Craig Groeschel - Praying Through The Pain
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Hey, I am incredibly thankful to have all of you today gathering at all of our different Life Church locations. We're in a message series that I believe is very, very important for so many people. Quite honestly, it's very important for me. The message series is called Anxious for Nothing. And the title of today's message is Praying through the pain. Praying through the pain. We're looking at Philippians chapter four, before we dive into the text that we're using to start our series every single week.
I want to just acknowledge something that many of you may not have thought about, but it's very true in our lives. Oftentimes, the biggest battles that we're going through, are battles that other people just don't see. So, often the battles that we're fighting are battles in our own minds. We often will show on the outside that we look confident, while on the inside we're secretly insecure, or we're struggling. We can often look like we're strong, but the truth of the matter is, we feel weak. We can put on happy face at church, "Praise the Lord, bless you God," all this kind of stuff. You know, #blessed, oh, here's my Instagram self. But, oftentimes, truthfully, we go home, we feel anxious, we feel worried, we feel a weight. We feel angst. There's a heaviness, there's an insecurity, there's a fear, there's a dread.
What do we do when we find ourselves battling with anxiety? Well, our text that's driving us through this message series is Philippians chapter four. I'm wanna read it to you again today, and I wanna remind you, as we experience the power of God's Word, that this was the Apostle Paul writing, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to his friends in Philippi, but he was writing from a Roman prison. He was chained up 24 hours a day to Roman guards, and he was awaiting trial. He didn't know what was gonna happen to him. If there was anyone, anywhere who had the right to be anxious, it was the Apostle Paul in what he was going through. And, under that type of duress, here's the words of power, life, and truth that he penned. He said this. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all".
Remember last week, "The Lord is near". Why does the Lord whisper? He whisper's because he's close. The Lord is near. Then, the Apostle Paul says, "Do not be anxious about anything". Another translation says, "Be anxious for nothing". "Do not be anxious about anything, but," in what? Let's say it aloud in all of our church, He said, "But in every situation," no matter what you're facing. If you're worried about your job, if you're worried about the economy, if your teenagers are freaking you out, no matter what you're going through. "In every situation, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving," here's what we do. We present our requests to God. "And, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". In every situation, by prayer and petition, we present our requests to God. And so, let's do that today:
Father, I ask that the power of Your Word, and the presence of Your Spirit would build our faith today. God, for those who are anxious, would you send Your peace. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus, and everybody said, Amen.
What is anxiety? What's anxiety? The answer is very, very complicated. There's no easy answer. Anxiety can be physiological. It could be emotional. It can be situational. I would argue it's always spiritual. Because anxiety is very complicated, we're going to take a holistic approach, always, to anxiety. In other words, we are always going to pray. We also may seek professional help. We may go to a doctor, we may get advice about supplements or about our diet. We may, under professional care, take certain medicine. We may seek counseling, which is something that I'm doing right now for anxiety in my life. We're always gonna take a holistic approach. For the sake of this time together, I wanna focus wholly and completely on the spiritual side, because I cannot prescribe medicine to you, nor would you want me to prescribe medicine to you. But, I can offer spiritual prescription, that I hope will be helpful. Are we clear? We're gonna be holistic, but today, we're talking very, very pointed toward spiritual.
What is anxiety? I'll try to explain it this way. How many of you ever had one of those annoying red lights come on your car that indicates there's trouble? Any of you have that? That gives me anxiety, anytime the Check Engine light comes on. What is the Check Engine light? The Check Engine light is not the problem. The Check Engine light signals that there's a problem somewhere else. The signal indicates that, if you're smart, you should take the car to the manufacturer, take it to the one who made it, because the one who created it is the one who knows how to fix it. The light is not the problem, the light is a signal indicating you should take it to someone who knows how to address the situation. What is anxiety? Among many things, anxiety is a signal alerting you that it's time to pray. Let me say it again. It's the signal, it's the alert, it's the indicator that something else is not right, that you would be wise to go to the manufacturer, go to your creator, go to the one who made you. Anxiety is a signal alerting you that it's time to pray.
