Leah was a woman who felt unloved and unwelcome, and she hoped that through her first three sons, she'd find acceptance. It's evident by the meaning of their names that she felt giving Jacob children would validate her. But then something happened to Leah, and when her fourth son was born, she names him "praise." She realized that her value wasn't in what she did, but in who she was. Perhaps you've experienced a trauma of absence—something that should have happened for you that didn't. Don't let the enemy steal your praise, but rather, praise God in every season for who he is and what he has done for you.
Amen. My message, in closing here, is ... You may be seated. Praise is the final word. Praise is the final word. When I was 17 years old, I had moved from New York City, a big city, to a small little town in Texas. How many of you have heard of Texas? It was very different. New York City is big city and fast moving, Texas is slow and cowboys on horses. Everything's big in Texas. One night, when I was 17 years old, my friend invited me to an outdoor Christian concert. And if you could picture the most beautiful, warm evening with a breeze blowing, a full moon in the sky. They had these little outdoor seats for all the ... There's about 700 young teenagers there at this outdoor Christian concert. I was with my friend Kevin and two other friends. Kevin saw this young woman named Kelly, and Kevin said, "I'm going to go over to Kelly. There she is. She's standing over there. I'm going to go ask her out on a date."
I walked over there with him and as I was walking, I saw Kelly for the very first time in my life and I was smitten. Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I fell in love instantly. Her face was shining with either the moon or the glory of God or both. Lovely hair and can I say kind of a nice shape. You know, she's, she's looking good. But Kevin was asking her out, not me. And so Kevin gets over there and he's blowing it. She's like, [yawning sound] and I think maybe I have a shot at this, but I'm too shy. I'm not a bold guy. I would never in school, I would never ask a girl out unless I knew she was going to say yes because I didn't want to be rejected.
And so I would like ask my friend to go ask her if she would be interested in me asking her out on a date and then I'd have somebody else confirm it and then she'd have to write me a promise note saying if I ask her out she'll say yes because I was just afraid she was going to reject me. But I was standing there and I just so wanted to ask her to go out with me to have a meal and I just too afraid. I got froze up and just stood there and you know Kevin was trying to schmooze her, you know what that word schmooze means? He's going to Hey dude, like look at me. My sister walks up and my sister says, doesn't know Kelly and says, "You four guys, whoever picks a number between one and 10 and gets the right number, gets to go out on a date for a meal with Kelly." Kelly looks at her like, "Who is this lady?" I picked the number seven, which is a godly number, right, is the number of perfection. I was just looking at perfection there that East Texas night. And so I said seven and my sister said, you're right, you get to go on a date with her. My sister later told me whatever number I would have picked would have been the right number.
So I am eternally grateful to my sister. I looked at her, I was in love with her. It took her a little longer to fall in love with me, 17 years. No, it took a little while. Then I remember that day. How many of you husbands remember that day? In the United States, we do this. We get down on one knee and we have a ring in our pocket. And I gave her the ring and I'm still a little bit nervous. I had already asked her before if she would say yes, if I asked her and she said yes. But I was still afraid of rejection and I gave her the ring and she said yes. And she cried and I cried. It was such a beautiful, we had an amazing time. We've been married now for 41 years, as I said to you the other day.
[applause] Thank you. There's a story and I'm going to try to be brief. There's a story in Genesis chapter 29 of a man named Jacob who sees a girl name, anybody know? Rachel. Finds Rachel. Rachel is just like, Kelly. Rachel is gorgeous. She's a knockdown, gorgeous, drop dead beautiful woman. That's according to scripture. She was amazing and he's just like, "Oh, I love her. I love her. I wonder if she'll love me." And, and then he asks Laban if he could marry her and Laban says, sure, I would love for you to marry. All you have to do is work for me for seven years. If her father would've told me that, I would have said, "Yes." Because that's what beauty and love does to you. He gets excited and anyway he works and works and works, I'm going to follow pastor Claude's lead and use, do an experiment here.
Have some people come up on the stage. How many of you, is there anybody here that's been married less than a year? Can you wave at me if you've been married less than a year? Anyone? No one. Is there someone, okay. Less than a year. Is your husband here? I need somebody that has both of the husband and wife here. Anybody? Two years. Oh, okay. Two years? Less than two years. Okay. In the back. Is your wife with you? Okay. Come on up here if you would please. They are way in the back. Come on up. Do you mind? Oh, they're getting, they're looking at each other like they're nervous. Where?
Oh, okay. Well they're already coming, so I'm sorry. Come on up here. Rachel and Leah. No, excuse me. Rachel and Jacob, look at this. Look at Rachel and Jacob. Come on up here. Let's put our hands together. She does kind of look like a Rachel, doesn't she? Okay. You have worked 7 years and now you get down on that one knee and you say, will you marry me? And she says, what do you say?
All right, good news. Okay, I'm not going to get too graphic here, but on your wedding night. Laban does a trick. I need one more volunteer. I need a Leah. Pastor, would you come help me? Seriously. Come on. You're my Leah. This is my princess Leah. All right, come on over here brother. Again, not to get too graphic. But honeymoon, we call it honeymoon. Do you call it honeymoon here?
Honeymoon. He wakes up in the morning, and what does he see?
He's not too happy because the Bible is very nice and it says Leah had weak eyes, which in the Hebrew means she was ugly. Not that you are, you're handsome. But for if you were a girl, you would be ugly. But for a man, you're extremely handsome. But for a girl you have way too much hair on your face. You're like me. Okay. All right. He says, "I don't really love you. I'm not attracted to you. You've not won my heart. You... This is the girl for me. This is the one I dreamed of." So Laban says, okay, well work seven more years and then I'll give you Rachel. He gets excited. He actually gives her Rachel that same week. But then what happens? Yeah, he then he works a seven years after that. So then they're, then they're kind of a happy, weird family. You guys can go sit down. Thank you, and you're so kind. He's been Moses. He's been Leah. He's been the usher. He's been... are you going to... won't you be the song leader at the end of the service today? Just come.
He could do it. He could do it. So Genesis chapter 29, Leah is brokenhearted. She is wounded by what another person says about her, feels about her, thinks about her. She's an outcast. She's unloved, she's unwelcomed, she's unwanted. She doesn't feel needed. Leah is like a lot of us who have wounded hearts. As a strategy to overcome her woundedness she says, "If I could produce something, if I could make something happen, if I could be good enough, if I could be strong enough, if I could be beautiful enough, if I could prove my worth, then somebody will love me." Real quickly in Genesis chapter 29 Leah has a child. God cares for her and she has a child and his her verse 32 says, and Leah conceived a son and his name was Reuben for she said, "Because the Lord has looked on my affliction." The name Ruben means, look, it's a boy or look, I have a son.
Look at my child. I want to be seen. I want to be noticed. I want to have affection. I want to have somebody approve of me. I want to have somebody care about me. Now look what I've done for you, Jacob and now you'll love me. But she doesn't win the love through this effort of saying, look at the great things I've done. Sometimes we do that with Jesus. Look at the great things I've done now will you love me. Look at how much hard work I do for you now will you love me? But the reality is he already loves you. You're not working to get his love. You're working because he loves you. And so she doesn't understand this and so she's trying to earn it. Then she goes on and has a second son and it says, she conceived again a son and said, because the Lord has heard that I am hated.
He has given me also son and his name shall be called Simeon and Simeon's name is 'the Lord heard me' and his name means 'hearing, hear me'. And so the first one we say is, she says, look, see me. The second one is hear me have a voice. One of my wife's, if she doesn't mind me sharing this, the wounds that she had as a child was that she didn't get heard. She had to be quiet, she had to not say anything. And she grew up in an environment as loving as their parents were there was a sense of children are seen and not heard. And so even though she has a beautiful voice, but she went through a struggle of being heard. Some people struggle with being seen. Some people struggle with being heard. Leah says if I have somebody who, a second son, then I'll be heard.
I can have a voice. I can say something. I can have meaning, I can have purpose. Somebody will listen to me. Being listened to makes us feel we're worthwhile, important. We mean something to people, but it still doesn't work and Jacob still doesn't show her love and affection. And then she has a third son and this time, his name is Levi and Levi means 'attachment' or 'belonging' or 'connection'. And now she's really excited. I have three sons now he's going to really be attached to me. He's going to be connected to me. We're going to have this wonderful relationship and it still doesn't work. And so she has gone through the wounds that many of us in this room have gone through. Not being seen, not being heard, not being attached or loved or connected.
When you were a child, you were born by the Holy Spirit. He created you as he wanted you to be. You were not a mistake. You were not a random happening. Your parents may, they might have thought you were a mistake, but God formed you from your mother's womb. He built you the way you were supposed to be. You are perfect in his eyes. You are loved by him, seen by him and heard by him and attached to him, but sometimes we don't feel that way and we were created by God and something happened sometimes when we're children, we were built to be attached. Have you ever noticed that children love to just look in their mother's eyes and they have that, oooh, it's my mommy. There's such preciousness and we were built for that attachment, but something happened sometimes in our life is we were built for attachment, but we get detached from people.
There's a sense of pulling away. Something happens in all of our childhood that causes us to have insecurity, a wound or a detachment. That wound is a thing called trauma. Everybody say trauma. Trauma. There are two types of trauma. One of my friends who went through a trauma of when he was a little boy, six, seven, eight, nine years old, his mother abused him. I mean she beat him. She would punch him in the nose. His mouth would be bloody. His eyes would be closed shut from the wounds of her fist on his face. She would lock him in a closet without food or water for a whole day. He would cry himself to sleep in that closet. That is the first type of trauma. It got so bad. This first type of trauma is something that should have never happened to a child that happened to a child.
You were not built for that. God never intended for that type of ... something happened to this boy that should've never happened. When he was 12 years old, it got so bad that he went to a tree in his neighborhood, climbed up the tree, got a rope, and put the rope around his neck, tied the other end of the rope to the tree and was getting ready to jump to kill himself as a boy. His brother saw him in the tree, climbed up in the tree and said, don't do it. Don't do it. Don't kill yourself. That is the most severe type of trauma I think I've ever heard in my life. He didn't do it. He ended up moving to New York City where years later about five or six years later, my father met him on the streets of New York City and preached Jesus to him and that day Nicky Cruz gave his life to Jesus Christ. Nicky faced a horrible type of trauma that no child should have faced.
There's a second type of trauma that's less recognized. People that have the second type of trauma often don't deal with it. Christian counselors will tell you, people who have gone through the first type of trauma are more likely to get healed because they recognize it's trauma and they deal with it because it's a necessity. The pain is so bad. The second one, people kind of hide it. They cover it because it doesn't feel like it's such a bad thing. Or you feel like you might be complaining if you call this trauma because it's not so bad. The first type of type is what I said, is when something that should have never happened to a child happens to a child. The second type of trauma is something that ... listen to this carefully.
Something that should have happened to you as a child that didn't happen to you and what do I mean by this? You were meant to be spoken to and heard. You were meant to be seen and appreciated. You were meant to be attached and connected and loved deeply and so when that doesn't happen, where there is a withdrawal of affection or a lack of connection, then that is a trauma as well. My upbringing was totally opposite of Nicky Cruz's. I grew up in a Christian environment. We talked about earlier, like seven generations of pastors in our family, but my father, he traveled all the time. He was gone sometimes three weeks in a row, home for four or five days, gone another three weeks, home for a few days. He was always kind. He was always loving. And I am so grateful that he served the Lord with such passion. I am thankful for the souls saved.
But one of the things that did in my life as a child was a sense of detachment. Like I'm not being seen, I'm not being heard. Maybe I have to do something to get attached. So I faced a trauma, even in a good home. That tells me this, that probably everyone in this room has faced some form of trauma or the other, and those who have suffered horrible traumas, things that should've never happened to you, that did oftentimes deal with it quicker. Those of us who've had trauma in our life, that are things that should've fed us, nurtured us, spoke to us, encouraged us, and it didn't. And sometimes we don't deal with that. And I didn't deal with it until I was in my thirties and it caused all kinds of problems in my soul and in my heart and my emotions, my striving.
