Chris Hodges - The Best Teacher
Wow, I love that. I love those year-in-review videos, and 2021 has been an amazing year. A big hello to all of you guys who are joining us for this very special online only service here the day after Christmas. And I'm so excited to share the message that God's put on my heart for all of us today. I'm here in the Grants Mill auditorium all by myself with a few cameramen, and I'm just happy to be here with you guys, and I want to share a message with you today that I really believe is going to minster to you on the topic of how do we evaluate our previous year, this year we lived in, and how do we step into the brand-new year with confidence and all that God has for us.
A big hello to all of those that call Church of the Highlands home. A big hello to all of those that are maybe watching for the very first time. And as always, a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. Couldn't love you guys more. Hope you had an amazing Christmas to all of you guys. Hey, just a quick reminder. We are in a season right now called Legacy. And if you'd like to invest in what we're doing to help people. I call it the "Help Those Who Are Hurting and Reach Those Who Have Never Heard". If you'd like to be a part of that, you can do that all the way through the end of this year. And a quick reminder that next Sunday we will have our normal service times. January 2nd, all of our regular service times, and we're ready to kick off the brand-new year.
And, of course, we always start the brand-new year with 21 days of prayer and fasting. This year, it's going to start on January 9th because a lot of people are still traveling and coming in from holidays, and so we're gonna kick that off. Of course, we'll have prayer every morning 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, Saturdays at 9, and we'll tell you more about that, but the reason why I'm pointing this out to you now is so that you can prepare. So, you really don't have to prepare to pray, but you really do have to prepare to fast. And so many of you guys have never been a part of fasting before; and if you've not, I want to encourage you to go look on our website. There's a "21 Days of Prayer" icon you can click on, and it will give you a lot of instructions 'cause there's a lot of different ways to fast, and some of them require a little on the front-end preparation to be prepared for it.
So, anyway, go check it all out and make plans to join us for really one of the most powerful seasons that we have all year long that we call "21 Days of Prayer". So, today, I want to share this message with you, and I promised this message to you, to help us evaluate our year. And I thought I'd start with a song that all of us are going to be singing, or a lot of people are going to be singing in just a few days, as we go into the brand-new year and on New Year's Eve. There's a song that goes like this. You know it. "Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne".
Now, nobody knows what that means, but everybody's gonna sing it. It continues like this. "For auld lang syne, my dear. For auld lang syne. We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne". Now, what is that? Well, this is a song that was first penned by a Scotsman named Robert Burns, and "Auld Lang Syne" is Scottish for "Days in the past". And what the song is asking is actually what I want to ask of all of us today. And that is, what should be remembered and what should be forgotten? Should everything be forgotten? What are we literally going to bring with us into '22? And here's a better question. What are we going to leave behind?
Now, I'm going to share with you some Scriptures. I'm gonna give you some things that I actually do, that I'll be doing in the next couple of days. I actually have set aside a couple of days to go over my year, just to evaluate it. And I've had a, honestly, I've had the, probably the best and worst year at the same time. And honestly, I don't even question God. In all of it, I've learned to trust him, no matter what. But my year has, I've released a book. We built a college. You know, we moved into a new facility with our Highlands College, and the church has grown, and family has been amazing. But then there were some heartaches, as well, and I'm sure that's the same for you. And I think these are all important questions for all of us to ask. What are we going to leave in 2022, and what are we going to bring with us?
And so, let me give you some Scriptures first, and then I'm gonna give you a little exercise that I'm actually going to be doing this week and help us. I'm going to give you three things that I think we should probably leave behind, and the first is we need to leave behind some old history. And you say, "Chris, how? That's easier said than done. How do I do that"? Well, you do that spiritually. And you need to know that if you do, God's gonna get involved because God is the one who asks every single one of us to "Forget the former things, and do not dwell on the past". And I love this about God. Regardless of what your year was like, he's always doing a new thing, and I love that. And then it says this. "Now it springs up".
