1_The Prayer of Connection
THE PRAYER OF CONNECTION
The Lord’s Prayer: Path to Inner Peace
Part 1 of 8
June 22-23, 2002
“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7 (NLT)
The Key to Inner Peace: ________________________________________
“This is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven…” Matt. 6:9 (NIV)
God is a____________________, not a ____________________
We can connect with God because …
1. HE IS A ________________________________________
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who honor Him…” Ps. 103:13 (NIV)
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you!” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
“So don’t worry saying, ‘What shall we eat? … or what shall we wear?” … Your heavenly Father knows you need these things.” Matt. 6:31-32 (NIV)
2. He is a ________________________________________
“Every good and perfect gift… is from the Father – who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)
“Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
2 Tim. 2:13 (NIV)
“God will never go back on His promises.” Rom. 11:29 (LB)
“My God is changeless in His love for me.” Ps. 59:10 (LB)
3. He is a ________________________________________
“God did this so people would… reach out for Him and find Him, since He is not far from each of us.” Acts 17:27 (NIV)
He is never ______________________________
“The Lord is near to all who call on Him.” Ps. 145:18 (NIV)
He loves to ______________________________
“If you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matt. 7:11 (NIV)
He is sympathetic to ________________________________________
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Ps. 34:18 (NIV)
4. HE IS A ________________________________________
“For nothing is impossible with God.” Lk. 1:37 (NIV)
“(God) is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes!” Eph. 3:20 (LB)
God sent Jesus to make the connection:
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well.” John 14:6-7 (NIV)
“We are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Gal. 3:26 (LB)
THE PRAYER OF CONNECTION
The Lord’s Prayer: Path to Inner Peace
Part 1 of 8
June 22-23, 2002
This week we’re going to begin a new series that’s going to take us through the rest of the summer on The Lord’s Prayer. For the next eight weeks I’m calling it “The Path to Inner Peace.”
Summer time is a great time to de-stress your life. And it’s a great time to work on gaining inner peace something everybody would like to have. In fact, all of us would like to feel at peace with ourselves on the inside. Every one of us would. We often go to great lengths to try to find what will calm me down, what will de-stress me, what will give me that inner peace.
Yesterday, I went on the Internet and found all kinds of products and services that offer us inner peace. Among them aroma therapy, organic potato chips (I don’t know how those work), funeral services, candles, a plumbing warranty, bank overdraft protection, yoga, herbs, cancer insurance, car alarms, even mood rings promising inner peace.
If only it were that easy. The truth is very few people ever experience inner peace. We spend all of our time regretting the past and worrying about the future so we mess up today. And we don’t have inner peace.
The Bible is very clear about what brings inner peace. Philippians 4 says, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace. [Circle “you will experience God’s peace.”] which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” It says there whatever I do in that verse will bring me peace. And what is it? Pray about everything. That’s it. The Bible says the key to inner peace is prayer. As I go through life I can either worry or I can pray. Those are my options. If you pray you’ll have a lot less to worry about. He says if you pray you will experience inner peace.
That brings up the logical question, what do I pray? How do I pray? What words do I use? How do I say the kind of prayer that will bring me inner peace?
Fortunately the disciples asked that question 2000 years ago. They came to the Lord and said, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” And Jesus gave them a model, He gave them a pattern. Today we call it The Lord’s Prayer. You may have memorized it many years ago but I bet you’ve never seen it the way you’re going to see it in the next eight weeks as the path to peace.
Actually, The Lord’s Prayer is eight prayers. It’s eight different phrases. At each of those phrases, if you look at them in detail is an antidote to one of the greatest sources of stress in your life. Every part of the Lord’s prayer is a peacemaker. Every part of the Lord’s prayer brings peace in your life. So we’re going to take a detailed look these next eight weeks looking at each individual phrase and what it means to your life. I hope you’ll not only learn to pray The Lord’s Prayer but you’ll learn to live it.
