Craig Groeschel - Why Can't I Change?
Well, do you ever wonder why you want to make significant changes in your life and you try and you try to change, but you can't? Anybody ever frustrated with that? What I want to do today is I want to show you what I really honestly believe is an incredibly powerful truth from scripture that may be new for you to give you a change in the way you think that may help change the way you live. Because once you live long enough like me it's kind of depressing when you start to realize that oftentimes your new year's resolutions seem like they bleed over from year to year. I don't know if any of you are like this, but a lot of times, what I want to do this year is the same thing I wanted to do last year, and the same thing I wanted to do the year before, but I haven't done it yet. And you know how it goes.
So often you like try so hard to make the changes that you want to make and you succeed for a day or a week or two weeks, and then you tend to fall back into the very unhealthy habit that you wanted to get out of. If you have a new year's resolution and you're still living it, guess what, you're doing pretty dang good. In fact, if you keep it all the way to Valentine's Day, you're in the top percentile of those who actually follow through, because believe it or not, 80% of new year's resolutions end up falling apart and failing by the second week of February. Why is that?
I'm going to show you today exactly why it is and what God's Word says about how we can change. Because you know, all of us, were trying to start something new or stop something old and we fall back into the old patterns. I don't know what it might be for you, but you might want to stop overeating, or stop smoking, or stop looking at porn, and you do for a little while, and then you get sucked back into the habit that you wanted to avoid. Or you want to start something, and so you want to start praying faithfully or reading God's Word daily, or start exercising, and you do for a little while, and then you skip a day, and two days becomes a month and you skip it.
I don't know what it might be for you this year. You're trying and you're trying, and you're trying, and you're trying. You're trying to manage your money. You're trying to be wise financially. You're trying to get out of debt, and eventually, you get tired of trying, so you just go shopping. Why is it that we try so hard to change but we end up falling back into the same old patterns? The title for today's message is Why Can't I Change?, and our declaration of faith is going to be this: With God's help, we will choose what we want most over what we want now. At all of our churches, could I get you to say this with me? Just say it after me with passion. "With God's help. We'll choose what we want most. Over what we want now".
The power of God's Word from 1st Corinthians, chapter nine, verse 24 says this: The apostle, Paul, asked a question and he said this. He said, "Don't you realize that in a race, everyone runs but only one person gets the prize"? So Paul says, if you're going to run, run to win. All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it for a prize that will fade away. But we, as followers of Christ, we do it for an eternal prize, one that glorifies God and one that lasts forever. So Paul said, When I run, I run with purpose in every step. I'm not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. I love this.
Now, when Paul was talking about this competitive metaphor his audience would have clearly understood his perspective. He was writing to the Corinthians, and Corinth was a city in Greece. The people of Greece understood because every four years, Greece hosted the Olympic Games and people from all over would come to compete. Also in Corinth, they hosted their own local version, a smaller version of the Olympics known as the Isthmian Games where they had very specific competitions. If you were born in Corinth, you could train and enroll in a competition to be a wrestler, or if you grew up where I did, you're wrestling. You could go and compete in chariot races. You could compete in boxing. You could actually compete, believe it or not, in the Isthmian Games in poetry-reading contests. That's right. You may not know it, but poetry-reading in Corinth was a sport.
And before you think I'm going to make fun of those who are poets and don't know it, I need to just warn you and tell you that I was not always this cool. I know it shocks you. When I was growing up, kind of like three proudest moments. One is I was a junior fire marshal. Secondly, I was the hall monitor. This is all true. The third thing is in the fifth grade, I won first place and a dramatic poetry-reading contest. So if I had been born in Corinth years ago I might've just entered into the Isthmian Games. And when you recite poetry, you recite to win. Paul was talking to a group that understood the value of competition and celebrated the thrill of victory. He said this in verse 24, I want to look at it again. He said, "Don't you realize that in a race, everyone runs but only one person gets the prize".
So baby, if you're going to run, what are you going to do? Say it out loud. You're going to, what? You're going to run to win. How many of you, just curious, all of our churches, you don't have to say yes to this just because I'm firing you up to win, but how many of you like genuinely love to win? You love to win? Some people, in my opinion, wrongly say, well, if you're a Christian, you shouldn't be competitive. You know, you should just be loving. You have to remember that we are in a spiritual battle and we serve the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we're called more than conquerors. We have victory in Christ. And so I just kind of like to stand with the winner whose name is Jesus and I like to win. If you'll notice, Paul didn't say run just to finish. He didn't say run to place. He said run to win.
