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ENCOUNTERING JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
About this series
Keep Pressing Ahead
How to Make it Through Anything
There are times in our lives when we simply get to the point that we say, "I can't take it anymore!" This depression is just too dark. This marriage is just too hard. The job I lost, the family member I buried, the junk I'm going through. And deep, down inside your heart you say, "I quit. I'm done." And though you may go through the motions on the outside, you've just had it. Your mind says, "I've got to trust God," but your heart says, "I've heard it all before and it's not working for me." You begin to drift - from people and from God. This series, drawn from Nehemiah, will help you overcome adversity and keep you pressing ahead no matter what.More from this series
There are times in our life when we simply get to the point where we say, “I can’t take it anymore.” “This marriage is just too hard.” “This depression is just too dark.” “The job I lost . . .” “The family member that I buried . . .” “The junk that I’m going through . . .”
And down deep inside your heart – you may not say it to anyone else, but something just starts happening, and it’s like, “I quit. I’m done. I’m opting out. I may go through the motions on the outside but I’m just . . . I’ve just had it.”
It’s a very private, dark, scary place to be. Your mind tells you things like, You gotta keep moving forward. You gotta trust God. There are promises. Everything’s going to be okay. And your heart says, “I’ve heard all that. It ain’t working for me.”
When you get to a place like this, there are some temptations that come into your mind that you think you would never even think about, and you’re now considering. And they dance around in your mind, and then they start lodging down into your heart. And you start actually considering and playing out mental fantasies of some ways to opt out, or sedate the pain.
And you begin to drift. You drift from people; you drift from God. And there was a group of people that were experiencing that, and they were drifting. And the Spirit of God spoke to the writer of Hebrews. And he wanted to encourage them; He wanted to draw them back. He wanted to give them perspective. And so, he reminded them, and this is what he said in Hebrews 10.
He said, “Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when everything you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that would last forever.”
He reminded them of what they’d been through in the past, how God was faithful, eternal perspective. And then, his word of hope – verse 35: “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it will bring you!”
Don’t opt out. Don’t give up. There’s a great reward now; there’s a great reward later.
And then, you would expect, later, for him to give, “Now, here’s the solution. Here’s what you do. Here’s what’s going to make it all right. Here’s the formula.”
And he gives it to us, but we don’t like it. It’s verse 36. I put it in your notes. “For you have need of endurance, so that once you’ve done the will of God, you might receive what was promised.”
When you feel like that, when I feel like that, when things are going terrible, God’s word is, “Remember. Think back. Now you have need of endurance.”
Circle the word endurance. It’s one of those interesting Greek words: hupomeno. Hupo: under, meno has stress, pressure, pain. You have need to keep pressing ahead. You have need to hang in there.
And then, what the writer does, he says, “The Lord has no pleasure when we shrink back from walking by faith and trusting Him.” And so, he gives a whole chapter, in chapter 11, of people that hung in there, people that hung in there. It’s the hall of fame of faith.
And after he gets done with chapter 11, then he opens up chapter 12. And he says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses” – looking back at Abraham, Enoch, Sarah, Daniel, Samson – we have such a great cloud of witnesses of people that, despite their ups or downs, their pains, their struggles, who remained faithful – he said, “let us lay aside every encumbrance.” Not necessarily sin – stuff, loads, weights.
It’s like a runner who puts on those little shorts, instead of a backpack, when he runs a marathon. It’s because a backpack is a lot of junk. Is it wrong to wear a backpack? No. But you just don’t want to do it when you’re going to run twenty-six miles – point two.
And then, he says, “Lay aside that and the sin and run the race with” – what? – “with endurance that’s set before you.”
Most people miss the greatest things in all the world with God, their future, relationships, career, and their family, because they have a window like I described, and sometimes they don’t outwardly quit, but inwardly, they quit.
And what you’re going to learn is, the great reward that God has for us in the midst of our adversity is when we keep pressing ahead. When we endure. And we’re going to learn why to endure, and we’re going to talk, in this new series, about how you can make it through anything.
Why? Because God has a great plan. He has a reward in this life, and a far greater one later. And He summarizes it in these three words. Jot them, if you will, right in your notes: “Keep pressing ahead, no matter what.”
And some of you, if you were honest – I met a guy last night who was diagnosed eighteen months ago with terminal cancer. I met another man right after the service who is dealing in a family situation with someone who is an alcoholic. Another situation of someone who just discovered that their mate is having an affair.
