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2021 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Private (Spiritual) Disciplines

Andy Stanley - Private (Spiritual) Disciplines

Andy Stanley - Private (Spiritual) Disciplines

So I want to begin with something that we initially, a word that we really initially hate. I think all of us initially hate this word that we often grow or learn to love, and it's this word, discipline. Discipline. It's discipline, the way I think about discipline, it's the friend that we hate to see coming, but we are so glad they visited us once they are leaving, right? You hate thinking about going to work out but you're so glad you've worked out, right? A few years ago, Sandra, my wife, started working out with this woman named Tammy in her basement studio about 15 minutes from where we live. And she said, "Oh, you need to come, you need to come". Okay, excuse me, I said, "That kind of sounds like a girl workout to me, so I don't know".

So anyway, I began going. It was a good opportunity to do something with Sandra. And so two days later, when I still couldn't feel half of my body, I realized I think that was pretty serious. And so we began going and I would always hate it, but to give you context, I pulled this off of Tammy's Instagram, and she gave me permission to show it. I was going to show it anyway, but I thought I would ask her. So this is my trainer, Tammy. Tammy weighs 120 pounds. She has five grandchildren. She's deadlifting five times 255 pounds. And when I called her to say, "I would love to show this video". I said, "What are you up to"? She said, "285 pounds".

Now I can deadlift the recycle bag out of the plastic container. And so anyway, so that's Tammy. And we'd go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We did this for several years, and I thought, I told Sandra, I said, "I would like to get a t-shirt printed that on the front," the point of what I'm trying to communicate, "that on the front says, I hate Tammy, and on the back says, I love Tammy," because this is the nature of discipline. It's the friend you hate to see coming. Oh no, I gotta do that. Then once I do it, I'm so glad I did it, because we never regret discipline, right? We never regret good habits, but initially we resist. I think at some level, we all celebrate when we have self-control. We celebrate self-control in ourselves and in others, but initially, self-control in multiple areas is, it's a struggle.

And here's the interesting thing about self control and discipline and all these things. And this is kind of interesting, and this may not be always be the case, but it's mostly the case, that motive, motive is unrelated to outcome, and attitude is often or usually unrelated to outcome. What I mean is this, that if you eat clean for all the wrong reasons and with a bad attitude, you will still benefit from eating clean, and over time, your attitude might actually change. In fact, your motive may change as well. In fact, we've all experienced this. It could be that ought to becomes want to, and endure becomes enjoy.

In fact, probably all of us could explain or talk or tell a story about something that began as an ought to that now you miss it if you don't, and it started off as an endurance test, and now is something you actually enjoy and you miss. Years and years ago, I, because of where I lived, the only exercise I could do is run, and I hated running. Gosh, I just hated running, but I just ran and ran and ran, and then I learned to love it. And then I had a little back surgery and had to quit it, and now I miss it. It's the strangest thing. I hated it, I learned to love it, I had to quit it, and now I miss it. And honestly, I'm not exaggerating, when I'm driving down the road and I see someone running, I want to roll down my window and just say, "Keep running, keep running, 'cause now I can't run, and I miss it. Run, Forest"! You just keep going to do it as long as you can, right? So if you hear somebody yell that out the window, that was me.

So anyway, the point is this. Here is something we all know, that what begins as sheer discipline, we all have a story, what begins as sheer discipline that ultimately becomes a habit, that becomes a lifestyle, is life-changing for many of us. And maybe more importantly, it's life-preserving, whether it's exercise, or coming home earlier from work, or spending less, and saving more, less sugar, call your momma, whatever your discipline is. Discipline, you know this. Discipline facilitates progress. There's no progress without discipline. This is true personally, professionally, academically. It's true corporately. It's true nationally. And discipline facilitates prosperity, financially, relationally, and even physically, but, and here's the rub, right?

