We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. No matter how much we may feel hunted—by the past, by our sin, by creditors, or by the enemy…we are not deserted. God doesn’t abandon His kids. He doesn’t abuse His kids. He doesn’t turn His back on His kids. God is still working. The final chapter hasn’t been written. We haven’t missed the miracle. Our destiny has not been derailed, because we serve God whose hand stretches across the expanse of the universe and He has not left us.
We often assume that if God’s power is within us to strengthen us, then we shouldn’t feel so much pressure. Yet pressure is what we feel every day—from work, family, emotions, and life pressures. Sometimes we’re tempted to think, “Maybe it’s me and I’m just not able to access God’s power.” Yet when we look at Paul we see this incredibly devout person, arguably the greatest missionary the church has ever produced, but he is pressed by troubles everywhere. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7–9 (NLT): “Our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” Pressure doesn’t diminish our faith…it refines it. Paul says the difference God’s power makes is simply, “We are not crushed.” God’s power gives us the ability to endure and persevere, to feel the weight of our troubles, but to not be crushed by them. Pressure produces a more perfected faith.
The recovery chip I carry in my pocket has the words engraved on it, “My grace is sufficient.” It is a powerful reminder that God’s grace is always present, that we need to rely on it every day, and that grace is not just for salvation, but for every struggle we face. It is a reference to Paul when he writes about asking God to take away some affliction or struggle. God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). It is when we are weak that we can be strong in faith. In that weakness God’s power gives us what we need to push forward. This is a more realistic picture of how God’s power works in us to strengthen us in trouble, confusion, and struggle. God in us gives us the ability to move forward in spite of the obstacles. He rarely gives you the power to climb the whole mountain, but he’ll give you the power to take the next step. You can take on the world because Jesus has overcome the world.
Here is the truth about worry: we choose it by what we seek. If you seek to store up treasures for yourself, you will worry, because you can't find permanent security in this temporary world. If you desperately seek the things you need, you will worry because the world makes no guarantees. But if you earnestly seek God, He will be your certainty. You will send that treasure ahead by burying good in other people's lives. You’ll be faithful and rich toward God, you'll see life as more of an adventure, and you will embrace the tangled path before you. You will know God better. Feel His love. Feel His joy.
When you have the weight of the world bearing down on your shoulders, Jesus says, seek me first and God will give you everything you need. When you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, or how you will pay the rent, Jesus says, seek me first and God will give you everything you need. When you have no idea how to face the problems at work, or in your family, or with your body…Jesus says, seek me first and God will provide everything you need. When you feel like there is not enough time in the day, or gas in the tank, or strength in your body to be the parent you want to be, the son or daughter you want to be, the employee or employer you want to be, the spouse you want to be, the student you want to be, the Christian you want to be…Jesus says, don’t seek more sleep first, don’t seek caffeine first, don’t seek advice first, don’t seek alcohol first, don’t seek time management first, don’t even seek self-improvement first…seek me first. Seek Jesus. And His righteousness. And GOD will provide you with EVERYTHING you need!
One of the biggest obstacles to freedom is our blind spots. Chances are the habits and attitudes that hold you back are buried beneath layers of busyness and distraction. The first step to getting free from the inside out is to slow down, look at your life and ask Jesus for the help that only He can give.
We can get weary from the fight and at times we can be tempted to give up. Some of you may feel like throwing in the towel today. You may feel weary. You may feel like the odds are against you. You may feel like you’re done and it’s all over, but God is in your corner. God doesn’t ever throw in the towel on you. The measure of a person is never how many times you’re knocked down, but how many times you get back up! Don’t throw in the towel, throw on the armor. Ephesians 6:10-11 (NLT): “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”
There is often a testing after a triumph. When Jesus was baptized God spoke, heaven opened, it was a huge public triumph and immediately after he was tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. A testing often follows a triumph. Some of you have made spiritual decisions recently; you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus or made a huge step in your spiritual life. You’ve forgiven a grudge you have held for years. You have started to trust God financially; you have started activating your faith. Don’t be surprised if things feel harder before they feel easier. When you push back the darkness, the darkness pushes back. Difficulty teaches humility which empowers future victory. We learn to rely on God and stand firm in the difficulty, we learn life isn’t about us, and this opens our heart for God to use us more in the future. If a testing is following a triumph in your life, it just means God is getting you ready to be used more fully by Him. Jesus would go on after being tempted to engage in his public ministry and show us the entire path to victory. Stand firm in the testing. The testing that follows the triumph prepares you for your purpose.
