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 two: It’s Time To STOP Something
Today we are in the second week of a four-week series called “TALKSTORY: Telling the Story of You.” We said last week that we all have had parts of our life story we love to tell, don’t we? We could tell those stories over and over again. We also said, unfortunately, we also have some parts of our story we are not so proud to tell. We would kind of be glad if nobody EVER heard those stories. In fact, maybe there are whole chapters we would just like to be able to rip out and burn to make sure nobody ever saw them. The reality of course, is we can’t change what has already been written about our story but the good news is our future story is yet to be written. It can go any direction we want it to go.
That’s what we are talking about in this series, the decisions that we will make that will write our future story. Five years from now we are going to say, “You know what, this one time… and then we are going to tell our story and we want that to be part of our great life story, a great page-turner of the story of our life. So one of the main principles of this series is
“The decisions we make today, determine the stories we’ll tell tomorrow.”
Would you say that aloud with me? “The decisions we make today, determine the stories we’ll tell tomorrow.” It is so important for us to realize what we decide today is going determine the stories we tell about our lives tomorrow. Here’s another great principle for you,
“Direction, not intention, determines destination.”
Let me say that again, “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” Isn’t that a great principle?
The DIRECTION your story is actually moving will ultimately DETERMINE your DESTINATION. It’s not about what you intend to say someday, it’s not about what you intend to do someday. It’s not about what you MEANT to say or MEANT to do. It’s the actual direction that you are heading in today, right now. That is what is going to determine your destination. Another way I like to remind myself of this is that
The smallest good deed, still outweighs the greatest good intention.
The smallest good deed, still outweighs the greatest good intention. We say, you know what, I meant to do such and such but I didn’t. I was planning on doing such and such but I didn’t. I intended to do such and such but I didn’t. Those sentiments are worth absolutely nothing because the smallest good deed, still outweighs the largest good intention and direction, not intention, determines destination. The way we are living, will ultimately determine the story we will tell. Not what we intended to do, but what we actually did, that’s what makes the difference.
So that’s why in my life lately, the last few of weeks especially, I really been trying to do this new discipline in my life where I try to take the decisions that I am making and play them forward in my mind. Then I ask myself, if I continue down this road, if I keep doing what I am doing right now, what story am I going to end up telling? If I continue to make these same decisions, continue to take these same actions, and continue to think these same thoughts, what story am I likely to tell five years from now? Then, if I don’t like the answer that I come up with, I realize I need to immediately STOP doing some of the things I am doing. I need to stop going in that direction and I need to start doing something different.
Because — “Direction, not intention, determines destination, and the smallest good deed still outweighs the greatest good intention.” So last week we talked about starting, one time it was time to START something. We each tried to identify one new discipline we need to start so that we could tell the story we really want to tell in our life, five years from now. This one time, I STARTED doing something…. Today, I want to challenge you on the flip side of that, to decide to stop something. Maybe we need to stop something that we know we are doing that isn’t good for us, or isn’t good for others around us. We need to STOP! This part of our life story goes like this, this one time, it was time for me to stop doing something.
I wish I could show you this wonderful MadTV sketch starring comedy legend Bob Newhart. Since we are live streaming, we can’t legally do that. I’ll quickly summarize it but you really owe it to yourself to go find it on YouTube. It’s hilarious and my mini summary will not be. Just Google Bob Newhart, Mad TV, Stop It and you will find it. Essentially, the premise is, Bob is playing a psychiatrist and a new patient comes in. She shares several different fears and compulsive habits she has. She’s terrified of being buried alive in a box. She thinks about it constantly. It is ruining her life. Bob’s expert psychiatric advice? Stop it! Just stop it. As she rolls through several problems she is having Bob continues to advise her to just Stop it! It’s that easy, right? Just stop it! She tells Bob she’s going to need a little more incentive to stop doing all of these compulsive behaviors. So he tells her “Stop it or I will bury you alive in a box!” Stop it. Of course, sometimes, the solution to a problem behavior in our life really is that simple, it’s something we can just stop it, it’s simple. It just takes a force of the will.