Now, if you don't like the apostle Paul, I'll give you two other famous theologians. One is the great theologian, Ricky Bobby, who says, If you ain't first, you're last. And if he's not your style, we'll go real old school with the Greek, Epictetus, the great philosopher. He said this about these races. He said in the games, "If you withdraw", speaking of the Isthmian Games or the Olympics. "If you withdraw without sufficient reason, you'll be whipped". If you just quit because you're lazy, tired, or pathetic, you'll be whipped. "And this whipping comes after your training which involves thirst and broiling heat and swallowing handfuls of sand". In other words, if you're going to compete, you better run to win.
What I want to do is just tell you, don't rationalize away the joy of honoring God with your best. If you're going to run, run to win. In fact, when you look at scripture there's some pretty lofty assignments from God. Go back to the Garden of Eden. God looks at Adam and Eve and he says, Be fruitful and multiply. He says, go and fill the earth and subdue it. In other words, reproduce, conquer, go out and kill something, bring it home, eat it, build something significant. If you're going to be on this earth, do something with this earth.
In the New Testament in Matthew 25, Jesus told story, a parable, about an owner, a manager who gave three different guys some talents. Two of these guys went out to compete. They went out to win, they played to win. They invested what they had, they multiplied, they doubled their investment, and the master came back and said, Well done, you won. Good job, my good and faithful servant. One guy was afraid to play. He didn't even show up. He kept what he had, he didn't invest it at all, and the master looked at him and didn't just call him lazy, but he called him, You wicked and lazy servant. To paraphrase what the master said, essentially, take it away from the guy who lost and give his to the ones who won, give it to those who came to play.
Jesus, the very last thing he said before ascending into heaven, he looked at his disciples and he said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel". Make disciples, baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He didn't say, To my disciples, sleep in late. Be mediocre. Waste your life looking at social media. Show up for the participation trophy. No, in everything we do as followers of Christ, we do it as unto the Lord. Don't rationalize away the thrill of bringing your best for God. The apostle, Paul, says, "If you're going to run, run to win".
Question: Why aren't we winning? Why aren't we making progress? Why aren't we achieving the goals that we want to achieve? Why aren't we changing the things that we want to change in our lives? The answer is, and I believe these truths can change your life. Why have we not been changing? The answer is, you've been trying for too long. You've been trying for way too long.
I want you to think about it. In the most important areas in life, most Christians have adopted a theology of trying. What are you doing? I'm trying to serve God. I'm trying to be a good Christian. I'm trying to go to church and I'm trying to read my Bible. I'm trying to stop smoking. I'm trying to stop cussing. I'm trying to be nice to my children. I'm trying to be more loving. I'm trying not to worry so much. I'm trying not to eat the whole thing. I'm trying to exercise. I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying. I'm trying. Man, I really am, I'm trying. I'm doing the best I can. I'm trying the best I can. I'm trying not to look anymore. I'm trying so hard not to think lustful thoughts. I'm trying so hard not to lose my temper. I'm trying so hard not to be me. I'm trying so hard to spend more time with my kids. I'm trying not to be in debt. I'm trying, I'm trying.
Why are you not changing? Because you've been trying for too long. That's why I came to tell somebody to change your strategy. You need to stop trying and start training. It's time to stop trying and start training. Why? Because trying never achieves consistent results. Training does. Trying never changes anything for long. Training is an entirely different mindset and perspective. Let's talk about the difference for just a moment. What do you do when you're trying? What is trying? trying is an attempt to change with minimal commitment. It's often a half-hearted attempt.
What are you doing? Well, I'm trying to start being more godly. You know, I'm trying to read my Bible. I'm trying to be nice. I'm trying not to be so lazy. I'm trying to get into better shape. But when you're trying it almost implies that you plan to fail. There's no real commitment. It's just a try. It's just a hope. It's just a wish. I'm going to bring a little bit to this thing, not too much. I'm trying, but I'm not getting anywhere. It's often a half-hearted attempt, an attempt to change with a minimal commitment. But what is training? Training is very different. Training is a whole-hearted commitment to achieve a specific result.