So, there might be many, many people in this room that are thinking, I hear what you’re saying, but you don’t get it, Chip. You don’t understand what I’m going through. It’s too hard; it’s too difficult. I didn’t even want to come this morning, and I don’t even know why I’m here. But down deep in my heart right now – my mind wants to buy into what you’re saying, but I’m just not buying it.
God can help you get through anything. And whether that’s divorce, or depression, or separation, whether it’s you’re tired of being lonely or single, whether you’ve lost your job or your house, whether it’s cancer, or troubled health, or aging parents, or a child that you don’t know what to do with, or a parent you don’t know what to do with. Whether it’s you didn’t get in a school, or you’ve been betrayed by a friend . . .
For the next six weeks – because this is not going to be one of those great, “Oh, yes. I got one good message. I think I’ve got a little bit of new perspective.” This is the launching ramp. And we’re going to build a framework of what the Bible says about how we need to think about and understand adversity, and difficulty, and pain.
And then, for the next five weeks, we’re going to follow the path of a man called Nehemiah, who has five different kinds of adversity, who responds differently in each kind of adversity, who refuses to give up. And he experiences the reward now, and an even greater reward later.
Some of you are really motivated. You’re really motivated because your marriage is not what it needs to be. Some of you – like, last night, there’s a guy with cancer. He’s real motivated to discover, “So, God, how do I make it through this?” The deeper, the more difficult, the more painful your problem, the greater the likelihood you’re open to hear from God like never before.
And so, in this first session, what I want to do is give a framework. And first is – are you ready? Step one is what I just call “a basic understanding of adversity.” This is just understanding the basics.
There are four specific principles in this one. It’s, you can’t, but Christ can. I hear people all the time – and I’ve said it to God: “God, I can’t. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live with this anymore. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” God says, “Good! That’s the first principle. You can’t, I can.”
Philippians 4:13 – the apostle Paul would say, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And so, let’s just get out of the idea that you can do it – you can muster the strength; somehow you have the willpower. I got news for you. You can’t. But God can, through you.
Second, if you will, open your Bible to Psalm 34. The author of one of the greatest teachings in all of the Bible, in terms of how to make it through difficult times, is David.
Yes, he was a king; yes, he was powerful, but he went through some of the most devastating pain. The great majority of all the Psalms are written by a guy, and he shares his heart.
And in Psalm 34, verse 19, he says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” You need to believe. You need to believe, not just intellectually, but you need to believe that God wants to help you.
I memorized that in a different translation. It says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” These aren’t bad people. This is of the righteous. These are people who say, “God, I want to do life Your way. God, I want to love people. God, I want my life to be exactly what You want it to be.
Many are the afflictions – the difficulties, the pain, the hardships – that righteous people go through. But the second half: “The Lord delivers them from them all.” He delivers out of them; He delivers through them. Not always the way you want, not always the time that you want.
But you gotta believe. God’s not down on you. He’s your Good Shepherd. He cares about you. He really wants to help you.
Third, is, you need to admit your need. Psalm 34:18 – he says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those that are crushed in spirit.” In fact, the big part of what God is doing in your adversity – He’s a good, loving, kind, absolutely in control God, who knows everything in a fallen world.
And when people betray you, and difficulty comes in, and things that you can’t control, God promises to take that adversity, and what He wants to do is, He wants to wean you of your self-dependency, and your pride. He wants to usher you into intimacy with Him. He wants all that difficulty to drive you to Him.
But you know what you have to do? You gotta admit you need him. There are some of us, “Oh, I’m going to do this. I’ll just buck up. I’ll be stronger. I can get through this. I know some people.” You know?
And guess what? The velvet vice of adversity just gets harder and harder and harder and harder, and as someone wisely said, when you finally hit rock bottom, there’s only one place to look.
You meet with people with addictions, and I’ll tell you what they’ll all tell you: the people that have had addictions and broken through them, they will just say, “Until you come to the end of yourself, you’re just playing games.”
And God is near to the brokenhearted. He’s near to those who are crushed in spirit. To those who say, “I can’t do this” – and mean it – “I really can’t. I am powerless, and helpless to work my way out of this situation.” That’s how you respond to adversity.
Then, notice what David says in verse 17. He says, “I cried out to the Lord and He heard my prayer. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and [He] delivers them from all their trouble.”
