Craig Groeschel - Letting Go of Loneliness
I have a vision for a church that when the church service is over, you stay in the room. I see a church where when the check is paid, you stay at the table. I envision a community that when the tears stop flowing, you keep on hugging. Amen. I wonder if anybody is interested in that type of intimacy. You can type it in the chat. I'm interested. I'm interested. What I want you to do today, just for fun, wherever you are, would you mind looking at the person next to you and say, "You look good". Just tell them, "You look good. You look really good". Look at the person on the other side of you now and tell them, "You look almost as good". If you're married, I'm watching out for you 'cause you looked at your spouse first, and so the second one looks almost as good. Those of you online, just type in, "I look good". Just do that, "I look good". Just type it, go ahead and do it because we got something to do with this.
Now, what we're gonna do, type it in the chat, "I look good". Just go ahead and do that. What we're gonna do now is we've got you in groups of three, meaning there's you and the two people you just talked to, or there's you and the two people, we got groups of three. Those of you who just typed, "I'm good," you got you and the person above you and below you in the comments. So we've got groups of three. Now that we have groups of three, I want to tell you that according to a recent Harvard University study, one in three of you believe that you have needs in your life and no one to meet them. You have hurts to share and no one to listen to them. You have love to give and no one to receive it. One in three of you are missing something very significant in your life, a core group of intimate relationships to spiritually support you and nurture you toward the things of God.
If you're just in a normal group of three people, this Harvard study shows, actually more than one in three, actually 36% of Americans, more than one in three endure ongoing feelings of loneliness, isolation, a longing to love and to be loved. More than one in three know something is missing relationally. And God never intended it to be this way. Yeah, that's right. He never intended it to be this way. One in three know there's something more. I wanna go all the way back to the very beginning of God's Word, Genesis chapter 1:1 and read to you God's Word: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And he said, "Let there be light," and the light was good. He created day, he created night, he created land, he created water. And he said, "It is good". God created the stars and the plants and the fish and the birds. And he said "It was all good". And then, God said "Something was not good".
After creating man, with no one to celebrate with, no one to cry with, no one to laugh with, and no one to enjoy life with. Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone". And God said, "I will make a helper who is just right for him". Gentlemen, if you're sitting next to your wife, look at her and say, "You're just right for me". Do it, believe me. You're just right for me. God created woman for man. Verse 22 of Genesis 2: The Lord God made a woman from the rib and he brought her to the man. I like what the man said, the man said, what'd he say? He said, "At last! I like this. Way to go, God. I was tired of looking at the porcupine and the elephant. The raccoon was cute, but ate all my food. At last, God, you did good".
Now what I wanna do is I wanna show you what God said before that. Before he created Adam, before he created Eve, I wanna go one chapter prior to Genesis 2, back to Genesis 1 and show you what God said before he created mankind. Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, let," what? Let's all say it aloud. You can type it in the comment section. God said, "Let us make mankind in" what? "In our image," and in what? "And in our likeness". What? Notice God didn't say, "Let me make mankind in my image". But God said, "Let us make man in our image". He used a plural pronoun more than once. Now it's really hard for us to get our mind around this, but God himself is never alone. God, the being God, is actually a perfect community. God is God, and God is three distinct personalities in one. It's the mystery of the Trinity. God is one and yet God is a community. He is one being and yet he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has three distinct personalities, united as one God. God is a community.
Why did this community, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, as one being, create man? God didn't create us because he was lonely. God created us because he is love. He is a community, he is love. Love isn't just what he does but love is who he is. He is a community of love and created you to know him, to love and to be loved. And that's why when someone asks Jesus like, "What is the most important thing you can do? What is the most important command of all"? And Jesus said, "Of everything else, the most important thing you can do is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And to love the person sitting right next to you, Amen. On both sides of you! Your neighbor, as you love yourself". And the early church, the New Testament believers, after Jesus gave his life and God raised him from the dead, and a few of them gathered and heard the Word, and then 3,000 were saved, they understood this. They embraced this community that was an essential part of their spiritual journey. They loved one another.
In fact, Acts chapter 2 shows us something incredibly powerful about how often they met. Acts chapter 2:46 says... How often did they meet? You can type it in the comment section if you want. How often did they meet? They didn't meet just every Saturday night at the 6:00 o'clock service. Or they didn't just meet at the 8:30 service on Sunday morning whenever they weren't too tired from staying out late the night before or when the weather was so good, they wanted to play in the front yard. Or the weather was so bad, they didn't want to get out. Or there was a game coming on or the family was in town. I can go on if you want. I'm so tired, let's skip church this weekend. Oh let's just stay home, watch it online. Okay.