And I thought ... I was kind of like Leah. I'm not loved. I'm not seen, I'm not heard. I'm not attached. And maybe if I do this, look, dad, look, mom, I produced this in the ministry and I created this event and I did this thing and now like now you'll love me. Now you'll be attached to me. And this causes trauma. And we build sometimes even in the church, we build this sense of if I can do something, if I can do enough for me, my trauma resulted in a concept of myself, a core wound in my heart that I said about myself. I'm never enough. No matter what I do, it's not enough. It's not. It's not big enough. It's not effective enough. It's not strong enough. I built this tower of religious events, start a church, let it grow, get it bigger, bigger, bigger, more books to write, more conferences to go, more crusades, to preach that. More sermons, more podcasts, more websites.
And I'm building this big tower of Christian ministry, but I'm building it on a foundation that says I'm not enough. But look, I built this. Look, I did this. And one day I had this vision. I was standing on top of this tower and I'm thinking, it's not enough. I've got to do more. I've got to be more, I've got to be more aggressive. I'm going to be more powerful and I'm on top of this tower and I have this scaffolding all around it and that's to help build it higher. But the whole building is shaking back and forth and I cry out in this vision that Jesus, please help hold this building I'm doing up. Help hold it up. But he comes and he grabs it at the bottom and I'm going like, "Oh, thank you Jesus for holding that." And instead of holding it up, you know what he starts doing?
He starts shaking it back and forth. He starts moving it back and forth more and more. And I'm saying, "Jesus, this whole thing is going to crumble unless you hold it up. This thing's going to fall down." And you know what Jesus says in the vision? "Good. Let it come down. Let it fall. Because you're trying to build a life to have God or others say, look, haven't I done something significant? I'll be enough when I get this done. And the truth is you have to move off that what Jesus called the sandy foundation and puts your life on the rock, a solid foundation, and on that rock foundation, it's where Jesus says to you, "You are enough. I see you. I hear your cry." How many times is that mention the scripture, "Call on me and I will answer you. I will hear you. I see you when you were formed in your mothers' wombs and you are attached to me and I love you."
And something happens in Leah's life where she finally catches this vision. And I'm going to ask the worship team to come if they would, we're going to close it just a moment. She catches his vision and she has one more child. She has one more child and she calls this boy Judah. Judah. And now she's not saying, "Look at me please Jacob, love me, please Jacob, help me. Can I do something to earn love and favor?" Now she says something very different. She says, "I'm going to name this boy Judah and the name Judah means praise." Praise. She says, "Enough of earning, enough of striving, enough of trying, enough of trying to get you to look at me and approve of me and enough of trying to overcome this detachment, overcoming the sense of I'm never enough."
And that wound in your heart that says you're never enough, Jesus saying to you. "You're enough. I love you just the way you are." Yes, pastor, yes. Be strong. Yes, do exploits, but don't do that to try to earn God's love and God's favor. Realize that the final word is just like the final son. It says she stopped bearing children after this because it was enough. I don't need attachment now because I have something else. I don't need to be seen by you because someone else sees me. I don't need to be heard by you husband, father, mother, because God in heaven hears me and all of a sudden Leah says, "I know what my life is all about. It's about praise. It's about worship. It's about loving you, God. It's not about me. My hurts, my pain, my sorrow, my suffering. It's about you, Jesus, and I will praise you. I will praise you in my pain."
When I am not seen yet, will I praise you? When I am not heard by others, yet I will praise you. I could be put on a shelf, yet I will praise you. I could be unrecognized as a pastor, yet I will praise you. I could not get credit for the work I've done yet, I will praise you. I can be sick and yet I will praise you. I could be dying on a death bed, yet I will praise the Lord at all times. My soul shall continually bless his name. I will praise him when I'm hurting. I will praise him when I'm crying. I will praise him when I feel defeated. I will praise him when I'm alone. I will praise him on a mountaintop and I will praise him in the valley. How many of you in this room say it's time for me to start praising the Lord to start praising his name in my struggle?
I praise his name. I praise his name. You see, the devil doesn't just try to steal your relationships. He's trying to steal your praise. The devil isn't just trying to steal your health. He's trying to steal your praise. So when you're sick, you don't praise. And you say, "Why am I sick, Lord? I thought you'd heal me." What's the devil after, you being sick? Not exactly. He's after stealing your praise. When you've lost, he's not after your confidence. He's after your praise. He's not just after your ministry to ruin your ministry. He wants to ruin your ministry so he can end your praise. He wants nothing but you to stop your praise.
So when your health is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When your family is not what you want it to be, maybe your children are prodigals and you're worried and you're stressed when your family is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When you are not a Rachel, you are a Leah. You still have your praise. And let me say this, by the way, at some time or another, every Rachel becomes a Leah. You think you're beautiful. You're a Rachel. And you go to a Hollywood and Los Angeles and all of a sudden in Hollywood, Los Angeles, all the Rachel's from the small town are now Leahs.
So don't worry if you feel like you're a Leah, because to Jesus, you're a Rachel. And so if you feel like a Rachel, don't let it rob your praise. You still have your praise. Oh, I don't have any money, but you have your praise. I don't have a big church, but you have your praise. I'm not talented, but I have my praise. When my body is weak, yet I will praise him. When my journey is hard, yet I will praise him. When the seats in my church there are kind of emptier than I want to be, yet I will praise him. When my heart is overwhelmed with troubles, yet I will praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
You say to the devil, you can have my body. You can have my money. You can have all these things, but you can't steal my praise. You can't take my praise. You will never take my praise. I will praise the Lord at all times. My praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will bless the Lord, I will exalt the Lord. I will call on his name and he will hear me. He will see me. He will deliver me. He will be mine. I will bless the Lord. I will bless the Lord. When I am not seen, I will praise. When they don't hear my voice, I will praise the Lord. When I don't feel loved or accepted, I will praise the Lord. When I've been wounded as a child and I don't know how to overcome it anymore, I will praise the Lord.
When the addictions get back in my brain and say go back to that world. I'm going to say, no, no, no. You can't have that because I'm here to praise the Lord. I will not stop praising. I will not give up praising. I'll give up a lot of stuff. I'll give up a lot of popularity. I'll give up a lot of fame. I'll give up a lot of notoriety. I'll give up a lot of affection, but I will not give up my praise. I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Hallelujah. Praise him. Praise church. Let's praise him right now. This is how we praise you Jesus. Through the storm, though the difficulties, through the night, through the fire, through the wilderness. I will praise you Lord, I will praise you Lord. Oh, God. Through it all, I will praise you God.
When I'm struggling, when I'm hurting, when I'm weak, when I'm lonely, when I feel like I'm not enough, I will say I praise you God. I praise you God. I praise you God. Shout it out to him. Praise God. Praise you God. Praise you for the victory. Praise you for the power. Praise you for your love. Praise you that you are enough. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him in the morning. Praise him in the afternoon. Praise him in the evening. Praise him on Sunday. Praise him on Monday. Praise him all week long, praise him in January and praise him in December. Praise the Lord at all times I praise you, I praise you, because you are worthy because you are worthy. No matter how I feel, I will praise you. No matter what the state of my emotions, I will praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you. Praise you. Praise you, praise the Lord.
Hallelujah. Yeah. Yeah. Praise him. Praise him. Who's worthy to be praised? Jesus. Who alone should be praised? Jesus. Who takes away all of our wounds and pain? Jesus. And when he takes it away, what are we going to do? Praise him. Praise him, praise him. I praise him because my wife said yes and she married me so I said praise him. But if she had said no, I still have to praise him, right? If you're married here today and you love your wife or husband, you say, praise the Lord. If your husband or wife doesn't love you very much, you say, praise the Lord. If your church is exploding with thousands of people being saved, you say, praise the Lord. But if your church is small and it's kind of struggling and you're hurting a little bit, you still say, praise the Lord. When do you say it? You praise the Lord at all times and his praise shall continuously be not in my emotions, not in my mind, not in my thinking.
It'll be in my what? My mouth. That's what you're doing here today at church. You're putting it in your mouth, but let it come through your mouth one more time. So I say I praise you Jesus. I praise you Lord. My praise is healing my wounds right now. My praise is healing my wounds. Lord, my praise is healing my rejection. My praise is healing things that happened to me as a child that should have never happened. There are women in this room who were abused, who were abandoned and your praise right now, Jesus says, that this is your Judah. You don't have to strive anymore to get healed. You are healed. That's your praise. There are men in this room. You're still trying to prove yourself. I can prove myself that I'm worthy. You can lay all that down, all you have to do is praise.
Praise shall continue to be in my mouth.
At some point in our lives we all get labeled by others, and some of us carry those labels until the day we die. Once applied, labels are hard to remove. They become self-fulfilling prophecies that affect how we live our lives. Jabez, from birth, was called “pain” but he didn't let this label direct his life. Instead, he asked God to give him a life contrary to his label. Let God give you a life that lets you live contrary to the negative labels that have been applied to you.
I'm going to talk to you about not living up to your label. People put label in a life. Right now in United States we have so many labels. The Christians they have been putting labels to the Christians. We have people from all walk of life, they are confused between masculine and feminine and gender, or whatever you want to call. And we have a problem, a serious problem with revival of drugs, synthetic drugs coming from China all the way to Mexico, across the border.
And there's one drug that can kill thousands of thousands, that can kill the whole city. And people have been busted or arrested, thank God because these drugs are very dangerous. I'm going to give you warning as a Christian and this warning either you take it or you leave it. In 1st Chronicle, Chapter 4, verse 9 and 10, let me read what it says. Now Jabez was more honorable than his brother. And his mother call his name, Jabez saying, "Because I bore you in pain." And Jabez call on the God of Israel saying, "All that you would bless me indeed and you would enlarge my territory, that your hand will be with me. And that you would keep me from evil." Evil, remember that.
That I might not cause pain. So, God granted him what he request. This is a book that was written by the name of Wilkerson, not Dave Wilkerson, called the prayer of Jabez. Do you heard about that book? The prayer of Jabez. But there was something that happened when Dave wrote that little book, it wasn't big. That the people twisted, they took whatever was the best for them and then forgot other things. And I'm going to explain that as I've going to go through this. People had label play something from the time they are born to the time they're dying. There are both good and bad labels.
Labels are difficult to peel off once it placed in the person. Labels become self-fulfilling prophesy. They influence our individual personality, temperament, and destiny. That's what it can happen. But there's good news. We don't have to live up to our labels. I don't know how they called you if you have a nicknames. I don't know, but call your mother call you that you're going to cause pain. That is not a blessing, that is a curse. That is something that is a curse. Why you call, can you imagine why you call your son that you're going to cause pain. The story about Jabez is so beautiful.
There are only two verses in the Bible about this man, yet a powerful testimony. Powerful. He was a descendant of the tribe of Judah from which would produce the line of David. And subsequently, Jesus Christ. This is Jabez. And here his mother, however, name him Jabez which is mean he will cause pain. Can you imagine Jabez walking down the street, let's put it right now in this moment. Our time. Can you see a guy with a big head walking down the neighborhood and everybody say, "Hey, big head. How are you doing big head? Hey, big head, can we play baseball, basketball? Huh, Big head? Hey big head, come down, let's go dancing. Big head, do you want to try marijuana?"
Can you imagine call somebody given labels like this? Well, he went to his mom, he told his mother, mom, why they call me big head? Why? And what do you expect from her mother, his mother? No son, you don't have a big head at all. So label is putting in all of the people, but the worst for the Christian is when they call you a hypocrite. When they call you a liar. Where you preach exaggerations. When you walk in the neighborhood and people know what kind of lifestyle you live in. Christians, we are the example of the world. And they expect us that we should conduct ourself properly and spiritually.
The hardest thing is somebody that call you and put a label on your life. You know something, I can never escape from my label. I can't. People know me as a gang leader. People introduce me as a gang leader. Ex gang leader. Do you think I like it? I was. I cannot denying that I was that kind of person. Yes, in my neighborhood. Parent used to take your children across the street and they're going like this, "He's bad. He's mean. Don't get close to him." Can you imagine that I have a label that I was born in a witchcraft home? Because I said that my father was a satanic priest and my mother was a witch. What a nice label!
