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Craig Groeschel - Miracles of Protection

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Well I hope you came ready today to hear from God's word because I'm ready to share it with you. Welcome to all of our churches. Our open network churches, we got some people that are a little bit excited here today. And I'm really, really, really excited you're excited to be in church. We're in a message series on miracles. If you weren't here with us in previous weeks. The first week we talked about the miracle that Jesus has over the power of darkness. Last week we talked about miracles of healing. And we prayed together as a church, asking for God to intervene and do miracles. And what's so encouraging is God is building my faith as I'm hearing from different ones of you how God is answering your prayers.

Today I wanna talk about a type of miracle that quite honesty in what's happened in our nation this week, which I didn't know obviously ahead of time what would happen, I think that this miracle is very appropriate. And you kinda have to sit back and wonder. I wonder if God had any sort of plan for us to talk about this after what's happened in this last week. Curious, all of our churches, have any of you honestly ever prayed any type of prayer that kinda goes like this: God if you just get me through this, just save me right now, I'll serve you forever. Anybody ever pray a prayer like that? It could be a test you didn't study for, God get me through this test, right? It could be get me out of a ticket. God I'll never speed again. It could be you're bowing down over the porcelain god, just making your offering years ago, like years ago when you drank too much. God I'll never drink again. God just get me home safe, I'll never drink again. Then you get home and you realize the next day it was a miracle and you don't know where your car is. Maybe it only happened to me. God if you just save me from this, I'll serve you forever.

I wanna talk today about the miraculous power that God has to protect, to save, to deliver. In fact, Psalm 37 verse 39 tells us this about God's power: The Lord rescues the Godly, he is their fortress in times of trouble. The Lord rescues the Godly. Our God has the power to save, to deliver, to rescue. For example, some would say that God actually rescued me at a certain point in my life. I'll tell you the story and you can determine for yourself. The day was April 19th, the year was 1995. Normally on that day I would've been sitting at my desk overlooking a window that was probably the closest in proximity to the Murrah building, possibly of any other building in the area. On that particular day, I wasn't at my desk where I should've been, but instead I was at a makeup class in Enid, Oklahoma in seminary and wasn't at my desk at 9:02 when the big explosion that shook our nation and even the world went off. Many people know that there was massive destruction to the Murrah building and others.

A lot of people don't know that many of the buildings around it were completely destroyed. The church at which I served was one of them, 1st United Methodist Church. The bomb actually lifted the building somehow up and when it landed it didn't land back on the foundation the right way and it totaled the building. We weren't able to meet there for quite some period of time. My window, which faced the Murrah building, the window didn't just implode, but the window casings and every part, literally this part of the building came into my office, the seat where my chair was, which would've been facing the window was knocked over with glass in it and glass was all the way on the other side of the wall. Many people would say, well we thank God he protected you from that. We thank God he protected you from that. We thank God he protected you from that. Which sounds really good and feels right until you realize that there 168 people that died. 19 of those were children.

So honestly I find it very difficult to say God protected me and God did not protect someone else. Because I'm here to tell you, that God loves those 168 as much as he loves anybody else that walked away or wasn't where they could've been that day and were somehow not harmed as others were. Then here we are this week. And you know that there are people who are connected to the 10 innocent victims, eight students, two teachers that went to school on any other day not expecting anything. And you know that those who are connected to the 10, just like those who were connected to the 168, would find it so difficult to understand how could God protect someone without protecting someone else? I wanna talk about the tension today of a God who can save, who does protect, but sometimes things don't go the way that we think they should. This is a difficult subject to cover, but I believe one that can not only provide some answers, possibly comfort, but at the very same time can build your faith in a God who does miracles.

I wanna give you two big thoughts. And I hope as go through the message, that each thought will make a little bit more sense as we progress to the message and it will do something internally to your faith as you hear God's word. The first thought would be this: I hope we're gonna all embrace and even better understand at the end of our time together that long before you face a problem God already has a plan. Long before you face something unexpected, something difficult, even something tragic, our God already has a plan. I'll show you some scriptural examples. Long before the rain flooded the Earth, God already planned for Noah, his family and the right animals to be on the boat. Before Jonah was ever thrown overboard, God already had a plan for a fish to come and to rescue him and to take him safely to shore. Long before the Israelites were ever cornered by the Egyptian soldiers on one side, a mountain on the other and a sea on the other, God had planned to part the Red Sea that they could escape on dry ground.

