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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - Do This to Get Closer to God

Craig Groeschel - Do This to Get Closer to God

Craig Groeschel - Do This to Get Closer to God
Craig Groeschel - Do This to Get Closer to God
TOPICS: Think Ahead

If you could ask God for one thing and only one thing, what would you ask God to do for you? Think about that. If you could ask God for one thing and only one thing, and you cannot say, I know what some of you're thinking, you're thinking, "I'd ask him for more wishes". You can't do that. That's off the table. If you could ask him for one thing and not more things, what would you ask him for? I asked some people and some of my friends are funny. I asked somebody, "What would you have God do"? And they said, "I'd have God help me win the lottery". Someone else said that, "I would ask God to eliminate cellulite". Another person said they would ask for a lifetime gift card for Chick-fil-A. Christian chicken for the glory of God. That's what they would ask for.

But more people were really serious when I asked, "If you could ask God for one thing, what would you ask God to do for you"? And a lot of people said, "I would ask God to heal someone that I love that is sick". There were a lot of people that said, "I would ask God to save a marriage that's very broken". There were a lot of people that said, "I would pray that God would bring someone that I love who's far from God into a relationship with God". There were a few people that said, "I would ask God to help me overcome this addiction that I've been unable to overcome". A few people said, "I would ask God to deliver me from anxiety". There were some that were even thinking bigger than that. One person said, "I would ask God to end human trafficking". And someone else said, "I would ask God to eliminate world hunger". It's an interesting question. If you could ask God for one thing, what would you ask God to do for you? This question is very, very important because it reveals what you value most.

Today, we're gonna look at King David from the Old Testament. When we talk about King David, I don't know about you, but sometimes when I read about him, he seems like bigger than life. He killed a giant. He wrote Psalms. He defeated nations. But I wanna show you today that you actually have more in common with David than you might realize, especially when it comes to his decision making. Because, just like you, he had really good intentions, but, just like me, he didn't always make the best decisions. When you look at King David, you know he valued family, he valued relationships, but he decided many times to avoid conflict to his detriment. He wanted to please God with righteous living, but he gave into different types of temptation, including compromising sexually.

And when he did, what did he do? He decided to lie about it. He decided to cover his tracks. His unwise and unhealthy decisions ended up hurting his marriage. It ended up costing him the life of a child. His boys were a mess. One of his sons got into all sorts of trouble. Another one of his sons turned against him and, literally, led a revolt trying to take the life of his own father. And then, David, in a painful moment, made a decision that negatively impacted thousands of people. I hope this is encouraging to you, because even with all of his shortcomings, and there are so many, David was still known as a man after God's own heart.

Today, we are launching into a new message series called "Think Ahead," based on a new book that I have launching this Tuesday, "Think Ahead: 7 Decisions You Can Make Today for the God-Honoring Life that You Want Tomorrow". In this message series, we're gonna talk about decision-making because, let's be honest, all of us wanna make really good and wise and healthy and helpful and God-honoring decisions, but we often don't live up to our good intentions, right? To make sure I'm not up here by myself. Some people, none of you, but some people that go to another church eat more than they should. Some people, none of you, but people that I've heard about spend more than they make. Some people say things they shouldn't say, and, a lot of us, we do things we shouldn't do.

So, instead of waiting to make decisions later on, when we may not be at our best, when we might be tired, or we might be emotional, as often as possible, what we're gonna do is we're going to think ahead. We're going to pre-decide. In fact, the book "Think Ahead" is based on a message series we did a few years ago called "Pre-Decide". We're gonna do all new content in this message series and we're gonna look at six different people in the Bible and see how they actually thought ahead. And we're gonna study the pre-decisions that they made, and I'll show you where we're going over the next six weeks. Today, we're gonna look at King David and we're gonna see that he pre-decided to prioritize intimacy with God. Next week, may be my favorite in the whole series certainly, perhaps, the most important for our culture today, we're gonna look at Job who made a decision to pursue purity no matter what.

Then week three, we're gonna look at Hannah, who made a decision to trust God, pre-decided, no matter what happens, she would trust God. Then we're gonna look at Nicodemus, who decided that he's always, no matter what, going to seek truth. And then we're gonna look at Abraham who pre-decided, "No matter what God asked me to do, I will obey him". And we're gonna look at Joseph who decided ahead of time that even when it didn't make sense, he would pre-decide to believe God's calling for his life.