Discipline requires delayed gratification. And you all know what delayed gratification is. It's doing what we ought to do now, so we can do want to do later. And there's the rub. And we will come back to that in just a minute. Today, if you've been tracking along with us, we are in part five of our series, Faith Full, subtitle being Fueling your Faith in a World on Empty. And the basis of this series, the reason we're talking about this, is Jesus was so clear in the first century that his goal and his agenda for his first century followers and for his 21st century followers is that we would be people of great faith, but not faith that resides in our head, just things we believe, but faith that's an active, gritty, in the real world, in the family, at business, at work, in the neighborhood kind of faith, faith that shows up when we show up, faith that changes things, faith that confronts things, which explains Jesus' early invitation, which was to follow me.

"Follow me," he would say to the people, "I want you to follow me". I want you to follow me and you're going to learn some things, but I want you to watch the way I live in light of my faith in my Father in heaven. I want you to watch the way I respond to people in light of my faith and my Father in heaven. I want you to watch the way I live my life, because I'm living out my life within the context of this deep abiding faith that God is my heavenly Father, and I want you to learn to live in such a way that reflects that deep abiding faith. I want you to move and live in a different direction, and Jesus never changed his invitation.

Now the church eventually did, as we've said throughout this series, the church eventually kind of watered down Jesus' invitation and reduced it to simply believe in me. And yes, Jesus invited people to believe in Him, but that was just the beginning. Believe in me doesn't change anything. Believe in me doesn't do anything. Believe in me doesn't show up anywhere. Believe in me just resides in my head. This is so much easier, so much safer. It's far less demanding. In fact, believe in me doesn't require anything. It's an invitation to stay exactly the same way you are, and to stay exactly where you are, no change required.

But Jesus did not invite us to simply believe things about Him or to simply even believe things about God. He invited us into a lifestyle that reflects deep abiding faith in our Father in heaven, because belief alone, if it just stays right in your head, it actually creates feeble, frail and fragile faith. Faith that is easily broken, faith that is easily lost. In fact, this is one of the reasons that some of you have lost faith, or some of you are losing faith. You never did anything with it. It was like a muscle you never exercised. It was just things you were taught as a child, and when anybody would ask, you would say, "Oh, I believe in God". Oh I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe. But if you never allowed or never learned to activate your faith in the real world, it was an unexercised muscle that got weaker and weaker and weaker, and now you're losing it. And here's how you express it.

You say, "I'm not sure I believe that anymore. I'm not sure I think that's true anymore". And that's where faith begins, but if it's not activated, it recedes into simply ideas and concepts in our mind, and Jesus invited us into a life that's way, way, way bigger and way more dynamic than that. He invites us to follow, to wake up every single day with this question, "What would I do"? Not just what would I think, not what would I believe, but what would I do? How would I respond? How would I react? Where would I go? Where would I refuse to go? What would I initiate? What would I attempt? What would I avoid? If I was absolutely confident that God was, that God is with me. This is the life of faith, and this was the life that Jesus invited his first century and his 21st century followers into.

So in this series, we're asking the question, what creates and what helps us maintain that kind of gritty real-world faith? And you've met people like this. In fact, many of you are people like this, but when you meet people like this, especially when they're going through a difficult time, I mean, it's easy to believe in God and sing all the songs when everything's up into the right, but when you meet people who are, I mean, they're dealing with difficult things with their kids, financially, with jobs, moving, their health, whatever it might be, and they just have this calm sense of peace and confidence in God. You think, how did you get that?

So in this series, we're answering the question, how do you get that? In other words, what fuels and that facilitates the development of active, enduring faith? Or what are the essential ingredients? And we said there are at least five. Now there may be more than five, but there are at least five, and this is based on the life and teaching of Jesus, but it's also based on hearing hundreds and hundreds of stories of men and women who are mature Jesus followers who have faced very difficult things, but when asked, okay, tell me your faith story. How did you get to the place where you have that kind of real-world confidence in God?

