Craig Groeschel - Finding Hope in the Chaos
Well, we're living in an unprecedented time in our lifetimes, for sure. Fear all over the world, and unquestionably, the most talked-about subject whether it's on social media, on the news, or in a conversation you may be having with someone, at least six feet apart, is how do we stop the spread of COVID-19? Now, because we're in such an unusual time, we are gonna do something unusual today. I'm in a completely empty auditorium. If you'll notice, there's nobody in here but me, and even the cameras, check this out. These are robotic, so in other words, people are operating these from backstage.
In fact, let me talk to the camera person. Are you the best camera operator ever? Yes! Are you incredibly excited to hear this message? Very good answer. That's probably because you work for our church, and that's a great answer. I do wanna take a moment and just enjoy and embrace the moment, and recognize that, even when we cannot meet physically, we can meet digitally, that we'll do anything we can to get the message out, but we're getting the message out in a time when it's really difficult. We know this virus is incredibly contagious.
In fact, if you haven't been with us over the last few weeks Pastor Bobby Gruenewald and I traveled about three weeks ago to Germany, and we attended a leadership conference, and the night before the conference, we were with 14 people. The 14 speakers gathered together, and we found out later that one of them tested positive. Unfortunately, eight of the 14 people in that small dinner ended up testing positive. That's just how contagious this virus is. In fact, I would argue that perhaps the only thing that's more contagious than this virus is the fear that's impacting lives all over the world. The virus is incredibly contagious, but so is fear.
In fact, there are a lot of reasons for people to be afraid today. The stock market seems to continue to tumble and struggle. Schools are closing. Some businesses are shutting down. More businesses are shutting down. Every business, it seems like, is shutting down. We're supposed to practice social distancing, and we are, obviously, even as a church, and then there's the global shortage on toilet paper, which has many of my friends incredibly freaked out more than anything else you could ever imagine. And I just want to acknowledge, this thing's tough, man. It's tough. For those who are older or have a compromised immune system like many of my relatives who are up in age or also have challenges, this threat is very, very real, but on top of just the health challenges, we've got all sorts of other issues as well.
Many of you right now may not be working as much as you had before, or not at all, and the economic hurdles that we have, not just as a nation, but around the globe, it's something that we haven't seen perhaps the same way in our lifetime. Fear is contagious. It's contagious. It doesn't take a lot of fear to spread uncontrollably. In fact, whenever Pastor Bobby and I were on the airplane flying home from Germany, we didn't know that we'd been exposed to someone who'd tested positive, until we turned on wifi and we heard the news that one of the people at dinner had, and so we immediately told the flight attendant, who told the pilot.
You wanna talk about fear sweeping across the plane. I've never seen anything like this. Suddenly, all the flight attendants were almost like in hazmat suits and masks and such, and they moved people completely out of our section because they were all so afraid of us. The interesting thing is, we were afraid. We were afraid, not so much that we were gonna test positive or have the virus. We were afraid because, what if we were carriers? What if what we had could potentially hurt somebody else? What if we were carriers? What if what we had spreads? I hope you'll understand, wherever you're watching this, I hope you'll embrace this truth, that we were carriers, and you are a carrier. Not necessarily of the virus, but you carry something. You are a carrier. You're carrying something. You might be a carrier of fear, and you're passing around fear to anybody you interact with. Or you might be carrying faith, and what you're carrying, you pass on to others. The bottom line is, whenever people get near you, they tend to catch what you have.
I hope you'll recognize, you are a carrier. The question is this. You are a carrier. Is what you're carrying worth catching? I want to share with you today a portion of scripture from the New Testament. The Apostle Paul was the author, and he was writing to the believers in Thessalonica. They were very, very afraid. They were in a situation that might be a little bit similar to ours today. They were being persecuted, facing all sorts of significant trials, and in a posture where it was very easy to be afraid, this is what the Apostle Paul said. He said in 1 Thessalonians 1, verses two and three, he said, "We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you", he said, "we think of", and then he lists three things. He says, "We think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and your enduring hope. We think of your faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope that you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ". Paul said, "Whenever we think of you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, your enduring hope".
