Stuck Week 3: Hazmat Suit

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Here I am again. Just stuck. Hey, can you see me? Can you not tell that I’m upside down? Someone help me get out of this. How long will it take to flip over? I don’t even know where to start, so maybe I should just give up. Why do I feel like I’m the only one here? It would be really nice if someone could help me get unstuck. Score.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Stuck.” At the beginning of every sermon that I do, especially when it’s in a series, I try to go back and just sort of recap what we’re doing because I know, at any given time, there are visitors that have never been here, and it’s good for you all to know what’s going on so that you feel like you’re a part of what’s going on. There are people that maybe missed a week or so in the series, and it’s good to bring them up to speed. It’s just good for all of us to sort of be reminded of what we’re doing. So, the big idea — and I always try to have a big idea for every sermon. The big idea that we’re looking at in this particular series is this: We want to learn how to get unstuck when we are stuck, so when we get stuck, we don’t stay stuck. And all of God’s people said, “Amen.”

Right? So, we’re looking at these super practical things in our lives where, you know, we get stuck. We get stuck in decision-making processes. Like, “What do I do? Where do I go?” We get stuck, maybe, at a job, not knowing what to do. And other things. So, we’re trying to look at some practical ways to get unstuck in our lives when we’re stuck. I take this stuff really seriously. I mean, I want you to know that, as a pastor, it’s a big deal to me that when you all come — because you could do other things. When your how up here, I want to make sure that the four hours I get in my sermon — I mean 30 minutes — that you all leave here feeling like, “Hey, you know what? I got something that helps me in my Christian walk that helps me live out this thing so I’m better when I’m leaving than when I came in.”

So, we’re trying to deal with some really practical areas. This weekend, I want to talk about toxic relationships. I want to talk about when we get stuck in a relationship that’s just toxic, nasty and is pulling us away and pulling us down and all that. Some of you all may, right now, be going, “Man, I’m in a toxic relationship.” So, I want to do two things, really. I want to make sure that I help those that are in toxic relationships, but I also want to help those who are not to learn some things so that you don’t get into them. I’d rather you not get stuck than have to get unstuck. So, we want to do two of those things.

But I want to say, up front, whenever you talk about toxic relationships, there are minefields that you have to watch as a pastor. The first one — and it’s a tough one — is that there’s no way in the world in 30 minutes or so I can deal with every issue of every relationship of all the problems. So, you’re going to have people that walk out and go, “Oh, he didn’t say this. He didn’t say that.”

I get that. I’m not going to be able to address everything. But I’m going to address a lot, I’m going to say a lot about some things. I think you’ll have principles that you can apply to no matter where you’re at.

The second that that you run into is that it’s a sensitive area. I mean, there are people who are in toxic relationships, and as soon as you say it, they’re like, “Oh, he’s going to read my mail. He’s going to call me out. They’re going to bring a microphone to me and have me testify.”

We’re not going to do any of that. Okay? People online are like, “Ha! You can’t get me.” You know? But that’s there. And then the third thing is whenever you do something like this, there are people that are in toxic relationships that have not taken steps to adequately work on those things or to get out of them or whatever. They’ll take a sermon like this as, like, “Well, Pastor Chip told me to go.” You know? So, that’s not necessarily what I’m saying. It may be what you need to do, but please don’t just take what I’m saying and then run with it.

So, I say all that to just say this can be a really difficult subject, but I think we’re going to deal with it, and I hope that you’ll get something out of here. Whether you’re stuck in one or whether you are not stuck in one, you’ll get some tools to help you out. Before I get into toxic relationships though, I want to talk about relationships in general. I want to talk about two questions that you may not have ever thought about. You may have, but you may not ask on a regular basis. These two questions will shape and define your life as much as any two questions that you can ask. I know some people will say, “Well, isn’t the question I should be asking first, ‘Who is Jesus?’”

Yes. That, obviously, is the question of all questions. You’ve got to answer that question at some point. Listen, if you’re not a Christian in here today, and you came into church and you’re not even sure about the Jesus thing, that’s fine. What’s cool about Grace, this is a safe place. You can belong here before you believe. So, just hang out with us. We think that anybody who comes to Grace for several months, and hangs out with us and sees what we’re doing is going to surely come to the conclusion that God is at work in our midst and I need to get involved in this whole God thing. We believe that with all of our hearts. So, you can hang out here. We’re not going to embarrass you or any of that stuff.

