Craig Groeschel - When You're Sick of Being Stuck
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I wonder how many of you started in 2023 with something that you wanted to change in your life? Raise your hands if that's you. Online, if that's you, just type in the comment section. "I started with something I wanted to change". I'm gonna ask you, how's it going? Good, good. Good? If it's going good for you, congratulations. You would be the exception. Because according to a study of 40 million people, it's not going that well. "Inc. Magazine" wrote about this study and found that the vast majority of us quit our resolutions by the second Friday in January. The vast majority of us started with really good intentions, but we didn't follow through. And the sad news is that so many of us, we have our goals, but by the end of this year, we'll still weigh more than we wanted to weigh, or we'll still spend more money than we actually make, or we'll still wanna read the Bible daily but we won't.
And so what I wanna do is I wanna talk to those of you who want to change, those of you that hope to change, those of you that tried to change, but you're not even sure that change is possible. I'm calling this message "When You're Sick of Being Stuck". You can look at the person next to you if you want to and say, "I'm sick of being stuck". You can look at the other person, tell 'em, "I'm sick of being stuck". You can type it in the chat if you want to, "I'm sick of being stuck". If you feel like so many of us, you feel frustrated, you're exhausted, you're embarrassed, or you're even ashamed that you can't change, the good news is that you're not actually alone. In fact, the guy in the New Testament that wrote over half the New Testament, who would that be? The Apostle Paul. He understands what it's like to try to do the right thing, but not do the right thing.
In fact, his words in scripture give me comfort. When he said in Roman 7, he said, "I don't really understand myself for I want to do what's right," but what'd he say? "But I didn't do it". He says, "I don't wanna do what's wrong, but I do it anyway". And then watch what he says. He says, "Oh, what a miserable person I am". I wonder if any of you can relate with him and relate with me when you feel like that. You can type in the comments section, "I can relate". You may ask, "What in the world's wrong with me? I mean, I tried to change it this year and I tried to change it last year and I tried to change it the year before. I mean, I did everything they say to do. I set the goals. I made the vows. I bought my workout clothes. I got the daily planner. I made a vision board. I did everything".
You have the right intentions like so many else, but unfortunately, I would suggest that many of us, though we have the right intentions, we actually have the wrong strategy. We're trying to change, but we're trying to change in the wrong way. And that's why I wanna talk to you about a new series and a book that I'm very excited is coming out very soon. You're able to pre-order it now. It's called "The Power to Change: Mastering the Habits That Matter Most", perhaps one of the most core messages that I've ever written about. And what we're gonna do in the book, "The Power to Change", is talk about how God's Word teaches us to change. And this week, we're gonna build a foundation. Next week, we're gonna build a foundation. Then we're gonna take a break for something called 30-Second Theology. Then we're gonna come back and we're gonna look at how scripture talks about habits and how science confirms it. Because God is kind of the one who created science anyway so we might as well see how it all works together.
The core of the message in the book, "The Power to Change", I wanna give it to you today, and that is this. If you're taking notes, you can write this down: What do we know about real change? Real change, this is so important, real change is not behavior modification. Real change is spiritual transformation. It's not just changing what we do on the outside. It's allowing God to change who we are on the inside. It's not just outward behavior modification, but real change is spiritual transformation. And that's why the Apostle Paul, who in Romans 7 just said, "I'm trying to do what;s right, but I can't and I don't wanna do what wrong, but I do". Then he said this, he asked a question: "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death"? And what did he say? He said, "Thank God! The answer is not in my effort. It's not in outward behavior. The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord". It's not behavior modification. It is spiritual transformation.
And so what I wanna do in the next few weeks, I wanna show you how we as Christians often will try to change the wrong way. And I'm gonna give you an illustration from... This idea originated with Jerry Bridges. I'm gonna abbreviate it, make it my own, but I wanna give him credit for the three big ideas that we're gonna cover. And he shows that, essentially, there are three mindsets that Christians will adapt when it comes to change. Two are wrong and one is correct. The first is a wrong mindset. And many people believe when it comes to change that it's gonna be God, then me. It's God, then it's up to me. In other words, God initiates by drawing us to Himself. His Holy Spirit woos us. His grace changes us. We're saved by grace. We're heaven bound. God does the work to bring us into His family. And then God says, "Good luck. It's all up to you".
