Stuck

STUCK

Borrowed heavily from Stuck sermon series on LifeChurch.tv – Craig Groschell

 

I also have powerpoint and outlines for this sermon.

 

 

            That video clip is hilarious. I think it is even better that the video is advertising for a health center that is offering a heart makeover.

          That video is encouraging to watch because I am stuck in so many areas of my life. There are so many aspects of my own life that that seem to continue to challenge me and no amount of introspection and self awareness get me over the hump to make changes or achieve goals I have set.

          Even when I have great intentions and plans and purposes and goals in mind; I still have a tendency to have unfinished business and I get stuck even when I don’t want to get stuck; even when I don’t plan to; it just seems to find me. Maybe you are the same way.

          Maybe some of you walk around your house and you see that treadmill or that bicycle that you bought that reminds of you of that year that you swore you were going to get into shape. And somehow that goal got away from you and you decided that “round” was a good shape; and now that treadmill makes a great place to hang and dry clothes.

          Or maybe it’s a relationship you need to give some attention to. You come across that card or that letter or that email that is stuffed away in that folder you really don’t want to look at. Those words remind you of a relationship that is broken; that is going to take some extra effort to repair. And you want to do it, and you know you should, and it seems just too hard or too difficult or too painful and so you just put it aside.

          Some of us get stuck at work; maybe with things we were going to do. That initiative you started at work that never got done. And you hear your coworkers snickering at your plans because they never thought you could do it anyway, but you were convinced it was the right thing to do. But the day-to-day work of keeping up with the day-to-day work got you sidetracked and so you put it aside.

          Or maybe it’s that parenting book you have…you were going to read. The kids were driving you crazy and what you were saying and doing as a parent wasn’t getting you the results you hoped for and you thought you would take it by the horns and figure it out and so you bought that book and you read a few pages and you made a couple of changes and things smoothed out with you and the kids and you set the book aside. But things sort of slipped back into chaos. And you had the greatest of intentions and still you went nowhere and now you’re stuck again.

          Maybe it was that Bible you bought that is now collecting dust. You heard a great sermon or you had some epiphany one day you started reading it and it just felt right. You recognized all those stories in Genesis but a week or two into it you got to Exodus and the wheels just fell off. And reading got pushed to the side. And you had really good intentions and things just got moved around and you got stuck.

          It’s universal. It affects you. It affects me. We all go through those times in our lives and what we find out is that not only is it universal among all of us, it is universal within our own individual lives. And what I mean by that is that it’s never just “the issue you are stuck in.” It doesn’t stay in just one area. It’s never just about loosing weight, or kicking a habit, or relationships, or reading a book. It clouds and affects every aspect of your life. It floods over into our spiritual lives and our relationship with God.

          And there are some of us today, here, who have been stuck with God for a long time. At one time…things were just the best. Our relationship with God was sweeter, it was better, and it was characterized by more obedience and more intimacy. We were tight, but whatever happened long ago in your life or maybe even last year … whatever happened in your life, it has now caused you to feel a bit stuck.

          And I believe that everyone in this room, at one time, has been stuck. And I know that some of you (not all) some of you are stuck right now. Some of you are going to be stuck and you don’t even know it. But I know, when that time happens; when the time comes that God will disappoint you or that time when God seems distant; or we pray and our prayers don’t go past the ceiling, that time will come. And when it does we will have a tendency to kind of step back from our relationship with God and just say, “Well, it is what it is”…”I am just going to leave it that way and I don’t know what to do.”

          And some of you, you show up on Sunday and you watch the people and you think: “you know what, I don’t know what all the hype is about” and you sense something in others but you think its just not what you are into in your life, its not where I am in life. Fine for them, but that’s not where you are. It’s not what you are experiencing, in terms of a quality in my relationship with God. But not to come on Sunday would just heap more guilt on your life, so you are going to keep showing up even though you aren’t really into it. You just come and you put in your time, go through the motions, and leave.

          My goal for us to today; my goal for us as we think about tomorrow, as we think about next week, as we think about the next year of our lives, as we think about this church and how we want to interact with it, as we think about our “stuckness;” my goal for us today is not to send you away with a false sense of “everything is going to be ok” not to send you away with a feeling that you can kick that habit and you can overcome that sin and you can fix everything that is wrong in your life.

          No…my goal is that you can go away from here today with one solitary step, from whatever place you may be in, wherever that might be, if we can just take one step up, then you can begin to move closer to where you want to be. That’s it: the next step.

          You don’t have to climb the whole flight of stairs or become super spiritual or go through all 12 steps toward recovery…or read through the bible in a year or pray for an hour a day or become some sort of saint. We can’t do all that, we cant make that commitment because we both know… let’s just be honest…we both know that when this time next month or the month after rolls around those goals will have dust on them and you will have moved on, perhaps feeling like a bigger failure…but that’s not deal.

