Craig Groeschel - What Every Warrior Needs to Hear
Wonder if I can get a little bit of help from you guys today, could I? Could I? I would love it if all of our Life Church locations would help me honor my wife, my children, my family and my very close friends. Can you guys say thank you to my family for me today? Be amazing. I just wanna say thank you for letting me use you week after week as sermon illustrations. It's really awkward for my family and friends. Sometimes people say, hey, I'd like to be your friend. Fair enough, you can, but I will talk about you next weekend. You could be a sermon illustration. My kids are funny because a lot of times they'll say, Dad, don't talk about me in a message. Then that same kid three weeks later will say, Dad, when are you gonna talk about me in a message? It's just funny to me.
Today, I'm gonna use my dad as a message illustration and so thank you, Dad, for letting me talk about you publicly as I tell the story. We're talking about warriors. Any warriors in the house today, any warriors? My dad is a warrior both literally, physically, spiritually, my dad's a warrior. He grew up in an era where you would often settle a disagreement with your fists. According to family stories, my dad generally won most negotiations. He was a good fighter. He could fight on the streets. He was also an amazing athlete. He was a three sport letter man then he was drafted and played minor league pro baseball, was drafted into the armed forces. Most say he probably would have gone on to play in the majors, who knows, at least that's the way we tell the story. He's a great athlete.
He was all about baseball, so I was raised by a baseball dad and I was a baseball kid for years and years and years. And so, the way my dad expresses emotion or communicates always has baseball language. For example, when his friend came to faith in Christ right before his friend died, the guy was on his death bed and at the very end right before the guy died he came to faith in Christ. My dad said, well, Joe was safe under the tag. That's how he described it. He'll never ask me, hey, are you preaching this week and he'll say, son, are you on the mound? If I say, yes, I'm on the mound, he'll say, keep it low and on the inside. If I preach a good one he'll say, that balls still soaring or that one had heat on it or something like that. My dad always talks in baseball language. So, thank you, Dad, for allowing me to use you as a sermon illustration today.
Speaking of dads, what we're gonna do is we're gonna talk today about what some people call the father wound. The father wound is a concept that originated with Robert Bly and then was popularized by John Eldredge in his book called, "Wild at Heart". In fact, I wanna read to you a small portion of John's description of what many call the father wound. He says this, "Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because that wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the would is nearly always given by his father". The father wound. The wounded warrior.
The title for today's message is, "What Every Warrior Needs to Hear". We're gonna talk about the father wound. Now, to be really really clear, I want you to know this is not going to be a father bashing message. Are we clear? There's enough of that going on any time you turn on the media. This is not going to be a father bashing message. It's also, in my mind, not going to be limited to a father-son wound because the reality is moms can be complicated, do not say amen. Don't point at anybody, don't elbow your sister sitting next to you, but moms can be complicated as well. Children can wound their parents. Friends can wound each other. There are unlimited opportunities for us to hurt each other. It happens all the time.
And some of you might have grown up in a really really good home. It might have been a Christian home, family dinners, family vacations, family prayer time and, yet, still you found yourself sometimes feeling overlooked, feeling insignificant, or maybe feeling misunderstood. Others of you, you grew up in a home that was not so good. Maybe you had one or more or your parents that were emotionally absent or physically absent, maybe abusive in some sort of way. When you look back you don't have many really good memories about your childhood and you have a lot of pain in your heart. Whatever the situation, I would believe there are probably a lot of wounded warriors here today. And so, I wanna ask God to use his word to speak to us in a way that only he can do. I'm gonna pray, if you don't mind.
Father, thank you for your presence. Thank you for every person hearing this message today, even months to come on YouTube or podcast or such. Would you speak to hearts today? To wounded warriors, to bring about healing, God, so we can fight the battles that matter most and glorify you, God, in all that we do. Bring healing today, we pray in Jesus's name and everybody said? Amen.
I'm gonna show you two different stories from scripture. I wanna just kinda tell you where they're gonna go. One of them has a sad ending. For example, if you go to see the movie "Titanic" you know it's gonna be sad. The first one has a sad ending. The second one is not heart wrenching like the first one. The second one is heartwarming to its core and I wanna tell you two stories. They're both about warriors and their sons. Fathers and sons. The first one is an Old Testament warrior named David. We talked about him last week. This guy was brave in battle. One time he came home from war and the women were lining up the streets singing to him. That's amazing to me. Saul has killed us thousands, they're singing, David's killed us tens of thousands.
