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Adam Tarnow wraps up the Resolve series discussing three common cultural beliefs about feelings and the importance of resolving to be anchored in the truth of Jesus Christ and His Word.
Resolve to Be Anchored in Truth
Resolve to Deal with Your Baggage
Resolve to Deal with Anger
Resolve to Remove the Myths Around Love and Dating
16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16
Resolve to Pursue Peace as Much as Possible
Resolve to Be Diligent to Stay Together
Resolve to Be in God's Word
Resolve to Do Life Together
Good evening, 5:00. How are we doing? Good. My name is Adam. I'm glad to be here with you guys this evening. Last year, I stumbled across a news story that was one of these news stories that kind of hung with me for a little bit, one I kept thinking about. I thought it would be a good start to where we're going to go tonight and the direction we're going to take tonight as we wrap up this series called Resolve. To get things kicked off tonight, I want you guys to watch this quick video.
Interesting, huh? I'm sure the reaction you guys had as you were watching that was very similar to the reaction I had the very first time I watched that video. I remember watching that the first time, and all of these things were going through my mind, all of these different thoughts, all of these different emotions. At one moment, I was thinking, "This is crazy." Another moment, I'm like, "This is unbelievable. This has to be a joke. Sooner or later, somebody is going to pop up and just say, 'This is a joke.'"
It was shocking. It was sad. It was all of these different things. Maybe that's the same reaction you had as you were just sitting there watching that. The more that video or that story stayed with me, the more I thought about what Jewel had done. The more I got to know part of her story, I now realize… I had this thought that occurred to me. That story actually isn't crazy. It's not unbelievable. It's not shocking. It's not sad.
That story is actually very normal. What I mean by that is she made that decision. Jewel made that decision to make herself blind. She made it for a very specific reason. She alluded to it a little bit in that video. She said, "This was a dream come true." That clip was a little bit longer. It was a little too long to show here tonight. If you would have continued here tonight, she was going to unpack a little bit more later in that video as to why she made this decision.
The decision went like this. From the time she can remember, from the time she was a young girl, felt like she should be blind. In fact, she tells a story about when she was a little girl. She would simulate being blind. She would pretend to be blind and how happy that made her. From the time she was a little girl, she felt like she should be blind.
She felt that way all through her childhood, all through her teenage years, on into her adult years. Then when she started as an adult to think about the future, she could not imagine a future that was happy or fulfilling unless she was blind. Because she felt it and felt it for a really long period of time and could not imagine being happy without it, she then made a very, very dramatic decision, to put drain cleaner in her eyes so she could become blind.
That's normal, because what she did… The normal part of all that is what she did… The primary basis for her decision was not facts. There was no blood test. There was no way to confirm whether or not she actually should have been blind. She had no way to prove if God created her the wrong way. That decision she made was not made based on facts. That decision was made based on feelings. That is normal.
We all do that. Every single one of us in the room here tonight, all of us have done things just like our friend Jewel has done. We have faced situations. We have felt like going places. We have felt like doing things. We have felt like saying things. Those situations were not based on facts. Those situations were based on feelings, and we made decisions too, not based on the truth but based on the way we feel.
Think about this. We do this with romance. Guys, you're talking to somebody, talking to one of your buddies, and he has been dating somebody for a while.
"Hey, how is that relationship going?"
"It's going great."
"Oh yeah? What is going on?"
"I think I love her."
"You think you love her? Why?"
"When we hold hands… Not like this, but when we hold hands like this, I feel so warm on the inside. I feel like I have never felt before. Therefore, I think I'm in love. I think my mom said that is what love feels like. I feel like I'm in love."
We do it with romance. We do it with our jobs. You're thinking about changing your job. "Why are you thinking about changing your job?" "I don't know. I just feel like I need a change. I just feel like my boss is not that much fun to work for. I feel like my boss is against me. My coworkers are not that fun. I just feel like I need a change right now." We do it with jobs. We do it with romance. We do it with our spiritual life.
"How is your relationship with God going?"
"I don't know, Adam. I just feel so far from God right now. I feel like he is disappointed with me. I feel like he is frustrated. I feel like he is up there in heaven right now, and his arms are crossed, and he's just looking down at me, and he's waiting for me to figure it out. He's waiting for me to clean my act up right now. I just feel like he's mad and distant, and I just don't feel connected to him right now." We do that. We do that with our spiritual lives.
We do it with sexuality. "I feel like if we engaged in this activity, it would make us closer. I feel attracted to this gender. I feel like I should be this gender. I feel like God made me the wrong way." Really, when you think about it, the core difference between the faith community and the LGBT movement right now, the core difference between those two communities of people are not the facts of Scripture.
