Skip Heitzig - Facing Darkness with Grace
Good morning. Would you turn in your Bibles to the book of 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians, pretty easy to find. It's right after 1 Corinthians. Very good. So turn to 2 Corinthians, chapter 12. There was a ship out at sea in a storm, and the ship sank to the bottom of the ocean. One man escaped. He made it to an uninhabited island. He just had a few belongings. He built a hut on that uninhabited island to protect himself and the few belongings that he had. Every morning, he would wake up and scan the horizon for ships. Every afternoon, he did the same. He never saw a ship come by. One evening, when he was coming back to his hut after foraging for food, he finds his hut enveloped in flames. Evidently lightning struck it in a storm. And everything that he had built and everything he owned was burned up. He was pretty devastated.
He spent the night in the open that evening on the beach. But when he woke up, there was a ship that was docked at the shore. Down came the captain and the captain said to him, "We saw your smoke signal. And so we came." Now think about that. Everything he owned had to be lost before he could be rescued. God allows bad things to happen to good people. Now it's sort of an oxymoron to say that because the Bible says, there is none good, no not one. Maybe it would be more accurate to say God allows bad things to happen to God's people, or to decent people, innocent people, people who didn't provoke anything or ask for any hardship. Those things can happen.
This happens to be one of the biggest impediments to the Christian faith. You've had the experience of sharing your faith with unbelievers only to have them say, how could a God of love allow disease and famine and war and the evil that happens? It's difficult for people to grasp a loving God in the midst of a suffering world. I mean, if only bad things happened to bad people and that's it but not good people, godly people, righteous people, we could get that. In fact, that might be an incentive for some people to believe, they would say.
Now enter Paul the apostle, a good, godly, righteous man, courageous, bold, faithful, truthful, honest. He planted churches. He taught Scripture. He preached Christ. He took collections up for poor people. And yet, God allowed him to suffer. He refers to it here. He calls it his thorn in the flesh, some painful experience that he had. And you should know this, Paul had the expectation that God would remove that difficulty in his life. Because he even says here, he prayed three times that God would do that. But God did not do that.
Now think about your own dark experiences. The darkroom, the dark times, the difficult experiences, challenge your view of God because you don't expect those times. You might not articulate it that way, but it's an affront to your experience with God. We want God to heal. We want God to cure. We want God to soothe. We want God to remove the difficulty. And sometimes, He does that. It's awesome when He does that. Sometimes He does not do that. And when He does not do that, then what do we do? How are we to think? How are we to process that? Where are we to go? What are we to learn?
Well, that takes us to 2 Corinthians 12. But I want to go back to what we did the very first study in Darkroom. I kind of pulled out some positives and negatives. So, I have a print. This is a print. And this is what the print came from. This is the positive, this is the negative. The positive, the print, is what we expect to see. We look at it and we go, that's familiar to me. The dark places are where they should be. The light places are where they should be. And when we look at photographs, positives, prints, from your own history, your own family, they bring, they evoke, some good feelings, usually. If you look at yourself, oh I like my, I looked pretty good back then. Or, man, I don't like that picture of me. Whatever it is, it draws you back to a reference point. But it's what you expect to see.
When you look at a negative, it's the exact opposite of reality. The light places are dark. The dark places are light. It's not what you expect to see. But then there's this, a book, a manual on photography. This explains the process. This gives examples of the process. This shows you how negatives become positives. So it's very helpful to understand. Now think about your life. Your life is the print. God imprints His image in your life. You are in the image of God. Some of your life is filled with positive experiences. And when they happen to you, how God moves powerfully and gives you things and blesses your life, it's what you expect to see. It's good.
But also your life has negatives that happen to it. And when negative experiences happen to your life, it's not what you expect. It's certainly not what you signed up for, what you want. But, then there's this, the manual, filled with examples and instruction about how negatives get turned to positives, over and over and over again, whether it's with Joseph, or with Moses, or with David, or with Daniel, or now with Paul. It's basically the same story, isn't it? How all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. So we have negatives, positives, but we have God's directives.