One day, this never happened yet, but one day I will come home from the battle preaching God's word of God and Amy will be in the driveway singing to me, I can feel it. It hasn't happened yet, but it could be today. A warrior can hope, right? David found himself in a battle that he didn't want to fight. This battle was not nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, this battle was father against son. I'll tell ya, one of the most tragic stories in the "Bible" where we see the father wound clearly illustrated. It's a complicated story, I'll try to keep it as simple as I can, but King David had a son named Absalom, this guy was handsome. He had really long hair, when he'd get his haircut it was almost like a national holiday. All the girls were like, he's getting his haircut. He had a half-brother named Amnon and a sister named Tamar.
Tragically, the half-brother raped the sister, Tamar. Whenever David found out about this he was furious, but unfortunately he really didn't do much about it. And Absalom, the good brother, was angry, furious at his dad. He was wounded in his heart because his dad didn't do anything about the rape. The wound didn't heal. A couple of years went by and Amnon, the guilty brother, got drunk at a party and Absalom ordered his men to go and kill, murder his own brother, Amnon, because of what he did. And you thought you had a dysfunctional family. If you can imagine, three years goes by, and finally Absalom is allowed to come back into the community where his dad is.
What I'd love to tell you is that Absalom apologized and David apologized. And they said, I'm sorry. David would have said, I wish I had done more. I just didn't know what to do. And Absalom said, I'm so sorry. I can't believe I did this. And they cried and they forgave each other and the would healed and generations were different because they forgave one another and they moved on with healing from the power of God, but this did not happen at all. Instead what happened is this, in 2 Samuel 14:24, the king said about his son, "Absalom my go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence. So Absalom did not see the king".
Tragic, heartbreaking. And a very similar story, perhaps, to some of you all. Same town, no intimacy, no trust. Very complicated holidays, lots of pain and lots of brokenness. Hopefully, chances are for you there wasn't a murder in your family, but perhaps you grew up in a home where you really really wanted to be proud of your dad. But, as much as you wanted to be proud of him, he just continued to do things that embarrassed you. Maybe for some of you it was your mom. You wanted more than anything else just to have her approval, but she just criticized you and criticized you and criticized you. Maybe you felt like you were left out or they divorced and your dad went one way and your mom went another way and you always felt like you kind of didn't even matter. You were invisible, they weren't at your games and you were hurting, you felt alone. There was a wound that didn't go away.
In this story what's so heartbreaking is that David actually loved his son. And yet, because of the wound they never ever made up. If you don't know the end of the story it's like the Titanic, the ship just keeps going down. Absalom got very very bitter against his dad and decided to try to overthrow the kingdom. And so, the son essentially declared war against his own father. And the father prepared to go into battle, but said, "Go easy on my son, Absalom. Be gentle with him for my sake". But, the men did not follow those orders. When Absalom, with his long hair, was riding through a thick forest his hair actually got caught in some trees and as he was hanging there Joab, the commander of David's army, took three spears and shoved them through the heart of David's son.
And when David heard the news, scripture said he did this, the scripture says, "The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, 'O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son'". If only I had died in your place. No happy ending. No restoration. No resolution. A wound that never ever healed and a family completely torn apart. It doesn't have to be that way for many of you. Sometimes the greatest battles that a warrior fights are not those seen on the outside, but it's the battles of healing fought on the inside of a brave warrior willing to forgive or admit when he or she was wrong. That is the first story, very depressing. Are you ready for a better one?
The second story is also between a warrior and a son, but this warrior is our heavenly Father who is a rock, he's a shield, he's our hiding place, he's our shelter, one of the metaphors for God is he is a warrior. His son, Jesus, was loving, he was kind, he was full of mercy and he was the greatest warrior who ever lived. At Jesus's baptism it was kind of like, almost like his ordination into ministry. Jesus had been faithful and at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and God The Father, I like to say it this way, he came to the game, he showed up at the baptism and I love what God The Father said to Jesus the son.
Here's how the story goes in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew chapter three. "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased'". This is my son, I love him. I'm so pleased with you, Jesus. Three things that every warrior needs to hear. Those of you who grew up in a painful home, you wanted to hear this from your parents. If you are a parent, every child wants to hear these things from you. Three things every warrior needs to hear: I believe in you. I'm proud of you. No matter what, I'll always love you. I believe in you. I'm proud of you. No matter what, I'll always love you.
