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Conquering Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups

Part 4 - Stuck In A Rut?

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(3/30) We’ve been in a series that I’ve been calling "Conquering Hurts, Habits, and Hang-ups." And in this series based on Rick Warren’s "Road to Recovery" we’ve been grappling with those things that are messing up our lives. So we’re looking to God’s Word to help us get unstuck from the habits that mess us up, from the problems that would cause us difficulties, and the memories we can’t seem to let go of.

Today in Part Four, we’re going to talk about being "Stuck In A Rut". It’s kind of a spring cleaning of the soul. And what this really has to do with is cleaning up the past, letting go of the guilt, gaining a clear conscience, and learning to live the way God wants us to live. So if you’ll take this step with me today I guarantee you’re going to feel a whole lot better a week from today.

Let’s read together from Psalms 32:

"Blessed "are those" whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed "are those" whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the "one" who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!"


1. Spinning Wheels

It was many years ago when I bought my first 4 wheel drive. Now I used to see these guys driving around town in big trucks splattered with mud from front to back and I always thought, "Wow. That looks cool." I would take Matt to see Monster Trucks when he was like 4 or 5 years old, but I never went mudding… I never went out in a field somewhere just spinning in the mud… up to my windows in mud… all four wheels churning, mud flying, and I don't know why. You know it sounded like fun, but I never did it in my new truck.

You see, I bought it so that I could go from point A to point B without pushing or worse walking… because I had been there way too often. I’m driving down the road in the snow or trying to get out my driveway and start fishtailing back and forth, until eventually, the old truck came to a stop. I pressed down on the accelerator and the wheel would just spun. Or I’d be in the yard working with my old truck, hop in and press down on the accelerator, and the wheel would just spun. Guess what? I’d get out to take a look and I wasn't even in the mud up to my doors; I wasn't even in the mud up to my wheels… but I was stuck. I’d get behind the wheel and try again... I’d rock it back and forth, but nothing. I was making a deep rut, but I wasn't going anywhere.

Unfortunately, that's not the only time I've been stuck in a rut. Over the years it's happened in my life more than a few times. There have been times when I've lost momentum, when the ground has begun to give way, and I ended up spinning my wheels, revving the engine, but not moving forward. There have been times when it seemed like the harder I tried, the deeper the rut became. But I want you to know that during these times I learned some lessons about how to get some traction and how to start inching my way forward again.

You see if you're like most people, there have been times when you’ve found yourself stuck in a rut too… when you haven’t known where to go or what to do next. Maybe it's the rut of a relationship or a career that is going nowhere. Maybe it’s a financial problem or a health crisis that you can't crawl out from under... ruts can develop in every area of life. These are times when you see yourself putting out a lot of effort, but you don't see yourself making any progress. These are times when you don't know what to do next… you don’t know which way to turn, how much to accelerate, or even who to call for help.

I want you to know today, that no matter how long you have been in your rut, and no matter how deep the rut has become… whether you’re in up to your axles or up to the windows… you can begin today to inch your way out. If you're stuck and you don't know what to do next… where to turn or how to proceed… today's message will help you get some traction under your feet.

2. Gaining Traction

In this psalm, David is reflecting on how he had been stuck. He had been stuck in the guilt of his association and adultery with Bathsheba. He had been stuck in the guilt of his conspiracy to murder her husband (2 Samuel 11). And so in verses three and four he cries out, Lord, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer." You see, when he was silent and did not confess his sins, he was weakened physically, he was grieved inwardly, and his guilt weighed heavily on him. The result was that his strength was dried up as in the summer heat. He wrestled under the weight of his guilt and nagging conscience.

You see here is the problem. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Guilt keeps us from growing, and becoming all God wants us to be. If you’re going to learn how to really enjoy life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt. The truth is, that none of us are faultless. We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes. So we all have regrets. We all have remorse. We all have things we wish we could turn the clock back on. We all have things we wish we had done differently. But you didn’t… So you feel bad about it, feel guilty about it, carry it with you, and like David you’re burdened and "wasting away through your groaning all day long."

And you know a lot of the time this happens unconsciously. There are a lot of ways you react in life that are caused by guilt. Things you’re not even aware of. Things you feel bad about. And we may deny the guilt. We may repress the guilt. We may blame other people for our guilt. We may excuse our guilt. We may rationalize our guilt. But we still feel the effects of it. And if you’re really going to conquer the hurts, habits, and hang-ups in your life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt, and how to live with a clear conscious.

You see, if you're in a rut today, you can get out. If you are stuck, you can get unstuck. If you don't know where to turn or what to do next, you can know. You do this by eliminating the voices that compete with God's voice.

