Chris Hodges - The Prayer of Faith
Oh, it's so good to see all of you here today in church. Who's glad to be here, anybody? Yeah, come on, give God a great praise. Isn't he awesome? Oh, I'm fired up today. I've had three cups of coffee and a lot of prayer. Here we go, all right? It's good to see you. I really am glad you're here, a big hello to all of our campuses all across our area. To the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, we love you so much, we miss you. Can't wait to be back in person, but we're so glad we're still able to bring these messages to you. We have a bunch of people that are watching online for a variety of reasons.
In fact, this week, I got news that we have people in Idaho, Michigan, North Carolina, South Florida, around the world watching. We're glad you're with us. We hope you find a local church in your area, that would be better, but we're so glad that you're listening to this message. But whoever you are, wherever you are, we're so glad you're along for the ride. How about it, Grants Mill? Come on, put your hands together and say a big hello. Come on, say a bigger hello, yeah. That's awesome. All right, before we jump into today's installment of the book of James series, let me remind you, you already know this, but next week we're starting our most popular series of the year that we call "At The Movies". And for a lot of you, this is new to you.
You're like, "What is that all about"? If you're new to our church, this is our attempt to do what Jesus did, and that is tell stories, use stories to illustrate spiritual truths. So, Jesus when trying to explain the Bible in relationship with God, he would tell parables. And so, this is kind of an attempt to do a modern day parable, so we'll take movies that have redemption built into the stories, and we'll show a clip and I'll preach a little, show a clip and I'll preach a little. And it's really it's a lot of fun. We'll usually have our biggest visitor attendance during this series, and so for that reason, we are adding services at most of our locations, so be sure to go online and find out if there are other times.
And of course, we want to continue kind of spread out. If you're in a service that's already fairly full, you might want to find a service that is not so full and check those out. This series is not going to be online for copyright reasons. And we are this year not going to give you a rerun for those of you guys that are watching online. We have some fresh messages that we're going to produce for you on those three Sundays, so you'll have some great, fresh, new content for you. But great time to invite a friend. If you have someone that you know that is far from God, somebody just needs a lifeline thrown to them in some kind of way, and this is the best chance all year.
And honestly, there's nothing like it. There's nothing like having a completely far from God person sitting next to you in church, and then when I do that whole, "Bow your heads and close your eyes". By the way, if I say that and you have a friend, I'm giving you permission to disobey. You can bow your head and just close one eye, and see what your friend's going to do, you know. And when tears come down their face and a hand goes up 'cause they're receiving Jesus, you're going to say it's your favorite service ever at Highlands. So, I would love for you to take advantage of that, it's going to be spectacular.
All right, we are in week number nine and the conclusion of the book of James. We're just going verse by verse. Have you guys enjoyed this verse by verse study? I've loved it, yeah, and so me too. So, we're planning some more book studies for you next year. But the reason why we chose this particular one is because James is probably considered to be the most practical book of the New Testament, just practical, easy to apply, but everyday wisdom type of instructions specifically written for a church that was meeting online, so to speak. They were scattered. In fact, the first verse says, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus, to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations".
And he writes these practical things that I think happen when we're not only physically scattered, but also emotionally scattered. We have issues in our life. And it's been spectacular. I think every week has given us a wisdom truth, something to apply to our everyday lives. But there's a twist in the end. So, really everything up to this point, it's one of those deals where you can learn it and say, "Okay, God, I'm going to do better there. And I think I can do that one, I think I can tame my tongue. I think I can treat people without favoritism". And so, we can work on some things and improve our lives. But he ends in a unique way. It no longer is practical, he actually ends very, very spiritual. And he says it this way, this is right where we left off last week, he says, "Is anyone among you in trouble"?
When I read that, by the way, y'all excuse me, I have a sense of humor. I'm in my office by myself, and I read, "Is anybody in trouble"? and I just doubled over laughing, like James, everybody's in trouble right now. You know, this is not a good season, you know. And because everything bad is up, and that's not funny. I mean, suicide's up, addiction's up, abuse is up, divorce is up. Everything bad is up right now, and it's what happens when you live in a crisis type season that we've been in. But notice his answer is, "Is any one of you guys in trouble? 'Cause I think you ought to go back and read..." No, no, he didn't do that. He said, "Let them pray". To which some people go, "All right, well, there you go. So, that's what you're going to give us? 'Cause like I've tried that, and that is so Christian cliche. And yeah, I'm just going to pray".
