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Rick Warren
Sept. 3-4, 2005

“I (Nehemiah) said to them, ‘You know full well the tragedy of our city. It lies in ruins, and
its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this is
disgrace!’” Nehemiah 2:17 (NLT)

“Then they said, ‘Let's start rebuilding!’ So they began to work hard.”
Nehemiah 2:18b (NCV)


1. RELEASE ____________________

“… the floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me. Death
itself stared me in the face. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord and, I prayed to my God
for help.” Psalm 18:4-6 (NLT)

“Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8b (NLT)

2. RESIST ____________________

“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you... it causes deep trouble, hurting many in
their spiritual lives.” Hebrews 12:15 (LB)

• __________ what cannot be changed.

• Focus on what's , not what's lost.

• Play it down and it up.

3. REEVALUATE ____________________

“Real life is not measured by how much we own.” Luke 12:15 (NLT)

“We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what
can a man give in exchange for his soul.” Matthew 16:26 (NIV)


4. RECEIVE ____________________

“…Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the
others.” Romans 12:5 (NLT)

Best way:

5. RELY ON ______________________________

“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NCV)

“I find rest in God; only He gives me hope.” Psalm 62:5 (NCV)

“You are my shield, my wonderful God who gives me courage.” Psalm 3:3 (NCV)

“I will bless the Lord who counsels me; He gives me wisdom in the night. He tells me what to
do.” Psalm 16:7 (LB)

“God is my savior. I will trust Him and not be afraid. The Lord gives me power and
strength.” Isaiah 12:2 (TEV)

“Come back to God Almighty and He'll rebuild your life.” Job 22:23a (Mes)

6. REFUSE ____________________

Jesus: “By standing firm you will gain life.” Luke 21:19 (NIV)

7. REACH OUT ____________________

• BY ____________________
“Samuel: ‘Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.’”
1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV)

• BY ____________________
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how
can the love of God be in him?” 1 John 3:17 (NIV)

• BY ____________________
“By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NCV)

Rick Warren
Sept. 3-4, 2005

I had planned to speak on the last message in our parenting series this week but this week as you
know we had the greatest natural disaster in American history. Hurricane Katrina came through
and displaced over a million people. Thousands are dead. They still don’t know how many are
dead yet. Hundreds of thousands lost literally everything they’ve ever owned. Lost it all! Well
over a hundred billion dollars in damage. And one of the great American cities, New Orleans,
the birthplace of jazz is fighting for its life. Eighty percent of it is under water. So I just knew
that we needed to make a shift this morning.

After a disaster there are always three stages. There’s the Rescuing stage, the Resuming stage,
and the Rebuilding stage.

Stage one is Rescuing. FEMA comes in and they find those people who are still alive and
they evacuate them. They’ve been doing that and it often takes days, the rescuing.

Then comes the Resuming Stage. The government comes in and they restore water and
power and lights and communication. That’s going to take weeks and maybe even months.

Then stage three is the Rebuilding Stage. That’s going to take years.

I don’t know if you know it or not but there’s an entire book in the Bible about rebuilding a city.
It’s called the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was sent to rebuild a city that was in ruins. Chapter
2 he says “I, Nehemiah, said to them, ‘You know full well the tragedy of our city. It lies in ruins
and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this
disgrace.’” He says let’s rebuild. The next verse “Then the people said, ‘Let’s start rebuilding.’
So they began to work hard.”

Rebuilding is hard work. In fact it’s much harder that building. Building from scratch is not
nearly as difficult as rebuilding because in rebuilding you have to clear away the debris. You’ve
got to deal with the damage. You’ve got to pick up all the rubble. It takes a whole lot more time
because you just can’t start with a clean slate. Rebuilding always takes longer than building.

That’s not only true of a city. It’s true of a life. It harder and takes more work to rebuild your
life after a major loss than it does to build your life in the first place.

The fact is, as a human being, you cannot live without loss. Everything in this world is
temporary. You’re not made to live here forever. You’re made to live forever in eternity.
You’re only going to get 60, 80, 100 years on this planet. That means everything is temporary –
everything. So you’re going to have major losses in your life. Financial loses, health losses,
losses of loved ones. Some of you have lost a marriage. And many, many other kinds of losses
in life. How do you recover and how do you rebuild after a major loss? Because you’re going to
go through the seasons of loss. It’s inevitable. You’re going to have storms of stress. You’re
going to have torrents of tragedy. Gales and gusts of grief. You’re going to have floods of
failure in your life.

When those kinds of things come into your life, the typical question we always ask is why. Why
is this happening to me? Why is this going on? And folks, that is the unanswerable question.
We’re not going to know on this side of eternity. Looking back later from heaven you’ll be able
to see why things happen they way they did. We do know that this is a broken planet. We do
know that sin has caused a lot of problems in this world. But a lot of problems are just caused by
bad decisions. But we do know that the earth groans and that’s why we’re to pray, “Thy will be
done on earth as it is in heaven.” Because it’s done perfectly in heaven. Everything that happens
on this planet is not God’s will. Because a lot of people choose to not do God’s will. There are
consequences and all kinds of things.

When we ask the Why question, we don’t get an answer. But I’ve discovered after having taken
thousands of people through experiences of grief over the years that we don’t need an
explanation anyway. What we need in that time is encouragement. Not an explanation.
Explanations don’t encourage us. What we need is encouragement. That’s what we’re going to
look at today.

