Chris Hodges - How We End Up in the Cave
Who's glad to be in church today? Anybody, anybody, anybody? Awesome. Now, my voice is out. I like spring, but spring doesn't like me, y'all. So, the pollen's kind of got me a little bit. And I half-way thought about actually playing the message from the last service and letting you guys be a video campus. But I decided y'all came. I'm here. Come on, everybody, I'm here. I'm doing this with you, all right? So, y'all pray for me. And I've got an exciting week this week. We've got a big group of pastors coming in town, and we've got First Wednesday, and then I'm actually doing the commencement address at Troy University this week.
So, very honored to do that. It's a real honor. So, y'all pray for me, and I'm excited about the week. So, I sound bad, but everything is good on the inside. Amen, everybody? Hey, let me say a big hello to all of our locations. We are one church that meets in 23 campuses; and, of course, we have a bunch of you guys that are watching online somewhere around the world. We're so glad that you're with us. Big shoutout to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. We can't tell you how honored we are, not to be in the facilities, but to be in your lives, and we love you so very much today. Grants Mill, like you've never done it before, come on, everybody.
Chris Hodges: Well, welcome today to week number one of a two-part series based off of a book I'm releasing later this month called, "Out of the Cave". And I really think this is going to be a blessing to a lot of us. This journey for me, studying depression, actually came originally from my own experience about, really, my one and only real experience in 1999. And a lot of you guys know that, if you've been a part of our church for a long time, you know this story, that while I was working at my home church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, everything on paper said I should be the happiest person alive. I was paid well. I was paid a lot better than I would've paid myself, you know. I was in a good church, had a great position, great family, great house. Everything on paper was great.
But I'm gonna tell you, I felt this loss that's on the inside. And it was strange for me, because I'm one of those guys that like, hey, if things are bad, just cheer up. Let's go. You know, and I kind of actually slighted people who said they were depressed. I'm like, "Just cheer up". And I discovered for the first time it's not that easy. 'Cause I don't even know how I got here, and I certainly don't even know the way out. And I found myself in a situation where I was faking it. So, I was, you know, going to church and just kind of putting on the play, the script that I was required to play. And I was desperate. And we got to the end of 1999. I was convinced I was gonna need some type of medical help. I felt like it was something going on in my body that actually could be treated and fixed.
But we had our 21 days of prayer starting every year, as we did our home church. And it was 2000, the year 2000, and we were going through Y2K, and I thought, "Look, the whole world is coming to an end, too". You know what I'm saying? But we decided to fast and pray. And on day 17, the Lord gave me a vision. In fact, he gave me a vision of what I'm physically seeing right now. I saw this room, didn't know what city it was in. I saw myself speaking to a crowd of people, and it looks exactly like what I'm looking like right now. In fact, we told our architects, "Build this," long before we even had the people to fill it up. I knew God had given me this vision.
Fast forward about 18 years, really never had too many other bouts of depression. I think all of us have some type of anxiety or depression or days, from time to time. But in 2018, there was a rash of pastoral suicides in our country, and I didn't know any of the people, but in some weird way it affected me. I thought, "Something's not right". And I can't, I just can't describe to you how grieved I was, as if I knew these people personally. And so I decided that week that I would study and prepare a message. We were in a series here at the church called, "Reply All," where we were answering some of your questions. And this is one of the top questions, and I really didn't know much about it, except for my own experience in 1999.
So, I did a week's worth of study, which is not nearly enough, but I did a week's worth of study, and I brought a message to us, and it became one of the most re-watched messages times 100. I mean there was just a... I couldn't believe the nerve that it touched. And honestly, I felt a little bad because I didn't know enough about it. But I preached hard, and I gave what I knew at that time. I brought the same message to a pastors' conference, and it had the same response. I kind of tailor made it to fit leaders. Same response, just overwhelming. And I knew this is serious. And if I'm gonna be a good pastor and a shepherd, I need to talk about this more.