But I can tell you, God didn't change Jabez name, his still was called Jabez. But something beautiful happened. Something beautiful happen in my life and because it happen in my life, one of the hardest thing in life is to reach your own family. I don't know if you've had that experience. But to have a label in my neighborhood, that I was bad. To have a label on my parents in Puerto Rico that they are Satanic people. That was the label that them put on my parents. The great one, the one who do miracle. And when you began to think about this, that's something that I'm so proud to say that I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that I was born again, went to Bible school. I didn't know nothing about the Bible at all.
Seriously, I didn't know who Adam was. I know a little bit about Eve. I didn't know. I went to Bible school one month and a half converted. I did not know nothing about the Holy Spirit like brother Claude was talking about it. I thought that I was in another country and another land. I saw people speaking in tongue and I just couldn't believe it. I said, "Why these people are talking?"
He seemed that he was destined to be a troublemaker. From the time he was born, the very mentions of his name reinforce the curse of his future life. However, he did not live up to that name. He refused to allow this label determine his personality, his temperament, and destiny. He came to the conclusion, in his life that he will not cause pain. That he going to reverse everything in a different direction. And then he did the right thing, he called, this is what the Bible say, "He call on the Lord of Israel." That's the key.
That's the key that can change everything. That's what he was talking about, prayer. It is essential that we pray every day. I miss, right now my devotion with my wife, she's not with me. We have our prayer time, one hour every day. We pray. And I ask you to do the same thing. His life did not cause pain at all. As a result, God granted him what he request and now that is the twist what happen with that prayer of Jabez. Why was misunderstand? Why people went in different direction and here this is his prayer, to be blessed. You want to be blessed, right? Blessings of God, which is mean inherit God promise.
Enlarge my territory, his territory, the borders. Able to prosper and that's when he came in, what you call today, so many years ago every Bible a prosperity. They twist it. Then is reading all the thing about him, but there everybody was talking about prosperity. If you give $10 God going to give you $100. Bring me your handkerchief and I going to bless your handkerchief, but give me some money. They twist it so bad because everybody was talking about the prayer or Jabez, but then took it as a prosperity type of ministry and that it wasn't what Jabez want. If I wanted to be honest to you, enlarge my territory, it go deeper than that. Enlarge me with faith, with grace, with favor, with love, with forgiveness, with strength.
No, twist it and say, enlarge my territory and prosperity. Choose which one you want. Because regardless of what, God always going to be there for you and he going to prosper you, But that's not supposed to be the priority of your life. The priority of your life is to live a life of faith and prayer, communion with God. Be with him. Remember, families and all of these in your life. Tell God hand be upon him, which is mean receive first. This is what Psalms 5:12 said. For surely, Oh Lord you blessed the righteous, you surrounded them with your favor, as with your shield. That's what he was trying to say. Your hand will be your upon me.
And this one, you're not going to like it, but it is true. Keep me from evil, because I'm going to be honest to you. You are surrounded by evil. People want the worst for you as you want the best from God in your life. Some people want to hurt you. This is evil day and you have to deal that you've got to fight all of these things in your life until you die. Look the way King David saw this. Psalm 23, verse 4, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Cast out all fear, that's what love do. You cannot live a Christian life, full of fear, depression. You cannot be negative about this, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a privilege to really serve the Lord.
And is through the presence of the Holy Ghost that you're going to be a winner and evil cannot touch you because you will be a blessed child. That to me is the blessing. And you know who put it very beautifully, Jesus Christ himself when the disciple ask him, teach us how to pray. Teach how to pray. And do you know the Lord prayer, there is something in the book of Mark, chapter 6, verse 13. Right in the middle where he prays, this beautiful prayer, boom, he make this statement. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. We are no exception to the rule. This is going to happen until we die. The devil going to be chasing you, you cannot allow him to be the one who take the victory. You've got the victory already in Jesus Christ.
You believe in the resurrection, right? You believe that you have been resurrected from your sin. I have been resurrected. The day I gave my life to Jesus Christ. He gave me new heart. He gave me new mind. And this body is temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwell on me. He's here. I can feel him. I'm not afraid. And I came to the conclusion, that I'm going to be aware that the devil is devil. That evil is evil. That he want to try to destroy your family, your relationship, he's going to put in yourself. I'm going to tell you something, I don't want you to ... I cannot watch Christian television. So many new theology that God never heard about it.
A guy controlling the people mind. You know his name? What his name?
You are scared of him? What is his name?
Had to force you to say his name. My goodness. Let me close with this, you was expecting a message of deep, deep message of evangelism. I will do it one of these days. You might not have a choice on the label that was placed on you or me, such cultural background, poverty roots, label placed by your own family members. And that's what I want to warn you, don't call name to your kids. Don't hurt them that way. Because that's what my mother did to me.
And you know what, I believe it. I believed that I was a failure. I believed that I was evil. All the name that she gave me, one by one, about seven curse. Seven curse. You might try to change this name, but everybody know that I was a ex gang leader. Everybody know about it, but if you listen to my story, do I am still a gang leader? Talk to me. Why? Because the God of Israel, because Jesus Christ had changed my life completely. He have changed me. And the conclusion is, the day you stop crying for the lost, and praying for your families and your neighbor and your barrios, which is the ghetto. I saw when I was driving here. I couldn't believe it, when I look at the mountains.
You can build the most beautiful places and there is nothing but ghetto. Poverty. Is hurt. Don't forget your family. And your name, what is your name? My name is Nicolas Cruz Velasquez. I repeat myself again, my real name in the passport, Nicolas Cruz Velasquez. But if you want to really put my real name, you know how my mother called me Nicolas? What Nicolas represent? Christmas. My mother called me what she called me and she was prophesying Saint Nicolas. Hallelujah, Saint Nicolas.
No evil Nicolas, Saint. We are saint people.
We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
You've got story to talk about.
You have been freed. Free in deed.
The peace of God dwell in you.
The Holy Spirit is right there with you. God filled me with the Holy Spirit when I was about eight months saved. And there he called me into being evangelist. He didn't call me to go to South America. I thought he going to send me to Central America because I speak Spanish, yo hablo español.
Yeah. And you know how he call me? With one of the most awesome brokenness that last more than four hours on the floor. A teenager, a young kid broken by just hurt. I would cry until there was no more tears. I didn't understood why he called me, I didn't. Until it dawned on me, Nicky, I'm calling you to be evangelist. Trust me, I'm going to take you every place that you never imagined. And then two days later, a professor from the Bible school, came to me, and he told me you have been called to be ambassador to all the youth all over the world. That's the calling that I got. Gary, that's enough. That's enough.
Either we are going to believe in the prayer of Jabez or either we're going to twist it in my way. There is a song sing by Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. If you want to go that way, you want to be a loser. If you want to go God way, you're a winner. And you should already praise the Lord because God is good and he is worthy to be praised by all of us. I never ask people to clap because I don't know, I never, but I just want everybody to stand and let's give Jesus one of the biggest standing ovation, one of the biggest clap, and you pray, and you already pray with Pastor Claude. But I want you to lose yourself, renounce all kinds of label. That label is out, you are born again.
Stay on the rock, okay? All right?
And if you're having problems with your children or with your parents or friends, release it right now.
Release it. If you're having a problem with yourself of being real, release it. Don't be a phony. Don't be a phony baloney macaroni. Let's pray. Let's go for the blessing instead of going for the curse. Can you do that? Grab everybody hands and we're going to do it together as a body of Christ. I want you to pray. You know your heart better than anybody. I know my heart, I need quite a few things to change in my own life. I don't have to confess to you, but I know Nicky Cruz very well. Can you say the prayer, the prayer of Jabez in your own words? Can you ask him what you want with your life? Can you believe in miracle that God can change your son, your daughter, your parents? Can you pray as a minister of the gospel that the anointing of the Holy Spirit will be upon you?
You evangelist that God can put his fire in your tongues. Can you pray that? Then open up your mouth. Open up your mouth. If you lack love, ask him to give you that love. Because sometimes we're cold. Let me hear you. Hello, let me hear you. Hallelujah. Blessed be the Holy One. We worship you Jesus. We thank you for the transformation of our life. Thank you for our family. Thank you for the miracle that you have done in our family. Thank you for answering our prayer when we felt completely alone and lost. Thank you Jesus for being so kind to us. Thank you Jesus for supply all our needs. Fill us with your Holy Spirit. God, cleanse us for everything that is not right.
And now we worship you Jesus. Why don't you raise you hands to the sky and worship him? Say, I worship you. Thank you Jesus. Praise your holy name, Jesus. I thank you for what you had done in my life. I thank you for what you have done in my children life. I thank you that you have delivered us from the evil one. Hallelujah, yes.
How do you find a way when it seems there is no way? Drawing from Mark 2, Gary Wilkerson shares four things to encourage your faith when the circumstances before you appear too hard. It's time to get up in faith and watch God make a way in your life!
So today I wanted to have you turn with me to Mark chapter two. Mark chapter two. I'm going to talk to you about "A Way When You See No Way". Let me repeat that, "A Way," everybody say that. "A Way When You See No Way." When it seems impossible. When it seems difficult. When it seems you can't go on. When it seems you have no hope. When it seems your future is not as bright as you'd hoped it'd be. How do you find a way when it seems there is no way?
Mark chapter two verse one. First verse says, "And when he returned to Capernaum," this is Jesus, "after some days, it was reported that he was at home." He came back to this city called Capernaum, it was his hometown as he got older and then the headquarters of his ministry. It was his home where Peter lived, so he would visit Peter and Peter's mother quite often. There was many times where you would find him at Peter's home. If you remember, it was where the first disciples were called. The first disciples were called by Jesus at Capernaum. It was where Peter, James, and John, and the sons of Zebedee, where Andrew and Philip were called into the ministry. So this was a hub of great activity, great things happening for the kingdom of God, very much like Cebu, right? Where God is doing great things and God is on the move.
This is where, in chapter one verse 30, if you back up, there was a revival, a spiritual awakening taking place in Peter's home. Peter's mother was sick, Jesus was in the village teaching. Peter's mother got sick and when she got sick, Jesus came home and touched her and she got up and made them food. How many say amen for some food? Made them some food. They were so excited, people found out that Peter's mother was so sick and Jesus touched her, she got up. So people started coming knocking on the door. "We heard there's a guy that does miracles here. Can we come in?" So Jesus would pray for them and they would get healed. Then her friends came and they would get healed. There was this massive move of God because of the healing power of God. How many of you know that where the spirit of the Lord is there, there is the presence of the Lord to heal? And when the Lord heals, amazing things happen.
This house became full of people thrilled to see this move of God in Capernaum. And Jesus, in the middle of this awakening, revival, miracle-working moment, says, "I need to go pray." He spends the night in prayer, and after spending the night in prayer he says, "Hey, you know what? I've got to leave Capernaum. There's other cities I need to go to." Now, the night before, the Bible says the whole city, chapter one, the whole city, almost the whole city had gathered to come here Jesus preach. Almost the whole city brought lame, and sick, and deaf, and blind, those who were paralyzed, those who could not walk, those who had skin diseases like leprosy, those were demon-possessed. They brought them. It was just this amazing time. Wouldn't you love to have been there? Yeah. Wouldn't you love to have been there to see what Jesus was doing? You would hate to miss that meeting, right? I mean, this is a good meeting, it's going to be good. You missed the opportunity to say Amen there. This is going to be a good meeting. Thank you.
But this one that Jesus was at, you don't want to miss that. If you lived in that village and you missed it, it's what we call in the United States, that's a hot ticket. It's a hard ticket to get, but they got in, they crowded around the house. And in verse 34 chapter one says, "And many of them were healed." And now in chapter two, it says, "And when Jesus returned to Capernaum," he came back to his hometown, came back to Peter's house, and it begins to tell the story of a man who lived in Capernaum, and the Bible says he was paralyzed. He couldn't walk. I'm going to suggest maybe later that he might have been a paraplegic. Couldn't even move his arms. His legs and his arms were immobilized and he had to have other people carry him around. He couldn't drag himself, he couldn't walk on crutches or in a wheelchair, he had to have someone else help him.
