Last week, we talked about the unwanted end-time promise of persecution and troubles. We would rather God shield us from these things, but He allows them for a reason.
If the Lord is not rescuing you from your trouble, it’s because you are going to learn how to overcome your trouble so that it can never trouble you again.
So, when troubles come, rejoice! Because it’s not going to take you out. It’s going to transform you into an overcomer.
I’m wondering if anyone has already been transformed into an overcomer. Maybe last week you came in a bit depressed about your troubles, but this week you came in thankful for your troubles?
If that’s you, raise your hand. You all are a wild bunch! Being thankful for your troubles, that’s just crazy! But it’s good to be crazy because it means we are like Jesus.
1 Peter 2:21 NLT – For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
Aren’t you glad I keep bringing you all your favorite scriptures?
Today, I am going to build on last week’s message with God’s promise of protection.
When you understand that persecution and troubles transform you into an overcomer and then pair it with confidence in God’s promise of protection, you become unstoppable.
If the enemy can no longer intimidate you with fear or distract you with troubles, he has no ammo left. It’s like you have a force field around you as you destroy the kingdom of darkness.
I’ve already helped you overcome your troubles. Now, let me help you build your confidence in God’s promise of protection.
Where Confidence Comes From
Today, people admire my boldness. I am not afraid to confront culture with the Word of God. I don’t care if people get mad at me for speaking truth.
But I haven’t always been this bold.
I became the lead pastor of NoLimits Church in June of 2018. Back then, we were still on the cruise ship of Christianity.
I could preach a good self-help message and go home without making anyone upset. We were all enjoying our country club church experience and patting ourselves on the back for creating something that everyone enjoyed.
Even sinners felt welcome in our church services. And since we are called to reach the lost, we assured ourselves that we were on the right track. Our flesh was happy, so surely God was happy.
I was simply regurgitating things that I had learned from some of the largest churches in America. Surely, since they got that big, they could teach the rest of us what to do.
Turns out, there’s a problem when you measure success with the wrong measurement.
How God measures success
The size of a church is not how God measures success. God is looking for a church who trusts Him and is living according to His Word.
But, we were convinced that church attendance reveals the value of a church. So, we all strived to be like the large churches.
Around that time, I went to a church growth conference where they explained how our Sunday services should be designed to reach the lost. We should have services that lost people love to attend.
Since we are called to reach the lost, it sounded pretty good. But I could never get it to fit into what God was leading me to do here at NoLimits.
Nevertheless, I used to teach this in our Growth Track. I’d say, “Our Sunday services are designed to reach the lost, so we should create an experience that lost people love to attend.” And every time I’d say that I’d sense the Holy Spirit say, “Wrong.”
Talk about an inner struggle. I could get almost everyone to agree with this except the Holy Spirit. So I figured, maybe if the Holy Spirit sees the results of increased attendance, He’ll get on board.
Well, I only had about a year to try to pull it off before 2020 came. Even in that year of my best effort, the church didn’t grow.
I’ve since learned that God’s design for the church is for believers to get equipped to make a difference in the kingdom of God. Sunday services are training grounds so we can reach the lost in our daily lives.
With the church growth strategy I learned, we are only reaching the lost one day a week with a watered-down version of the gospel. With God’s strategy, we have strong believers reaching the lost every day of the week in their daily lives.
When Covid Changed Everything
But, there I was pursuing the American church growth strategy. Then Covid showed up and shut the doors.
From the beginning of Covid, I had a suspicion that something fishy was going on. But I also carried the weight of the health of my congregation. So we went to online services when Governor Stitt asked us to.
What a crazy time for all of us, right? We had never been asked to shelter in place because of a virus. So none of us really knew where it was going to go.
During the first two weeks of lockdown, we were extremely busy working out the technology side of things. We had never streamed our services, so it was quite the undertaking.
When things calmed down in the third week, the spirit of God shouted within me and said, “Turn off the news and never watch it again.”
Most of the time, God speaks to me through the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. But this was a loud, authoritative voice. So I turned off the news, and no one was going to convince me to turn it back on.