But if you’ve made that decision about Jesus, which is obviously the most important of life decisions, but the two questions that I’m going to bring up here are questions that will shape your life forever. The questions are simply this: Where am I going and who’s going with me?

These are huge. Let me explain why. If you don’t know, and if I don’t know where we’re going, we’re going to end up anywhere. There are a lot of people that really don’t know where they’re going. I mean, they get up, they go to work and they do stuff, but they’re just sort of meandering through life. Listen, God has a plan for your life. God has a ministry for your life. The Scriptures say — Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 4, says that God put people in the Church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers — I’m one of those. What am I here for? To equip saints. Who’s that? That’s you. To equip saints for what? To work ministry. That means every single person in here has a ministry. If you don’t know what that ministry is, if you don’t know what God’s called you to do, you’ve got to find that out. That’s why we say get involved in small groups, get involved in serving, call in and we’ll do a spiritual gifts inventory. We’ll do whatever we can do. Throw yourself at ministry, throw yourself at the Kingdom of God, and eventually what’ll happen is you’ll figure out where your place is in the Kingdom of God and you’ll know where you’re going.

Then, when you know where you’re going, the next question is who’s going with me? Because if you’re going somewhere, and the people that are around you are not capable of going with you, they’ll keep you from accomplishing the things God has in your life. You know, my wife, Mindy, she likes to run marathons. I have no idea, for any reason in the world, why anybody would want to run a marathon, but she likes to run those marathons; 26.2 miles. I don’t understand it. She’ll come home and go, “Oh, I lost a toenail.” I’m like, “Why would you even want to run? I mean, what is wrong?”

The only running I want to do is from my problems. You know what I’m talking about? Anyway, she knows if she’s going to go run a marathon, do you know who she’s not taking with her? Her husband, because I’m looking for Mountain Dew. You know? And some coconut cream pie or something. You know?

So, I can’t go. I can’t go with her. So, she knows where she’s going. There are some people that can’t go. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It doesn’t mean you can’t pray for them. They just can’t go with you. In Kentucky, we have a phrase. You’ll hear these life coaches that’ll say, “Let me look at your friends and I will tell you your future.”

If you’re young in here today, you’re 30 and younger, listen to me here. Your decisions that you make now are hugely significant because ask anybody who’s 60 years and older how important those decisions at 20 years old are. They will tell you they’re massive. Okay? So, who you’re hanging around with is going to influence you. There’ll be some people that tell you, “Look at who you hang around. That’s who you’re going to be.” In Kentucky, we have a different phrase. We say it this way: If you lay down with dogs, you rise up with fleas. That’s the way we say it. It’s a Kentucky phrase. You know? We’re not saying that everybody’s a dog, we’re just saying that if you’ve got dogs in your life, you’re going to get fleas. So, you want to pay attention.

So, here’s the thing about relationships. It’s sort of counterintuitive. It’s counterintuitive for most of us. The closer you get to knowing what God has for you in your life, the closer you get to really paying attention to where you’re going — we’ll use Jesus for an example. The closer He gets to going to Jerusalem and going to the cross, what happens? Well, those large crowds start to become smaller. At the Garden of Gethsemane, there’s three. Crucifixion, there’s hardly anybody hanging around. Paul, as he starts doing his ministry, going all around the Mediterranean Basin, he starts getting people out of his life that are not conducive to what he’s doing. He has a very small group of people that he really trusts and runs with.

The disciples. They have this huge growth on the Day of Pentecost. The Church is growing. You’d think, man, they’d be hanging out with everybody. They say, “Do you know what? We’re going to have to give ourselves to the study of the Word of God in prayer.”

This sounds counterintuitive, but this is the truth. This is a relationship truism. The more you mature in your Christianity, the closer you understand what God has called you to do, the smaller your circle of people that are going to be intimately involved in your life are going to be. Because if you know where you’re going, not everybody can go with you, and vice versa. When you’re close in people’s lives, you can’t be the detractor from what God is doing in their life.

So, this is the conundrum.  The conundrum is this: How are we supposed to love people, how are we supposed to go out into the world, how are we supposed to turn the other cheek, how are we supposed to love our enemies, how are we supposed to do all these things, and yet, at the same time, actually have a smaller group of people that are involved in our lives in such a way that we’re intimate with them. How does that work? That’s a great question. It’s like, I stand up as a systematic theology teacher when I teach systematic theology, and I say, “God is sovereign. He is absolutely sovereign. Not even a bird falls to the ground apart from the Father’s will.”

