Craig Groeschel - When You Can't Take It Anymore
Well I am crazy glad to have all of you with us today at all of our Life.Churches. Guess what? What? I'm gonna try that again and see if you guys are with me, at all of our churches. Guess what? What? Today we are starting a brand new message series. It is called "The Good Work" and if you wouldn't mind today at all of our churches would you just mind standing to your feet.
What I wanna do is, I wanna speak a blessing over you. Speak into your life, introduce the big theme that we're gonna talk about over the next four weeks and then I wanna open this message series by going before our heavenly Father together in prayer with great expectation. That we will all hear of the heart of God. We will be stirred by his Spirit to believe that he wants to do more in us and more importantly, do more through us. A word for our church family. If you are the best of the best, the brightest in your class, the star athlete, the leader of all, God can still use you. I promise he can. It's just that our God specializes in using very ordinary, everyday people.
This message series is for those of you who believe deep down that you're created for something more, that you were born for a purpose, created by God to do something eternal, something that matters, something that lasts. Over the next four weeks, if you're open to what the Spirit of God would say to you, I believe that God will speak very directly to some of you, give you the faith to step out and to do something that outlasts you. But, I wanna warn you, when God uses you, it always comes with a personal cost. When you take a step of faith to do something significant, it's very likely that you'll pay a price greater than you can imagine, I must warn you. You will very likely experience pain, agony, rejection, heartache, failure every now and then, loneliness, doubt and occasional bouts with discouragement.
There are times that you may stand alone, people may laugh at you, misunderstand you, make fun of you, but when your sacrifices impact another life, and glorify God you will never think about any price that you paid. Because of your faithfulness God will be honored and people will be different. You may look like an ordinary, everyday person. You may not feel exceptionally gifted or talented but you are the exact type of person that our God loves to use. We're gonna study a person from the Old Testament over the next four weeks. An ordinary man named Nehemiah, who had a broken heart for the plight of his people. He looked on at their situation and decided I cannot sit by and do nothing. Somebody has to do something. It might as well be me. And so in verse 18 of chapter two, in the book of Nehemiah, Scripture says, so they began the good work. Somebody say the good work. The good work. So they began the good work. The title of this message series is "The Good Work" and if you have faith to believe that God might speak to you stir you to do even more, would you just join your heart with mine in prayer.
Father we ask that your Holy Spirit would stir us to believe that we could do exceedingly and abundantly more God, by your power to make a difference in the lives of people. God give us the courage and the faith to step out. Would you speak to hearts God? To stir us, use the gifts of those who love you to make a difference in the lives of other people and to glorify you God in all that we do. We pray this in the name of the one who gave us the perfect work. Your son, our Savior, Jesus. And all of God's people said? Amen. Amen and amen.
Why don't you high-five about three or four people around you and say let the good work begin. Let the good work begin. I'm calling this message by this title, "When You Can't Take It Anymore". When you can't take it anymore, we're gonna look today and the next few weeks at what is to me one of the most motivating, captivating, inspirational stories about an ordinary guy from the Old Testament that made an extraordinary difference. What I like about this guy is Nehemiah was not a pastor, he wasn't a priest, he wasn't a king, a prophet. He wasn't a warrior. He was an ordinary person that heard about something that broke his heart, that crushed his spirit to a point where he had to do something about this. He was compelled to make a difference in the world around him. He was an ordinary guy and if you don't know what he did for a living he was actually known as a cup-bearer. Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to the king of Persia, king Artaxerxes.
Now you may say, what in the world is a cup-bearer? It's a good question. In our context today, if you think of someone who is a servant or maybe a butler that might be the equivalent of a cup bearer but a cup bearer was an incredibly trusted role because if you could imagine, this guy had tremendous access to the king. So if the king's having a private conversation, like I think we need to attack so and so, the cup bearer's gonna hear that information or if the king says, I don't like the way somebody walks, the cup bearer's gonna hear that and is gonna have to keep that information confidential. This guy would've been very trustworthy, he would've been full of integrity and he was also incredibly loyal to the king because the title of his job often would reveal one of the most important things the cup-bearer would do.
