Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Levi Lusko: Jeremiah 12, Jeremiah, chapter 12, is where we're going to be. God put something on my heart during worship, so I'm just going to go with it. Just before---you can turn to Jeremiah 12, and while you're going I just wanted to say this about this church. In Psalm 27 verse 4, David said, "One thing I have desired, that will I seek: that I would dwell in God's house all the days of my life." I love that because it's simple---one thing. Everyone show me how many things is one, one thing.
That was half of you. Where's the rest of you? Audience participation is mandatory. One thing. "One thing I desire, and that will I seek: that I would dwell in God's house all the days of my life." You know what's cool about being a follower of Jesus is that we have the promise that when we die, we get to dwell in his house forever. Psalm 23 says that. I know after I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I will dwell in God's house forever. I love that! I love the promise of heaven.
Anybody fired up at all that we get to---yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! [applause] Like, the thief on the cross dies there at Calvary, Golgotha, thief on the cross dies, and then he goes straight---does not pass GO, does not collect two hundred nothings---he goes straight to heaven because Jesus said it would be so. He said, "Today you'll be with me in paradise." Now that tells us a bunch about heaven, that it's paradise. That's awesome. Paradise is epic.
Then it also tells us that the flight is not long to heaven. He said, "Today," he didn't say, like, it's gonna take a week. "Today you'll be . . ."---so it's immediate and it's awesome. That's all we know about heaven. If we knew nothing else, that's enough, okay? So, we get to dwell in God's house all the days of our lives, amazing, once we die. No one can ever take us away from heaven once we're there. No one can ever mess it up. No death, no sin, no disease, no suffering, no thorn, nothing, because these former things will have passed away.
There's not going to be cancer in heaven. There's not going to be car accidents in heaven. There's not going to be Midol in heaven. Can I get a feminine "amen" in the house of the Lord? [congregation responds: "Amen!"] Hello. Maybe I should have asked for a masculine "amen," I don't know. [laughter] Heaven's going to be awesome. And yet David said, "One thing I have desired, that will I seek: that I would dwell in God's house all the days of my life."
You see, he didn't want to wait to get to heaven to spend time in God's house; he made the desire and his intention to be planted in the house of the Lord while he lived his life as well. And the New Testament tells us that as Jesus builds his church brick by brick, we are part of God's house. And I would encourage you to understand and know that you are a part of an excellent house of God here on the earth as you're a part of Calvary of Albuquerque.
You know, so many Christians miss out on that fully committed, fully caffeinated commitment to church like David said, "One thing I would desire, that will I seek. I want to be here in God's house while I live and not wait to go to heaven to be in his house." And I think that it's just unfortunate, because here's the deal: you don't have to go to church to go to heaven; you have to just follow Jesus to go heaven. Jesus said, "You call on the name of the Lord, you shall be saved." But it's not easy to be a Christian when you're not planted in God's house.
And you know what? This is good soil. This is a good place to be planted. It's kind of like on Shark Week---anybody like Shark Week? Shark Week? Shark Week? Shark Week? Shark Week? I like sharks, and I love Shark Week for that reason. And when I watched Shark Week this year, I saw this episode on great white sharks that was a little bit of a cause for concern for me, because they had this helicopter camera---here's the beach, here's the surf, there's this belt where all these great white sharks were just hanging out, just chilling there.
And there's people swimming, just kids are making sandcastles, and there's just all these great white sharks. Now the purpose of this episode is to figure out why these great white sharks are hanging out so close to the beach, so I want to know that too. Hashtag #lose a leg. [laughter] And the sharks weren't biting anybody; they were just hanging out there. Actually weren't even moving really. And the weird thing about sharks is they have to swim to live. If they stop moving, they stop living, because they gotta make water pass through their gills to keep breathing.
And these sharks were just chilling there. And in the episode they eventually discovered that the sharks were able to just lay there and not move so much because they had found a good spot. And, apparently, here's what they said, the way the waves were breaking right there at that particular break was richly oxygenating the water. And so there was just so much agitation happening around them that they didn't have to create so much movement. They could just stay right there because location, location, location.
There was just better air there and it took less work. And here's the deal: like I said, it's possible to be a follower of Jesus without being planted in God's house, but it's not easy. You gotta fight. You have to work ten times as hard. But I came here to tell you, and God put it on my heart to tell you, this is a good location. You're at a good spot. There's all kinds of oxygen in this air, people coming to know Christ, his Word going out. You just gotta show up here each week and just let this just swirl around your spiritual gills.
Just get yourself here, make the commitment to raise your family in God's house where his Word is just going out, and his Son is being lifted up, and the music is just fantastic. Don't take it for granted. There's churches that love Jesus and the worship sucks, and it's still great, but this is some good surf you got going on right here. So, I just would encourage you one thing you should desire, that you should seek: to dwell in God's house all the days of your life. Don't wait till you die to go to church is what I'm saying. Does that make sense? That's not my message, that's extra.
