Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - Resuming Life After a Captivity

Rick Warren - Resuming Life After a Captivity

Rick Warren - Resuming Life After a Captivity
TOPICS: Building a Better Life, Palm Sunday

Hello, Saddleback! I missed you so much. Have I told you lately that I love you? You know, today is the day we've all been looking forward to, we've been praying for, we've been waiting to happen for over a year. And today is the first time since the pandemic that almost all of our Saddleback church family on four different continents is able to meet for public worship with the exception of Berlin and with Santa Rosa in the Philippines. But I do want to say hello to every campus of our church family, because this is a historic day. So hello, Anaheim. Hallo, Berlin. Hola, Buenos Aires, the Saddleback in Espanol. I say hello, Corona. Hello, Dana Point. Nǐ hǎo, Hong Kong. Hello, Irvine North, Irvine South, Irvine Chinese. Hello, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Angeles, Newport, Mesa. Hello, Rancho Capistrano. Como esta? Santa Rosa, Philippines. And hello, San Clemente, San Diego, South Bay, Yorba Linda, and hello to all of you who are members of our online congregation.

Now, you know, after an entire year there are so many personal things that I'd like to tell you but I wouldn't have time to teach God's word if I told you everything that's on my heart. But let me just say this, first, I have missed you, I have missed you so, so much. But I've never stopped praying for you all year. I pray for you all the time. Second, I am so proud of you. I really am. And I'm so grateful for all of you and how you responded to the challenges of this past year with grace and with spiritual maturity. You know, the core of Saddleback church is healthy, the core is strong, the core is growing. And that's why in spite of the pandemic restrictions that we all went through this last year, 2020 had to be our most effective year in reaching people for Jesus Christ in 41 years. In fact, over 20,000 people have come to Christ through Saddleback church during the pandemic. And we welcome all you, new brothers and sisters, into our family.

Now, if this was a normal Palm Sunday, I would be teaching a message about Palm Sunday. But since this is our first day of gathering back together in over a year, I want to share a very special message about how to re-enter the world as this pandemic subsides. You know, you cannot read this book, through the Bible, without noticing the concept of captivity. The concept of captivity as a major theme of the Old Testament. Now, of course the people of Israel spent 400 years in captivity in Egypt and then later they spent 70 more years in captivity in Babylon, and the words captivity and the words captives are used over 400 times in the Bible. Now, I wanted to understand this concept of captivity better this week.

So I started by looking up a definition of the word. You know, we talked about animals living in captivity or being kept in captivity when they're in a zoo. What is captivity? Well, I put a definition on your outline. Captivity is the condition of having your freedom limited. Having your freedom limited involuntarily. Captivity is being confined or trapped or restricted or controlled against your will. Now, does that sound vaguely familiar to you about this last year? The opposite of captivity is emancipation, freedom, independence, liberty, and choice.

Now, using that definition, we could say that this past year, the COVID-19 global pandemic was a year of captivity for all of us, because our freedom was limited, our choices have been restricted, our lifestyles have been confined, our behavior has been controlled and in some ways we have felt trapped sometimes by this pandemic. But now, it seems like things are turning around. We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems that we may be moving into a less restricted time. Slowly our freedoms and our choices are being restored. But in a world that we're returning to, we're gonna find a lot of differences, that it's very different than it was a year ago.

In fact, I would compare reentering the world after this pandemic, to how a military serviceman or servicewoman feels when they return from deployment in a war overseas. In other words, when they come back home, they know they're coming home, but things have changed. And during their time in battle, they changed too. So there's often some difficulty in reentering and readjusting to normal life, because, guess what, normal changed. Now, I am certain that in this next year, tens of millions of people around the world are gonna feel that way in 2021 as we resume life after the pandemic, because things are never going back to the way they were exactly before the pandemic. The world has changed. And you have changed. And the church has changed and we all have to make some adjustments in many, many ways. This past year was really one long trauma. And if you know anything about trauma, you know, that trauma changes you. You're not the same person after a trauma that you were before.

So as your pastor and as your spiritual coach, I want to help you make the adjustments that you're gonna need to make this year, so that you can resume life successfully as best as you can with God's help. That's what we're gonna look at for the next couple of weeks. How do we reenter life after the pandemic? In many ways, God is giving us an opportunity to reset our lives after this pandemic. And instead of just returning to the same old, same old old patterns, old behaviors, and old habits and hurts and hangups, God is giving us a moment where we can build a better us, build a better you, build healthier lives. And that's why I decided to resume our public worship services with a series called building a better life.

