Craig Groeschel - I'll Fly Away
I want to start off today and I want to ask a very serious and very important question and I need the participation of everybody at all of our Life.Church locations. How many of you when you were a child played with a toy called the Jack-in-the-Box? Raise your hands. How many of you hated that toy when you were a child? Yeah I did too, I did too. I have a Jack-in-the-Box. Whoever thought that this would be a good toy to give to young innocent helpless children? I'll demonstrate for you. Is that creepy music or what? I mean like creepy, demonic, scary music. At any time, at any moment, you don't know when but when you least expect it, Jack is coming to terrorize your kids. I hate this toy. Get back in the box.
If you're new with us, we're doing a message series called How Sweet the Sound, we're talking about classic hymns of the faith, the stories behind them and the theology around them. I was at a pastor's conference recently and one of the pastors there asked me, Craig what is your biggest concern for the American church? I thought it was an interesting question. Honestly when I look at the church today, there are so many things that make me optimistic and full of faith, my concerns or not the top things on my list as much as the things that I'm excited about, but he asked the question, the first thing that came to my mind and I didn't think it through but I said, the first thing that comes to my mind, is that I'm afraid that too many people that call themselves followers of Jesus, love this world too much. Too much love for this world and because of that we who are Jesus followers often live with a very real spiritual complacency.
There's not an urgency for us to do the things of God because I think so many of us in our culture that call themselves Christians are too in love with this world. How do you see it? You see it when people are more concerned with what other people think about them than they are with what God thinks about them. You see it when we are more passionate about our own comfort than we are about God's calling. You see it whenever we're more concerned about what we have than who we are becoming for the glory of God. Sure we believe in God, yes we'll pray to God when we need Him, we'll worship Him when we feel Him, we'll give whenever it's convenient for us, because we are so consumed with loving the things of this world and we want God to give us more of them. Yeah we prayed the prayer, yeah we did the Jesus thing, yeah we go to church, but now we hope that God does what we want, to give us the life on earth that we think that we should have and we deserve. My biggest concern is that we're too in love with this world and that results in a very, very real spiritual complacency.
That's why for this message I have one hope and I have one prayer, if you were to ask me to tell you what I'm asking God for to do, this is my prayer. My prayer is that God will give us, give you, give me, give God's church, God would give us a hope for eternity and urgency for today. My prayer is that God would give us a hope for eternity and urgency for today. In order to prepare the environment for God to do such a thing, I want to talk about the lyrics to the hymn, I'll Fly Away. If you didn't know this song before, this song is actually the most recorded gospel album in all of the history of the world. There are over 5000 different recorded versions of this gospel song, I'll Fly Away. It was written by a man named Albert Brumley who was born in 1905 in Spiro, Oklahoma.
Now at all of our different churches, some of you may not know but I am from Oklahoma. And I do not know where Spiro, Oklahoma is. I looked it up, I know it's close to Life.Church Fort Smith, Arkansas, I know there's 2168 people living in Spiro. I did some research, they do not have a Wal-Mart but they do have a Sonic and at least one stoplight in Spiro, Oklahoma. I'm assuming that tornadoes flow through Spiro, Oklahoma because tornadoes flow through anywhere that has a name beginning with the state in Oklahoma. He was born in Spiro, Oklahoma in the year 1905. Albert grew up in a very, very impoverished family. As a little child, in order to help pay the bills, he would work along with his siblings and his parents picking cotton, just to contribute to the family.
When Albert was five years of age, his older brother died of typhoid fever. And so he was very aware with grief and with poverty he wrote the lyrics to this song while he was in college but he says, they were actually born in his heart when he was hurting as a young child. He was longing, not for the blessings of earth but he was longing for the glory of heaven. And this is what Albert Brumley wrote. Some glad morning, when this life is over, I'll fly away, to a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away. When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away, like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away. My prayer is that God would give us a hope for eternity and an urgency for today. If there's one part of our faith that I believe can give us a hope for eternity and an urgency for today that's talking about what this song talks about and that is the second coming of Christ, when believers will be taken from this earth to dwell with God in heaven. It's called the rapture, the second coming of Christ, the return of Christ.
And I just want to say as we talk about this, if you are not a follower of Jesus, what we're gonna talk about is really, really weird. It's odd, I just want to acknowledge that. In fact if you are a follower of Christ, what we're gonna talk about is really, really weird. It's really, really odd, that sometime, anytime, and we don't know when, at any moment, Christ could return and if you think I'm gonna keep playing this song until it pops out again, you are fooling yourself, I'm not gonna do that twice in any given message. A hope for eternity, an urgency for today. I want to talk about the return of Christ. As we do so I want to give you a little insight about the Bible, a lot of people think the Bible is one book. Some people now think the Bible is an app, okay, it's actually not just one book, but the Bible is a collection of 66 different books, written by 40 different authors, compiled over a season of 1500 years.