So, I decided not only to do some study, but I decided to write what would be my next book on the topic. And this was two and a half years ago. And I decided I wouldn't publish it until I had something to say. And so I did a lot of research. I read a lot of books, both Christian and secular, just to learn what not only the Bible has to say, but what are we learning about this issue that all of us face? And then 2020 happens. I was literally supposed to turn in the manuscript in March of last year, when March happened to all of us. I asked my publisher if I could have a few more months, just to kind of experience it, because all of us were experiencing depression in some kind of way last year.
In fact, mental health hotline number went up 900% in 2020. The CDC, this is their numbers now, the CDC says that one out of four young people under the age of 30 considered suicide in 2020; one out of ten of the rest of us. Divorce filings were up 20%. Antidepressant medication goes up 300%. This is becoming an epidemic, and I believe this is not something for the world to solve. I believe it's something for the church and for God to solve. I really believe that. Believe that? Put your hands together. Come on, give God praise. And so, actually, I turned in the manuscript in early fall of last year, and I'm really excited about what I want to share with you.
Today, I want to bring you two messages this week and next week. This first one, and we're gonna talk a little bit about how we get in the cave, and then I want to talk a little bit about, next week, on how we get out of the cave, and we're gonna talk about the life of Elijah. Now, before we get into the Bible, let me give you two observations that are just worth saying on the front end, just to make sure you know these. I just want to... these are qualifiers. These are important, give some context to where we're going with this topic. And the first is, is that there are some very real biological reasons for depression.
So, it doesn't have to be 2020, and it doesn't have to be, I mean, just the fact is there are genetic and biological issues that can happen in our minds. But if we allow biology to have the whole narrative, we will miss some of the real solutions that are out there. And one of the things I discovered is that this depression is not a malfunction of the mind. It's a signal. It's trying to tell us something. There's some other things that possibly we could address, not only to solve for greater parts of our life, but also to get us out of the cave of depression. The second is, is that there's a real stigma around this topic. So, you know, you guys are all noticing that I'm wearing glasses, which means there's a part of my body, an organ in my body, my eyes, that do not function at top efficiency.
Now, none of you think I'm lacking faith because I'm wearing glasses. Not many of you think I'm a worse person because I'm wearing glasses. I just have a part of my body that's not working at peak efficiency. Listen to me. The mind is a part of the body, too, and it can be in the same condition. And you don't think less of me because I'm wearing glasses. We shouldn't think less of people when they're struggling in their minds. And so I want us to be just embracing, right, and it doesn't have to become our identity. My illness does not need to become my identity. What I'm feeling is not who I am. It's just what I'm struggling with at that moment. And I would love for the church to be the leader at addressing these issues.
Now, let me give you the end before I give you all the beginning, and that is that God wants you free. God does not enjoy seeing you struggle. For those of you who say, "Well, this is just my lot in life, this is just what God wants me to have," I personally do not believe that. I truly believe you can know God. You can find freedom. You can discover your purpose, and you can make a difference. That doesn't mean we don't still struggle with things, but God wants you free. It is for (say it out loud) it is for freedom that Christ has set me free. God wants you free. And he who has the Son has that kind of freedom. And he who the Son sets free is free indeed. But even some of the best of us struggle.
What I love about the Bible, it does not put a book of perfection out there to you, as it relates to the lives of the people who wrote it. In fact, what I love is how God uses some of the worst people: adulterers, murderers, and yes even depressed people in the Bible. One of them is a prophet named Jeremiah, who writes not only the book of Jeremiah, but also another book dedicated to depression. In fact, he named the book Lamentations. "Let me give you a whole book of how said I am. Gloom, despair, and agony on me". Well, that's Lamentations. And he says things like this: "I have been deprived of peace".
Have you ever felt that way? "And I've forgotten what prosperity is". Nothing in my life is working anymore, my marriage, my kids. Like, I don't even know what success even looks like anymore. "So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.'" So, even when I ask God to help, he's not helping. "I remember instead my affliction, my wandering, my bitterness, and my gall". Not good things to be sitting around thinking about. "I well remember them, and my soul is downcast in me". Well, I guess it is, Jeremiah. If that's what you're sitting around thinking about, that's what's gonna happen, and it even happened to prophets.