So, actually, it's in play right now. God's involved right now. And the Bible even asks, "Don't you see it? Don't you perceive it"? And a lot of people can't. And what he wants to do is he's "making a way in the wilderness," and that means the dark places, the places that were barren and dry. He's making a way. You don't see it, but he is. "...and streams in the wasteland". You say, "Chris, I don't see it, and I don't understand it". You don't need to. You just need to believe it. Remember, I said this is gonna be a year of great faith, what needs to begin right now. So, here's the first one, and that is we're gonna just consciously, actively, spiritually, with great faith, whether we understand it or not, we're gonna leave behind our old history.
Here's the second one, and that I want to encourage you to do is to leave behind old hurts. Now, this one is a process that God wants to get involved in, and I am personally inviting you into, in 2022, and that is to let us help you walk through your hurts, the things that, for lack of a better way to say it, kind of attach themselves to you. These were where people let you down. This is where you had some, just some places where you were completely disappointed. Maybe it was even hurts of the loss of someone who passed away, or a relationship that's broken, or whatever it might be. Again, I'm just trying to put faith in your heart today, that the Bible says, that if you're in Christ, or if you are a Christian, "the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! And all of this is from God, who reconciled..." Reconciled means he brings a balance to zero. "He reconciles us to himself through Christ".
And I'm just trying to put faith in your heart. I'm gonna show you an exercise to do it here in just a second, but I'm trying to put faith in your heart to, you know, let me just encourage you to leave behind the history, the hurts. And here's the third one, and this one is huge, because all of us have this, and that is we need to leave behind old habits. Now, I have some, and you have some. And the Bible is, again, clear that you can move beyond those. Now, one of the ways, not the only way, but one of the primary ways is through prayer and fasting, which is one of the other reasons why we pray and fast, first of all, we dedicate our year to God because he gets the first of everything. He gets the, it's the reason why we're still having church on Sunday today, because we always give God the first of our week.
So, even though we're not able to gather because it's December 26th, and we're trying to give thousands of thousands of Dream Teamers and staff a chance to spend time with their families because they just served in 121 services over six days, but we still give God the first. So, you're still in front of your computer, you're still there giving God your first and your best. Well, that's what fasting does, too, prayer and fasting. We give God our first, but it does more than that. In Isaiah 58 it says, "Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose chains, to untie cords, to set the oppressed free, to break every yoke"?
In other words, to take the things that have become habits in our life that need to be off our lives and break them. I have some, actually. I'm already in anticipation of the 21 days of prayer and fasting 'cause I want to get off of some foods that I've just allowed myself to have that I've had way too much of, and so have you probably, or things that I've watched, or, you know, just too much time in front of the news, or the TV, whatever. We're gonna take 21 days and break the habit. And hopefully, honestly, for it to never come back into our lives. And I think one of the most difficult things, what I'm trying to say to us is that as we enter into a new year, a lot of the old still has itself attached to us.
Now listen to me. What I'm getting ready to say won't necessarily feel good to hear, but it's the truth. You can't go back and undo those things. They happened. But if you just dwell on them constantly and don't mix faith with what God wants to do in a brand-new year, they'll stay with you in the new year, as well. The way I like to say it is I can't go back and change the beginning, but I can start where I am and change the ending. And I want you to hear that. This is the main reason why I came to church here on December 26th to bring you this message, because I really want all of us to step into a brand-new year, and the year I'm calling the year of great faith. So, how do we do that?
Well, a lot of people say, "Well, I'm learning because I have experience". But my mentor, John Maxwell, says, "Experience isn't the best teacher". Because if it were, everybody who had experience would be getting better, and they're not. They're not getting better. Just 'cause you got older, you're not getting better. Just because you've had experience, you're not getting better. "Evaluated experience is the best teacher". And now I want to step into really the meat of the content of this message, that which I promised I'd give to you, that I take every year after Christmas, before January 1st, I try to take a day, sometimes two, this year I actually have two days blocked off where I can evaluate my life. And I actually go back.
