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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Flourishing Against All Odds

Mark Batterson - Flourishing Against All Odds

Mark Batterson - Flourishing Against All Odds

Against All Odds starts today. That is the word of the Lord. I've had my fair share of embarrassing moments. One of them happened in my sophomore season of high school. We weren't even scrimmaging, we were just running what we called suicides, baseline to baseline. And I have no idea how this happened, but I turned my ankle, I guess one of those lines on the court, ended up in a cast for four weeks. Huge setback my sophomore season, or was it? Did I languish or did I flourish? That's the question. Now I went to the Premier High School in Naperville Central. I'm having a little bit of fun. My wife Laura, pastor Joel, pastor Rob went to Naperville North. What are you laughing at? It better be with me.

Our high school had three stories, and two wings, and eight periods. And all of these are critical facts, because for four weeks, I swear my class schedule that semester was on opposite sides. So I would crutch all the way across campus like eight times a day and then alternate floors. I would have to, with a backpack, with my crutch, hop up and down three stories of stairs for eight long weeks. Here's the backstory. My dream was dunking a basketball. You have to understand, my life revolved around basketball, of course, played basketball in college, was a first team All-America. And CCAA, the extra C stands for Christian, much less impressive. I will say that I did eventually play above the rim, spoiler alert.

We had this little play where I'd kind of go out on the wing called blue jay back screen and alley-oop to yours truly. But back up the bus, I did everything to try to dunk a basketball. I did drills, I went to camps, I went to a jump clinic. I would watch the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era, and then I'd go out in my driveway and replicate the dunks on a trampoline. And at first I could throw down a ping pong ball and then a tennis ball, and eventually a volleyball. I just couldn't quite get that basketball palmed and dunked. All of that to say this, the first time I dunked a basketball was with a cast on my ankle.

Now, I'm not sure the doctor knew or approved, but what I saw as a setback was a setup, I'm starting to preach. What I saw as adversity was an opportunity to level up and take my game to another place. Please hear me today, the obstacle is not the enemy, the obstacle is the way. We're not gonna talk about flourishing for the next seven weeks, we're gonna talk about flourishing against all odds, because I believe that's God's plan and purpose for each one of us. And I tell you what, we got an all star lineup. One of the top psychiatrists in my opinion, Dr. Curt Thompson, author, psychiatrist, gonna be in the house in a few weeks.

We've got Pastor Joshua Symonette, former campus pastor, played in the NFL, gonna talk about physical flourishing, probably a good person to do it. Dr. Dick Foth in a couple of weeks talking about emotional flourishing. We've got Al Gordon, pastor of Saint Church in East London talking about spiritual flourishing. This series could be a game changer for you. But you're gonna get out of it what you put into it. Can I tell you what flourishing is not? It's not no problems, it's not no opposition, it's not no adversity, it's not a spa day, it's not a day at the beach, it's quite the opposite. I don't think you flourish in spite of difficult circumstances. I think you flourish because of, because you get to the other side. You can't spell testimony without the first four words. You gotta pass the test.

You know the greatest mountains I've ever climbed, the greatest view I've ever gotten is the highest mountain, the hardest climb. But you get up there. Oh my, this series starts with a growth mindset. I love the story about the old farmer at the men's breakfast. The pastor asked him to pray for the meal. He said, "Lord, I don't care much for buttermilk, and you know how much I hate lard". Wasn't exactly what the pastor had in mind. "And Lord, ain't no one who likes raw flour". At this point a few people are peeking around, right? Then the farmer said, "But Lord, when you mix them and bake them, oh, I do love fresh biscuits. So Lord, when things happen we don't much care for, when life takes its toll, when we don't understand why hard things happen, help us wait until you're done mixing and baking, it'll probably be even better than these here biscuits, in Jesus' name, amen".

Do you believe that God is mixing like the Dutch DJ? I don't even know his name. Tiesto, is that it? God is baking like "The Great British Baking Show". What's really happening when what's happening is happening? I'll tell you what's happening. God is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We just hit the ground running, didn't we? This is deep down in my spirit and I'm trusting the Holy Spirit to bring it out in a way that helps us. Tupac, did you hear about the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete? Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long lived the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.

It's amazing to me the way plants and people can flourish against all odds. I'll show you one of my favorite, 'cause I want pictures of what God is doing. You ever heard of the Fairy Lake Bonsai? How in the name of Mr. Miyagi? What the what? How does something grow there? How does a rose grow through the concrete? How do breakthroughs happen? How do miracles happen? How does healing happen? Listen, I think it happens where our grit meets God's grace. By the way, on the way out, we're gonna give you an air plant, looks like this, it's pretty small. It's the pineapple family, by the way, 650 species. But what makes an air plant unique is it doesn't need soil because it draws water and nutrients from the air.

