Chris Hodges - Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
All right, so good to see all of you here today. Who's glad to be in church today, anybody, anybody? Oh, yeah. So good to see you. It really is. And a big hello to all of our campuses. We are one church that meets in 23 different rooms all across our region. God bless every single one of you. And I always like to take a moment and say hi to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. Y'all we're in 21 of those facilities right now. God bless you. And to everybody that's watching online, maybe you're at home because it's rainy outside, and you've got a blanket or wherever you are. Or for whatever reason, we're so glad we have the miracle of technology to bring our church to you today, but we will tell you there's nothing like being in the room. Isn't that right, everybody? Yeah, it's so good.
So, God bless you guys today. We're so glad that you are with us. I want to give a special shout out today, though, to a group of people who are really serving all of us very, very well today. I came in very early this morning. Of course, it's been raining since this morning, all morning long, and I saw, the first people I saw were people who were setting up setting up cones and getting ready to get the traffic in and out, these volunteers that we call Dream Teamers on our parking lot team. And then I began to think about half of our locations are still portable.
So, they showed up at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, you know, kept all of our equipment dry while they probably got wet, to get all the sound equipment and nursery equipment into auditoriums, and schools, and different places. How about we just give the biggest handclap for the Dream Team, come on, on this rainy day. Oh, yeah! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you're inside the building so you can hear how much we appreciate you. So, on your way out, with your windshield wipers going, maybe crack your window and say, "Thank you for serving," to the parking lot teams and really all that serve our church in every way.
We're in week number two of a nine-part series on the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the preamble to the greatest sermon ever preached, which is called the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7 gives us this beautiful sermon by Jesus that he taught on this hillside, and he begins this teaching with nine, really, of the most countercultural, challenging statements, beautiful statements that we are studying in this series. The series really came to my heart really in January of this year. When we were in 21 days of prayer. And, of course, our nation was and in many ways is still reeling from a lot of things that have taken place from the election, to the pandemic, to all types of tensions in society. And I just, I was thinking and praying for humanity, honestly, and just thinking about, you know, how far we've fallen in our values. And everybody's scrambling, trying to fix society, and I think there are some solutions out there, but only God can change the heart. Amen, everybody?
And I really believe we need revival. I honestly think we need revival, and I think revival begins in the house of God. Can I hear a better amen, everybody? It's gotta start in us, and I really believe, I want you to hear this. Lean into this statement, that God's plan is that he works in a group of people called his church, not talking about Church of the Highlands, talking about the church. And he works inside of us. And just like Jesus, Jesus came, and he didn't just teach principles. He embodied them. They were as drawn to his personality as they were his principles. They saw how he was changed, and that's what drew us to him, and the hope that God has for all of us is that his church is changed into the likeness of Jesus.
This is 2 Corinthians chapter 3, that we're becoming more and more like him in an increasing and incremental way, from glory to glory, it says, and that's what this series is all about. I am hoping that we all lean into these principles, that I'm gonna tell you, for me, studying these has rocked my world personally. I've never been more challenged in a set of material in anything that I've taught in 38 years, and I think it's making me more like Jesus. That's my hope, and that we begin to embody the principles so that we begin to express his love and kindness to the world around us, and I think that's our hope for our society to be changed, in Jesus's name.
I've got a friend who's one of the most incredible evangelists. In fact, I'll tell you who it is. It's John Maxwell. He is truly the most, the best personal evangelists of any human being I've ever met. And the other day I was having lunch with him. I said, "John, tell me the secret. Why are you so effective with people that are so far from God? How are you so effective"? He says, "Chris, my favorite line to tell people that are far from God, don't want anything to do with God," he says, "I know you're going through things that are difficult, and I just wish you had my joy. I just wish you could have my peace". He says, "That's okay. If you don't want that, that's fine, but I just wish you had the peace that I have in the middle of the same thing that you're going through, because I have a joy and a peace that I can't describe".
And, of course, they all say, "Well, how do I get your joy"? You know, they step right into that space. And I think, again, that's the hope of the church, that God's beginning to do a work in us. So, I'm asking you just to open up your hearts to God's Word. We have given you a little printed companion, a little journal, if you will, that'll help you not only take notes, today we're on page 14 and 15 today. By the way, if you want to go to your little journal that we've given you. And if you don't have one, on your way out be sure to go ahead and grab one of these because it will also allow you to do some other devotional study on your own, on the same topic. And then, for a lot of small groups, they actually study, they re-talk about a lot of these materials that I cover on a Sunday, that truly spiritual small groups at our church are studying my sermons.