The core difference is not what we think Paul meant in Romans 1 or what he was talking about in 1 Corinthians 6 or 1 Timothy 1 or what Leviticus meant. That is not the core difference between those two communities. The core difference between those two communities right now are feelings and what you do with feelings.
This mindset of letting your feelings drive your decisions is everywhere in our culture right now. It's in the church, and it's outside of the church, and it is all over the place. It is certainly something that every single one of us in this room tonight has done at one time or another. Just because we're susceptible to that doesn't necessarily mean that all of us are going to go to that decision to make ourselves blind, but get this.
If you and I continue to be led by our emotions, if we continue to let our desires and our feelings and our emotions drive every decision that we make, we may not make ourselves physically blind, but what will happen is we will become blind to the truth. When you and I become blind to the truth, we say things we don't want to say. We go places we don't want to go. We do things we do not want to do. It's everywhere, and we all do it.
What I want to do tonight, as we wrap up this series on resolve, is remind us and encourage us that if we're going to fight that, if we're going to not let our feelings drive us everywhere we go, if we're going to not let our emotions take us everywhere we go, then we're going to have to resolve to be anchored in truth. That's what we're going to have to do.
To frame up this conversation for the night, what I want to do is just go through three common beliefs that are out there in our culture right now. They're out there. They're in the church, and they're out there in the culture at large. They're three common beliefs that you and I have about feelings and about emotions. I will give you a quick preview of them.
The first one is going to be, "If it feels right, it must be right." The second one we're going to look at is, "It's cruel or mean to repress or deny any of your feelings." The third one we're going to look at is this idea, "God wants me and you to be happy all of the time." We're going to look at these three common beliefs that are out there, and we're going to compare them to Scripture.
If this is what we believe about emotions, that if it feels right, it must be right, and that it's cruel to ever deny them, and this idea that God wants us to just be happy all of the time, if that is what is driving our decisions, then we're all going to be blind to the truth. This is where we're going, as we resolve to be anchored in the truth. Let's just jump right in.
1."If it feels right, then it must be right." The problem with this belief is what the prophet Jeremiah tells us about our hearts. He gives you and me some incredibly practical advice, some very helpful information about our hearts. Look at what he says here in Jeremiah 17:9. He says, "The heart…" The heart is what we believe to be the source of our emotions. It's the source of our feelings.
Get this. Jeremiah says, "The heart [the source of your emotions and feelings] is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" The prophet Jeremiah gives us some incredibly helpful information right there about our hearts, about this thing, the source of the emotions and feelings that you and I have right there.
He says, "Listen. That thing that can produce those feelings… Sometimes, that thing will lead you astray. Sometimes, it will lead you to go do something you don't want to do, say something you don't want to say, or go somewhere you don't want to go." The prophet Jeremiah is reminding you and me of something we say a lot around here at Watermark.
It produces feelings that are real, but they're just not always reliable. The feelings that it produces are very real. We feel all of them. We feel like acting on all of these things. The problem is those feelings, although they're real, are not always going to lead us toward life. They're not always reliable.
I don't think that's really news to any of us. I think most of us in this room have stories we could share about some time when we let our emotions get the best of us or let our emotions or our feelings lead us toward a decision. We said something we didn't want to say. We did something we didn't want to do. We went somewhere we didn't want to go.
I have this story that just happened to me. I had another reminder in my life just a couple of weeks ago. I just finished up coaching first-grade boys' basketball last week. A couple of weeks ago, there was a game. It was a game that was on a Friday night. We usually had our games on Saturdays, but this one game in our eight-game season was on a Friday night.
I walked into this game on a Friday night. I don't know the way you guys feel on a Friday night, but I'm tired on a Friday night. One of the last things I want to do on a Friday night is go coach first-grade boys' basketball. I showed up to this game on that Friday night, and I was already kind of in a mood that was not all that great.
I knew we were playing one of the better teams in the league. The game started. The first quarter went okay. The score at the end of the first quarter was 4-2. The other team had 4, and we had 2, but I was hopeful. Then the second quarter started, and that's where the wheels just fell off. Everything got crazy. In the second quarter, what I didn't realize was that the other team had left one of their best players on the bench during the first quarter.
Now, he was wrecking shop in the second quarter. The score quickly went from 4-2 to 20-2. I was already in a bad mood, and now I'm really irritated because we are just getting crushed. The boys are getting irritated. They are yelling at each other. They are getting frustrated. They're not trying that hard. There was one sweet little boy on the team who, every time the other team scored, it looked like he was about to cry. That other team was scoring a lot, and I too felt like I was going to cry. I was like, "Dude, I feel you. I feel that."
