Matt Hagee - How To Handle The Hard Place
Today we read Psalm 18, beginning at verse 4. If you found it, say, amen. "The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of sheol surrounded me: the snares of death confronted me". Verse 6, "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God: he heard my voice from his temple, and my cry came before him, even to his ears".
Heavenly Father, today we ask that as we cry out to you, you would hear, you would see and you would touch every heart, every life and every person who's here in this room and those who are watching. No matter what their need is: that you would meet it according to your riches in glory, in Jesus' name. We thank you for your word and we ask that you would bless this time together. Amen and amen.
You may be seated. Psalm 18, David is giving God triumphant praise because he has fought 18 battles against 18 enemies, and he's 18 and 0. Netflix should be doing a documentary on this guy. And the one thing that he declares is that every time he was under attack, every time that he was in need of rescue, every time he was too tired to continue to fight, he had but one source against every enemy that he ever faced, and it was the Lord. Under attack, the Lord was his fortress. In need of deliverance, the Lord was his deliverer. The Lord was the horn of his salvation, which is a symbol of his strength: his rock, his fortress, in whom he would trust. Just like David, you and I are going to go through some hard places in this life.
One of the problems that we have, as Bible believers, is that we often want to tell ourselves that because we believe in God, because we go to church, because we raise our hands in worship, because we do all of these good things, God loves us more than anybody else. And because he loves us, he's never going to let us go through hard places. And if anybody ever told you that this life of faith that we're living is absent of hard places, they lied. There is no way you can come to that conclusion, not based on what the Bible says, not based on experience. And the reason for that is we live in a fallen and broken world. And it's not going to get fixed until Jesus comes.
Now the good news is Jesus is coming. But what do we do in the hard places between now and when he arrives? How do we handle them? Who do we call upon? Job 5 tells us that just as sparks fly up from a fire, so is a man born to trouble. Jesus, in John 16:33, will say it again, "In this world you will have trouble". Trouble is unavoidable. But Paul gives us this encouragement. He says, "Who can separate us from the love of God"? He says, there's no amount of trouble that will ever take God's love off of your life. There is not a trial, there is not a tribulation, there is not a persecution, there is not a famine, there is not peril or sword, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.
When the hard place comes, just like David said in Psalm 18:6: he said, "When I cried unto the Lord". When the hard place comes, do not forget who's never failed you. Do not forget who's always been beside you. Do not forget your fortress, your refuge and your strength. Do not forget who God is and what he's called and equipped you to do. What has God called and equipped us to do? One, be salt and be light. Salt fights corruption and light shines, which offends darkness. You cannot be the light of the world and not offend somebody. Remember what God has called us to do. Paul told Timothy, "Endure hardness". Say that with me. "Endure hardness".
The problem is, in this modern world, we've become so addicted to ease and comfort that we've got a culture that is creating a bunch of soft saints. We don't want to do anything that requires any measure of endurance, because we don't want to shine in this dark world lest we be labeled as offensive. We don't want to be the salt of the earth. We don't want to do what heaven called us to do, which is to go into heavenly places and pull down high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Church, we were not redeemed to be victims! We were redeemed to be more than conquerors through Christ! The world is filled with unavoidable hard places. They're personal hard places. They're public hard places. There's physical hard places. There's financial hard places.
Sooner or later, you're going to find yourself in one of those places. And when you do, do what David did, call upon him. Cry out to God, he'll hear you. He'll answer you. He'll show you great and mighty things that we know not. This nation right now is in a hard place unlike any we've ever known before. Have we gone through difficult days before? Without question. But we've never seen a time when a lie is being treated like the truth, and truth is being labeled a lie. The Bible said it would come. The Bible said there would be a day when they would want their ears tickled in church but they wouldn't want to hear the truth. And the Bible said that there would be a day when evil would be on the loose.
But the Bible also said, "What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". So if hell is running loose in the streets of this nation, it is not the government's responsibility, but the church's responsibility to bind it in the mighty name of Jesus, and let God arise and his enemies be scattered. God's house is still the embassy of his kingdom on earth. And our God still sits upon the throne. He still holds the mountains in a scale and the hills in a balance. He's still the God who said, "Call upon me and I'll answer you," "Call upon me and I'll move mountains," "Call upon me and I'll break the yokes of those who are trying to bind you", "Call upon me and I'll show you exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ever ask, think or imagine," "Call upon me and I'll show you great and mighty things that you know not".
It's time that this church waged war on its knees. It's time that we humbled ourselves and prayed and asked God to heal our land. It's time to quit complaining about what we don't like in the culture and start taking the culture on, in the name of Jesus Christ. So what's the difference between trusting and believing? They're significant. The Bible says, Proverbs 3:5: it says, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not", say that with me, "And lean not to your own understanding". Right there, it says there's two places you can go. You can either go to him or you can stay on your own.
