Transcendence Week 3: Embrace The Process Part 1
Well, good afternoon to everybody. We are in a five-week series and this is week three of “Transcendence.” And I usually try my best to make sure that one of three categories of people are always reached right up front. One, for the person who’s new. Never been here before. You’re like, “I’m in the middle of week three. I have no idea what’s going on.”
And so, I want to make sure that you know what’s going on. Secondly, there’s people that probably missed a week or missed two weeks and they’re coming in. They’re regular attenders, but they’re sort of still fuzzy on what we’re doing. Or, many of you might have just had a really tough week and you’ve been here for every week of this series and you’re just lucky to be here in church and you forgot what we’re talking about completely. You’re just glad to be here.
So, what I try to do is I try to reach all three of those types of people up front by sort of once again realizing and taking some time to explain what we’re doing in this particular series so that we’re all on the same page and so, once we get started, nobody feels that they’re left behind or not involved.
What we’re doing in this series is this: I ripped off Abraham Maslow and Abraham Maslow built this hierarchy of needs. He was a psychologist. And he said that if all these certain things happen in your life – if you’ve got your food, you’ve got your shelter, your love and belonging, your self-esteem – you can finally get to the place where you live a life full of self-actualization. And he considered that to be the highest place of human achievement in life. And, if we could get there, we’d be fulfilling our dreams and doing that thing that we really want to do and all of that. But, the problem with that is that one out of three people who are polled say their life is unfulfilled. And there are 43,000 books in print right now that you can go get that tell you how to self-actualize your life.
The fact of the matter is it doesn’t seem like it’s working. What’s cool is Abraham Maslow, at the latter part of his life, changed his hierarchy of needs and, instead of self-actualization being the highest form of human achievement, he said it was transcendence. And what he realized was it wasn’t when we were trying to get what we want to make us happy, it was when we were pouring into others or leaving a legacy into others is when we were most fulfilled. Which is interesting because that’s what the Bible’s been saying all along. The Bible doesn’t say, “Go try to find your life and then everything else will be okay.” The Bible says actually lose your life and you’ll find it. The Bible says to put Jesus first and He’ll give you all the things that you need. So, the Bible is very clear on this.
But, the Bible adds one more thing that Abraham Maslow didn’t. It adds that all of that is accomplished – the giving and the serving – not just as individuals, but it happens through the Church. That together, the people of God, you and me together, leave a legacy and pour into others, and that is when we are living a transcendent life and that is when we are living the most fulfilled life.
So, this series, what we’re doing in this series is this: we’re looking at how to live a massively fulfilled life through intentionally pouring ourselves into others through the church. That’s what we’re after. Now, what I’m going to do over the next two weeks is I’m going to deal with an issue that is so important to living this out. In fact, it’s just so important to our Christian life to begin with. But, it’s really, really important and I can’t do it in one sermon. I’m going to need to do it in two. But, before I get to that, what I want to do is is I want to try to get in your brain for a minute. I want to do a little cranium probing in everybody. Get everybody thinking about something. Because I’m of the opinion that you don’t know what you need until you know what you need. Do you follow what I’m talking about? Sometimes you don’t know you need it until you know you need it. And so, what I want to do is is show you the need that we have for something and then I’ll get to where I’m going to go in the latter part of my message and we’ll continue into next week as well.
And to do that, I get to introduce you to a term that I bet nobody in here knows. If you were a real good sociologist, maybe you know this term. And I’m going to introduce you to the name of a person that I doubt you know as well. But, we’re going to get familiar with them here in just a second. The term is “dramaturgy” and the name is “Erving Goffman.” Praise God if you know those terms and you know that guy. But, if you don’t, you’re probably like everybody else.
And let me tell you what this is. Erving Goffman was a sociologist and Erving Goffman, what he did is he wrote – and he’s the guy who coined and people have coined this idea of dramaturgy. He said that life is, metaphorically, it is a stage. And what we do is on a stage or when you look at a theater, there is a front part of the stage and there is a back part of the stage. There’s the front part – people see what’s going on – and then there’s the back stage where stuff’s going on behind the scenes.
Goffman said that the majority or people live their life on the front part of the stage and what they do is is that they carry themselves in a certain way. But, if you could get back to the back part of the stage of their lives, it’s not always the same back there as it is on the front part of the stage. Can I get an amen? Are you following me on this one? Right? We understand that. Sort of like you’re at work and you’re like, “Hey, man. Glad to see you. (I hope you get fired today.)”
