#278 (25/03/07)
Step up to a Better You: Maintaining Health

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

He want to share with you his testimony as to how God has given his grace, strength and comfort through his disability and how you can have victory, peace and joy in your life, even if circumstances are still present in your life that don’t make sense or cause your world to turn upside down.

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" I Sing the Mighty Power of God "
“ Take My Life and Make it New ”

" Clap Your Hands! "


The Message

I learned a very, very important lesson oh I think it’s nearly 20 years ago. And that lesson was to know the days that your trash is not going to be collected. Do you know what I’m talking about? We have five holidays in my neighborhood where our trash is not collected. For some reason, every house I’ve ever lived in, the trash is collected on Tuesday’s. And as a result of that, when there’s a holiday, they don’t collect it on Tuesday, they collect it the following day on Wednesday. Strange, I know but that’s the way it is.

So I had a situation that was really bizarre. It was one of those times where for some reason I forgot to take the trash out one week, the next week I forgot to take it out again. I think I was out of town or something. Now I have three weeks worth of trash piled up on the side of the house. We’re talking an embarrassingly amount of trash to put out on the curb. The next weekend is Memorial Day weekend. And they don’t collect trash on Monday; it’s too embarrassing to have it sitting out there for any longer than it absolutely has to. So I’m committed to put it out on Wednesday morning early because I know my trash comes early and then I will eliminate some of my embarrassment.

So Tuesday morning, I look around and out of about 13 homes, there’s about three or four who have their trash out because they forgot about the trash being delayed a day. So I’m confident when I go to bed that night that the trash isn’t going to be collected. And I’m laying there in bed, all of a sudden in the middle of the night, three o’clock in the morning, I will swear to my dying day I heard the trash truck coming. I couldn’t believe it. I hopped out of bed, and I listened really carefully cause you know you can hear it coming off in the distance? And it was really quiet so I go okay I can hear it.. where did it go? It’s not there. Oh man I must have been sleeping. It must have been.. you know, it’s my imagination. I went back to bed. I don’t think I’d just gotten to sleep and I heard it again and it woke me out of my deep sleep and I jumped out of bed, I go I heard it again, I can’t believe it. A third time it happened I couldn’t stand it; I actually literally got dressed, got in my car, drove around to see if I could find the trash truck. This is an honest truth. It was a nightmare. I was having a trash nightmare! And it was so vivid and so real, that I wouldn’t believe it until I got in the car and drove around and I couldn’t find any trash trucks, I could find a few trash cans out by the curb, but only a few, and with that I finally went back to bed and resolved the fact that it would not be collected and the following morning I got my trash out just before the trash man came. He collected all and it was all behind me. Whew! What a relief getting rid of that trash.

And what we have to do in order to become the best people that God has called us to be, is to learn the steps that it takes to be the best you that you can be. And what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks is steps to a better you. And it’s based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps that have been used in recovery groups regardless of what the addiction is for decades. I’ve been talking about it now and somebody wrote in and asked me why don’t you give credit to the author of the 12 steps. And the reason I don’t give credit to an author of the 12 steps is that all of my best research, I have been unsuccessful in finding an actual author to the 12 steps. Someone had mentioned Bill Wilson as the author and I don’t believe he is but he might be.

And so what I have discovered is that there is a gentleman who is regarded as the leading historian in Alcoholics Anonymous. His name is Dick B. And if you want to study the history of Alcoholics Anonymous you can go to dickb.com and it can give you some more information but this is the best summary of who wrote the 12 steps that I’m familiar with. And I’m quoting directly from Dick B. He says very simply, “AA was based on the Bible.” Its co-founder, Dr. Bob said “AA took its basic ideas from the study of what he and others called the good book.” Both Bill W. and Dr. Bob, as co founders, frequently said that “the sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 to 7 contained the underlying philosophy of AA.” Dr. Bob pointed to Jesus’ sermon, 1st Corinthians 13 of the book of James as being “absolutely essential to the solution of their problems.” The Oxford Group, of which AA was an intricle part in its developing years, espoused principles that it said were the principles of the Bible. Its founder, Dr. Frank Buckman, was said to be soaked in the Bible and its principle American writer and spokesman on the East Coast, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker Jr. was called a Bible Christian. And both of these men and their ideas impacted directly on AA fellowship, on its big book, on the 12 steps and on the very language AA uses to this day. And believe it or not, that’s the closest I have been able to come to finding an author of the 12 steps. I don’t think it’s ironic. I think it’s prophetic that an organization which is built on anonymity would leave its foundation anonymous. So that no one could take credit for the hand of God. And I believe as a compilation of men and women who came together, who squeezed out from the scriptures steps that would help us to grow into the people that God wants us to be, overcoming our addictions and overcoming our sin and developing into the humans that espouse the love and the purity and the goodness of God.