What I'm saying is this makes no sense to me, how can something like this survive and thrive? Because it's cultivated a capacity to flourish, without what we think is absolutely necessary. It's a symbol of flourishing against all odds. I want you to meet me in an ancient arboretum, Psalm 92. We're gonna jump in, ready or not, here we go. It is tov, "It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night to the music of the 10 stringed harp".

Notice the daily rhythm, the psalmist, the day begins with praise, the day ends with praise. Now music, mentioned twice, more specifically the 10 stringed harp, and this little nuance I love. Generally we think of the uneven stringed harp, yes? But in ancient Israel, there was a two sided harp. The 10 string harp, 5 strings on either side. Jewish rabbis felt like this symbolized the 10 commandments on 2 stone tablets. But the whole point is here, when you have a ten string harp, you can not only make music, you can make melody. It's twice the praise. Are you picking up what I'm throwing down? Here's how I would tend to think of it.

On one side of that heart, when things are going good, you better give God the glory, 'cause whatever you don't turn into praise turns into pride. Baruch atah Adonai. A hundred blessings a day is what an Orthodox Jewish person would pronounce. The Talmud says that, "Whatever you don't give thanks for, it's as if you stolen it from God". We better play this side of the harp and give God our praise. But there's another side of the harp that's not as easy to play, that's giving God the sacrifice of praise, but the hardest praise is the highest praise. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away", said Job, on the worst day of his life. "Blessed be the name of the Lord". Baruch atah Adonai.

How did he worship in that moment? But maybe, just maybe, that's why he flourished. You better read the end of the book. Now, in the Hebrew language, stick with me, make music and make love are synonyms. Psalm 22 says, "God inhabits the praises of His people". And you'll see in different translations, God is enthroned on the praises of His people, or abides, or dwells, but it's the Hebrew word yashab. And there's another dimension, it means to consummate a marriage. When we worship, something is conceived in us. Miracles, healing, deliverance, God doesn't just inhabit the praises of His people, God inhabits His people. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me. That's how you flourish.

Crash course in church history, Acts 13:2. It says, "While they were worshiping and fasting". While they were what? "The Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart from me Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.' After they had fasted and prayed", so there's a third spiritual discipline. They're worshiping, they're fasting, they're praying, the only ceiling on your intimacy with God and impact on the world is daily spiritual disciplines. But here's the rest of the story, and put that map on the screen.

Do you know that Paul traveled an estimated 10,000 miles on 3 missionary journeys, like 50 cities on 2 different continents, much of it on foot. He planted at least 14 churches, and he wrote at least 13 epistles. Where are we going with this? You have to reverse engineer it. Reverse engineer it, because every church he planted, every epistle he wrote, all of those miracles, all of the deliverance and the breakthroughs, everything that happened, cities changed, started while they were worshiping. God conceived a vision. They were so comfortable in Antioch. Like, let's just stay here and do what we're doing. God's like, "No, we're gonna take you bigger and farther, wait till you see what I'm gonna do".

Now, what does worship have to do with flourishing? And I'm kind of hot, does it feel like heat's on? It might be. I don't think we can talk about flourishing without talking about the 10th cranial nerve, yes? Three people know what I'm talking about. It's called the vagus nerve, it's the longest nerve in the body. It's like a super information highway. It regulates heart rate and respiration rate. It regulates involuntary things like sneezing, coughing, swallowing. I mean, vagus means vague, because like the truth is, anatomists are amazed by this. Like it goes everywhere. Like it's working the small intestine, it's working the stomach, it's working the lungs.

But here in in simple terms, we have an autonomic nervous system. It's twofold, there's a sympathetic nervous system, that simply put is fight and flight, there's a parasympathetic nervous system, that's rest and digest. Don't tell me we aren't fearfully and wonderfully made. You can't live in fight and flight forever without it taking a toll. And the toll is it will affect your vagal tone and it will hurt you on every level. So the question is, how do we flip the switch from that sympathetic to the parasympathetic? Well, I think there are lots of ways to do it. One of them, take a deep breath and let it out. Most of the nerve endings from the parasympathetic nervous system attached to the lower part of the lungs. So when you're taking shallow breaths, it means you're operating in a sympathetic fight and flight state.

