Leah was a woman who felt unloved and unwelcome, and she hoped that through her first three sons, she'd find acceptance. It's evident by the meaning of their names that she felt giving Jacob children would validate her. But then something happened to Leah, and when her fourth son was born, she names him "praise." She realized that her value wasn't in what she did, but in who she was. Perhaps you've experienced a trauma of absence—something that should have happened for you that didn't. Don't let the enemy steal your praise, but rather, praise God in every season for who he is and what he has done for you.
Amen. My message, in closing here, is ... You may be seated. Praise is the final word. Praise is the final word. When I was 17 years old, I had moved from New York City, a big city, to a small little town in Texas. How many of you have heard of Texas? It was very different. New York City is big city and fast moving, Texas is slow and cowboys on horses. Everything's big in Texas. One night, when I was 17 years old, my friend invited me to an outdoor Christian concert. And if you could picture the most beautiful, warm evening with a breeze blowing, a full moon in the sky. They had these little outdoor seats for all the ... There's about 700 young teenagers there at this outdoor Christian concert. I was with my friend Kevin and two other friends. Kevin saw this young woman named Kelly, and Kevin said, "I'm going to go over to Kelly. There she is. She's standing over there. I'm going to go ask her out on a date."
I walked over there with him and as I was walking, I saw Kelly for the very first time in my life and I was smitten. Do you believe in love at first sight? I do. I fell in love instantly. Her face was shining with either the moon or the glory of God or both. Lovely hair and can I say kind of a nice shape. You know, she's, she's looking good. But Kevin was asking her out, not me. And so Kevin gets over there and he's blowing it. She's like, [yawning sound] and I think maybe I have a shot at this, but I'm too shy. I'm not a bold guy. I would never in school, I would never ask a girl out unless I knew she was going to say yes because I didn't want to be rejected.
And so I would like ask my friend to go ask her if she would be interested in me asking her out on a date and then I'd have somebody else confirm it and then she'd have to write me a promise note saying if I ask her out she'll say yes because I was just afraid she was going to reject me. But I was standing there and I just so wanted to ask her to go out with me to have a meal and I just too afraid. I got froze up and just stood there and you know Kevin was trying to schmooze her, you know what that word schmooze means? He's going to Hey dude, like look at me. My sister walks up and my sister says, doesn't know Kelly and says, "You four guys, whoever picks a number between one and 10 and gets the right number, gets to go out on a date for a meal with Kelly." Kelly looks at her like, "Who is this lady?" I picked the number seven, which is a godly number, right, is the number of perfection. I was just looking at perfection there that East Texas night. And so I said seven and my sister said, you're right, you get to go on a date with her. My sister later told me whatever number I would have picked would have been the right number.
So I am eternally grateful to my sister. I looked at her, I was in love with her. It took her a little longer to fall in love with me, 17 years. No, it took a little while. Then I remember that day. How many of you husbands remember that day? In the United States, we do this. We get down on one knee and we have a ring in our pocket. And I gave her the ring and I'm still a little bit nervous. I had already asked her before if she would say yes, if I asked her and she said yes. But I was still afraid of rejection and I gave her the ring and she said yes. And she cried and I cried. It was such a beautiful, we had an amazing time. We've been married now for 41 years, as I said to you the other day.
[applause] Thank you. There's a story and I'm going to try to be brief. There's a story in Genesis chapter 29 of a man named Jacob who sees a girl name, anybody know? Rachel. Finds Rachel. Rachel is just like, Kelly. Rachel is gorgeous. She's a knockdown, gorgeous, drop dead beautiful woman. That's according to scripture. She was amazing and he's just like, "Oh, I love her. I love her. I wonder if she'll love me." And, and then he asks Laban if he could marry her and Laban says, sure, I would love for you to marry. All you have to do is work for me for seven years. If her father would've told me that, I would have said, "Yes." Because that's what beauty and love does to you. He gets excited and anyway he works and works and works, I'm going to follow pastor Claude's lead and use, do an experiment here.