Today, though, we start with David, who, before anything else, and amidst all of his shortcomings and mistakes, he pre-decided to prioritize intimacy with God. Now, why would he do that? Why would he decide that being close to God is a worthy pursuit? And the answer is he pre-decided to do that because you never end up close to God accidentally. I've been in ministry for over 30 years, and I've never met anybody who said, "I was just binge-watching Netflix, scrolling on the 'Gram, and, all of a sudden, I was full of the word of God and started quoting the word powerfully". No one ever said that. No one ever said, "I was just sitting there smoking a ciggy and drinking my drink, suddenly, I was witnessing to people and leading them to Jesus". Nobody ever said, "I was cussing out traffic and, all of a sudden, I had the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control".

Nobody did that, because there is no such thing as intimacy without intentionality. You know this. In your marriage, you don't get close if you don't work on getting close. You'll never be really close with your children accidentally, and the same is true with God. You will never be close to God accidentally. It takes intentionality to experience intimacy with God. So, we're gonna watch, as David teaches us how to think ahead, how to pre-decide to pursue intimacy with God, and we'll see it when he answers the question. If we ask David, "If God could do one thing for you, what would you ask God to do"?

This is how David would respond. Psalm 27, David would say, "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek," before I tell you what he said, let me tell you what he didn't say. He didn't say this, "One thing I seek from the Lord, that I may be the happiest person that ever lived". He didn't say this, "One thing I seek from the Lord, that I may have more money than anybody else alive". He didn't say this, "One thing I want from God, and that is a bigger palace with better countertops". He didn't say that, but he could have. He didn't ask for world dominance. He didn't even ask for TikTok fame. David said this, "The one thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple".

This one thing I ask above anything else that I may be in the presence of God, that I may experience the glory of God, that I may dwell and see his beauty in the temple. If God would gimme one thing, it would be that I would be close to him, intimate with him, hearing his voice, and having him direct my steps. If you want to be close to God, you will never be close to God accidentally. I would suggest that if it's a value to you, you pre-decide to prioritize intimacy with God. This is something that I do, and I wanna tell you why I do it, because the reasons that I do it will be the very reasons that you will want to do it as well. Why do I prioritize intimacy with God?

Number one, I'll just tell you right now, point blank, is I am desperate for God's presence. I'm desperate. I'm desperate right now, today, in this moment, now. I need his comfort. I need his strength. I need his power. I need his wisdom. I need his word directing my steps. I'll tell you, what's going on in my life, it would be very similar to yours. I don't say this to complain. This is just kinda where we are. To be transparent, I have daughters who are battling ongoing significant health issues that wreck me as a dad. Amy and I have a very, very close couple friend who is living in, the only way I could describe it is an ongoing daily nightmare that is indescribable to see what they're going through and to try to support them. We are pastoring a family that experienced a very, very horrific and tragic death.

Oh, and I have a book coming out on Tuesday and I'll preach four sermons this week in three different cities, and my fourth and last daughter is getting married in one month, which is breaking my heart, and I actually like the guy, and I wish I didn't like the guy, and I'm trying not to like the guy, but I do like the guy, which makes it even worse. And, in the middle of the church, there are always painful and complicated decisions with ongoing stress that I try to give to God, but sometimes I don't give it to God, and it manifests in this really nasty skin problem that I continue to battle with that keeps me awake at night and I can't sleep. So, yes, I'm desperate. I'm desperate for God's presence. David was like this.

One thing I ask, I want the presence of God, because if you look through his life over and over and over again, even when he had the blessings of running the kingdom, he was desperate for the presence of God. I'll give you just one example of what would be dozens. In Psalm 63, commentators tell us he was likely in a wilderness running from his son. Imagine if your son wanted to kill you and is leading an army to come after you, and he's most likely hiding from his son when he wrote these words, "You, God, are my God. Earnestly I seek you, I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I've seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because, God, your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you".

Man, that's intimate and that's desperate. "I thirst for you. I long for you". The Bible talks about the reality that we can actually be friends with God, which is an amazing thought that the Holy God would allow us to call him a friend. But, let's be honest. What David wrote there, that's like beyond friendship language, right? I mean, I've got some pretty good friends. I mean, some guys I've been friends with for a long time and I've never one time ever said, "Dude, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, because I've seen your power. You can bench press 225 pounds 15 times. Because I've seen your power, your love is better than life". I've never said that. That's like way beyond friendship. That's deep. That's personal. That's desperate. "I need you, God, today, my very being longs for you".