Psalm 115:3: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

God is sovereign. He accomplishes everything according to the counsel of His own will. Ephesians 1. But, at the same time, you’re responsible for the things that you do. People go, “How does that work?” I go, “I don’t know.” And they go, “We paid all this money for somebody who doesn’t know?” And I’m like, “Yeah. That’s the way it works. The more you learn, the less you know.”

So, what I want to do is I want to try to answer this question of how do you reach people, how do you love people, how do you turn the other cheek, and that you only have a small, intimate group that you run with. Okay? So, the best example I can come up with — and you have to work with me on this one — is this example. It’s called a hazmat suit. I don’t know if you know what a hazmat suit is. It is a short abbreviation for hazardous material suit. Now, people who put these suits on, they’re not just walking around doing nothing. They’re out in the middle of all the toxic junk that you could do, cleaning it up. I mean, they’re on purpose. But they know something. They know that if the toxicity gets on their skin, or if they breathe it in, or if they ingest it, it’s a bad deal. It’s either going to be a really unpleasant experience, or it’s going to cause death. And if you’ve ever had toxin in your body, you know one thing. Your body is designed by God to get toxins out. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know. It’s not a fun experience.

So, they put on these suits because they know they’ve got to go out into the toxic waste area. They know they’ve got to go out and do the cleanup. But what they’re not wanting to do is when they’re out there in the middle of all of it to get it on them. So, as they’re out there doing the cleanup, in the toxic stuff or whatever, they’ve got these suits on. It keeps them from breathing it. It keeps it from getting on their skin and all that stuff. But what they do when they finally come back from that, they spray the suits off, hose them down and everything, and then they take those suits off. When they take those suits off, they’re not going to go back out into that toxic dump because it’ll get on them. So, likewise, you and me are called to go out in the world. We’re going to rub shoulder to shoulder with toxic people, with things that are bad and all that stuff, but you’d better have on your suit when you’re out there or it’ll get on you and it’ll affect you and keep you from becoming all that God wants.

But every single one of us is going to come home at some point and we’re going to take that suit off. When we take that suit off, you’d better make sure the small group of people that are really close to you are not toxic, because if they are, they’ll get on you very quickly. It’ll keep you from doing the things that God has called you to do.

So, knowing that and understanding that, I want to look at a passage in Scripture where God actually removes people out of someone’s life to accomplish what God has called them to do. In doing that, we’re going to eventually see some of the tests for toxicity, and then we’re going to move into, at the end, some practical things that will help us if we’re in a toxic relationship or help us to avoid a toxic relationship, and then we’ll pray and we’ll get out of here.

So, the story that I want to talk about, the passage of Scripture I want to look at, is a story of a guy named Gideon. Gideon was a judge, and God had called Gideon to go against the Midianite army, which we find, in Judges 8:10, is 135,000 strong. That’s a lot of people. Okay? You might ask the question, “How many people did Gideon have to go against the 135,000?” He had 32,000 people. If you do math, that’s really not good odds. Right?

So, we pick up in Judges 7 here with what’s going on, and we’ll see how God has got His plan that He wants to accomplish in Gideon’s life, but God also needs to get some people out of Gideon’s life so that Gideon can accomplish what God has prepared for him. I think, in doing so, as we go through the passage, then we’ll be able to see some toxic things that are going on, and then we’ll do some practical stuff here at the end.

It says, “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand,’”

Now, the last thing you want to hear when you’ve got 32,000 people going up against 135,000 is that you’ve got too many. Can I get an amen? That’s the last thing you want to hear. Like, you do not want to hear that. You’re like, “You know, God, I don’t know up there in the halls of heaven of there are math classes, but if there are math classes, you know...”

That’s what you’re sort of thinking. Like, “God, seriously? There are too many?”

He says, “Yeah. Here’s the deal for me. I don’t want Israel to even begin to be able to say that they won the battle. That’s my deal. I’m God and I want to make sure that you, Israel and everybody knows that when the battle’s won, it wasn’t how good you were, it wasn’t how great you were. It was me that won the battle.”