There's this man in the city, it appears to me that he missed the first meeting. Jesus had just been there maybe a couple days before and he heard about this awakening and he heard about all these people healed and he heard about the power of Jesus, but he was laying there on his bed, on his mat, immobilized. He seems to have missed this first miracle-working crusade. He might have been hearing the amazing stories, maybe some of his friends who were paralyzed had been at that meeting and now they were walking around. They were like, "Look. Look. I can walk." He's going like, "Good for you." Wouldn't you feel bad if you missed that meeting?
So Jesus comes back to this town and he's still in his bedroom. He's still on his mat. He still can't move. He missed the first meeting, now he hears Jesus is back. What's happening here it says, verse two, "And many were gathered together so that there was no more room, not even at the door, and he was preaching the Word to all of them." That's Mark chapter two verse two. "They gathered together, no more room, even at the door, and he was preaching the Word to them. And they came to him bringing a paralyzed man." The crowd started gathering again. Revival number two. A second chance. Another awakening. They bring the masses to him again, but here's this man and he's lying in his bed again, and he's hopeless again, and he's unable again. There's no way for him to get up and go.
Could you imagine if you were him? I like to use my imagination when I read the Bible. Could you imagine him lying on the floor or maybe he's able to sit up a little bit and he looks out his window and there's crowds of people running and he's yelling out, "What's going on? What's going on?" He doesn't know what's happening. They're running by, and all of a sudden he hears the news, "Jesus is back. He's coming to heal again. He's coming to preach again. He's coming to deliver again. We're so excited." And he's going like, "I can't move. I can't go." All these years, I picture him as being a man who, maybe his mother had to take care of him. Washing his clothes, bringing him food. She couldn't carry him there. Everybody was at this awakening except for him, so his heart says something like this, "I keep missing out. There's great things happening, but I keep missing it. Maybe I'm not called. Maybe I'm not chosen. Maybe I don't have a purpose. Maybe God doesn't have a good plan for my life. Maybe I have expected much and now I'm going to receive little." He was missing out on his miracle. He could have been saying to himself, "I'm a two-time loser. I lost out on the first miracle, now I'm going to lose out on this one because I can't move. I can't go. There's a commotion in the city. There's another opportunity for revival, but things will never change for me. The way it is now is going to be the way it will always be." My marriage will always be the same, my sickness will always be the same, my finances will always be the same. The problems I have in my church will always be the same. My inability to reach out to the lost, my powerlessness will always be the same. Praying for the sick and seeing them not healed, that's the way it's always been, that's the way it's always going to be. I tried once and I couldn't get there, now the second time opportunity comes up and I still can't get in.
There's something missing in his heart and he can't seem to experience the fullness of what God has for him. He probably is saying to himself, "Nothing changes, no matter how much I hope for things, I don't change. No matter how much I dream about things, I don't change. No matter how much I pray about things, I don't change. No matter how much I desire a new chance to come into this revival awakening that God has, I can't move. I'm paralyzed. I'm stuck. I'm unable." And I have met pastors all around this globe who love Jesus with all their heart. Who pray, and fast, and seek his face, but nothing seems to be moving. They seem to be paralyzed. Seem to be stuck. They're wondering, "When can I get into the house? When can I get the touch of God? When can he move in my life? When can I see miracles take place? When can I see revival? When can I see awakening? When can I see more than I'm seeing right now?"
And there's this hunger in our heart for more, but we feel like the paralytic. I'm just lying here. Day in and day out, I'm just lying here wondering, "When is it going to happen? Isn't there more than this for me?" And I picture him lying on that floor, maybe tears in his eyes. Sad, broken, crying. "I can't get in. I can't move." And all of a sudden, his door opens and it's four of his friends. Could you imagine that? "What are you doing here?", he says. "I thought you would be at the revival. I thought you would be getting touched, but you care about me? You stopped for me. You came to pick me up." And the Bible says, "They picked him up and they carried him to Jesus. They took him where he couldn't go himself." Here's a man who couldn't see a way ahead and now God sends him a way maker. Somebody to bring you to that place of your revival. That's what this meeting is about.
Pastor Claude who is going to preach this next session, and myself and Kelly, as she sings, and Tina, as she helps lead these conferences, we hope to be four friends to you today. To lift you up when you are paralyzed. To speak hope into your life when your dreams seem dashed. We're bringing you to Jesus because it's at Jesus's feet you can be touched, you can rise, you can walk, you can stand, you can become whole. Somebody shout Amen for me today. Do you believe that? One more time, come on, let's give him praise. Thank you, Jesus, that you're a miracle worker. You're a way maker.
He's thinking to himself, "What kind of future do I have?" And his friends show up and now all of a sudden there's miracles taking place. There seems to be a little ray of hope. There's a way when there's no way. There's a breakthrough of God's promise. There's a way out of discouragement, my friends. Did you hear me? There's a way out of discouragement. There's a way out of feeling like you're an underachiever, lying down, can't get up. There's a way out of that. There's a way out of not accomplishing the things that God has put in your heart to accomplish. There's a way out of that. Even when there seems no way, God is making a way for you to rise up and possess all that he has planned for you. Somebody say amen one more time, are you ...
So I've got four things I want to tell you real briefly and then pastor Claude will come. Number one, sometimes we need someone in our life who believes there's a way when we see no way. Amen. Sometimes we need somebody to pick us up when we can't pick ourself up. Sometimes when we don't believe anymore, we need somebody in our life who believes for us. When we've lost hope, when we've given up, when we say we're not able anymore, we are paralyzed. We can't move. God will send somebody in your life to say, "It's time to move. It's time to go. It's time to get up. It's time to get up." And they pick him up. They pick them up and they carry him to Jesus, and he's all excited like, "I missed the first meeting. I thought I was going to miss the second meeting, but I'm not missing the second meeting. I'm going in. I'm going." But he gets there and there's no tickets left. No tickets left.
It's almost like ... You heard of Kanye West? Who's heard of Kanye West? Wave at me if you've heard of Kanye West. Okay, four of you. Wow. Okay. He's this world known singer, particularly in America, and he is right now doing every Sunday because he got saved, supposedly. They said he got saved. He's one of the number one rappers in the world. He got saved and now he's, instead of doing rap concerts, he's doing a thing called Sunday Service. So every Sunday he's meeting in the largest auditorium in Los Angeles, it's called the Los Angeles Forum and he's having Sunday Service. A big choir, 150 voices. He's rapping, and he's singing, and he's preaching, and you can't buy a ticket for it. It's like 17,000 people fill this auditorium almost every Sunday now, and you can't get a ticket. So your four friends came and picked you up and said, "We're going to go hear, Kanye. It's going to be hot ticket. We're going to get in that thing. It's going to be rocking and jammin'.
It's going to be music, and testimonies, and a powerful story of this top singer getting saved on fire for Jesus. We're going to go in, man." And you get there and they're sold out, and you're just thinking, "Man, I wish we had got her earlier. I missed the first meeting, now I'm going to miss the second one. I can't get in." There's even a crowd at the door. The house was packed and even around the outside you couldn't even get to the door, it was so packed. And his friends have an idea. "Let's go up to the roof and break a hole through the roof and let's lower you on your bed right in front of that." So you went from hoping you could get into through the balcony, sitting in the very back hoping just to get a seat, maybe you can see the little speck down there on the stage of Jesus. And instead your four friends say, "When there is no way, we're going to make a way for you.
When you can't do it yourself, when you can't get up, when you can't get in, when you can't make it work, we're going to have faith for you." Not only just to get near Jesus, but you know what they do? They open up the hole, and I don't know how they knew where Jesus was. But it was perfect because when they opened the hole, it was right at Jesus's feet and that's what good friends of faith do. They don't get you just in, they get you near. They don't just leave you laying on the side over there. They say, "We're bringing you right to the feet of Jesus. You're going to get closer than ever before. You're going to have the greatest awakening you've ever had. You're going to see supernatural things like you've never seen before. You're going to see the glory of God if we have to break down this roof. If we have to yell, 'Fire.' And everybody runs out the building and then we'll bring you into Jesus, we're going to do it."
You need friends in your life who have so much faith they say, "We're going to get you in no matter what. We're going to get you up no matter what. Your miracle is not going to be delayed any longer, you're not going to get stuck in your paralysis. God is going to move in your life." So they open up and they get at Jesus's feet. Sometimes we need someone in our lives who believes there's a way when we see no way, four good friends in your life. I want to encourage you, faith needs friends and friends need faith. You can't do it on your own. You were never meant to do it on your own. So many of us are struggling in our ministry not seeing success because we want to be the man. "It's all on me. It's up to me. I'm the one." And you become an individual rather than a team. All the faith that you have is all about your faith and not relying on the faith of others. Sometimes we need someone in our life to pick us up when we can't get up on our own.
Secondly, they lower Jesus. This man gets to Jesus's feet and his friends are still up on the roof and they're so excited. "Jesus has been healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and now we lowered this man and He's going to touch our friend. And our friend's going to get up and he's going to dance. We're going to meet him later on at the party. We're going to dance and celebrate." But Jesus doesn't heal him right away. You know what Jesus does? He reaches out and touches him and says, "Son, I see these brothers of yours, their faith." And they're going, "He saw our faith. He's going to do a miracle, he's going to get healed.", "I see your faith, so son, rise up." ... No, excuse me. He says, "Son, your sins are forgiven." The guys on the roof were saying like, "We didn't bring him here to get his sins forgiven, we brought him here to walk. You're missing the mark, Jesus. We didn't break that roof ... I mean, You could yell out the door, 'Your sins are forgiven.'.
But we wanted You to touch him and make him walk, and You didn't do it." You see, there's something that you need to know, that Jesus ... Listen to this carefully. Jesus makes a way in you before He makes a way for you. That's my second point. First, when you need others to bring you in. The second one is He makes a way in you before He makes a way for you. You see, we want Him to make a way for us, "Give me a revival in my church. Let there be a hundred souls saved this year. Fill the baptismal tank. Let there be such an awakening that when we open the lid on the baptismal tank, people just start jumping in like fish." That's what we want. But sometimes Jesus works on the inside before He works on the outside. Sometimes He says, "There's some things in your heart that I need to look at. There's some issues we need to deal with. There's some habits and patterns." There are some leaders, I meet them all over the world, they're so passionate that that passion often turns into anger.
And they're frustrated with people and are angry, and they're barking orders and commands and trying to make things happen in their own strength. And they want to have a revival and they come and say, "God, maybe this conference we're going to could be the awakening of revival. I'll finally stand and the revival will come into my church and my city." And you come to a conference like this and God says, "First thing we need to do is take an inside look to look at the heart. And so there are there some things that I need to deal with to prepare you to walk, to prepare you to run, to prepare you to have wings like eagles and fly. First I have to prepare something inside of you." Amen. And so He's preparing this man by forgiving his sins. Jesus makes a way in you before He makes a way for you. His four friends were thinking, "Walk." And Jesus was thinking, "Live." His four friends were thinking, "Run." And Jesus was thinking, "Be whole spirit, soul and body." Jesus might've made the man walk, but the man might have walked right out the door into his sin. And so Jesus was not just interested in him being able to walk. He's not just interested in you having a church that grows ... although He's interested in that for sure, but He's interested in as that church grows, it grows holy. It goes powerful. It grows sound in doctrine. It grows in good discipleship. It doesn't excite you like, "I can walk and run now. My church can do fun things." It's a church that has depth to it. It's a church that knows how to pray, get ahold of God. Through the storms, through the difficulties, through the times where you don't feel like you can walk anymore, you're still holding on to God because something inside of you has changed. He works on the inside before He works on the outside. Number three. All right. "Now, some of the scribes ..." this is verse 6, "Now, some of the scribes were sitting there questioning in their hearts." I hope you haven't come to this conference like that, "Is this thing going to be any good?
I got on a boat and came all the way over here. I don't know who these guys are, I never heard of them." When I was a little boy, everybody read The Cross and the Switchblade. Now we ask, "Who's read The Cross and the Switchblade?" And like six people will raise their hand. It's old school kind of, in some ways. It's a great message. And so when you come to a meeting like this, what is your expectation? Or when you pray, what is your expectation? When you fast, what is your expectation? What are you believing God to do? To be in your life? The Pharisees were sitting there questioning, "Is this going to work? Should this work? This isn't my theology. I don't yell, 'Amen.' At the preacher, I don't clap my hands. I don't sing." I was in a country that used to be a former Soviet Union country, and I was doing a conference like this on a Saturday night. And on Sunday morning I was supposed to go to a church to preach. The pastor of that church was there. And in this country, they don't believe in clapping their hands.
