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This week as part of the Resolve series, Todd stresses the necessity of resolving to do life together, life in community, as we walk in faithfulness to Christ. He looks at the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, reminding us that in the world we have trouble, but God's provision to point us back to life and light is found in community.
Resolve to Be Anchored in Truth
Resolve to Deal with Your Baggage
Resolve to Deal with Anger
Resolve to Remove the Myths Around Love and Dating
16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16
Resolve to Pursue Peace as Much as Possible
Resolve to Be Diligent to Stay Together
Resolve to Be in God's Word
Resolve to Do Life Together
Good evening. How is everybody doing? Hey, a couple of quick things. I don't know if you guys realize this or not, but it was a year ago this Sunday that we started Watermark Plano. It has been an amazing year. I just want to encourage those of you who invested with us in starting that campus a year ago.
Since we started a year ago, there are 100 percent more kids than were there. There are 40 percent more adults. We're starting re:gen, re|engage, weeknight women's studies to go along with the Wednesday stuff they're already doing and the men's stuff that is already going on. There is a thriving, prospering community of Christ-followers who are reaching Collin County and Allen and McKinney and Plano and all of those other areas about 15 miles north of here.
We created more space down here that has been backfilled already. I just want to tell you something. Way to go, those of you who invested there and continue to invest here. I thought you would really be encouraged to hear what God is doing, to watch his church grow and expand because of your faithfulness. I just want to celebrate that with you.
If you're here, and you're not already getting the thing we call the Current, I would encourage you to take advantage of that in the Watermark News, that little perforated section, and just sign up. How many of you gals were here last night when we had about 3,000 women in this room for what we call ReCharge? It was an amazing night for all our non-Y-chromosome members.
If you didn't know about it, one of the things you can do to hear consistently about this stuff is to just let us know you want not just the Sunday morning reminder, but on Tuesday, we'll email out a fantastic resource to you that has links to stuff we did on Sunday. It has direct links to Real Truth. Real Quick. that you can just hit right there and watch other things that are going on.
This is the last time I'll probably mention this on a Sunday. The gentlemen who is on the cover of the Watermark News this week, Tom Doyle, a member of Watermark and author of several books… He and I are going to do this Journeys of Paul trip next June 2-12. There are only about 20-some-odd spots left, if you want to jump in with us.
There are going to be a bunch of Watermark folks hanging around together, sailing around where Paul went, where the book of Revelation was written. It's going to be a pretty amazing time. Information about that was and is in the Current. If you're curious about that, check that out. We just want to celebrate the opportunity to have that communication, what God is doing in and through your generosity and all that is going on. Let me pray for us. We're going to dive in and have a great evening together, okay?
Lord, thanks for a chance to be here together now and to learn from your Word and be reminded of some things that, if we are wise, we will be resolute in. Would you teach us? Would you open the eyes of our hearts? Would you deepen conviction in those of us who already, by grace, have been led in the way of everlasting life?
Would you just draw in those, Father, who still believe that maybe life on their own and away from you and away from others is the best way to manage life on this earth these days? Would you, by grace, help them see there is a better way? In Christ's name, amen.
We are in a series right now called Resolve. What you're going to hear us do over the next number of weeks is take a number of different things that wise individuals are going to resolve to do. Last week, we started the whole thing, and we talked about how there is not a long to-do list. Frankly, everything could be summed up with simply the fact that we resolve to be faithful.
Wise men know what time it is, we said, and faithful men live wisely. They execute on what they have purposed to know. This week, what we're going to do is actually talk about how we're going to resolve to live faithfully, not in isolation but together, because that is God's design. That's his provision for us.
In the days and weeks ahead, we'll talk about resolving to be people informed by the Word. We're going to resolve to work through the conflict that threatens our efforts to do life together. This week, resolve to live together. What do I mean by that? Why do I say that? Well, in this world, we all have a tendency to sometimes think a certain way and do certain things. When we look back over it, we wish we would have had somebody who said, "I would go a little slower to the hole on that one."
Have you ever said something that, moments after you said it, you kind of go, "I wish I would have thought through that one all the way," or, "I wish somebody might have said, 'Do you want to walk that back at all before it becomes enshrined in the history of your narrative?'" All of us have moments like that, sometimes daily, but a few of us have been the victim of doing that on such a platform that it becomes kind of an all-time example of missteps in that way.
I don't know if you guys know it or not, but this week marked the nine-year anniversary of a guy named Steve Jobs in California standing up in San Francisco at the Macworld Conference and saying, "Hey, there is this new product we've been working on for the last couple of years with $150 million being dumped into it that we think is going to be revolutionary. We're going to call it the iPhone."
Jobs unveiled this thing. When he did, he introduced the concept of a $500 phone, or $600 if you wanted it to be 8 gigabytes. That's right. The early iPhone (I don't know if you can remember this) didn't even have the capability of video. That was a whole big introduction in the years ahead. Folks looked at this iPhone and had all kinds of different responses to it.