Some of you are gonna say, "I don't have that. I don't have that". You might say, "I believe in God and everything kinda, but I don't have that". And I would say to most of you, "Of course you don't have that". Why? Because every demon in hell will lie to you and tempt you to distract you from chasing after God and instead of pursuing anything and everything else but God. And that's where people are today. Maybe this will make me happy and maybe that'll make me happy. Maybe this and maybe that, maybe anything but God. And that's why I wanna tell you, just like me and just like David, whether you know it or not, you are desperate for God. I don't know what your story is, but you go long enough and you're gonna do something dumb. You're gonna... You know what I do that's dumb? You know how you shave your eyebrows.

Some of you know this. Like I know this. I had a little shaver thing and I took the filter, blocker off. I thought maybe I can get it tighter. I shaved the whole thing off. I need God. Just like I thought I looked good. We do dumb stuff. We do sinful stuff. Some of you, you need the forgiveness of God now. Some of you, you've been trying to change something and you cannot change it on your own. You need the power of God to change in you what you cannot change. Some of you, even right now you are thinking there is some external something that will fill that longing on the inside. Maybe a little more money. Maybe a little more stuff. Maybe a little more luxury. Maybe a little more time off. Maybe a little better person than the person I'm with right now. Whatever it is. Nothing can or ever will fill that void because it's a God-shaped void that only he can fill. That's why we pre-decide.

I choose ahead of time to intentionally, passionately, faithfully, and consistently pursue intimacy with God. Because like David, I am desperate for God's presence. Number two, I am desperate for God's Word. Desperate for his word. Why do I need his word? Well, Amy and I have been married now for almost 33 years, and I love this girl with all of my heart. We just had Valentine's Day last week. I'll tell you what we do. We ignore Valentine's Day. This isn't a part of the sermon, this is extra. You didn't pay for this, this is free. We ignore Valentine's Day because we're not gonna let society to tell us to be extra loving on some random day.

So, we love each other every day. February 13th, she gets flowers and a card. February 15th, she gets half-priced chocolates, because we're good stewards and we're honoring God. And how do I know her and why do I love her? Because we talk intimately. It's the words that we exchange that create the knowledge that leads to the love and the intimacy that we have. How do you get to know God? It's by reading his word. His word is his love letter to you that reveals who he is and what his purpose and will is for you and for us as a body of Christ. We don't read his word because we have to. We read it because we want to. I read it because I'm desperate for it. In fact, if you watch the way David described the word of God or what he called the law, the scripture, this is how David described it in Psalm 19. He used several adjectives to describe the word of God.

This is what he said. He said, "The instructions of the Lord," and this is the word of God, "they are perfect and they revive the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord, they are clear, giving insight for living. They are more desirable than gold". The most valuable imagery that he could give at this time. "They are sweeter than honey". David says, "This is the word of God". What does the word of God do for you? God's Word will do whatever you need it to do. God's Word will give you whatever you need to receive. When you're sad or hurting, God's Word encourages you and builds your faith. If you're confused, God's Word is a lamp unto your feet, a light to your path. God's Word will guide your steps. Whenever you're lonely, God's Word will comfort you. Whenever you're hurting, God's Word will give you hope. Whenever you're weak, God's Word will build your faith and give you strength.

I don't know when it'll appear, but 2:00 am in the morning, if you can't sleep because you're anxious about something, you can quote the word of God that you're desperate for and tell yourself, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation with prayer and petition, I make my request known to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind and my soul in Christ Jesus". When you're wearing down and don't feel like you can go on, you'll quote the word of God, "Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time I will reap a harvest from my God if I do not give up". Whenever you're afraid of what's coming at you, you just preach the word to yourself. "My God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind". When you feel stuck, you tell yourself, "I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will bring it about into completion".

When you're hurting 'cause your daughter's still sick, you run to God who promises that he is your refuge and your strength. Your ever present help in a time of trouble. And no matter what happens, you tell yourself the word of God, "The Lord my God is with me. Therefore, I will not be shaken". Whether you know it or not, you are desperate for God's Word. Sweeter than honey. It's better than gold. You're desperate for it. I am... I'll tell you right now, just as plainly as I can, I am desperate for God's presence. I need his strength, his wisdom, his comfort, the power of his spirit. I'm desperate for his word. I need it to convict me, to correct me, to strengthen me, to encourage me, to give me wisdom, and to guide my steps.