Today we want to look at just the very first phrase – Matthew 6:9 “Jesus said, ‘This is how you should pray. Our Father in heaven.’” That simple phrase is one of the most radical ideas ever said by Jesus Christ or anybody else. It doesn’t seem too radical to you because we talk about God as our Father all the time now. But realize that for thousands of years, nobody called God Father. No! In fact, in the Old Testament, God is called Father only seven times. Jesus exploded all the stereotypes about God when He said, Here’s how you talk to God: Father, Daddy, Papa. Father. An intimate term. And Jesus exploded the stereotype and said God is not an angry tyrant, God is not an apathetic creator who just winds up the world and lets it go. God is not some impersonal power. In fact, Jesus said God is a Father not a force.
That’s good news. That’s really good news because I can relate to a father. He is a person not a power. I can get to know a person. I can relate to a person. I can connect with a person. That’s why I call this first of the eight prayers in The Lord’s Prayer the Prayer of Connection. Because it’s the way you connect to God. If you don’t get this you’ll never have inner peace. You’ll never have it. But if you get this one you’re on the way to inner peace. Our Father. That is the prayer of connection.
Whenever you’re connected to God as Father you’re going to have inner peace. On the other hand every time you get disconnected from God which can be thousands or hundreds of times a day you’re going to start experiencing stress.
So we’re going to look today at how to connect to God as your Father.
There’s only one problem. For many people the term “father” is a negative term. It brings up all kinds of bad memories. For many people you mention the term “father” they think of disappointment. They think of resentment. Anger. Maybe abuse. Because some human fathers make their homes a hell on earth. Many fathers are distant. They’re distracted. They’re uninvolved. They may be even abusive. So people think, “If God is like my father, no thanks, God!”
One of the reasons why so many of your friends and neighbors and people you work with have never ever really personally connected with God is because of this barrier. I believe the number one barrier that keeps people from connecting to God is this. They think their heavenly Father in their mind is like their earthly father. And they say, “I don’t want that!” They don’t even do it consciously. They do it unconsciously. We transfer all this negative emotion, this baggage, this resentment and regrets and things, they transfer this over and think, “This must be the way God is because father is the authority and God is the ultimate authority. Therefore He must be the same.” We take all the weaknesses, not sometimes just of our fathers but also our mothers, we take the weaknesses of our parents and we put them on God and then wonder, “Why do I have a hard time connecting with God?” You probably do this and don’t even know you do it.
For instance, if you grew up with an unreasonable father, you’re going to tend to think God is unreasonable. It’s going to be natural. And you’re going to think God makes unreasonable demands on your life, that He wants to make your life miserable, that He’s no fun, a cosmic killjoy and He’s just not very fun to be around. Because God is unreasonable, just like my dad.
If you grew up with an unreliable father, you’re going to tend to think God is unreliable. That you can’t depend on God because you couldn’t depend on your dad and you really shouldn’t depend on anybody. As a result of that, you worry a lot. If you worry a lot this is probably one of the symptoms of this fact that maybe you grew up with an unreliable father and so you tend to think God’s not going to be reliable – I can’t depend on Him.
If you grew up with an unconcerned father, you’re going to tend to think God is distant and detached. “Oh, yes, I believe in God. He’s just not involved in my life. He’s not concerned with me and the details. He’s too busy to be bothered with me. He may watch my life but He doesn’t ever get involved.”
If you grew up with an unpleaseable father – and this is a real big one – you’re going to tend to think God is unpleaseable. If you grew up in a home where you got Cs and they said, you should get Bs. If you get Bs, you should get As. If you got As you should get straight As. You were never quite good enough. You never quite measured up. You never felt you could really get your parent’s approval it’s no wonder you have a hard time connecting with God. Because you tend to transfer all that on to God and think, God is unpleaseable. You’ll end up walking around life with a lot of guilt that really is unnecessary. You feel it when you shouldn’t and you carry a lot of unnecessary fears and burdens and maybe even some shame.
In America, 24 million children live in a home without a father. What kind of image are they getting of God? I once read about a psychological report, a study, of 50 famous atheists. People who do not believe in God. Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Nietche, Lenin and many, many others – famous atheists. The one thing these fifty famous atheists had in common, the only thing they had in common was this: they all hated their dads. Every one of them. Every one of them did not have a good relationship with their father and so it’s without a doubt that they transferred all that over and said, I really can’t connect with God.