You know what I’m talking about. The front part is one way. The back part is another. And so, I’m going to rip off Erving Goffman’s dramaturgy a little bit here and try to make a case for some things that we need. Because I like the idea of what he’s saying that we have a front part and a back part. So, what I want to do is I want to draw your attention to this. Many of us – and you may say, “This is me” when I’m done – live with the front part of our lives being greater than the back part of our life. And Goffman called that “Impression Management.” What he said was is that we would act certain ways and we would say certain things in front of certain people so that they would have a certain impression of who we are. But, it wasn’t necessarily what was going on in the back part of our stage.
When I was at Lee College in my undergraduate degree, there was an ensemble at Lee that was very well known. They had recorded albums and so on and so forth. And the leader that led them was very, very charismatic and people really liked him. He did a great job on stage. But, the rumor got out over the years that when he was back stage, he was yelling and screaming and even dropping some cuss words every once in a while. So, you know, he’d be back there, “Blah blah blah blah blah!” and then walk out on stage, “Hey, everybody! It’s time to praise the Lord!”
And everybody’s like, “If you knew what it was backstage, it wasn’t the same front stage.”
And so oftentimes in our lives, we give off this impression around people of who we want them to see that we are when, in reality, if they were to open up the door to the backstage area of our life, they would see that huge skeleton brontosaurus back there that was like Jurassic Park of bones. And they would go, “Hey. You know what? Who you are is not really who you are. There’s something wrong there.”
So, some people live that way. And Jesus knew that. I mean, Jesus knew that very much because He said in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your piety…” – your piety would be any type of devotional life whether it’s praying for people, whether it’s serving people, whether it’s doing First Fridays or small groups or whatever.
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them;” – Now, He doesn’t have a problem with you doing your stuff in front of other people. In fact, I would argue that you can’t do the things God has called you to do in isolation. The fruit of the Spirit needs somebody else. You can’t be generous, you can’t be loving, you can’t be patient, you can’t be long-suffering just sitting in a room by yourself. These are communal things that we do. So, He’s not saying there’s a problem with it before others. It’s the “in order to be seen by them” that He has the issue with.
And He says, “For then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
You miss out on that abundant life. You miss out on all those things God has for you. You miss out on living a life of transcendence when we are front stage people who have not dealt with the backstage area of our life. Now, that being said, there’s also people that live in the backstage area. And I’m going to call this “Self-Centered Motivation” even though, oftentimes, people who live in the backstage area of our life don’t see themselves as being self-centered. But, I’ll give you an example of a backstage life person and I think all of us have experienced this. Especially if you’ve been in church. If you’ve never been in church, you can still visualize it and it’ll be funny to you. But, this is the way it goes. Like small groups.
We’ll be starting small groups in September. And, you know, you get in a small group and there’s like 12 people, 8 people. Whatever number there is. You know. You show up and the hosts are great and there’s maybe a little bit of food and maybe there’s a video or whatever it is. Maybe there’s a reading and you’re like in the middle of the group and somebody in the group just absolutely divulges all of the skeletons in their closet. It’s like, man. They just throw it up right there on the floor and everybody’s like, “Wow. Man. That is awesome. I’ve never met anybody so transparent. I can’t believe they’re sharing this.”
And it’s like a moment. It’s a real moment. Everybody starts praying for them and it’s serious. You walk away going, “Man. That was awesome. I can’t wait to get back next week.”
So, you get back next week. Food’s good. Video’s good. Everything’s good. And you’re in the group and in the middle of the group the same person brings the same skeletons out and throws them out again. And you’re going, “Man. This is like a repeat of last week. I know I’m supposed to love them and I care about them. And that’s some serious stuff. So, let’s pray for them again. Maybe they need a little extra love and everything’s good.”
Then you show back up the third week. Food’s good. Everything’s going well. Discussion group is going well. And, all of a sudden, same person again brings all those skeletons out, throws them on the floor and you’re like, “Man. I am out of this group. Bye, Felecia. I don’t need to hear this stuff anymore. This is overwhelming.”
