Craig Groeschel - When You Don't Like Who You're Becoming
I want to warn you about today's message. What I'm gonna do is I'm going to raise it problem, and I'm not going to offer a solution today because I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but so many of life's problems are way too complicated to solve in 30 minutes or less. So I'm gonna raise a problem and some issues that you may identify it with, and you may feel, and at the end of the message today, if you feel a little bit frustrated, I want you to know that I succeeded in my goal. Welcome to Life Church. We're here to make you feel good about yourself always at risk of offending you. What I wanna do is I wanna ask you a question that you probably wouldn't expect to hear from a pastor. If you're ready for the question, say I'm ready. Are you ready? I'm ready. The question I wanna ask you is this, do you ever feel like Christianity isn't working?
I told you you probably wouldn't expect to hear that from a pastor. Do you ever feel like the way you're serving Jesus and following Jesus and trying to trust in God isn't working the way you thought it probably would? Today I'm gonna get real honest with you and I wonder how many of you if you're really honest might say something like at times you get a little burned out on the busy-ness of church, or you might say something that I've felt and you wonder God, why aren't you answering my prayers the way you answer the prayers of so many other people? You might say something like I'm doing everything right, I'm trying to be good, I'm trying to be faithful, I'm trying to be a good Christian, I'm doing everything right, and everything's still seems to go wrong. Does it ever feel like Christianity is not working?
It could show up in any number of people's lives in any different number of ways. It might be a young boy that grows up going to church with his family, and he does all the churchy stuff. He's in vacation Bible school, drawn pictures of David beating Goliath, he's in the youth group, he has his first kiss in the back of the church van playing truth or dare for the glory of God, dare first kiss, thank you, Jesus, whatever. He's plugged into the church, he's trying to do things right and he goes home, and what he sees at home from his parents is really inconsistent with the message that he hears in church and there's hypocrisy, and there's sin, and his parents fight all the time. So he prays and prays worried about his family. God save their marriage, and they end up divorcing and he wonders, God, did you hear my prayer? Do you even care? Does Christianity even work?
It could be a couple that does things right, they're dating and they're waiting before they get involved in the mating. I just made that up. They serve in a LifeGroup. They're on the host team. They have a lot of faith, and then one day one of them loses a job, and then both of them lose their child. And the burden that loss eventually leaves them losing their marriage. And both of them end up asking where's God? Where's God? Does Christianity even work? It may not be so dramatic. In fact, in your case I'm guessing for many of you, it's not that dramatic. It might be you go to church and you do your daily YouVersion Bible plan. You've even got a streak going. And you often listen to K-LOVE Radio and you may have a Life Church bumper sticker on your car and you have a decent job and you have a decent place to live and you have a decent car and you have decent friends and you may even get to go on a decent vacation and you're serving God, but you're still just not happy. You're not fulfilled. And you start to ask yourself, does Christianity even work?
If you've ever been there and wondered, is there a better way? Is there a better way? I wanna bring a message to you today that I pray will speak to your heart. If you're hurting, if you're overwhelmed, if you're confused, if you're discouraged, I pray the words from John 14, the words of Jesus would speak to you starting in verse one when Jesus said this, he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Jesus says, 'Believe also in me.' My Father's house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you I'm going there to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I'll come back and take you to be with me so you also may be where I am beautiful and powerful. Jesus says, 'You know the way to the place where I'm going.'"
Then Thomas pipes up. Thomas always gets a bad rap. I like Thomas because Thomas says the very thing everybody else is thinking, but doesn't the guts to say. Jesus says, "You know where I'm going". Thomas says, "Oh, we don't". "Thomas said to Jesus, 'Lord we'll know where you're going. So how can we know the way?'" Everybody say the way. The way. "Jesus answered Thomas and said," very famous and very important verse. "Jesus says, 'I am the way,'" everybody say the way. The way. "Jesus says, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" The title of our new message series born out of the pain in my own heart is called A Better Way.
Father we ask that by the power of your Spirit and the truth of your Word, you would lead us, not just in the truth of Jesus, but also in the ways of Jesus. Lead us, God, your children into a better way. We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus, and everybody said, Amen. Amen, amen.
How many of you would agree that the way you do something or the way you say something matters a lot? Agree, right? You can tell the truth, but do it in a way that's ineffective or even rude. I don't know if any of you ever seen crazy mean Christians do this. It's like a oxymoron, crazy mean Christian. They are crazy mean Christian. They tell the truth like Jesus loves you you sinner, that's the truth, but probably not the most effective way, that's what I'm talking about, the way matters. If you're not married yet, you'll learn that. The way you say something matters. You can say like are you wearing that? Or you can say, are you wearing that? Okay, same thing, different way. One leads to this and one leads to this. You got to say it the right way. The way matters. As Christians, I don't know if you notice this, but generally when we think of the way, the truth and the life, we tend to generally focus on the truth. At least preachers do, which is important because you'll know the truth and the truth will set you free.