I'm going to show you that in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12. What I want to show you is three observations that are true in God developing the life of any of His children and all of His children. Though this is an experience unique to Paul, his thorn in the flesh experience, the ministry of the thorn, it's also true for every child of God. So it's a pretty basic and simple outline today. It's this, God blesses us with positives. God balances us with negatives. And God benefits us with directives. I'll explain all of those. They're pretty straightforward. But let's begin with the positive experience. In verse 1, Paul says, "It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord."
Now, I'm not going to give you all the background of this epistle. Wednesday night, if you want to go in depth, we're going in depth, and you can get the background. Paul here is defending his apostleship for a number of reasons. But he says, "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord." Now watch what he does here. "I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know," whether it was an actual experience, or whether it was just a vision, "God knows, such a one was caught up into the third heaven. I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows, how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities."
Now this is sort of an obtuse, obscure, mysterious-sounding text. Paul is actually talking about himself, his own experiences. Almost every scholar agrees with that statement. Paul is talking about himself but in the third person. It was a typical rabbinical way of being autobiographical is to use the third person, sort of a humble thing. I'm not going to talk directly. I'm going to talk about myself but as if I'm talking about somebody else. It's pretty clear that Paul is referring to an experience he had. If you look at verse 5 and verse 7, he bears that out. He says, I'm talking about me. These are experiences that I, myself, have had.
But what I want you to notice is how he introduces this little section by, in verse 1, "I will come to visions and revelations." These are positive experiences. Paul the apostle had visions and revelations. He had God actually talk to him verbally and saw visions for direction, something that you and I don't have a lot of. He had a lot of them. He was no lightweight. He had supernatural visions. The first one is on the road to Damascus. In Acts chapter 9, he gets knocked off his horse. It's a vision of the glorified Christ. And it's his conversion experience. In Acts chapter 16, Paul is on the beach at Troas not knowing where to go. He gets a vision from a man from Macedonia, remember that, saying come over to Macedonia and help us. So he wakes up the next day, says, God wants us to go to Macedonia. I got a vision.
Well, that continues in the 18th chapter of the book of Acts. He is in Corinth. He faces opposition. It's hard. That night, he gets a vision. The Lord says to him, do not be afraid, Paul. Keep on speaking. Do not hold back, for I have many people in this city. That encourages him to go on. A few chapters later, he's in Jerusalem. He gets arrested there. And the Lord appears to him and says, "be of good cheer, Paul. As you have testified of Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify of me in Rome." So he becomes a prisoner for the next two years in Caesarea. Eventually, they ship him off to Rome on a boat. A storm ensues. It looks like the boat's going down. The angel appears to Paul in a vision and says, "do not be afraid, Paul. You must be brought before Caesar. So you're not going to die on this boat ride. And indeed, God has granted you all and all those who sail with you your lives."
So, all of that to say, Paul gets vision after vision after vision after revelation after revelation. His life is stacked full of direct revelations from God. Now, to top it all off, is this, and this is where he is caught up, whisked up into the third heaven, something that he says happened 14 years earlier, where he saw heaven, and he heard heaven. All of these are positive experiences, wouldn't you say? Direct revelations from God, being taken to heaven, pretty positive.
I want you to look at verse 4, how he was caught up into Paradise, and he heard "inexpressible words which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Now I'm a little mad at Paul for this because he gets taken to heaven. He sees and hears things that you and I won't see until we get to heaven. He saw them before he went permanently to heaven. And he just says, oh by the way, I went to heaven, and it was cool. But I can't tell you about it. Give us something! Nah, it would be a crime for me to use human language. It can't be articulated in human words.
Well, we understand that. I mean, how do you explain the inexplicable? How do you describe the indescribable? Sometimes, you have a feeling. It could be love of another person. You really can't articulate it in words, the feeling that you have, the experience that you have. It would sort of be like trying to explain to a four-year-old that he's really going to enjoy his honeymoon. Good luck with that! Vance Havner wrote, "There are lots of questions the Bible doesn't answer about the hereafter. One reason can be illustrated by a boy sitting down to a bowl of spinach when there's a chocolate cake at the end of the table. He's going to have a rough time eating that spinach when his eyes are on the cake."