That’s the God side thing. Now we come to Gideon. For Gideon to accomplish what God wants for him to accomplish, “Where are you going, Gideon?”

“I’m going into war. I’m going into war in such a way that God doesn’t want it to happen in a way where anybody could think that we did it on our own. That is where I’m going.”

God says, “Okay. Well, to go there, there’s going to have to be some people that are removed out of your life.”

So, he starts off and He says, “‘Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’”

You can imagine, if you’re part of the 32,000 — these are all soldiers. You’re part of it and you’re whispering, “Dude, we have 32,000. They have 135,000. I don’t think Gideon heard God. I don’t think this is really what we need to be doing.”

He says, “You need to go and tell some people, ‘Hey, if you’ve got a little fear, if you’re a little concerned, if you’ve done the math and it doesn’t work out, guess what you can do? You can go home.’” He’s like, “Gideon, these people here aren’t going to help you accomplish what I need you to get accomplish. They need to go.”

And then we’re told how many. Twenty-two thousand people left, which left ten thousand. Now, if you do math, 32 against 135 was really bad; 10 against 135 is not good at all. Okay? So, now there’s 10,000 people that remain. And then you hear what God says next and you’re like, “No!”

He says, “‘The people are still too many.’”

It’s like, “God, we need to have a conversation here, You and me, one on one. You know, seriously?”

He says, “Yeah. They’re too many. Gideon, I’ve got a plan for your life. I’ve got something that I want you to accomplish. There have got to be some people that go so that you can go.”

Here’s what He says: “‘Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there,’”

“I’m going to do some war testing here on some people.”

“‘Anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one will go,’ they will go, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one will not go,’ will not go.’”

“We’re going to draw some boundaries here. There are going to be some people that can go and some people that can’t go.”

He says, “Here’s what’s going to happen.” He brings people down to the water.

“And the Lord God said to Gideon, ‘Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself.’”

“In other words, if they reach down to the water, they hold it up and they lick it like a dog, put them over there. And the ones that get down on all fours and take their lips on the water like a straw and suck water up, put them over here. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to separate them this way. There will be some that do this and some that do this. Separate them out.”

“And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men,”

So, you can do the math, right? There were 9,700 people that knelt down.

“But all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.”

So, do the math now. There were 10,000, and 9,700 did one way and 300 did the other.

“And the Lord God said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will save you...’”

In other words, “Gideon, if you’d have shown up with 32,000 people, it wasn’t going to happen. There had to be some people that needed to go so that you could accomplish what I need to accomplish in you, and I’m going to give the Midianites into your hand. Let everybody else go home.”

So, we started with 32,000, that was not good to begin with. Now we’re down to 300 people.

So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men.”

So, now what we do is we have 300 people that are going to go against 135,000 people. We’re going to continue this story in a minute, but right now we need to go back and look at the text a little bit and see some of the tests for toxicity, people that needed to go out of Gideon’s life so that Gideon could accomplish the thing that he needed to accomplish.

The first group of people that are mentioned in the text, or implicit in the text, are people who have fear. Let me tell you something. If you go home, take off your hazmat suit and you feel like God’s called you to do something, if you surround yourself with people that have a lot of fear, they will keep you from accomplishing the things God has in your life. He says, “Gideon, anybody who’s fearful and trembling, let them return home.”

The people that are fearful, do you know what they’ll do? They’ll go, “Dude, just look at what it is. I’m just trying to be reasonable here. I’m just trying to be rational. Thirty-two against one thirty-five ain’t going to work.”

See, the opposite of faith is not unbelief. The opposite of faith is fear. You say, “Really?” Yes. In Mark 9, read the passage. The father has a son that he wants to see healed. He says, “Lord Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

See, faith is always going to have an element of doubt. You don’t know for sure when you step out of the boat that you’re going to walk on the water. You don’t know. There’s always an element of uncertainty.

Let me just be vulnerable and real here about stuff. When we first came up here to Lakewood Ranch, right there were three offices. That was a hallway. The ceiling was about 8 foot. I mean, I’m short and I almost hit the ceiling. The door back there was a door into the hub. It was a little rinky-dink thing. And then we had a couple of children’s rooms. That’s what we had. When we came up with the original group — not the group that started coming; the original group from Swift and Ashton — we would come in here and I’d show them the building and go, “Can you see it?”

They’re like, “This is ridiculous.”

