Craig Groeschel - Take Back Your Life
What do you think is the difference between those people that are really fulfilled in life? And when I say really fulfilled, I mean they have great and meaningful relationships. They're strong financially and generous with people around them. They're fulfilled in life, and they have very meaningful ministries. They love their life. What do you think is the difference between those people and the rest of the world? Those who are struggling relationally, just trying to hold their marriage together or keep their kids off drugs. Those who are struggling financially and don't know that they could be generous. They want to be, but they don't feel like they could be. Those who know there's something more in life, but can't quite find it. Those who feel empty.
What is the difference, do you think, between those who are really fulfilled and the rest of the world, who's so often struggling? Well, let me tell you what it's not. It's not what a lot of people think. The difference is not their intelligence. It's not their talent. It's not even their appearance, because we've all seen smart people who are miserable, right? We've seen talented people that are broke. We've seen attractive people that can't hold a relationship. Some of you might say, "I dated that person". Don't point at them right now, but you know what I'm saying. What do you think the difference is between those who are really making a difference, those who are really fulfilled, and the rest of the world? I would say that it really all boils down to our decisions. It boils down to our decisions. Our decisions are incredibly and indescribably important.
In fact, I would say it this way. That the quality of your decisions determines the quality of your life. You make your decisions, and your decisions end up making you. The problem is that, most of us, we are not good decision-makers. Right? We want to eat right, but then we decide to eat more than we should. We want to be wise with our money, but we decide to buy things we can't afford. We want to be wise with our words, but we decide to say things that we regret. We want to do the right thing, but we make decisions to do the wrong thing. We want to love the people around us, but unfortunately, sometimes our decisions end up hurting the people that we love most. We want to be good-decision makers, but the problem is most of us aren't. In fact, would you like for me to tell you the story of the first time that I really realized I wasn't a good-decision maker? You want to hear? Like, I don't need to tell you. You want to hear it? You can type in the comments, "Tell us why you're so stupid, Pastor Craig. Tell us why you messed up".
The first time I realized I was really a bad-decision maker was when I was newly married to Amy. I was a full-time pastor at First United Methodist Church, and I was a full-time seminary student. That alone was stupid. That's way too much. And this was way back in the era, if you can imagine, just before people started getting personal computers. And so I used something at the time for seminary known as a typewriter. Now, for those of you that don't know what a typewriter is, I will show you what a typewriter looks like, and I stayed up really, really late typing a 15-page paper for a seminary class. I went home from my office, and went to bed, and got up the next morning to drive an hour and a half to seminary, when I realized I left my paper at the church office.
Now, this was before you could email yourself the paper. There was one copy in the world, and it wasn't in my presence. So I rushed up at like six AM to the office to get my paper, but what I didn't realize is the little key card didn't work at six AM. It was programmed maybe to start at 7:30 or whatever, so that's when I made the first of a series of bad decisions. What I realized is that, since my office was way up high on this historic building, I always left the window unlocked, because no one would ever climb in it, and that's when I thought, "Well, I could climb the outside of the wall".
Now you may have seen the most recent Spider-Man, and I don't want to give you any spoilers, but if you know the Spider-Man 1 or 2 or 3, I was the prequel, okay? I decided to scale the outside of the building like Spider-Man, and I was climbing up it when I got to a very dangerous point of no return, and I realized this wasn't a good decision. I climbed all the way up to the outside of my office, literally hanging on maybe a ledge this big, up to my window like this, and I've tried to lift the window, and lo and behold, someone had locked it. It was at that moment that I realized I was in big trouble. I couldn't turn around. It's six-something in the morning. There's no cell phones back in this day. You can visualize this guy in pleated khaki pants with penny loafers, trying to get inside the building, and couldn't get down. I had to wait until some guy walked by at maybe seven AM, and holler for help, and this was before mobile devices, so he couldn't go and just call someone. He had to go find a payphone.
Now, if you don't know what a payphone is, I want you to understand what a payphone is, and he had to call the fire department who came to get Pastor Craig down from a third-story window. And that's when I realized we're not good decision-makers. Have any of you ever done something you regret? You made a dumb decision? What we're gonna do over the next few weeks is we're gonna talk about the power of our decisions, and I want to start with answering the question, why is it that we struggle to make good decisions? Why do we want to do the right thing, and we end up doing the wrong thing, and I'm gonna give you a long introduction today and then we're gonna look at a lot of God's Word in the upcoming week.