Halftime rolls. The score at halftime was like 20-2. At this point, I was so irritated by the bad attitude and the frustration that I had seen in the team that I made a speech at halftime to those boys. I don't know if it's the greatest speech a coach has ever made or the worst speech a coach has ever made. I have yet to determine where it falls on that spectrum.
I gathered all of those boys together, and I got down on one knee. I looked at them, and the first words out of my mouth were, "Boys, we are not going to win this game. There is no way we're going to beat this team. They are way better than us. I'm frustrated. The reason I'm frustrated is not because we're losing.
I'm frustrated right now because of the attitude I see out there on the floor. I'm frustrated that you guys are yelling at each other, that you're not encouraging each other, that you guys are pouting while you're out there. That is going to stop. We're not going to win this game, but what we're going to do in the second half is you guys are going to play hard. You're going to encourage your teammates. You're going to have fun. Do you understand?"
Those kids are staring at me, and they're like… The whole season, they would not listen to me say more than three sentences in a row, but right there, they listened to all nine sentences in a row. I was like, "This is good. They're paying attention." The third quarter starts, and the other team comes out. They have both of their best players, and the score quickly goes from 20-2 to 26-4. My team isn't playing any better. Now, I'm just still really irritated.
Then, something happens. Then there is a call by the ref, and the call goes our way, and the coach from the other team decided to challenge the call. That was kind of the tipping point for me. I was already not feeling very good. At that point, I had a lot of feels going on on the inside. The primary feeling I had in that moment watching that coach give that ref a hard time was, "I feel like that coach needs to be shepherded right now, and I feel like God placed me here in this gym to shepherd this brother."
I walk over to this guy, and I'm like, "Hey, actually that was the right call. You're not allowed to hit the ball out of the boy's hand." The only time you can steal is when they're dribbling. He said something and was kind of still pointing at the ref. I just lost it. I was like, "Really, dude? It's 26-4 right now, and you're giving this ref a hard time?" I just kept saying, "It's 26-4."
Mind you, this is the YMCA. Nobody keeps score, but I kept score. I'm sitting there like, "It's 26-4," thinking that somehow, that was going to open his eyes to realize the error of his ways. It did nothing, and I just kind of turned around. I was like, "I'm done." That felt good for about three seconds. About 30 seconds later, I just looked at the boys who were still kind of staring at me like, "What is wrong with Coach Adam?" I'm like, "That was not the right thing to do."
I turned my back on the kids, because the game doesn't matter. I just go over to the coach, and I'm like, "Hey, man. I'm frustrated right now, but I'm not frustrated with you. I'm frustrated with my team. I totally took that out on you, and I should not have taken that out on you. I was disrespectful. I was mean. Will you forgive me for that? I did not mean to do that to you." He was so kind and so gracious and shook my hand, and everything was fine.
We went off, and we lost. It was probably 40-4. It was just terrible. It was terrible, but it was a reminder yet again. It was another example in my life of when I just follow my feelings, when I just do whatever I feel like doing, it oftentimes leads me to say things I don't want to say. That was just one of thousands of stories in my life of when I follow what I think is the right thing to do, the way that seems right to me, when I do that, it doesn't lead me to where I want to go, and I end up saying things I want to say and doing things I do not want to do.
That is not going to lead us toward life. Here is a better alternative. Look at what Solomon says in Proverbs 12:15. He says, "The way of fools seems right to them…" If you and I are going to be people who are letting our feelings guide us all over to go places and do things and say things, Scripture would say there is a description for that. If you do that, you're a fool. "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice."
The wise are not driven and drawn everywhere to say things and to do things and to go places merely by the way they feel. The wise do something different. They are humble, and they listen. They submit themselves to some other advice, some other authority, to go, "The way I'm feeling right now may not lead me where I want to go, so I'm going to listen to something else."
Look at how helpful this is. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are given so much advice. We are given so many things to follow besides just our emotions. Look at this hierarchy of these sources of authority we have going our way. Right there, as we submit to God, one of the most amazing gifts he has given us to guide us as we go through this life so we don't just have to follow our emotions is his Word.
That becomes one of the primary authorities in our life to go, "Which way should I go? What should I do? I'm going to do what lines up with God's Word right now." He has given us the people of God to help guide us. He has given us our minds, so we can think through and reason through different things. He has given us experience, so we can remember, "When I opened up my mouth, when I felt this way and talked, did that go well for me? No." Let's remember that experience.