It’s actually far more helpful instead of asking why to ask the What? question. What do I do
now? What’s next? What are my first steps?

You haven’t been through the flood like a million people or more have. But you have been
through other things and you’re going to go through things so today we’re going to look at this
issue of what do I do after a major loss? What do I do to rebuild my life when I’ve lost
everything. And specifically we’re going to look at seven steps from God’s word. What to do.
You may not need this message now but this is a very, very important message for you. I would
encourage you to take notes because you’re going to need it some day. If you haven’t had a
major loss in your life you will. I don’t want to be morbid but you will. Your time is coming.
Because nothing lasts on this planet. It’s just a matter of time.

So today we’re going to hear a testimony of a couple that literally lost everything and had to
rebuild their lives and their home and their church. Then later on we’re going to talk about some
ways that I want you to know what our church is doing to help those in the gulf states. But we’ll
also look specifically at these seven steps on how to rebuild your life.

The story of Job. Job was the wealthiest man in the entire world. There’s a book about him in
the Bible. On a single day he lost everything. He lost all of his wealth, all of his farm, all of his
crops, all of his flocks and herds, all of his children, he lost his family and he got an incurable,
terminal disease – all on a single day. In that moment Job said, I’m going to bless the name of
the Lord, no matter what happens. When good things come or when good things are taken away,
it doesn’t matter. I’m going to bless God’s name. That is the mark of maturity.

What do you do when you’ve lost it all? Some of you have lost a loved one. Or you’ve lost your
job. Or you’ve lost your financial security. Or you’ve lost a dream – you’ve had a heartbreak.
What do you do? How do you rebuild your life? The Bible tells us to do seven things.

1. Release your grief

Loss always creates very strong emotions in us. We grieve. We have worry. We have fear. We
may have depression. We may have anger. All kinds of emotions welled up in me as I watched

these homes being destroyed and people dying this last week. We don’t know what to do with
all of these emotions when we’ve gone through a major loss, particularly men. What does God
want us to do with those emotions?

You don’t resist them. And you don’t rehearse them. And you don’t reduce them. And you
don’t repress them. You release them. What do I mean by that?

You don’t resist them, first of all. Resisting means I’m not going to let myself feel this. A
lot of people do that when they go through a major loss. “I’m just not going to let myself feel
anything. I don’t want to let it get too close to me.” That is a major mistake, friends. To not
feel your feelings. Feelings are meant to be felt. So you don’t resist your feelings.

On the other hand you don’t do the opposite and you don’t rehearse your feelings. Where
you go over and over and over in misery and moan and you start to second guess yourself – if I’d
have done this differently maybe I’d still have my job. If I’d done this differently maybe I’d still
have my marriage. Or if I’d done this differently maybe the person would still be alive. And
rehearsing over and over and over is just as ineffective as resisting it.

You don’t reduce your feelings. “It’s no big deal.” It was a big deal. It hurt and it still
does. And you don’t minimize your feelings and say, “It doesn’t matter.” It did matter. It was a
big deal. You don’t reduce your feelings. You don’t minimize them.

And certainly you don’t repress them. A lot of people are stuffers. They push their feelings
down. That’s like taking a coke bottle and shaking it up. One day it’s going to explode.

Let me tell you having dealt with a lot of people, you will deal with your feelings. Either now or
later. You will deal with them eventually. If you don’t deal with them now, you’re just putting
off the inevitable. I’ve learned that when I swallow my feelings my stomach keeps score. Or my
back or my neck or something. What happens is when you internalize your feelings, when you
stuff them down, they come out in some kind of illness or ailment. God says, “No, I want you to
release them.” Release them to God in prayer. The Bible calls it crying out to God.

Psalm 18 David says “The floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes
around me. Death itself stared me in the face. [I’ll bet a lot of people felt that way this week.]
But in my distress I cried out to the Lord and I prayed to my God for help.” This isn’t some little
pitty-patty prayer where we go, Dear God I’m not feeling too good. They go, “God! Life stinks!
I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m lonely. I’m grieving. My heart is broken.” That’s what it means to
cry out to God. You tell Him passionately exactly how you feel. You can handle it and He can

Where do you think your emotions came from? God gave them to you. Why? Because you are
created in the image of God. That’s what makes you different from animals. Animals don’t
have all those emotions. But humans do. Why? Because you were made in God’s image. God
has emotions. God cries. God laughs. God gets angry. God grieves. That’s why you do too
because you were made in His image and He can understand your emotions. You can tell Him
anything. You don’t have to say here’s what I think I ought to say. You just say, “God, I don’t
like this! I’m depressed. I’m mad.” You cry out to God. God would rather have you be honest
and release your feelings to Him than for you to fake it and pretend like everything’s all right


because it’s not. You don’t resist it or rehearse it or reduce it or repress it. You release it to

Life isn’t always happy. And God doesn’t expect you to always be happy. In fact, Jesus said it’s
ok to mourn. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” That’s a
good thing. It’s a part of life. Not once in the Bible does it say, Grieve not, or weep not or cry
not. Not once in the Bible does it say sorrow not. But it does say fear not. And it says that 365
times one for every day of the year. It’s like God’s saying I want you to get the message – don’t
be afraid. Why? Because it is not grief that paralyzes us. Grief is what gets us through the loss.
It’s not grief that paralyzes us. It’s fear. So He says it’s ok to release your grief. And you tell
God exactly how you feel. He can handle it.

