Have you ever just felt crushed? Have you wondered, what is going on? Why is this happening? You make steps towards God and boom, you get hit with life. You want to work on your marriage so you share them that you love them, they stare back, like, ya right. You do all the right things and life unfolds in a way that crushes you. It’s not fair! It leaves you crushed. It leaves you with questions about what is really happening.
Here is a real honest moment from Paul who fully engaged the God mission. This is what Paul reported while he was in the middle of the mission of Christ. 8 I think you ought to know, dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. 9 We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. TLB 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. …7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. NIV 2 Corinthians 4:1, 7
What’s Paul saying? I fully engaged the God mission and I was crushed. The only thing we could do is the following; while we continued to be crushed, we trusted God. You Corinthians, let me give you an analogy of how it felt. We felt like clay jars being shattered.
Notice what he didn’t say. “I am being crushed but the good news is that things are getting better.” He didn’t say, “I am being crushed but the good news is my 401k is loaded.” He didn’t say, “I am being crushed but the good news is I am going deer hunting or biking this weekend.” No. He said, I engaged the mission and was crushed like a clay jar.
When we hear this today, what do we think, what is our natural tendency? It sounds awful. We want to avoid a crushing at all costs. We hate the idea of being crushed. We want comfort and safety and before we obey what God expects from us, we need Him to shows us how it will end. And it better end with me being happier and more successful.
We hate the idea of being crushed by God so much that the moment something gets hard, we quit. I prayed that God would change my husband for three days straight and nothing! I quit. I prayed for a pay raise for three days, it was even the prayer of Jabez and it didn’t work! I quit.
We hate the idea that other people might know we are being crushed by God so much that we hid it from others. We think we have to keep it together at all costs. We become fake. We show others that we have it all together, our jars of clay must stay together at all costs. The result? People can’t see God through us.
We hate the idea of being crushed by God so much that we stay in control of our lives in the areas of forgiveness, submitting to authority, greed all of it.
The result, to avoid any pain or any crushing, we never engage the God mission. We aren’t loving God, loving others, loving growing, loving giving, loving serving. We play it safe and stay on the sidelines. We search for a God of happiness and success.
Today I want to share with you the third decision we want you to make. Decision #1, Get Healthy. Decision #2, Get Priorities. Decision #3, Get Engaged. I’m not going to water it down for you. When you fully engage, it will crush you. And that is the best thing that could happen to you. The very thing you avoid is the very thing you need to walk through.
Jesus’ brother James wrote: 2 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 3 You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. MSG James 1:2-4
When you fully engage, tests and challenges are coming. That pressure isn’t something you avoid, it’s designed my God to create maturity in you. Just as a time out: the most enjoyable people to be with are people who have fully engaged the Jesus mission and have walked through a crushing. They talk about what God did. They have experienced God. There is a joy about their lives. The most frustrating people to be with are people who are in search of validation, comfort and success. They weigh and measure others. They focus on position. There is a selfishness to them and their lives are normally filled with business because they are in pursuit of validation, comfort and success.
Today, I want to have a honest talk about my experience in fully engaging the God mission. I’ve been crushed, but looking back I wouldn’t have had it any other way because my life has been forever changed for it.
My past as a kid. My parents were church planters. We moved from Ohio to New Jersey to start that church when I was in third grade. I was raised in a church plant. I lived it as a kid. I never felt like I fit into the school we moved to. I never felt like I fit in to the college I attended. I never felt like I fit into the churches I attended. In all those areas I felt like I was weighed, measured and I came up short. I was never a part of the ‘in’ crowd. Never invited to the parties. I just concluded I was different, a looser and it left me with a low self-esteem. So I went into the world to prove to myself that I was somebody.
What was God doing in those years? Why would God allow me to experience that?
In the beginning of MRC. I helped start MRC with others around me. We started and tons of people were coming to MRC. It was so easy, it was so fun, we just ‘had it.’ We had three years of just pure fun. Then we were told that we had to move out of the School we rented to meet, in a three week time period. We had to move to Saturday nights. Our numbers soared. Actually, they soared the wrong direction. From over 500 become less than 150 and less than 100 in the summer. Over time we just watched couple after couple leave. Some were our friends from McBIC who helped us start MRC. Some were our neighbors who we had dinner with in their homes, we had neighborhood prayer walks with, I baptized the family and the kids, they talked about how they were walking with God and love MRC and they all left one by one. It was slow exit, it wasn’t like ripping a band aid off, it was so slow, it felt like a slow death.