So today, as we start this journey down the path to inner peace, we’re going to start with two words: our Father. What is God really like? What kind of Father is God?
My goal today is that you would trade in all your misconceptions about God for the truth. My prayer is that you would trade in all your sorrows and all your sadness and all your shame that you got from human beings and you trade them for the joy of the Lord because when you really know God as Father it’s going to make a difference. Maybe you’ll connect to Him today like you’ve never done before. Maybe you’ve been a Christian for many years but you’re going to get to know God as He really is today.
If you want more joy and more peace in your life and less stress, you’re going to have to get to know what God is really like. The Bible says this is the prayer of connection, “Our Father…” What kind of Father is God? The Bible says four things.
1. He is a caring father.
God loves you more than you will ever know. God loves you more than you will ever realize. In fact, God loves you more than you will ever understand. You don’t have a brain big enough to understand how much God loves you. It would be like an ant trying to understand you. No matter how hard that ant tries it’s not going to figure you out. Your brain capacity could not even fathom how much God loves you, how much God really loves you. You can say, “Yes, I know He loves me.” But you don’t really know. Because you don’t have the capacity to understand how wide and broad and deep God’s love for you really is. God’s compassion is His most outstanding quality. The Bible says this in Psalm 103 “As a father has compassion on His children so the Lord has compassion on those who honor Him.” God loves you.
One day the disciples were out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up. Water started lapping over in the boat and the boat began to sink. The disciples got a little uptight, a little fearful, a little worried that Jesus was at the other end of the boat asleep. He wasn’t worried. He was in the boat.
Here’s a principle of life – if you’ve got Jesus in your boat you’re not going to sink. Count on it. No matter how big the storm seems. That is a principle of life. In your marriage, in your career, job, schooling, dating life. If Jesus is in the boat, if He’s involved in it with you you’re not going to sink. You may take on water. You may have some scary times but you’re not going to sink.
The disciples forgot that truth so they’re scared to death. They run over and they wake up Jesus at the other end of the boat, they shake Him, and they say what I consider one of the most profound questions in life. They said, “Lord, don’t You care?” We’re perishing. We’re dying here. We’re going to sink. Don’t You care?
Have you ever asked that question of God? I’ve asked it thousands of times. Something goes wrong in my life and I go, Hey God! Don’t You care? Can’t You see what’s going on here with me – my heath, my wife, my kids. Can’t you see what’s going on here with my friends? They just got a bad doctor’s report. Don’t You care? It’s one of the most profound questions of life. Does God really care about what goes on in my life?
Fortunately, God has given us the answer to that question over and over and over in the Bible. The answer is a resounding, “Absolutely, I care! I am a caring Father. I care about everything in your life.” He has the ability to care about every detail of your life plus the details of everybody else’s life. That’s hard to understand but He’s God and you’re not.
The Bible says this in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all of your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” It says all of your anxiety. What anxieties are you still holding on to? The ones you’re still worrying about. If you’re worrying about it, guess who’s holding on to it. You. You’re holding on to those anxieties.
The word in Greek – “cast” – is not like fly fishing cast. This literally means like if you’ve got a big boulder and you just let it go. You don’t even toss it, you drop it. God says unload every single anxiety you have on Me.
What is not included in “all”? Nothing. So God says all, every single worry you’ve got. He says cast it on Him. Why? Because I care for you. You cast your cares because God cares.
Does God care about your job? Yes. Does God care about your bills? Yes. Your house payment? Yes. Does God care about your dating life? Yes. Your grades? Yes. Does God care about whether you get pregnant or not? Yes. Does God care about your success or your failure in your career? Absolutely. Is there anything that God doesn’t care about in your life? No. Not one thing. Because God cares about every single area of your life. He knows every detail and He cares. He’s aware and He cares so you don’t have to be scared.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, I have every hair on your head numbered. That’s the detail God knows about you. For some of us that’s not too hard. But God knows every hair on your head and He knows the original color. We may not know for sure but God does.
