Follow Your Dreams
Todd Wagner | 09.17.19
When it comes to pursuing what we’re passionate about, we’re here for it. But what happens when all our dreams come true and we still want more? In this message, we talk about the dangers of living by the mantra “Follow Your Dreams” and see what it could look like to #livethedream by chasing what God says really satisfies.
Follow Your Dreams
When it comes to pursuing what we’re passionate about, we’re here for it. But what happens when all our dreams come true and we still want more? In this message, we talk about the dangers of living by the mantra “Follow Your Dreams” and see what it could look like to #livethedream by chasing what God says really satisfies.
How are we doing, Porch? Last week of the Instagram Theology series that we're in the middle of. We've been talking about insta-theology, these little phrases, these slogans that are thrown at us that can inform us in so many ways. Tonight, we're going to be talking about the phrase follow your dreams. "Follow your heart. Follow your passions. You've got to go for it. Live your life. You do you." There are a thousand ways to say it.
What we're going to talk about tonight is "Is there really wisdom in there? Should we follow our hearts? Should we follow our dreams? Should we chase what seems right to us?" Well, let me start with a few of these little posts that are out there. You've seen them. Here are a few you're going to run into when you go along the way. "Follow your dreams, and the universe will open for you where there previously were only walls." You kind of read that, and you're like, "Yes! That's what I'm saying right there. I'm down with that."
Or how about this one? "Follow your dreams. They know the way." Does that make sense? How about this? "Sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream no one can see but you." You're sitting there scrolling through your phone, and you're like, "Yes. Yes, I believe that. I'm down with that." This is Oprah. Oprah is going to chime in. "The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams." Oprah is on Instagram. She apparently saw those other posts, and she's laying it on here. It's Oprah now, so it's not just some random post out there. That's Oprah.
Walt Disney: "If you can dream it, you can do it [Tinker Bell. Come on. You can do it. Just flap those little fairy wings, and we're going to go somewhere]." How about this one? Barbara Sher says, "As soon as you begin to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning." That's like, "Yes. Say that to me again. Give it to me." Steve Jobs. It's coming to the practical, coming to the reality. "Have the courage to follow your heart."
Steve Jobs, famously, in a way that impacted a generation, gave a message when he was at Stanford, and he talked about, "You find a job you love." He didn't finish it with the phrase, "You'll never work a day in your life," but that's what he was implying. He just told them, "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Somehow your dreams, your intuition, know what you truly want to become." I don't know. Is that true?
How about this one? This guy followed his dreams. "Yesterday I really wanted tacos, and now I'm eating tacos. Follow your dreams." Now that one I'm going to endorse. Dream about tacos and have yourself a taco. That one will work. Everything else, though, might need a little help. Listen. Some of those ideas are a bit inspiring. They might get you wondering a little bit, to where you get out of your workaday world or just believe, "All I can be is all anybody has ever told me."
What I want to share with you tonight is you don't need insta-theology; you need real theology. There's a real God, and he's really there, and he really loves you. He's not looking to rip you off; he is looking to set you free. This God loves you so much he came to rescue you from a way that seems right to you but in the end leads to death. Those are his words, not mine. He wants to rescue you from having to learn through experiencing, from having to make your way through the dark.
This is not new to your generation. This has been going on for a long time. Plato, the great philosopher, essentially said, "Until we hear a still more sure word from God…" This is what philosophers… Philosopher. Philo means love; sophia, wisdom. Lovers of wisdom. That's where the word philosophy comes from. Lovers of wisdom have always said what Plato said. "Until we hear a more sure word from God, we're going to be like two barques [ships] making their way through an ocean at night in the middle of a storm."
What's Plato saying there? Plato is saying if you're a ship on the ocean at night in a storm, there's nothing to guide you. There's no truth anchored in the heavens. If you're on the ocean at night and you're in a ship, you're going to look up at the stars. Not the planets. The word planet comes from the word that literally means wanderer. Don't fix your future course on what wanders, what moves, but fix your future on what is anchored and true, and you follow what's up there, but if it's a storm at night and it's dark…
Plato ends by basically saying, "All we can do is trust in the best opinions of men," and he goes, "That's trouble." Every philosopher, lover of wisdom, would love a more sure word from God. You don't need insta-theology when you can get real theology, when you can get, literally, God's Word. That's what that means. Theos (God), logos (word). The Word of God. What we're trying to do is just lovingly share with you so you don't have to kind of pick your way through life.
I have a lot of folks now who are my generation, and we're a lifetime and a half ahead of you, most of the folks who are dropping in on this. I can now tell you with a little bit more experience that insta-theology… We didn't have Instagram. We didn't even have any social media. It wasn't around, but there were slogans they fed us and that many of us formed our lives on. I have a lot of buddies who have succeeded in following their dreams or attaining success and doing things at the highest pinnacles of life.