Now fortunately, the Bible gives us a lot of encouragement and actually a lot of advice on what to do in a time when all of the choices start coming back at us, when all of a sudden we're not as restricted in our freedom. Now, in the old Testament, there are five books of encouragement that were written to God's people to encourage them and to tell them what to do when they were finally released from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. These are called the post-exile books. And these post-captivity books are the ones we're gonna look at for the next couple of weeks. They are the book of Ezra who was a priest, Nehemiah who was a civic leader and a builder, and then we have Haggai and Zachariah and Malakai who were prophets of God. And we're gonna look in the next few weeks at each of these five books together to find encouraging principles that God gave to his people through these five men and taught them how to build a better, stronger life after experiencing a trauma and captivity and crisis.

Now, you don't want to miss any part of this series because it'll save you from a lot of unnecessary mistakes. What I want to do today is introduce you to seven, seven principles on how to re-enter the world, as the COVID captivity comes to an end, as it starts winding down. And I want to share with you how to build an even better life with this opportunity, to do life as God is giving you an opportunity to do a reset. So we're gonna look at these principles, and other principles in detail in the days ahead, but I just wanted today give you a quick overview. Now we find the first principle of resuming life in the book of Ezra. Okay, here's the first principle, you might write this down: Expect to feel mixed emotions. Expect to feel mixed emotions.

Now, let me give you the background on this. When people were allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, they found that their homes and the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, their house of worship, were completely destroyed. Everything was in ruins. So the first thing they did was they started to rebuild the house of worship. They started by laying a new foundation for a new Temple, a new house of worship, very first thing they did. And that brought everybody a lot of great joy. But it also brought some grief and some sadness to those who remembered what worship had been like in the old Temple, okay? Because things are different now. And while they're rebuilding the Temple, they're gonna have to meet outside, which by the way, while we are meeting outside, we are remodeling the Lake Forest Worship Center. It actually looks like this.

Ezra the chapter three verses three to 13, says this: All who had returned from captivity, talking about in Babylon, began to work on building of the Temple of the God. And when the builders finished laying the foundation, everyone's saying the thanksgiving to God, and they shouted, "Praise the Lord, the foundation of the Temple has been laid". But, it says, many of the older people, including the priests and the family leaders who had seen and remembered the first Temple wept with sadness when they saw the new foundation. Evidently it wasn't as big. But because everyone made so much noise that they could be heard far away, no one could tell the difference between the joyful shouting and the sad crying. And it was all mingled together.

See, what's going on here? When they have the reunion, they finally get back together in Jerusalem for their first worship service and they're laying the foundation of the Temple, there were mixed emotions. Don't be surprised if you feel mixed emotions, and even conflicting emotions, as you reenter life after this pandemic. And as we begin public worship services, again, you know we're having to spread chairs out. We're having to wear masks. You know, things are different right now. We're easing into this, but you know, you can feel joy that we're finally back together, but you can also feel the sadness at the same time for all the things that were lost this past year, and for how things are gonna be different post-pandemic.

I want to say to you, if you have mixed emotions, conflicting emotions about reentering after pandemic, welcome to the human race. This is 100% normal. It is possible to have conflicting emotions at the exact same time, especially after a trauma or after a major loss. You remember that I told you last year when this pandemic started, that I predicted there would be a tsunami of grief this year, 2021, all around the world. Because as people have their fears go down and they realize what they lost in the past year, there's gonna be a tsunami of grief.

You know, here in America, families are grieving the loss of over half a million family members who died from COVID-19, over half a million Americans died. And their family members are still grieving those losses. But even those of us who have never been touched by the virus itself, you've had losses. There have been lost jobs, lost graduations, missed celebrations, missed family events, like weddings, and as I said, graduations, and the births of babies, and many of you had loved ones die, not from COVID, but you couldn't travel to their funeral to be there for that. Now, the Bible tells us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice.

So I want to encourage you, step number one, is be empathetic with other people's mixed emotions in the days ahead. You need to give yourself grace for the mixed emotions that you feel and, you know, give it to others too. You've had a full year, but think about this, you've had a full year to get used to new patterns of living, new behaviors, new habits. And now, guess what, things are gonna radically change again. So expect to have mixed emotions. Congratulations. You're normal. Now that's the principle we get from Ezra. There was both weeping and rejoicing when they finally got back together for worship.

