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8_The Prayer of Blessing

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THE PRAYER OF BLESSING

The Lord’s Prayer: Path To Inner Peace

Part 8 of  8

Rick Warren

August 10-11, 2002

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”  Matt. 6:13 (KJV)

HOW TO BE BLESSED BY GOD

1.   GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO _______________________

      “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well!”  Matt. 6:33 (NIV)

      “...He will give them to you if you give him first place in you life.”      Matt. 6:33 (LB)

 

WHERE DOES GOD WANT FIRST PLACE?

In my...

                      F______________  (Pr. 3:5-6)

 

                      I ______________  (1 Cor. 10:31)

                      R ______________  (2 Cor. 6:14))

                      S ______________  (Ps. 90:10)

                      T ______________  (Ps 50:15)

 

     

2.  GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO _______________________

      “You bless all who depend on you for their strength.”  Psalm 84:5a (CEV)

      “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”  Gal. 3:9 (NIV)

HOW CAN I EXPRESS MY FAITH IN GOD?

            By _________________________to grow and obey God.

               “I will bless the person who puts his trust in Me.” Jer. 17:7 (TEV)

 

            By ______________________ when discouraged or afraid.

               God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested.  He will reward                    you with a glorious life.”    James 1:12 (CEV)

 

3.   GOD BLESSES PEOPLE WHO _______________________

       God will bless everyone who honors him.”  Ps. 115:13 (TEV)

HOW CAN I LIVE FOR GOD’S GLORY?

       

       By __________________________ to help other believers.

      “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other... so that God will be glorified.”     1 Peter 4:10-11a (LB)

      “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others will be helped.”   Pr. 11:25 (Msg)

  

      “Warmly welcome each other into the church, just as Christ has warmly welcomed you; then      God will be glorified.”  Rom. 15:7 (LB)

     

       By ________________________________ with unbelievers.

      “I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can.  I do this for the good news, because I

      want to share in its blessings.” 1 Cor. 9:22-23 (CEV)

 

 

 

 “Now that you know these things,

you will be blessed if you do them.”

John 13:17 (NIV)


THE PRAYER OF BLESSING

The Lord’s Prayer: Path To Inner Peace

Part 8 of  8

Rick Warren

August 10-11, 2002

A man wrote this email:  “Pastor Rick, I’ve been a Christian now for several years.  Although I know I’m growing spiritually I have a deep hunger for God’s blessing on my life.  I don’t want to be satisfied with casual Christianity that I see in many people around me.  I want all that God has for me.  I want His blessing on my life and my family.  It seems some people have taped in to God’s blessing.  Can you tell me what it takes?”

I don’t know if you resonate with that email but my heart sure resonates with it.  Since I became a follower of Jesus Christ more than anything else I have wanted the blessing of God on my life.  Nothing matters more to me.  I decided a long time ago I’m not going to waste my life.  I don’t want to settle for second best.  I want God’s blessing on my life and on my family more than anything else in life. 

So I have studied.  What does it take to be blessed by God?  To really experience the blessing of God in a significant way, what does it take?  Why does it seem that God blesses some people more than others?  As I’ve read through scripture and as I’ve studied the biographies of great Christians I’ve learned that there are really three secrets to the blessing of God on your life.  These three secrets happen to be summed up in the words of the last phrase of The Lord’s Prayer. 

We’re in this series we’ve been in for eight weeks, verse by verse through The Lord’s Prayer.  We’ve looked at each phrase and how it is secret to the path to inner peace.  In the last phrase of The Lord’s Prayer we have what I call The Prayer of Blessing.  The three components for God’s supernatural blessing on your life are contained in that phrase.  Matthew 6:13 “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” 

Circle “kingdom”, “power”, and “glory”.  These three words – kingdom, power and glory – are the secret keys to unlock the blessing of God in your life.  If you really want God’s blessing you must do three things.  If you don’t get anything else I say today get these three things.  If you want God’s blessing on your life, first, you must seek God’s kingdom.  Second, you must depend on God’s power.  Third, you must live for God’s glory. 

What does it take to be blessed by God?  To really have God’s blessing on your life it takes three things. 

1.  God blesses people who seek His kingdom.

What does that mean?  God blesses people who seek His kingdom.  It means you make God’s agenda your agenda.  It means you make God’s plans for your life your plans for your life.  If you ever want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plan.  Because your plans aren’t going to happen most likely.  It means making God’s will your will.  Saying, “God, I don’t want You to bless what I’m doing.  I want You to help me to do what You’re blessing.”  It means caring about what God cares about.  God blesses people who seek His kingdom first. 

A major part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is actually about worry.  Matthew 6 the first 33-34 verses are all about worry.  In that passage he says all the things you normally worry about which are your future, your happiness, your health, your security, your relationships, how you make money, what kind of clothes you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat and drink.  He says all these things you don’t really need to worry about them.  If you’ll put Me first, you won’t have to worry about them.  So He talks about the lack of need to worry.