In fact, in April, just a couple of months later in 2007, there was what was called a CEO forum that USA Today often writes. This was at the University of Washington. A guy named Steve Ballmer, who, at the time, was the CEO of Microsoft there. They asked him, "Hey, Steve. We know one of your competitors who is now trying to carve into some of the market shares, specifically in the smartphone market, is coming out with a new product. What do you think about this thing called the iPhone?" Steve Ballmer famously said…
Male: Steve Jobs goes to Macworld and pulls out this iPhone. What was your first reaction when you saw that?
Steve Ballmer: It's $500 fully subsidized with a plan? That is the most expensive phone in the world, and it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine.
[End of video]
That's exactly right. Who would ever want an iPhone? It doesn't have a keyboard. It just this thing where you can do a touch screen keyboard. Who would ever want that? We all love our Blackberry and everything else. He said, "We don't want our product in something that in no way would ever get a significant part of the market share." He scoffed at it, and he blew it off. As of April of this year, over 700 million people have decided they want an iPhone.
In fact, in 2012, Steve Ballmer from Microsoft sat down and said, "I wish I could redo the last 10 years," five of which had been affected by the iPhone. In March of 2007 or about that time, Microsoft, from Ballmer's office, actually sent out a memo saying, "By the way, Microsoft business people, we're no longer going to allow you to buy with Microsoft money and be reimbursed for Apple products which you are using to do Microsoft business." They had to put a kibosh on that.
Ballmer… Grace to him. If everybody had watched our forecast about what products would work, we probably wouldn't do so well ourselves. That's a rather famous story within that particular commodity, which is smartphones. All of us sometimes go, "I wish I hadn't been quite so bold in my confidence that this was so."
What I want to do as we start today is ask you a couple of questions just as simply as I can. I want to ask you to reflect and think back on what sometimes some of us probably aren't so foolish to say publicly, but the fact is we foolishly live this way. "I'm not really sure about this life together and really radically pursuing the one-anothers of Scripture.
I'm okay with being part of a large community and even singing in a choir on Sunday mornings, but when you ask me to really do life with other people and open my my heart and give them access to my life, I'm not really sure I'm going to go hard to the hole on that." Most of us wouldn't say that around here, but there are a lot of people who aren't investing that way around here.
Here is a question. I want to ask you this. I got one answer this morning that I went, "Okay, I might agree with that." What in your life is better because you do it alone? What in your life do you go, "You know what? This is better because I do it alone." Some guy actually Tweeted out, "Sleep. I sleep better alone." I go, "Okay, I get that."
There may be a few others. There might be some who say, "I do this better alone, but I shouldn't do it at all." The fact is there are not very many things we're proud of that we do better alone. Let me just expand the question and ask it to you this way. When has isolating yourself from a wise, loving, humble, obedient, compassionate, caring group of people and community ever created a better life or outcome for you in anything?
I want you to think about that. When has not going all in with those kinds of individuals made you better at anything that really matters in life? I could flip it. I could go the other way. When has running with or doing business with (which is the word for community, koinonia) rebellious, undisciplined, immoral, capricious, unwise people ever made you better at anything except sadness and despair?
With that being the case, that's why you find a guy named Solomon who asked God for wisdom, and God gave it to him in a way that we still are learning from. He said these two things in Proverbs, the book through which Solomon shared with us much of the wisdom he accumulated by the grace of God.
In Proverbs 13:20, he said, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Then he said a little bit later, "He who separates himself, isolates himself, quarrels against all sound wisdom. He seeks his own desire." Those two little statements right there… By the way, I want to make this note.
Wise men do seek solitude, time alone with God for study and prayer and reflection, where they can cry out to God, "Search me and know me. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me. Lead me in the everlasting way." Wise men do seek solitude for rest and reflection, but fools isolate.
What I want to do as we take a second here in just a moment and charge into some more writings that Solomon shared with us is just talk about the reality of the world we live in. This is a bad and nasty world. There are all kinds of things that threaten us, and we want and need and were designed to live in community. I want to share with you a great little study that I came across. It was by some students up at Harvard Divinity School.
What they observed is that there is this growth in this group of people who had been commonly labeled Nones. They were especially studying Nones in the 18- to 34-year-old window of life, what they would commonly call Millennials. Some take Millennials all the way up to 30 and even early 30s. What they're saying is that Nones, who are typically affluent, urban, educated, and white, are individuals who are no longer gathering in some of the traditional spots that Americans would go to find spiritual enlightenment and community.
What they found out was that they still want spiritual enlightenment and community; they just aren't going to churches in order to necessarily get it. There are a lot of reasons for that. First, so many of them have seen dysfunctional, irrelevant, poor images of what the church really should be. Church is one of those words that, when you hear it, creates a lot of baggage in people's minds.
In fact, I don't hardly think about what we're doing as church. I think of what we're doing as just being God's people. By the way, that is what the biblical definition of church is. Too many of us, when we hear the word church, think of a personality, a denomination, a building, a location, or maybe a history of irrelevance, legalism, and a bunch of people talking about what they're against instead of being people who are for Christ and for love, as it is even biblically and rightly defined.