He is intimately acquainted with every single little detail of your life. Matthew 6:31-32 Jesus says this, “So don’t worry saying, ‘What are we going to eat? What are we going to wear?’ Your heavenly Father knows you need these things.”
Fathers, do you want your kids to worry about food or clothes? Of course not. If my kids came to me and said, “Dad, I’m worried if we’re going to have enough to eat… Dad, I’m worried whether I’m going to have clothes to wear…” I would consider that to be an affront to my fatherhood. I had failed as a father. They were doubting that I would take care of them.
Every time you worry, it is an evidence that God cares for you. You are doubting that you have a heavenly Father who cares. Whenever you worry you’re acting like an orphan. Whenever you worry you’re acting like an atheist. You believe in God but you’re going to worry as if there isn’t one. You’re acting like an atheist.
I had a guy come to me one time and say, “Pastor, I’m so stressed out!” And he really was by his work, by his family, by his kids. He had a laundry list of things. I’m talking to him and then all of a sudden he says, “I guess what my real problem is I just don’t love God enough. That’s why I worry so much.” I said, “Buddy! That is not your problem. Your problem is not that you don’t love God enough. Your problem is you don’t realize how much God loves you.”
That’s the source of all worry. When you don’t realize how much God loves you, you start worrying. You get upset. You get stressed. You act as if it all depends on you. If you’re going to learn to have inner peace which is what we’re going to look at for eight weeks you’ve got to start with this one. What kind of God is God? What kind of Father is He? When you understand that He’s a caring Father the stress will go down.
There’s a second truth to get a hold of about God that reduces the stress in our lives and helps us to connect.
2. God is a consistent Father.
God will never, never let you down. He can be counted on. He is dependable. He is reliable
He’s entirely worthy of your trust. James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from the Father who does not change like shifting shadows.” God is always unchanging.
Our human fathers can be fickle. They can be unpredictable. There’s no such thing as a perfect human father. Like the teenager who said, “I never know what to expect from my dad. Sometimes it can be very difficult. I never know if he’s going to be silent or violent. I never know if he’s going to be giving to me or saying I can’t have anything. It depends entirely on the mood that he’s in.” By the way, inconsistent fathers always produce insecure kids. That’s just a rule of life because we’re always insecure when we’re confused.
The good news about God is He’s never moody. He never has a bad day. He never wakes up in the morning feeling bad, thinking, “Who am I going to zap today?” That is not what God is like. He is always the same. The greatest news about this is God is consistent even when I am inconsistent. He is faithful even when I’m not faithful. 2 Timothy 2 “Even if we are faithless He remains faithful for He cannot disown Himself.”
We need God’s consistency for stability in this world because this world can be a pretty unstable place. Some of you this week realized how unstable this world is. You faced some real changes. You aced some earthquakes. Maybe it was a relational earthquake or a financial earthquake or personal earthquake of some kind in your life. You’re feeling pretty unstable right now. Where do you go when life is confused like that? You go to the consistency and the stability of the love of God for you. While everything else in this world changes there is one thing that will never change. God always acts in the same way towards us. He always acts with care. He always acts with consistency and with love.
God is not like our ideas of God. You know like all the manmade gods we make up like the Greek gods. Have you ever read about them? Their stories are like a soap opera. They’re so inconsistent. They’re so moody.
That’s not what God is like. He is always loving, always caring consistently looking at us. Malachi 3:6 says, “I, the Lord, do not change.” God is consistent. He’s consistent in the way He keeps His promises.
One of the greatest struggles that children sometimes have with parents is with this issue of promises. That’s one of the greatest causes of resentment and rebellion – broken promises. Promises are important. Even the best of parents sometimes we make a promise and then we can’t keep it for some reason because we’re not perfect. Have you ever had the experience of making a promise to one of your kids and for some reason you have to say, “We can’t do this.” (That’s why we should be careful making promises.) They look up at you with the little lip sticking out and say, “But you promised!” That is a heartbreaking moment because we can all relate to that.
God never breaks His promises to us. Romans 11:29 “God will never go back on His promises.” Psalm 59:10 “My God is changeless in His love for me.” He is a consistent Father.