Now, notice, he didn’t say he prayed. He didn’t say he asked. He said he cried out. You might put in your notes – it’s not in your notes, but jot down Hebrews 5:7 and 8. This is tucked in this chapter, about Jesus, that we don’t think of Jesus this way. But it says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.”
This is Jesus, now. “Although He was a Son,” it goes on to say, “He learned obedience through the things which He suffered.” Jesus was fully God – perfect, never sinned. But He was fully human. And He walked with the Father, and blazed the trail, not in His deity, but in His full humanity.
It says, “In His days” – plural – “on earth.” There were days when He felt so overwhelmed, and so pained, and so – And He cried! It says “with loud cries and tears.”
If you would see Jesus, and we were over here, and He was a few stones throws away, He wouldn’t be saying, “Father, I’m on mission. Thank You very much. We’re going to get this taken care of, because I’m God.”
You would have heard Him crying out, “Oh Father! I can’t take it anymore! The people betrayed me; they’re not responding. I don’t know what to do. I feel tempted. My –” He was crying out to God. He cried before the Father.
And it says, “He was heard because of His reverent submission.” He didn’t give in. He didn’t give up. He didn’t opt out. He said, “Not My will, but yours be done.”
People, that’s the basics. Most of us spend our energy, in adversity, trying to avoid it, trying to deny it, trying to sedate it, trying to blame someone else for it, instead of asking God to use it in us.
I can’t, He can. I believe God wants to help me. I admit that I need His help. And then, at a level like never before, you cry out to God. And you let your emotions come out, and your frustrations come out, and your hurts come out. And the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.
I’ll tell you what, I look back on my life, and I remember one of my kids in the ICU. And we didn’t know if he was going to make it. I didn’t pray some simple, little prayers. “Oh Father, in the name of Thy Lord Jesus, would You heal my son?”
My wife got cancer. I didn’t pray little prayers. When I endured a personal failure about five or six years ago… I remember being in my basement, just crying. “I can’t turn this around. I’ve not failed in ministry before. I failed. They asked me to come turn this thing around. I can’t turn it around. I blew it. I’m glad some good things happened, but I can’t do it.”
And I will tell you, in those windows of time, when I came to the end of myself, and literally not just cried out, but cried, I experienced a love from God that I’ve not experienced at any other time in my life.
And that intellectual knowledge, that I know that God loves me not because I do something, and God loves me if I do something – that unconditional, “You are my son. You are my daughter…” You will experience that. And adversity is allowed by God, and, at times, caused by God, to bring you to that point, because He loves you. And He wants the best for you.
I’d like you, at this point, before we go on, to ask – most of you are there, at least your heads and body language are telling me you are. What’s the number one issue you’re wrestling with? What’s the biggest adversity? What’s the biggest problem?
Because you know what you do? After a while, you just put it over in a little category, and put it in a box, and you just keep on living. And we just pretend it’s not there. And we just keep the noise up, and figure ways to deal with it. I want you to get it out of the box, and get it right in front of you, and right before God. Because step one – these are the basics.
Step two is, you gotta stop believing the lies about adversity. You’ve been pumped, most of your life, with, every time difficult, painful, unjust, hard things come into your life, here are the lies that have just bombarded your mind. And they’re subconscious, many of them. You believe these. You don’t even know you believe them! But they determine your behavior.
So, you’re in a tough situation: “This isn’t fair. It’s not worth it. God doesn’t love me. This is the way it is; things will never change. I’m being punished by God. I guess I’m a terrible person. There’s no hope for me. No one cares about me. If God is really good, how could he let this happen? This is too much. I know He says He won’t give us more than we can bear, but this is more than I can bear. I’m out.”
Or sometimes, “I’m a failure.” And you just turn off. “What’s the use?” You’ll tread through the motions of life, but no vision, no passion, no dream, because you’re a failure.
Let me tell you the truth about what God says about adversity. Number one, it’s normal. Ready for that? Adversity is not unusual; it’s not unexpected. It’s normal. Authority? Jesus. John 16:33. It’s the last night. He wants to prepare His men for what they’re going to go through.
He doesn’t say, “Look, I’m going to die; I’m going to rise from the dead. We’re going to make this thing happen.” He said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This is a promise. “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
This is a promise you don’t even have to complain to receive. He said, “Look, I’m telling you in advance, it’s going to be hard, difficult. You got trouble coming.”