Let's go to the New Testament. Even the great Apostle Paul, who would end up writing two-thirds of the New Testament, says this. He says, "I don't want you to be uninformed, that just because I'm writing the New Testament, and it looks like I have it all together, actually, I have troubles that I've experienced that have just messed me up all throughout Asia. In fact, I was under such great pressure, far beyond my ability to endure, so that I despaired of life, I wanted to die".
So, here's a great apostle. You've heard of a prophet, now an apostle who's saying, "I don't think I can take this. It's too much". Well, the story I brought to you in 2018 is the one I want to just build on today, and that is the great prophet Elijah, who, in fact, probably is the greatest of all the prophets in the Bible. He gets the honor of being at the transfiguration of Jesus. You can go read about it in the gospels, where Jesus took a few of his disciples up on a mountainside, and Moses and Elijah appeared in their heavenly forms, which means obviously that heaven elevates this man, for him to be there with Jesus and with Moses. But actually, Elijah was someone who would struggle greatly with depression.
But notice with me that it happened after some great spiritual victories. In fact, some of the best preaching material in the Bible is found in 1 Kings chapter 18, two cool stories there, one where Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal and Asherah, 850 pagan prophets against one man of God, and then he builds this sacrifice before the Lord God, soaks it with water, and God comes down from heaven and not only consumes the sacrifice, but the water itself. And then all of the prophets of Asherah and Baal were put to the sword. And then in the very next story, I mean he literally goes through this great spiritual high to praying for rain to come after a three-year drought, and then the rain came. These are great victories.
And you would think, wow, right after those he would be having a party and celebrating all that God had done. But here's what happens next. Ahab, who's the king, told Jezebel, who's the queen, "everything Elijah had done," in 1 Kings chapter 18, "and how he had killed the prophets with the sword". Watch this. "So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah and saying..." Now notice with me, he didn't send someone to kill him. He just sent the threat of being killed. And you would think, again, a guy who could handle a drought, a three-year drought, and stand up in front of 850 wicked prophets of Baal and Asherah, he could handle a text, he could handle a comment on his Instagram page.
Come on, somebody. Y'all listening to me? "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them". That was the comment on his page that day. And Elijah, it freaked him out. "He was afraid and he ran for his life. And when he came to Beersheba..." I don't have time to teach it, but it is way cool. This is the place where he had made the oath to serve God, and he went back to that place and said, "I don't think I can do this". He went back to the place. He said, "God, I thought you were on my side". And he left his servant there (big mistake) and while he himself traveled away from his calling a day's journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, which is a low-hanging tree, to get out from the sun, and he got up under it and he prayed that he might die.
And he prayed a prayer that I bet every one of us has prayed at least one time over the past year. I don't think I could handle this anymore. I have had enough, take my life. I want to die. "I am no better than my ancestors". Which I don't even know why he throws that in there. And we see clearly in this story six things that got him in a cave of depression. He would then go from there to this dark place. To me, a cave describes what depression feels like. I know there's a way out. I just don't know where it is. This is disorienting. It's dark. It's lonely. I can feel some things, and they don't really feel right. And you know there's bats somewhere.
Come on, somebody, right? That's depression, okay. And he did some things to get himself there, and I want to help you with those, as well. And, again, I fully accept the fact that there are some cases where counseling or medication is the answer. I have a son, my youngest, who's on the autism spectrum and requires medication to, in his words, "put the wires back together again". I'll never forget the first time he took a dose and said, "Dad, all the wires are connecting". Praise God for that. Now, every day I pray for his healing. Every day we're expecting God's best, but we still treat this. I recognize that.
But listen to me. There are some factors that we have control over, that should honestly give you some great hope, and I want to share six, I want to give you six of the ways you get in it. And next week, I'll give you five of the ways you get out of it. And all this is an outline of this story itself. Are you ready? Yes or no? Yes? So, take some notes with me today. Let me give you six very quickly, and the first is life imbalances, life imbalances. One of the authors that I read was a guy named Yohann Hari, who wrote a book called, "Lost Connections," and this is his quote. He says, "We need to stop talking as much about chemical imbalances and more about the imbalances in the way we live".
