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Redeeming the Time & Zoom Out

Updated: May 21

Nicholas Vega + Sofia Zhiryada


Sermon Transcription:

I'm excited to share this word that God has given me. Before I do, I just, again as always, want to thank our pastors for giving me the opportunity to share, to pour out, and for all the opportunities that they've invested in me. I definitely would not be here without them.

I'm excited because if there's a title today, it is called "Redeeming the Time." This was an answer to prayer for me. Through this, I have been a witness to the scripture that says in Isaiah 54:17, and we all know this scripture, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me," says the Lord. Hallelujah.

Now, before we begin, I do want to have a disclaimer. This may be something very specific to a very specific group of people. Nevertheless, I would say that if it's not for you, if this is not your story, that you would hold on to the gospel that's coming through this because you may be able to use it. You may be able to give it to somebody else who may go through what I'm going to share today. Hallelujah.

So, Church, as I was saying, recently I became a witness of God defending me against the enemy, defending me against our enemy, the accuser of the brethren, if you will. I was able to see that despite the fact that the enemy would come at me with lies and accusations and judgments, the Lord Himself, in a way, defended me against it and gave me a way out. It's a confident thing when God exposes the enemy before you and delivers you out of his accusations and judgments.

For a while, the enemy had made a specific weapon, if you will, and it was a lie. He would just continuously hound me with it, continuously accuse me of things, and continuously bring judgment to me. For a long time, I believed him because part of it was true. If you have experienced the enemy, you know that he likes to take parts of the truth, spin his webs of lies around it, and give it to you. He'll make you feel like these things are your thoughts and from your heart. He'll play with your emotions.

I truly thank God that He exposes him every time. I truly thank God that He exposes his lies and shows me the way out because then the enemy has nothing to come at me with. For a while, the enemy would bring up my past. He would bring up when I was first saved. Through the teachings and preachings here, there would be times that I remembered when I was first saved. I remember that time frame and what used to happen, how it used to be.

When I first got saved, I always wanted to be spending time with God. I always wanted to be reading my Bible. I always wanted to be in the secret place, if you will. When I first got saved, there were many times and experiences where the Lord would cause there to be divine appointments with people around me. We would begin talking about the gospel, begin talking about some sort of truth. There would be times that I was reading or spending time with the Lord, and the Lord would give me something, and then it would turn out that thing was for somebody else I encountered that day. I would be speaking to somebody, and they were going through something, and what the Lord gave me that morning was actually for their situation.

There were many times and many things that we hear here, that the Lord brings across this pulpit. Unfortunately, and this is the true part, what the enemy would come at me with, there was a time that all of that stopped. I didn't know it had stopped until I looked back and realized it. Hallelujah.

It was in these moments of remembering the past, remembering these experiences, that the Lord was telling us should be part of our daily lives. I thought, "Oh snap, it was so long ago that that happened." Then the thoughts started to come: "What happened to me? What happened to those times that I don't do it any longer?" All of a sudden, there was a sense of guilt and fear that I had to fix my life. It became a perpetual cycle where the enemy would continuously bring the guilt and the fear, causing me to be like a hamster on a wheel, trying to figure out where my life went wrong and where all these situations stopped.

I would get to the place where, if I felt insecure, I would start making promises to God. "Oh God, I'm going to fix this. God, I'm going to do better in my devotion. God, I'm going to have a prayer life. God, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that," only to find out that I didn't fulfill those promises I made to Him.

If you have ever had this experience, you know that you always find yourself in a cycle—feeling guilty, making promises to fix it, trying to fix it, and then discovering you don't have the strength to fix it. Then you're back in the cycle again, over and over. For a very long time, the enemy would come at me, bringing condemnation about where my life was. When I look at my life, I find that my walk starts to look like a wasteland. It starts to look like it's barren. You know, granted, I would say this: even in looking back at my past or looking at my life introspectively, I could be wrong. Though it may look like my life is a wasteland or barrenness, there are other things that the Lord is doing. The Lord is producing in my life, and yet, these are things that the enemy will try to use to make you feel a certain way.