What does this mean to us today? There may be someone here who might find comfort in long before you discovered the bad news about your health, or long before you lost the job, or long before that girl broke your heart, God already had a plan. What do we know about God? God is a God who can miraculously rescue, save and protect. He can commission angels from heaven to guard his people at a word of his command. He can shut the mouth of hungry lions and he can calm a raging storm. Long before you ever face a problem, we need to embrace the truth that can minister to us even when we don't understand it, long before you face a problem, our God already has a plan.

Let's unpack it a little bit today and talk about the miracle of protection. I'm gonna show you some interesting stories, fascinating to me about the apostle Paul. The first one we're gonna look at is in Acts chapter 16, let me give you the context of what was going on here. There was a girl that was a slave that was predicting the future. She was possessed with a demon and was predicting what was to come. And she was making her owners a lotta cash by doing this. And evidently this girl was kind of a nuisance to Paul and Silas. And they tolerated her for a little while. Eventually the Bible basically says they got sick and tired of her doing her deal. They turned around and they cast the demon out of her. And suddenly the men that were making a profit off of this poor young girl lost their cash cow. They got really upset and so they told lies about Paul and Silas and essentially started a riot that was baseless, totally untrue, and Paul and Silas found themselves victims of the lies in this riot.

Scripture says this, Acts 16:22. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. And the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. Everybody say stripped and beaten. They were ordered to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. What do we see? Paul and Silas, they're out serving Jesus. They're faithfully doing what God has called them to do. They are unfairly accused, they are wrongly stripped of their clothing, flogged and beaten with wooden rods, severely beaten. If I'm Paul and I wanna talk about Paul 'cause he's gonna be our main character. At some point I might be thinking, God that's not fair. Not only was it not fair, he was a Roman citizen and he was exempt from that type of punishment because it was illegal to punish a Roman citizen in that way. Now only was he wrongly accused, he didn't do anything wrong, but he was unfairly beaten when he was exempt from this.

I'm hoping that most of you haven't been stripped and beaten physically. Tragically some of you have been stripped of hope. You once had faith and believed that you could trust God in any way but them something happened and your hope was stripped away. Others of you maybe you weren't beaten with a club, but you're beaten with words, a discouragement. Maybe from other people, maybe from what you tell yourself, maybe you're just beaten down where you once were vibrant and full of faith. You feel like you've been stripped of what you once held dear. And you've been beaten down unfairly. Think about Paul. He's doing what God called him to do. He is publicly, painfully tortured, beaten. He shouldn't even be so as a Roman soldier. What would he do if he's like everybody today? A lot of people today would say God that's not fair. I don't know where you are. You said you'd protect me, you didn't. What did God not do in that case? God did not provide a miracle of protection. Did he? He could've. He could've sent a 10 foot angel that bows up and said don't you mess with him or you'll get me and all of my brothers. God coulda done that. God didn't do that.

So what did the apostle Paul do when God let him down? When God didn't protect him? I'll tell you exactly what Paul did. Paul did what happens all the time today. Paul quit life group, he stopped praying, he didn't go to church, and he stopped listening to K-LOVE radio and only listened to secular music from that point on. 'Cause he was gonna show God. That's what he did. 'Cause God could've protected him. But God didn't. Is this getting too real? Let me show you what Paul did. About midnight, the text says, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. After God did not miraculously protect them when he could've. They are singing and worshiping and giving God praise and lifting up their hands and lifting up their hearts and lifting up their voices and they are giving their good God praise. And all the other prisoners were listening. Oh and you can only imagine what they're thinking. These guys are crazy. What's going on here? I've never seen anything like this.

And then suddenly, what I love about our God is he is the God of suddenly. Even when you don't see a way out, even when you think you are locked up, even when you have no hope, even when you've been beaten down and stripped, suddenly our God can show up. And a few moments ago God didn't protect him, but now God does a miracle. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken and all at once the prison doors flew open and everyone's chains came loose. What is a miracle? We learned in week number one a miracle is very simply when the God of heaven intervenes on Earth. God earlier didn't do a miracle, and now God does a miracle. The ground shakes, the doors come open, the chains fall off.