Those of you who have been around Saddleback for a while may have heard me tell my story of growing up with a dad who suffered with schizophrenia. A father who has schizophrenia is not exactly a consistent father. So I lived with that all my life, never knowing what I was going to get with my dad – incredible inconsistency. Some days he’s totally disconnected from the world. Other days very angry and abusive about the world. That inconsistency. Some days saying “I need help. I’m going to check myself into a hospital.” The next day he escaped from that mental hospital climbing over a wall – he was 70 at the time – climbing over a wall escaping. That inconsistency back and forth. Who needs roller coasters for thrill rides when you have that in your relationships? That’s what relationships are like sometimes. How in the light of that kind of inconsistency do you connect with God as a loving Father? That’s why I like to talk about God as a loving father. Because I’ve talked to many people who struggle with how do I connect with Him? How do I know that He truly loves me because of the struggles that I went through and I faced in my life?
Some of you had a father who was not only absent but who may have been abusive. How do you overcome the barrier? Because to understand who God really is you have to get past the first two words in the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father.
When telling my story to a church in Chicago there was a girl in the back who later told us her story. She had grown up also with a dad who suffered from mental illness but of a much worse result. The end of her story was that her father ended up killing her mother. As I heard this girl tell her story we asked her, How did you ever break through the barrier of understanding that you have a Father in heaven with all the hurt that had been done in your life by your earthly father? She said, “I don’t know how it happened but one day something clicked in my mind and I realized that I had taken from me something no one deserves to ever have taken when my earthly father killed my mother. But then I realized I had given to me something that no one deserves to ever have given when my heavenly Father allowed His own Son to be killed on a cross so that I could be forgiven, so that I could find grace. Something in that moment helped me to realize that I could find in God, my Father in heaven, a father that I never had.”
Some of you need to pray today even as we’re talking, “God, thank You for the father that I had on this earth. There was something about him, his character, the way that he acted, he wasn’t perfect but he led me to understand who God is and I am so thankful for that.”
Others of you need to pray and to trust God as the Father you never had. Pray and say, “God, I was disappointed by my earthly father. I’ll never be disappointed by You. I was abandoned by my earthly father. I’ll never be abandoned by You. I was not loved by my father on this earth but You are a consistent Father. You are a Father who will always love me.”
The third reason we can connect with God as our Father…
3. He is a close Father
The Bible makes this very clear that He’s not distant. He’s nearby when you need Him. He’s available. He’s accessible. Acts 17 says this talking about God’s closeness, “God did this [in other words, He came close] so people would reach out for Him and find Him since He is not far from each of us.”
Many of you grew up with an absentee father. Maybe he wasn’t even in the home. Or if he was he was always going on trips or he was always out with friends. Or even when he was home he was distant, aloof, detached, reading the paper, uninvolved in your life. So your image of “father” is detached, distant, not real close. It’s no wonder you’ve had a hard time connecting with God. That image gets in the way.
I read a study recently that said in the United States now because of two income earning families parents spend 22 fewer hours a week with their kids than they did in 1970. Why? They’re busy all the time. But that leaves distant parents. What kind of image does that teach kids about God?
Three encouraging truths about the closeness of God.
1. God is never too busy for me. He never says, “Can you hold that thought? Can you wait just a minute? Hold the line. Can I put you on hold? Not now. Some other time.” No matter what you come to God about and no matter when you come to God to talk to Him about it, God never says, “Just a minute. Can you wait a second?” He is never too busy so you can come to Him at any time of the day, with any kind of request.
2. God loves to meet my needs. He absolutely loves to meet my needs. God is not begrudging, “Come on! Weren’t you here yesterday? Take a number. Don’t you know I’ve got six billion people to care for? You had your shot. I’ll see you in 2008!” You can come to Him a million times a day saying, “God, I need help! I need strength again against that temptation. I need help again to not be so afraid. I need help again to calm my anger. I need help again to know what direction to go.” God never gets tired of doing that. He loves – literally loves – to meet your need. Why? Because He is a caring, consistent, close Father. Not some impersonal force. He loves to meet your needs.