Paul says, before I tell you about my spinach, let me tell you, I tasted the cake. I saw the cake. I tasted the cake. I just can't tell you about it. It's be a crime to do so. But he said, "I was caught up into the third heaven." Now, what does that mean? The Bible describes heaven in three ways, actually three different heavens. Heaven number one is the terrestrial heaven, the heaven around the earth where birds fly. It's, we now know, 62 miles deep before you get into outer space. The Bible says, in several places, it talks about the rain that comes down from heaven or the birds of the heaven. That's the terrestrial heaven. That's the first heaven.
The second heaven, we would call the celestial heaven. After the atmosphere comes space, outer space, the final frontier, as Captain Kirk would say, where the planets are and sun and the moon reside. The Bible says "The heavens declare the glory of God." Then there's this heaven, the third heaven, the heaven where God's glory dwells in its fullness. And that's the heaven Paul said he went to. So, a jet pilot can take you through the first heaven. An astronaut can take you to the second heaven. Only Jesus can take you to the third heaven. So he said, "I was caught up to the third heaven," in verse 4, "caught up into Paradise."
I've always loved the story about the Russian cosmonaut in the 1960s. Gherman Titov, the Russian cosmonaut, was the second man in history to orbit the earth. And he stood up in front of a crowd after he got back to Earth, and he was an atheist, and he kind of boasted in that. And he said, you know, I have been up to heaven. I've been up to the skies. And I looked around and I didn't see God. And people say, God created and God did this. Well, I circled the earth and was in outer space, and I never saw God. Well somebody in the audience whispered to his friend, if he'd had gotten out of his spacesuit he would have!
Now look at verse 4. In verse 4, Paul calls the third heaven by another term, Paradise. Oh, by the way, caught up means to be seized immediately. It's the word "harpazo" if you know your Scriptures. In 1 Thessalonians 4, it's the same word as the rapture. It is to be instantly taken up or whisked up. "I was caught up 'harpazo' into Paradise." Jesus used that word in Revelation 2 describe heaven where He said "where the tree of life is in the Paradise of God."
The word paradise literally means a walled garden. And the walled garden is where Persian kings would spend a lot of their time. In fact, it was the highest honor to be invited into the paradise, the walled garden, of a Persian King for a time of respite and fellowship, to walk together. If you wanted to be honored immensely, the king would invite you into that paradise. So Paul is saying I had the honor of being raptured, whisked away, by the King into His paradise of heaven.
What's fascinating to me is that most people who had an experience like Paul would tell everybody about it, like immediately. They would write books. They'd want to make movies about it. They'd want to go on talk shows. "My experience with heaven, I saw the bright light." They'd make money off of it. We don't hear about Paul's till 14 years later. Oh, by the way, I know a guy went to heaven. That's me. What? Yeah, I heard things. What was it like? I can't tell you. So he just sort of drops this on his audience. And the reason he has kept it secret, he said, is because it's not to be a source of pride. God used this to humble me.
So, that's the first observation. God blesses us with positive, vision, revelation. Vision, revelation, and heaven. Can you imagine Paul in a room talking to a bunch of dignitaries? Like today, one of them says, you know, I've been to the White House many times. Somebody else said, well I've been to Buckingham Palace, met the Queen. We're friends. And then there's an astronaut who says, I've been to the moon. And then there's Paul. Where have you been Paul? Heaven. Yeah, God took me there. Oh, was that the time God spoke to me or God, you know, I mean, he had so many of these things.
So, let's continue and look at the second observation. That is, God balances us with negatives. Verse 7, "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me." Buffet means to pound or to rough up. "Lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me."
Now let's begin with this thorn in the flesh. What is that? What is he speaking about? He said, I had a thorn in the flesh. Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret, nobody knows. There's a lot of guesses. I've read a lot of different guesses, but Paul doesn't describe what it is. He just says, I've had a thorn in the flesh.
But I want to drill down a little bit on that. I looked at several different commentaries over the years, and I've sort of written down all the different guesses people have had. Here's a list. Some say it was a constant temptation. Others say it was ophthalmia. Others say it was epilepsy. Somebody else says migraines. Somebody else writes, probably malaria. Somebody else says a speech disability. Somebody else, gallstones, another commentator, gout, another commentator, rheumatism, somebody else, an intestinal disorder. So take your pick. Or maybe even none of those because we're not told.