Okay. That is someone who lives in the backstage area of their life and all they can do is swirl around the drain telling everybody all of their situations because they can’t get it. And I want to say something to you. Jesus got up from the grave so you don’t have to live in the backstage area of your life dealing with skeletons in your life. But Paul realized this and he wrote about these types of people.
He said, “People are going to be self-absorbed,” – they’re going to be so into themselves. And I’m using The Message. This is like the renegade translation. It’s awesome. It’s so crazy. If you read The Message, it’s awesome. Sometimes it’s just fun to read. It ain’t exactly literal by any stretch of the imagination, but it really conveys some imagery here.
“People are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags,” – I like that one. That’s a good one, isn’t it? – “…addicted to lust, and allergic to God.”
Now, the next one here is really good. Listen to this one here.
“They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.”
What’s Paul saying here? He’s not saying we don’t love people that have all those issues in their lives. What he’s saying is is if that’s where somebody’s at and that’s the only place they can be, what they’ll do is they’ll pull everybody else around down with them. And you see that. I’m not a life guard. But I’ve heard that if somebody’s drowning and you go try to save them, they’ll pull you down with them. And so, what we want to do is we want to look at this fact of the matter is is some of us do. Some of us are going, “Yeah. You know what? He’s right. I do go, “Hey, man. I’m praying for you… to die.”
You know? One of those deals. So, we’ve got the front stage and we’ve got the impression management going on and doing our stuff. But, we don’t want anybody to go… “No, no, no. Stay out of that room. Don’t go back there in that room.”
Or then there’s people that live in the backstage. And here’s what I want to try to get at so that you can understand. If we’re trying to live a life of transcendence, if we’re trying to pour into people, if we’re trying to do what God has called us to do and we’re living on the front stage of our lives with impression management, we’re not going to do the things that God has called us to do and be right at it. And, if the backstage is a wreck, we’re not going to be able to do that.
Now, that does not mean you have to be perfect for God to use you. That is absolutely not the case. I want to make sure that everybody understands that. God can use you where you’re at. But, if you and I want to live a massively fulfilled life, one of the things we’re going to have to let God do in our life is get the front and the back stage of our lives congruent. And that is a process.
Listen, I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. But, I’m going to step on some toes because I want to make something clear. I am so tired, as a pastor, of people having the instant remedy for everybody’s issues. Because it’s not the case. You know, I grew up in a church – and listen, I’m not telling you there wasn’t things that happened that were good in the church because there were. But, I grew up in a church that what you needed – if your front and back stage weren’t together, you just needed somebody to come hit you on the head with a Bible and knock you down and you walked out better. But, the problem was you walked out with a bruise on your head with a little bit of seeing some stars and you still had the same issues that you had when you came in. It didn’t work. I meet Christians all the time that go, “If you just read this book right here. This book right here will solve all your problems.”
Let me tell you something. There ain’t no book you can read that will solve your problems. The guy who solves problems, His name is Jesus. It ain’t a book. And the deal is we’ve got all these little Biblical teachings. If you just get this one truth or you understand this one thing. Because what we don’t want to do, we don’t want to embrace a process. We don’t want to go through training. We don’t want to go through discipline. We want to just act like that stuff’s not even in the Bible. And so, what I want to talk about over the next two weeks is I want to talk about embracing God’s process for your life. Because, if we don’t embrace God’s process for our life, what’s going to happen is we’re not going to live in the massively fulfilled abundance and victory that God has for you and me. Because that’s what He wants.
So, the process is this: Getting the front and back stages of our lives congruent so we can fully benefit from a life of transcendence. That is a process.
I would love to tell you that it’s not a process. I’d love to tell you that if you just get this one little truth or you get this one little thing or these three little things, life will be great for you. But, the fact of the matter is early Paul is not the same as later Paul. Later Paul is able to say, when he’s in jail, to the Philippians, “Hey, listen. No matter where I’m at, no matter what I’m doing, no matter what’s going on in my life, I’ve learned…” – keyword there: learned – “…learned how to be content. I’ve learned how to be up and down. I’ve learned how to mitigate all of this stuff in my life.”
And see, this is the deal: most of us, as Christians, live in that rollercoaster part of life. We’re up and down, up and down, up and down. And what we want is we want an easy answer. We’re a microwave generation. We don’t want to wait for anything. I remember one time I was in the first church I ever pastored in. A guy got up and he was one of these real charismatic guys and very charismatic in his understand of God. And he got up and preached out of Hebrews 11:1.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”
That’s great. The writer to the Hebrews is just saying, “Now, this is what faith is.”