I used to walk to class with Brad Pitt. He and I went to college together. We lived next to each other, and I can remember Brad making his way. Sheryl Crow and I hung out in college, and we were friends. We were at a concert together on a date, and I was sitting there. She looked at me. She just elbowed me. She goes, "Man, I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that one day." And she did, but she did a lot of other things, because following the dreams…
Sheryl was gifted, and Brad had talent even then. I've watched a lot of their journeys through life, and in getting the success of their dreams and their visions, it doesn't always work out in the way you think it will. I mean, this is my friend Brad. This is what he says to you. Listen to him. He quotes one of his characters in an interview with Rolling Stone.
"Man, I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us—the car, the condo, our versions of success—but if that's the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness?" Then he says, "If you ask me, I say, 'Toss all this; we've got to find something else.' Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being. And I do not want that."
The Rolling Stone magazine interviewer said, "So if we're heading toward this kind of existential dead end in society, [if 'Follow your dreams' and 'Follow your heart's desires' isn't the thing, then what's the thing?] what do you think should happen?" This is Brad Pitt. You need to know something. Brad danced with spiritual truths. He was around theology, but it never became his theology. Watch what happens when you don't learn by humbling yourself. You're going to learn by being humbled. Here's my humble friend.
He says, "[I don't know.] The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. I'm sitting in it, and I'm telling you, that's not it. […] I'm the guy who's got everything. I know. But I'm telling you, once you get everything, then you're just left with yourself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It doesn't help you sleep any better, and you do not wake up any better because of it." That's just the humble truth right there.
Michael Jordan was also of my generation. Michael Jordan was told at one time by GQ magazine… All of the guys who subscribed to that magazine when it was at the zenith of its being a big deal were asked the question, "If you could be anybody for a year, who would it be?" and all of the guys who subscribed to that magazine put all of their answers in. They compiled them all up, and the answer was "Michael Jordan. I want to be Michael Jordan."
They went to Michael Jordan and went, "Hey, bro, what's that like to be the guy that if guys could be any guy they wanted to be for a year they'd be you?" Jordan basically said, "Well, that doesn't surprise me. But make them be me for five years. After a while, they're going to find out that all of the restaurants, all of the doors opening, all of the women opening to you, all of the things you want, just don't satisfy. Make them be me for longer. Let's see what they want."
Here's the thing. You're going to be you your entire life, so what you have to figure out is "Is there something I can follow that's a blessing to me?" Let me read from one of your own generation who experienced a whole lot of success early on in life, my man Justin Bieber. You've heard Justin. Did you see his Instagram post recently? Just watch this. It's a little long, but I want you to hear from the philosophers of your day.
He says, "It's hard to get out of bed in the morning with the right attitude when you are overwhelmed with your life…" Have you ever felt like that? This is Justin Bieber. How is he overwhelmed with his life? Well, listen. "…your past, job, responsibilities, emotions, your family, finances, your relationships. When it feels like there's trouble after trouble after trouble. You start foreseeing the day through lenses of dread…" Wow!
"[Sometimes all you can do is] anticipate another bad day. A cycle of feeling disappointment after disappointment. Sometimes it can even get to the point where you don't even want to live anymore." Can you believe that? That life? "Where you feel like it's never going to change." He says, "I can fully sympathize with you. I could not change my mindset. [I was stuck. I was following my dreams. I was actually living your dream. I got sucked up in a vortex of the world exploiting me, and I was living what you guys thought was your dream.]"
He goes, "I am fortunate to have people in my life that continue to encourage me to keep going. You see, I have a lot of money, clothes, cars, accolades, achievements, awards, and I was still…" Listen to this. Thirty years after Brad in the same interview. "[I still didn't have it, because I had this insta-thing that was promising me something that doesn't give you anything.]
Have you noticed the statistics of child stars and the outcome of their life? There is an insane pressure and responsibility put on a child whose brain, emotions, frontal lobes (decision-making) aren't developed yet. No rationality, defiant, rebellious, things all of us have to go through [to learn]. But when you add the pressure of stardom it does something to you that is quite unexplainable.
You see, I didn't grow up in a stable home. My parents were 18, separated, with no money, still young and rebellious as well. [Why? Because my dad's passion wasn't to stay committed to my mom. He followed his heart right away from being my dad, and there was a vulnerability and a wound there.]
As my talent progressed and I became ultra successful, it happened within a strand of two years. My whole world was flipped on its head. I went from a 13-year-old boy from a small town to being praised left and right by the world with millions saying how much they loved me and how great I was." Isn't that your dream? "I don't know about you but humility comes with age." It sure does.
"You hear these things enough as a young boy and you actually start believing it. Rationality comes with age and so does your decision-making process (one of the reasons you can't drink until you're 21). Everyone did everything for me, so I never even learned the fundamentals of responsibility. So by this point I was 18 with no skills in the real world, with millions of dollars and access to whatever I wanted. [This can be very scary.]"