One of the ways I do it is I get my phone, and I go back to my camera roll, all the way back to January 1st and actually just slowly go through the pictures, and I pray and ask God, "Speak to me. What should I have learned from that experience, that place that I traveled, that thing that our family did"? Just, and honestly, you'd be surprised. If you give the Holy Spirit room, as you just kind of scroll through your pictures, you'll get, God will point out things, lessons. Man, I wish I wouldn't have done that. I wish I would've done that. You can evaluate your life. That's the first thing that I'm gonna do. The second thing I'm gonna do, I'm gonna do something that I do, I try to do every month.
I've shared this on a few occasions, mostly in our leadership settings. But years ago, I came up with 12, for lack of a better word, dials or dashboards. So, just like on a car, you have all these instrument readings on your dashboard, and they let you know how you're doing. So, you have gas, speedometer, you know, and that's as much as I know about cars. But anyway, so you have all these, you have oil pressure, which I don't even know where it's supposed to be, but anyway it's there. But you have these dashboards. They're letting you know how your engine's doing. There are some dashboards for your life, as well, that'll let you know how you're doing if you know where to look. And I'm gonna give you 12. In fact, this might be a place in this message where you even want to pause and write these down.
I'm encouraging you to write these 12 down. I literally have them in a document on my computer, and once a month I go through. I do two things with it. I actually give myself a grade on these just like a school grade, A, B, C, D, or F. I don't know why in the world they skipped the letter E on that grading system, but they did. Somebody explain that to me. But anyway, give yourself a grade on how you're doing in that area, and then I write one sentence, just one, so you don't get bogged down 'cause you can get really bogged down in this stuff, but write down one sentence, how I'm gonna make that area of my life better.
So, let me give you these 12. These are powerful. And the first I think is the most important, and that's my faith life. My faith life is my relationship with God. So, I just ask myself, how are God and I doing right now? And if I'm honest with you, I'm gonna be very transparent, okay? My Bible reading part of my relationship with God is probably stronger than it's ever been, and my prayer life isn't. So, I'm actually disproportionately spending time with God in his Word, which I don't think you can spend too much time in God's Word, but I need to spend more time in prayer. And so, if I were to give myself a grade, I probably would give it a B minus right now because of that. And one of my goals, coming into 2022 is to improve my prayer life, that part of my relationship with God.
I'm a worshiper, so that's really strong right now. But really, of those three things in my faith life, it's the Word, it's prayer, and worship. Prayer is not where it should be right now, and it's a lot of it's 'cause I'm just tired, and we've come out of a busy season, and I just need to get that back, and I can't hardly wait for a brand-new year, 21 days of prayer, and just get that part of my life, are you getting the picture? This is how I do it. I'll go a little faster now, but the second area is my marriage. It's my relationship with my spouse. And if you're not married, let this be your dating life or where you're pursuing romantic interests or just how is that doing?
The third would be your family, and this is extended family, this is parents, these are siblings. In my case, it's also my children, my grandchildren, and I just, how am I doing there? And one of my goals this year, I have a lot of grandkids now, and it seems to me like I'm spending time with them all in a group, and I felt like the Lord spoke to me that we've gotten to the place where they need individual time with Papa. And so, one of my goals, I've already written this one out, in 2022, I'm gonna set aside some time to be just with Jackson and just with Andy, because I know I can put more into them and love them better if they don't feel like they're always in a pile. Are you getting the picture? So, I'm evaluating this part of my life.
The fourth, and by the way, these are in no particular order of importance. I'm just throwing them out at you, okay? This is a list, and I'm not ranking them, but the fourth is your office life, or if you're in school, your school life. It's your job. How's your job? And not only how's your job, but are you spending the right amount of time there? You know the old saying. "No one on their death bed wished they would've spent more time at the office". So, is it in order? Are you overworking? Are you underworking? Just evaluate it. The fifth one is a big one. Now get ready. And all of us need to do this one, and that is I'm just calling it my digital life, and it's just my time on devices. This could be from watching Netflix to Instagram, to whatever you do on your phone.
