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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - When It's Hard to Obey

Craig Groeschel - When It's Hard to Obey

When It's Hard to Obey
When It's Hard to Obey
TOPICS: Holy Moments, Obedience

It's been said that life is not measured by time. Life is measured in moments. Life is not measured in time. Life is measured in moments, which is true in many ways when you think about it, because you rarely remember a whole year, or a whole month, or a whole week, or even a whole day, but you do remember moments in the year, or the month, or the week, or the day. For example, I will not remember this past week, but I will remember some very specific moments from this past week. This week was my birthday. Thank you mom and mom's friends.

And I will remember the moment that one of my children gave me a gift that she had custom made that was very, very special, and I will remember and cherish that moment. It was a good moment. And I will remember another moment, which wasn't as good, on Monday when I went to take the trash out. And Sadie for 13 years has helped me take the trash out. And Sadie didn't help me take the trash out, and I found her on the back porch, barely breathing. And I'll remember the moment that she breathed her last breath. Sad moment.

And I remember the moment that my good friend Jim came over to help me bury her, because I didn't wanna bury her alone. A good moment, a good friend. And I remember the moment when I got the call that one of my sons had been hit by another car on the highway. And I remember the relief hearing that he was totally okay, and no one was hurt. And I'll remember the moment when someone that I love, a dear friend, called and told me that he had cancer. And I'll remember the moment when a lady from the church we've been praying for that knew she had cancer, went back and the doctors couldn't find the cancer.

Life is not always measured by time. It's often measured by moments. And so today, we're starting a new message series called "Holy Moments", where we're gonna look at four specific holy moments in the story of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And to open up the message series today, we're gonna look at a very powerful moment of obedience with one key thought. And the moment you hear it, might be the moment God starts to do a work in you. And the key thought is this. You have no idea what God can do through one moment of obedience. You have no idea what he might do through one moment of obedience.

And some of you know that, because at one time, you've been prompted to do something, or say something, or give something. And you did something, and you said something, and you gave something, and you look back and you're like, "Wow, I can't believe all that God said into motion through one small act and moment of obedience". And then there are other times when we might feel prompted to say something, or do something, or give something, but we don't know all the details. And that act of obedience seems very, very difficult and hard, and so we don't do it. And then sometime in the future we look back and we wonder, "What did we miss out on? What did God plan to do that maybe he didn't do through us, because we did not obey"? And that's why the title of today's message is "When it's hard to obey".

And so Father, we ask that our hearts would be open to you, that your word, your living word, would do a work in us, and you would give us the faith to obey knowing that you're always good and your word is always true. We pray this in Jesus' name and everybody said, Amen. Amen. And amen.

Let's dive into a very special portion of the Christmas story. We're gonna be in Matthew's gospel today, Matthew chapter one verse 18, and I wanna read to you a portion of God's word. Scripture says this. "This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph". Everybody say, "I love Joseph" I love Joseph. Those of you online, just go ahead and type that in the comment section. Even if you don't love him, just say it by faith. Say, "I love Joseph". Just type it in the comment section. She was married to a man named Joseph that you are gonna love. "But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit". Now chances are pretty good that many of you are very familiar with Mary, the Virgin Mary. Mary gets all the stage time, Mary gets all the sermons.

Today, I want to talk to you about Joseph who is one of the most important, yet least talked about characters in all of the Bible. One of the reasons why he's not talked about a lot is because he didn't appear to live for his whole normal extended life. Another reason is we just don't know a whole lot. And so, there's not a whole lot of sermons on him. I'll tell you all that we know from scripture about Joseph. Here's what we know about him. We know that he was a carpenter. We know that he was a righteous and a faithful man. We know that he was the descendant of David. We know that he was Mary's husband, and we know that he was Jesus's earthly father. Outside of that, we don't know hardly anything at all about him. But we do know that one moment of obedience helped bring about a change that impacts all of us, even today.

When we look at Joseph and see him in scripture, we do see a little bit of him in the early years of Jesus. The last time he is mentioned is when Jesus is 12 years of age, and then he seems to disappear from the story. And most scholars believe that he most likely died, because they would not have likely divorced, and that probably would've been mentioned, and that Jesus stayed at home until he was 30. And there were no video games at the time, so he wasn't sleeping in the basement, but it was actually tradition to stay at the house of your mom if she was a widow until you were 30. We also know that whenever Jesus was on the cross, he looked to the beloved John and said essentially, "Would you take care of my mom? This is my mother. Would you take care of her"? And I believe she was probably a widow, because he said that.

