We look at this Son [Jesus] and see God’s original purpose in everything created.  For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels – everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.  He was supreme in the beginning and – leading the resurrection parade – he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. MSG Colossians 1:15-20

Here is the great God reality.  Everything, absolutely everything starts with God and finds its purpose in God.  What does that mean?  It means that God is the center of the universe.  It means that our life here on earth is about God and what He is doing.  For us, that means life is not about us and what we want.  And until we surrender to that great God reality, our life won’t make sense.  In fact, life might feel disappointing and frustrating.  Kinda like trying to put a square in a round hole, it just won’t work.

What do most people do?  Even if we know God is the center of the universe, we don’t want to surrender to that reality.  We want to be the center of the universe.  We want to be our own god.  We take control of our lives.  We have an idea of what success and happiness looks like and we chase after it.  We have an idea of what our lives are supposed to look like, what our kid’s lives are supposed to look like, and we chase that dream.  We have a picture of what church is supposed to be, what our kid’s sports team is supposed to be, what our business is supposed to be, and we chase it.  Isn’t this everyone we know?  Isn’t this our culture?  Everyone seems to passionately be pursing what they want.

And when things don’t come together the way we expect, we can become dazed and confused.  When things don’t work out the way we want, we wonder what God is up to?  We wonder, where is God in my life?  We thought God was supposed to join us in our pursuit of what we wanted.  We thought Christianity was about making a deal with God.  The deal goes something like this.  My part is to try to go to church now and then, try not to cuss, and muscle up to be a good person.  God’s part is to keep me healthy, make me rich and give me comfort.  And when things don’t work out the way we wanted, something went bad with our deal.  Either I failed, I am blowing it and I need to try harder, pray more, work more, be more religious.  Or, God failed.  God is punishing me or has forgotten me.  That kind of thinking is very religious and clunky and couldn’t be further from the truth we read in scripture.

Let’s read what Jesus said.

24 If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. GNT Matthew 16:24-26

Did you see that?  Forget yourself and lose your life.  This is so important.  We follow Jesus, Jesus doesn’t follow us.  In fact, we give up our lives, what we want, to follow Him.  It’s called surrender.  Remember we said, when life isn’t working out like we thought it should, God isn’t trying to kill your dreams.  God is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing.  Here is the great God reality of life; life is about God and what He is doing.  Life is not about us and what we want.  And the sooner we surrender to that reality, the sooner we follow Jesus, the healthier we will be.  When we say healthier, that means we will have peace and joy to our core as we let go of control and the stress of demanding that everything be the way we want.

That’s what we are talking about in this series when we say, we run the bases God’s way.  What did Sam say last week?  It all starts with a personal relationship with God.  It’s where we surrender.

Scripture puts it like this.

Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless.  Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.  2 It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. NLT Psalms 127:1-2

You can do life without God.  You don’t have to surrender.  You can attend church.  You can do all the right things, read all the right books, clean your house, get the kids to right sports fields and to the right college and all your work will be useless – scripture says.  It will not be anointed with God.

It’s about surrendering to God and inviting Him into your life.  And in that moment of surrender, God is with you.  Did you know that?  God is in you and with you.  Probably one of the hardest things I have faced over the years of ministry is trying to get Christians to believe scripture.  Let’s read what scripture says about you when you believe.

24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. MSG Romans 2:24

You know that feeling you have that you should stay away from God?  That feeling like you aren’t good enough or that God won’t accept you?  All that is gone because of this verse!  God put you in right standing with Himself, He did it, not you.

He [Jesus] has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. NLT Colossians 1:22

Did you ever feel guilt or shame?  Ever feel dirty inside, kinda like you will never be accepted by God?  All that is gone because of what Jesus did.   When God sees you, you are pure!  You never have to cringe and fear from God.  You never have to find someone else holier than you to pray for you, ever!   You are holy and blameless before God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV 2 Corinthians 5:21

Are you kidding me?  When we believe in God, He pours the righteousness of God into us.  Unbelievable.

Why do Christians walk with so much confusion and lack of courage?  Scripture tells us, because of Jesus, we are filled with the righteousness of God.  We are in God’s presence and we are holy and blameless.  Why do we act so discouraged?  Why do we walk with guilt and shame?  Why do we try to control things?  Why do struggle to pray?  Why do we check out, do the least possible?  It’s madness.  It makes no sense. Hear me tell you what scripture says.  Because of Jesus, you are filled with the righteousness of God.  You are in God’s presence as holy and blameless before God.  This truth should shatter all your fears and shame.