Research, more and more research is pointing to our lifestyles as the main factor that causes depression. Well, notice with me that Elijah's depression came after his two greatest experiences. And what I've noticed is that I feel like I'm more under the attack of the enemy, and I have my worst thoughts after my greatest spiritual victories, if you will. They're really God's victories, but you know what I'm saying. Like, it's Sunday nights for me. I mean, church can be amazing, and it always is. And I'd start thinking through the message or wishing I'd have said that, or why did I do this, and where was so and so, and how is this campus, and what's happening, and the next thing I know, I'm feeling in this dark place, and it happens a lot of times after our major victories.
In fact, a lot of times it's because we let up, but when we've had all of these highs of highs. In fact, when I was much younger, and back in the '80s and '90s, I lived seven years, Tammy and I did, in Colorado Springs. We had, the first three of our five children were all born in Colorado Springs. So, it was that part of our life. We had just been married a year, and it was our first assignment. It was a youth pastor job there, and we loved it, and it was great, and it was great to come back to the South, too. Anyway, but one of the things that we did as a youth pastor, because the slopes were so nearby, is we took kids snow skiing quite a bit, and so it was a way to spend time in the van, honestly, and to get into the heads of these kids and try to minister to them, and then have a little fun, as well.
So, we'd load up vans and buses and go up to the mountains. And it's a lot of work, by the way. It's not as glamorous as you think it is. It's a lot of work. I mean, it's ride the chair lift up, ski down, check the infirmary. You ride up, check, you know, that's what it is for a youth pastor. And so I was doing that, and riding up, and coming down, and check the infirmary. 'Cause this was before cell phones. And ride up and ski down, check the infirmary. And there were a few bang-ups and bruises from here and there. But for the most part, we came out pretty clean. But I remember a conversation I had one day with one of the paramedics at the infirmary there at the ski slope. And I'll never forget it. He said, "Do you know that about 30 people a year die on the Colorado ski slopes"? I said, "They die"? He says, "Yeah". I said, "How"? He says, "Every one of them hit trees".
It's like, okay, stay in the middle. All right, there you go. He said, "But also, 90% of all injuries happen in the last hour of the day". And there are two things that are happening in the last hour of the day, and that is you're very tired, and you're over-confident. And I think sometimes, in some ways, that we can get an arrogance about us in the way we live, because we think, "I can do this". But check it out. Not everything that is doable is actually sustainable. A lot of times, we have created a pace that we cannot continue, and it's starting to catch up with us. Another author that I read, he wrote a book called, "The Depression Cure".
Stephen Hardi, he said this, "We were never designed for the sedentary", that means sit in front of a computer 12 hours a day, "indoor, socially isolated, fast-food laden, sleep-deprived, frenzied pace of life". And I think all of us have some of this in our lives. So, what do we do? Well, that's where the Bible comes along and says things like this. "Better one handful..." Yeah, but God I have two. Yeah, but if you have two it's not good sometimes to fill up both of them. "Better one handful and have some tranquility..." Maybe better one job, maybe only one of these, maybe just because I can afford this and try to do all this, maybe I shouldn't buy all of it. "Better one handful..."
Am I speaking to anybody out there? Because we have a philosophy, if one is good, two is better. Come on. If one dollar is good, two dollars is better. If one donut is good, two donuts are... that's right. If one wife is good, two wives is wrong. Don't do, don't go there, okay, don't go there. Just making sure you're awake, all right. "One handful with tranquility..." And this is where we're trying to get is tranquility. One handful. "Or you can have two with toil and a chasing after the wind". And that's certainly what happened to Elijah, and I think it happens to us, as well. Here's a second thing. Remember he said, "I am no better than my ancestors".