If you can imagine in this time in history there were plots just like in many parts of the world today to overthrow a kingdom and so sometimes people would try to attempt to take the life of the king. Well what the cup-bearer would do among other things is the cup-bearer would be the only person to taste the wine before the king would actually drink the wine to see if the wine was poisoned or not. Now I don't know about you but if I'm the guy tasting the wine, I'm wanting a job with good insurance, with real benefits because any one time it goes bad and then you're kind of out of a job and maybe even out of a life.
So this guy was an ordinary person, not in a role of status but in the role of a servant attending to the needs of the king. One day Nehemiah had just an ordinary day. Kind of like you would have maybe what's considered an ordinary day today and he hears a conversation from someone that moves him to a place that he'd never been before. Here's how this story goes in Nehemiah 1:2. It says this, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile and also about Jerusalem. So here we're having a conversation between Nehemiah and his brother and he says, tell me about our people. Tell me about our homeland.
Now the reason Nehemiah's asking about this, because about 140 years prior to this moment, in the year 586 BC the Babylonians under the rule of the evil king Nebuchadnezzar attacked the Jewish people and completely demolished their city, their life, their culture in a way that's very, very difficult to describe. If you've ever heard of Solomon's temple, it was gone, wiped away. Burned to the ground. Every building was now in rubble. The gates to the city which formed protection were burned. Almost everyone that they knew was now without a job and without any kind of hope and so the evil Babylonians then took the Jewish people captive, took them way away from their homeland and held them in bondage for a long time. If you can imagine, the Jewish people felt demoralized, felt completely hopeless. What are we gonna do? We have no homeland, our life is over.
Decades later, imagine this. Decades later 50,000 Jews or so moved back to Jerusalem to rebuild. We are gonna rebuild the city that we love, our homeland, we're gonna try to make a better future. The problem is, they couldn't get anything moving and they found themselves stalled in a complete deadend. That's when the brother said to Nehemiah in verse three. "Those who survived the exile are back in the province and they are in great trouble and disgrace". Why, "Because the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire". In other words, with no wall, with no gates there's absolutely no protection from outside forces that would surely be attacking. It was impossible to rebuild. There's already no jobs, no economic system, no leadership, no direction, no confidence. With no protection there's no plan, therefore there is no hope whatsoever.
What do you do when you don't know what to do? What do you do when you see something that breaks your heart and you know there is a good work that needs to be done and you think perhaps you're supposed to be a part of the good work. What do you do when you see something that bothers you deeply and you can't take it anymore? I wanna give you three thoughts about how to begin your good work. The first thing we see Nehemiah do is what you may end up doing at some point of your life. What do you do, number one is you actually sit down to cry. You sit down and let whatever it is, the injustice in the world actually break your own heart. You can see this in verse four of Nehemiah 1. Nehemiah says this, "When I heard these things," when I heard about the devastation, when I heard about the hopelessness of my people, he says, "I sat down and wept". It crushed me, it broke my heart.
What's so interesting to me is to think about where Nehemiah was when he heard this news. He was about 1000 miles away from his homeland and he was actually living a pretty good and comfortable life in the palace. Think about it. This guy is eating the same food the king eats, this is good stuff. He's watching the same shows that the king is watching on his 4K TV. This guy is probably posting selfies every now and then, hey just serving the king, #BlessedToServe. This guy is living a completely comfortable life. I don't know about you but sometimes in my comfort I can be scrolling across some news story on my phone or looking across some prayer request that comes in and think oh, that's too bad. Sucks to be them. I mean they're a long ways away, I know it's not bad but what could I do about that? I'm living in a comfortable life. I mean I'll say a little prayer for them but I'm just not gonna really let this into my heart.