He has also given us emotion. We're not to ignore emotion. We're not to ignore it. We're just not to raise it to a level where it is becoming a higher authority than it needs to be in our lives. We're to let the Word of God inform our emotion. That's what we're supposed to do. What do we do most of the time? Most of the time, what you and I are prone to do, what the culture does, is we just flip that. We just completely flip that.
The primary basis for the decisions you and I make is emotion. What do we feel like doing right now? When we have all of this emotion, then we start corroborating that with some of our experience. Then we start connecting dots and coming up with justifications and reasons as to why we're going to act this way. I'll tell you what. When we start with emotion and experience and reason, you can always find people who will agree with you.
What is even crazier is when you're starting with emotion to make these decisions and experience and reason, guess what else will agree with you? You can find any verse of the Bible or any passage of Scripture to support any decision you want. What we're supposed to do is we're not supposed to let our emotion drive our theology; we're supposed to let our theology drive and inform our emotions.
The first belief that is out there is, "If it feels right, it must be right." If you and I are going to resolve to be anchored in truth, then the truth of the matter is this. If it feels right, it's not always right. We have to remember that feelings are real, but they're not always reliable.
2."It's cruel to repress your feelings." "It's cruel to not do whatever you want." This is such a huge belief that is out there, especially here in the United States of America, where oftentimes, we have such a distorted view of what it means to be free. We think what it means to be free is that you and I get to do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want.
If anybody ever tells us that we can't do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want, if anybody ever tells us that we have to deny what we're feeling, we feel like that is a violation of our constitutional rights, and we deserve an audience with the president or the Supreme Court or something like that.
The problem with this idea, this thought that it's just cruel to not do whatever you want to do is what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13. Look at what he says here. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man [when I became an adult, when I started to mature] , I put the ways of childhood behind me." The problem with this idea that it is cruel to repress your feelings is what Paul is reminding us of here.
What is the hallmark defining characteristic of a child? The hallmark defining characteristic of a child is that they're impulsive. That's what children do. They just do whatever they feel like doing. They just say whatever they feel like saying. They just go wherever they feel like going. I live with two of them right now. I have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old little boy. Fifty percent of the humans in my household right now just go and do whatever they feel like all the time.
If I were to ask my boys every night, "Hey, boys, what do you feel like having for dinner right now? What do you feel like having for dinner tonight?" they would always give me the answer that lines up with the elf diet from the movie Elf. "Here's what I want. I want candy. If I can't have that, I want candy corns. If I can't have that, I want candy canes. If I can't have that, I just want a big bowl of syrup. That's what I would like to have."
If I asked them that, that would be their answer every single night. My boys are so impulsive. Wherever they find an M&M or a Skittle, on any surface anywhere on the planet, they will just go pick it up, and they will eat it, and they will sit there and brag like, "I found a Skittle." It's just a disgusting, dirty surface they just found it on, and they're bragging to one another about how they did that.
I remember there was a conversation I had with my wife, Jackie, a few years ago. I had just called her in the middle of the day. I just said, "Hey, what is going on? What did you guys do today?" She was like, "Oh, we went to the mall with some other moms. It was fun."
"That's great. What happened while you were there? Was it a good time?"
"Yeah, it was a good time. There was this crazy story that happened. I took Jake to the bathroom."
"You took him to the bathroom. All right. What is crazy about that?"
"Well, I don't know. Next thing I know, I turn around, and he's licking the bathroom floor."
I was like, "Oh, dear Lord. That is your child." I was like, "Oh, my goodness." I thought that was the worst thing I had ever heard until I learned that Jake's friend Bubba had gone through a season where he was drinking out of urinals. I was like, "My boy is scholarship material compared to that. At least he's not drinking out of urinals."
Children have this uncanny ability to walk into any room, and they just go, "What's the dumbest thing I can do right now. Are you thirsty? There's a urinal. Let's go." That's just what they do. That's what children do. Do you know why? Because they're children. They're impulsive. That's why we are in their lives, to keep them alive and shepherd them and show them the path toward maturity. Children just do that. That is the hallmark defining characteristic of a child. They are just following their feelings.
That is why Paul, when he was writing a letter to his protégé, Timothy, reminded him of something very similar that he wrote to the church in Corinth. He said in 2 Timothy 2:22, "Flee [run from] the evil desires of youth…" Run from that thought or those desires that say, "Just do whatever it is you feel like doing." Turn your back on that. Run and go the other direction. "…and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
I mean, think about it. Imagine it. What would you do every single day if you just woke up and did whatever you felt like doing? What would your day look like? I have put some thought into this for myself. I know exactly what I think the average day would look like for me if I just woke up and just did whatever I wanted to do.
