In this series, inspired by a Craig Groeschel book, Pastor G challenges all of us to make four decisions.
- A Decision to START something.
- A Decision to STOP something.
- A Decision to STAY somewhere when GOING would be easier but not best.
- A decision to GO somewhere when STAYING would be easier but not best.
This is week one: It’s Time To Start Something
TALK STORY: TELLING THE STORY OF YOU ~~~~~ Week 1 – Start
This month’s message series is partially inspired by a book written by a pastoral colleague named Craig Groeschel. So it’s a mix of concepts taught by both of us this month. All of us have stories about how we learned these important spiritual concepts about life that I’m going to share with you this month. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you tonight would you do me a favor and say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY!
How many of you love to TELL a good story? I think we all do on some level! Maybe not in front of a large audience, but gathered around the family dinner table, it’s always fun when you get together with somebody and you start telling stories, “Remember that time when…” and then you tell stories. Every single one of you have stories about your life that you love to tell: “This one time there was this huge problem and I overcame it!” — “This one time, I set a goal and I accomplished it!” — “This one time, I made the right decision.” OR “This one time, a funny thing happened. This one time I did something really, really stupid!” We’ve got stories that we love to tell, but unfortunately, all of us have stories that we’d rather leave UNtold too yeah? In fact, if you are like me, there are probably entire chapters of our lives that we’d rather not tell anybody. Or maybe we tell the story how we WISH it had gone more so than how it actually happened? Right? We get hurt by someone and we can tell a whole long story of what we wish we had said or done.
Most of us feel like we would never dream of writing an autobiography. We don’t feel like our life has been tragic enough or successful enough or interesting enough or rare enough to bother with putting the details down on the printed page. We think, “Who would want to read the story of MY life?” I think we would all be surprised. I think we are all more interesting, more inspiring, more challenging, and more motivating to others than we give ourselves credit. Listen to what the psalmist writes. This isn’t just true of him, it’s true of you as well.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:13-16
The Apostle Paul also makes it clear that each of us DOES MATTER to God. We are each an important piece of God’s grand story. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:10
It’s so easy to just wake up and kind of exist through the day isn’t it? To just kind of coast on autopilot throughout each 24 hour period. It’s so comfortable to just live without any intentional plan to make a difference in our world with our life. Before we know it, it’s already bedtime again and as we look back on our day we often wonder, “Did today really matter? Did I accomplish anything of lasting value? Did I make a difference at all? Is any part of the world a little bit better because of me? Did I actually do ANY of the good works I was created in Christ Jesus to accomplish?” I’m fascinated when I think back over my own life and now I realize how many seemingly insignificant decisions I made at the time ended up actually having a really significant impact on the direction of my life. Some of those impacts were positive and some were negative. If I had made one different decision along the way the domino effect would have led me somewhere else completely. Like you, I’ve made millions of decisions to START doing something or to STOP doing something or to STAY in some situation or to GO to some specific situation. What if I had chosen differently?
Maybe I wouldn’t be married, at least not married to Annette. That would be incredibly tragic for me. Maybe I wouldn’t have kids, at least not the exact DNA of the kids I have now. That would be tragic as well. Maybe I wouldn’t live in Hawaii. Maybe I wouldn’t be a pastor. All because I chose option B or option C somewhere back 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. Do any of you ever think about that? Think about it this way: The decisions that we made yesterday determine the stories that we’ll tell today and the decisions that we make today will determine the stories that we tell tomorrow. Let me say it one more time: The decisions that we made yesterday determine the stories that we’ll tell today and the decisions that we make today will determine the stories that we tell tomorrow. So the big question I want to ask today is: How do we live a story worth telling? How do we live a life that produces a great One Time – Story that we actually want to tell to other people? And the answer I believe is found in Hebrews, Chapter 12, verse Two. This is going to be our key verse for this study. As we go through this together for the next five weeks, I pray that this would be true of you, the writer of Hebrews said:
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:2
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all let Jesus, the Son of God, be the Author of our life? What if we let Him Talk Story into our lives? What if we allowed Him to guide us and help us live the story that God wants us to tell with our life? How do we live a story worth telling? That’s the real question. We live a story worth telling by telling God’s preferred story of our life? How? We start by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith and then He will help us live the story that God wants us to tell. Then, the Apostle Paul’s words from Romans 8:28 will be true in our lives.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28
Over these five weeks, I’m going to challenge all of us, myself included, to make five decisions. Today, we’ll talk about making decisions to START something. Next week, we will make some decisions to STOP something. The third week we will make some decisions to STAY someplace we are when GOING someplace else would be easier but not best. And finally in the fourth week, we’ll make some decisions to GO someplace else when STAYING put would be easier but not best. So, over the next four weeks we’re all going to be challenged to decide when to start, when to stop, when to wait, when to stay and when to go.