Noners are not people who don't want to be associated with God; they're people who say, "I don't want to be associated with an institutional, religious affiliation, but I'm still a spiritual person." Let me tell you something. America is changing. The reason America is changing is because Americans are changing.
Let me tell you what is not changing and will never change. That is, what humans were created to be and designed for. These couple of students at Harvard Divinity School started to look at how these people who said, "We don't want to be affiliated with some institution," are gathering, how they're still finding some spiritual center and how they're looking to connect.
They wrote a really interesting paper and did a presentation called How We Gather. What they found out is that because they're not looking for community and spiritual encouragement at churches, they're developing other new creative ways in order to get it. They have dinner parties. They have memberships at things called SoulCycle, if you're familiar with SoulCycle, or Juniper Path.
There is even now a summer camp called Camp Grounded for Millennials where they can go and experience some of the deep connection they remember or maybe were deprived of in their youth, where they go and are actual campers at a summer camp with other young Millennials. One of the things they spent the most time talking about though was this phenomenon called CrossFit.
What they did was they took a good look at CrossFit. They actually brought Greg Glassman up to Harvard, and he was there to speak with them. CrossFit started in 1995 in California with just one little box. That's what they called a gym. As they began to grow all the way to today, there are now over 13,000 boxes. They don't actually call individuals who own a box a franchise. They're called affiliates.
There are 4 million people who are a part of a CrossFit box. I'm trying to figure out why that is. It's interesting. Greg Glassman said something to the effect of, "The communal aspect of CrossFit is an integral part of our success. We're not just a fitness place. We're a place that provides something that people need." He went on to say, "We were asked a lot if we were a cult.
Eventually, I thought to myself, 'Maybe we are.' We are an active, breathing, loving community. It's not an insult for a CrossFitter to be called a part of a cult. Discipline, honesty, courage, accountability. That's what you get at CrossFit. What you learn in a gym is also training for all of life. CrossFit makes better people."
This is what is really interesting. There was a doctor who was really in charge of diabetes treatment at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Axel Pflueger. He's a nephrologist. He, along with many others, as they looked around at what was going on in the world, realized that 70 percent of all diseases globally are what are called chronic diseases, so diabetes, obesity, coronary artery issues, Alzheimer's, and some cancers.
They realized that according to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Institute, there are only three causes for chronic diseases: smoking, inactivity, and a poor diet. Here is what they found out. They said, "We knew we had to fix…" Every year, 1.5 million Americans die from chronic diseases, and 1.2 million of them are dying premature deaths because of chronic diseases that are caused by…let me say it to you again…smoking, inactivity, and poor diet.
In other words, things under our control are killing well over a million Americans a year. They knew there was no way that individuals were going to really address these things, because to address these things required lifestyle change. They said, "We know lifestyle change doesn't happen when people live in isolation. It's a lot less likely to happen when people sit by themselves."
This is why they were looking for some fitness movement that would form community, grow virally, and when they found this thing called CrossFit, they went all in behind it and started to throw research and encouragement in the direction of it. The Nones have gone crazy because here they're finding community and physical fitness and even, for many of them, a deep, spiritual connection, not always the true spiritual connection, but that is what is going on at CrossFit.
It's interesting. As they observed this up there at Harvard Divinity School, they talked about all of the other areas where there has been almost this sociological renaissance and these flashes of new communal expression. Starbucks is really one of these. People would go to another gathering place so they could be around people. We are designed to need relationship.
Weight Watchers observed this as well. Weight Watchers says, "Right now is the time of year when more people are buying new dietary products than any other." Weight Watchers will tell you, "We want you to buy our product. If you buy our product, you're going to eat better than you would if you just leave it to yourself."
Here's the deal. If you buy their Weight Watchers product and come to Weight Watchers meetings and include yourself in a Weight Watchers community, they can statistically prove you will lose 300 percent more weight than if you just go at it by yourself. Amazing. We have watched over the years, as we fill out these 4B forms… We help people believe in Christ, belong to his body, be trained in truth, and be strong in the life of ministry and worship.
We have watched people as they fill this out, and we have watched different metrics that speak to spiritual health. The study of God's Word, memorization of God's Word, application of God's Word, ability to apply God's Word to different circumstances in life, a tendency to engage with people who are far from God, use of their money in a way that is consistent with Scriptural exhortation.
When people are involved in biblical community, not just attending a place where the Scripture is talked about, but invite other people into their lives and are doing life together, there is a sometimes well over 100 percent increase in the amount of success or increase in habit that people have toward these things, which always leads to usefulness and fruitfulness for Christ.
What in your life is better because you go at it alone? Let's take a look at Ecclesiastes. Here is the wisest guy who ever lived. Last week, in Ecclesiastes 3… If you have your Bible, turn there. We started our study last week on what we're going to resolve to do. We looked at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and we just read through that section very quickly. We talked about how Solomon says, "There is a time for everything." The big question is, "What time is it?"