I didn't know that, so I told everybody, "Clap your hands. Let's rejoice in the Lord." Everybody kind of clap their hands. And that pastor came up and said, "You can't preach at my church because you told the people to clap hands." And let's put our hands together and thank the Lord that you're allowed to clap your hands here. Right? Amen. So the leader of the conference said, "Don't worry Pastor Gary, that church won't have you, but this other church will have you." And so I said, "Okay. Yeah, I'll go that church instead." Well, that pastor came to hear me preach that night and at the end he came up, said, "That man can't preach at my church." And I think it was Bettina or some other said, "Why not?" And they said, "Because he has long hair." I'm like this guy in the Bible. Oh for two, I can't get up and get into these churches. I need somebody to help me in, maybe with that haircut or teaching me not to clap hands. I was in an environment where there was opportunities for miracles, opportunities for awakening, opportunities for revival, for God to do great things. And they were sitting there with their hands crossed saying, "We have questions about your motives. We have questions about the way you operate, the way you look, the way you talk." You can miss a lot by getting stuck in your own way of doing things, your own denominational style. The way you dress, the way you talk, the way you sing, the instruments you use or don't use. You can get stuck in a pattern of history that becomes dead tradition rather than the life of the Spirit. And the Holy Spirit wants to bring life. He says, "Unfold your hands and be open to Me. I have miracles for you, I have glorious things for you. Open up your hands." So this third point is there's always someone to tell you there's no way. Have you noticed that in your life? There's always someone who will fold their hands and tell you, "You can't do it. It's impossible."
When my father first went to New York City when he was a young pastor, he was pastoring a small church in a very rural farming community and he saw these gang members in New York City and drug addicts in New York City that no one was reaching. He went to go to New York City and a revival broke out. Thousands of young people got saved, gang members, drug addicts, alcoholics, street kids, homeless kids coming to Jesus by the thousands. His own father was the head of the denomination in that whole region where he lived, and his own father said to him in the middle of this revival, "You're wasting your time. You shouldn't do this. Those kids don't want to hear about this. You need to get back to your church." What his father thought was if you walk the streets of New York City, just reaching out the gang members, you'll never rise up through the denominational ranks. So he told my father, "You can't do it. You shouldn't go. Don't waste your time." There's always someone in your life to tell you, "There's no way, this is not going to work."
There are people in your own church who will tell you, "Pastor, that's not going to work. You want us to pray for 21 days straight? You want us to fast for a week? That's not going to work. Nothing's going to change. Our city is too difficult." When I go to different cities, you know what things I always watch for in the leadership? And I am so thankful for the leadership here because I did not hear this here. But in a lot of places I go, they give you the bad report. Do you know what I mean? "The Philippines, it's so bad. It's so hard. We have so many street kids here. We have so many alcoholics here. Demonic possession is so strong here. Religions are so dead." And it's almost like a report of what God can't do. But I'm thankful for men like this and the bishops and the leaders here, is that I'm hearing them say, "I believe God can do it. I believe God can do good things. I believe God can change our nation. I believe God can change our city. I believe God can change this whole environment."
We don't need people who can tell us there's no way, we're already wondering at ourselves. We need people who can tell us there's a way, "Hold on, you can go." Last thing number four, your way requires your weight. I know that may sound strange when you hear that. When you're taking notes, write that down and it'll make sense in just a moment. Your way, the way ahead, the way up, the way of healing, the way of revival, the way of miracles requires your feet to get up and go to do something. Kelly, if you can hand me that. This is the mat. That's good. Just like that. All right. This is the man's mat. The men, they came down from the roof. He laid it down on the ground. The man was laying, he was ... You can't see me, but I'm still here. Okay? He's laying there. I told you earlier, I'm not sure he could even move his arms.
He's laying there. I told you earlier, I'm not sure he could even move his arms because if he could move his arms, he probably would have put just two guys, one carrying one arm. His arm around one man, his other arm around another man, he probably would carry them in. Because he was on a mat, he was probably laying there and so it's a ... Hello, everybody. I have never done this in my life. I've never laid down while I was preaching.
I've been tempted to lay down while others are preaching. This is the first time. He's laying there. It's one thing to get near Jesus. He's thinking, "This is so sweet. I didn't think I'd get into this house. Man, my friends, they love me so much. I got everything I need now. I'm just so happy to be here. I got Jesus preaching to me. I've got good friends who are up on the roof, cheering me on. I got my sins forgiven." Then all of a sudden Jesus says something. " Get up. Get up." The man says,
"You don't understand. I actually don't walk. I don't know if you knew that or not. I thought you could tell from the mat and the floor, but I can't walk." Jesus says, "No, you get up." Now he can't rely on his friends. Your friends can get you near, but your friends can't get you up. You can get close. You can have the emotions, you can have the songs, you can have the good vibes from Jesus, the good feelings, but at some point in your life and in your ministry, he's going to say those words to you.
"All right, now. You got in. You're close. You're near, but now you got to get up." This man has to make a decision because he has to start putting weight on something now, right? He has to, "Man. Look. My arms. They're holding me up. I haven't sat up in a decade. Look. I got strength in my back." Jesus says, "No. Come on. I told you, I didn't say get halfway up. I told you to get all the way up. I didn't say go into halfway revival, halfway spiritual awakening, halfway faith. I said, get up!"
The man starts putting weight on his legs and he's getting to his knees and all of a sudden he's getting, and he's standing up. He's standing up. He's standing up. He's healed. Jesus tells him to ... You see, sometimes you just have to get up. You're tired, but sometimes you have to get up. You're frustrated, but sometimes you have to obey the command of Jesus. Get up and go again. Sometimes you don't feel like walking the next mile, but Jesus says, "Keep walking. Keep moving. Keep believing. Keep trusting."
Your church feels like it's dead. Get up and believe there's a revival coming! It's been years since you've seen souls in mass come to Jesus. Jesus doesn't say, "I'm so sorry. Just lay there and I feel bad for you. Let me encourage you. Let me sing a praise song over you." No, he says, "Get up! And believe me! That I am about to move in your church, to move in your city. You have to put weight on your feet. You have to start walking. You have to start believing."
You can't rest on your friend's faith. You can't listen to the doubters anymore that says there's no way. You can't listen to the doubt in your heart that says, "I don't know if I can stand up." Jesus says, "Stand up." I want to tell you, stand up when your church seems to be failing. Stand up when your marriage seems to be falling apart. Stand up when you don't feel like you have any finances. Stand up when you don't feel like you have the energy to go on.
Stand up. Keep walking, keep believing, keep trusting because God is about to move through you, in you, and because of what you're doing. He tells him, "Pick up your mat." The man picks up the mat and he's going, " I don't want to pick up this mat. I want to burn this mat. I want to burn my history. The thing I trusted, the thing that I was comfortable with." You see, some of us need to get up off that mat of addictions. To get up off that mat of pornography. To get up off that mat of selfishness, of laziness, of helplessness, of hopelessness, of despair.
Because we've been laying on the thing for so long, it actually becomes like a comfort blanket to us. "I like my mat." You know what? A lot of people like their mat because people give them sympathy. "Oh, you're married to that woman? We need to pray for demonic ... Get rid of that thing." "That feels so good to have these people comfort me." "I'm struggling in the hardest area of the Philippines. There's no way revival is going to happen here."
It feels comfortable just to tell that to people. They say, "I'm so sorry you're working in this area of the country." Pastor Claude is about to preach in just a moment, works in one of the hardest, most devout Catholic areas in the world. 99 point something percent Catholic. It's not Evangelical. People don't get born again. If you have a big church in Quebec, Montreal region of Canada, you have 100 people maybe, and maybe five of them got saved in the last ten years.
He could have sat on the mat and said, "Our church in the first few years grew to 150. That's comfortable. I don't have to walk anymore. I don't have to get up anymore." But he got up and said, "There's more." Then his church grew to 200, then 500, then a thousand. Now it's one of the largest churches in Canada. 5000 people. People are being saved. 180 people got saved last week. 180 got saved last week. He's not relying on his old mat.
We pick up the mat and Jesus says, "Pick it up." Why does he say, "Pick up your mat?" You want to burn your mat. You want to burn your history of failure. You want to burn your history of not being able to get up, your history of paralysis. You want to burn it. Jesus says, "No. Carry it with you. Take up your mat and walk because your mat becomes your message." Your mat is your message. Look what God has done. I used to lie on this thing day and night, and now I'm just carrying it around.
It used to be what I would cry myself to sleep on at night because I couldn't get up. I was paralyzed, but now I carry it around and say, "Look what Jesus has done for me. He touched me. He cleansed me. He washed me. He made me whole. He made me free. He set me free. He's delivered me. He called me. He chose me. He put me in a place of authority in his Kingdom," but I came from this. I came from a drug addict. I came from a broken home. I came from a rough marriage. I came from all kinds of problems, but now I take up my mat and walk.
The last thing Jesus says in the middle of this meeting, okay? This man got the hot ticket and he's there. Everything's happening. He stands up. It's exciting. He hears Jesus. He says, "Get up." He gets up and he says, "Take up your mat." "I take up my mat. What's next?" Jesus goes, "Go home." "What? The meeting's not over. We haven't even had the closing song yet. There's more miracles that are going to take place." "No," Jesus says, "Go home." What this man has to do now is take his mat and he has to work his way through the crowd.
Where's he going by? He's going by ... Forgive me for, I'm going to let you guys be the Pharisees here for a minute, okay? How many of you know these aren't really Pharisees? These are good men, these are real men of God. All the Pharisees were in the front row with their hands crossed questioning whether this has happened. Jesus says, "Take up your mat." He takes up his mat and he goes, "Now go home."
He's looking at, "How do I get home?" He couldn't get in the front door. He can't climb up back up to the roof, so he has to take his mat and he's going by all these Pharisees. He's like, "Excuse me. Sorry. Sorry." This smelly old mat that he's been lying on for 20 years. "Sorry. Excuse me, can I get through here?" I think Jesus is laughing like, "Isn't that great? Look at that." He's rubbing it in their face. He's getting out of this building, but there's something else he's saying to him is, and I love this. He says, "Go home."
This boy, he walks home. He walks home. Isn't that great? "There's a meeting going on still, but I don't care because I can walk. How many times have I been carried through these streets? Look at me now, I'm walking. I'm walking." Then he gets to his house and he goes, "I've not walked through this door ever in my life. I was born this way." He opens up the door. He's never opened up the door himself. He opens up the door, this thing works.
His mother's probably in the kitchen. Or maybe, "He's gone right now. Let me clean his room." Because how many of you know boys don't clean their rooms? All right? I got three boys and I know what it's like. She's cleaning his room and she says, "Honey, are you home?" "Yeah, Mom." "Did your four friends bring you home?" "No, they're still at the meeting. They're on a roof." "I told them to get off that roof. What are they ... " She's rebuking them and she's still cleaning.
Oh, man. Then she turns around. In the doorway, she sees her son and he's standing there. "Mama, thank you for taking care of me. You don't have to anymore. Thank you for bringing my friends around to carry me, but you don't have to carry me anymore. Look, Mama. I can walk. Look, I can move my legs. I'm free. Look. We don't need this mat anymore. It's my message. It's my testimony. I'm going to keep it, but I don't need it anymore because the thing that I longed for is now here. The forgiveness of sins is mine. The healing of my body is mine."
I want to say to you in closing today, that thing that you were dreaming about, that you are dreaming about. The purpose of God, his plans for your life. You know you're called to it. You're desperate for it and you're hungry for it and you want to see God move! But you're lying there saying, "I don't know if this mountain's ever going to move. I don't know if this healing will ever come. I don't know if this revival will ever come."
You're laying there and I want to say to you today, Jesus says for you, "Get up." Your church is down? He says, "Get up." Your body's sick? He says, "Get up." Your mind is depressed? He says, "Get up." Your emotions are depleted? Get up! You can't go on? Get up! You seem like there's no way when you're trying to find a way? He says to you, "Get up." Start believing him. Start trusting him. Start saying, "I believe that he has a place for me."