“Direction, not intention, determines destination, and the smallest good deed still outweighs the greatest good intention.” That doesn’t mean it is easy to stop a bad habit or a compulsive behavior. It may not happen overnight. It may take a lot of hard work. it may take commitment, perseverance, the support of loved ones, it may actually take professional help from doctors or counselors to successfully stop something sometimes. Someone who has better advice than Stop it or I will bury you alive in a box. So we don’t want to make light of anybody’s struggles. We know people really do struggle with some very difficult addictive and compulsive issues and it’s certainly not easy to just instantly stop it. But listen. Listen to me now. Don’t miss this. Don’t miss this. Everything worth doing is hard to do. Everything worth stopping can be hard to stop. But the Bible says there is no addiction, no bad behavior, no damaging thought patterns that can’t be overcome with God’s help. There is nothing that you are doing or thinking that can’t be stopped with God’s help. That’s what the Bible says. Isn’t that good news? AMEN! YAY GOD!
So I want to challenge you to think about your life today, the story of you, and think about is there anything I need to stop? This one time, it was time for me to stop … what? What is the rest of that sentence for you? As you begin to prayerfully ponder what it is that you need to stop, let’s look at a story from the Old Testament about Moses. I think some of you will probably be able to relate to this. It’s the story of feeling weary. It’s the story of feeling exhausted. It’s the story of feeling overextended. It’s the story of feeling overwhelmed. So those of you who have been single parents and have been overwhelmed, you can relate to this.
Some of you, maybe you have a draining job, where you just can’t get it all done by the end of the office day, so you always end up taking work home with you, you can relate to this. Those of you who are full-time students and trying to work a thirty-hour a week job on top of school to keep the bills paid, you can relate to this story. Those of you who have been through the death of a parent and the downsizing of the other parent’s life and the later catch-up of your professional life, and then an evacuation of your village due to fire can relate to this. So here’s Moses and Moses felt overextended, overwhelmed, exhausted, and weary. In fact, he was overloaded by all of these problems that all of the people were bringing to him to solve for them. They were trying to get him to handle all of their different disputes and it was wiping him out. There just wasn’t enough of him to go around. So Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes up to him and in love, he basically says to him —- stop it. He said, you’re going to have to stop doing what you are doing or it’s all going to hit the fan.
So here’s the advice Jethro gave to Moses, let’s look at Exodus 18:17 and following,
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. ~ Exodus 18:17
What you are doing is not good. We all need someone like that in our lives sometimes. Someone who loves us and cares about us, and is willing to say the hard things to us. It’s time for you to stop it and I am going to help you stop it. So what if I came up to you today, in love, and I said to you, you know what, this thing that you are doing is not good, it’s not good for your future story. What you are doing is not good.
You’ve got a habit, a mindset, an addiction, an attitude, a thought process, you’ve got someTHING in your life, you’ve got someONE in your life, that is not good for your future story. What you are doing is not good, so stop it. And in verse 18 Jethro tells him
18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. This work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen to me now and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. ~ Exodus 17:18-19
I’m going to give you some wise advice and may God be with you. And then he says, okay Moses, new game plan, I advise you to choose some capable leaders and train them to handle some of these disputes for you. I advise you to choose some that will be leaders of thousands of people, some that will be leaders over hundreds, some to be leaders over fifties, and some that will be leaders over tens. Not everyone has the same level of leadership skills. Choose wisely. Then whenever problems arise, here is what I want you to do, I want you to delegate your authority to them to handle MOST of those issues and you only take care of the really important ones, the really difficult ones and it will work out much better for everyone. Then he says if you do this, verse 22
…That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” ~ Exodus 17:22-23
It’s going to be better for everybody all around, if you will just stop what you are doing this thing that is not good and start doing something different. Isn’t that wise advice? Another way to think of this wise advice is:
Only do what only you can do.
Only do what only you can do. Otherwise, you’ll stretch yourself too thin. You’ll burn out. You’ll have a meltdown. Stop it. It’s time for you to stop doing this. So the good news is, Moses listened to his father-in-law and he stopped trying to do everything by himself. This one decision to stop doing something was integral to the rest of his life story. The rest of his amazing life story of serving God and leading the people of Israel likely would have been cut short if he didn’t stop his destructive behavior that he was engaging in here is Exodus 18. The decisions we make today, determine the stories we’ll tell tomorrow. — Direction, not intention, determines destination. — The smallest good deed, still outweighs the greatest good intention. Sometimes that good deed is a good deed for yourself. Stop beating yourself up.
So here is what I want to challenge all of us to do today, to think of one thing, just one thing only, trying to stop too many things at once doesn’t work. Think of one thing that you are doing in your life that is not good for your future story. I want to challenge you to confess that one thing to God and ask Him to help you to stop doing that thing. “God help me stop it.” I’ll give you two excellent reasons why it is good to stop those kinds of things.