The apostle Paul would go on to say – talk about a promise. Second Timothy 3:12 – he says, “For all of those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, you will be persecuted.” Well there’s a happy… Gosh, thanks, Paul. “So, you mean if I really live it out, if…” Yeah.
But what happens to so many of us? You fly your flag, or you love someone, or you take a step of faith and you get a little flack: “Oh, God, what’s wrong?” Nothing! This was what happened to Paul. This was what happened to Jesus. This was what happened to Peter. This is what happens to all Christians.
Are you ready? Adversity is normal. Peter would go on to say it’s expected. He writes, in I Peter 4:12, he says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you” – notice, there’s purpose – “for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
Why are you surprised? I meet Christians all the time – and I fall into it myself. Something difficult will happen. “Well, why? What’s wrong? What did I do?” instead of, “This is normal. It’s expected.” But here’s when it gets at least kind of good for me. It’s purposeful.
Romans chapter 5, the first five verses – In fact, these are five verses that are worth memorizing, the apostle Paul, looking at what all God has done. And then, he opens up chapter 5, and he says, “Therefore…” He talks about, we’ve been justified by faith, through Jesus Christ, and we exalt in this new relationship. And he talks about, we have this introduction into grace in which we stand.
And you have the apostle Paul looking at his past, looking at the work of Christ, this grace, this forgiveness, this promise of the future. And he says, “We exalt in hope of the glory of God.”
And the word exalt means “rejoice,” and “take pride in,” and there’s this sense of, Wow! And we also exalt in what? It means we rejoice, take pride in, embrace, lean into, squeeze every drop of profit out of tribulation. Why? Because it’s purposeful.
Tribulation leads to endurance. That’s our word, hupomeno. Endurance leads to proven character. Proven character leads to hope. And hope doesn’t disappoint, because in the midst of that pain, in the midst of that difficulty, as you keep pressing ahead, that’s when the love of God gets poured into your heart.
I remember reading a book, recently, by a fellow named Os Hillman who was an executive in the Dallas area, I think, at the time, or Atlanta. And he had an advertising business, and was making millions of dollars, and living in a big estate, and had everything that you’d think, and was a very public Christian businessman. And within about six months, everything in his life went upside down: business, home, marriage, one of his kids – everything.
And he wrote in his book, “Adversity changes us. Adversity is the crucible that melts down the old us. Adversity is the hammer that shapes the new us.”
See, if you unconsciously, or consciously, are just trying to figure out, How do I get through it? I just gotta get through it… Or, How do I avoid it? Or, How do I arrange my life, so I never have to face it? How do I stay comfortable?
I read a quote in my research by someone who said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” That’s where life begins. And yet, most of us spend all of our energy, Okay, how do I create this world where... Security here, security here, this here, this here, every relationship, control this, do that…
See, adversity is normal, it’s expected, it’s purposeful, and it’s powerful. Peter would write, after being persecuted, in chapter 5 verse 10, “After you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself confirm, perfect, strengthen, and establish you.”
See, it’s not only purposeful. God wants to transform your life through adversity. But it’s powerful. You meet someone that has confidence, and character. You meet people that have been married for a long time, and there’s a richness to their relationship. You meet people that have been through hard times, and love deeply. I will tell you what, they’ve suffered much. But they didn’t opt out. They didn’t give up.
An awful lot of marriages that stopped at five, or seven, or eleven, or, often, at twenty, twenty-five years, when the empty nest hits – God had this awesome golden years and great plan for them. They opted out. It got hard. “Well, she just cares about the kids.” “All he cared about was his career.” “I don’t feel loved anymore.” “I went on Facebook, and I found a friend from high school.”
Good luck, sweetie. Good luck hunkaroo. It ain’t what it was, and you aren’t what you were, and what you’re looking for is identity, an escape clause. There are difficult, painful things that you must overcome in every season: in seasons of singleness, of early marriage, with kids, without kids, with infertility, or in jobs. And God wants to use every single one of them, as you don’t bail out, to confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
And the kinds of people that you rub up against that you think, Someday I’d like to be like him. Someday I’d like to be like her – I will tell you what, they just hung tough. They trusted God.
Finally, it’s temporary. This is good news. This is a man who was beaten three times, within an inch of his life. This is a man that took the thirty-nine lashes. This is a guy that writes all these letters about joy, from prison. Right? This is the apostle Paul.