At that moment, Nehemiah had a choice. He could kind of acknowledge the plight of his people, oh that's too bad. What a shame. I hate to hear that, I really feel badly for them but I'm glad my life's okay or he could choose to let the pain in. Not just in his head but in his heart. To the point where it bothered him to stir of him, gave him a divine burden, an ache in his soul. When he heard the news he didn't do what's so easy to do, brush it off, he sat down, he broke down and he started to cry. I would ask you this, what breaks your heart? What is it that burdens you? What is it that creates this righteous anger on behalf of God? This isn't right, not on my watch.
What is it that crushes your spirit when you look at some injustice perhaps to a group of people or a need in this world. Why doesn't somebody do something about this? Maybe for you, it's the plight of hurting children. Maybe it's those children who can't read or those who have very special needs and need help and love or maybe it's those who've been bullied or neglected or those who've been abused. Maybe it's for those who are bound by an addiction, your heart breaks. They're a hostage to drugs, or they're trapped in a lustful world of pornography and you'll do anything to help them get free. Maybe it's homelessness.
You see people that are really stuck in life and barely have their needs met and you want to do something about it. Maybe it's those who've been trafficked and abused their whole life. Maybe it's those who are impoverished and don't have clean drinking water or a very simple mosquito net in another part of the world or some drugs that would prevent diseases, just for a few dollars, they don't have access to and you see children and innocent people dying needless deaths because someone hasn't gotten there. Maybe you're like some people I know and you have a heart to get God's word into the native language of every living person today. You wanna eradicate Bible poverty. Maybe you feel called to speak on behalf of the unborn.
Someone needs to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves. What is it that breaks your heart? What is it that burdens your soul? I'll tell you a story that hit me and shaked me in a way that's hard to describe, when I was a very young pastor. Before starting Life.Church I was an associate pastor at a great Methodist church and I would occasionally be a guest preacher for other churches that were really, really small and couldn't get anybody better than me back in my early 20s and so I went to a really small church on the other side of town and I preached the first service. And there was this guy in the service that the only way I know to describe it is he had what I call a mad vein. There was a vein in his forehead that just perpetually proclaimed I'm mad at the world. You know how some Christians, when they read the Bible they get all loving and full of grace, and others of them get angry and mad veins. I don't know why. But this guy had a mad vein and I was preaching, I even tell a funny joke and instead of smiling his mad vein would just ugh.
Well after the first service we went out to greet the people who were leaving and greet the people who were coming in to the next service and the receptionist came up. All excited and said, "Oh my gosh, we have a guest coming". Evidently, that didn't happen often. She said, "You better be good in the next service". Implying that maybe I wasn't good in the first one, maybe that's why the vein was there. You better be good, we got a guest coming. We got a guest coming. Well I was outside with mad vein man, who was chosen to be the greeter which might be one reason the church was really small. And I saw the guest drive up. The reason I knew she was the guest was because her car didn't look like everybody else's car. When she got out, she wasn't dressed like anyone else. Everyone else had very nice, formal clothes on. She honestly looked like she had probably slept in her outfit. She looked like life had been very, very hard to her and I couldn't be more excited to welcome her into church.
As she was walking up, God as my witness, mad vein guy, stepped in front of me and said to her, "Young lady, is that the best outfit you have? Because in our church, we wear our best for God". She looked so broken. So ashamed, she turned around faster, I couldn't catch her. She got in her car, she sped off. I could barely preach the next service. I drove all the way home in my little red Geo Prizm, crying my eyes out. Partially because I was in a red Geo Prizm. But, I was so disturbed, so broken, so righteously angry on behalf of a God of grace who welcomes all people from all races, from all parts of life and on that day, I made a promise, if I ever get to lead my own church, we will have a dresscode. It will be simple, please do put something on. Come to the house of God. That is not the God that I serve, our God loves people where they are. And invites them, whosoever is thirsty come in. To the presence of God.
Here I am 23 years later and it didn't, what you see here is a reflection of what broke my heart almost three decades ago. What breaks yours? Let it in, let it crush you. Let it move you, sit down to cry. Listen to me. I don't worry when every now and then something breaks my heart and moves me to the point of tears. I worry when it's been a long time when that hasn't happened. I want my heart to be tender, to be broken by the things that break the heart of God. What do you do when you can't take it anymore? You sit down to cry. The second thing you do is you kneel down to pray. You kneel down to pray. Nehemiah says this. "For some days I mourned and I fasted, and I prayed before the God of heaven".