And when they tell their stories, when you tell your story, these five things show up over and over and over again. We call these sometimes the five faith catalysts, five things that God uses to grow our faith. And the thing that's so amazing about these five is that they intersect our lives as children, as students, as singles, as adults, as senior adults throughout our entire lives. So first up, we've talked about the first three of these. The first week we talked about practical teaching. We said, when people tell their story, they talk about the first time they went to a church, or the first time they went to a Bible study, or a campus ministry, where somebody actually gave them handles and applications. They taught them what to do with what they perhaps had believed since they were children.

And we said this, that when our active, real-world faith actually intersects with God's faithfulness, and here's what I mean by that. When we actually do what we feel like our heavenly Father wants us to do, when we actually do what Jesus commands us to do, and then we experience God's faithfulness on the other side of that scary decision, our act of faith intersects with his faithfulness, and our faith gets bigger.

The second catalyst for growing our faith we said was personal ministry. When people tell their story, they talk about the first time they actually served somebody or served a group of people in Jesus' name, and they did not feel adequate, they weren't ready, they couldn't answer all the questions, they hadn't read the entire Bible, they felt like they were completely out of their league, but they just felt nudged to go on a Global X trip, or that's what we call our mission trips, to serve some children, to show up at a nonprofit, to lead a small group. They're thinking, I hope no one asked me any hard questions, right? And they tell those stories and they say, when I stepped into that scary place, and God came through for me in spite of my inadequacy, in spite of my lack of preparation, my faith grew.

Then the third dynamic we talked about this last time is providential relationships. Whenever we tell our faith story, whenever anyone tells her faith story, they talk about the people that God brought along at just the right time, at just the nick of time. Then I met this guy, then I met this girl, then this family moved into my neighborhood, then I got a new job, and the guy in the cube next to me, or my boss was a Christian, or my dad, my mom remarried, and this guy was a Christian and he took us to church. When we tell our faith stories, there are always these people that were just, they were just there at the right time. They were providential relationships, because it was like God just dropped them into our lives.

And today, we're gonna talk about this fourth dynamic that people talk about every time they tell their faith story. We call it private disciplines, private disciplines, or specifically, private spiritual disciplines. Again, when people tell their faith story, they say, you know what? And for the first time in my life, I began to read the Bible. For the first time in my life, I began to pray, not reactionary prayers like God, please help me find a parking spot, and God, please don't let that be true. God, please let him call me back. Not those kinds of prayers.

For the first time in my life, I sat down, I cleared out some space, I cleared out some time, and I sat down for the first time and I really began to pray. And I learned how to talk to my Father in heaven, and I began to read the scripture, and I got a devotional book. And for the first time in my life, I began to give systematically. I'd always been a reactionary giver. There's a need here, and a need there, and I'd throw some dollars here and there. But for the first time in my life, I was a percentage giver. I realized that God had called me to invest in his kingdom, in my community, and all over the world, so I began giving consistently. I began showing up consistently with other believers, and sometimes I loved it, and sometimes I just was checking a box, but these were the disciplines. These were the things that I do over and over and over and over.

And again, sometimes it began as an ought to, but eventually it became a want to, and these spiritual disciplines, when they tell their story, when you tell your story, they were a key factor in growing faith, that essentially they said like any discipline, I pre-decided, I decided ahead of time. I'm gonna get up in the morning and read my Bible. I pre-decided I'm gonna give a percentage of my money to God's work in the world. I pre-decided I'm gonna show up at small group. I'm going to show up at church when I get something out of it, when I don't get something out of it, because something about the repetition, something about the discipline of it builds our faith. They would say it became a lifestyle, and again, initially some of it was enjoyable, some of it wasn't enjoyable, but in spite of that, their faith grew.

Now the most important thing that I, when I was putting this message together, the thing that immediately came to mind is something that my dad would say over and over and over when I was growing up. He would say this. He would say, "Andy, the most important thing in the world, the most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ". I heard this, my whole life. "Andy, the most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ". And what he meant is this, that it's not about church, and it's not just about learning, and it's not just about principles, and it's not just about applications.