We often talk about the truth of Jesus, but we rarely talk about the way of Jesus. Jesus is yes, the only way to the Father, and that's one way we preach it. But I also believe that living the way that Jesus lived is a reflection of the truth that Jesus taught. We often talk about the truth of what he said, but often overlooked the way that he lived. And in fact, I wanna play a little Bible trivia for fun. And if you know the answer, don't shout it out, but just kind of pretend like, and then go later on, I knew the answer. What do you think first century Christians were called? When you think in must go to the book of Acts. There was a title, a phrase, what were first century Christians called in the book of Acts? And I'll give you a hint. They were not called Christians. They weren't called religious people. They weren't called Bible thumpers. They weren't called holy rollers. They weren't called Jesus freaks.
Let me tell you what they're called. These Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving, demon-crushing, self-sacrificing world-changes. According to the book of Acts we're called people of the way. That's where they were called. What were first century Christians called? They were called people of the way. Fascinating to me that when you look at the way they lived their goal wasn't just right theology, and it wasn't just strong morality, but their goal was to live and love the way Jesus lived and love. And in fact, when you think about the way that Jesus lived, you read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And don't just look at the truth he taught, but look at the way he lived and compare the way he lived to the way most of us live, you'll often find there's a very, very big difference from the way he lived and the way we live.
Think about the way that Jesus lived. When Jesus interacted with people, he was full of joy and most of us were full of stress and anxiety. You didn't see him going around going, the economy is gonna fall apart in the Roman government. He didn't worry. And he told us, don't worry about tomorrow. God's already there, he got it covered. And most of us freaking out all the time. Some say that we're the most anxious generation in the history of the world. Jesus, as he walked along, when he saw someone who was in need, he stopped and spent time with them. I don't know about you, but most people say I ain't got no time for that. He was consumed with ongoing intimate fellowship with his Father. And I can't pray three minutes without being interrupted by a text or thinking about what my next meal is gonna be. Anybody relate? Just sit there and polish your halo, look all spiritual, holy one.
I'm gonna talk to the real people today. Imagine if Jesus we're like most of us, just picture that. Jesus live in a day. Imagine if he were like most of us. Imagine him all depressed going around his buddies, going, "Hey man, Mark, I'm so sick of these sandals, dirt all over my feet. If only I had a pair of Yeezys, oh, I'd be so fly. I could just preach, the crowds will come. If I just have some Yeezys, wouldn't that be so cool". Imagine he's trolling through Instagram. He's like, aw, JTB. John the Baptist, that guy's got more followers than I do. I don't even understand. He's not even worthy to untie my Yeezys. Imagine Jesus heals for people. He comes home like, "Oh, bro I'm exhausted. Oh, that one person, has this bad breath. He's driving me crazy. I just need a cold Bruschi". You can barely even get your mind there, right? Jesus is not just the truth and the life, he's the way to the Father. And the first century Christians were focused on living and loving the way that Jesus lived and loved.
When you think about just the way Jesus interacted, if you'll notice, every time you read in Scripture, how did he get somewhere where he was always walking along. You never read Jesus scurried from one town to the next. He seemed unhurried and I don't know about you, but I am rushed everywhere all the time without exception. And the scariest thing to me is I've noted this, that I am hurry to become a person I don't even like. Always rushed, always anxious, always pushing it, always short with the people and more and more, more, faster, faster, better and better, faster, faster, go, go, go, go, and it hit me recently. My best friends of 30 years, my bride, Amy is here and we were looking through some old photos. Anybody ever do that? Yeah.
I was looking through some old photos. I gave you a collage just to show you. And when I looked back, the one thing I noticed from the past is something you may not see with your eyes, but I know in my heart I was lighter and not weight-wise, but in my soul. I was lighter, I was happier, I was more content, I was more full of joy, I was more full of peace. I used to be fun. I used to be relaxed. I used to have time to really engage with people. I used to really enjoy the presence of God, and now I'm rushing to become a person that I don't even like. So I came to a place where I recognized that I needed to make some changes, some real changes. And so I've been working now for quite some time with a performance psychologist and they say like, oh, you that crazy sick Pastor D? Yes, there it is. I need help. I think anybody who wants to perform at any high level should get help. I think it's wise to get wise counsel, and so I get wise counsel and my performance psychologist helped us to create a plan to unplug for the first time in 25 years and take a real break, something that I've have not had.