Well, what does your ancestors have to do with anything? What are you even comparing yourself to your ancestors for? And clearly, all the research is pointing to that one of the reasons why a lot of us are depressed is because we're looking over our shoulder at what everybody else is doing. And lo and behold, the enemy made sure, and yes, I say the enemy, created a tool called anti-social media, I call it. It's not nothing social about it. Just so we can know what our neighbor had for dinner. We don't need to know what our neighbor had for dinner. You don't have to know everybody in the city's shoes, everybody. You don't have to know that. That's all the men, it's like, "Yes, sir, Pastor, preach it, baby". Why? Because comparison is the thief of joy.
The more you wonder what they have, why they have it, what they're doing, why they're doing it, the more it robs you of the joy that God wants to give you. The Bible says something completely different, each one of us should test our own actions, and then we can take, this is a holy pride in ourselves alone, without comparing ourselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Elijah was never gonna stand before God for his ancestors. He was gonna stand before God to his own calling. But what if we're just noticing too much and looking too much? And I don't know. I think all the research is showing that our online and social media viewing is actually, it's actually reshaping the minds. It's reforming minds.
And that's why (you study it for yourself) a lot of the content creators of all of those are actually apologizing and don't allow their own kids to have it. Why? Because it's too much in our minds. This past year, when we started our 21 days of prayer and fasting, as we do every year, it's always a glorious time, but I always set aside, not just food and things like that, but I love to set aside, you know, watching TV and media and really as much of the secular as I can. I actually, it feels like a cleanse to start the brand-new year, coming out of Christmas, I love these 21 days that we do.
And I decided that on January 3rd, that I was gonna get off of the news. I'd already been six months off of social media completely. For those of you who follow me, I'm so sorry to let you know that. I'm not reading it. Anyway, so there you go. But I have a team who posts for me. I have a group that does that kind of stuff for me. I just, I'd rather give my attention to the Word of God and making sure I'm taking good care of you. Does that sound all right to all you guys, yeah? So, anyway, I don't do all that. But honestly, I was really wrapped up in all things news and just I love the news. I love politics.
So, on January 3rd, I just decided you know what? I'm just gonna set that aside for a month. And all I can say to you is, "Peace, peace, God's peace". I mean it's just, it was glorious. And in the middle of all of that time of January, I talked to one of our trustees, who's a mentor to me, and I was telling him about my journey, some of the things that I'm dealing with and setting aside and how it's really bringing peace to my soul. And he introduced me to a phrase that I want to gift you with this phrase today. And he said, "Chris, that's called selective ignorance". He says, "And we're really, we're very intentional about what we know, but we need to be as intentional about what we never need to know".
And I actually hung up the phone, and I actually, I actually made a list of things that you could know, but I don't need to know, that I don't need to know Miss So and So's recipe for bean soup. I don't need to know that necessarily, right? I don't need to know everything that's going on all the time. And so it's since then, and it's been glorious, I'm just passing along a tip. Since then, I don't watch the news. I actually read the news, and I only give myself about five minutes every day to get caught up. I don't want to be completely ignorant. But instead of allowing myself to be consumed in it, and all I can tell you is I have about five months of history now, and I've got the peace of God going on in my soul.
Come on, somebody say amen right there. I'm just giving you some thoughts. Because what if some of these things we're doing to ourselves? Here's the third thing, and that is ruminating in self-talk. Now, we didn't read the Scriptures, but Elijah, we'll read them next week. Elijah said this. He said, "Look, God, I've been working hard for you, and I don't think you're noticing. And honestly, I've killed these wicked people, and I'm the only good person left". Well, that wasn't true. And you ready for this? He knew it wasn't true, too. He had talked himself into believing a lie. "I'm the only prophet that's left".
Well, no he's not, no he's not. He was doing what psychologists call ruminating, and ruminating is where you take your distress, and you start thinking about it, and processing it, and it doesn't get better. It gets worse. Ruminating is what a cow does. That's why they call it a ruminating animal. A ruminating animal chews the cud, and a cud is where you egress, chew it, swallow it, throw it up back in your mouth, regurgitate it, and chew it some more, swallow it, throw it back up in your mouth and chew it some more. How many of y'all know, every time it comes back up, it doesn't get better. And neither do your thoughts. And neither do your thoughts. When you process them all by yourself, the devil loves self-talk. That's his favorite environment, because the battle is in the mind.