And so it is as we look at these last three steps of the 12 steps, that I pray that you will not become a student of the 12 steps but instead an actor of the 12 steps. And when I say an actor, I mean someone who embraces the 12 steps, who lives by the 12 steps, and continues to correct his actions through the 12 steps.

The last three steps that have been espoused to us through the scriptures that give us direction and guidance and fill our heads with the fullness of God’s love are these. It says, “I will continue to take personal inventory and where I find wrong, promptly admit it.” That’s number 10. Number 11 says, “I will seek to know more of God” and number 12 says, “I will seek to carry to others the glorious message of the possibility of a spiritual awakening.”
We start with the first one and continue to take personal inventory and when we’re wrong promptly admit it, I want to encourage you to realize that living by the 12 steps, we’re living the spiritual Christian life, or trying to be a success in life, is simply like trying to go from point A to point B. How many people here have ever gotten lost in their cars trying to reach a destination? You made a wrong turn, you missed the off ramp, you got off too soon, and you didn’t go straight to your destination. How many of you, once you realized you made a mistake simply made a course change and reached your destination? Most of you are going to say most of the time that’s what happens, with rare exception. And you don’t lose a whole lot of sleep over making a wrong turn. About making a mistake. Instead, you just simply correct it and you say oh well, I’m going to be a little later than I expected. And that’s it.

And that’s what the first step is all about, spotting an error and making a correction. And when you go through life, and you make a mistake, simply admit I made a mistake. One of the things I learned from my father at a very young age, were very simple words: You’re right, I’m wrong. And they’re hard words to say, but if you’re ever in a discussion with somebody, and you find out that you’re on the wrong side of the discussion and you’ve changed your mind, simply say those words and look at the astonishment in their face. It’s amusing. It’s fun when you say you’re right, I’m wrong. Immediately the first expression is usually they think they’ve misunderstood you. Or you’ve misspoken. And they start getting upset. They go well how do you know I’m wrong. No, no, no I said you’re right, I’m wrong. And it’s a fun lesson to learn, those four words. You’re right, I’m wrong. An immediate correction in the course of a day. Then when you get to the end of your day, I want to encourage you to spend time in prayer and meditation and think about the things that you could have done differently, people you may have harmed or hurt, and pray and make the restitution that’s necessary, specifically before you put your head on the pillow. Because the Bible is very succinct and my parents taught it to me very well. It wasn’t unusual for me to get in fights with my sisters. I had four of them. And when you live with four sisters, believe it or not boys and girls when they’re young are like oil and water. And we would get in arguments, I know that’s hard for you to believe, but we would, and my parents would pull us aside and they would make sure we shook hands and we hugged and even though we hated to do it at that point, and made up. And then they would quote this verse to us: “Never let the sun set on your wrath.” And that’s a Bible verse. It’s found in Ephesians 4. “Never let the sun set on your wrath.” You have to resolve it before you go to bed at night.

And thirdly, the thing we need to do is periodically we need to take what I call long-term reminders. Where once every few months you get away for a retreat, you get away from the normal routine of your time and your days and you sit down and you take personal inventory again of what’s taking place in your life.