“Pour out your heart to Him. For God is our refuge.” In a storm you need a refuge. You need
some covering. And God says I want to cover you. I want to comfort you. So when you go
through any kind of loss in life you don’t turn from God, you turn to Him. That’s the first step.
Release your grief.

2. Resist bitterness

Bitterness will do you harm more than the circumstance you went through. Bitterness is far
worse than any problem you’ll ever experience. “You don’t know what I’ve gone through!”
You may have been raped. But bitterness is worse. Why? Because it’s holding on to the hurt.
That’s what resentment does. Your past is past. It can’t hurt you any more. The only way it can
hurt you is if you choose to hold on to it through bitterness. That’s dumb. You need to let it go.
You need to let go of your grudges just as you let go of your grief. And you say, “I’m going to
let it go!” Because bitterness only hurts you. It never solves the problem. It doesn’t change the
past. It can’t control the future. All it does is mess up your life right now.

You need to make the decision do I want to be bitter or do I want to get better? That’s the
options. Do I want to be bitter or get better? Or do I want to be bitter or do I want to be happy?
It’s your choice. You can choose. But you can’t have both. You cannot be bitter and happy at
the same time. So if you choose to hold on to that hurt and you will not forgive and you will not
let it go and you will hold on to that resentment you’re choosing to be unhappy.

Happiness is a choice. It’s a choice! It’s not based on circumstances as much as you think it is.
There is no correlation between happiness and circumstances. I could show you people who
have been through the worst amazing circumstances you could imagine – unbelievable horror
like the genocide in Rwanda. Yet they are happy and cheerful and positive people. Yet I have
met some people that almost nothing really bad has happened in their life and they whine all the
time. After having been in ministry for 25-30 years I have no patience for whiners. I just don’t!
Stop whining! If it’s something you can do something about it, do it. If you can’t then accept it.
But whining never works.

I met a lady one time who had cerebral palsy and she said, “Rick, just remember the eleventh
commandment: thou shalt not belly ache!”

If you’re going to recover your life, if you’re going to rebuild your life after a major loss, a
breakup or anything else, you’ve got to release your grief to God and you’ve got to resist
bitterness because bitterness will poison your life.

The Bible says this in Hebrews 12 “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you. It causes
deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives.” It just prolongs the hurt. So how do you do
that? How do you resist bitterness? Three ways.

1. Accept what cannot be changed.

That’s the starting point. You accept what cannot be changed. And the truth is, friends, much of
life is totally beyond your control. Sometimes the only way to overcome some problems is to
accept them. They’re just going to be there in your life. They’re going to be there. They’re not
going to change and you just accept them. Acceptance is the way to peace on some issues. It’s
just like your past. Your past is past. No matter how much you resent it you can’t change it.
You’re just going to have to accept it. And you don’t rewrite history and pretend like your
childhood was really a popular, fun, happy time when it wasn’t. You don’t paper over the past
and try to make it appear different than it really is. No.

Faith is facing reality and not being discouraged. Faith is looking at your past and looking at
your present problems and looking at your future. You’re facing reality but you’re just not
discouraged by it. It’s not Pollyanna where you just pretend like everything’s great and you live
in a world of unreality. No. Faith is facing reality but you just don’t get discouraged by it.
Because you know God is in control. God loves you, God cares, God sees and God will help
you. So you accept what cannot be changed.

2. Focus on what’s left not on what’s lost.

After a loss you need to find something to be grateful for. There’s always something to be
grateful for. Like air. A lot of stuff we just take for granted. When was the last time you
thanked God for air? You wouldn’t live the next minute if you didn’t have it. We take so much
for granted in our lives and we need to just stop and say God I’m grateful! Scientists have
discovered that the attitude of gratitude is the healthiest emotion you can have. And the more
grateful and thankful person you are the more emotionally healthy and physically healthy you
will be. It is good for your heart. It’s good for you to be grateful.

The truth is most of the people in the world would love to have your problems. Really! You
think your problems are bad but you’re not worried about Am I going to eat next week? Or am I
going to have a roof over my head tomorrow? Most of the world would love to have your
problems. It’s like the old cliché, “I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no

You just need to find something to be grateful for. You focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.

I remember this week watching television and some family standing there and all they had was
the clothes on their back and they said, “We were lucky.” I thought, How in the world is she
lucky? She said, “None of us died.” That’s a perspective that says I’m going to focus on what’s
left not on what’s lost.


3. The third thing is play it down and pray it up.

After a major loss you play it down and you pray it up. Let me say particularly, if you’re a
parent and you go through a crisis you need to do this with your children. The ones I worry
about most on the Gulf Coast are the children because children are traumatized faster than
anyone else. Adults will get over this. The parents don’t need to say to their kids, “This is
terrible! We’ve lost everything!” They need to reassure their kids and say, “We’re going to
make it. We’re here. God’s here. You’re here. We’re going to make it.” You play it down and
you pray it up and you talk to God about it.

Release your grief, resist bitterness.