Why do we struggle to make good decisions? I see at least three reasons. One is we are overwhelmed with choices. We're overwhelmed with choices. In fact, some studies show that we'll make upwards of, are you ready for this? Around 35,000 decisions a day. From the moment you wake up, what do I eat? What do I wear? When do I look at? Do I scroll, tap, tap? Scroll past, comment? Look at this, look at that? How do I drive to work? What do I say to people at work? All day long. And what happens is, because we make so many choices, our decision-making muscle literally becomes fatigued. In fact, cognitive scientists have termed the phrase decision fatigue, decision fatigue. Essentially what happens, as the volume of decisions increase, the quality of decisions decrease. Because we're making decisions day after day, moment after moment, all day long, our decision-making muscle gets really, really tired, and that's why you may make difficult and wise decisions all day at the office, and then you come home and decide to binge eat at night. It's because you got tired of making good decisions.
Or you make wise financial choices, and you're saving and you're paying off debt and you're doing the right thing, and then you make some stupid purchase out of nowhere, because of decision fatigue. We try to make good decisions, but because of the volume, the quality starts to decrease. The second big problem is, for many of us, is that we're afraid of making the wrong choices, and this is especially true for those of us that are Christians, because we don't want to miss God's will, and so a lot of times we'll analyze something and say, "Well, I'm not sure that's the perfect school," or, "I'm not sure that's the perfect job," or, "I'm not sure this is the perfect person to date," and since we aren't sure, sometimes we just don't make any decisions at all, and this is a real challenge, because we have to understand that indecision is actually a decision, and I tell our team all the time that indecision is the enemy of progress.
Why do we struggle to make good decisions? Well, we're overwhelmed with all the choices, we're afraid of making a wrong choice, and the one that I want to really drill down into is this one. We let emotions overrule logic. This is where so many of us struggle and our decision-making process breaks down. We let emotions overrule logic, which is really, really interesting, because on some decisions, we spend way too much time analyzing. You probably do this. You might spend more time analyzing what series to binge watch than you actually do binge watching the whole series. You look at everything and we'll overanalyze a lot of decisions that don't really matter, and then we just make impulse decisions on the things that do matter.
An example of over-analyzing. I researched for three weeks a trailer, a stupid trailer, like a thing that you pull junk on, and I researched and analyzed and studied and researched and analyzed and studied, and I knew everything about trailers and the difference between the one that was a starter trailer and the bigger one was maybe a couple of hundred dollars, and I didn't want to spend that, so I was gonna find the right one, and I analyzed and I studied and I researched all over the world, I finally bought the trailer, and I hooked it up to my car, and I backed up my car and jackknifed the trailer into the back of my car, and did $3,000 damage to my car. The good news is the trailer is okay. The bad news is I overanalyzed something that didn't matter, and when it comes to important decisions, I often don't analyze it all. I just let my emotions take over and react in the moment.
And you know how this plays. Your kid upsets you, and logic says, "Be patient," but emotion says, "Yell as loud as you can," right? And your emotion tends to take over. Or you have some unexpected temptation, and your logic says, "That's dangerous," and your emotion says, "Let's party, okay? I like the looks of that". And so often it's the emotional decisions that end up hurting us or hurting others the most, and that's why I tell my kids all the time, whatever you do, don't make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions. Don't make decisions that are gonna impact you for years to come based on the emotion that you feel in the moment. Why do our decisions matter so much? Because the quality of our decisions determines the quality of our lives. We make our decisions, and our decisions make us. Long introduction to the theme that we're gonna study for the next few weeks.
One of the best ways to live a forward-looking, people-loving, God-glorifying life is to decide before what you will do later. One of the best spiritual tools you can do is to decide now what you want to do later, and that's why I call this the power of pre-deciding. The power of choosing ahead of time before you're in the moment. And our goal, with God's help, as followers of Christ, is to ask God to help us make some pre-decisions, to decide ahead of time what we're gonna do in the future so that we honor God when we have decisions to make. And I love what Proverbs 16:3 says, that, Whatever you do, scripture says, commit it to the Lord. "Commit to the Lord whatever you do".
