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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - How to Trust God When You Don't Like the Changes in Your Life

Rick Warren - How to Trust God When You Don't Like the Changes in Your Life

Rick Warren - How to Trust God When You Don't Like the Changes in Your Life

As your pastor, I am deeply concerned, about how you're handling the trauma and the stress of all of the changes that have taken place in your life in the past 18 months. Now, certainly the global pandemic of COVID, changed everything. And we're still not out of the woods. We're still not free from it yet. But there's a lot of other changes going on in the world at the same time. And that's why I started this short series a couple weeks ago, that I'm calling Strategies for Stressful Times. Strategies for Stressful Times. And we're looking at tips and strategies and skills from the scripture, on how do you handle when things aren't good. The first message you remember a couple weeks ago, I did a message called finding the strength to keep going when you're emotionally worn out. Anybody ever felt that way? Emotionally worn out? Yeah.

And then last week, we looked at how do you be happy, no matter what happens, and we talked about how happiness is a choice, it doesn't depend on happenings. You're as happy as you choose to be. If you're unhappy, you can't blame your wife or your husband or anybody else, you're as happy as you choose to be. I know people in much worse situations than us that have chosen to be happy. This week in part three of the Strategies for Stressful Times, I want us to look at how do you trust God, during changes you don't like? How do you trust God for changes you don't like, during those changes? Now, we all know that everything constantly changes. Everything is constantly changing.

In fact, even material objects are actually changing at the molecular level constantly, there're protons and neutrons and electrons that are zipping around in these metal bars, they look like they're solid, they're moving at a molecular level. Now, while we love some changes, and we all do, we love some changes, but there are some changes we just hate. And there are seasons like the one we're in right now, where change is so rapid, and so relentless, that you just get tired of it. And right now we have been hit with so many unwanted changes, that as I talk to people, they're reeling from it, they are literally reeling. And so many people maybe you feel this way, just feel like they're in limbo right now. They're just treading water, because you're unable to get on with your life, unable to get out of what's going on.

And it feels like we can't really get on going because we don't know how long this thing's gonna last. And a lot of people are just overwhelmed. And they're just barely getting by, I care about you if you feel that way. And so today, as I've studied God's word all this week, I wanna give you some very practical guidance from God's Word on how do you trust God, when you're going through changes in your life that you don't like. You'll have plenty of those in life. And what I wanna do, is I wanna give you, I wanna summarize what Scripture says, five things, five truths you need to remember, and five things you need to do, okay? So if you get out your message notes, we'll look at these five things you need to remember when you're going through changes you don't like. And how do you keep trusting God in those situations. So, anytime you're overwhelmed by change, there are five things you need to remember. So write these down.

Number one, this one's kind of obvious, but we need to start with it. Change is unavoidable. Okay, that's the first thing, we all know that, but we just need to be reminded that change is unavoidable. No matter how much you like a change, or how much you dislike a change. No matter how much you like the way things have been. They're not gonna stay the same. Now, when change happens, and it's constant, you can complain or you can grumble or you can get mad or you can blame other people, you can even try to stop the change futilely, because you can't stop change, but things are still gonna keep changing. Every moment of your life, you are changing for good or for bad. Now when God created the earth, way back in the beginning, here's one of the first things He said in Genesis 8:22. "As long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night".

What's He saying? He's saying that everything on this planet is seasonal. Nothing stays the same. We live in a world of opposites, and the world isn't the same the way it used to be, your family isn't the same the way it used to be. Your job isn't the same it used to be, you aren't the same that you used to be, as I said, even inanimate objects like this table, it looks solid, but actually at a molecular level, it's moving constantly on the inside. Many of you know that I drove the same green Ford truck for 20 years. Why, I liked it, okay? I don't buy a car for bling or to show my status, it got me the same way a Rolls Royce would, and it was comfortable. And frankly, I would have driven that 20 year old truck for the rest of the life, but after a quarter of a million miles, it started changing. And it started breaking down and it started falling apart, and I couldn't stand to give it away, so actually, it's parked in my barn, even though I don't drive it anymore.