In the Bible, the Bible contains a lot of what we call prophecy. What is prophecy? Prophecy is a prediction of something that is to come. Of the 66 books that we now call the Bible only four of the the books do not contain teachings of prophecy, only four do not. Depending on who you read or who you study, scholars will tell you that 20 to 30% of the book is devoted to prophecy. What is the second coming? The second coming is a prophetic teaching written about in God's word to predict events that would happen in the future. That would be very difficult for me to believe if there were not so many other prophetic events already fulfilled in scripture. For example, in the Old Testament, written by many different authors, over a span of many different years, hundreds of years before the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, there were many different authors who prophesied what would one day happen in the life of Jesus which were fulfilled and documented in the New Testament gospels.
In fact what I want to do, just to kind of build your faith in the truth of God's word, I want to show you some of the prophetic teachings about Jesus, that were prophesied hundreds of years before they ever happened, that were actually fulfilled and recorded in God's word. This is a little bit exciting, some of you look a little bit bored, I can't share this exciting news unless you're ready for it, I wonder is anybody a little bit ready to hear today. It was prophesied of Jesus that He would be born of a virgin which He was, in Bethlehem, which is where He was born. From the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was prophesied that He would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, which He did, rejected by men, which He was, betrayed for a payment, which actually happened, and falsely accused, which we know is true.
It was prophesied that He would be silent before his accusers, crucified beside criminals, and given vinegar to drink all of which happened. That His hands and feet would be pierced, that they would fight over His garments or His clothes, that none of His bones would be broken and that He would give His life. After giving His life, He would be buried in a rich man's tomb, He would rise from the dead, He would ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, all of which was prophesied and has come to pass. I don't know about you, but that builds my faith. What's crazy to think about is that's just a few of the prophecies about Jesus, that is not all of them. And when you total them all the prophecies about His first coming, I want you to realize that there are five times as many prophecies about His second coming, about His return as there are His first.
And that's what I want to talk about today. And that's what I believe God could use in the life of somebody, to give you a hope for eternity and an urgency for today. Let's talk about it, three thoughts that will give us eternal hope, the hope that we have as Christians. What are the big thoughts? We're gonna talk about the return, the rapture, and the reunion. May I pause for a moment? The return, the rapture, and the reunion, do you that right now in heaven, God is smiling because God loves anytime a preacher starts all of His points with same letter? That pleases the heart of God and the heart of the preacher. I have a very dull life, when things work like this I celebrate and just wanted to share it all with you today. Let's talk first about the return. What do we as Jesus followers believe about the return? That Christ is coming again. Let me say it again because I think some people were not quite paying attention, Pastor Chris I'm gonna say it again. Christ our savior, our king, our Lord, He is coming again.
This is what Jesus said in John 14:3, Jesus said, do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. Jesus said, my Father's house has many rooms, if it were not so, would I have told you I'm going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you Jesus said, I will come back and take you to be with me. I will come back and take you to be with me. In fact in the early days of the New Testament church, the first century church, the believers were under such extraordinary pressure and persecution, that they were aware that even to confess that they were following Christ, that we they were a Christianos, a Christ one, a little Christ, as they were often called. To even confess that meant that they could be tortured, beaten, whipped, flogged, often burned at the stake, crucified, sometimes upside down, beheaded and the list goes on and on. And they were in such danger you can only imagine the bond that they would have when they would meet a fellow believer and when they would meet someone else that shared their faith in the risen Christ, they would often lean in and they had kinda like a little code word, or a secret handshake.
What they would do is they would say, maranatha. Maranatha, which meant our king is coming soon. Our savior is coming, it may be bad right now, but Jesus is coming back, maranatha. In fact Paul talked to Timothy and said that there would be a crown in heaven, for people who longed for the returning of Christ. In other words, those who are not so in love with this temporary world which will fade and pass away, but they long for the glory of heaven, there would be a crown for those who long for the return of Christ. In fact, for much of my life I've longed for that except for one season, when I was engaged to be married to Amy and we were waiting until we were married to share an intimacy, during that time I will confess before you, I prayed Jesus do not come back now, just let me get married and give me three to six months maybe a year, but just please don't come back now Lord Jesus and then you can come back later on. Just wanted to confess that, I'm being honest.
