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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Chris Hodges - He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Chris Hodges - He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
TOPICS: The Book of Daniel

All right, welcome to weekend number three of the series that we're calling simply "The Book of Daniel," as we do a verse by verse study through the book of Daniel, and I'll tell you more about that in just a second, but we've already said hello to all of our campuses, and I want to say a big hi to everybody who's here at Highlands for the very first time. You're so welcomed here, but I want to give a shout out to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, who we have the honor of being in more than 21 of those facilities all across the great state of Alabama. And, of course, there are people watching online somewhere around the world. Grants Mill, put your hands together and say a big hello. God bless you guys.

And before we jump into the message, you may want to follow along on your device. Actually, if you downloaded the Highlands app, there's a, at the top, and it's only live whenever we're in a service. It'll say, "In Service Guide," and actually everything that I'm getting ready to show here on this screen is gonna be on your phone. Also gives you a chance to fill in the blanks, take your extra notes, and I highly recommend take some notes and learn and grow, especially in a verse by verse series. This series is actually a response to a question that you guys have posed to me and to the church leadership to talk a little bit about what's going on in culture, the shift of our culture away from the nuclear family, away from the truth of Scripture.

Of course, we're seeing all of the chaos in our world right now, as our culture shifts, and it's posed a difficulty for a lot of you of how to live in it, and we're actually studying the book of Daniel as a playbook of something that has already happened that is similar that I think is enduring that shows us really how to live in it today. I'll set it up for you really quickly. And that is the nation of Israel continually rejected God. They were warned over and over and over that if you reject God, that he would remove his hand of blessing and covering and allow them to be taken as what the Bible calls exiles or the Babylonian captivity, and they were. We'll read about it here in just a second. The whole nation of Israel became slaves in what is modern-day Iraq today, for 70 years, because of their rejection of God.

And we get the book of Daniel that tells these incredible stories how these Hebrew people lived in this pagan, ungodly culture, and he never bowed to the temptations, or the compromise, or anything that went against the Word of God. They never, never bowed, not one single time, but here's the cool part. They also had influence into that culture, and to me that's the big bullseye. That's the target. That's how you know if you've done it right. Like, you never compromise your standards. You stand for truth, but you also live your life in such a grace-filled way that people want what you have at the same time. And so this is the beauty of the book. So, we started in chapter 6. There are 12 chapters. We started in chapter 6, because I think it has the main idea of the entire book.

So, I wanted to set up the whole book that way, but it also fed into our Serve Day. And so now we're going back, and we're doing them a little bit more in order now, and today we're going to look at chapter 2. Last week, I talked about chapter 1, but let's go back to chapter 1 and just set it up really quickly. It says, "In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia". In other words, he had hijacked what was known as church. You could say it that way, and that's happening right now. They're carrying off the holy things and making them unholy. And by the way, they do them, treasure of the house of his god. And then the king ordered Ashpenaz, who was the chief court official, to bring into the king's service, so most of them work out in the fields and do that kind of labor, but let's bring a few into the house, to the king's temple.

Some of the Israelites, who were from the royal families or nobility, in other words, they had money, and they had education, and let's not waste it out in the fields. Let's bring it in and help us, directly under us, young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve in the king's palace. And here's the key part, we talked about it last week, they'll teach them, or let me say it this way, they will indoctrinate them into the culture of the day. So, new words, new language, the language and literature, and that's happening right now. There's a, by many, there is an effort to indoctrinate our young people in our schools and different places into a language and literature that goes directly against the Word of God, and we've gotta stand up in Jesus's name. Amen, everybody? I really believe that. A smattering of applause. Anybody believe that out there today?

All right, okay. I know it's because you're so busy taking notes. That's why you just couldn't. "I couldn't clap, because I was writing everything you, down, Pastor," okay. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table, and they were to be trained for three years. So, in other words, he would have to ask them to compromise their Hebrew kosher dietary laws to eat unkosher food, which would be a compromise of their beliefs. "And they would do that for three years, and then they would enter the king's service. And among those who were chosen were some from Judah". And there's four main characters of the book of Daniel, so they list them here: Daniel, of course, Hanaiah, Mischael, and Azariah, better known by man by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

And so we talked about last week the shifts, the marks of a shifting culture. Today, we're going to read an interesting story, but I just want to read you the story. I literally want to go through the whole chapter 2 very quickly, tell you what happened, and then I'm going to take from it three timeless truths that I believe are for us today. So, chapter 2 starts like this: "In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams, and his mind was troubled and he could not sleep". Now, I want you to notice right off the bat that the condition of the entire chapter is, is that the leadership now, following their own way, they end up in a troubled and distressed state. And I just want you to hear that, because I want you to prepare for it. I think this poses for the church a great opportunity when the things of the world do not work, and they end up troubled, that we can step into that space.

