Craig Groeschel - Where Are You, God?
Well, it's on weekends like that that this, I get incredibly emotional seeing so many people come forward in their faith to say that their lives have been changed by Jesus, and to every single one of you that you've been baptized, I thank God for you. Thank God for His work. One story, just one. In Life.Church Catoosa, Karen being baptized. At the the same time you're being baptized, you've celebrating five years of sobriety. I thank God for you. I thank God for His work. That's one story of over 1400 people going public with their faith to declare that the old is gone and the new has come. And I don't ever want to lose sight of what God is doing in the lives of so many people.
Today we're starting a new message series and this one is personal to me. We're gonna be studying through the book of Habakkuk and I've written a new book on the book of Habakkuk. It's called Hope in the Dark, Believing God is Good when Life is Not. This book is not yet available to the public. It's available at some Life.Churches. We've sold out at many locations. You can pre-order anywhere online where books are sold. Amy and I are very honored to donate all of the proceeds of these books to the church and so buy a bunch. Buy a bunch. If you've read any of my books, this is the 15th book that I've written. This one is different. It's the most raw. If you read it, you'll say, it's very different. And I want to tell you the story behind this book because it's really important to me. The people that I work with in my office, we're like family. It's like we're in a daily spiritual war together and the bond is incredible.
One of the dearest people to my family is Adrianne Manning, who served with me in my office for years and years and years. She is, I love her more than I could describe. Adrianne and her husband, Danny. I've got a picture of them to show you. They're an amazing family. Several years back, they were praying and asking God to help them to conceive so they could get pregnant. It took a while. They were waiting, they were waiting, they were waiting. Nothing was happening. One day, Adrianne bound into the office and she went, and I knew it, you're pregnant. And she said, yeah. And we hugged each other and she started crying and I fought away the tears and we hugged again. It was amazing. Couple weeks went by and when she came back in the office, you could tell that it was one of the darkest days of her life. And she had lost the child. And we hugged again and we cried a different kind of cry and we hugged again. And I sent her home and said, don't come back for a while. Just be.
And I was so in this with her that I wanted to write something for her to give her as a gift. I'd been studying the book of Habakkuk and so I just took the words of Habakkuk and I started putting words to it. I thought it'd be a few pages. I wrote all night. I got up early before work the next day and wrote all morning and I wrote into the next night and the next morning. And I wrote a lot. Didn't mean to. And when she came back in, I said, I'm sorry it's so long but these words are for you. I gave them to her. She went home that night, she read them. She came back the next day and she said, Those words were for me. And that's it. I gave it to her. It spoke to her in a very real way and I put the document aside and I forgot about it. Years went by, years went by. A few years ago, my second daughter Mandy was getting married to James. The week before her wedding, she got really really sick. And we just knew, ah, this is unfortunate, it's inconvenient, it's too bad, but by the time her honeymoon's over, she'll be better. She wasn't. Couple weeks more, she'll be better. She wasn't. A few months more, she'll be better. She wasn't.
We started to wonder. I started to hurt. I started to ask questions. All right, God, why are You letting this happen? I remembered the words that God gave me for someone else, for Adrianne, and I thought, I'll read them. And it was as if God had given them to someone else for me. It spoke to me in such a real way. And so that's when I decided maybe this could be helpful to someone else. I called my publisher and said, Would you let me make that into a book? And that is the story behind the book on the book of Habakkuk, Hope in the Dark. Let's talk about Habakkuk. Everybody say, Habakkuk. Sounds like you just coughed up a fur ball. Habakkuk is an Old Testament minor prophet. Everybody say, minor prophet. He wasn't a major prophet. He was always in the minor leagues. He never got to play major league ball. #dadjoke, Dad joke, Dad joke. Work with me, it doesn't get better. I promise you. You're stuck with me, all right? He lived and wrote about 600 years before the birth of Christ. He was a very different prophet.
What do prophets do? Prophets speak to people on behalf of God. Habakkuk was not an ordinary prophet. He didn't speak to people on behalf of God but Habakkuk spoke to God on behalf of the people because he didn't like what God was doing. Judah had been blessed. Now there was the corruption and there was deception and instead of prospering, they were hurting and they were in poverty. And he just unleashes on God and 2600 years ago, Habakkuk is asking the very same question that so many people are asking today and he wanted to know, Why doesn't God seem fair? I know You could something about this, God, but You're not, and I don't understand. Habakkuk chapter 1, three chapters in the book of Habakkuk. Today we're in chapter 1. Verse 1, I'm not gonna read to you but essentially it says he received a prophecy. The Hebrew word is... It means an utterance. It means a doom. It means a burden. It's not just a prophecy. It's a dooming prophetic word. It's a burden. It's an utterance. It's a weight.