God The Father publicly declares if anybody's wondering, that's my boy. See that guy right there, the guy that came of the water, he's my son. I am please with him, Jesus, you're nailing it. You're crushing it. You've been obedient. You've been faithful. You've pushed off all the forces of darkness. I'm with you. I'm cheering you on, I'm in your corner. You have what it takes, I believe in you. I'm proud of you. No matter what, I will always love you. This is very visible heartfelt affection and affirmation from the father. From the father, and this is crazy important because moms and dads both have irreplaceable roles in the lives of their children. Both are incredibly important, but we have to acknowledge sometimes they are a little bit different.
For example, the mom's role is so important, generally speaking, moms can be incredibly nurturing, which is a great gift. For example, if you're a kid and you get a boo-boo chances are pretty good if you've got a choice between a mom and a dad after a boo-boo you run to the mom, can everybody say amen? Because the mom's gonna say, here come here baby poo let me rub this thing, kissy, kissy, kissy, and you like that when you're hurting, don't you? Your dad, he's probably gonna say, ah, dust it off. Go rub some dirt on it, kid, and get back out there and play. Both responses are important, but moms, that one just feels a little bit better in the moment.
My mom, her role was so important to me. She would tell me in this motherly way, you are so special. Dad didn't say, son, you're special, but mom did and I believed it. It was rich, it was meaningful. She said God created you and gave you gifts, one day you're going to do something so special. There's something about receiving that nurturing voice from a woman that was so powerful. But, as a young child, and especially as a son, sometimes little boys don't just need nurturing, but they need affirmation, especially when it can come from a male voice. There's something different about hearing it from a trusted man and it doesn't just have to be a father.
Some single moms might say, well, I'm up a river without a paddle. No, that's one of the reasons why the church is so important. Because we are the body of Christ and godly men can speak into the lives of children and do every single week in Life Kids and Switch. To every man who serves, your role is so important and you may be representing a fatherly figure. There's something about having a man say, you are prepared. You have what it takes. You're equipped, you can fight and you can win. You have what it takes.
Speaking of my dad, I'll tell you another controversial story from the Groeschel parenting history book. Now, you know where I got my lack of judgment. My dad did something when I was kid that is still debated as to whether this was the right thing or not. In the second grade I got beat up. Just my clock cleaned by this big bully who was a year older and weighed 30 pounds more, which isn't a lot if you weight 200 pounds, but when you weight 50 pounds, that's a giant. I came home all bloodied and bruised and mom nurtured me as moms do and I loved it.
Dad came home and his strategy was completely different. He didn't nurture me at all. He said, well, get out to the garage. And we went out into the the garage and he took an old paint bucket, turned upside down, sat on it, looked me in the eyes and he said, we're turning this garage into a gym and I'm gonna teach you how to fight. We turned that thing, it was like Rocky Balboa would have liked to workout in that garage. And for the weekend my dad taught me the tricks of the trade.
He did not teach me to fight fair, I hate to tell you. He taught me the basics, how to block, where to duck, where to keep my hands, how to throw a punch, how to land a punch, where to throw the first one, where to throw the second one, what to do with your knees, what parts of the body were vulnerable as you're attacking a man, how to poke, how to bite, how to scratch, what you could do with the eyes, what you could do with the ears, what you could do with places I do not want to describe. My dad taught me how to fight. And at the end of the weekend training, of which I just thought he was preparing me for anything in the future, he said, now, Monday you go back to school. Told you it was controversial.
And he said, you go up to that bully and you approach him first thing and you look him in the eyes and tell him, you don't ever do that to me again. And I'm like uhuhuhuhuhuh. And he said, what he'll do at that point is he'll look at you and he'll say, or else? And then you just look him in the eyes and with every bit of confidence I want you to know I have prepared you, you have what it takes. I promise you, you know way more than he does. He may be bigger, but you can hold your own. Tell him, if he starts it, you will finish it.
I didn't sleep that night. Next day, second grade, I'm walking in. There he is. Scared to death, I walked up to him, looked him in the eye, shaking. You ever know like when you're trying to say something and you just know when you say it it's like, woaaah, you're voice is gonna crack and it'll be horrible? That was me and I looked at him and I said, don't ever do that to me again. When the words started to come out something happened on the inside and I went from being afraid to having almost this posture of confidence. Don't ever do that to me again. And he looked at me just like on script and he said, or else? And I said, if you start it I promise you, suddenly there was confidence. Everything my dad said I believed. Or else, you start it I will finish it. He paused and didn't say anything for like 30 minutes. Every kid stopped moving. The birds stopped chirping. He looked into my eyes, as if to ask are you bluffing? I wasn't bluffing. And he said, well, we might as well be friends then. And we were, and we were.