And you say, “Paul, what kind of perspective did you have? How did you get your arms around this?” He says, “Therefore, we do not lose heart, though our outward man is decaying.” Or we lose our house, or lose our job, or someone walks out on us, or you’re not married.
“Yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look at the things which are seen, but not at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Do you get it? See what he’s saying? See, at some point in time, you either believe that the “now” is all there is, and you’ll manipulate, and maneuver, and try to do life inside just the “now.” And it doesn’t work out for anyone.
Or you’ll understand there is a far, far bigger, eternal picture, and you’ll live in the “now” in light of the “forever.” And that’s why people can have joy. Not always happy with happy circumstances, but joy in the midst of very difficult things.
Sometimes when I’m preparing, and working through things – and by the way, I’ve learned so much. The last few weeks of studying, I’ve just learned a bunch. But sometimes I just stop, and I say, “God, there are so many verses. Would You help me take everything that I’m learning, and maybe put it in one sentence? Maybe just one sentence, so I could get my arms around it.”
Because what I’ve given you all, so far, some of you, I’m watching your eyes, and, the Spirit of God is – “Oh, yeah. You know what I need?” A little tipping point of inspiration that says, “I need to look at adversity differently.” It’s going to last a few hours through this afternoon, and I will tell you, it will not compete with your emails tomorrow morning.
The only way that you’ll think biblically, and not have all those lies, is if some of you say, “Okay. I don’t think of adversity as being normal, expected, purposeful, powerful, or temporary. I’m going to write, ‘Adversity is normal.’ And then, I’m going to open my Bible, and then I’m going to write that verse out, on a 3x5 card. And then, I’m going to read that at night – I’m not even going to try and memorize it – and I’m going to pray it back to God. And I’m going to do that for all five of those, and I’ll have five cards.”
And I’ll tell you, you do that for two or three weeks, and you come back and talk to me. You’ll start filtering everything that goes through your world completely differently, because instead of, Oh, this is unfair, and What a bummer, and I guess I’m a failure, and Am I being punished? You know what you’ll start thinking? This is normal. It’s hard, but it’s normal. It’s purposeful.
Then, you’ll start thinking, So, I wonder what God wants to do? I guess if I’m to endure it, it proves His proven character. In other words, as I endure, instead of God changing out there, He changes me. I’m actually becoming more patient. I’m becoming more loving. I’m becoming more kind. Wow! That gives me hope.
And as that gives me hope, Oh, the Spirit of God is really real. I’m not playing this game of trying hard to be a good Christian. This is supernatural. Wow! Thank You, God.”
Here’s how I want to think about adversity the rest of my life: Adversity is the uninvited, unwanted friend in the hands of an all-knowing God. See, don’t get me wrong. He’s uninvited. And he’s unwanted. So I don’t like him. I’m going to be honest about that.
But he’s a friend. Adversity is not your enemy, in the hands of an all-knowing God, whose purpose is to wean us of our self-dependency and pride, usher us into deeper intimacy with Jesus, and redirect our paths to ensure our greatest good, and His greatest glory.
And He does that as we learn to trust Him. All of this ends up being about faith, as we learn to trust God’s character, and God’s Word, in all things, for all things, and through all things.
And so, I’m either going to look at it, and filter it this way, or This is an unwanted friend entering my life right now. And it doesn’t mean other people haven’t sinned, doesn’t mean other people haven’t messed up, doesn’t mean that… Sometimes I bring it on myself.
But when I’m in the midst of it, I can either, Oh, what did I do? What did I do? What did I do? Or I can say, “Okay this is where I’m at. I’ve asked God to forgive me; He’s forgiven me. But here’s my situation: An all-knowing God, in the midst of my pain, is going to wean me from my pride, and I’m going to own this, and my self-dependency.”
And as I, like Jesus, with loud cries and tears, cry out to Him, He’s going to develop an intimacy with Him, probably deeper than I’ve ever had before.
And here’s the amazing thing. You think adversity is so bad? If you would look in the rearview mirror of your life, often it was adversity that was, “Oh! I broke up with that girl! Wow, I’m married to this other one for thirty-two years. It’s been really good. I’m sure glad I had a little adversity there.”
Or, “I was going to go this way, and I was going to do this job, and I was going to major in this. And then, adversity: Oh, I didn’t get accepted! Oh it was terrible! And, oh, so I took this job, and oh, my, I would have never chosen it for myself.”
