Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Greg Laurie » Greg Laurie - Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future

Greg Laurie - Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Become Partner
    Greg Laurie - Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future

As I look back over the years, two words sort of pop out to me. One is faithfulness and the other is faith. On the part of God, it's been his faithfulness to us. And on our part, it's been a willingness to take steps of faith. First, there's the faithfulness of God. Over the years, we've weathered mighty storms, we've withstood withering attacks from the enemy. But as Jesus promised to the church, "You are the church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you". Now, have you ever thought about the context of that? The gates of hell. Gates don't attack you. The idea is you're storming an enemy fortress. Think of a castle that belongs to the enemy. You're storming the castle and the gates won't stop you. So, that's what he's saying. They won't prevail against you as we're advancing and moving forward as followers of Jesus Christ. But God has been faithful to us, to protect us, and to guide us, and to provide for us each step of the way.

1 Thessalonians 3:3 says, "The Lord is faithful, he will establish you and guard you against the evil one". And God's done that for us. Lamentations 3:22. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. Great is your faithfulness". And we have found that to be true. And God called us to start this church and we've watched it grow and we give him the glory. But that brings us to the faith part. If I were to sum up what we've done all these years in one word, it would be: faith. We took steps of faith. You see, faith has seen something before it is actually happened. It's been said, "Faith builds a bridge from this world to the next". I don't claim any special revelations from God as to how this all came about. I never had a detailed blueprint of where it was going to lead. But I can say, along with scripture, as it says in Psalm 16:5, "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a beautiful inheritance".

Does that make sense? The lines have fallen in pleasant places. Sometimes in life, especially when you're younger, things happen to you that make no sense. "Why did God let this happen"? "Why didn't God let that happen"? "This doesn't make sense to me now". But then you know what 20-20 hindsight is as you get further down life's road. I mean, really further down life's road, way down in the shadow where the light isn't. And then you look back on your life, you can see that God has been in control all the time and the lines have fallen for you in pleasant places and indeed, Romans 8:28, "It's been true for you that all things have worked together for good to those that love God". And so, what is faith? We say, "Use faith". "Have faith". "Apply faith".

Well, what is faith? According to the Bible, Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, it's the evidence of things not seen". Or as the New Living Translation puts it, "What is faith? It's a confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It's the evidence of things we cannot yet see". Augustine said, quote, "Faith is to believe what we do not see. And the reward of this faith is to see what we believe". End quote. See, faith is not mere intellectual assent. It's also action. Faith is belief plus action. It's believing God even when the odds are against you. It's taking risks. C.H. Spurgeon, the great British preacher said, quote, "Believing and obeying always run side by side". And that's how it goes. You know, you're willing to just see what the Lord will do. And where do we get faith? The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God".

So, when I read the Bible, when I study scripture, when I memorize the words of this book, my faith will get stronger. And that is why we have always given place to Bible study in all of our services. This is why we always say, "Bring your Bible with you". And to me, one of the most beautiful sounds is the rustling of Bible pages when I will say to you, or whoever is speaking, will say, "Turn in your Bible to". It's not as exciting to hear the swipe of a screen, but it's okay because I know some of you are reading the Bible on your phone or your tablet, and that's all good, but I think you all should get a proper Bible, though. You should. And carry it. But, you know, as long as you're opening up the Word of God and letting it speak to you, that's where your faith is going to grow. We've always believed that everything should focus around scripture.

Therefore, we offer theology without apology. And people will say, "Well, you know, you can't teach these Bible studies and go too in depth. People won't listen, stay for that or they", maybe they won't, but I think people develop an appetite for what you feed them. And I think if you are raised on junk food, you're gonna want junk food. But if you have good nutritious food put in front of you, you'll long for it, you'll desire it. And we believe that God's Word is powerful. I don't have to make it relevant. The Bible is relevant. I just need to proclaim it and let God's Word do what it does best: change lives as it is moved in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

So, we built our ministry on the principles of Acts 2:42 to 47. And there we read, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and the breaking of bread and prayers. Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved". So, we've summed it up in an acronym. Well. W-E-L-L. The early church, our church, operates off of this acronym. W, they were a worshiping church. We've always given an important place to worship in our services. Starting with literally me standing up with a microphone, leading worship a cappella. How sad that was. But we had a limited budget. Okay, so. So, then we moved on to guitars and bands and all the great songs that have come throughout the years.