Then He concludes this passage on worrying with an incredible promise.  Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Circle the phrase “all these things”.  What are all these things?  You’ve got to go back and read the first 32 verses.  All these things that you normally worry about – your happiness, your health, your relationships, your career, your family – all these things that you normally worry about He says you don’t need to worry about them if you’ll just seek My kingdom first.  The Living Bible says it like this “He will give them to you if you give Him first place in your life.”  God says if you put Me first place in your life I promise 100% coverage.

There’s not a policy in the world that offers to give you 100% coverage for your entire life.  God says you won’t have to worry about a thing – nothing, zip!  You won’t have to worry about anything in life if you put Me first.  If you will seek My kingdom, if you will put My priorities, make My goals for your life your goals for your life you won’t ever have to worry about anything.  That is an incredible, unconditional, blanket promise to those who say, “God, Thy will be done in my life.”

Here’s the first secret.  There are three secrets to being used by God.

       First secret: Whatever I want God to bless I must put Him first place in. 

Whatever I want God to bless I must give Him first place in that.  If I want God to bless my career I must put Him first in my career.  If I want God to bless my marriage I must put Him first in my marriage.  No matter what it is.  Whatever I want God to bless I give Him first place. 

Where, obviously, does God want to be first place in your life?  The answer is, Everywhere.  He wants to have first place in every single area of your life – physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, relationally – all these different areas. 

But let me give you five areas that we don’t like to talk about.  Five areas that we usually don’t want God to be first place in because we want to do you will not God’s will.  Let’s start with the most difficult one.  To help you remember this I put it in a little acrostic – FIRST.  Where does God want to be first in my life?

       F – Finances

If you want God to bless your finances – I don’t know how to say it any clearer than this – you must tithe.  What does it mean to tithe?  It means the first ten percent goes back to God.  Why does God say that?  I don’t know.  He just gave us the number.  It’s to say, “I want You to be first in my life, God.  And to show and to prove that I really trust You, not my job for my income, I’m trusting You, I’m giving You the first ten percent back.”  Don’t ask God to bless your finances if you’re not willing to put Him first in your finances. 

Twenty-seven years ago when Kay and I got married we made a mutual commitment that no matter where we got in debt God would always get paid first.  We had some very lean years and even some time when I was without salary.  We always said, If we’re going to be in debt, we’re not going to be in debt to God and we’re not going to use God’s money to pay other bills.  God gets paid first if nobody else gets paid.  So, God, for 27 years, has been first in our finances and God has blessed us financially far beyond what we could have ever imagined.  Far beyond it.  Because we put him first in our finances.  I’ll continue to do so. 

       I – Interests

God wants to be first not just in your finances.  He wants to be first in your interests.  That includes your career.  That includes your recreation.  That includes your hobbies, anything you’re interested in.  It means you give God first consideration in every decision you make.  You say, What would Jesus do?  What would God want done in this situation?  In my career?  God what would You want me to do?  How would You like me to make this decision?  You put Him first in your interests. 

       R – Relationships

God wants to be first in your relationships.  First in your friendships, first in your family, first in your marriage, first in your partnership if you have a business partnership He should be first in that.  The safest place for a wife to be is number two in a husband’s heart – right after God.  And the safest place for a husband to be is number two in a wife’s heart – right after God.  I you ever put anybody in first place in your life, guess what?  They’re your god.  That’s a very precarious place to be because they can’t possibly meet all your needs.  A lot of marriage problems come because you expect your spouse to meet needs that only God can meet.  And that’s not fair.  It’s not fair to your spouse if you expect them to meet all your needs.  They can’t.  So God should be number one and then your spouse comes in second place.  You put God first in all your relationships I you want God to bless your relationships.

       S – Schedule

God wants to be first in your schedule.  How in the world do I put God first in my schedule?  Let me get real practical.  Two ways: one, you give God the first part of every day.  How do I do that?  Talk to God before you talk to anybody else when you get up.  Maybe even before you get out of bed.  When you wake up you go, “My heart’s still beating.  Hi God!  I’m awake.  I’m still breathing.  It must mean You have a purpose for my life today.”  Before you talk to anybody else, before you read the paper or watch Bad Morning America or whatever, you talk to God first.  You give Him the first part of each day.  You just pause, not long and say, “God, I want to give this day to You.  I want to get to know You little bit more.  I want to love You a little bit more.  And I want to love other people a little bit more.  So, God, walk through this day with me.”  You talk to God in your mind before you talk to anybody else.  You give Him the first part of every day.

Second, you give Him the first day of every week in worship.  That’s what we’re doing right now.  Why do we worship on Sunday?  We say, God, before we start the week we want to give it to You.  The bottom line is before you go back to work on Monday morning you give the first part of the week to God.  You say, “God, I just want to remind myself You’re number one.  I give You the first part of every day and I give You the first day of every week to worship You.” 