The good news, as always, is that the enemy is a liar. The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit who continuously is for us and not against us, who continuously exposes him and his lies. The Holy Spirit brings light to those areas where you might be struggling with a certain thought or feeling for a long time, and all of a sudden, He will expose that lie. Then, all you have to do is reject it and move on. It's almost like He brings the deliverance that you need.

So, this was one of those things for me. Hallelujah. Our scripture portion today is going to come from the book of Joel. As a little introduction, the Israelites had been in a season where they had lost everything. They were in a calamity and at risk of being overrun by the enemy. Joel is the prophet giving the word of the Lord in this season, and you'll see here where he immediately starts off, describing the landscape of what the Israelites are going through.

Just going to go there real quick. Hallelujah.

I'm going to start at verse one to verse twelve, and it says this: "The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel. Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation: What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten. Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it has been cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up against my land, strong and without number; his teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste my vine and ruined my fig tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering have been cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests mourn who minister to the Lord. The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Be ashamed, you farmers, wail, you vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine has dried up, and the fig tree has withered; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree—all the trees of the field are withered; surely joy has withered away from the sons of men."

As we see here, Church, Israel was going through a season where everything had been demolished, annihilated. They had nothing to give. They had nothing to provide or bring forth to God in their temples. Their vines and trees were demolished; the locusts had eaten everything. They had nothing left. As I said, this is very specific to a very specific group of people. In my life, it felt and looked like everything was gone. Everything that God had produced in my life was gone. I didn't do it any longer, and I was just left thinking about the good old days.

This may be for those who are mature in their walk, who have been with the Lord for years. I always hear this a lot from elderly folks or those mature in their walk—they almost bring condescension to those who are just starting off. When you first start off with the Lord, you have this honeymoon stage where everything is brand new, everything is fresh and glowing. You're spending time with the Lord, and everything is great. It's always sunny outside. As time goes by and you get older, it's not like that any longer. I've heard people in other areas express that they almost don't believe they can have a honeymoon season again. They've been with the Lord for years, and all of a sudden, they're old and become doubtful, angry, and so on. It's as if the life they had when they first started has been taken away, and they have nothing left.

In this passage, we see that this was the case for the Israelites. They had nothing to show for those years. Church, there are a lot of moments in time that, if we're not walking with the Spirit, because of our decisions, we may end up having a wasteland scenario. It's a real thing. There are people who may have started out strong but now are just people who tag "I'm a Christian" onto their Instagram bio. They don't have anything else to show for it, or they just stop walking with the Lord. It's sad because it seems like the enemy has plundered their land and their life. For whatever reason, whatever beliefs they have, they are no longer walking with the Lord.

But I thank God that the Lord—this is not the case. The reality is that there is hope in Jesus. There is hope for people who used to tell me, "You're just brand new to the faith. Everything is nice and all good, but there will be a day that it’s not like that anymore." Even for those people, there is hope in the Lord. Hallelujah!

Church, for a very long time, the enemy had me fooled. As always, he had me fooled with works as an answer to this problem. When I remembered that time frame, my answer would be to fix it. My answer was always, "Oh snap, now I have to think about where I went wrong to fix it and find where I need to fix it and then go and do it." The enemy always wants you to choose the law to fix your problems because there's no power in it. You then become disillusioned and find out that, in all your strength, trying to keep yourself going in the Lord, there's none of it left. Thank God that there is an answer for us, an answer for all these things.

I’m going to read from Joel 2:12-13, and it says this: "Now, therefore," says the Lord, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm."

So, God’s answer to our problem, our calamity, our wasteland, is that we return to Him. We render our hearts back to Him because of the Cross. We get to do this because Jesus already fulfilled the law for us. Today, all we have to do is turn our hearts back to Him, turn our attention, focus, and affection back to the Lord. Wherever you may find that you have a wasteland, even if it's only specific areas, all you have to do is return to Him. Now you are depending back on the Lord.