"I believe he has a plan for me. I believe he can make me walk. He can make me run. He can create a revival, a supernatural awakening." He is going to use you. I believe this. All's he's asking is put a little bit of weight on your legs to believe in him. Stand up and say, "I'm going to stand when I don't feel like standing. I'm going to walk when I don't feel like walking. I'm going to run when I don't feel like running. When I feel like giving up. When I feel like I can't go on, Lord, I'm going to listen to your voice. I'm going to get up again."
I want you to do that right now. Just get up while you're standing. Just get up and as you're getting up, almost picture this being like, "Okay. I was paralyzed when it came to what I was dreaming about. My destiny, my future, his plans for me. I was stuck. I couldn't get up, but I'm going to put some weight on it and I'm going to believe God now for the awakening." What are you hoping for? What do you dream about when you're laying on your mat at night? When you're crying out to Jesus, "Touch this area of my life. Touch this area that is so in need. Touch my life."
Some of you have experienced what I and my wife experienced in our life, is children who ran away from God. Some of them actually got involved in drugs. One of my sons became homeless, and we were lying on our mat of despair saying, "Is there any hope?" Then Jesus touched our son and rose him up. Maybe it's a prodigal son. Maybe it's a difficult ministry task you're in. Maybe it's things that I couldn't even begin to describe, but it's a dream that the Holy Spirit put in your heart, but you've not experienced it yet.
This is your get up season. This is your get up touch. You've come into this place. It's not enough just to get near Jesus. It's not enough just to be near. You need to get up yourself. Others can get you in, but it's up to you to get up. I'm here to call you in, but you have to get up. It has to be your faith. Holy Spirit right now in the name of Jesus, do what we can't do ourselves here. Let us hear what we can't hear ourselves.
Let us see through the eyes of vision that we can't see through ourselves. Let us believe things we can't believe for ourselves. Let us go places we could never go by ourselves, and let us get rid of that mat mentality. That bed mentality that says, "I'm too small. I'm too young. I'm too old. I'm not a big enough name. I don't preach well enough. I don't have enough money.
I don't have enough of this or that." We forget all that and say, "Jesus, we're getting up now. We're getting up today. We're going to believe you for great things today. We're going to stand strong today. We're going to run and not grow weary today. We're going to believe you for mighty things, God. We will not be sidetracked. We will not be put off. We will not be delayed in the mission and the task that God has for us. We believe." Say that with me. We believe.
We believe. One more time.
Now one more time, like you really believe it. Like you really believe it. We believe!
Hallelujah. Let's put our hands together. Thank the Lord. Amen.
Are you struggling to believe and have faith God will provide for you in the storm? Or perhaps feeling forgotten or bypassed by the purposes of God? In this powerful sermon, Gary Wilkerson shares how to come through difficult times while believing God for great things.Download MP3 Download MP4
At times, we put parameters around God's power and abilities with our own limited belief, but the truth is, God can do whatever he wants to do. It's time to believe that God is able! In this powerful sermon, Carter Conlon challenges us to ask the question: What am I willing to believe God for in my life?
That was very gracious of you, pastor John. Thank you for that introduction. And for everybody who is here today, can you believe with me that we're going to have an encounter with God. Every time we open God's word, we should be changed. We should be transformed from where we were to where God is taking us. That's been the... it's been the source of my love for the Lord and the strength of my life. I've been a student of the word of God from the day I got saved.
I remember when I first came to Christ, I was a young police officer and I was working a radar. They used to call it; I don't know what they call it now. They used to call it radar back then. Speed gun. Okay? And I used to pray for rain because when it rained, the radar didn't work. So, I could park behind a building somewhere and I would open the word of God and I would weep. I would weep in my car. I'm talking about real tears and I would read Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I would read, and every word was life and I believed it and continue to believe it to this day. 42 years later, I still believe the word of God as much or hopefully more than I ever have in my life.
And every day when I go to the word of God, I'm always trusting that there's going to be something of his mind and his character built into my life and into my heart. And as we shared this morning, you can't believe if you don't know what you believe. A lot of folks are trying to build their walk with God on emotion, on high times and good experiences in the church, nice music, and it's all great, but you can't believe on that. That will leave you short at some point. You have to get in the word of God. Another blessing the Lord put in my life is that I didn't just search out the sweet things. I searched out the bitter things too as well.
And even the bitter things are sweet to those that, the scripture tells us, to those that do love God. I wasn't just trying to build the Christian life on the palatable parts of the word of God, but on the parts that are difficult to digest, harder to hear, and I didn't ever try to push it away and just create or craft a Jesus that makes me happy and comfortable, but I wanted the real Christ of the Bible. It has been an incredible journey. I have to tell you it's been a miraculous journey. It's been a journey beyond my deepest expectations. And it's left me now, I'm 66 now and it's left me with an understanding that with God all things are possible. That's where I began, and now I'm starting to believe it even more.
I don't look at anything as impossible anymore. If God is in it, if it's in his heart, if it's in his mind to do something, he's well able to do it. And I want to share with you... these are just thoughts from my heart today. I don't have any notes or anything. I just want to share with you a thought that I feel he's given me from Genesis chapter 18. I'm going to entitle it, again, as I did this morning, "It's Time to Believe". It's Time to Believe. It's time for you and I to come back to where the church began. Empowered by the spirit of God, enabled by the word of God and moving in unison with the plan and the purpose of God.
And I believe that it's possible for you and for me, for all of us, and we've got to get out of any place and every place of unbelief, anywhere where we've settled in and said, "This is as far as I can go and I can't go any farther." I challenge you to banish that thought. I challenge you to put that thought under foot because God can do whatever God wants to do. And when he finds a heart willing to believe him, there's no limit to what God can do. When I was a young cop, I remember I was walking the beat and I had never preached a sermon anywhere. I had no speaking ability whatsoever. I was not a candidate for the ministry, but I felt the Lord ask me a question, "How many souls would you like in your lifetime?"
And I saw in responding to that what I felt was an overture from the Lord, I said, "God, I would like to win 100,000 people to you before I die." And then I began to be specific in my prayer. I said, "I don't want these to be just people who raise their hands in services, but people who actually live for you, serve you, walk with you and one day end up at your throne and where you can actually look at them and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Now that was an impossible prayer for me in my circumstance in life and my abilities and everything else. That was never going to happen. No ministry credential, never been to Bible school, nothing like that.
Fast forward from that moment on the street to many years later, I was in the field in Nigeria and we're in a place... there was civil war, the city of Jos, Nigeria. And I remember we brought together into that place 500,000 people every night. And it was a volatile situation because they were at civil war, militant Islam versus nominal Christianity more or less. One group would rise and kill and burn the other group and they would rise and kill and burn the other side. The last time they had been publicly together, 6,000 people died. So, you can see how volatile this was. We were the first gathering in months allowed to be together outside the city.
And we didn't know how many people were going to come, but a sea of people showed up. I preached that night on the emptiness and the worthlessness of all religion from the parable of the Jericho road, both Christianity and Islam, all religion that has no compassion for its neighbor. At the end of the message, I basically gave an invitation to receive Christ as Savior. But I did say to the people words to this effect, "If you have no intention on forgiving your brother, if you have no intention on stopping the murder and the carnage and the hatred and the vilification of one another and all the other things that go on in this society, then don't deceive yourself into thinking that eternal life will be yours.
But if you want to truly live for God, if you want the Jesus Christ of the Bible, if you want to live for God, if you want to forgive your neighbor, I'm asking you now to raise your hand and receive Christ as Savior." And I was told that if the numbers were correct, the local people estimated the crowd between four and 700,000. There was no way to really measure it. We settled in at five. If the numbers were correct, more than 100,000 people raised their hands that night to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. I went back to my hotel and in my hotel, I got down on my knees beside my bed to give God thanks for truly a miraculous night.
And then suddenly I remembered the prayer that I prayed when I was a young police officer many years before walking the beat, and before I could even open my mouth to say thank you, the Lord spoke to me and said, "Carter, don't limit me. Don't limit what I can do. Don't put parameters around my compassion. Don't put parameters around my power. Don't put parameters around my ability. I am God. I can do whatever I want to do." Now fast forward from there to just a couple of months ago, I took a stroll down Broadway one night. I was walking from where the church is down to Penn Station. And I walked right through Times Square and folks, it's like Sodom and Gomorrah.
I can't even begin to describe to you what's going on. Let me just give you one example. They're painting naked people there now. Tourists pay to paint people. I mean, it's just unimaginable. If you ever wondered in the Bible what Sodom looked like, that's probably what it looked like. The conversation is less than idiotic. I don't even know how to describe the conversation. The drugs are being sold openly everywhere. The prostitution that's going on, on the streets, it's just... and that's only the beginning of it. It's almost every sin you can think of is being committed there. And so, I was so overwhelmed by what I was looking, because I don't go down there very often.
I was so overwhelmed, I started praying out loud. I started first saying, "God have mercy on the people." And nobody much cares. You can pray out loud there, nobody cares what you're doing. So, I start to pray and then I started to point to people, different groups doing different activities. "Have mercy on those people. Oh Jesus, have mercy on these people." And once again, I felt the Lord asking me, "How many souls would you like before you die?" And I prayed a prayer and I said, "God..." And immediately as I felt the Lord ask me that question again, I thought of the king in the presence of Elisha as he was dying and he sat straight there on the ground, and he only struck it three times and the Elisha said, "You should have hit it five or six. You would have had a full victory over the Syrian army. Now you're only going to get a temporary deliverance."
Based on that story, I said, "Lord, I'd like 60 million souls before I die." Now see how quiet it got all of a sudden, right? See, we're talking about what, what's the theme of this conference? It's Time to Believe. Is God able to do that? Is God able to bring a spiritual awakening to this nation? Is God able to... I'm not talking about just brand-new souls, but I'm talking about churches coming back to Christ. I'm talking about Christian believers coming home to God. I'm talking about God doing what only God can do. I'd rather die on the side of faith than live on the side of unbelief. Given the choice, that's where I'm going to finish out my days.
I'm on the radio now and I speak to almost one to three million people a day as I'm told by Ambassador Communications. So why should I consider it an impossible thing that God could grant that many souls in this last hour of time? If we don't believe God, we're to be pitied of all people because we have all the history, we have the teaching, we've got the tapes, we've got the testimonies, we hear what God has done, we talk about the great awakenings throughout history. And if we are the final generation before Christ's return, aren't we to be pitied if we've come to the place with all of our history and teaching that we simply don't believe God that he's able to do what he's always done?
And of course, now it starts with the individual. That's what I want to talk about for just a few moments this afternoon. It starts with you. It starts with me. What am I willing to believe God for in my life? As a believer, I can fall short of what God could do, I'll still go to heaven. You'll still go to heaven. We're believers in Christ. We have this inheritance of eternal life with God because of Jesus Christ. But we can fall short of what God has for our lives just by simply building parameters around ourselves. We choose to believe what others have said about us or we choose to believe the frailties of our own hearts rather than what God is speaking.
I'm continuing the theme that the Lord started me on this morning for you, for people that are gathered here today. We're not the largest crowd in history, but neither was the first church. They were only 120 in that upper room and eventually even the Roman army bent its knee to the presence of God through 120 people that God was able to speak to and empower. And they come out of that upper room, thrust themselves into the marketplace and in many cases, many of these people knew that doing this was going to cost them their lives and many of them did. It cost them everything to do this. But they came out in the power of God and they began to speak.
It says in the Greek, the megaleios of God. That's what other nations heard them and said, "We hear them speaking in our tongues, the wonderful works of God." It says in the King James. But the word in the Greek is megaleios, and what it means is the anticipated outworkings of the inward presence of Christ. Now upon them they were speaking about things that God was going to do and how God was going to do it and who he was going to use to do it. Truly amazing. This is the difference between 3,000 plus people coming back from the temple where they had been reading things about God that were true. Those people that had just come from the temple, they were opening the scrolls, they were reading Isaiah or other scriptures. They were reading and it was all true, but it was all just facts about God.
