Craig Groeschel - Do the Work. Make a Difference
Hey, it's great to have all of you with us today at every single Life.Church. Who came a little bit ready today to hear from God's Word? Man, I love it, I love it, I love it. We are in a message series called The Good Work based on an incredible story from the Old Testament about a very ordinary guy named Nehemiah. What I want to do is I want to set up this message by giving you some thoughts, perhaps, about you and then we're gonna dive in and believe that God's gonna speak to us.
Here's what I'm guessing that I know about many of you. I'm guessing that there's probably something that bothers you when you see it in the world, some injustice, something that weighs on you, perhaps on the behalf of others. It might be a need that you see, that you think somebody should be meeting. It might be a group of people that are hurting, maybe those who have been abused. Maybe someone that's been neglected and you know that as far as the Christ we should be involved to meet needs. There's probably, for many of you, what we might call a divine burden, something that disturbs you, something that upsets you on behalf of God, something that moves you in a significant way.
Here's what I found, if you're taking notes, about our burdens, and that's this: the burden you bear often reveals the calling you'll embrace. Let me say it again. The burden that you bear often reveals the calling that you'll embrace. Another words, the thing that tends to upset you will often drive you or compel you into a ministry to make a difference in the lives of somebody else. And what I also know about you is this: that you rarely ever know when you're on the front end of something really special. You rarely know when you're on the front end of really making a significant difference.
For example, when Amy and I started Life.Church over 23 years ago, we had no idea whatsoever that it would ever grow into something like this today. In fact, people ask us all the time, did you have any idea? Let me just tell you, no! None whatsoever ever, ever, ever. In fact, if we had known, we probably would run for the hills because it would have overwhelmed us. We had no idea. Years ago when our church started the Youversion Bible App, we had no idea that one day it would be on almost 400 million devices around the world. We had no idea whatsoever.
On a personal note, three years ago when I decided to try to stop traveling as much and teach leadership just from my desk on a podcast, I had no idea that it would grow to reaching 1.3 million downloads in a given month. We had no idea whatsoever that while we're contemplate doing something, we had no idea we're on the front end of something special. What just happened is we saw a need, we thought maybe somebody can do something about this, we thought we'll give it a shot, and then God did more than we ever could imagine.
This is exactly where some of you are right now at this moment. You're bothered by something. You see a need. You're leaning into it. You're considering doing something about it. Or maybe you're just in the early stages of starting and you have no idea that you could be on the front end of something very, very special that would impact the lives of people. The title of our message series is called The Good Work. The title of this message is Do the Work, Make a Difference. Do The Work, Make a Difference.
Let me give you the context in case you weren't with us last week. Go back in time in the year 587 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar, who was a very evil king, lead the Babylonian people and attacked Jerusalem. These people completely destroyed the city, the lifestyle, the culture, the values, the temple was destroyed, and the Babylonians took the Jewish people into captivity, crushed their spirits, and demoralized them beyond any hope. If you fast forward decades later, some of the Jewish people were finally released out of captivity to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the homeland.
If you can imagine, they're going back into a demolished city, there's no economic structure, there's no jobs, there's no systems, no government, no leadership, there's no direction, and most of all, there's really no hope. So these early travelers went and tried to rebuild. They hit a dead end and they couldn't get anything going at all. 140 years after the destruction, an ordinary, everyday guy named Nehemiah was suddenly brokenhearted for the plight of his people and his city.
I wanna tell you again that he was not a pastor, he was not a priest, he was not a prophet, he was not a contractor, he wasn't even verified on Instagram. This guy was just getting going, he was an ordinary servant, a cup bearer to the king. Another words, this guy didn't have any formal or appointed position. All he had was God-ordained passion. I don't know who this is gonna speak to, but there are some of you that are listening right now that you don't have a position, you haven't been commissioned. But what you do have is you do have passion from God about something that matters and that qualifies you to make a difference.
If you were with us last week, we saw that Nehemiah, his heart broke. The first thing he did is he sat down to cry. He wept and mourned and fasted for quite some time. Then, he knelt down to pray 12 different times in the Book of Nehemiah. We see him petitioning to God of Heaven. Then finally, he stood up to act and said somebody's gotta do something about this. It might as well be me. How do you do the work? How do you make a difference? I want to give you four thoughts today. We're gonna get very, very practical and we're gonna let the Spirit of God empower us to do the work and make a difference.