Now here's the second principle that God wants you to practice in this new time. Number two: Extract the lessons you learned. Extract the lessons that I learned in this past year of restrictions. As restrictions are eased and opportunities are open up around you, before you rush off and start a bunch of new things, here's what God wants you to do. He wants you to pause for a moment and he wants you to consider the lessons that you learned in the last year. Before you start rushing off to resume life in every way, write down the lessons that you learned in the last year of the pandemic so you don't forget them. Write them down so you don't forget them, write them down so you can review them, write them down so you can share them with other generations. Don't let this last year be wasted.

Okay, you went through all that pain. Make sure you take the time to glean some spiritual truths from what you learned and what you experienced this past year. Saint Paul tells us this in Galatians chapter three verses four, he says, "You have experienced many things. Were all those experiences wasted? I hope not". I hope not, and I want to say that as your pastor, I hope you actually learned something out of this last year, otherwise last year was a total waste. Now, if you can't identify, if you can't write down some lessons that you learned this past year in all the trauma we went through, then guess what? That entire year was wasted. It had no value to you.

You know, the message translation of Galatians chapter three says this, Galatians 3:4: "Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing"? Good question. "It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up". In other words, you don't learn anything from it. So as your pastor, as your spiritual coach, here's your homework assignment for this week. I've listed on your outline some starter questions for you to consider thinking through the life lessons that you learned in the last year while all this pandemic was going on. And what I want you to do is this week, get alone by yourself in a quiet place, quiet space, where you're not bothered, and sometime this week, sit down and ask yourself: What did I learn in this past year? Then write down your answers. Okay? In fact, you might want to start a life journal. This would be a good time to start a life journal for the rest of your life. And page number one, the first page could be The Life Lessons I Learned During the Pandemic.

Now, life journals, not a diary. Dear diary, here's what I did today. I'm not interested in what you did and you won't be either. But what you are interested in: what did I learn? What I learned? And here's some questions. Ask these questions. What have I learned about what matters most? Good question. What did I learn about what matters most this last year? What did I learn about what doesn't matter? What have I learned about my weaknesses? What have I learned about my strengths? What have I learned about my relationships this last year? What have I learned about my pace of living, my pace in life? What have I learned this year about God? What did I learn this last year about the world and the culture around me? What are the places that I live? What did I learn about using my time? These are some questions you can ask yourself. What did I learn about money? What did I learn about happiness?

So number, one expect to have mixed emotions as you re-enter, happy and sad and all over the place. Number two, pause before you get really involved and write down the lessons so you don't waste what happened this last year. Here's the third principle that we learned from these five books that are about encouragement after the exile. Resuming life after captivity, we now get to a prophet named Haggai. And he wrote to encourage people too, as they were trying to resume normal life after being in captivity for a period. Here's the third thing: Evaluate everything before resuming it. All right, this is gonna be really important for you to do, for your future. Evaluate everything, reevaluate everything you do before you automatically resume it. Don't just automatically say, well, I'm gonna go back and start doing everything I did before the pandemic. 'Cause there was some stuff you were doing before the pandemic and it's likely that some of those activities you shouldn't restart. And what's happening right now is God is giving you an opportunity to reset your entire life.

Now's the time to do it. To reset your entire life is giving you the opportunity to establish new habits and patterns and to go back and automatically start things that you've you've always done is dumb. And there are actually some things you've always wanted to start doing, but you didn't have time for them because you were doing other things. And there are things that God wants you to stop doing because they were harmful to you. So, as I said, God is giving you an amazing opportunity to reset your life, that's what this series is all about, and build a better life, a better you for the rest of your life. But that begins with evaluating and analyzing and examining what you were doing before the pandemic and then deciding, do I want to keep doing that? Or do I want to restart that? Or do I..? No, no, I don't. I don't miss it.

Now, here's what God said in this third principle through the prophet Haggai. Haggai chapter one verses seven and eight, he says this: "This is what the Lord almighty wants you to do". He's talking to people, who've come out of captivity. "This is what the Lord almighty wants you to do. Take a good, hard look at your life. Think it over," he says. "You've spent a lot of money but you haven't much to show for it. You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. You keep drinking, but you're always thirsty. You put on layers of clothes, but you can't get warm". What's he talking about here? Unfulfillment, the sense of frustration. He goes, you're frustrated because all your needs aren't being met. You're not getting what you want out of life. He says you earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it. He says, I know, God says, I know you're frustrated. You've been frustrated by this last year. And then he says this: So give serious thought to your ways.