Maranatha, maranatha, our king is coming soon. This is how the apostle Paul described it, he said this 1 Thessalonians four, he said, for the Lord himself, Jesus, will come down from heaven with a loud command, and with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. The trumpet will blare, the Lord will shout, when would they blow a trumpet in the Bible? Well they blow a trumpet whenever the are going into battle or when they were going on a journey. When the trumpet sounds, Jesus is coming back for an imminent battle and He's taking us on a journey. The trumpet sounds, Jesus shouts and the dead in Christ rise first.
May we pause and acknowledge? That sounds kinda weird. Right, I mean, you're not gonna say no in church, you might be struck down. I'll say it, that sounds weird. I live close to a cemetery, I'd give anything to be like driving by when the trumpet sounds. That'd be cool. Hand, blaa, blaaaa. You know, skeleton stuff, it's not gonna be like that I hope. You'll understand, that when the trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ rise, their bodies are decaying and I mean there's no sign of 100 year old bodies. What'll happen is a glorified body will be raised to life. Like if you put a seed in the ground and it dies, a seed dies in the ground what happens? Life comes out of that dead seed. A little spurt, a little plant, a little flower, it's a, life comes from death, it's a glorified body, the trumpet sounds, Jesus shouts and He raises glorified bodies from the ground, that is the return.
The second thing is, what we call the rapture. What is the rapture? It's when living Christians are taken away. Paul said this, he said after that, after the trumpet of God sounds and the dead in Christ are raised, after that, we who are still alive and left, will be caught up, the Greek word that's translated as caught up is the word harpazo. It means to be snatched away or to be rescued, to be taken out, we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Brumley said it this way, he said I'll fly away oh glory, I'll fly away, in the morning, when I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away. Jesus described the event this way, Matthew's gospel, Matthew 24, Jesus said This is how it'll be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left, two women will be grinding in a hand mill, one will be taken and the other left. So you must also be ready, because you never know any time, at any moment, any time, at any moment, the trumpet of God could sound, He could return at any time, at any moment, hope for eternity and urgency for today, at any time you must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.
If Jesus were describing it this way in our context today, He might say a husband and a wife were out for coffee and one was taken and the other was left, a team of 20 high school students were off to a game in a school bus, and eight were taken and 12 were left. Literally it could be a family of five was walking into church one day, and four were taken and one was left. Harpazo, taken, rescued away, admittedly this sounds like a science fiction movie. Sounds like something your gonna watch on Netflix, okay. You have to understand, this is not the first time that such an event was recorded in scripture. There are other events just like this as people were taken away from the earth. Enoch in the Old Testament, he's walking closely along with God and he disappears because God took him away. Elijah in the Old Testament, is walking along talking and a chariot of fire comes and whirls him up to heaven. Jesus, in the New Testament, after the resurrection, He's taken up into a cloud with God.
Again and again and again we see in scripture and we believe by faith, that one day, the trumpet of God will sound, the dead in Christ will be raised, and those who are still alive and walking on earth that are believers in Jesus would be rescued out and taken to heaven. We see the return, we see the rapture and then we see, what I call the reunion, the reunion. And what happens at the reunion? Christians will be with God forever. Christians will be with God forever. This is how the apostle Paul describes it, let's review, he says, after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words, we'll be with the Lord forever. This is the way Brumley said it, just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away to a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away.
Encourage one another with these words, I came to encourage somebody today, somebody who's hurting, somebody who's grieving, somebody's who's lost something very valuable, someone who is afraid of what is to come, someone who is lost and burdened by the temporary pain that this world deals us all of the time. That if you are in Christ, there will a day where you will be in the presence of God. And at that moment, there will be no more pain, no more heartache, no more sickness, no more disease, no more death, no more poverty, no more shame, no more hatred, no more racism, there will be life in the presence of God. And so may I encourage you, with these words? Maranatha, our king is coming soon and when He blows the trumpet and when He shouts the dead in Christ will rise and those who are still here will be caught up with them in the air and we will be united with Him, forever in His presence. There will be no more tears and no more pain, in the presence of our good God.
Amy and I went on a trip years ago with Compassion International, Compassion is a global partner of our church where we help rescue children from poverty in the name of Jesus through churches all over the world. And we went with the man who was the CEO at the time, a friend of ours Wes Stafford, went to a very impoverished village, if you've ever been to a place like this in the world, you can picture what I'm gonna say. The shelters were completely inadequate, there was no floor just dirt, no running water, no electricity, extraordinary poverty, this particular house we visited, was right by the dump, the city dump, like literally by the dump, the smell was horrific. And the rain waters would flow through the house, there was like river path through the house, that's about as big as my master bedroom closet, the whole house. And there was a single mom there I think she had seven children and had lost two already.