In other words, if it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about. If it's on your mind, it's on God's heart. Be anxious about nothing, but in every situation, take your request to God. If you're worried about your upcoming doctor's appointment? Pray about it. If you're worried about a decision that you need to make? Pray about it. If you're worried about going back to school, who's gonna be in my class? What teacher am I gonna get? Are the kids gonna be nice to me? Pray about it. If you're worried about your kid going back to class, because you don't know how you're gonna afford the scientific calculator that costs the same as a used Honda Civic? Pray about it. If it's on your mind, it's on God's heart. Take your requests to God.
Here's something I've learned after being a pastor. I used to just say, "Pray," and then, I recognized that a lot of people, honestly, just don't know how to pray. They kind of wonder, like, what are the prayer rules? You know, how do I address God? Is He like the omnipotent creator? Is He daddy? What do I call Him? Do I have to pray in like King James language, or it doesn't count? How do I sign off? Do I say, "In Jesus' name? In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit"? Does he get mad if I don't do it? What if I fall asleep praying? Have I offended God, and I'm in prayer time-out for the next seven weeks, he won't listen to my prayer? What are the prayer rules? You have to pray in King James language. "Hearken unto the voice of my cry, oh God, hide not Thyself from my supplication". You don't have to do that. You don't have to pray to a relational God who loves you in a formal language, He loves you. It can be intimidating, honestly.
I don't know if any of you have been around, like, prayer ninjas. People with, like, the spiritual gift of prayer. Like, they pray and God goes like, "Dude, that was good". "Wow, man! Yours, that sucks. That was a good prayer". You know... I mean, they quote scripture, and they know where it is in the Bible, and stuff like that. And, they can find the book in the Bible. Like, "God, you said in Isaiah 54:17, 'No weapon formed against me will prosper.'" And you're like, "Woo, that's good".
I remember when I was a brand-new Christian trying to do that. There was this one guy, he was so powerful and eloquent, and so I was trying... I was like, "God, you know you're so good, yes, you're so good. You're good to the last drop, God. You're like a good neighbor, you're always be there". Now, I didn't know how to do it, but, with everything in me I was trying. Like, "Here's a good prayer, God". How do you pray? Listen to what scripture says. And, I wanna give you a little insight to what Paul said. He said this, he said, "Pray about everything". God cares about it. He said, "Present your requests to God". I don't love that translation. There's different ways... This text is written in Greek, and so scholars determine, here's the best way I think it should be translated. That's why there's different versions of the Bible, there's different translations. In my opinion, that's a little bit more formal than what the text is saying.
What the text really is saying is this: how do you pray? The text is saying, "Let your needs be known". That's what it's saying. It's, "Present your requests to God," it's, "Let your needs be known". How do we do that? It's very simple. You... Get ready for it. Let your needs be known. You talk to God, in your way. In other words, it doesn't have to be in my way. It doesn't have to be in Prayer Ninja's way. It's just in your way. For example, we have six kids. If you're new here, you must say, "You must really love kids". Eh, they're okay. I really love their momma, and all God's people said, amen. My kid's hate that joke, but they know I really love them. And, here's what's interesting. They all let their needs be known to me in their own creative and unique ways. They're all very different in how they let their needs be known. I'm going to introduce them to you via photos. And, I'm gonna tell you how they let their needs be known.
My oldest daughter, Katie, she lets her needs be known on texts. She'll text me whatever she needs, and the texts are short, they're direct, they're to the point, and they're always very loving. Mandy doesn't text her needs, she calls. And, the average Mandy call lasts about 43 minutes. She's a talker. Then, there's Sam, and... No, sorry, there's Anna, next. There's six of them, they're hard to keep straight. You, whatever your name is, stop that. Okay, there's Anna. Anna recently got married. Anna presents and brings data, and flip charts, and proves her case, and won't let anyone back out.
Then, there's Sam. Sam waits until 10:30 at night, comes into our bedroom to talk for a long period of time. Which, honestly, that's not the ideal time to come into our bedroom. Because, often we are planning some very intense prayer time. Then, there's Steven. And, what he does is, he's like a little attorney. He's smarter than anybody in the room, he's three moves ahead of me, he's already got his defense, and he wins when he walks in the room. Then, there's Joy. Joy will ask, text, call, come into the room, sing, shout, beg. She never surrenders, and she gets what she wants, 'cause she's the baby of the family, and everybody's favorite. Just ask her and she will tell you, okay?
