Craig Groeschel - When You Just Can't Decide
Hey I love that you've joined us today, at all of our Life.Church locations, for another week, studying our message series called "Anxious For Nothing". Who's a little bit ready to hear from God's word today, at all of our churches? I'm incredibly thankful, in the first week, and every single week, we started with a very powerful portion of scripture, from the book of Philippians, in chapter 4. The first week we stood in honor of God's word. I'd love it if we closed out the message series today doing the exact same thing, in all of our churches. Would you mind just standing to your feet, in honor of God's word today.
Let me give you the context, Philippians chapter 4. The apostle Paul, more than anything else, believed that if he could get to Rome to preach the gospel, this would be the most strategic move to reach people around the world. Unfortunately, through a different series of events, he made it to Rome, but not as a preacher. Instead he was there as a prisoner. Locked up, 24 hours a day under house arrest. While at that moment, he penned a letter to his friends, the believers in Philippi, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that letter is now what we know as the book of Philippians.
If there is anybody who could've battled with anxiety, it was the apostle Paul, as a prisoner, awaiting trail, not knowing what would happen to him. Would his life be ended early? If anybody could've been anxious it was the apostle Paul. And this is what he said to his dear friends in Philippi, he said: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all, because the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus. The peace of God will guard your minds.
Some of you right now, you may be trying to make a decision. And the weight of the decision is weighing on you, and you say I don't have a peace of mind. My mind is racing, I feel overwhelmed, I feel in angst, I feel a heaviness, I feel pressure, I feel afraid. In fact, based on my research, I found that one of the biggest forms of anxiety is what people would call decision making anxiety. What do I do next, I don't wanna get it wrong, I'm afraid of making an irreversibly bad decision. And that's why the title for today's message is this, "When You Just Can't Decide"!
Our Father, today I pray for those who have decisions to make, or those who would live under the weight of anxiety, of a decision one day to make. We pray God, that as we present our request to you, that you would open up heaven, and give us a peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand. Direct our steps, God, that we could please you, in all that we do. We pray this in the name of the one who gave it all for us, our Lord, and our Savior, Jesus, and everybody said? Amen and amen. Amen.
Hey, why don't you high five a few people around you, and say you look amazing today. You look amazing. I see you over there kissing, on the fifth row. I saw that, saw a little smooch smooch going on. Did you just meet? Like, you look amazing, aw thank you, I don't know. Welcome to church, where you might be blessed in ways you had no idea. I wonder, did you just meet? Or like have you been together for awhile?
Those of you who have decisions to make, I wonder how often you're like me, where you feel a little bit of anxiety about the decisions that you need to make. Decision making often feels very complicated. Anybody relate to that? Should I stay in this job, or should I take another job? Should I live in this city, or move to a different city? Should I go back to school to further my education, which would be an investment, and take some time, but it might help propel my career further later on? And if I do go to school, do I go to the school of my choice, which is really, really expensive, or do I go to the junior college, which is closer, and the education might not be as good, and that might hold me back? But at least I won't be in debt, and I don't really wanna be in debt.
And should I stay in this house that I'm renting, or should I try to buy a house? Or should I keep this car that I've been driving and try to nurse it along, and hope it doesn't die, and maybe it'll build my faith, and help me be closer to Jesus, or should I invest in a better car? And hopefully that would be a wise decision. And should I continue to date this guy, who just won't seem to commit, and all my friends call him Mr. Nocommit? Or should I cut my losses, and hope the cute guy at my work, that has a Life.Church bumper sticker, would hear from heaven, and ask me out? I just don't know what to do. It often feels so complicated.
I've been working with a counselor, dealing with my anxiety. If you're new with us, you're like oh my gosh, our pastor's getting counseling for his anxiety, yes, and yes, welcome to the real club, I don't always glow in the dark, I'm still a regular person. And I had been dealing with anxiety. The term I gave it was content anxiety. Trying to produce content, which I believe would honor God, and speak to people, and so I've been working with a counselor on it. And we had a breakthrough recently, I'll kinda try to tell you the story of why it's a breakthrough in understanding. I'll tell you again about last week, and again I won't bore you after this series about my week, but I'm just kinda unpacking what I'm learning and going through.