He receives this and he goes to God on behalf of the people and he asked a question in verse 2. How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, Violence, but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? You know what I'm saying? Why don't You heal my daughter? What I love about Habakkuk is he's just raw. He's real. And his name tells the story. His name tells my story. The name Habakkuk means to embrace and to wrestle. Habakkuk is doing everything he can to embrace who he knows God is but because what he sees doesn't line up with what he believes, he's wrestling with God. Embrace and wrestle. Let me state a warning. Everybody say, uh oh. Lean over your neighbor and say, Uh oh. Lean over your second favorite neighbor and say, I'm sorry you're my second favorite but uh oh to you too. As if this wasn't heavy enough already, uh oh. This is not a sitcom sermon. How many of you grew up watching sitcoms? If you're around my age, what was it, Brady Bunch, Happy Days. Maybe your era is Friends or The Office, whatever. What is a sitcom sermon? Most sermons are sitcom sermons. Most of my sermons are sitcom sermons.
Sitcom sermons are not bad theology. It's actually a very effective means of communication. What happens in a sitcom? At the beginning of the sitcom, everybody's happy. Then there's tension, there's drama, there's a problem, there's a challenge and by the end of a 30-minute sitcom including commercial breaks, every problem is resolved and the show's over. Most of my messages are sitcom sermons. There's us, there's a tension, there's God's Word, there's a solution. You can now go and have a great meal. We just had church. Sitcom sermon. This is not a sitcom sermon. In a sitcom sermon, what tends to happen is something like this. Let's say, you like your job. You lose your job. You're devastated, you pray. God gives you a better job and it's one with benefits and you sit by a really cute single guy and you're a single girl and the guy is the son of the owner of the business and you get married for a great time and then the father gives the business to the son and the son sells the business and you get married to that guy and you sell the business and you retire at the age of 33 and everything's amazing. That's a sitcom sermon.
God gives you a blessing. This is not a sitcom sermon. In life is not a sitcom. In life, everything is not resolved in 30 minutes or less, including commercial breaks. In life, sometimes things aren't resolved in 30 days or 30 years. In life, sometimes you lose your job and you don't get a better job but you don't get a job for a long time and you're highly educated and you get a job way below your education and you feel like a really big failure. Sometimes in life, you think you have a good marriage. You really love your spouse and your spouse betrays you and your spouse doesn't own what your spouse did but instead blames you for what you didn't do and leaves you and then you're all alone. Sometimes in real life, you love your life and then you get sick and the doctor says you have cancer. And you go to war against cancer and you pray and you have faith and fight it with chemo and you beat cancer. And you thank God. And then several years later, cancer comes back and you don't understand. You're wrestling and you're trying to embrace.
And then, some well-meaning Christian comes to the middle of your trial and says, Brother, Sister, trust the Lord. God is in control. All you need to do is let go and let God. And while their theology may not be bad and while their heart is good, the more they tell you to let go and let God, the more you want to do what the Bible says and that is to lay hands on them. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because though the theology may be good, at this moment, your faith feels wrecked and you feel raw. God doesn't feel good in the moment because you know He could do something and He doesn't. You don't understand why. Habakkuk feels like this. He asks a question in verse 3. Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me. There's strife and there's conflict, it abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. In other words, God, I don't really think You're doing what is right.
What are his problems with God? He's not speaking to the people on behalf of God. He's going to God on behalf of the people. He's got the very same problems with God that some of you have. What are his problems? Number one, You don't seem to really care, God. You allow all this suffering, all these things. He says to God, You aren't doing much when You could. You have the power and You're not. I don't understand. He does say to God, What You are doing doesn't seem fair. How many of you will be honest with me? Have you ever felt like, if you were God, you would do things differently? Raise your hands up, raise your hands up. Some of you are like, I'm not raising my hand up at church. Like duh, God'll strike me down. No no no, come on. If you're that, polish your halo and you just go be that. I'm gonna deal with the real people today. Where sometimes you just want to know, God, are You still even paying attention? Do You even care?
Here's a question. Is it okay to ever question God? Is it okay to push back on God? Is that wrong, is that unholy, is that unfair? About a third of the psalms are cries to God about pain. Or songs in the middle of trials that people don't understand. Several books of the Bible, entire books of the Bible, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah and Job express confusion of what appears to be unjust suffering for the righteous. Even Jesus, even Jesus, on the cross, when He was perfect in every way and He becomes sin for us. He never sinned. He becomes sin. And whatever God does, God looks away, God pulls back and Jesus cries out, Why? Why? I'm Your Son. I did everything right. Why would You pull away from Me? Let me explain it to you like this. If you're a follower of Christ, at some point, you had some version of this story. You are hurting or life is good or whatever, but you recognize there must be more to life and maybe you go to church and the Spirit of God touches you. It's in a song, someone prays for you, someone witnesses to you at your business.