No, no. Scripture says, how often did they meet? Not once a week but every day. Every day. Every day. They needed each other? Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread where? In their houses with people? Like they gave them their gate code? They let people in their houses? They ate in their homes and they, they weren't upset about it? They had glad and sincere hearts. And they were praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day, these crazy Jesus followers met together. And it was so much more than physical proximity. It was emotional unity. Why did they meet together so often? I'll tell you why. Because they needed each other. That's good.
Back then, it's not like it is today. Today it's easy. Life's easy. No problems, no tension, no mean people. Economy's always good. Eggs are always cheap, you know. It is easy today, right? Back then it was more difficult. Back then, there was a spiritual battle. There was the prince of darkness coming against the people of God. Back then, they got persecuted for their faith. Back then there were people getting sick and they needed prayer. And there were people who were hurting that needed each other. And they didn't wanna go alone without having somebody who loved them, unite together, to share around the Word of God, to lift one another up, to strengthen them, to be the body of Christ in a world that needed Jesus. No one back then said, "Oh, it's Tuesday again. We gotta go to Life Group". No. They went with glad and sincere hearts.
And I wanna show you the fundamental difference between the first century Christians and the believers today. The fundamental difference between the early church and people today is this, the first century believers desperately needed each other and they knew it. And believers today desperately need each other and they've forgotten it. Come on. Whoo! Yeah. Come on. They couldn't be spiritually strong and victorious and close to God and overcome the temptation of the evil one and have the strength to be a light in the world without the family of God. And they knew it. And it is exactly the same today. That's right. And so many Christians have forgotten it. So I was talking to a mental health expert and he explained to me something that I think you would agree. It's interesting, he said, "Today, on purpose, intentionally, most people are seeking autonomy and they're seeking independence". Meaning I don't want to have to rely on anyone. And in many ways, they're trying to design a life without the risk of intimacy.
And so we'll just observe our friends on social media. Scroll, scroll, double tap, double tap. Forget you, you always post the same thing. Scroll, scroll, double tap, double tap. Right? We're gonna have friends without real intimate interaction. We're going to work today post-COVID without the hassles of relationship. Meaning I'll have a flexible schedule, I'll have limited accountability. You don't have the right to tell me to come in 'cause I'm gonna work in my pajamas from home. I'm going to shop online, bank online, have friends online, and watch my sermons online. And what this counselor said, and I quote, he said, "People are intentionally pursuing a life that destroys their mental health and robs them of real joy and lasting fulfillment". That's right. That's their very goal.
It's funny to me how we kind of clap for that and then we go do it. Don't come over to my house. Right? They're intentionally pursuing a life that is counterproductive to the things that matter most. And our God never intended it to be that way. I shared with you that two weeks ago, my dad went to heaven, my dad passed away. And what I wanna say on behalf of our family to our church, from the bottom of my heart is thank you a million times over for your expressions of love. It's impossible to tell you how loved we felt. We were overwhelmed trying to keep up with the expressions of love. And so what I'm about to tell you, once you hear this, is not complaining. It is an observation of how we are loved and what I would call today's relational economy. Not complaining.
Look at the person that's sitting next to you and say, "He's not complaining". Tell him right now, type it online. He's not complaining. I'm not complaining. I'm observing at the way that people express love today. Here's what happened. We were overwhelmed, when I posted on social media, there were literally thousands of you that said, "We're praying for you. We love you. We're so sorry. Our condolences. He was a great man. We love you. We love you". Thousands. I received over a hundred emails from people in the church that many I haven't even met. And I wanna say thank you to Maria from Thailand for your note. Godfrey from Africa, for your email. Teresa from Omaha, for your heartfelt note. Mandy from Fort Worth and Faith from Uganda. From all over the world, over a hundred people wrote in to tell us they're praying for us, they love us. And we felt that.
I received dozens and dozens of texts. I could not keep up with them. We received flowers from six different people. In the first week, outside of family, I had two phone calls where the phone rang and I picked it up and heard a live voice on the other side. And then this one guy that I've known since I was 15, named Scott Streller, drove over to my house, knocked on the door, came in to see me. And honestly, when he did it, it felt odd. He knocked on the door, he said, "How are you"? I said, "How are you? Is something wrong"? Because I didn't expect that. Now I want you to know I would have done something similar. I would have sent flowers, I would have sent a text, I would have done the same thing.
