to heaven. No sweetheart, I'm telling you, you desperately need Him. And if you don't realize yet how weak you are and how much you really need Him, you will at some point in your life.

Why not recognize it now? And why not give your life to Jesus now? And why not be intimately acquainted with Him now in a loving relationship? Why not give your life to Him now and let His grace saturate you and let His strength fill your weak places? Pray with me, Jesus right now with eyes closed and hearts open, I beg you, save people from their sin and their weakness. Call sinners to life.

Call dead people out of the grave of self-sufficiency. Save people through the power of the good news of your gospel that you died in our place, you took our punishment, and you can save us if we will repent and believe. So I invite you to close your eyes and open your hearts, every campus, every single location. I'm going to give an invitation in a moment for two things. First of all, for some of you to be baptized who have never been baptized before. You're a Christian but you've never followed Christ in baptism. And I'm going to invite you to begin to think about whether or not you'll be baptized today as a public symbol of your faith in Christ.

We've got gym shorts, we've got t-shirts, we've got towels, we've got hair dryers, we've got everything, so there's no excuse if you're a Christian and you've never been baptized. This is an opportunity for you to do it, but secondly, eyes closed, hearts open. And most importantly, if you have never trusted Jesus, if you've never made a personal decision to respond to his gospel, if you've never owned your weakness and admitted your sin to him, I want you to listen to that voice inside of your heart and I want you to yield to that voice. And I'm asking you right now, will you give your life to Christ? Will you repent of your sin and be saved right now?

Jesus loves you and he gave his life for you and he wants to give you new life now. So with your eyes closed and your hearts open, every campus, all locations, if you are ready to respond to the gospel, pray this to Jesus right where you sit. I'm not praying it for you, you've got to pray it to Jesus and you've got to mean it.

But if you'll call on the name of the Lord, Romans 10, 13 says you will be saved. Pray this to Jesus right where you sit, if you mean it and if you want to give control of your life to him. Call on his name quietly. Jesus, I need you.

Just go ahead, he's listening. Jesus, I need you. Please save me right now. I admit my weakness and I confess my sin. I give you my life. I give you my heart. I give you my mistakes. I give you my shame. I give you my weakness. Rescue me, Jesus. Redeem me.

I'm all yours and I'm all in. Now with your eyes closed and your hearts open, I want to ask a question and I want you to respond deliberately and immediately and boldly without fear and if you are afraid, feel the fear and do it anyway. We've seen dozens of people today already respond to the gospel. If you just prayed those words to Jesus and you meant them, I want you right now quickly and deliberately to raise your hand straight up above your head and keep it there for just a second at every campus right now.

Go. If you just prayed to receive Christ, if you just said those words, hands up. Can you get them up high? I'm not going to make you do anything.

I'm not trying to manipulate you. I want to see your hands. Just raise them up really high at every campus, every location. Just keep them up for a second. You can put your hands down.

In this room, just in this room, 14 people have indicated that they've responded to the gospel. So here's how we're going to end our service today. We're going to do two things. Eyes closed, hearts open. We're going to stand up and we're going to step out.

Stand and step. In a moment, I'm going to invite everyone to stand together at every campus and as soon as we stand, I'm going to invite those of you at every location that just prayed those words to Christ for salvation to step out and come forward. We've got volunteers and staff members and counselors and they want to help you take your next step now that you've given your life to Jesus. And for those of you that are ready to be baptized, I want you to step out and I want you to come forward and I want you to take them by the hand and say I'm ready to have a conversation about baptism. So with eyes closed and hearts open, I'm going to invite all of us right now at every campus, everyone together, stand up on your feet.

Every campus, all together, up on your feet. Eyes closed, hearts open and will you step out if you just prayed to receive Christ. Right now, come forward.

Eyes closed, hearts open, step out. Step out. Take that step. Come right now.

Right now. Don't delay. Don't hesitate. Make that move. Come right now to the front if you want to be baptized, if you want to follow Christ, if you have prayed to receive Jesus today, come now.

Right now. Don't hesitate. Make it public. Be bold. You do not have to be afraid. And if you are afraid, the power of God's strength is made perfect in weakness.

Feel that fear and do it anyway and let the strength of God carry you. So with eyes closed and hearts open, every campus, every location, I'm going to pray and while I'm praying, if you need to step out, if you have prayed to receive Christ today or if you're ready to have a conversation about baptism, I invite you to come while I'm praying. Eyes closed, hearts open.

Jesus, you are God and King and Lord and Master and we immediately and deliberately give you the glory for what you have done today in this place. So with your eyes closed, if your heart is about to beat out of your chest right now, I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to talk to you. If you prayed to receive Christ and you're scared to come forward, I get it. I understand.

That's okay. Coming forward doesn't save you. Jesus Christ does. But I want to tell you, I've got a word for you from the Lord. If your heart is pounding in your chest and you're nervous and you're scared and you're thinking, if he asks one more time, I'll know he's talking to me.

Well, I'm asking one more time and I'm talking to you. Jesus loves you and he is calling you to publicly make this decision. So Father, I ask you right now that people will continue to move at every campus and they'll continue to publicly profess their faith in Christ. Thank you, Jesus, that in our weakness, your strength is made perfect. Through your weakness on the cross, we are saved. And now, Jesus, we praise your name that the Lamb of God who was slain is worthy to receive the reward of his suffering. Receive that glory right now in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 18:50:22 / 2023-09-04 19:09:50 / 19

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