First of all, the day would start around 11:00. Then, I would have two or three cups of coffee. I would have some doughnuts, maybe some Apple Jacks, maybe some Golden Grahams. I would then go to the store. I would buy a six-pack of IBC. I would get a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars, because they're the greatest. I would get those. I would buy some watermelons. I would also get a package of water balloons.
I would drive over here to Watermark, and I would go up to the tower, and I would get on the roof of that tower. I would take my shirt off. I would start to get some sun. I would open up those root beers. I would start drinking those root beers. I would start eating those Nutty Bars. After a while, I would just start chucking those watermelons off the roof and just watching them splatter, because that is cool. That is just fun.
Then I would fill up all of those water balloons, and I would get some launcher, and I would just try to hit the buildings across the parking lot with the water balloon launcher. Then when I was bored with that, I would go get a bunch of Torchy's queso and just go home and watch Netflix all night. That's what I would do every single day, because that would be awesome, but I've never lived a day like that. I've never done that.
Here is the truth of the matter, guys. As followers of Jesus Christ, Jesus made it crystal clear that a normal part of following after him is going to involve denying certain feelings. It's a normal part of following him. Look at what he says here in Luke 9. "Whoever wants to be my disciple…" Jesus is saying, "Whoever wants to be my student, whoever wants to follow after me…" "Whoever wants to be my disciple must…" This is not a suggestion; this is a command. Look at what he says here. "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…"
You must understand that your heart, this thing that is deceitful, is going to produce ideas. It's going to produce feelings. It's going to produce some thoughts. There are going to be things you're going to want to do, things you're going to want to say, and places you're going to want to go. You must, at times, deny those. "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." It's just right there. It's clear.
A rule of thumb that has never led me astray is this. Let's say you're going through life. Let's say you go home tonight, and you have a feeling. That feeling and this desire… You're thinking about saying something, doing something, going somewhere. The question to ask yourself is, "This thing I'm thinking about doing, saying, or this place I'm thinking about going, does it line up with Scripture? Does it line up with God's Word?"
If it does, then go for it. Follow that feeling. Follow that desire. That will not lead you astray if it lines up with God's Word, but if these feelings and desires… If you're thinking about doing something or saying something or going somewhere, and it doesn't line up with Scripture, that's when you deny it. You just ignore it. You go, "This is a time where Jeremiah told me my heart is leading me astray."
If you don't know if it's something that lines up or something that doesn't line up, then just seek counsel. Solomon also tells us in Proverbs 15:22, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." If you don't know which side of the spectrum these desires are falling on, then seek some counsel.
The first belief that was out there was, "If it feels right, it must be right." If we're going to be anchored in truth, then we understand that the truth of the matter is that our feelings are real, but they're not always reliable. The second belief that is out there is, "It is cruel to repress your feelings." If you and I are going to be anchored in truth, we remember that the truth is that it is not cruel to repress your feelings.
Jesus doesn't say that because he's being mean. He's saying that be he wants to lead us toward life. It's not cruel to repress your feelings. That's just maturity. It's not oppressive to repress your feelings. That's freedom. That's just part of growing up if you and I want to be resolved to be anchored in truth.
3."God wants me to feel good all the time." "He just wants me to be happy, just wants everything to work out. That's what he wants. That's the goal. That's the way he designed this relationship with him to work out." If you're in here tonight, and that is the brand of Christianity that somebody sold you…
If somebody sold you that and said, "Hey, come on. Come follow Jesus. He forgives your sins. He makes you happy, and everything works out. All of your relationships work out, and you just feel awesome all of the time," I am so sorry. I'm so sorry if somebody sold you that brand of Christianity because it's just not true.
If it were true, we would have seen that perfectly lived out and perfectly emulated in the person of Jesus Christ, and we would have seen that in the Gospels. If you have spent any time reading the Gospels, you know that was not the way you would describe Jesus' life, as just happy-go-lucky, and everything is just nice, and it's just roses and rainbows and unicorns everywhere.
You read through the Gospels, and you see that Jesus experienced grief. He experienced sorrow. He experienced hurt. He experienced frustration. He experienced all of the ups and all of the downs just like you and me. God didn't design this relationship with the goal to be just feeling happy all of the time. That's not what he's looking for from you and me, that we're just so joyful all the time.
Do you know what he's looking for? He's not looking for that. What he is looking for you and me to do is he's looking for you and me to trust him all of the time. Look at what Solomon says here in Proverbs 3. He says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…" Don't lean the way of whatever you're thinking or feeling. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."