       T – Troubles

God wants to be first in your problems.  That means when you have a problem you don’t start thinking, “Now how can I figure this out?”  You turn immediately to God.  You turn first to God every time you get in trouble.  You turn first to God every time you have a problem.  You turn first to God every time you’re under stress.  Prayer is your first choice, not your last resort.  Like “All we can do now is pray!  Has it come to that?”  Like it’s the last thing you do.  No!  The first thing whenever you get under stress you immediately go, “God, I need Your help.  Father, talk to me about this.  Help me to understand what I should do in this problem.” 

If God is first, really first, in your finances, in your interests, in your relationships, in your schedule and in your troubles He’s really first.  If He’s not first in these areas quit kidding yourself.  He’s not first place in your life.  It’s just lip service.  He’s not really number one.  Because it’s in the specifics that we seek God’s kingdom.  If you do that God promises blessing.  He says, “I will take care of all your needs and you won’t have to worry about anything if you seek Me first.”

I want you to hear Donna’s story.

Donna:  During the last 5½ years at Saddleback I’ve heard Pastor Rick say many times that the

       most dangerous and yet the most exciting prayer to pray is “God, use me.”  Because I’ve wanted God’s will to be the primary goal of my life that’s been my prayer for the last 4½ years.  Today I would like to share how God has blessed me when I’ve put Him first in my life. 

       In November of 1996 facing the end of my marriage I knew that I needed God in my life.  A loving aunt challenged me to read through the Bible.  I accepted that as my New Year’s Resolution.  At the same time I found Saddleback Church.  Soon I opened my life to Jesus and invited Him to have first place in my life.  During the next eight months I read completely through the Bible.  And what a blessing that was!  Little did I know how that would prepare me for God’s plan for my life.  After taking Class 301 late in 1997 the Shape process pointed me towards missions.  However I told the interviewer I was certain I was not shaped for missions.  So I signed up for ushering.  That seemed like a much safer place to be.  However, God had other ideas and the thought of doing mission projects kept coming to me during my morning Bible study and prayer time.  I kept pushing it out of my mind.  My view of myself was I was a businesswoman.  My days were spent in boardrooms planning, strategizing for major projects.  I didn’t see myself trading in business suits for a tunic or giving up my house for a tent in the desert.  But more than anything I wanted God to be first in my life and I wanted to do His will no matter what that involved.  Two years ago I confided to my best fiend that I thought God was calling me to do mission work.  She laughed but then she prayed with me.  In March of 2001 I went on my first international mission trip to the Ukraine.  It was an incredible trip and I imagined that I would be returning there every year for some time.  Last June I attended several mission seminars, which prompted me to pray for Muslim countries.  When September 11th occurred I felt called to pray even more for the women of Afghanistan.  In October I heard member of our church speak about the plight of the Afghan people and his desire to go and share the love of Jesus with them.  I was touched but I thought, “What could I do?”  So I continued my comfortable job of praying for that country and praying for Aziz’ mission trip to Afghanistan. 

       In April of this year Aziz returned to Saddleback for a brief visit to report on all his mission had accomplished in Afghanistan.  In three short months a hospital had been built, a clinic opened, five schools repaired and reopened, and Saddleback orphan Care opened its doors to 75 orphans in Afghanistan.  God was clearly working through Aziz.  I felt my heart being touched and a small voce telling me there was work that I could do in Afghanistan.  That night I prayed most of the night and I kept thinking, “God has given me so much.”  And to whom much is given much is expected.  How could I not go and give something back to these people?  It was a test.  Did God really come first in my life?  The next day I met with Pastor Steve to discuss my options.  I could fill a book with how God has arranged all the details of my life in the past four months.  But the bottom line is that on Monday, tomorrow, I leave for a one-month mission trip to Afghanistan to join the Samaritan’s Purse team.  I’ll begin planning for the first Christian school in Afghanistan, meet with government officials for health and women’s affairs to identify ways that our Christian community can come alongside and serve the people in Afghanistan.  And I’ll be assessing my ability to live and work in Afghanistan on a long-term basis. 

       One year ago, August 9th of 2001, my friend started a daily prayer for me.  She would pray, “Lord, give Donna knowledge of her mission, happiness and good health, and a godly husband with whom she can be equally yoked in Your service.”  I’m happy to report that, as I put God first in my life and sought His will about everything else that He has blessed me with an answer to each of those requests.  I know my mission in life.  I’m happy and I am in good health.  And in the course of last year Aziz and I developed a deep love for each other.  And on Wednesday of this week we became engaged to be married December 20th.  I could not be given a more precious blessing from God than to have a life partner to share my life mission. 

       I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  I’m not saying if you put God first in your life He’s going to turn you into a missionary.  That was His plan for me.  And I’m not saying that God will automatically give you a spouse if you’re single.  But I am saying if you get serious about putting God first in your life in every area of your life you can expect God to bless you in incredible ways that you never imagined.  He’s waiting to bless you.  So I dare you to pray the prayer, “God, use me.”