One Scottish commentator said, the thorn in the flesh was Paul's wife. No evidence at all of that. And I'm thinking the guy who wrote that probably has a bad marriage going on, trouble at home. So what is a thorn in the flesh? When you hear the term "thorn," you think of a rose bush. Your mind goes to picking up a flower, ouch! I just got a thorn in my flesh. Or picking up a piece of wood, a little splinter, I just got a thorn in my flesh. That would not be accurate.
It happens to be poorly translated "thorn in the flesh." The Greek word is "skolops" and the phrase is "skolops te sarki" which means a "stake in the flesh...", a stake like an impaling rod. It was what was used in battles to impale somebody. Or it was used to drive a shaft into the ground to hold up a tree. That's a stake, S-T-A-K-E. So a stake in the flesh. So don't think of a little thorn or a splinter. Paul is referring to some severe nagging physical affliction.
OK, so I read you everybody's guesses. I'm going to give you my guess. I could be totally off base, but here's my guess. I tend to think the thorn in Paul's flesh had to do with his eyes. Because he says this happened 14 years ago. 14 years back from when he wrote 2 Corinthians places him in his missionary journey when he goes through Lystra and Derby. And during that time we are told in Acts chapter 14 that when Paul preached in Lystra, they dragged him outside the city and stoned him. And they thought he was dead. He eventually gets up from that, goes back into the town, and leaves. It could be that after being stoned like that, pummeled with stones, that he suffered something from that, probably a lingering damage that affected his eyes.
Now the reason I say that, and it's just a guess, is because we know that Paul usually dictated his letters. But often at the end of his letters, he would sign it or write a couple of words in his own handwriting. In Galatians, he ends the letter by saying, "See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand." Why large letters? So he could see them. Furthermore, in Galatians, he says, you know that because of a physical infirmity I preach the gospel to you, and if possible you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. So it could be that Paul had some ongoing repercussions of that stoning that took place that affected his eyesight that he would write that to the Galatians.
Whatever it is, don't know, only a guess, what's more important is, notice what it says, "...a thorn was given to me." Now, that's very important. It's, in the Greek language in the aorist, passive, and it means it would be translated "God allowed this" or "God gave this to me." I was passive in this. I didn't ask for it. It was a gift given to me by God. But the fact that he says "a thorn was given to me, a messenger of Satan." I know, some of you are going, God would never do that. God would never allow Satan, really? Have you read the book of Job? That whole conversation between God and the devil? God said, have you seen My servant Job? There's nobody like him. Satan said, really? I can make him deny his faith. Let me destroy some of the things in his life. God said, have at him. And Job's faith grew because of that.
So, like Job, God permitted one of Satan's messengers to buffet Paul somehow. Like Job, both God and the devil were at work, but from two different motives, two different angles. Satan wanted to destroy Paul. God wanted to develop Paul. So it's like, OK, I'll let the devil at him, but only enough to really strengthen this man's life for My glory, to build it up. We told you before in one of our first studies, and I've used this so many times, that the right combination of poisons can be beneficial. Sodium in its pure form is a poison. So is chlorine. Both of them will kill you. But if you combine them, sodium chloride, table salt, can actually be beneficial. God knows how to combine things in our life to give it to us so that it's beneficial.
So that's why Paul words it that way. "A thorn was given to me, a messenger of Satan." OK. So Paul is experiencing something hard, something dark, something painful. What does he do? He prays. And Paul thinks, OK, I've got this thorn. The only way to really deal with this thorn must be to remove the thorn. So in verse 8, "Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord." Very strong word, to beg God. I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. Why did he do that? Because Paul thought, certainly a thorn in the flesh cannot be the will of God for my life. Can't be the will of God. This is valueless. This is purposeless. This is worthless. It hurts. So Paul prayed.
This is exactly what we do when something hurts us. When something hurts us, we immediately think, I've got to get rid of this pain, somehow. That's our first response. And here's our premise, all of us as humans, I could live a better life, I could serve the Lord and serve others without distraction if this thing wasn't here. So, Lord, if only my body was stronger; Lord, if only I didn't have to work with that person; Lord, if only my husband wouldn't be such a jerk, if You just remove the thorn, life would be better, especially after a positive experience. If you've had visions and revelations and you've been taken to heaven, you kind of expect the best A-class treatment. You expect the God is going to heal you.