We talked about how wisdom is defined by knowing what to do in a certain situation, and faithfulness is doing it. Let me tell you what Solomon teaches throughout the rest of chapter 3 and set you up for what we're going to focus on tonight. He basically said in chapter 3, "Everything has its time, but meaning and life cannot be found apart from the one who created time and who lives outside of time, the Eternal one."
He says, "Listen. Enjoy everything you can, but brace yourself, and don't think for a second you can work yourself through this world by only relying on this world to provide for yourself meaning. Fear God. Know that he is sovereign in control. Know that injustice and death await everybody." That is basically Ecclesiastes 3.
He says, "Because you can't count on this world… In this world, there is nothing that will satisfy you. In this world, things are going to broadside you that you can't even imagine are going to come. There is hard that falls on the good, and there is hard that falls on the bad. There is death that comes to beast, and there is death that comes to man."
He says as a summary of this beginning of his lament about the problems of life on this earth in Ecclesiastes 3:22, "I have seen nothing better than the fact that man can milk all of the happiness he can out of his activities, for this is his lot, injustice and impending death. Frankly, who will bring him to see what will occur after him?"
Solomon, in his despair, as he was a man who himself wasn't abiding with the knowledge of God, was filled with despair. You can see it trickle out all through chapter 4. He's just basically saying, "You'd better try and find all of the life you can in this life." He's about to tell you what doesn't work and what he recommends will allow you to have more happiness in just a moment.
I want to set it up with this. A number of years ago, when I was talking about this topic… We've talked about it a lot because it's so central and core to our faith and the practice of it. In fact, let me just tell you this. The Bible is absolutely inflexible on our need for one another. Let me say that again. The Bible is absolutely inflexible on whether or not you can experience life the way God intended as you try to live life on your own.
When the Bible talks about who we are, Jesus uses the metaphor of sheep more than any other. Sheep are herd animals. They don't do well on their own. When you think about sheep, you don't think about a lot of defensive attributes. They are defenseless animals. The only thing that gives a sheep any sense of protection is that it might be in the middle of other sheep, but especially if it has a shepherd over it.
God calls all of us to be part of a flock. He designed us for community. That's why even some of the Nones who go, "Not only am I not associated with any religious organization, but I reject religion altogether," are still seeking for some transcendent meaning in life greater than themselves, because they are made in the image of God whether they acknowledge God or not.
The Bible is inflexible on the fact that we have to live life with one another if we're going to live the kind of life we want. Who you run with is the number one determinant in how you will walk with Jesus. Do you run with people who are serious about the faith and are going to care about you and are going to be constantly saying, "Here I am," and, "Here is how I need you to love me," and, "Where are you?" and, "I'm going to come after you"? If you do, and they are wise people, your life will be markedly different.
A number of years ago, when I was teaching about this, I used an illustration. If you want to go home and watch the full eight-plus minutes of it (I'll start to roll it behind me right now), it's called Battle at Kruger. Kruger is a national park in southern Africa where people can go on safaris and watch different animals in their natural habitat.
There was a group of people on a particular safari who saw a herd of Cape buffalo, which you can start to see in a moment behind me. These Cape buffalo were moving alongside this lake in this area. As they walked up, you can see there was a pride of lions, some lionesses that were there, not far from them. This big buffalo sees it and all of a sudden says, "Let's not go that direction." The lions said, "Here is our moment."
These four lionesses seized the day. They go running after that herd of Cape buffalo. They actually capture a weak and small one. They throw it down into the lake. Then the other three or four lionesses jump on top of it. But this isn't even the worst part of that young Cape buffalo's day. In a moment, you're going to see what happens.
If you'll look at the lower left-hand side, you'll see a crocodile coming right now who says, "Hey, thanks for throwing dinner my way." Now, this crocodile grabs this young Cape buffalo and starts to pull it into the water. Now, this Cape buffalo is separated from the herd, has four lionesses trying to devour it, and a big crocodile is saying, "I think I'll keep him. Thank you very much."
Well, I have some good news. The crocodile is eventually dismissed and is fatigued enough or sees the hopelessness of the situation enough that it lets go of the young Cape buffalo. The lionesses pull the thing up the shore. Now, we have the Cape buffalo with his leg stripped by some crocodile jaws. Now this particular Cape buffalo is there with four lionesses on top of it.
Here is the thing. Cape buffalo are a herd animal just like sheep. You, like Cape buffalo, are going to have days where you're like, "This is not a good day. I have lions jumping on top of me. I have crocodiles trying to get me. I wish there was a community that cared for me." Here they come. They're coming back in this very difficult world that is often not very happy.
If you keep watching this, what will happen in just a second is one of those Cape buffalo will take one of those lionesses and hook it with its horn and fling it about 10 feet in the air. It's coming in just a moment, and we're going to cut it off right there, or you won't listen to another word I'm saying. You can go home and watch that on YouTube with 77 million other people.
