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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - Choosing Your Next Chapter

Craig Groeschel - Choosing Your Next Chapter

Craig Groeschel - Choosing Your Next Chapter
Craig Groeschel - Choosing Your Next Chapter
TOPICS: The Book of Ruth

How many of you have ever seen someone and you've thought, I wish I had a life like that. Have you ever done that? You see someone and they're maybe it's just some part of their life, like you see their life on Instagram and they've got like 40 billion friends and they're always out having fun and they're, you know, playing pickleball together and at a restaurant together and you're looking going, I wish I had friends like that. Or maybe it's someone that has a career that they actually studied for and now they're doing it 'cause you studied for something and you're not doing it and you look on and you go, you know, they're making good money and they're doing something that they enjoy. I wish I had a career like they have. Or it could be a ministry.

You look at someone and say, "Wow, they're really making a difference". Or it might be their family. Like they all come into church together and it looks like they like each other. And their Christmas cards just, they're perfect. And you know like, we almost divorced the last time we had our Christmas photos or whatever as you look at that. Or it might even just be a mindset, like you just look at them and they just, they seem contented, they seem just at peace. You look on and you think, I wish I had that. I wish I had what they have. The problem is when you look at somebody where they are, you're just seeing their current chapter. You don't know the full story. You're not seeing the previous chapters that led up to the chapter that they're in. You may look at their current chapter and say, "I want a story like that". But you haven't read the previous chapter called Private Sacrifices. Or you don't know about the chapter called Heartbreaking Loss. Or the chapter called Overcoming Insecurities. Or the chapter called My Spiritual Doubts. All you see is their current chapter.

Today, what I wanna do is I wanna show you from the last chapter of Ruth a principle, if you're taking notes, that the decisions that you make today will determine the story that you tell tomorrow. The decisions that you're making in your life today, what you do, what you don't do, who you're with, who you're not with, the decisions you're making today actually determine the chapter that you will live out tomorrow. And so for those of you that may not be happy with the chapter that you're in and you want a better chapter, a different chapter, you want a different story, I'm calling this message "Choosing Your Next Chapter".

And Father, we ask today that you are the, as you're the author of all life and the giver of all good things, that your Holy Spirit would teach us principles to live a life that would honor you and write a story that would glorify you. We pray this in Jesus name and everybody said? Amen.

Let's get back into Ruth. The context of Ruth, if you haven't been with us, let me give you kind of a quick summary. Ruth was a Moabite widow who left Moab to turn to the God of Bethlehem and came back without much hope, without any resources. And she got to work. Instead of doing what a lot of women would have been forced to do when they were widowed, she didn't sell her body, she didn't beg for money, she actually started gleaning in the field of a guy named Boaz. She just so happened, the text said, started to glean in the field of a guy named Boaz, a man of standing. And Boaz met Ruth and he admired her character and her integrity and her work ethic. And they had what looked like a little bit of a date over lunch, he asked her to sit down. They had a date and it seemed like sparks were flying and things were going well.

And then evidently Boaz, the business owner, appeared to have gotten distracted and stopped paying attention to her. He never followed her on Instagram, he never followed up. And so she, with the encouragement of her mother-in-law, gave him a little bit of encouragement. And by encouragement, what she did was she lied down at the foot of his bed and said, "Remember me"? I thought that was funny. You don't have to laugh at that but that's, I hope my daughter never encourages a guy like that. But that's what she did and she was at the foot of the bed. And she kind of almost like proposed to him and almost asked him, would you be something that Ruth calls a kinsman redeemer? A kinsman redeemer is someone who would protect a widow and provide for a widow. It's a family member who would step in to a very important role to help make sure that she was cared for.