That's why 2 Corinthians says, "You'd better take captive every thought and make it obedient for Christ". It's like I already told you, for me, that's Sunday nights. My most vulnerable time, the time that I would think the worst thoughts are on Sunday nights. And I know that now. I know that about myself now. But that used to be a very vulnerable and dangerous place for me. For some reason, after the spiritual highs of a Sunday, kind of, the kids come over and we have a big family lunch, get them out the door by about 2:00, 2:30 or so, go down in the basement, and get on the couch, take a nap with a golf tournament on. And I love that, you know. Because how many of y'all know golf is the only sport where you can take a nap, wake up, and they're doing the same thing? Ain't nothin' changed. It's awesome.
But by a little bit later in the day, the sun goes down, and all it takes is one negative thought, and I swallow it and bring it back up, and it didn't get better. And now Tammy knows that. My best friends know that. Do y'all know how many friend calls I get, every Sunday night I hear from my friends, my pastor friends. "How you doin', what you thinkin', how was today"? And I always say what I didn't like, and they always tell me, "You know that doesn't matter". Like, "I know it doesn't matter". And then Tammy's there. Why? Because we have to know ourselves. Another author that I read was a guy named Brian Tracy. He said, "95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself".
And that's why the Bible is so strong on this topic. We need a whole series about this, that, "Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, think about these things...and the God of peace will be with you". Notice Netflix is not on the list. Come on, somebody, right? That's right. Control your mind, control your life. The mind controlled (Romans chapter 8) by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind controlled by the flesh is death. And for a lot of us, that's what's put us in the cave. Here's another one, and that is the inability to process pain in a healthy way. Now, I don't know if you realize this or not, but there are bad days that happen to all of us.
A lot of people (watch this, don't miss this) have a wrong expectation of earth and of God. You really think earth owes you something, and happiness is just promised, and that you think that God promises you that, as well. What a lot of people don't realize is, is that God's plan actually is a rescue mission to get us out of earth and into heaven. And he does intervene in our lives here on earth and gives us as much abundance as, honestly, I think earth can give us. And to God be the glory for that. But Jesus also said, "In this world you will have tribulation". Somebody said, "Well, my goodness, be more positive".
I am positive you're gonna have tribulation. And I notice nobody has that verse on the refrigerator. Man, there's my verse, tribulation. Woo! No, that ain't happenin', right? No. He says, "But take heart. I've overcome the world". For a lot of us, we're experiencing pain, and all of us are in a variety of different ways. My question to you is what do you do when that happens? And more and more people are turning to unhealthy ways, from drugs, alcohol, TV binging, just a variety of things, video games until 3:00 in the morning, 'cause it gives you an escape, and those are usually unhealthy for us, guys. They're not helping us.
So, when the pandemic happened a year ago, or a little over a year ago in March of 2020, and after the very first month, only one month of the pandemic, drug addiction went up 18% in a month, 29% in April, 42% in May. We were getting worse, and worse, and worse. And now, honestly, we're ministering to a lot of the effects of what happened in 2020. One of my greatest research, I think the part that I enjoyed the most in my research was someone, honestly, I should have already known about, and I didn't. It was a guy, it was a Jewish psychiatrist named Viktor Frankl, who wrote a best-selling book called, "Man's Search for Meaning". And Frankl lived post World War II. He was a psychiatrist.
In fact, he had a clinic in Austria to treat the Holocaust victims who survived, the people who survived the Holocaust, and they had seen all these victims, and they were just traumatized. Every one of his patients were suicidal, every single one of them. And he actually had a different theory than Freud had. Freud believed that the goal of life was pleasure, and Frankl says no, the goal of life is purpose, it's meaning. And if you don't have purpose and meaning, you'll dull your life with pleasures, only to find out that they don't bring you pleasure anymore, that that's not what life's all about, which I believe fully. And I really believe that. I think the greatest solution to giving meaning to your life, and honestly to find real internal happiness, is not circumstantial.