So it's crazy, a simple deep breath. I would argue that a gratitude journal is one way that I flip the switch. But worship, I would argue, flips that switch. The vagal nerve attaches to the pharynx, to the larynx, it's part of our vocal chord, it's how we have pitch in music. Like, I mean, this is unbelievable. I mean, it controls 79 internal organs. But my whole point is, singing is a way to flip the switch into a parasympathetic state, into a rest and a recovery. When we worship God, there is a physiological effect. There is a brain gut connection between worship. Like, this is a big deal. Worship is so catalytic, so cathartic. Pastor Mark, can you gimme chapter and verse? Thanks for asking.

1 Samuel 16:23, "Whenever the tormenting spirit troubled Saul, David would play the harp, then relief would come and Saul would feel better". Like, what I love is when science catches up with scripture and corroborates what we're seeing on the pages of this sacred text. 2 Kings 3:15, Elisha, "Now bring me a harpist. While the harp was being played, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he begins to prophesy". Don't disconnect these two things. I mean, we talked about it weeks ago about you having a soundtrack, having a playlist, something that helps you worship. And I guess what I'm getting at is there are gonna be moments in your life where the only way through is to worship your way through. The only way over is to worship your way over. You are gonna have to prophesy your praise.

Just write it down, and then you figure out what it means. What it is, it's not denying reality, it is what it is, in fact, you have to forgive reality. But our worship is not contingent upon circumstances. God is seated on His throne. And so I'm gonna prophesy my praise. Man, I don't have time to talk about this, but I think the vagus nerve, I think getting into a parasympathetic state is where prophetic imagination happens. And I think the peace that passes understanding, shalom, all of this is connected, all of it is tied together in this great mystery called life. Alright, Psalm 92:12, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord".

Where are you planted? Where's your hope planted? Where's your identity planted today? Where is your security planted? Is it planted in the house of the Lord? Are we planted in the promises of God today? "Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the court of our God. They will still bear fruit in the old age". Can I get an amen? "Will stay fresh and green". Now here's the problem with this promise, we all disqualify ourselves, 'cause it says the righteous. Well, "There is none righteous, no, not one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". So does that mean all of us are outta luck? No, good news, "God made Him who had no sin to become sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of Christ".

A.W. Tozer said, "The only sin Jesus ever knew was ours and the only righteousness we will ever know is His". It's almost like God says, "Here's the deal, you transfer all of your sin to my account, I'm gonna pay it in full". And that's what, it is finished on the cross means. Tetelestai, a single word in Greek that was written across ancient receipts that meant paid in full, it was the final installment on a debt owed. But that's only half of the gospel. The other half is that the righteousness of Christ, everything He's done right is transferred to your account. Please hear me today, this promise is for you. This is your promise, to flourish against all odds. The righteous will flourish. And then at the very end, I don't have time to preach this, but it says, "They'll bear fruit in the old age".

I just like that, you never tap out, you never age out, it's never too late to become who you might have been. Hmm, I'm gonna preach it anyways. See, here's the beautiful thing about the church. Our culture is so splintered right now in so many different directions. Political polarization, racial tension, it's a little bit of a mess out there. And this shouldn't come as a surprise, we were born on a battlefield between good and evil. By the way, it's not out there, it's in here. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that, "The line dividing good and evil passes through every human heart".

So each one of us has to make that decision. But you know what happens in Acts 2, this moment that God doesn't just inhabit the praises of His people but inhabits His people, and we become a temple of the Holy Spirit? Says, "I'll pour up my spirit on all flesh". All flesh, so it's not based on ethnicity, skin color, where you're born, what language you speak? Am I in the right room? Racism is out the window. We celebrate our diversity as a reflection of God's creativity. Oh, but wait, sexism's out the window, because it says, "Your sons and daughters will prophesy".

Come on, men and women equally gifted and called by God to do what God has called them to do. Praise God, and by the way, not a social construct, God made us male and female, it's something to celebrate, there are differences that are good differences, praise God. And then ageism is out the window, "Your old men are gonna dream dreams, your young men are gonna see visions". What did God say to Jeremiah? "Do not say, I'm too young". I'm gonna wash your mouth out with soap, young man. No, stop telling God what He can't do, church. Hmm. Moses was 80, 40 years put out to pasture. Hmm, it's not too late, now I can use you. Caleb, 85, benching as much at 85 as he was at 40, come on. Oh man, I didn't have time to preach that, because I want to talk about trees. Because that's the metaphor God chooses and uses. Don't miss it. When God wanted to symbolize flourishing, what would be the very best analogy? Trees.