Now, I've taught this for decades, look there in your outline, I've taught you that there is no growth without change. There is no growth without change, there is no change without loss, there is no loss without grief, and there is no grief without pain. A person who wants to grow and be better, but not go through the pain of change is like a woman saying I wanna have a baby, but I don't want my tummy to get bigger and I don't wanna go through labor. It ain't gonna happen. They don't call it labor for nothing. Any of you ladies wanna testify to that right now? To bring new life into the world requires pain, things change. But remember this, if nothing ever changed, you would have never been born, because you were a change. You wouldn't have even been born. So change is unavoidable. Okay, we got that one down.

Here's number two, this is more important. Change is not always good, but God uses it for good. Change is not always good, but God uses it for good in the lives of those who trust Him. It's not good for everybody, but it is good in the lives of those who trust Him. One of the greatest promises of the Bible, Romans 8:28. "We know," not we're confident, "that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose". Now, as I've said many times that verse does not say, everything is good. There's, a lot of things in the world that are not good, evil is not good. Cancer is not good. Rape, molestation is not good, war, prejudice is not good, a lot of bad things in the world. But the Bible says God specializes in bringing good, even out of bad, He can turn crucifixions into a resurrection. And the way God works all things together for good is kind of like baking a cake.

Now, you may not realize this, but I'm a master cake builder. I know how to bake cakes, because I figured if I wanna eat them, I had to know how to make them. I once made a German chocolate cake from scratch, no box for my wife's birthday. So I know how to make cakes. Now, when you make a cake, the individual ingredients don't taste good at all. In fact, some of them are quite bitter. If you eat flour by itself, doesn't taste good. You eat butter by itself, doesn't taste good. If you eat baking powder by itself, oil by itself, doesn't taste good. Even a little vanilla, raw eggs by themselves, none of the ingredients in the cake taste good by themselves. But if you mix them all together, stir it all up and stir and stir and stir, and then put the heat on it, it's delicious.

Delicious. In your life, there will be elements of your life that are bitter, and unpleasant. And you go, that don't taste good. I don't like that change in my life, I don't like what just happened, I don't like what's happening in the world today. But God takes it all, and He takes even the bad and the bitter. You ever drunk some vanilla by itself, is not very tasty. And He mixes it all up, all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

Now, the most important word in that verse that we just looked at on your outline, Romans 8:28 is the word all. So circle the word all. What does all include? In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him. That means all, it literally means, all, it means every circumstance you face, every choice you make, every consequence you feel, and every change you experience, including all of the changes we've just had in the last 18 months, all work together, for the good of those who love God. You know, some people act as if God was caught off guard by COVID-19. Like God goes, wow, I didn't see that coming. I didn't imagine that world global pandemic ever happening.

And I had no idea what it was gonna do to all my churches. Man, am I in a mess? God is not sweating, this pandemic. The church has outlasted everything for 2000 years, every dictator, every pandemic, every fire, every flood, every revolution, every critic, it's still here, and none of those things are. Now, the difference between whether you're gonna be bitter at the end of this season we're in of rapid change, and relentless change. Are you gonna be bitter, are you gonna be better, the difference is the letter I, the difference between bitter and better is I, I makes the difference, my attitude. So, I need to remember that change is not always good, but God always uses it for good. If I trust Him.

Number three, here's the third thing to remember, God's purpose in every circumstance, every one of them, including the ones we're going through right now is to make me more like Jesus. God's purpose in every change in my life, is to make me more like Jesus. Now, the promise of Romans 8:28 is a wonderful promise, but it doesn't really make sense until you read the next verse, Romans 8:29. So let me read you those two verses together, from the New Living Translation. Here's what it says. "We know," in other words, we're not guessing. "We know that God causes everything," even the bad stuff, even the bad changes, "God causes everything to work together for the good," of everybody, no, "for the good of those who love Him, and are called to His purpose for them. For God knew in advance, who would come to Him," He already knew before you decided to accept Christ that you were gonna accept Him.

"He knew in advance who would come to Him, and He chose them to," circle this, "become like His son, so that His son, Jesus, would be the firstborn in His family, with many brothers and sisters". God doesn't just want you in His family, He wants you to develop the family characteristics of a daughter of God, or a son of God, a child of God, like father, like son. Like father, like daughter. God says, I want you to grow up, and who's the model for maturity? Not you or me, Jesus Christ. And God says, my number one goal in your life is to make you like Jesus Christ. His number one goal is not to make you happy, His number one goal is not to make you comfortable, His number one goal is to not make your life pleasant. Those things are the result of becoming like Christ. This is not heaven, in heaven, there's no sorrow, suffering, sadness, sickness. But on earth, everything's broken.