You're like, "Wait a minute. That's my dream." What he's going through to say is "Don't make it your dream." I'm just going to fast-forward. You can go back and find it. I think this was around Labor Day he posted this to all 119 million followers, and I hope they followed him. Here's what he says in the last paragraph:
"I started doing pretty heavy drugs at 19 and abused all of my relationships. I became resentful, disrespectful to women, and angry. I became distant to everyone who loved me, and I was hiding behind a shell of a person that I had become. I felt like I could never turn it around. It's taken me years to bounce back from all of these terrible decisions, fix broken relationships, and change relationship habits. Luckily, God blessed me with extraordinary people who love me for me.
Now I am navigating the best season of my life: 'MARRIAGE'!! Which is an amazing, crazy new responsibility. [But it isn't easy; it takes] patience, trust, commitment, kindness, humility, and all of the things it looks like to be a good man. All this to say…keep fighting. Jesus loves you."
Isn't that amazing? Isn't that amazing that one of your contemporaries who, frankly, isn't chasing a dream; he has lived the dream… "I'm just living the dream." He's saying, "Listen, man. You ought to wake up, because the dreams we're chasing sometimes turn into nightmares." Some of you guys are experiencing that, and you wish you could just wake up and get out of it, but you're stuck in the same way Justin was stuck. There's just something there that's not working out for you.
I have to tell you I know why. It's because there's an insta-theology out there that doesn't work that you've been sucked into. I'm going to tell you another. Here's some real theology. This is some theology. This is God who loves you. This is the one that Justin said, "Listen. Don't chase what I chased." That doesn't mean don't use your talent. It doesn't mean don't believe that maybe you can go out there and get a break. He's just saying, "Don't count on that break making you." Stardom doesn't make you; God makes you, and God loves you, and he's good.
The reason your life is as hurting as his was with all that success is because it doesn't matter if you have success or no success. The question is…Do you know God? Do you have good words from God that inform you? I have some good news for you. It's not like this is a mystery and you have to go rent a yak and find a Sherpa and climb up some mountain and find some mysterious cave somewhere where you can sit down with a wise man who might give you a little bit of time.
This is amazing. God is more anxious to reveal to you his heart than you'll ever be to seek it. He wants to give to you, as a loving Father, what you need and what you can follow. You don't need a slogan; you need a Savior. All of us are born into this rebellious little "I've got this, I don't need you" life. When we see that there's a way that seems right to us that leads to death, we finally humble ourselves and go, "Hey, God, could you love me still?"
His answer is "Yes. I've demonstrated my love for you in that while you were still a little rebellious, insta-, spontaneous, self-absorbed, no theology individual, I gave my life for you so you could see a word from God." This is who his word is. He's love, and he cares for you. He's not going to just dismiss your sin, so he had to figure out a way to deal with that, and he dealt with it by himself becoming sin for you, that you can be reconciled to him.
This is what he says. I want you to remember the words of Justin and the words of Brad, and now listen to the words of a guy who knew God and the wisdom that comes from God. This is in Proverbs 3. I'll just pick you up right in the middle of the chapter, in verse 13. Remember what they both said? "It's despairing, it's depressing, and I can't sleep well. It's just not the key." Watch this. "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man [the woman, the human] who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold."
How amazing would it have been for Brad to use all of his acting talent and known this instead of thinking that maybe his acting talent and his good looks and his fame could have gotten him peace? He had the chance. He wasn't around anything exactly like The Porch, but he was around this, but this never sunk in here, so he had to learn by climbing mountains and realizing that in the mountains the air is thin and it chokes you and there's no life there. I think if he was here, he'd tell you, "Why don't you learn before you start climbing the wrong mountain."
"Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are [real] riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace." I can tell you, by the grace of God, about your age I was all in with Jesus. Life wasn't easy. I didn't get married until I was 28. It wasn't like it was all falling right in. Some of you guys are going, "I'm 32, Todd." It doesn't matter. I can tell you that it can still be a pleasant and peaceful way when you know the way you're supposed to live and who you're supposed to live with. Jesus is enough. He's sufficient.
" [Wisdom that God gives] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew. My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck." It's the most beautiful thing somebody could wear, which is to live life the way God wants you to live life. It's beautiful. It makes you beautiful.
"Then you will walk…securely and your foot will not stumble." Remember what Brad said? Remember what Justin said? "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught."
That's some theology for you. Those aren't just words from a guy who had also done what Brad and Justin had done. Later in his life, he came back to saying, "I wrote those words, and I deviated from them. I was around this truth, and I didn't walk in those ways." The guy who wrote that wrote another book called Ecclesiastes, where he lived the life of our dreams. He was a hedonist. He was wealthy. He was a womanizer. I mean, he had power.
He had it all, and he said, "Vanity. It's all vanity. There's no life there." He came back and said, "This is the secret of wisdom: in your youth learn to fear God." That doesn't mean be scared of God. Learn to know how good God is that it would horrify you that you wouldn't let him inform your 20s, because he makes 20s beautiful, and 30s beautiful, and 40s beautiful, and 50s beautiful. That's who our God is.