But I want you to lean in with fresh ears today, five times he uses that word, "Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call for the elders of the church to," and there's the word again, like you can pray in that situation, "And pray and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord". Which by the way, if you ever would like one of our elders to pray over you, anoint you with oil, believe God for a miracle in your life, we do that every Sunday. In fact, there's even ways for us to pray with you for those of you that are watching online, like a person to person prayer time, we'll offer it at every campus 'cause we believe in this so much.
And the prayer, third time he mentioned it, prayer, in fact, he says it this way, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. And the Lord will raise them up". So, we've tried everything else in the first five chapters, but sometimes you just need God to insert himself into that situation. "And if they've sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and," and there's that word again, "pray for each other that you might be healed". And then he finishes it this way, "And the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective".
Now, why the focus on prayer? Here's what you've got, you've got to catch this because there are some things that we can learn in Scripture and apply, and we can all get better. And by the way, God tends us to work out our salvation, Philippians says. Like we can try, like I can make some decisions and control my tongue, I can do that. But all of us also face things that in all my attempts, it simply isn't enough, and that's why we pray. My definition is prayer is the difference between the best that I can do and the best that God can do. There is sometimes where I simply am not enough. Am I preaching to anybody here today at church? I'm telling you, we all face those.
In fact, this church was built on really a principle of prayer. And if there's anything we've done right over these almost 20 years... by the way, we'll be celebrating our 20th anniversary in February. We're actually making plans for this. How about happy birthday, Highlands? Come on, somebody, that's kind of fun. But years ago, if you know the story, I mean, in 1999, I was an associate pastor at my home church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is called Bethany World Prayer Center. I have a praying pastor, he's still my pastor, been my pastor since I was 15 years old, Larry Stockstill. And the man's a praying man. He spends a lot of time with the Lord, way more than me. But I've learned prayer from him, I've learned how to lead a church in prayer.
In fact, when I was on staff at Bethany back in the day, he used to show up at church on a Sunday morning at 4 a.m. to pray 3 hours before the first service that started at 8 o'clock. And I didn't know what a person does for three hours. Like I run out of material in 15 minutes, come on somebody, anybody else out there? And so, I'm like, "What are you doing"? So, I would sneak into this 6,000 seat auditorium, go kind of sneak into the very top area of a bleacher type section like we have here, and just, "Man, what is the man doing"? I watched him pray over every chair, just slow down and just think of the people that would be sitting in those chairs. Which by the way, we've done that for the chairs you're sitting in right now.
And just praying for their lives. And I watched him go sit on the front row and spend time with God, hearing him pray through his message. We had an old school pulpit on the stage, and he would go behind that pulpit, and kneel, and just pray. And I learned this kind of devotion to God. And I want to thank God for that. And but I found myself in 1999, end of '99, 2000 in probably the darkest place I've ever been in to date, very absolutely depressed, with no reason to be. Everything on paper looked good, but inside just miserable. Didn't know what was going on. I had become convinced that it was biological and that I needed medical help. I had already made plans to go check into a facility and have a doctor check me out.
I knew something chemically was out of whack, or something was going on. And our church in 2000 would always start the year off with 21 days of prayer, and then our pastor would encourage us to fast, but it was on your own to do whatever type. And I'd always fasted, you know, some things like broccoli and cauliflower, you know, stuff like that. And never really took it that seriously. And that was the first time in 2000 that I did a total water only fast, which is by the way not as hard as you think it is. And on day 17, I had an open vision.
The Bible talks about open visions, that's where you can see things that are not there, but you can see them. And I saw what I'm looking at right now from the vantage point that I'm standing in right this moment. I saw you. I saw this room, I saw this many chairs, I saw the auditorium filled. I didn't know which city it was in. and I even saw the Lord show me the outside of the building, almost as if I was looking down on it. And I saw it near an interstate, I saw it. And that vision alone, that open vision, fire jumped up inside of me, and I got hope and life again. Literally, my depression left just with an assignment from God.