And the third thing I'm desperate for, I pre-decide to prioritize intimacy with God because I'm actually desperate for God's church. Desperate for God's church. And I want you to see just how desperate David was as well. This is what he said in Psalm 122. He said this. David said, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" Leave the verse up there if you don't mind. I rejoice with those who said, "Hey, let's all go to church together". Notice what David didn't say. He didn't say, "I rejoice with those who said, 'Let's sleep in today and maybe we'll go to church next week.'" Didn't say that, right? He didn't say, "I rejoice with those who say, 'I am a Christian, but I don't need the church.'" He said, "I rejoice with those who said, 'Let's go together, corporately as the body, to worship the goodness of God in his temple.'"

Why do we do that? Because God is good, because he is worthy of our praise, and, selfishly, 'cause we all got stuff. I mean, I do. I've got a hurt. And I actually don't just need God. I need God through you, honestly. Sometimes I like the presence of God with skin on. When someone else praise with me and for me. I need the body of Christ like I need you. And whether you know it or not, you need me. We're desperate for each... We are desperate for the church. And I got to thinking, it's pretty special. Virtually every blessing in my life, in my marriage, virtually every blessing I can trace back to God's faithfulness through the church, I'll give you just a short rundown, I could go much longer than this, I don't wanna bore you, but this is true for me. Every blessing.

If you go all the way back to when I was five or six years of age at First United Methodist Church back in Beaumont, Texas, communion Christmas Eve service, I told my mom afterwards, "I feel called to be a pastor". No reason, no foreshadowing, just in the church. That's what I felt as a kid. I was drawn to God going to the Methodist Youth Group. I was voted to be the president of the Methodist Youth Group, but I wasn't a Christian. And I realized when they asked me to pray out loud, I didn't know how to pray, and that was confusing. I went to college on a partial athletic scholarship, partial church scholarship, because I was a president even though I wasn't a Christian, and it was in college that someone gave me a free Bible, and I read the Bible and I gave my life to Jesus.

And the very first thing I did was find a church nearby and went to church. It was in the church that I made new friends that were Christians. It's funny, before I was a Christian, I thought all of my friends were Christians. After I became a Christian, I realized none of them were Christians. That's what happened. It was in the church that I made new friends. It was in the church that I was discipled to learn the word of God and to help walk away from some of the sins that had held me hostage for so many years. It was in the church I started to learn God's Word. It was in the church that I learned how to not be selfish and to give and to tithe. It was from someone in the church that I heard about Amy. Then someone else confirmed that she is, "Very godly, passionate, Jesus-follower. You should go out with her". And our first date, we went to my Bible study and went to a Bible study from her church. We grew together spiritually in the church. We felt called by God to serve him together in the church.

I proposed to Amy in front of everybody at the church. We did our premarital counseling with my pastor at the church. We were married and shared our vows before God at the church. I preached my first sermon in the church. Today, I have the richest group of friends you could ever imagine. Lifelong friends that I found and formed all through God's church. All six of my children were baptized in the church. They all found out who they are in Christ through the church. They are all grown now and all serving Jesus in the church. My four daughters met four guys in the church and married them. My son met his girlfriend in the church and married her. My extra son is dating a girl that he met in the church, and that's kinda how it goes. All of them are serving Jesus today. And you say, "Why"? And I'll tell you right now, it's not because we are good parents, it's because the church helped disciple my children to become followers of Jesus. And I'll tell you this, and this is just true. Never ever one time did we ever say, "Are we gonna go to church this weekend"? And, "Of course, you didn't, because you're the pastor".

Listen, when we were not pastors and we were dating, we went to the church. We didn't go to church because we're pastors. We went to church because we're Christians, period. When we go on vacation, what do we do? We find a church and go to church because that's what we do. The church blessed my children, discipled my children. What is the church? The bride of Christ Jesus. That I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against every blessing that I have in my life, I can trace back to God's hand through the church. David said this about those who are planted in the church. He said, "The righteous are planted," rooted, "in the house of the Lord. They will flourish in the courts of our God". The blessings, the best blessings of God, I believe with all my heart, are found with his people in the church.

And a lot of you're gonna say, "That's not my story. I don't have that". Well, let's just start there, and say, "You know what? You can start today". You can pre-decide. You can think ahead and pre-decide today to pursue intimacy with God. Because whether you know it or not, hear me when I tell you, you are desperate for his presence and you are desperate for his word, and you are desperate for his presence through his people in his body that he calls the church. And so, I just encourage you to think ahead and recognize, not only do you need him today, but you are really going to need the presence of God in the future. And so, what do you do? You pre-decide to seek him today. Because you're never gonna have intimacy without intentionality.

