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John Gray - Finishing Strong

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There were many people that touched Jesus, but only one touched him in faith. And faith is the substance and the rooting of our relationship with God, for if you come to God, you must first believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. And I believe that through 2013, many of us have had to, by force, seek the Lord in new areas of our lives. If you're anything like me, 2013 was not the easiest year on record. There were some challenges, some things that didn't go your way, some things that, if you had your say, they would have turned out a little differently, would have been a little easier. Maybe you would have had a little more money in the account at the end of the year. Maybe some relational things would have changed. But here is the nature of 2013.

2013 was a year where God was developing you, pruning you, testing you, preparing you. 2013 was a year of development, of design, of process, of retooling, of pruning. 2013 was a year of God preparing you for what's next. Pastor Joel said that 2013 was the year of the shift, and we all got excited. I got excited too. The shift, yeah, gimme all my stuff, Jesus. God's like, that's what you think, because when he shifts, he shifts from a shifting anything from a foundational so God was stirring up things, shifting things, uprooting things, and uprooting is never easy. But this was the year for God to show you what you were really made of. This was the year where you realized, you had faith to believe, even beyond a reasonable doubt. You had faith to believe, in spite of opposition and obstacles.

In spite of evidence, you still believed God, and here you are at the last Sunday of the year, praising God, hands lifted. Worshiping, alive. Maybe everything on your list did not come to pass, but it doesn't mean that God is finished with you. He's still got a little under 72 hours to do what he promised. And if he can make a world in seven days, really six, 'cause on the seventh he rested, if he can do that, he can change your life in a couple days. He can absolutely do it. Having said that, I'd like you to do me a favor. If you could get your Bible in your hand, and as is the tradition in our house, we're going to get our confession out. If you'd be kind of to stand with us. And let's declare it together.

This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today, I will be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert. My heart is receptive. I'll never be the same. I am about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible, ever-living seed of the Word of God. I'll never be the same, never, never, ever. I'll never be the same. In Jesus's name, amen, amen.

I am grateful to be a part of the Lakewood family and team, and my wife and I were honored, and it'll be a year on next Sunday, that we are here officially. And so much, so much God has done in our lives, and we're so honored. And one of the things we've learned through the many transitions and shifts of 2013 is to keep our joy. We laugh a lot in my house, as you can imagine. I keep joy in my house, because joy is a weapon against the attack of the enemy. The Bible says in Nehemiah eight to enjoy the land. Eat and drink and have a great time, because the joy of the Lord is your strength. In that connotation, joy is a defense against the enemy. It builds a wall between you and the attack of the enemy. And many people in here have suffered from depression and angst and, you know, you've been nervous, and gas, and back pain, and struggling, because people get on your nerves.

Oh, yes, they do, and some of 'em are sitting next to you. That's why you can't say amen. You're like, amen. But if you keep your joy, it breaks the back of the enemy, when you can keep a smile on your face. We keep joy in our house, and we keep laughter, godly laughter in our house. In sharing that, the Lord allowed me to do a DVD called laughter in black and white. It's a comedy DVD for the whole family, building bridges between the races, speaking life instead of tearing each other down. This DVD speaks life, and it's hilarious for the whole family. Does anybody, I wanna sow this into somebody. Does anybody need some joy in their life? You need some joy? Aaron, you need some joy? Here you go. They're in the lobby. Right by the bookstore, okay? But if you want, they're gonna be available in the bookstore. I'm gonna be out there signing 'em today, would love to meet you.

Aaron, this is for you, brother. Aaron Rodriguez, you did a great job, man of God, great job. Blessings on your new record and your new project. Dr. Paul blessed me between services, because the message that I'm going to share with you, I shared at the 8:30 service, and he gave me a scripture that is actually right in line with where God has me this morning. And what I want to share with you about today, I wanna talk to you from the subject heading finishing strong, finishing strong. And in Acts chapter 20, Acts chapter 20 verse 22, I want you to go there real quick and just grab it. But before I give the scripture, I want you to know that this was not the year for the timid. 2013 was not the year for those who were of low constitution, who were weak.