I told you Jeremiah 12, are you there? If you're there say, "I'm there." If you got there faster than your neighbor say, "I did Bible sword drills as a kid." [laughter] Is that just me? I was raised in the house, so I did Bible sword drills. That was where you, like, had to put your Bible on your shoulder, and they called out a reference, and you had to get there as quick as you could. And when you were there, you raised your hand up, and then you said it out loud, and---just flashback to fifth grade.
Jeremiah 12. Hey, do you take notes in church? Is that---do you guys do that here? Okay, could you write this down? "Running with Horses," that's the title of my message. It's not like running with scissors, that's dangerous. "Running with Horses" is the title of my talk tonight. "Running with Horses," write that down. If you're new to church, the reason we take notes is for a spiritual reason. It's because we're all so ADD, we'll forget what God said if we don't write it down. That's the spiritual reason.
And the way I see it, if, like, God's going is to speak to us, because he does through his Word, that's what promise he made, then maybe write it down, I don't know. Otherwise he'll give you like the one thing you needed for your whole life to become an awesome game of Tetris, and all just start going boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And he'll give it to you, and like, "Oh, my gosh, that was the one ring to rule them all," and you'll walk out. And next week, "What was that? Oh, crap! I didn't write it down." "Running with Horses," Jeremiah 12.
One of the things they teach you at preacher school is that if a message has one title, it's like, that's cool, anybody could do that. But if your sermon has two titles, it's an advanced maneuver, but it takes it to a whole other level. So write this down, here's the second title. You can put this in parentheses. "Running with Horses," here's the second title: "Cue the Eagle." "Cue the Eagle." Everyone say that out loud with me. Say, "Cue the eagle."
Like, if you were in a play in school and, like, there's all these actors and stuff. And, like, if you were good, you, like, got a talking part. If you weren't so good, you were a tree. You know what I'm saying? And, like, all these people were here, and there was, like, at one point in the production an eagle was supposed to swoop in. And so someone backstage with, like, a headset and a little microphone, a little AT&T, Britney Spears microphone. In fact, do we got one? Is there one here? No. Well, all right.
So, if there was one like that at your play, they would be backstage, and at that appropriate part they'd be like, "Cue the eagle, cue the eagle!" And then, like, someone in back of it pulls the thing and the eagle swoop, comes, swoop, lifelike---does that? Anybody? "Running with Horses: Cue the Eagle." That's what your paper should say, if you've been paying attention. Now, before we jump into Jeremiah, because, yeah, a few minutes ago I did just say, "Turn in to Jeremiah, chapter 12."
And in some churches that would be, like, the point in the sermon where the record would come screeching to a halt, and everybody would be like, "What do you want us to study?" Now I know in this church that's, like, no big deal. You're going through Numbers, so Jeremiah, you're like, "Yeah, good, awesome." And that's amazing. But assuming there was, like, one or two friends who got invited last minute, got off work, and, "Hey, what are you doing?" "Going to church. You want to come with me?" "Here I am."
And let's say you walked in here, and had I said Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, you could have said, "I can hang with those homies. They're Jesus' friends. It get it. New Testament, I'm with you." But Old Testament, had I said like, Psalms or Genesis, you're like, "I kind of think I know those a little bit." You know, but when I said Jeremiah, Jeremiah, you're just like, "Uh---was a bullfrog?" [laughter] So assuming there's, like, one or two of us, because most of you already read the whole book of Jeremiah today.
I get it. You had a seventeen-hour-long quiet time after you churned your own butter, and you actually have the whole book of Jeremiah memorized in the original Hebrew. I get that. So when I said, "Turn to Jeremiah 12," for you it was like you turn the baseball card over in your mind, and you're running through his greatest hits. And you know Jeremiah. You and Jeremiah are like that. But for the two of you tonight who maybe don't know a lot about Jeremiah, at which point I could just stop and say how awesome it is that you guys have a church where people come who don't know who Jeremiah is.
Some churches have a "You Must Be This Holy to Ride" sign. And it's almost like if you don't know about God, you're not going to fit in. But amazing to me is the fact that this is a church that's not a museum for saints, it's a hospital for sinners, and may it ever be so. May it always be a place where you can come knowing nothing about Jeremiah, just having dragged yourself in here, and it's a safe place to learn about who Jesus is and what he has done.
So, allow me to give you a little bit of a "previously on the life of Jeremiah." Could I do that? Will that be okay? A little background information, just a little thumbnail sketch of who this dude is. He's a prophet, which basically just means he worked for God and delivered messages. Like, he's, like, God's FedEx. Does that make sense? A prophet wouldn't come up with a message, they would just deliver it. God would give them a message to speak, and they would faithfully give it, without changing it, to the people that they were told to talk to.
He was specifically a prophet called to the southern kingdom of Israel. Because at the point that he came along, Israel had split into two. It was originally just one nation, one people, but they underwent civil war that actually split them into two countries, the north and the south. And all that served to do was to weaken the country because unity is the key to strength. Unity is the key to volume. And that's why Satan always tries to divide.
