We are giving you the five things that steal your courage and how to overcome them.  Here is number five, life is hard.  As you walk through life and face challenge after challenge, it can, over time, steal your courage.  It can make you feel like, ‘Why even bother.’

Have you ever wondered, ‘Why is life so hard?’  Have you ever felt like, ‘I just want break from everything?’  Have you asked yourself, ‘If God is a God of love, why do I have to walk through so much pain?’  There is a very clear answer to those questions.  The problem is you won’t like the answer.

Let’s quickly recap the four things that steal our courage.  Religion steals your courage because religion focuses on you, your effort, your ability to be a good person.  That’s opposite of relationship.  Relationship focuses on God and what He has done, what He is doing and what He is inviting you into.  Religion is toxic.  Relationship is redemptive.

Sam talked about understanding your unique identity.  If you don’t know who you are in Christ, you will allow the world and others to determine who you are and how you live.  Remember he gave us the quote about doing violence to our souls?  If you don’t know your unique identity, you will allow the world and others, not God, to determine how you live.

The third thing that can steal our courage is not engaging what God asks of us.  Remember that video clip from The Incredibles movie?  “Bob, engage Bob, do something!”  When we don’t follow after God, we will never experience getting out of the boat and walking on water.  When the disciples were in the boat, all twelve were terrified.  Only one felt fear, had courage, and got out of the boat.

Then last week Sam talked about the untouchables.  I loved how he addressed this subject.  He came right out and said it.  People in church are naturally attracted to religion, theology and activities.  Why?  Because that gives you knowledge and fun while at the same time it doesn’t deal with the untouchables.  What are the untouchables?  Our true heart condition and how we are living.  Not dealing with the untouchables in your life will steal your courage.  Remember how we ended the talk?  If you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow, what would you change?

Today, I talk about the fifth thing that steals your courage.  Life is hard.  When you watch movies or read stories, sometimes they give you an introduction to the movie.  It’s the small story that explains the context of the movie or story.  They normally start with something like, ‘Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ Did you know there is an introduction to your life, your story?  There is a back story before yo were born.  It begins over thousands of years ago.  I want to read it for you.

7 There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [Satan] and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon – the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world – was thrown down to the earth with all his angels… 13 When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child [Jesus]… 17 And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children [Christians] – all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.  NLT Revelations 12:7-9, 13, 17

Scripture tells us the story that Satan rebelled against God.  Satan and one third of the angels of heaven lost that battle against God and were thrown down to earth.  Now let’s think through this.  Let’s ask some important questions.  Satan and one third of the angels of heaven were sent to what planet?  Earth.  Is Satan happy or angry?  He is angry.  Who did Satan declare war on?  Everyone who believes in Jesus.  What planet were you born on?  Earth.  What planet do you live on?  Earth.

Do you see where this is going?  That’s the introduction, the back story, to your life.  Remember I said there is a very clear answer as to why life is hard, but you won’t like it?  Here is it.  You were born into a war.  Satan is at war with everyone who believes in Jesus and that includes you.  Some call it a spiritual war.  Another way of saying it is, life is hard.

What did Jesus tell His disciples?

I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy. NLT Luke 10:19

Jesus was sending His disciples out to heal people and tell them about God.  To accomplish that mission, Jesus gave them authority and power over Satan.  That means Jesus gave them the power of God to overcome Satan and his angels.  Why did Jesus give them power?  Because they were born into a war and they needed authority and power to overcome their enemy.

What did Peter write?

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. NLT 1 Peter 5:8

Peter is telling us we were born into a war.  We have an enemy.  Who is it?  Satan.  What does he do?  He roams earth to find people to harm.

What did John write?

We know that we are children of God and that all the rest of the world around us is under Satan’s power and control. TLB 1 John 5:19

John is telling us we were born into a war.  We have an enemy.  Who is it?  Satan.  What does he do?  He rules this world.

What did Paul write?

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. NLT Ephesians 6:12

Paul is telling is telling us we were born into a war.  We have an enemy.  Who is it?  Satan and his forces.  What do they do?  They are at war with you.  And to be clear, the battle you face is not against people.  It’s against the evil rulers and authorities of this dark world.

Life is hard.  Why?  Because you have been born into a war.  It’s spiritual.  There are spiritual forces coming against you.  Evil, mighty, powerful forces from this dark world.  It’s your back story that happened thousands of years before you were born.  Jesus said it.  Peter said it.  John said it.  Paul said it.