It's an amazing thing. Here is how the story ends. All four lionesses are driven away, and this young Cape buffalo is restored back into the herd. That wouldn't happen if that young Cape buffalo is walking around that lake by itself. I'm here to tell you that as you walk through this life that Solomon observed is filled with injustice and impending death, if you go at it alone, it's not going to go well with you either.
Look at what he says in Ecclesiastes 4. Solomon is now going to continue with this. "Hey, good for you if you get a little happiness, but I want to tell you to brace yourself." He says in chapter 4, verse 1, "Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them…" Where was the herd? "…and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them."
Again and again, you'll find this in the Bible. "Comfort one another with these words. Encourage one another day after day, as long as it's called today. Comfort one another with the comfort with which you have been comforted." There is, just to use this metaphor and beat it to death… We have an Enemy, roaming about, seeking whom he may devour.
In 1 Peter 5:8, it uses the actual analogy of a lion. You are a herd animal. What lions do is they pick off the isolated and the weak, those who are struggling, who are sick, those who need the most encouragement. Solomon is just observing, "There are oppressors, and when there is no one to comfort you, life isn't good." Verse 2: "So I congratulated the dead…" This is not a very optimistic person at this particular point. "…who are already dead more than the living who are still living."
It gets even worse in verse 3. "But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun." This is Solomon. He's saying, "Look. If you just ask me how I feel, why I don't view God and understand that the world we're in is a world we have chosen because we've left God, that we've created."
Jesus told us years after Solomon, "While you're here in this world, even if you've been reconciled to me by faith, you're still going to have trouble." Jesus, being a good shepherd, tells the sheep, "Don't face life alone. There is an Enemy prowling about, seeking whom he may devour." Boy, there are days when you feel like there are lions on one side and crocodiles on the other.
Jesus says, "Part of my provision for you is not just my Word and my Spirit, but it's my people who have been reconciled to me and who my Spirit dwells in who can comfort you and remind you of what the Word says, who can be my hands and feet." To reject that provision is not going to make it go well with you. Solomon is saying he watched people who lived that way, and he said the dead are better than the living. In fact, the guy who was never even born, who never even went through that trouble, is better off than all still.
It reminds me of Woody Allen, the playwright who said something like, "Look, we're in a crucial place in the history of our world. Before us, there are two roads. One leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose wisely." That's the way a lot of people think. Despair and hopelessness versus total destruction, unless you have a right understanding of who God is.
In verse 4, Solomon says, "Listen. I've seen guys try and work to make this thing happen, to make life happen and find joy and significance and meaning, and all they try to do is live a better life than somebody else. This too is vanity and striving after wind. The result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor is what motivates him to do better than his neighbor so he can say, 'At least I'm not as miserable as that guy. Maybe my life will feel better if I have a better life than them.'"
Lily Tomlin was a comedian a long time ago. She's the one who famously said, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." Who wants that? Solomon said, "I have won the rat race. I'm the king of all kings on this earth, and I can tell you that winning the rat race is not that big of a deal."
He says, "Here's another thing. If you don't want to try and do better than the other guy, one of the other options is to just sit there and do nothing." In verse 5, he says, "That's what the fool will do. The fool will sit there and fold his hands and consume his own flesh." That's not going to work for you.
In Proverbs, he wrote that the soul of the sluggard craves and wants, but he gets nothing because he won't do the things he needs to do to get what he needs. The soul of the diligent is what is made fat, but it is the soul of the prideful, excessive man who, even when he gets it all, isn't satisfied either.
He makes this observation in verse 6. "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind." All Solomon is saying right there is, "It's my opinion that what you want to do is get enough and be happy. Don't kill yourself for more. Get enough and enjoy it." That's why he wrote in Proverbs 15:17, "Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred."
He's saying, "You'd better find yourself a loving community and not work yourself to death. Don't think that gold-plated dishes and filet mignon will get you through the trouble that is in your life. Don't do nothing. That's the fool's way. Don't think that all of this accumulation and excess will get you there. Find love."
Watch this. Verse 7: "Then I looked again at vanity under the sun.""Here are more crazy ideas. There are certain men who live as if they don't have a dependent, no brother, no son, whether they actually don't have one or live as if they don't, yet there is no end to their labor. Indeed, his eyes are not satisfied with riches, and he never asks, 'For whom and I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure? Why am I working so much?' This too is vanity and a grievous task, a miserable business."
Greed and self-exaltation don't work. He says, "Here's what you should do." "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor." You want to do what you do with other people. It's more profitable when you go into life with others. Not only is it more profitable. Here is the truth. "For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion." There is help in failure, trouble, and trial.
"But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?" Solomon is basically saying, "This is a cold, dark world, and comfort and warmth come from the blanket of relationships, so snuggle up."
My buddy said, "I'll tell you something I do better alone: sleep." I might even challenge that. You might actually close your eyes and not get elbowed, but you're going to be cold and lonely. By the way, let me just tell you this about the Nones and the Millennials. What they found out is in their rejecting the less-than-perfect church that is out there, they have not found life to be better. In fact, they have found exactly what Solomon said you're going to find when you try to find life apart from God.