So, you know, worshiping the Lord. A worshiping church. But then E stands for an evangelistic church. This is so important because some churches grow by church trends for growth. In other words, "We don't like this church anymore. We're coming to your church". Okay, fine. But I think the best kind of growth in a church is evangelistic growth. And by that I mean, people coming to Christ in the church because new believers are the lifeblood of the church. You show me a church that doesn't have a constant flow of new believers coming in and I will show you a church that is beginning to stagnate. So, we have a choice before us, we can evangelize or we can fossilize. I prefer the former over the latter. So, we've always given prominence to that. And as you know, we give invitations in our services all the time for people to come to Christ. And they do.

So, an evangelistic church. Worshiping, W. E, evangelistic. L number one, a learning church. That's why we always study the Bible together. And lastly L, a loving church. So, it's been done by faith. And you know what, faith can make the difference between something happening or not happening. God chooses to work when we apply our faith in him. When the Lord directed the children of Israel to cross over the Jordan River, they had to first get their feet wet. They had to take that step of faith. They didn't part first. First they got in and then the waters parted for them. When fire came down to Mount Carmel, when Elijah was facing off all of the prophets of Baal, first, Elijah had to pray.

Jesus could have healed everyone everywhere with just a word. Imagine. Jesus could have said, "I'm Jesus and on the count of three, everyone is healed". And they would have been. But that's not how he worked, is it? He waited for someone to call out to him. Like blind Bartimaeus had heard Jesus was coming up the road and he said, "Son of David, have mercy on me". They said, "Shh, quiet down, you're making too much noise". "Son of David, have mercy on me".

And Jesus stopped and heal him. Or that woman who had that medical problem where she continually was bleeding and Jesus touched her... or, actually, excuse me, she touched Jesus and she was healed. Both instances of faith being applied. See, when we don't reach out to God in faith, not much happens. It's been said, "Some people are setting the world on fire while others are still looking for a match". That's a good quote, isn't it? That's not original to me. Some people are setting the world on fire while others are looking for a match. So, it's a willingness to take steps of faith. Listen. It's a willingness to even potentially fail. But I would rather try and fail than never try at all.

So, let's come to our text now. It's Matthew 14. The backdrop is the disciples are crossing over the Sea of Galilee. A great storm comes and they're panicking. They think they're going to die. And then they turn and here comes Jesus walking on the water and he says to them, "Take courage. It is me, don't be afraid". And our story picks up there, Matthew 14, verse 28. "And Peter answered him and said, 'Lord, if it's you, command me to come to you on the water.' So Jesus said, 'Come.' And when Peter had come down and got out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'"

Wow. Don't you love that story? What an amazing step of faith this was on the part of Peter. It could seem presumptuous. "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come". But Peter did wait for permission. Jesus said, "Okay, come". And here's Peter doing what no one else did. You know, sometimes People criticize Peter. He was rather outspoken. He did put his foot in his mouth more than once. A lot of ink is given in the gospels to Peter's faux pas and shortcomings. But let's not forget that Peter was the only one of the disciples that was willing to put it all on the line and walk on the water to Jesus. It's been said that faith is a refusal to panic. And so he said, "Let's see if this will work". He had no safety net.

Now, Peter was not wearing those little water wings. You know those things? Little inflatable things. I still wear them today. People make fun of me, but I like them. No, I don't. In fact, when my boys were growing up, I didn't want them to wear those water wings. I wanted them to learn how to swim instead. But no water wings, no backup plan. It was just him and Jesus and there's no better place to be. I'd rather be in a storm with Jesus than anywhere else without him. Maybe I'm talking to someone right now that is in a situation where you have no safety net. You have no backup plan. It's either God or nothing, okay? Is that the worst place to be? God's gonna be faithful. God will come through for you. And that's exactly where Peter was. He asked for permission. The Lord says yes and Peter begins to walk on the water. Where did this faith come from? From the word of Jesus. Jesus said, "Come". "Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God". I can think of many times over the years where I've heard the Lord say to me, "Come".