I remember I took the leadership team to a conference called Catalyst one year. Because I took a group of people the conference organizers allowed me to be in a suite if I wanted it. That year was so hard for me to walk through. My wife heard about people leaving and it hurt her deeply. As she was feeling that pain, it hurt double in me because my job had caused that pain. I remember pulling away from the team to go to the suite and just cry. I was so tormented with thoughts and feelings of being a complete failure and couldn’t do anything about it.
In that time period, I did two things. I would meet with God at Pinchot park every morning and beg Him to love me and redeem me. The second thing I did, after those Saturday night church services, I drank to help me forget the pain I had about feeling like a failure and a looser. I later told the leadership team and they just loved me and prayed for me.
What was God doing? Why would God allow me to walk through that crushing?
As I reflect on my life, I think I have a little clarity that I want to share with you after years of engaging the God mission. Today looking back into my life as a kid, that crushing that I thought was a wound, was God preparing me to create a place for people who never fit in. Do you remember when James said, …don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. That was for me. Trust me as a kid, I am shaping and molding you to be who you need to be in the future.
Today looking back at the MRC early years, I know why I was allowed to feel that crushing and I thought it was a wound of soaring numbers in reverse. I had to be crushed to learn, the mission of Christ isn’t about me. My pride was wrapped up in leadership and attendance. I learned that I don’t have to win. I don’t have to defend myself. I don’t have to prove myself. All I need to do is enjoy God and allow Him to touch my soul. Do you know the freedom that comes from that? When you are free from constantly weighing and measuring yourself an allow God to just touch your soul, that’s healing.
I also had to learn that the mission of Christ isn’t loved by most church people. To be honest, this blew my mind. How can you read scripture and come to a different conclusion. God gave us Jesus so we could experience that grace. Our mission is to take that grace and share it with others. That’s it. I quickly discovered, religious church people looking for comfort, safety, success and argue about fundamental differences. But people touched and redeemed by God’s grace, they will give up their lives so that others can experience that grace.
Do you remember when James said, …don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. That was for me. I needed God to crush me.
Today, I have frustrations. I don’t know why God is allowing me to walk through them. I know this, I feel the tension. I feel that crushing. But this time, I am learning to not …don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
If you step into and fully engage the Jesus mission, you will be crushed. When most people hear this, they avoid it at all costs, they don’t engage or quit. It’s in that crushing where you will grow the most. It’s where you will need God to survive. It’s where you experience God the most. It’s where God shapes and molds you most. It’s where you might feel alone and in desperate need of God. And because most people want control, they want to avoid pain, they want comfort, safety and success, they don’t fully experience God. I honestly feel sorry for people who want comfort more than God.
Who are you? Do you avoid the crushing needed?
For some of you, it’s forgiveness. You are angry. You won’t forgive because that person or place who hurt you needs to hurt as much as you hurt. That’s a receipt for failure.
For some of you, it’s your finances. You refuse to place your finances under the leadership of Christ. My God sent His Son to take my beating, my whipping, my crucifixion and give me freedom, but don’t touch my money. I will manage it my way, go into debt and live with the myth, if I could just have a little more, I would be happier.
For some of you, it’s your marriage. Guys, you have stopped engaging your wife because it’s a pain. You feel like you could do everything she asks you do to and you will still never get what you want. That’s right. That can happen. Love her.
Ladies, you have never allowed your husband to lead, now you jam him up with ‘I wish you were a better spiritual leader’ and you try to blame him for everything. He tried to lead, and every time he makes a decision, you ripped into him like a Sunday ham.
For some of you, it’s simple obedience. You know exactly what God has asked you and you simply refuse to do it. That’s rebellion. God will not move in your life until you confess it and obey.
Maybe God is crushing you. Allow it to happen. Surrender to God.
Decision #3: Get engaged. This week, in the daily challenges OnTheCity notice the scriptures I use. They are all scriptures that walk you through the crushing people had to walk through. …don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.