The first thing you're gonna want to do is this, number one. We're gonna seek God faithfully. We're gonna seek God faithfully. Again and again and again and again we'll see Nehemiah going before God praying and praying and praying again. In fact, let me kind of give you the timeline so you'll understand this. If you read in the text, you're gonna see that Nehemiah heard the news about his people in the month of Kislev. Now when in the world is Kislev? That's sometime between November and December, our time, he starts praying and he prays until the month of Nissan.
Now, if you don't think I've got about five dad jokes around the word Nissan, you haven't been to Life.Church for very long. I'll save them for later. He prays to the month of Nissan. This is four months after Kislev. Four months. But I want you to notice is for four months he's fasting, he's hurting, he's praying, he's seeking the God of Heaven. Why is he doing this? Well, he's asking God to lead his steps and it's impossible to describe how tricky it would be for a cup bearer to approach the king with a request because the cup bearer's only job is to take burdens off the king, never to deliver the king any kind of difficult news.
In fact, for Mideastern kings, you would take bad news and never deliver it to them. You didn't want to be the person to ever deliver anything but good news. And so, he's in a very difficult place. In verse one of chapter two, here's what happens. He describe it this way: he says, I had not been sad in the king's presence before, so the king, he notices, and the king asks Nehemiah, "Why does your face look sad when you're not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart". You see the intimacy and the relationship, they're so close the king knows. He's disturbed in spirit. Verse four, Nehemiah says the king said to me, "What is it you want"?
Now watch him again. How many times do you see this? The I prayed to the God of Heaven, what I hope you'll notice this. This wasn't now a four day prayer retreat, he'd already had that. This was a man who's walking intimately with God and now he can just talk to God, talk to God, talk to God. I hope that you'll pray both ways, that you'll pray long and powerful prayers with God so that in the moment, you're already close to God and you can send text-like prayers to God. We've already been talking. We're not catching up on our devotion time. We're walking intimately together. God, help! God, give me the words! God, give me wisdom! God, direct my steps. God, show me what to do. God, show me what to say.
And there in the presence of the king, the king says what do you want? And he says then I prayed to the God of Heaven and I answered the king. I hope you'll remember about prayer, that there is nothing too big for God in prayer, there's nothing too big for God's power, and there's nothing too small for God's heart. Hallelujah! He cares about all of it. If it's a burden to you, you take it to God. You seek God faithfully. I'll tell you an intimate, personal story that involves my family.
My bride, Amy, is one of the most compassionate people that you'll ever meet. And several years ago, she started to have a burden for women who were transitioning out of very difficult lifestyles, for those who were coming out of trafficking or coming out of prison or coming out of abusive situations, or trying to recover from addiction and get their families back and such. So she had a burden. So what we started to do is we sought God faithfully. We prayed and we waited and we prayed and we waited and we prayed some more for months and months and months before we finally felt prompted by God to go and look for a home that was on our heart.
Let's open a home for women coming out of transition and we started looking for homes. And within just a few days when nothing ever worked, someone said hey, there's a home you outta look at and so we went to look at it. It was the most amazing God thing I can't even describe it. We walked in and it was the perfect home that a lady had remodeled, had fully furnished it, completely furnished it. This lady was remodeling it to flip and make a profit. In the middle of her construction project, she felt like God had spoken to her to prepare this to be a home to support women that were in a difficult situation.
So in the middle of her for-profit project, she shifts gears. We're in this house, we're looking at it, it's perfect, and she said I can't believe this, you're the people I was preparing for. I'll rent it to you at a great deal. We're like oh God, oh God, you are so amazing! God answers prayers! A week or two goes by and she calls us back and said I'm sorry, I can't rent it to you. My God, I thought you were in on this. She said God just won't let me rent it to you I feel like I'm suppose to donate the house to your ministry. That seed has now multiplied into five houses, a staff full of women that have graduated from the program that are now helping others, and let me tell you what it was born out of! It was born out of months of prayer.
There's nothing too big for God's power! Yeah! There's nothing too small for His heart. You start by seeking God faithfully. God I need you. God direct me. God, guide me. For four months, Nehemiah faithfully sought after God. I want to tell somebody here you have a heart for something. You have a vision for something. If prayer isn't necessary for you to accomplish your vision, you aren't thinking big enough. You want something so big, so full of faith that you need the power of God to come through for you. What do you do? How do you do the work? How do you make a difference?
