Have you ever wondered; I am facing struggle after struggle, what exactly is God doing about it? Maybe life isn’t working out the way you thought it would. Maybe you have read scripture and expected passion and joy with God, but you look at your life and think, ‘It’s not working.’
Let’s read one of those scriptures filled with promises. This is God speaking.
11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” GOD’s Decree. MSG Jeremiah 29:11-14
Think about that scripture for second. Let’s quickly list what is being said. God has plans for your life. He wants to take care of you. He isn’t going to abandon you. He wants to give you the future you are hoping for. God listens to our prayers. You won’t be disappointed.
If all that is true, why do I feel like I am always in a struggle? Why can’t I see what God is up to? Why do I feel like I am losing in life? Why do I feel like I’m blowing it somehow? Why do I feel like God isn’t coming through for me?
Here is the big point that we are going to talk about this month. God isn’t killing your dreams; God is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing. Let’s be clear about this, that process of trusting God can feel like your dreams are dying. It can feel painful. It can feel like it’s going against the grain. It can feel almost like, it’s not worth it, just stop doing the God thing. It can feel like, faith isn’t worth it anymore.
Couple points we have to talk about.
First, sometimes the problems we have are because we created our own problems.
17 When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away. 18 But not these people! They set an ambush for themselves; they booby-trap their own lives! 19 Such is the fate of all who are greedy for gain. It ends up robbing them of life. NLT Proverbs 1:17-19
Raise your hand, who wants to admit this? The school student who doesn’t study. They take a test and bomb it. What did they do? They booby-trapped their own lives. The person who ignores their parents’ and wisdom and God and goes into debt to get what it took their parents 30 years to get. What did they do? They booby-trapped their own lives. Many times, you are in the situation you are in because of you. It had nothing to do with God because you made a choice.
Sometimes, we create our own problems. We then spend a life-time cleaning up the mess we created. Please hear me tell you, God can redeem your situation. It’s true. There is hope and love and restoration. However, many times we create our own problems.
Secondly, this process of trusting in God, can take time and we hate that.
We live in a Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok social media world. Our world is built on instant gratification. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We don’t want to change without seeing immediate results. We don’t want to wait longer than a day without seeing immediate results. This talk is probably already too long for you. And this way of living is completely opposite of who God is. It’s one of the reasons, people don’t give their lives to Christ.
Have you ever heard that God is a crock pot, not a microwave. That simply means, God takes His time. And honestly, we hate that.
What does scripture say?
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. 4 And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. NLT Romans 5:3-5
From problems and trails to endurance to character. All that takes time. Scripture clearly tells us; the formula God uses to shape our hearts is time plus struggle. It’s a process. But we tend to pray and expect God to be a genie who quickly responds to our every desire.
Please hear me, God isn’t killing your dreams; God is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing. Before we move on, where are you? Are you feeling like your life is a struggle? Have you wondered where God is in all of it? Do you feel like you want to give up on God? Maybe you have given up on God and you are just going through the motions. Is that you? If you are experiencing struggles and have questions, you’re not alone. That doesn’t make you unique, that means you are normal. We all face this.
Today I wanted to make this talk personal because of my personal challenge in starting MRC. I clearly felt God give me the dream to plant churches who are passionate, relentless and unapologetic in reaching people far from God and empowering Christians to join. But that dream has come at a cost.
In starting and leading Mountain Ridge Church, it has been a mix of the most joyful, painful, rewarding and defeating things I have ever done. And over the years, in the middle of the mess, I could never understand why I had to walk through serious struggle. This journey just seemed like it squeezes out all of my insecurities leaving me to deal with them.
Before MRC began, we experienced so much prayer. Prayers of blessings over us. My parents went to a conference and someone asked them, “Do you believe in prophecies?” They said yes. The prophecy was that their youngest was going to start a church and they needed to support it and not offer advice unless asked for. I was on a mission’s trip in Venezuela and a pastor there asked me if he could pray for me and Karen. He prayed a prophecy over our lives and about what God wanted to do in my life. I knew God was with us.
When we started MRC, I was so ready to see God do awesome things. I had been to all the leadership conferences. I was in corporate America for ten years. I was ready. But do you know what we experienced? Challenge after challenge after challenge. It left me dazed and confused. Why would God give me a dream and then allow me to walk through so much pain? Ya, there were good things that happened, but the pain was almost too much to handle.
Couple of major things we had walk through. A visible leader having an affair. How do you work through that? I wasn’t prepared for that. Why did God allow that? I didn’t see that coming.
The school breaking its contract with us and telling us, you have a few weeks to get out to replace the flooring. That forced us to meet on Saturday nights. Our attendance dropped 67% and our giving dropped by 90%. What was I to conclude as I watched people leave? I assumed I was a terrible leader and some-how I was blowing. That just ripped me apart. Why did God allow that? I thought we have a great God dream to reach people and yet God slams us a challenge so big, we almost closed our doors.
Years later, one of the couples who came and were redeemed by God become close friends. He helped with the money and years later noticed how much a few tithed to MRC and said, “I need to give like they do.” He became one of the largest givers to MRC. After about ten years of friendship, one day at breakfast he said, “We are leaving MRC.” I still don’t really know why that happened. I remember that day going to my daughter’s field hockey practice, smiling and sitting on the stands just feeling sick inside. I was thinking, “What have I done?” “How have I failed in my friendship?” “Where in the world is God?” I would wake up and couldn’t go back to sleep because fear would just spread over me like a big heavy wet blanket I couldn’t get off me. Why in the world would God allow this?