In the days following, the Lord began to instruct me to open the church and not pay attention to what the other pastors were doing. So, after five weeks of online-only services, we were one of the first churches in Owasso to resume in-person meetings.
Looking back, I should have never closed the church. I am so thankful for the grace of God that covers honest mistakes like this. But we will never shut our doors again.
When I was preparing today’s message, I looked back to find out what I preached during lockdown. Interestingly, I was preaching on things I learned at that church growth conference.
This is humorous to me. God let me get it all out of my system when no one was really paying attention anyways.
From there, we went into our summer series, where I didn’t preach for eight weeks. During those eight weeks, I was like a caterpillar in his cocoon, transforming into something entirely different.
When I got back on stage, I was no longer the feel-good preacher everyone remembered. I showed up on Aug 2, 2020, to destroy the works of the enemy and haven’t stopped since.
Persecution Produces Confidence in God
It took a few weeks for everyone to figure out what was going on. They were quite shocked at my transformation. But once they got over the shock, persecution came.
I quickly realized that I didn’t have a full revelation of God’s protection. I thought I did! But there I was, getting out of bed several times a night to make sure the doors were locked.
This is when all the BLM protests were going on. Cities were being burned. People were threatening me on social media. My church members were slandering me behind my back.
I remember lying in bed at night, terrified for my family. I’d have visions of one of these crazy people breaking into my house to torture my family because of my stand for righteousness.
But, I knew I couldn’t stop. I was one of the few who would speak God’s truth, and I wasn’t about to deny the One I serve.
I knew about God’s protection. But I clearly didn’t have a revelation of it. Eventually, I got tired of being tormented at night and did what I knew to do all along, find scriptures on God’s protection and meditate on them.
Turns out, there is no shortage of scriptures on God’s promise of protection. But let me share with you the one that made the greatest impact.
Psalm 91:1-16 NLT – Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
I read Psalm 91 out loud daily for months. And every time I read it, God’s promise of protection would drop deeper into who I am until it became a full-on revelation.
Now, you can’t convince me otherwise. God will protect me from any attack of the enemy. There is nothing Satan can do to harm me or my family because God is our refuge.
Like I said a few weeks ago, I have yet to find a promise that isn’t attached to a condition. Even God’s promise of protection, in order to live in it, you have to make Him your refuge.
Psalms 91:9-10 NLT – If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
There are a lot of good Christian people who have died early from some attack of the enemy. They had God’s protection available, but they never lived in it by making God their refuge.
Let me put it to you this way. If you look to yourself for protection, God is not your refuge. If you look to the police or your alarm system for protection, God is not your refuge.
I’m not saying to live carelessly with your doors and windows unlocked and that you shouldn’t own a gun. But I am saying that you cannot trust in those things.
Every other means of protection has faults. What if you can’t get to your gun? What if the police don’t show up in time? What if you aren’t around to protect your kids?
The only fail-proof means of protection is making God your refuge. Live under His shelter. Trust Him to rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
Protection from Deadly Sickness
Speaking of, during this same time period, I had a very severe health battle that very few people know about.
In the midst of learning how to deal with threats and persecution, I became very sick. I’m sure it’s all interconnected somehow because the enemy was fighting hard to shut me down.
But I don’t get shut down. Even as a kid, I never gave in to peer pressure. If I was going to do something, it was because I wanted to do it. Nobody was going to make me do it.
For all the parents who have hard-headed kids, now you know that God made them that way for a reason. I know it makes for tough parenting, but it also makes for strong leaders.
To this day, I don’t know what type of sickness I was dealing with. Every time I was about to head to the doctor, I would sense the Holy Spirit telling me not to go but to trust God.
There were days that my vision would be so bad that I could only work for thirty minutes at a time and then would have to lay in a dark room for up to an hour to recoup.
I’m not one who takes naps very often. But it came to a place where I was taking several naps a day because I couldn’t function otherwise.
These issues caused anxiety which just made things worse. My chest would get tight. I’d start taking these tiny breaths, and my heart would start racing out of my chest.
When most would be tempted to go lay in bed and mope, I would force myself to go outside and walk or run, which would almost always eliminate the anxiety.