I cannot tell you how many times that same scene has played out in numerable different contexts in my life. Not hand to hand combat with a bully, but sometimes face to face with my very own insecurities. The voice inside says, you're not gonna be good enough. You're not holy enough for this. You don't have what it takes, but the nurturing of my mom and the affirmation of my dad somehow gave me the internal strength to say, I can fight, I can win. Another voice telling me, I believe in you. I'm proud of you, no matter what I'll always love you gave me the internal confidence to stand strong and fight against my own fears. But, it wasn't just the affirmation that mattered so much, but it's also affection. It's a mom saying I love you. It's a dad, a male, a trusted figure, man saying, I care about you.
The weird thing is, a lot of guys, we don't know how to say that. We don't know how to express our emotions because we didn't maybe receive a lot of verbal or even physical affection, so we don't know how to give it and that's why the only time a lot of guys will say they love you is if they're in a bar and it's 1:30 in the morning and they're drunk and they love the guy they just met. I love you, man, I love you, you're my best friend. I love you too, man, I love you too. I wouldn't know that first hand. At least not in the last three decades or so, but I love you, man. That's why men often compliment each other, not with affection, hey, I just want you to know I really love you as my brother, I love you. No, what they do is they cut each other down, that's how we show affection as men.
My close friends tell me all the time, how in the world did a loser like you get a wife like Amy? I'm like thank you, thank you. It's compliment. That's how men do it. No woman ever goes up to Amy and says, how did a scrawny legged thing like you get a man like Craig? They wouldn't be friends, it doesn't work that way. Men in the church, your role is so important in the lives of the kids in this church. To look into the lives of someone in Switch and say, I believe in you. I believe in you. I know you might have messed up somewhere, but you have what it takes. You have what it takes.
I was 40 years old and our church won some award. Something that felt really significant, I don't even remember what it was at the time, but I do remember the card that I got from my dad. That on the outside it said, you did good, I knew you would. And then I open it up and on the inside he wrote, "Well, Groesch", cause he calls me Groesch. Watch the baseball language, "Well, Groesch, you're the number one draft pick by God himself. Welcome to the major leagues. Love, Dad". Here I am all these years later as a grown man with six kids of my own, moved deeply by the affirmation and affection of a man in my life.
Some of you are like, ah, well Craig, I'm so glad you and your dad are tight. My dad was a jerk, blah, blah, blah, blah, la, la, la. My dad and I are really close today, but it wasn't always that way. The good news is my dad has been sober for over a quarter of a century now. But, he wasn't when I was growing up. He wasn't. His problem was alcohol, my problem was anger. Here's what I want you to know, warriors. We're close today, but we aren't close today because we didn't hurt each other. We're close today because we forgave each other because the wound healed. And what I know, every family's got some weird, it's just a fact. If you think yours doesn't, everybody else knows it's you. Every family's got some weird. Every family's got some hurt.
I came to talk to some warriors today. The warriors in the house, empowered by the very same spirit that raised Christ from the dead. As warriors I hope you'll understand that you have someone to protect. You have a kingdom to advance. And you have a battle to win. Sometimes the greatest battles you fight aren't the battles everybody sees on the outside, they're the battles that need to be healed on the inside. I came to tell a warrior that you are strong in the Lord. You are mighty in His power. That by the stripes of Jesus, on his back, you can be healed of every wound that holds you back. As far as it depends on you, warrior, you do what's right. You be strong enough to step in and fight for what matters, but also be strong enough to apologize when you get it wrong.
Have the faith and the courage to receive an apology and to forgive others as you have been forgiven by Christ, himself. Have the strength to step in and say, "I love you. I care about you. I'm proud of you. I believe in you". Don't hold that back for a moment. Don't you dare feel it and not express it. Release every blessing on the inside to empower another warrior in their hearts. Your children need it. Our children need it. My children, they need it from you and I will give it to them. You have what it takes. No weapon formed against you will prosper. Your spiritual enemy is attacking every single warrior to steal, kill and destroy. You just look back at the devil and say, not today, devil, you are a liar. Devil, what ever you start, I will finish with the power of Christ inside of me I will overcome.
Rise up, men of God, rise up, women of faith. Be prepared to fight and fight to win. You have the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, you step into those shoes that are prepared and you walk into battle. And when the enemy rages against you, you stand your ground. When you've done everything else, warriors, you continue to stand, you never surrender. You never back down, you engage in the battle. Some of you, your greatest battle is the addiction that stands before you. You face it, you're only as strong as you are honest. You step into it, you confess it. You surround yourself with other warriors and you say, devil, you will not use this against me. In Christ, I will find freedom because whoever the Son has set free, is free indeed.