So we pray, and we pray again, and then we pray again. Each time we pray, we pray with more fervency and with more faith. And we bring in our friends to pray alongside of us. And that's good. We should. Our first response should be to pray. And the Bible says God rewards persistent prayer. Right? Men ought always to pray, Jesus said, and not to faint. He said ask, seek, knock. That's persistence. But notice, with Paul, there comes a time where he stopped praying. After how many times? Three times, he prayed, Lord, please take this away; then again, Lord, please take this right away; and Lord, please, Timothy, Barnabas, help pray, pray for me. Then he stops. Why three times? Don't know.
It could be as simple as he remembered that his own Savior Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, had His own darkness, His own thorn, so to speak. And He prayed three times that God would remove that cup of suffering, until He finally said, nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done. Paul prayed three times and then he stopped. Why did he stop? Because he figured out God has a purpose in this pain. He has a purpose, lest I be exalted above measure, to keep me humble. Listen, God knows how to balance out your life. If you only got blessings, you would be a spoiled brat. We like blessings. We like mountaintops. I just want to be airlifted from mountain peak, to mountain peak, to mountain peak, to miracle, to miracle, to miracle, hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! What a worthless life that would be!
Job, after he lost everything, said to his wife, "shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?" It's good theology. Why should we think that God should give us first class treatment every day? And accept the good but also accept the bad. In fact, wouldn't you agree that afflictions are what make times of blessing more pleasurable? See, if you were on mountaintop, to mountaintop, to mountaintop, you wouldn't know what a valley was. You'd never really appreciate the mountaintop.
So, Paul changed. He began by saying, how can I get out of this? How can I get out of this? How can I get out of this? Now he's saying, what can I get out of this? What can I get out of this? Maybe this is the will of God for me. I've suffered with chronic pain for about a decade. I'll just tell you straight up, it makes you dependent upon God and thankful for every day that you have an opportunity to do whatever God calls you to do. So, Paul comes to the point where, I've had a lot of positives. I had visions and revelations, and I've been to heaven, and it's awesome, and it's so cool. I can't even tell you about it. But, I've had the spinach. I've seen the cake, but I've had the spinach. And I've had some pretty painful experiences, and they were so bad I asked God to remove them.
So what did God do? Well, that brings us to the third observation. And that is, God benefits us with directives. That is, God gives us principles that sustain us. So let's see it, verse 9, "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure...", Wow! "I take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress...", as you go, what is he? A masochist? He's taking pleasure in that? No. Notice, "...for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Now, follow the thinking here. Go back and notice in verse 9, it says, "And He said to me." Who is "He"? God. God is speaking to Paul. Now in verse 8, he says "concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord." That's Paul speaking to God. God, it's me Paul. Please do this. Please do this. Please do this. Verse 9, but "He said to me." What Paul is saying now in verse 9 is, what God had to say to me is infinitely more important than anything I could ever say to God. He's given me direction here, "...God said to me, My grace is sufficient for you." So, I was experiencing a negative. I prayed for a positive. God gave me a directive. God said to me, My grace is all you need, Paul. It's sufficient for you.
Now, you might read this and say, well, God didn't answer Paul's prayer. Think again. "No" is an answer. "No" is an answer. You know what that's like, parents. Your kids say, Mommy I want this. Daddy, I want this. "No." That's an answer. I answered you. Why wouldn't you do it? You don't love me? It's because I do love you. "No" means I love you. "Yes" sometimes means I love you, but "no" is also an answer, and it also means I love you. So, I don't think it's the answer Paul wanted to hear. Paul wanted to hear, yes my child, of course. The one that I've given visions and revelations, and I've taken you to heaven, of course I'll cure you and heal you. God said, no, I got something better. My grace, my unlimited, unmerited favor, is sufficient for you, Paul. Paul, I'm going to give you My favor that allows you to have the ability to bear up under the thorn in the flesh.