Now, I've never heard the audible voice of God. And to be honest, I'm suspicious of people who say they have. But I have had the Lord direct me very clearly. And I can think of certain moments in my life where I knew it was the will of God for me to do a certain thing. But there's always... was risk involved in it. When we moved from that little church we were meeting in, a little Episcopalian church, to our own building, that was a huge step of faith. And when we bought the piece of land, we were so young and it was so expensive and yet we took that step of faith. The first time we went to Pacific Amphitheater for our first crusade, big step of faith. Then we went to Angel Stadium, another big step of faith. Starting to harvest Orange County, another big step of faith.

When we booked AT&T Stadium, gigantic venue, seated over 100,000, that could have been the biggest flop of all time. But amazingly, every seat was filled and there was overflow and another 250,000 people watching around the country and around the world. So, took steps of faith. And it's just looking to Jesus. And that's the key. You look to Jesus. What does scripture say? "We're running a race and we should run it as we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith". Looking to Jesus, that's what Peter was doing, but what he stopped doing, and then he began to sink. Look at verse 30. "When he looked at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and he began to sink".

That brings me to my next point, we will all have lapses of faith. You know, you can have a lot of faith one day and not have it the next. You can have a lot of faith one hour and not have it ten minutes later. You're believing God, you're taking risks, you're applying faith, and all of a sudden you have a lapse of faith. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in Acts 12. James the Apostle had been arrested by King Herod and was put to death. Then, he arrested Peter. So, it looked as though the Great Apostle was gonna be, also, put to death. But the church prayed. And I love Acts 12:1 because it says, "Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church". There's a lot of truth packed into that simple verse. "Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church".

The word constant means passionate, heartfelt, and continuous. They're continuously, passionately, praying for the deliverance of Peter by the church. They weren't praying individually, though I'm sure they did that as well, but together. As you know, there's power and unified prayer. Have you ever noticed that when Jesus taught us how to pray, we call it the Lord's Prayer? He said, "After this manner therefore you should pray: our Father who art in heaven". Doesn't say, "My Father who art in heaven". He is that. But by saying, "Our Father who art in heaven," Jesus is teaching, "Pray together". So, when you're in trouble, when you're hurting, pray with another Christian. Jesus said, "When two or more will agree together as touching anything, it will be heard of your Father in heaven".

So, they prayed together and what happened? Their prayer was heard and an angel of the Lord was dispatched. And the angel went into the prison where Peter was and woke him up and the doors opened up automatically. And Peter comes walking out and he goes over to a house where they're having a prayer meeting, no doubt for Peter. And he knocks on the door and a girl named Rhoda answers and standing before her is the answer to her prayer. There's Peter. What's so funny about this story is she sees him and just walks away. Instead of inviting him in, she walks away. Goes to the back where the apostles are praying. They're probably praying, "Oh, Lord, deliver Peter. Lord, you are a miracle working God". "Hey, guys. Peter's standing at the front door". "You're crazy, woman". "Lord, deliver Peter". "No, guys. Peter is standing at the very..." "You're out of your mind. Lord..." "Go look"!

And so, the Bible says, "They all went together," which I find humorous. Like, a little, "Let's all go together. I'm not going alone. Let's go". And there's Peter. "Hey, let me in". But here's the point. Here were these great men and women of God praying, but when the prayer was answered, they didn't believe it. Hasn't that ever happened to you? Where you pray for something, boom! It's answered. "Woah". Yeah, that's called answer prayer. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like. Sometimes it happens sooner than we expect. We have lapses of faith. And when you have a lapse of faith, call out to Jesus. Look at verse 30. "Beginning to sink Peter prayed, 'Lord save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, 'O you have little faith, why did you doubt?'" Immediately. He didn't wait. "I'm gonna wait a couple of minutes. Let you just suffer". No. Jesus immediately reached out, pulled him back up.