And so what are we doing here? This is a school in character for the 60 or 80, or 90 or at the most 100 years you get on this planet, you're in school for character. You're not taking your career to heaven, you're not taking your cash to heaven, you're not taking your reputation to heaven, what are you taking to heaven? Only one thing, your character, what you became, the man you became on this earth, you're taking that to heaven. The woman you became on this earth, you're taking that to heaven. So His number one goal, God uses everything for our good, and what is that good? He uses it to build my character. He uses it to make me more like Jesus. So what is Jesus like? The best picture of Jesus in the Bible, is Galatians 2:23-24, 22 and 23. They're called the fruit of the Spirit, nine character qualities. The fruit of the Spirit are love, Jesus is love, joy, Jesus is total joy. Peace, Jesus was always at peace. Patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness meekness, kindness, self-control. These nine qualities are a perfect picture of Jesus.

Now, how does God produce that kind of fruit in you? How does God make you more loving? Are you just walking down the street one day and all of a sudden zap, you're filled with love, and I'm so loving, I love everybody. I'm just the lover of lovers. No, no, no, it doesn't just zap, there's no pill you can take, no seminar you're gonna attend, that's gonna turn you from a hater into a lover, or from a loving person into a really compassionate person. How does God produce love in your life? How does God produce joy in your life? How does God produce peace and patience in your life? Listen very closely, I've told you this before, but I'll tell it to you again, by putting you in the exact opposite situation, where you get a chance to learn and practice that character quality. How does God teach you love? It's real easy to love people like you who are cool.

If God's gonna teach you real love, He's gonna put you around some unlovable people, unlovely people, now, don't look at them right now. Don't hit them in the elbow, with your elbow, be cool. But God puts people around you who get on your nerves to teach you real love, they're heavenly sandpaper. They're roughing down your rough edges. Anybody can love the lovely. How do you learn to love the unlovely, the way Jesus loves you. In spite of all your hang ups and hurts and stuff. How about joy? How does God teach you real joy? In the middle of suffering, in the middle of grief. Joy is not happiness. Anybody can be happy, when you're out at a bonfire at the beach and the sun is setting.

Man, it doesn't get any better than this. Anybody would be happy fly fishing in the mountains. If God's gonna teach you real joy, it'll be in the middle when you're heartbreaking. How about peace? How does God teach you peace? It's easy to be peaceful when everything is going your way, He'll allow chaos in your life, conflict in your life, to teach you inner peace, the peace that passes understanding, which says, there's no reason I should be peaceful now but I am. Patience, how does God teach you patience? The department of motor vehicles. Waiting in line, traffic jams, delayed doctor's appointments and on, anytime you have to wait, God is teaching you the quality of patience, to make you more like Jesus.

I remember a number of years ago when I was going through major problems and I said Lord, I need patience. And instead of it getting better, they got worse. They got worse. And I said Lord, I need more patience, and my problems got worse, and that Lord I need more patience, it got worse. Finally, after six months, I realized, I'm a lot more patient than when I started out. It's easy to be patient when everything goes your way. Have you thought about maybe the last 18 months God has been trying to teach you love for people who are unlovely? Joy in the middle of crisis? Peace in the middle of chaos and uncertainty and transition when you feel like you're in limbo? Patience with people who won't do what you want them to do? And on and on and on. This is a school we're in right now, and God's watching. Change is not always good, but God uses it for good, and the purpose is to always make me more like Jesus.

All right. Now here's the fourth thing you need to remember. Write this down. God can use even human error and sin. God can use even human error and sin. I'm talking about, when you were the innocent victim of somebody else's bad decision. My family isn't what it used to be, because my husband broke it up and left me or my wife left me, whatever. God can use even human error and the sins of other people, not even just my own, for the good in my, He can bring good in my life, in His plan to grow your character and make you like Jesus. Do you remember the story of Joseph? Remember the story of Joseph, how his brothers were jealous because he was the favorite son. And so his brothers sold Joseph into slavery. And he's taken to Egypt, and for the first 40 years of his life, everything goes wrong. He's falsely accused of rape, he's sold into slavery, he's thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit. And sitting in a foreign jail 40 years later, he's going, nothing has gone right in my life so far.