So I'm not critiquing what happened, I'm observing how people showed love. In almost every interaction, it was void of personal voice or personal presence. Only one person did what was considered the most traditional expression of love for years. And it even felt weird to me. And so I looked at that and I thought, God never intended it to be that way. And that's why I tell you, I have a vision for a church that when the service is over, you stay in the room. And when the check is paid, you stay at the table. And when the tears stop flowing, like Streller stretched, my buddy did at my house, you just keep on hugging. And what I want you to know and understand clearly is this is never gonna happen by accident. You're never gonna wake up one day and go, "How did I get all these close friends"?
I didn't mean to. I'm just trying to keep them out of my life. I didn't want them, I mean, how did I get all these close friends, they're everywhere? I got people to love me like crazy. I love them. How did it happen? I don't know how it happened. It just happened. I didn't even mean to. I'm so thankful that in the more recent seasons, Amy and I were way more intentional and we invite another couple out to dinner once a week. Do we have time for that? Probably not. But do we need it? And of those couples that we've been going out with, I think they all took off a day of work, drove two hours to a small town to sit with us in a funeral because they are our community. And I believe that's what God wants you to have. In our church family, we call them Life Groups. And I'm gonna propose to you that probably one in three or more of you actually need a community like this.
And when I talk about going to Life Group, I just wanna say what you're thinking like, "I'm an introvert and that sounds like hell," you know. It does! You know, like, "I hate that. I don't wanna go share my stuff with strangers". And, you know, I just wanna kind of get it out there. It's not gonna be perfect. There's gonna be weird people there. There is. And like if you say there's no weird people there, they're there, I promise you. And that's like part of it, you know? You gotta understand, that's part of being a part of a family, is just like, like, getting involved with people. And sometimes it's hard, it's often messy. And it's always necessary, it's always important. It's always God honoring in your life. And so I'm gonna just push you a little bit and tell you that some of you really need this. What's gonna happen in what I would call a Jesus honoring Life Group, three things it'll be.
The first thing it'll be, I promise you, is, in our culture, it'll be a gathering of grace. It'll be a gathering of grace. I like this paraphrased version of Philippians 1:7 when Paul said, "You have a permanent place in my heart. You've remained partners with me in the wonderful grace of God". You get together with some broken people and what you're gonna find is that this is a safe place to belong and a safe place to believe and a safe place to come. It's a gathering of grace. One of my favorite stories was a single mom that was invited to church and was scared to death to come because she was an exotic dancer. Well, she came and she felt loved, but no one knew what she did. And I preached the message very similar to this. And she was so hurting and so broken that she took a risk. Went to a group of people her age, came in with a story she was gonna tell them about her not real job so they didn't laugh at her or run her out.
And early in the Life Group, some other guy, a male started confessing about his pornography struggle. And with her normal church background, she said they're gonna criticize him and they're gonna shame him. And they did the opposite. Like even the ladies there didn't judge him. And they started listening and they prayed for him and they loved him. And she was so taken aback, she just blurted out, "I need help. I'm a single mom. I'm a stripper and it pays good good and I can't do anything else. I don't know what to do". And they did exactly what they did to the guy. They just loved her. And they welcomed her and they prayed for her. And at the end, without her knowing, they took up an offering for her and appointed someone else to go tell her that we've raised money for you to help you pay your rent.
If you actually quit your job, we'll cover your rent and we'll try to help you get a new job. She was so blown away. She quit her job, they paid her rent. Another guy helped introduce her to a different job. By the end of that week, she was employed somewhere else, a little bit lower salary and a lot higher self-worth because she was becoming who God wanted her to become. And what I want you to know is, you're gonna walk in with your own version of something. We all do. And you're welcome. You're welcome with your questions, you're welcome with your doubts, you're welcome with your hurts, you're welcome with your addictions, you're welcome with your baggage, you're welcome with your depression. You're just welcome. Because everybody else there is kind of broken too. And that's why it's a gathering of grace.