Have some people come up on the stage. How many of you, is there anybody here that's been married less than a year? Can you wave at me if you've been married less than a year? Anyone? No one. Is there someone, okay. Less than a year. Is your husband here? I need somebody that has both of the husband and wife here. Anybody? Two years. Oh, okay. Two years? Less than two years. Okay. In the back. Is your wife with you? Okay. Come on up here if you would please. They are way in the back. Come on up. Do you mind? Oh, they're getting, they're looking at each other like they're nervous. Where?
Oh, okay. Well they're already coming, so I'm sorry. Come on up here. Rachel and Leah. No, excuse me. Rachel and Jacob, look at this. Look at Rachel and Jacob. Come on up here. Let's put our hands together. She does kind of look like a Rachel, doesn't she? Okay. You have worked 7 years and now you get down on that one knee and you say, will you marry me? And she says, what do you say?
All right, good news. Okay, I'm not going to get too graphic here, but on your wedding night. Laban does a trick. I need one more volunteer. I need a Leah. Pastor, would you come help me? Seriously. Come on. You're my Leah. This is my princess Leah. All right, come on over here brother. Again, not to get too graphic. But honeymoon, we call it honeymoon. Do you call it honeymoon here?
Honeymoon. He wakes up in the morning, and what does he see?
He's not too happy because the Bible is very nice and it says Leah had weak eyes, which in the Hebrew means she was ugly. Not that you are, you're handsome. But for if you were a girl, you would be ugly. But for a man, you're extremely handsome. But for a girl you have way too much hair on your face. You're like me. Okay. All right. He says, "I don't really love you. I'm not attracted to you. You've not won my heart. You... This is the girl for me. This is the one I dreamed of." So Laban says, okay, well work seven more years and then I'll give you Rachel. He gets excited. He actually gives her Rachel that same week. But then what happens? Yeah, he then he works a seven years after that. So then they're, then they're kind of a happy, weird family. You guys can go sit down. Thank you, and you're so kind. He's been Moses. He's been Leah. He's been the usher. He's been... are you going to... won't you be the song leader at the end of the service today? Just come.
He could do it. He could do it. So Genesis chapter 29, Leah is brokenhearted. She is wounded by what another person says about her, feels about her, thinks about her. She's an outcast. She's unloved, she's unwelcomed, she's unwanted. She doesn't feel needed. Leah is like a lot of us who have wounded hearts. As a strategy to overcome her woundedness she says, "If I could produce something, if I could make something happen, if I could be good enough, if I could be strong enough, if I could be beautiful enough, if I could prove my worth, then somebody will love me." Real quickly in Genesis chapter 29 Leah has a child. God cares for her and she has a child and his her verse 32 says, and Leah conceived a son and his name was Reuben for she said, "Because the Lord has looked on my affliction." The name Ruben means, look, it's a boy or look, I have a son.
Look at my child. I want to be seen. I want to be noticed. I want to have affection. I want to have somebody approve of me. I want to have somebody care about me. Now look what I've done for you, Jacob and now you'll love me. But she doesn't win the love through this effort of saying, look at the great things I've done. Sometimes we do that with Jesus. Look at the great things I've done now will you love me. Look at how much hard work I do for you now will you love me? But the reality is he already loves you. You're not working to get his love. You're working because he loves you. And so she doesn't understand this and so she's trying to earn it. Then she goes on and has a second son and it says, she conceived again a son and said, because the Lord has heard that I am hated.
He has given me also son and his name shall be called Simeon and Simeon's name is 'the Lord heard me' and his name means 'hearing, hear me'. And so the first one we say is, she says, look, see me. The second one is hear me have a voice. One of my wife's, if she doesn't mind me sharing this, the wounds that she had as a child was that she didn't get heard. She had to be quiet, she had to not say anything. And she grew up in an environment as loving as their parents were there was a sense of children are seen and not heard. And so even though she has a beautiful voice, but she went through a struggle of being heard. Some people struggle with being seen. Some people struggle with being heard. Leah says if I have somebody who, a second son, then I'll be heard.