And many of us, we inadvertently believe in a God then me mindset where we think, like, "If it's gonna be, it's up to me". And it even comes down in our language. Here's what Christians will say: "Well, I'm trying to stop losing my temper with my kids". I'm trying. Or, "I'm trying to stop cussing, darn it," but you didn't say darn it, right? Or, "I'm trying to get close to God". Or, "I'm trying to stop spending four hours a day scrolling on TikTok and the Gram. God save me". "But," we believe, "If it's gonna be, it's up to me". There's a wrong mindset about how we change. The first one is God, then me. The second one is, what? It's God, not me. While the first one is all about our effort, the second one almost absolves us from any effort or responsibility. And there are some Christians who have this mindset, it's God, not me. It shifts all responsibility to God. He has to do everything and I don't do anything. It shifts at all to God.
For example, if it's God, not me, and I don't like my job, I might say, "Well, I'm gonna quit my job for the glory of God and then God has to bring me a new one". Maybe not your best strategy, and many of you have found that out the hard way. Or you might think, "You know, I wanna get closer to God," but you haven't read His Word since 1998 and haven't been back to church since COVID hit and you're wondering, "Why am I not close to God"? Or one of my favorite ones is you spend more than you make over and over and over again, and then what do you do? You buy a lottery ticket and dedicate it to God. "Maybe God's going to get me out of debt with a lottery ticket". And I'm joking kind of because that's how a lot of people live, right? There's three mindsets. The first two are wrong and dangerous. There's God, say it with me. There's God, then me. There's God, not me. The correct one is actually God through me. Everybody say, "God through me". Type it in the comments section, if you will.
How do we really change? It's not behavior modification. It's spiritual transformation. It is God through me. And I wanna show you how the Apostle Paul recognized this amazing principle. He's the guy who said, "I'm trying to change, but I can't. I don't wanna do what's wrong, but I do. Who in the world can save me? Only Jesus can". And I wanna show you how he processes this in his writing. This is what Paul said, and I love this, I love the humility and the dependence on God, he says, "For I am the least of the apostles". Like, this is Paul. Like, write the New Testament, start a bazillion churches Paul, and he says, "Based on my qualifications and all my sin, I rank low. I'm not very good. I'm the least of the apostles. I don't even deserve to be called apostle because I persecuted the church of God". He's thinking, "I killed people and such," and he's very, very humble. He says, "But," watch this, "not by my talent, not by my education, not by my good works, and not by my effort," but by what? He said, "But by the grace of God".
What I wanna show you is the same grace that saves you is the same grace that changes you. He says, "But by the grace of God, I am what I am", and watch this, "and his grace was not without effect". In other words, "I'm not very good, I don't deserve this. but his grace impacted me and I am what I am because of his grace and it did a work on me". And he said, then watch this, he says, "No, I worked harder than all of them". And when he said this, he did. He got up earlier, he stayed up later, he started more churches, he raised up more leaders, he preached the gospel more ferociously and fearlessly, he was beaten and beaten and beaten again, he was left for dead, he was whipped, he was snake-bitten, he was shipwrecked, he came back, he was persecuted, they tried to kill him, and he came back. And watch what he says. "I worked harder than all of them. I brought everything in me". And then he said, "Yet, not I, but it was the grace of God that was with me. I'm not any good, I don't deserve to be here, but by the grace of God, he did something in me. His grace was not without effect".
The same grace that saved him was the same grace that changed him. "And I brought every bit of energy and effort that a physical body could, yet it wasn't me and me alone. It was the grace of God through me". Real change is not God, then you. Real change is not God, not you. Real spiritual change is God through you. It's not behavior modification. This is so good. It's spiritual transformation. So, preacher guy, what does that look like on Monday when I want to eat three bags of chips, right? When I want to yell at my boss and take him hostage and ask for ransom money? All for the glory of God because God's gonna get me outta this, right? If real change is God through you, what does that look like? I mean, what does that look like. This is really important, so what I want you to do, you may wanna write this down, I want you to pay really close attention because I'm about to give you this secret and I don't want you to miss this, okay, For change to be spiritual transformation I don't see you guys writing this down. I'm gonna step back, I'm gonna give you a second 'cause this is the key to the whole thing.
So for change to be spiritual transformation, it has to be spiritual. Did you get that? For it to be spiritual transformation, it has to be empowered by God's Spirit and not your willpower. And so here's what's gonna happen. The new year's gonna roll around next year and you're gonna say, "I want to change this". You're gonna have your why, "'Cause I'm tired of wearing my fat jeans. I wanna wear my skinny jeans". And you're gonna have your plan. It's whatever diet that works for your friends or your new exercise, something. Last year it was CrossFit. This year is pickleball, whatever it is. You're gonna have your why and you're gonna have your how. And what I wanna suggest is you add spiritual to your why and your how. What do you want? You want a spiritual why. And you do a spiritual how. What is your spiritual why? Your spiritual why is God's purpose for you. That's your spiritual why. And your spiritual how is God's power through you. It's not your effort. It's not behavior modification. It's spiritual transformation.