Joel 2:25-27 says this as a promise: "Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, 'Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them. I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations. But I will remove far from you the northern army, and will drive him away into a barren and desolate land, with his face toward the eastern sea and his back toward the western sea. His stench will come up, and his foul odor will rise, because he has done monstrous things.'"

The promise of the Lord is that when we turn back to Him, He will revive us. He will revive those areas. Hallelujah! It's in this that we find and remember that God is the reason we can turn back. He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and great in kindness. The enemy will tell you that you lost the grace, you lost these things. Why would God be gracious to you? Why would He do these things for you? The enemy will make you think that you have to do this on your own. Outside of Christ, it's logical—you broke something, now you should fix it. Why would someone else fix it for you? But God is not looking to smite you. He’s not looking for you to mess up so He can be angry or treat you badly. God, in the midst of how we walk away or run away from Him, is still looking to bring that mercy to you in these moments. That’s why we can turn back to Him.

In Joel 2:25-27, the Lord says: "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."

Hallelujah! So, Church, if you are one who, or for those who are watching as well, if you are one who may have been with the Lord for years and can attest that your life is a wasteland at this moment or can attest that your life isn’t the way that it used to be with the Lord, the promise of the Lord is that all you have to do is turn back to Him and repent and bring your attention back to Him. He will be your Redeemer. He will be the one to restore you. You don’t have to restore yourself.

For me, it took a little bit of faith to choose to believe that God is that good, that He will do this for me. It took a bit for me to just surrender these things, to surrender my own works, my past, and trying to fix it. I had to give it back into His hands and get back to the place where now I’m just following the Spirit again. I don’t need to do anything. God is not asking me to do anything. He’s just looking for me to get back in line in the position of following His Spirit so that He can tell me what He wants me to do or lead me where He wants me to go. I don’t need to make my own steps. I don’t need to fix anything. God is the one who provides the prayer life. God is the one who provides the devotional time. He’s the one who provides those opportunities to share the good news with people. He is the one that gives it to you. As you came to Christ in the beginning, there is no reason for us to now try to fix it.

That scripture in Galatians 3:2 says this: "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

All we have to do is return back to the Lord, and the Lord promises to restore what has been taken. The Lord promises to restore the time that has been lost. So, in closing, if any of you feel that you are too far gone or like you have lost the grace or lost the ground to the enemy, the only thing you need to do is stop and turn back to God. You don’t have to fix anything. You just need to let go of trying to fix your life. For God’s sake, let it go and give your attention back to Him. That’s all He’s asking for. Let Him be God to you and your circumstances.

This may be a word for those who are mature, not just old, but mature. This is for those who feel too far gone or feel guilty for maybe things that they’ve let happen in their life. It doesn’t matter. Turn back to the Lord. The Lord is looking for you, like the prodigal son. That’s a perfect storyline of going too far gone, ending up in a ditch with pigs and everything around you. Yet, when you return to the Lord, the Lord responds like the father in that story. He’s looking for you to come back home. He’s looking for you to be a part of His family again. And with that, I’m going to pass this over to Sophie.

Thank you, Brother Nick, for always so faithfully sharing what the Lord puts on your heart. Before we continue in the Word, I'd also like to thank my pastors for giving me this opportunity to be in front of you today and for giving me the opportunity to speak. I feel so humbled today. Excuse me if I get emotional because my prayer always is, when I'm given this opportunity, that I don’t ever want to say anything out of the breath that God gives me out of my own ambitions or anything that I feel somebody needs to hear. I always ask that He gives me the Word for His people. Today, I’m very humbled by the Word that the Lord gave me for you guys and also for me. I’m just honored to be back and be here.