You may feel like the bad things in your life are winning. Stand firm. They aren’t. You may feel like it’s too late for you. Stand firm. It isn’t. You may feel weak. Stand firm, you are stronger than you think. You may feel like a nobody. Stand firm. You aren’t. You may feel useless. Stand firm. You aren’t. You may think you’re powerless. Stand firm. You’re not. You may think you’ve been knocked out for good. Stand firm. You haven’t been. You may be ready to throw in the towel. Stand firm! You may want to tap out. Stand firm. You may think the match is over. Stand firm. It isn’t. You may feel like it is a TKO. Stand firm. It isn’t. The TKO happened when Jesus died and rose again and delivered the knock out blow to the devil. Jesus has won this fight and He is in your corner. He is the undisputed heavyweight champion of life and our role is to stand firm in the fight, stand firm in what Jesus has done for you. Stand firm in your forgiveness, stand firm in the hope of eternal life. Stand firm in your faith that with God all things are possible. Stand firm in your belief that God is working in your life. Stand firm in the faith that God can change hearts. Stand firm in your faith that He can bring about forgiveness. Stand firm in the belief that God will help you face that addiction. Stand firm in the belief that God has incredibly great power for those who believe! Stand firm in faith when you want to stand down. You can be knocked down, but never knocked out. You have to fight, but Jesus will never lose the fight and He will not lose you. Don’t throw in the towel, throw on the armor.
Today, put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. First, it’s the idea that God imputes the righteousness of Jesus onto your life, so in God’s eyes, you are morally perfect. You may think you’re a mess but as a believer in Jesus you wear His righteousness. When you put on His righteousness, you are new. The past is the past. It doesn’t own you. Shame does not define you. Don’t let the devil tell you, ‘you’re just an addict so you may as well give in.” You are not an addict. You are a child of God. The other way this body armor of righteousness works is that as you learn more and more of what it means to live out your faith, loving God and loving others, the more you can see these temptations for what they are. The more you see that God’s way really is the best way. And you aim for what gives life, not just what gives pleasure or gives relief.
Faith sometimes means following God even when you don’t know where you’re going. Faith reminds us that the most important thing is not knowing all the travel details, but traveling with the One who does. Faith gives us confidence and assurance. You may feel a little lost right now…you are not. You may feel like God isn’t showing up right now…He is. You may not be sure you can keep going…you can. You may feel like your destiny has been derailed. It hasn’t. You may feel like the miracle has been missed. It wasn’t. You may feel like you are wandering aimlessly. You’re not. You may feel like you are stuck in the wilderness. You’re not. The wilderness is how God prepares you for the promised land. Uncertainty is how God teaches you to live in the certainty of faith. God has you. God is moving and working. You aren’t alone. You aren’t abandoned. You aren’t forgotten. You aren’t left behind. You aren’t picked over. You aren’t disqualified and your story isn’t finished. You don’t have to know what’s gonna happen next when you trust your destiny to the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the one who was, is and is to come, the king of kings and lord of Lords, the one whose hand stretches across the expanse of the universe, the one who created all things and even knows the number of hairs on your head right now. He’s got this! He doesn’t turn His back on His kids. He doesn’t desert His kids. He doesn’t abuse His kids. He’s a loving father. He’s got you! He’s got your kids. He’s got your job. He’s got your future. He’s got your health. He’s got your mortgage. He’s got your finances. He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Faith turns your weakness into strength. But here’s the deal, these people did not have faith in their own abilities… they had faith in a God who could do what He said He would do. They had faith in a God who not only made promises, but kept them. When you are weak, God is strong. When you are finished, God is just getting started. When you want to tap out, God empowers you to hold on. When you feel disqualified, God qualifies you. When you feel like you aren’t talented enough for the task, God gifts you with His spirit. Faith turns weakness into strength.
Are you still walking around afraid that you aren’t enough? Or are you carrying around that old guilt and shame you’ve asked God to forgive a hundred times? Are you still chained to the past by chains that God has already unlocked? All you have to do is take them off and walk in freedom through faith in Jesus. Sometimes we hang on to the past because it is all we’ve known--the bitterness, the self-loathing, the condemnation. The bitterness is so a part of us we are afraid to imagine life without it. The condemnation is so ingrained in us we are afraid to step out in faith and risk claiming what God has done for us. Sometimes a familiar captivity feels more comfortable than an unfamiliar freedom.
In Jesus the old has gone, the new has come. You are a new creation. It's a new day filled with new promise, hope, possibilities, opportunities; new dreams, goals, perspective and resolve. God’s mercy is new every morning. His grace is fresh every day. His love is being poured out daily. His spirit is available and working in us every day. Great is His faithfulness. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He doesn’t treat us according to our own righteousness, but according to Jesus’. Don’t stay in condemnation because it is familiar, step into forgiveness because it is freeing. You were a mess but God cleaned you up in Jesus. You failed but you’re not a failure, you blew out but thanks be to God you didn’t blow up. Don't give your past a power it no longer has. Walk in freedom.
