To a degree, our life is the sum of the decisions that we have made whether good or bad. It’s easy and popular to blame others for everything that has gone wrong in our lives or made us who we are, but the truth is we all have free will. Most of us have some regrets because of some of the choices that we made. We look back on them now and go, what in the world was I thinking when I did that? There are probably entire chapters in your life that you wish you could just rip out and throw away. College? Toss it. High school? Toss it. Your first marriage? Toss it. There are a few years in my life that I wish I could have just thrown away. The truth is that most of us are not where we thought we would be when we turned 35, 45, 55 or 75. We thought we would be in one place and instead are in an entirely different place.
Think about this: How would your life be different tomorrow if you surrender to God’s will today? We cannot change what was but we can change what will be. We can make the decision to surrender our ways to God’s ways and it will have an incredible impact on the trajectory of our life from this point forward. It is possible to know and do the will of God if you are ready and willing to surrender your ways so you can follow His. The goal of every believer should be to honestly pray “may your will be done in my life.” What you do with your life is of great importance to God because of what He is doing in the world. In spite of all the confusion it is possible to surrender your life to Christ so that you can follow His will. You can use your free will to surrender to God’s will for your life.
The author of Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Submission involves surrendering. It involves surrendering my own selfish desires and motives to the rule and reign of Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul writes: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5
In other words it’s saying, “God I trust you and surrender my will to you so that I can follow your will for me.” This is important because in the kingdom of God a surrendered life is a victorious life.
This is how you can surrender your will and follow God’s will:
First, learn God’s Word. The bible is God’s written word. It is inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and useful in all matters of Christian doctrine and practice. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The bible is where you learn about the promises of God. Promises like: salvation, provision, encouragement, deliverance, redemption, love, grace, and mercy. God will never lead you to do something that violates his word. We learn God’s Word by reading it and by participating in a group where we can ask questions and share stories.
Second, understand God’s ways. God’s ways are revealed in his Word. The bible reveals how God has worked in the lives of many, many people over thousands of years. The more you know how God worked in them and through them the easier it will be for you to discern the will of God in your life. God’s Word reveals how to manage our finances, family, sexuality, relationships, and everything else. Once you know God’s ways it’s easier to discern God’s will.
Because God is interested in you he wants you to follow His will because it is the best for you. God loves you and wants to lead you. He wants to provide for you like a good, compassionate, loving, kind, and gracious father. But you ask: “What if we really think we are following God’s will and everything falls apart? Was that God’s will?” Sometimes it is God’s will for believers to suffer for him and persevere through trials. Other times the sins of others and even our own sins have a profound impact on our lives and we have to pick up the pieces and go from there. For whatever reason, sometimes God allows bad things to happen to good people to teach us or help us grow closer to Him.
Third, apply God’s wisdom to your life. This is what we need to understand: the more familiar we are with God’s Word and the more obedient we are to God’s ways the easier it will be to apply godly wisdom that helps us stay centered in God’s will. And when we apply godly wisdom we will be able to discern the personal will of God for us. But to get there you must surrender your ways and follow God’s ways. How will your life be different tomorrow if you surrender to God’s will today? I don’t know, but I do know that when we live a surrendered life we are living a victorious life. Apply godly wisdom today and you will live with fewer regrets tomorrow.
Two Steps Forward
Steve Jobs was just 21 when he and Steve Wozniak invented the Apple Computer. Until then computers were a monstrous mass of vacuum tubes which took up entire rooms. Then the two Steves managed to take that mass of tubes and incorporate them inside a box small enough to sit on a desk.
Jobs and Wozniak offered their invention to Atari and Atari rejected them. They offered it to Hewlett-Packard, but Hewlett-Packard knocked them back. It seemed like no one could see the potential. So Jobs sold his Volkswagon and Wozniak sold his calculator, and with the $1300 that gave them they formed Apple Computers. The company was named “Apple” because Jobs enjoyed working in an apple orchard one summer.