          If you and I can commit today, wherever we happen to be with God, stuck or unstuck, it doesn’t matter, to take the next step. It will be different for every one of us…but commit to taking that next step…and in taking that next step together I hope that we will find that God is more gracious than we would have ever dreamed, that He provides more than we would have ever thought, that the next step, although it is up a bit higher, it’s a bit sweeter, its also a bit more rich there with God, and it changes who you think He is, and it helps you understand His perception of you, which is far more accurate than your own.

          So to help us do that, to take that next step, lets take a look at a passage of scripture, and whether you feel stuck or unstuck, this passage is going to help us move up that escalator, move in that direction that is in front of us. The passage comes out of II Peter.

          Some of you know about Peter. Peter was one of the closest friends of Jesus while he was on the earth. He spent a lot of time with Jesus. He was one of those fishermen who Jesus approached and said follow me and Peter dropped everything he was doing, gave up everything he knew, and he immediately started following Jesus. Peter had a lot to do with the establishment of the early Church, and he was a leader and he was servant and he died a martyr’s death.

          And you might think, this Peter guy, he was super spiritual, and yes even though he was Jesus’ best friend and even though he showed flashes of amazing brilliance, he also followed those up with moments of sheer stupidity. And that’s what’s so great about this text coming from Peter. Here is a man that has experienced the mountaintop with Jesus and at the same time experienced the absolute lowest of depths when he denied Jesus or was rebuked by Jesus. He was a human dude that we can relate to. And if you charted Peter’s spiritual growth it would have big valleys and amazing peaks and a whole lot in the middle.

          And he writes this letter knowing what it means to be stuck, he knows how to help us get unstuck. If you are trying to grow spiritually, then here is what it looks like.

II Peter 1:3

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

          Through God’s divine power we have been given what…we have been given everything we need for life and godliness. We have received all of this…all of what…of this power to live the way Jesus described. We have received all the power. He has given us all these precious promises…the promises that give us the ability to share in his divine nature, to have within you the power that Jesus gives and to escape the world’s corruption, caused by human desires.

          This is simply a long way to say to us, as Christ followers, that what has been given to us is the same power that was given to Jesus, to raise Jesus from the dead. Stop and think about that for a second. As Christians we have the same power within us, the same power of Jesus, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead…we have that same power.

          That power that physically caused his heart to beat again and come back from death to life, we have that very same power as followers of Jesus. It lives in you and it is a part of who you are. And because you have that power, you will escape the corruption in this world, you can escape the evil desires that drag you down and make you feel stuck and keep you on that same spot on that broken escalator, you can escape all of it by virtue of God’s power.

          Now when I read that, if we are going to be honest about it, something doesn’t add up. Because when I look at the lives, my own life included, when I look at the lives of the people who call themselves Christ followers, there seems to be an incongruence. Something just doesn’t match up; because the life that Peter describes it really sounds so simple, because then he follows it up in the next verse by saying this:

          In view of all of this…v.5…in view of all this (you have the resurrection power in you if you follow Jesus) in view of all of this, make every effort to add to your faith.

          Now, watch what happens when Peter describes what happens when somebody grows. Supplement, add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, add knowledge…and he keeps adding and I am stuck way back on add to faith goodness.

          I am still trying to get that whole faith thing down and he wants to keep adding to the list of things I need to do… and to knowledge add self-control; and add perseverance; and add godliness. And I am checking these things off.

          And if it works like you say it does Peter, then this stuff is a breeze because I have resurrection power in me. But I am checking these things off in my mind and he is adding these things and by the time he is done, I feel tired…and unworthy…and I think, how come my life doesn’t look like the life that Peter is describing if I have been given everything…all the power that I could possibly ever want or need for life and godliness.

          Because if these are building blocks, add one to another, add another then another, then I feel like I am in spiritual first grade all over again. Because that is a tough bar to reach, and so we get stuck on our journey! And it just seems easier to stay where we are, than to change.

          The problem is that the cost of being stuck spiritually is astronomical to your life. The cost of staying stuck spiritually affects every area of your life. It affects what kind of spouse you are. It affects the quality and the depth of your marriage. It affects what kind of dad or mom you are. It affects what kind of son or daughter you are. It affects what kind of friend or coworker or leader or employee or employer you are.

          It affects your contentment; it affects how you spend your money; it affects the choices you make in how you entertain yourself; being spiritually stuck affects every area of your life. What you need to understand in the core of who you are, is that the cost of staying stuck, not progressing, not growing spiritually, the cost is always greater than the cost of taking the next step. It is always bigger.

          For everyday, every moment, every choice that you make to stay on that step and not take the next one, the cost hits every area of your life. Every moment you chose to stay on that step…to not take the next step … every moment you choose to stay on that step has a negative impact on every single area of your life and the consequences are never singular…they are always compounded…and that moment affects every single area of your life.