People say, "Well doesn't God want us to use our understanding"? No. As a matter of fact, when you read the Bible, he spends a lot of time telling us how weak and feeble-minded we are. He says, "The things that are in your heart are contrary to the things that are in his". He said your mind is at war with him. He says his ways are higher than your ways. And you can't see what he sees, and you can't know what he knows, and you can't do what he does. So just recognize right off the bat that whenever you go toe-to-toe with God, you are bringing a water pistol to a nuclear war. So when it comes to him, he says, don't even get lost in the idea you know what to do. You trust in me.
James 1 pushes this point even further. It says in verse 6 that whenever you need something, ask God. And he'll give it to you. But he said, when you ask, ask him doubting nothing, doubting nothing. Because if you doubt, you receive nothing. In Psalm 18:6, David said, "In my distress I called upon the Lord". In my day of trouble, I trusted in him. I didn't lean to my own understandings. I didn't have any clue how the rock and the slingshot was going to get to the giant, but I just believed if God said it, he'd do it. James says, whenever you doubt, you receive nothing.
In order for us to handle the hard place, the first thing that we have to do in trusting in the Lord is humble ourselves. And that's a very challenging thing to do, because we pride ourselves in our ability to take it. How many of you've ever heard somebody say, "I can take it"? "I can take it. I'm a man. I can take it". Well, the first thing you have to do is humble yourself in order to understand that whenever you do, God promises he'll exalt you. You've got to admit, "I can't take this". "I need him to carry this". Most of our lives, we spend pretty proud of our humility. How many of you know somebody proud of their humility? They say things like, "Well, in my humble opinion..." "Are you ready for my humble opinion"?
God is not mocked. He knows when you're humble and he knows when you're proud. And when you decide that you can do life on your own, you can lean on your understanding, you can do it your way, he says, fine, you're on your own. Peter said it this way to the church in 1 Peter 5: he said, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God... And in due season, the Lord will raise you up". And then he says in the previous verse, verse 5, "The Lord resists the proud". Say that with me. "The Lord resists the proud".
So you have two options. You have humble yourself and God will raise you up, or don't humble yourself and you'll be humiliated. Now the difference between the humble and the humiliated is not that much. They're both down in a low place. The difference between them is simply this: how they got there. The humble person says, "God, I can't do this without you". The humiliated person says, "I can take this" until the weight of life pushes you down here. The Bible says, "God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble". Which one of those two do you want? God's grace or God's resistance? Oh, amazing grace. No worship song called "Can't resist the resistance".
Now when you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, you have to recognize the progression of things that are written here in this chapter. Verse 7 in 1 Peter 5 is a bridge. And it's building a bridge between verse 6 and verse 8. In verse 6, it says, "Humbles yourself under the hand of God... And in due season, he'll exalt you". Trust in him. Lean on him. Rest in him. That's how you humble yourself. Why do we bow our heads when we pray? Because it's a sign humility. Why do we close our eyes? Because it's a sign of trust. Why do we raise our hands? Because it's a sign of surrender.
Have you ever seen somebody who can't see being led through a room? They stay in constant contact with the person who's leading them, because they realize there's things in that room: that if they don't see it or they can't navigate it properly, they're going to hurt themselves. You have to realize that you are spiritually blind and you've got to stay in contact with the God who sees all things to help you navigate through the places and spaces of life. So when you humble yourself, verse 7 tells us, "Cast all of your care upon him". Say that with me. "Cast all of your care upon him".
What do you do when you bow your head and you close your eyes and you raise your hands? You're casting your cares. You're sitting here saying, "God, I don't know what to do about the circumstances in my life, but I know you do. I don't know what to do about the business. I don't want what to do about the family. I don't know what to do about the diagnosis. I don't know what to do. But God, I know that you can. You're a healer. You're a provider. You're a defender. You're a fortress. You're a rock. You're the one in whom I place my trust, in who I find my strength. That's the kind of God you are".
You say, "Well that sounds ridiculous". Well remember, verse 7 is a bridge. And it bridges the gap between what you can do when you humble yourself and you surrender those things. Or if you don't cast your cares, you get to carry your cares. And in verse 8, we meet somebody else who wants you to deal with care. Jesus said, "Give me your cares. I'll carry them because I love you". But in verse 8, we read, "Be sober, be vigilant: because we have an adversary the devil..." who's the adversary? Say it like you heard me. It's not your boss. It's not the government. It's not some conspiracy theory that's set up against you. It is the...
You need to remember that, because some of you treat others like they're your enemy. It says, we have an adversary the devil and he's like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. How does he want to devour you? With care. Jesus says, "Cast your care. I'll carry it". The devil says, "No, no, no. Carry your cares. I'll use them to destroy you". You see, the devil, he's like an opponent in the NFL preparing for his next game. He's constantly watching your game film. Oh, here's the tendency. Oh, here's what they do. Here's what they lean towards. Here's where they go. Here's what they try. And just about the time he gets you figured out, he recognizes what you care about, then he wraps you up in it.