I love the fact that even Apple realizes we need to evaluate this. They send us a weekly report every week on how much time. And every time we see that, yeah, you're up 10%. Now you're up 12%. That's not good because you're taking it away from something else, and I think all of us need to evaluate our digital life. The sixth, I'm just gonna call your ministry life. You say, "Well, I'm not in ministry". Oh, yes, you are. If you're a Christian, you're a minister. Every Christian is a minister, okay. So, let me ask you, are you serving God through your purpose? And honestly, there's no place for any of us to do nothing 'cause all of us can do something. If it's helping park a car, for heaven's sakes, find something where you're serving others. That's what ministry is, is serving others. The seventh is my financial life.
Some of you guys need to put this one higher up on the list. It's my earning, spending, saving, and giving. And by the way, I personally believe that's the opposite of the order it actually needs to be in, in my giving, saving, then spending, right? But just evaluate that. And what a great time in the new year is to make a fresh commitment to God through the tithing. I'm a big believer that it honors God through giving, being generous to others. You get the idea. Just evaluate it. The eighth area, this is called our social life. This is the amount of time you spend with others. And for some of you, listen to me, you're underdoing this, so you're doing it here, but that's not social. I don't care what they call it. That's not social media. You need people, okay?
And some of you, this part of your life is what's hurting you. You're with the wrong people. You're hanging out with people that are not pushing you to be closer to God. They're pulling you away from God. It needs to be evaluated, just my time with others. Am I setting aside time? I have to ask myself that question 'cause I'm around people all the time. I have a tendency to go a month and, just had dinner with some friends. I need that, and I'm always better if I do that. You get the idea. Here's a huge one. Are you getting anything out of this? I love this stuff, and I evaluate it every month. The ninth one is my attitude, just my approach to life.
Have I decided that I'm going to, I call it to have the Tigger attitude, the yes we can. Even as I've looked back over 2021, honestly, it had some of the darkest moments of my entire life and had some pinnacle moments that I couldn't imagine that had been that good. And I just had to make a decision I'm not dwelling on all the bad. In fact, God didn't owe me anything, and I'm just grateful that I'm alive, and I'm just grateful that I get to do what I do and, you know, just making a choice about your attitude. I love this. I could preach that. I feel like hanging out on it a little bit, but let me keep moving. The tenth is my creative life, my dreams, my plans. For me, that's writing. I'm getting ready to dig in through the 21 days of prayer.
I'm going to hopefully finish a book, that I have a manuscript due in March, and so this is a big part of my life right now. And I'm not just settling on where I am. You know, I'll be 59 years old this year, kind of human tendency is just to put it on cruise control. No, man, keep dreaming, keep thinking of ways to touch people and help people, and just keep dreaming, right? The eleventh is huge. And honestly, this is new on my list, just because what I've learned through writing the book, "Out of the Cave," the depression book, and that is my mental, or you could put in there my emotional life. How's my mind? How are my thoughts? What am I allowing in my mind that's controlling my thoughts? That's a big one. You know, just how is my mental life? What's my thinking like? 'Cause you're thinking, but a lot of people have stinking thinking, and I actually actively have, I start every day with having proper thinking, and I think everybody needs to.
And the last one, and if you look at me, you would say, "Well, no wonder that's last on his list is the physical life". And that is how's my body? Am I exercising? Am I taking care of myself? Am I resting? What's my sleep like? What's my diet like? You get the idea. Just making sure I'm taking care of my body. Again, in no particular order, but can I encourage you to take those 12 and at least once a year, and I like to do it every month, how am I doing? Give myself a grade. And then one sentence how I can make that one better. I hope that blessed you. That's honestly one of the main things I wanted to give you, but I not only ask, I not only evaluate 12 areas, but I ask five questions.