You go, I'm not impressed with that. I don't want just power to endure. Well, let me explain quickly. I'm going to give you the briefest explanation of evil ever. We live in a fallen world. Because we live in a fallen world, we experience the effect of that following us every single day, whether it's people breaking the law by going too fast, stealing stuff out of your house, going to war, a number of things that show that we live in a fallen world. God doesn't cause bad things to happen to His kids, but He doesn't prevent bad things from happening either. In fact, He uses them. The world is relatively free, and God rarely steps in to alter the effects of sin on His creation. So, God lets trials happen to Christians, just like He lets things happen to pagans.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, the sun falls on the just and the unjust alike. Why? Why do righteous people suffer just as much as unrighteous people? Why do innocent people as much as people who deserve it? Here's why. Listen carefully, so the superiority of a life lived in God can be demonstrated to the observer. This is transformational, so the superiority of the life lived in God can be demonstrated to the observer. So we, through our suffering, showcase God's grace. We showcase God's grace. We show unbelievers what it means to draw on God's resources. So that, yeah, they suffer, yeah we suffer, but you know what? We suffer better. I'm going to show you not just how to live, I'm going to show you how to suffer. And one day, by God's grace, I want to show you how to die, the way the Lord wants us to die. We showcase God's grace.
So I want to ask you this question, are you willing to embrace pain and suffering if it means that you get to demonstrate God's grace? It gives you a whole new motivation. 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, "God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort we ourselves are comforted with by God." Hey, do you know how a pearl is formed? You know how a pearl is made? Pearls are valuable. They're gems. You know what makes a pearl? An irritation. A pearl is the oyster's response to an irritation. So a foreign body, a little object like a piece of sand, works its way into the oyster. The organism responds by sending out secretion, after secretion, after secretion, to cover the irritation, to cover the sand. And it builds up, and it builds up. It's called "aragonite."
So, the more the irritation, the greater the value. The more the irritation, the greater the value. In your life, the more the irritation, the greater the value. So if you remember in, I think our very first study in Darkroom, I said when people suffer they respond one of three different ways. Some become bitter. They turn inward. They get mad at everybody. There's too many people like that in the world. They're mad at everybody. And they're mad all the time. And they're looking for stuff to get mad all the time at. They're just bitter at life. Other people get battered. Yeah, they're not bitter, but they're just battered. They just, they grin and bear it. I'm going to make it through, barely. But then other people get better. You go, well that's preacher talk. It all alliterates, all the Bs. That's what preachers do. Well, let me read you a letter that shows you it's not just preacher talk. I got this from a gal who when we taught through the Book of Job wrote this to me.
My 11-year-old son was struck with bone cancer. It was far too advanced for him to survive. Based on your lesson in Job, I never did get answers. But I can attest to God's grace, faithfulness, strength, and comfort. Everything seemed to slip away, and God's Word became my only rock to stand on. And more important, oh what sweet lessons came out of pain and what closeness and knowledge of God! I have been through many trials only to find out that God is the answer and my very reward. There's somebody in the darkest thorn in the flesh that a mother could go through, and says, God's Word is true. God's directives are true. They're beneficial. My grace is sufficient.
Perhaps you've come to church today with a thorn, an affliction, some negative experience in your life. God would want to say to you, listen, listen I'm really good at this stuff. I've done this a long time. I know how to make, oh here it is, I know how to take this negative and make this out of it. I'm really good at this. I've done it for years!
With so many people, Old and New Testament, you have negatives in your life? I'm really good at doing this. I can make a positive print. But, but, you're going to have to trust Me on this. You're going to have to trust Me on this. I'll give you principles. I'll give you directives. I'll give you promises. You have to bank your life on those things. They will get you through. And they will get you through with grace and with peace and with strength. But you got to trust Me on this. And, that's just the thing for some of you, perhaps.
Some of you have never really come to a place to begin with where you have entrusted your life to Jesus Christ. You walk around with emptiness every single day, with loneliness every single day, with unforgiven sin every single day. And you'll never get rest until you find your rest in Him. And God brought you to this place to hear this message at this time for you to do exactly that. I'm going to give you an opportunity to surrender your life to Christ. Would you just pray with me?
