Craig Groeschel - Forgiving God
Hey, it's great to have you with us today at every single Life Church. Who's in the mood today to hear from God's word? It's always an honor to have you gather together to celebrate God's goodness. Today, we're gonna be in 1 Samuel in the Old Testament a message that I've been praying would impact so many hearts together this weekend.
We are in a message series called The Grudge. I believe that we're going to experience significant healing. I've got a question for you. Have many of you, in all of our Life Churches, love a good miracle story? Anybody enjoy whenever God shows up and shows off, and does something powerful? Maybe you know somebody in your life group, when they come in with a great testimony, they tithed for the very first time on a Sunday, on Monday, they walk in to their job, and they get a raise, and you celebrate with them.
The problem is, sometimes, you've been tithing for years, and you're barely paying the bills, and you wonder, where's my miracle? Maybe you've got a friend that's been praying for a miraculous healing, and God shows up, and their parakeet is saved from imminent death. They've got their miracle, and you were praying for healing for someone that you loved, and they weren't healed, but instead they passed away.
Maybe you've got a good girl friend, and she broke up with her not so good boyfriend. By faith, she took a risk, and said no more, and three days later, God brought in to her life this amazing, Godly, incredible young man that looks like the son of Brad Pitt. And has memorized two thirds of the New Testament, and three weeks later, he proposes to her, and they win a free honeymoon, and they're memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 to declare together at their wedding coming up, and you did the same thing, by faith, you broke up with your not so good boyfriend, in 2015. And the only dates you've had since have been with Ben and Jerry. And you're wondering, God, where are you in my life? Where's my miracle?
What do you do when you find yourself disappointed in God? What do you do when you feel like maybe God let you down? I don't know what it would be, but maybe it's the baby that you always dreamed of having, but that baby never, ever came. It might have been the engagement that you believed would be coming, and that engagement is still not here to this day. It could have been the miracle that you believed with faith that God would do for you, and yet God still hasn't done what you know He has the power to do.
What do you do when you don't even wanna say it out loud, because you have reverence for God, but you're wondering, God, where are you? Why aren't you showing up for me? Where's the miracle I've been believing for? And then you might find yourself slightly, or even more than slightly, disappointed with God, maybe angry at God, or holding a grudge against God. It's not that you don't want to trust Him. You really, really do, but you might be finding it difficult to trust Him right now, because God could do something, and yet He's not doing that something.
For some of you, if you were really honest, and you may not even wanna say it out loud, but there may be kind of a low-grade anger with God. What do you do when you realize you're holding a grudge against God? In the first week of our Message series, we talked about forgiving the smaller offenses in life, the things that weigh us down and hold us back. Last week, we talked about forgiving the bigger betrayals, when someone has significantly wounded or wronged us. Next week, we're gonna talk about forgiving ourselves. You may recognize God has forgived you, but you're carrying the weight, the guilt, the shame from something that you did in the past, you can't seem to let it go.
Today though, we're actually going to talk about forgiving God. What do you do when you realize you're holding a grudge against God? Now, to be really technical, and I wanna say this, because it's important to say, we don't technically ever forgive God, because God never technically sins. God doesn't do any wrong, so to say we forgive God would be slightly unfair, but there are those of you, perhaps, that you really do need to reconcile with God, because you're holding a grudge, you feel like you've been wronged, you feel like God didn't do what He could have done, and you may need to let something go, or by faith, you may need to learn to trust again.
What do you do when you feel like you've been wronged by God? 1 Samuel, chapter one, I wanna look at a really, really powerful story in the Old Testament about a woman that had to, perhaps, reconcile with some disappointments she had in God. First, I'll tell you about her husband, then I'll tell you the story. Her husband's name was Elkanah, and Elkanah actually had two wives. One wife is the one we're gonna talk about, her name was Hannah. The other wife was named Peninnah.
Now, for those of you dudes that are sitting there going, aw man, that'd be cool, it'd be awesome to have two wives, chances are very good you're not married, just wanna say that, because if you are married, you're gonna recognize that one spouse is enough to deal with in life, you're probably not married. This is not The Bachelor, where you can go and make out with two different chicks on one night, come home with everything is okay, what in the world is going on in that show, I do not know. This is not The Bachelor, this is real life. This guy had two wives, and what you need to understand is that these sister wives, they had a serious rivalry going on, and I'll show you why.