We’ll make those decisions so that our life can become the greatest Story possible, where God will cause all things to work together for the good because we are among those who love and trust Him. Your Story can be written and guided by the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, Jesus. Sound exciting? I think it is! So, today I want to talk to you about deciding to start a discipline that can be life-transforming. Don’t think too big or too complex yet. We’ll cover those kinds of visions later. Today’s decision is not to start a business or start writing your great American novel, or to start a new world-changing ministry; that’s Week Five stuff. We’ll talk about that at the first week of September. Today, we’re just going to talk about starting a personal daily discipline and the difference that one, seemingly small thing, can make in our life years, even decades later.
Let’s look at a small piece of Daniel’s story. Daniel was looked favorably upon by King Darius of the Babylonian Empire. King Darius had selected 120 satraps. Satraps were like governors to rule the empire in various regions. Then he picked three men to be over the 120 satraps; Daniel was one of the three. Daniel so stood out in his integrity and his leadership skills that the king said, ‘I want to put Daniel in charge over everyone.’ The other guys were jealous and said, ‘We’ve got to put a stop to the teacher’s pet, Daniel.’ And so we pick up the story in Daniel, Chapter 6:4 4
Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. ~ Daniel 6:4
What were they doing? They were looking for a little dirt. Let’s find some trash. Let’s find some reason to bring charges against this guy. But they couldn’t find anything to hang him with. Office Politics haven’t changed at all since Daniel’s time have they? Want to get rid of your boss? Dig up some dirt on him. It works in government politics too. Instead of just doing your job, try to undermine someone else’s job. Instead of pulling others up with you, push people down so you can climb higher on their backs. That’s politics unfortunately. So they tried hard to find some dirt on Daniel, but the Bible says they could find no corruption in him! Daniel was a rarity in government leadership. He was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Let’s move on to Daniel 6:5 —-
5 Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God. – Daniel 6:5
So they came up with a plan, you can read all of the details for yourself later but I’ll paraphrase it for you now. They basically went to the king and said, “Hey king, we’ve got a great idea; wouldn’t it be awesome if for the next 30 days, no one would be allowed to pray to anyone or any God except for you King Darius! And if they pray to any other God then you throw them into the lion’s den.” Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!
And Kind Darius said, “Woah! Totally boss idea dudes! That sounds pret-ty cool to me yeah? In fact, I will pass an Executive Order right now. Let’s make it a law. No one prays to anyone but me for the next thirty days, and if they do they’re thrown into the lion’s den.” BOOM! Goes the dynamite! It’s a law! Now, we’ve already heard some details about Daniel, about his character, about his integrity, about his position of leadership. Why do you think Daniel was looked upon favorably? Why was he a man of integrity? Why was there no corruption found in him?