I am a flawed parent. I’ve got a lot of weaknesses in my life. But even being a sinful parent I love to give my kids stuff. And I love to meet their needs. If I, being an imperfect parent, love to give things to my children how much more does the heavenly Father who knows everything about you eagerly await to meet your needs, to help you out, to take care of His children? Caring fathers care about their kids.
The Bible says this in Matthew 7 “If you know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” God is never too busy for me and He loves to meet my needs.
3. He is sympathetic to my hurts. Some of you had fathers that when you got hurt your dad’s response was basically, “Tough it out! Buck up. Get a stiff upper lip. Power through it. Ignore the pain.” They were not sympathetic. They were not tender. They were not considerate of how you felt and your fears and the things that you were going through. As a result you probably tend to think God is like that. He’s not. God is sympathetic to my hurts. The Bible says in Psalm 34 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
No doubt many of you probably had a tough week this week. Some of you may have had your heart broken and it is you that God the closest to. He’s right there. You can turn to Him and say, “God, I am hurting. I’m in agony. My heart is breaking. I don’t like what’s going on in my life right now!” Cry out, “Father! Help me!”
Did you know that the word Jesus used is an Aramaic word for “Father”? It’s the word “abba”. Abba is not a Swedish rock group. Abba is the first word that every Middle Eastern baby learns. Abba – Papa – Dada – Mama – Abba. It means “Daddy”. It’s not even the word for “father”. It’s the word for “Daddy”. It’s the most intimate of terms and God says when you come to Me you can say, “Daddy! Abba! Father. Papa.” That’s the kind of relationship that God longs to have with you – a close, tender relationship.
My three kids are almost all grown now. But still the sweetest words to my ears is when I walk into a room and they say, “It’s Daddy!” Nothing winds my crank more than that! Daddy! I get excited. I still like to hear it.
I’d be kind of flustered if they addressed me in all these pontificating terms. “O thou most omnipotent progenitor of the Warren clan! Thou who does sovereignly bestow on us our humble allowances. We beseech thee that thou mayest benefit us with some cash that we mayest abide in the movie theater.” Huh?
I think a lot of times God says that to your prayers: “Huh? What did you say? Come again? Bring Me a translator! What in the world are they saying?”
Do you ever hear these kind of prayers? Fifteen letter words! God’s going “Get rid of all that crud! Just drop all the pretense and come and say, Abba – Father – Daddy. Daddy, I need some help. I’m having a tough, tough day.” The most intimate form. And God longs for you to have that kind of relationship because He is a close Father.
4. He is a competent Father
He’s not only caring, He’s not only consistent, He’s not only close, He’s competent. He is capable. He can handle any problem you give Him. Nothing is beyond God’s ability. That’s good because if God cared and if God were aware but He didn’t have any power to do anything about it, so what? It really wouldn’t be much help, God saying, “I feel your pain! I can’t do anything about it but I feel your pain.” That wouldn’t be too much help. But God is a competent Father.
Today we have a hard time with this because there’s an epidemic of incompetent fathers especially on TV. That’s all you see are guys who just mumble and bumble around and the world dominates their life. One guy gets on the schoolyard “My dad can beat up your dad!” The other kids says, “So what? So can my mom!”
The truth is nobody can beat up your heavenly Father. The Bible says in Luke 1 “Nothing is impossible with God.” I like that! That means He’s competent. Nothing is impossible.
It’s amazing to me when my kids were growing up what they expected me to fix. Some days they wanted me to fix the weather. Some days they wanted me to shorten the school year. Some days they wanted me to bring back a TV program they had missed, put a decapitated head of a doll back on a doll – all kinds of stuff. Growing up, my kids expected me to know all things, fix any thing and afford everything. They thought I was Superman.
You probably did too growing up. You probably thought your dad could do anything! But then as you grew up you realized he can’t. He has limited wisdom. He has limited resources. He has limited energy. Some of those times when you went to your dad for advice, the truth is he was just guessing. It sounded pretty authoritative but he was just guessing. Having been a father, I know that.
But there is one Father who is not limited in resources or wisdom or energy. It is your heavenly Father. Ephesians 3:20 says “God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers or desires or thoughts or hopes.” God says, “You think of the biggest problem in your life, I can handle it!”