So, a normal week for me is four office days. I'm in the office Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Amy and I try to take Friday off, and then I generally preach on Saturday and on Sunday. So, four office days, I have the normal load to get done. This week I had two travel days, in Chicago, so I only had two office days to do everything. In that time, I had a directional team leader meeting. I had to meet with the, I got to meet with our new staff members, I had two podcast interviews to shoot, and with all that, in only two days, I had to prepare this weekend's message plus three talks for Chicago, plus nail down the fall message series, and I felt anxiety. Content anxiety, this is too much. Oh pastor, you been preaching on this for four weeks, and you're still dealing with anxiety. Yes, it's just kinda where I live.
Okay, so I'm working with my counselor, and a couple a weeks ago we kinda had a breakthrough idea. He said, "You really are putting too much pressure on yourself, there's more in you, you need to trust what God's put in you". And then he said, "If I gave you 10 minutes to prepare, and you could choose anything you wanted to speak on, and you had to speak in front of 100,000 people," he said, "you are so experienced, you could actually do a good job, 10 minutes preparation, on anything you wanted". And I said, "No I couldn't"! And I pushed back. If you gave me 10 minutes, to choose anything to get ready, I couldn't do it because I would spend those 10 minutes unable to decide what it would be to speak on. If though, you gave me a subject, a text, a theme, an idea, and 10 minutes, I actually could probably put something relatively meaningful together, and it was a breakthrough.
It's not the content preparation that's giving me as much anxiety is it's the fear of not choosing the right thing. It's the decision making process that's been giving me anxiety. This may be exactly where some of you live, it's complicated, in fact the emerging generation, those of you that are high school and college age, Gen Z, some are saying this is the most stressed age group in the history of the world. The call it the age of anxiety, because there are so many complications. In fact, I wanna try to answer the question, why are we so anxious so often around decision making? And I give you two reasons, although there would be many more.
Why is it so complicated? Number one, the bottom line is, we have too many choices. They call it the paradox of choices. In fact, we tend to think if we have more options, it's going to be easier, but it's simply not true. It's a little bit like if you are scrolling on Amazon, or Netflix, and there's an unlimited number of choices of shows to watch, it's hard to make a decision. But if you get on an international flight, and there's only seven movies, you wanna watch four of them. The limited choices drive you. It's a paradox of choices, and we live in an age with unlimited opportunities, we can go anywhere, and do anything, and that gives us a sense of anxiety.
In fact, this week I was researching the paradox of choices, and I read article after article after article that quoted the same source that said children make about 5,000 decisions a day, 5,000. Adults though, make about 35,000 decisions a day. It's no wonder we're so stressed out. Then I read about four other articles that argued against those statistics, and said they were inaccurate. And I couldn't decide which one to believe. The bottom line is whether it's 35,000 or 5,000, we're making so many choices, the paradox of choices often creates anxiety. Preach on anything you want? That gives me anxiety. Gimme a target, and it relieves anxiety.
Why do we feel so anxious? One is because there's so many choices, the second reason is very simple, we're afraid of making a costly mistake. We're afraid of missing out. To put it in spiritual terms, we don't wanna miss God's will. What do we feel, pressure to get it just right. Culture says, when it comes to marriage, you gotta find the one. Your spiritual journal you're reading says pursue your purpose. Then your preacher says let's live for God's will. And at the front of your mind, you're always worried, what if I missed the one? What if I don't find my purpose? And what if I'm out of God's will? I mean what if that one special one is three rows ahead of you right now? And this is your only moment? You saw when she was worshiping Jesus, she had no ring finger on her left praise hand, and this is your moment, and if you miss out, you're doomed for a life being miserable, worshiping all by yourself. What if I miss the one?