Why did the king promote him in his leadership to the number two position in the land? If we read the rest of the story, why did God end up showing favor to Daniel in the lion’s den and deliver him from the mouth of the hungry big cats? Why? I’ll show you why. It’s a gold nugget of truth snuggled in right in the middle of his story, and if we aren’t careful, we will miss it. Let’s Talk Story about Daniel. Because years ago Daniel made a decision to START doing something that made him into the man of integrity that he later became known for being. That initial decision hat determined what direction his story would take for the rest of his life. Let me show you what his decision was in Daniel 6:10
10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. ~ Daniel 6:10
You thought kneeling three times a day to pray was just a muslim thing right? No. Here is Daniel, a Jewish believer, who has that discipline built into his life. He didn’t just start doing it here in this time of crisis in Babylon. The Scripture says he was continuing this discipline that was already established in his life, just as he had been doing previously. Think about this, who knows for how long? Certainly weeks, more likely months, probably years, maybe more than a decade; three times a day, Daniel stopped whatever he was doing, kept an appointment with his one true King and God. He knelt down before God, and aligned his heart to God. He worshiped his God, prayed that God’s will would be done in his story. Daniel loved and trusted God. So God caused all things to work together for the good in Daniel’s life. Why was Daniel so successful? Why was he such a man of integrity? Why was he looked upon so favorably by the king? Why did he rise so far in influence, leadership, power and authority? Because at some point in his life he had made a decision to START a daily discipline of praying three times a day with his God that he loved and trusted. So God transformed his story into the story that God wanted Daniel to tell. He caused all things to work together for the good of Daniel, who loved and trusted Him. The decisions we make determine the stories that we tell in the same way. So let me ask you two questions. The first question is very simple. I want you to ask yourself the question: What does God want me to want? What does God want me to want? Another way to phrase it would be: What is the story that God wants me to tell five years from now in my life? What story does God want me to tell?
And I bet any of us if we’re really honest, we’ll sit back and say, “Well yeah, there is this one area of my life that’s not where it should be,” or “The chapter I’m writing with my life right now is not going to end well unless I start doing something else. I need to START doing some different things in my life right now to get my story back on track.” What story does God want you to tell by starting something new? What new daily discipline do you need to START? For some of you, it might be telling a different financial story, doing something different with the way you handle money. You need to START DOING something different with your money. START a discipline today and I don’t know what that would be. Maybe you START to budget or START sticking to your budget or you START taking a financial class.
Or maybe you START listening to a financial advisor or mentor, or you START cutting up your credit cards or whatever. If you START getting ahold of your finances today, it might not seem like it makes much of a difference tomorrow, but I bet it will make a huge difference five years from now. Five years from now your story could go something like this; you know, I can barely even believe it, but five years ago we were living paycheck to paycheck and we were drowning in debt, but we STARTED … (SOMETHING) … fill in the blank, and now, after five really disciplined and hard-fought years, we’re completely out of debt! God caused all things to work together for the good in our life because we love and trust Him. No more credit card debt, no more student loan debt, we paid off everything but the house and we’re on track to pay it off in less than seven years. And that could be your story if you START the discipline today that allows you to tell the story later.
It could be some of you, God wants for you to have the right personal relationship and time priorities, because if you are honest, you realize you don’t right now. If you START the right discipline today, it might not seem like it many any difference tomorrow but five years from now your story might be something like this: Well five years ago, I wasn’t a very good husband or a very good mom, and I was pursuing my career more than anything else. My work was too important. It was almost a god to me. And I told myself that I was doing all this for my family, but I was really doing it for myself. And then I made the decision to shift my priorities. I STARTED to come home every day at six o’clock no matter what. I STARTED to leave my work at the office and not bring it home with me. I STARTED to make sure we had family time around the dinner table.
I STARTED playing games with the kids instead of just vegging in front of our iPhones. Now, five years later, it’s totally different; I’ve got the marriage that I’ve always wanted and my kids know me and I know them and I’m involved in their lives. Things are so much better than they were five years ago. God caused all things to work together for good in my life because I loved and trusted Him. So, here is the question for all of us to consider today. What do you need to START in order to tell the story that God wants you to tell? What do you need to START to live a story worthy of telling? And here’s the key, what I want you to do is pick one thing and one thing only, because every single one of you, you’re going to be tempted to do what I’m tempted to do; I look at my life and go, “I need to START like four things or seven things, or nine things!”