So, I must ask you, now that we looked at scripture, what do you think of the answer?  Do you believe you have been born into a war, a spiritual war?  Many people who attend church say they believe this but don’t live like it’s real.  What happens is, we hear this, we read the scriptures, it seems to make sense but the moment we leave the church parking lot, we re-enter the mess of this world.  And because we don’t make the choice to live like we are at war, we go back to life and are surprised that life is hard.

I want to give you three examples.

We leave the church parking lot and we go to work and deal with people.  We have to navigate all the problems at work and overcome challenges that people bring to us.  And for the most part, work and people suck the life out of us.  To prove my point, if work and people gave us life, you would go home with more energy than you left it.

We go home and have to deal with everything at home.  Maybe we are single, we go home and more work and more people to deal with.  Maybe you have a spouse who probably just came home from work tired.  Or, they have been home schooling kids because of the pandemic and they are burned out.  You have kids who grow up to be teenagers and they have their own ideas on how life should be.  In all of this, you feel burned out.  Why?  Because of people.  Who do you think is the enemy?  People.  Who do you fight with?  People.  People at work, your spouse and kids and on facebook.  What does scripture tell us?  You were born into a war, a spiritual war, people are not your enemy.

We leave the church parking lot and we go into our life.  We are used to living the way we want to live.  At church we hear things about giving your life to God.  Put God in His rightful place of authority in your life.  Every church takes that fuzzy spiritual concept and makes it practical.  How?  Love God, love others, love growing, love serving, and love giving.  We hear that but somehow, the moment we leave the church parking lot, it just doesn’t fit into how we want to live.  We think, MRC, or whatever church I attend, is just promoting MRC stuff.  We don’t actually have to love God, others, growing, serving or giving.  When invited to love God, it seems like another thing to add to my to do list.  Loving others, well maybe, if they love me.  Grow?  Who has time for that?  Serve?  Ya right, maybe when someone starts serving me.  Give?  I volunteer so I don’t have to give or, that is just for others to do.

Scripture doesn’t impact us.  It doesn’t change us or change our behavior.  We may think, for those who fall for it, good for them but for me, I’m going to do what I want, when I want, how I want.  It’s almost like being a Christian atheist.  I know what God said about putting God in authority over my life but I’m not going to do it.  Without knowing it, we are fighting with God.  And we would never come to that conclusion because we view ourselves as very mature Christians.  We hear what it means to give our lives to God but we fight it.

Who do we think is the enemy?  God.  Who are we fighting with?  God.  God is not our enemy, but we are treating Him like He is the enemy by not surrendering.  If we did life His way, we think, He would take my control and steal my fun.  What does scripture tell us?  You were born into a war, a spiritual war, and God is not your enemy trying to steal your fun.

We leave the church parking lot, go into life and feel guilty.  Why?  We have made bad choices, we have sinned, we have made a mess of our lives.  We understand we are responsible for the mess we created.  And we just can’t forgive ourselves for what we have done.  It’s great that God wants to forgive us but we can’t forgive ourselves.  So, we walk with guilt all the time.  It’s consuming.  It’s depressing.  It’s hard to escape it.  We fight ourselves.  That guilt is so painful, we will do anything to numb it.  We numb life with alcohol, drugs, cutting, other addictions, negative thoughts and emotions.  Some work so hard and get so busy in our lives we never have time to deal with our guilt.  Who do we think is the enemy?  Us.  Who do we fight with?  Ourselves.  What does scripture tell us?  You were born into a war, a spiritual war, you are not the enemy.

Let’s pull back and see the big picture.  Do you see what I am saying?  Even if we believe we were born into a war, a spiritual war, we act like it’s not true.  We think people are our enemy, so we fight with people.  We think God is our enemy, so we fight surrendering our lives to God.  We fight God.  We think we are the enemy, so we never forgive ourselves.  We fight ourselves.

Please hear me, you were born into a war, a spiritual war.  You have an enemy and it’s not people, it’s not God, and it’s not you.  Stop fighting people by demanding you have to win, love them.  Stop fighting God by doing life on your terms, surrender to Him.  Stop fighting yourself, forgive yourself, chill out.  Do you realize by fighting with people, God, and yourself you are just burning yourself out?  And in all that fighting, you lose your courage, don’t you?  It just tires you out.  And you never deal with the real enemy.

Why is life hard?  You were born into a war.  You have an enemy and it is a spiritual enemy.  If you have a spiritual enemy, the solution is a spiritual solution.  What did Jesus do with His disciples?  Let’s read.

17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  18 “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! 19 Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. 20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” NLT Luke 10:17-20

What defeats our enemy?  It’s Jesus giving us His authority.

How does that happen today?