And Wes said, Pastor Craig would you pray for her? I was a mess, I had been there for several days and I was disoriented, and I just said, how about you pray? Wes grabbed this little frail woman gently by the shoulders, looked her in the eyes and said sweetheart here's what I hope you understand, this life of pain will not last forever, you will be in the presence of God and not only will He comfort you but you will see the children that you lost again. He said there will be no more sickness for your kids, there will never be a man who abuses you or abuses your children again, you will never put your children to bed crying because they were hungry, every need they have will be met, and you will be with God in heaven. And then he prayed for her we walked outside, I didn't have words I was hurting for them, I was embarrassed for me, I didn't know how to speak into that. And he said hey don't feel bad, it's a common problem for people who live the life that we live. Because we tend to still believe that we can have heaven on earth. But when you live in an environment like that, you recognize that earth was never meant to be heaven. And so often times, they're even more blessed than we are because they're longing for the real glory that is to come.
What is the problem? It's one of the big problems in our churches today we're so in love with this world, that we have a real spiritual complacency and that may be one of the reasons why Paul who did not love this world, could say he said for me to live is Christ, to die is gain. What in the world does that mean? For me to live is to show the love of Christ it's another day, it's another opportunity, it's another moment to represent His grace. Today is another day for me to glorify God in heaven as I live on earth. Today is an opportunity for me share His love, show His grace, reach out and meet needs, for me to live is Christ, but to die oh it's better, it's better, because this world is not my home, then Paul was like I'm confused, I'm disoriented, I don't know what to do, I kinda want to go on living because I can represent Christ. But I would so much rather be with my Father in heaven.
Hope for eternity, urgency for today. Hope for eternity, this world is not our home! Therefore we live for a higher calling. This is what Paul said, he said, but let me reveal to you a wonderful secret, we will not all die, but we will be transformed, it will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those how have died will be raised to live forever. So my dear brothers and sisters, here is your assignment, be strong and immovable, be strong and immovable, be strong and immovable, hope for eternity and urgency for today, always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. Because time is short, here is your assignment, here is our assignment, because time is short I won't leave words unsaid, deeds undone, or hope unshared, because time is short I won't leave words unsaid.
Some of you, you've got words to say, encouragement to give, love to express, hope to share, we will not hold back, we will never withhold a blessing. We will let our words lift others, give life, give encouragement, speak truth, because time is short we will not let words go unsaid. We also won't let deeds go undone. Do you recognize that you are the masterpiece of God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do? You have a divine heavenly assignment today, therefore you will not let deeds go undone, words unsaid or hope unshared. Because you carry the hope of eternal life, the knowledge of Jesus Christ, maranatha, maranatha, our king is coming soon, when you recognize, when you believe it, when you embrace it, when you let go of the love for this lower world and embrace the glory of the kingdom that is to come.
What will you do? You're not gonna be obsessed with Instagram. You're not gonna go crazy over a new purse and a new pair of shoes. You're highest calling is not gonna be a boat. You're gonna live for something that lasts. Hope for eternity and urgency for today. For me to live is Christ, to die is even better. So because time is short, we will not leave words unsaid, deeds undone, or hope unshared. So Father seal these truths in urgency in our heart that we could live for you in all that we do. All of our church is praying today, nobody looking around, those of you who would say I am a follower of Christ and yet I've become more complacent. I get that I understand that, the world just takes over, the cares, the needs, the concerns, take care of the kids, pay the bills, do your job, get the dishes done, the laundry's done and go another week.
It just happens, the pull of this world lulls us, lures us away from the glory of the kingdom at all of our churches, those who say, God give me that, give me the hope for eternity give me the urgency for today, I am a follower of Jesus and I want to represent Him. Fulfilling my divine assignment every single day, give me urgency today, lift up your hands right now, all of our churches, lift them high, lift them high, God thank you for Jesus followers sensitive to your voice and your will and your direction God. Give us, God, that urgency, that any time, any moment this could be our last, that tomorrow is not promised or guaranteed. We know that one day the trumpet will sound, we know that Christ will return, but even more so, whether that happens in our lifetime or not, we know our lives are a vapor, we're here today and gone tomorrow. Give us, God, spiritual urgency, hoping for eternity and living for you today. God I pray that there are those that today they would not leave words unsaid, or a deed undone, or hope unshared because we believe that time is short and life on earth impacts eternity. Give us God, hope for eternity and urgency for today.
