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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Gradually, Then Suddenly

Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Gradually, Then Suddenly

Mark Batterson - Dream 24, Gradually, Then Suddenly
TOPICS: Dream 24

"How did you go bankrupt"? That's the question that Ernest Hemingway asked in one of his novels. And the rather famous answer: "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly". That's how you go bankrupt. That also how you become financially independent. It's how you write a book, run a marathon, fall in love, and a thousand other things. So thanks to Ernest Hemingway for the title of this message: "Gradually, Then Suddenly". Almost anyone can accomplish almost anything if they work at it long enough, hard enough, and smart enough. Now listen, it's gonna take longer than you like and it's probably gonna be harder than you think, but it's gonna happen gradually, then suddenly.

Remember Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was interviewed, reporter asked him, "How did you become an overnight success"? He said, "It took 20 years to become an overnight success". All of us admire people who are successful, we just don't wanna make the same sacrifices they made to get there. But you can't have it both ways. It's gonna take some blood, sweat, and tears. You have to take up your cross and follow Christ. You cannot break the law of sowing and reaping, it will make or break you. There are no shortcuts, there are no cheat codes. Generally speaking, you get out what you put in. Am I in the right room? Your life is perfectly designed for the results you're getting. Robert Madu says, "Jealousy is the trophy that mediocrity gives to excellence". That'll preach. And Robert's preaching opening night of Revival Dream 24. You do not wanna miss it. By the way, revival happens gradually, then suddenly.

Can we have a little bit of fun? When Yakov Smirnoff, the Russian comedian, immigrated to the United States, he said that what he loved most about America were our grocery stores. He said, "I walked down one of the aisles and I saw powdered milk; just add water, you get milk. I saw powdered orange juice; just add water, you get orange juice. Then I saw baby powder and I thought to myself, 'What a country!'" That's how we want it to happen, suddenly, but almost always, there's a gradually in front of it. At the 1984 Olympic Games, Rowdy Gaines won a gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle, set an Olympic record of 49.8 seconds. Rowdy Gaines won three golds, set 10 world records during his illustrious career. How did he do it? I bet you know the answer by now. You can help me preach How did he do it? You got it.

Here's the crazy thing. We boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Do you remember this, 1980? So Rowdy Gaines trained eight years for a race that would last less than one minute. I just think most of us aren't willing to get up early, put on the Speedo, jump into the pool, and swim laps. But there's no other way to do... Rowdy Gaines said this... 'Cause he swam a total of 20,000 miles in training in 50 meter increments. Rowdy Gaines said this: "I swam around the world for a race that lasted 49 seconds". Mm, mm, mm. Mm, mm, mm, mm. Mm. We overestimate what we can accomplish in a day or a week or a month or a year, but we underestimate what God can do in a decade or two or three. But you have to play the long game. Long obedience in the same direction is the name of the game.

We live in a culture that celebrates the latest and greatest. God celebrates a lifetime of faithfulness. We live in a culture all about that 15 minutes of fame. No, no, no. What is that eulogy gonna sound like at the end of your life? I do have some good news. If you keep doing the right thing day in and day out, I think God's gonna show up and show off. I think He began a good work, He's gonna carry it to completion. And you know what? I think in some ways this church is a testament to that fact. And just to prove it, I'll show you a picture. Now, 28 years ago today, today, blizzard of... What are you laughing at? You better not be laughing at me. I laugh at me, okay? Yes, I own a suit. I used to wear it when I preach, okay.

Now that we have that outta the way... It's not making a comeback. So 28 years ago today, some of you remember this, blizzard of '96, two feet of snow. But we were from Chicago, it was opening day for us, National Community, and so there was no way we were gonna cancel church. I mean, we were from Chicago. you just don't do that. How naive were we? We were like the only ones on 395. And only three people showed up: me, Laura, and Parker, who was just a couple of months old at the time. Now, I will say this. we had 19 people the next weekend. That's a 533% growth spurt in one week. Now, we averaged about 25 people, including Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on a Good Sunday. Can I just say this today? I'm gonna say what the prophet Zechariah said. Do not despise the day of small beginnings. Gradually, then suddenly, look at what the Lord has done.

Now, you're gonna forget most of this message. You will not forget gradually, then suddenly. And for the record, we cannot control suddenly. That's past our pay grade. Suddenly is the payoff. Suddenly is the lag measure. Suddenly is the outcome. Gradually is the input. Gradually is the lead measure. Gradually is the name of the game. And we're gonna get our game on, game time hoo. Ready or not. Here we go. Welcome to National Community Church in house, online, our Nova Campus in some new digs. Can we give it up for our Nova Campus at the Waterford? And I want you to meet me in Psalm 126. We're gonna ParkMobile for like three weeks, so you're gonna need a parking pass. And we're gonna unpack it verse by verse, and we'll get there in a minute.