Let me give you one more thing, and then I'm going to give you some really practical stuff tonight too. I was thinking about this. There's a guy who is part of Gen Y. Just a reminder, Gen Y is anybody who was born between 1980 and 1994. That's most of the folks who are tracking with me right now and listening. This guy is a computer science professor at Georgetown University.
He was watching how a bunch of your contemporaries and your peers were struggling at work, because we think, "I'm supposed to chase my dreams and live my passion and find what I love. If I don't love my work in the first year or the first month, then this must not be where I'm supposed to work." We're jettisoning careers, and we're not satisfied, because we thought work would make us happy. Work is good, but work doesn't make you happy.
Can I tell you something else? Happy is good, but happy doesn't make you happy. Happy is what you experience when it's generally going well with you. What I want to offer you is not insta-happy; I want to offer you blessedness. That word blessedness is the word be happy. It's a deep and abiding happy. But here's the thing: the world is lying to you and giving you a false theology.
It's not your fault. Your society, your world, the one that my generation largely has offered to you, is a world that has jettisoned the basic teachings of God who loves you, what's called the Judeo-Christian ethic. Even people who don't know God but who do what God wants them to do generally do better. This is not health, wealth, and prosperity, but it's going to be a better life. Part of that "betterness" is when trouble hits you, you're not haunted by the thought, "I've brought this on myself."
The very first week of this series where we talked about the good vibes, health, wealth, and prosperity nonsense and lie, I was up here. I wasn't teaching at The Porch that night, but I was walking back through, and some of you grabbed me and went, "I just wish I could know that it was going to be okay. I kind of like that offer of good vibes, health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, because if I just live the way they're telling me to live, I want to know it's going to work out well for me." I go, "But listen. It's a lie."
It's a lie that if you give God $1,000 he'll return it to $10,000. It's a lie that if you have enough faith that cancer will go away or that man will come or that woman will say, "Yes." It's a lie. It doesn't always happen. It's not a faith problem. It's just part of being in a world where sometimes things you want to go a certain way don't go the right way.
Here's the peace. Do you want promised peace? Here's how you can get it: you can order your life in humility before God so in this world still wracked with trouble, when trouble comes, you're not lying in bed kicking yourself because you brought the trouble on yourself. In fact, God has even told you that in him you'll have peace, but in the world you'll have trouble. The world will offer you fleeting moments of peace, but then trouble is going to come, and if you don't have something to explain the trouble that's here in this world…
Guess why there's trouble in the world: because our world lives according to an insta-theology. Our world lives according to lies. When you expect lies to deliver something truly wonderful, you're going to be disappointed. So God calls you to follow him and believe in him. What gives you peace is that if you live your life well and things don't break out, you know this life is not your home. You know God is going to reward those who are faithful.
Worst-case scenario, you're talking about a few decades that will have you standing before the one whose opinion matters and who's going to look at you and go, "Look. I know it was hard. I know health didn't come your way. I know you spent your life in a wheelchair. I know you never were met with somebody who told you they loved you and cherished and nourished you, but you were satisfied in me, and you showed others the sufficiency of who I am. Welcome, my beloved."
You might go, "Todd, I'm not interested in that." I'm telling you you ought to be, because there are all kinds of folks who have that ring on their left hand who bought the lie that "A great relationship is 100. I'm single. That's a zero, so even a bad marriage, a 4, is four degrees better than where I'm at." That's a lie. Being single is not a zero. If you're going to do that, what you have to realize is if being single and sufficient with God is zero, a bad relationship is a negative 100, and you don't want that pain. But it's not a zero. He's enough.
What you want is to learn to walk with him and be satisfied in him, and you find somebody else who walks with him and is satisfied with him, and even though they're frail and make mistakes, when they make a mistake they own it and repent of it, and together you guys are working toward the 100, which is being home with Jesus, the only one who won't disappoint. You don't need to follow your passions; you need to follow Jesus.
Here's what happened in your generation. You bought the lie. There's a thing called Google Ngram Viewer. I'm going to show you a chart in just a minute. I didn't even know this existed, but Google, which is an amazing processor of information… It tracks words and phrases that make their way into literature, into print, into human discourse. What I want you to see… Remember, Gen Y was born in 1980 through 1994, which means your formative years, for most of you, were late 90s, early 2000s.
Watch this. This is the Google Ngram Viewer for the phrase follow your passion. Take a look at this. This phrase throughout human history was used at a very miniscule level, and then along about 1994 all the way to 2008, we started saying, "Follow your passion" all the time to you. Why? Because your parents worked hard, and they had to get in the workaday world, and they prospered, and they went, "So now we want you to live your dreams. You do you." What you're finding is that doesn't work.