Oh, no, no, no. He preached the whole message as “now faith.” Like, right now faith. You know? You’ve got to have “now” faith. Not “tomorrow” faith. “Now” faith. I’m like, “That is not what that’s saying, dude.”
But see, that’s what we want. We want somebody to get up and say, “Here’s the answer now.”
And the answer, for you and me, is a process. And to engage that process, we’re going to have to have certain attitudes in our mind to engage this or else, what we’re going to do is we’re going to do what most Christians do when difficulty comes and circumstances come. And we’re trying to live this thing out and sometimes the back and front part of our lives aren’t congruent. A lot of times we just give up. We don’t tell anybody, but we just give up inside. The spirit sort of dies on the inside. So, what are the attitudes that you and I have? You’ve got a sheet of paper. This is when you take your notes. This is normally when I do the take-home part.
this is the “live it massively” part. This is the real big part to get. This is the attitude you and I need to have towards the process. I can assure you of one thing: the process is coming. Because this is what Jesus says to all of us in Luke 20:18. He says, “Everyone who falls on the stone will be broken.”
You and I get to have a choice. We can fall on the stone and allow God to break us and allow God to mold us and shape us into what He wants us to be, or it will crush anyone on whom it falls. The stone is coming in our lives. We get to chose how we respond to that stone. And that’s called “The Process.”
So, what are the attitudes? Write these down. I promise you this will help you in your life. I promise you, with all of my heart, I do not stand up here to hear myself preach or teach. I want to give you something that will equip you for your life so that you leave here better than when you came in.
Here’s the first step: We must be willing to be developed rather than be discovered.
Let’s camp out on this for a minute. So many of us go, “God. I want it all now. I want everything now.”
I’m telling you. There’s people that’ll tell you you can have everything you want right now if you just get this thing here or understand this thing. That’s simply not the case. Because nobody has it. Even the people who say they have it don’t have it. What happens is we have to say, “God, I want You to develop me rather than get to where it is that I want to be.”
Rather than be discovered, rather than going, “Here’s the gift you giving me or the calling that you’ve given to me.”
“Lord, I want to be developed.”
Check this out. This is incredible. Here in 1 Samuel 16:10, “Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel…” – he had eight sons – “and Samuel said to Jesse, The Lord has not chosen any of these.”
This is the discovery line right here for the new king. That’s what this is. This is the discovery line. And everybody’s showing up for the discovery line. They’re not it. The young man who’s out tending the sheep and singing songs to God, who’s more worried about being developed than being discovered, isn’t in the discovery line. He’s out being developed. And when they finally drag him in and say, “Put the oil on him because he’s the king,” God doesn’t take him from there to the king. He says, “You’ve still got to be developed.”
He runs through the empire getting chased by Saul. He’s throwing spears at him and doing all kinds of stuff because he’s not ready. He needs to be developed which is why you and I must understand this. Paul tells us, “You and I have been predestined (all of us) to be conformed to the image of his son.”
That is your predestination for your life. When you are in Christ, you are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Now, maybe you don’t want to be honest, but I’ll be honest. When I look at the Bible and go, “Okay. That’s who Jesus was.”
Mirror. Look at Chip. That’s who Jesus was. Mirror. Look at Chip. Man. I’ve got a long way to go. I have not arrived by any stretch of the imagination. But this is what He wants to do. And here’s the thing we want to reject. We don’t like this part here.
“Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time…” – I don’t like this part of the Bible – “…but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
There’s whole groups of people that want to just blot this out. “I don’t want to be trained. That seems like I’ve got to do something.”
No, no. The Bible says that God disciplines you and me and He trains us. He moves us along. He makes us what He wants us to be. You know, I told everybody and I’ll tell you this too. You guys watching via the internet will like this. I’m going to tell you how I’m going to become a millionaire. You know how I’m going to become a millionaire? I’m going to create the velcro Bible. The Velcro Bible is awesome because if you don’t like a passage, you can just lift it out. And then, if you don’t like the context, you can just move it all around to read whatever you want it to read. You see how that works? I’d be a millionaire. People like that. People don’t want to hear what the Bible has to say. They don’t want to deal with this stuff.