I mean, this place had cubicles in it, carpet that was ripped up and everything. They’re like, “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” They’re like, “Do you not understand? You’re in the back of a conference center. It looks like you’re a mixture of a cult and an Amway place. What are you thinking here?”

I had somebody that cussed. We were holding hands to pray, and he was like, “I don’t know what the...” — you know? I’m like, “Alright. Well, great. Fantastic. Hallelujah. H-E-double hockey stick.”

And then we painted the walls there because I thought, you know, we were a small church and if we were going to try to attract young families, I want to make it look like we care for kids. So, we painted the walls. People came up to me and said, “I can’t believe you spent the money doing that. What’s wrong with you? The only reason you painted the walls is because you’ve got children.”

I’m like, “No. I did it because I want to reach people.” I mean, I didn’t know. I had no idea. I didn’t know we would grow like we grew. But the closest people would tell you that I told them we’re going to reach all of Lakewood Ranch. And they were like, “You’re crazy.” That’s what they said to me. Even the people closest to me. But, you know, we came up here and we did that. And now, everybody’s like, “Man, you were a genius painting those walls.” It’s like, “I wasn’t a genius back then. I was stepping out. I was throwing it all in.”

I went all in hoping that what God would do — but I had doubt. What I didn’t have was fear. Then we started doing First Friday. I had people roll up on me at First Friday and say to me, “Are you sure what we’re doing here is any good? This is a lot of money we’re spending here. Are you sure this is worthwhile?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s worthwhile! We’re reaching people.” And now, I’ve got pastors that call me out-of-state going, “Tell me about your First Friday thing, man. You’re a genius.”

I’m like, “Man, you have no idea. When we did this, we had no idea that this was going to work. We just stepped out.” What I did is I had faith, but I didn’t have fear. I had all kinds of questions and all kinds of doubt. But what I’m telling you is this: When God has called you to do something in your life, and you take that hazmat suit off and you’re around those people that are closest to you, when they start telling you all the things that God can’t do, you’ve got to get them out of your life. You’ve got to go on with what God’s called you to do because they’ll drag you down. They will drag you down.

Some of you may be having a moment going, “I’m that person. I’m the person in fear.” Great. Well, that’s why we do these sermons. It’s not just about — it’s taking all of it in and letting God expose all of us and see who we are. This is what we do here. This is why we go to the Word of God. That’s why we look at this stuff.

The next thing is you say, “Well, where’s the text that says it?” There isn’t a text that says it, which is why the text says it. Nobody of the 31,700 came back and said to Gideon, “I was wrong. I should’ve gone with you, man. I should’ve believed.” See, here’s the next test for toxicity. You can’t have people like this. You can’t have people that want to be right all the time and they can’t admit that they’re wrong. They will drag you down. Can I tell you something? Whenever I hear somebody say to me, “Let me tell you what the truth is,” I know they ain’t got it. “Let me tell you what’s really going on.” You don’t know. You know who I want to surround myself with? People that are willing to say, “Hey, Chip. Do you know what? I blew it here. I did this wrong.”

I want to be the same guy. “Hey. Do you know what? I blew that there.” I want to be around people that go, “You know, I don’t know. I just know that God knows. I don’t know. I’m going to do what the Word says, I’m going to pray for the people that I’m supposed to pray for, but I don’t really know what’s going on, and I’m not going to try to know because I don’t know all the stuff. I’m just going to be humble, I’m going to have good character.”

Because the reality is, see, your skillset can take you places that your character can’t keep you. If you don’t have a heart that’s humble and a heart that genuinely cares. I mean, I’ve been that guy. I don’t have any problem bearing that. I’ve been the guy that thought he was right. If you’d have met me at 21, I was completely different guy than I am at 48 going on 49. I mean, God took 25 years and just kicked this Kentucky boy’s rear end all around Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and everything else to get me to understand that He doesn’t need me. He uses us, but He doesn’t need me. I come in here every week to a certain chair in the sanctuary, every week, and I put my hand on the chair and I say, “God, I know You don’t need to know this because You know this, but I need to say it. This is not my church and these are not my people. You don’t need me. If You want to remove me and put somebody else here, I’m okay with it.”

Why do I say that prayer? Because I know that God’s doing His thing. He doesn’t need me. Having that heart of being able to not always have to be right, and being able to say I’m wrong, and being able to say I’m sorry is a good place to be. You get around people that have always got to be right, that always want to tell you their opinion, that always want to tell you what’s going on, get them out of your life. They will drag you down every time.