They're all creative, and they're all unique. And that's how you can talk to God. You can ask Him. You can write your prayer requests to Him. You can sing your prayer requests to Him. You can sigh, He knows your heart. You can shout with joy, you can shout with anger. Believe me, He's big enough to handle your temper tantrum. And, here's what I want you to know. I'm a dad, and as an earthly father, I actually like when my children need me. Don't tell them I said that. But, I do. I wanna be needed, and God, who loves you, as your Heavenly Father, loves for you to come to Him and let your needs be known. In every situation, with prayer and petition, let your needs be known to God.
What is anxiety? It's the signal, alerting you to go to the One who loves you, go to the One who created you, go to the One who can help you. It's a signal alerting you, it's time to pray. I love the way that Peter talked about how to handle anxiety. Peter is a guy that probably did have anxiety, if you looked at the way he lived his life. And, this is what he said to do when you're anxious. He said, in First Peter, five, verse six and seven, he said, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's might hand. Focus on the hand, we're gonna come back to this. Under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time". Then, he said, "Cast all your anxiety," do you feel anxious? Do you feel a weight? Do you feel afraid? We're gonna approach it holistically, but we're always going to take it to God, and we're gonna cast our anxiety on Him, because he cares for us. What do you do? You humble yourselves, and you pray. This is what I've been doing more than you can imagine.
If you were here with us last week, I got kind of open with you, and I really appreciate you not freaking out and leaving the church, and running out going, "Our pastor's in counseling". Yes, your pastor's in counseling. I've been battling with unusual anxiety, this is not normal for me, but it's been real enough to get help. The doctor I'm working with is a performance psychologist, and so he's helping me not just look within, but to perform at a higher level, and it's incredibly helpful. Here's what I've been going through, I'm just gonna kind of unpack it for you. And, when I'm gonna tell you this, it's not to complain, and it's not to say my world is anymore difficult than anyone else's. Everybody's got their stuff. Let me say it again, everybody's got their stuff. Right? We all do, we all do. My world's not harder, it's just different. What I'm gonna tell you is, I'm not bragging, I'm not complaining, this is just what's been giving me this anxiety, to the point where I have a hard time breathing, and I'm not functioning the way that I want to.
Over the next two months, I have 16 or 17 messages to write, and proof, and they're all new. That's not easy, okay? You gotta be creative. Every time I read the Bible, David always beats Goliath. Every time. Christmas it's the Virgin, Easter it's an empty tomb. Got to be creative, and it's, like... Can we change it? Nope, we can't change it, so, every year... And, just to give you insight into my world, it takes me, from start to finish, from concept to research, to digging into the text, to illustrating, to personalizing, to checking with other people to make sure I'm not omitting a group of people, to finalizing, to internalizing, it's about a 12-16 hour process, sometime it will drift up to 20 hours.
So, I've got about 16 messages. I'll show you, this is my board. I always keep this board for two months ahead. So, you'll see Anxious 1, Anxious 2, Anxious 3. And then, the Global Leadership Summit. I did the opening and closing talk. Just to help you feel the pressure, it's translated into 60 languages, and goes to about 450,000 people. Yeah, I feel the pressure. This week there's all-staff, then there's a September series, and the conferences and such. And so, I've got about 22 days worth of study time that I need, in the next two months, and I have only 11 on the calendar. Because, contrary to popular belief, pastors actually do more than just preach on Sunday. Just saying, okay?
So, I have what is, according to my schedule, an impossible situation. Meaning, that doesn't work. So, what I've been doing, now, for the last year or so, is I've been cheating earlier and later. Meaning, kids go to bed, I go to work until late. Or, I get up, and Amy will tell you, and she's not happy about it, and it's not sustainable, but I will be in the office, oftentimes, at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning. Because, that's what it takes. That's not good. Anxiety. Too much. Pressure.
Here's how I'm dealing with it. I am a tither. I'm a tither. What I believe with all of my heart, is that God owns everything, but everything that he gives me, the first 10% is devoted to Him. If I worship Him with the first 10% of what He gives to me, scripture says, that He blesses the rest, and pours out blessings on me, in ways of provision. And, not just monetarily, but in all sorts of way. So, for all 28 years of our marriage, we've always put the first 10% toward God, and believed that He would bless the rest. I'm taking that principle, according to help with my counselor, and I'm applying it to preaching. Which is, I don't have time to spend a lot of time in prayer. When I get up in the morning, I speed in, I take two steps at a time, I'm telling you, every minute of my day counts. If I'm on an airplane, you might be watching a movie, I'm working on a sermon, every minute counts.