First 40 years, his whole life's downhill. But God had put Joseph exactly where He wanted him to be. And a series of God circumstances, Joseph is raised up to become the second most powerful leader in the most powerful nation in the world at that time, which is Egypt, in the age of the pyramids. And when Joseph later, and he actually saves two countries from famine, he saves Egypt, and he saves Israel from famine, because of his wisdom. But it didn't look like things were going good in his life for a long, long time. One day though, he finally has his brothers come to meet him, and he confronts his brothers, the guys who had sold him into slavery, in the first 40 years of nothing going right in his life. And what was Joseph's attitude? He treats them with grace, not bitterness. Why? Well, Genesis 50 tells us his perspective, that God can use even human error and sin for good.

And Joseph says in Genesis 50:20, "You," talking to his brothers, "you intended to harm me, but God," that's the most important thing, "but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives". Two entire nations were saved. So out of the sin of his brothers, two nations got saved, from famine and destruction. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good". Friends, I'll be honest with you, there are people in your life who intend bad. You will face people in your life, people who resent you at work, they're in competition with you, they're critical of you, they don't like you, or whatever. They intend to hurt you, they intend it for bad, but God intends it for good. And so God can even use human error and sin in all the circumstances of life.

You know, here at Saddleback, we all know the story of how God brought good even out of Danny Duchene's life in prison. How he went to prison for a double murder, and was spending all his years in prison, was in there nearly 30 years. But he came to know the Lord and He lived for God, and I called up the governor and asked for commutation, I said I need him on our staff to run our prisons ministry and he wasn't, today Danny is a pastor of Saddleback, and ministers to prisoners all over America. That's grace. That's grace. And that's the kind of church we are, it doesn't matter what your background is, I don't care what you've done, how badly you've done it, or who you did it with, or how long you did it, what matters is the direction of your feet today. That's all that matters, all right?

Now, here's the fifth truth, that you need to remember, when we're going through changes we don't like, it's unavoidable, but God uses it for good, and He wants to make me like Christ. And even He can use the bad things that other people do in my life, that spread the problems to me that I didn't ask for. Number five, every change is always a test of my faith. Write that down. Every change in your life is always a test of your faith. 1 Peter 1:7 says this, "The purpose of these troubles" you know the ones you're in right now, the ones we've been facing for 18 months, "The purpose of these troubles is to test your faith," circle that, "as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise and glory and honor to God".

Now, I've told you before, that having faith during a time of change, major change, like we're going through these days, these ugly days that we're going through. When it's rapid, and it's relentless, having faith during a time of change is like a trapeze act, and a trapeze artist. You've all seen it in the circus and stuff, trapeze artist swings out on one bar, the other one comes from the other direction and at one point they let go this bar and then grab onto that one and swing across to the other side. At some point in, that trapeze artist, you have to let go of this one, in order to jump over and grab the other one, at that point you're hanging suspended in space with nothing holding you up. That is the moment of faith in your life. But when you grab onto that, it'll take you to the other side.

If you don't take that risk, if you don't step out in faith, you'll get out there, and you go, I'm afraid to do that, then you swing back here and you swing back here, swing back here, swing back here, and pretty soon, you're dead center, and there's only one way out, straight down. You gotta let it go. You gotta stop wishing for the good old days, they're not coming back. Besides that, the good old days weren't as good as you think they were. There were problems then too, and pressures, and struggles then too. Now, before we look at what God says to do, and we're gonna look at that now, in a time of change, I want you to consider how these five truths apply to your life, okay? So let's look at them again. Number one, change is unavoidable. Are you gonna just stop complaining and griping and going, I wish it were like 18 months ago, or whenever your golden days were, they're not coming back, it's unavoidable, and you're just gonna make yourself miserable, looking in the past, it's like, looking in the past, like trying to drive, looking in the rear-view mirror, you're gonna crash.