So, I’m just going to pray over this time. Father God, would You continue to lead us in the Word? God, Holy Spirit, would You continue opening eyes and ears to hear Your Word, Lord God, that we may walk according to Your will, Lord God, according to Your purpose. Lord God, have Your way, Lord, in this time as we continue in the Word. Hallelujah.

Like I said, I’ve been very humbled, and over these past two weeks that I’ve been away, I read a book. There was one story in it that I don’t know how to explain—it just humbled me to my core. Whenever you’re humbled, that means that's a place where pride used to be. I found myself reflecting on that, on my pride, where I noticed I began to pick up places of my life again and pick up things and do things that the Lord never asked me to do or be in control of. You can recognize these areas in your life too, as well, maybe by just seeing where you don’t give God 100% of room to reign in.

I came to notice some of those places in my life when the Lord showed me this on one of the pages of the book I was reading, Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The author is painting this picture of, you know, imagine that you are an extra in an upcoming new movie and you have like two-fifths of a second that you are playing a background character among millions of other people. You’re excited and you invite everybody—your family, your friends, your church—and you tell them there’s going to be a movie about you. You rent out a whole theater and tell them, "Come watch, there’s going to be a movie about me." After seeing that, would they not say to you, "Who do you think you are, thinking this movie was about you? You only had like two-fifths of a second in this movie."

Then he goes on to explain how so many of us live the life movie, you could say, thinking it's about us. There's even a slang phrase popular today where people say, "I’m the main character," or "They’re the main character," "Main character energy," or "It’s just Ronnie’s world and we’re living in it," "It’s just Marina’s world and we’re living in it." The slang refers to a person thinking that they're the central focus or the main character of their own story or life.

But let's consider the movie of life, so to say, from the beginning, where God took His precious time and created everything in this world with precise detail, including man. After disobedience or sin, man became separated from God. This was the fall of humanity. Man's wickedness continued to grow, and God decided to start over. Then came the flood. Later, God revealed Himself to a 99-year-old man, Abraham, and made a covenant with him and gave him a promise. Then, after that, the nation of Israel was born, a nation of God’s people, a royal lineage, the Word calls it, from which the Savior would later come. Then famine struck, and God's people, the Israelites, had to migrate to Egypt where, we all know, they were enslaved for hundreds of years before God sent Moses to deliver them. They wandered in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Then came the period of judges and kings that would try to lead the nation before the kingdom was divided and split into two. Eventually, they were exiled and then let back into Jerusalem to rebuild their temple and so on and so forth.

Four hundred years later, Jesus Christ was born and began His ministry at 30 years old. We know a lot of this. He taught people, performed miracles, and proclaimed the coming of God. Then came His death and resurrection. We know how this movie of life, so to say, ends—that Christ will return for His people. We know that.

So, why the long history lesson? Why the extensive explanation of the biblical timeline? Because this is a self-reflection moment for us, for you and for me, to see that from start to finish, where are you in this story? Nowhere near the main character. We clearly see that the main character is and always will be God Almighty. Yeah, it’s not about us. We merely are, you know, two-fifths of a second in this lifetime, so to say. We get so caught up in ourselves and so microscopic about our own lives—self-focused and ignorant, so prideful—even worried about tomorrow, worried about what we’ll wear, what we’ll do, or how our business is going to be next year, how we’re going to provide, how to upgrade our house, car, or wardrobe. That’s all pride.

The Word of God says, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."

Church, we need to zoom out. We need to see where we fall in the grand scheme of things, how insignificant we actually are. Like I said, we only take up about two-fifths of a second in this grand scheme of the movie of life, so to say. We are, in fact, not the main character, but just a vapor, just the dust of the earth. When the Lord showed this to my heart personally, I could just hear the simple question that the Holy Spirit was asking me or kind of saying, "Who do you think you are?" When the question is asked like this, it is implied to the person that it's being asked or addressed to that this person has exceeded their authority or interfered with something which is none of their business. I’m sure many of you guys have been asked this or asked somebody this, like, "Who do you think you are, coming to me this way or presenting yourself this way?" I felt the Lord was asking me that, like, "Who do you think you are? You think I made you to be the main character here? No."