I'm now tithing time in prayer. Meaning, instead of working longer, I'm praying longer, when I don't feel like I have the time, believing that if I'll prepare my heart, God will help prepare the message. The message that you're hearing right now has about five hours less time than a normal message. My hope is that you don't say, "Well, it shows, pastor. Get up at 2:00 in the morning"! I hope that that doesn't show. Because in my heart, what I'm saying is, rather than working harder, I'm going to believe more. Rather than trying to produce my way through it, I'm gonna play my way through it. I'm gonna tithe this time, and I'm gonna trust God to be my provision. I'm gonna pray about everything. I don't know how this would apply to you, but whenever there's anxiety, it's a signal alerting you, it's time to go to the One who cares about you, it's time to seek God in prayer.
Do you feel down? Do you feel depleted? Do you feel like there's too much, and you're sinking? Peter said, "Humble yourself, therefore, under God's mighty hand". I love this imagery. "That He might lift you up". That will mean so much more to you if you recognize who was writing this. Peter was writing this. Peter was the one who was in a boat with all the other disciples, and had the audacity to believe that he could get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus on water. Which he did! He's walking on water, and when he saw the wind and the waves, the anxiety took over, he took his eyes off Jesus, and he started to sink. And then, what did Jesus do? Jesus didn't say, "You no-good faithless guy". No, Jesus reached out his hand. "Humble yourselves under His mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time," when you go before God in prayer.
If you're sinking, perhaps the problem isn't that you're sinking. The problem isn't that you're not reaching out to his hand that is there for you. If you reach out to Him, reach out to Him, He will lift you up in due time. In fact, here's a little secret to where we're going. At the end of this message, we're going to sing a song. It's about three minutes long. Which cuts three minutes off my message, which actually helps me prepare less. Okay. And, when we sing, I'm actually going to have you reach up a hand or two. And you may say, "That's not my style". You've done it somewhere. You've been at a concert, you've been at a game, you can do it one time. I'm gonna push you just a little bit. What do lifted hands symbolize? Well, they symbolize victory, and/or they symbolize surrender. In this case, I believe that they will symbolize both at the same time.
The moment that we surrender, we will experience a victory that God is with us, that He cares for us, that He's comforting us, that He's strengthening us, that He is with us. What do we need to do? If you're battling with anxiety, there is a cycle. There's always a cycle. The cycle looks like this. What do you do? You feel anxious, you feel a weight, you feel an angst, you feel a dread, you feel worried. So, you try to do what I try to do, you try to take control. I'll make this happen, I'll get her into shape, I'll fix him, I'll control that. You try to take control. The problem is, the more we try to control, the more we fear losing control, and the more we fear losing control, the more we try to control, and the more we try to control, the more anxiety we start to feel.
What do we need to do? When we start to enter into the anxiety cycle, we need to break the cycle. We need to shatter the cycle. How do we break the cycle? We recognize this truth, internalize it, embrace it, live it, let it sink into your soul, let it heal your mind, let it bring comfort to you. What do we do? We recognize the truth, that you don't always have the power to control, but you always have the power to surrender! You always... You can't fix everything. You can't change everything. Medicine won't always fix it, counseling won't always fix it, changing of circumstances won't always fix it. We can't always fix everything, but we can surrender anything that is a burden to our God. We can take it to God, we can take it to God, we can take it to God, we can take it to God.
In fact, if you wouldn't mind, I'm gonna change microphones, because I'm gonna ask the band to come up, and I need some help getting over the band, 'cause the band's gonna be really, really good today. At all of our different churches, at this moment, would you just stand to your feet, every Life Church location. I want you to prepare to take what is weighing on you, and just, in the only way you know how, let your needs be known to God. Present your request to God. What are we going to do. We're gonna humble ourselves. Listen to me, I need help. Your pastor needs help. I'm seeking help. I'm going to God for help. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time". "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you".
Cast, in the Greek, it means to throw, it means to release, it means to surrender, it means to let it go. In other words, we're not gonna just say, "Oh, God, I give this to you. Oh, God, it's been 12 minutes, I'm taking it back". No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. God, You are sovereign. God, You are always good. God, Your ways are perfect, Your ways are higher. God, You're working in all things to bring about good to those who love you, God, and are called according to your purpose. We believe, God, that no weapon formed against us will prosper, God, we believe that the devil is a liar. We believe, God, You're going before us, that God, You are working in us. God, we cast our cares upon You.