There is a personal, intimate side to this. It's about waking up every single morning with a sense of personal accountability to my Father in heaven, that nobody else might know what's going on, but my Father in heaven knows what's going on. Nobody else may care of what's going on, but my Father in heaven cares about what's going on, that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in our lives. Not a doctrine, not a belief system, not a label, not a church. And again, it takes us back to this very intimate invitation that Jesus extended then and extends now. He says, "I want you to follow me".

There has to be something personal about this. This is something that's daily. This is minute-by-minute. This is all-encompassing. This is every area of your life. This is, as we've talked about before, this is thy will be done, right here right now in my life. Heavenly Father, thy will be done right here, right now in my life, and here's why this is so important. Our spiritual lives, and our following Jesus routines, they're both external and they're internal. And we've talked a lot about the external, those times when you step out and you obey, you step out and you serve. But if there's not the internal part, if there's not some sense of you and God, you and your heavenly Father, you and the scriptures, you and prayer.

If there's not some something personal about it, what happens over time? Over time, we lose the sense of personal connection. And when that happens, it just becomes routine. It becomes somewhat corporate. It can grow cold. We can become cynical. We can become judgmental. Have you, don't raise your hand, but we've all met church people that we just thought, you know what? You may go to church, but you're not a very nice person. I would not want to be your neighbor or your friend, and I would not want my kids to marry any of your kids, 'cause then I'd have to be with you at Christmas, okay? And I know you're a church person, and I know you're a Christian, but gosh, you're just not very, to use kind of a churchy words, you're just not very Christ-like. I mean, you're a churchy, and you do the thing and you've got the routine. We've all met people like this.

Here's the danger. If there is not a personal side to your faith, and we're going to talk about how that works in just a minute. If there's not something personal, I mean you set aside time, personal. If you just go through the motions, over time, it just becomes check a box. And over time, you can become critical, cynical, judgemental. In fact, I'm just, once again, if you've lost faith, or if you're losing faith, isn't it true that one of the first things that dissipated or went away was any kind of personal connection with your heavenly Father? Isn't that true? In fact, it didn't even begin with, well, I don't believe that anymore. It always begins somewhere else. And if we are not fostering and developing the personal side, here's what happens. We're no longer following. We're just Christian. It's not personal. It's not intimate. We're just claiming and wearing a label.

So the private spiritual disciplines, this is where the personal grit comes. This is where the personal tension is, and it's critical to building our faith. And here's why, and then I'll move on. Because the personal side of Christianity is what releases the kingdom of God in your life personally. Big church word, let me say it a different way. The personal side of Christianity, intimate side of Christianity, is what releases God's rule in our lives. It allows us to answer the question and forces us to grapple with the question, is Jesus really the Lord of my life, or is this just something I believe if I was to be quizzed? What religion are you? I'm Christian. Great, you're Christian. Is Jesus the personal Lord of your life? In other words, are you following Jesus? And if we're not careful, if we don't develop and foster and invest the personal side of our walk with God, it becomes corporate.

And over time, I'm just telling you, some of you are wrestling with this now, or you've been there in the past, your faith in God, the categories, the belief part, it just begins to dissipate. But the personal side fine tunes our conscience, so that what bothers God begins to bother you. And what brings God joy begins to bring us joy.

Now when people tell their story, the three spiritual disciplines that always surface in the story are these three, and these are the three I'm going to spend a couple of minutes on today. Daily devotions, percentage giving and corporate worship. Now when people tell their story, or if you were to tell us your story, you would not use these phrases. You might use this top one, but not these other three, these other two. But essentially, these are the things that come up over and over, a personal devotional life. People talk about when they finally decided, okay, I'm going to become a proactive percentage giver. They had to wrestle that to the ground. And then people talk about what happens to them personally when they are with other Christians.