I'm gonna go through these quickly, but these have Scriptures with them, but I've used these with churches, I've used these with marriages, I've used these every month with this organization. I ask these five questions. I think they're good for our own personal individual lives, as well, and that is why do I exist? That's the first question. What is my life's purpose? And the reason why that's so important is because Proverbs 29 says, "If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble". Some of you are stumbling through life right now. Why? Because if you haven't made your purpose in life clear, then everything is on the table. I'm gonna say that again. If you don't know why you exist, you don't know what to say yes to or no to. You're stumbling all over the place. But when you attend to what God has revealed to you, and we'll help you.
We have tools to help you find your God-given purpose. Those are the people that are the most blessed, and so every year and really every month for me, I reaffirm my purpose. My life's purpose, by the way, is that I lead people to reach their full potential. That's what I'm called to do. It's what I love to do. So, I take people, and I say, "Are you living God's best for your life? And if you're not, I know that's what I'm called to help you to do". And that's why I have GROW, and ARK, and Highlands College. I love, that's why I'm pastoring you today on December 26th 'cause I'm trying to help you reach your full potential. It's what I love to do. I'm a tour guide, and I just love what I do. Well, you have something like that, as well.
You say, "Chris, where is it"? Colossians says, "For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, everything got started in God and finds its purpose in God". So, if you want to go look somewhere else, good luck to you. You won't find it because you have to go to the one who created you to find out what your life is all about. Here's another verse in Ephesians. It says, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for...part of the overall purpose that he's working out in everything and everyone". In other words, you're a piece of his grand design. You're a piece of the puzzle.
Do you know what it is? And if you don't, I want to encourage you to find it and let us help you. And, of course, we do that here at Highlands with what we call the Growth Track. And because January is a five Sunday month, we're going to start it not on the first Sunday because, again, as I said earlier, people are still traveling on January 2nd. But on the 2nd Sunday, which is January 9th, get on the Growth Track. Let's go. We'll help you find your purpose, and let's get after it. And I promise you this, that if you live your life, knowing what your life is all about, the bad things, and I've had them, too, all of us do. They're not as distracting, I promise you. When you know what you're living for, it's not fun to go through, but it doesn't pull you down because you still have something else that you're living for, that's higher than that. This is huge.
In fact, let me say it this way. The best way for me to pastor you through your problems is to help you find something in your life that's bigger than your problems. It's a big one. Once you figure out what that life's vision is, you then have to do something to accomplish it. So, I had a vision to come here to the Grants Mill auditorium to record this message, so that all of you guys could have a message on Sunday, December 26th. But then I had to do things. I had to get in the shower, shave, put on clothes, drive my car. Are you understanding? So, the question is, is what you're doing accomplishing the answer that we had in number one? So, how you're living your life isn't working. And I think that's a great question to ask. Have we figured out how to make this work?
And the Bible is pretty clear when it says number your days. That doesn't mean like put a number on it. It literally means stop, think, assess, like I'm encouraging you to do this week, evaluate. Is my schedule right? Do I wake up at the right time? Do I go to bed at the right time? This is what I'm talking about. This is the questions we ask in number two. It says, "Teach us to number our days. Recognize how few they are; and help us to spend them as we should".
Now, this is called a system, okay? People call me the systems person, but everybody has a system. A system delivers your vision. The vision is the answer to the first question, but you have to have a system. Our vision here at Highlands, we want people to know God, find freedom, discover purpose, make a difference. You've heard that. But our system is they know God through weekend services, primarily. They find freedom in small groups. That's our system. They discover their purpose on a Growth Track. And then they make a difference by getting on a team to make a difference. Well, that's our system.
Now, these aren't holy. If these weren't working, we wouldn't be doing them. Let me say it that way. And so every year our team, really every month, says, "Is this still working"? If it's not, let's fix it, let's change it. Can't change the vision. That's what God's created us to do. But you have to ask yourself, "What am I doing"? I like question number two. But how do you know if it's working or not? Then you have to ask the third question is, "Well, then, how am I doing"? How am I doing? Give a formal assessment. Proverbs chapter 27 says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds". So, what do we do? Well, we ask ourselves, well, are people getting saved? So, we actually count that. Are people in groups? We actually count that. We can give you the exact number. Are people going to the Growth Track? Well, we actually know the number that are going or not going, and are they completing it? Like, we know all that.