3. The third step in the rebuilding after a total loss is to re-evaluate.

You reevaluate your life. It is after a major loss that you need to refocus and re-evaluate and
redefine and say, What direction does God want me to take now? Disasters have a way of
changing our direction, challenging our conception, and redefining our values. It is in a disaster
we realize what matters most and what doesn’t matter most. You don’t know God is all you
need until God is all you’ve got. A lot of the props in your life you really think you have to have
but you don’t. And it redefines your life. Disaster clarifies what matters most.

For instance. If you measure your life by how many possessions you have and you rate your
success and your happiness is dependent upon the things you’ve got and the things you’ve
collected and the cars and the toys and the boats and the possessions and if your life is defined by
what you own you’re in trouble. Because you could lose it all in a snap! What happens if your
life is defined by all your toys and your value is based on your valuables? And your self-worth
is based on your net worth? What happens when that net worth is wiped out? Things change.
And all of a sudden when it’s all wiped out it forces you to really think, what is my life really?
Am I more valuable than my valuables? Is my worth more than my net worth?

You don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life. But most people do. And in a
crisis if you lose it all it redefines your life.

Same thing is true with family or home. If your idea of home and family is a place and when
you think of family you think of family as a house or a backyard or a neighborhood or a pool or a
gated community and all of a sudden that’s flooded in twenty feet of water it forces you to
redefine what family really is. It’s not about a place. Home is where the heart is. Home is
relationships. It’s not a location. It’s a relation. It forces you to redefine it.

The same thing is true with church. If you think church is a place that you go to – which it is not
– and you think church is a place or it’s a building and it’s stone and steeple and pew and stained
glass and then all of a sudden in an instant that’s turned into rubble you’ve got to redefine what
church is. Church is not a place. Church is people.

Jesus said “Where two or more are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them.” That
means wherever you’ve got a little small group of believers that’s a church. You can have
church in a home. In fact, we do it here every week. We have over 2500 small groups in this
church, spread out from Santa Monica to Carlsbad – 83 different cities. And those little small
groups you know what they are? They’re a church. They’re a church where people are meeting

needs and caring for each other and praying for each other and encouraging each other and
helping each other and serving each other. Saddleback is just a big umbrella over 2500 little
churches because the church is not this place. The church is wherever our family gathers.

In the days ahead millions of people in the Gulf States are going to be asking the most important
questions in life like “Who is my family? What is a church? What is the meaning of life?” when
it’s all been taken away. It’s obviously not about things. The greatest things in life aren’t things.
We need to teach people, what on earth am I here for? That God has a meaning and a purpose
for their lives. That’s what gives significance. Not sex. Not success. Not salary. Not status.
But in serving God and others.

Luke 12:15 Jesus said “Real life is not measured by how much we own.” Don’t ever confuse
what you live on with what you live for. A lot of people have a lot to live on and they have
nothing to live for. He says, “Life does not consist in the abundance of things you possess.”
The greatest things aren’t things.

I can imagine that right now in New Orleans under all of that water there are thousands of very
expensive cars rusting. And on many of those cars is probably that stupid bumper sticker that
says “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Kind of irrelevant right now, isn’t it? Life is not
about the collection of toys. That’s not what life is all about.

Notice the next verse. “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.” I
can verify that one for sure having been at a lot of births and a lot of funerals. No baby comes in
pulling a U Haul – “Here are my things!” And no hearse goes to the graveyard with a U Haul
either. You don’t bring anything in and you don’t take anything out. So since it’s all temporary
why do I build my life around it? The best use of your life is invested in that which outlasts it.
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”

So how do you have security in a world where everything’s temporary? The only way you’ll
ever have security in this life is to put your faith and trust and security in something that cannot
be taken away from you. If it can be taken away from you, you’re not secure.

Can you lose your career? Oh, yes! So don’t put your security in your career. Can you lose
your bank account and your portfolio and your retirement investments? Oh, yeah! So don’t put
your security in your nest egg. Can you lose loved ones? Can you lose your husband or your
wife or your children or dear friends? Yes. You love them but you don’t put your security in
those people. Can you lose your youthful beauty? Don’t put your trust in your good looks
because you’re not going to have them forever… look at me! You can lose it all.

There’s only one thing that cannot be taken from you. That is a relationship to Jesus Christ.
God’s Son. When you put your trust and faith in Him and you build a relationship to God, they
could take you to a concentration camp and strip you naked and take away your wedding ring
and you have nothing left but they cannot take away your faith in God and your relationship to
Jesus Christ.

So if you build your security on that no matter what you lose, even when we lose those we love,
you’re not devastated because your security is in something that can never be taken from you.


Jesus said this, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” What are you giving in exchange for your
soul. At the end of your life do you want to look back and say, “See all these things I’ve
collected? That’s what I gave my life for. I worked real hard to collect all these things. House,
boat, clothes, etc.” Then you’re going to go into the next life and leave them. That’s not really
long-term thinking, folks. It’s pretty short term thinking to invest all your time and energy in
stuff that you’re not going to take with you into the trillions of years you’ll spend in eternity.

You release your grief, you resist bitterness, you re-evaluate your life. The fourth thing you do
after a major loss…

4. You receive help from others.

God never intended for you to go through life on your own power as a lone ranger without
anybody else helping you. You were made inadequate so you would need other people. And I
was created inadequate so I would need other people. God wired the universe that we’re created
for community. We’re formed for a family. We’re made for fellowship. You need me. And I
need you. We need each other. And you need other people in your life.