When you surrender, you should walk into every day with a ferocious courage because God is with you.  I want to ask you something.  How would you live every day if you knew, because of Jesus, I am holy and blameless, and God is with me?  Would that change you?  Would that shatter your fears and shame?

I think for me, this can be hard.  I can almost be fifty-fifty on this.  Sometimes, I see it, I connect with it.  On the inside I think ‘Yes, thank you God I see it!’  Other times, when nothing seems to be working out the way I want, it can be so hard to believe.  I think, ‘Man I am a terrible person, I hope no one else sees how bad I am.  I should just give up .’ In my life, I realize more and more this battle is about my faith, or lack of faith, in God.

A couple weeks ago I shared with you some really hard things that I had to absorb and overcome over the past 20 years as we started Mountain Ridge Church.  Early on, we had several prophecies over us and MRC.  We know the idea to plant a church wasn’t from us but from God.  When we started MRC we faced challenge after challenge.  I told you about a visible leader was having an affair.  Moving to Saturday night services and watching attendance drop 67%.  Watching a dear friend and large giver walk away.  In all of it, through all those years, I concluded that I was the problem.  I was a bad leader.  I was failing.  I walked through the years with a mix of feelings.  It went something like this, ‘God might be with me but He’s probably not.’  Do you know what I mean when I say that?  In those moments, I felt so tired and worn out.  And that’s when temptation comes.  Temptation to quit.  Temptation to look at myself as a failure.  Temptation to walk around tired and discouraged.  Temptation to think, I have to do more, I have to make it happen.  This is when my character was tested the most.

Do you see what we are saying today?  You surrender to God.  You are spiritually transformed.  This should give you ferocious courage.  You will then walk into this world and you will face setbacks, hurts, and wounds.  But those blows should not lead you to believe God is not with you.

Looking back, I see it as a lack of faith on my part to believe God, to believe scripture.  To believe who I am in God.  To believe what He has asked me to do.  God didn’t change.  God’s plans didn’t change.  Scripture didn’t change.  I allowed the hard blows of life to push me around.  I allowed, what I thought was failure, to determine if God was with me.  If God was with me, then why?  Why doesn’t my life look the way I want it to look?  Why doesn’t MRC look the way I want it to look?  I just couldn’t surrender to what God was doing.  I felt like I was trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

So here is what I realized.  I surrendered to God [home plate].  After I did that, we faced so many challenges.  It left me dazed and confused.  As the hard blows of life hit, I needed God more than the first day I experienced His grace.  I needed more times of worship for my soul.  I needed more times of just playing the Bible app to listen to scripture being read.  I needed to be better at Sabbath rest.  I needed God.  I needed to let go of what I wanted.  Why?  Because I needed to surrender.  I needed to remind myself that, because of Jesus, I am filled with the righteousness of God, holy and blameless before God.  I needed to remind myself, regardless of results or perceived success, God is with me and I need to live like it.  It’s called faith.  A faith that leads to ferocious courage.

Let me ask you, how would you live every day if you knew, because of Jesus, I am holy and blameless and God is with me?  Would you have ferocious courage?

Here is my follow up question for you.  How would you live every day if life didn’t work out the way you wanted; would you still have faith that gives you ferocious courage?

Here is the big picture of what I am trying to share with you.  When you surrender to God, when you jump into life, hard times will test you.  You will need God more.  You will need to remind yourself who you are in God and feel His presence in your life.  Then you realize, regardless of every defeat and set back, God didn’t change, He is still with you.  You can have this faith that leads to ferocious courage that overcomes.  We call this character.

1 This is why the stories in the Bible are so amazing.  All of the people in the bible are ordinary people like you and I.  All of them facing defeat after defeat but continuing to live with ferocious courage.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

2 The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

5 By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” 6 It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

7 By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.

8 By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. 9 By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. 10 Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God.

11 By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. 12 That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

13 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. 14 People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. 15 If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. 16 But they were after a far better country than that – heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

17 By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him – 18 and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” 19 Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.

20 By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

21 By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own – as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

22 By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

23 By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.

24 By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. 25 He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. 26 He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. 27 By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. 28 By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.

29 By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

30 By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

31 By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

32 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more – Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets.  33 Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, 34 fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. 35 Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. 36 Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. 37 We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – 38 the world didn’t deserve them! – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

39 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 40 God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. MSG Hebrews 11:1-40

What’s your story going to say?  By faith, place your name here, did what?

How would you live every day if you knew, because of Jesus, I am holy and blameless and God is with me?  Would you have ferocious courage?

How would you live every day if life didn’t work out the way you wanted; would you still have faith that gives you ferocious courage?