Listen to me church, if it's big enough to cry about, it's big enough to pray about. Sometimes we just say the most insulting things to our God like all we can do now is pray. Can you imagine God sitting in heaven going, oh well man, all you can do is pray? I mean it's down to me now? All you've got is me, the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God? Me, the all things are possible with me God and all you can do is pray? Well you're screwed now. No no no, well there's just one of me. God plus one is always a majority. We go before the God of heaven, if we invoke his power in prayer. Nehemiah cries out to God, verse five. He says, "Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commands, God let your ear be attentive, and your eyes be open to the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel".
If you watch Nehemiah's prayer and read on, he confesses his own sin, he confesses the sins of his people. He reminds God of God's promises and God's faithfulness. And after he's mourned and fasted and prayed, he goes before the king and asks permission. I honor you, my heart will always be with you but would you grant me permission to leave where I am, to go back to my people and try to rebuild. Verse 11, he talks to God about the king and says, "God give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man". You watch him pray over and over and over again. I hope you'll understand that what you pray about really reflects what you believe about God. If our only prayers are bless this food and keep me safe and give me a good day, you really don't believe the real powerful God but when you ask God to stretch you, to use you, when you pray for the impossible. God move, do miracles, bring healing. God, spark revival. Use me God to meet someone's needs, you believe in the power and the glory of a good God.
What's so interesting to me about Nehemiah is this is actually the first of 12 prayers that we see he prayed in the book of Nehemiah. There's 12 we know about. That means he would've prayed hundreds, maybe thousands, this is the first of 12. We see it at the beginning of his story, we see it all through the middle and the last thing he's doing is praying, as he goes before God. What I love about him is you're gonna see in the upcoming weeks, he is a leadership genius. He is practical in every way. He studies, he strategizes, he casts vision, he delegates, he is a leadership genius and yet, everything he does is faith with intimate faith-filled prayer before his good God. How do you begin the good work when you can't take it anymore? You let it into your heart and you sit down and you cry. That at some point you kneel down and you pray. And then once your heart's been broken and you've sought the goodness of God, number three, you stand up and act. What do you do? What do you do? You sit down to cry, you kneel down to pray and you stand up to act. Nehemiah takes the cup and goes to visit the king. His heart is heavy and the king can tell.
So in verse four the king says to him, "Nehemiah, what is it you want"? Then watch him again, here's a little flare prayer. Here it comes, then I prayed to the God of heaven. He prays again and I answered the king. "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my ancestors are buried". Why, so I can rebuild the wall. My people are hurting. The walls are down. The city is exposed and I can't sit around and do nothing. Somebody has gotta do something about this. It might as well be me. Stand up to act. I don't know, sorry you sit back down. I was just saying, what great hearing. But I love your passion and if no one stood up at another campus, it's only 'cause these people had more passion.
So, my bride Amy and I were, I was 27 years of age and we wanted to start a church. We had no money, no plan, no, just passion that was it. And we went to a church service in California. We saw this lady named Crystal Lewis. We didn't know who she was, but you might have heard of her now. And she sang a renewed version of the song, "Come Just As You Are". It was a fresh version and we saw probably 50 people dressed a lot like the lady that got turned away from church come forward to give their hearts to Jesus. And in the middle of that song and in the middle of all those transformed lives we said that is the kind of church we want. The type of church that Life.Church is today didn't exist a whole lot 20 plus years ago. It was very new, and very different. And I was 27 years of age, she was 24. And we were scared to death. We prayed God give us a sign, show us. Weeks, months, we prayed. We cried over the brokenness of people, we sought God in prayer and then one day, driving in our car asking God for confirmation the first time we'd ever heard the song on the radio, it came on the radio.