So, the king went to his own people first, the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the astrologers, to tell them what he dreamed. And when they came in and stood before the king, he said, "I have a dream. I've had a dream that troubles me, and I want to know what it means". And not only did he want to know what it means. He required them to tell him what the dream was too. So, they had to, he wouldn't even tell them what the dream was, because they could've made up an interpretation, if he'd have told them. "No, you've gotta tell me what the dream was, and you've gotta interpret it". And they said, "What the king asks is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king, except the gods, and they don't live among humans".

And by the way, this is the sentiment of the world. You're asking for something there is no solution, because there is no God. But how many of you know there is a God. Amen, everybody? There is, all right. So, I love the dynamics of the story. So, basically, the king ordered their execution, because they wouldn't do it, and this Arioch guy gets involved. He was the commander of the king's guard, and he was going out to put to death all these who couldn't tell King Nebuchadnezzar what the dream was, and Daniel seized the opportunity to step into that space of confusion and what would be death, and Daniel spoke to him, and I love the language here. With wisdom, in other words he had solutions, and then he did it in a tactful way. He wasn't offensive. And, church, can I tell you this is the mandate of Scripture for how we live in our culture.

And it says that, Daniel says, "Just give me time to go pray to God and figure this thing out". And so they did. They didn't kill the guys, yet. And during the night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. And when Daniel got not only the dream, but the interpretation of the dream, he prays to God. He's excited. And I want you to see, in the midst of all the despair and chaos, the hope that was in this guy's heart, because I'm getting ready to teach it to us. I feel like today, the goal of today's message is to show you the disparity of the world, the craziness of culture, the chaos of our society, and even the desperation we have in our own situations and see that God is still right here in the middle of it. I want you to leave here today with some hope, because he said, "Praise be to the name of God forever and ever. He gives wisdom and power. He changes times and seasons". Remember that verse. "He deposes kings, and then he raises up others".

Notice how much God is actually actively involved in ways that they could not see. "He gives wisdom to the wise, knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies in the darkness, and the light dwells with him". So, he sees the darkness, but he also realized he raised up the people of God to step into that space and be the light in the middle of it. So, he says, "I thank you and praise you, God of my ancestors; because, God, you let me have solutions. In the middle of all this disorder of culture, you gave me wisdom and power. You made known to me, what we asked of you, you have made known to me the dream of the king". And so he actually sees it. He actually goes and gets an audience before Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 26, the king asked Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it"? And Daniel said, "Sure can. No wise man, magician, no one else can explain it to the king, but there is a God in heaven".

Listen, I want you to see this line. Everybody stare at it, because I really believe the role of the church in the middle of a chaotic culture is not just to call out the wrong, but to let them know, "There is a God in heaven who can reveal mysteries to your chaos and your disorder". Come on, somebody. Amen? This is very, very important. Yeah, come on, clap, praise God for that. I'm very serious about this. In fact, I'm getting ready to show you how God can do that, not just with the church, but in your life, as you interact with the people around you. And then Daniel actually, I won't read you the verses, but he actually saw this statue, had a head of gold, it had chest and arms of silver, it had a bronze belly and thigh, it had iron legs, and then it said at the end of it was this rock that smashed it all, and this rock grew up, a rock that could not be moved. And we're going to study this more in the last installment of the series, because the last 6 chapters of the book of Daniel are prophecy. What Daniel actually saw was the future from that moment, 483 years to the time of Jesus.

So, we're about that amount of time before Jesus would come, and he literally saw the different empires that would happen, the head of gold being the Babylonian empire; the chest of silver, the Medo-Persian empire; the brass belly, the Greek empire. He even describes in detail Alexander the Great, later in Scripture. The iron legs was the Roman empire, and then finally this rock, a rock that would never end. In fact, he says it would be a kingdom that will never be destroyed; and, of course, that is Jesus Christ. And 2,000 years later, come on, everybody, he is the kingdom that cannot be destroyed. I said we serve a God with a kingdom that cannot be destroyed. I want you to hear that. And I say these things in faith to you today, because I think people are getting discouraged.