Now that is a great advice from Haggai. But actually Haggai is speaking for God. And God is telling you to do this, and to not do it would be disobedient. So one of the principles in getting set up for your future, building a better you on this time to reset your life, God says, you need to admit your frustrations, you need to admit your lack of fulfillment, I know I keep eating, but I'm not satisfied. I keep drinking, but I'm still thirsty. These are metaphors for dissatisfaction. He says, just admit it and ask yourself, why am I so unfulfilled? And if what I was doing before the pandemic was so unfulfilling, why in the world should I start it up again? Just 'cause I got the freedom to do it? Just because I can do it doesn't mean I should do it. Do I just want to restart the rat race? No.

Now again, let me give you a homework assignment, okay? We're getting started here. Instead of making a to-do list this week, I want you to make a don't-do list, okay? Don't make it to-do list this week, make a don't-do list. What are some of the things that I used to do then I'm not gonna restart post pandemic, post COVID? Examine your life, evaluate it before you automatically resume anything. Socrates is famous for saying the unexamined life is not worth living. Now that's not Socrates our worship leader, that's the Socrates the, you know, the poet and the philosopher. Before you get in a hurry to restart something that you used to do before the pandemic, make sure you get all the facts first.

The wisest man who ever lived, his name was Solomon, once said this, Proverbs 19 verse two: "Zeal without knowledge is not a good thing. And a person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way". Now, what's he talking about here? He's saying zeal is not a good thing if it doesn't have knowledge. What zeal? Zeal is enthusiasm. Zeal is passion. Zeal is excitement. Zeal is excitement. He says, before you get all excited about all the restored freedom, ah, we're not restricted anymore! I can go out and do things! Some of the things you're doing, you shouldn't do. He said, some things are not necessarily wrong. They're just not necessary. So he says, evaluate everything before resuming it. This is your chance, again, for a reset.

Now this leads me to the fourth principle. I'm giving seven of them today that are just kind of setting the course for where we're going, building a better you. Here's number four, these post exile prophets say this: Engage slowly, don't get in a hurry, go slow. Don't be in a rush to restart everything all at once just because you have the freedom to do it. Let me just tell you something you may not realize. You don't have the same energy level that you did before this pandemic. You say, how do you know that? Because you've been in a trauma for a year and trauma drains you and like lights attached to a battery, the more lights you attach to it, the quick great drains. Every day this trauma has gone on, you've been being drained. You don't have the same energy level you did before. So be kind to yourself, be kind to others and go slow. Don't try to start everything all at once.

Now, we all know, we've all been eager, we've all been in a hurry for this pandemic to be over. And we've all felt a little impatient. Nut God knows what he's doing. And his timing is perfect. And you know what? God is never in a hurry. We have not an ick single example of scripture where God is in a hurry. We don't have any example of Jesus running anywhere. One time, his best friend Lazarus was dying, who was only half a day away. And it took Jesus three days to get there. Why? God had a better plan. He was gonna resurrect Lazarus, not just heal him. So I'm sure they're thinking, why is it taking him three days to get half a days walk? Because God's timing is perfect. God wants you to trust him. You know, the people who are in a hurry to get everything to go back to the way they imagined it was in the past, the prophet Habakkuk had a word for them.

And let me show you that verse. Habakkuk chapter two, verse three, God says this, "At the appointed time that I have decided everything I've planned will happen," okay? So God not only has a plan, but he has a timetable. And God says this: You can trust what I say about the future, but, he says, it won't happen all at once. If you're taking notes, circle, star, underline, point an arrow to that: You can trust what God says about the future, but, he says, it won't happen all at once. God is not in a hurry. It says it may seem like it's taking a long time. But be patient and keep waiting because the vision will surely, that means certainly, happen. Now, this might be a verse that you want to write out and put on a card and post it on your refrigerator as a reminder to be patient and do engage slowly. As we move back into a post-COVID world, don't try to do all that all at once. Don't get into hurry, go slow on your reentry into the world. You don't have the same energy level you did before.

Now, you know, this is such a common problem that God reminded his people of this principle: going slow, and the principle, I call it the principle of pacing, many, many different times in scripture. In fact, hundreds of years earlier before this 70 year period of captivity, the Israelites were getting ready to possess the promised land after they'd been in captivity for 400 years in Egypt, and they're getting ready to go in and God warned them that the possession of the land was not gonna be instant, and that their progress would be gradual. You hear this? Progress is always gradual. And it will be measured, and progress would be incremental, not instant. There is no switch we can flip where everything's gonna just change and immediately go back to the way it was before the pandemic. There is no such switch. And on top of that, some things you can't go back to. But God has a plan and part of that plan includes a slower timetable than you want and that everybody else wants.