Come on, somebody, there's a whole 'nother message in that. And I share with my pastor, I said, "I think God's spoken to me to come here". And Tammy and I on December 26, 2000 moved here, just weeks before we were to launch a church. Didn't know a soul, didn't have any team, didn't know how to plant a church, and didn't have any money. Other than that, we was ready to go, y'all. Anyway, and come on, look what the Lord has done 20 years later. And I take none of the credit I'm telling you, I know who I am better than you know who I am, and you'd really be praising God if you knew what I knew. This is a miracle of God. God makes up the difference between what man can do and what he can do, and that's why we still pray. And I think it's the most important ministry of our church, can I hear a really good amen, everybody.
And that's why we'll be praying and fasting again in January, 21 days of prayer. I believe in this topic that I'm trying to teach you today is what I'm trying to say. And James comes along after he told you every practical thing he could give you, and he said, "Look, you're in trouble still? Pray". In fact, he gives us three truths that I'd love for you to write down if you're a notetaker, and that is that prayer puts my unknown future in the hands of an all-knowing God.
Now, one of the worst things about a problem, he says, "Is any among you in trouble? Do you have a problem"? The problem with a problem isn't even the problem. It's where is this problem going? Is it getting ready to get even worse? I mean, there's one thing about a pandemic and like we're trying to handle the pandemic, but where are we headed with this? It's nothing like here is my marriage and I got this issue in my marriage, but where are we headed with this? The fear of the unknown can stir you, and that's why James comes along and says, "Look, if you're in trouble, God is probably not going to tell you how he's going to do it, but he's at work. And you just need to know that".
And a lot of people honestly, look in my eyes and hear this, don't have the confidence that God is actually at work in something you know nothing about. But we serve a God who's an all-knowing God, who by the way is not pacing the floor of heaven right now. I've been pacing the floor since March, come on somebody, right? Like Jesus, what are you going to do? God's like, "I don't know why you're nervous". He got the whole world, you believe that? Do you really believe that? And that's why Jesus came along with the audacity to say, "Don't worry". This is for somebody here today. "Don't worry about what you're going to eat, or drink, or wear, or go, or sleep". Pagans do that. People who don't have a God, that's what they do. "Your Father, your heavenly Father knows that you need these things. So seek him, pray to him".
And I'm here to stir prayer, like practically speaking stir prayer. In fact, I've got this habit I've started since... I've been studying this for a few weeks now 'cause I had other speakers stepping in. And so, I've had extra time to prepare for this. But when I prepare for a message I'm going to share with you, one of the things that I do is so I can bring it to you really fresh is like apply it myself. And I have found myself just recently, just lately, when people... I get problems every day. Y'all, I'm just telling you. I don't mind it, that's what I signed up for, but I have my own personal ones, and then I have kids, can I get an amen, anybody, right? Okay, got that whole set going on there.
But then I have you, and then I pastor pastors. And lately, what I've been doing, as soon as they bring it up, I say, "You know what? Hang on a sec. Let's just pray". And they're like, "Well, I ain't finished telling you how this is not going to work out". Say, "Yeah, that's why we need to pray". I'm serious. And what happens is I have seen, I'm not floating your boat, I'm telling you the truth here, I have seen a calm come over a situation. I spoke to somebody yesterday that was really had been antagonistic toward me. We had figured out a way to finally get on the phone together. I mean, they were hot under the collar.
And I got on the phone with them and I just got on, just showed the love of God, and I said, "Would you mind if I just pause for a second and just pray"? And I watched how people lay down their, "I got this, I got to figure this out," and say, "You know what? God's got this". Do not worry. If you'll seek his kingdom, he takes care of those things as well. So therefore, and he repeats himself, "Don't worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will have enough worries for its own". That we just come to God and say, "I don't know what you're going to do, but honestly, I don't have to know. Your kingdom come, your will be done".
Come on, say amen right there, I'm serious. By the way, if you'll allow me, I'll fire you up today. Now, if you want to like, "Hmm, I don't know, you're going to have to work a little harder than that," I'm telling you if you'll make a little room in your heart, you can leave here with a new confidence. I'm serious, I'm on a mission today to put inside of you a brand new confidence. Here's the second thing. So he says, "Okay, if you're in trouble, pray". But also he said, "If you're sick, pray". And that reminds us that prayer puts my hopeless situation in the hands of an all-powerful God. So, we know we have an all-knowing God that's working in ways I don't even know how he's going to do it, but now it says even things that don't seem like there's any way to fix it.