And so, anyway, so if you'd like to do that this will help guide you through all of this, so you can take some notes, as well. And again, here's my prayer is that we're all changed in the presence of God. So, last week, I started the series off by giving you two observations about all nine of the Beatitudes. And one is that they all begin with the word "blessed". And the word "blessed" in many translations is defined as the word "happiness". It's really, in my opinion, a bad translation because most people think about happiness in the secular sense or the earthly sense. So, I'm happy when I'm happy, and I'm not happy when I'm not happy. Well, that's not the biblical happiness. A biblical happiness is regardless of circumstance, you have this deep, abiding joy that's almost hard to explain. You just have this great joy.
So, most translators use the word "blessed," but it really is the word "happy". Happy are those who, oh, the blessedness, oh, the happiness of these. And here's the key, and that is, is that a lot of times happiness is found in some of the most unlikely places, and Jesus is saying, you know, "You can be happy when this happens". Like, really? "You can be happy when this happens". You're like, "Really? That doesn't even sound right". And it is right, which invites us into it. They also, second observation, they all end with, "for theirs is". Or, "for they shall have," or something to that degree. In other words, Jesus is saying, "You might have received salvation, you might be a Christian, but there's more, everybody", you know? You can experience more of God.
There's some things perhaps left on the table. And I hope that encourages you, that you can experience another level of who God is. Are you ready to go? Yes or no, everybody. All right, here we go. So, last week was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Today our Beatitude is this, is that "Blessed are those who mourn". Now, this one might be the most strange one. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted". Are you saying, "Happy are the sad"? Like, this is one of the most ludicrous ones of all. Like, how in the world, if I'm sad, can I be happy? How in the world? What is that? And let me just say to you what I believe this Beatitude is really all about, and that is that God shows up in unique ways to people who are going through bad days.
And there's a part of God, lean into this, there's a part of God that you may or may not have experienced yet that is really there, and it really is life-changing, and I really don't have an explanation for it, of how God moves in the middle of a bad day, a terrible situation. And for some people, they never get there. So, you're still going to heaven. You're a Christian. But you've never leaned into the comfort of God in the middle of a bad day, and so it might be rewritten to say something like this: "There is happiness even in difficult days because we will experience the provision, the purpose, and the presence of God".
Now, you can tell by the nature of this topic that this is a fairly serious topic, there's a lot of this message that is very serious, and I'm just not a serious type person all the time. I love laughter. I looked high and low for a place to make you laugh in this message, and I found none, everybody. There was none. So, I decided just to make you laugh on the front end, okay? So, this has nothing really to do with the message, but it's just a funny joke about a guy who had a bad day, and I just want you to laugh because a merry heart does good like a medicine. It's all right with everybody? I just have, if nothing else, let me do it for me. Okay, is that all right, everybody?
True story, happened in 1972. In the Florida newspaper, a man was working on his motorcycle. Here's how the article went. He was on the outdoor patio, and he was revving the engine of the motorcycle, when accidentally the motorcycle kicked into gear. He held onto the handlebars, and the motorcycle went right through this glass patio door into the living room of his house, okay? So, the wife hears the crash. She runs into the dining room, finds her husband lying on the floor bleeding, cut, the motorcycle lying next to him. So, she calls the paramedics. So, they lived on a hill. She ran down the steps to explain to paramedics where to go. They get him on a stretcher, take him to the hospital. While he's at the hospital, she decides to clean up the mess in the living room. There's gasoline everywhere.
So, she got some towels, and she blotted up the gasoline, and she threw the towels into the toilet. The husband was treated from the hospital, and then released. When he came home and saw his broken, shattered glass patio door, saw his broken motorcycle, he got despondent, and he went into the bathroom, and sat on the toilet, and smoked a cigarette. After finishing the cigarette, he flips it between his legs. And, of course, his wife heard the explosion, goes into the bathroom. Her husband's pants were blown off, and parts of his body that I won't mentioned were burned all over, okay. His wife ran again to the phone, called the ambulance. The same paramedics came.