Why did they have faith, love, and hope? They had faith, love, and hope because of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not because of what was going on in their world, but because of the one who was Lord over their world, because of the Lord Jesus. In verse five, Paul goes on to say, "For when we brought you the Good News, when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power". We brought you Good News, Good News, Good News. Not only is a virus contagious, but good news is also contagious. Imagine, if you will, when there's a treatment that's discovered for COVID-19. Imagine perhaps if there's a cure or a way to prevent the spread. What do you think will happen when there's that good news? Do you think the good news will spread? It will spread uncontrollably, because good news is contagious.
What I'd love to do, is I'd love to tell you about some very, very good news today, and this isn't just good news that cures a sickness, but this cures a spiritual sickness. Not just physical in nature, but this cures a spiritual sickness, because Jesus did not come for those who were healthy, but Jesus instead came for those who were sick. He didn't come for the righteous, scripture says, but He came for sinners, people like you, people like me, people who are broken, and people who are in need. In other words, I hope you'll understand that our God didn't just shout His love from heaven, but He showed His love on earth, when God Himself stripped Himself of all the heavenly glory and became one of us, in the person of His Son Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin, therefore He did not inherit the sin nature of an earthly father, but instead the heavenly nature of a heavenly Father, and He was perfect in every way.
Who did Jesus hang out with? Well, He befriended prostitutes. He touched the lepers. Jesus reached out to the people that religion rejected. Have you ever not felt good enough, spiritually? Have you ever felt like you've failed and let God down? You can't believe you did what you did, said what you said, thought what you thought, and you feel guilty and you feel ashamed. Jesus didn't come for the perfect people. He came for those who are messed up. He came for those who don't have perfect faith. He came for those who've sinned and fallen short of God's standard of holiness. He came for people like me, people who've hurt others, done things that they're embarrassed by.
This is the Good News, that we're not made right with God by our own good works or religious efforts, but we're made right with God by the grace of Jesus through faith in Him, who is perfect and gave His life on a cross, died in our place, the perfect sacrifice, but He didn't stay dead, you see. There's really, really good news, that three days after Jesus died, our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you. Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter what you've done, anyone who calls on His name, you will be forgiven, you'll be changed, you'll be completely saved, not just saved from hell, but saved for a life on earth to make a difference.
This is good news, and good news spreads. Good news is contagious, that we can be made right with God, not by going to church or by giving money or by trying really hard to stop doing bad things and only doing good things, but we're made right with God by beleiving in Jesus. That's the Good News Paul was talking about, and that Good News is worth spreading. I hope you'll understand, wherever you're watching, you're a carrier, and you're carrying something. Is what you're carrying worth catching? Paul goes on to say this. 1 Thessalonians 1:8. He says, "And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to the people everywhere. The Word of God is echoing to people everywhere, all over, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God".
What if your faith became so contagious that wherever we went, we found people talking about your faith. Even in dark times, you believe in the goodness of God. Even when everybody else is afraid, you put your hope in the Good News that Jesus is risen, and God will never leave you, He will never forsake you. Scripture says the Word was ringing out. I love that. It was echoing, it was spreading from these people to people everywhere. That's what happens when we catch a passion for the best news in the history of the world. When we catch a passion for Jesus, what we have starts to spread. In fact, I'll give you some examples from scripture. Whenever Jesus raised a little girl from the dead, that's good news.
Matthew 9:26 says, "This news of this spread all through the regions". In fact, another time, when Jesus cast our evil spirits, that was good news. He reigns over darkness. Mark 1:28 says, "News about him spread quickly over all the region of Galilee". Whenever God used His disciples to do a miracle, Acts 6:7 says, "The word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly". Why did this good news spread? Why did this message spread? Why did God's work spread? Three reasons. These believers, they were faithful in their work, they were full of loving deeds, and they had an enduring hope. The three marks of a contagious Christian. Faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope. You're a carrier. You are a carrier. Is what you're carrying worth catching? We need to embrace the truth. People all over the world, with very real reasons, are scared to death.
One little girl from church I ran into said, "Is this the end of the world? Is this it"? The problem is, fear is contagious. It doesn't take much for fear to spread uncontrollably. That's the bad news. But there's also good news. Fear is contagious, but so is faith, and so is love, and so is hope. I don't know about you, but I am a carrier. What am I? I am a faith spreader, I am a love giver, and I am a hope dealer. I promise you, if you get too close to me, you will catch what I am carrying. Because of the Lord Jesus Christ, not because of what I see, not because what is around, but because of the truth of who Jesus is, I am full of faith and not fear.