Right? Couldn’t we tell stories like that? Couldn’t adversity be one of the kindest, best things? You know why? Because God wants what’s best for you, not what you want.
If you got everything you want, you’d have a miserable life, because you don’t know what’s best for you. You just know what everyone says is best for you.
Well, let’s talk, now, about the journey that we’re going to go on, and I’ll just give you a little overview of our friend Nehemiah. And he is one of my heroes. He’s one of my heroes, one, because I didn’t grow up as a Christian. And second, because he’s not a religious guy.
What I mean by that – every time someone shows up, and they’re a prophet, or they’re a priest, or they’re a preacher, I don’t know about you, but I feel like, Well, they must get extra grace. I’m sure they do. We do.
But whenever I find a regular guy making a big difference – like a business guy, or just a regular lady, or a servant girl – and God changes the world through them, it gives me just a lot of hope, like, Maybe this is for all of us regular people.
And so, what I did was, I took Nehemiah and I said, “We need to learn to handle adversity the way Nehemiah does.” And what I want you to observe is that the adversity in his life comes for five different reasons.
In chapter 4, terrible things happen because he obeys. In chapter 5, terrible things happen because other people disobey. In chapter 6, terrible, difficult things happen because he has the courage to lead, and he gets attacked; there’s spiritual warfare.
In chapter 7, there are just negative circumstances. No one did anything wrong, they just don’t have any people, don’t have any money, and they can’t do it. Then what are we going to do?
And then in chapter 8 the big problem is - because the nation disobeyed God’s discipline came in, and they found themselves in a situation.
And if we would go through the entire chart – and we’re going to walk through this journey together – you’re going to learn when you do some things right, and opposition – Next week we’re going to learn, how do you face discouragement?
Because don’t you get discouraged? I still remember – I’m going to get up fifteen minutes early. And I’m going to… I’ve tried this, I’ve tried this, I’ve tried this, and I’m the laziest guy in the whole world. I just can’t open the Bible in the morning. And I know I should, know I should, know I should, know I should. This was, like, thirty years ago.
And so, I finally set my alarm; I stuck it in another room. I finally got up, started doing it. And, I mean – and I mean this not as a cuss word, please, so don’t write me or email me. I mean this in the theological sense: All hell broke loose. I mean all hell broke loose.
Every time I watch organizations or individuals take specific steps toward godliness, and righteousness, and caring about hurting or lost people, things usually get worse before they get better. It’s normal.
So how do you respond to that discouragement? That’s next week.
But the theme is the timeless truth: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” That’s the timeless truth. That’s true of your adversity. I don’t know what you’re going through. God does. I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I’ve had those feelings. Jesus had those feelings. He wanted to give up. He wanted to opt out. He wanted to quit.
In fact, He even asked the Father if He could quit, remember? His very last prayer? And this is a loose translation, but it went something like this: “If there’s a plan B up there that We didn’t think about, let’s go with that right now. Because I don’t want to be separated from You, and I don’t want to go through that suffering. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours.”
What’s He saying? “I’m going to press ahead.” What He says to the Father is, in the power of the Holy Spirit, “I can make it through anything with Your help and strength.”
I came across a little motto, if you will, that has really helped me. In fact, the other morning, I injured something, and so I haven’t been able to work out. And my history has been, I like to work out, and so I’ve never had much problem being motivated.
But I got injured, and so I’ve not done it for a while, like I want to. And now – maybe some of you can identify – I’m trying to get back with it. And my motivation is gone.
You know? I’m going to, I’m going to, and then I don’t do it. I’m going to, I’m going to, and I don’t do it. Do any of you have these issues, like, with food? Okay. I’m going to.
And so, finally, I decided, I’ll do it first thing. I’m going to roll out of bed, and whether it’s 5:00 or 5:30, or a little before, I’m going to do it first. The other morning, … You know how, when you start, it’s like, Okay, I have four days in a row. Way to go, and…
And then – so, this is the second week, and I’ve missed a couple days, and… For really good reasons, that I made excuses about.
And so – you know how you feel like, I’m either going to stay on track, or I’m going to just plummet again? And I’m lying in bed, and it’s even earlier than normal, and I’m thinking, “Lord, I don’t want to do that.”
And then – I still remember it, because I’m studying all this, right? I always get a little advance – because I study this before I give it to you. And I remember lying in bed, thinking, I just can’t get up. And this came to my mind, “I can’t, but You can.”