And you know the difference between trying and training. If you're trying, you just show up hoping for a better result. I hope this works out. I'm trying, I mean, I'm trying to do it. But when you're training, you've got a game plan, you've got a strategy, you've got some fight in you, you've got the eye of the tiger, you've got some Rocky I, and Rocky II, and Rocky III, and Rocky III. Baby, you've got some Cobra Kai season three inside of you. You're coming to play. You're running to win. You're not just trying. You're in training. There's intentionality behind. There's focus it. There's a defined vision. There's a purpose. When you're trying, you give up when it gets too hard. I tried. When you're trying, you quit when you don't feel like it. But when you're training, you don't act according to your feelings. You act according to your commitment. There's a big difference.
The apostle, Paul, he says it this way. He says that, "Everyone who competes in the games, they go into strict training". Instead of trying to get ready to compete, they go into strict training. In fact, the Greek word is a powerful word that's translated as training, is the word, agonizomai. We get our word, agony, from this, like it's hard work. This word means to contend for victory. It means to strain every nerve toward the goal. Trying is a half-hearted attempt. Training is to take every bit of power you have and even some power that you don't have that comes from heaven and strain every nerve toward the goal and the call for which God has created you. And when an athlete went to compete in the Olympic Games, they went into a 10-month strict training in Greece.
It was an intentional rigorous training regimen that included a very, very strict diet. No wine or alcohol. They would run a certain amount of time of day. no kind of junk food. They would expose themselves to extreme cold and extreme heat, and evidently there would also be some eating of sand along the way. Thankfully, in my training, to this day, I've never eaten sand, but they were into it. They weren't trying to compete. They were training to win. And there's a difference.
So imagine this, imagine this, a marathon, and you got a couple of runners who show up to the starting line and maybe there's hundreds of people. And one person's ready, training, strict diet, no wine, extreme heat, extreme cold, months of preparation. And this guy looks at the guy sitting next to him and says, what'd you do to train? And before the gun goes off, the other guy looks over and goes, Oh man, I didn't really get around to it. I mean, I was trying to get ready, but you know, things were busy. Kids were having challenges and, you know, my wife was kind of, you know, bah-bah-bah. I was trying to but I didn't quite get around to it. Other guy looks at him and says, You mean you're going to run a marathon and you didn't even train for it. He goes, Well, pretty excited to be here because I'm getting a free T-shirt. I'm going to try as hard as I can.
Listen, when you're an athlete, a competitor, when you're fighting for something that matters, when you have a vision, when you have a dream, when you have a spiritual assignment from heaven, trying apart from training is unthinkable. Can we run? We run to win. We're not trying to honor God. We're in training to do what God created us to be. There's a big, big, big difference. I like what scripture says in 1st Timothy, chapter four, verse seven, whenever Paul was talking to Timothy about becoming godly. Here's what Paul didn't say. He said, Timothy, I want you to try to be godly. Wake up and try your very best. What he said was, "Train yourself to be godly".
Somebody here, you needs to stop trying and start training. When people look at you, they'll see something different. What are you doing? I'm not trying. I'm in training. I've got a different mindset. I've got a game plan. This isn't a half-hearted commitment. This is a full-on, all-in, every nerve in my body toward the goal, empowered by the spirit of God. I'm in training. So what do we do? How do we train? What does it look like if we're in training to let God change us into who he wants us to become? What is training? Let's keep it really, really simple. We'll define it this way. Training is doing what I can do today to enable me to do even more tomorrow. That's training. It's that clear, it's that simple, and it's that powerful?
What is training? Very simply, it's consistently doing what I can do today to enable me to do even more tomorrow. What are you doing? You might be training for a marathon. Can you run a marathon today? Most of you would have to say, no way. Can you walk a mile today? You can. If you can walk a mile today, you're in training. You walk a mile and a half tomorrow. One day you're running two miles and then three. What are you? You're in training. Can you get out of debt by next month? Most people say, no, you can't. But when you're in training, you can bring your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks, and guess what, that's $6 towards your goal when you're in training.
Can you become a spiritual powerhouse by noon the next day? Probably not. But can you open up your YouVersion Bible app and read the word of God every day, letting his living, active, powerful word convince you, shape you, conform you, transform you to the image of Christ. You see, we're not trying. We're in training. We're doing what we can do today that will enable us to do what we can't do tomorrow that we want to do. We're training, God's giving us his power one step at a time. I'm doing what I can do. Tomorrow, I promise I'll do even more.