In Jesus, there is no condemnation. No meaning none. No condemnation for the time you lied to cover your tracks or made yourself look more impressive; no condemnation for the time you let jealousy get the best of you or you weren’t there for a friend or loved one; no condemnation for when you lost your cool and let your words fly; no condemnation for when you were unfaithful in a relationship; no condemnation for the divorce; no condemnation for when you weren’t there as a mother, father, son or daughter; no condemnation for when you hid the credit card from your spouse; no condemnation for when the prescription pills became an addiction; no condemnation for sexual sins or mistakes; no condemnation for lust; no condemnation for the gossip passed on at another’s expense; no condemnation for fabricating the numbers and believing the end justified the means; no condemnation for judging others too harshly; no condemnation for when you drank too much or woke up and couldn’t remember where you were; no condemnation for the lies you told yourself and others in an addiction and the damage done to everything around you; no condemnation for that time you told God you would never do it again, and then you did it again; no condemnation for the time you promised God you would, but then you didn’t. No condemnation.
We are to be strong and immovable because we believe Jesus rose from the dead. Because we have surrendered to God. And having surrendered, everything you do for the Lord IS useful. It means if you are parent of young kids, and you don’t even have time to shower, you are living in mountains of laundry, you are shopping and see there is dried spit up on your shirt and you don’t care, because you don’t have time to care… all that stuff you are doing, God sees it, He loves it, he blesses it and he is going to use it to His Glory. It means if you go to a job you do not love, serve people you do not like under the supervision of someone you do not respect… but you do it for the Lord, it will not be useless. This means if you wish were dating someone who really got you or if you wish your marriage was better, you remember that God is your source of strength and comfort and as you face each day, you surrender to him. Surrender empowers your victory. We raise the white flag to God and we are empowered to fight whatever life brings at us in His power.
We’ve all had moments from our past we’d like to forget. Lots of pictures we’d like to burn. Not just embarrassing stuff, but painful stuff. Hurtful things people have said or done. Ways we’ve hurt others. Words we’d like to take back. Our pasts are filled with things that can work against us in the present. The Bible calls them sin. Sin just means to miss the mark. To fall short. And if we’re all honest, we’ve all had moments when we have fallen short. And the past has this power to take your mistakes and failures and beat you over the head with them. The past can rob us of joy in the present and rob us of hope in the future. That’s why I love what the bible says about what Jesus did for us on the Cross. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NLT): “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus has solved the problem of our sin—our past. Through faith in Jesus, we have the victory. Death is not the end, doubts are not the end, and difficulties are not the end. Through faith in Jesus we receive forgiveness from our past and a new life in Him.
In Jesus, you are more than a victim, you are a victor. In Jesus you are more than a casualty, you are a conqueror. In Jesus you are more than your circumstances, you are an overcomer. In Jesus you are more than your failures, you are forgiven and free! In Jesus you are more than your abilities, you are filled with God’s spirit. In Jesus you are more than your pain, you are healed by God’s love. In Jesus you are more than your weakness, you are empowered by God. Your life can begin again today because Jesus has won the victory.
Give in to God, but don’t give up. Don’t give up because it’s tough. Don’t give up when your family or friends hurt you. Don’t give up when you’re loved ones don’t back you. Don’t give up when your life flips upside down. Don’t give up when your plan goes from clear to crazy. Don’t give up when people kick you while you’re down. Don’t give up when you can’t see a way out. Don’t give up when you can’t see a way up. Don’t give up when you can’t see hope. Don’t give up when you can’t see the dream anymore. Don’t give up when you can’t see God anymore. Don’t give up when you don’t feel strong enough. Don’t give up when you don’t feel talented enough. Don’t give up when you don’t feel qualified. Don’t give up when you don’t feel like you have what it takes. Don’t give up when you don’t think you can. Don’t give up when circumstances are insurmountable. Don’t give up when difficulties seem overwhelming. Don’t give up when you are denied opportunities because of your background, or your mistakes, or your gender, or your race or your faith. Don’t give up when you see others quit. Don’t give up when you see others blame. Don’t give up when you see others reach their dreams. Don’t give up when you see others move ahead of you. Don’t give up when others get promoted over you. Don’t give up when others seem so much happier than you (on social media, don’t worry – they’re not!) Don’t give up when it hurts. Don’t give up when you’re tired. Don’t give up when it’s hard. Don’t give up when you fail. Don’t give up when it’s impossible, when it’s inevitable, when it’s unlikely, when it’s unpopular. Don’t give up because at just the right time you will receive a harvest of blessing. Don’t give up! Don’t give up, but do surrender to God.
Jesus rose from the dead. Which means He won the ultimate victory so we can have victory in our life. If Jesus beat death, His teaching stands and He can bring us back from whatever is holding us down. Easter isn’t just about Jesus rising 2,000 years ago, but about the power of Jesus in our life today. The path to experience this victory is through surrender. To raise the white flag to God. The white flag in a battle pointed to a ceasefire, it became a universal sign of surrender. We raise the white flag to God in surrender not because we have lost, but because Jesus has won. In most areas of life we think in terms of never surrendering and never giving in, but when it comes to God the path to victory starts when we surrender our lives to Jesus and begin to follow Him in faith. Surrender leads to victory.