I believe with all my heart that the Lord is asking you here today the same question: "Who do you think you are?" Have you overstepped His authority? Have you interfered in something that is none of your business to mess with? Psalm 103 says, "The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all." That means my life and your life. We have no business, and I don’t, picking up our lives and trying to live it the way that we please as if we’re the main character.

You know, who are we to question God? Who are we to demand from Him how our life should be or shouldn't be? We continue in Psalm 115, where it says, "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." And in Daniel 4:35, "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed or thought of as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. No one can resist His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'"

How small and insignificant are we, really? We continue in the Word, and here's what it says in Genesis 2: "The Lord formed man out of the dust of the ground." That's literally what people walk on every single day. You are just the dust of the ground, and the Lord chose to breathe life into the man's nostrils, and he became a living being. Later down in Genesis 3, it also says that "in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return."

How small does that make you feel? How insignificant does that make your two-fifths of a life feel? In Ecclesiastes 1:3, "What profit has a man for all his labor which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever." Church, when we're able to recognize how microscopic we are, it becomes much easier to see how big our God really is. Amen, hallelujah!

This is the part that gets me and humbles me every day: He sits on His throne today, right now, this very moment, and He decides if you should even see tomorrow. He decides if you should even take your next breath. Here are just some scriptures that give us a glimpse of how great our God is.

God is sufficient. What that means is there's nothing you can add to Him. Acts 17: "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." Isaiah 40: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. The mountains quake before Him and the hills melt; the earth trembles at His presence, the world and all who live in it."

So, what does a great God like this think about you? Who are you before a great God like this? Again, here are just a few scriptures about how the Lord views you. Luke 12: "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. You are more valued than many sparrows." "You are precious in My sight; you have been honored, and I have loved you." "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people."

Are you seeing it? Despite how small you are, how insignificant your two-fifths of a life on earth are, and how great our God is, despite that, He still chooses us. He still wants us. He still loves us. So, the question becomes, what does a great, self-sufficient God like that want from us? What is our two-fifths of a second of life here for? To simply put it, He wants to be Lord of your life. He wants His rightful place in your life. We fail to see sometimes that He was not created for us, but He created us for Himself. Can you guys say that with me today? "God wasn't created for me; I was created for God." Colossians 1:16 says, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him."

Since you are His creation, He calls you into relationship with Him. He wants you to know Him. He wants to be God to you. Like Nick said, He wants to be Lord of your life. What that means is that you no longer have control of your life. It means that in the two-fifths of a second of your life, God will choose what He does with it. The point of this short life is always to point to Him in all that we do. It's not about us; it never was and never will be. We were not created to get something from God or demand something from Him. All we can do is give Him the worship that He deserves.

Would you guys stand with me? As we go into an altar call, I just want to remind you that nothing we do on this earth matters. Nothing we ever will accomplish in our own strength matters unless it’s the will of God. How do you want to be found when the Lord returns? Will you be faithful with the little that He’s given you, your short life here on earth? Will you be called "good and faithful servant" over the time He gave you here?

With that, I want to invite you to the altar today. If you acknowledge that yes, my life here is short, but I want to spend it according to God’s will, I want to spend it according to what He says. If you say today, "I want to be found good, like the good servant who was faithful in the little he was given," I want to invite you to the altar at this time. Our prayer team is ready to pray for you as we worship and just give God all the glory and the worship He deserves. That’s all He ever wanted. That's all we were ever created for—to worship Him. He is sufficient in everything. There’s nothing we can ever add or do to please Him, but He is sufficient, and all we can do is just worship Him for the breath in our lungs that He’s giving us today. Hallelujah.

-Nicholas Vega + Sofia Zhiryada


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