He's not looking for you and me to be happy all the time. He's looking for you and me to trust him all of the time. Here is why this is so important. This is so important. If you and I don't get our arms around this, if we don't understand that the goal isn't to feel a certain way but is to trust all of the time, if we don't get our arms around this, here is what's going to happen.
Sooner or later, you and I are just going to give up this whole thing of following after Jesus. We're just going to give up. If what we think this is all about is just chasing a feeling, then what is going to happen is that you and I are going to be addicted to events. We're going to be chasing after experiences. Our whole existence of following after God is going to be looking for mountaintop experiences.
We're going to be looking for that next sermon, that next book, that next camp, that next trip we can go on, that next CD we can buy, that next experience we can have. What we're looking for is we're really not looking for God. What we're looking for is we're looking for a feeling. If that's what we're looking for, if we're looking for mountaintop after mountaintop after mountaintop, you're going to wear yourself out. Do you know why? Because life on the top of the mountain is unsustainable. That's not the goal.
The goal is not just to feel awesome all of the time. The goal is to trust him all of the time. Look at this image. I have this image to kind of illustrate some of this just a little bit more. I think a lot of times, we're prone to think the way God designed our relationship with him is to be like the relationship that motorcycles or cars have with a gas station.
A motorcycle or a car… The relationship they have with a gas station is they show up every once in a while. They show up, and they get filled up with fuel, and then they go, go, go. They maybe go for a day. They maybe go for a week. They maybe go for a couple of weeks. They maybe go for 100 miles, maybe 200, maybe 300. Maybe, if you have a hybrid, you go 500 or 600 miles. Sooner or later, those motorcycles and those cars have to return back to the gas station so they can get fuel again. Then they go, go, go. Then they return. Then they go.
I think a lot of times, we think that is the way God designed this relationship with him to work. It's just one event. You fill up, and then you go. Then you need another one. Then you go. Then you need another one. That is not the way he designed this relationship. A better example of the way he designed this relationship with us to work with him is not actually the motorcycles and the cars. Do you know what it is is? It is those lights.
Do you know what those are? Those are solar-powered lights. A better example is the way God wants our relationship to be with him is the relationship that those lights have with the sun. Those lights are there. They're there in all the seasons, when it rains. They're there when it's sunny. They have that solar panel right there at the top. They're there every single day, every moment of every day, they're face up, and they're drawing their energy from the sun.
That is a better picture of the way God designed our relationship with him. Jesus would say it this way in John 15. He would say that he is the vine, and we are the branches. We are to abide with Jesus every single day. We are to stay connected with him. Here is what this looks like. It looks like… You wake up in the morning, and it's not just, "Here is a quiet time. Here is a quick prayer. Now, I'm going to go live my life."
What this looks like is you wake up in the morning, and you realize that when you woke up, God has given you yet another day to steward. Maybe you spend some time with him in the morning, and you talk with him in the morning. Then you realize that relationship is ongoing. It's not done. He's with you there with you eat breakfast. He's there when you get ready for work. He's there when you walk your kids to school.
He's there when you walk into that office. He's there when you're in that meeting. He's there when you're answering those emails, when you're working on those reports, when you're working on that spreadsheet, when you go to lunch with your coworkers, when you have those meetings in the afternoon, when you go to the gym after work. He's there.
When you come home at night and have dinner with your family and read your kids a story at the end of the night or are hanging out with your roommates at the end of the night, when you're making decisions on what you're going to watch that night, and when you go to sleep, he is there. You're constantly connected to him, talking to him and aware of him every moment of every single day.
The belief that, "God just wants me to feel good all the time," is not the truth. God is not looking for that. God is looking for you to trust him all of the time. If it feels right, it may not be right. We want to be anchored in truth. We remember that our feelings are real, they're just not always reliable. It's not cruel to repress your feelings. That's not cruel. When you want to be anchored in truth, you just recognize and realize that's just a normal part of following after Jesus. That's just a normal part of growing up and being mature.
The last belief is this thought that God wants us to feel good all the time. If you want to be anchored in truth, you know that is not true. He's not looking for me to just feel a certain way. He's looking for me to trust him. I'll close with this last story. It's probably one of the best examples I've seen of this lately in my life.
My friends Daniel and Kelly Crawford… Some of you guys know Daniel. He's on staff here at Watermark. He serves with me on the College Team. Jon Abel has been out a little bit over the summer. Jon Abel was out, and Daniel led worship, and he shared some of his story. That's how some of you may know Daniel.