Now, according to the law, there was a problem because Boaz wanted to be her kinsman redeemer but he discovered there was another dude that was actually more closely related. And so he wanted to step into that role but since there was someone else, he had a very big problem. Somehow he had to find this guy. We don't know where he is, we don't know what he's doing. And he had to find this guy and work a deal so he could pursue the woman that he had on his heart. Now to make this deal, Boaz needed three things. What did he need? He needed the same three things that you'll need to write a better chapter. What did he need? He needed providence, planning and prayer. He needed the providence of God, a strategic plan, and faithful spirit-filled prayers.

Let's start with the first one. What did he need? He needed, say it with me, he needed the providence of God. What is the providence of God? We've defined it this way, the providence of God is whenever God uses natural circumstances to bring about his supernatural will. Because when you look in the Book of Ruth, oddly enough, you don't see any physical miracles. There's no parting of the Red Sea, there's no opening blind eyes. But you see the miraculous providence of God where he uses natural circumstances to bring about his supernatural will. And you're gonna see this starting in the very last chapter, Ruth chapter 4:1 that says this, Boaz, he's got a problem, he's gotta find this guy. Who is this guy? This a kinsman redeemer. So he went to the town gate and took a seat there.

Now let's pause for a moment. What is the town gate? This was the place where they would do business deals. You would negotiate a deal, you would close on land. This was kinda like going to City Council or going to court. And so he goes to the town gate, takes a seat, and what are the next two words? Let's all say it aloud, "Just then". Everybody say it, "Just then". Online, type it in. Type "Just then". Just then it just so happens the family redeemer he had mentioned came by. It just so happens by the providence of God that God was working through natural circumstances to bring about his supernatural will. Just then! Wow. The family redeemer he had mentioned came by. So Boaz called out to him, "Hey bro! Come over here. I got a deal for you and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you".

Now the word friend is a very, very generous translation of the real words in the Hebrew language. Boaz calls this guy baloney alimony. That's just really fun to say. You can say it if you want to, baloney alimony, that's what he calls him in the Hebrew language. He says, "Hey, baloney alimony". And in Hebrew, this was an idiom that's only used two other times in the Bible, baloney alimony. What this literally means is it means a muted name. A muted name. A very, very literal translation could be Mr. No Name. That's what it is. "Hey, Mr. No Name," that's what we see in the text, "Come over here". And we're gonna discover that the author of the Book of Ruth, Samuel, doesn't include this guy's name. And I'll tell you probably why he didn't include it in a few minutes. So when did Mr. No Name show up? The text says just then he showed up. He just so happened to show up.

Did Boaz get lucky? Was this a coincidence? This is when God uses natural circumstances to bring about his supernatural will. So Mr. No Name just happens to show up by the providence of God at the exact right time, in the right circumstances. What do you need for a better chapter? You need the providence of God. And I'll show you how this is spelled in the Hebrew language. This is hashgacha pratis. Hashgacha! I like saying that too. And in the Hebrew language, if you'll notice the word on the top, Hebrew, you actually read it from right to left. Obviously in English we read from left to right. But this is the providence of God. And in my context, we actually have to read Hebrew backwards. I would say this about the providence of God.

The providence of God is like reading Hebrew. It's best understood when read backwards. If you wanna see the providential power of God, it's best when you look where you are and you look backwards to see how God used natural circumstances that you didn't realize to bring about his supernatural will in your life. And I'll give you just a very personal example of reading backwards the providential power and the will of God in my life. If you go all the way back into high school, my senior year. I was playing in the state championship tennis tournament. And there was a scout that was gonna come out to watch me, named Arnold Short. He was scheduled to come to the finals where I was gonna play a guy that I'd beaten two weeks previous in the finals. And he was gonna watch me beat this guy in the finals and sign me on the spot for a full scholarship.

Unfortunately, he came at the wrong time. He came to the semi-finals and I played a not very good guy and I ended up beating him rather easily and he gave me a half scholarship at that moment and left. The day I went into the finals and I played the guy that I'd beaten two weeks previously and he wiped the court up with my nasty little tail. Destroyed me. And the coach wasn't there. All of a sudden, I at least had a little bit of a scholarship, so I went to Oklahoma City University with that scholarship where I just so happened to fall into the wrong crowd and join a fraternity and partied my brains out. And it just so happened that four of my fraternity brothers committed grand larceny. And it just so happened that when they did that, I was also the president of the fraternity.