But you need to remember, you say, God, I believe you're gonna use all of this, even the stuff I don't like, the changes I don't like, you're gonna use it for good in my life. Okay. And I know that you wanna work on my character, you're more interested in my character than my comfort, so make me like Christ, help me be more patient, help me be more loving, help me be more at peace, help me be more faithful, help me to have more self-control, all those nine qualities. And then the people who've hurt you, or how society has hurt you, over the past, you just gotta go, okay, they intended it for bad, but God can use it for good in my life. And then to realize that everything in my life that happens, every change is a test of faith. Write these down, number one, how do I trust in God, when I'm stressed by changes I don't like, number one, invest more time alone with God. Invest more time, you personally, alone with God.

Now listen, the greater the changes that are happening in your life, the more you need time alone with God. You need to make a specific time each day that you sit down, we call this a quiet time, and you sit down and you're just quiet and you don't turn on the TV or the radio, and you read a little bit of the Bible and you talk to God in prayer and you sit there and you be quiet, and go, God is there anything you wanna say to me? It's just a timeout. Your quiet time, during times of rapid change is the greatest stabilizer in your life. It'll give you stability. It's also the greatest re-energizer in your life when you're worn out, it'll give you more energy.

Now, have you noticed over the last 18 months, that you don't have as much energy as you did before the pandemic started. You don't. Nobody here has the same level of energy as you had two years ago. Why? Because that's what rapid and chronic stress and change and trauma does to you, it saps your energy, it drains your strength. So if you get up in the morning, and you go, I had a good night sleep, and two hours into the day, you're going, man, I'm worn out. Welcome to the club. Welcome to the human race, that's normal, it's natural, when you've been under 18 months of chronic change, it's prolonged stress. And so fatigue, the fatigue that you're feeling these days, it's natural, it's normal under prolonged stress, and you're just trying to get by and in many ways you're just treading water. And this has nothing to do with your age. Because whether you're old or you're young, both young and old, are feeling this way, drained and destabilized and out of energy.

What's the antidote? Isaiah 40 in the Bible, it's there on your outline verses 28 and following, "Don't you know, Don't you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, and He created everything on this earth"? And in the universe too, that would have taken a lot of energy, but it says this, "And He never grows tired or weary". That's why when you spend time with the God who never gets tired or weary, you get re-energized and you get re-stabilized. "He never grows tired or weary," you're tired and weary. "Instead He gives strength to those who are weary," that's you, "and worn out," that's you. "And He gives power to the weak," that's you. "Even young people become exhausted and want to give up. But those who trust and wait on the Lord will find new strength, flying high like eagles. They'll run and not grow weary, and they'll keep going, and they'll not faint".

Now, here's the point, I'll just say real quick, we'll move on. When you're stressed by major change, don't seek a quick fix in a drink, or a drug, or TV or sex or you name it, whatever you do, don't look for an escape, don't look for a shortcut, and certainly don't try to fight a change that you can't possibly control. Instead, seek the Lord, and do it on a daily basis, invest more time, the more change you have in your life, the more you need quiet time every day alone with God. If that's all you get from this weekend, it'll help.

Now, when you're having that quiet time with the Lord, you do the second thing, number two, ask God to help me see His perspective. Write that down, ask God to help me see His perspective. If you can begin to see all the changes going on in society, in the world, in your life, in your career, in your family, whatever, if you can see all those changes from God's point of view, you're gonna feel a whole lot better, and you're gonna be a whole lot less stressed. Now, this is so important, everybody look up here for a second. What I'm talking about is the difference between seeing everything that's going on in the world, all the current events, and seeing how God is working behind the scenes, using it the way He wants to.

Big difference between these two. Seeing what's happening and seeing why it's happening. This is the difference between having knowledge, and having perspective, is the difference between having information about everything that's happened in the world and having wisdom. You don't need any more information. Today, we are overwhelmed with information, we have an information glut, there are unlimited channels, literally millions of places now you can get information on what's happening in the world. You can find out what's going on. You don't need more information, what you need is more understanding. You need more discernment, you need more perspective, you need more wisdom.