What is the biggest problem you’re facing right now? Tomorrow morning what is the biggest hang up, the biggest problem you’re going to face. I don’t care what it is, God can handle it. One plus God is a majority.
Come to God. Say, “God, I believe You are a competent Father and You can handle anything.” What have you been doubting that God could handle? It’s all the stuff you’re worrying about. When you worry you’re thinking “God can’t handle it but maybe I can.” Huh? Maybe there’s a little role reveal going on there. You think you’re God and He’s not. When you worry you’re saying, “God can’t handle this! It’s too big.” Or “God won’t handle it because He doesn’t care.” You’re wrong.
God wants to handle those things. The bottom line is God is able to take care of His children because He is caring and consistent and close and competent. The problem is we often have to relearn some things because we learned wrong patterns growing up.
Listen to Eric’s story.
Eric: I’d like to share with you how I learned to see God as my caring and close heavenly Father
and how He is replacing the pain and emotional scars from being rejected and abandoned by my earthly father. I grew up in a very troubled family. From the outside looking in my family seemed ordinary and happy. But behind closed doors there was constant anger, constant conflict and constant hurt. I still remember the fear I felt the night my mother left my dad. My brother and I hid out under a car in our driveway as we watched my father beating my mother to the point of tears. When I was eight my parents got divorced and I stayed with my father.
Growing up in a home with lots of rules and no relationship caused me to look for other ways to hide from my pain. By the time I was twelve I had experimented with various drugs, watched inappropriate movies, and had developed very poor eating habits that was causing me to weigh over 200 pounds. I can still remember the kids on the playground making fun of me, calling me Little Porker. I had conditioned myself to accept this negative criticism from the kids as my primary source of attention. Every child wants attention and I had learned dysfunctional ways to get attention from kids. At home the physical and mental abuse from my dad was just a normal part of growing up. I deeply wanted my father’s love and approval but he seemed unable or unwilling to give it. Not once did I hear him express love for me. Instead almost every time he came home from work he would start drinking and start yelling. Each night I was forced to set in a certain chair and listen to him tell me that I would never succeed in school and in life. Proving I could succeed I graduated from both high school and college and last year seminary. The physical pain of being whipped with belts and ropes caused welts and bruises but those welts and bruises healed pretty quickly. It was the emotional rejection I felt that caused the most pain. There is a verse in Proverbs that says, “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword.” That is true. Emotional scars don’t heal fast.
Since my deepest hurt has been my relationship with my father I think it is amazing that it was on Fathers Day 1993 that I finally got connected to my heavenly Father by putting my faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That day began the healing process from all the rejection I had felt over the years. That day I prayed to God, my heavenly Father, and said, “Daddy, I want to come home. I accept Your Son, Jesus.” At that moment I was saved by the grace of God. Now every Fathers Day I’m reminded that no matter how my earthly father treats me, my heavenly Father is loving, caring and close.
Even after I became a Christian I still had trouble accepting God’s unconditional love and I had a hard time connecting with Him as a Father. In the past years I’ve learned that God uses other people to model His love for us and teach us about Himself. I’m so grateful for the people He uses in my life. First, He uses my wonderful wife Stacy to help me to learn to be vulnerable with my feelings and my fears. I didn’t know how to do this growing up with an unpleaseable father. So I’m glad my wife is very, very patient with me as I continue to learn to share more and more with her. Learning to trust has brought incredible inner peace. Second, He uses my three children to teach me about unconditional love and acceptance no matter how bad I blow it. It’s amazing how much we can learn about God from our young kids. Just as they run tome with open arms, I’m learning I can run to God any time, anywhere and I will not be condemned, yelled at or made fun of. Experiencing this kind of unconditional love has brought me so much inner peace. Third, God uses other men in my life from my men’s small group to my spiritual mentors to teach me the importance of accountability, character, integrity, and support. You don’t experience God’s love from reading a book. You experience it by being connected to other believers and sharing life together. If you’ve never felt God’s love I would urge you to get involved in a small group that meets on a weekly basis for prayer, support and encouragement. As we look on a weekly basis at God’s word together I see things I would never have seen on my own. Finally, God uses my coworkers to teach me that life is more about being than doing. More about giving than getting. For years I strived to do things for approval, acceptance and affirmation because of what I’ve missed from my father. But God does not want me to worry about what I do. He just wants me to be with Him. Not out of duty but out of devotion.