You say, "Well, Chris, you're just all about the numbers". Unapologetically, and so are you. I don't have somewhere between three and seven kids. I have five. 'Cause why? 'Cause you always count what matters. If you passed out right now in your house, or wherever you are watching this, and paramedics came, they gonna get numbers. They gonna get a blood pressure. They're gonna get a temperature, a heart rate. Why? Because numbers are educators of health. And I'm gonna look right into that camera, and right into your home, and right through your device. I'm talking to you right now. How are you doing? And do you even know how you're doing? And I sure hope this week you take some time to not only get a vision, or pursue your vision, and figure out ways to make that vision happen, but to ask a question. And I'm talking about your marriage, your life, your schedule.
When I was a youth pastor back in the day at my home church in Baton Rouge, one of my assignments as a youth pastor, a young 20-year-old youth pastor was to, every night about 10 o'clock, go make sure the youth recreation building was locked. And so, I lived near the church, and so I'd get in my car and head over, and check the doors, and, you know, this was just part of my job, and I was happy to do it. And one day, I pulled up to this recreation building. The building was called Liberty Alley. I don't know why, but that was our youth building. We had a gym attached to it, and they had places to eat, and then a little auditorium.
And when I pulled up, and behind that building there was a car clearly with people in it, and the windows were all fogged up. They were back there, and I knew immediately there was some hanky-panky going on, and I was furious, thinking, "That's one of our teenagers back there". So, I went over there, and I'm, bam! "Open this, open this window, roll down this window right now". And, of course, this was back about 25-30 years ago. So, they started cranking the window down. You ready for this? This was an old couple in our church that I knew, like one of the elders. And I said, "Oh, Brother Parker, I'm so sorry". I said, he goes, "That's quite all right," and he rolled it right back up.
So, I found him a few days later. I said, "My brother, I want to know the secret to being your age and still, you know, enjoying the wife of your youth". And he laughed. And he said, "Chris, every," listen to this, "every, every month we go out on a date," with his wife, and he says, "Every month, I look across the table, and I ask her, 'How am I doing?'" And he says, "For years, she lied and never said anything 'cause she just didn't want to say anything. But now she'll say, 'You know what? I'd love it if you would do this.' And then she'd return the favor. 'How am I doing?'" And you know what? Tammy and I have picked up that. "How am I doing"?
I love question number three. "How am I doing"? And I'll ask Tammy, "How am I doing? Is there anything I can improve on"? And you need to be ready for the answer, by the way, if you do this little exercise. And don't get mad, and don't get defensive. Understand their feelings and their heart. But it's just a great question. I've gotta get moving. I love these questions. The fourth one I'm gonna fly through, but in the middle of knowing your purpose, what you're gonna do to accomplish your purpose, ask yourself how you're doing with your purpose, you have to ask what drives it all? And those are values because you can know what to do, come up with something to get it accomplished, and it still not work, even though it seems like, well, I'm doing all the right things.
If the values, or I call it the culture's not right, if you don't do anything else, do this. That's sit down for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, pray. Say, "God, what are my values"? And write them down and affirm yourself that, and I'm just gonna give you mine. You can take these if you want to, but I love God. I'm a lover of God. I'm a friend of God. I'm in a relationship with God, and I try to express that love for God. That's where it all begins. I love people. So, I call people, I text people, I encourage people, I believe in people and help them reach their potential. And sometimes people will make you mad, right? But I have to come back and say, "No, no, no, this is a value of mine". I value and I love people. For me, I pursue excellence. I don't ever get there, and I'm not into perfection 'cause no one attains that. But if I'm gonna put my hands on it, I'm gonna do my best. And the last one, I choose joy 'cause joy, joy isn't a feeling. It's a choice.