Others of you, it is your marriage. Fight for it, warrior, fight for it. Don't back down, continue to love. Own your part, don't point at the others all the time. Step in and say, here's where I've been wrong. Have the courage to own it. Have the courage to apologize. Fight for financial freedom. Don't live paycheck to paycheck hurting your whole life. Let Jesus align your values, that you can be free to be generous on every occasion, representing the goodness of God. Don't let the devil tell you you can't win. Devil, you can't have my family, you can't have my faith, you can't have my children, you can't steal my witness, the risen Christ dwells within me. And warriors, you show up and you fight again.
If know one has ever told you, you have what it takes. Let this wounded warrior tell you, with Christ, you can do everything he calls you to do. Our God believes in you enough to send his son to die for you, to impart his spirit to fill you, to strengthen you to do everything that our God has created you to do. In the end, you will be victorious. You may not win every battle, but a warrior is not a warrior because he wins every time. A warrior is a warrior because he never surrenders and never backs down. You continue to fight. You continue to let Christ shine. And in the end because of Christ you will be victorious.
So Father, today we pray by faith that your Holy Spirit will do what only you can do to raise up godly warriors. Men of God, women of faith, that will not back down against the attacks of the evil one. And God, wherever there is a wound today in your presence I ask that your Holy Spirit would start to initiate the healing process. God, give us the courage to forgive or to apologize. God, give us the faith to impart life. I believe in you. I'm so proud of you. No matter what I'll always love you.
At all of our churches as you're praying today those of you who would say, there is a wound in my family and I wanna believe for healing, forgiveness and restoration, would you lift up your hands right now? All of our churches, lift up your hands. Lift up you hands.
God, I pray, for every hurting and broken relationship. I pray, God, for those that are hearing this message that as far as it depends on them, they would do what's right. Knowing we can't control the other person, but we can let our hearts be sensitive to what you would lead us to do. God, give us the strength to fight against the divisive forces of the evil one and may we stand for truth and love. Those of you that are parents and you wanna impart life to your children would you lift up your hands today? Parents, lift up your hands. God, I pray that as tempting as it is for us to find fault in our children you didn't and you don't and you never. Instead, God, you would empower us to impart life. Help us to see where you're working in their lives. God, help us to encourage the work of your spirit. God, I thank you for a church full of women and men working together to lead our children to become fully devoted followers of Christ. God, even today in Life Kids and even this week in Switch thank you for every person who looks at a teenager and says, I believe in you. Christ is in you, you have what it takes. We thank you, God, that our children will not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds, God, that they can do your will.
As you keep praying today, there are those of you that you recognize you're not really engaged in the spiritual battle. You might say, I don't really know where I stand with God and what I wanna say to you really really clearly is this, there is a battle going on for you right now at this moment. The forces of darkness wanna do everything to keep you away from following Jesus. Who is Jesus? Let me tell you about the goodness of our God. Our God is so good that he sent his son, Jesus, who was perfect in every way, never sinned. At his baptism God the Father said, this is my son, Jesus, the son of God, who became sin for us on the cross. He died in our place for the forgiveness of our sins, but God raised him from the dead. Why? So, that anyone and this includes you.
It doesn't matter what you've done. It doesn't matter how dark your life is. Anyone who calls on that name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, anyone who calls on his name would be forgiven, would be transformed, would be saved, would be made new. At all of our churches today there are those of you, you don't know where you stand with God. Listen, it's time, let go of the past, step away from the sin, fully surrender. It's not I'm a church member, it's not, yeah, now I'm a good person, no. I am fully completely surrendering my life to Christ. I'm stepping into the spiritual battle. I am on the side of Jesus. Jesus save me, forgive my sins, I surrender my life to you.
If that's your prayer, lift your hands high now, all over the place and say, yes, that's my prayer. Here in this section, right back there, right over here as well, up here in this section, right back over there. My goodness gracious, somebody ought to thank our God a little bit. Others of you today, say, yes Jesus, save me, transform me. Church online, you click right below me. I hope there are some warriors in the house who will stand to their feet today. All of our churches would you just stand. Rise up godly warriors, stand to your feet and together we're going to pray. Pray aloud with those around you. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all my sins. Jesus save me, change me, make me new. Fill me with your spirit, so I can do your will, follow you always and fight against darkness. Jesus, my life is not my own - I give it to you. Give me someone to protect. A kingdom to advance and a battle to win. All for your glory and by your strength. In Jesus's name I pray.