You see something, you have a trial, a tragedy. You recognize you're doing life without God, whatever it is, and you call on Jesus and you experience His grace, His forgiveness, His mercy and boom, wow! Life is amazing. You're on the mountaintop and you go to church and every sermon is like it's just for you and like just God speaking to you and you're going to your car and the song on the radio is your favorite one. And you go to the mall and you get the perfect parking spot and you pray a prayer and God does it immediately and He gives you more and life is incredible. God is so good. Thank You, God. Life starts happening and some things go on that aren't so good. You go to church and the sermon was eh. It wasn't bad but, probably for somebody else. Get in the car, don't like the song. Go to the mall, you can't park anywhere. Pray a prayer. Not only does it not happen but the opposite happens. Then something bad happens.
Your daughter gets sick and she doesn't get better. You pray for Grandma and she dies. Your boyfriend, the Christian, cheats on you. The person you looked up to and admired does something wrong. The doctor gives you news that you never deserved. Whatever it is. Happens to all of us and life does this. And at some point, many of us have what Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God called A Crisis of Belief. God, if You're so good, why am I not here? Why am I right here? I don't know if You're involved. Do You even care? And about this point, most people think we've got one of two options. One is, unfortunately, what a lot of people do with good intentions, they just deny the bad. Okay, this isn't happening. This isn't happening. God is still good. This isn't happening. I'm just gonna kinda pretend like we're up here and I'm gonna deny, I'm gonna deny.
The other people say, well you know what, if I'm here and I'm not here and God's not doing any good then God must not be real. Just screw it all. Forget it. I tried church, I tried God, tried the Bible, forget it. And they're out. They think there's two options. There's not two options. There's a third option and that third option, in the middle of the pain is to wrestle. I don't get it. I'm confused. And as best you can to continue to embrace. And when you do this, does life get better? Oftentimes no, it doesn't. Sometime it continues to get worse and when it gets to worse, you often do what James said in the first book of his, first chapter of his book where he said you consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you can be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.
The way to true intimacy with God is not to live on the mountaintop. But it's to get to know His faithfulness in the valley. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod, Thy staff, they comfort me. This is my story, this is my story. I've got many versions of this. I was a non-Christian, partied my little brains out. Started hurting, called on Jesus in college. Boom, forgiven, changed, new, amazing. Went into business 'cause I was a business major. Fell so in love with Jesus, I gotta go serve a church. Took a salary cut from a lot down to next to nothing. Now I'm a pastor. Okay, now I need to go cemetery, excuse me, seminary. That's actually an intentional joke. The reason I joke about this, there are many great seminaries. I went to one for a year that was a very good seminary. I was forced to transfer to another one. I had no choice. The denomination made me. This seminary had some professors that didn't really believe in the Bible and other things.
That would be shocking to a lot of you but sometimes in some seminaries there would be intellectuals who have more head knowledge than heart faith and so some of my professors truly loved Jesus and a few didn't. Those of you who maybe were in this world and are old enough to remember there's something that was known as the Jesus Seminar. If my memory is correct, I think it is, it was actually on the cover of Time magazine. There were perhaps eight or so biblical scholars who wrote a book called The Critical Red Letters of Jesus. And in this book, these scholars got together and decided Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the red letters in your Bible that Jesus spoke, they decided which words He said and which ones He didn't say. Those that were in red, He definitely said according to these scholars. Those in pink, He probably said. Those that they put in gray, He probably didn't say. Those they decided were in black, He definitely didn't say.
One of those professors was my New Testament professor and in the middle of seminary, a guy who had tremendous faith in God, close to God, believed in God, found myself with a crisis of belief. Uh oh, is this stuff true? To tell you that I was scared goes beyond my ability to describe. I put everything on this and now, is it an illusion? Am I imagining? Did I make it up? Is God's Word not true? Should I pretend like what I'm hearing isn't real? Should I just say, forget it, I was wrong? Or should I wrestle with something I'd never encountered before and try to embrace? I wrestled, embraced, I went to my next class, next semester, next semester. Finally I had a professor that recommended a book called Theological Crossfire by Clark Pinnock and Delwin Brown. These two scholars debated one for the truth of scripture, one against scripture. Pinnock was for it. I don't even know if it's a good book. It's been years but in that moment at that time, Pinnock's argument for scripture was so convincing to me. Two brilliant minds. Pinnock was so convincing that my faith did this. Wow, maybe, maybe this is real.