The first thing you do is you seek God faithfully. The second thing you do is you define the vision clearly. Define the vision clearly. I hope you'll understand for most people it's not a lack of caring that's your problem, it's a lack of clarity. It's not defining, specifically, what it is that you're called to do. I want to show you this and I want you to watch the crystal clear clarity of an ordinary man with a vision from God. Watch what he says. The king asks Nehemiah, "Nehemiah, I see you're upset, what do you want me to do"? Nehemiah says in verse four, "if it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight," watch this, "let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it".
One sentence. Absolute clarity. What did he say? Please send me to Judah so I can rebuild the walls. Clarity. Seek God faithfully. Define the vision clearly. Let me tell you what Nehemiah did not do. And I don't mean to be rude or make fun of anybody, but this is what a lot of people do. He didn't say, king, Nehemiah, what do you want me to do? Well king, there's something I've been thinking about for quite some time, okay?
My Aunt Martha, she's from Jerusalem, you know, and she's got three kids and one of them's name is Micky, and Micky sent me this article about the people and I read about it and it was kind of confusing 'cause there's some big words but I looked one of them up on Wikipedia and now I know what it is, and so I'm thinking king that I might do this mission trip to go there, you know, and kinda see how things are. And to be honest, I'm getting kind of tired of pouring your wine all the time and drinking it 'cause it could kill me and stuff.
And you didn't even send me a Christmas card lately. And you didn't even link to me when you posted that picture and I was in the background so I'm not even sure we're that close anymore and besides, I've kinda been wanting to travel lately 'cause you know I wanna see the world, that's kinda something I'm passionate about, so I'm thinking about sending letters to some people and asking them to give some money so I can go on this mission trip. I might kinda just see if I can go. I'm not really sure yet. But Micky and Martha says since I know you and everything and you're the king, thought I'd bring this idea before you and see what you think about it.
So what do you think? Woo! For most of you it's not caring that's your problem it's the lack of clarity. That's my redneck, Jewish impression. I don't even know what that means. That may be illegal and I probably just offended somebody, so God forgive me. What do you want to do? What is God calling you to do? Some of you are gonna say help children. Okay, help children. How? Which children? Those that don't have their basic needs met? Those that can't read? Those that have been abused? Those that don't have homes? Where? In your city? In your state? In your nation? In some other country in this world? Does it need medical? What is it very specifically that God is calling you to do? The bottom line is if you can't define it, you can't do it. If God is calling you to do it, define it clearly. What do you want me to do?
And he says please send me to Judah so I can rebuild the walls. In a sentence, what is it that God is leading you to do? In a sentence, incredibly clear. You might say God is leading me to lead our family to be completely debt free except for our mortgage by the year 2022. That's clear. That's definable. Therefore, perhaps, is doable. God is leading me to have a personal conversation about Jesus with every student in my class before I graduate in 2021. God is calling me to donate a combined $100 thousand to my church by the time I am 40 years of age. God is calling me to help every teenage boy in my switch group overcome their addiction to pornography, to confess it, to repent it, and to be free of it. God is calling me, honestly, our church, to eradicate Bible poverty. By the year 2033, we will see God's word in 99.9996% of the world's population, we'll have at least a New Testament and 100% we'll have some portion of God's word. In a sentence. In a sentence, what is God calling you to do? How do you do the work? How do you make a difference?
Well, you seek God faithfully. You define the vision clearly. Number three, you make plans carefully. You make plans carefully. The problem is, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Some of you, you're just wishing. Make a plan. Honor God. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get organized. God's a systematic God. We live in a solar system. Seven days a week every week, there's not eight some weeks and six some weeks, there's not 372 days a year, God is a systematic God. He is a God of order. You make plans carefully. Watch about how specifically clear Nehemiah is about his plans. Verse six, it says this: then the king, with a queen sitting beside him asks me, you know it's good when they're sitting together because sometimes she's actually the one who's gonna give the answer and get it done, and so they're sitting there together and so the king says, "How long will your journey take and when will you get back"?
Notice he didn't say I don't have a clue, I don't know, I haven't thought about that yet. Gotta go ask Micky. No, what he says is, it pleased the king to send me so I set a time. Whatever it was, he was specific with the king and set a time. Now watch him. I also said to the king, "If it pleases the king, may I have," watch this specific request, "may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates so they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah"? Another words, will you get me some protection please? Send letters to those who are in charge. Then, "And my I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he'll give me timber to make the beams for the gates of the citadel by the temples and for the city wall and for the residence that I will occupy"?