The third group of people are people who only care for themselves. These people are interesting because they will try to make it look like they care about everything else, but in reality, they really care for themselves. Let’s look at the passage.

It says, “And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men,”

Let me give you a description here. This is what it looked like for most of them. This is what it looked like for the guy that lapped. You see Gideon here pointing, going, “Hey, get that one there and move them over there.”

What’s going on here? Every one of these people are soldiers. They’d all tell you they were soldiers. They would all tell you that they’re in. They would all tell you that they’re ready to fight and all of that. But 9,700 of them were selfish. Do you know why I know that? Because a true warrior, when they take that water, they never take their eyes off of the horizon, because if somebody’s coming in or an army’s coming in, they’re there to look to make sure they’re protecting the people that they’re working with. The other ones go, “I just need my water. Give me my water.”

You read Philippians 2. Paul says to the church at Philippi, “I hope to send Timothy to you shortly. I’ve only got one Timothy. All the other ones are concerned about their own interests, and not those of Jesus.”

Who’s he talking about? He’s talking about preachers that he could send. He says, “All of them, every single one of them, they really only care about themselves. I’ve got one Timothy. One Timothy that actually cares about you. All the other ones, they’re not bad people, but really, when it comes down to it, they’re only concerned about themselves.”

And you’ll see that all the time in ministry. You’ll see it when God calls you to do something. There’ll always be someone that goes, “But what I want and what I — let me tell you about this.”

It’s like, “Man, I ain’t got time for you in my life because I know where we’re going and I know what we’re doing. You have to be strong enough to say, “This is where God’s telling me to go. I know who can go with me. I know who can’t go with me.” And that doesn’t make you a jerk. That doesn’t make you a bad person. That just means that you’re putting God first in your life and nothing is going to distract you from becoming the things that God has called you to be.”

Yeah. That’s good preaching. So, knowing all of that, you can look and go, “Hey, do you know what? I’ve been those people. I may be those people.” That’s why we do this stuff. Well, some of us, though, are in toxic relationships. Like, we’re in them and we’re like, “What do I do?” Some of us are like, “I’ve been in them. How can I keep from it?” Well, I want to help you here. I’m calling this here “practical things to think about.” This is just some stuff to diagnostically think through. This is coming from pastoral care. This is coming from Scripture. This is coming from experience. This is just me talking to you as a human being, some things that you should think about, that I should think about, that we should think about in our lives that will help us to get out of toxic relationships or, most importantly, prevent us from getting into them.

The first question is a tough one. It’s a diagnostic question. What traits do I have, what traits do we have, that make us easy prey for toxic people? Is it possible that I’m the one that’s creating a lot of the environment that I’m in because I’m doing things and I have traits in my own life that are creating toxic people to get into my life, and everywhere I go, I’m always in a toxic relationship and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Maybe it’s some things that I’m doing. Maybe there are behavioral patterns that I have that are contributing to this. I’ll give you some examples. Do you have a need to please? See, a need to please is a deficiency. People who are toxic will zero in on you. I’m not talking about loving people with the love of the Lord. I’m talking about a deficient need to please. People will eat your lunch when you have that deficiency. The Scripture never says that we should have a need to please. Jesus can fulfill all of our needs. What we need to do is we need people with love, but not a need to please. I can tell you this: There have been so many people that do what I do — most people who are pastors, as a general rule, I’m not saying everybody, but most people who go into pastoral work, most people who go into ministry genuinely like people. I mean, they just like people.

In doing so, you say yes to everything. When you say yes to everything — you look at most pastors and they spend like five years, I think, in ministry. Pastors have got a high rate of divorce. Why? Because what they do is they’ll say yes to everybody, but then they’ll be neglecting their family and everything else because there’s this need to please. That’s a deficiency. Sometimes you’ve got to learn to say no. Sometimes you’ve got to just say, “I can’t.” You need to take that in your life. If you have a need to please, you need to look at that. That might be the thing that you need to work on between you and God that’ll keep you from getting in one or getting out of a toxic relationship.