What's so interesting to me is that Paul didn't wait to worship until after the miracle, but Paul worshiped God before the miracle. In fact I love what the writer to the Hebrews says, what sometimes we offer God what he calls a sacrifice of praise. In other words there are sometimes we praise God when we feel it and when we sense him and sometimes when we don't feel it and we don't sense him, we still choose to offer him a sacrifice of praise. We're worshiping for what he has not yet even done. We're not worshiping him for what he has done, but it's more of who he is. It's a sacrifice of praise. We may not feel anything yet, but we continue to worship him. When do we worship our God? We worship him when we feel him and we worship him when we don't. We worship him when we see his hand and we worship him when we don't see his hand. Sometimes we just offer him a sacrifice of praise.

That's what some of you did today. I hope that you may not have felt much, you may feel a bit deflated, but you praise him anyway. You praise him not because of what you see him doing or not doing, but you praise him for who he is. I can't tell you how much this means to my family right now. Because God very, very clearly showed Amy with our daughter Mandy, for two long years, she's been hurting. Massive physical pain. And I don't wanna go into it, because I know many people hurt just as much and even way, way more. And yet as a parent we're praying and we're praying, we're praying and God showed Amy clearly, stop praying and just start praising. Just start thanking me ahead of time. Thank me before you see anything. Thank me before you see the answer. Just offer a sacrifice of praise. Before there was the miracle, Paul and Silas were praising God. Someone here may need a day, just take a little time, and thank him ahead of time. Not because you see what he's done, but because of who he is. They're in the middle of prison. It's midnight, they're praising God.

God shows up, there's an earthquake. The jailer wakes up, sees the doors are open and he's like I'm gonna lose my job, these guys are outta here, I'm gonna lose my job, they're gonna kill me because I failed, so I might as well kill myself. He draws his sword, he's about to kill himself and Paul says no, no, no, no, over here. We haven't left. The jailer's like oh my gosh, this God you're singing to obviously is real. Tell me what do I need to do to be friends with him. It's my version of what he said. And not only did Paul introduce the jailer to Christ, but also the jailer's entire family came to know the grace and the goodness and the salvation available through Christ. I want you to feel and sense what I just showed you. Not only was Paul saved. So was the jailer and the entire family of the jailer.

What do we see? Before Paul went to prison, God already had a plan. Before he ever went to prison, God already had a plan. What's obvious is that God did not do a miracle of protection when they were being beaten. But God did at the right time, do a miracle of protection when they were in prison. That's the obvious way that God protected Paul. There are so many other ways that are not obvious to the natural eye that I'm convinced God protects us of all the time. You're running late to a meeting and you get stuck by a train in your car. Oh this isn't fair. And you have no idea that God may be protecting you from something on the other side of that train. He's protecting you and you don't even know he's protecting you. You wanted that job, you wanted that job, you were qualified for it and you didn't get the job and you can't believe it. And six months later everyone that got the job was laid off and now they're out of work. And you recognize God may have been protecting me in ways I didn't understand.

There's probably somebody here at some point, you may wanna give God some praise that he didn't answer one of your prayers that you wanted to happen. You prayed so hard and wanted it to happen. But if what you wanted had happened, then what God did wouldn't have happened and you realize what God did is so much better than what you wanted. For some of you, it has a name, it is a guy you dated and you're gonna thank God he didn't let you marry that guy that you wanted to marry years ago. Because he had something so much better and so much different. Sometimes you just offer God a sacrifice of praise. As we get to know the goodness of God, his character, his nature, when he breaks off the chains and throws open the doors, and when he could send an angel of deliverance and he doesn't, when we get to know his goodness, his faithfulness, we start to recognize that long before we face a problem, God already has a plan. And over time as we spiritually mature and as we grow in our faith and as we become more like Christ, eventually we learn that sometimes God's eternal purposes don't align with our temporary plans.

Let me say that again and let it sink in. Sometimes we start to learn that God's eternal purposes don't align with our temporary plans. Think about this. God delivered Paul from prison. Until God didn't. This wasn't the only time Paul was arrested and put in prison. In fact scholars estimate that he spent about five and a half to six years in prison. God broke him out when the time was right. God didn't break him out when God had another eternal purpose. In fact, after his, I think it was his 5th missionary journey, Paul was in prison and tried by Nero. And Paul was found guilty of being faithful to Jesus, and so Paul was not crucified for his faith because a Roman was not allowed to be put to death by crucifixion. But instead Paul was beheaded. And at that moment, when God could've sent an angel, God didn't send an angel. Just like with 10 of the other 12 disciples who followed Jesus, Judas turned away, John survived being dipped in boiling oil and died after being exiled to the isle of Patmos. And all the others who faithfully followed Jesus God protected them until he didn't.