What does he do? He asks for protection and he asks for provision. He is very, very clear. I need protection to travel and I need provision to build. Then he says and because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. What did he do? He sought God. He was lead by the Spirit of God. God was directing his words and directing his step. He was incredibly clear on what he was gonna do. He created a plan and said this is how I'm going to accomplish it. You may say it, I want to create a plan but I don't really know how to have a perfect plan. I always tell people that the plan doesn't have to be perfect, that I would rather execute a good plan today with passion than a perfect plan months from now without passion. You just kinda get the ball moving.
You know what my plan is all the time? My plan is do the next right thing. That's my plan. If I look at how do we rebuild these walls and how do we get the Bible out there and how do we grow the podcast to whatever and how do we add this many more campuses, that overwhelms me. It's simply, do the next right thing. Step by step. Faithfulness by faithfulness. In fact, to me success is not in achieving some accomplishment out there in the future. Success is being faithful to do the right thing today. Be clear. What's your plan? I think this and you do the next right thing and you execute.
So what's the next right thing for you? You want to start a ministry? Do the next right thing. Have a meeting with someone else who is doing what you want to be doing. Take a tour, come with questions. Don't you dare do all the talking. Ask questions. Shut your face and listen to what someone else says. You've got an idea and you want to learn about it go take an online class. Find a mentor. Write a business plan. Listen to a podcast. You wanna get a date? Oh, God sent me to help you. Take a bath! Buy a shirt with a color on it. Sell your PS4. Go to Target, go to Target, go to Target. Target's where the girls go to find things they don't need. Oh, did we go too far there? Go to Target. You have a son name him Craig 'cause Craig sent you to Target for her to find you. What do you do? What do you do? I'm looking over to Amy, she's shaking her head.
You seek God faithfully. You define the vision clearly. You make plans carefully. And number four, you inspire people passionately. You inspire people passionately. I wanna warn you with what's coming next week because next week is challenging. What we're gonna see is a lot of opposition. Hard core critics and haters. We're gonna see some really discouraged people that feel like God may not be with us, we're failing, we're not getting it done, we could never ever accomplish this, they're distracted, they're exhausted, they feel like failures, and we're gonna watch as Nehemiah again and again steps up reaches deep within his soul at times when I'm thinking he probably doesn't even know if he believes it's possible himself. How do I know? Because I've done this. And you stand up and with whatever faith you have you try to inspire people passionately.
All things are possible with God. Watch what Nehemiah does. He says to them, he acknowledges that things aren't good, he says, "You see the trouble we're in"? I like that, that's authentic, that's telling the truth. This isn't sweep it under the rug and pretend it's all hidden. No, you see the trouble we're in? "Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire". Then what does he say? Come, everybody, people who believe, people from our homeland, people of the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our God. "Let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and we will no longer be in disgrace". Then Nehemiah says, "I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the King said to me". God is with us. God is working. God is for us.
Inspire the people around you to believe that God is for what we're doing, that God is with us, He'll never leave us, He'll never forsake us, He's empowering us, He's going before us, He's opening doors that we don't have the power to open. He's giving us favor with the hearts of people, our God is with us. Inspire people passionately. I like what John Wesley said, some people would call him the founder of the United Methodist Church. He said this, he said, "Light yourself on fire with passion "and people will come from miles to watch you burn". Somebody here is trying to play with a little gasoline, not really, but you know what I'm saying, and let the fire burn. You inspire people.
One of my favorite things to do is to help our church see, to inspire you with what's possible. 23 years ago, there were 40 of us with nothing but a dream and nothing but a vision. As of today there are 33 locations, 33 spiritual hospitals, where people from all walks of life come in broken and hurting and together with your prayers, with your faith, with your heart, with your generosity, with the power of God, I believe God wants there to be 34 and 35, and 36, and 37, and 38. Not because we care about numbers but because God cares about people who are hurting, who are broken. So we're not just building church buildings. We are filling Heaven with people who need the grace of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. You believe it's possible.
Hey, I just go off the sermon for a moment and tell you, you know someone who knows grace? Invite them, love them, let some crazy people show them the unconditional love of a Jesus who has changed all of us. You get them into the presence of God, you bring them back this weekend, next weekend, and you watch as God's Spirit does something that we don't have the power to do in of ourselves. For any of you who think someone's too far from the reach of God, there is no person that God's Spirit can't touch and bring them in a moment into his love and grace.