Today, if my faith in God is here it's not because I stayed here. It's because I continued to wrestle and embrace through the valley to have it be stronger with God. If I'm in a crisis of belief with my daughter right now, and we're finding a new level of intimacy, it's not because we deny it, it's not because we walk away, it's because we continue to embrace. There's somebody here, this is what you need to do. You're in a crisis of belief. We all get there at some point. This is Habakkuk. God, this doesn't seem fair. I don't understand. Guess what God does? God responds to him and this is where it gets so exciting. Are you ready for God's response? If you're ready, say, I'm ready. Are you ready? Are you really ready? This is gonna blow you away. This is what God says. Here's God's response. God, I don't understand, You don't seem fair. This is what God says. Look at the nations and watch.
Here's what God says. And be utterly amazed. For I'm gonna do something in your days that you will not believe, even if you were told. Finally, God, You're going to do what's right. God, You're gonna relieve the pain. God, we're gonna be prosperous. God, we're gonna be blessed. We're gonna be utterly amazed, God. You're gonna do something that we wouldn't believe, even if we were told. In a sitcom sermon, now's the time that I would tell a story like this. I've told many stories like this. I've told this one before, but it's one of my favorites.
For years and years, I only flew in economy class. One time on an international trip was the first time ever I had ever been in business class. If you've never been in business class, let me tell you what. It is the closest thing to heaven on this side of heaven. You don't sit in little bitty chairs. You go and you sit in your own private little exclusive spa. It's a world of flying pleasure. Your seat doesn't just recline. It becomes an entire bed. Bed with vibrating features for your traveling pleasure. The flight attendants give you pajamas. Pajamas. While everybody else is cattled in, you're in pajamas. They come in and they bring you scented wet washcloths to cleanse your brow. They bring you five course meals and wait on you around the clock. If that were not enough, I said this before and if you have a fifth grade mind, you're going to giggle. But when they bring you your nuts, they warm your nuts. God as my witness, if you've got a potty mind, then just go ahead and go there, but I'm telling you, they warm your nuts.
And there is nothing better to come into the service that my wife Amy is not in because when she's not in, I have complete freedom to declare God's Word, in whatever way I feel is appropriate, God-honoring and true. Your nuts are warmed. If you've never had your nuts warmed, it's a fantastic experience. I'm a 50 year old man and now I'm a fourth grade boy. It's incredible, it's incredible. And then, what I always do in a sitcom sermon is I speak to the single girls because there's so many single girls that are dating stupid guys. Don't date stupid guys. Do not sell yourself out for a stupid guy. Don't settle for anything less. And so I tell them, he's not good and if he hurts you and he breaks up with you, do not worry because you are dating an economy class guy but God has an upgrade for you, sister. God has a business class boyfriend, and I'm not gonna make any references to the nuts at this point. We're gonna leave it where it is. But this is not a sitcom sermon.
God says, you ready for this? I'm about to intervene and you're gonna be amazed. It's gonna be unlike anything you've ever seen before. You wouldn't believe it if I told you. Then God tells him He's gonna use the Babylonians. And if you don't know who the Babylonians are, they're the bad guys. They're the enemies. And God says this. God says, you ready, you're not gonna believe this. I'm raising up your enemies. I'm raising up the Babylonians, the ruthless and impetuous people who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are feared and dreaded people. They all come intent on violence. God says, You think it's bad now. It's about to get worse and I'm gonna use your enemies to bring justice because of your sin. And this makes absolutely no sense to Habakkuk. What do you do when you find yourself there? I wrote about this in the book. What does a committed believer do? A committed believer can both wrestle with honest questions and embrace a genuine faith in God. You could do it at the same time.
I want you to watch as Habakkuk does this. He tries to embrace and yet he doesn't understand and he's wrestling. Watch it, see it, feel it. He embraces, he says in verse 12, Lord, are You not from everlasting? I'm embracing You, God. My God, my Holy One, You'll never die. I'm embracing You. But God, You've appointed our enemies to execute judgment on You. I'm wrestling. My Rock, I'm embracing, but You've ordained them to punish, I'm wrestling. God, Your eyes are too pure to look on evil. I love You, I'm embracing. You cannot tolerate wrongdoing, I'm embracing. But why do You tolerate the treacherous, I'm wrestling. Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up these more righteous than themselves? I'm trying to embrace, I'm trying to wrestle. Listen to me, if you are there right now, what I want you to know is that God understands your pain. He welcomes your questions and I am convinced that God would rather have you yell at Him than walk away from Him.