So, they put him on a stretcher, and they're going down the steps, and the wife, they're saying, "How in the world did this happen"? And she explains what happened to him. They start laughing so hard that one of them tipped their end of the stretcher, dumping out, and he broke his arm. Now, that's a bad day, everybody. So, just when you thought you were having one, I just want to make sure you know you're in good company. Okay. Thank you. Thank you for letting me do that. Okay, let's study God's Word. Okay? Come on, y'all ready? 'Cause I really believe if you'll just make a little room in your life today, especially if you're going through something very difficult, you're going to be surprised by the joy of God. You're gonna be surprised by the peace of God, and I want you to experience it. You can have actually a comfort in the middle of your mourning.
And the problem is that these Beatitudes are countercultural. They go against human nature, but check it out, not just in secular culture, but also in Christian culture. Even in churches, we can end up with bad theology and wrong views toward God, and it disrupts our relationship with God. If you think faith promises you no pain, you get disappointed with God. In fact, I want to give you three things, as just kind of an abiding principle around this topic, and then I'm going to give you three ways you can live through a bad day. Here's the first, and that is we think bad things shouldn't happen to good people. And I've heard this so many times that I can't even count. Them are people who've said, "Why do bad things happen to good people"?
And so, even when you go through a bad day, you're thinking, "Like, God, haven't you obligated yourself for this to have never happened"? And it's flawed theology. A lot of people have an "everything works out on earth for them" kind of theology. Time out here for a second. God does intervene on earth a lot. In fact, can I just stop here and say we're probably experiencing the best version of planet Earth of anybody that's on the planet. We really are. We're really, really blessed, but we can get even, especially I think, in America, and even more so in the Bible Belt, a bit spoiled. And it's, "God, you owe it. Like, I've been to church. I'm a faithful tither. Like, I give, I serve, I pray, I read my Bible. This is not supposed to happen".
The truth is God moves, and we understand in Scripture that God moves powerfully on earth. There's a whole chapter in Hebrews 11 that celebrates people who believed God and great things happened. Red Seas opened. Dead were raised, people that were dead were raised to life. I mean, great things would happen, but we oftentimes fail to read the rest of that very same chapter that says that there were others, it didn't work out that way for them. They were persecuted, tortured, mistreated, and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, living in caves, holes in the ground. They were all still commended for their faith, too. These were people of faith, too. Yet, none of them received what they had been promised, or let me say it this way: what they thought was promised to them on planet Earth, since God had planned something, say the next word out loud, something better. And honestly, a lot of times we don't see God that way. You know what? Perhaps God had something better, so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
I've heard somebody say just recently, "Well, that's not fair. God isn't fair". They look at me, "Well, God's not fair". And I look right back at them, I'm saying, "And thank goodness he's not fair 'cause fair is getting what you deserve". Thank goodness, God isn't fair. If he were fair, we'd have to pay for our own sins, and I just believe we have to get our theology right. I'm here to give that to you, to understand a lot of the comfort of God happens here on earth, but some of it happens in heaven, too. I mean 2 Timothy chapter 4 says this, this is literally probably the last words out of the mouth of the Apostle Paul. And it says, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom". To which you might think, "Well, which one is he gonna do? Is he gonna rescue me, or is he gonna bring me"? And the answer is yes.
And I think the believers who understand that, there's a maturity about them, and there's a strength about them and a trust about them that on the worst days it doesn't affect them like it does everybody else. You get to say, "I wish you had my joy". "But I know what you're going through". "Yeah, and I wish you had the peace that I have right now 'cause I know my God's a faithful God". Can I hear a good amen, everybody? It's very important. Here's the second thing, and that is I think we think pain always means something's wrong. So, if we're going through something bad, and we automatically think, "Well, what did I do? And are you mad at me, God? Or what are you trying to say? Like, what's going on here"?
When the Bible comes along and says something, and again, this is very countercultural. In fact, the verse that I'm gonna read to you, I rarely meet anyone, anyone who ever lives out the principle I'm getting ready to read, where the Bible says, "Consider it pure joy, when you face trials of many kinds..." I mean, find me a Christian like, "Woo"! "What's up, man"? "Going through a trial, brother. It's awesome". Like, nobody does that. Now, I'm not sure the Bible is actually wanting you to act like that. But mature believers, believers who in the middle of their mourning are comforted, know that God is up to something, that he didn't create the bad day, but he will use it for something good. And they have this ability to know that in the middle of this testing, God is developing something.