First, let's talk about the husband, Elkanah. Elkanah, the name, in fact, whenever people would name a son or a daughter, they would often give them a name that had a meaning, like my name means strong, so my whole life, when people say Craig, they're actually saying strong. Prophetic, maybe, perhaps, I don't know. Elkanah, I'm just kind of joking, Elkanah, the name actually means in Hebrew, it means that God has created a son, or God will give you a son, so for this guy's whole life, whenever women, some would say, "Hey, Elkanah", what they were saying is, hey, you're gonna have a son, hey, God's gonna give you a son, hey you're gonna have a son, hey, God is gonna give you a son. For his whole life, that was what people would say to him.
So when he married Hannah, he just assumed God would give them a son. But unfortunately, Hannah couldn't bear children, and that's why most scholars believed that he probably took on a second wife, Peninnah. You can only imagine Hannah's internal dialogue. She couldn't have a child, and so especially in that culture, she would have felt like a tremendous failure. Perhaps she would have experienced some shame, she might have felt useless, and it would have been real easy for her to say, God, where are you, you're the author of life, why won't you let me bear a child?
So each year, this family, Elkanah and his two wives, would travel on kind of like an adventure, or vacation, and they would go to this place called Shiloh to offer worship and sacrifices to God. The problem is Peninnah, the wife who could have children, she would take every opportunity, especially on this trip, to throw some serious shade on her rivalry, the other wife, Hannah. Here's what scripture says in 1 Samuel chapter one, verse six and seven. So Penninah would taunt Hanna and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Verse seven to me is incredibly painful. Year after year, it was the same.
For some of you, those words may haunt your soul. Year after year, things never changed. Penninah would taunt Hannah as they would enter the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. Some of you have had a Thanksgiving or a Christmas like that. A breakdown. Someone runs off, falls apart, doesn't eat, and is completely moved to tears. I want you to try and get in to the story, and experience what's going on. Here we've got Hannah. This very sweet, very Godly girl. Then we got the other one, Penninah. This is the girl your mama warned you about. Stay away from girls like this. She's cruel, she's vicious, she's mean as a cat in the shower, know what I'm saying?
Some of you said I dated her, yes we'll pray for girls like that. You can only imagine Hannah's mindset. She had to be asking, why in the world would God bless Penninah with kids and not bless me? God could have given me a child. Just picture her dialogue. I've been faithful, I saved myself for marriage, I read my Bible every single day, I come to the early service at church, I serve in the two year old room, right, you know? I'm faithful, I'm a giver, I love God, I haven't done any, there's all these people, they do things wrong, and yet they have children, I've been faithful, God, where are you in my life? I don't understand.
And so she did perhaps the very same thing that some of you do. She prayed! And she believed, and she waited, and then there was nothing. Year after heart-wrenching year, she prayed, believed, and waited. There might be someone here that can relate. You prayed, and prayed, and believed for the salvation of someone that you love, but year after year goes by, and nothing seems to change. You prayed, and prepared, and believed for a job with benefits, and yet that job continues to seem out of reach. You ask God for healing for someone that you love, and you knew He could, and you believe that he would, but yet He didn't, and you wonder why does He do it for others, but He didn't do it in this case?
Maybe you prayed and asked God, please make my depression go away, I beg you, I know you can. And year after year, you still fight to get through the day. I don't know what it might be for you. It could be the trial that never seems to go away. It could be the marriage that never seems to get any better. It could be financial hardship, month after month, year after year, believing you're gonna get ahead, and you're always feeling like you're behind.
It could be dreaming of, hoping for someone to do life with, and yet year after year, you still feel all alone. And then one day you wake up, and you're wondering, where are you, God? I've trusted you, I'm trying to believe in you, why haven't you done what I know you can do? Do you hear my prayers? Do you even care? God, where are you? And so you pray! You believe, and you wait. And another year goes by. If you've ever felt like that, that's exactly what Hannah felt like. She was married to Elkanah, who as best we could tell, was probably a pretty good man. The problem is he was still a dude.