So, I'm giving you my questions. Are you ready for them again? What's my purpose? What am I gonna do to accomplish my purpose? How am I doing with my purpose? What are the values that drive that purpose? And last question, best question, I know I already said that in the other ones, but this one is the best question. This is the greatest question ever. This question you should ask with your spouse, you should ask with your kids, you should ask at your job, you should ask at your church. I love this question, and that is what is most important right now? Because you can't do everything, but you need to do something, and you've gotta find the most important thing. The way I like to say it, here's another way to phrase that same thing. I'm almost done. Hang in there with me.
What one thing, if it got better, makes the biggest difference? What one thing, if it gets better, makes the biggest difference? And by the way, if you find that thing and fix this thing, it'll be a different thing the next time you ask the question. So, that's why you've gotta keep asking the question. And the illustration I used, I've actually got a little bucket over here, this is a wooden bucket. You can see it has the wooden slats. As you can see, one of the slats of this bucket is low, okay? So, it doesn't matter how high the other ones are. The water is always coming out at the level of the lowest slat. So, the question for all of us today is do we even know what the lowest slat of the bucket is? And I think it's important.
Here's another way that we can ask the question, and that is, what am I not doing that I should start doing? And what am I doing that I should stop doing? I'm just trying to give you some ways to evaluate your life. 'Cause I know this. Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is. And I know this, that if you'll start in 2021 and go into 2022 with an evaluation day, or even an hour, or just some time this week, and like the song says, ask what I should leave and what I should bring. 2022 has the potential to be one of the greatest years of your life, not easier, just better, and better is good.
So, I close with this final thought, 'cause people go through this exercise, and they don't have the clarity, and they don't really maybe get the answers, and they still can't see it. So, I thought I'd close it by giving you four things that I really would love for you to do. Like, if you can't figure out what to do in 2022, well, let me help you, right? Okay, here's the first one. Get closer to God. I know that just sounds so cliché, but get closer to God. "Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands..." That means repent of your sins. "...purify your hearts". Because if you're not close to God, it's because "your loyalty is divided between God and the world". And again, that's why I'm so excited about 21 days of prayer. That's why I'm encouraging all of us to fast. 'Cause I know this, I know this. "Oh, fasting seems so hard. Oh, I don't know if I want to put the plate aside. I don't know if I can do that".
Well, I'll tell you this. If you want something you've never had, you need to do something you've never done. So, that's my first one. Here's the second one. I want to encourage you to get honest with a friend. So, if you can't figure out what to do in 2022, I know for a fact this will make your life better. Because the Bible says if we confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, we'll experience some healing. And there's a bunch of you that are watching right now that need to be healed. The way I like to say it is you go to God for forgiveness, but you go to God's people for healing. And I want to encourage you to do that. And if I do anything right, and I know this sounds like I'm bragging on myself, but I kind of am, and I'm only doing it because I know it works. And every time I have a heartache and a tough day, and I don't think I can make it anymore, I discipline myself. I'm old enough to know this works, to pick up that phone and call a buddy, and have someone pray for me. I don't get alone in my thoughts. And you need to do the same thing. Your friends will pull you through.
Here's the third one. You can't figure out what to do? Find your purpose. 'Cause I know this, that when you know what your purpose is, it propels your life in every other way. Ephesians 2:10 says, "It's God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend them, our lives, helping others". And nothing gives more vibrancy to your life than realizing that I am created on purpose for a purpose. And I've said it before, and I'm gonna say it again. Start with us January 9th, step one of the Growth Track. I'm not asking for 300 Sundays. I'm not asking for 30 Sundays. I'm asking for three Sundays. Give me three, starting on January 9th, and watch what happens. I promise you. And here's the last one, and that is that I'm gonna live my life for something that really matters.
So, I'm convinced of this, that if you want to make your year the greatest year ever, don't just live for you. And if you want it to be the greatest year ever, you're gonna have to start focusing your life on the things that last forever, the eternal things. I was telling some of the team last night how there was a moment over the past two years that I got really close to, I don't really know how close I was, but I was thinking about, "I don't know if I can do this anymore". And I was telling them, it's really, the vision we have over at Highlands College that kind of kept me going. And I said it this way to them, and it just reaffirmed something in me, that kind of kept me in the game. What is that? It's living your life for something that matters.