Let me set the scene. There are 15 psalms, Psalm 120 to Psalm 134, that are classified as Psalms of ascent. Now, you can read 'em in about 20 minutes. I would encourage you to do that this week. From start to finish, just read those psalms of ascent. And these were the songs that Jewish pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem for three feasts: the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles. And so when I was a kid, like, if we went on a field trip or we had a a road trip, we would sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall". This is their road trip song, a little bit more spiritual and meaningful. They would come from all over the ancient world. And in order to picture this, let me show you a map. Now, this is the day of Pentecost, and this is where they came from. There were at least 14 languages represented.

Now, long before planes, trains, and automobiles. Some would come by ship. If you were in Rome, maybe you could, if you could afford the fare, you could maybe take a ship. And some of them may be on donkey back. But most of them would hoof it on foot. And it was uphill both ways. Now, I'm kidding, but this is no joke. This is longer than any of us have ever walked. What what I'm saying is these feasts would happen suddenly. Whoo! But the journey is the destination. You know why I think they worshiped with such intensity, why it was so meaningful? 'Cause it was so hard to get there. I mean, the average person in this day and age never traveled outside a 30-mile radius. Like, they're spending weeks, sometimes months to get to Jerusalem. And what a celebration it was.

The closest I've ever come is I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, four days. And we timed it so that we would get to Machu Picchu... We got up before dawn on day four so that we could see the sunrise over Machu... It is the only way to get there. Now, I'll be honest. Some people, tourists came on a bus. Mm-mm, mm-mm. Love you. Maybe you went on a bus, that's okay, no judgment zone, but you did it the wrong way, because there was something about... Like, you gotta go through Dead Widow's Pass and get an oxygen deprived headache and then get up early. And they gave us coca tea. I didn't ask what was in it.

Now you're ready, now you're ready to see Machu Picchu. I mean, imagine this moment for these Jewish pilgrims. They've come from all over the ancient world. I can picture in my mind's eye... And by the way, Josephus... Population of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, somewhere between 40, 80,000 people, give or take, not sure exactly. But Josephus, the Jewish historian, estimated that as many as 2 million pilgrims would make their way to Jerusalem for these pilgrimage feasts. I think that might be a little bit of an overestimation, kinda like how we number events on the National Mall. I don't know. But imagine hundreds of thousands of road weary pilgrims descending the Mount of Olives and climbing the steps up to Huldah's Gates and entering into the city of Jerusalem and going to the temple to worship their God. And don't just see it, hear it.

Can you imagine all of them singing these psalms of ascent? What a song of praise as they entered the city. All right, let's jump into this Psalm, Psalm 126. This has gotten into my spirit, and so that's what's gonna come out today. Little color commentary as we go. Psalm 126:1-6, a song of ascents: "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed". We were like those who dreamed, like those who dream. It's time. Time for what? Time to dream again. And that's saying something when you've been in exile for 70 years, you've been a prisoner of war in Babylon for 70 years. But Zechariah doesn't call them prisoners of war, he calls them prisoners of hope, because as long as you've got a dream, right? Come on, show me the size of your dream and I'll show you the size of your God.

Why do we begin every new year with a dream series? Because without a vision, the people perish. This is part of the imago Dei. Rats can anticipate or think ahead about 30 minutes, according to the latest studies. We can dream forever. It's part of this metacognitive capacity that is unique to humankind as those who bear the image of God. "Like those who dreamed. Our mouth were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes like the streams of the Negev". And we'll come back to that. "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy". That's a promise for someone. "Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them". What a promise. What a promise.

Now, buried in this psalm... It seems poetic, but I think it's prophetic. "Restore our fortunes like the streams of Negev". We'll just kind of start there. Is that okay? And this painted a powerful picture for the people of Israel. In fact, I'll show you a picture. In Israel, there are what were called wadis, and they were barren riverbeds. They were rivers that ran dry during a drought. And you can see it. They were absolutely lifeless. And if you're thirsty, like, a dry river bed is a little maddening, is it not? Like, it's a reminder of what was. But during the rainy season, little rain goes a long way, these riverbeds would rise to flood tide and they would run miles in minutes. And there was a clear and present danger.

In fact, it's very likely that in Psalm 23, when David refers to the valley of the shadow of death, probably referring to the Wadi Qelt, where he probably would have shepherded some sheep. And if you aren't careful, this flash flood might catch you in a way. But guess what happens after the flash flood? Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, because in a matter of minutes, these valleys would come to life. They would turn green, and these red and yellow and orange flowers. Like, when a river runs through it, the valley would come to life. And so what the... The prophetic picture here is that, listen, God wants to restore some broken bodies, some broken minds, some broken marriages, some broken families, some broken people. And He'll do it. How's he gonna do it? Gradually... then suddenly.