Let me read you the verse, Exodus 23:29 and 30. God told this to the Israelites. He said this, as they're coming out of the captivity of Israel, Egypt, and they're getting ready to go into the promised land. And God says this: I'm not gonna get rid of all your enemies in a single year. You hear that? All your problems aren't gonna be gone in a single year, because the land would then be deserted and unmanaged, and wild animals would multiply quickly beyond your control. So God says, instead, I'm gonna drive out the enemy, all of these problems that are in the land. It's the promised land. I'm gonna give you the whole land. But instead I'm gonna drive them out slowly, little by little, that's pacing growth, little by little, until you have grown strong enough to take full possession of the land.

Now, I want you to notice in that verse that I just read, that God's slower timetable is always for our benefit. You're in a hurry. God is not. God says I'm not gonna get rid of this problem instantly. Instead, I'm gonna remove it gradually, so that you can grow strong enough, notice, to take full possession of all the blessings that I want to give you. Now, you might write that one down. In fact, write this down: In God's sovereign plan, delays are always for our benefit. Write that down. In God's sovereign plan for your life delays are always for your benefit. So go slow. Pacing growth. Don't try, Rome isn't built in a day. Don't try to just flip a switch and say we're gonna go back to the way it was.

Now, we've only covered four of these seven principle's that we learned from God's Word in resuming life after a trauma or a crisis or a period of captivity. But I decided to interrupt by own sermon and stop right here and divide this message into two parts. And the reason that I decided to do this was for a couple reasons. First, at many of our campuses today we're supposed to have very hot weather. And since we're all in meeting outside right now and most of our campuses don't have any shade, I am very sensitive to you discomfort. So that's the first reason. But second reason is that I've already given you two homework assignments to apply what you've learned so far in this message this week. And I gave you those from the second and third principle, and I don't want to overload you in your first week back. So instead I'm gonna share the other three principles of resuming life after a trauma or a crisis or a period of captivity. I'll share that part two after Easter.

So let me wrap it up real quickly with a review. First, God wants you to realize that having mixed emotions after all of the changes this past year is normal and it's natural and it's human and it is to be expected. So, be kind to yourself and be kind to everybody else. You're gonna have often conflict in emotions as you re-enter because so many things have changed. Second, God wants you to pause right now, pause this week and take the time to think through and write down the lessons that you learned this past year during the pandemic, okay? Before you get all involved in everything else. You want to be able to remember those lessons, so you don't have to learn them again. And you want to be able to pass them on to others, including future generations.

The third thing we said is that God wants you to evaluate everything before you resume it, as you move back in to the world. And there are probably some things that you don't need to resume. And I'm gonna explain a little bit more about that in part two of this message. Finally, in the point I just shared, fourth, God wants you to re-engage slowly. So don't be in a hurry to re-start everything suddenly all at once. It's not flipping a switch, it's more like a dimmer turning up. And all the things that you were doing before the pandemic hit, you don't need to start them all back up immediately. In fact, realize that coming out of a very stressful and traumatic year, you don't have the same level of energy. As I said, you don't have that same level of energy as you did before the pandemic. And remember, God's timing is different than yours and God is never in a hurry.

Now, the key to these all four principles, these first four that we've looked at, the key to all of these actions plus the other three that I'm gonna teach you in part two of this message, is this: don't depend on your own willpower to do these things. Rely on God's spirit to give you the insight and the direction and the wisdom and the power to re-enter the world in a healthy way. How do you get that power? Well, it's real simple: from a daily connection with Jesus Christ. If you don't have that, you need to start a daily connection, a daily time with God. If you've never had any connection with Jesus Christ, it would be my honor to lead you in a prayer as we close today. So if you've never opened your life to Christ, follow me in this prayer. And let me introduce you to my best friend, Jesus Christ. I've known him for over 60 years. I walked with the Lord for a long time. So let's bow our heads. Just say something like this:

Dear God, I want to get to know you. Thank you for making me and loving me and thank you for having a purpose for my life. Want to know your purpose for my life. And I want to know be healthy in re-entering the world after this pandemic. So Jesus Christ, as much as I know how I ask you to come into my life and save me, give me your forgiveness and your power and your purpose and your peace in my life. I open myself to you, I humbly ask you to lead me and be my Lord. And I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Are you Human?:*