Ladies, you need to understand, you can't cast the dude out of a man. It's just a part of life. The problem is, with dudes, we just say dudeish things. Can I say it that way? We just do. It's just hardwired in us. We're all bent toward sin, and our sin nature sometimes takes over, and we just ask really stupid questions. If I can so rabid for just a moment, I need to protect some of my brothers from imminent danger in your life.
There are landmines in every marriage. There are certain questions that you are forbidden to ask. They seem natural, they seem right, but my God has sent me here today to deliver someone from trouble and temptation that is to come. Gentlemen, if I can just give you a little advice. What you never, ever do, is you never walk in at the end of a day, and ever, under any circumstance, ever ask, "So what did you do today"? do not do that, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, just be set free, don't ever do that, and all the ladies said. Amen! Amen.
Don't ever walk up to a woman and say, "Did you mean to do that to your hair"? Don't ever say that. Whatever you do, gentlemen, I'm in your corner, I got your back. I'm here I'm with you, my brothers. Gentlemen, whatever you do, don't ever ask the question, "Are you PMSing"? Did you feel the tone of the room? Even me bringing this up puts me on incredibly thin ice. That is how much I love you, gentlemen, I'm in your corner, I'm willing to risk all for you. Just be careful, ask questions like, "Why are you so wonderful"? "How did I get you"? Questions like that.
Elkanah was a dude, someday say, "He was a dude". Dude. And he asked an incredibly dudeish question. I wanna show you one of the most dudest questions you could read anywhere in all of the Bible. Poor Hannah wants to have a child, and Elkanah wonders why's she so upset, and he asks this question. "Why are you crying, Hannah"? Elkanah would ask, "Why aren't you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me, isn't that better than 10 sons"? Everybody say, "He's a dude". Dude! That actually made sense to him, ladies, I can not explain why, but it made sense to him.
Now, Hannah's response is not recorded in scripture, but God revealed to me, what she said, and what she said was, "Do you want to rephrase that question? because you don't wanna hear the answer". At least that's what my wife says whenever I ask here a dudeish question. I want you to feel her pain. She's doing everything she possibly can to trust in God, and yet the only thing that she wants, that God has the power to give, God seems to withhold from her. Then, she's got Penninah running around with her little rugrats, her little drunk squirrels, always criticizer her, belittling her, and her husband, who's the good man, but continues to put his foot in his mouth.
What do you do when you wake up, and you find yourself disappointed, because God didn't do what you know he could have done? What I wanna show you is exactly what Hannah did, and this is something that on occasion, you might even find helpful. Chances are pretty good, you won't hear about this often when you walk in to a church, and won't hear a lot of pastors tell you to do this. I wouldn't recommend this daily for the next 20 years, but every now and then, you may do what she did, she just unloaded on God. She just let it rip, didn't hold anything back, told God exactly what she felt. She took all the pain, all the hurt, all the disappointment, all the anguish, all the agony, and she just hurled it recklessly toward God.
This is what scripture says. Once, after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hanna got up and went to pray. Eli, the priest, was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. From the depths of her heart, she cries out. I don't know what she said, God this isn't fair, God why didn't you, why aren't you, why'd you give a baby to her, why didn't you give it to me, God I've done everything I could for you, God I believed in you, I've been faithful, God I've loved you, I've trusted you, God I've always been here for you, I've always declared your faithfulness, your goodness, why haven't you done this for me, God? And she pours her heart out to God.
If you ever find yourself hurting, or feeling disappointed in God, just let God know. Pour out your heart to Him. He is big enough to handle your hurt. David did it in the Old Testament. God, why aren't you stopping my enemies? Why did you let them taunt me? Jeremiah cried out to God, Jesus on the cross cried out to God, "My God, my God, why'd you turn your back on me"? I've been faithful in every moment of my life, and when I need you most, you pull back, God, why ave you done this? God loves you, and He understands your pain. I believe with all my heart, He welcomes your questions. He's big enough to handle your doubts. In fact, with everything in me, I believe that our God would rather have you yell at Him in disappointment and pain than to walk away in hurt, and defeat.
Take your pain to God. If you ever find yourself disappointed, hurt, disillusioned, God is big enough to understand your pain. Take it to Him. Hanna unloaded on God, and said, I don't understand. Then in her prayer, she cries out to God, if you just give me a son, I'll give him back to you. He will not be mine, I will dedicate every ounce of his life completely to you, I will give him to you.