Middle of our prayer, come just as you are. And in that moment in our hearts, we stood up to act. And we made the decision, we don't know the details, we don't know the how, the when, the where. Somebody needs to do something. It's gonna be us. I don't know who this is gonna talk to but there's somebody, something bothers you. Maybe you've tried to keep it at a distance. But now you're gonna let it in. You're gonna feel the pain, you're gonna let it wreck you. You're gonna let the burden overwhelm you and you're gonna sit down to ache and cry about it. And then you're gonna go into your prayer closet, your prayer place. And kneel down and invoke the power of the God of heaven. And then at some point, God's gonna promise you and you're gonna have the faith to stand up and act. But who am I? I'm not the pastor, I'm not trained. I don't have a lot of experience.
Listen to me, hear it and feel it. You don't have to be appointed by man if you are called by God. You don't have to be chosen by people if God prompts your heart, stirs your spirit, gives you a burden. You just step into it. Trust him and watch him act. Feel the presence of God stirring you. It breaks your heart, why does it break your heart? Because perhaps you, just like Nehemiah, an ordinary guy in every other extent was chosen by God to step into the burden and start the good work. He didn't finish it alone, he didn't do it alone but it didn't happen until he started it. What do you do when you can't take it anymore? You sit down and you cry. You kneel down and you pray. Someone to stand up and act.
So Father we ask that by the power of your Spirit you would speak to us today. Stir up some people God in your church to do your work.
As you're praying today at all of our different churches, those of you that you are followers of Christ and you wanna be even more open to what God might do through you, you're available, you'll let the pain in, you'll let it break you, you'll ask God to use you, if you believe God uses ordinary people just like me and just like you and you want God to do more through you, would you lift up your hands right now, just all over the place. Lift up your hands.
Father I thank you for a church full of people that are not priests, prophets or kings. But God, in your kingdom they are servants of the most high God. Give us opportunities God to serve you. God we ask for your power, your provision, your protection, your wisdom, your direction to guide every step that we take. I pray God that wherever we go and whatever we do God we would do it for your glory. Stir up within us God, break some hearts that we might act on your behalf, to do your will on Earth God as it is in heaven. Speak to us today we pray.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, the good work is starting. Let me tell you about the good work, the best work. In Christian circles we call this good news. What is the good news? The good news is better than you could ever imagine. The good news is all about a loving God who became one of us in the person of his son Jesus, Jesus was perfect in every way, Jesus was obedient to his Father even to death on a cross. Why is this good news? The bad news is that we've all sinned.
If we sit down and talked about it, you'd probably recognize you've done some things that are wrong, you perhaps feel guilty by those things, you feel ashamed. So do I, why? Because we have a conscience that shows us there's such a thing as wrong and we've all done wrong. We've sinned against a holy God but Jesus who is perfect in every way, the Son of God who was without sin became the perfect sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He died in our place and by the goodness of the power of God, God raised him from the dead. Why, so that anyone and this includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus would be saved. Your sins forgiven. Doesn't matter where you come from. Doesn't matter what you look like. Doesn't matter the clothes that you have on, doesn't matter how bad you've been. When you call on his grace and call on his name, he hears your prayers, he forgives your sins, he makes you brand new.
In fact today, at all of our churches, or those of you viewing online there are some of you who recognize, you are here for this moment. The good work is about to begin because the goodness of God is gonna transform your life. At all of our churches, those who say yes, I need his grace, I need his forgiveness. Today by faith I turn from my sins. I give my life to Jesus, that's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now. All over the place and say yes Jesus, I surrender to you. As we've got hands going up all over the place, those of you at Church Online, you click right below me. And I would be incredibly honored at all of our churches if you would just go ahead and stand to your feet and I mean it this time. Stand to your feet and we're going to join our faith with those around us and pray as God transforms lives. Would you pray aloud.
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Save me. Change me. Make me new. Jesus be my Savior. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can know your love and show your love. Start the good workin me. Bring it to perfection as we make you known. My life is not my own, I give it all to you. Thank you for new life, now you have mine, in Jesus' name I pray.