You don’t need a whole bunch of friends. You don’t need a hundred friends. You just need four
or five really good ones who are going to stick with you when you lose everything. How do you
know who those people are? You’ve got to get close to them. It’s an amazing thing that happens
when you lose a loved one or you’re in the hospital for a while. Who shows up and who
doesn’t? It’s very interesting. Because a lot of times people you think are your friends they
don’t show up when you’re in the crisis. Then when you’re in the crisis, people show up that
you didn’t really think cared that much at all. And they’re there. I would suggest that you build
the relationships now before the inevitable losses occur in your life. So you’re prepared.

If you’re going to rebuild your life after a loss you must have other people in your life. You
can’t do it by yourself. You can’t. That’s why you’re going to have to swallow your pride and
let people get close to you. And you’re going to have to let go of some of your fears in order to
let people get close to you.

Most people have never experienced true intimacy. Why? Because we keep people at a
distance. We don’t let them get too close. If they get too close, they’ll see my fears. They’ll see
what I’m afraid of. They’ll see my weaknesses. If they get close and they see the real me and
then they don’t like me I’m up a creek without a paddle. Because I’m all I’ve got. You must
risk vulnerability if you’re ever going to have intimacy. You must let people get close to you.
Let your husband get close to you. Let your wife get close to you. Let your friends get close to

Again, you don’t need everybody close to you. You only just need a few – three, four, five
people in your life who are going to be there when the tough times come and the rogue winds
blow. That’s why we talk about it over and over and over in this church. You need two things.
You need to join a church family and you need to get in a small group. Why do we do that?
Because I know what’s coming in your life and I want you to be prepared for it. You need a
church family.


If you don’t like Saddleback family, fine. There are thousands of good churches. We’re not in
competition with any church at all. We’re all on the same team. They teach God’s word. So if
you don’t like this church, fine. Just find one and say I’m going to take their membership class
and I’m going to join and I’m going to become a part of it and I’m going to identify myself and
that’s going to be my spiritual family.

Here at Saddleback we have the membership class called the 101 Class. We offer it every
month. Actually it’s this next week. We teach it on a Sunday afternoon once a month. Actually
this week we’re doing it on Saturday morning too. So if you can’t come on Sunday this would
be a good week to go – Saturday morning at 8:30 here we’re going to teach the membership
class. The 101 Class. And also Sunday afternoon. Thousands and thousands of people have
taken Class 101. If you haven’t we invite you to take it this week.

But more than that you really need to get into a small group. Because even if you join this
church you could join the church and be a part of our family and still not really know three or
four or five people close who could bring you meals when you’re sick and help you to do errands
and when you move they could help you move and things like that. So you need to get in one of
those little churches, those mini-churches. One of the small groups that are spread out all over.

In two weeks we’re going to start the world changing series 40 Days of Peace. It’s going to be
incredible. But it’s all done in and through small groups. This summer I taped all of the Bible
studies. Video taped them. You’re not going to see them if you’re not in a small group. You’re
going to miss out on this life changing historic thing. So I would encourage you, if you’re not in
a group yet get in a group. Better yet, start one. Get three or four of your friends. You don’t
have to have a bunch of people and you say, I’ll be the host. You say, What does it take to be a
host? Can you turn on a VCR? If you can do that you can be a host. We’ll give you the video,
you plug it in, turn it on, invite your friends and sit there and eat pop corn and laugh at me.

In your program – you can look at this later – today’s program there’s a flap on 40 Days of
Peace. If you’re not in a small group I would encourage you to become a host. Fill this out, rip
it off and take it outside to the table and we’ll get you started. Anybody can do this. But I want
you to be connected before the rogue winds come, not afterwards, but now – before.

So you receive help from others. Here’s the fifth step in rebuilding your life…

5. Rely on the Lord.

You receive help from others but you rely on the Lord. Let me be real clear about this. You
cannot rebuild your life after a major loss without God. Not the way you’re intended to build it.
Because there are five qualities you need to rebuild your life. You need first, peace. You need
peace of mind. Second, you’ve got to have hope in order to rebuild your life. Then you’ve got
to have wisdom. You’ve got to have courage. And you’ve got to have strength.

Where are you going to get those five things – peace and hope and wisdom and courage and
strength? There’s only one place you get those things to rebuild a life. You get them from
trusting in Jesus Christ. In fact, look at the next five verses. Circle those five words in these five


First you need peace. The Bible says in Isaiah 26:3 “You, Lord, give true peace to those
who depend on You.” Circle “peace.” You get peace from depending on God. You can either
panic or pray, worry or worship. He says “Trust in Me and I’ll give you peace.”

Second, you need hope. Psalm 62 “I find rest in God. Only He gives me hope.” I was on
the Oprah show this week. I flew back to Chicago to tape a show they’re going to show in
September. One of the questions Oprah asked me was “Why do you think Purpose Driven Life
has been the best selling book in the world for the last three years?” I said because it’s a book of
hope. And everybody needs hope. Everybody needs hope! Human beings can go weeks
without food. (I can go months with this body!) You can go days without water. You can go a
couple of minutes without air. But you can’t go one second without hope. If you don’t have any
hope you’re not living. You’re just existing. You need hope to cope. You’ve got to have hope.