So how does this play out? You get that little notification on your phone that said you spent 92 hours on your phone this week and you're thinking, "I probably should spend less time on my phone". So why are you gonna do that? "'Cause I don't wanna spend so much time on my phone". No, get a spiritual reason. Who is God? What is God? God is love. And what's our greatest commandment? To love. How loving are you staring at a screen? So your spiritual why might be to love God. I wanna be more engaged with the people I love, not just double clicking on the latest image they posted. And that's your spiritual why. "I wanna get better at my money". Why? "'Cause I'm tired of being broke". Not a bad reason, but what if there was a spiritual reason added to that, which is, "Everything that I have comes from God, and one of the best ways I could worship and honor Him is by stewarding wisely, managing His resources to a point where I'm not just trying to pay my bills, but I can be a blessing to people around me".
If you add a spiritual why to what you want to do, it changes your heart. "I wanna be in better shape". Why? "So I can look good in my bikini, #lookatme". Okay, right? It's coming in a few months. You gotta be ready for it. "High school reunion and look at me". What if instead... I told you, we might as well have fun, right? Yeah, you criticize all you want. Just go be a dud somewhere else if you don't have fun. So what if instead it's, "My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and I wanna honor God with the temple, the body that He gave me"? It's spiritual. What's your spiritual why? For spiritual transformation to take place, it's gotta be? Spiritual. What's your spiritual why? Then you're gonna want a spiritual how. You want a spiritual how.
And I love Zechariah 4:6, when the Old Testament prophet says, "'It's not by might, it's not by willpower,' but it's by,'" what? "'It's by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty". When God's Spirit is working through you, Paul said, "It is not me, but it's his grace through me," then you're not on your own, but you have a stronger power. For example, Amy and I, it's been probably, how many years did we go to our favorite place in Colorado? Probably 22 years. We go every year. We go to the same place. We love it here. We do the same thing over and over again. We go to the same restaurants, we hike the same trails, we rent the same bicycles, except for this year, Amy didn't. We went to the bicycle place. I got my normal bicycle. She picked a different one. It was more expensive. I didn't know why. I didn't really care, she's my wife, she can get whatever bicycle she wants, until we started riding 9,000-foot mountains and she would pass me easily and wait for me at the end.
"What's wrong with you, old man, Mr. like body shape guy, cardio on the gym thing"? And she'd fly past me and fly past me and then wait and fly past me. "What's wrong there, little man? Can't she keep up"? At the end of it, I was like, dead. I go, like, "I'm done, I'm done". She goes, "Let's go 10 more miles". And I had no idea why her bike was more expensive until we turned it in and I realized hers was electric. If you've never been on an electric bike, I got one the next day. And there is no way to tell you how close you are to God on an electric bike. When you start pedaling with less effort, there's four times the energy. You just kinda like have a little good time and, whoo, you're about to jump off the top of a mountain. And this in many ways is what happens when you don't bring your power, but a stronger power, when it's not by my might, but it's by the Spirit of the Lord connected to a spiritual why with a spiritual how, that you don't have outward modification, you have spiritual transformation.
And I'll tell you the story of how God helped me change my health, my diet, and my mindset around food. In the old days, and Steven can tell you, I used to eat anything and everything I wanted. And it worked great for much longer than it does for most people. 35, 36, 37 and then 40 and fat. Like, 40 and fat. I wasn't necessarily fat, but my kids called me full face Craig. My more angry kids called me Dad Bod. I preferred Father Figure. But nevertheless, I used to eat everything. I mean I would eat everything. And they would tell you, they had chants. They would say, "Mommy buys good food, but Daddy buys great food". That's what they would say 'cause I'd go to the grocery store and I'd go straight down and I would make Little Debbie stock go up. I would buy cinnamon rolls and I'd buy donuts and pizza and cheeseburgers and chili cheeseburgers and chili fries and malts and cookies and cake and ice cream and cinnamon rolls for the glory of God.
I can visualize and taste a cinnamon roll right now. And I would eat and I'd have Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper with a squirt of cherry and all for the glory of God. And I would do all of this forever and then I became fuller face Craig. Any of you around long enough to remember fuller face Craig? Don't raise your hand. That's like, just like, you're supposed, "I don't remember that". "Oh yeah, I remember". Well, when did I change? Let me tell you when I didn't change. I didn't change when Amy said, "You should eat healthy". I didn't do that. Why? Because I'm a man. And I didn't change when the doctor said, "You have high cholesterol". Why? Because I'm a man. And I didn't change the second time the doctor raised his concern and said, "You have high cholesterol". I changed when, not just a doctor but a different doctor who was a friend and a Christian said, "Hey, if you want to be effective serving Jesus for years to come, you wanna serve Him by taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit".