Now, whether you like it or not, God's a developer. Let me say it this way: he's more interested in your character than he is your comfort, okay? And if you don't get used to that, you're not gonna enjoy your Christian walk. And by the way, before you judge God, you're the same way. If you have kids, you don't wake up in the morning, go look in their room, "Did y'all want to sleep in or do y'all want to go to school? It's okay. I want whatever makes you happy". No, you're like, "Get your butt out of bed right now". "I don't want to, Daddy". "I don't care what you want". Come on, you've done that. Why? Because you know school's good for them. You know getting up is good for them. You know not sleeping in is good for them. Amen, everybody? Like, we judge God. Like, "God, you're not making me happy".
Like, and he's looking back, going, "I don't think that was my plan anyway. I'm trying to develop something in you, and perseverance will have its finished work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking anything". There are those of you who've prayed, "Lord, give me all that you have. I don't want to lack anything". And he's going, "Okay, here we go". 1 Peter says it this way, "So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead..." Where? "...when you endure many trials. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold, though your faith is more precious than gold". Watch what it says next. "So when your faith remains strong," in the middle of that bad day, "it brings you much praise".
That's a tough translation. It literally means it brings a fulfillment on the inside that's hard to describe because you know God's at work. "And it will bring glory and honor on the day when Christ is revealed". That means when you're with lost people, it's a testimony to the world where they're going, "I know what you're going through. How are you okay"? And you get to say, "I wish you had my peace. I wish you had my joy". About three years ago, I did a series that I would love to point some of you to, especially if you're going through any type of grief. I did an entire message on, "How do you survive," not a bad day, "your worst day"?
And I spoke about six principles that I learned from a friend of mine, Pastor Rick Warren, who's actually buried his own son. His son, Matthew, took his life. He had some mental illness and took his life. I think it was back in 2013. I know Pastor Rick. I think he's a legend, honestly, in the body of Christ, and me and a couple of pastor buddies went and spent time with him about two weeks after his son Matthew died, and I think we were the first pastors to be with him after that. And we just went to his house, sat on the deck, ate ice cream, and just talked and cried. And we all had our own half gallon. We enjoyed it a lot. I mean, it was just, and we just, and he told stories, and we just listened, and we were just trying to be there for our friend. And I came back, and I talked about what I'd experienced there.
And if you want to watch the message, it's in the series that we called "Reply All," I was answering questions. And it's in September of 2018. It's online, but go check it out, but there are six stages to real grief, and the first is shock. If you've ever been through something tragic, you get that phone call, there's a shock factor to it that actually is incredibly dangerous, if you're going through it by yourself. And then you go from shock to sorrow. Now you're just sad, you're crying, you're grieving, which, by the way, this is not a bad stage. It is a bad stage if you allow that sorrow to overwhelm you. And for a lot of people, they go beyond just grieving to hyper grieving, where now it can be a place where the enemy actually does some bad work in our souls. We've gotta be careful with sorrow. But Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, the Bible says.
Now, he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. So, that sorrow is okay. Just be careful because if you don't handle it right, it goes through this third phase of grief, and that is now you're struggling. Okay, what is up with this? Now, you're mad at God. You're mad at people. You're holding bitterness and unforgiveness at someone else. Now, everybody usually goes through this. Few people go through the next three. I don't want to give them to you; because if you'll allow it, you can also now go to this place of "I have no other choice but to say I have no clue of what's going on, and I'm gonna take this leap of faith that says, 'God, even though I don't know what you're doing, I'm going to trust you anyway, because you're an amazing God.'"
And we surrender. And there's somebody here today, you're in these phases. Your only hope, the only pathway to peace is surrender. I just want to make sure you hear that. So, you make it go as long as you want, but you will end up here if you ever want to have peace again. Because once you surrender, now God says, "Okay, great, let's do a work on the inside of you," and it's what the Bible calls sanctification. And then you go to this final phase of now "I'm using what I've been through to help somebody else". And that's why the mourners can still be comforted. Go watch the message if you want more.
Here's the third one, and that is I think this Beatitude that we're studying today is countercultural, because I really think we think we know what's best. So, like, we instruct God. "Okay, you're doing it wrong. And I'm gonna pray again today, and I'm telling you, you need to do this 'cause you're not right". Now, let me just say to every one of you who are a little bit older, and in high school, you had this guy you really thought was the cutest thing, and you prayed, "Lord, I want him, I want him". And then you just recently went to your 40-year class reunion. And you think, "Lord, thank you for not answering that prayer".