A Jesus honoring Life Group is a gathering of grace. It's also a gathering of healing. A healing. I don't know about you but like I'm at the point kind of now where I need to heal, I've got a lot of grief. And a lot of times, people think God does everything. But the way God created us is God does a lot but God also does a lot through his people. We tend to think we go to God, you know, for healing. And God can heal but God has another way of healing. When we confess our sins to God, he forgives us. But we confess our needs and our hurts to other people, there's actually healing in community. In fact, scripture says this, James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you might be what? That you might be healed. You come into this gathering of grace and then there's a place of healing. You pray for one another and somehow God loves you and meets your needs and heals you through other people.
Here's how he's been healing me. So this year I lost my tennis buddy, Rodney, of 30 years. I lost my dog, Sadie. And I lost my dad. And I know this sounds like a country song and you can laugh at that 'cause you might as well laugh or I'll start crying. Ha, ha, ha, thank you. Okay, there's a laugh. And when my dog died, you know how it is. Like, you know, everybody's like, it's just a dog. It is just a dog but this was my dog. And when Sadie died and I was there with her, I was so upset, I didn't wanna bury her alone. So I called a buddy and he drove over, you know like 28 degrees out and it's 8:00 o'clock at night. And we dug a hole and we, I had him like, "Are you sure she's dead? Let's make sure," you know? And he was with me and I buried my dog. Then my dad died. And his wife took off and drove all the way down to Ardmore, sent flowers, were there with us.
Then we came home and he said, "Hey, there's probably more you need to talk about. Let's go to dinner". And so the whole time we went to dinner, he just let me talk about my dad. And so I said to someone from my community who is helping me heal, in fact, in a very awkward guy to guy way, you know we are like, emotions, blah! You know? Hug, hug, pat, pat. Break, okay? None of this stuff, all right? You know. And so I just said, "Man, thank you. You have no idea how much that meant to me". And he said in a very awkward way back, he said, it's something like, "Who do you think that meant more to, you or to me? Because it meant a lot to me as well". And I just thought that's God healing all of us because I needed to receive and he needed to give. And we both needed something. It's a gathering of grace. It's a gathering of healing.
And don't miss this, when we gather, it's a gathering of mission. Meaning we have divine purpose and we have divine calling from our heavenly Father. It's a gathering of mission. I wanna look at the key text again from Acts chapter 2: Every day, every day, these people, they needed each other, they continue to meet together. And they ate with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying that the favor of all the people. And then scripture says what? The Bible says: And then the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved. This wasn't a little Life Group where it's like, us four, no more. Nobody gets in. We love Jesus, but we don't love you. No, this was a community that was so in love with Jesus that other people saw the love of Jesus, wanted the love of Jesus, and the Lord added to their number daily, daily, daily, every single day, those who are being saved into the kingdom of God. We are missional in what we do.
In fact, if you look at the New Testament, there's 59 different one another verses. 59! Let's look at them all. We're not gonna do that. We'll look at five of them because I'm running out of time. Five of them. And when you look at these five and they all have a missional aspect, look at what we are called to do as the body of Christ. That you cannot just do scrolling and you can't do staying at home alone. We're called to do this. We are called to, say it with me, serve one another. One another. Serve, serve, serve, serve, serve. The greatest are those who serve. That's missional.
What else are we called to do? Called to show hospitality to? One another. When was the last time you've had someone in your home that wasn't there to repair your leaky faucet? When was the last time you've had someone far from God in your home over for dinner? When was the last time you've just intentionally gathered people together to maybe pray together, to worship God together? Because you really do need each other. We're also called to be kind to one another in a world filled with hate that'll cancel you so fast, your head will spin. I need some kindness and I need to show some kindness. We're also called to encourage one another. Anybody need some encouragement? Anybody wanna give some encouragement? Encourage each other as long as it is called today. It's your mission. Like literally the person sitting right next to you may need your encouragement today. And you may not know when you run out the door 'cause I got a vision for a church where people stay in the room.
And finally, we're called to carry one another's burdens. I need help. Like I need you. And I am grateful for every email and every text and every comment. I'm sincerely grateful, but I need more. And so do you. So, normally here's what I do. I'm gonna let you in on my secret sermon strategy. Normally what I do is I say, "So, what could we do if we were united together? If we had real community in the body of Christ? What could we do to get a thing, what's possible? We could meet the needs in the community and in the world. We could meet the needs of the elderly in our communities". I'll tell you that we could help every child in foster care find a loving home. And we could help those in the bondage of addiction find freedom from life in Christ.