I like the way the Apostle Paul said it. He said, "What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know about this incredibly extravagant generous, generosity of God". And that's my hope for all of you guys. Let me say it this way. I just hope that every one of you knew the thrill of obeying God in some area of your life that scares you to death. Like, for some of you, going all-in with God scares you to death, and your friend's like, "You're doing what"? That you have the faith to step up to that line and take the leap. And I know this, that if you do that, you're gonna experience God's faithfulness in an incredible way. And honestly, I think a lot of people are just afraid to do it. And can I, as you look back over the past year and just ask you, "Did that work"?
And if it did, keep doing it. But if it didn't, step up to the line. Dedicate yourself to something great. And I know this. If we dedicate our lives to something greater than ourselves, God's gonna fill it with passion and adventure. I know this. And I think the devil is trying to keep people in fear and rejection.
So, I'll close with a fun story. So, there was a baseball player. We'll see if you can figure out who it is. But there was a baseball player in the early 20th century, in the early 1900s, who led the American League in strikeouts. He led, of all the players, led the League in strikeouts in 1918, 1923, 1924, 1927, and 1928, and his name was Babe Ruth. The homerun king was the homerun king because he stood up to the plate, and a lot of times it didn't work, but he kept going after it. And that's why I'm encouraging you to do the same. Okay, so perhaps 2021 was a strikeout year. Fine. Get back up to the plate. Let's go. Come on, let's do it together, and let's keep swinging because I know that God has great things in store for you. Let's bow our heads for prayer.
Father, I pray for every person who's listening to me today. And as we look into our old year and step into the new year, I'm asking for faith to come into their hearts, God, and, Lord, that they take these simple tools and questions. But God, really, what we want is what you want for our lives. And I'm asking, God, you fill them with passion and adventure. God, speak to people today, I pray, and lead them to an amazing year, the year of great faith.
Heads bowed, eyes closed wherever you are. It all begins with a relationship with Jesus. You know that. You can't find your purpose if you don't get connected to the one, the only one who knows what it is. And this is the most beautiful thing about God. You ready? If we confess our sins, no conditions, if we confess our sins, he's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That's 1 John 1:9. Yeah, I'm serious. If you say, "God, I'm sorry, God forgive me, God, I'm turning around," he forgives.
The Bible says it this way: "His mercies endure forever". "Oh, Chris, I've already said sorry for that". And he'll forgive you again. And if that's you right now, say, "I just need to tell God I'm sorry, and I need a do-over, and I need a fresh start, and I'm ready to step into this brand-new year with a clean slate". If that's you, pray this prayer with me, say, "Jesus, thank you for paying for all of my sins, past, present, and future. And today, I'm asking you to forgive me". Say it, make it personal. Say:
I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. Make me brand-new. I repent. I turn around. I change my direction, and I'm gonna live my life to serve you. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for giving me a fresh start. Thank you that even though my sins are as filthy rags, you've made me the righteousness of God in Christ, and I praise you for it, and I'm gonna give you my life because of it. You're my Lord, and my Savior, and my God, and I love you. In Jesus's name, amen.
Do me a huge favor. If you just prayed that prayer, would you please text the word "Commit" to 74000. I'm gonna send you a book that's called, "What's Next"? and it is going to outline everything you need to do to grow in your relationship with God, and we're just gonna send that to you. Text the word "Commit" to 74000. And again, if you'd like to give, the team will put it on the screen somewhere. You know how to do that. And God bless you, as you do. So, as we go, let me pray this blessing over you out of Numbers chapter 6. It is called the priestly blessing. So, the Bible says people that are pastors or leaders in the church world can pray this over people, so I want to pray it over you. May the Lord bless you.
May the Lord keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. In Jesus's name, amen.