Any Christian, "I don't know what's going to happen to America". Well, God bless America is my hope. I hope he keeps using America, but he doesn't need America. He'll do it through, he'll pick another nation if he has to. God is still in control, everybody, and he has a kingdom that is never going to end. And, of course, Nebuchadnezzar was blown away by his revelation. And I'm gonna teach you more about those futuristic events that happen, because Daniel also saw the tribulation. He saw the end of time, and we'll study that as we look at the 70 sevens, he called it. Stay tuned, everybody. Okay. But verse 47, this is the last verse, and I want you to see this, because I say this again, I'm trying to get you to walk out of this building, regardless of what's going on in your personal life or in culture that disturbs you, that you need to know there is a God in heaven, and he is the God of gods.

And Nebuchadnezzar says, "You're serving the real one. Surely, your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you are able to reveal this mystery to me". Now, I'm going to show you three things, and I have one single goal, and that is not to, I'm not going to ignore the fact that it's bleak in many ways, what's happening in our school systems, what's happening in crime, what's happening in our world, the all out division that's taking place in politics, where almost nothing ever gets done. I see it too. I understand that there's never been a nation that's gotten to this point and really survived beyond it. I realize that there have been empires that have risen and fallen.

In fact, when you go back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the British empire, they all rose and fell within about 240 years, we're 247 years old, and none of them were conquered by external enemies. They all rotted from within. I see it, too. And it's easy, kind of even as a Christian to tuck your tail and get all discouraged, and, "Oh me, oh my". Well, I've got some encouragement for you, today, and the first thing that I see from this story, that while the chaos was going on, and God's telling 483 years of future, and by the way, he doesn't see just 483 years of future. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He's the beginning and the end. And you need to know that, everybody. You need to know that. You need to know that God wants us to know that he is at work, and he is in control.

And what separates people of faith from everybody else who's going through the same thing, and that is that we walk in the assurance, even in the middle of the trial, that our God is at work. And I don't know if that speaks to your current situation, where you got your tail tucked, and you're all discouraged, and you don't see an end to this, and "I've got this problem at home, I've got this problem with the job. And, oh my goodness". Can I give you a verse that I'm standing on in the middle of everything that I face in my life, and in this church, and in our culture and society, that I know my Redeemer lives. And I might not see it now, but in the end, he will stand on the earth. It's the belief that it's bad in the middle of the story, but we read the last chapter, and we win.

Now, I want to tell you something. You've gotta know this, if you're gonna live a successful life, and that is that God is an intentional God. And whenever he does something, he's doing that intentionally. And whenever he doesn't do something, he's not doing something intentionally. So, whenever God does something, he's doing something; and when he's not doing anything, he's doing something. Okay. And believers know that, that there's this moment in the middle. I did a message one time called, "God in the Middle". He's the Alpha and the Omega, but what about in the middle of this thing? And some of you are right in the middle of it, and you've lost hope, and you've lost your joy, and you're getting anxious. But you need to know we will endure culture better when we have the confidence of knowing that he's got the whole world, come on some Baptists.

Where y'all at? Help me out. Don't leave a brother hanging up here, right? He's got it, he's got it. Look at me, look at my eyes. He's got it. "I don't like it". Yeah, but he's got it. He's at work, and people of faith know that. That's, how do we endure culture? Knowing he's got the whole world in his hands. And that doesn't just mean, "Well, I'm just gonna relax and do nothing". No, I'm still fighting the good fight. I'm not, I'm gonna do everything I can. I'm not trying to get you down to, well, I don't worry about it then. No, y'all mind you, still trying to do something about things, and I'm for that. But he's got it. Here's the second thing, and that is that God wants us to speak life into the confusion of the world.

So, I don't think I've ever charged you with this before, but I'm going to charge the church, I'm gonna try to energize you and build you up to let you know that if you'll allow God, he will fill you with the Holy Spirit and give you wisdom to situations, that of your friends and your people at work, that they don't know what to do, but you're able to speak life into it, pray with them, and see that thing turn. Did you know that that was the role of the local church? Not the pastors, not the preachers, us, to go into the confusion of the world, to be like Joseph when there's a famine and have the wisdom to store up grain for 7 years, to be like Daniel all throughout the stories, we're gonna read another one in chapter 5, where they were in complete distress, and they said, "Oh, there's a man who knows what to do". And wouldn't it be great that when people goes through life's situation, they say, "Oh, I know somebody. We ought to call them. They'll pray. This thing will turn. They'll have an answer. They'll give a solution".