I want you to meet the member of our church who, after 911, took a small step of faith, went to Afghanistan and as Donna said started a hospital, helped rebuilt five schools and opened the Saddleback orphanage. Aziz is a city planner for the city of Lake Forrest.  How he discovered Saddleback Church was one day he was looking over some blueprints for a giant sports arena.  He said, “Why are we building a sports arena in Lake Forrest?”  And somebody said, “It’s not a sports arena.  It’s Saddleback Church.”  So he said, I’ve got to go visit this church.  And that’s how he found Saddleback. 

I’m going to ask Pastor Tom to come and let’s pray a prayer of commissioning.  They’ll be getting on a plane tomorrow and heading to Afghanistan.

Tom:

       Our Father we do pray for Donna and Aziz.  Thank You that they put You first by faith and thank You for the blessings they’ve seen in their lives because of that.  I know it wasn’t always easy.  I know they had to face fears wondering whether You would give them the strength if they trusted in You.  We pray for them together as a church family.  Lord, as they go to Afghanistan we pray that You would give them wisdom to know what to do and when to do it.  To see the answers that they can’t see on their own strength.  Lord, give them a deep sense of Your plan and Your direction and put in their hearts a love for the people they’ll be ministering to.  Let them share with those people that You love them.  Let them share with those people that You have a plan for their life.  Use them.  We pray, Jesus, in Your name.  Amen.

There is a second part to the prayer of blessing.  “For thine is the kingdom and thine is the power.”

2.  God blesses people who depend on His power. 

God blesses us when we decide to depend on His power, on His strength.  Look what the Bible has to say in Psalm 84:5 “You bless all who depend on You for their strength.”  God does not bless self-sufficient people.  We figure we’ve got it all figured out on our own if we’re self-sufficient.  He doesn’t bless people who say, I can do it all on my own.  I don’t need God’s help or anyone else’s help.  He blesses those who recognize the truth that we need God’s help in this life.  If you’re going to depend on God’s help, God’s strength in your life you’re not depending just on yourself.  That takes faith.  And God blesses people who have faith. 

Galatians 3:9 says, “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”  Just as Abraham in the Old Testament, one of the greatest examples of faith ever was blessed because of his faith, God wants to bless us for our faith when we depend on Him.  God blesses those who expect God to help, to give us the strength that we need when we need it. 

What are you expecting God to do in your life?  What are you expecting God to give strength into your life that you don’t have on your own?  Jesus said, “According to your faith it will be done to you.”  You know what’s happening in your life.  Whatever you have faith that God will do.  Where He will give you strength.

That leads to the second secret of the life that God blesses. 

       Second secret:  The more you depend on God the more God will bless you.

The more you depend on Him the more He’ll bless you.  That is why God put you and in situations where we have to depend on Him.  If we were always in situations where we could figure out life on our own, where we had the strength to do it on our own, we’d never have to depend on God.  But He constantly puts us in situations in life where we have to depend on Him so that our faith can grow in life. 

If you’re like me and I think most of us are alike in this one we don’t automatically know how to depend on God.  It doesn’t come naturally.  It’s something you have to learn to do.  It’s something you grow to do.  How does God grow our faith?  How does God grow our ability to depend on Him?  A couple of ways we express our faith in God and grow our faith in God: 

You develop your faith by taking risks to grow and obey God. 

It’s a matter of deciding to take a risk.  We only grow when we’re stressed beyond our comfort zone.  That’s what growth is all about.  You cannot grow without taking risks and that takes faith. 

There’s a lot of stories of faith in the Bible, people who took risks.  One of the most familiar story is in Exodus 14, the story of Moses as he led the people out of Egypt towards the Promised Land.  They ran into a little problem called the Red Sea.  Then they saw the Egyptian army heading towards them.  The people of Israel and Moses are trapped between the Red Sea and this army that is heading their way.  In Exodus 14, the different responses that people had in that circumstance are pretty classic.  The Bible says that the people said to Moses “Was it because that there were no graves in Egypt that You brought us to the desert to die?”  A real positive kind of spirit these people had.  They just had given up.  They had no faith at all.  Moses had a different response.  Later in the chapter Moses says, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand where you are and watch the Lord rescue you.”  That’s a very spiritual sounding answer.  But believe it or not God had a different answer.  There is often a different answer to faith than just standing where you are.  What does it take to have faith?  It means taking a risk.  So here is what God said a few verses later.  God said to Moses “Why are you crying out to Me.  Tell the people to get moving.”  Not stand where you are but start moving towards the Red Sea.  As they started moving towards the Red Sea, guess what happened?  It split in two.

That’s what faith is all about.  It’s taking the first step.  It’s taking the step in the direction of what only God can do in your life.  I’m not talking about human willpower.  Human willpower would have been Moses saying, “We could build bridge over that over night.  Let’s go do it!”  I’m talking about faith.  Moving in the direction of what only God can do.  Even though they’re afraid, even though they weren’t sure at that moment.  They were depending on God’s strength and not their strength. 