He'll try and divide your marriage. He'll try and divide a church. Why? Because if he can divide, he can conquer. So, unity must be preserved, unity must be maintained, unity must be fought for. Different sermon. Okay, so, the nation is split into two and Jeremiah is called to preach to the south. Now at this point that's all that was left. There was no north, effectively, because the north had already been taken off as slaves by the Assyrian Empire. And that was because they had turned to idolatry, idolatry.
In the north they worshiped idols. There were counterfeit gods, meaning they're not real gods. Like, Isaiah made a great point of saying idolatry is ridiculous. If you worship an idol, it can't help you, you know. Like, anything you worship---and by the way, you don't actually have to cut down a little thing and set it up a statue and set food in front of it. It's always there in the morning. It's like Santa Claus didn't eat the cookies, you know what I'm saying? Like, you don't actually have to do that to have an idol.
Idolatry is doing fine. It's doing great. It's never been better. Right? Flashy Mercedes-Benz look---"Gotta have that car." Certain designer thing on your back pocket---hello. Gotta have that little logo on your purse. You know, it's like idolatry is doing just fine. Money, power, sex---these things can be tools to worship God with or they can be used as gods themselves and worshiped as gods. Anything you value the highest is your God, anything you think about the most, whatever the controlling master passion of your life is.
You could live for power, you could live for fame, you could live for attention, you could live for money, or you could live to give your money all away---anything you look to save you. And Isaiah said they're useless, they're futile. Right? Because they can't help you when it counts the most. They give you some fun while you're living, but then you're on your deathbed, and with your last final breath you call out to that god that you live for that truck that you lifted that was better that everyone else's truck.
You call out to your F-150, baby, it's just going to sit there and be like, "I'm a truck. I don't know what you want from me. Can't help you. [laughter] You live for the wrong thing. I'm a truck---hello." It can't help you. Can't get you into heaven. Can't keep you from hell. It's just a truck. It's just a purse. Those are just pants. All right? That's not anything to live for. Does that make sense?
Northern kingdom turned to idolatry and God warned them. He warned them what would happen. They didn't listen, so they were taken off captive. Now, if you're in the south and you saw those in the north turn to idolatry, and then get jacked for it, what should you not do? Worship idols. And, yet, God says, "You did the same thing your rebellious older sister did. You did the exact same thing." They turned to these idols and worshiped them. Now, here's where it gets even crazier.
They didn't just turn from the fountain of living water, God, and build for themselves broken, busted, jainky drinking fountains that can't hold any water. That's what God said, okay. But they wanted to continue to go through the motions of worshiping him at the same time. They still showed up at church. They still wanted the perks. They wanted to know that there was going to be heaven at the end. They still wanted to act like they were still his followers. And God said, "These people, they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."
"They just go through the motions of following me, there's no reality to it." And I think a problem in America today is many people know a gospel that they've never believed. But you can miss heaven by eighteen-inches, the distance from your mind to your heart. So, Jeremiah the prophet was called by God to call them out on all of this, on their broken religion that couldn't save them. He was actually appointed for the task before he was even born. It's an amazing story. You could jot it down, though you don't have to turn there now.
Jeremiah 1, God says, "I've called you to be my prophet before I even formed you in the womb." Jeremiah wasn't even born yet, but God had plans for him. He was dreaming of him. He said, "I ordained you a prophet to the nations." Okay? So that's epic. He's got all this stuff he wants Jeremiah to do. So, Jeremiah gets born one day, grows up, and as a young man God reveals to him this great commission that he has for him. "I want you to be a prophet to the nations," and he tells him about it.
And Jeremiah, a young man has---I mean, imagine, put yourself in his sandals. God comes to you and, "Hey, I want you to be a prophet to the nations. Oh, I'm God, by the way. Hi." And Jeremiah says, "I can't do that. I'm just a young kid. I can't be a---I don't know nothing. Ah! Ah! I can breathe better. Hey, I can't do that!" And God says, "Oh, I know you can't." And here's what he tells him, he says, "Don't tell me you're a youth, you shall go to whom I send you. Whatever I command you, you shall speak. Don't be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you."
Awesome side note: this tells us that doing great things for God has very little to do with what you bring to the table. It's not what you have inside of you, it's what he's willing to put inside of you. It's his word that he promises he'll give you. It's the fact that he'll go before you, and he hedges you from behind as your rear guard. That's the secret. It's not ability that God blesses, it's availability. That you would say, "God, I don't got much, but here am I, send me."
When Jeremiah hears this, he's like, "Amazing, awesome. If you're willing to do it all and be there with me, I'm willing to go. I'm willing to be your prophet to the nations." So go he does. He goes and begins preaching. Where? In Anathoth, Anathoth, a small town sixty miles outside of Jerusalem. Now I know you guys know all about Anathoth, right? Yeah, I know, me neither. I didn't know nothing about it, so I began studying for this message. And as I began to study I found, I'm like, why would he begin a world-changing, sin-smashing, kingdom-building ministry at a place called Anathoth?
It does not sound awesome, it sounds horrible. It sounds like you're lisping apple sauce; doesn't it? [laughter] Anathoth. It is impossible, it is impossible to sound cool saying that word. "Where are you from?" "Anathoth." [laughter] Say it out loud. It's terrible. Why would he begin there? Why would he, if he's supposed to change the world, start there? Answer: That's where he lived. And whenever God does something powerful, it often starts small and it always starts at home.