And I'm trying to let you know, "I don't know if I can do that, Pastor". Yes, you can, because you're not doing it by your own ability. You're doing it full of the Holy Spirit. Come on, somebody. Come on, give God praise if you really believe it. Did you know, did you know, did you know that the Holy Spirit's not there for fun? He's there for function. People treat the Holy Spirit like it's heavenly goosebumps. No, the Holy Spirit is there to give you wisdom about things that you have no idea about. He is called, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom. In fact, in the chaos of the early church, they were 6 chapters in, and they're already fighting.

And the Bible says in Acts chapter 6, verse 3, "Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom". I'm gonna tell you, God will show up. They'll get it worked out. Listen to me, write this in your notes you note takers. They put order into confusion. Order. I'll never forget in the second year of our church, back when the office of the church, we didn't have an office here for almost 2 years. I always said the office of the church was the cell phone on my hip. Remember when we used to clip them to our hips, everybody, you know? Like, I was walking around. "Church of the Highlands. Can I help you"? "Can I speak to the pastor"? "Speaking. Yeah, who's right here"? And so, I'll never forget this one person said, "Do you do counseling"? I said, "Well, sure. Be happy to counsel you". I said, "What's going on"?

She talked, the mom talked about her son, who was addicted to drugs. And I said, "Well, do you go to another church"? Because as a matter of respect, I always want to, if I can, turn them back to their local church if they're already involved in one. I said, "Well, do you go to a local church"? And she said, I'm just gonna tell you what she said. She says, "Yeah, I brought him to them, and they said he's predestined to be addicted". And she goes, "I just don't believe that". I said, "You come on over here". And the poor lady came in sobbing. When a mom's got her little son, come on, somebody, that is going through something, man, what she won't do. And I said, and we prayed and got him involved in, we have some small groups that deal with addiction and some programs.

In less than a year, he was completely off drugs. I'm happy to tell you, 21 years later, he's still free. Come on, somebody. Come on, order in all the confusion. We will end that culture better when we are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and that's not restricted to a pastor or a minister or somebody on our church staff. Listen to me. God can do that in you. And here's the last one, and that is that God wants us to embrace the times and seasons. And what I mean by that is don't curse the darkness. Bring the light. And it's an attitude. For a lot of people, you're not seeing the opportunity in the middle of the disorder. And so gets you a, you're in a bad mood about it.

And if you don't see things the right way, you won't respond the right way. But if you see things as an opportunity, even as bad as it is, if you see it as an opportunity, you then know, "Well, I was made for this. I was made". God, listen to me, God intentionally put every one of us into the seasons that we're living in. He looked across time. He says, "I'm gonna put old Chris Hodges right over there in a pandemic". God sees, and he placed us knowing, and he has confidence in us today, but you have to see it the right way. I love what Jesus said, as he was contemplating the cross. Jesus, because he was fully God, but still fully human. And he's contemplating the cross, and the Bible, this is Jesus talking, he says, "My soul is troubled".

Now, that was his emotions, not the spirit part of him. He's thinking, "I'm getting ready to have to have nails in my hands. I'm getting ready to be beat to a pulp". And he's actually having this moment. In fact, in one place, he prayed, "Lord, is there any way we can figure out a way to pay for sins, other than this? Is there any way this", he called it this cup. "Can this cup pass from me"? And then watch this line. Somebody needs to hear this. "So what shall I say when my soul is troubled"? Look in my eyes. I'm getting ready to help you a little bit. For some of you, your real problem isn't your problem. It's the narrative you're telling yourself about your problem. It's self-talk.

Some of you are endlessly in self-talk right now. Psychologists call it ruminating, and it's where you're, I'm not denying you're distressed. I'm just denying how you're actually exacerbating it and making it actually worse. And I know, because I've done this. I've had nights, Sunday nights, have the most amazing Sunday ever. Sit on the couch and have negative thoughts come in my mind. "Why'd you say that? Why did you"? Just, I critique myself. The next thing you know I'm, you know, just all in self-talk. It's a dangerous place. And Jesus said, "What am I gonna say to myself when my soul is troubled"? Now watch what he says. He changes the narrative. He's going to the cross, and his self-talk was, "It was for this very reason I came to the earth. I was made for this. I was made for this moment".

And he encouraged himself. He didn't despise the cross. He turned it into the joy, Romans, Hebrews 12 says, the joy set before him, that he could pay for your sins and mine. Here's the final statement. We will embrace our role in culture better when we realize that I was made for this. I was made for this. I thought I'd close by giving you my interpretation of the seasons we live in. Since the whole book of Daniel, the 2nd chapter, I'm sorry, of the book of Daniel was really about times and seasons and predicting the future, I'm just gonna give you what I believe is my take on it. I think we're in three seasons right now. I think the first season is what I'm calling the season of hostility, and this is not new to us. This is promised by your Savior, the one you said you would make your Lord, said, "By the way, they're gonna hate you because of me. You're gonna have some haters, and they're going to hate you, and they're going to despise you, and they're going to reject you".