Don’t wait until you feel powerful or confident inside to take that step because you probably won’t.  You take the step in spite of the fact that you feel weakness.  In spite of the fact that you feel like I have fears and feelings that I don’t have enough faith.  That’s what faith is all about.  God releases the power not before you take the step of faith but the moment you take the step of faith.  That’s how you depend on God’s strength in everyday life. 

Jeremiah 17:7 “I will bless the person who puts his trust in Me.”  You can’t have faith without taking risks. 

So what is it that God wants you to do?  What step of faith do you need to take?  Maybe it’s the step of faith of committing your life to Jesus Christ.  It might be your first time in church for a long time or you may have been thinking about this a lot, every week.  Knowing I need to make that step.  I need to commit my life to Jesus Christ to trust His forgiveness, to trust His direction in my life.  Today’s the day when you take that step of faith.  Ask God for strength to do what you can’t do on your own.  I know you don’t have the strength to do it on your own.  None of us do.  You ask God for strength.

Maybe it’s a step of faith of being baptized, sharing your faith with other people publicly or taking Class 101 and saying I’m going to be a part of this church and not just watch and enjoy what’s going on.  I want to be involved.  I want to make a difference in my life through my life in this church.  Maybe it’s the step of faith saying, I’m going to make a fresh commitment to my marriage or to my kids.  Everything in you is afraid of doing that.  But you know it’s a step of faith that God is asking you to take.  Or it’s a step of faith of becoming a part of a small group or joining in a ministry.  If anything that I’m saying is something that hits your mind saying, That’s what God wants me to do, jot it down.  That’s your first step of faith being real about what it is and then saying, I don’t have the strength to do that on my own.  God, would You give me the strength to do what I can’t do on my own.  That’s how faith grows. 

Faith also grows by not giving up when we’re discouraged and we’re afraid. 

When I make the decision to not give up when I’m discouraged and I’m afraid that’s when my faith grows.  In order to grow our faith God must test our faith and when God tests our faith we can become discouraged.  Those can be fearful circumstances because God tests our faith through difficulty, through things like delay, through dead ends in life.  Our faith is tested through the difficulties of life.  Have you noticed that life does not always work out as easily as you thought it would?  That’s just the way life is.  Why does God let that happen?  If life always worked out as easily as I thought it would I’d never need any faith.  I’d never depend on God.  I’d just depend on myself.  So He lets us go through difficulties.  He lets us go through delays, things don’t happen as quickly as I want.  Or dead ends like it’s never going to happen like I wanted it to happen.  In those circumstances I have to depend on God. 

This means that every one of us inevitably are going to face discouragement and fear in life and those are the moments we need strength more than any other.  We need to decide not to give up. 

It makes me smile to be talking to you about faith this weekend because the truth is I haven’t felt very full of faith this week.  I’ve felt close to God but I haven’t felt very full of faith.  I think a lot of us have weeks like that.  In those weeks we have the opportunity to have maybe the greatest faith of all.  Not the faith that’s just a feeling.  But the faith that decides in spite of my feelings I’m going to ask God for strength that I don’t have.  Some of you right now have surely given up.  You feel like, I don’t have the faith.  I don’t know where I’m going to find the faith to trust in God to get me through this one.  Depend on God to give you strength that you don’t have.  When you do that, He promises that He will give that strength. 

James 1:12 “God will bless you if you don’t give up when your faith is being tested.  He will reward you with a glorious life.” 

 

Robin has a story of developing his faith and glorying in God’s strength and seeing His power in his life.  Would you give him a warm welcome?

Robin:  First of all, for those of you who know me, there will not be an announcement of an

       engagement at the end of my testimony!  For me, learning to depend on God’s power instead of my own has been a journey of taking one step of faith after another.  After college I pursued my dreams of success by building my own business.  I was very successful and won many plaques and awards to show for it.  But as my business boomed God took the back burner.  I felt very self-confidant and felt like I didn’t need to depend on God for anything any more.  I hoped from church to church, never really committing to one and never truly connecting to God.  Being single has its own freedom but also offers many temptations and distractions from a relationship with God. 

       Then a few years ago I found myself so caught up in being successful and making money that I was stressing myself out.  I knew something wasn’t right.  I was successful but very frustrated.  I had no inner peace.  I decided to visit a church that weekend.  I came to a Saddleback service.  I slipped into the back of the worship center, found a seat in the preferred seating area – up the risers.  How many people started out hiding up in the back!  I prepared to watch the service not as a participant but as a detached observer.  I’ll never forget Pastor Rick’s message that week, “How to Use the Bible to Make Real Life Decisions.”  That message really hit home to me.  I felt like Rick was speaking directly to me.  It even brought up some tears.  I knew something was going on because I don’t get emotional often.  If I’ve got tears coming, something significant is happening. 