And so it just so happened that in order to try to save the fraternity, I did a little public relations stunt and started a Bible study. And it just so happened on the day we were gonna have the Bible study, I was going to the business class and I didn't have a Bible. And it just so happened, there was a gentleman in a suit and tie from an organization known as the Gideons who just so happened to offer me a free green little New Testament Gideon Bible. And I just so happened to start reading that little Bible. And when I got to Ephesians chapter 2, I just so happened to read about the grace of God that you're saved by faith in Jesus through his grace and not by works. And I just so happened to cry and repent of all the horrible sins that I had committed.

And by the grace of Jesus, I was made into a new creation. It just so happened that I stopped dating girls to kind of detox and it just so happened one night that the electricity was out in the fraternity house. So I just happened to go to the library. And just so happened to meet a cute girl who just so happened to not be a Christian and came on to me. And I just so happened to be flattered that I almost gave into her. But it just so happened I stood strong on my faith and said, "No, I can't. Because I'm a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Back off, satan, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit". And she backed off and made fun of me. And it just so happened, a couple of months later I bumped into her again and it just so happened that she made fun of me because I probably deserved it. And she just so happened to tell me about this other girl who was equally weird like me. Her name was Amy. Yeah!

And it just so happened, she said I should meet Amy. And it just so happened I did meet Amy, right before graduating. It just so happened I had a really good job offer that just so happened to be in Houston, which was far away from Amy. But just before I moved to Houston, it just so happened I bumped into a guy who said there's a job with Honeywell. And I just so happened to interview that, turned down the better job for the sucky job, to stay with a good girl. Which just so happened to be brilliant and God-honoring and one of the best decisions that I ever made. And it just so happened at Honeywell that someone invited me to a Bible study downtown where there was a guy named Nick Harris who is teaching, who just so happened to be gifted at helping young people step into their calling and ministry. And I became a member of his church and he discipled me.

And I, all the way, look at where I am today, reading backwards and thinking, I thank God that my coach showed up at the wrong time. I thank God for his providence. The providential will of God is a lot like reading Hebrew, it's best when it's viewed backwards. And if you look at Ruth, what we're gonna find is, in chapter 4, she gets really blessed. But you have to remember that this was not like some of the previous chapters. If you were gonna title some of her previous chapters, you might have called one of them, Suddenly and Tragically Widowed. That would have been the title of a chapter. Another one would have been called The Faith to Leave Moab. Another chapter would have been called Broke and Broken in Bethlehem. And so if you find yourself hoping for a better chapter, you might wanna look for the providence of God.

You are not in your final chapter right now. God is still writing your story and there is more story for him to tell. The providential will of a very good God. The first thing you need for a better chapter is the providence of God. The second thing that you're gonna need is strategic plans. Strategic plans. Yes, planning is actually spiritual. In fact, I'm gonna show you what Boaz did, is pretty interesting. I like Boaz. He was not a pastor, he was not a prophet, he was not a priest. He was actually a business leader. And where he's going, he wasn't going to a Bible study, he wasn't going on a mission trip, he was actually going to a business deal. And God was all over this deal. You can be in business and please God all day long, I hope you understand that.

And so he goes to the city gate with this plan and he calls 10 business leaders together to be the witness. And he says, "Mr. No Name, I'm gonna make you an offer that you can't refuse". And he's actually working his plan. He tells him, "Hey, you remember Elimelech, he was married to Naomi? Well, you know, Naomi's widowed and so if you want his land, here's what you need to do". And here's what the text says: If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don't want the land, let me know right away because I'm next in line to redeem it. And the guy said, "All right, basically, okay, you wanna sell me this land for pennies on the dollar? I'll do it". And then Boas says, "Oh yeah, there's one more thing".