As I was lying in bed, I just prayed, “Father, Father –” Because with some specific disciplines, there’s a domino effect in other areas of your life. When I’m disciplined here, my prayer life’s more disciplined. When I’m disciplined here, my eating is more disciplined. When I’m disciplined here, my tongue is more disciplined.
So, this wasn’t just trying to get in shape. I realized my will was getting weak, in terms of obedience.
And so, I laid in bed, I said, “Okay, Lord Jesus, I can’t, but You can, through me. Will You give me the grace? I’m going to put my foot on the ground, and I’m going to go put on my shoes.” And I did, and it worked out, and it was just – Whew!
For many of you that’s, “I can’t stay in this marriage another day. I can’t, but You can.” “I can’t handle this depression one more day. I can’t, but You can.” “I can’t stand being single one more day! I can’t, but You can. “I can’t go on without the job, or with the…” “I can’t…”
And so, here’s what I like – it’s a little motto I came across. It says, “I can’t, He never said I could. He can, He always said He would.” That takes all the truth, and it bundles it for you in a way that I think is a to-go package. It’ll really help you. If you apply that, and remember that, it’ll really help you. He said, “I can’t, He” – Jesus – “never said I could. He can, He always said he would.”
Now, as I was thinking about this – I was driving in my car, and I had a brief moment of insanity that I decided to go ahead and share with you. So, are you ready? Would you stand up with me? We’re getting near the end, but – not like “dismiss” end, but – I tried this sitting down, and the people just did not… Okay?
Just follow along, okay? Leave your what other people think around you. Okay? I want you to come up and, “Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom.” C’mon. “Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom.” We need a little more soul in the room. “Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom” Good. Okay.
[Crowd]: Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom!
[Chip]: I can’t, never said I could!
[Crowd]: Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom! Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom!
[Chip]: He can, He always said He would. You got it now? Come on, now. Come on!
[Crowd]: Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom!
[Crowd] I can’t, never said I could! Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom! Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom!
[Chip]: He can, He always said He would. Boom, chicka, chicka, chicka, boom. All right! Way to go! Jay-Z be looking for a job soon.
The last portion is an assignment. I’m not going to go through the passages. But here’s what I need you – you gotta understand. If you do not discern the source, or sources – because, often, there are more than one. If you do not biblically, clearly, Holy Spirit-led discern the source of your adversity, the chances are, you will respond in a way that will hinder your growth and endurance, instead of grow through it.
There are some of you that, if you’re going through a hard time, I will tell you, you’ll run to hear. You don’t get strength from God by hearing other people talk. You get strength from God when your nose gets in God’s Word, with a heart that’s hurting, and says, “Oh God, help me.” And He’ll speak to you.
David would say, “If Your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” You don’t get strength listening to people. You get strength when the Word of God, fresh off the page of the Holy Spirit, does something in your heart, and it gives you the strength to persevere.
Physical exhaustion is one reason for adversity. The story is of Elijah. The response is rest. When I get physically exhausted, I often assume I’ve sinned. I ask God to explore my heart: “What have I done wrong?” And usually, a good friend, or my wife, says, “Chip, you did eleven messages in four days, you did two videos, and wrote a chapter of a book, and met with four people. What part of being tired don’t you understand? Just go to bed. Eat a good meal. Don’t evaluate.”
The second reason is consequences of sin. You repent. You blow it, I blow it, you got a problem. You got a problem because God won’t be mocked. When I sin, and you sin, it reaps corruption. Problems in my life – I need to repent.
The third cause is spiritual warfare. There are times where there’s actual demonic influence, that often comes in these other times, but it’s trying to thwart God’s purpose in your life. You have to fight. You don’t rest. And you don’t run.
The fourth opportunity – I guess I would call it that – is God’s discipline. There are times where He’s preparing you for the next big season of fruit. It’s much like Jesus talked about, where He does pruning. And what you need to do there is, you need to submit.
There are times He’ll come into your life and say, “Everyone else, it’s okay for them to do. I don’t want you to do this thing anymore.” Or, “I want you to do this thing.” “Now, why doesn’t – I…” And He’ll say, “Because I said so, and I’m your Father.” He’s preparing you. He’s pruning you. You need to hear His voice and submit.
And finally, the last is negative circumstances. Put James 1 verses 2 to 4. And you endure. Actually, you joyfully endure.