So real quick, daily devotions. People tell the story. They say for the first time in my life, again, as I mentioned earlier, I began reading portions of the scripture. I would highly encourage you to follow Jesus through one of the gospels. Just pick one, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and say, I'm going to follow Jesus through this gospel. I've spent the last year and a half in Luke. I'm a slow learner, but it's just so fun to follow Jesus through the one of the gospels and get up every morning and say, here we go, what happened next on this adventure? Or to follow David through his life in the Old Testament.

But again, to spend some time every day, say with the scripture open, or devotional book, but at least include some of the scripture. And during that time to pray, because in those moments when it's just you and your heavenly Father, those are the moments unlike preaching and unlike teaching, although it happens sometimes with preaching and teaching, these are the moments when you feel as if God is speaking to you personally. He's prompting you. He's warning you. He's reminding you. He's encouraging you. He's being invited into the details and the complexity of your life and your family.

Remember when Jesus taught us to pray, we talked about this a month or so ago, when Jesus taught us to pray, he said, when you pray, but when you pray, he assumes we're gonna pray, but when you pray, it doesn't say as you're driving, as you're doing something else. He says, "But when you pray, I want you to go into your room," which was so difficult. Houses were small. Doors are made out of leather. I want you to "go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen". So Jesus actually commands us to set aside time of focused worth time, where God, our heavenly Father, gets our undivided attention. And of course, Jesus practiced what he preached.

Luke, who investigated everybody to spend time with Jesus during his earthly ministry, says this. He's talking about Jesus. He says, "Yet the news about Jesus spread all the more," 'cause Jesus had just done something amazing. "Spread all the more so that crowds of people," very popular, lots of followers. "Crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sickness". He's busy, he was in demand. He's like us. He's got stuff to do. Things are going on, but in spite of how important his work was, and I think his work was important, Jesus' work, wouldn't you say? You got three years to save the world. I mean, that's a pretty narrow timeframe, right? Busy guy. But Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place. That means he went alone, and he prayed.

I was like, Jesus timeout. You're like, Jesus, do you need to pray? Yeah. Well, who are you praying to? That's a little complicated, but yeah, I prayed. Peter, who was with Jesus throughout his ministry, says this. He told Mark this when he was dictating his account to the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to," there it is again, "a solitary place," to be alone, "where he prayed". And the 12 apostles eventually wake up. They fix breakfast. They go into Jesus' room to wake him up and he's gone. He's gone again.

So the text says that Simon, Simon Peter, and his companions went to look for him. It's like, oh no, we've been waiting for the Messiah for 2,000 years, and we found him, and now we've lost him. So anyways, they're out looking for Jesus. And when they found him, they said, Jesus, everyone's looking for you. We got things to do. You're a busy guy. The fact that I'm so busy, the fact that there's so much to do, is the reason I get up extra early to spend time alone with my Father. Jesus, who we're following, gave his father the first minutes of the day. If we're gonna follow Jesus, we should give our heavenly Father the first minutes of our day. And it's a discipline. It's something we pre-decide.

And when we're alone, this is where we do what we've talked about before. We acknowledge God's greatness. We declare our dependence and we surrender our will. And we anticipate the day. We know the temptations that are coming. They're generally the same thing over and over. We know the stress that's coming. We know the meeting that's going to happen. We know we're going to have to have that chat with our son or daughter after school. We know what's coming, and we invite our heavenly Father into the details of our day, and then we follow Jesus. So beginning the day with that reminder of our accountability to our heavenly Father, it's the best way to start the day. And time alone with God, you know what it does? It informs or continues to inform and form our conscience, and an informed conscience, and informed conscience fine tunes us to what brings God joy and what gives God trouble. And an unrenewed mind, or a conscience that isn't fine-tuned to the things of God, creates a very, very fragile, fragile faith.