Daniel and Kelly, in May of last year, got some exciting news. They found out they were pregnant for the first time. They were all excited. They found out at the end of May that they were going to have their first baby. All of the emotions and all of the excitement went along with that as they started to dream about what life as a family of three was going to be like.
Then they went to an appointment with a doctor in mid-July. At this appointment, everything was going fine. At this appointment, they had an opportunity for Kelly just to do a simple blood test. The blood test was primarily so they could find out the gender of their baby a little bit early, so they didn't have to wait for the 20-week sonogram. They just said, "Let's find out the gender of the baby early."
The doctor told them, "We'll find out the gender, and we'll also do some high-level screening for some potential genetic disorders, but it's primarily so we'll let you know in about a week or so what gender of baby you're going to have. Mid-July, a week or so goes by. They get the phone call. It's the doctor.
They say, "Hey, we got the bloodwork back. Good news. You're having a boy. Remember how we told you we screened for some high-level genetic disorders? Unfortunately, you tested positive for one of those. It looks like your boy has this condition called trisomy 18." I think it's sometimes called Edwards syndrome. "He has a third copy of his eighteenth chromosome."
All of the conventional wisdom and all of the doctors and the experts at that moment would just say, "This is incompatible with life both inside the womb and outside of the womb." Conventional wisdom would tell them… The suggestions were made. "Here is what we think you should do. We think you should terminate this pregnancy and just try again."
Daniel and Kelly got this news, and they were crushed, just devastated, heartbroken. We all were. Nobody expects this to happen. They listened to the conventional wisdom, and it wasn't even a decision for them. What they knew was true at the moment is that their son Abel was alive. Abel was alive, so there was really no choice about terminating that life because Abel was alive right then and there, and he was being knit together perfectly in Kelly's womb by this God.
What Daniel and Kelly did in that moment is they said, "We're not going to do that. We're going to fight, and we're going to stand for Abel's life, and we're going to seek to steward this life as best as we can." What is remarkable to me is I watched them when they willingly made that decision to walk head first into a storm. There were so many unknowns with that situation.
They didn't know if they were going to miscarry. They didn't know if Abel was going to make it to full term. If he did make it to full term, they didn't know if he was going to be born stillborn. They didn't know, if he was born alive, how long he would be alive. Would it be hours? Would it be days? Would it be weeks? Would it be months? Would it be years?
There were so many unknowns, and they were anxious, and they were sad. They said, "You know what? God, we trust you." They chose to go head first into that storm. What they did… From my perspective, they just said, "God, here is our heart. Here is our heart, Lord. What we need right now is we need you to speak what is true."
By the grace of God, Abel made it to 39 weeks, one week shy of full term. on January 22 of this week, Abel Paul came into this world. He was born. I remember I had an opportunity the day he was born, that Friday, to go up to the hospital. They were out of the labor and delivery room, and they were up in their room.
I remember walking into that room on Friday afternoon, and that room was full of friends and family. I walked in there, and that room was heavy. There was a tension and just kind of a thickness in that room that you could cut through. It was a tense moment. I remember walking in there and looking at all of the faces of the friends and the family who were in that room.
Then I looked at Daniel and Kelly, and they were beaming. Their faces were so bright. They were like, "Come on over. Do you want to hold him?" I was like, "Yeah, I want to hold him. I've been praying for this kid every day. I want to hold him." I got to go over there, and I got to hold Abel. He was an amazing-looking little boy.
Daniel and Kelly were just overcome with joy because this child who they didn't even know if they were going to get to meet him, this child they had been waiting 39 weeks to meet face to face, was right there in their arms. They stayed in the hospital for a couple of days. Then they got to go home, and they got to be a family.
Abel's body was sick. It just wasn't well. After 15 days of being at home, on February 6, one month ago today… It was a Saturday morning, about 6:00 a.m. In the arms of Kelly, in the arms of his mom, Abel passed away and went to be with Jesus. They went from one storm right head first into another storm.
Here it is. As they walked into this storm, they did the same thing they did when they walked into the other storm. They reminded themselves of what was true. They reminded themselves, "Lord, you numbered Abel's days. You knew about them long before we knew about him, and you knew he was going to be on a mission for about 15 days.
Lord, we know you're good and that you don't give out bad gifts. We know that if we ask for bread, you don't give us a stone. We know that if we ask for a fish, you don't give us a snake. You only know how to give good gifts. Lord, we know that your ways are infinitely different than ours. We're walking into this storm again. We're devastated that our son has died, but here is our heart. Will you please speak what is true?"