The rest is history. By all accounts Steve Jobs is a visionary, and spurred on by that vision he built a successful computer company. But Jobs soon discovered that if his vision was to reach fruition they needed greater management expertise. So Jobs approached John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. There was absolutely no reason why Sculley should leave a highly paid position in a world-leading company to go work with a bunch of computer nerds in a fledgling industry. Not surprisingly, he turned Jobs down. But Jobs wouldn’t take no for an answer. He approached Sculley again. Again Sculley turned him down. In a last ditch effort, Jobs passionately presented his visionary ideas to Sculley asking a question that forced him to accept. The question was this: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley took the offer and they did change the world.
Jesus comes to us with the same question: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Do you want to spend the rest of your life making a living or do you want to change the world? Jesus invites believers to change the world by making His priorities our priorities.
(Source: information on Jobs and Sculley from “silicon_valley_story” and “ideafinder” websites. (https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/vision/, accessed 3/29/17)
This year Freshwater has a bold new vision to raise the spiritual climate of our community. It’s not going to be easy, but it is worth investing your time, talents, and finances to help achieve it. This is what raising the spiritual climate looks like:
1. Lower the divorce rate by 5% in five years.
2. Lower personal debt by 50% in five years.
3. Positively impact and assist over 300 people struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges.
4. See 1,000 people make the decision to follow Christ in the next five years.
5. See 80% of Freshwater people connected with others in a group.
6. Plant five new churches in five years.
7. Celebrate with over 2,000 people at all of our worship services in five years.
8. Build and move into a new facility within five years that meets our needs and leverages our existing facilities.
Nearly six months after launching our new vision, I can say that we are seeing the effects of our efforts to turn up the heat.
We have a two-fold strategic approach that is helping us achieve our goals. The first approach is organic. By being transparent from the pulpit, in printed materials, and on social media in matters relating to the goals we are communicating, it tells our community that it’s OK to talk about these matters and ultimately work on them. The more we talk about them, the safer people feel about addressing them. The second approach is through organizational efforts. This involves creating systems, structures, and process that move us closer to achieving the goals. It also involves resourcing ministry programs that are part of the vision.
This is what has been done so far:
1. Because we want to lower the divorce rate by 5% in five years, we have created a marriage mentoring ministry. We have currently trained seven couples to mentor struggling couples and it’s working. Our mentor couples have already starting working with about 15 couples to encourage, listen, and provide guidance. We are making a difference in marriages.
2. Because we want to lower personal debt by 50% in five years we have encouraged several groups to focus on doing a financial group study. We are also helping people through our Love in Action ministry. This ministry provides financial support, small interest-free loans, and financial counseling.
3. Because we want to impact over 300 people struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse, we have started a Celebrate Recovery group on Thursday nights at 7pm at the St. Boni campus. This group helps people overcome hurts, bad habits, and hang-ups. If you or someone you know needs this group, you are invited to come. We are also scheduling several learning talks with professional counselors to help our staff and key volunteer staff assist people struggling with mental illness.
4. Because we want to see 1,000 people make first time decisions to follow Christ we have been more intentional about presenting the Gospel. Since January, we know of 14 people that have given their lives to Christ through the ministry of Freshwater. We are praying that 50 more people come to faith in Christ this Easter.
5. Because we want to see 80% of Freshwater people connected with others in a group, we are constantly equipping more group leaders. We currently have 36 groups where people meet for accountability and spiritual growth. Relationships are being developed and strengthened.
6. Because we want to plant five new churches in five years, we are actively recruiting church planters. We have identified a location for a new church in Minneapolis, and are praying for the right person to step up and launch it.
Part of this goal involves equipping more church leaders. Our next Pastoral Leadership Institute cohort starts on the 24th of this month. We have people from our church and around the state coming to get equipped to be better leaders in their churches and future churches.
7. Because we want to celebrate with over 2,000 people at all of our worship services in five years, we are focused on reaching people for Christ and making disciples. Since January we have seen 108 new guests attend services.
8. Because our church is growing, we have formed a task force that is actively looking for land to build a new facility. We anticipate launching a capitol campaign this fall to lower our current debt and raise funds for the new facility.
Recently I came across this quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” At Freshwater, we know where we are going, we have a roadmap, and are well on our way to getting there. As a co-laborer in Christ, I am asking you to help raise the spiritual climate of the community thus helping to change the world.
Do you want to spend the rest of your life “selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?” Let’s change the world starting with our community.