And so we put a lot of work into a break in the summertime and things didn't go as we had planned, so I'm trying to unpack it for you, but if you can imagine to be disconnected from the church is no easy task. And so on the very, very, very first day that Amy and I woke up out of town, Pastor Sam Roberts called me and said, "I've got news that you need to pray about, know about". But Pastor Danny Duran, our pastor from the Overland Park Campus had some kind of a heart issue and needed prayer. And about an hour later, maybe an hour a half later, Pastor Sam called me back and said that Pastor Danny had passed away and was no longer with us. And I don't know about you, but when you lose someone you admire, lose someone you respect, someone you love, someone who's very dear to you, there's no going out and enjoying vacation. And so I did what his wife did and hundreds of staff members did and thousands of church members did, and just sat down to cry. Came back off vacation, went to participate in his funeral and show honor to him and tried to pick back up in the middle of the grief and continue to find a place to heal.
And then a few days later, we got news of a 20 year friend and staff member, a gentleman that I love and admire more than I can describe who has very late stage cancer and is in a fight for his life. And then another family member of whom I won't say to respect their privacy, but so you don't freak out, it's not Amy, not one of my kids, but a very close family member also found out the similar type of news, and we came back to spend time with him as he fights to find healing and to try to extend the days of his life. And so we're trying to disconnect and we find ourselves just grieving. And I'm wondering, where are you God? More about my little break is that my counselor kind of gave me an assignment, is gonna sound weird to you, but the way I work demands a different type of break.
So some of you would like to go and look at mountains and sit by a beach and read books, and that would be the right for you. For me, it would be different. And so what he assigned me to do is to go seek thrill, adventure, risk, spontaneity, thrill, risk, adventure, spontaneity. And so I've been taking flying lessons. I was gonna go do more flying lessons. I gonna fly a plane. I was gonna jump out of a plane. Might as well do both. I was gonna climb mountains. I was gonna race motorcycles. I might've raced a car. I was gonna race dune buggies. I was gonna fight in Jiu Jitsu. I was going to go, go, go and my assignment was to risk my life for the glory of Jesus daily to push my body to disconnect my mind because I needed something to help my mind because it rarely ever disconnects from the love and the burden of serving God's people in the church.
And so while grieving personal losses and trials, we were ready to still try, and what I thought was a growing injury from Jiu Jitsu. I thought I'd better go get this checked out after seven weeks that I had going away, and the doctor said you have a hernia. And two days later I had a hernia surgery and there's the picture. Now take it away. That's all you can see 'cause that's a bad picture. And for the six weeks my assignment was do absolutely nothing, and you can't lift more than 10 pounds, which you might as well just said, go scratch your fingers on chalkboards and eat razorblades until you die, okay. So does Christianity work? Like I'm supposed to be one of God's people, right? I'm like, I'm doing your deal, God and grieving, hurting and inactive, I decided to spend just a lot of time with God. Okay, God, you got my attention.
So Amy will tell you, and my devotion time in the morning, I'm like a hit, get it done, go. So I'm like, hey God, here you are, Bible study, go, done. I spent an hour and a half to three hours a day, which is a long time for me. And then I couldn't hear from God, like where are you, God? And heaven seem silence. When I realized in the middle of all of this, that I have been going at an unsustainable pace and that I was just in the middle of ongoing burnout. And in my journal, I wrote a quote that was not original to me, but it was true to me. And I wrote in my journal, the way. Everybody say the way. The way. The way I'd been doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me, The way. Good intentions born out of a sincere love for Jesus and his church. But the way I'd been doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me. I'm guessing that there's probably somebody watching this message that could say that same thing.
The way you've been doing the work of God might be destroying the work of God in you. Or maybe it's not just the way you're doing the work of God, but maybe it's your schedule or your pace is destroying the intimacy that God wants you to enjoy with him. Maybe it's your insecurities or your unresolved hurts or maybe it's your deepest fears distracting you from the work of the Holy Spirit who wants to strengthen you and draw you close to God and make you effective in the world. And so as I started to slow down without choice, everything in me wanted to push back. No, no, no, no, this is the way we do it. We push harder, we grind out. This is the way to success. This is the way you get ahead. This is the way to be happy. You push, you drive, you achieve, you conquer. The world would say, you get things, you flex on them. You saw them to got. This is the way we do it, right? But there's a varsity Old Testament that speaks to the way that many people do it.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way". Somebody say a way. A way. "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death". And the way I had been serving God was actually hurting the work of God in my heart. So one of the books that I read was a book I'd been avoiding by a guy named John Mark Comer. It's called "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry". A very good book. And some of his teaching will leak out over the next few weeks. And so I wanna give him credit for his work. And he talked a lot about Matthew's gospel, Matthew 11:28-30. And these are the words of Jesus. Jesus said this. He said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened". So if you're like got too much worn out, burned out, wondering where Christianity is, actually come to Jesus, come to Jesus. And he says, "I will give you rest".