A couple of weeks later, on February 17, we all came in this room, friends and family, people who had been tracking with them and their story. We came in this room, and we had this celebration of life that Daniel and Kelly had planned. It was such a great afternoon. Todd was here, and he spoke, and JP spoke, and Daniel and Kelly came up here, and they spoke.
There was this moment near the end of this service. We were singing this song, "Though You Slay Me." It was written by Shane & Shane. It was inspired by the story of Job, where Job said, "Lord, though you slay me, I trust in you." We're all singing this song, and we're all sitting. Daniel and Kelly are sitting right over here. I was sitting right over there near the back. I was watching this.
I just remember I was overcome with grief and sadness just thinking of my friends, feeling guilty that I have two boys who are healthy who I get frustrated with sometimes, and feeling guilty that I know how Daniel and Kelly would love to be frustrated with Abel one day, and they're not going to have that chance. I was just overcome with sadness.
We're singing this song. "Though you slay me, I trust in you." Out of the corner of my eye, I see two people stand up. I'm like, "Who is standing up right now?" I look over, and guys, it's Daniel and Kelly. They stood up. They were singing, "Though you slay me, Lord, I trust you." They're leading. They stood up, and we all stood up, and they led us in worship, as we just sang over and over, "God, though you slay me, I trust in you."
I just had this thought. "Who does that?" Who does that? Who stands up at their son's funeral and sings out to God, "Though you slay me, I trust in you." Who celebrates life? Who sings at a funeral? What kind of people do that? I'll tell you the kind of people who do that. People who are anchored in truth. That's who does that.
In that moment when Daniel and Kelly stood up, do you know what they were being like? They were being like those solar-powered lights. They were doing what they had always been doing, just seeking to abide with the Lord. In that moment, they were being an incredible light. In their life now, as they continue to be able to steward this story, they are an amazing light in a world that can be very, very tragic and really dark sometimes.
They were abiding. The fact of the matter is they made the decision long before they knew about Abel that they were going to trust in this God who also knows pain. They were worshipping a God who knows exactly what it feels like to lose a son. They were standing and worshipping a God and saying, "I trust in you," because that God knows exactly what it is like to walk head first into a storm.
Because they were anchored in truth, they were able to stand and worship in the midst of one of the most tragic and sad moments of their lives. What we believe about God matters. Just because it feels right doesn't mean it is right. If you and I want to be anchored in truth, then we remember that our feelings are real; they're just not always reliable.
It's not cruel to repress our feelings sometimes. If you and I want to be anchored in truth, we remind ourselves that we do that, and that's just normal. That's just growing up. That's just being a follower of Christ. It's not true that the goal of this life is just to feel good all of the time. If you and I want to be anchored in truth, we remind ourselves and remember that the goal is to abide and to trust him all of the time. Amen? Amen. Let's pray and thank him for that.
Lord, thank you for your truth. Thank you, God, that you love us. Thank you that you have not left us alone just to wallow in our feelings. Thank you, Lord, that we don't have to just follow what we're feeling and just be tossed back and forth by the waves of our emotions. God, there are a lot of us in this room tonight who are going through some storms like my friends Daniel and Kelly have been going through.
They feel like they're just being tossed back and forth. I pray, Lord, that you will anchor them. I pray that all of us would be anchored in your truth, that we won't be tossed back and forth. I pray that we will abide with you daily. When we do that, Lord, we too can be like our friends. We too can be a light in this world that can be, at times, very, very cruel and very, very dark. That is our prayer, Lord. That's what we ask. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
We've been talking about Daniel and Kelly's story around staff the past couple of weeks and other storms in other families that we know are going on around here. We've been just reminding ourselves on staff of just this idea or thought that your theology matters. Theology matters. Every single one of us in the room tonight… We're all theologians.
We all have ideas about God. What you believe and what you think about God matters. Theology matters. Here is why it matters. It doesn't matter so you and I can be smart, and it doesn't matter so we can answer questions on a test. Theology matters because it determines the way you live. It matters.
If you're in here tonight and you don't know this God we're singing about, if you don't know this God we worship even in the deepest valleys of life, if you don't know how much he loves you and that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die for you, there will be some people up here tonight who would love to have a conversation with you and tell you more about this amazing God and the love he has for you and his Son, Jesus. Come.
If you're in here tonight, and you just feel like you're in a storm, and you just feel like you've been tossing back and forth by all of those emotions, and you just need somebody just to pray with you to just help you and to remind you to resolve to be anchored in that truth, come. We would love to help you and talk to you and pray for you.
We're so glad you guys came and hung out with us this evening and trusted us with a little bit of your time. We really, really appreciate that. You guys go and have a great week of worship.