If you got through this year, you have more strength than you know. I need to encourage you, because some of you are saying, but you don't know what I've gone through. I don't. But look, you're still here. That means you survived. And you need to understand that 2013 was not about arrival. It was about survival. I'm gonna say it again. For those who are trying to get some clarity on certain issues that happened throughout the year, I want you to know that 2013 was not about arrival: it was about survival. It was about development. It was about process.

Yes, God promised you some things. Yes, God opened some doors. Yes, God did some amazing things, but God is also not finished. And some of you are saying, but I had a long list, and some of the things on my list are not done. Guess what? There's next year. And what God wanted to do in 2013 was seed your destiny by building and cultivating in you a faith that would not be shaken by circumstance. So 2014, as pastor Lisa so eloquently and prophetically declared, is the double portion year. If you can get through 2013, the double portion is on the way. That's why the attack of hell has been so great on the people of God. Never before have I seen such hostility towards church and towards Christianity in media, in politics, all segments of society. They don't mind you talking about God, but people get offended when you talk about Jesus.

I've never been in a climate where the name Jesus aggravates people more than now. That means we are literally in the face of the enemy, and he knows he's only got a short time left. So I'm gon' keep saying the name of Jesus. I'm gon' keep declaring the name of Jesus. I will lift up the name of Jesus, for at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, that he is Lord. And I'm not afraid of any devils. Devils are afraid of my Jesus. And by the power of the Holy Ghost that's on the inside of me, I've got the same anointing that Jesus had. That is the power of the blood of Jesus. That is the power of the resurrected Christ. That is the power of the soon-coming king, and that was the power of 2013, if you know what I mean.

Saw how I rhymed? Somebody say, survival. Not arrival. It's very important for you to understand what this year was about, and God allowed you to go through process this year because he was looking for a life to live in. I want you to know that God is looking for places to dwell. Isaiah 66 and one, and I'm reading that, you stay in Acts. It says, thus says the Lord: heaven in my throne. Earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you will build for me, and where is the place of my rest? For all those things my hand has made, and all those things, they already exist. But on this will I look, on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at my word.

This year was about understanding that you don't live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Your hope is not in a job. Your hope is not in a supervisor. Your hope is not in your degrees. Your hope is not in your connections. Your hope is not in your 401[k]. Your hope is not in your Roth IRA. Your hope is not in your mutual funds and divested portfolio. Your hope is not in a bank. Your hope is in Jesus Christ, Christ alone, the cornerstone, weak made strong in the Savior's love. Through the storm, he is Lord, Lord of all. We aren't geniuses in here. We are faith walkers.

All of us have something we needed to believe God for. There's nobody in here better than anybody else. Whether you came in in some dirty jeans or a custom suit, it's the same God that saved you, that saved me, and we all needed it in 2013. Can somebody give God praise in this place? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I cannot give God a regular praise after bringing me through this year, because there was some things that happened in this year that weren't on my new years resolution list. You know, when you do new years resolutions, you always do positive things. I'm gonna lose weight. I'm gonna start a new hobby. I'm gonna learn how to dance. I'm gonna take a yoga class. I'm gonna go to art school. I'm gonna learn how to play the guitar.

You always have these great, lofty goals. I'm gonna open a business. We're gonna have a family reunion. I'm gonna get a promotion on my job. I'm going back to school. We have all of these new years resolutions, and then you get to the end of the year, and you're depressed, 'cause you only did one out of the 47 things that was on your list, because nobody ever has a real list, like, I'm gon' have trouble in my marriage. My kids are gonna get on my nerves. I think I want less money this year than I had last year. That'll be a good one. But God is saying, I love that you project on faith what you want, and I believe in my heart that those things that you declared are gonna come to pass. But I want you to know that God's development is necessary for you to maintain what he's bringing.

Nothing worse than a mature blessing in the hands of an immature believer. God gives you a diamond, and because you're immature in your spirit, you eat it instead of wear it. That's why you don't give babies diamonds, because they eat shiny things. God says, I wanna give my choice blessings to those who understand how to use it, and that it's not just for you, but for the people that are connected to your life. Finishing strong. How do you finish the year off right? How do you finish things that have been started? How do you let go of the regret of bad decisions? How do you walk away from the missed opportunities? How do you concede that God is not finished with you? How do you do that and do so with strength?