"I want to be a pastor one day." Awesome! Try and be a good dad. Pastor your kids. "I feel like I'm gonna be a mighty evangelist one day." Problem is you're kind of a jerk as a husband, so there's that. [laughter] Hey, baby, if it ain't working at home, why do you think God wants to export it? Someone turn to your neighbor and say ouch! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Plus big things start small. Every forest fire begins with a spark, right, with a match? And if God's going to do something big, he often begins and uses small things.
We've seen thousands of people come to know Jesus Christ through Fresh Life and through Skull Church, but it began by a tiny little Bible study at a place called Kalispell. Most people go, "Oh, you live in Kalispell?" That's what they think, because big things start small. Jesus Christ came and changed the whole world; he was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, a place people made fun of if you were from. So, big things start small, and Jeremiah began right where he was at in Anathoth. And it didn't go super good.
Spoiler alert---he starts preaching, he starts calling people out, and nobody liked what he had to say. He's like, "God says you all suck, and you should turn to him with your whole heart." [laughter] So there's that. And everyone's like, "Who are you, young man?" You know, and no one responded to his preaching. No one liked his messages. It didn't go super good for him. How bad did it go? His own family hired an assassin to try to kill him, so it didn't go too good for Jeremiah. You thought your church plant didn't go well, yeah.
To make matters worse, there were these other preachers, these other guys. The Bible calls them false priests, false prophets, and they were preaching a different message. And their message was basically, here's the gist of it---peace and safety, peace and safety. They were telling people, "God will never judge. Don't listen to Jeremiah. Never mind the fact that God did judge the north, he will never judge us. We have the temple here in Jerusalem. We're good. Ollie, ollie, oxen free! Sanctuary!
"We can live however we want. Be bumping in the club Friday night, and then Sunday morning do your religious thing. We're good. God's good with that. Do whatever you want to do." And so that's what they were preaching, and everyone loved their preaching. Everyone flocked to their church. Everyone was downloading that podcast. It got to number one on iTunes, okay? They were loving the "peace and safety" preaching, and this discouraged Jeremiah, understandably.
I worked at Chili's in high school, since you asked. And it was actually the one on Coors down there by Cottonwood Mall. And I remember they told us in our orientation that we were going to be getting an employee discount, and I was pretty fired up on that. Go with my friends on a Friday night, and eat some Chili's, and slide down my Chili-head card, take a bunch of money off the bill. Kind of a big deal. And what Jeremiah is saying to use that illustration, that vernacular, is he didn't really feel like he was getting the employee discount he was expecting.
He's like---because in Jeremiah 12---are you there? Are you there? Are you there? Do you see the caption of the chapter? It says, "Jeremiah's Question." And basically what he had said to God in the first couple verses of this chapter is this. He said, "God, I'm doing what you told me to do. I've been preaching my little heart out. I didn't ask for this. You picked me, remember? Before I was even born. You come picking me. I didn't get to vote. I wasn't even born. I tried. No one listens.
"I walk into the restaurant, ordered some food, slap down my card, you bring back the receipt, the bill, and you charge me twice as much as it says on the menu. And you act like you don't even know me. Then I see this other table over here full of false priests who work at Applebee's, [laughter] and awesome blossoms are raining from the sky." His question, Jeremiah 12---"Where's my awesome blossom?" That is in the Hebrew. [laughter] You don't see that in your Bible? And what I love is that he feels like he can be honest with God, because you can.
God doesn't need you to put a nice face on how you're feeling. Jeremiah knew he could just bring all of this to God. What the heck. We don't have to put a tidy little bow on our problems, we can just bring them to God, and God is big enough to handle our doubts. And I love that God answers. He listens to him, he listens to him, he listens to him, and then in verse 5, if you notice, there's another caption. It says, "The Lord Answers Jeremiah." Ready?
Here's our text, one verse: "Jeremiah, if you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?" I will bet you $50 right now---"Can you bet in church?" It's a joke. It's rhetorical. I will bet you $50 right now that is not what Jeremiah was expecting when he prayed to God in his doubts. Right?
Like, I bet you he expected it to go just like it had when God commissioned him, and said, "I want you to go." And he says, "I'm too young." And God said, "Don't worry, I'll go with you. I'll be there for you. I'll fight with you." I bet you he thought he would get something like that, but he didn't. He got instead of that the first of several points I hope you'll jot down and take to heart. Here's what God told him basically: "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaa, woo! He thought he was going to get a pep talk, right?
He comes to God, "It's icky, it's hurty, Chili's," and stuff. And God said, "Oh, you think that's tough? Oh, this is hard in Anathoth? Those are just infantry. That's just soldiers. Horses are coming!" "Why is God so mean?" [laughter] Why, why is God not bringing him an encouraging word like they had back then? Oh, that was while he was being recruited. He's in the army now. [laughter] And so God says, "You ain't seen nothin' yet. Horses are coming. You're going to a bigger place. You're going to see a lot worse then, you better buckle up, big boy."