Where do you get it? “I find rest in God. Only He gives me hope.” Psalm 62:5

Then the next verse, Psalm 3:3 “You’re my shield, my wonderful God, who gives me
courage.” You’ve got to have courage to rebuild your life. You get it from God. That verse
really means, He lifts up my head. He says, “I’ll boost you up. Don’t be down in the mouth.”

And the next verse, “I will bless the Lord who counsels me. He gives me wisdom in the
night. He tells me what to do.” If you’re going to rebuild your life you’re going to need some
guidance. And it’s got to be good guidance. Nobody knows what the future holds but God does.
And He can give you wisdom.

And the last verse, Isaiah 12 says “God is my Savior. I will trust Him and not be afraid.”
The Lord gives me power and strength. He says I’ll give you strength to rebuild your life.

Notice all of these are gifts. He gives me, He gives me, He gives me… you don’t earn them.
You don’t deserve them. You don’t work for them. They’re simply gifts of God when we give
ourselves to Him.

I want you to hear the story of a couple who literally lost everything and how they rebuilt their
lives, their home and their church. It’s Pastor Tom and Chaundel.

Tom: As Chaundel and I watched the events unfolding in New Orleans this last week it did bring
back a lot of personal memories.

Chaundel: On February 20, 1986 the levy broke near our home in Marysville, north of
Sacramento because we’d had a lot of heavy rains that season. I’d cleaned house all day
getting ready for a women’s meeting at the house that evening and Tom being the wonderful
husband that he is suggested that we go out to dinner to keep the kitchen clean.

Tom: Yeah, we went out to Carl’s Jr, a real fancy place. About half way through our hamburger
the place just sort of emptied out. We heard a radio blaring up at front and found out that a
levy had broken over where our house was and the entire area was inundated with water and
we couldn’t even get back into our own house. We had the clothes on our back, the car we
were driving, and we drove our Chevy to the levy and the levy was dry. It happened to us!


Chaundel: My first thought was we need to go back and tell the women we’re not having
the meeting. But they wouldn’t let us across the bridge. Tom said, they’ll figure it out! We
went the other way to a church member’s house and asked if we could spend the night and
we ended up staying a week. We waited to catch a glimpse – or maybe dreaded to catch a
glimpse – of our neighborhood on the news. Finally in the local paper we saw a picture on
the front page of what we had determined was probably our next door neighbor’s house.
And the water was to the roofline.

Tom: Then we learned our house was under nine feet of water. They gradually began to pump
the water out. A friend took us in on a boat and we waded through our house in cold water
up to our chest. Very strange feeling. We had to start by cleaning up the mess. Then we
had to begin to tear out everything that was in the house and rebuild everything that was the
house. It affected every area of our life. Chaundel had a home bookkeeping business. It
affected that. Our church was in the same area and it happened that the buildings of the
church were inundated with water to the extent we were never able to move back into those

Chaundel: We didn’t have any flood insurance so the financial loss was huge. But the first grief
that I faced was the fact that we weren’t home – so close and yet so far – so we weren’t able
to gather any of those irreplaceable things. Tom comforted me with the fact that we were all
together and that he wouldn’t have let me stop to pack anyway because he knew I wasn’t a
very fast packer. He reminded us that our precious sixteen-month-old Ryan was fine and
that he was much more important than his baby pictures.

Tom: The weeks and months that followed were pretty exhausting. There was a lot to do. We
were able to salvage some thing but those things were covered with layers of slimy mud and
who knows what else. We washed and washed and washed until finally it would come off.
We were out of our home for seven weeks. Finally when we got the particleboard down and
some water in the bathtub we moved back in because we wanted to be back in our house so
much. Our church, some people thought our church was gone. We don’t have the building
anymore. So they thought I’d have to leave and not be a pastor of that church any more.
But the church obviously continued. It’s not all about the building. The church first met in
small groups in homes and then we met at a local community college where we rented
space. We finally bought some property by the freeway and built a new building. I can still
look back at those times at that church as some of the greatest times of worship in our lives.

Chaundel: We also learned to look for things to rejoice in. We would fall into bed every night
just exhausted from mucking out our house or looking for a place for our church to meet.
But you know what? We didn’t get sick one time in those weeks and there was a lot of crud
in that water. God did a special miracle for us in that we were able to retrieve from the old-
fashioned computer floppy disks – the 5¼ inch ones. We got all my clients’ records and all
of Tom’s sermons. It was a total miracle. We didn’t get a single computer game but we got
the important stuff.

Tom: God taught us to look for things to rejoice in. And He also taught us through this that He’s
in control. He’s in control of whatever circumstances in our lives. It’s the easiest thing in
the world to act like God’s only in control when things are going right. I remember going to
one church meeting and a guy got up and gave his testimony that his house wasn’t flooded.
He said, God said to the water, “This far and no further.” So his house wasn’t flooded. I

thought, “How come He couldn’t have said that two blocks earlier before my house?” The
truth is whether things are going good or going bad, God’s in control. God’s there in our
lives and He can work in our lives. That’s what makes God so great.