          But I want to tell you what that there is hope…Peter is sharing a valuable truth with us today. God’s divine power, power to raise Jesus from the dead, is embedded in us, it’s embedded inside of you, and it is your instruction book.

          God’s divine power in combination with your desire results in an amazing creation. His divine power has given you everything you need so make every effort to add these things to your life so that you continue grow in the things of God.

          So what is your next step toward wholeness? What is one solitary, tangible, single thing you can do? Let me give you a couple of ideas of where you can head next. Whether you are stuck or unstuck, whether you sense a real need to change something in your life or feel fairly content, let me just give you three quick things you can do in your life to grow in Christ.     #1 Get a bible and start reading it. 5-8 minutes, everyday, same time, don’t start with Genesis, start with John – it’s easy to read. Just make a commitment to figure out who that Jesus guy is. And if you will, if you want to take just an extra minute or two, write down any questions you have when you read.

          Don’t worry about answers, don’t worry about what you don’t know, just commit to write down any questions you have and then keep reading. Read John, then Mark, then go to Galatians. Just 5-8 minutes a day, read those books, if you get through those books come to me and we will go from there.

          Once you start reading, do one other thing. Find one person who is further along than you spiritually. Invite him or her to lunch and just ask them if you can share a few questions with them. Take those questions you have written down and just go over those with that person. That’s it: 5 minutes a day and share a lunch or two with one person you know is a little further along spiritually than you. Start and take the next step.

          Another step. Maybe you feel distant from God and you want to know one step you can take. Let me suggest that perhaps there are some weak spots in your prayer life. And don’t feel guilty if you are thinking: “what prayer life?” What is a prayer life? I don’t know what that looks like.

          Let me explain it for you. Take 5 minutes a day. Choose the same time, not exactly, but in general. Pick a place, place you are least likely to be interrupted. Spend 5 minutes a day praying. No offense to God, but that’s all you need, that’s all you can commit to. God, if you are going to do something, do it in 5 minutes. And for maybe three minutes just start talking to God like you would a friend you haven’t seen in years. “Hi God! This is Rex…well you know my name…anyway…this is Rex and I just wanted to say I have only a few minutes but I wanted to tell you about my life and my day.”

          And in that 5 minutes, do one more thing: take a minute or two of that five minutes and set aside to do this one thing…and that is listen. Spend one or two minutes to just listen. And here is how you will do that. You will ask God “if there is anything you want me to know God, I am listening. You have one minute…no offense, but if there is anything you want me to know God, then I am listening.”

          Then just sit there quietly and listen. And it’s ok if you don’t hear anything. It’s ok if you immediately start thinking about what you need to get done. It’s ok if you have to practice this for several days or weeks sitting still and listening. It’s ok. You are giving God His chance to speak to you. Just one or two minutes sit and listen for God to speak.

          And here is my last piece of advice today. Maybe you are sitting here and you are thinking you have tried that…you have spent time reading the bible, you have spent time praying and listening to God, but you still feel stuck. And you want to take that next step…you want to embrace one solitary single step but you don’t know what it is.

          You would like to know one step but you really don’t have any desire to get closer, you don’t really want to turn your life upside down, but you know your life is stuck and you know you ought to do something about it even though you don’t want to; then here is what I want you to do, my last piece of encouragement to you, get out of your chair, get out of your cubical, get out of your house, get out of your car, get out of your life and leave wherever you are and go do something for someone else. Go serve someone else.

          Get out of your self-focused world and serve someone else. Maybe anonymously, or through giving money, or whatever it takes, serve someone else. Because when you take your eyes off of your deal and your problems and your thing, God shows up in very unique ways. And I have seen person after person gets unstuck when they do that; serve somebody else.

          So what would it look like it for you, if you took that next step? What would it mean? What would the next year of your life be like if you decided today to take one small little step? I don’t how many I will take after the first, I don’t know how I am going do it, and I don’t even know what I am going to do, but I will commit to digging out and discovering what the next step is and I am going to take it. I am going to do that because I don’t want to end up, 3 months or 8 months or one year from now stuck in the same spot only to be doing the same thing, having the same regrets, on the escalator wondering why there isn’t more to life.

          And here is what you’ll find. That God shows up. He makes himself known. He is more gracious than you would have ever dreamed. He enriches life, deeper beyond your wildest imagination. He can fix the toughest problem. He can repair the most dead marriage. He can heal the most drastic and deadly disease; and that He is waiting, just waiting for you to take another step.

          Please stand with me, right where you are. Let’s pray together. Father, we ask right now, that through your mercy and through your grace that you would, help us, help us by your power, to take the next step. Draw us into a relationship with you that is richer, that is deeper, that is more real that is beyond going through the motions. Father, our prayer is that you would guide and lead us up the stairs. Father in the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

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