And so we often fear, I don't wanna let somebody down, I don't wanna make the wrong choice, I don't wanna let God down, I don't wanna make an irreversibly bad decision, so we hesitate, we stall, we procrastinate. We become indecisive. I was working with a young staff member who was very, very indecisive. So I wanted to help him see his issue, and so I asked him, I said, "Hey man, do you think you battle with indecisiveness"? God as my witness, he looked back at me, he said, "Well, yes and no, I'm not sure". Indecision is a decision, and it's the decision that so many people are making today. It's just so complicated. What I wanna do today is I want to try to uncomplicate it. I'm gonna try to tell you don't complicate it.
If you'd like some tools, very real specific tools, on decision making, I'm not gonna cover those today, but I did, in a Free Leadership Podcast episode number 18, if you'd like to just go listen to that, it's real specific tools, five secrets of superior decision makers, we're not gonna do that today. Today we're gonna look at one very simple spiritual principle, and I'm gonna try to tell you don't complicate it. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna lead up to this principle, I'm gonna build a foundation from a very powerful story, and then we're gonna look at this one simple principle, don't complicate it. We're gonna look at a story in Acts chapter 15, and in Acts 15 it's very interesting, some of the leaders of the church were dealing with complicated issues.
We had Paul, we had Barnabas, we had James, who met up in Jerusalem, to deal with some of the controversies. In other words, if you're a Christian, could you eat certain types of meat, that some traditions would forbid? Then the really complicated question was this, if you were a Gentile, would you have to be circumcised to, I can't believe I just did that motion, but you know, it's just like, would you have to be circumcised in order to be a follower of Jesus? Which, if I can just say it with my hands behind my back, it's kinda funny to me, if this were a membership requirement today, because men, it's difficult enough to get you to be baptized. Could you imagine me standing before you and say, "Hey, you wanna join the church, and be a follower of Jesus, you gotta be circumcised. Come forward right now". Like, I'll call on the name of Jesus, Jesus!
Okay, I'm just sayin', notice no hand signal, I did that earlier, and we won't do it again. So here they were, trying to make these weighty theological decisions. Doctrinal decisions that determine someone's eternal destiny, and these are the early church leaders making these incredibly weighty decisions. I want you to watch as we read their conclusions, and every time you see the words seemed good, I want you to say them aloud. What are we gonna do? Acts 15:22, then it what? Then it seemed good Seemed good. to the apostles, and the elders, and the whole church, to choose men from among them and send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. It what, say it aloud, it? Seemed good to us having become of one mind, to select men to send with our beloved Barnabas and Paul. For it what, it seemed good, to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than the essentials. In other words, it seemed right to simplify things, and not to raise the barrier to invite people to follow Christ, it seemed good.
What do you do if you don't know what to do? What do you do if scripture doesn't speak directly to the decision that you're trying to make? I could preach a message saying just do what seems good. There's one problem, in the Old Testament, there's the verse that says this, there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. It seems right, but it leads to a very bad spot. Why could both of these be true? Let's start with the Old Testament. There's a way that seems right to a man, but at the end, it leads to death. If you're taking notes, this is the reason why. If you're around the wrong people, listening to the wrong voices, and living for the wrong values, what seems right will often be wrong.
I wanna say it again, because this is so important. If you're in the wrong crowd, if you're listening to people whose opinions are different from that of God's truth, if you're consistently following worldly values instead of spiritual values, and you're surrounded with people that are not close to God, then oftentimes what seems right will actually lead to something that is incredibly wrong. I wonder how many of you found yourself in the wrong crowd, around the wrong influences, listening to the wrong voices, and you did something that seemed right, and later on you said that was the wrong thing. There's a way that seems right to a man, but at the end, it leads to the way of death. But here in the New Testament, we have some of the spiritual leaders saying it seemed right, and therefore we built the foundation of the church on something that just seemed right.