If you're dating somebody, commit your dating relationship to the Lord. If you're married, commit your marriage. If you're parenting, commit your parenting and your children to the Lord. If you're making financial decisions, commit your financial decisions to the Lord. If you're making professional decisions, relational decisions, friendship decisions, what to wear decisions, what to eat decisions, commit everything to the Lord, and scripture tells us that, "He will," watch this, "establish your plans". When you seek him first and his kingdom, his righteousness, Jesus said, "Then everything else will be added unto you". So when we commit to the Lord and there's no better time than to do it at the beginning of the year, when we commit our entire year to the Lord and we seek the Lord for our decisions, he will help give us plans, so we can pre-decide what we will do later and make that decision now.
And here's how it will play out in our lives. With God's help, we're going to determine our course of action before the moment of decision, and it will look something like this. Whenever faced with this scenario, whatever it would be. Should I look? Should I buy it? Should I reach out to this person? Should I respond? Should I yell? Whenever I'm faced with this scenario, I have pre-decided to take this action. We decide ahead of time with God's help by the truth of his Word, what we'll do in any given situation. So later on, if you know you have a problem with impulse purchase, and you're go on there, "All it must be God's will. It's 10% off," okay? We're gonna say whenever I'm tempted to make an impulse purchase, I have already pre-decided I wait three days before I buy something.
When you're always worried about something, and you know anything could go wrong and you could just lose your faith in God and just start worrying, we're gonna pre-decide, the moment I start to worry, instead of going to people, instead of going to the bottle, I'm gonna go immediately to God and I have pre-decided I pray to God. I take my burdens and I cast them on him. Someone cuts you off in traffic. We're going to pre-decide in the moment to pray that they go to heaven instead of telling them to go to hell, right? You're number one, buddy. You're number one. We're not gonna do that. We're gonna pre-decide how we respond in the moment. And when you look at scripture, what's so much fun to me is you see example after example after example of God's people pre-deciding in the moment, in the now what they will do later.
You see it over and over again. You see it in Genesis 22. When God told Abraham, "Hey, I want you to sacrifice your son Isaac". And Abraham's looking on, thinking, "That's ridiculous. Nobody would do that. That makes no sense whatsoever". But in the past, Abraham had decided about the future that, "My God is always trustworthy, and so whatever he asks me to do, I have pre-decided that I will obey and honor him".
Same thing with Ruth. You can read this in Ruth chapter one. Made a very strong commitment to Naomi, and decided ahead of time that whatever happens in the future, "No matter where you go, I'm going. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God".
Daniel. We'll talk more about him in upcoming weeks. This guy was the king of pre-decision. He and his friends were taking essentially hostage to a foreign land, and they were brainwashed, and you have to think the way we think and be educated the way we educate our people, and eat the food we eat. That would have been dishonoring to God, and in Daniel 1, chapter eight, the scripture says this. "Daniel resolved". We could say it this way. He had already decided, he pre-decided, "Not to defile himself with the royal food and wine". He didn't wait until he got in the dining room to make the decision. He had pre-determined, "Because of my faithfulness to God, I won't be weak in a future moment. I've already pre decided to honor God". Why? Because he knew who and what he valued.
I want to ask you this. As you move into a new year with a perfect chance to honor God, what do you value? What do you value? What's the most important thing or things to you? When people talk about you or think about you, what do you want them to say? What do you want them to think? What do you want to be known by? What do you want to be characterized by? When people describe you, what do you want them to say about you? What do you want your reputation to be? What do you want, even despite your reputation, what do you want you to know deep down matters to you more than anything else? I want you to think about it, and I want you to talk about it in your life groups, and I want you to pray about it and commit everything to the Lord, so he will establish your plans based on the values he's put in your heart.
What do you value? You might say, "I value integrity". I hope you do. Or you might say, "I value faithfulness. I want to be faithful to my God and faithful to my friends or faithful to my spouse". You might say, "I value purity. And in a world of filth and lust, I want to honor God with a life of purity". You might say, "I value generosity, that I want to be... God so loved the world he gave. I want to be a giver. I want to be just like God. I want to be a giver". And you clearly determine your values. Why does this matter so much? Because when your values are clear, your decisions are easier. When you know what you value, you can decide ahead of time, whenever I face this situation in the future, I've already pre-decided based on God's Word and the values he puts in my heart, this is what I am pre-determined I will do.