If I could ask you what one thing could God do for you, if you realize just how desperate for him you really are, your biggest answer, your immediate answer would be, "God, I just need you. I need you. I need your presence with me. I need your work correcting, convicting, and strengthening me. And I need you, your love through your people in the church". Because whether you know it or not, every single moment, you are desperate for him. And so, I dunno about you, but I'm gonna decide today. I'm not waiting for an emergency in the future. I wanna be very, very close to him today. Because whether you know it or not, listen to me, you are desperate for God.

So, Father, we come to you, and, God, we thank you for your love, your grace. We thank you that you are everything that we need.

Here's what I'm gonna ask you to do, Church, a little something different. Why don't you go open up your eyes right now. I'm gonna assume that all of you are gonna have one of these three things you need. We're just gonna assume you're gonna need one of these three things. Some of you need to seek God's presence. In other words, you need maybe intimacy with him in prayer. Some of you, you've been neglecting his word. You need to seek him in his word. Others of you, but you guys are kinda quiet, you're here today, some of you online. I may be talking to you right now. We miss you. If you could come to church, we really miss you. We're still here and we miss you.

Some of you are hit and miss, like right now, with those busiest schedules are. Some of you, you come to church once a month, once every six weeks or so, and you might just pre-decide, "Hey, no matter what, if we're in town, we're not gonna talk about it. We're just people of God. We come to church". I'm gonna ask you, if you had to choose one of these three, which one would be yours? Presence, seeking God in prayer and presence? The word or church, is a consistent part of your life? Let's raise your hands. The first one, presence. Lift up your hands right now. Lift up your hands. Those of you who say the word, I gotta seek God in the word, yeah. Those who say church is gonna be, "I'm gonna pre-decide church is a part of what we do". Praise God for you.

God, I just ask that in this moment we would make some decisions, maybe just one decision, that will help us become more intimate with you. And, God, I thank you that it says, "When we draw near to you," your word promises, "whenever we draw near to you, you draw near to us". So, God, in whatever way we pre-decide to draw near to you, we thank you, God, that you will meet us exactly where we are. And, God, I praise you that you have exactly what we need. We choose to seek you, God.

As you keep praying today, nobody looking around, there are some of you, if we just kinda sat down and could have an intimate conversation, and I just ask you, "Where do you stand with God"? Some of you would answer like, "Um," first thing you do is, "Um," and then you tell me some kind of story, but it would lack confidence, that it would lack intimacy, and it would lack clarity. I believe with all my heart that God doesn't want you to have an, "Um," when you answer that question. I believe he wants you to know him intimately.

Let me tell you about how good he is. Our God is a relational God. The first thing he did is he spoke. And when he spoke, he created man. He created man because he wanted to love man. And he created a woman for man. And God showed his love for us, not by shouting from heaven, but by coming to earth in the person of his son, Jesus. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God who was perfect in every way, never sinned. Jesus gave his life on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. You could say God pre-decided to send his son while we were still sinners. Scripture says, "Jesus died for us". And the good news is we know he did not stay dead. Three days later, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus defeated death, hell in the grave. Why did he do this? He did this so that anyone, and this includes you no matter what you've done, no matter where you are, anyone who recognizes your desperation for God could call out to him through Jesus. And when you do, God hears your prayers. Scripture says, "God forgives your sins. He separates your sins from you as far as the east is from the west".

Today, there are some of you, it's time for you to decide on this day, "As for me, I am a follower of Jesus". You may feel unworthy. You may feel like you need to clean up first. No, you just come to him exactly as you are right now. You come to him and say, "Yes". God is loving you. You are not here by accident. Those who say, "I don't really know where I stand with him. I don't really know". Today, by faith, as you call in his name, he will hear your prayer, he will forgive your sins, you will never be the same. All of our churches, those who say, "Yes, that's me. I'm ready to decide to give my life to him. I'm not playing around. I'm stepping away from my sin. I'm surrendering my life to Jesus today". That's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high right now all over the place and say yes. But praise God for you right here. Others of you say, "I choose today to surrender my life". Lift up your hands high right now. Right back over here. Both of you. I praise God for you. Others today who say, "Yes, Jesus, I surrender. Would you be the Lord of my life"? And I'm gonna ask all of you today at all of our churches to pray with those around you. Pray:

Heavenly Father, would you forgive my sins? Jesus, save me. Make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could walk in your presence, so I could know your word, and so I could be strong in your church. Thank you for forgiveness. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine in Jesus' name I pray.

Could somebody worship him right now? Give thanks to God today. Welcome those born into God's family. Do you wanna keep learning how to think ahead and make better decisions? We've got even more videos ready for you right now. Click here to get more content on how to make great decisions.
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