How could Paul, and James, and Barnabas make such weighty decisions on something that just seemed right? Well, earlier we read three different keys and we just read right on by them. In fact, the most important portions of scripture of this story, we just passed on by, most likely without most people even noticing. I wanna look again at the very same verses, and this time I wanna focus on something besides it just seeming right. How could they do what seems right, this is how. Then it seemed good to the apostles, and the elders, now get this part, with the whole church to choose some men. In other words, this wasn't something that seemed right to one person, this seemed right to the whole family of God, that was gathering together.
Read on, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind. Another version says of one accord. In other words, the whole church agreed, and we were unified. Then scripture says for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, not just me, but to all of us. In other words, this is so important, there is a massive difference between something that seems right to a man, or to a woman, that in the ends leads to death. A massive difference between something that seems right to one, and something that seems right to a community of faith filled, mountain moving, devil kicking, spirit filled, followers of Jesus, who have been seeking God's word, and following the voice of his Spirit. Don't miss this, they were able to act on what seems right, because the whole church agreed. Because they were of one accord. Because it seemed right to the Holy Spirit, and to us, and this is why what I'm about to tell you is one of the most important things we'll say all year long.
You do not go to church. The church is not a building. It's never been a building, it's not a destination. The church has always been, and will always be a people. It's not a building to which you go, it's an identity of which you embrace. We don't go to church, we are the church. And the church is more than a one hour meeting every now and then on the weekend, when you don't have anything else going. What do you wanna do this weekend? Well, the football team's outta town, and kids are in school, so we can't go to the lake, and nobody's got soccer, and the weather's not nice enough to do anything, but it's not raining so bad we can stay home, so well, we might as well go to church. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. It's not a place we go. It is who we are.
Well I'm just looking for a church that meets my needs. I just want find a church that meets my needs, I just gotta find a church that meets my needs. That's the most selfish and unbiblical statement around. The church is not a place that meets our needs, we are the church, and we meet the needs of the world. Why is it that so often we feel anxiety? It's because we're trying to follow Christ, and trying to please God outside of the context of the institution that he created to serve as his body, the body of Christ, it's a family, it's a body, and we are incomplete without the other portions of the body. What do we do for one another?
When I talk about LifeGroup, this isn't a program, like we're trying to get you in, like hey, we got 'em in LifeGroup. No, this is a LifeGroup, this is a family of people. Whenever you start to stray, because we all do, everybody else can no, no, come back, come back, come back here. Whenever we hurt, what do we do? Someone else prays for us. Whenever someone else hurts, we pray for them. Whenever there's a need, we meet these needs together. We are a family. It seemed good to us, and our whole family. This wasn't a decision made in isolation, based on my feelings, my intuition. This is the family of God, gathering together and recognizing we believe this is God's direction.
That's the difference, it seems right to a person, and it can lead to death. But when it seems right to a community, we can trust God on a whole different level. Don't complicate it, don't complicate it. In fact, lemme take you back through the previous weeks, and just kinda review where we've been. If you've been here with us all four weeks, you would recognize some of this. Week one, if it is big enough to worry about, it is big enough to pray about. If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about. What is anxiety? It's a signal alerting us it's time to pray. In the church, we recognize, we don't always have the power to control, but we always have the power to surrender.
Last week, because of who God is, we praise him. Not just for what he does, but because of who he is, and a perspective of praise changes everything. It may not take the anxiety away, but it does change your perspective. One thought, one thought, how do we make the decision? It feels so weighty. I don't wanna do the wrong thing. I'm scared to death to miss it. What if I make a decision, and I can never get it back? What if this is the one place? One thing, with a posture of prayer, and a perspective of praise, we will seek God and do what seems right. With a posture of prayer, this isn't me deciding, this is us, seeking God. With a perspective of praise, this is us coming together and recognizing God is always good, and he's always with us.
This isn't me seeking God, this is us. His body, we will seek God, then we will just do what seems right. It's not an unspiritual thing to do. It's an incredibly spiritual thing to do. It's a little bit like whenever you're driving, and your GPS is telling you take the next right, who knows what I'm talking about? Our voice is a female British voice. It's the one Amy chose, she's very polite. And she says, "Take the next right". And what always freaks me out is sometimes there's like a next right that's like right there, and then there's a next right that's just beyond it. Who knows what I'm talking about? Like which one! Which one is the next one!