You don’t want to rock the boat. I meet a lot of Christians that don’t want to rock the boat. See, we’ve got the harmless as dove thing. We do that pretty good. We just don’t do the wise as serpents very good. “I don’t want to rock the boat.” I use to do a lot of counseling. I used to marry and all that stuff and do those things. I had premarital people come in and talk. After I said, “Tell me a little bit about you,” and whatever else, what I’d usually say is, “When’s the last time y’all had a knockdown, drag out fight?” They would like at me, “Pastor Chip, why would you ask that question? We’re in love. We don’t fight.”

I’m like, “Well, let me tell you something. I ain’t marrying you until you go get into a fight.”

And they’re like, “What? What kind of bad dude are you?”

I’m like, “Listen, if you ain’t having a fight every once in a while, somebody is not telling you what’s really going on in the inside. Somebody’s not being honest. If you can’t be honest, then marriage ain’t going to work.”

You say, “Well, we don’t rock the boat.”

Let me tell you something. If you believe in Jesus and you believe He rose from the dead on the third day, and you believe He died on the cross, and you believe that God is a loving God, but He’s also a holy God, you ain’t going to go through this life very often without rocking the boat. You’re going to rock the boat.

Or what about this one? Hard time standing up for yourself. I’m not talking about being a jerk. I’m talking about when you know when something’s right. “I’m not doing that, even if that costs me my job. I’m not doing that. That’s wrong.” Sometimes we can’t. You know, the writer of Proverbs says, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” I would tell you what the paraphrase is. Don’t be a Christian that has a spine of a chocolate eclair. You know, sometimes you’ve got to know that this is what it is. But we do. We need to look at ourselves. What are our traits?

Another thing. How do I react to stuff? What’s my reaction? I can tell you most Christians overreact — just look at Facebook — to everything. There’s an overreaction. Or they under react. And can I tell you something? Overreaction and under reaction will bring toxic people into your life. They seize on it. This is a question here to ask: Do our reactions actually create an atmosphere for toxicity?

“I wonder how come everybody’s always jumping on my case and always getting in my face.”

Because you’re probably overreacting to things and you create bringing those people into your life because of the way you reacted. So, sometimes we’re in these things not because of people, but because of things we do. To get out of it, maybe we need to look at our self and look at some of the things that create. If you’re the person that’s toxic, you need to work on that too. But these are really good things.

The third thing. This is absolutely true. Go with our gut. If you think they’re creepy, they are creepy. I’m telling you right now. Danger, Will Robinson. Run! People are like, “I’m going to put on my hazmat suit and I’m going to go get them. I’m going to take creepy and get creepy really good.”

No. Creepy will cut your suit and get in your suit. Stay away from that. When your gut’s going, you need to run. Get away. I don’t know why we have such a hard time doing that, but we do. We wonder, “I don’t know why I’m in this toxic relationship.”

Go with your gut. You know this is not a good thing. Don’t hang out with not a good thing. We settle so often. “You know, I’m 35. I think they’re good looking. Everybody’s telling me it’s a bad thing, but, I mean...”

No. It’s not going to work. I’m telling you right now. I’m not even a prophet. I’m just telling you it’s not going to work.

Fourth. This is huge. Let’s not justify abnormal. What I mean by that, more specifically, is this: Don’t normalize abusive. I may irritate somebody here today, but that’s okay. I just told you we’re not always going to keep the boat straight. I am sick and tired of people that do what I do telling people that getting beaten and verbally abused is something that they should endure. Get out of that mess. Get out of it. This is ridiculous. Just ridiculous. God did not call you to stay in that type of stuff. Totally different if you’re being beaten for preaching the Gospel and preaching Jesus and you’re a martyr for that. God did not call you to be a martyr in your relationships. Okay?

And somebody says, “Oh, Chip just told me to divorce.” I didn’t say that. I said you just can’t stay in that thing. Maybe you need to get out and go to a different house. Maybe you need to get people involved. I don’t know where that goes, but what I’m telling you is this: If you’re in an abusive relationship and people are yelling at you or people are hitting you or people are hitting your kids, you need to get out. Any pastor, if he tells you something different, shame on them. Shame on them.

The last one I’ll tell you is this. This is hard for all of us. Boundaries. Like it says here, hey, there are going to be some that can go and some that can’t. And I’ll tell you what, when you draw a boundary on someone that’s got fear in their life, they’re selfish and always have to be right, they will be made at you. I mean, they’ll say, “You ain’t a Christian. You don’t love God. You’re not a good pastor. You’re not this.”