Now this second spiritual discipline, just to be maybe more personal than you want me to be. I haven't discovered through the years that this is often the faith tipping point for men, in particular. In other words, this is the thing that men, and I'm sure women, you wrestle with it as well, but just in my experience, this is the thing that when it comes to following Jesus, okay, I'll get my kids in church, and I'll be at church, and I might even serve, but this is the one where us men, oftentimes we have to wrestle this to the ground. And in wrestling it to the ground is when we discovered this really isn't a money thing. This is a faith thing. And that's the the personal discipline, private spiritual discipline of percentage giving, that is deciding upfront I'm not just gonna give when I see a need. I'm going to choose a percentage of my income, and I'm going to pre-decide to invest it in what God is doing in our community and what God is doing in the world.

And as we wrestle with this one, here's what we discover. And many of you have discovered this. It's not even about money. It's about priorities. It's about our confidence in God. It's about our faith in God. Jesus said this, and it seems so cavalier when he said this, especially to people living on the edge of starvation, in some cases. He says, hey, look, do not worry, saying, what are we gonna eat? What are we gonna drink? What are we gonna wear? Three things that most of us never even think about, because we know what we're gonna eat, and we know what we're gonna drink, and we have so much to wear, right? So we can change this. We can say, don't worry, saying, how am I going to get my kids through college? How am I ever going to afford to retire? What am I gonna do about a job?

And Jesus says, don't worry about that, to which we say, yeah, but what if there's not enough for me? And Jesus says, he smiles. He says, look, come on. That's what pagans think about all the time. That's what the pagans run after. They're consumed with what if, what if, what if, what if, what if? And we're kinda consumed that way too. I mean, I feel responsible for the people who I'm responsible for, and then Jesus smiled. And this is why this is a faith issue. And he says, look, your heavenly Father, he knows your kids need to go to college. He knows you gotta pay bills. He knows. He knows what you need them. And this is the crunch. This is the tension.

Do you believe Jesus? That's the issue, is do you believe him? Do you believe that he's connected to your Father in heaven and that your Father in heaven knows your name and knows. Do you believe, really? I believe Jesus died for my sins and I'm going to go to heaven when I die. I mean, come on. How hard is it to trust God for something you have no control over anyway? How hard is it to trust God for something you have no control over anyway? Not hard, 'cause you have no control over it.

This is why unfortunately the only time some of you pray is when there's a crisis, when there's a crisis you can't handle, you can't solve and you can't fix. It's like, okay, I've run out of my resources. God, I'm trusting in you and your heavenly Father. I got an idea. Let's do that all the time. I want to invite you to do that all the time. I want to invite you to live your whole life trusting in me. That's what big, bold life-changing, world-changing faith looks like. Jesus says, come on, I'm inviting you to put your money where your faith is, regardless, regardless, regardless, right? Here's what he says regarding our resources. He says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness". Sounds familiar, right? Your kingdom come, your will be done. Your kingdom come, your will be done. And all these other things that you're so consumed about, they're gonna come as well because your father knows.

I wanna make sure you understand where I'm coming from on this, so give you a big statement. Giving, giving, exercise percentage upfront, pre-decided disciplined giving, it exercises our faith because it involves letting go of what we are most inclined to put our confidence in rather than God. This is why it's a faith thing. It's not even a money thing. Jesus was so brilliant on this. I mean, it's so brilliant. He says, look, you can't two kings. Can't have two bosses, can't have two Lords. The word he used is you can't have two masters. You're either gonna surrender and follow God, or you're going to surrender and follow, and we would think, based on our Bible worldview, he would say, it's either God or the devil.

Jesus goes oh, come on, let's get real. You're not struggling with whether you're gonna follow God or the devil. Well, you're right about that. Jesus says, let me pry. Your issue, Andy, our issue is, are you going to trust God or are you gonna trust your stuff? Trust your wealth? Well, I'd like to do both. I would like to trust in my wealth until it runs out. And then you're the backup plan, to which our heavenly father says no. The invitation is follow, prioritize, surrender to me. And your heavenly father knows your heart and knows my heart this well. He knows.