I can have a voice. I can say something. I can have meaning, I can have purpose. Somebody will listen to me. Being listened to makes us feel we're worthwhile, important. We mean something to people, but it still doesn't work and Jacob still doesn't show her love and affection. And then she has a third son and this time, his name is Levi and Levi means 'attachment' or 'belonging' or 'connection'. And now she's really excited. I have three sons now he's going to really be attached to me. He's going to be connected to me. We're going to have this wonderful relationship and it still doesn't work. And so she has gone through the wounds that many of us in this room have gone through. Not being seen, not being heard, not being attached or loved or connected.
When you were a child, you were born by the Holy Spirit. He created you as he wanted you to be. You were not a mistake. You were not a random happening. Your parents may, they might have thought you were a mistake, but God formed you from your mother's womb. He built you the way you were supposed to be. You are perfect in his eyes. You are loved by him, seen by him and heard by him and attached to him, but sometimes we don't feel that way and we were created by God and something happened sometimes when we're children, we were built to be attached. Have you ever noticed that children love to just look in their mother's eyes and they have that, oooh, it's my mommy. There's such preciousness and we were built for that attachment, but something happened sometimes in our life is we were built for attachment, but we get detached from people.
There's a sense of pulling away. Something happens in all of our childhood that causes us to have insecurity, a wound or a detachment. That wound is a thing called trauma. Everybody say trauma. Trauma. There are two types of trauma. One of my friends who went through a trauma of when he was a little boy, six, seven, eight, nine years old, his mother abused him. I mean she beat him. She would punch him in the nose. His mouth would be bloody. His eyes would be closed shut from the wounds of her fist on his face. She would lock him in a closet without food or water for a whole day. He would cry himself to sleep in that closet. That is the first type of trauma. It got so bad. This first type of trauma is something that should have never happened to a child that happened to a child.
You were not built for that. God never intended for that type of ... something happened to this boy that should've never happened. When he was 12 years old, it got so bad that he went to a tree in his neighborhood, climbed up the tree, got a rope, and put the rope around his neck, tied the other end of the rope to the tree and was getting ready to jump to kill himself as a boy. His brother saw him in the tree, climbed up in the tree and said, don't do it. Don't do it. Don't kill yourself. That is the most severe type of trauma I think I've ever heard in my life. He didn't do it. He ended up moving to New York City where years later about five or six years later, my father met him on the streets of New York City and preached Jesus to him and that day Nicky Cruz gave his life to Jesus Christ. Nicky faced a horrible type of trauma that no child should have faced.
There's a second type of trauma that's less recognized. People that have the second type of trauma often don't deal with it. Christian counselors will tell you, people who have gone through the first type of trauma are more likely to get healed because they recognize it's trauma and they deal with it because it's a necessity. The pain is so bad. The second one, people kind of hide it. They cover it because it doesn't feel like it's such a bad thing. Or you feel like you might be complaining if you call this trauma because it's not so bad. The first type of type is what I said, is when something that should have never happened to a child happens to a child. The second type of trauma is something that ... listen to this carefully.
Something that should have happened to you as a child that didn't happen to you and what do I mean by this? You were meant to be spoken to and heard. You were meant to be seen and appreciated. You were meant to be attached and connected and loved deeply and so when that doesn't happen, where there is a withdrawal of affection or a lack of connection, then that is a trauma as well. My upbringing was totally opposite of Nicky Cruz's. I grew up in a Christian environment. We talked about earlier, like seven generations of pastors in our family, but my father, he traveled all the time. He was gone sometimes three weeks in a row, home for four or five days, gone another three weeks, home for a few days. He was always kind. He was always loving. And I am so grateful that he served the Lord with such passion. I am thankful for the souls saved.
But one of the things that did in my life as a child was a sense of detachment. Like I'm not being seen, I'm not being heard. Maybe I have to do something to get attached. So I faced a trauma, even in a good home. That tells me this, that probably everyone in this room has faced some form of trauma or the other, and those who have suffered horrible traumas, things that should've never happened to you, that did oftentimes deal with it quicker. Those of us who've had trauma in our life, that are things that should've fed us, nurtured us, spoke to us, encouraged us, and it didn't. And sometimes we don't deal with that. And I didn't deal with it until I was in my thirties and it caused all kinds of problems in my soul and in my heart and my emotions, my striving.