That's why I always say, "Amy, which one"? And then she tells me, and the reason I ask her is because when it's the wrong one, I have somebody else to blame. That's just bad marriage advice. Do not listen to your pastor, and do not do that. Do not pass go, you will not collect $200, okay. That, I just, that's what it is. And I always panic, I almost always take the first one. Then what if I take the wrong one? What if I take the wrong one? What what what what what what what if this isn't the right one? Paul could've said I didn't take the right one. I wanted to be in Rome as a preacher. But I'm here as a prisoner. And then remember last week, he said, "Hey, but I want you to know that what has happened to me," this, what felt like a wrong turn, "what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel". Oh maybe I got off where I didn't wanna get off, but my God did something that I couldn't do on my own.
And that's why Paul was the one who said in Romans 8:28, he said and we, no not I know, not I hope, not we pray, but we know that our God works in all things, in everything our God is still working to bring about good, to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. In other words, one wrong turn isn't gonna keep you off God's path, it's not gonna take you back to his destination. You may just hear that female British voice say, "Rerouting, rerouting". It's taking you another path. Some of you, you may have made a wrong turn, and you're going on another path. Some of you have had more scenic routes than any 10 people put together. But the voice of the Spirit is rerouting. He's still taking you there, and the good news is that our good God has a way of bringing good things even out of wrong turns. That's how good he is, that's how good he is.
I shoulda never dated him. No you shouldn't have, the fact that his middle name was Satan was a good indicator that you shouldn't a dated him. But now, you understand what a godly man should look like, and when God brings you one, who cherishes you, and honors you, you'll recognize it, and you'll be grateful. I shoulda next trusted that person, I got burned so bad. Oh that hurts so bad, but now you're learning to forgive. You're becoming more like Jesus. I shoulda never done that, it's such a big mistake, it cost me so much. And oh you understand God's grace like you never have before. He's good enough to work through our wrong turns.
My life story, my right destination was based on a lotta wrong turns. Wrong friends, wrong environment, wrong entertainment, wrong girls, I became the wrong guy, ended up in the wrong places, and a lotta wrong turns led me to seek the right person, whose name was Jesus, who forgave my sins, who made me new, who transformed my heart, who changed the direction of my life, and oh there was a scenic detour, but it didn't stop me from getting to the destination. If there's anyone who's ever messed up or partied too hard, hey I can actually relate to you. It wasn't a waste, it was a wrong turn that now God can use in his ways. He's that good, he's that good, don't complicate it. Don't complicate it, it's a posture of prayer. And perspective of praise, surrounded by God's people. We will seek God and do what seems right. And this is the story of how I ended up here, preaching on this now.
If you weren't with us in earlier weeks, it was the first week of June, and I had an unusual breakdown of anxiety, couldn't make a decision about what to preach later on. Shortness of breath, and I know some of you are going, well that's not that big a deal, preacher boy, I got real problems. Yes, I understand, more power to ya, your problems are bigger than mine. That one, for whatever reason, it just took me down to an irrational place of not being able to function, not being able to catch my breath. Thank God, thank God I wasn't alone. I had my church family. The first thing Amy did is have our small community, our LifeGroup pray for me. My bride prayed for me, and she said, "Hey, Pastor Steven's been begging you to come see him. Take a day and go see Pastor Steven Furtick. You do it once a year, twice a year, go spend a day with him". And so I did, because it just seemed right.
And then we sat down, I said, "I'm in trouble, I've got this anxiety". And he said, "Why don't you call someone and get help". And it seemed right. Then he said, and let's just go ahead and settle what you're preaching on in August, you're preaching on anxiety, and you're gonna call it "Anxious For Nothing". Because we all know that your best messages are born out of your struggles, when you encounter the power of God's word. And in that moment, that just seemed right. So I called two very dear friends from my church family, in my community, who know a lot of national psychologists that work in a certain area. I said, "Gimme the two best performance psychologists". I called 'em both, I interviewed 'em both, and one of 'em just seemed right.