Loneliness is at an all-time high. Despair is at an all-time high. We're the most medicated, prescribed, overeating, indulged people on the planet. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among Millennials. This world is going to give you trouble. What you want to do is have wise people around you who can remind you that this world is not our home. The reason trouble is here is sin. The solution to sin is Jesus Christ.
Let us comfort one another with these words. We are aliens and strangers. This world is not our home. We are here to help other people jump into the herd where they can be comforted. You know what is so funny too? People don't want to jump into CrossFit because you think, "If I go there, all of those beautiful people who are ripped with 5 percent body fat, I'm not going to be able to finish the workout. If I take my shirt off, they'll all laugh at me and be grossed out. I don't want to walk into that gym. I don't want to fail in front of those people."
Here is what you need to know. Everybody at a CrossFit gym came in with that same insecurity. Everybody remembers the days they didn't like their body or couldn't do a pull-up or couldn't finish a workout or didn't know how to do a clean. They didn't like the way they looked and the way their life was. They were trying to figure out how to deal with their issues. Somebody encouraged them. Somebody helped them. They are anxious to help you.
Let me just tell you this. So many people come in here, and they go, "This is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and nobody here can relate to me." You need to know one thing about this particular place. It is fit only for those who know they need a cross. In fact, this is the only organization I know in the world that to join it, you have to start by saying, "I'm a sinner. I'm a misfit. I'm out of shape with God. My life is broken and not as it should be. There is a chronic disease in me, and it is destroying me."
That is the wage of entry into this organization. The fact that you would come in here and go, "I don't want to jump in with those people," you need to know something. You're jumping in with people here who are all individuals who know that apart from the cross, there is never anything we could do that would make us fit enough to be accepted by God.
None of us in any way think anything we're going to do is going to make us acceptable to God. God has already done it. here's what is true. Because God has already done it and we've accepted that, we have been reconciled to God. Now we are beginning to walk with God again instead of fearing God, rejecting God, running from God, dismissing God. We're listening to God, and we're starting to have… Some of the glory is beginning to be restored in some of us.
Some of us have been walking with Jesus, if you will, running with Jesus for decades, so our lives do start to have a certain sense of beauty. Some of the body fat of sin has been melted away by the sanctifying work of grace, but we still know where we have come from and the grace that has brought us here, and nothing delights us more than to see the next person come in and say, "My life is not fit. I have a chronic disease." Those of us who have received grace are eager to extend it to another, and we're not going to say, "Why can't you live like us?"
We're going to say, "Let's just both acknowledge that apart from what Jesus has done, there is nothing we can do. Let me just show you what Jesus has done with me, and let me come along behind. Imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ. Let me comfort you." Yeah, that is worth clapping for. Thank you. "Let me help you here." The truth is, all of us in our nakedness know how unpretty we are. Run with this herd. Let the stronger rescue you from the lion, and let us constantly remind each other of our need for one another.
A few things went down in our community in the last couple of weeks that have never happened before, which brought this to a screaming place of reality for us. There have been individuals in our community here who have suffered from tragic illness, even from tragic accidents. We've had houses that have caught on fire. People have lost all of their possessions.
To my knowledge, in the last 15 years, this was the very first time, on December 26, 2015, that a literal tornado has swept through our community, and members of our church have been hit with the tornado of the reality that there is trouble in this world. I want you to watch what happens to some people because they were living in this troubled world with others. Watch this.
Michael Delgado: The night that the tornado happened, I was at the movies with my brother, his daughter, and my kids, and my younger brother and grandmother were actually at the house the night it happened.
Greg Ray: We, like a lot of people, were getting tornado warnings on our phones and emails, and we began to take those more seriously as the storm got closer.
Michael: When the house fell, they were actually in the downstairs toy closet. They had both actually mentioned that as things were falling, it looked like they were just sliding off of something. If you were to see the destruction before, you would see how weird it really is that there would be just this small pocket of space among all of it.
Greg: We heard the big crash, and then all of the power went out in there somewhere. As I began to see the devastation at our home and how the back of our house was blown up, we had to go. We hurriedly packed up and sent two texts to community.
Michael: I never had to ask anybody for anything. One of my friends made a Michael Delgado's Work page on Facebook, and they were great with choosing a team lead for each day and setting up different crews to come out, not only for my house but my neighbor's house as well. They noticed that there just wasn't a lot of help there.
Really, without even asking them, they kind of offered their time to go next door and help them. As The Porch always says, we're here to look out to the city and see their needs. That's truly what our community did. They looked out, saw the needs of the city, and they came and provided.
Greg: We sent two texts. The first said, "We need some housing, and we need it right now." Before we could get packed, they had a couple of rooms for us. We sent another text saying, "We need help." People showed up with clothes, a van, food. The next day, we had 15 or more people who were here. We had people on the roof in a rainstorm, putting up plywood. We had people ShopVaccing up water, ripping out floors, cleaning the house, packing up clothes. Every day last week, there was somebody loving on us some way.