In the context of our story, we just read, that he was engaged to Mary. Now, many people think when you're engaged, you're like 22, 25, 26 years old. Mary was probably, most scholars say 14, 15. Some would even say 13 years of age or so, which is really young, but kind of how they would do it back then. And she was a virgin supposedly who comes to him and says, "I'm pregnant". And when he hears this news knowing that he had not been with her intimately, he would've been devastated beyond measure. Even more than you might think, because if you understand the first century Jewish engagement culture, when you got engaged, it wasn't just a proposal for the Instagram moment, hashtag ring before spring, hashtag blessed, hashtag I'm married and you're not, here's, you know, whatever. It wasn't just for that.

The proposal was actually a legal agreement, when they were engaged, they were technically married, they just weren't allowed to consummate the marriage until the formal public ceremony that would take place. So when we read, they were engaged, they were in our culture, they were married, but they weren't yet to engage in the gift of love making. And so, if Mary had sex with another man, this was a life ruining scandal. Mary, the one that he loved with all of his heart, his future wife that would raise his kids, she had disobeyed God, she had totally dishonored her family, and she had disgraced Joseph who would be laughed at, mocked, and shunned even in his community. It was considered such a horrible sin that according to Deuteronomy 22, Joseph could legally have her stoned to death. That didn't happen a whole lot. It was legal.

What was more common would've been him and his embarrassment not to be shamed, where everyone says, "Joseph did it". He would bring her before the city council, they would then declare her guilty, that would clear his name. And unfortunately, when a woman was in that place at that time, she was pretty much destineD to give her body away to help support herself. Most of the time, someone shamed like that would become a prostitute. Joseph was in a horrible place. He was in a horrible place. The woman of his dreams had apparently betrayed him. And now, his next actions would ruin her life even more. What do we know about him? Well, we know he was a righteous man, and he didn't wanna disgrace her. He didn't wanna shame her. And so he thought about breaking the engagement or in our culture, it would be divorcing quietly. And he didn't realize that at his lowest moment, it was about to become one of his holiest moments.

Scripture tells us this in Matthew's gospel, Chapter one verse 20. "As he considered this," as he was thinking about divorcing her or breaking the engagement, "an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. 'Joseph, son of David,' the angel said, 'do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.'" Now, before we look at what Joseph did, I wanna notice what he didn't do. The angel says, "Don't be afraid to take her as your wife". And what he didn't do was he didn't explain away the dream. Saying, "Well, I probably just had pizza late. And that was a weird dream," he didn't do that. He didn't argue with God saying, "Wait a minute, you're asking me to put my name on the line, and to trust some dream? I'm not gonna do that". He didn't negotiate with God and say, "Give me another sign. This time, I want 10 angels with tattoos on their forehead that says, 'I'm from God.'"

You know, he didn't fight back. He didn't ask for details. "If I'm gonna say yes to this, I wanna know what's gonna happen". No, all that he did when the angel said, "Don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife," Verse 24, scripture says, "When Joseph woke up," watch this, "he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife". If there was one statement that we'd want to be true of us, it would be that we did what God commanded us to do. We were obedient. Without understanding any of the details to come. He proves this thought to us that you don't have to understand completely to obey immediately. You don't need every single detail. You don't need everything ironed out. You don't need to know how it's going to end if God is there in the beginning. Because when you think about what he didn't know, he didn't have hardly any information at all.

Think about all the details Joseph didn't know. He didn't know that at nine months or so of being pregnant that there was gonna be a decree that you had to go to Bethlehem in order to get a census, and they were gonna have to travel about a hundred miles on donkey, or horseback, or however they got there. Through horrible winter weather that would've been literally snowing and freezing at night with a pregnant grumpy person on the back of a car with every reason to be grumpy on that kind of trip. And that there would be wild animals, and that their baby would be born in a barn next to farm animals, and that then that Herod would issue a degree that all of the boys under two would be killed and they would have to go on the run. And then imagine the weight of knowing there are innocent boys out there everywhere being killed when her baby is in her safekeeping and they're being killed because of her baby. Imagine that.

And Joseph had no idea the weight of raising the son of God without knowing any details. He obeyed immediately. And this is how it will apply to you. At some point, God is gonna speak to you through his word or God is gonna prompt you by his spirit and he's gonna lead you to do something without knowing the details. You're gonna be dating someone that you know is not God's best. And you go to church and you hear a message series called "Save the Date" and suddenly you realize you can't marry the right person if you're dating the wrong person. And a Holy Spirit gives you the breakup message and you look ongoing. But we've invested so much time in this and if I let go, then what will I be able to hold onto? And God prompts you to do something. Do you obey or do you not obey?