All of this was confusing to me. Before MRC, I had been completely redeemed by God’s grace. The dream God placed in my heart was to build churches that focused on sharing God’s grace with people who don’t know about God’s grace. And because of the hurts and wounds, I was ready to give up on that dream. What was God doing?
Looking back, I can tell you. He wasn’t killing the dream He gave me; He was inviting me to trust Him and join Him in what He was doing. The struggle I had over all those years was, I wanted things my way. I had an idea of what success looked like and I didn’t want to surrender that to God. My struggle was I wanted what I wanted but God had other ideas. I was refusing to surrender to what God was doing because I wanted God to bless my plans. I was in no mood to surrender to what God wanted. And to be completely honest, I think this continues to be a struggle for me today at times.
That’s what this series is all about. What is God doing? You need to know; He isn’t killing your dreams. He is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing. We are going to use Baseball as an analogy of how God works. We need to run the bases God’s way.
Where do we start in Baseball? Home plate. Home plate represents our relationship with God. We start with our relationship with God because we think we must do life on our strength. Jesus said you can’t do a thing of significance in your life without me. Home plate is about surrender. It’s where we experience God’s grace and power and who He wants us to be. It’s where we learn dependency, surrender so that God can work through us. We’ll talk about that next week.
Why run to first base? First base represents character. We run to first because we think God should change everyone and everything around us. But God wants to do something bigger and better, He wants to change us. This is about self-leadership, developing character, being the person God can count on. God must develop character in us before we can do anything else in our lives.
Why run to second base? Second base represents relationships. We run to second because we think success is in what we do or accomplish or our title. But God wants us to know that maturity in Christianity is about how you love others. Success isn’t in what you accomplish or who you know, it’s about how much you love. At this base, you learn to serve, how to help others get ahead.
You must have character and care about others before you move on.
Why run to third base? Third base represents the results in your life. We run to third base because results matter. Your performance in life matters. God cares about it. Life isn’t about being lazy, doing the least possible, not engaging, hiding behind some spiritual mask. The better you are at what you do, God can work through you.
I want you to see a couple of things.
First, running the bases God’s way, means you gain God’s favor in your life. It means you want to be dependent on God. It means you trust God and you want to do life His way. You are moving from self-reliance to God-reliance. Imagine if everyone would run the bases God’s way.
We start at home plate. We would have the best outlook on life because we have the power and favor of God. We would not have as much stress, anxiety and fear. God’s power and favor would rest with us. We run to first and deal with our hearts, our motives, our integrity. We would get our inside part right. We would have a life based on God values and principles. We run to second and have the best marriages, families, churches, friendships because we care more about people’s hearts than our pride of accomplishments and looking good to others. When we pass second to go to third, we would have our lives in order to succeed. Results do matter. Accomplishments do matter. And when we had success, we would have the integrity for it to last.
Secondly, what is everyone’s natural tendency? We want to run the bases the wrong way. We want to run to 3rd base and say, “Look at me, look at what I did.” Why is this wrong? Because you skipped bases, you have no depth in life to sustain success. You will crumble under the weight of performance, results and success. Your life isn’t surrendered to God. You don’t have the character to do the right thing when no one is looking. You don’t have the ability to prioritize relationships and value people.
When people run to 3rd base, it’s only cute in little league. When they are older it’s embarrassing. You cheat yourself because you aren’t developed. You cheat God because He isn’t a part of your life. Ultimately, you think your value is your performance, not on God’s love for you.
I want you to read this scripture.
Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders’ work is useless. Unless the Lord protects a city, sentries do no good. It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest. TLB Psalms 127:1
Please hear me today, God isn’t killing your dreams; God is inviting you to trust Him and join Him in what He is doing. You don’t have to keep fighting. You didn’t blow it. God’s not holding out on you. You don’t have to keep struggling. You don’t have to stay in control and demand that things must look like what you want. What you need to do, is surrender. Relax and accept God’s invitation to trust Him.
What if what God said was true? Would you trust Him? Would you surrender?
11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” GOD’s Decree. MSG Jermiah2 9:11-14
Let’s close with talking about Joseph. I hope you take the time to read the full story in Genesis 37 to 41.
Joseph has a dream and shares it with his brothers. His reward, Joseph’s brothers sell him. Joseph ends up in Egypt and is sold as a slave. And do you know what scripture says? The most bizarre thing, God was with him.
In Egypt Joseph is sold to Potiphar and becomes the house manager. Potiphar’s wife tries to sleep with Joseph and Joseph refuses. Joseph’s reward, he is sent to prison. And do you know what scripture says? The most bizarre thing, God was with him.
In prison, the head jailor put Joseph in charge. Joseph interprets dreams for the servants of Pharaoh. One servant is reinstated and is with Pharaoh again. Joseph’s reward, he is forgotten for years. And do you know what scripture says? The most bizarre thing, God was with him.
In all of Joseph’s story, in all of his defeats and set-backs, God planned all of it.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. – God
Maybe God is with you. Maybe all we need to is trust in God and surrender.