I actually have a problem right now that I can't tell you about. I'm going to tell you the story soon, I'm sure. But it's hopeless. It feels hopeless. And it's driving me crazy, honestly. It's like my God, it's hopeless. And I wonder if any of you guys have an issue maybe in your health, your marriage, your emotions, your finances, like it's not, like Chris, I needed this two years ago. It's too late. Hey, hey, you're too late. And I know this is going to sound like preaching, this is not preaching. This is not preaching, this is the truth. It ain't ever too late for a God who can raise the dead, that's what I want to tell you. It's never too late for the God who can raise the dead. And I reread and I've been rereading this, that, "Even when Abraham, when there was no reason for hope, Abraham," come on, say the next two words, "Abraham kept..."
Y'all want to try that again? I'll give you another chance to believe it this time. Abraham kept, yeah, he just, "I'm sorry, I'm just going to keep on hoping". "Believing that he would become the father of many nations". That's what God told him was going to happen. God told him, "You're going to have a bunch of children, and grandchildren, and a lot more after that". But Abraham was facing the fact that his body, he's 100 years old, his reproductive ability was gone. And Sarah was 90, and her womb had been shut up for years. And but what happened? "Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God because he was," say it out loud, "he was fully convinced".
I'm standing before you today with a hopeless situation, and I stand in your situation today, and I am fully, I'm not partially convinced, I'm fully convinced. And if you don't have faith for that, borrow it from me today. I'm here to say God can work in your situation, I know it, I know it. Had a friend of mine that you might know, he works on our college staff. We've been friends since I was 15 years old when I got saved. When I got saved, I asked my parents to take me out of public school, put me in a private school, Christian school 'cause I thought that's where Christians were.
Anyway, so had a little rev there. But anyway, but I got to meet Tim Spurlock, who was my math teacher for my junior and senior year. And was also, he was the coach for the sports at this small Christian school. And he became a mentor right away, and we became very close. So, even after graduation, we became like best friends even though we're nine years apart. And Tim in fact was a groomsman in my wedding, that's how close we were. We've known each other forever. And of course, about years ago when we started Highlands College, he's in the education profession, came over and helped us with that. He has an older brother who is today 74 years old, the only member of their family that's not a Christian, never wanted to be a Christian, refused to be.
And Tim's a witnesser, like he shares his faith every time he's around his family. And his brother, his brother's like, "No, I don't want anything to do with that". In fact, he sells liquor as a profession, just like, "Man, that's not what I want to do". And Tim tried everything. Tim has had in his pocket a lifesaver that we pass out every January, have since the beginning of the church, a little piece of candy that represents someone who needs a lifeline thrown to them. We're to attach a name to it. We have it as a piece of candy in our pocket for two reasons. One is to remember to pray for them. Just keep it somewhere where you can like every time, "Oh yeah, I'm praying for my brother," or whatever. But also let it serve as a celebration that if that person ever receives Jesus, you are open it up, eat the candy in celebration, and then email me and tell me the story.
Well, Tim came to me this week and said his 74-year-old brother gave his heart to Jesus, and he ate his lifesaver this week that he's been praying for for 25 years. He said, "Chris, you wouldn't believe it, this guy who was so didn't want to have anything to do with God is so on fire for God". And I said, "Tim, did he finally listen to you"? No. "Did he watch one of my messages"? No, that hurt my feelings, but anyway. He said he read a book. He read a book that just reached him. And Tim with tears down his face ate his lifesaver, he said, "Chris, I was almost ready to completely give up, but God". I'm telling you, it's never too late. And James wants you to know that, that there is no impossible situation.
In fact, the last one is that prayer also puts my broken life in the hands of an all-forgiving God. Because then he says, "If you have sinned, you can be forgiven if you'll confess your sins to each other and pray". There's that word again. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective," which begs the question, if that's the kind of prayers that God listens to is the righteous person, who's righteous? You ready for this? Nobody. In fact, there's a verse that says, "There is none righteous, no not one". That's kind of a bummer since that's the kind of prayers that God answers. But here's the good news, and that is you can become a righteous person.