And though this was certainly not what Jeremiah wanted, God knew this is what he needed. That he didn't need to be coddled; he needed to be challenged. He didn't need to be talked off the ledge of quitting; he needed to be gripped by the greatness of his calling. Jeremiah wanted to be informed. "Why, God? Why? I want an answer. I need to know. Why is this so hard? Why would you let this happen?" But he didn't need to be informed; he needed to be challenged. He needed to be inspired. He needed to focus on his calling. And that's the solution.
What did God say? Because he's in Anathoth doubting God, but God said, "Remember your calling. I've called you to run with horses. I've called you to bigger things. I said you were going to be a prophet to the nations. You need to remember your calling." He who called you is faithful. If he called there, he'll get you there. If he said, "I'll meet you on other side of the Sea of Galilee," you're not going to drown in the middle. You might die on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but if he said, "I'll meet you over there," he'll get you there.
And we need to remember when we focus on how much it hurts right now, we need to remember the bigger picture of all that God has promised us. And I believe this applies to every single one of us tonight. For like Jeremiah, you are called to run with horses. I hope you receive that. That God---and I use that as a metaphor to speak of the plans that he has for you, of the calling on your life. There's not an ordinary Christian among us. There's not an ordinary calling given out.
Like Jeremiah, God has been dreaming about you before you were ever even born. And that's why he put the gifts inside of you, and the talents inside of you, and the passions inside of you that he has. It's for a purpose. There's a calling on your life. There's a plan. He wants to do things through you that if he told you today, you wouldn't believe it. So whatever you've seen, and I know you've seen some things, and in the years of this church's history you have seen some things.
But I want to say the thing God said to Jeremiah is to you, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." How many people have you led to the Lord? How much of God's Word do you know? How much of God's ministry for you have you discovered and are you walking in? Doesn't matter, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The greater things are still yet to come. He saves the best wine for the end of the feast. There's more he wants to do in your marriage.
There's more he wants to do in your life. There's more he wants to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jesus isn't done yet. He's building his church and he wants you to be a part of it. You haven't peaked. You haven't plateaued. And no matter how far you feel from where you know inside of you that God wants you to be, you ain't seen nothin' yet. He gives hope to the hopeless. He brings beauty from ashes. You're called to run with wild horses.
What you need to know, second point: that opposition escalates with opportunity. You need to know that. Full disclosure here. Jeremiah was told by God, "If you're fainting now, you're strength is small, you gotta know it's gonna get so much worse." He was saying, "Oh, it's terrible. It's dangerous here in Anathoth." When he left Anathoth, you know how wild it got? It got so bad that he got to be---he had to be locked up. He had to be beaten up over and over and over and over again as he would deliver his message.
Eventually he would be standing before the king of Israel, and be told, "Give your message." Just as God said, "You will stand before kings. You'll stand before nations." He would give his message with the whole nation listening. And they would hate his sermons so much they had a pit dug for him and he was thrown into it, and it had mud on the bottom. He says, "I sank into the bottom in the mud," and he was left there. This guy ministered for forty years, and through all of it he was again and again and again and again and again attacked and beaten up and tortured.
They would come, and he said, stand at the top of the pit, and taunt him and mock him, throw rocks down to him. Peg the preacher--it was a game they played. And he would be pulled out and be so famished because all they would throw down there is moldy bread. He would drink the water from the cistern. It was horrid. And they say, "Have you changed your song yet? Have you changed your message? Are you going to get on board with these other preachers?" "No," he would say, "Here's what the Lord says. Here's the message he gave me."
He's called the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, because he wept throughout his ministry knowing what was coming for those who wouldn't respond to the message God gave him. His heart broke, and yet even though every word that God ever promised about his fame, and how widely he'd be known, and how much he would do, and all that God would do through him---all those things came to pass. But it was horrible at the same time, and no one were recorded ever listened to his message, ever, and responded.
Opposition escalates with opportunity. The more God does through you, the more the enemy will want to stop you. You need to know that. As your platform gets bigger, your life will often get harder. And that's because just as God loves you and has a plan for you, the devil hates you and wants to keep you from that plan. If he can't get you to hell, if you give your life to Jesus, he'll try and keep you from living for heaven.
And so when you rise up and say, "I'm not going to let my life just pass by. I'm going to do what God wants me to do. I'm going to use these gifts. I'm going to plant my family in his house. I'm going to leverage myself to be a part of the gospel going out," the enemy will rise in his attempt to destroy you, to tear you down. The more God does through you, the more he'll want to stop you. Paul put it this way, "A great door has been opened for me, but there are many adversaries."
And because that's true, here's the next point, third point: you need to train for the trial you're not yet in. You need to train for the trial you're not yet in. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." So, we can know that as we fulfill our God-given calling, there are trials that are going to come, there's trouble that's going to come. Right now you could take out your schedule, and you could pencil a day six months from now, a year from now, it doesn't matter, and you could just write "trouble" on that day.