TWO REASONS TO STOP IT
1) If you don’t stop what you are doing you might miss out on something much better.
Let me say that again, if you don’t stop what you are doing you might miss out on something much better. Or you may have heard it expressed this way, if you keep on doing what you’ve always done you will keep on getting what you always got. Right? If you are doing something like Moses was doing, something that is not good, that means you are also missing out on what you would be receiving if you were doing something different, if you were doing something that was good instead.
When you stop doing that “not good thing,” that’s when you discover “Wow I’m not feeling overwhelmed anymore!” You say “I feel like I’ve got some margin in my life again. I’ve got a little bit of free time in my life again.” Or maybe you would say, I’ve got some financial funds available to me now because I stopped doing that thing. This one time, I stopped blowing my money on lesser things. Now, my cash flow is so much better. This one time I stopped participating in a toxic relationship and now my relationships are so much better. I have so much more joy and happiness in my life now. There is no more arguing, no more screaming matches, no more hurt feelings and tears and loneliness. Or maybe you story goes like this, this one time I stopped drinking, stopped doing drugs, stopped overeating, stopped eating junk, stopped staying up all night and now I have so much more energy, I can breathe better and I can sleep better and I have less physical pain. Don’t miss this. Listen. The first reason to stop it …. 1) If you don’t stop doing what causes those negative situations you may miss out on something much better.
The second reason that it is a good idea to stop it is
2) You don’t know what it will cost you if you don’t stop.
You don’t know what it will cost. If you are doing something like Moses was doing, something that is not good for you, but you don’t stop it, you keep on doing it anyway, you keep on going forward, you have no idea what that could cost you in the long run. You think about Moses and you just play his story forward, what could have possibly happened to him if he had continued to overwhelm himself in this way and just push it too hard day after day after day, ignoring the advice of Jethro? We see it all the time in our world today, what could have happened to him? Well, he could have gotten very sick physically.
You look at workaholics that we know, you can get very sick physically, you can get very sick mentally, emotionally. Moses could have had a nervous breakdown. He could have been struck with clinical depression, he could have become suicidal. Moses could have done what many of my pastor friends in America unfortunately do, they go far too hard for far too long and they carry the weight of the entire world on their shoulders because they believe that is what’s expected of them by their congregations and what’s expected of them by God. They just go and go and go and go, and they never take any time to rest and then one day what happens is they just don’t get out of bed. They just curl up in a ball and cry for days on end. And many of them end up leaving the ministry, chewed up and spit out by the church, never again to return. It’s a heartbreaking thing to watch and it happens to pastors all over America all the time.
That could have happened to Moses if he had refused to stop. The other thing that could have happened to Moses is that he could have gotten mad at God about the whole thing. And said God, You are putting this unfair pressure on me, these are Your stupid people, and I’m so sick of dealing with their excuses, their attitudes and their grumbling. So, You know what, forget them God and forget You too God. I quit, I quit ministry, You know what? I quit You. That could have happened. I’ve seen it happen to other believers before because they ignored the signs that what they were doing was not good and they needed to stop. So, Moses, who we all know was a great man of faith, even Moses, could have ended up walking away and saying you know what, it’s just too much. Forget about it. I’m not going to lead people anymore.
And his story could have ended up being totally, completely different all because he was unwilling to stop doing what was not good. There’s no telling what it would have cost him and us in the future if he hadn’t been willing to stop. So what I want to ask you to do tonight is think about what is not good in your life right now. And then play that story forward if you don’t stop. What’s going to happen? Where’s this going? Remember, “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” So what’s the direction of your story right now, not what you intend to do but what are you actually doing? Play it forward. Now, I might get a little overly dramatic in this exercise but I mean to be because it serves a point.
So let’s think about for example this issue of taking care of our bodies. The Bible calls our bodies the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You know, I have been very transparent about this, this is my primary issue and struggle in life is I eat my feelings, right. Some of us have excellent nutrition and physical fitness routines and so this doesn’t apply to some of you. For some of us it does. For some of us we know what we are doing is not good and if we don’t stop it what’s it going to cost us? If we keep on overeating, if we keep doing that without any change, we just keep overeating and keep ignoring our bodies what’s going to happen? What’s our future story going to look like? Or maybe if we keep on smoking, or we keep on drinking to excess, or we keep on using drugs, or we keep on abusing our body in some other way, if we don’t stop what we’re doing and we play that story forward what’s going to happen? What’s our life story going to be?