Anybody can be informed today, I want you, people of Saddleback Church, I want you to be better than people out there. How? Everybody is informed, but I want you to be wise. And only wise people seek God's perspective on the events that are happening in the world. Now, in the Bible, this is the difference between Moses and the children of Israel. Moses, probably one of the greatest leaders who ever lived in history. And during the Exodus, he led about a million people out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, across the desert to the new Promised Land, which became Israel. And during the Exodus, everybody could see what was going on. They could see the current events, they could see how God was acting, they could see like those 10 plagues in Israel, when the river turns red like blood, and they can see the parting of the Red Sea, and they can see, when they're in the middle of the desert, and they need water and Moses strikes a rock and a waterfall comes out and saves everybody and they saw all of what was happening, they could see what's going on.

Anybody can see what's going on in the world right now, but only Moses understood God's reasons, God's perspective. Only Moses had understanding and discernment, only Moses knew the ways of God. Look at this next verse. Psalm 103:7 says this, "God let the people of Israel see His mighty actions". That's all the current event. "But He revealed His ways to Moses". Now friends, as your pastor who loves you, I want you more than anything else, I want you to understand the ways of God. You can get current events and current information from any media source, but that doesn't make you better than anybody else. Just seeing what's going on in the world. We have tons of information and tons of news, and yet we're still so unwise. And my deepest desire for you, my friends, is that you will handle this COVID pandemic, not just with knowledge, but with wisdom, and with God's perspective, and with true understanding, so that you will be a woman of wisdom, or you will be a man of wisdom, you'll be a wise man or a wise woman.

That's really what I want for you. It sets you above others who just know what's going on, but you know why it's going on. Where does that wisdom come from? Well, you don't get it from the news. You don't get it from Talk Radio, you'll get no wisdom from Talk Radio, or the social media or any of that, none. You get knowledge, but you don't get wisdom and discernment, you don't get understanding and perspective. Where do you get that? Two sources, write these down, number one, first word, is just two words, ask God. Write that down, ask God, you ask God for wisdom. When was the last time you said, God make me a wise woman? Make me a wise man? You have not because you ask not. The Bible says in James 1:5, "If you need wisdom, just ask God for it. God is generous and He'll gladly tell you what you need". You have not because you ask not.

So you say, God, make me wise, and then the second thing, this is what you do, is you learn from this book, from God's Word. You learn from God's Word, and from those who teach it. Many of you maybe have never seen this verse in the Bible, it's from the book of 2 Peter 1:19, it says this, here on the screen, "We have greater confidence in the message of the prophets," now hang on there, what's the message of the prophets? It's the Bible. It's this book. God inspired holy men over a period of 2500 years, to write down what God wanted written down, these are called prophets, and we got this book called the Bible, the Old and the New Testament in this book. So when it talks about the message of prophets, it's just talking about the Bible, "We have confidence in the message of the Bible. Pay close attention," circle that, "pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a light shining in a dark place".

Culture's getting darker and darker. We don't know how dark it's gonna get. You know I started to call this message, how to trust God when life sucks, but I just figured that might not be clear enough. And the world is getting darker in many ways, things are getting worse in many ways. How in the world do you cope with that kind of situation? Pay close attention to what they wrote for their words are like light in a dark place. Pay close attention. So let me just ask you as your friend, friend to friend. What are you paying the most attention to these days? What are you paying the most attention to these days? The media? Social media? Talk Radio? Or God's Word? This will always tell you the truth, you can't rely on anything else.

And here's the third thing you do. Number three, you invest time alone with God every day, you ask God, help me see life from your perspective. Number three, instead of asking, why is this happening? Ask, what do you want me to learn? Very important question. We don't know how long the pandemic's gonna last. It keeps flaring back up again with different variants. Don't worry about the circumstances, worry about your character, focus on your character, not the changes in your circumstance that you can't change. Instead of asking, why is this happening? Ask God, what do you want me to learn? Look at this verse up here on the screen. In the book of Romans 5:3-4, it says this, "We can rejoice, even in our troubles and struggles," troubles and struggles, troubles and struggles, that sound familiar? Yeah, the last 18 months have been troubles and struggles, troubles and struggles. "We can rejoice even in our troubles and struggles, because we know they help us learn endurance. They teach us endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character creates hope".

Now, leave that verse on the screen for just a minute, because I want you to notice two things about this verse. First, it says, life is a struggle. Everybody agree with that one? Life's tough. Life is not easy, life is a struggle. That's one of the first things you learn. We shouldn't expect any less, this is not heaven, in heaven there's no sorrow, sadness, sickness, suffering. On earth, everything's broken, life is a struggle and you are in a school of character, and God is testing you and strengthening your character and there's stuff He wants you to learn. And you need to just start asking, what do you want me to learn through this? Through this change in my life? I don't like this change, what do you want me to learn from it? Life's a struggle.