And that's why I love the intentionality of what the apostle, Paul, says in verse 26. He says, "So I run with purpose in every step". This isn't accidental. It's not unintentional. There's actually a plan to this. I've got a strategy. I'm in training. When I wake up, I know what I'm called to do. I know what the plan is today. Even if I fall back or I'm set back, I still step back up and I'm back in training. A temporary loss doesn't mean permanent defeat. I'm coming back because I'm in training. I'm running with purpose in every step. "I am not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete". very important, like an athlete, "training it to do what it should". I want you to notice what he said is he said, is he said, "I discipline my body like an athlete". Not like somebody who wants to be an athlete. Not like somebody who's going to be an athlete in the future. But I discipline like an athlete. It's identity.
And we talked about this last week. It starts with identity, not just what do you want to do, but who do you want to become? And when you know who God says you are, when you know who you are, you know what to do. Because I'm seeing myself as, here's an example, an athlete, I discipline my body. It starts with identity. You see, whenever you're trying, whenever you're trying, you're hoping to become something that you're not. But when you're training, you're becoming more of what you are ready are. Like an athlete, like a godly dad, like a godly mom, like a bright shining light in my fraternity. Like one who honors God with purity. I'm not trying. I'm in training. When I show up, I put some work in. I've got a game plan. I'm in training. I'm not trying. I'm training.
Somebody say, I'm training. Training. Say it like you mean to say, I'm not trying. I'm training. Type it in the chat. I'm in training. I'm in training. Training isn't a hopeful experiment. It's a devoted commitment driven by a deeper why. Internalize it. Who you are, in other words, I'm not trying to have a better marriage. We are a great marriage in training. I'm not trying to be a godly parent. I'm a godly dad in training. Apply it to your world. I'm not trying to avoid a hookup because I keep getting hooked up. No, I am an ambassador in Christ, in training, honoring God with purity in my body and my mind, saving myself for something better in the future.
You see with God's help, I'm choosing what I want most over what I want now. Because of who I am, I'm not trying to become something different. I'm in training to become more of what God already said that I am. It's a game changer. So sometimes people will look at me and say, You seem to have good discipline, strong discipline. Why is that? I hope you'll understand that it's not natural. My sin tendency is the opposite. But it's born out of working to embrace my spiritual identity. Who does God see me as? Who have I learned to see me as? Let me tell you who I am. You ready for this? You may laugh, and I really don't give a rip, but you may not know it, but I am a spiritual warrior. I've got a calling from God to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. I help snatch people out of the kingdom of darkness and bring them into the family of God. It's a calling.
Listen, I've got someone to protect and I've got the key to advance. I am a warrior. And because of who I am, it drives every area of my life. Therefore, I am disciplined in the word of God because I'm in spiritual training. I fight for purity because purity matters. I fight for humility because God tends to lift up the humble and tear down the proud. I'm in training to become more of who I am. It goes all the way down to like my body. Like honest to goodness, what I put in matters because this belongs to God. I want to be strong. You're getting older, right? Well, you know what? I'll be the strongest 68 year old one day you've ever seen. I'm going to be the best version of whatever I am because I'm in training to be who God called me to be.
So recently I picked up a new discipline that I'm really enjoying. Want me tell you about it? For probably 15 years, I wanted to take up jujitsu. I've had limited training in other martial arts but I just think jujitsu's cocky. It's just, these guys are, it's like beautiful. It's amazing. And so. Bobby Gruenewald, Pastor Bobby, who created the YouVersion Bible app, he got tired of hearing me talk about it. Because every year I thought, well, too old now. Now I'm really too old. Now I'm way, way too old. Now I'm in my late forties. Now I'm way too old. So Bobby just said, Hey, I'm going to go take jujitsu classes. You want to go? I said, Sure, I'll go with you. And so Bobby went to two classes and he quit. He set me up. He set me up.
And so what I want you to understand is now, I'm training in jujitsu. Notice, I didn't say I'm trying to learn to fight, because I'm not trying. I'm in training. I'll show you my jujitsu coach. This is Tyler. He may look smaller than me and he is, but don't let that fool you. This is Tyler recently winning the IBJJF Jujitsu World Championship in the Brown Belt right before he gets his Black Belt. And what I want you to understand is like, I'm not trying to get good at this. I'm in training. I get three lessons a week, private lessons because I need private help. And I'm working hard. If I miss a class, I'm watching videos and I'm training at home. And you would not believe it, but I'm winning and winning and winning and winning and winning and winning and winning. I am. I'm rolling against 22 year old NCAA champion wrestlers and I'm winning. I mean, I swear I'm winning.