       That led to my first step of faith, sitting in those bleachers I followed Pastor Rick in a prayer to begin a personal relationship with Jesus.  Then I filled out a response card, took it out to the Fresh Start with God table out on the patio to get the free material.  Thank God that they were free because that might have even been an obstacle to hold me back.  That simple decision began my journey with God. 

       The next step of faith was when Saddleback began a forty-day spiritual growth emphasis called Millennial Members.  That was in October of 1999 when I came here.  I didn’t know what millennium member was but it sounded cool so I thought I may as well get involved.  I only had a couple of months but decided to take another small risk and attended classes 101-401 in three short weeks.  One of the great things about Saddleback is that we have a great system here that let me go at my own pace even if that meant taking baby steps.  In class 301 I learned how God shaped me, how He made me for a unique contribution for Him.  That was called my ministry.  Immediately I began to see opportunities everywhere for me to grow and make a difference with my life.  Whenever I saw a door partly opened I’d nudge a little more and see where it would take me.  By taking those baby steps I began to depend on God more and more every day.  Having a new spiritual family, a new direction, and a new captain of my ship was a lot more exciting than my old ways. 

       Next I took another risk in faith.  I walked away from my old business partner.  That was scary but God was teaching me to put Him first and depend on Him so that He could bless me more and more.  And God did bless me.  In its place God gave me a new business, a new business partner who was also committed to Christ centered life which allows me to serve God more in volunteer activities and go on mission trips.  I get great joy and satisfaction in serving as a greeter, helping other people get connected in small groups and volunteering in several other ministries around Saddleback.  This has not only made the church feel smaller to me but it’s helped me to grow in my faith. 

       Another thing that’s helped me, helped me step out on faith and depend on God has been getting a mentor.  Another guy in the choir named Dan who’s been a Christian longer than me and he had helped me take these baby steps.  Last year he invited me to go on one of Saddleback’s international mission trips to east Asia.  I knew that would be a step of faith because I’ve never been out of California or Wisconsin for that matter.  I didn’t have the money to go but I took another risk and signed up anyway.  And God provided.  He provided all the means for me to go through family and friends. 

       Looking back I can see how God has blessed my life every time.  I’ve taken small step of faith.  It didn’t have to be a big step.  God used even every small decision to bless me.  Every time I volunteered to do something here at church I get blessed.  Far more than I ever imagined, I get blessed.  I’m so glad that I made the choice to stop being a spectator and get involved.  If you’ve never volunteered for anything you don’t know what you’re missing.  God wants to bless your life.  I urge you to step out in faith.

 Rick:

You want God’s blessing on your life?  Seek His kingdom and depend on His power.

3.  God blesses people who live for His glory. 

You’ve got to decide in life who’s going to get the credit?  You or God.  The Bible says this in Psalm 115:13 “God will bless everyone who honors Him.”  How do you do that?  How do you honor God?  How do you live for God’s glory?  There are hundreds of ways to live for God’s glory.  Let me give you a couple.

       1.  By using my abilities to help other believers. 

1 Peter 4 “God has given each of you some special abilities.  Be sure to use them to …” make a lot of money.  No, I read that wrong.  “God has given each of you some special abilities.  Be sure to use them to help each other so that God will be glorified.”  Notice when you help other people God gets glorified.  The way you serve God is by serving others.  The way you bring glory to God is by using your abilities to help other people.

God has wired you up to make a contribution.  These gifts and abilities and talents you’ve got, in Class 301 we call it your SHAPE.  Your abilities were not given for your benefit.  They were given to benefit other people.  And other people’s abilities were given to benefit you.  God didn’t give you your abilities just so you could make a lot of money and be cool.  God gave you these abilities to help other people.  When you help them then they help you back. 

Here’s the next secret of God’s blessing in your life: The more I bless others, the more God blesses me.  The more I help others, the more God helps me. 

This is not rocket science.  God just wired the universe in a way that we could become like Him.  He says you get blessed by giving not by receiving.  You get blessed by helping, not by being helped.  You get blessed by being a blessing. 

He told that to a guy named Abraham.  One day He told Abraham, “I’m going to bless you so you can be a blessing to other people.  I’m not going to bless you just so you feel good.  I’m going to bless you so you can be a blessing to other people.”  He says you lose your life to find it.

Here’s the question: Has God blessed you?  If He has who are you blessing?  Who are you being blessing to?  Who are you helping?  Who are you serving?  Is there any area of your life where you are unselfishly volunteering to help other people?  Not for pay but just to help.  That’s called ministry.  Who are you blessing?

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed and those who help others will be helped.”  When you bless other people you’re the one who gets blessed.  When I stand up here and I teach you, who gets blessed more?  You or me?  I do.  God blesses me because I’m the one who’s giving out.  So I get blessed more than you do just listening.  When you go and you help somebody in need and that person gets their need met, who gets blessed most?  Not the person in need but you.  The person who gave.  God blesses you because you chose to be like God and God is a giver. 