God has been stirring within you to use your gifts to serve in the church because we don't go to church but we are the church and that we all have gifts and we're all important in the body of Christ and we're all valuable and we're all supposed to be a part of the body of Christ. And we don't just watch what happens in the Kingdom of God. We're a part of what happens in the Kingdom of God. And God prompts you to do something and then you say, but God, I'm already so busy. I gotta look at Facebook for two hours today. I'm already so busy. And God prompts you. Or God might lead you to give something, to bless somebody. And you think, but God, it's really, really tight. Gas has been expensive, inflation's real and interest is going up and the stocks are down. And God prompts you to give something to be a blessing or someone betrays you. And God's word pierces your heart that we are to forgive others in the same way that we've been forgiven. And you have a choice to make. It may be hard and you may not know the details and God is prompting you and you don't know what's going to happen.

And that's what I would encourage you to remember, that obedience is our responsibility. The outcome is God's. We do what he leads us to do and we trust him with the results. And this, in my opinion, is one of the bigger problems in my part of the world with what I might call Cultural Christians. There are so many Christians in my sphere of influence that I would say are way educated beyond their level of obedience. In other words, they have all this head knowledge but not a life application of what they already know. And people will say, feed me, Feed me, feed me, gimme more, gimme more, gimme more. I'd say most of us don't need to know more. We don't need to know more. We actually need to do more of what we already know. We need to be obedient to what God has already said. To start with obedience to his revealed word, to what he says in scripture, to know his word and to apply his word without knowing all the details. We just obey God and trust him with the results.

Joseph didn't have the details and he did what the angel of the Lord told him to do. And the angel continued and said this, this is so powerful. "For the child within her," the child within Mary "was conceived by the Holy Spirit and she will have a son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". Man, I apologize to those of you like in Wellington and Fort Worth and those of you in Albany. My crowds, they weren't paying attention. I'm gonna read this again. I sincerely apologize 'cause I know out there that people were really excited about this. But I'm gonna, it has been busy here and so I'm gonna, I'm gonna read this again because the child that was within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit and she'll have a son and he'll be called Jesus. Why? Because he will save his people from their sins. Because that's why God sent him to us. This child within her. It was a miraculous holy birth conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why does that matter? If this child had been conceived by an earthly father, conceived by the seed of Joseph, he would have the sinful seed nature that's passed on from person to person to person. But because he didn't inherit the sin nature of man, but instead inherited the spiritual nature of God, he was born without sin, could live without sin so he could be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. I don't know about you, but I need grace. I need forgiveness. What's your sin? Where's your weight? Where are you heavy? Been battling with lust? There's grace for your lust. Been battling with jealousy? He forgives your jealousy. You've been unfaithful. His grace covers your sins. There is no sin too great for God's grace. He was born of a virgin without sin so he could die. So we could be forgiven of our sins. And an angel says, "Do not be afraid to take her as your wife". And he just obeys knowing that there will be a significant cost to him. He's gonna face serious opposition.

And any time and almost every time God prompts you, he gives you a word. He gives you a direction. He speaks to you through his word. He speaks to you by his spirit. Almost every time you obey you're gonna be met with some form of spiritual opposition. In fact, in my life, if you look at the most significant things that I've done every single time, there was real spiritual opposition. Start at the very beginning when we didn't have two kids like everybody else but three, four, five, and then six, a basketball team with a sub. And everybody said, what's wrong with you? What's wrong with you? Do you know what causes that? And we said, yes we do. And we're unwilling to give it up. And people said, you must love kids. And I said, I do, but I really love their mom. And we just happened to be dumb enough to believe that children were a blessing from the Lord and you would not believe how much opposition we got for them.

Then the oddest thing as a public school kid who played public school sports who didn't know a single homeschool family and didn't like people who homeschool, they seem weird. God seemed to speak to us about homeschooling and we home educated our kids. This is what school looked like at our home. And do not let that look fool you. That's the smartest most fiercest athlete you'll ever meet. And over and over they're like, do your kids make their own butter? Do they make their own denim skirts? Yes they do. The butter's good and they look good in their skirts. They made fun of us again and again and again and again and again. And then I had an uncomfortable stirring in my spirit when I loved the church that I was at with all of my heart. Never wanted to leave. I felt stirred to start a new church.