By the way, have you ever wondered why the struggle in life is so relentless? Ever once thought about that? Why is life so hard? Why is it such a struggle? Here's the reason. Because God wants to change us and we don't wanna change. That's the struggle. God wants to change us, and we don't wanna change. And so it gets a whole lot harder than it should be. The second thing on that verse I want you to notice, "We can rejoice even in our troubles, know that it creates endurance, endurance creates character and character creates hope". If you develop character, you become a man of character, you become a woman of character, you're gonna have more hope. You're gonna be more hopeful when you look at society, when you look at the future, when you look at, not optimism, that's different, that's a whole nother sermon, but you will be more hopeful.

If you develop character, you're gonna be full of hope. If you just complain about how life is tough, you're gonna be full of doubt and unhappiness. Wise, mature people are full of hope. Wise, mature people are full of hope. Unwise, immature people are scared and bitter. And they're all around you, and they're angry at everybody else in the world too. So you gotta decide, do I wanna be wise and mature and have hope, or do I wanna be unwise and immature and be angry and bitter and doubtful? You guys, I love you. And is because I love you, I want all of us to eventually get to Paul, St. Paul's level of spiritual maturity. I'm not there yet, you're not there yet. What is Paul's level of spiritual maturity?

The next verse, Philippians 4:12-13. "I've learned," circle the word learned, because this is something you learn, remember we're talking about ask God, what do you want me to learn, not, why is all this stuff happening? "I've learned," what do you want me to learn? "The secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I'm content, anywhere, anytime I'm content, whether I'm full or hungry, or whether I have too much or too little, I have the strength to face all conditions by the power of Christ, that Christ gives me". I've learned this, this is not natural. You're not naturally content, I'm not naturally a contented person. How do you learn contentment when everything, change is relentless and rapid? You gotta learn it. You gotta learn it and say God, help me to learn what you want me to learn.

Let me ask you an honest question. What are you learning about yourself these days? I'm not talking about the world, what are you learning about the world? In the last 18 months, what have you learned about you? About you? What do you know about your strengths that you didn't know? What do you know about your weaknesses that you didn't know? What have you learned about you? I want you to write this sentence down, everybody, please write this down. Every situation is an education. Every situation is an education. Everything that happens to you in life, every change, you'll either get better or bitter, you're gonna grow or you're not gonna grow. Every situation is an education. There is nothing that happens in your life that you can't learn from, doesn't matter if it's a big thing, big change, or little thing, little change, every situation is an education.

All right, number fourth, fourth thing you need to do, to trust God when everything's just blown out of, out of the saddle. Focus on what never changes. This is the fourth practical suggestion from God's Word, focus on what never changes. Because there are many things in life that are never, never, never, never, gonna change. And when you're going through a period of great change, you wanna let those unchangeable things be your anchor. What's anchoring you right now? For the last 18 months, what's been your anchor? Somebody goes, I don't have an anchor. And that's why you're drifting around in the storm. What anchors you are the things that never change in life, the unchangeables.

Now, I can give you a whole list of stuff that's never gonna change, but let me just give you three. God's love for you is never gonna change, God's truth, the truth of God's Word is never gonna change. If He says it's right, it'll always be right, if He says it's wrong, it'll always be wrong, you don't take a vote on it. And God's plan and purpose for your life will never change. Nothing can change that. No, other people can't change it, the devil can't change it, society can't change God's plan and purpose for your life.

So you anchor your life in the things that are never gonna change. Look at these three verses, Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love". Nothing's ever gonna change that. God will never, never, never stop loving you. You can't make God stop loving you, you can try, but you'll fail. Because His love isn't based on what you do, it's based on who He is. Isaiah 40:8, "The Word of God shall stand forever". Stop paying attention to stuff that changes, opinions change, the truth never changes. Pay more attention to this. Psalm 33:11, "His plans endure forever, and His purposes last eternally".