We’ve all got our little camps that we’ve got our little boxes in and we want to put it in and all this stuff. Listen. The bottom line is if you want to be what God wants you to be, you’re going to have to go through a process. That’s just the way it is. There’s no way around it. And you have to say, “God, I want to be developed. Lord, develop me. Whatever You’ve got to do to develop me.”
Because here’s the deal: when you and I get discovered before we’re developed, that’s a train wreck. And you see it all the time. You see people all the time in Christianity that are train wrecks. And we go, “Well, how did that happen?”
Maybe it’s because they were discovered before they were developed. Secondly, let’s look at this. This is another big one.
We must be willing to admit our shoulders might not be ready to hold right now what God has for us.
Come on now. That’s good preaching. Shoulders might not be ready right now. That mantle that God spoke into you? It might not be ready to hold it right now. Because here’s the perennial rub for all of us. And it’s the struggle is between where we are now and where we want to be.
You say, “God, I’m here right now. But where I want to be is right here. So, God, if You could just give me the microwave version. If You could just give me the real quick version. If You could give me the – I don’t even want three steps. If You could just give me one step to get from where I want to be so I could get there. Because, God, that’s where I want to be.”
It doesn’t work that way. There is a process that God works in our lives. You see it all through scripture. You see all the great people of God are whittled away or God continues to work in them to where they realize that it needs to be all of Him and none of them. Listen, I’m going to be as honest as I can be. I am so thankful to God that He allowed the things to go on in my life to form me to the person that I am today. I’m being honest with you. When I was 22 years old, I knew it all. And you may say, “Chip’s just saying that because he’s sort of a humble guy right now.”
But I’m going to tell you right now that I was effusive when I was a kid. I mean, I could quote the Bible like a bullet. I could tell you every verse and everything. I knew it all. I didn’t even understand why God had any pastors. I don’t understand why He didn’t just bring the whole Church and let me pastor everybody in the world because that’s what I should’ve been doing. And I’d set there and argue with God and tell Him I can’t believe this is going on. I am so thankful, at 46 years old, that God said, “Hey, instead of you being successful in ministry, what you need is you need your rear end kicked for 20 years.”
I’m so grateful that He did that for me because it’s changed who I am. And I realized the importance of that process. I realized what God has done. And you know what? It’s hard sometimes. It’s so hard to see in the middle. But, when you look back and you go, “Aw, man! No wonder these things happened in my life for this reason. No wonder He did these things.”
The struggle is where we are now and where we want to be. If you read the book of Habakkuk – it’s in the Old Testament. Habakkuk’s really irritated at God. He’s like, “God, this is unfair. The Pagans are ruling. Everything in society is wrong. Everything’s a mess. And You’re supposed to be God. And You’re supposed to have all the power. And You’re supposed to be good. And You’re letting all this stuff go on.”
I know none of us would ever pray that way, right? Here’s what God says to Habakkuk. He answers him. He says, “Habakkuk, write the vision.”
He’s like, “I know what I’m going to do. You don’t. But I know what I’m going to do.”
“Write it down; and put it on a tablet.”
Just like Moses, dude. Like Charlton Heston. Write it down there, okay?
“Write the vision; make it plain on the tablets, so that a runner can read it.”
In other words, as a runner’s running by, it’s so big and so precise and so clear that a runner can go by and see it. “I know what I’m going to do, Habakkuk. Write it down. I’ll go ahead and show it to you so you can see it. And write it for everybody. But, here’s the deal:
“If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”
It might not be on your time. Your shoulders might not be ready to hold it right now, Habakkuk. But, here’s the difference: “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,” – they’re the ones that need the answers now. They’re the ones that want everything now. He says, “But the righteous, my people, what they do is they live by their faith. They trust me in the process of moving from here to where I need to be. They trust that I know more than they know. They trust because they read…”
Listen to this. Listen to what Paul says in the book of Romans 15. I think somebody needs to hear this this morning. That’s why I’m going to just read it to you instead of quote it to you. Listen to this. This is important. Listen.
He says, “For whatever was written in former days…” – that’s the whole Old Testament. This is what Paul says to his church. “Whatever was written in former days was written for your instruction so that by steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures, you might have hope.”