Do you know this? For the first time since the Spanish influenza, life expectancy in America has gone down three years in a row. We are the wealthiest and most prosperous country we have ever been, and life expectancy is decreasing. Do you know why? It's because there has been a spike in deaths of despair. There are more suicides, there's more liver disease, which we know comes from alcohol abuse, and there are more deaths from opioid overdoses.
In this successful, follow your passion-infused world, you don't need a slogan; you need a Savior. Do you know why you need a Savior? Here's why. Jeremiah 17:5. This is what it says to you in that little section of Scripture: "Thus says the Lord …"Theos, God, the one who loves you and wants to set you free and is not looking to rip you off. This is what he says: "Cursed is the man whofollows his dreams, his passions, his heart." We say around here all the time, "Don't follow your heart; inform your heart."
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind [in what seems right to man, the one who makes man and the best opinions of men] his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord." The people who lean on their own understanding and don't acknowledge him in all their ways. Their paths aren't straight. He says that person will be like… Hasn't this been so many of your experience, some of you guys who haven't by the kindness of God learned his ways?
" [The person who trusts in mankind and follows their heart and doesn't inform their heart with God's gracious word] will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes…" Their sleep won't be sweet. There will be no rest. "…but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant." Oh man! But verse 7: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord."
Have you ever seen people like this? I mention it to you all the time. As a guy who was an athlete and who delights in physical activity and competition and all that, I can remember I thought the worst thing that would ever happen to me would be if I was in a wheelchair. About the time I was in my teenage years, I bumped into a gal who had just pushed through hers. She was a great athlete. Her name is Joni Eareckson Tada. I can't encourage you enough to sit at her feet.
Joni, through a freak accident in the ocean, severed her spinal cord and has been in a wheelchair now for over five decades, but she's not in a stony wasteland. She's not in a world filled with salt. She is a tree firmly planted by water that extends its roots by a stream, and she doesn't fear when the heat comes. She's not wild about her wheelchair. She struggles with the same things you and I struggle with, but I'm telling you, that life is green and beautiful.
I look at her. She's not anxious about the things we're all anxious about. There's no year of drought. There's no lack of fruit in her life, like we're promised in verses 8 and 9. Jesus says, "Listen. You need to know. She's not following her passions and her dreams. She's not living her best life now. She is actually trusting in the only God who has ever lived." Because of that, because she's not following her deceitful heart but is trusting in a good and kind King, there's a beauty to her story.
I can remember saying to God when I met Joni, "Lord, if you have to put me in a wheelchair to teach me that you alone are sufficient, put me in a wheelchair, but, O Lord, please…" This is a prayer I would encourage you to pray. "But, O Lord, please give me enough humility that I can learn it without having to go that direction. Let me live my life in such a way that if I end up in a wheelchair I won't think this is the only way I could have learned that lesson, but, God, if you're who you say you are, take me to the wilderness quickly. Give me pain quickly. Strip me from everything I would love other than you quickly so I can learn who you are."
Here's the beautiful thing. A humble person looks up in their strength. Don't be the kind of person that the first time you look up is when you're flat on your back because you've been run over by another illicit relationship, another moment of stupidity, but in your strength, while you're young, look to your God.
This is what God does. He doesn't leave you out there waiting for a slogan; he comes in the form of a Savior. I'll just give you a few things. I could go on a list. Every now and then, I sat down with my kids and tried to give them some simple things to do throughout their day, that if they wanted to follow Jesus and learn his ways, these were some things they could do.
If you will, these were little, in effect, moments that I, as a loving father, who learned from my loving father, was trying to tell my young sons and daughters, "These are some things you can do, and when you follow Jesus and don't follow your heart, these are things that will be true of you, and this is the life." I put them together in Ls. I just used Ls. Like, "Get the L out of you." Let's just learn truth by putting the right L in our lives.
The first thing I told them was, "Listen. The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are true riches (not the riches Brad Pitt would tell you don't satisfy), honor, and life. So just be a learner." Can I tell you how relevant this book is? Two thousand years ago, a brother said, "Have nothing to do with insta-theology, with worldly fables fit only for old women, the people who sit around and make Pinterest posts." It's in the Greek. Believe me. Just trust me. It was there.
"On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." It's just a fact that discipline is the price of freedom. You have to go to work and discipline yourself. The precious possession of a man, the Scripture says, is diligence, and you have to be diligent to learn at the foot of truth, at the foot of someone wiser than you.
My kids say this to me all the time. I can remember it. I said the same thing when I was their age. Like, "This is stupid. I'll never use this stuff. Why are they making me read it?" Have you ever said that? Especially when you were in high school. Right? We can look back together, because we're all beyond that. We all said it.
Do you know what I said to them? I said, "Listen to me. You know what you are going to use? You're going to learn that all of life isn't easy and life isn't about you. You're going to learn to submit to authority. You're going to learn to have an assignment and perform the assignment with excellence.