Come on, somebody. And that's a funny way to say something that happens, I think, all the time in our faith. "God, I'm telling you..." And he's up there going, "No, I'm telling you, you don't, he looks good now, but he's a tub of goo 40 years from now". Like, right? 'Cause we think we know best, when the Bible says in Isaiah 55, "The plan that God has is not the one you would choose, neither are the thoughts of God the same as yours"! Watch this. "For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than yours".
And mature people, who go from mourning to comfort believe this. But how do I get comforted in the middle of my bad day? 'Cause there are people saying, "You know God..." Probably the worst thing that I go through as a pastor, the hardest thing, I really, it's really hard, is when you're ministering to a family who's lost a child, or a teenager, or someone that just went to heaven way too young. You just, and out of our minds we're thinking, "This cannot be. This just cannot be". And I'll never forget. I think it was the third year of our church, I got that phone call of someone, we were a small church at the time, and I knew the person. They said, "Quick, get to UAB Hospital. They're in the trauma center".
I got there before the parents. I saw this 16-year-old girl, you know, her head probably three times the size of what a head should be. She completely unrecognizable. She would go on and go to be with the Lord. And I remember in that moment, I was thinking, "Oh, my goodness, what do I say? What do I do"? And I caught a mentor of mine, a pastor friend of mine, and I said, "I really need a word. I need a word. I need something". And I had never seen this verse that I'm getting ready to show you, and I have shared it thousands of times since. And it says this in Isaiah: "Good people pass away; the godly often die before what we think their time is, and no one understands that". It doesn't make any sense, God. "No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil that is to come". He didn't cause it, but he uses it.
Now, I don't think God causes accidents. Every good and perfect gift only comes from God. He's not even capable of evil. But I do believe God allows certain things. He said, "You have no idea what I'm doing in this situation". And one of my favorite things to tell people, and that is, like, "Listen to me. I don't know. I don't know, but I know he knows. And when you get to meet him, you're going to be okay with what he tells you. And in this moment, you're going to experience God in a way that you've never experienced him before".
In fact, I don't know that there's ever been anyone I've ever ministered to, going through the loss, whether it's your grandmother or whoever, that I read this verse to people, that he's close. He'll be close to you, that there's another presence of God reserved for the brokenhearted. There's another experience, as a Christian, that you've not even experienced before. I always say this, I always say, "Look for it; it'll be there. I promise you his presence is going to be with you in an incredibly special way". So, I'm actually studying this, this week. Y'all, I'm telling you this series is rocking my world. I've never had a series deal with me personally so much.
So, I'm having, and I'm not bragging. I'm just telling you my story. I'm having times with God in my study like I normally don't. Like, I'm pausing my study to say, "God, what are you trying to teach me? What do I need to do in my own life"? And I'm having encounters with God during my study in all this. And even this week, this week was an incredibly challenging week on a couple of different fronts. And I get to studying this, and I'm experiencing the presence of God, and this just doesn't normally happen. I'm telling you I heard God say, I heard him say something that I know is for at least one person in this room. And if it's just for one person in this room, it's worth it for me to read it. In fact, I'm not even gonna read it. I'm just gonna put it on the screen and let God speak to you.
And here's what I heard God say... To which I want to say, "How"? And I'm telling you, God's looking for some people of faith who say, "And I will hear the answer when I see you face to face". And I promise you there won't be a single one of us that say, "Oh, now I see it, and God that still wasn't the right way". No, we're all gonna go, "You always do the right thing, you always do the right thing". How can we go from mourning to comfort? With the right perspective of earth and who our God is. And if you'll just take this leap of faith into a deeper level of Christianity, you too can experience, okay, I want to get practical.
I want to close. In fact, you guys can come on out and play behind me. It'll make me close it better, sooner, and it'll sound incredibly more spiritual with the music behind me, okay? Okay. Because I want to get practical. If that first little part was inspirational and hopefully spoke to you, let me give you a playbook. So, now you're having your worst day. So, you're in it. What do you do? And I want you to write down three phrases. Take notes. Get your phone out. Get it in your little journal that we gave you. Just try it one time. The next time you have a really, really bad day, I want you to do three things that all start with the letter R, because that's a preacher disease. We all do that, all right? And I'll read you the text first. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles".