And when we started Life Church you would not believe the resistance. Why another church? Why another church? Why another church? Who do you think you are? Why another church? And then one day, whenever Amy gave birth to another kid, because every time I looked at her, she got pregnant. I couldn't be at church on this Sunday morning. And so we tried video teaching and you wouldn't believe the opposition. You can't teach the word of God on video. You can't teach the word of God on video. And then one day the very guy that got saved by a free Bible was with another guy who had an idea to put the Bible on a app. And not monetize it but give it away. And you wouldn't believe how many people think the Bible's a book, not the living word, living in active, powerful, sharp, but lives everywhere. But it's a book, it's a pages. And they hated that It was an app then they hated it was not monetized. You said sell it. You said sell it. You said sell it.

We always said our Bible's not for sale. And they criticize and criticize and criticize. And then in the more recent years, you wouldn't believe the criticism I got when I felt prompted just to start a leadership podcast because everyone said pastors don't do leadership podcasts. And I'm thankful to say, but a little bit embarrassed to say the podcast reached about five times as many people as my sermons, which is exciting for the podcast and actually hurts my feelings about the sermons. But it actually may be one of the most evangelistic tools that we have in the church to go to where people wouldn't go otherwise. And this is what's going to happen when God speaks to you to obey and you step away from the pack and say, God has led me to stop partying and they're gonna make fun of you and they're gonna reject you. Or when you say, you know what? Yeah, I did a lot of things before but I'm not gonna have sex anymore until I'm married, then we'll make up for lost time.

But until then, I don't know where you live, but let's call it like it is. But I'm not gonna do that anymore 'cause God's word says that there's something better if I'll wait for it and they're gonna make fun of you like crazy. Or you just start getting stupid generous and you don't just give like 10% but you rate 12% and 15%. Or like some crazy people I know, they give 50% of their profits and they say, why would you do something so stupid? 'Cause God told us to do that. Or God prompts you to get out of debt and suddenly you're not doing what everybody else does that calls it normal, but we call it dumb because you, you're doing something different so that there's no debt remaining outstanding except the continual debt to lump. And that's why I always tell my kids, and I always tell myself, and I always tell you, don't worry when you face opposition for your obedience to God. Worry when you don't worry when you don't. Because when you step out to obey God, you watch as there's opposition against you.

Obedience will be difficult. It may even cost you in the early season, but you have no idea what our God can do. Through one moment of obedience. You have no idea what our God can do through one moment of obedience. And the angel said, do not be afraid to take her as your wife and Joseph did as the angel commanded. A moment. Life isn't measured just by time, it's measured by moments. You have no idea what God might do. Through one moment of obedience today. One of my favorite stories of the presence of God through a moment of obedience started with a moment of disobedience.

I was in an airport with a delayed second flight coming home really, really late. And I was with Mark Doss and you guys were know Mark. I'm gonna show you Mark cause you never get to see Mark. This is Mark. Mark has been switching me on the video now for 22 years. You never get to see him, but I wanted you see Mark. So Mark, why don't you go ahead and say hi, everybody say hi. Very good. Mark, are you ready for Christmas? Mark, are you ready for Christmas? Okay, me either. So, so Mark and I were really late in a connecting flight from St. Louis to home. And I was physically and mentally exhausted. And so when a lady looked up and said, oh my gosh, you're my pastor, I did everything I could to be available to her and listened to her for a moment. And then when it cooled down, I let it cool down and she stepped away and I put my head back down to rest. And I felt God prompt me saying, I'm not through with what I wanted to do in that conversation.

So I sat there and argued and argued and argued, and finally I couldn't let it go. I said, mark, I think God wanted to do more, would you come with me? We sat down by her, said, I feel like there was more that was supposed to happen. And I cut it off and she started crying. She said, I love my husband so much. I love my husband so much. I went on a business trip last night. I got drunk and I had a one night stand. I sinned against my husband. And she just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried and Mark and I prayed for her. And I called a counselor that I know, a female counselor and put her on the phone to this lady, the counselor. And they set up an appointment and together they agreed that the next day she would tell her husband first thing in the morning and they'd begin the process of healing. You have no idea what God might do. Through one moment of obedience. Next day was my day off and Anna had a dance class across town. So I drove her across town, looked at my watch and had an hour and a half, not enough time to drive back home.