When you hit the wall, when you hit the crisis of belief, don't deny your doubts. Don't run from God. Let your doubts drive you to continue to embrace even when you wrestle with God. This is where I've been for two years and four months with my daughter who hurts every day. Adrianne, the words I wrote for you, these are the words that ministered to me. This just, this was what knocked me off. The words God gave to me for somebody else were words that God had for me. What if honestly acknowledging your doubts is your first step toward building a deeper faith? What if embracing your secret questions opens the door for a maturing knowledge of God's character? What if drawing closer to God, developing genuine intimacy with Him, requires you to bear something that feels unbearable? To hear Him through an ominous utterance, to trust Him in the moment of doom, to embrace His strength when you're weak with a burden? What if it takes real pain to experience deep and abiding hope? Let me tell you more than you care to know about writing a book. What most people don't understand is when you write a book, you turn the manuscript in a year or more before the book comes out.
So I finished this manuscript well over a year ago. With everything in me, I wrote about Mandy, I wrote about my own faith struggles. I just knew, I knew, I knew, I knew that late in the editing process, I would add an appendix and in the appendix, I would have the miracle story. She was sick and now she's not. There is no appendix. We're still in chapter one. There's three chapters. Let me warn you, chapter two's not much better. Don't walk away from God in chapter one. You ready for the good ending of the sermon? There's not one. Sermon's over. It's not a sitcom sermon. Chapter one. So Father, I pray for those today who find themselves in chapter one. I pray they'd have the courage and feel the permission to wrestle while they try to embrace. At all of our churches right now, I have a heavy heart for those of you who need prayer. Questions, don't understand. Who are wondering, you're hurting. Those of you who would say, Craig, would you pray for me? I want to embrace, but I am wrestling. Would you lift up your hands right now today just all over the place, just all over the place?
God, I thank You that, I thank You You've given us this book and it gives us permission to just sometimes tell you we don't like it, we don't understand, we don't even agree. But God, somehow, help us cling to Your character, Your nature, to believe that You are good, even when life is not. And God, I pray for someone who feels like they've tried it, tried You, want to walk away. God, I pray they wouldn't walk away. God don't, please help us, God, not to let our doubts drive us away from You. But God, enable us to allow our doubts to drive us to You. Give us the faith, God, give us the courage not to pretend to be real, to be raw. Even while we're wrestling, God, help us to continue to embrace.
As you keep praying at all of our churches, there's some of you right now, you're hurting and you're in a really low spot. I'm not gonna tell you God caused that, but I will tell you, I think sometimes God may allow it. Sometimes people say, well God will never let you experience more than you can handle. That's a misinterpretation of a verse that says God will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. I really believe sometimes God will allow us to have more than we can handle because it teaches us to call on Him. Some of you right now, like me back in college, the weight of my sin caught up to me. I felt so guilty, so alone, so dirty, so vulnerable, so bad, so I tried so hard to be good, but I couldn't, because you just can't be good enough. And that's why God is so good, because He loved us enough to send His Son, Jesus, who was perfect in every way who was without sin to die in our place on the cross so that we could be forgiven. He was raised from the dead.
Imagine this, He dies. It's dark. Where is He, where's God? Where's God? Next day, He's dead, He's dead, He's dead. Chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, day three, the stone is rolled away and He is not there. He is risen from the dead, why? So that anyone, and this includes you. Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter what you've done, doesn't matter how much you hurt, doesn't matter how bad your life has been, anyone who calls on the name of Jesus would be saved, forgiven, not just saved from your sins but saved for a life that matters. There's some of you, you know it, you sense it. You're here not by accident. You are here because God brought you here for this moment. You need Jesus, you need His grace, you need His love, you need His salvation.
At all our churches, those who say, that's me, I turn from my sin, I turn toward Him. I give Him my life, lift your hands high now, all over the place. Lift them up and say, that's me, right back there, ma'am, right there, God bless you there. Leave them up if you will. Let me just find you. Sir, praise God for you. Sir, right back over here. Sir, right back over here. Over here in this section. Here in this middle section, sweetheart. Others of you right back here, oh my gosh, right back here, ma'am, right here. Wipe those tears away. Wipe those tears away. Right back over there, praise God for you. Way back over here. Oh my gosh, over here in this section. Church online, you just click right below me. Here in the middle section. Call on the name of Jesus. He is here, He cares, He is good. Would you join your voices in prayer with those around you? Nobody prays alone.
Heavenly Father. Take my life. Forgive my sins. Make me brand new. Fill me with Your Spirit So I could serve You And follow You Every day Of my life. I trust You. I embrace You And I'm willing to wrestle. Use me To show Your love. Thank You for new life. Now You have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.