Again, we'll look at it on the screen. Whenever I'm faced with this situation, because of God's truth, because of what I value, I have pre-decided to take this particular action. Now... How will this play out? What I promise you is it'll play out again and again and again and again, and it'll save you from situations or unwise decisions that you might regret for the rest of your life. Here's what happens. Decisions determine direction, and direction determines destiny. Our unwise decisions tend to compound negatively, and our wise God-honoring decisions tend to compound in a positive and God-honoring way. So as you look at what you value, ask yourself, are your decisions moving in that direction? I want to ask you a big, big question to think about, and that is this. If your life is moving in the direction of your decisions, do you like the direction your decisions are taking you? If you don't, it's time to take your life back. It's time to pre-decide to do something different.
Pre-decide. When I'm faced with this situation, because of who my God is and because of what I value, I'm not gonna wait until I'm in that situation to make a decision based on my emotions or whatever I'm feeling, or if I'm weak instead. I'm gonna predetermine, before I ever get there, when I'm faced with this scenario, I have determined that I will take this action. Why is this so important? If I can be really real with you, it's because I've noticed six negative qualities about me, and truthfully, as a pastor, most of these qualities are true about most of you. What do I know? Real talk is that I'm inconsistent. I want to be consistent, and I start off doing the right thing, but sometimes I get tired and I end up doing the wrong thing. I'm inconsistent. I'm often unprepared. I have a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan, and Satan is attacking, and I often have my guard down. I'm unprepared. I also can be unintentional.
Instead of being proactive and prayerful and intentional about my decisions, sometimes I'm kind of hands off, laissez faire. I let life come at me rather than coming at life for the glory of God. I hate to even say this out loud, but by nature, I'm selfish. I don't want to be, but I am. When there's a photo with eight people in it, I'm not looking at seven. You know what I'm saying? How do I look? I'm looking at me. I want to know, how does this impact me? What do I get out of this? What's it gonna cost me? I hate to say it, but by nature, I'm selfish. Another problem is I'm really shortsighted. I'll often do what feels good in the moment and not think about the long-term consequences. And then I know about you, and I know about me, is some of us, whenever things get tough, we tend to quit. We tend to give up. We tend to walk away.
So over the next few weeks, and I want to try to compel you, I'll beg you, motivate you, whatever it takes to be a part and experience these next few weeks of teaching, and we're going to make six pre-determined resolutions about who we are. When you know who you are, you'll know what to do. When your values are clear, your decisions are easier, so because we know where we're vulnerable, we're gonna pre-decide that we are actually six things, and I want to show you what we're gonna cover over the next six weeks. We'll start over to the left, and we're gonna cover this next week. When the devil attacks, we're not gonna be unprepared. We're gonna be on our guard. We're gonna watch and we're gonna pray, and we are going to be ready. Somebody say, "I'm ready". When it's easy to be inconsistent, on one day, off another day, with the help of God, we're gonna be consistent.
Somebody say, "I'm consistent". What are you? I am... Consistent. In a world where people often stray from God and lose their passion, and the devil tempts them to take God for granted, not be students of his Word, not be glorifying him, we're gonna be devoted to God. What are you? Somebody say it with me. I am... Devoted. In a world that tends to be selfish, we're gonna be God-honoring. We're gonna choose ahead of time that what I have belongs to God, and I'm gonna be generous. What are you? You are... Generous. We're gonna decide ahead of time, in a world where unfaithfulness seems be the norm, as followers of Jesus, we are not the norm. We are faithful. What are we? We are... Faithful. And finally, Jesus said on the cross, "I did everything the father sent me to do". He said, "Teletestai". He said, "It's finished". We honor God with excellence. We don't back down. We don't back off. We don't walk away. We are finishers. What are we? We are finishers.
What I want you to do is, if you wouldn't mind, just declare this aloud. Say, "I'm ready". What are you? I am... Ready. What else are you? I am consistent. What are you? I am... Devoted. I am... Generous. I am. I am. One more time, with God's help, we are pre-deciding, as we enter in this year, we are not what the world says we are. We're not with the devil says we are. We're are not what we did in the past. We are not what anybody else thinks about us. We are who God says we are. and when we face a certain situation, we have pre-determined, here is who we are, and here is what we do. What are we? We are ready, we are consistent, we are devoted, we are generous, we are faithful, and we are finishers. And so one day, when you're tired and you're overwhelmed, or maybe you're angry, or you feel emotional, or maybe you're discouraged, or you feel depressed, you don't know what to do next.