Now, time out right here. I'm gonna let you hear this. Maybe I don't have moral authority to speak to your situation. Maybe I haven't been through what you've been through. I promise you Paul has. This brother had it rough. Go read 1 Corinthians 11 and just be glad that wasn't your bad day. It was bad. Here's this guy coming along. He says, "I'm telling you he can comfort you so that we can comfort others". It's always there. That's how I started the message. This is God's hope, not that we live perfect lives and look at all the heathen sinners of the world and say, "We live perfect lives". No, that we go through the same thing they go through, but it impacts us a completely different way because we have God on our side. We have the comfort of God on our side, and now we can comfort others with the same comfort that we've received. "For just as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings," and that's just a matter of fact you're going to, "we can also have the abundance of God's comfort that abounds through Christ".
And then he gets personal. He says, "Hey, trust me, I know. In fact, I don't want you to be uninformed about the troubles that I experienced in the province of Asia. I was under such great pressure far beyond my ability to endure, that I wanted to die". And I truly believe this is a point where Paul was suicidal. Like, "I can't take this anymore. Indeed, I had felt like I had the sentence of death, but this happened. 'Cause I kind of got a little bit too big for my britches. I was relying on myself. I'm like an apostle like, and I needed to not rely on myself, but rely on God, who raises the dead".
And then watch this. Not only that but "He has delivered me, he will deliver me, and he will continue to deliver me, as you help me through your prayers. And then many will give thanks". It always goes back to how our bad days will impact others. "Many will give thanks for the gracious favor granted and answered to all y'all's prayers for me," Paul said. Three things. When you go through a bad day, you're going to have to refocus. You're gonna have to take a breath and say, "If something is happening to me, God wants to do something in me". Write that down. "If something is happening to me, it's because God wants to do something in me". "This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead". So, here's the question: "What is God trying to teach me"?
Now, I want you to look up here. Look at my eyes. If you don't learn how to pray that prayer, you're going to delay your answer, because God is a developer. And an answer is coming, but we slow it down when we say, "Take it away, take it away, take it away". He goes, "No, no, no, let's grow, let's learn, let's get better, and then I'll show you how I can raise the dead". My pain is either a jail that'll imprison me, or it's a school that will shape me, and we get to choose.
Number two, they all start with R's. I'm so sorry, okay? So, I refocus, but now I need to remember. Remember what? He always comes through anyway. He always does. He has, he will, he will continue. Say it with me, every voice. Here we go. He has, he will, he will continue. One more time, every voice. He has, he will, he will continue. Yes, the best predictor of God's present help is his past faithfulness. So, I refocus. Okay, wait, wait, wait. If something's happening to me, God wants to do something in me. So, I'm not praying to take it away. I'm saying, "God, teach me something". Oh, and I need to remember he's gotten me through before. You guys, did you guys watch 12, 15 years ago when the "24," Jack Bauer, "24"? Anybody, did anybody watch that? Okay, that was six hands, so this is a terrible illustration?
All right, y'all don't know. No, it was, we're not TV watchers, Tammy and I, but we got consumed, don't judge, we got consumed with this thing. Somebody gave us the DVD of, it's 24 episodes, and it's in real time, so it's a counter terrorism unit that, so, one episode would be 8 to 9. The next episode's 9 to 10. The next, you know, it's a full day. It's one day. And this guy, Jack Bauer, every episode ends with the whole world is coming to an end, and Jack's getting ready to die, every one of them, and it leaves you at this cliffhanger, and it worked. 'Cause we said, "Oh, we're just gonna watch one". No, no, no, we watched like eight at a time. We'd be at 2:00 in the morning. "We're gonna watch one more. We've gotta find out is he gonna live"?
All we had to do to know if he was gonna live was look in the DVD box 'cause there were more DVDs. Of course, he lives. There's another episode. Are y'all following me? And so, I thought, I think the church forgets that sometime. So, I'm gonna read you the last episode, okay? Because there's not only a season three, all 24 happened, there's another season that happens. Like, Jack Bauer not only lives that day. He's gonna live into the next season. It's gonna happen. And I'm here to tell you, I went to the last page of your Bible. Peel back one, maybe two, last two pages. This is the last DVD in your box. "I heard a loud voice from the throne of God saying, 'Now is the dwelling of God with men, and he will live with them. And they will be his people, and God himself will be with them, and he will be their God, and he will wipe every tear from their eyes. And there will be no more funerals, no more death, no more mourning".