Someone asked me recently, "But Pastor Craig, aren't you afraid for the church? I mean, the church can't meet physically in buildings. Is this the end of church as we know it? What's going to happen? Will people stop gathering one day? What's going to happen to the church"? And I just want you to know this. I'm full of faith, I'm full of hope. I've told you, those of you who are part of our church since day number one, the church is not a building. The church is not what takes place inside of four walls. We know, we embrace, and we believe that we don't go to church, that we are the church, and the message that we carry, the Good News of Jesus, it is the hope of this world.
In fact, if I can brag of those of you in our church family who are so generous to give, who are faithful to tithe and even give beyond that, because of your generosity, we've been giving away resources to hundreds of thousands of pastors for well over a decade, and the amazing news is, as we've been giving away the Church Online platform, we're giving it away and honored to do so faster today than ever before. In fact, on the day of this recording, we're outpacing how many people downloaded yesterday and agreed to part in the broadcast through Church Online.
Yesterday, yesterday, we had over 2500 churches sign up to use the free Life.Church Online platform. Over 2500 in one day. Today will be even more than that. In fact, last weekend, all of the different churches that use the platform, we saw over 4.7 million unique users log on for global worship experiences all over the world. We saw almost 16,000 people come to faith in Christ. I don't know where you are, but I hope you're doing this right now, because that is amazing, that is good. That is the power of God, and God is using you, this one little local church, to help the light shine in churches all over the world. We have to remember, embrace the truth. Jesus didn't say, "Go in to your houses and hide for the rest of your life". He said, "Go into the world and let your light shine".
Listen to me, if we can't gather physically, we will gather digitally, because the Good News will spread. What are you? You're a carrier. You're a digital evangelist. You can share this message or other messages of faith and hope. You can invite others to be a part of Church Online. You can share your faith on social media from wherever you are. You can let your light shine digitally, and as a church, we will continue to do anything short of sin to reach people who don't know Christ, and to reach people no one's reaching, we will do things that no one is doing. What can we do? We can pray. We can share. We can take what we have, and we can give it to those who are in need, because we are faith spreaders, and we are love givers.
In fact, Jesus said, "Do you want to know how people will know that you're my disciples"? He didn't say, "They're gonna know you're my disciples by the way you hoard bottled water". They didn't say, "You're gonna know that you're my disciples by the way you fight over things at the grocery store". No, He said, "You will know, they will know that you're my disciples by the way you love one another". By the way you love. By the way you care for people. By the way you empathize and pray with others, and give generously and encourage others with a word of hope.
In fact, the very first meeting that our staff did this week is we gathered together and tried to answer the question, how can we continue to meet the needs of people in our community? How can we serve and empower other churches? And how can we meet the needs of people in our community? We're looking at ways to offer tutoring for kids that can't go to school now. We're looking at mobilizing thousands of volunteers to run errands for those who may be elderly or compromised in their health. We're looking to partner with local missions around the world. We'll do whatever we can, church, because we're faith spreaders, we're love givers, we're hope dealers. We have a hope that no virus can kill.
I have heard so many people say, "Well, I just hope things go back to normal. I just hope things go back to normal". Listen to me. I want you to know, I have way more hope than that. I'm not just hoping things go back to normal. I've got way more hope, because normal was comfortable. Normal was selfish. Normal was spiritually safe for most people. Normal for most was spiritually lukewarm. I believe with all my heart this is a wake-up call for the church to stand strong, to stand united, and to be bold in what we know, that Jesus is the Good News that changes lives. I've got hope in my Savior.
I want you to know, my hope is not in the government, although I love and pray for and support and believe God will give wisdom to our government leaders. My hope is not in the doctors, although I pray for our doctors and pray for those who are treating people, and go to doctors when I need help, but my hope is not in them. My hope is not even in the spiritual leaders in our nation and our world. My hope is in the one who spoke all things into being. My hope is in the one who is all-knowing and all-powerful and ever-present, the one who heals blind eyes, who opens deaf ears, who has the power to raise the dead. That's why I'm a faith spreader, a love giver, and a hope dealer. It's because of Jesus, it's because of Jesus, it's because of Jesus, the name that is above every name, the soon-returning, conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Who is Jesus? If you don't know Him, He is the door through which we enter. He is the spiritual bread that strengthens our soul. Jesus is the one who delivers the captives, restores the broken, and strengthens the weak. He is our provider, our comforter, our source, our strength, our redeemer, our rock, our sustainer, our assurance. He is our firm foundation. He is our shelter in a time of trouble. He is our light when the world is dark. He is the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the resurrection and the life.