Now there are about 73,000 species, and pretty amazing, our lives are so impacted by trees, and like we're unaware of it, but my guess is every day you're walking on floors made of wood, you're under ceiling joists made of wood. We live in wood frame walls, we sit in wood furniture, we're warmed by wood fires, we read books made from wood, we write with pencils made from trees. Now those are dead trees. But what I'm saying is dead trees give us life. But what about live trees? Well, we eat their fruit. But we don't thank God for the tree it came from, we generally just thank God for the fruit. We put their sap on our pancakes, hallelujah. Pure maple syrup, can I get an amen? Hmm. They absorb water into the soil and keep us from flash floods.

Oh, but wait, they also make it rain. A coniferous forest releases a compound called terpene. It's comprised of 30,000 compounds. And by the way, it's the most common ingredient in essential oils. Where are the essential oil people in the house? You have trees to thank. Now those terpenes also seed the clouds. Water molecules bond to them and form thunder clouds. Trees regulate their own temperature by releasing this compound to cause it to rain, and we're the secondary beneficiaries. Oh, and they help us breathe because they exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. We inhale oxygen and exhale. Trees are amazing, can I show you an image? What kind of tree do you think that is? It's not a tree, it's an upside down bronchogram.

That's your lungs, that's your airwaves. By the way, the surface of your lungs would be about the same as a tennis court. And there are 1,500 miles of airwaves that weave their way feeding oxygen to the cells of your body. And I just find that curious. So maybe show this next one, lungs and trees. Trees are our lungs, do you know that trees produce 28% of the oxygen on earth? Without trees, life would be unlivable. This planet would be uninhabitable. Is it possible that the symbiosis between lungs and trees is just a God wink? I'm gonna leave you a few more clues and cues. Do you need to know any of this? Yes and no. I think you can live a long life without it, but I think it's one of a million little miracles that we ought to praise God for.

Now let's dial in on the cedar of Lebanon. The cedar of Lebanon's known for its longevity and resiliency, takes 30 years for that tree to establish its root system. Some of you have been going to counseling, some of you have been working on your marriage, some of you have been trying to work on the mental health, on the physical health, and man, it is not happening as quickly as you want it to. I wish I could say it's easy, but it's probably gonna happen like a tree, planted by the stream of life, it's gonna have to take root. Now, I hope it's not 30 years, but I will say this, there are some miracles that were in the works for 30, 40 years in my life, including God healing my lungs and giving me this tree of life that I hadn't experienced before.

Now its trunk can measure six feet in diameter, tops out at 120 feet. Cedar of Lebanon can live a thousand years. And I love the fact that the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon was intentional. And by the way, he was a dendrologist, he was a student of trees, read it. And he said, "We're gonna make the temple out of the cedar of Lebanon".

Now, I don't know why, but I like connecting this little dot. What I find most intriguing about the cedar Lebanon is that it releases a chemical compound that repels snakes. So if you're in the woods and you need a safe place, a hiding place, you're gonna wanna rest in the shade, in the shadow of a cedar of Lebanon. By the way, the healthiest person wins. Can I just put that out there like this? This is not some game about this metric or that metric, how much money you have, or how many people work for you, or all of those things that people kinda get their ego boost from. This is about am I flourishing? Heart, mind, soul, strength? Am I coming to life because of the spirit of God at work within me? Because when that happens, you become a safe place. And this becomes a safe church where you can take risks, and make sacrifices, and be vulnerable.

Is it a perfect church? No, 'cause you're here, and this guy's here. But what I'm saying is there's something about health that creates a safety net. Lord let it be, in Jesus' name. In 1987, a group of engineers, entrepreneurs, earth scientists set out to build an artificial ecosystem in Oracle, Arizona. It's called Biosphere 2, designed as an ideal ecosystem for plant life to thrive. Check this out, climate controlled environment, including purified air, clean water, nutrient rich soil and natural light. Despite perfect conditions, the weirdest thing started happening. Trees would grow to a certain height and fall over. Hmm? Because it lacked one critical element.

Do you know what it is? Wind resistance. Because that's how trees grow their bark. That's how trees shoot their roots. Come on, what happens when we help the caterpillar out of the cocoon? We short circuit a chrysalis, and it will never fly, because it doesn't have the strength to flap its wings. Let's not hurt people by helping them. Now let's come alongside and bear each other's burdens. But there's some things I can't go through for you and you can't go through for me.