It's the fact that I know my life matters, that I'm doing something with my life that makes a difference. He created a therapy he called logotherapy, and it included of three things. And first is, is that you need to help someone find what he called meaningful work, and I fully believe that. By the way, that's why we encourage you guys to serve and be on the Dream Team. It's not because like that we have functions in our church that just aren't gonna keep up unless you help us out. I mean, our church works well without you. It'd work better with you, no doubt about that, okay? And I encourage all of you to get on the growth track and get on the Dream Team. But we're really doing this for you.
Go talk to the people who are serving. Go talk. They'll tell you, "Man, this is the most fun I have all week, to know that my life is doing something with meaning". Say amen right there. It's so true, it's so true. And to do it with a community of friends (and watch this) and to find reason and the purpose for your suffering, to use it in some way to let your suffering help somebody else. And this is what 2 Corinthians says, that God comforts us in our troubles. Why? Not just so we can get better. So we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings... again, nobody has that verse on their refrigerator.
I'm getting the abundance of sufferings. Woo! Nobody's saying that, right? But we also have an abundance of comfort. Why? Because if we are distressed, it's for your comfort. Like, what I go through, it's why I wrote the book. In fact, I get incredibly vulnerable in it. There's stories I've never told in there, just in the hopes that someone would have, it would give them the confidence to step up and say, "You know what? If he can go there, so can I, and we can find healing, in Jesus's name". But let me let you know something. There is purpose in your pain. You can take your life experience (watch this, look at me) and it doesn't disqualify you. Your life experience doesn't disqualify you. It qualifies you to help somebody who's going through the exact same thing. And I encourage you. Come on, everybody, let's do this thing.
Two more really quick. Music's already playing. Come back next week for the five ways Elijah got out of the cave. But the next one is we're the loneliest society in human history, they say. Have more connections digitally and more lonely people ever recorded in human history. Remember, the first problem in the Bible wasn't sin, it was solitude. So, the first thing that went wrong wasn't the devil in chapter 3 of Genesis. It was chapter 2 when God says it's not good for us to be alone. It's not good for you to socially distance. It's important for you to physically distance from time to time. I'll never forget the first time I heard that phrase, socially distant.
And honestly, guys, the leaders did the best they could. I do not fault anyone. They were all trying as hard as they could with something none of us knew anything about. But the first time I heard that, I thought, that's not the right phrase. I wish, I even made an appeal to our leaders. I said, "Please call it physical distancing". Because I felt like our society needed to be more socially connected than ever before. Why? Because you're not a body part. You're a body. You're not designed to live your life alone. We belong to each other, and we need each other. Elijah left his servant there. Worst mistake you can make.
Let me go figure this out by myself. I've gotta take care of me. You know, it's about time somebody, it's about time I take care of myself. And that's just not the truth. It's not about me. It's about we, we, we. And I commend you for being in church today. I commend you for saying, "I need to be in a community of believers. I need to sit on a row with somebody. I need to high five somebody, sing next to someone. I need to go through this together. We need to pray together and worship together, because we need each other". Can I hear a good amen, somebody? Amen.
Now, this last one is the only one in all my research no one said it was a cause, and it absolutely is a cause. It's the biggest miss, and it may be my contribution to the discussion about depression. Because no one ever thought that you're not just this human being with a body and emotions. You're made in the image of God. You have the Spirit of God on the inside of you. You are not a human being having these temporary spiritual experiences. You're a spirit being having a temporary human experience. You're a spirit being and the person who lets the spirit be in charge. I wrote this in the introduction of the book. I said, "Look, I'm not a doctor, but I'm a pastor, and your spirit man can impact all the other parts of who you are, as well, and that's why we need to understand spiritual warfare". It's happening.