You're going to learn to discipline yourself, to not just play Xbox all night and then cram and hope you get by. No. You're going to do the work you're supposed to do so you can show yourself as a trustworthy individual, and that learning to be faithful and disciplined and to work when you're supposed to work and play when you're supposed to play is going to lead to prosperity later in your life.
So you're absolutely correct. You may never, ever use this equation. You may never use this trivial fact they're trying to teach you about Texas history, but what you're going to use is what you're forming in your life now, which is personal integrity and responsibility and diligence. That will set you on the course of greatness and peace."
Discipline is the price of freedom, but let me tell you something: freedom is the reward of discipline. You're not burdened and shackled by addiction and depression and despair and regret. You're free from those things because you've lived your life with honor. Your Father in heaven doesn't just tell you to suck it up and do it, but he even enables you to do it when you humble yourself before him. "So learn his ways," I told my kids.
I would ask them, "What have you done today to grow in wisdom and stature?" Let me just ask you. What did you do today? Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. What did you do today to grow a little bit more versed in true theology? I would ask them, "What did you learn today about God? What one truth about God were you reminded of in his Word or his purposes that you didn't know yesterday? Was there anything you did today…?"
You might go, "Well, Todd, that's why I'm at The Porch." Okay. So Tuesday is covered. I'm glad you're here, but what are you going to do tomorrow? Not wait until next Tuesday. That's a bad program. Every day you want to learn more of this God who has your best interests in mind. Then I would always ask, "What are you going to do differently today because of what you learned?"
That's what I want to ask you tonight. It's great that you're going to learn some facts about God and some places you can go in Proverbs 3:13 down through the end of the chapter, but if you're not going to learn his ways and do something with it and say, "I'm going to seek God more than I am riches," then it doesn't really help you.
What are you going to do with this God you've heard isn't trying to rip you off; he's trying to set you free? He's not trying to get you to do good works so you can turn in a résumé; he's trying to show you that he's the good God who wants to provide for you the life you've wanted. What have you learned today?
Secondly, how have you led? I would ask my kids, "How is this world or others better today because you've stepped up?" If you follow Jesus, by the way, you're going to be a learner. Jesus calls us to be his disciples. The word disciple literally means learner. So don't follow your heart; follow Jesus. Jesus says this. "Follow me." It's one of his most oft-spoken words. "Follow me. Be a disciple. Learn my ways, and it will be pleasant to you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Are you burdened and lacking peace? It's probably because your program, your dreams, your heart… You're not informing it; you're following it, and you're lying in bed… "I'm about to be exposed. I might be pregnant. I might not get a date. I might not make enough money." You'll never have to say, "God might not love me enough." Don't put that on him. Listen to what he's saying. Let somebody explain to you how much he really does love you. So follow Jesus, and when you follow Jesus, you're going to be a leader of men, a leader of women. You're going to learn that great leaders are great servants.
I asked my kids, "How have you been a servant today? When you showed up, how was evil restrained because you were there? How was some girl not exploited because you were at that party, and when you saw her start to drink so much and you saw the predators you went, 'Nuh-uh. No. Not on my watch. Not this girl. Not tonight'? How was injustice conquered? How was love multiplied because you were there? How were captives rescued? How was joy increased?"
Let me ask you a question. Wouldn't it be awesome if when you were at the party women went, "Phew! I'm going to be safe tonight"? It's not a license for them to be foolish and drunk because you'll drive them home, but there's a guy there who isn't going to look to exploit them. Wouldn't it be awesome if your friends would go, "Hey, man, you make everything we do better. Not more riotous fun, maybe, but I never have regrets the morning after I'm hanging out with you"?
Proverbs 29:2 says, "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan." I have a friend, Lee Strobel, who used to be the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. He has written a bunch of books…The Case for Christ, The Case for Easter, The Case for a Creator. He's just a brilliant legal mind who was an atheist. While he was working for the Chicago Tribune, he was an alcoholic. He was a rager. His wife actually had come to faith, but Lee hadn't yet.
He said, "I used to come home, and my little girl would be sitting there on the floor of the living room playing with her toys." He said, "I'd come home, and she'd look up and go, 'Hi, Daddy,' and she would always gather her toys and get up and go in her room. I used to think she was respectful of my hard day of work, but, no. She knew peace was no longer in the home when Dad walked in." He realized people didn't rejoice when he showed up. It was like, "There's a predator here." That's not what a daddy wants.
I can tell you, by the kindness of God… I can remember there was a day that I had let my kids… We tried to regulate when they could dive in on certain stuff. The young mind isn't formed. Justin Bieber endorses that. We didn't let them have carte blanche on video games, Xbox stuff, and stuff like that when they were younger, but one day we said, "You can go after it. Go play." So they had been playing for an hour and a half when I got home, because they had done well through the week. They had performed well and been disciplined, so they had some freedom.