In fact, you look throughout church history, the church endured great persecution of which we really not even come close. Paul, though, had this amazing attitude in the middle of it. Even when he was imprisoned for the gospel, never been there. I tell myself, "Chris, stop your whining. When's the last time you've been flogged, brother". You know what I'm saying? Just, and Paul was flogged, imprisoned, and he just like, "I'm okay". Why? Because he had the hope of heaven. Right in the middle of it, even the hostility, there's a solution, and it's the eternal perspective. In fact, they said, "Paul, if you don't stop preaching, we'll cut your head off". He goes, "Would you? 'Cause I can't figure out whether to live is Christ or to die is gain, and you would settle that dilemma. Cut it off, cut if off".

What do you do with a person like that? Well, you can't threaten me with heaven. And that's why Jesus said in his end time dissertation of Luke 21, you want to read Jesus's dissertation of what the end times look like? Brother is going to betray brother. You're going to hate, like, earthquakes, famines. "When you see these things take place, stand up and lift up your heads; your redemption draws nigh". I call it living above the clouds. If you've ever flown out of the airport and it's raining at the airport, and your bags are on the conveyor belt, and they stop, and rain is getting them all wet, it's the most depressing thing I ever, oh, my goodness. Move it, move it, please. And then the captain comes on. "We're liable to experience some turbulence. It's rough weather out there. Gonna be some bumps. Tighten it up".

And you take off and, and you go through the cloud layer. You are now free to move about the cabin. Why? Same space geographically, but one's below the clouds in the noise, in the chatter, in the godlessness. One is above the clouds. Come on, somebody. Where are you gonna live? I'm gonna live above the clouds. Second is we are in a season of harvest. I don't have time to read the whole verse. It's in your, it's on your app. But Jesus said there's gonna be all this bad stuff; but at the same time, with all the bad stuff, the gospel is going to be preached at a high level. So, the bad is going to get worse, but the gospel is going to advance, and it's happening. We got this from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary, which our missions teams, our mission team works with. And just in the last 23 years, the number of Christians has almost grown by a billion.

In 2000, it was 1.8 billion Christians. In 2023, 2.5 billion. I know we look around, "I don't see that around here". Yeah, because America is only one of 17 nations that the gospel is not growing fast in the population. The gospel exploding, Africa alone has grown nearly double in 23 years, 718 million Christians. And Asia, same thing. nearly double in a 23-year period. Bibles in 23 years, has gone from 54 million a year printed to 95 million every year we're putting out there. That's right. And we're a part of every bit of that with our missions giving. I mean, just last Sunday, just last Sunday, last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 975 people, documented names and addresses from Serve Day and Sunday, 975 people gave their life to Jesus right here in this house come on, give God some praise.

It's a season of harvest. I know it's hard, but it's a season of harvest. We can endure a little bit of the hard to keep that season of harvest going. We're gonna have 12,000 students gather to worship the name of Jesus. And finally, it's also a season of holiness, meaning, you'd better decide. This is not a time to be a gray Christian, lukewarm Christian. You'd better pick. I'm gonna tell you you're gonna be forced to. And honestly, Jesus, look in my eyes, is coming back for a bride that is without spot, who love and await his appearing, just like the bride you would want to marry. He's looking for someone who said, "I've decided I'm gonna follow Jesus". Holiness doesn't mean perfect. It means I'm separated to you. I am with the Lord.

Let's bow for prayer. I think we can make that decision right now. There are some of you in this room, who you're even a little on the fence. I don't know if I'm in. I don't know if I'm out. One day I am, one day I'm not. You've been lukewarm in your faith, and it's time for you to be set apart and holy. Let Jesus cleanse you of your sins. It's time for you to choose, "I'm gonna follow Jesus. I'm not ashamed of the gospel". If that's you right there, pray this prayer with me at every campus. Campus pastors, come join me. Say this to heaven:

I have decided to follow Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for saving me. Thank you, Jesus, for paying for my sin what I did. Forgive me for living my life without you. Today, I repent, and I turn my life, my whole life to you, because I believe you're the Son of God, and I believe you died and rose again, and today, (come on say it, whisper it to heaven right now), today I put my faith in you. In your name I pray, amen and amen.

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