You don't listen to the voice of your desires. You don't let the pain of the past tell you what to do. And you don't let the expectations of others control you, either. You see, once you decide that you will no longer listen to your feelings, or listen to your past, or listen to your need for self-approval, you put yourself in a position to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. And this is what God says: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8)

God wants to help you stop spinning your wheels. He wants to help you gain some traction, to work your way out of that rut, and he will guide you through it. You can be sure that he will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. He will counsel you and watch over you.

3. Breaking Free

So how do we break free? How do we leave the guilt behind?

By making a clean break. In verse 5, David says, "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

The good news is that as you break free from the guilt and the "stuckness" that has held you back from experiencing your full potential in Christ… you’ll be able to feel and know and understand Psalm 32, verses 1-2: "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him...."

You see, everyone I know has some pain from the past. Everyone has some guilt. Everyone has regrets. And this is inevitable because we're all human. We have all failed. The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). You see, we've all made mistakes and we’ve all been victimized to some extent by the mistakes and sins of others. And what this does is it drags you down, it’s an anchor, and if you allow it, it has the power to cloud your perspective and control your future.

So today, in breaking free, in getting out of that rut, you need to ask yourself: If I hadn't failed last time and if I wasn't afraid of failing again, what would I do next? If I hadn't been hurt last time and I wasn't afraid of being hurt again, what would I do next? If I didn't have this guilt, if I didn't have these regrets, if I weren't loaded down with all this weight what would I do?

As I wrap up our time together, I am going to encourage you to take some steps, because application is important right? So I am going to share the procedure for gaining traction and breaking free. If you can allow yourself the luxury, at least for a moment, of forgetting how painful yesterday was, your head will clear and you'll develop a fresh perspective about how to proceed. You see we need this because we’ve all been spinning wheels, we’re all stuck in the mud, and we need to break free!

We need to break free, because guilt destroys your confidence. It’s like a cloud hanging over your head. You’re always afraid somebody is going to find that skeleton in your closet, that deep, dark secret that you know about, obviously God knows about, but nobody else knows about it.

We need to break free, because guilt absolutely damages your relationships. Guilt causes us to respond to people in the wrong ways, to be impatient, to overreact in anger, and to avoid commitment.

We need to break free, because guilt keeps us stuck in the past. It’s like driving around looking in the rearview mirror... You’re going to end up crashing.

If we are going to "conquer our hurts, habits, and hang ups" we need to get serious and we need to break free. Now I know this is kind of scary... but the procedure is very simple, it just takes a lot of courage. The process of application is where we separate the men from the boys so to speak. It’s where we separate those who want to talk about it and those who really mean business.

Today, if that’s you… If you’re ready to get on with your life... If you want to get well. If you want to grow and break free from the past. You have to know how. And here are the steps. Here’s how you do it (from Rick Warren; "The Road to Recovery").

1. Take a personal moral inventory.

Lamentations 3:40: "Let us examine our ways and test them." What that means is that you get alone by yourself. You get a pencil and a notepad and you sit down and say, "What is wrong with me? What have I felt guilty about? What have I regretted? What are the things in my life that I know need changing?" And so writing it down forces you to be specific, to face reality, and it helps you stop living in denial.

2. Accept responsibility for my faults.

It starts with being radically honest and saying, "I’m the problem." The Bible says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). The point is that if I really want to stop defeating myself, I’ve got to stop deceiving myself, and pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault—when the issue is really me.

3. I ask God for forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." If we freely admit it, God will forgive us. It’s simply saying, "God, You’re right, it’s wrong and I’m sorry." So we humbly come to God and ask God for forgiveness. And that’s why Jesus Christ died on the cross. He died for that sin and every other one you’ve confessed and committed and even the ones you’re going to.

4. Admit my faults to another person.

God says this is absolutely essential... James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." How are we healed? By admitting our faults to one another. God says that, "Revealing the truth is the beginning of healing." It’s God’s way of freeing us.

5. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive myself.

You see God forgives instantly. He doesn’t wait. The moment you do this, you’re forgiven… freely… and completely. He wipes it out. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…" (Romans 8:1). From personal experience, I want to tell you how great that feels, to live with no condemnation, and to break free. You know God is just so amazing. I still have a lot of stuff I need to work out in my life, but it is totally freeing.

You see one of the great things about life in Christ is that our sins are forgiven… freely, completely, and absolutely. Your sins are forgiven not just once, but again and again and again. If there is a sinful habit that you struggle with, you can be sure that every time you fail, and every time you go to God for forgiveness, he will forgive you through the blood of Jesus Christ. It's a wonderful and amazing thing.

And I will tell you what's even more wonderful: When you ultimately get victory over that sin that had haunted you for months, or years, or even decades. There are many areas of my life that I'm still working on, but it's a wonderful thing to look back and see how God has given me victory in areas where before I was completely powerless.

God promises to lead his people to the land of never again. We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord!

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