Let me tell you about Jesus. His goodness is indescribable. His power is incomprehensible. His grace is irresistible. At His name, darkness trembles. In His presence, demons flee. Death could not defeat Him. The grave could not hold Him. He is the risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Come on, somebody, wherever you are. You are a carrier. Is what you're carrying worth catching? Fear is contagious. So is faith. Hate is contagious. So is love. Worry, anxiety is contagious. So is hope. The three marks of a contagious follower of Christ. Faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope. What are you? You're a carrier. You're a faith spreader. You're a love giver. You're a hope dealer.
Oh, I hope I'm speaking to some carriers today, because what you're carrying when you catch the passion of Jesus, it is worth catching. Good news. Good news is contagious. Good news spreads, and when so many are afraid today, uncertain and looking for hope, I hope you'll be one to let your light shine, because hope is contagious. Love is contagious. And faith is contagious. I promise you, you get around me, you're gonna catch what I'm carrying. I'm carrying a passion for the one who gave His life to forgive my sins, and to make me new.
Is the world scary? Yes. Is it complicated? Yes. Is God alive? Yes. Is He all-powerful? Yes. Is He in control? Yes. Was He surprised? No. Can He all do all things? Yes, yes. Will He always be with you when you call on Him? Yes. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He's always good. There's good news, and good news spreads. As the world is growing darker, church, our light must shine brighter. Because of Jesus, we're not afraid. We live by faith. Because of Jesus, we share the Good News. Because of Jesus, we have hope. So whatever you're going through, whatever you're facing, whatever challenge seems to big to handle, today, we look to Jesus. We look to Jesus, because He's here, because He's good, because He's with you.
Father, we ask that in your presence today, you would reveal your love, your goodness to those who need you all over the world.
In fact, I'll just ask, even as odd as it may seem, wherever you're watching from, those of you who'd say, "I am a follower of Christ, and I want to spread the Good News", just even from your bedroom, your living room, wherever you are, you might just lift up your hand right now and say yes. Just, I mean, it may feel silly. Just lift up your hand. Click right below me. Church Online, just say, "Yes, I want to share the Good News".
Father, I pray that you would give us opportunities daily, not once a week, but daily, when so many people are hurting and afraid, to let your light shine. God, may we be love spreaders. God, love givers, faith spreaders, hope dealers, in all that we do. God, show us those who need your love, and maybe what we're carrying be worth catching, as we share the Good News of your Son, Jesus. Use us, God. Use us, God. May your church continue to thrive. If we're meeting publicly, from house to house, or computer to computer, phone to phone, TV to TV, God, we will let your light shine.
As you keep praying today, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are those of you from all over the world, you maybe stumbled here by accident, maybe somebody invited you, and you recognize there's something really missing in your life. You're falling apart. You may have internal guilt for something that you did in the past or something you're even doing right now, and you don't know where you stand with God. Others of you, fear is just overwhelming you right now. The good news is, I believe you came to the right place to hear some really, really good news, and I want you to hear it. I want you to recognize that this all may be just for you. God loves you. He really does. He loves you so much that He became like you in the person of Jesus, who was perfect and without sin. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He died in our place, for the forgiveness of our sins, and God lifted Him from the dead so that anyone that calls on Him would be changed, would be forgiven, would be saved.
Those of you all over the world today who say, "I want His peace, I want His forgiveness. I want the assurance that I'm with Him, that I'm in His family. I need this assurance, I need His peace", just turn from your sins today. We're gonna pray a very simple prayer. Those who say, "Yes, I want Jesus to be first in my life. I want to give my life to Him", you just lift your hands where you are, just click right below me, if you will. Just indicate, "Yes, I want to become a follower of Jesus. Yes, I'm surrendering my life to Him". And as we've got people from all over the world saying, "Yes, I need His grace", I'm gonna encourage you, just right where you are, just pray this prayer. Just pray it. Pray it out loud, if you're comfortable. Just pray after me.
Heavenly Father, please forgive my sins. Jesus, save me and make me new. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, so I could follow you and serve you for the rest of my life. Use me to shine your light, to show your love, and to spread your hope. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for saving me. My life is not my own. I give it all to you.