First, if you have an enemy, does it make sense to you that it’s important to treat your day like you are walking into a battle?  You don’t have to.  You can go about your day with no thought or intentionality.  And you would be walking into a battlefield.  And as the bombs are going off around you, as you are wounded, you can act dazed and confused as to why life is hard.

The Bible says:

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light …11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” NIV Ephesians 5:8-14

Scripture is saying wake up to the reality of life.  You were in darkness, now you are in the light.   Now act like it.  If you want to walk with the authority of Jesus, you need to live with intentionality.  You must be intentional.

Secondly, if you are in a spiritual battle, does it make sense to you that you have no ability, no power, to fight this battle?  It’s spiritual, so on your own, you lose.  With all your knowledge, you lose.  You can walk through every most recent book, do all the right discipleships, know Greek and Hebrew and if you are not connected with Jesus, you lose.

With all your moral excellence, you lose.  You could be the spiritual elite, the Special Forces of Christianity because you are following all the rules and if you are not connected with Jesus, you lose.

With all your Christian friends and Christian activity, you lose.  You can be so amazing in your Christian serving that you are tired from all your work and if you aren’t connected with Jesus, you lose.

You can even be a leader in church, and you will lose every day without God.  You will walk into the day and be completely taken out with negative thoughts, negative emotions, and lies and you will lose the battle.  Your heart will be dry and empty.  Your mind will be all over the place.

That’s why Jesus said:

I am the vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood. MSG – Jesus in John 15:5

You lose if you are not connected with Jesus.  If you want to walk with the authority of Jesus, you need the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.  The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave.  It only comes when you surrender your life to Christ.

Before we go on, I have to tell you, this one issue is what brings Sam and I lots of energy, confusion and sadness.  For twenty years we have been inviting people into a relationship with Jesus where you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.  For those who walk into that relationship, their lives are transformed and it brings us so much joy and energy.

However, when we offer to help walk people into that relationship it confuses us when people want other things.  We offer relationship with Jesus and they want programs and discipleship.  We want that too, those things are good but we want to start with people being connected with Jesus.  We offer relationship with Jesus and they want activities, small groups, and we want that too but we want to start with people being connected with Jesus.  The refusal to walk into the relationship with Jesus is so confusing.

Almost every sermon we teach, we end with something about being in a relationship with Jesus.  We have done this now for 20 years.  To be a Christ follower, a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, it means people personally meeting with Christ.  It’s what Jesus modeled for us.  It’s what Jesus taught.  It’s where you find the authority of Jesus.

To not be in a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean you are struggling to be a good Christian.  It means you are struggling to be a Christian.  You probably feel like you are just surviving.  To be with Jesus is a choice to surrender.  Please hear me.  I love you enough to tell you the truth.  This is a spiritual battle, so doing life without God means, you will lose.  Your heart and emotions with be all over the place.  You will be limping through life.

Thirdly, if you are in a spiritual battle, does it make sense to you that you are valuable?  If you didn’t have value, there would be no battle over you.  The reason for the battle is because you are very valuable.  All of the kingdom of evil wants to destroy you and all the of the kingdom of heaven wants to redeem you.

Scripture teaches:

We are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  TLB Galatians 3:26

If you want to walk with the authority of Jesus, you need to see your value and live like you are valuable.

If you want to walk in this world today with the authority of Jesus, does it make sense to you that you might need to make some changes?  And maybe these changes that I am talking about need to leave the church parking lot – right?  Be intentional.  Have that relationship with Jesus.  Understand and walk in your value.

Take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. MSG Ephesians 6:10-12

If you want the authority of Jesus in your life, make the choice to surrender.  But you know that, don’t you?  It’s reading scripture.  It’s prayer.  It’s repenting of sin.  What did Sam say last week?  If you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow, would it change how you lived today?  If wounded, it’s taking the time to be healed.  It’s taking all the areas of your life and asking yourself, is God king of this area or are my selfish desires and excuses deciding how I live?

Please hear me.  Life is hard, very hard.  Yes.  Life is hard for all of us.  Why?  You have been born into a war, a spiritual war.  It’s the back story of your life.  Jesus talked about it.  John talked about it.  Peter talked about it.  Paul talked about it.  Please, if you hear this and keep this talk in the church parking lot, I’m not trying to be mean, but don’t act dazed and confused when bombs go off around you.  You will have no courage because the battle will take you out.

If you want to live with courage, you must take what scripture said and take it with you out of this parking lot and change your behaviors.  Do whatever you need to do to surrender to Jesus and ask Him to give you His authority.