And on the way home they encountered 120 people that had met with God. There's a huge difference between the two. They're going home filled with unbelief. They have a lot of history, but they're filled with unbelief. They meet 120 people coming out of an encounter with God filled with faith. Oh, I tell you one more time, it's time to believe. It's time. We've got to become the church again in this generation. The way things have been done, there's been great good done. I don't negate it, but the hour now, the hour requires something else. Something new, something old maybe that we rediscover one more time.
Genesis chapter 18. Father, thank you for your word. Your word is indeed a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. I thank you Lord that your word tells us that the entrance of your words gives light. So, God today give us light, illuminate our path. Show us Lord individually, corporately, where you can take us as the people of God. I pray, Lord, that you would enable me by your Holy Spirit to speak the thoughts of your heart. My voice is powerless. Yours can create a universe. And so, God, I pray for the grace to disappear that you may appear. I pray that my thoughts would be brought into subjection to yours. I pray, God, you'd take this frail old man one more time and use my life for your glory.
You promised that the glory of the latter house would be greater than the former. And in the scriptures, we see that you saved the best wine for the end of the wedding feast. So, Lord I stand today on that truth and I believe, oh God, if I will yield to you that the years that remain will be greater than the years that have gone before. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of gaining fruit for your kingdom. Thank you, my God, for the ability to yield to you, to recognize the weaker we become, the stronger you become. And so, Lord, thank you. Open every heart. Open every set of ears here today, God. Help us to believe you again. In Jesus name.
Genesis 18. It says, the Lord appeared to him, that's Abraham, by the terebinth trees of Mamre as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. He lifted his eyes and looked and behold three men were standing by him. Now there's opinion about this, but I think it's generally accepted that it was a pre-incarnated appearance of Christ and two angels, two messengers, were with him. I'm not here to debate that, but that's generally what's said about it. He ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the ground and he said, "My Lord, if I've now found favor in your sight, do not pass on by your servant."
And this ought to be your cry today and mine. Oh God, if I've found any favor in your sight, would you please Lord, don't pass me by. Pray that right now. Let that be your prayer. If I've found favor with you, God, don't pass me by for somebody else. Don't keep walking. As you come close to the place where I am, where I dwell, where I'm sitting right now, Lord, just don't keep walking. Stop. So, the Lord did stop at the entrance to his tent. And then in verse nine he says to him, "Where's Sarah, your wife?" And so, he said, "Here in the tent." And he said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life. And behold, Sarah, your wife shall have a son." Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well-advanced in age and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore, Sarah said within herself, "After I've grown old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord, being old also?" And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child since I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you according to the time of life and Sarah shall have a son." I just love this in the word of God that quite often God gives a promise and then waits till we are too weak to fulfill it. If you're young and you live long enough, you'll find that you can't fulfill the promises that God has made to you.
He waits until our strength is gone so that his strength... You see, he begins where we end. That's exactly the way it works. And I love that about God. I love that about the kingdom of God. You'll see that all the way through the scriptures when you study the scriptures, if the Lord wanted to bring a prophet into the world, he searched for a barren womb. He looked for somebody who couldn't bear children in the case, for example, of Hannah, Elizabeth as well for John the Baptist and etc., etc. The list goes on and on. He wants to deliver his people out of Egypt and what does he do?
He waits till the man who once was in a place of authority, once held a sword in his hand, once commanded respect and perhaps even soldiers is now an old man in the wilderness and has no power in himself to do any of the things that he was once promised that he would do. And I thank God for that because if we were able to do this, then our testimony would be, "Look what God and I have done, hallelujah," instead of, "Look what God has done through me. Look what God has done for his own glory through my weakness, through my lack of strength." That's why there're some people sitting here that you may have a promise that God gave you one day, and you say, "What happened to that promise? Where did it go?"
Oh, it didn't go anywhere. It just has to wait for you to get out of the way and then you watch what God's going to do with that promise. Years ago, God started speaking to me about spiritual awakening. He started speaking to me about it before I even knew what it was. And I was so excited about it. One day I came, and I said to my wife, we lived in a farmhouse at the time. I said, "Theresa," I said, "The Lord's been speaking to me about that I would live to see a spiritual awakening." I wasn't even sure what it was, but I would live to see a massive turning to God, of people turning to God from every walk of life.
And I was so sure of what God had spoken to my heart, and she was standing in the farmhouse. I'll never forget it. And she turned and she pointed at me and she said, "God will never give the mantle of revival to a man until he no longer wants it." I want you to think about that because when we are still involved in the mix, we will always take over the work of God. Always. It will start God alone, then me and God, then it will be me and God will be somewhere back there, and we will take over the work of God. But God comes to Abraham and remember the promise was you're going to be a blessing. The promise was your descendants are going to be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The promise was that through you, all the world is going to be blessed.
Now you and I know that through Abraham was going the come the patriarchs of Israel, through whom was going to come to the tribe of Judah, through whom was going to come the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom was going to come the church, through whom was going to come you and I here today. So, we are actually the promise that God gave to Abraham sitting right here today. We are the stars. Remember Jesus himself said, "You are the light of the world." He's referring back again to the promise made to Abraham. You are the light of the world. You are that which is set in the heavens in a sense to give light, to give direction, to give hope, to show times, to show seasons. You are the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hidden.
But before the promise could be fulfilled, God had to wait until Abraham was too old to have a child. Now he made mistakes along the way, just like you and I do, and the mistakes that he made didn't negate the promise. So don't let the devil tell you that the mistakes you've made along the way have somehow caused God to take away plan A and give you plan B or plan C in your life. No. Plan A is still there. Plan A has not been dependent on you. It's been dependent on God and God alone. Now the men arose from there, verse 16, here's where it gets interesting, and looked towards Sodom. And Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I've known him, verse 19, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has spoken to him." In other words, I know this man that he will do right. I know this man that he will follow the words that I give to him, so I'm not going to hide from him what I am doing. Remember Jesus himself in the gospel of John said, "When he, the comforter has come, he will what, he will guide you into all truth and he will show you things to come." He will show you things to come in your own life. He will show you things to come in the world around you.
In other words, we're not people of darkness that the day we're living in should overtake us as a thief. You and I should not be a people on the outside looking in or having to go to watch Fox or CNN at night to find out what's going on in the world or what the spiritual condition of the country is. We are the people of God and if the Holy Spirit is inside of us and we are open to the working of God, he will show us things to come. He will speak to us about things that he is about to do in the nation. Now he says, "Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grave..." This is verse 20 of chapter 18. "I will go down now and see whether they've done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to me and if not, I will know."
I want to tell you something. We are very, very close in America to where Sodom and Gomorrah were. I want to tell you why. You know what the flashpoint of God's judgment was on Sodom and Gomorrah, is when the Sodomites came to the door where the two angels were and tried to force their way in and make the messengers of God partakers of their sin. And when the Sodomites tried to force their way into the house of God and say, "You will become, you will acquiesce to us. You will bend your knee to our lifestyle. You will declare our sin to be good." When that happens, that is the flashpoint in my opinion, in historically looking at of God's judgment. When that happened, when they tried to make the messengers of God partakers of their sin.
We're not that far away from this moment in America right now. We are fighting this battle. You will see it shortly. It will probably in America in the next several years become a hate crime to refuse to acknowledge gay marriage in the church of Jesus Christ as leadership. So, we are at the point where this lifestyle is trying to push its way into the door of the house of God and say, "You will partake of our sin." "If God doesn't judge us," Billy Graham said, "He's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." "I will go down and see and if not, I will know."
Verse 22 it says, then the men turned away from there and went towards Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Now here's the type of a church that begins to pray. I just wrote a book recently called, It's Time to Pray, and I believe that with all my heart, if ever there was a time to pray, it's now. Here's a moment where there's a man standing before God who has the power to turn his heart in some measure. But what we're going to see becomes a bit, in my opinion, of a strange prayer meeting. This is a prayer meeting outside of Sodom, may I call it that? This is a man who's now standing... He knows he's standing before God, the son of God, pre-incarnated Christ at this point. He knows that who he's petitioning has the power to stop this judgment that's about to come.
And so, Abraham came near, verse 23, and said, "Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were 50 righteous within the city, would you also destroy the place and not spare it for the 50 righteous that were in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous should be as the wicked. Far be it from you. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Talk about the humility of God. There's a man standing before him that basically is saying, "If you do this, you're not righteous. If you do this, you're doing wrong because it's not right that you should slay the righteous with the wicked."
So, the Lord said, "If I find in Sodom 50 righteous within the city, then I will spare the place for their sakes." Then Abraham answered and said, "Well, indeed now..." Remember we're on the theme of, It's Time to Believe. "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose there were five less than the 50 righteous, would you destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So, he said, "If I find there 45, I will not destroy it." And he spoke to him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be 40 found there?" So, he said, "I will not do it for the sake of 40." Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak. Suppose 30 should be found there?" So, he said, "I will not do it if I find 30 there."
And he said, "Indeed now, I've taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose 20 should be found there?" So, he said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of 20." Then he said, "Oh, let not the Lord be angry and I'll speak, but once more, suppose 10 should be found there?" And he said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of 10." So, the Lord went his way as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham and Abraham returned to his place. Now this is an ironic kind of a prayer meeting. If you believe as I do that God is omniscient, now he knows, he knows how many righteous are in the city. He knows there's not 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10, so why is he playing with Abraham? Is he playing with Abraham or what? Is he looking for something that Abraham is not aware of?
Why doesn't he just say right out of the gate, "Abraham, don't waste your time. There's not even 10 righteous in the city." Is he looking for something? What is he looking for? When you look at this passage, this scripture, there's no indication that the Lord said, "Now enough, Abraham, don't ask me for anymore." Abraham chose to stop. It's an incredible thing really. He was six souls short of a victory. Six souls short of a moment of mercy on a wicked society. Six short. Now Lot was there, and Peter's epistle declares him to be righteous. That's a really iffy righteousness, but he was declared to be righteous. That means his wife was also righteous and his two daughters.
The angels brought four out of Sodom before Sodom burned. This whole society is about to go into judgment. It's all about to be judged. Abraham stops praying. Stop spraying right at the point he's six short of a victory. Why didn't he go down to five? Was the Lord toying with him or was God after something in this man? Which I believe I see in this passage. Now it's conjecture on my part. Okay? Conjecture means that I'm reading this into the text, it doesn't necessarily say that, so you are free to accept or reject my conjecture. But here's my conjecture for what it's worth. I think God was after one thing and Abraham didn't arrive there. I think he was after Abraham to say, "Lord, I will go into the city. I will go. Give me 30 days, give me 60 days to go into the city and if I find 10 righteous, will you spare it?"
You see, this is why I feel the Lord didn't say "No, stop praying right now." Because the scripture says, as soon as he'd finished speaking, the Lord went his way and Abraham went back to his place. And that's the way a lot of our prayer meetings are. In a sense, even if we do pray, we come to a prayer meeting and we say, "Oh God, have mercy. God have mercy on New York City. God have mercy. Save people. God have mercy, let the children know you." And then we get up after the prayer meeting and just go home. I mean, we don't put ourselves in with our prayers and bring it to the place of saying, "Lord, send me, send me somewhere. Send me into that neighborhood. Send me to that single mum with her kids. Send me across the hall in the place where I live.
Send me, my God. Open my mouth. Use my life for your glory." And I honestly believe that's what God was looking for but didn't find it. He didn't even intercede for his own family if you read the text, the scripture, for his own nephew. Remember the Lord said, "I will show him what I'm about to do because he will command his household after him." Well, his own nephew was there or his cousin, whichever way you want to look at it, but was in Sodom with his family. That was by extension in that culture, that was his family. And God said, "I will show him what I'm about to do because he will instruct his family." Now Lot had no authority. Lot was so intermixed with the backsliddeness of that society that nobody believed him when he finally opened his mouth and said, "Judgment is coming."
His own family didn't believe him. His sons-in-law didn't believe him. They laughed. They thought he was joking. But you imagine if a man would have shown up there as Jonah once did in Nineveh and say, "I've been talking face to face with the living God. I'm telling you judgment is coming here. And if 10 righteous can be found in the city..." Now Lot and his family were four, Abraham would have made it five, which means he had to win five people over to the worship of the true God. Five in a city and it would have been spared. Five, and it might've been given another year, maybe another two years, maybe a season to repent. Five who might have turned from their wickedness and started preaching to the people.