Learning to rest and not worry about winning the approval of others has been so releasing and so refreshing. Now I get to serve here on staff at Saddleback church to help people discover their ministry. I still fall and stumble in my daily walk and I often get disconnected from my heavenly Father. But God does not yell at me and tell me I will never be able to make it. As Pastor Rick says God doesn’t rob it in, He rubs it out. My heavenly Father picks me up, brushes me off, and provides me the needed love and acceptance to keep going each day. He reminds me that I am capable of fulfilling His purpose in my life. Nine years ago when I said, “Father, I want to come home,” I had no idea the road that God had been waiting for me to take would be so comforting. Of course there are still things I struggle with and the pain from my past but with God’s love, my wonderful wife, my children, my small group, and this incredible church my broken heart is being healed and my wounds of rejection are being replaced with love, compassion, encouragement and forgiveness.
In closing, I’d like to say something to those of you who were raised in a home with lots and lots of rules and little love or relationships. Please stop listening to those old voices from your past and start listening to the truth of what God says about you. He loves you and has a plan for your life. Getting to know Him will replace inner pain with inner peace. Please let go and let God love you.
Is God everybody’s Father? Is everybody a child of God? The answer is yes and no. Yes, everyone was created by God but not everybody is connected to God. There’s a lot more to being a father than just creating a kid. There are millions of kids in this world who have never known their father. Millions! It takes more than birthing to be a dad. It takes more than creating. It takes connection. Yes, every one in the world is created by God but no, everyone in the world is not connected to their Father. To their heavenly Father who made them. God wants them to be connected in His family.
How do I get connected to God as Father? That’s why God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth, to make the connection. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me you would know My Father as well.” There’s only one way to get to know the Father – through Jesus Christ who God sent to earth to make the connection. That’s why He sent Him to earth, so we could get to know Him. You wouldn’t even know God was your Father if Jesus Christ hadn’t come to earth. You wouldn’t even know it. He sent Jesus to earth to make the connection.
“We are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Circle “through faith”. How do you become a child of God? There is only one way. Through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s not a single verse in the Bible that says you get connected to the Father God through religion. Not a single verse that says that. Because God is not into religion. He doesn’t want a religion. He wants a relationship. He wants you to know Him as Father and you know the Father through the Son. Through faith in Jesus Christ.
One of the greatest needs in your life is to have the approval of your father. Even if your dad was an absolute jerk there’s still something inside of you that wanted to have that connection. And you wished and longed for even if it were painful or abusive. You want that approval of your father. But you may never get it, truthfully. The truth is your father may be unable to give it because of his own hurts and pain. Or your father may have walked out of your life years and years ago. Or been in your life but totally detached and they’re not going to change. Or your father may have died.
But there is a Father who knows you intimately. And loves you completely. And accepts you unconditionally. And wants you. You can go to that Father for His approval and for His acceptance and for His advice and He is your heavenly Father. That Father – God – has seen every moment of your life. He watched you being formed in your mother’s womb. He watched you take your first breath. He watched every tear that’s fallen, every success you’ve had, every joy, every regret, every jealousy, every envy. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly about you and He still loves you. And He wants you as His child. And He wants you connected not just created.
Unlike your earthly father He understand you completely. Turn to Him. Say, “Father, I’m coming home to You.”
Maybe you’ve allowed the experiences of your human father to warp your view of your heavenly Father. I urge you to trade your misconceptions for the truth today. Pray this prayer. Say “Dear Father! I want You to be my heavenly Father and I want to be Your child. I want to be connected to You not just created by You. So I ask You to accept me into Your family. By faith I put my trust in You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for sending Jesus to teach me about You. Thank You for being a caring, consistent, close Father. I want to relax and I want to start trusting You today. Would You give me the inner peace that comes from knowing You? In Your name I pray. Amen.”