Michael: Micah 7:8 says, "Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me." His light and the way he's being that light is through community has really taken this burden off my chest. Not one time did I ever have to worry about, "Will I get help?" I knew exactly that not only my immediate community but the community of friends I've made over the years through going to Watermark would provide any help they could.
Georgia Ray: People were great the night of the tornado, but then that all ends. For us, we had community walking with us still. A week or so after the tornado, we still have community walking with us, trying to help us, trying to help us get out. Greg and I both tend to be givers, so this is a new world for us. It's the new normal for us right now, and we are just so grateful, so very grateful.
Michael: I've looked at this entire situation and just seen nothing but hope. I've had more opportunities to share my faith in this time than I have in a while. I'm just praying, "God, would you bring an opportunity today to share my faith?" There were a lot of people asking, "Why are you so calm?"
It's really easy. It's because I have a hope. My hope and joy are not found in any material thing. It's really easy, when you have a foundation in Jesus, to have everything taken away except the clothes on your back and still go to sleep with a smile and know that you're being provided and cared for.
Greg: We have hope because God is on the throne. He is sovereign. This is his house, and if he wants to run a tornado through it, it's for our best. We have joy. We have great gratitude. Honestly, as hard as it is, we're also having the time of our lives, just getting to have conversations and have relationships that we might never have. This is his story. Our job is just to walk with joy and faithfulness in the midst of it and share truth. He has given us great opportunities.
Georgia: A lot of people have said, "I don't see how you can be smiling and laughing through all of this." I'm just like, "We just have such hope. We just have such peace. We're going to be okay." We don't know where we're going to be living. We don't know what kind of car we're going to be driving, but who cares? We're good for today. I'm excited to see how the Lord just continues to use this story. I'm excited if just one person comes to know Christ through all of this. It's worth it. It is so worth it.
[End of video]
I love that story. I have to tell you it's an unjust world. The Rays are good people. If I was going to have a tornado rip through some home, it wouldn't have been the Rays'. They're givers. You go to their home, and it's filled with children who were born into other families. Those families didn't want them, but they have taken them in. They have loved and fostered and adopted them and said, "You're mine."
There is great injustice in this world. Tornadoes come. What you hear them say in the midst of that injustice… At times, when the lion of a broken world grabs us, and the crocodile of trouble pulls us, there are others who are going to come around and model and remind us that God has not forgotten us.
Last week, after our time together in here, Michael Delgado's mother, Joey, came up here. She said, "Todd, I want to tell you something. I've had a recurring dream for years that a tornado was going to come ripping through my family. I had no idea that it was ever going to be a literal one, but I already knew there was a spiritual one that had ripped through. I watched it destroy my son, but I watched my son also come here and find hope through this community and Jesus Christ.
I came to my son's baptism, and I watched people start to come around his broken, tornadoed life, and healing come into him, and I thought, 'I wonder if healing can come into me, someone who for years has dealt with a lot of isolation and despair and not just suicidal thoughts but attempts back earlier in my life to get out of this world.' I agreed with Solomon. Better the dead than the living.
Because I saw the love and redemption and healing that came through Christ and his people, I came here, and I started listening last fall to you and others talk about the need to connect with Jesus and other people. I thought, 'If they can accept my broken son, maybe they can accept my broken me.' I've been here. I'm having wounds that I thought I would never tell anybody about begin to be healed.
Then when a literal tornado came, there were the people who were loving me and the people who were loving my son, so much so that it spilled out over to our neighbors, so much so that police officers stopped at our home and said, 'Who are you people? Do you know how far ahead you are of recovering from this than anybody else we've seen?'" To the glory of God, to the good of those God intended good to come to, as they accepted the provision of grace that he calls all men to experience, and to the benefit of others still.
Here is the deal. While we could fly over Garland and Rockwall and see the troubles in those communities, there are a lot of other communities you can fly over that have been around Dallas for the last 15 years that we've been around, and their homes look beautiful even to this day like this, but there is another tornado that has whipped through them. If they're living in isolation, it's not going to be such a happy place. I've seen a lot of homes that look like that from on high that are filled with trouble from within, and they need life together too. Watch this.
Shera O'Neal: For most of my life, I've been a believer. I loved being in the Word and knowing more about Christ and seeking after him. We hit this really busy season where we had four kids under 7, and I was coaching volleyball and going back to school. The first thing that went by the wayside was my daily time with the Lord. Even though I didn't go looking for it, temptation came my way, and I began to have an affair with a family friend.
Trey O'Neal: I knew something was not right between Shera and me. I couldn't put my finger on it. Again, I was out on my own, no community. I found out. I found the phone with texts. We had a blowup at that point. It was tenuous. I thought she was going to leave. I thought I was going to be a single dad.
Shera: I thought, "There is no turning back, because he will never forgive me for this. As soon as he's out of sight, I'm leaving, and that will be the best thing for both of us." It wasn't until I opened up Psalms and started reading about David and how God forgave him and David's cry out to him to forgive him that I thought, "This is me. This is where I am right now." I knew that I was in this marriage, and I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I was forgiven.