That's our topic today. No crying, no pain. Why? Because it's an old order that's gone away. You want a playbook? You'd better refocus. Okay, God, I hate this day, but you're, teach me something. teach me something. Refocus. Remember, you're going to get me through. I've read the last chapter. You're going to get me through, you're going to get me through. I've read the last chapter. Here's the last one, and that is rely. Rely on what? Relationships. Remember, he said, "He will continue to deliver us, as you help us". Who's the us? It was the Corinthian church. Paul was saying, "I never would've made it without you, Corinthians. Thank you for praying for me".
Now look across this front row. Look at Harrison and Sam. I never would've made it without my friends. I never would've made it without my Lane and Rachel, never would've made it without Bev, never would've made it without Blake and my son Michael. I never would've made it, I never would've made it. Thank you. Do you have that? Yesterday morning, I woke up to a text from somebody in the church. Well, it's my dentist. My dentist goes to our church, and we're friends, and he just said, "Hey, I woke up thinking about you and letting you know I'm just really praying for you today, PC". Right. And I just texted back and said, "You have no idea how much this means to me". And I'm just so grateful to God that I have John, who does more than crown me with many crowns.
Come on, somebody. He prays for me. Do you, do you? And if you don't, you're in trouble. See, we're a church of groups, not because we think you need something else to do this week between Sundays. We're a church of groups because you need a friend who needs to be with you. Like, Paul had this whole church praying for him. You need somebody's praying for you on your bad day. And honestly, you need to be that person for the other people in your group. In fact, I'm giving all the group an assignment this week. Like, if you haven't already exchanged phone numbers, that's your assignment this week in whatever group you do. And pray for each other and check on each other. 'Cause you want to get through a bad day? Refocus, remember. And then for heaven's sakes, don't try to go through it alone. Rely on the body of Christ to help you through. He is, come on, everybody, the God of all comfort. Give God some praise today, everybody, amen?
Let's bow for prayer. Close your eyes right there. Campus pastors, come join me. Pastor Blake, come join me on stage. I'm gonna hand it off to them. Just be very, very still. The presence of God is here.
And Father, I pray for everybody who's going through grief. Lord, it's a whole lot worse than what they're letting on, with their face today. There's pain. God, I speak the comfort of God over them, in Jesus's name.
If you're here today, and you feel far from God, you don't even know his presence, and you discover today you need a Savior, and you're tired of navigating your life on your own, in fact, it's not even working out. Let me say this to you. I wish you had my peace. I wish you had my joy. And you can, today, by saying, "I give up, I surrender, I'm going to give you my life". Maybe you're a Christian, and you just, you're backslidden. You just need to rededicate your life.
In a minute, I'm going to ask you to lift your hand, if you want to come back to God today. I'm not gonna make you stand up. I'm not gonna call you to the front. But I think it takes courage to say, "God, it's gotta change, and today I'm giving you my life". At every location, get ready. If you're watching online, get ready. And you're ready, you're ready to surrender your life to Jesus. If that's you, slip your hand up right now and say, "Pray for me". Come on, lift it up high, lift up, good, good, good, good, good. I just love it, yes. Anybody else? Lift it high. Be bold. I see somebody at the very top with both hands lifted, yes. Anybody else? Just pray for them. Pastor Blake, come on, come pray for these people.
Pastor Blake: That's awesome. We're so proud of you. For those of you that raised your hand, and maybe you didn't raise your hand, but in this moment you know that this is your time. This is your time to pray this prayer and surrender your life to Jesus. Right there where you are, just whisper these words. Say:
Jesus, today I give you my life. I go all in. I ask you to forgive me of my sin. Make me brand-new. Bring the peace, and the joy, and the life that only you can. I surrender my life completely to you. (And I want you to say this, say) Jesus, I believe that you gave your life on the cross for me, and that you rose again, and now you want to live inside of me, and I fully commit my life to you, and I'm never gonna look back. (Come on, I want you to say it this way) For the rest of my life, the best way that I know how, I'm gonna love you, I'm gonna serve you, and I'm gonna know you. Jesus, thank you for changing my life today. In your name I pray, amen and amen.