In that moment, you'll recognize you are more vulnerable, but the good news is your decision won't be based on the emotion in a moment, but on the values God has placed on your heart, because when your values are clear, your decisions are easy, and some really good news, since we're not good decision-makers, is I want to tell you about Jesus. The good news is that we are not saved by the quality of our decisions, but we are saved by the grace of God, and our Savior Jesus pre-decided in a garden called Gethsemane that no matter what comes his way and no matter what price he pays and no matter how hard it is, and no matter the pain he endures, he pre-decided, "Not my will, but your will be done," and he gave his life so we could have the life of God on earth.
And so, because of that, because God loved us that much, what are we gonna do? We're gonna commit it all to him. We're gonna commit everything to the Lord, and he will establish our plans, so ahead of time, we already know, we will honor God in the moment. We determine the course of action before the moment of the decision so that we can honor God in all that we do. Are you with me? If you're with me, say, "I'm with you". I'm with you. I'm inviting you for the next six weeks to step in, press into the goodness of God, let his Word go deep into your heart to burn the values of the kingdom of God inside of you, so you will know who you are. You pre-determine who you are, because when you know who you are, then listen to me, church, you will know what to do, and the world needs us to be that light shining bright, so let's do it. Happy New Year. God is doing a new thing. He's doing a new thing. Forget the former things. Don't dwell on the past. Our God is doing a new thing.
So Father, do that. Stir within your church, God. Give us the wisdom, just like Jesus pre-decided to serve you no matter what, to commit everything to you.
As you're praying today at all of our churches, I'm gonna ask for an unusual and big commitment and that is six weeks of your attention. It'll take an hour a week, and hopefully you'll join us at a physical location, or you may join us online around the world, but I'm gonna ask you as a new year to commit at the beginning of the week an hour to worship and to hear God's Word, to let his word conform you to the image of his Son, so you can pre-decide. Six weeks. I'm gonna ask you, and don't raise your hand 'cause you feel guilty, like, "Oh, I gotta raise my hand, I'm in church". Will you embrace this message for the next six weeks? I'll come to church. I'll watch online. I'm gonna take this in because I want to start my new year committing everything to God so he can establish the plans of my heart. If you'll do that with me, would you just lift up your hands right now? You can type it in the comments section. "I'll be with you every six weeks". Just type that in.
And Father, I pray that by the power of your Word, your Word would do in us what we don't have the power to do, so we could serve you and honor you. May the decisions that we make be based on the truth of your Word, and not the emotions we have in a moment. Give us wisdom, God, to commit to you and establish our plans.
As you keep praying today, the really good news is that our standing with God isn't based on the quality of your decisions, because we've all decided to do things that are wrong and sinful, but our standing with God is based on the goodness of God, and let me tell you how good he is. He loves you so much that he sent Jesus, his only Son, who was perfect in every way, who died for the forgiveness of our sins. God raised him from the dead, and our response is to simply decide. Decide. Do you want to stand before God based on your own righteousness? Or do you want to trust Jesus? Because when we trust him, his righteousness is imparted to us. We're forgiven not because we're perfect, but because he was perfect, and that's why the Gospel is called good news.
Today, wherever you're watching from, those of you would say, "I really don't know where I stand with God". The good news, is in one moment, one prayer, would you trust the goodness of Jesus, because of who he is, would you decide to follow him? We are going to pre-decide that we want to be disciples of Jesus. When we follow him and surrender our life to him, he forgives our sins and we become brand new today. Wherever you're watching from those who say, "I want to choose to follow Jesus. I want his forgiveness. I want his grace. I'm stepping away from my old life. I'm letting go of my sin". Guess what? We're forgetting the former things. We're letting them go. God's doing a new thing. His new thing is in you. His name is Jesus and Jesus makes all things new.
Wherever you're watching from, those who say, "Yes, I need his grace today. I surrender. Jesus, I give you my life". That's your prayer. Lift your hand high now all over the place and say, "Yes". Oh my gosh, we got hands going up in all of our churches. Somebody tell God thank you. For those of you online, you can just type it in the comments section. "I'm giving my life to Jesus". Just type it in, "I'm giving my life to Jesus". And as we see people across the world, we're gonna pray. Nobody prays alone. Would you just pray aloud with those around you? Pray:
Heavenly Father. Forgive my sins. Jesus, save me. I trust you. Fill me with your Spirit. So I can pre-decide. To follow you. To show your love. In all that I do. Thank you for new life. I give you all of mine. In Jesus' name I pray.