So, if I told you I have inside information, okay, and I'm sorry to tell you this, but somebody got a key to your house, and you don't know it, and they're a very bad person. And tonight's the night, tonight's the night. They're coming in, right after you go to sleep, they're coming in, and they're gonna take your kids. In fact, they're gonna gag them, duct tape, everything that's precious to you is gonna be gone when you wake up tomorrow morning. What would you be willing to do tonight? I'll answer the question for you. You'd be willing not to go to sleep. You might even introduce them to your friends, Smith and Wesson. Any of you know what I'm talking about, everybody, right?
And that's why the Bible says some of y'all are asleep. You're just asleep. You need to wake up and realize you have an enemy that's called the devil. "Well, I don't believe in the devil". That does not make him go away, who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. You know how a lion prowls? They don't just walk out there to all the gazelles and go, "Here I am. Got my fork and knife in hand. Let go, let's go". No, he's lying, he's lying in cover. In fact, a lion is the same color as the grass. You don't even know he's there. Resist him, like actively involved in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6 tells us how, when it gives us the full armor of God.
But notice it says, even though you have it, you've still gotta put it on, that God has given us authority, but we have to use it. And I know it all, everything in me, I know it, but there are varied reasons why we get there. In fact, all six of these happened to me in 2020, all six. In fact, I think God allowed me to go through it, get honest about it and vulnerable. I don't know what it'll do to my reputation. You know, they say a confession's good for the soul but bad for the reputation, but here we go. But if it'll help somebody, I'm willing, because I know this is the life, that God has abundance for you, and he can help us out of the cave. If you believe that, say a good amen, everybody.
Let's bow for prayer, yeah:
So, Father, I thank you for letting me go through something, suffering, so that I could hopefully help and comfort others. And right here I just speak peace and life and health and just wholeness and the life you've always intended for every person. God, give them hope. Let them leave here with hope. And next week, as we come back to discover how we get out, Lord God, I pray that you would help us. And for all this, Lord, we promise we will give you all the glory. In Jesus's name we pray, amen and amen.
In fact, do me a favor. Just stay seated for just a minute. Would you bow your heads one more time? And to all of our locations who are still with us right now, can I just, before I leave, and turn it back over to your campus pastors, can I just invite those of you to let God be a part of your life? If you're far from God, maybe you're not a Christian, maybe you're kicking the tires of faith, you don't know what you believe, maybe you're a Christian and God just still feels a million miles away. I call it religious but empty. And you feel like you need to get close to God. You want to know him. It's very simple. It's surrendering your life to his control.
And if you'd like to do that today, would you give me the privilege of praying with you right there where you're seated? We're not gonna have you stand up, come to the front. But if you're ready, you say, "Chris, I'm ready to give God my life," or, "I'm ready to recommit my life," listen to me very carefully. You cannot find freedom without knowing God. He'll give you the power to overcome life's toughest challenges, but you need his power in your life. He died for you, he loves you. And if you want to give him your life today, or come back to God, would you allow me to pray for you?
I'm going to invite all the campus pastors to the stage. Pastor Blake, you can come up on this stage, sir. With every head bowed, every eye closed, just right there where you are, you say, "I'm ready. I need to know God. Pray, include me in this prayer". I want you to lift your hand high all over the room. Just say, "That's me". Just lift it up high. Let us pray for you. Good, good, anybody else? Good, good, good. Yes, sir. Congratulations. How about up top, anybody? Just, "Pray for me. I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready". Awesome. Pastor Blake, lead them, please.
Pastor Blake: Amazing. With heads bowed, eyes closed, you lifted your hand. Maybe you didn't lift your hand, but you know you need to pray this prayer. Right there where you are, just whisper these words. Say:
Jesus, I'm asking you to save me today, to give me a real relationship with you, because I want to know you personally. Right now I ask you to forgive me of my sin, give me a brand-new life. I believe that you have a purpose and a plan for me, and I believe that you're the Son of God, and you came and you gave your life on a cross. You died, were buried, and you resurrected three days later, and you're alive, and you want to live inside of me. So, I fully commit my life. I surrender it all. I'm never gonna look back. (Can we just say those words:) I'm never gonna look back, and I'll never be the same again. Thank you for changing my life. In Jesus's name I pray, amen and amen.