Think about that for a second. That’s a bold statement. That everything that was written was written so that you and I would have instruction and so that we would know how to live out a life. You look at Abraham and you go, “But, it took 25 years for the kid to come.”
Yeah, but the kid came. When you read the Old Testament and a woman’s barren, that’s your sign that you know she’s going to have a baby. You see it every time you read a barren woman. She’s going to have a baby. And the barrenness is there so that they have to trust God. At some level, we have to believe that He’s doing something in our life. And it’s usually when we stand back and look over time and go, “Oh, man. No wonder I was sold into slavery by my brothers. No wonder Potiphar’s wife lied about me. No wonder I was put in prison. Because, when I finally stood there on the day when my brothers, who threw me in prison, showed up before me hungry, had I not gone through what I went through, I would’ve killed them. But, because I went through what I went through, I’m going to feed them and I’m going to love them because I’ve learned something along the way.”
Embrace the process.
Thirdly, this is huge. We need to learn that our influence cannot go wider than our character goes deep.
That is liquid gold. See, your influence will get you the woman. Your character will lose your marriage. Your influence will get you the job. But, your character will lose it. See, if our influence goes wide and our character is shallow, it’s a train wreck. And what God’s doing in us is He’s forming character. He’s forming His Son. And it’s a process that you and I have to embrace. And you see so often people who have great influence but no character get somewhere in life, but they can’t stay there. I’ll also say this too: your talent will take you somewhere at times that your character can’t keep you.
God wants us to be people of character. Because – going back to the whole idea of living a transcendent life – if we’re to be a church and people that are moving people from lost to saved, we’re helping them get past their yesterdays, we’re helping them to embrace that God has a great plan for them and equipping them so that they can go out and do that again and it’s like a conveyor belt that we’re all involved in as a church and everybody’s doing that, if the front part of your life and the back part of your life are not together, it will shipwreck that whole thing.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect to do something for God. What it means is is that we need to see the benefit of God working in us to get our lives congruent because it’s then that we truly get all of the abundance and victory that we’re looking for. If you’re tired of the up and down, if you’re tired of all that, what you need to do is say, “God, I need to embrace the process.”
See, Paul says the same thing to the Philippians. He goes, “It’s by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
Paul says that a lot. He goes, “I don’t want to labor in vain. I don’t want to run in vain. I don’t want what I did to be in vain. I want to make sure that Christ is formed in you. I want to make sure that your character is deep so that your influence doesn’t take you places that you can’t sustain in your life.”
And that’s a process that you and I have to embrace. And I would tell you as we’re sort of landing the plan here that this is the prayer that you and I need to pray. This is the prayer that you and I need to speak in our lives.
And it’s this: “Search me, O God.” – God, search me. Put Your spotlight on me. I’m out here on the stage right now. Put Your spotlight on me and search me, God. – “…and know my heart;” – because, God, sometimes I don’t even know my heart. God, put Your light on me and search my heart – “…and test me…” – There’s people that are like, “Oh, no, no. I reject that ‘test’ part. That sounds like I’ve got to study or do something.”
Yeah. Study. Pray. Read. All of those things. You don’t just walk up here and preach the Bible. It’s not like 20 years I spent in school. Everybody goes, “Hey, man. You’ve got some cool stuff that you find in the Bible.”
It’s not like I just walked in one day and said, “Hey, Jesus. I love you,” and walked up here and started spouting out. It takes time. It takes effort. You’re going to learn to pray? Pray. People who are prayer warriors learned to pray. They learned to get on their knees and pray. They learned the disciplines of faith. And people go, “I don’t want to discipline. I don’t want to do all that. I don’t want to do it.”
That’s fine. You don’t have to do it. But, if you somehow think you’re going to get to where you want to be without putting in some time with the Lord, you’re gravely mistaken. It’s a process.
He says, “Test me, God, and know my thoughts.”
“God, put me in situations, God. I don’t even want to pray this but God, put me in situations where I can really figure out who I am and know who I am so I can figure out what I need to do in my life to get to the place that You want me to be.”
“See if there is any wicked way in me, God. Is there anything wicked in me? Show me. And lead me in Your way everlasting.”