Here's a wonderful scripture that Dr. Paul blessed me with in acts, chapter 20 verse 22. It says, and now, compelled by the spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. Some of y'all are like, I don't like this scripture already. This ain't Jesus. Nuh-uh, I don't receive this. And you know what's funny as believers? We always want the good, but we don't want the great, because you can't get to the great without going through the bad. You can get the good without the bad, but you can't get the great without the bad.

Some of us want the blessing, but we don't want the process. We want the end result, but we don't want the struggle. We want the fruit, but we don't want the root. God is saying, 2013 was the root. 2013 was the down and dirty. Let me dig in there, let me get down in there and see what's really going on with your character. Let's see what's going on in your spirit. Let's see what kind of habits and patterns you have. Let me show you your true condition. Many of us don't like to see the true, accurate picture of who we are, because we'd rather think that we're fine as we are, when in reality, all of us can continue to develop.

All of us could continue to mature, and God is saying that if you can just be faithful in these next two and a half days, I'm doing something in 2013 that's gonna produce fruit in 2014 that's a double harvest, a double portion blessing, double favor, double miracle, double anointing, and I know that those sound very churchy, those are churchy phrases, but it doesn't mean it's not true. I'm telling you that God is going to do for you double in 2014, and it's going to overwhelm you, and you're gonna look back at '13 and say, thank you for the lessons, and thank you for the unanswered prayers, and thank you for the things you didn't give me, because in 2013, we've come to realize that God is not Santa Claus. He is not obligated to answer our prayer requests and our whims. We are to pray the will of God, not the will of man.

And so, God is saying, I want you to know that there are gonna be some hardships and some trials. But look what Paul said. He said, I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me. My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace. I want you to know that you are not a self-made individual. You are a grace-made individual. Four people, amen, I'll say it again. I'ma be like Israel, 'cause until you wake up, I'm gon' keep preaching. You are not a self-made individual. You are a grace-made individual.

And let me help you to understand what I mean. Now, I know you're clapping because I brought it up, but let me tell you why you're clapping, because the pride of man is that we wanna believe that we have something to do with our success, when in fact, there was nothing you did to earn what you have. It was simply the grace of God, the love of God, the choice, of God, the sovereignty of God. You're not good enough to get what you have. God gave you that job. God gave you that car. God blessed you with that house. God gave you that promotion. God gave you that money. You didn't do that on your own. You're not so good. You're not so smart. You weren't just in the right place at the right time. God did that, and once you realize and give God honor and humble yourself enough to know that wherever you are, you're there by the grace of God, you will have a heart of thanksgiving.

Too many people walk in like they have arrived, and you're doing God a favor. Trust me, you are not doing God a favor. God is doing you a favor, and he continues to favor you. When other people are more qualified, he still called your name. When doctors said no, God said yes. I want to know, no matter what it is, God has given you grace to get through it, because his grace is sufficient. He's chosen you, he's called you, and this is the proper response to grace: thank you!

If you want to finish strong, you wanna start with an attitude of gratitude. If you wanna finish strong this year, you wanna start with an attitude of gratitude. Don't look at your life as a list of to-do's, because it's not your life. It's Christ living in you to perfect the will of God concerning you. You didn't make you. You didn't create you. God created you for his purpose, and the only purpose for which you are alive is to give God maximum glory in the earth. Your life is a glory story. In Philippians three and 12, the writer says, not that I've already attained or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may low hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. I press.

2013 was the year of the press. This was the year of the stretch, the shift, the struggle, the strain. 2013 was the year where God was pushing you and making you see that you had more strength than you knew that you had, and why? Because he's looking for a life to live in. How great is it that the God of the universe, who created the universe, who spoke it into existence, heaven is his throne, and earth is his footstool, but the only house he wants to live in is your heart. He welcomes the worship of angels, but he prizes the worship of men, for your heart, broken hands lifted up, does more for him than the sound of the angels in heaven, because you worship on faith, and God is looking for some faith-filled believers.
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