God only knows what history would say if Abraham would have just not quit at that point. If he would have believed right through to the final until God says no, until God says, "No more. Don't ask me for anymore. You've brought this thing down far enough; it can't go anymore." But there's no evidence the Lord had gotten to that point. And I think sometimes we think that prayer in itself, it's a good thing and thank God for prayer, but at some point, we have to throw ourselves in with our prayers and say, "Lord, here am I. Here am I." But it might mean we don't get to go home when we say that. See, he went home. It might've meant he didn't get to go home. The here am I can mean we might end up somewhere we never anticipated we're going to go. We might end up doing something we never thought we would do. We might find ourselves in places we never thought we would be.
I remember one time I was invited to speak in a prison just for sex offenders and I was a police officer. And the Lord opened the door and it was a hard door to go through, a difficult door to go through. But there was great fruit born and there were 700 men there and there was great fruit born in that meeting by not hiding from the truth, but by bringing the truth to people who were locked in a prison of immorality as well as a prison of their own making. There are so many doors that God will open if we're willing to go through those doors. And he takes us into impossible places, places where we could never hope to achieve what only he can do if he only finds a willing vessel.
One of the greatest tragedies in scriptures in the book of Ezekiel. Now he begins to describe, Ezekiel describes the society, he said the politicians were corrupt and stealing from the people. The judges were accepting bribes. There was a religion that was being bankrolled by this whole corrupt system and it was in cahoots with it. Underneath that, the people were exercising oppression, cheating, robbing, stealing, oppressing the stranger underneath that. And it just gets worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. And then he says, "And I sought for a man that I should not have to judge my own people and I could not find one." Can you imagine? Israel at this time is the most religious nation on the face of the earth.
God says, "I sought for a man to spare the city." It became easier to believe that God was going to judge that society than to believe he could show mercy. I personally feel that he sought for a man among all of this religious crowd that believed that he was willing to be merciful and couldn't find one. Everybody had fallen in line with the common thought of the day. This place is going to be judged. It's all going to be doomed. It's damned. It's going to burn. He said, "I decided to show mercy, but I needed a human vessel to work through and I couldn't find one." Couldn't find one among his own people with all their history of mercy. I mean, think it through. This was a nation birthed in mercy, guided by mercy. They knew the failings of their history. They knew the mercy of God all the way through their history.
They knew that God was, at least should have known he was merciful, but there's points in life where it becomes easier to believe in unbelief than to believe that God can be God and God can do what God can do. Yes, we're living in a dangerous day. We're living in a decadent day. We're living in a day when evil is being called good and good is being called evil. We're living in a day of corruption at every conceivable level in society. We're living in a day when our children are being deliberately gender confused and baptized in filth even in their own schools. It's a terrible day that we're living in. But again, God's saying, "I'm looking for someone. I'm looking for someone, a man, a woman, somebody somewhere.
I'm looking for someone in your neighborhood. I'm looking for someone on your job. I'm looking for someone at your table. I'm looking for someone to show mercy through. Someone who could just speak maybe what everybody's been thinking or maybe words they've never heard before. Maybe a warning that's never been given, maybe love that they'd never felt, I don't know." The gospel is preached different ways to different people at different times. As Jude says, "Save some with love and save others with fire, but in any way reach them." I sought for a man, I sought for a man. You see, this is not just a conference and if you're just going to build the resume of what you've learned at conferences, aren't we just then a people always learning and not coming to the knowledge of the truth?
That's going to be the condition of the last days, the apostle Paul says, always learning, learning, learning as if attending like 1,500 conferences is somehow going to make us into culture changers, but that's not what it's all about. It's about taking what we do know and saying, "God, use me for your glory and take me where you want me to go and give me what you want me to speak and take me to the people that you want me to speak to." And quite often it might be a culture. It might be a situation that's completely out of your culture or your comfort zone, something you never anticipated that God was going to do.
It's been the story of my life. I've been in places speaking to people who I have absolutely no experience and all I have is the word of God. But I've watched God do what only God can do. I've seen miracles, honest to God miracles in my lifetime. I've seen God change societies, do things that only he can do. And so here we are again, thank God for yesterday's victory, but we live in today and we're moving into tomorrow. And I believe that God is searching again, searching again, searching again. I sought for a man, I sought for a woman. I sought for somebody, sought for an Esther who would go before the king, feeling unlovely, feeling unwanted, feeling like the former relationship is all gone.
That's what she felt like. But she said, "Well, I'm going to pray and I'm going to go in and if I perish, I perish." And not only did she win a victory for her people, but she became a co-regent with her husband, which was unheard of in that culture. Amazing. I wish I had time to just speak on that topic because it is one of the more profound passages of scripture, not just scripture-wise, but historically too as well. She rewrote the law of death into a law of life. Just one girl that was willing to go in and say, "God, you put me where I am, so I'm giving you my life for your glory. And if I perish, I perish. But I'm going in not for my sake, but for the sake of people that are destined for the slaughter. A society that's going to die and are defenseless to protect themselves."
And here we are again one more time. One more time called to go in. And so, I want to challenge you with all my heart. I want to challenge you with everything that's inside of me. I feel like that old song in Flanders Fields, I don't know how many know that, an old soldier song in a sense. It's a poem. It says, to you from failing hands, we throw the torch. I can't do this forever. I'm 66 but some of you are only 26 here. You're younger and you've got years ahead of you. And some of us older guys, we're not going to be around forever, but we're throwing a torch to you and saying, "Who will take the baton? Who will take the torch? Who will run with it? Who will stand when nobody else will?
Who will go up to people that nobody else wants to go to? Who will believe that God can show mercy when all the society is yelling, "Judge them, judge them, judged them, judge them." Who will believe? Who will believe that certain communities can be reached that people say they can't be reached? Who will believe? Who will go with that torch of mercy? And so that's my challenge to you. It's time to believe. It's time to believe. I don't want this just to be a slogan for a conference, and I believe that it was put on your heart, pastor Gary, pastor John, for a deeper reason than just more knowledge. That there are people here, you're going to be used of God.
Didn't Daniel say, "In the latter days, the people who know their God will be strong and they will do exploits." All hell seemingly will be breaking out in the world and knowledge will increase and people will be going to and fro and there'll be all these scary things on the horizon like artificial intelligence and facial recognition and all these things that are coming our way. But there still will be a people who are strong, and they will do things that only God can do through them. Praise be to God. Be a warrior church in a sense, glorifying God and be a demonstration that God is still alive, still on the throne and still God through a body, through a people. May we be that people. May you be that person, may we together be the people of God.
That is the challenge in my heart. I'm going to ask the worship team to come, if you will, please. I've seen you move. I've seen you move the mountains and I believe you can do it again. It's time to believe. It's time to believe that God can use you. It's time to believe. It's time to believe. There's a point of learning, but if it doesn't bring us to faith, what good is it? All you will be is a doctrinal argument somewhere, but we're not called to be a doctrinal argument. We're called to be a living expression of the reality of God, the mercy of God, that mercy that sent the son of God to a cross. That's what you and I are called to be.
And so, my challenge to you is as it was given to me. I was a young believer; I was about 28 years old and I went to a church one Sunday. I was visiting there and as the pastor was speaking, my heart was strangely warmed, and I felt a call of God to yield my body to him for his purposes. To yield my future, my life. And I'm sitting in my seat and I was in the back, and I was thinking, I got nothing, Lord. I got a bad temper. If you need that, I can give you that. I mean, I'm just trying to be a husband. I'm just learning what it means to be a father. I'm trying to break out of the basic boxes of human behavior that had become very familiar with my life. I'm just getting free myself. I've got so much in myself to deal with and suddenly I feel God calling me even in that place of weakness into something of himself.
He's asking me for everything. And I was thinking, because it was a big church and there had to be 900 people or 1,000 people there. And suddenly my heart is pounding, and the altar call is given, and nobody is moving. I was thinking in the back, what's wrong with these people? They've got the knowledge, I don't. They've got the history, I don't. They were raised in Christian families, I wasn't. They're all so nice and I'm fighting just not to punch people in the face when I disagree with them. For real. I'm still fighting. I've just got this wagon load of baggage and yet you're calling me? And to me it didn't make any sense. I didn't understand it. Why don't you call him?
And I'm looking around at her or him, they look so nice. Their hair's all nice and their suits are all nice and I'm there. I don't even have a suit. Yeah. I couldn't fight it any longer and I get out of my seat. I came down to the front and I got on my knees and there was another guy who got out, there was two of us. There's 1,000 people there who were being called to give our all to God and there was only two who came forward. And I started weeping and weeping and weeping. And here's my prayer, I said, "God, the little boy in the Bible had a bag lunch. I don't even have that. I have nothing. I have nothing." That was my prayer. I said, "God, I have nothing that I think you could use for your kingdom, but if you can use nothing, here I am. Use me for your glory."
I couldn't offer him... I had no history of faithfulness. I had no giftings. I didn't even know what you giftings of the Spirit were. I had no giftings that I would want. I had no good self-image. I had nothing, nothing, nothing. Hardly knew the Bible. I knew the parts I was reading in the New Testament and yet he was calling me to make a difference. And I cried and I cried, and I cried, and I cried, and all these counselors were coming around me and saying, asking me all kinds of questions and I kept saying, "Just go away. Just go away. Leave me alone. Leave me alone." I kept saying, "Go away." "Oh brother, can we pray for you for this?" "Go away." It's all I could think of telling him. I was alone with God.
They weren't used to that happening unfortunately. And so that's the call of God for you. Come ye weary. Come ye poor. Come, those who don't have any money to buy. Come, come and watch what God can do. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Let's stand please. If that's you, would you join me here? Would you come? Just slip out wherever you are. Lord, I don't have much. Maybe you say, "I have nothing, but I'll give you what I got." A little boy just had a couple of loaves and some fish and you fed 5,000 plus people with it. So, here's my little lunch. And if you can take it, God, please take it and multiply it and feed people through my life. Use me for your glory. You watch what God will do. You watch what God will do. You watch.
It's time to believe that God can. It's time to believe. Whatever you put in his hand, he can multiply it by a million times, and he could start feeding people all over the world with it. You just give it to him and believe him and just believe him. Just believe that he can use your life. Hallelujah. Let's sing that song and just take time to pray, just to talk to God. Or you can sing the song, do whatever you want. Just make it a meaningful moment right now. A meaningful moment.
It was such a confidence that others looked at them and said, "Where did these people get this kind of confidence? Where did they get this kind of authority? How did they have this kind of an encounter with God?" Lord, let that be our testimony. Let that be our testimony God everywhere we go that people look at say, "Where did they get this anointing? How did they get such power? Where do you get that from?" Oh God, give us the ability, Lord, to go into the deepest presence of the human mind and the human heart, bringing life and light as Paul and Silas brought you into that inner prison. God, give us the power to reach the inner prisons, Lord, of this society, God. Prisons in people's minds and hearts, Lord.
Give us, Lord, the keys, God, into these places, Lord. God, thank you for what you're doing right now, Lord, in young men, young women, older men, older women who are gathered here at this altar, Lord. We've gathered with the little we have and some feel like we've got nothing, but God what we have we give it to you, Lord, and you are able to do miracles with it. You're able to feed thousands with it, oh God. Oh Jesus, son of God. Oh Jesus, son of God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Raise up evangelists, Lord, here today. Raise up powerful, powerful testimonies for Christ. Raise up teachers that will speak in the classroom boldly to their students, Lord.
Raise up, God, people in every aspect of life and society that will be living witnesses for you, Lord. God, let it be, Lord. Let it be. Let it be oh God. Let it be oh Lord. Let it be. I'm going to ask you just to open your mouth and talk to God right now. Just pour your heart out before him unashamedly, unashamedly. Let him begin to speak to your heart about what he has for you in the future. Let's believe. Make this a sacred moment, a sacred moment where you stand before God. You kneel before God. Whatever it is, you sit before God. Make it a sacred moment. Say, Lord, hear am I. Here am I. Here am I, Lord. One more down the line of weak people. One more down the line of people that society wouldn't even look to for you, Lord God. One more Lord, and I'm asking you to take my life and use it for your glory. Hallelujah.