Then there's an interesting dialogue between her and the priest. I won't go in to the detail, but at the end of the conversation, the priests essentially says to her, "May God grant your request". That's all he says. There's no immediate change, there's no Heaven opens up and God shines a light down on her. She walks away still with nothing tangible, she still has to deal with Penninah, her husband's still gonna say stupid things, she's still got no baby, she's got no real sign, and then what does she do?
She does the very same thing that you might do when you find yourself disappointed in God. She continues, by faith, even though she may not feel like it, she continues to try her best to hold on to God, and to believe that He's still good. She hangs on. She still tries to trust. She sees nothing, but even though she doesn't see anything, she knows that doesn't mean that God's not actually doing something. And with whatever little bit of faith that she has, she continues to hold on, believing that God is still good. She holds on and doesn't let go.
1 Samuel, chapter one, verse 19, the beginning of the verse is so incredibly emotional to me, what it says. This is what it says. The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. I love the way that it's phrased. They got up the next morning, still seeing nothing, and what does she do? She went to worship the Lord once more. Once more.
This has been the story of our family over the last three years. If you were with us during the series Hope In The Dark, we talked about the prophet Habakkuk. His name, it means to both embrace, and to wrestle. To simultaneously hold on to God even if you don't understand. I told you about my daughter Mandy, that at the age of 20, two weeks before her wedding to James, she got sick, and never fully recovered. Had to quit work, and had a massive change in lifestyle, living in chronic pain, unable to function like normal people function.
And so we prayed, went to every doctor, did everything that you're all gonna recommend, and all 12 of you that know that specific something that she needs, dear God, thank you for your heart, I promise you, promise you, we've heard that 50 times, and we tried it 50 times, promise you. Doctor after doctor, prayed, wait, and believe. Since then, two of my other daughters, with some of the same genetic issues, have struggled as well, and so I've unloaded on God so many times. If I told you the depths of the cries of my heart, you might even be like, "Really, Pastor, you do that"? Yes, really, Pastor did that.
All the way down to kind of like, and this is rude and prideful, but God, do you know what my family's doing for you compared to other families? Some of them aren't doing anything, and you seem to be showing up there, and I mean I know it sounds bad, but look what we're doing, God. Where are you, God? I know you can, God. Why haven't you, God? This isn't fair, God. And then you know what we do? We hang on, and we go back, and we worship one more time. One more time. One more time, one more time, and we believe what we know Hannah learned, and that is this, that a waiting season is never a wasted season.
A waiting season isn't a wasted season. That just because you don't see something doesn't mean that God's not doing something. That His spirit is still working, that He is still good, that He hears the cries of your heart. A waiting season, for those of you that are waiting right now, it is not a wasted season. In Hannah's case, God hears the cries of her heart, and God gives her the desires of her heart. That may happen in your life, it may not. No matter what the outcome is, the goodness of God is not based on what we see or don't see. The goodness of God is simply based on who He is.
In Hannah's case, this is what happened. They returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah. That was after he apologized for that silly question. When Elkanah slept with Hanna, the Lord remembered her plea, and in due time, she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, "I asked the Lord for him". And she learned very clearly that God's delays are not necessarily God's denials. Just because you don't see it in a moment, doesn't mean that you're not gonna see it in your lifetime.
And so, in our family, as we continue to pray for our daughters, we'll unload on God, we'll tell Him how we feel, and we will show up and worship once more. In the message series, Hope In The Dark, our worship pastors, who have been writing a ton of great worship music, wrote a song for Mandy's situation in particular, and then for our entire church, and the lyrics of the song still minister to me in a way that is impossible to describe. And I pray today we'll bless someone here today who's in the middle of a waiting season.
They came over to our house, arranged for Mandy and James to be there on that particular night, and took us out on the back porch to bless us with the song, and I want you to take a moment to internalize the lyrics, because in a moment, even if you are waiting, you're going to have a chance to worship, not just for what you see, but for who God is. So let the lyrics speak to your soul, and in a moment, let the cries of your heart touch the heart of God's.
Mandy happens to be in this service with me, as well as my other daughters, and I asked Mandy many times, would you change what you've been through if you could change it, to go back to the way things were, because Mandy's actually taking her pain, and turned it really in to a platform, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people I've encountered, that have told me just how much her story has impacted them.