As you keep praying in all of our churches today, there are some of you, you are here for this very moment. Maybe like me you grew up going to church and you kinda believed in God, you had a head knowledge. But the head knowledge never ever moved into a heart commitment, it's time, it's time today. Other's of you, you may not be church people you don't even know how you got here, but there's something happening, you're recognizing, I'm living for less when I know there's more. I'm living for lower when I know there's gotta be something higher. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because God loves you, He brought you here, He sent His Son for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus who was perfect in every way, never, ever sinned, the lamb of God, shed His blood on the cross, died in our place as the perfect and final sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. On the third day, when they looked for Him in the tomb, the stone was rolled away, He was not there, He was risen, it was prophesied that He would be and it was. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father and He is praying for you, He is praying for you that you would turn from your sins and turn toward Him. Because when you call on the name of Jesus, the name that is above every single name, He hears your prayer, He forgives your sins, you're never made right with God by good works, but only by the grace of Jesus.
At all of our churches, there are those of you God brought you here now for this moment. You recognize you're not walking with Him, you're not serving for Him, you're not living for Him, you're living for something that is lower, He wants you to live for something higher. Turn from your sins, turn toward Jesus, call on His name, those who would say I need Him, I give my life to Him, lift your hands high now. All of our churches lift them up high now. Back here in this section, right back over here, all three of you here, praise God for you, back over there, over here as well. Leave them up, let me just find you, nobody else looking around, right back over here in this section, right back over here as well, back over here, here, here, and here. Oh my gosh, both of you right back here, back over here, right here sweetheart, God bless you. Church online, you click right below me. Right back over here, oh man somebody ought to praise God!
Somebody ought to give Him some glory, somebody ought to thank Him, right back here saying yes to Jesus, right back over here saying yes to Jesus, right back over here, oh my gosh, at all of our churches imagine this right now, imagine this, right here in the middle section, at all 29 locations and around the world at church online. The Spirit of God is sparking life. Can I have all of our churches back with me right now? We're gonna pray in all locations together. Nobody prays alone, would you pray with those around you?
Pray heavenly Father, I give you my life, Jesus save me, forgive my sins, make me new, fill me with your spirit, so I could follow you, and live for you for the rest of my life. Give me hope for eternity and urgency for today, to serve you with all my heart, in all my ways, in everything that I do, living for you. Thank you for new life, now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray.
I hope somebody will shout out I hope somebody will cheer, why don't you just stand to your feet if you will? Stand to your feet all of our churches, stand to your feet all of our churches. Give God some praise, give Him some glory. Do you realize, we are not praying for a move of God? We are living in the middle of one, right here, right now, this moment. Time is short. Time is short. Time is short. I want to end the service this way, I recognize in my own life, I've been more distracted lately. A lot going on in my family, a lot of burdens right now, and so I've been more focused on that which would bring us relief, rather than that which would bring others life. I've been more distracted.
So this week I got real, real serious, spent hours with God in prayer before anyone else was into the office and asked God just renew it in me, do not let me preach without the integrity of this being true in me, hope for eternity and urgency for today. And in my prayer time, God gave me a little declaration I call it time is short and so I'm gonna declare this over you. You may want to share this, you may want to declare it, your campus pastors will tell you how you can find this. But I'm gonna declare it, then we're gonna worship. Because maranatha, we believe our king is coming soon. This is my declaration, I pray that it inspires you and that it gives you hope for eternity and urgency for today.
Time is short, my king is coming soon, because eternity matters, I will give Him my all today. No regrets, no excuses, holding nothing back. With His help and by His power, I will leave no words unsaid, no deeds undone, no hope unshared. My faith moves mountains, my prayers calm storms, my words give life, my hands bring healing, my feet deliver the good news that Christ is risen and He is coming again. His word is a lamp unto my feet, His Spirit is my power, when I'm weak He makes me strong. Because Christ is coming, I will not back down, sell out, or be pushed around. My life is too valuable, my calling too great, and my God too good to waste my life on things that do not last. I am empowered by God's Spirit, trained by His word, and tried by fire. Because my life is not my own and earth is not my home, I will live for the glory of God and not for the applause of men. I am strong in the Lord and in His mighty power to do His will on earth as it is in heaven. Because Christ lives in me, trials will not stop me, people can not break me, money can not buy me, haters can not silence me, demons can not defeat me. Time is short, my king is coming soon. Because eternity matters I will give Him my all today. No regrets, no excuses, holding nothing back, with His help and by His power, I will leave no words unsaid, no deeds undone, no hope unshared. Because maranatha, our king is coming soon!