I got home and walked in the door, and I can remember… I could hear them up there playing Madden, and they were talking. At the time, my youngest was 9. He was playing with his brothers, and they were going, "Oh no! I can't believe it!" The 9-year-old heard me. He goes, "Time-out! Time-out! Time-out! No, stop, stop, stop! Time-out! Time-out! Time-out!" They go, "What? What?" He goes, "Just time-out! Hit time-out!"
Then I heard his little feet run across the upstairs room, come down the back steps, and open the door. He ran to me and went, "Daddy!" and gave me a hug and said, "I'm so glad you're home!" I looked at him, and I realized he just left Madden at an intense moment just because he was so glad I was home. I thought about my friend Lee, and I just go, "That's what happens when you follow Jesus and you're a dad who is others-centered and you bring a blessing into the home and not a curse."
I gave him a hug and said, "Man, go win your game." And he ran up the steps. His two dumb teenage brothers just sat up there and went, "You're back? All right. Here we go." But now those brothers have pushed through those years, and they're the same way. We have an amazing relationship. When you follow Jesus not your heart and learn his ways, you can lead, and when you lead you lead in a way that's a blessing.
I asked my kids, "Love. How did you do today? When you follow your heart, you follow lustful thoughts. It's desperately sick and deceitful above all else. But what have you done today to make someone else know of God's great love for them? What have you done so somebody out there who maybe was at the end of believing their life mattered knows there's a God who cares for them because you cared for them in Jesus' name?"
One of the things I would do with my kids a lot at grocery stores or something… I'd see people behind me. We had more than they did. Sometimes I'd say, "Just put their stuff ahead of mine," and they'd check it out. I'd go, "Just bag that." I'd go, "Hey, there you go." I can remember one time we were at Target around Christmas, and I just looked at what appeared to me to be a person who didn't have the provision we had.
I was in line. I watched the way the mom was saying, "No, we can't get that. No, we can't get that." I just said, "Hey, let them go in front of me." She said, "Oh, thank you so much," because she had a bunch of kids who were kind of crazy. I go, "By the way, put that back on the thing." I let them get in front of me, and I let them check out. The mom was kind of digging through her cash, and I just go, "Hey, this is going to be part of ours tonight. Bless you." She looked at me, and she was like, "What are you doing?"
This is a great story, because it was one of the most encouraging things of my life. I said, "Look. I pray…" I use this line a lot. "I pray this small act of kindness, and it's small, just reminds you of God's great love for you." It happened to be around the Christmas season. She goes, "How could I thank you?"
I go, "Well, you know what? You don't have to do anything to thank me. Maybe just realize that what I'm doing is a reminder that God loves you and he hasn't forgotten about you. That's what Christmas is all about. If you really want to do something, I would love for you to come and celebrate who my Jesus is this Christmas. Would you please consider coming and hanging out with your kids and being at our Christmas Eve service?"
She goes, "Oh. I can't do that." I just said to her, "I get it." She goes, "No, I can't do that, but I'd really like to. There was somebody else who was so kind to me, and I promised them I would go to church with them." I go, "That's amazing. Go to church. What church did she invite you to?" She goes, "It's a church called, like, Water-something, Water…" A kid goes, "Watermark." She goes, "We're going to go to Watermark." I go, "Oh! Definitely you should do that."
I thought to myself, how great is it that I'm out there with other folks who are following Jesus and just loving and had done something to her that made her for a second realize, "Maybe life is worth having a little bit of hope in it." Do you know how often you can do that? I say it to people all the time. "May this small act of kindness remind you of God's great love for you."
Don't follow your stinkin' heart. Can you imagine a guy who's with a girl…? It's Netflix and chill time. Before he chills, he looks at her, and he gets up and goes, "We've got to chill. Maybe this great act of discipline can be a reminder of God's great love for you, because you're his daughter and you're precious and I love you and I respect you. I'll see you tomorrow." That would make me like the guy. Love.
I have so many of them here. I'm not going to give them all. One was laugh. I said to my kids, "Have you laughed out loud today? Have you laughed uncontrollably? Have you laughed until you cried? Have you made others laugh much today?" Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine…" We're not uptight. We're not Pilgrims and Puritans. By the way, before you throw them under the bus, go look at their lives. There was some amazing richness of life back when those people lived a good life. "…but a broken spirit dries up the bones."
We have to learn to laugh. A joyful heart is good medicine. My family laugh together a ton. We play games. We compete. I'll tell you a quick story of stuff we would do with our kids. Our kids just watch us have fun. We play games, and there are consequences. I can remember one Thanksgiving we were playing a game. My neighbors next door, who we'd just started to build a good relationship with, built a pool.
It got to November and the pool was done, so Thanksgiving weekend was the big opening of their pool in their backyard. Thanksgiving night, we played a game, and the loser… The consequence was you had to go over to their house (it was almost 10:00 at night) and knock on the door, and then when they answered (we knew they were up), whoever lost had to say, "What's the pool record?" Well, they just opened the pool, and that's a stupid question anyway. "What's the pool record?"