Are you having a lapse of faith right now? It's okay. Just call out to Jesus. We all have them, all right? We all have those moments where we just forget what we should remember. We should never believe our doubts and we should never doubt our beliefs. Instead, we should believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts. So, call out to Jesus. So yes, Peter failed. But what a spectacular failure. You know, it's been said, "If at first you don't succeed, relax. You're just like the rest of us". You probably thought I was gonna say, "Try and try again". That's usually how it goes. I like this one better. "If at first you don't succeed, relax. You're just like the rest of us". But again, as I said earlier, I would rather take a bold step of faith in my efforts to honor God, and fail, than do nothing at all. And a lot of people do nothing at all with their faith. And then, they have the audacity to critique others who do apply their faith.

So, let me say something to maybe someone watching or listening right now who's taking a bold step of faith and it didn't go as you had hoped. You shared the gospel with someone and they shut you down. You started a little home Bible study and no one showed up. Even the dog and cat left. Maybe you prayed for someone who was sick and they didn't get healed. I remember once, I had a friend come up to me and say, "I'm really sick, will you pray for me"? I said, "Yes, I will". I prayed for him and then he got violently ill after that. A couple of days later he came back to me and said, "Never pray for me again". Whatever, sorry. But here's what I wanna say to you. If you've done any of those things and you've failed, thank you. Thank you for taking that step of faith. This church is made up of so many unsung heroes, people that we haven't necessarily heard their name, but they have labored tirelessly behind the scenes doing the work of God. And to all of them, to all of you, I say thank you for what you have done. And I pray that your Father who sees you in secret will reward you openly.

So, 50 years of God's blessing. What's ahead? Some would say, "Greg, culture is changing so you have to change with the times". There's some truth to that. I mean, I think adapt, adapt to culture. You know, we wanna always be there with the gospel in an appropriate way. And by appropriate I mean, answer the questions people are actually asking, show them how Christ is the ultimate answer to whatever they're facing. But I've been doing this for a while now and a lot of generations have come and gone. When I started out, it was the Greatest Generation, as we call them, the generation of my parents, the World War II Generation, and my generation, the Baby Boomers. We were the young generation. One of our anthems was, "Forever Young". But now, we've gone from acid rock to acid reflux.

So, we're not so young anymore. Then along come the Busters, Generation X. Kind of a sad thing because they're often overlooked. Because people seem to go right from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Gen X is like, "Hey, what about us"? Yeah, that happens. But now we're talking a lot about Gen Z and they've been described by some as the Hopeless Generation. I don't know if that's the best description, but each generation has its unique features. But the answer for every generation will always be the same. It's the gospel. It's Christ himself. He is the answer. We'll keep preaching that message. Someone 1990 says, "Your faithfulness continues from generation to generation".

So, here's the commitment I will make to you. Number one, I will continue to teach God's Word faithfully to you whenever I get up to speak, I'll always open up the scripture. And as I said, offer you theology without apology. We will always extend invitations for people to come to Christ in our services. We'll continue to try to find new and innovative ways to bring the gospel to our culture. We'll continue to disciple people and then raise up the next generation. Acts chapter 13, verse 36 says, "David served the will of God in his generation and then he fell asleep". In other words, he did his work and then he was gone. And one day my work will be done and the next generation carries it on. It's like a race. And in a race, it's not a solo race. It's like a relay race, right? You know, where the baton is passed? And so, you run with the baton for your generation and then when your race is done, you pass on the baton to the next generation, and they carry it on and they do the same thing, and that's how it works.

That's what we're gonna continue to do. We've done it for 50 years and for as many years as the Lord, at least gives me, I'll continue to do it, but this church will go on, we'll reach new people. There's new mountains to climb, new opportunities to pursue. But we have our marching orders from the Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Our mission statement at Harvest is, "Knowing him and making him known," and that's what we will continue to do and pursue. And so, in closing, I wanna offer a blessing to you from God. The Lord says, and I love this, it was given to the priests to pronounce over the people of Israel continuously, over and over again. They would say, "The Lord bless you. The Lord keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace".
Are you Human?:*