And that's when I changed, when it became spiritual. So it wasn't like I wanted to bench press a lot. I promise you that. What I wanted to do was I wanted to be healthy. And with the spiritual motivation, I started researching. I'd never done that before. I thought you could eat what you want and then just go to the gym. And I learned that what you eat matters so much. And I learned how much water you drink and all the other stuff, I don't drink any of the other stuff. And I learned about supplements and I learned about vitamins and I learned about rest. I learned about a bunch of other nerdy stuff that would bore you that took me about seven years to learn and to dial in. What's your workout, Craig? Workout doesn't matter. The most important thing is what you put in your body. And I learned since this is a temple, I'm not putting no trash in God's temple. I'm not putting trash in the temple. And so by changing the spiritual why, it started to impact who I'd become.
What do you want to change? You had your goal and by the second Friday, it's gone. Maybe you want to overcome an addiction. We all do at some point, right? Maybe you wanna get more organized. Maybe you wanna pray regularly with your spouse. What do you do? Add your spiritual why? By the help of Jesus, I will overcome this addiction because I am not a slave to any sin, but by the power of Jesus, I'm set free. It's a spiritual why. I wanna get more organized. "God is a God of order. Therefore, I'll organize my life so I can order it around the things that matter most". "I wanna pray with my spouse". Well, who is Jesus? "Jesus is my one and my spouse is my two. So I'll always seek the one with my two". Your first assignment, and we're gonna build on this in the weeks to come, is to define your spiritual why.
What's your spiritual why? Then we're gonna get into, and more in the upcoming weeks, your spiritual how. And what it is is it's God's power through you. And the statement that I adopted, if you've been here a while, you've heard me say it before and I will say it again, is so meaningful to me, I say it again and again and again until God renews my mind with truth, and that is this: I am disciplined. Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. Why do I say this? I am disciplined. Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. The reason I say this is because, by nature, I am not disciplined, meaning I like to eat what I like, I like to sleep in, I like to be lazy by nature. My sinful nature is not disciplined. But I declare, renew in my mind, "I am disciplined. But it is not me. It's Christ in me that's stronger than the wrong desires in me".
So, in the early years when I was tempted to eat the wrong thing, it's not just my willpower, but it's actually my spiritual why with God's power. And my diet is very, very strict, very, very clean, and is very, very easy today because it's Christ in me, all for Him. I want to be as strong as I can to do His will. I don't put trash in His temple. This is meant to serve God. So how does it apply to you? You're tempted to look at something that you shouldn't look at. "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully. I wanna honor God with purity". You got a spiritual why. Then His power comes in you, prompts you, and reminds you you can walk away. You can always walk away. No matter where you're tempted, our God will always give you a way out. You're not on your own. You've got your why. You've got your spiritual how. You're tempted to lose your temper your kids, and you remember, "No, no, no, no, no. I wanna lead my children with an example of Jesus. I want a spiritual legacy".
You got a spiritual why. What's your how? "I have available to me the power of the fruits of the Spirit. It's not my power. It's the fruits of the Spirit. It's His love, His joy, His peace, His kindness, His gentleness, His faithfulness, His self-control through me". What do we know? Real change is not God, then you. Real change isn't God, not you. Paul said, "I'm the least, but his grace was at work and I did everything I could, and yet it was his grace through me". Real change is always God through you. It's not behavior modification. It's spiritual transformation. It's a change of heart. Don't miss this, please. If you only change your behavior, and this is what so many people do, if you change your behavior but don't change your heart, the behavior will come back. And that's why we're not trying; we're trusting. It's a spiritual motivation and it's a spiritual power. Real and lasting change is a reflection of God's power through you.
So if you're sick of being stuck, I got really good news for you. There is a power outside of you that will help you change. Why haven't you? You tried and you still work too much. You're still neglecting your family. You're still procrastinating. You still skip church more weekends than you're actually at church. You still click on sites that you don't want to click on. You're still holding a grudge against someone that hurt you a long time ago. You're still spending money on things that don't last and wasting your life staring at things that don't change anybody's life. Why do you still do that? There's lots of sub-reasons, and there are a lot of them, and we're gonna talk about a lot of those. But there is a primary reason. And the primary problem is a spiritual problem. It's almost always a spiritual problem.