Trouble---I don't know what it's going to look like, don't know what form it's going to take, but if I'm going to rise up and run with some horses, there's going to be trouble that's going to come. The enemy is going to try and keep me selfish, keep me focused on this earth, keep me from filling heaven, plundering hell. Trouble's coming. And if you did that, if you looked at your future and said, "I know it's going to suck at times following God. I know the enemy is going to try and do things to keep me selfish, keep me discouraged." How would you respond if you knew for certain that there was a trial coming?
Well, you would train for it, right? Like, what if you and some friends all said, "Hey, you want to run a marathon together next year?" Right? You pencil that date. Once you register and put that date on the calendar---I am running a marathon next year. You begin to look at that year and say, "Okay, I want to get ready for it." Because you know what the worst time to train for a marathon is? Once it begins. [laughter] "I'm a good multitasker. I thought I wouldn't train while I'm running. I'd be running." That's a bad plan.
Right now you're in training for a trial that you're not yet in. You don't know what trial is coming. Many of you know that this past year we've gone through in our family the worst trial ever. We've been living, in a lot of ways, our own worst nightmare. It was December 20 of 2012, just five days before Christmas of this last year, when our second daughter Lenya, five years old, named after your pastor's wife, she had an asthma attack. And she went to heaven in my arms while I gave her CPR and prayed desperately that God would keep her here.
We had no notification, no reason to think that was coming. We were wrapping up Christmas presents and all of a sudden we're in a crisis. You know what's amazing? Even though we didn't know it was coming, we had been in training for that trial. We had been in church that Sunday, we had had our hands lifted high in praise, we had been reading our Bibles individually and as a family. We're not perfect. We have a lot of things that are so wrong with us. If you get to know me, you know. You could probably tell right now if you're just listening to me---a lot of messed up under the hood. [laughter]
But there were so many things we did right for years and years and years and years and years: fasting and praying and seeking God and being planted in his house. And I had walked a close friend through a similar situation just four years before that, and the training kicked in. We were able to sink to our knees right there in the ER after they said, "There's nothing more we could do," and we were able to raise our hands in the air and say, "You gave and you took away, but blessed be your name. We worship you."
We had hope that sprang to life like anchor for the soul inside our heart on the worst day of our lives. And I know right now, almost eleven months later, we're in training now for the trial that's coming around the corner. And how you do in any storm, how you do in any trial is more determined by what you do before the storm ever comes. Jesus said when the storm comes it reveals the foundation---sand or rock. A storm is not an ideal time to build a foundation. "Tornado is coming!" "We should dig a shelter." Yeah, well, you're kind of going to be going to Oz. [laughter]
You're in training right now for a trial you're not yet in. Does that make sense? You could say yes if it does. And if it doesn't, you just sit there looking at me like you are. [laughter] Does that make sense? Training for a trial you're not yet in? [congregation responds: "Yes."] Okay, good. Fourth point, here's some good news: God puts to use what he puts you through. I need you to know that. Because up until this point I'm like, yay, is it hurting now? It's gonna get worse. You know, like, "Could they bring a different guest speaker in? This is not encouraging me, ugh."
Good news: yes, God will allow trouble to come your way as you follow him, but he puts to use what he puts you through. Nothing is wasted. God never wastes a trial. It's kind of like the Native Americans when they would kill buffalo. Remember in history class? They taught us that when the Native Americans would kill buffalo it was very methodical. They would plan out the kill. They respected the animal. They would use everything: skin, bone, muscle---everything. There's just a stain on the hillside, but no pieces left over, because they planned it all out.
And the Native Americans were grieved when settlers came through, because they just frivolously killed and wasted so many animals. In fact, so many buffalo were killed, just target practice, just wanting the horns, or wanting the skin, or not wanting anything, just shooting them from the train, that they nearly drove the bison into extinction. And there was just mountains of bloated, rotting, buffalo carcasses in places, just indiscriminately killed, just senselessly. God's not like that.
Romans 8, we know it well: "God works all things together for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose." But here's the thing, we must never let a verse become a bumper sticker without being able to smell and breathe the fumes of what's going on in its context. Romans 8 was written to people who were living in Rome while Nero was emperor, and he was butchering Christians. Their blood was staining the ground of the Colosseum red. He was a crazed lunatic. And following Christ in that day was so horrible.
In Romans 8 he quotes the Old Testament and says, "Yet for your sakes we are being killed all day; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." New translation: We're like rotted buffaloes being butchered. "Yet," Romans 8 says, "in all these things we are more than conquerors . . . and nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus . . . and we know that all these things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes." He puts to use what he puts us through. He has plan for all the pain.
Psalm 56, he catches our tears in a bottle. Psalm 126, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy." And so if we look in our pain, we'll find that he has purpose in allowing it. In our lives this is us getting a chance to invite the nurses and the paramedics and the staff in the hospital where our daughter was proclaimed to be biologically dead, and yet we were able to say, "She's in heaven with Jesus, and if you'll come to Christmas Eve church, we'll tell you about him in her honor."