And we have a prayer journal, and if you haven’t had an opportunity to get one of these, write in to us and let us send you one. I’d love to send you a prayer journal. If you’re here this morning, I would love to give you one. And what it is is simply a journal. And at the bottom of every page, there’s Bible verses, which help us journal our prayers. Journal the struggles we’re having. Journal the progress we’re making and at the bottom of every one is a Bible verse. Here I just opened up randomly and this one says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” A prayer journal.
Step number 11 says “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.” And as we understood Him praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out. My father and I have built a couple buildings in our life. When I was about 13 years old, one of the things my dad did is he went and built and bought an unbuildable lot in Big Bear Lake. Does that sound like something a possibility thinker would do? He bought a lot that you couldn’t build on. And what does a possibility thinker do, when he buys a lot that you can’t build on. He builds on it. And that’s exactly what he did. We built a mountain cabin; he and I did a lot of the physical labor ourselves. We’d drive up there and we built this cabin in the mountains on an unbuildable lot and he figured out a solution to all the problems, and we had wonderful plans. We started with a real strong foundation, we probably over engineered the foundation and poured a ton of cement in that foundation, and I know that it was effective and successful because there was an earthquake and this cabin was right on the epicenter. It was a 6.2, it happened in 1992, and guess what: it survived.
What we do in step number 11 is we build a strong foundation. Now how do you do that? It starts with prayer and meditation. It continues by reading the Bible and it’s completed by associating with other believers, other people who are going through what you’re going through and dealing with what you’re dealing with.

And finally step number 12, it says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” And that’s what its all about is to teach others and to spread the good news and to spread the word. How many have ever heard this phrase the best way to learn something is to teach it! A lot of you know it. The best way to learn something is to teach it. And if you really want to experience spiritual growth in your life, you have to give it away. You have to allow other people to embrace it. You have to share it and you have to be used by God and others to make it happen. We’re living in a world of tremendous possibilities.

We recently had an interesting institute here, it’s called Faith Forward and we had a dinner and at that dinner we had Ken Medema. Some of you are familiar with Ken Medema, he’s a blind songwriter and singer and it’s not uncommon for him to sing here in the Cathedral. Also, we had Francis Collins; some of you might remember him as well. He was the head of the Genome Project and he mapped out the entire DNA code. Then along with that we also had Michael Guillen who is a Science Editor for several different institutions and a brilliant man. Well these three, among others, were.. and I was invited to that dinner as well and we’re enjoying our dinner and the topic came up about DNA. Francis Collins, and the question was, Francis, what do you see as the future of DNA? He said you know there’s been some amazing things. Said we’re going to see health care take a turn in the next twenty, thirty years that’s beyond our imagination. He said for instance we recently injected some puppies who had a disease which caused blindness and these puppies were in their kennel and they were running around bumping into the walls in this room. And we injected them with the DNA to correct they’re DNA code and within a few weeks they could see. They weren’t bumping into walls anymore. And Ken Medema’s there and Michael Guillen turned and looked at Ken and he said, “Ken do you want to see?” And Ken said, “I don’t know.” He goes “I don’t know. I hear so well” and he’s so used to living his life this whole way, he goes I don’t know. He’ll sit here and listen to my message on a Sunday morning and then afterwards he’ll write a song, compose it during my message and recite this song in music that summarizes the whole thing better than I could myself. And he hears with his heart and his ears and the question is do I really want to get better?

And today we have to ask ourselves the same question; do you want to be well? And that’s what the 12th step is all about. Giving people the opportunity who want to get well. Sharing with them the steps that they can take to receive wholeness and health. Let me share with you the scripture passage which pulls this whole thing together. And there’s a term in here, what I’m going to read which refers to Gentiles. And the literal translation of a Gentile is someone who isn’t a Jew. But I think it’s better for us to understand in this text, a Gentile is someone who doesn’t understand and practice the twelve steps. The spiritual steps of the reality of God’s goodness and grace. And so as I read, think of it in this terms.

“This I say therefore and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk in their futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluding from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart. And they, having become calloused, having given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way. If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him just as truth is in Jesus that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you with the neighbor for we are members of one another. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear. That all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice and be kind to one another, tender hearted forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love just as Christ also loved you.” That’s what it’s all about, putting on the new you. Accepting the grace and the love of Jesus Christ and living in His fullness.

We’re going to conclude this by reading together the Serenity Prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did the sinful world as it is. Not as I would have it. Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to Your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next, Amen.

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