So I said, God, what should I do? And I felt like it was God because I've never had this thought in my whole life. I felt like I should go to Walmart. I've never thought that before. I've never thought that since. So I'm in Walmart, walking down the frozen food aisle, didn't need anything, didn't buy anything, and looked up. And there was this guy coming toward me and he said, oh my gosh, I can't believe it. You're my pastor, you're my pastor. And he walked up to me, he threw his whole weight on me and started crying. He said, my wife was in the airport with you and your friend last night. And she just told me, and I didn't know what to do.

So I came to Walmart. And I looked at him and I said, man, do you realize how much God loves you and how much grace he has for your marriage? Do you realize that He put the right people in the right place in an airport and took the right people to unusual place in the frozen food? That's how much he cares about you. Don't you think that there's hope for healing in your marriage? And we prayed right there and they worked on it and went through some hard times and came to a place of healing. And I look back and think, I wonder if that story had been different if I hadn't obeyed the moment of prompting. You have no idea what God might do through one moment of obedience. And here's what's gonna happen. You're gonna read his word.

I hope you're reading his word. You should read his word and he's gonna prompt you in his word. Or he's gonna prompt you by his spirit to say something, to give something, to do something. He might prompt you to confess a sin. He might prompt you to confess an addiction that you need help. He might prompt you to apologize for something that you did wrong. He might lead you to forgive someone in the same way that Christ has forgiven you. He might prompt you to be praying for someone or to be a witness to someone or to send a message to someone or not just to invite someone to church, but live such a life that they want to come with you. And you'll have a choice of what you do in the moment. And I wanna remind you that you don't have to understand completely to obey immediately. Because life when it comes down to it is not always measured by years, but is often measured in moments. And you have no idea what God might do in you or what God might do through you in one moment of obedience.

So Father, stir within us today. Give us the faith and the courage to obey.

As you're reflecting today in our church communities or even online. I wonder how many of you would wanna say, "God, I want to hear from you. Not only do I want to hear from you, I want to be even more obedient". Would you lift up your hands right now? Just lift up your hands all, all over the place. You can go ahead and just type that in the comments section.

Help me, help me to have the faith to obey. Help me to have the faith to obey. And God, I really do with every bit of faith that I have, pray that we would be known as obedient and faithful people. God, that we wouldn't just have knowledge, but we'd have the faith to live out your truth. God, just speak to us, convict us, God, wherever, wherever we're sinful, God lead us in the right direction. Search our hearts God. Lead us in the way everlasting. God, speak to us. I pray God, there'd be people that couldn't even walk out of the church building or or turn off their computer or phone without reaching out to someone with a word of encouragement, with a gift of blessing, with a moment of prayer. God help us to be available to you any moment, every moment. And God, when you speak, give us the faith to obey. And the angel said, and Joseph did. God, when you speak, we will.

As you keep praying today, there are some of you, and this brings such joy to my heart because you've been hurting spiritually and you're about to find healing spiritually. I told you earlier, I need grace. Like I need grace today. I need grace for my sins. If we sat down and just talked honestly about spiritual things and I said like, where do you stand with God? Chances are some of you'd say, yeah, I've kind of messed up. I've done some things wrong. And what I want you to know is like you're never alone. We've all sinned. The Bible says every single one of us, we actually inherit a sin nature. We're born into sin. A sin is passed down from generation to generation. And that's why Jesus was different, because he didn't inherit the sin nature of man, but the spiritual nature of his Heavenly Father.

And the good news is that Jesus, because he was without sin, was the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He died in our place and he rose again. God sent him to save us from our sins. Wherever you're watching from, if you're under the condemnation, the weight, the burden of sin today, we confess our sins, we turn away from them. We call out in the name of Jesus. And when he hears our prayers, he forgives our sins. You're not watching by accident. You're not here by accident. Today is the day of your salvation wherever you are. Those who say "I need his grace, I want his forgiveness. I step away from my sins. I receive his forgiveness. Today I surrender my life to Jesus". Those who say "I need it. I'm ready today. I leave my old life. I give my life to Jesus".

That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now all over the place. Lift them and say yes. That's my prayer, praise God for you. And right over here, all three of you guys, others in today say yes. Right back up there. Come on church, give God some praise. Others today. I need his grace. I need his mercy. I need his salvation right back over there. Oh God's in the house. He is good. Those of you online, just type it in the comment section, I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. I'm surrendering. Just type that in the comment section. I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. And now in the presence of a good God who loves us so much together, we pray aloud, just pray:

Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus, I trust you to save me, to make me new, to fill me with your spirit so I could know you and serve you and obey you and show your love. And all I do, my life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus' name.

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