Like the streams in the Negev, I'm believing for a flash flood of joy in the weeks to come, the joy of the Lord. The world can't give it and the world can't take it away. And the joy of the Lord is our strength. Do it again, Lord. Do it again. Mm, mm, mm. Couple of questions. How does Pentecost happen? How do the walls of Jericho come down? How does God deliver Israel out of Egypt? Well, there's a temptation to say suddenly. Like, I mean, those walls just came tumbling down. Eh, not really. They circled 'em for seven days and then seven times on the seventh day. I mean, Pentecost, so that that happened suddenly. We'll get there in a second. No, no, no 120 people prayed the price for 10 days. And same with the deliverance of Egypt. You may be tempted to say, "Oh, man, those 10 signs and wonders that God did to deliver Israel in a matter of days".

Oh, no, no, no. Back up the bus. Beep, beep, beep. God started delivering the Israelites 40 years later. How? Pharaoh issued a decree that the Israelite midwives were to abort all the baby boys born to the Jews. The midwives had a choice to make: obey the law of the land or obey God. Make no mistake, to save the life of a baby when Pharaoh has made his decree is to risk your own life. This is a life or death decision. But they feared God more than they feared Pharaoh. It says, "The midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do," here it is, "they let the boys live". They would not compromise their conviction. So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.

Can I tell you today that obedience has a compound interest, that there is a cumulative effect to obedience. Now, imagine 40 years later, imagine Moses leading the people out of Egypt to the Red Sea, holding out his staff, and God makes a sidewalk through the sea. Imagine Moses coming down Mount Sinai with two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. Who do you think had the biggest smile on their faces? These midwives. We know their names, Shiprah and Puah. Like, if you make the Bible, that's a pretty big deal. Like, put that on your LinkedIn profile. We think Moses is the hero of the story. We think that Moses delivers Israel out of... But who delivered the deliverer? Someone did something 40 years ago, their prayer is being answered in your life. Their obedience has a compound interest in your life.

Can I just say to children in the room, your parents aren't perfect, there is not a perfect parent on the planet, but someday you'll appreciate some of the sacrifices that they made. The word diaper spelled backwards is repaid. I'm just gonna leave that right there. You know what I think? Because this is so beautiful, by the way. "God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, not Pharaoh, God gave them families of their own". So what I see at the Red Sea is Shiprah and Puah, these great-grandmothers: kids, grandkids: "Grandkid, grandkid, you see that guy, Moses? We delivered him. We delivered him".

You know, I said it last week. I think some of us feel like to really make a, we gotta influence a million people. And, like, I mean, social media is so much about how many followers you have or how many likes you get. I just think the most courageous people, the people that that are really the true heroes are those who just devote their lives to, like, one person that everybody else has given up on. That's who the hero is, and these midwives fit the bill. And so can I just push the envelope a little bit? Moses sits over the Supreme Court. Like, this is no secret, right? He's right there over the Supreme Court, in part because our judicial system is a byproduct, in large, of those 10 commandments. And I'm gonna talk about those 10 commandments in a few weeks 'cause they're so life-giving.

How does Moses sit over the Supreme Court? Well, remember Alex Haley, who wrote "Roots" and had a picture of a turtle on a fence post that he hung in his office? Do you remember this? And why did he have it there? He said, "The turtle reminds me that that turtle did not get on a fence post by itself, it had some help," right? Moses doesn't sit over the Supreme Court by himself, he had some help, some midwives who did... We can play this game all day, right? Gradually, then suddenly Now, there's a concept called cathedral thinking. And I want us to grasp this concept. So in a sense, it's playing the long game, it's long obedience in the same direction. It's dreaming big, praying hard, and thinking long. And the best example of cathedral thinking, I love this, is a cathedral. In fact, that's kinda where it came from. I'll show you a picture.

On August 15, 1248, the cornerstone was laid and construction began on the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. Here's the incredible things. Its twin towers stand 515 feet tall. It was the tallest structure in the world until? The giant pencil. The Washington Monument passed it up in 1884. Now, I don't even... Like, we need an aerial shot, an internal shot, a few... Like, a picture cannot do this cathedral justice. But here's what's amazing to me. The entire thing from start to finish, 632 years! J.D, you build things. Do you have a 632-year project in your portfolio? Oh my goodness. Wow! The German poet Heinrich Heine said, "People in old times had convictions; we moderns only have opinions. And it takes more than a mere opinion to erect a Gothic cathedral".