Do you know what a righteous person is? It's someone who's all their wrongs God's made right. That's what righteous means. Like how do you get all your wrongs right? That's a great question. And the answer is you get that in Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so that we could be made right with God. And I want you to know that that's available for you today. Like this might be the most important prayer you pray. Thank God he knows my future. Thank God he can handle my impossible situations. But the best part of our God, James says, is that you can come with your broken life and he can make you right. Like it can be right. Everyone, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord can be saved. Like I hope some of you make that decision today. Like I would join the church, but that's not my goal.
I want you to join Jesus. I want you to be made right. Years ago, some of you know this story, I have permission to tell this story, by the way. And I never tell stories like this without permission, but Coach Pat Sullivan, he's famous in our state, won the Heisman trophy, quarterback for Auburn, went on to coach at TCU, and finished his career here at Stanford University. Was recovering from the effects of cancer, he was cancer-free, but the treatment was literally killing him. And about ten years or so ago, somebody in the church says, "Hey, I want you to meet Coach Sullivan". I was like, "Man, I'd love to meet coach". He said, "I'm going to take you, play golf". I'd love to play golf. You know, it's like, "We'll invite you as a guest over at Birmingham Country Club". Like man, that'd be awesome.
And so, got to meet Coach Sullivan, we played golf. I beat all of them, everybody. Anyway, so I just thought I'd throw that in there. But as we're walking off the course, Coach Sullivan said, he said, "I'd like to talk to you sometime". And I thought he meant later, I said, "Yeah, sure coach, anytime we can do that". He goes, "No, like I need to now". So, went and got in his little SUV out in the parking lot of that hot summer sun, and he cranked the engine, turned on the air conditioning. Tears coming down his face, and he says, "Do you think your God could ever love a guy like me"? I'm like, "Coach, yeah, absolutely". He goes, "I need to be made right. There's a lot of things with my life that people don't know that were just so wrong".
And he was raised Catholic, so he started, you know, confessing them like I was a priest. You know, like... I don't know, so we did that. Like no, and so he just, he wanted to talk, he needed to get it off his shoulders. So, I sat there and just. And I said, "God can absolutely make all everything wrong right in one heartfelt prayer". And he put his hand, I'll never forget this, he put his hand out on that console between us, and we joined hands, and he gave his life to Jesus. I had the privilege of leading this great man to the Lord. Yeah, praise God for that. He became a member of our church, and we were together a lot.
Matter of fact, we were together a week before he went to heaven. He went to heaven last year on December 1, 2019. I had the honor of doing his funeral. Bo Jackson sitting right here on the first row, Steve Spurrier right over here, all these Heisman guys came. And of course, all these people came. And I told them the same story, I had permission. I asked even before he went to heaven, I said, "Can I tell the story of the day you were made right"? He goes, "Please tell the story because I want everybody to be made right". I'm telling you, God is an all-forgiving God. There's no brokenness in your life that God cannot make right. Come on, say amen right there if you believe that, it's really important. And James teaches us these prayers. And then he does this interesting thing, he tells a story of a guy named Elijah.
So, this is the next verse, it goes like this. Said Elijah, who's considered to be the greatest prophet ever to live, like he's this revered person of the Old Testament. There's really two, Moses and Elijah. "Elijah was a human being just like you". To which everybody went, "I don't think so". Now, watch what he's doing, it makes total sense. 'Cause James is saying, "I know what you're thinking". You're thinking, "Oh yeah, pray, but that works for the Elijahs. That works for you, PC, but that doesn't work, God doesn't listen to me. I'm me, but yeah, good preaching for Billy Graham maybe, yeah, I could see". And James says, "No, no, no, it can work for you too. he's just a human being like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it didn't rain on the land for three and a half years. And then again he prayed, and the heavens gave up the rain, and the earth produced its crops".