You know what? You just need to say, “Bye, Felicia,” and move right on. Just move right on. You know, sometimes you’ve got to block phone calls. Sometimes you’ve got to say no. Sometimes you can’t do this. I can tell you the two alphabet letters that I had to learn more than anything were N and O. Saying no to things. I can’t do everything. I’d like to. I can’t. I just have to say no sometimes. It’s funny. When I say no to people, they’re mad. You know? Sorry. Jesus left towns, folks. People were in line and the disciples are like, “We’re going to stay.” He’s like, “No. I’m going to that town.”

Why? Because He knew where He was going. Those people weren’t going to go with Him. Those people would distract Him from His mission. Don’t let people distract you from what God has called you to do. And let me tell you how this all works. So, what’s cool is the people that are the 300 people that God says to Gideon, “These are the people that you can take with you,” they’re the most competent of all the warriors. I mean, they are competent. Their skill level is great. They’re competent. Okay? But competency will take you up to certain places, but it will not take you into the supernatural and into the miraculous in your life. What they had to do is they had to lay that competency down because guess what God tells them? If you’re reading this story, you should be reading the story like, “God’s going to take 300 men, they’re going to get their swords, they’re going to get their battle axes, they’re going to get their helmets on and, somehow or the other, they’re going to turn into ninjas and Jedi warriors and take out 135,000 Midianites.”

Right? No. Here’s what He says: “I want you to get a trumpet. I want you to get a jar of clay and put a torch inside that jar of clay. Then I want you to go into their camp.”

Do you know what the two words are that you should be saying at that point? Come again? Right?

“This is what I want you to do.”

So, what do they do? They go into the camp, they blow the trumpet, shatter that jar and hold up those torches. It looked something like this. Do you know what happens? One hundred and twenty-five thousand of the Midianites go to war against themselves. One hundred and twenty thousand. And fifteen thousand of them flea. We find that out in Judges 8:10.

You’re like, “Seriously?”

Yeah. Because, see, God wants you to know that the battles that you’re going to fight and win are not going to be the things of how great you are. Competency can take you to a certain level, but to get into really supernatural and to see God do great things, you really have to have faith. These people roll into the thing, crack that pot, hold that light up, and that’s you and me. Are we willing to allow God to shatter this earthen vessel? Paul says we have the treasure in jars of clay. The excellency of the power might not be of us, but of God. Are we willing to let the jar of clay be shattered so that the light of Christ can shine? I’m going to tell you this: You’re not going to get here when you take your hazmat suit off if you’ve got people all around you that don’t have faith, aren’t humble and don’t have the character to go forward, are fearful in everything and are worried about themselves more than anything else. It ain’t going to happen. You have to make those decisions. And you don’t have to be a jerk. You don’t have to be mean. You don’t have to be nasty. It doesn’t mean we don’t put our hazmat suits on, go into the world and get out there in the middle of the toxicity and all of that stuff doing the things that God’s called us to do, but it does mean when you come home and you take that suit off, the people that are around you, you need to pay attention to who they are because toxic relationships will keep you and I from becoming all that God has for you and I. They will do that.

So, if you’re in one, the thing that you can do is take some of these principles, get around some good, godly people and start talking about it, praying about it and figuring out what you’ve got to do. If you’re not in one, take these principles and don’t get yourself stuck in one. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, for the simplicity of things that we make so complicated. And I pray, specifically, for two people. If anybody in this room, or anybody listening right now via the internet or mobile app, is in a toxic relationship, I pray that they would just put their hand over their heart right now and say, “God, I need some help. I need some wisdom. I need You to look at me. I need to figure out things I’m doing that create this. I need to get with some godly people and get some wisdom. Because, Lord, what I just heard is right. This relationship is going to keep me from becoming all that You want me to be. Lord, I need to do something about that.”

For those of you all who are not in a toxic relationship, I would ask that you would pray right now, “God, help me to take these principles and help me to really digest them so that I don’t get myself stuck in one in the future.”

Lord, my prayer is that You would develop the people of Grace into mature Christians that are equipped in every way to do all the things that You’ve called them to do so that You can be glorified in every single person that goes here at this church. So, Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. We ask that as we leave, we ask that You would continue to go with us, You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and we pray, Lord, that You would keep us focused on what You’ve called us to be here at Grace, which is a church that is called to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Chris Pedro