There are a lot of opinions, aren't there? Give me one person of conviction. Gimme one person who will stand on the promises of God. Gimme one person who will consecrate their past, present, future, time, talent, treasure, heart, soul, mind, and strength to the Lord. Gimme that person and we'll change the world. How? Gradually, then suddenly. Let me riff right here for a second, because I think we need to rethink our theology of time. With the Lord, a day is like 1,000 years and 1,000 years are like a day. Reminds me of the guy having a conversation with God, said, "God, how long is a million years to you"? God said, "A second". He said, "How much is a million dollars to you"? God said, "A million dollars is like a penny". The man said, "Could you spare a penny"? God said, "Sure, just wait a second".

Time is measured in minutes; life is measured in moments. We don't find time, we make time. But here's my real point. We live our lives forward; God is working backwards. Acts 2:1: "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly..." There it is. "Suddenly the sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting". The church is born 5,000, many of them pilgrims, remember the map, from all over the ancient world. And they go all over the world as the first wave of missionaries, sharing the good news of the gospel. Here's where I wanna remind us that we count up: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. I think God's counting down: "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," and suddenly the Spirit is poured out.

One verse that'll mess with your mind is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Joshua 6:3. The Israelites are about to circle Jericho and God says this: "I have delivered Jericho into your hands". What I love about it is it's the wrong verb tense. It should be future tense because it hasn't happened yet, but it's past tense. Don't miss this. Everything is created twice. The first creation is always internal. The first creation is always spiritual, it happens in the imagination, it happens in the soul, it's a dream. This is how everything begins.

The second manifestation is physical, when finally the spiritual reality invades the physical reality. Heaven invades Earth, eternity invades time, and some walls come tumbling down. Accord to the Talmud, along with everything God spoke into existence during the six days of creation, God made certain provisions in the Garden of Eden. One, God commanded the Red Sea to split apart for Israel. Two, God commanded the sun and moon to stand still for Joshua. Three, God commanded the Baltimore Ravens to feed Elijah. Four, God commanded the fish to spit out Jonah. Five ,God commanded the fire not to burn Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And six, God commanded the lions not to harm Daniel. Seven, God created the ram and commanded it to get caught in the thicket on Mount Moriah when Abraham put Isaac on the altar. It's God who predestined these moments. "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared for us in advance". You don't have to manufacture the miracle.

Now, having said that, you do have to circle Jericho for seven days, and you have to circle it seven times on the seventh day. All right, I'm gonna close with this. No matter how many promises God has made, they're yes in Christ. How does God keep His promises? Come on, church, help me out. Gradually, then suddenly. This is how breakthroughs happen. This is how miracles happen. This is how everything happens. A little phrase in the scripture that I love: "For David's sake". It pops up here and there in Kings and Chronicles. But my favorite example: 853 BC, King Jehoram assumes throne of Judah. He's the fifth king of the southern kingdom.

This is 117 years after David has died. King Jehoram does what is evil in the eyes of the Lord; he actually kills his brothers to secure the throne. You would think God would execute some justice, but it says, "Nevertheless," 2 Kings 8:19, "for David's sake". "For David's sake". What? For David's sake? That's, like, six kings ago. That's 117 years ago. No, no, no, for David's sake, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. Whoo. There is no expiration date on God's promises. God does not forget His people. God does not forget His promises. You are seen, heard, and loved by God.

We'll close with yesterday marks the 26th anniversary of really one of the hardest, saddest, most painful days in our lives. My father-in-law had just celebrated his 55th birthday two days before, had been to the doctor who gave him a clean bill of health, literally said, "You could drive a Mack truck through your arteries". January 6th, 1998, he died of a massive heart attack. But his legacy did not die. Legacy is not what you accomplish. Legacy is what others accomplish because of you. Success is succession. Discipleship is growing fruit on other people's trees. I showed you a picture of January 7th, 1996. That is not when this church started. There's some prehistory.

And, really, you have to go back, I think, to July of 1967 when Bob and Karen Schmidgall, with a vision from God, planted Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois. And for more than 30 years, blood, sweat and tears, prayers, leading missions, giving church in the assemblies of God for many years. This church, make no mistake about it, is a dream within a dream.

And I want you to know, Laura and I, especially this time of year, we just count our blessings. Like, what a joy and privilege to lead this church for so long. But I want you to hear me say this. I'm an interim pastor like every other pastor. And so just as someone dug wells from which we drink, we dig wells for the next generation. So, do not become weary in doing good. That's a promise. Do not become weary in doing good, for at the right time you will reap a harvest. God does not forget His people. God does not forget His promises. God's got this, God's got you gradually, then suddenly. In Jesus' name. Amen.
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