Now, friends, I wanna tell you something, as somebody who loves you. And you can bank on this. God, no matter what's going on in the world, and society and culture everywhere today, you can bank on this, God will have the last word and it'll be good. God will have the last word and it will be good. So what are you scared of? What's got you so uptight? Why are you so frightened? This is a chapter, but it's not the whole story. We're going through a chapter right now that does suck, it's not good. Nobody likes what we're going through right now. Our church, we've got these giant plans that are on hold right now, I haven't even told you, the cool things we're getting ready to do. But they're just on hold, because we're in limbo right now. But God will have the last word and it will be good.

Number five, here's the fifth thing you do. When change is relentless and rapid, keep telling God, and I'm saying this, say it verbally to God every day, I trust you no matter what. Keep telling God, I trust you, no matter what. If you do this, you're gonna be a lot more at peace, regardless of how long this pandemic lasts, what I want you, what I want our church family to be, as I said, is better than others in the world. I want you to be a righteous person. What's a righteous person? Look at this verse, Psalm 112:7, "The righteous man or woman does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what might happen. For he or she is settled in his mind that God will take care of him".

That's a righteous person. God, I trust you no matter what happens. I will trust you, no matter what. I can't tell you the number of times, thousands of times in my life, I've had to say that, when facing a problem, a difficulty or change I didn't like, I trust you no matter what happens. I remember when Kay was going through cancer treatments. And I thought I was losing her, and I thought, I'm gonna lose the love of my life. And I had to say over and over, Father, I trust you, no matter what happens, and I will serve you no matter what happens, even if I lose my wife.

And when our youngest son Matthew lost his 27 year battle with mental illness and depression and took his life, which was the worst day of my life. And we're standing on the driveway of his home waiting for the police to come break the door down and carry my son out in a body bag, the worst day of my life. I had to say, I will trust you, no matter what. Doesn't mean I understand it, it just means I will trust you, no matter what. Any time things seem to be falling apart in your life, this is the thing you need to say, I will trust you no matter what.

Now, I don't know what's going on in your life personally, I know what's happening in society, I know all the stress that we're all feeling from all the massive changes around us in society, but right now you may feel under attack from every angle. And so I end with Psalm 27:3 that says this, "Even if a whole army surrounds me, I will not be afraid. And even if enemies attack me on all sides, I will still trust God". That's what you need to do. Let's bow our heads for prayer. I wanna pray a prayer right now, and I invite you to pray this prayer in your heart, you're not to say it a loud. God brought you here today, 1000 years before you were born, He knew you'd be here today, at the end of August, so He could say this to you. So you talk back to Him now. Say this, say, "dear God", just say that in your mind:

Dear God, I realize that change is unavoidable. And there's no growth without change, and it can be painful. And Lord, I realize that you can use even bad things in my life for good. Change is not always good, but you can use it for good. And I realize today that you want me to grow in character. You wanna make me more like Jesus, more loving, more joyful, more patient, more at peace, more in self-control. And God, I wanna thank you that you can use even human error and sin for good in my life, and what other people have done against me, and I was innocent, and they hurt me. They intended to harm me, but you intended it for good. You have a bigger plan and purpose for my life than the pain I've gone through. Help me to remember that every change is always a test of faith.

And, Lord, I wanna take these simple steps, to be more stable and to be re-energized. Help me to invest more time alone with you. I wanna commit to spending time alone with you every day. Read a little bit of your Word, talk to you in prayer, listen, be quiet, say what do you want me to do. Help me to see your perspective. I don't wanna just know current events, I wanna know the ways of God. So I'm asking for wisdom. You said just ask for it, I'm asking, make me a wise person. And help me to remember that instead of going, why is all this stuff happening? To instead ask, what do you want me to learn? I wanna learn like Paul to be content in every situation. Help me to focus on what never changes.

Thank you that you'll never stop loving me. Thank you that your word will always tell me the truth about life and myself. Thank you that your plans and purpose for my life cannot be changed by anybody else. And Lord, from here on out, and no matter how long this pandemic lasts, I'm gonna keep saying to you, I trust you no matter what. And even if I feel like I'm being attacked from every side, I will still trust God. If you've never initially said to Jesus Christ, I trust you, say that Jesus Christ, come into my life, I wanna trust you. I just don't wanna know about you, I wanna have a relationship with you. So I humbly ask you to be the manager of my life. In your name I pray. Amen.

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