I don't know how to say it in any other way but before you a face a problem, God always has a plan. And sometimes we wake up and realize that his eternal purposes, which are higher than our thoughts. And beyond our ability for our human minds living in this temporary world to fully comprehend. Sometime his eternal purpose, they're very, very different than what we would want in the moment. And what's when we learn to truly, truly, truly trust him for his goodness. Then one day you're gonna wake up and recognize he's still good in the middle of the storms. One day the baby, that you prayed for, doesn't make it. And the drunk driver who is guilty kills the teenager who is innocent. And 168 people who God loved just as much as all the others who were not harmed, their lives are taken on that day. And the eight students and the two teachers don't make it out when everyone else did.

Does it hurt? Yes. Do we grieve deeply for our Earthly loss? Yes. Does it feel in the moment often devastating? The answer is yes, it does. We're not gonna pretend it doesn't. But do we continue to trust our God? The answer is yes, we do. Yes we do, yes we do, yes we do. Yes we do. And not only do we trust him, but we worship him. We worship him, we honor him. We worship him when we see him do everything we want him to do and we worship him when he doesn't do what we know he could do, we think he should do. But, he's God. Because we're not just worshiping him for what we see in this life, we're worshiping him for who he is, for his character. So how does this play out? If we serve a God that can protect, how do we live as followers of Christ?

Let me tell ya how we live. We pray for God's divine protection. I hope every single one of you do. I hope you pray every day if you're married, I hope you pray for the protection for your spouse and for your marriage. I hope you pray for your friends, I hope you pray for protection for your people in your life group. I hope you pray for your pastors. I hope you pray for protection for your children. How do you pray? Put angels around them God, protect them, because God can do that. Pray for protection from the wrong influences, that they wouldn't be tripped up by the lies of the devil. Pray that God would protect their minds, that God would surround them. You know what you can pray? You can pray if they do start to stray, if they do go the wrong way, that they would get caught early. That they get caught.

I'm convinced there were about a million people praying that I would get caught when I strayed, because every single time I couldn't do something wrong for five minutes. They were either praying or I sucked at doing things wrong. Maybe both, but anytime, I mean the first time that I had alcohol, 15 and a half years old, a 16 year old driver and we get in a wreck with open containers in our car and we're caught. And it wasn't even beer, it was a wine cooler. It was a chick drink, not a man drink. And we got busted with chick alcohol. The first time. My mom's here and she probably didn't know that. I'll tell you the details later. It's been years. I think she just found that out. I got caught cheating on a test when I was supposed to be valedictorian. She did know that one. I got arrested shoplifting. Every time I do something wrong. Pray that if they stray, God would help them get caught early. Pray.

There's a mom over the clapping like crazy. Yeah, catch 'em, catch 'em God, catch 'em. I can't count. Catch 'em God. Sic 'em Jesus. I can't count the number of times when I know God protected me. And here's what I hope you're gonna see. So much of what is good in me today is a result of something God did not protect me from. My dad was a pro baseball player so I was gonna be a pro baseball player until God didn't protect me in a batting cage with getting my hand crushed which led me to play another sport which led me to get a scholarship in a different sport that took me to a different school which is where I ended up getting caught shop lifting and I was about to lose my scholarship which took me low enough to call on Jesus who completely saved me and changed me which directed me into ministry in the United Methodist Church, a tradition that I still honor today and God did not protect me from being rejected for ordination and God did not protect me from being declined to start a church which redirected me to start this one.

If this church has ever done something for anybody you might wanna thank God for what he didn't protect me from because what he didn't protect me from often shaped who I've become. Let me tell you what, in those times, there were many times I didn't understand, didn't want it to happen, why didn't you God, where were you? Before you face a problem remember, God already has a plan and sometimes the plan includes pain. I don't know about you but I would rather hurt in the will of God than live in comfort outside of it. I would rather be in the middle of learning to trust God when things don't go my way than be away from his will. Let me tell you what Paul never said in prison, those times when God didn't protect him and didn't send the angel to break him out. He never said this isn't fair. He never said forget you God. He never said I'm never goin' back to that stupid church as long as I live. I tried religion and it didn't work. This is what he did say from prison. He said we rejoice in suffering. He said even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering, I will rejoice all the more.