Even with these struggles, I’d show up every Sunday with a smile on my face and deliver the Word God wanted me to deliver. And there was always a supernatural source of strength to preach.
But, I didn’t have that same strength throughout the week. The rest of the week, I was dragging myself through the mud and fighting just to meet the bare minimum of what was expected of me at work.
The Promise of Longevity
After several months of this, the enemy started whispering his lies, “You are going to die young and leave your wife alone to care for your kids.”
I’m not scared to die. But I do not want to leave my wife and my kids to fend for themselves. And I do not want to leave my earthly assignment unfinished.
So, once again, it took a while, but I did what I knew to do. I found my scriptures to stand on. And here’s the one that made all the difference:
Psalms 128:1-6 NLT – How joyful are those who fear the Lord — all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him. May the Lord continually bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live. May you live to enjoy your grandchildren. May Israel have peace!
May you live to enjoy your grandchildren. Do you know what that says to me? Number one, I am going to live to a ripe old age. Number two, when I am old, I’ll be full of life and energy.
I want you to notice, once again, there’s a condition:
Psalms 128:4 NLT – That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.
What does it mean to fear God? It means you deny yourself to follow Him. It means you trust Him completely.
I put this scripture on my bathroom mirror and read it every day. And I would always say, “See that, Satan? I’m going to live to be a healthy, old man if Jesus doesn’t come back before then. Because I am a man who fears the Lord.”
The more I read it, God’s promise of health and old age would drop deeper into who I am until it became a full-on revelation.
Before, when a symptom would attack my body, I would start to worry. Now, I just laugh because I know it will be short-lived. Nothing can take me out until I decide it’s time to die.
You Decide When to Die
This is a truth Jesus demonstrated for us. Take a look:
John 10:18 NLT – No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again.
Who decided when Jesus was to be arrested, beaten, and killed? Was it the religious leaders? Was it Roman soldiers? Was it the governor? Was it Judas?
No. It was Jesus. Jesus decided when to lay down His life.
Do you know why this truth is so important? Two reasons:
First, this shows you that Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to save yours. He didn’t have to do it. He wanted to do it. Jesus wanted to make a way for you to be reconciled to God and receive eternal life.
The second reason this is important is because the same goes for you. God has given you authority over your own life. The only one who can decide when to lay it down is you.
And I understand that what I just said comes with a lot of opposing thoughts. We think of all the people who have died, who shouldn’t have. Maybe they died in a car accident, or as a child, or whatever the case may be.
There are lots of people who die prematurely. Sometimes it’s by choice, but most of the time, it’s because they didn’t know God gave them authority over their own life.
So Satan took advantage of the situation and came to kill, steal and destroy. That’s why you need to know this. Otherwise, you leave the door open for Satan to come and kill you before you’re ready.
Remember, Jesus decided when it was time to lay down His life. And He wants you to know that you can decide when it’s time to lay down your life.
You don’t have to die prematurely. God wants to satisfy you with long life.
Living with Confidence in God’s Protection
When you understand this truth, you live your life differently.
Fear no longer controls you. Sickness no longer scares you. Death is no longer a big deal. You live with confidence, knowing that you get to decide when it’s time to go.
So, when you face sickness, you laugh because you know it’s not going to take you out!
When you get in the car every day, you drive with complete peace, knowing that a car accident is not going to take you out.
When God asks you to go somewhere dangerous, you say, “Alright. Let’s do this because I know this is not going to take me out.”
Some people would think this is blasphemy, that we are somehow offending God by walking in the authority He gave us. But it actually pleases God when we walk in our God-given authority.
And in case you are struggling to believe that we can walk in the same authority Jesus had on the earth, look at this:
1 John 1:6 NLT – Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
Did Jesus allow death to take Him out before He was ready? No. He decided when to lay down His life. And we are to live our lives just as Jesus did.
Walk in your authority! You decide when to lay down your life.
So, do you need to fear sickness? No. Do you need to fear danger? No. Do you need to fear threats from those who are possessed by woke demons? No.
Psalms 91:9-10 NLT – If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
Be confident in God’s promise of protection. He’ll protect you from evil. He’ll protect you from sickness. He’s given you the authority to decide when it’s time to die. Use your authority.