Alright, preaching, but we're gonna land the plane. Let me close with this, because really what I wanna do this weekend is just get Psalm 92 into your spirit, plant yourself in the house of the Lord. In fact, I'll forget if I don't say it, man, Lent is coming up, and I think what a great opportunity maybe to create a new rhythm. Maybe make House of Prayer on Thursday nights part of your rhythm during Lent just to, hey, let's make this a season where I just mix it up a little bit, kind of go after it. By the way, we will be doing a John Wesley fast during Lent. So from sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday, open invitation. Pull out your phone and just take a quick picture. Pull out your phone, take a quick picture. Let me smile.

Wow, this could be bad if you post that. Am I blocking it? Here. Why do we want you to text? 'Cause I know you as well as you know me. 'Cause if you don't text and sign up, you won't do it. And we are not gonna bombard your inbox, but we'll send you a weekly reminder, something that just helps you kind of stay on task, on tune. And I think fasting is a great way to do that. Some of you, you need to set up a sozo session. It means saving, healing, delivering. It's this inner work of working through trauma in a way that you just get unstuck, that there's something about it that sozo might be a next step. It's counseling and prayer sort of intertwine together.

Alright, let me close with this. My counselor says that the purpose of counseling is to change my programming a little. You don't have to do a hundred things, don't do a hundred things. You don't even have to do something big. You have to find a high leverage point and then you have to change your protocol a little bit. So January 1 I began a protocol, six week protocol, nothing serious. Not anything that, but my doctor was, "Hey, your microbiome, like it's time for a gut check, 'cause you have some numbers". I mean, we have billions of bacteria, many of them the healthy kind that help us digest, but there's some other stuff in there. And she said, "I think you need to do a reset".

And so I began a six week protocol. No sugar, no dairy, no carbs, no fun. I'm not even kidding you, three days in, someone sends me a four pack of Malnati's. You're killing me, Smalls. Keep sending them. But like in two weeks. Like, you have to understand, I have the same four food groups as Buddy the elf, right? Candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup. I love cheese, I'm a cheese head. Like to me, if there's burrata cheese on the menu, like it's a sin omission not to get it. I love cheese. But can I just share a lesson relearned? Abstinence is so much easier than moderation. There might be something in your life that you have to cold turkey. No. Paul talked about everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.

So I'm not necessarily even talking about something that's strictly sinful, I'm just talking about something, it's just not good for you. Like garbage in, garbage out. So the craziest thing happened. The intent is not to lose weight. I lost 10 pounds in 10 days, and I was actually concerned, and so I said to the doctor, like, is something wrong, like that does not seem right? She said, "You can carry up to 25 pounds of inflammation weight". You can carry emotional inflammation, friend, for years. It's a seed of bitterness that can eat your lunch. You can carry spiritual inflammation. I mean, few things break my heart more than people who experience church hurt. Oh Lord, heal our hearts, in Jesus' name.

But even if you're in a process of deconstructing and reconstructing faith, like, you still need to be planted in the house of the Lord. This is not a solo sport. It better be a life-giving church, a Bible believing church, a Christ-centered church, a church that actually believes that God will deliver on His promises. Like, plant yourself in the house of the Lord, but you gotta let the inflammation go down. By the way, when I tore my ACLs, remember when I was playing above the rim back in the day? Yeah, after two ACL reconstructions, not so much. But they couldn't do surgery until the inflammation went down.

By the way, do you know what controls most of the inflammation in the body? The vagus nerve. Wait, are you telling me if I worship I can flip a switch and it'll help reduce inflammation? I don't know, I wouldn't be surprised. I don't even know where I was going anymore. Just a touch of tough love here at the end. Your system is perfectly designed for the results you're getting. Love you. But you can't break the law of sowing and reaping, you can't break the law of measures. If you do little things like they're big things, God will do big things like they're little things.

And so I pray, Holy Spirit, reveal to us, lead us. I don't know that it's my job to necessarily outline your protocol for the next six weeks, but you're gonna have to do something different. And just one little extra push, 'cause we're talking about flourishing against all odds, and then I'm really done. Pastor Robert Madu was speaking to pastors during revival, and when he planted Social Dallas, their church in Dallas, he said that he did a 21 day water fast. So I asked him the obvious question, like what prompted that? And he said, "I felt like the Lord said, your current level of discipline won't sustain what I'm going to do". I pray all the time, Lord, don't let my gifts take me where my character can't sustain me. Friend, flourishing against all odds starts today. In Jesus' name, amen.
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