And I would tell you, we could give away unlimited ministry resources to hundreds of thousands of pastors around the world. And I would tell you that we could share Christ with people in countries around the world that have limited access to the gospel through church online. I would tell you that together we could give away the YouVersion Bible app free to a billion people and eradicate Bible poverty in our generation. And I would tell you, I'm not gonna do it today, but I would tell you that together we could start Life Churches in cities around the world and every hurting and broken person could hear the love of Jesus. That's what I would normally do. But I'm not gonna do that today. I don't know if they know I'm joking, Amy, or not. I'm working on my delivery. I'll get it there.
What I wanna do instead is, I just wanna talk to you. I wanna talk to you. Because many of you, you know there's something better, that God never intended it to be the way it is right now. And so for you, you could take a step of faith, maybe even call it a risk and get out of your little world and love someone as God loved you. And then when you see someone who's hurting, maybe the person next to you or maybe on the other side, you see someone who's in need, you see someone who lost a loved one, maybe this time, you don't just leave a comment and you don't just send a text, but maybe you pick up the phone and call them. Or better yet you get weird and drive across town and knock on their door and hug them. And when the tears stop flowing, you just keep on hugging. And then one day, when you're the one that's hurting, someone will do the exact same thing for you.
Because who are we? We're the church. We're don't just go to church. We are the church. We are the body of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We're the bearers of good news. We are the feet that bring in the story of the gospel. And what we do, how we show love to the least of these, we're actually doing it unto Jesus. We're the church. We're the church. We're the church. This is how we love. I have a vision for a church that when the service is over, we stay in the room. And when the check is paid, we stay at the table. And when the tears stop flowing, we just keep on hugging. Because we're the church.
So Father, do a work in us. Stir us up to be who you want us to be.
As you're praying today, without looking around, I wonder how many of you know this isn't the way that God intended it to be and you want to be more intentional in showing the love of God. Would you lift up your hands right now? I hope everybody does. I hope everybody is typing in the chat, I wanna be more intentional in showing the love of God.
Father, do a work in us. Do a work in it. God, help us to be even countercultural in a culture that distances others. God, help us to draw near, God, for those who need to take a big risk into start a small community, a Life Group, or to join but I pray God that this wouldn't be a message that they feel and they go on with their life, but they would recognize that we desperately need one another and they take action. God, make us more intentional to show your love as you've loved us.
As you keep praying today, I wanna tell you about the goodness of God. He didn't create us because he was lonely. He created us because he is love and what he wants to do is, he wants you to receive his love. Love's not just something that he does. It's who he is. And I want you to hear this and feel it, he loves you. There are those of you that you don't know where you stand with God, you don't know it. You may believe in God, I grew up believing in God. You can believe in God but not know him. He wants you to know him, he's a relational God. He didn't shout his love from heaven. He showed his love on earth when he sent his son Jesus. Who did Jesus come for? He came for the broken, he came for the sick, he came for the sinners. And he gave his life so our sins could be forgiven. And God raised him from the dead. So no matter what you've done, no matter how broken you are, you can know God, you can be forgiven by God, you can be made new by God.
So wherever you are right now, if you would recognize, I don't know him personally, today, we're gonna step away from our sin. We're gonna step toward him and when you draw near to him, scripture says "He draws near to you". When you call on Jesus, he'll hear your prayer. He'll forgive your sin, he'll make you brand new. And you'll start on a journey of getting to know the God who loves you. Wherever you're watching from today, those who say, "I need that. I know I don't know him, I want his forgiveness. Today by faith, I surrender my life. I draw near to him". When you draw near to him, he will draw near to you wherever you are.
Those who say, "Yes, I need Jesus today. I surrender my life to Jesus," that's your prayer. Lift your hands high now, lift them up high right there. Praise God for you guys. Oh my gosh, right there. Others of you today saying yes. Oh come on, let's go. Somebody give God some praise today. Right back over here. Oh my goodness. Come on. Come on church, give God some praise today. Right back over there saying yes to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is moving. Online, just type in the chat. Just type in the chat, I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. We're gonna pray. And when we're through praying, you're gonna cheer right now. 'Cause we're not praying for revival, Church. We're living in the middle of one. Can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it? Pray:
Heavenly Father. Forgive my sins. Jesus, save me. Make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could know you and show your love. And show your love. And show your love everywhere I go. Everywhere I go. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. You have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.