Like this happened, which made me go back to the story. Because what James is trying to teach us through the story of Elijah is how not only to pray, but to have faith that actually works. And we learned it from this story. So, like I want you to pray. When you leave here today, I want you to take every situation you have and I want you to pray. I want you to get up in the morning and pray. I would love for that to be what your life looks like from now on, that we pray first, we pray first. But you're going to need faith to make it work. And that's what is going to help you right now, watch the story.
So, it happens in 1 Kings 17, "Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe". I'm sorry, that's just funny. He was a Tishbite, why? 'Cause he's from Tishbe. You'll enjoy the Bible more if you'll just find a little humor from time to time, okay? "And he said to Ahab, 'As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will neither be dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.'" Now, this is when the three and a half years of no rain began. But it didn't begin just because Elijah said so. He had a word. God had spoken to him that it would not rain, so he was carrying around something that God had told him. And I'm here to tell you that's how your faith works, that faith begins with a word.
Well, how do you get a word? You get a word in the Word. Like, if you want your faith grab this. If you want your faith to grow, you're going to need a word. And you get a word from God by being in God's Word. And I'm saying this because I want to ask you a question that's going to be a little in your face, just forgive me if it offends you. Like this is my job is to care for your spiritual life. Are you reading your Bible? And if you're not, you're not going to have faith. And if you don't have faith, your prayers aren't going to work. And if your prayers don't work, it's all up to you. But if you don't want it to be all up to you and you want some God's help, you're going to need to pray. But when you pray, you're going to need faith. And if you need faith, you're going to find it in God's Word.
I need you to read your Bible, like read your Bible. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. That's how it happens. And so, I found myself in some of the same, maybe not as much, maybe more, I don't know. But I find myself in some of the same desperate situations. And the first thing I do is get a word for that situation. I am praying for my family. My kids, all my kids, by the way, are doing very, very well, but they are working me to death right now, right? I thought when they all got out of the house and got in their 20s and started their own lives, it'd be easier. It's been harder than ever before, these kids are driving me crazy.
All right, this is just... sorry, I got a few on the front row. That's just the truth, all right, here we go. And from time to time, I get concerned, "Are they going to be okay? Is this going to work out? Is that going to be... is this going to..." But then I go to the Word that says my family will serve the Lord. I have Joshua 24:15 as a promise. "Oh, what about the pandemic, man? It's everywhere". Yeah, but I have a word out of Psalm 91 that says that, "He along, God is my refuge and my place of safety. He's my God, and I trust him. He will rescue me from every trap, protect me from every deadly disease". Somebody say amen, I mean, it's just, you know, "I lost my job. But my God will supply all of my needs according, I'm not kidding. Like get a word, get a word, get a word". "Yeah, but what about the election"?
Y'all didn't think I was going to go there today, did you? Yeah, according to statistics, 62.5% of you are not happy, and 37.5% are happy. All right, I got a word for you. "I will look up to the mountains and Capitol Hill," I inserted that, "longing for God's help," because surely it comes from there. "But then I realize that our true help and protection comes only from the Lord, our creator who made the heavens and the earth. He will guard, guide, and never let me stumble or fall". You got to get a word, get a word, get a word, get a word. Let's finish this story. Come on, somebody come play so I'll finish sooner, okay? And make all this sound really more spiritual, okay, come on. "And Elijah said to Ahab," watch this now, this is so cool. "Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go eat and drink, for there is the sound of heavy rain,'" on a bluebird day.
So, three and a half years have passed, no rain. And on a bluebird day, not a cloud in the sky, "Elijah said, 'I hear the sound of a heavy rain.' So, Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel," why? Because it was a bluebird day, and he was believing God for rain on a bluebird day. "And he bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees". And by the way, that's the posture some of you need to take instead of texting somebody, and worrying yourself to death, and driving yourself nuts. You might want to just go find a place where you can... and what is Elijah teaching us? That on a bluebird day, when you know there's supposed to be rain coming 'cause God told you rain was coming, that faith builds if you just won't give up. Like we give up too quickly.
And by the way, I'm here to tell somebody, I don't care if it's for one, but I know I heard God in my study time this week tell me to tell somebody to not give up. Like you're close to giving up, but don't give up. Watch what Elijah does. He tells his servant, "Hey, go out over there to the beach on the west coast of our country, where the clouds come in off of the Mediterranean Sea, and tell me what you see". And he went, and the servant came back and says, "Hate to tell you it's a bluebird day. And it's nothing there". And Elijah didn't go, "Well, I guess I missed God". No, seven times Elijah said, "Go back". "But PC, I've already been praying about this". Go back. "But I've been doing it for eight years".