So it’s real simple.  If you want God’s blessing on your life start blessing other people.  Start helping others.  Start doing whatever you can to serve others.  And the more you serve others the more God will bless your life.  That’s just the way God works. 

Let me also clear up another myth.  It doesn’t take super talent to be used by God.  You don’t have to be super talented to bless other people.  You don’t have to be super talented to bring glory to God or to live for God’s glory.  You just use whatever you’ve got.  You use what you’ve got, when you’ve got it, wherever you can.  You don’t have to have a whole lot of talent.  You just use what you’ve got.  And God says, I will bless that.  It’s not talent that God looks for.  It’s willingness.  “God, I want You to use me.  Anyway, any time, anyhow.  I’m available, God.”  God says, “That’s the man/That’s the woman that I will bless.”  When a person says, “God, I want to seek Your kingdom and I want to depend on Your power and I want to live for Your glory,” there is almost nothing that God won’t do for that man or woman.  He says, that’s the kind of person I bless.  That’s the kind of person I use. 

Did you know that just being nice to people brings glory to God?  Loving other believers.  That hospitality actually brings glory to God.  “Warmly welcome each other into the church just as Christ has warmly welcomed you.  Then God will be glorified.”  Just warmly welcome people into the church.  Using my ability to help other believers I bring glory to God. 

       2.  Another way: By sharing the good news with unbelievers. 

2 Corinthians 4 “As God’s grace brings more and more people to Christ, God will receive more and more glory.”  Every time somebody steps cross the line and says, “I believe God.”  Just like Robin told, sitting in the bleachers:  “God, I believe.  I’m going to put my trust in Christ.”  God gets glory.  And every time you share your faith or you invite somebody to church or you tell the good news to somebody, God gets glory.  And God blesses your life. 

In fact, did you know there are blessings that the Bible promises that are only given to people when they share the good news?  If you’ve never ever told anybody the good news – shared it with anybody else – there are a whole number of blessings you have never received.  Because they are given to those who share in the blessings of the gospel.  Reserved for those who share their faith. 

That’s why Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 9 “I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can.  I do this for the good news because I want to share in its blessing.”  Circle “blessing”.  When I share the good news with unbelievers and when I help believers that brings glory to God.  And that causes God to bless my life.

I want you to hear Greg’s story.  Would you give him a warm welcome?

Greg:  You might suspect that I’d be the last person to be interested in living for God’s glory.  My name is Greg Outlaw – outlaw, just like a bad guy, a criminal.  What is ironic is before Jesus Christ radically changed my life I lived up to that name.  I was definitely an outlaw.  Although I went to church as a kid, I became very bitter at the church when my father, a deacon in our small church, started drinking, committing adultery and left our family.  The pain and gossip of all that gave me the excuse to justify all kinds of self destructive behavior including a lifestyle of illegal drugs, promiscuous sex and wild living which led to thirteen major car accident in five years.  Even after trip after trip to the hospital emergency room, I continued to ignore God.  I lived for my glory and my pleasure not God’s. 

       But my self-centered lifestyle eventually caught up with me.  I developed a painful, incurable health condition.  I won’t go into all the details but it’s excruciatingly painful.  My doctors tried to control it with massive amounts of pain medication and told me to change my ways.  But when you don’t care whether you live or you die it’s easy to ignore the advice of everyone around you.  Eventually a doctor said there was nothing more they could do for me.  The pain would just get worse and worse and I was going to die.  I was terminal. 

       My response was to turn to even heavier illegal drug use.  I finally hit bottom December 7th, 1999 and I called my brother in law to help me and he brought me to Celebrate Recovery here at Saddleback.  Regardless of how many days I had left I recommitted the remaining days or years to the Lord Jesus.  I began reading the Bible again and I read it completely through cover to cover three times in the year 2000.  I asked God to give me a second chance so I could live for His glory.  From what I learned as a child I knew that God had a purpose for my life so I told God that no matter how little time I had left on this earth, all I wanted to do was devote each and everyday to serving Him. 

       But my recommitment to Christ did not remove the consequences of my many years of abuse.  In early 2000 I was admitted to the hospital again.  They began talking about putting me in a hospice.  They sent me to my second pain management clinic where I was prescribed morphine on a daily basis and placed on TPN intravenously at home each night just to keep me alive.  By March of 2001 I was taking 4000 milligrams of morphine each day and my life was slipping away.  I thought, How can I bring glory to God in this condition?  What do I have to offer?  Then one Sunday at church my wife Candy suggested that I attend Saddleback Examine the Evidence class entitled Creation Versus Evolution.  I’d had questions reconciling the biblical account of creation with the supposed scientific account of evolution.  After two hours of hearing the absolutely incredibly hard evidence being explained to me mathematically of how impossible it is to even get the first cell to begin the evolutionary process, I felt moved by the Spirit to volunteer my abilities in web marketing and Internet positioning to help the ministry’s website.  It was something, finally, that I could offer God for His glory.