And we had letters come back from some of them saying, "We came, and we heard, and we were touched, and we gave our lives to Jesus Christ." He puts to use what he puts us through. We just have to have a bigger view of what's possible. You see, we want Romans 8:28 to mean, I got a flat tire, stopped the car, "God what's the deal? This is suffering. I'm gonna be late." But we stop to change the tire and found a hundred dollar bill. "All things work together for good, brother." If that happens to you, we hate you, by the way. [laughter]
But sometimes God lets us suffer so that others might experience the good. Now, I know you're sitting back there and you're like, "Well, let's put this little theory to the test, Preacher. What about Jeremiah? Didn't you tell us that he preached forty years, no one responded, no one listened. What happened to him in the end?" Uh, eventually the people he preached to stoned him to death in Egypt. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Oooh. Now that you mention it, his life kind of sounds like a big waste, like a rotten buffalo carcass bloated and stinking in the sun.
How did God put to use what he put him through? Hey, news flash---he's doing it right now, because we all turned to the book of Jeremiah. No, they didn't listen to him, but we are right now. There are thousands of people right now in America, thousands of years later, and we're listening to what God said through Jeremiah, and we're being blessed, and we're responding. And for the past 3,500 years since he ministered, people have been encouraged by verses like Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know that thoughts I have toward you says the Lord, thoughts goodness and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Don't look at me like you don't know that verse. It's hanging in 37 percent of Christian bathrooms on the wall. [laughter] You have taken a leak reading that verse in the past week I bet. [laughter] God's putting to use in our lives what he put Jeremiah through. Does that make sense? Okay, I got one last point and we're going to shut this thing down. And, of course, that's preacher talk for "I got a lot more to say." I hope, my prayer is that you're going to walk out of here, or shut the webcast off, or turn the radio off, or listen to this archive and shut your laptop down, and walk out down from this mountain within your heart there being the desire to run with some horses.
And I don't know what it's going to look like for you and your ministry or your marriage or your context or your home, but my prayer is that inside of you there's a desire to say, "Okay, God, it's hard, it hurts, I could barely even see straight right now with what I'm going through, but if you're saying these are just soldiers and you want me to run with horses, I'm going to live out my calling." I hope and pray that inside of you there's just a desire to see God do more, that you would have a holy dissatisfaction, a discontentment that would cause you to spring forth and rise up O man of God, to rise up O woman of God.
And I hope that's true. I hope that's happening. I hope that's what you're saying: "I'm gonna start serving." "I'm gonna start giving." "I'm gonna stop complaining and start helping." "I'm going to be a better wife." "I'm going to be a better husband." "I'm gonna be a better parent." "I'm gonna do this." "I want to run with some wild horses." But as you do, I just want to tell you this last point, final point. That's awesome, that's good, but just know this: your strength will fail. So God bless you. Have a great week. [laughter] I'm serious.
And here's why, profound truth, ready? Horses are faster than people, so you're going to fail. Have a great night. You're going to desire and rise up to serve your husband, and that's going to last like six days, and then he's going to be mean because he's mean. And you're like, "I don't want to be nice to him anymore. I'm going to go back to being a jerk too," original plan. You're going to desire to serve and not get recognized. You're going to try and share your faith and someone's going to ridicule you.
Horses are faster than people. Your strength will fail. Look at Jeremiah's life if you need proof. He failed again and again and again and again and again, all through his life. His strength kept failing. His strength kept failing, and you're no different, and neither am I. These things that God has called us to, they're technically impossible. So, what do you do when you've tried to run with horses and found yourself wanting? I gave you the answer forty minutes ago. Did you write it down? Cue the eagle.
What does that mean? That means Isaiah, chapter 40. That means, "Even the youth shall faint and be weary; even the young men shall utterly fall." Those were the greatest strength among us. You do P90X and CrossFit, you're still going to fail. "Not me. You don't know me." You'll fail faster than most. "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Hey, check this out: horses might be faster than people, but eagles are faster than horses. And I came here tonight to tell you that the eagle has landed, the Comforter has come. God is willing to give you the strength to do the things that you don't have inside of you. He's only a prayer away. You call on his name, he'll give you the power for today. What about tomorrow? You're going to have to ask him for power tomorrow too. He gives us strength for today.
As you wait on God through his Holy Spirit, he will bear you up on eagles wings and give you the strength that you're lacking. Is that good news to anybody here tonight at all? [applause] Running with horses, you're going to fail, so cue the eagle. Now, I want to end by giving an invitation to anybody who has come tonight who has yet to give their heart to Jesus Christ. And I want to do that with a sense of urgency in my heart for this reason: death, which is coming for us all, doesn't always call ahead. Death is a lot of things and comes to us a lot of ways, but often it's a surprise.
When death came to our family, like I said, we were wrapping Christmas presents, we're making plans. We had bought airplane tickets for a trip that we didn't get to end up taking. This asthma attack that ended my daughter's life on this earth, she was breathing fine that day. She was breathing great that day. The medicine didn't work. Her heart stopped. And we don't know why, but God chose to bring her home. And when death comes to you, you may not get an e-mail. You may not get six months to live.