Tim did it for 25 years. "The seventh time the servant reported". Okay, it's not great news, but it's something. I see a cloud, it is about as big as your hand. Probably can't hold but about ten drops of rain, but it's out there. And Elijah said, "That's all I need. Go tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain. There's getting ready to be a monsoon in a cloud the size of a man's hand". Now, what is that, what is that? That's something you can have, and it's called endurance, persistence. Like we are people that we just don't give up. "Yeah, but I've been pray..." Yeah, but don't give up. "But I mean, I'm telling you..." But don't give up. "But he's already dead". Yeah, God raises the dead. Don't give up, don't give up.
Hebrews says it this way, "You need to persevere," that's what you need to do. "So that when you've done the will of God, you will receive what he's promised. For in just a little while," by the way that's God's little while, that's the bad news, okay? A day of the Lord is like 1,000 years, so sorry. All right, so that's just the truth. "But in a little while, he who is coming will come and not delay. But my righteous ones live by faith. And he takes no pleasure in those who shrink back. But we don't belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but we belong to those who have faith and are saved". That's what we do. Don't give up. Meanwhile, the sky grew from that little fist size cloud, grew black, winds rose, and a heavy rain came down on Ahab. And Ahab rode off in his chariot to Jezreel.
And watch this, "And the power of the Lord came on Elijah, and he tucked his cloak," 'cause it was long, he didn't want to trip over it. It's like all the way to the ground, so he grabbed it, put it in his belt, and he ran ahead of a chariot. Well, that's not physically possible. Like men don't run faster than horses. Like first of all, rain doesn't come from a bluebird day. And a man can't outrun a horse. But when you have faith, faith also not just begins or builds, it breaks through the natural into supernatural things. "But Chris, I'm telling you this can't happen". Yeah, with man. Yeah, I agree, I'll agree with you, with man. But not with God. And that's why I want you to pray and have faith. And then he ends in the most unique way.
Watch the ending, this is so cool. "My brothers and sisters," these are the last two verses, we're almost done. "If one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back to the truth, remember this. Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins". What was he saying? He goes, like I hope your impossible situation works out. And I hope your unknown future you get some confidence in. And I even hope that you experience the supernatural power of God. But even if you don't, that's not even still the most important thing.
The most important thing is not that everything works out here on earth. It's that every one of us end up in heaven and our friends as well. Turn sinners back from the error of their way. And that's why, after we've learned all this and hopefully your life has been so much better, we now step into "At The Movies," where for three weeks I'm asking you not to make it about me and you. Let's make it about the thousands upon thousands, and our cities, and our friends, and our coworkers, and our neighbors, and our family members who still don't know God, and there's nothing more important than that.
And so, Father, we close this series, step into a brand new one with that eternal life focus. Because God, we can tend to make all this about our trouble, our sickness, our situation. And you do care, but now, God, we say this is what matters most. And I thank you, God, you're going to cover a multitude of sins in the process. God, bless "At The Movies". I'm personally praying for 1,000 people to come to faith in three weeks. And I pray, God, you move in our friends, and give us favor as we invite.
Now, keep your heads bowed and your eyes closed. If you're here today and you say, "Chris, look, I'm the person. I'm not right with God. I need to be made right". Well, you're one heartfelt prayer away. In fact, I want you to imagine my hand on that console, and I'm just asking you to put your hand right there and say, "I'm ready. I'm tired of things being wrong. I'm tired of being separated from God". And if that's you, I will lead you in the same prayer that I prayed for Coach Sullivan almost a year ago, or ten years ago. And if that's you, close your eyes and whisper this. I'm going to invite our campus pastors to join me on the stage so they can close the service. And just say this, say:
Jesus, things aren't right. They're very wrong. And I need to be made right. I want to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. So today, I put my faith in Jesus. I make him my Lord. I believe he's the true God, the Son of God, the only way to heaven. And today, I give him my life. Thank you for making me right. Thank you for saving me. In your name I pray, amen and amen.