Then let me just warn you, the verse gets weird. It just gets weird. Then he says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I'm gentle and humbled in heart. You'll find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Come to me if you're worn out, I'll give you rest". And he says, "Take my yoke". If you don't know what a yoke is, this is just weird. I'll show you a picture of a yoke. A yoke is a wooden cross piece that joined two animals together to work together to accomplish more. When they were joined, they had to work at the same pace. Jesus is saying, "Come to me and I'm gonna give you a work tool". If you're exhausted, I'm gonna put a work tool around your neck. That's just weird. When I'm exhausted, I want massage. I want a bubble bath. I want Amy to rub my feet. I want to vacation. I don't wanna work tool burden in my neck.
What's interesting about a yoke is there was no single yoke. Anytime there was a yoke, it was for two animals to join together. And what Jesus was doing was saying: if you're worn out, if you're burned out, if you don't know this is working, come and join him, and I wanna give you a better way to be, listen, not joined to your schedule, not joined to religion, but joined to Jesus. Not just to believe his truth, which I hope you do, but also to live the way that Jesus lived. Now, some of you may push back and say, "But Jesus wasn't no single mom with two jobs". Fair enough. Jesus didn't have student loan debt, right? Jesus didn't work for my boss, Satan in the flesh, whatever it is, okay. All that's fair. I'm with you. But Jesus still had a pretty big assignment, like be perfect, save the world. I think we can learn from him. Called by God to be without sin and to give us life. Jesus loved freely and still disconnected from the crowds to get alone and be intimate with God. He had long meals with the people that he loved. And I have lunch delivered to me in my office and eat in five minutes and keep on going. He had deep conversations. He stopped to listen and to love to those who are hurting.
If you ever wake up and think there's got to be a better way, I can tell you there is, and it's not just the truth of Jesus, but it's the truth expressed in the way that Jesus lived. So what I'm not gonna do is I'm not gonna give you a quick fix today. In fact, what I wanna do is I wanna give you a moment just to sit in the frustration long enough to get sick of it, just to get sick of it like I did. To look at who I was becoming and saying, "I don't like that guy as much as I used to like the old version. I'm sick of the pace, I'm sick of the stress, I'm sick of the anxiety, I'm sick of the fear, I'm sick of being exhausted, I'm sick of being sick about feeling like I'm exhausted. I'm sick of going back and making the same promises that I made for the last seven years and breaking the same promises. I'm sick of the way I'm doing life". So I told you, I'm not gonna solve your problems today. I'm not gonna solve them ever, but I am gonna tell you where we're going in the upcoming weeks. And I wanna just tell you, because I want you to be here because together we're gonna grow closer to God. Most of us are rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed.
So next week we're gonna talk about the unhurried rhythms of grace. And most of my staff said, I can't believe we'd ever heard that from pastor Craig. Most Christians I know are overcome by temptation and feel far from God and they feel spiritually dry or dull. We're gonna talk about unbroken fellowship with the Father. How do we enjoy his presence intimately in an ongoing awareness of his presence. Most people today are unfocused, preoccupied, distracted by all sorts of stupid stuff. We're gonna talk about the uncluttered pursuit of God's mission. How do we stay on task, growing to become who he wants us to be so we can do what he calls us to do. Most people I know today are regretting a past they can't change and worrying about a future they can't control. And they're often present physically, but somewhere else mentally. We're gonna talk about an undivided attention in the moment watching as Jesus was always present and learning from him how to do exactly the same.
If you're tired of the grind, tired of the stress, miserable and afraid, and angry and anxious. Too many problems to solve and too much weight to carry and too much pain to bear, there is a better way. There is a better way. Jesus is the way, he is the truth, he is the life. There is a better way. There is a better way. His name is Jesus. And in the 21st Psalm, David said, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures". Listen, what I've learned is this. You can choose to lie down or he'll make you lie down. And he made me lie down and he had a different plan for my break than I had because he has a better way. And what I discovered is in Scripture, the Bible never says be busy and know that I am God. Be rushed and know that I'm God. Be hurried and anxious and overwhelmed and know that I am God.
But the Bible kinda say, if you have a hernia surgery and can't do squat, you can be... Still. Still and now that I am God. And so in my hurt, in my pain, in my disappointment, in my loss, God showed me the way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me. And he showed me clearly, and I'm gonna show you what he's showing me. There's a better way. So my invitation to you, it's an invitation from God is come to Jesus, come to Jesus, don't join a church, come to Jesus and he'll give you rest. You don't have to earn it, you'd never deserve it, it's his gift. Take his yoke. Be joined with him, do life with Jesus, guiding you and you'll find rest for your soul. So what else? What's your assignment? Come to Jesus. Just join me in his presence. Come to Jesus and find rest for your soul.