And the truth is, if you try to do seven or nine things, new, life-altering things at the same time, you’re not going to do ANY things! You won’t stick with them. That’s just human nature. Just pick one for now and commit to one. Later you can build on that one. You pray, you ask God, “What do you want me to want? What story do you want me to tell?” Then, what discipline do you need to start today to tell that story in the future? Some of you, you might have an insecurity; it might be an overeating problem, it might be an addiction, it might be an inappropriate quest for material things, it might be bad thought processing, it might be unforgiveness, and you need to START receiving some Christian Counseling. You need to submit yourself to someone else who has the wisdom to say, “Here are the lies that you have been believing about yourself and here’s what the Bible actually says about you. You need to START renewing your mind with the Word of God.
You need to start basing your life on TRUTH or you will continue to build your life on lies and stinkin’ thinkin’ and eventually, that bad foundation will bring everything tumbling down. Maybe you need to START going to Christian Counseling. Some of you, you might be married and your marriage is not what it could be or should be. And you know it but you’ve just been floating along, not really doing anything proactive to make it better. You are just hoping it will get better on it’s own. No. That’s not going to happen. You need to START doing something that helps your marriage. You might decide to START praying together, maybe every morning, maybe every evening, maybe both every morning and every evening. It’s amazing what praying together every day will do for your marriage because you can’t be real mad for real long if you’re going to pray together, you’ve got to work things out. It’s difficult to look at pornography when you know you’ve got to pray with your wife later on that day! It’s difficult to hold unforgiveness in your heart when you know you have to pray with your spouse. So maybe that’s the discipline you decide to START. START praying together.
Or it might be to START reading the Bible together, START reading a book together, or maybe you haven’t been alone because you’ve got kids everywhere and you haven’t seen each other without the kids since 1989! And so, maybe you’re going to START a date night every week and it is #1 priority. #1 before your work, #1 before your ministry. It is a set apart time that you hold sacred. It says to your spouse, other than God Himself, YOU are my #1 priority in life. Maybe when you start doing something like that, nothing really changes the very next day. But in five years, you may look back and say ….
“This one time, we STARTED getting totally alone together for two or three hours a day and it totally changed our marriage for the better.” Some of you, when you look at your spiritual life, it’s completely flat. It feels empty. It’s not where it should be. And so, you may decide to start making daily Bible reading, daily devotional reading a real priority. Or you may decide to START making attending church a real priority in your life. Or START making attending a weekly Aloha Group a real priority in your life. Not just going whenever it’s convenient and not just going to go; but to get really involved in it, using your gifts to make a difference in it. Fully engaging in the community. Again, you may not notice much difference the first day or the first week.
But five years from now you will tell a story like this. “This one time, I STARTED making God and the things of God a bigger priority in my life. By obeying God’s commands to read the Bible and participate in Christian community through a regular small group I experienced so much love, joy and acceptance in my life. I have grown so much closer to my Heavenly Father. I understand God and the Bible so much better. I have learned how to love and forgive and I have so much peace in my life now. I discovered God’s vision for my life and I was able to participate in many ministries that made a life changing difference in the lives of so many people. I have really left a positive mark on the world with my life. That could be your story that you share during times of TALK STORY with others. I want to show you one more really cool story and hopefully this will help motivate you to start your discipline today. Let’s look at 1 Kings 20:13-14. This is about King Ahab of Israel. He was faced with a massive enemy army that was making humiliating demands of him. They were taking his wives, his children, his property, the wives and children and property of his people. King Ahab was furious, frustrated, but what could he do? Then, a prophet gave Ahab some big news from God. Let’s look at it.
13 Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” 14 Ahab said, “By whom?” So he said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.’” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” And he answered, “You.” ~ 1 Kings 20:13-14
Let’s say it again! Who will start the battle? YOU! YOU will START the battle. We all have battles to fight. Some are personal battles, some are corporate battles. Whatever your battle, if you trust in the Lord, then God is going to give you victory over your opposition. You will have help along the way, during the battle. Just like Ahab had young fighting men join him in the cause, you won’t fight any battle alone, but only YOU can START the battle.
Maybe now is the time for you to START something new. If you seek God, if you fix your eyes on Jesus you will find that He is the Author and Perfecter of your faith. The Great Author will help you author the right story for your autobiography. He will make you a story worth reading. He will cause all things in your life to work together for your good if you love and trust Him. What’s your story supposed to be? It’s never too late to START!
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~