This is so amazing, that the number one contender for my loyalty, as a man especially I think, the number one contender for my loyalty is not the devil. It's my financial security. And Jesus says, so come on, trust me with that. And then I'll know that I got ya. This is easy for me. I just gotta let you know, it's easy for me 'cause I was raised this way. I mean, I gave the first dime out of every dollar first dollar out of every 10 to the church, first 10 out of every hundred. And I remember the first time I gave a hundred dollars. I was in high school. I think I was a junior in high school 'cause I remember who I was sitting next to, but I won't talk much about that.

Anyway, so I was a junior in high school. I'm sitting in church on a Sunday night. This isn't the '70s. We're still learning the words to "Sweet Home, Alabama". This is that long ago, okay? Anyway, so I'm sitting in church. At the end of the service, my dad does this invitation. My dad's a pastor. And people came forward, and then as we're ending the service, on Sunday night, he said, Hey before you go, and he calls us young woman up and he said, this is so and so. In fact, I still remember her name. This is Terry. This is how this was etched in my mind. This is Terry. Terry was in nursing school. There was a specific need. She needed some money. She said if there's anybody here that would like to help Terry, she's gonna be down here at the front. And when he said that, I just felt this thing on the inside. It was in a voice that said, "You should give her a hundred dollars".

I was working at Winn-Dixie for minimum wage, cleaning the meat department after everybody went home. It was not the greatest job, but anyway, and I was trying to save up for a car that I thought it would be reliable. And I had this little Toyota Corolla that was on its last leg. And I just thought, a hundred dollars? There's no way God said that. Okay, we'll just pray, God, please bring somebody. You just can't shake it. And I was already giving 10% of my money to the church, and did other stuff. A hundred dollars, it was a fortune to me. I'm going out to my car. I had my checkbook. You remember Joe's, they're like the little rectangle paper things? Anybody remember checks? Anyway, yeah. And I went down, I said, "I know this is so odd, but I just felt like I should give you a hundred dollars". And she cried.

My dad's like, I think my dad was like, are you sure? A hundred dollars? Are you going to be coming to me later, right? Why do I remember that? Because you know what the battle was? The battle wasn't am I going to be able to eat and sleep and live indoor? No, the battle was this is mine. God says, okay, but I want you to be mine. So give it. This is a faith thing. It's hard to start as an adult. It's hard to be a percentage giver as an adult. I get that. But as you wrestle with this spiritual discipline, here's the word I want you to wrestle with: why? Why? And eventually you realize it's really not about money. It's about confidence in God. It's about surrender. It's about follow. It really is about our faith.

And can I say one more thing to us guys? Look, please don't hide behind well, I like to give when I see a need. Okay, that's what pagans do. That's what Americans do. That's what everybody does. That's a bit of a Messiah complex. I'm going to come swooping in, and I'm going to be a solution to a problem. And you know what? Every once in a while, in fact, not every once in a while, that should be common to as Christians. We should be swooping in any time we can to meet a need. Absolutely, but if that's the only way you give, that does nothing for your faith. That just strokes your ego. So you, if you're gonna follow Jesus, at some point, you're going to have to develop the spiritual discipline of percentage, priority, I've decided ahead of time, giving. And as you wrestle with that, you just remember this. It's a faith issue, and when you say yes, God will do something for your faith, guaranteed.

Last one, it's corporate worship. I'll do this quick. This doesn't seem very personal, doesn't seem like the rest, but because it doesn't seem private, but it actually is, because corporate worship is not just gathering in a place like this, or in your group with other Christians. It's not just about learning and sharing ideas and hearing stories. It's way bigger than that. Something happens. I can put it this way. Something happens personally when we gather corporately. It just does. There's a group dynamic that has a personal, private impact, and you've experienced this. You've experienced this sometime in the singing. You've experienced this sometime in just a story that's told.