And he's working his strategic plan. He says, "I forgot to tell you," Boaz says, "that of course your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she could have children who will carry on her husband's name and keep the land in the family". In other words, you gotta raise babies and then you gotta give the land that you spend your money on back to their family and you don't even get to keep it. And Mr. No Name pumps on the brakes. "Hey, hang on, this wasn't the deal that I agreed to. You're telling me this deal comes with a couple of widows? And one is a Moabite woman and the other one is her grumpy mother-in-law? And I gotta provide for both of them and I gotta pay for the land and then I gotta give them the land? What kind of deal is this for me"?

And so Mr. No Name says this, he says, "Then I can't redeem it," the family redeemer replied, "because this might endanger my own estate". And he says to Boaz, "You redeem the land. I can't do it". Mr. No Name thought this chapter was titled "A Bad Investment". Boaz though, he was calling this chapter, "A Legacy Opportunity". And the author looks on and says, "I'm not even gonna dignify that selfish guy who was more concerned with his money than any type of ministry. We're just gonna call that guy Mr. No Name".

Boaz, he's working his plan. And when you look through this story, you see most people didn't have any kind of plan. Go all the way back to chapter one. You remember Naomi's husband, Elimelech? Remember his name means my God is king? He did not have a plan in Moab. There was no will, he left his wife high and dry. There was no plan. You may remember Ruth's husband, Mahlon? You remember the two guys named Sick and Tired. Okay, just making sure you've been with me. He didn't have a plan at all. Mr. No Name didn't have a plan. He couldn't see past today, he had no plan. And that's why I wanna remind somebody here that one of the most spiritual things you can do is make a plan.

One of the most spiritual things you can do is make a plan. In fact, I love what God's Word says in the Old Testament, Proverbs 21:5, that good planning and hard work, let's say it loud, the first thing, let's all say it, good planning and what else? And hard work. Lead to? Prosperity. But hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. Can I stay here for just a moment? Good planning. One of the most spiritual things you can do is create a plan. God had a plan, he sent his son. Good planning and hard work. We live in a culture where nobody wants to work hard. You want to eat? The Bible says you don't work, you don't eat you. There is such a reward to hard work. Good planning and hard work leads to a life of blessings and prosperity. But hastiness and shortcuts leads to poverty.

I would ask you this, what's your plan? Like, what's your plan? If you want a better chapter, have a better plan. What's your plan? Some of you say, well my marriage is struggling right now. What's your plan? Get a plan. Get a plan to be in a life group together. We're gonna go and we're gonna open up God's Word together and we're gonna let other people pour into our marriage and we're gonna receive in our marriage. Or we're gonna go into counseling. We're not gonna, we haven't been able to figure this out on our own so we're gonna go and get some help from godly wisdom to create a plan to help strengthen our marriage. Or financially, what's your plan? Some of your plan is just to spend more than you make. That's your plan.

As a plan, it's not a good one. But you might look on and say, this boat won't float. So instead you create a plan to cut up your credit cards, to start doing a debt snowball, to work a plan and to get out of trouble. What's your health plan? Eat, sleep, and eat some more. I mean, if you really wanna honor God with your health, you might develop a plan. Here's what I eat and when I eat and how I treat my body and go to the doctor and take some supplements and create a little workout plan. If all of your friends are stoned 80% of the time and they're all broke and they're all far from God, maybe you need a different plan when it comes to your inside friends. Because the decisions that you make today determine the story that you tell tomorrow. The decisions that you are making right now is writing the chapter that will be published tomorrow.

What do you need? The providence of God. And you want a good plan. So Boaz, he works his plan. And he goes and he buys the land and he becomes the kinsman redeemer. And verse 10 tells us this, verse 10 tells us: And the land I've acquired Ruth- And with the land, I've acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. And he says to everybody, "You are witnesses of this today". What is he doing? Boaz is joining his chapter with her chapter to create God's chapter. We're together through the providence of God, through strategic planning, and we're gonna find through powerful faith-filled prayer, God is entering this story and bringing out something more powerful than you can ever, ever imagine.