She created a YouTube page that's got thousands of subscribers, she went and got a degree to help others to educate them with health, and in those who are going through chronic illness, she has turned her pain in to a ministry for others, and I said, "Mandy, would you change what you've been through, if you'd the lose the effectiveness you have now, but could go back to the life that you had without pain"? And she said, "There's no part of me that would ever, ever, ever change it". She's recognizing that even though she's waiting for the answer to her prayer, the waiting is not wasted, that God is still working, that He's still good.
I don't know who it would be in all of our churches today, but you might find yourself disappointed by God, maybe a little mad at Him. You feel like you've been hurt by God, or disappointed, you're holding a grudge. I would invite you just to unload on Him, tell Him from the depths of your heart, cry out in anguish and pain, and tell Him how you feel. But then choose to continue to trust in Him. You might just tell Him, I'm not going to hold a grudge against you. What I wanted you to do, and you didn't do, I choose to let that go. Though you didn't answer my prayer the way I wanted you to, God, I still choose to trust in you, not because of what I see, God, but because of who you are.
I hope you'll understand this, that our God says He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. Our God is still here. Choose by faith to let Him back in. Let go of the hurt, choose to trust God, tell Him I'm not holding on to this grudge, I don't know who this is, you might still be waiting, but you can just lift up your hands while you're waiting, louder than all your fears, church, you can sing. May our hearts ever be reminded, Our God, He is good, He is good. Lift your hearts, lift your hands, lift your voices, and cry out to the goodness of our God.
Our Father, we declare by faith that you are good, and we pray for supernatural healing for, God, for those that are hurting, for those who feel disappointed.
And of all our churches, as you reflect in an attitude of prayer, nobody looking around, this is just your time with God. For those of you who are in a waiting season right now. You pray, you believe, you're waiting, and you're still not seeing it, would you lift up your hands all over the place today?
Father, we ask that by the power of your risen son, Jesus, that we would recognize that a waiting season is not a wasted season, that you are still on the throne, that you still are good, that you hear the cries of our heart. And God, for every person who might feel disappointed, let down, disillusioned, we come to you, God, with whatever faith we have, and choose to worship one more time, one more time. And God, by faith, help us to continue to worship you. Not for just what we see, for what you do, or for what you undo, God, but for who you are. The supreme King, creator of the universe, our rock, our fortress, our shelter, our hiding place, our comforter, our savior. God, for those who need to release a hurt, to reconcile with you today, God, we thank you for healing. As we continue to embrace you even when we're wrestling with you. God even when we're waiting, we'll lift our hands. Even when we don't see the answer we want, we'll lift our hands. Because God, we trust your character, your nature, you God, you God, you are good.
As you keep praying today, at all of our churches, nobody looking around, there may be some of you, you wonder, God, do you hear my cries? Do you even care? God, are you really good? I hope you'll understand just how good our God is. Our God is so loving, He cares about you so much that He became like you in the person of His son Jesus. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son Jesus, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.
Who is Jesus? He is the sinless son of God, perfect in every way. Jesus became sin for us on the cross, and that is why God pulled away. Jesus died in our place as the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. But on the third day, when the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, Jesus was not there, our God raised Him from the dead. Why? So that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, whoever calls on the name of Jesus, you would be saved, you would be forgiven, you would understand the goodness, the character, the nature of God, just how much He loves you.
If you're hurting because of your past, if you feel ashamed because of your sin, Jesus forgives your sins and makes you new. You may feel like you're so loaded that you've got nowhere else to look, but to look up, you look up to God. You surrender your life, you call on the name of the one who cares for you, and He will love you right where you are.
And all of our churches, there's those who say yes, I need His goodness, yes, I need His forgiveness, yes, I need His grace, I turn away from my sins, I turn to wards Jesus, I give my whole life to Him. That's your prayer today. Jesus, I give you my life. Lift your hands now, all of our churches, and say yes. That's my prayer, right back up there, others of you today, you say yes, Jesus, right back over here, I give you my life. Church online, you click right below me, and as we have people at all of our churches calling on the name of Jesus, would you just pray with those around you, pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus, make me new. Fill me with your Spirit, so I can live for you, follow you, and show your love in all that I do. Thank you for new life. I give you mine. In Jesus' name I pray.