He said these things not from prison but he said them. He said I delight in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties because whenever I'm weak then, God makes me strong. He asked the question, who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall trouble or hardship or famine or nakedness or danger or peril or sword, no, in all these things he said we are more than conquerors though Christ who loved us. He said we serve a God who is working in all things. He's working in all things to bring about good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. He's working in the breakups and the breakdowns. He's working in the losses, he's working in the wins. He's working in the things that you wanted to happen. He's working in the things that you never ever wanted to happen. That's our God, that's why we can praise him. We praise him before the miracle because we know that he is always good, he is always good, he is always good, he is always good.

I hope you'll understand that God never ever ever promised to always protect us. Remember, you will die. It will be game over. You'll be push'n daisies. Your body, it'll be over one day. He won't protect you always, you will die. He never promised that he will always physically protect everyone but he did promise that he would never ever leave us. He will always be with us. He is always faithful. He is always good. And so if you're one that does walk away from tragedy, you praise him. And if you're one that loses someone in tragedy, you praise him, you praise him because long before you had a problem he already had a plan and even if his eternal purposes are different than what we wanted in the moment, we will one day dwell with him in glory. There will be no more tears, no more pain, and we'll see his glory and his perfection revealed. Because through and through our God is good long before you face a problem. Understand our good God already has a plan.

Father we thank you for your presence today and God as our pastors have all prayed for those who are grieving in Texas, we pray God with them. Somehow Holy Spirit would you minister comfort and grace to these grieving families. God to those that are here today that are facing hardship, for my special friends the Manson family, God for all those others, those who can't conceive, those who've lost a child, those who are facing a problem, a mountain of circumstance, Lord would you just move on us today, give us the faith to worship you. Even before you show what you're capable of because you already showed us a couple thousand years ago just how much you care and just how far you're willing to go to show us your love through your Son.

All of our churches today, those who may be facing something difficult and maybe you've even had questions around this subject, and you want the faith to keep praising and the faith to keep worshiping would you lift up your hands right now, just left them up high all over the place.

Father I pray for every person with a lifted hand. God I pray that daily we take time to offer a sacrifice of praise. God we worship you when we see it, we worship you when we don't. We worship you when we understand and it all makes sense. God we worship you when it doesn't make sense to us. God I pray for those especially hurting today. That somehow, somehow by your presence and through your word, you would administer comfort and healing. Build our faith God that you can unleash angels to protect us and God that when you don't you are still good and your eternal purposes will be done. Your will, we pray God would be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Help us to glorify you no matter what.

As you keep praying today, all of our churches, there are those of you who need a miracle of protection. You need saving. What do you need saving from? You need saving from yourself, from your sin, from the darkness in your soul. this is kinda what happened to me back in college. I grew up going to church and I thought I was okay 'cause I went to church. But I didn't know forgiveness, I didn't know freedom in Christ. And because of my sinfulness I went down, down, down, down, down. Some of you right now you recognize, you've done so many things wrong. Where do you stand with God? Let me tell ya, without Christ we are separated from God. The good news is God showed us how much he loved us. He sent his one and only son Jesus, who is completely without sin, perfect in every way. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He shed his blood on the cross. He died in our place. And three days later God raised him from the dead. Why? So that you could be saved from your sins, forgiven and made new.

At all of churches there are those of you, you recognize that you're dead in your sins. You need his help, you need his grace, you need his forgiveness. You can't work your way to God. All you can do is turn away from your sins and turn to him. When you call on the name of Jesus, he hears your prayer, he forgives your sins. He'll make you completely brand new. At all of our churches there are those of us, you are not here by accident, it was ordained by God. Today is the day of your salvation. I need his grace, I need his mercy. I turn to him, I give my life to Jesus. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now, all over the place, lift them up and say yes. That's my prayer right back here and over here as well. Praise God for you. Others of you say yes, right back here. Others call on and that big smile. Smile away. Others call on his name. Church online you click right below me. And as we have people at all of our different churches coming to faith in Christ, join your hearts and pray with those around you.

Heavenly Father. I trust you to save me. To forgive me, to be my Lord. Holy Spirit fill me so I can serve Jesus, follow him, show his love. My life doesn't belong to me I give it to you. Thank you for new life, now you have mine. In Jesus' name I pray

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