What do you need for a better chapter? You need the providence of God. You need some strategic plans. And the third thing is you'll wanna be praying some faith-filled prayers. Some faith-filled prayers. In fact, as we've gone through this Book of Ruth, you may or may not have noticed that prayer is all over the Book of Ruth. It's all over the Book of Ruth. Almost every prayer is a very, very short prayer. Sometimes people ask me, "Craig, how long do you pray every day"? And the answer would be somewhere between four and five hours every day. I don't pray that long. The truth of the matter is that I don't pray very many long prayers, but there are very few long periods of time that I don't go without praying.

There are very few long periods of time where I'm not talking to God in short bursts of prayer. And that's what you see all through the Book of Ruth. Ongoing conversation prayer. Let me show you some of the prayers in Ruth: Naomi prays, "May the Lord give you a husband". Ruth prays, "May the Lord deal with me if I leave you". Boaz prays, "May the Lord be with you". The workers pray, "May the Lord bless you". Boaz says, "May the Lord repay and bless you". Ruth says, "May I continue to find favor". Naomi says, "May the Lord bless the man who bless you". And Boaz says to Ruth, "May the Lord bless you".

And we see prayer, after prayer, after prayer, after prayer, after prayer. And then the elders pray a generous prayer of blessings in Ruth chapter 4:11. And the scripture says this: The elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, "We are witnesses! She's now your wife. May she be blessed with children. May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended. May she be like the women from whom the whole nation of Israel descended. And may you prosper in Ephrathan and be famous in Bethlehem. May the Lord make this woman, Ruth, the Moabite woman who turned to the God of Israel, may you make her like the women from the nation of Israel, that the whole nation descended and may you prosper and be famous in Bethlehem".

And I don't know about you, but I just happen to know someone else who's pretty famous from Bethlehem. His name is Jesus and he is all over this story. If you will see the providential power of God and if you'll see the strategic planning and the faithful prayers of the people, the providence of God is like reading Hebrew. It's best understood when you read it backwards. I wanna look at the story of Jesus backwards. What is the story of the gospel? The story of the gospel is this, that God so loved the world, God so loved you, you, that he gave his one and only son, Jesus, who was perfect, the lamb of God without sin, and was slain for the forgiveness of sins. He died on the third day. The stone was rolled away and he was not there. The tomb was empty. So that anyone, and this includes you, anyone who calls on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, you would be saved.

The gospel. It doesn't matter who you are, your sins can be forgiven. But reading backwards, before Jesus died and rose again, he actually prayed. And on the cross, he declared, "It is finished". And he prayed, "Into your hands, I commit my spirit". But before he died and before he rose again and before he prayed, Jesus was actually fulfilling God's strategic plan. God had a plan the whole time. And scripture tells us this plan: For God saved us and called us to a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it but because that was God's plan from before the beginning of time to show us his grace and his love and his mercy through Christ Jesus. And reading backwards, we know that Jesus was born without sin.

How did that happen? He came from the Virgin Mary. And the providence of God is just like reading Hebrew, is best when you read it backwards. Matthew 1:16 tells us, what did Mary do? Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. And where did that come from? Well, Mary was engaged to Joseph, whose father was Jacob. If you look in Matthew chapter 1, you see the lineage of Jesus. And if you look at things backwards, you say Jesus came from Mary and Joseph, who came from Jacob and Matthew, who came from Eleazar, from Eliud, from Akim, from Zadok, who came from Azor, from Eliakim, from Abiud, from Zerubbabel, from Shealtiel, from Jehoiachin, from Josh to Josiah, from Amon, from Manasseh, from Hezekiah, who came from Ahaz, from Jotham, from Uzziah, from Jehoram, who came from Jehoshaphat, who came from Asa, who came from Abijah, who came from Rehoboam, who came from Solomon, who came from David, who came from Jesse, who came from a guy named Obed, who was born from Boaz and from Ruth.