God, that’s what I want for my life. God, I want You to do these things in my life. I’m going to embrace the process. And here’s the beauty. Listen to me. Listen to me. If you and I will keep our eyes focused – and I’m going to tell you, you’re going to have your eyes go every place in the world. They’re sometimes going to go here and there. But you sort of just try to stay in the game. One day, you’ll look up and you’ll go, “Wow. Man. God has really done some stuff in my life. He’s really changed me.”
I want to give you an illustration here. I think you’ll enjoy this. Some of you all will remember this. Some of you all are young. You can YouTube it so that you can see what I’m talking about because it happened many years ago. It was a World Series game. Twelfth inning. And a guy named Carlton Fisk came up to bat. A couple pitches were thrown and then the ball was thrown that Carlton Fisk hit. And he hit a walk-off-the-field home run in the twelfth inning of a World Series. Now, that in and of itself would be awesome. I mean, can you imagine? I mean, I couldn’t even hit the ball when I was playing baseball. I got hit by the ball is what happened for me. You know?
But Carlton Fisk hits this and there’s this scene that shows him as he hits the ball. He’s waving because the ball’s going toward the foul pole and it just hooks right in before it hits that pole. Walk-off-the-field home run. And that scene of him waving and then putting his hands up in the air and realizing what he’s done is usually in one of the top 10 sports moments ever. Now, this is cool. And I really did research this. This is a really true story. Because, when I read it I was like, “That’s not true. It can’t be true.”
It’s true. Back then, when they recorded this, every cameraman was supposed to chase the ball when the ball was hit. So all of the cameramen chased the ball. And Carlton Fisk would’ve never been recorded because you didn’t keep the camera on him. You kept the camera on the ball. That’s just the way they did it. But, one of the cameramen that evening, right as the pitch was thrown, he looked down and there was a rat near his feet and he was like, “Oh, man.”
Now, maybe some of you all are tough and the rat wouldn’t bother you. But it would freak me out. I’d be like, “Get that rat away.”
Some of you all are probably tough and would just pick it up and chew it or something. But anyways, not me. I mean, I’d have been like, “Woo!”
I’m sure you would, too. So, he looks down and, as he’s trying to get rid of that rat that’s running around his feet, his camera stayed on Carlton Fisk and got that great shot. Then they realized what they had and they played it over and over again. People were like, “Oh, that’s awesome.”
And now that’s why some cameras stay on the plate and some cameras chase the ball because sometimes you may just be looking somewhere and you look up and you’ve got something beautiful in front of you. The rat don’t have anything to do with the story. It has to do with the fact that sometimes we’re looking at something and something happens that we didn’t realize. And what I want you to understand is that if you will trust God to embrace His process – which is not going to happen in five minutes. It could happen in a week in your life.
But, more than likely, it happens over years. And that doesn’t mean along the way you won’t have great chunks of victory and see God work in your life. But, what we’re working towards is to live a life of full transcendence where we really enjoy the life that we have and we live fulfilled. And to do that means we have to embrace God’s promise. And if you will put your eyes on Him and say, “God, work in my life and develop me,” and you keep following Him, one day you’ll look up and you’ll go, “Wow, man. Look at where God has brought me and look at what He’s done in me. I didn’t even see it along the way sometimes. In fact, I fought Him along the way sometimes. But, I kept my eyes on Him and look at where He’s brought me.”
And that is what I want for you as your pastor. I want you to walk in a fulfilled life where all of the things God has for you are there. And I would love to tell you I can get you there in a 10-minute or 30-minute message, but that’s not the case. It’s going to take time. But, I assure you, if you will let God work in your life and train you and mold you and conform you to the image of His Son, you will look up one day and go, “Wow.”
And the ups and downs will have somehow started to minimize and you’ll start walking in that life where people look at you and say, “I want what you have.”
Let’s make that a reality in our life.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, for the fact that You don’t give up on us even though sometimes we give up on You. I pray, Lord, right now, that You would just speak to Your people. Lord, everybody in this church, right now and those watching via the internet and mobile app. Lord, I just pray that You would help us to understand the attitude that we need to have towards Your process and allow You to work that out in our lives for Your glory and for Your honor.
So Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us and that You would lead and guide us and that You would continue to help Grace Community Church be the light that You’ve called us to be shining bright in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton for Your glory. I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. I pray, Lord, that You would help us to embrace Your process. We love You, we thank You and we praise You for everything. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”