Father, in Jesus's name, thank you for how gracious You are, even when bad things happen, even when Satan and his minions move, that You are a sovereign loving God who orchestrates all of that, and limits all of that, and uses all of that. So that, we know that all things work together for good to those who love God. That is the net end result, very positive things out of very negative experiences. You're so skilled in the darkroom. And so Father, we just come to rest and trust in You, and Your provision, and Your promises, Your directives in Scripture, and to say Your grace is sufficient. I pray that Your all-sufficient grace would draw men and women to You this morning, boys and girls to You this morning. Those who are willing to repent and receive Christ would find that rest in You. In Jesus's name, amen.
Let's stand. Stand to our feet. We're closing this service. I'm not going to have everybody with their eyes closed and heads bowed and raise your hand. This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you an opportunity to come to the cross and be forgiven, to come and meet Jesus Christ personally. I grew up in a religious home and did not know until I made an adult decision to follow Jesus that things could be different. I walked around with emptiness. I tried substances and all sorts of things to fill my life. But it's when I came to Jesus that life made sense, and God started working powerfully in my life.
So I want to give you that opportunity. If you have never personally received Christ, I want you to do that in a moment. Some of you made some decision years ago. Maybe you had a spiritual thing that happened to you. You felt really good at the time, but today, right now, you're not walking in obedience. You're not following Christ. He's not your Lord and Savior. You don't navigate your life by Him. And you need to come to Him. You need to come back to Him. You need to renew that commitment to Him. Either way, if you have come to church but haven't come to Christ, I'm going to give you that opportunity. So as we sing this final song, if you want to do that, I'm going to lead you in a prayer to do that. But I want you to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and stand right up here during this song. And after it's done, I'm going to lead you in a prayer.
You say why are you calling me publicly? Jesus died for you publicly. And He's asking you to live for Him publicly. And we do it publicly instead of secretly because it will help you. It'll encourage you. It'll solidify the decision if you want to follow Christ, like nothing else, when you make that public declaration. So we find in the New Testament, Jesus called people publicly for that reason. So as we sing the song, get up. If you're in the family room, just come through that door and stand right up here. If you're in the balcony, come down the steps, walk down the aisle, stand here. If you're in the front row just take three steps forward. If you're in the middle, in the back, find an aisle, but come right now. Right now, come stand right here.
Jesus is waiting. My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend. So I'll run to the Father again and again. I run to the Father, I fall into grace. I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait. My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend. So I run to the Father again and again and again and again. Again and again. Oh. You're probably, Nobody comes to church expecting that they're going to be walking forward in front of everybody. You don't come to church thinking, that's what I'm going to do today. Until you do it, and you realize, I should have done this a long time ago. Some of you have watched people do this week after week, but you have yourself yet to make a commitment of surrendering to Him. And I'm asking you to do that. Surrender your life to an alien will who knows better than you do about how to navigate your life because He invented life and gave you your life. And He's really good at directing people and taking negatives and turning them into positives.
But the most positive thing you can do is to come to Christ and just give Him your life. Start there. If you've never done that, again, we'll just go. We'll sing just a little bit longer. If you're in the family room, doesn't matter where you're at. Just get up and come and stand here. Some of you have needed to do this for a long time. Let the courage of these who have come inspire you. My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend, so I'll run to You Lord, again and again. I run to the Father, I fall into grace. I'm done with the hiding, no reason to wait. My heart needs a surgeon, my soul needs a friend. So I'll run to the Father again and again, again and again.
Yes. I forgot to say this, but if you're outside in the amphitheater, as the days warm up we have hundreds of people that sit out there. If you're out there just raise your hand up if you're wanting to make this decision one of our pastors will bring you this way really quickly. Anybody else? Think of it. God's in heaven saying, I will give you everlasting life. I will give you the forgiveness of sins. I will make you My child. All you have to do is trust Me, believe Me. Anybody else? It's a good deal. Best deal I've ever heard of. Well those of you who have come forward, so glad you're here. I'm so glad you are here right now. I'm going to lead you in a prayer out loud, and I want you to say this prayer, out loud, after me. Pray these words. Mean them from your heart. Say this, say:
Lord, I give You my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus, that He died on the cross for me, that He showed His blood for my sins, that He rose again from the dead. I believe He's alive right now and coming again. I turn from my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him as my Lord. Help me. It's in His name I pray, amen! Amen.