So we started talking, and he said, "You're not as bad as you think. You've got this one area, but you got all these other good things, so don't just focus on what's wrong, but also focus on what's right". And that seemed right. And then he said, "Let's not put so much pressure on getting it just perfect, because the Holy Spirit works even when you're not perfect, and instead, let's just trust your experience, plus God's presence, that will be enough". And that seems right. And then we recognize it's not just the content, but it's actually the decision making.
And so we're gonna change how we make decisions. Our next move is he's gonna surround me with what he calls wingmen, my people that got my back. One of 'ems obviously Amy. Others are people that work in my office. One is another pastor on our staff, one will be a pastor outside the staff, and one is a friend who's just a friend that has the ability to get up in my face, to protect me from me, because I'm often dangerous to me. And when I take on too much, they're gonna help me pull back, and we're gonna create a different plan. And that just seems right. And I know that this message series has not been for everybody, but it has been for some of you. Because I've heard from you, and I've seen it in your eyes, and I feel it in our conversations. And if it took me going through something, to learn God's word, in a way that would give you hope, then that just seems right to me.
With a posture of prayer, and a perspective of praise, we will seek God, and do what seems right. And we will rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all because you are near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, we present our request to you oh God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds, in Christ Jesus.
So Father, today we cast our cares upon you. For those of you battling decision making anxiety, any type of anxiety, a fear, a weight, a heaviness, an angst, and you wanna cast it upon God, would you lift up your hands right now, just all over the place, just lift 'em up, lift 'em up, lift 'em up. Father, even before we ask for direction, we ask for your family. Surround us, God. May we take the time to be planted in your church, as your church. Not solo Christians, but part of your family. Surround us, God with people loving you, seeking you. So together, with a posture of prayer, and a perspective of praise, we can be of one accord, of one mind, our whole LifeGroup agrees this isn't a decision made in isolation, but this is a decision made in community. It seemed the Holy Spirit agrees, and so do we. This is the next step, and we trust you, God, because you're always good.
As you keep praying today, at all of our different churches, there are those of you, you may recognize, you don't have a community like that, you may even recognize more so. You don't have a relationship with God, like that. What's the problem? There's a verse in scripture that says each of us have gone astray, we've gone our own way. What does that mean? We've all sinned, we've all messed up, we've all dishonored God. The good news is this, God in his love and mercy, he became one of us, he sent his son Jesus, who was without sin, he was perfect in every way, as the innocent sacrifice Jesus gave his life for us on a cross, and God raised him from the dead.
Why did God do this? Because Jesus made a way for our sins to be forgiven. Any one of us, this includes you, doesn't matter what you've done, doesn't matter what how dark your life feels. Anyone who calls on the name that is above every name, that name of Jesus, there's something about that name. Anyone who calls on that name would be saved, would be forgiven, would be made new. In all of our churches, those of you watching online, those of you listening to a podcast, you recognize this is your moment, you've got a decision to make, life as it is, or turn from your sin and turn toward him. It's a decision, it's a decision, it's a decision. Make the decision.
How's it going on your own? It's time to say yes, Jesus take my life. You don't have the power to control everything, but you can surrender, decide today to surrender your life completely to him.
All of our churches, those of you who say yes, I need his grace, by faith I decide to give my life to him if that's your prayer, lift your hands high right now. All over the place, lift 'em up high. Right up, over here, right up there, God bless you guys. Others of you today say yes, right back over here. Others today, call on his name, yes Jesus, I surrender to you. Church Online, you click right below me, and as we have people, all of our churches crying out on the name of Jesus, would you mind, just standing to your feet, at all the different locations today, in honor of those who are meeting the one who gave it all. Just pray aloud:
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins, Jesus save me, and make me new. Fill me with your spirit, so I can know you, walk in your ways, surrounded by your people, to always do your will. My life is not my own. I give it to you. In Jesus name I pray.