God also taught us in a deeper way than He ever had before of what it means to be a part of
His church and the encouragement the church can give. We had people give to meet our
needs from all over the country. We had people drive to meet our needs from all over
California. There were people who came, gave up a whole weekend to come and help tear
down our house. We lost everything that was in our church. I lost my whole pastor’s
library with all my books. One church gave an offering, a special offering, just to re-buy the
books that were in my library. The name of that church was Saddleback Church! Five years
before I came here to be a pastor, this church took up an offering to re-supply that library.
So I can still pull a whole lot of books off my shelf and say, Thank You God for these
people who loved me even before I came here enough to care about us when we went
through a tough time.

Chaundel: God also taught us that a loss like this helps us put our lives in perspective. It really
makes you think about what’s important and what’s going to last. Our possessions were
wiped out in a matter of minutes. But a year later our house was rebuilt and basically pretty
much furnished. That’s the time in my life I became a garage-sale-aholic. So if I show up
in your driveway on Saturday morning you’ll understand.

God gave new meaning to Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on
earth where moth and rust [and floods] destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But
store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is there will your
heart be also.” If they can come and go that easily it’s not worth giving my all to and
investing my whole life in. But on the other hand what I realized was in those same few
minutes I could have lost my husband and my son, then my values become clearer and more
straightened out. I need to focus on what was left not what was lost like Pastor Rick’s
talking about.

Really, I’d like to be able to tell you that God taught me these lessons and now we’ve moved
on to other things. But that’s obviously not true. I never thought I’d value possessions
overvalue them, or a home again. I never thought I’d take my husband or my children for
granted. That I’d always be generous to those in need. But you know what? I still struggle
with those things? I still have to grow. But God loves me anyway. Sometimes the loss
becomes fresh all over again. It was hard watching this week. And it was hard this summer
as we were getting our daughter ready to go to college I was thinking about our college
years and really grieving over the fact that we don’t have the letters we wrote to each other
during college. I wanted to share those with her.

Tom: I’m not sure I’d want to share with her everything in those letters. We’ve been able to be a
little bit light hearted years and years later but the truth of the matter is when we were going
through it, when you’re in a season of loss you feel like there’s no way out sometimes. You
wonder if you’re going to make it through. And we needed hope and God gave us hope. He
gave us hope by remembering that this world is not all there is. He gave us hope by other
churches, other Christians from all over coming in and encouraging us. You don’t know
how much that means. And He gave us hope with the deep, deep knowledge that He was
there. Whether good or bad, He was there. He was with us no matter what. I know we’ve

been praying for these folks in the flood effected area individually. But as we close this
testimony I’d like to lead us in a prayer for them together.

Lord, we pray for these people who’ve been affected by this flood. We pray for those in this
congregation whose families have been affected by this flood. We pray first that You’d
meet their physical needs and there’s lots of them. God, just bring the right people at the
right time to meet the needs. I pray that people wouldn’t panic but that they would depend
on You. And be patient and God, You will faithfully meet the needs that so many have.
Use us and use others as Your instruments in doing that. Lord, we also pray for their hearts.
God give people hope. They need hope. Give them hope to such an extent that it begins to
flood into their lives and hearts. It’s my prayer that You would allow stories of hope to
begin to pour out of these areas and that those stories of hope will not only encourage the
people that are there but lift the faith of everybody in our nation. We pray for these people
together. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Some of you just figured out that Pastor Tom married my sister! He always says when we go on
the road that Rick writes the books, Chaundel got the looks.

The acid test of your faith is how you handle the losses of life. The acid test is not how you
handle the weddings or the baby dedications. But how do you handle the funerals of life. How
you handle the losses of life shows what kind of faith you have. Where do you get that kind of

When the typhoons hit the south pacific islands, the islanders used to tie themselves – and still do
in some places – lash themselves to giant trees so that when the winds come through the palm
trees stand and they’re not blown off the island. When the rogue winds come through your life
you’d better be tied to something that’s unmoveable. And what is that?

You need to be attached to God. You lean on Jesus for peace and you look to Jesus for hope and
you learn from Jesus for courage. And you listen to Jesus for wisdom. And you live in Jesus for
strength. That’s where it comes from.

Let me ask you. Where do you need strength in your life right now? What are you going
through? What problem are you facing that you’ve been trying to face on your own? Some of
you still haven’t recovered from a loss that happened a week or a month or a year ago. And
you’re still holding on to that hurt. You need to let it go. You need to start rebuilding.

I’ll never forget, years ago, I talked to a woman who was literally incapacitated by depression.
She couldn’t even get out of bed for months. She was so depressed. She struggled to get out of
bed and come and see me at the office when I was still doing counseling. As she came in and sat
down I said, “Tell me your story”. She poured out a lifetime of loss. My heart just went out to
her. She told me incident after incident after incident of loss after loss after loss. All kinds of
things. Everything from a bankruptcy to an abortion to two failed marriages and on and on and
on. My heart was just going out to this woman. Looking up at me in tears she said, “What is
there left to trust in?” I suggested that she put her trust in Jesus Christ. I said, “You want to
pray? Why don’t you just bow your head and I’ll lead you in a prayer.” She followed me in a
prayer opening up her life to Christ and beginning the rebuilding process. I’ll never forget.
When we finished that prayer she looked up at me and her eyes were glistening and she said,
“For the first time in my life I feel hopeful!”