If you looked on, you'd probably say, You're getting your butt kicked, and you could make a pretty persuasive argument that they are sitting on my head and I'm tapping out a whole lot. But that's just your perspective. You see, I've got a different perspective on winning. I'm 53 and I got two stripes on my white belt, and my third one may be coming pretty soon. I'm showing back up. I'm in training and every day, guess what, my confidence increases as well as my humility. And that's a win for me. Every day, my mind is becoming sharper. My body may look older to you, but it's getting even more dangerous every single day. I'm winning, not when I defeat my opponent, but I'm winning when I show up and become more of who God created me to be. I'm in training.
So why is it that you tried to change, but you can't? Perhaps you've been trying too hard. You've been trying in your own power, and there was a power greater than anything this earth offers that comes straight from heaven. And when you're weak, that power makes you strong. And I just want to encourage you, I'm telling you, it's a game changer, change your mindset. Change the way you think. Don't let the devil tell you what you're not. You're always unhealthy. You're always ungodly. You're always going to fail. You're never going to have a good, no, no, no, no, no, no, no... I'm the righteousness of God in Christ. I'm an overcomer by the blood of the lamb. I am victorious in all, I'm blessed coming in, blessed going out.
You change your identity, and when you know who you are, you know what to do. And you're not trying to become something in the future. You're training to be more what God says you are today. I'm in training. I'm in training I'm in training. And then it's a game changer. You're not successful when you achieve the goal in the future. You're successful when you honor Jesus today. Well done, my good and faithful servant. So when you run, run to win. We're not trying. We're in training, spiritual training to become who God created us to be.
So to Father, we ask, by the power of your risen son, Jesus, infused by the Holy Spirit, help us become more like Jesus, glorifying you in all that we do.
As you're praying today at our different churches, or those of you watching online, in whatever area, do you want to be different? Do you want to change? Do you want to stop the whatever? Do you want to start the whatever? Do you want to be more like Jesus? Do you want to be different? If you have an area like that in your life and you want to stop trying and start training, would you lift up your hands right now? Just all of our churches. Just lift up your hands. You can leave them up if you want. You can type it in the chat. I'm ready to start training.
Father, I just ask, by the power of your spirit, that first we would change how we see ourselves. Not like our failures of the past, but God, help us to see ourselves as you see us, call ourselves what you call us. God, help us to see ourselves as victorious, as overcomers, as one who can do all things you call us to do through Christ who gives us strength. Then God, give us the courage to stop trying in our own power, but infused by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God, help us to train, to be in training, to train to be godly, to train to win, to train to represent you in all that we do, to become more of who you created us to be. We believe, God, you will empower us. We're not trying, God. We're in training.
As you keep praying today at of our churches, nobody looking around. Some of you may find that you've tried and you've tried and you've tried and you just, you continue to hit a wall. I would encourage you, again, not to try in your own power. I want to tell you about a power, a force, a love that is greater than you could ever imagine. Sometimes when we mess up, we feel like we really let God down and He's probably not happy with us, he doesn't love us. But I want to do is tell you about a God that loves you no matter what. He loves you not just based on what you do, but it's based on who he is. He is love. It's not just something that he does. It's who he is.
There's nothing you can do to make him love you more. There's no bad thing you could do to make God love you less. He just loves you so much that he sent his son, Jesus, who was perfect in every way. Jesus was obedient to God and gave his life on a cross, and God in his goodness and grace, raised Jesus from the dead so that anybody, and this includes you, it doesn't matter your doubts, your fears, your insecurities, your hangups, your addictions, the dark spots of your life, anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, you would be saved. The old is gone, is passed away. And listen, you become new. You're not just better. You're new. The old is gone.
And all of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize you need His grace. You need His forgiveness. What do you do? Just step away from your old life. One step. Step toward him. You're not trying to be good enough. You recognize because of Jesus, you're becoming a child of God. Now you're in training to become more of who he says you are. In all of our churches, those who say, I need his forgiveness. I want his mercy. I need his grace. I want to experience his love. When you call on his name, he forgives your sins and you become brand new.
All of our churches, those who say, Yes, Jesus, I want you, I need you today. I surrender my life to you. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place and say, Yes. We've got hands going up all over the place. Those of you online, just type it into the chat. Just say I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in the chat. And today, guess what? We have the honor of praying with people all over the world coming into God's family. Would you just pray aloud with those around you? Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus save me, make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could serve you, show your love, and honor you and all that I do. I'm not just trying. I'm in training to live for you, to show your love, and to honor you. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine in Jesus' name. Amen.