Why is it that you haven't changed? It's because, in most cases, you're trying to meet a need or relieve a hurt with something besides God's grace. Why is it that you haven't changed? You're trying to meet a need, a real need in your life, or relieve a hurt with something besides God's grace. And that's why the same Apostle Paul who said, "I wanna do the right thing, but I don't. Who can help me? Thank God Jesus can. And yet I'm the least of all these. I'm not good enough, I know that. But God's grace on me was not without effect. It changed me. And yet I still do everything. But it's not me. It's His grace through me". He is the one who said this about grace. Essentially, the same grace that saves you is the grace that changes you. God said to him, "My grace is all you need". Use a good diet, buy the app, use all that stuff you want to, but the heart of your power is always God's grace. "My grace is everything that you need". And when you don't have the willpower and you don't have the strength and you failed again, like we all do, God says, "My power works best in weakness".
So now Paul said, "I'm all the more glad to boast about my weakness". Why? "So that the power of Christ can work through me". It's not God and not me. It's got not God and then me. It's God through me and through me and through me. So if you find that area where you can't change, stop being ashamed of it and embrace it. Say, "This is an area that God can change. When I am weak, His power is made perfect". And then if you mess up, remember His grace saves and His grace changes and His grace forgives and His grace strengthens because this is not behavior modification; this is spiritual transformation. Because Jesus didn't come to make us better. He came to rescue us and to save us and to change us and to free us. That's who He is. "And who the Son has set free," come on church, you might as well have fun, "Who the Son has set free is free indeed".
So Father, do a work in us. We ask that your Holy Spirit would move today. And we surrender not to our power, but to your grace through us.
Wherever you're praying, wherever you're watching from, those of you who would say yes... And let me just prime you a little bit. This is going to be all of you. If not, you're Jesus and we might as well have you come up here and preach. Okay, this is all of you. How many of you would say, "There's still something in me that needs to change"? Lift your hand right now. Those of you online, just type it in the comments section, "There's something in me that needs to change". Your assignment is very, very simple. We're gonna start and we're gonna build. Next week, I promise you, it's gonna build. Then we're gonna take a break for 30-Second Theology. Then we're gonna come back and we're gonna go deep into the spiritual power of habits that honor God. Every week, we're gonna build. Your first assignment is this: What is your spiritual why? For it to be spiritual transformation, it has to be spiritual. So we're gonna attach and we're gonna talk about it in our life groups. We're gonna attach a spiritual why to it.
Father, give us a spiritual why behind what we want to change. And then God, help us to find your spiritual power through us, to become more like your Son, Jesus.
As you keep praying today, without looking around, there are those of you who say, like, "Man, a lot needs to change". I can remember being a church kid and trying so hard not to do the wrong things. Tried so hard and I just wasn't able. I remember just like, "God, help me, help me, help me". And what I didn't realize is that I was trying to work my way to God. I wanted to try to be good enough for Him. And no matter how hard I tried, I was never ever good enough. And it wasn't until years later I recognized that's because I was born with a problem. I'm born with a sin nature, meaning that I just sin. By my own nature, I tend to do the wrong thing. And it's humanly impossible for me to ever be perfect and live up to God's standards. And this is why I told you all, "You might as well have fun," 'cause this is amazing news that God still loves you and He loves you so much that He became one of us. God became flesh in the person of Jesus. Paul said, "Who can save me? Jesus".
Who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God who gave His life as the perfect sacrifice, and God raised Him from the dead so anyone, and this includes you, doesn't matter how bad you feel, how dark your life is, anyone who calls on Him, you'd be saved, you'd be forgiven, you'd be changed, not by your works, but by His grace. So no matter where you're watching from, this is the best news ever. And you're not here by accident. You're here because God loves you and He wants to reveal Himself to you. You'll never be saved by words, but only by the grace of Jesus, So surrender to it, give your life to it. Just call out on Him today. Whoever you are, you know you're far from God. Just say, "Jesus, I need you".
We're gonna step away from our old life. We're gonna step toward His grace. When you call on His name, He will hear your prayer. He will forgive your sin. He won't just make you better. He will make you new. Wherever you are, you say, "I need that today. I surrender, Jesus. I give you my life". If that's your prayer, lift your hand now all over the place and say, "Yes, that's my prayer". Say, "Yes, Jesus". I see, but praise God for others of you today who say, "That's my prayer. Jesus, I need you". Up here in this section, others. We praise God for you. Others today online, just type it in the comments section, "I am surrendering my life to Jesus". And I need all of you to pray, if you will, pray aloud. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus, save me. Make me brand new. Fill me with your Spirit so I can do your will, so I can show your love, so I can make you known. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine. In Jesus name I pray.