It could be, you don’t get to walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding because you are dead before that day. Or make you don’t get to see your grandkids anymore because you’re dead. Or maybe you aren’t alive when your grandkids finally make an appearance. You’re not there to bounce them on your knees. Maybe you end up battling the last twenty years of your life with so many severe health issues that medical bills blow through your entire life’s savings.
You leave your spouse with incredible medical debt, all because of the decisions you kept making and your refusal to stop those destructive choices. Just play the story forward in your mind.
Maybe you have a situation, you keep on partying with this really wild group of friends. They just party like there’s no tomorrow. You play that story forward and you’ve seen some of it before. Some of us are old enough to have seen this many times in our life, one of those friends gets a DUI, one of those friends ends up in jail, one of them gets in a fistfight, another one gets in a knife fight. They take their chemical addictions into their marriage and destroy their marriage over a ten or twenty-year painful period. You just play the story forward and you just know how it is going to work out. Keep overspending, maybe that’s the story. Just keep spending more than you make and you keep racking up a debt on the twenty-four percent interest cards. you dig a debt hole so deep it feels overwhelming, it feels impossible to ever climb back out. You play that story forward and you say where’s that going to lead? Bankruptcy? Homelessness? Sorry family. I just couldn’t stop overspending on minor things and now one major unexpected thing has hit us and we don’t have any savings to cover our bases.
Now let’s pause, let’s backtrack and talk about last week. Remember the big question we’re asking is what does God want you to want. This isn’t just about what I want my story to be, what does God want my story to be, what does God want my life to be? If you believe in God, then the chances are you can say, you know what, there’s probably something in my life that’s different than what God really wants for my life, different than what I’m doing, better than what I’m doing. In light of that answer of what God wants you to want, then what do you need to stop doing? What do you need to empty your life and hands of so you have room to fully receive what God wants you to have? What is it that God is telling you stop, that what you’re doing is not good. What decision to stop do you need to make today in order to be able to tell the right story, the better story, the happy ending story tomorrow. This one time it was time for me to stop, what?
Some of you, you need to stop some external behavior. Some of you need to stop some internal behavior. The most dangerous force in the world is not our external nature but our internal nature. That’s what gets us into the most trouble. So maybe that’s your situation, you need to stop a bad attitude, or you need to stop a critical spirit, or you need to stop worrying, stop being fearful or stop your negative self-talk. Or maybe you need to stop some external behavior. Maybe you need to stop doing drugs? Maybe you need to stop getting drunk. Maybe you need to stop overspending. Maybe you need to stop being so critical of others. Maybe you need to stop overworking yourself. Maybe you need to stop watching so much TV or stop having your face glued to your iPhone. Maybe you need to stop subjecting yourself to a toxic relationship.
Maybe you need to stop being the toxic one in the relationship. Maybe you need to stop eating junk food. Maybe you need to stop eating your feelings. Maybe you need to stop re-visiting that bad thing that so and so said, or that bad thing so and so did. Maybe you need to stop holding on to the grudge. I’m not saying you automatically trust that person fully again and open yourself up to getting hurt by them even worse, I’m just saying it time to [PASTOR G SINGS] Let it go, let it go! Right? Holding onto that pain is not good, stop it. We all need to stop something. What do you need to stop in order to tell the story with your life that God wants your life to tell? What is the story of you, one time, supposed to be?
So as we close tonight let’s look at Hebrews 12:1, this is the verse that occurs right before our theme verse for this series and then we are going to flow right into our theme verse. The author of Hebrews says :
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2
When you fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him be the author of your life story, when He is the one Talking Story about you, that’s when life really changes for the better. That’s when you find the power to start something new – like we talked about last week. And that’s when you also find the power stop it, whatever that is for you.
Why does it really matter? Because “The decisions we make today, determine the stories we’ll tell tomorrow.” It’s because “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” It’s because the smallest good deed still outweighs the greatest good intention. It’s because If you don’t stop doing what causes those negative situations you may miss out on something much better. It’s because You don’t know what it will cost you if you don’t stop. Your retirement, your health, your home, your family, your career, your sanity, your peace, your faith. If you are doing anything that is jeopardizing any of that, it’s time for you to stop something. Stop it. If we’re writing the wrong story of our life, if our current life story isn’t what we want it to be, if it isn’t what we know God wants it to be, then we need to look at some of these things we are doing that are not good and we need to stop. We need to stop it!
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~