What's weighing on you? What burden are you carrying? What are you anxious about? Your future? Your job? Your finances? Your marriage? Wondering if you ever will get married? Your children, what they're doing, what other people will think. Aging parents, your health. Or, like me, you're worried, I just don't think I'm gonna be able to keep up. Anxiety is the signal, alerting you that it's time to pray. "Don't be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with prayer and petition, we let our needs be known, we present our requests to God". "And, the peace from heaven, the peace of God," notice, this is the peace of God. It's not your peace, listen to me, it's not a peace from this world. It's not something that this world gives, therefore, this world can't take it away. This is a peace of God that will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
At all of our campuses, simultaneously symbolizing surrender, and victory, would you push beyond your comfort zone today, and lift up your hands before God. I wanna declare over you the lyrics of the words of the song that our worship team wrote just for this very moment, and then, you sing it with every bit of faith from your soul. The lyrics say this, "When I say Jesus," the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, "When I say Jesus the very mention Shatters the darkness and it calms my soul. When I say Jesus even a whisper Breaks through my doubting," get ready to sing it. "Till all my fears are gone".
Give him praise, give him praise, give him praise, give him praise. In Owasso, give him praise. In Keller, give him praise. In Albany, give him praise. In Hendersonville, give him praise. In South Tulsa, give him praise. Somebody in Fort Worth, give him praise. In Wichita, give him praise. In Kansas City, give him praise. In Wellington, somebody give him praise. Give him praise, give him praise. Give him praise.
Father, we cast our cares on You. We need You God, we humble ourselves.
As you're reflecting at all of our different churches, those of you with a burden that you'd like to cast upon Him today, would you lift up your hands right now, all of our churches, just lift up your hands.
Father, hear the cry of our hearts. We present every need before You, God. We thank You God, that You care for us. God, even if we don't see the result, immediately, that we want, we trust in You, God, we worship in You. We worship You, we praise You, God. We recognize that You are here, God. Comfort Your children. May heaven open up, God. May, in this moment, we sense a peace because you are good. We cast our cares upon You.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, nobody looking around, there may be those of you that, you recognize spiritually, you're missing something. We talked about the name of Jesus. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God, he wasn't just a prophet, he wasn't just a man, he wasn't just a teacher, he wasn't just a miracle worker, he was the Son of God. He was perfect, he was without sin. Jesus loved people just like you and just like me. He loved those who messed up, who sinned, who religion rejected. And, because of his love, Jesus perhaps experienced the greatest anxiety you could imagine. As he was preparing to go to the cross, he fell on his knees in a garden, and he said, "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death".
That's anxiety, knowing what was to come, separated from his father in the torture on the cross, and what was anxiety? A signal alerting, it's time to pray, and he cried out in prayer, "Father, if there's anyway to remove this cup of suffering, take it away. But, nevertheless, God, not my will but Your will be done". He prayed, and he obeyed. And, he died in our place, and he rose again for the forgiveness of sins to make us new, to give us life. When you pray to that name that is above every name, our God hears your prayer. He forgives your sins, He makes you new.
At all of our churches, there are those of you, maybe you feel anxious right now. Maybe you feel really low. Hey, it's time to lift up your hand, lift up your faith, and when you do, God's mighty hand will lift you up. He will save you, He will forgive you. To all of our churches, those who say, "I need forgiveness from my sins, I need His grace, I want His life, I turn from my sins, I turn toward Him, I call on that name, the name that is above every name, I call on the name of Jesus, Jesus save me. I give you my life". That's your prayer, lift your hands high now.
All of our churches, lift them up now. Right back here, and here as well. Others of you. Up here, and my goodness, over there. Leave them up, will you, right back here and up here. Up there, on this side, right over here, praise God, here. Oh, my goodness! Right back up here, and here. Praise God for you others that today say, "Yes, Jesus, I give you my life". Waving high, praise God for you. Right back over here. Somebody outta worship even louder. Church online, you just click right below me, and as we give some praise to our God, would you all take a moment, let's go before God together in prayer. Just pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus save me, make me new. Fill me with Your Spirit, so I could follow You. I cast my cares on you. I want to live for you. My life is not my own. Thank you for new life. In Jesus' name I pray.