During 2020, Sandra and I kept saying to each other, I miss church, I miss church, I miss church. And what were we saying? We weren't missing the building. I have a key to the building. We could have come to the building every day. You miss church? Let's go visit, walk around the halls. I just feel better. I've been to church. It wasn't the building, right? And it wasn't the preaching, 'cause I preach to her all the time, so I know she wasn't missing the... No, I mean, preaching, we can get preaching anytime, anywhere. You can hear all the best people on-demand. So it wasn't preaching. There was a we thing that we just missed. You've experienced Jesus said this, and I don't claim to understand this. He said, "Where two or three are gathered, where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them," or King James says, "there I am in the midst of them".

And I don't know all this means, but here's what I know at a minimum it means. That when I gather, when I gather with you in Jesus name, I might experience the presence of God in a way that I wouldn't experience on my own. I know it means at least that. It means that I can experience something with you that I can't experience on my own, and that what I experienced with God on my own is limited if I don't at some point gather with other believers in Jesus' name. It goes beyond learning stuff. It's more about experiencing it. And part of it is, I think, part of it is, and this is some of the frustration of gathering in big places, part of it is when we gather together, do you know what we're forced to give up? We're forced to give up a bit of our autonomy. Who's gonna sit there, right? And do I get to park?

We have to give up our part of our autonomy. We have to give up part of our individualism, and I becomes we. And did you know we, we, there's something to we that's better than I. Paul said this way. He said, "Now you," talking to Christians in Corinth. Actually, it's the second person plural, so literally, it should say this.

Now y'all, now y'all, he's talking to a group, okay? "Now y'all are the body of Christ and each one of you, each one of you is a part of it". There is an aspect of the Christian faith that I can not experience apart from you. And we're all part of this community, but we have to choose to participate in the community. We have to choose, and at some point, at some time, it feels a little bit like a discipline. But it's a reminder every time we get together, you know what it's a reminder of? That God is up to something bigger than you that includes you. God is up to something bigger than you in the world, but it includes you. And we lose that sense of we and us when we isolate ourselves from we and us. And something happens to me personally when I gather with you corporately.

So here's what I want to do. And I know you're so tired of 30-day challenges, but I'm going to offer, I'm going to issue one anyway. I want to challenge all of you, all of you, if this isn't already part of your life, to embrace these three spiritual disciplines for a month, these three private disciplines for a month. And teeing off of Jesus' command to seek first the kingdom of God, seek first the kingdom of God, seek first the kingdom of God, I want to challenge you specifically to seek first, first as in first thing, the kingdom of God, in these three areas. I want you to give Him the first minutes of your day, the first dollars of your income, and the first day of the week.

First, you don't have to give Him all the minutes of the day, just the first minutes. You don't have to give him all the dollars. You just give him the first dollars. You can pick the percentage. You don't have to go with 10%. Just pick a percentage and commit to it. It's a discipline. And a part of the first day of the week, or some day of the week, to say, I'm going to gather with other believers in Jesus' name. Daily devotions, percentage giving, and corporate worship. And at the personal level, this really is what it looks like. This really is what it looks like to seek first the kingdom of God, because these things challenge us individually and personally, and that's where intimacy with our heavenly Father is found.

These things, of course, have been habits for me for years. I would never asked you to do something I wasn't willing to do myself. And I'm absolutely convinced. These are three things, among other things when it comes to personal disciplines, that God has used to grow up and blow up my faith. There's so many illustrations, I'm not going to tell you any more today, of times when it was just me on my knees, me with the scripture, me praying, when it was just out of the blue, and I just knew, Oh, this is something that I need to do. And you only have to experience that a few times when you realize oh my goodness, He really is my heavenly Father. And there really is something personal and private to this. And your faith will get bigger. Your confidence in God will grow stronger. And initially it may feel like pure discipline, but you know what? There's no progress without discipline. And who knows? What began as an ought to may become a want to, but either way, your faith will grow.
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