"What do you mean the pool record?"
"Listen. I used to swim in high school."
None of my kids swam in high school. None of us did. But you had to say, "I used to swim in high school, and I would like to set the pool record," which is just nuts at 10:00 Thanksgiving night. This buddy goes, "Oh, okay." Anyway, what you had to do was go out to the pool. You had to get there next to the pool and kind of do the Michael Phelps thing like this.
Then you had to dive in, and you had to swim as absolutely poorly as you could, just flailing your arms, gasping, touch the other side, and then come back and do the exact same thing (it wasn't a very big pool), and when you got to the other side touch it and just go, "What was my time? What was my time?" No matter what they said, you had to go, "Yes!" and then get out and walk out of their backyard and not say a word. That was the stakes.
My wife lost. My kids and I were all upstairs, looking out the back window. It was hilarious. My wife came back in the house dripping wet, like, "I am not doing that again." But we laughed. Our neighbors the next day go, "What was that last night? Besides the turkey, what else was going on over there?" We just do that kind of crazy stuff. We laugh about that. It's one of the favorite memories we have as neighbors together. Silly, crazy stuff. We just laugh.
A joyful heart is good medicine. Who did you bring joy to today? Do you remember the last time you laughed until you cried? The last time I laughed until I cried was today in our staff meeting. I don't have time to explain it to you, but it was amazing. All right. Last one. When you follow Jesus, you lean on others. You don't go at it alone. I would ask my kids, "Who are you relying on to spur you on? You're not a lone ranger. Who are the friends in your life? Jesus wants you to not be at this alone."
Wise men seek solitude. Wise men learn. Wise men sit at the feet of Jesus, but fools isolate. Wise men and women will walk out of here tonight and go to Open Group and start to assimilate and get grafted in with other Christ followers, not heart followers, and those friends will encourage them and sharpen them and love them and shepherd them.
I'd ask my kids, "Who has access to your heart? Who's informing your heart? Are they truth‑tellers? Are they Christ‑followers? Who faithfully reproves you? Who admonishes you when you're unruly? When is the last time you repented and changed because someone who loved you told you the truth?" Christ‑followers have that. I have friends who sit with me and go, "Todd, this is an area that you can strengthen." How great is that?
Guys, you don't need a slogan; you need a Savior. You don't need insta-theology because you have real theology. Don't be around it like some people and have to learn it through experience. Drink deeply of the kindness of God. I'll close by reading Scripture. It's in Colossians 3. This is what happens when you follow Jesus. You can really look forward to something. You don't have dread.
In Colossians 3:1 it says, "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ…" That's the idea if you are identifying that sin is wicked and is an offense to God because he loves people and sin hurts people… "I've been crucified with Christ, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, so the resurrection power of Christ is at work in me." He says, "If that's who you are, if you're a Christian, then quit following your heart. Inform your heart."
Your heart is desperately sick and deceitful above all else. Don't be surprised. Don't beat yourself up. Temptation isn't sin. Not following the God of creation is sin. "…keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth [the worldly fables, the insta-theology] ." Set your mind on God, good theology.
"For you have died…" Not really, but you've died to yourself. I know my heart is sick. I don't want to be in a land of salt. I want to be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. This is what you have to look forward to in verse 4. If you follow Christ, you can look forward to this. "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed…" In other words, a day is coming when the clouds will be rolled back like a scroll and your King is going to reveal himself.
This wasn't just a wisp of an idea; this is truth anchored in history. "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." And the world is going to go, "How did you know? How did you know he was the one worth serving?" By the way, it worked out well for you then. It's going to work out well for you now. You're not going to follow insta-theology.
Verse 5: "Therefore, since you know God is there and you know he's good, you know there's going to be a day when he's going to wrap this thing up, consider the members of your earthly body not as worth a following. Just be dead to that insta-pull toward immorality, that insta-pull to impurity. Don't follow your passions. You're dead to it. Don't follow evil desires and greed. It amounts to idolatry." Listen to Brad Pitt. Listen to Justin Bieber. Listen to Jesus.
Father, I thank you that you love us and we don't have to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest hoping we find a slogan. We have a Savior, and he is kind and good and right and true, and he cares for us, and his name is Jesus. We don't have to wonder if he loves us; he has shown us he loves us. We don't have to try to make it up. We just have to make up our minds and not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we might get to experience, prove out with our lives, what is good and acceptable and perfect and life-giving.
I just pray for my friends that tonight they'd go home, having just learned and been reminded of these things, and they would execute on it, and they would start to be people who learn more of your ways and who lead as a result of that and who love, whose lives bring laughter and joy to others, who lean on other people, and who look forward to the day when you come and you come quickly and you render to men according to their deeds. Thank you, Father, that even now our deeds can lead to sweet sleep. They can lead to forgiveness if we'll just trust you. But having been forgiven, let us not follow our hearts. Let us inform them. In Jesus' name, amen.