And soon, you become more concerned about the things of this world than you are the God who holds this world in his hand. And you're not trusting in him. You're not resting in him. You're walking around going, "Jesus, when are you going to show up and fix this"? That's why you've got to cast. You've got to... What? You don't lay, you cast. I'm going to show you a little object lesson here about casting. How many fishermen have we got in the house? Cool.
So you know what this is. It's a casting net. It's not irony that Peter picked "Casting" as his word. He was a fishermen. He knew something about casting. He knew if you were going to catch what you wanted to catch, you didn't just go like this. I hope it works. You had to pick this thing up and give it a heave in order for it to get where you wanted it to go and wrap up what you wanted to catch. Now the thing about the cares of this world is they're a lot like this casting net. They're carrying around weights that you can't handle if they get on you. And every little string is connected to the other string until there's so many strings that you get all tangled up in it. You just don't know how to get out of it.
And this is what most of us look like on Sunday when we come to church. I can take it. I'm tough. Jesus loves me, this I know. But I don't know you, so I'm not going to show you his love. And the reason we're all heavy-laden and burdened is because we're carrying around stuff that we shouldn't be carrying. I mean the devil's got a whole lot of things that he wants to burden you with. But some people carry around failure. Anybody ever struggled with this? You know something you tried didn't turn out like you thought it would turn? A business? A relationship? A life choice? And you walk in heavy-laden because, man, if God loved me, he wouldn't let me fail.
Sometimes you get to carry around... Let's see what else we've got in our net here. Betrayal. Anybody ever deal with this? Somebody said that they were going to love you till death do you part, and they left a lot sooner than that. Somebody promised you the world and never even show up. Sometimes it's a matter of abuse. You're underneath someone else's control. You can't get away from the pain. You didn't do anything to cause it. You didn't deserve it, but hey, when the devil's watching your game film, he can use abuse to make you feel betrayed and make you feel like a failure. And maybe that leads to some measure of... Oh, look. We've got abandonment. And then at times it goes to addiction.
And one thing leads to another until you're walking around life like this. And you don't know why it's so heavy, and you don't know why you can't move, and you don't know why you can't breathe. Guess what? You're carrying the cares you should have casted. And people say, "Well, I'm not an addict". Some people are addicted to illegal stuff and other people are addicted to guacamole. Addiction is any place in your physical life or your life where you're saying, "God, you're not enough. I know you said you'd be the Prince of Peace, but if I take this pill, I'm a little more peaceful. I know you said that you would comfort me, but if I sip this, I'm a little more comfortable. I know you said you'd be my joy, but if I eat that entire cake, I'll be real happy".
And the devil takes you there because he gets to wrap you up in this. And this is why you come to church and you hear a message like this, and the preacher says something like, "Hey, you can bring that burden to the altar and you can leave it there". I'm going to go, "Oh, praise Jesus". I've got a shouting section in the balcony. And they leave the burden at the altar. And then the preacher says, "Raise your hand for the blessing". You go, "Thank you, Jesus. You've taken my abandonment. You've taken my rejection. You've taken my betrayal". And we walk out of church. Never going to have to deal with that again. It don't have me no more. I'm free, because whom the son sets free is free indeed.
And then we run into somebody that we should have forgiven and we didn't forgive them, because we remembered you're the guy that betrayed me, but Jesus set me free. I used to hate you but now I love you with the love of the Lord. And you take that phone call you shouldn't have took, and you say the thing you shouldn't have said, and it don't take seven days, and you come back to church. Or worse, you find somebody you can invite in here with you. Can I tell you how they betrayed me? Can I tell you how they rejected me?
All of you, get in my net. You ever met anybody wants to cast all their care upon you? Get away from that person. You're not their Jesus. They just want to see if it hurts you as much as it hurt them. That's why Peter says, listen, guys. When that enemy starts to surround you with all of this care and concern, when he starts to burden you with everything that ever happened in the your life, and you're sitting there wondering how it's all going to turn out, you don't lay it down, you don't leave it there. You pick it up and you turn around and you cast it. You get rid of it.
You say, "I don't have to carry that anymore, because there's a Christ who went to a cross, and he said, 'bring it to me'". There's a Christ who went to a cross and said, "I'll carry your failure. I'll carry your betrayal. I'll carry your abuse. I'll carry your pain. I'll carry your shame. I'll carry your guilt. I'll carry everything that they tried to put on you and entangle you with and trap you in, because I came to set you free. Now don't carry it any longer, but trust in me. Cast it upon me. Throw it to me. Give it to me. I'm God enough to carry it. I'm God enough to handle it. I'm God enough to heal it. I'm God enough to manage it. It wasn't yours. I'll take it from you. Give it to me, because whom the son sets free is free indeed". Give the Lord a handclap of praise in this house today!