It could be just, "Why is that guy in my lane?"---over. What's that pain in my arm?" It could be over. Life could end just suddenly. And I want to tell you this, that Jesus loves you, God does have a plan for your life. That's why Jesus Christ came to this earth two thousand years ago. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and pay for mine. And he didn't just die, he rose from the dead, and he said, "I am the resurrection. I am the life. If you believe in me, though you die, you will live."
It's not good people that go to heaven; it's forgiven people. The good news is you could be forgiven tonight, in a moment, in an instant, just calling on the name of the Lord. And so I want to give you an invitation to give your life to Christ if you haven't yet. Could we all bow our heads and close our eyes in a word of prayer. God, I thank you for every person listening to this message. Thank you that you know their names. You know the kind of day they've had, the kind of week they've had. You know everything about them and you love them.
And I pray they'd sense your love. I prayed they'd sense that you're knocking on the door of their hearts, calling them to you. I pray they'd respond. And right now as we're praying, as heads are bowed, as eyes are closed, how many of you would say, "I want to give my life to Jesus Christ"? "If I were to die tonight, I want to know I'd go to heaven. I want to turn my heart over to you, God." If that's you I'm describing, could you raise your hand up in the air right now. Just put your hand up high.
God bless you, and you, and you, and you. Right here to my left. In the family room, God sees you. Raise your hand up. More of you. Don't put this off. God bless you right there, and you right there, and you right there in the middle, in the back. In the very back, I see you; God bless you. Maybe you're like me and you've grown up in church, you've known the gospel, but you've never given your heart to Jesus. Like I said, it's not religion that saves you, and you can go to hell knowing how to go to heaven, but there has to come a point when you invite Jesus into your life.
Anybody else want to give your heart to Christ? Raise your hand up. Join these who already have. God bless you, and you on the right over here, and right over here in the front. You could all put your hands down. And, God, I pray you'll give these all strength to act on this desire in their heart and to walk with you entering into all you have for them, and I pray this in Jesus' name, amen. Come on, is anybody excited about what God is doing in this place? [applause]
And now I want to give you a moment. You raised up your hand, I want to ask you to get up out of your seat and come stand at the front of the stage facing me, and we'll pray a prayer together when you get here. Right now, just stand up to your feet. Don't wait for someone else to break the ice. This isn't a junior high dance. Don't see what someone else is going to do. This is your soul. This is your eternity. If you raised that hand up, you get out of that seat. Come out of the overflow room, get in here, and we'll pray a prayer when you get here.
Come on down to the front, turn from your sin, turn from your old life, turn to Jesus. You're leaving death and receiving life. You're leaving the kingdom of the enemy, and you're coming into the kingdom of life. Come now! We're going to go through a chorus, and as we do just get out of your seat and come stand at the front. Come now.
[worship music plays]
Look, I know it's a whole different deal with everyone's eyes open. It was awesome when everyone had their heads down and you were just like, "No one see this, this is great." I know it's a whole different deal with people watching, but I want to tell you that Jesus was not ashamed to die publicly for you. He hung on that cross with a jeering mob standing around him, and he calls you to live for him. In fact, he said, "If you confess me before people, I'll confess you before my Father and the angels in heaven." But he added, "If you deny me before people, I'll deny you before my Father."
The only way to come to Jesus and follow him is openly and all-in. We're going to sing this through one more time, and if you need to give your heart to Jesus Christ, you just get out of that seat and come down here and join these, and we'll pray when you get here. Come now, come to Jesus.
[worship music plays]
That's awesome! That's awesome! One of my best friends on this earth is Pastor Greg Laurie. And the day he gave his heart to Jesus, he was the last person to come forward. He was watching all these people do this, and he's just like, "I don't know, I just"---just like some of you right now. You're going through this like, "I should, but I can't. I need to, but I won't. I'm afraid." And he eventually just said, "I'm just going to give my heart to Christ." And I love that story. It puts just a passion in my heart for maybe one last person who needs to respond, but you're fighting it.
We're not going to sing this through again. Is there another person? One more person who needs to give their heart to Jesus Christ tonight, and you're fighting it, you're on the fence, but God right now is speaking to you and calling you to himself? Is there a single person like that tonight? We'll wait just a moment for you if you're here. Anybody else? You need to give your heart to Christ. Anybody at all? [applause] Hey, praise God! It's fantastic. It's amazing. Okay, we're going to pray together. Oh, another one, fantastic.
That's it. We'll wait all night if we have to. That's amazing. All right. We're going to pray and just a simple prayer where you're asking Jesus to come into your heart. It's not a magic formula. If you get a word wrong, it's not like it's---it's not a hocus-pocus thing. The Bible just says, "If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." So this isn't you earning your salvation by taking a wild step of faith; it's you receiving salvation that Jesus purchased for you on the cross. Does that make sense?
So let's pray this prayer together out loud. Say it after me. Say: Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I've done wrong things, but I believe that Jesus died for me. I believe he rose from the dead. Please come into my heart. Forgive me. Be my Lord and my Savior. I turn from my sin, I turn to you in faith. Thank you for saving me, in Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen! Amazing! Amazing!