What do you care about? Let it break your heart to the point where you can't just keep it to yourself. Where it oozes out of you. Not with this anger that turns people away but with this passion that draws people in. We can rebuild. We can save our people. No longer in disgrace. What burdens you? We can empty the foster homes and get kids in good homes. We can help people be free of addictions. We can save marriages from divorce by teaching the truth of God's goodness. We can help people heal from what's in your heart. Believe that and inspire people to it.
Nehemiah says I told him about the favor of our God and how he moved the heart of our king. What you care about, that burden, what if it's not an accident? What if God trusted it to you? Because it bothers you more than it bothers everybody else. Maybe it's because you've been given an assignment that no one else has. The burden that you bear often reveals the calling that you will embrace. An ordinary person? Don't feel qualified? Don't feel prepared? Congratulations, you're the perfect type of person that God loves to use. So how do you make a difference? How do you do the good work? You seek God faithfully. You define the vision clearly. You make plans carefully. You inspire people passionately. And you step out and do what you can do and you watch God do more through your step of faith than you ever imagined.
So Father, do that in us. Do that through us. I pray today, God, that this would not just inspire somebody perhaps, but equip them to do the good work and to make a difference in this world.
All of our churches, you know there's something more, and you're ready to act. What's your plan? Do the next right thing. Do the next right thing. For some of you, it's acknowledging there is a next right thing and you want to do it. If that's you, would you lift up your hands? The next right thing and say yes God, yes God, yes God, yes God, yes God.
As hands are going up in all of our churches, Father we pray that we would excel at number one seeking you, we'd be people of prayer. Yes, everything we do can be practical but is bathed in what is spiritual God, you direct our steps. You got our hearts. Father, I pray today for somebody who's feeling especially burdened and they don't know what to do, I pray, God, that they may feel free to just have to start something they can join wherever you're already working in this area, or you may prompt them to do something even on their own. Whatever it is God, you direct them. Help them to find their vision very, very clearly. God, help them to do the next right thing. And God, along the way, you can use their faith, their passion, to inspire others to make a difference, to do your will on Earth as it is in Heaven. Use us, God, use us.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, some of you it's time for you to do the next right thing. What is your next step? At all of our churches, there may be some of you you grew up in church like I did, but you don't have the thriving, personal, living relationship with Jesus. That was my story. Others of you, you might not be church people at all. Like, Nehemiah, where's that, who's that? You don't even know anything. And that's perfect, you are welcome here. Please, bring it on. There's something in you that's drawing you right now toward God. You can sense it, you don't know what it is. Let me tell you what that is. It's His loving kindness, it's His grace, it's His goodness, and for you the next right thing might be just calling on the name of Jesus.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is God in the flesh, the very son of God. Jesus was perfect in every way. Jesus came not for those who are already righteous but he came for sinners. He didn't come for those who are perfect. Jesus came for those who are broken. Jesus came for people just like you. He came for those just like me. And what did Jesus do? Jesus never, ever sinned. Therefore, He was the innocent and perfect sacrifice who gave His life on a cross, the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He died in our place. But in God's power, what did God do? He raised His son, Jesus, from the dead defeating death, Hell, darkness in a grave.
Now Scripture says that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, that name that is above every name, they would be saved. They would be forgiven. They would be changed. You're not made right with God by being better, by trying harder, by being less bad or for good, we're only made right with God by grace, the grace of God through faith in God's perfect work through His perfect son Jesus. In all of our churches today, there are those of you, you know it, that you're not walking with God, you don't have the peace of God, you don't have an assignment from God. You know, I'm doing this, I'm making a difference in the world on behalf of the goodness of the overflow of my relationship with God and you want it right now. You are not here by accident. You're here because our God brought you here. You're not watching by accident. You're watching because our God drew you to this moment.
In all of our churches, those who say, I want that grace, I turn from my sins, I give my life completely to Jesus, my life is no longer mine, today by faith, today by faith, today by faith, I give my life to Him. That's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high now? All of the places say yes, Jesus, I surrender to you! We've got hands coming all over the place. People calling out on Jesus saying yes, I surrender my life to you today! Oh, we thank you God. Thank you God. Church Online, you just click right below me, and I would love it today if every single one of our Life.Churches would you all just mind just standing to your feet? What we're gonna do is we're gonna declare this prayer together with those all around you, just join your voices aloud and pray with me.
Heavenly Father, I turn to you and ask you to forgive all my sins. Jesus save me, change me, make me new. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can do what you call me to do. Lead me step by step into your perfect will, into your perfect way. My life is all yours. Thank you for new life, I give you mine. In Jesus Name I pray.