Right now before we begin these last two steps I’d like to pray with you and for you.

I’d like to lead you in a prayer just like I did with that woman. As I pray this if these words
express your heart would you say in your mind, Me too, God. Me too. Dear God, I messed
up a lot of things in my life. I’ve had some big losses. Today I want to start the rebuilding
process. This time with You in charge. I want to pour out my heart to You, God. You
know how I feel better than anybody. Help me. Please forgive me for not trusting You, for
the times I’ve hurt other people. And help me to forgive those who’ve hurt me. I want to let
it go. I don’t want to be a bitter person. Help me to remember that this life is not about
accumulating things but fulfilling Your purposes for me. I want to let go of my pride and
my fear that’s kept me from getting close to other people and letting them get close to me.
Help me to get into a small group and a church family. Most of all, Jesus, teach me to rely
on You moment by moment so I can know Your peace and experience Your hope and
receive Your courage and have Your wisdom and enjoy Your strength. In Jesus’ name I
pray. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer just now you just took the most important step in your life.
Congratulations. But it’s a step followed by a journey. Once you’ve stepped across the line and
said, “God, You’re going to be the owner of my life. You’re going to be in charge now. Christ,
You guide me.” That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have any problems. You’re going to
have the exact same problems you had before. But now you’ve got somebody to help you. So
now you realize that God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re ever going to
go through. That leads you to step six, which is this...

6. Refuse to be discouraged.

You know that God’s purpose is greater than the problems you’re going through. And you’re
not on your own any more so you keep moving. What do you do when you can’t move? You
still don’t get discouraged. What do you do when you can’t move?

Notice what Jesus said in Luke 21 “By standing firm you will gain life.” Circle “standing firm.”
Sometimes you can’t even move but you just stand and you stand firm. That means you refuse
to be discouraged. The word “refused” means it’s a choice and it is. Discouragement is like
happiness. It’s your choice. You don’t have to be discouraged. If you’re discouraged right now
it’s because you’re choosing to be discouraged. You don’t have to think discouraging thoughts.
How many times have I told you, If you look at the world you’ll be distressed, if you look within
you’ll be depressed, if you look at Christ you’ll be at rest. It all depends on what you’re looking
at. So you just stand firm when you can’t move.

What do you do when you’ve done all you can and it seems like it’s never enough? What do you
say when your friends turn away and you’re all alone? Tell me what do you give when you’ve
given your all and it seems like you can’t make it through? You just stand. When there’s
nothing left to do you just stand. Watch the Lord see you through. And after you’ve done all
you can, you just stand.

Tell me how do you handle the guilt of your past and how do you deal with your shame? And
how can you smile when your heart’s been broken and filled with pain? Tell me what do you
give when you’ve given your all and it seems like you can’t make it through? You just stand.

The seventh step and it’s as important as all the others…

7. You must reach out to others.

God has wired the universe that when we help other people He helps us. When you start helping
others He heals you. When you do it. Not then. It’s not I’m going to get my act together, then
I’ll start helping other people. No. It’s when not then. It’s when you start to help other people,
before your life’s all figured out. When you do that, God says, I see somebody interested in
being like Me – helping others and being unselfish. Then God starts healing you. When and
then. If you say, “I’ll wait until I get my act all together before I help anybody else,” then you’re
never going to help anybody because you’re never going to have it all together. No. You start
helping other people and that’s part of the healing process of recovering from a loss. We’re
blessed to be a blessing and what we sow we reap. The way God’s figured it out is the more we
help other people the more He blesses us.

This week we’ve got a great example and opportunity to practice this step. I want you to watch
this videotape of Pastor Steve Rutenbar our Pastor of Disaster, right before we close.

Steve: Every project this size needs a game plan. Here’s our three steps that we’re going to
follow in this game plan. Over the last two days we’ve received over 22,000 suggestions
from people in our congregation by email by telephone, from around the world on how
Saddleback should respond. We are going to respond in these three ways.

First, of all we’re going to assess the nature of the problem. Pastor Rick and I are hoping in
an airplane and flying to the affected areas to meet with government leaders, with disaster
relief leaders, with leaders from the local church, how to both assess and deal with this

Secondly, we’re going to be partnering with relief organizations, with government

organizations. But primarily with the local church. Why are we doing that? Because long
after the government organizations – the Red Cross and all these wonderful organizations
have packed up and left the communities and moved on to new disasters, the local church
always remains. It’s those pastors who need encouragement. It’s those pastors who need
help. So we’re going to assess. We’re going to partner with local churches. And last...

We’re going to train. We want to provide training for every family, every individual, every
small group in our church to have a game plan for dealing with disaster here in our
community and for us to be ambassadors around the world in these circumstances so that we
can share the love of God. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed Me. I was thirsty and you
gave Me a drink.” We want to take on this attitude. We’re not here to solve all the
problems in the world. We’re not here to solve all your problems. But we are here to serve
you. We’re not here to solve, we’re here to serve.

Let me just take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am of you. When there’s been a
disaster, when there’s been a problem – 911 or whatever – you’ve stepped up to the plate and
cared more than just about yourself. We’re getting ready to go into the 40 Days of Peace. As I
said it’s going to be a life changing series in two weeks. I hope you’ll be a part of that. [end of

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