Trey: I tracked down every marriage resource I could find. When the infidelity first came to light, I was counseled to forgive and to keep it quiet, to not talk about it.
[End of video]
What kind of counsel is that? "Forgive." That's not bad counsel. "Keep it quiet. Don't let people know about the tornado, the trouble that has hit your life. Buy some resources that will help you, but don't dive in with others to work through it. Just suppress it and keep it quiet and move on." The companion of fools will suffer harm. That's not biblical counsel. That's a house that has nobody coming to help when the tornado of trouble hits you. He was in community, but as he said, it wasn't community from God's people, and it didn't get better. Watch this.
Trey: I was just so happy to have Shera back. However, after about the first year, I went into a pattern where I would take out anger on Shera, and I would use what had happened against her until I knew she had felt some pain.
Shera: It was hard to see the effects of my sin so real and to see somebody I loved so much hurting and not wanting to live because of what I had done.
Trey: I wanted to look at her and say, "She caused this. She is the reason I am hurting." The hardest part for me to see was that I had any part of it. In the summer of 2011, we found re|engage. We were both being encouraged to share our story, to live in community, to pursue Christ on a personal level, which I had never done. I had always left that to Shera.
Shera: Since being at Watermark, I've been really spurred on to just running toward chaos. I grew up in a home where we didn't really deal with hurts or other stuff going on. We kind of just tried to get over it and sweep it under the rug and hope it went away, but Kyle Kaigler, a few weeks ago, at the Plano Campus, preached about just running to chaos. We've seen firsthand people do that for us and the effects of that in our marriage and our relationships.
Trey: Shera and I have jumped into a Community Group, running with guys who know my sin struggles, who hold me accountable to those things. To know I have guys who are praying for me…
Shera: Trey has really taken the lead in our family. His Scripture memory is amazing. He's resting in that instead of resting, like you said, in a day when it's not going to hurt or it's going to be all better.
Trey: Make no mistake. There are still hard days. Misunderstandings and disagreement. It still hurts. I never realized what Christ did for me, how much he loves me, what he did for me, and what he did for all of us until I was put in a spot where I had to make a choice to forgive something pretty tough or make a clean break.
I knew it was to forgive. I came face to face with what Christ forgave me for. We shouldn't be here. The world would say we have no business being married. It started a disaster, and we made it a bigger disaster. That's exactly right. We are confident and thankful. We're very grateful for what the Lord has done for us and confident for what he can do for everybody.
[End of video]
Did you hear how both of these stories ended? Both of these stories ended with saying, "I never would have invited this into my home intentionally, but I'm going to tell you something. In this world where there is trouble, because I have been connected to God's people and lived authentically with them, there is joy in the midst of chaos."
What I want to share with you as we head into 2016, if you want this year to be anything like a year that the grace and blessing of God are going to show up in a way you hope for, you have to resolve to do life together. Invite people in who are daily with you and regularly with you as you face lions and crocodiles and tornadoes and the trouble of sin.
Jesus says, "You need to know something. Trouble is coming, whether it's a wind that blows through or sin that runs in. This world will have trouble. Be comforted by my Word. Be reminded by my Spirit. Be embraced by my people." Let me pray for you.
Father, I thank you for the privilege of just being in here and being reminded that part of the means of grace you give us is just people who are informed by the Word who are indwelled by your Spirit so we might have a double portion of what is true and necessary for us to make our way through this world so we're not informed by grief and despair, so we can rejoice and be people who sing in this land where tornadoes still exist.
I pray that anybody in this room who still feels like, "Well, if you knew me, you wouldn't welcome me into this place," that we would remind them that this place is only fit for those who know they need a cross. The membership requirement for entering this room is humility and brokenness and an acknowledgement that, "The tornado of trouble has already hit me through my rebellion against God, and what I need is restoration."
Father, we thank you that restoration is possible through our King and Savior who we celebrate, and we thank you that rest and encouragement are possible through those who have a relationship with Christ, who will be your hands and your feet. As we ramble through this wilderness, I pray we would find what we need through brothers who will be our fortress and will help us in times of trouble.
Let me just encourage you with this. If you're here tonight, and you've never found your shelter from the storm and your fortress against judgment in Jesus Christ, deal with that, because he is your true brother who loves you so much he gave his life for you. Start there. Having accepted that as an absolute necessity, in fact, would you just walk in the family of God with us and be a part of the family?
You don't need to sit, isolated and lonely and despairing, anymore, but walk into a room full of people who, like you, have found healing and hope at the feet of Jesus, and be a part of the family, and say, "Love me. Encourage me. I'll be here for you when the storm hits you. You be here for me when the storm hits me."
We're going to learn in the weeks ahead how to reconcile through the storms we cause in each other's lives. For the glory of God, the good of our soul, the hope of the world that will spill over, and that others will come and meet our Father who is their shelter and fortress, that they'll only receive it. If you're here tonight, and you don't know who Jesus is, would you come? If you know who he is, would you go and worship him with one another? God bless you. We'll see you.