When you look backwards, you see the providential will, the power, the plan of a good God who is working the whole time, who is working in the good chapters and working in the dark chapters. That's right. Who is working in every single moment pointing toward the grace and glory and goodness of his son. So whatever chapter you're in, God is in it with you. He's still working and he's there. In God's providence and through God's plan and through the prayers of the saints for a savior, God offered salvation. Not because we deserved it but because that was his plan. So if you think about your next chapter, what do you need? The providential power of God, which is best if you're looking backwards. Oh that's how he used it and that's what he was doing. I didn't see it. But he was there all the time. And strategic planning. Good planning and hard work leads to blessings and prosperity. And a life of dependence on God.

I'm with you, God, I need you, God, direct my steps. I'm praying God. I'm depending on you, God. I'm not walking by sight, I'm walking by faith. God direct my steps, I need your guidance. I need your power, I need your wisdom. And all that together, God will help write your next chapter. It will be a chapter where he's glorified because he is with you and he is always good. So Father, today we ask for your power, your grace, your goodness, to do a work in our lives in a way that only you can do.

As you're praying today at all of our different churches, I wonder how many of you would say just real honestly right now, there's some part of your life that you wish wasn't in this chapter. You want something different. It could be for you, it could be for someone that you love, but you're believing God for a better chapter. Would you lift up your hands right now, just all around the room. Online, you can type it in the comment section, "I'm believing God for a better chapter".

Father, I pray, that even though we may not see you now, we thank you that you are here. That you're even with us in the chapters that we don't understand. So God help us to trust you, help us to see you. God help us to do our own part, to create a plan to be wise, to be good stewards, and God ultimately to depend on you in prayer. We pray, God, I pray, God, for miracles. I pray for those who are seeking healing and restoration, God, and provision and emotional peace, God, and miracles in relationships. God, I pray that we could see your power, see your presence, that you would work and you'd be glorified.

As you keep praying today, nobody looking around, God has a plan. And what I want you to know is God has a plan for you. And his plan isn't just to make you happy on this earth, it's not just to give you a better house. His plan is for you to know him, to be transformed, to be spiritually at peace and to have the God-kind of life. That's his plan. But you can't get there on your own. His plan was that he sent his son Jesus, the lamb of God, the perfect one, the sinless one, to be the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins so that anyone who calls on him, he'd hear their prayer, he'd forgive their sins. He'd make you brand new.

Today, there are many of you that you're watching, you're online, you're at a physical location that you recognize. You're not walking with God, you may not know God intimately. What I want you to know is that you are not here by accident. This is a part of his plan. And his plan is for you to say yes to the gift of salvation through Jesus. We can't earn it. We don't deserve it, it's his gift. Wherever you're watching from today, those who say, "I need it, what are we gonna do"? We're just gonna leave Moab, we're gonna leave the life of sin and we're gonna go toward Bethlehem. We're gonna go toward God and say, "I surrender my life to you, Jesus. You be first. You be the Lord of my life". When you call on him, he will hear your prayer, he'll forgive your sins. The old is gone and everything becomes new.

Wherever you're watching from today, those who say "I need his forgiveness, I know. I step away from my old life. I call on him. Jesus save me, Jesus make me new". That's your prayer today, you say, "I need him. I'm stepping away from my old life today. I surrender my life to him". That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now all over the place and say, "Yes, that's my prayer right here". And God bless you guys. And over here as well. Others of you today say, "Yes, Jesus, I surrender to you". Oh, come on. Praise God for you. Others today say, "Jesus, I need you. Be the Savior, the Lord of my life". On online, you can type in the comment section, "I'm surrendering my life to Jesus". Just type that, "I'm surrendering my life to Jesus". And we're all gonna pray:

Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus save me, make me brand new, fill me with your Spirit, so I could know you, so I could walk in your love, so I could show your love. Thank you for new life. You have all of mine. In Jesus' name I pray.

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