       Meanwhile I became very uncomfortable with some of the business decisions being made at the Internet company I had worked for for six years.  In faith I left that company not knowing what God wanted me to do next.  It was the most difficult decision of my life but something amazing happened.  I suddenly noticed that my pain was totally gone.  By God’s grace I believe He’s blessed my life with healing.  In fact, I’ve weaned myself off of the morphine in just two and a half weeks, which astounded my pain management doctor.  Shortly after that I heard Pastor Rick speak on a message on Being a 21st Century Noah.  He challenged me with the questions: Will anyone be in heaven because of you?  Are you using your abilities for God’s glory? 

       At that point I dedicated my skills to God’s purposes and God brought many people into my life to start a ministry called “AllAboutGod.com”.  The name alone – AllAboutGod – reminds us each day of whose glory that we live and serve.  Our ministry is building Christian websites on the Internet and then getting them placed at the tops of the search engines so that people can find the truth about God, Jesus and the Bible.  Of the 117 websites we’ve built so far four of them are websites designed to specifically lead people to Christ.  The other 113 sights answer people’s questions on numerous topics from evolution to Marilyn Manson – it’s across the board.  From there they actually lead people to the four sites and introduce them to Jesus and lead them in a prayer of commitment.  In May we had 591 people come to the salvation site to accept Christ.  It gets better.  In June, 1095 people came.  And in July, 1528 more came. 

       We are thrilled that God is using our skills for His glory.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t stepped out in faith and trusted God to use me.  I look back now and think of all the stupid decisions I made for years.  I could have chosen to live for God’s glory at the beginning.  Why did I nearly have to lose my life in order to finally find it?  I hope it doesn’t take a problem that serious to get your attention.  You may feel like you don’t have anything to offer.  But if God can use an alcoholic, drug addicted, self-centered and angry man like I have been He can use anyone.  God gets glory by using the most unlikely people.  I hope you’ll let Him use you.  Living for God’s glory is the only way to really live. 

Three totally different people being used by God in many different ways.  You don’t have to be a superstar to be blessed by God.  You do have to be available.  You want to be blessed by God?  Do you really want God’s blessing on your life?  You must seek His kingdom first.  God, I want Your plans, not mine for my life.  You must depend on His power.  God, I’m not going to act like it all depends on me.  You must live for His glory and not for your glory. 

Let’s do a little self-test as we close.  Does God really have first place in my life?  In my finances, in my interests, in my relationships, in my schedule, in my troubles?  Circle the letter in FIRST of the ones that you are confident God is number one in your life right now.  If He’s number one in your Finances, circle “F”.  If He’s number one in your interests, circle “I”.  If He’s number one in your relationship, circle “R”. 

When you get through with that, the ones that are not circled that’s what you need to work on.  That’s where you need to take the next baby step of faith and say, “God, even this area I want You to be number one.” 

God blesses people who depend on His power.  Am I depending on God’s power daily or do I act like it’s all up to me?  How do you know when you’re depending on God’s power?  It’s real simple.  Do you worry?  If you’re worrying that means one thing – you’re not depending on God.  If you’re worrying, you’re acting like it all depends on you.  If you worry you’re acting like an atheist. 

Are you depending on God?  What risks am I taking to grow?  Where do I need to be more persistent and not give up because I’m discouraged or because I’m afraid? 

Am I living for God’s glory or my pleasure?  Am I using my abilities in a ministry to help other people?  Am I doing anything in my life that’s totally unselfish?  How am I blessing other people?  How am I taking a step of faith and being unselfish?  How am I showing hospitality to God’s family?  How am I sharing the good news with those who need it? 

This is not rocket science, folks!  If you want to be blessed by God you must get blessable.  And He will pour out on you more than you could possibly imagine. 

The closing statement by Jesus says it all.  “Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”

Prayer:

       Father, we all want Your blessing on our lives but not everybody here is willing to pay the price.  We all want Your blessing but not everyone here is willing to do what You want us to do.  So I pray today that You’ll take many people to the next deeper level of blessing as they make these three basic commitments of life. 

       Now you pray.  Say, “Father, I don’t want to settle for less than what You have planned for me.  More than anything else I want Your blessing on my life.  So I want You to have first place in every area.  In my finances, in my interests, in my relationships, in my schedule, and even in my troubles.  Help me to depend on You more and myself less.  Give me the faith to take the risks necessary to grow spiritually and help me not to give up when I’m afraid or I’m discouraged.  I want to live for Your glory by using the abilities You’ve given me to serve others.  I want my life to be a blessing to others so You can bless me.  I want to show love and hospitality to other believers and I want to share the good news with those who don’t know You.  Help me to do what You are blessing.  In Your name I pray.  Amen. 

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