And I thought ... I was kind of like Leah. I'm not loved. I'm not seen, I'm not heard. I'm not attached. And maybe if I do this, look, dad, look, mom, I produced this in the ministry and I created this event and I did this thing and now like now you'll love me. Now you'll be attached to me. And this causes trauma. And we build sometimes even in the church, we build this sense of if I can do something, if I can do enough for me, my trauma resulted in a concept of myself, a core wound in my heart that I said about myself. I'm never enough. No matter what I do, it's not enough. It's not. It's not big enough. It's not effective enough. It's not strong enough. I built this tower of religious events, start a church, let it grow, get it bigger, bigger, bigger, more books to write, more conferences to go, more crusades, to preach that. More sermons, more podcasts, more websites.
And I'm building this big tower of Christian ministry, but I'm building it on a foundation that says I'm not enough. But look, I built this. Look, I did this. And one day I had this vision. I was standing on top of this tower and I'm thinking, it's not enough. I've got to do more. I've got to be more, I've got to be more aggressive. I'm going to be more powerful and I'm on top of this tower and I have this scaffolding all around it and that's to help build it higher. But the whole building is shaking back and forth and I cry out in this vision that Jesus, please help hold this building I'm doing up. Help hold it up. But he comes and he grabs it at the bottom and I'm going like, "Oh, thank you Jesus for holding that." And instead of holding it up, you know what he starts doing?
He starts shaking it back and forth. He starts moving it back and forth more and more. And I'm saying, "Jesus, this whole thing is going to crumble unless you hold it up. This thing's going to fall down." And you know what Jesus says in the vision? "Good. Let it come down. Let it fall. Because you're trying to build a life to have God or others say, look, haven't I done something significant? I'll be enough when I get this done. And the truth is you have to move off that what Jesus called the sandy foundation and puts your life on the rock, a solid foundation, and on that rock foundation, it's where Jesus says to you, "You are enough. I see you. I hear your cry." How many times is that mention the scripture, "Call on me and I will answer you. I will hear you. I see you when you were formed in your mothers' wombs and you are attached to me and I love you."
And something happens in Leah's life where she finally catches this vision. And I'm going to ask the worship team to come if they would, we're going to close it just a moment. She catches his vision and she has one more child. She has one more child and she calls this boy Judah. Judah. And now she's not saying, "Look at me please Jacob, love me, please Jacob, help me. Can I do something to earn love and favor?" Now she says something very different. She says, "I'm going to name this boy Judah and the name Judah means praise." Praise. She says, "Enough of earning, enough of striving, enough of trying, enough of trying to get you to look at me and approve of me and enough of trying to overcome this detachment, overcoming the sense of I'm never enough."
And that wound in your heart that says you're never enough, Jesus saying to you. "You're enough. I love you just the way you are." Yes, pastor, yes. Be strong. Yes, do exploits, but don't do that to try to earn God's love and God's favor. Realize that the final word is just like the final son. It says she stopped bearing children after this because it was enough. I don't need attachment now because I have something else. I don't need to be seen by you because someone else sees me. I don't need to be heard by you husband, father, mother, because God in heaven hears me and all of a sudden Leah says, "I know what my life is all about. It's about praise. It's about worship. It's about loving you, God. It's not about me. My hurts, my pain, my sorrow, my suffering. It's about you, Jesus, and I will praise you. I will praise you in my pain."
When I am not seen yet, will I praise you? When I am not heard by others, yet I will praise you. I could be put on a shelf, yet I will praise you. I could be unrecognized as a pastor, yet I will praise you. I could not get credit for the work I've done yet, I will praise you. I can be sick and yet I will praise you. I could be dying on a death bed, yet I will praise the Lord at all times. My soul shall continually bless his name. I will praise him when I'm hurting. I will praise him when I'm crying. I will praise him when I feel defeated. I will praise him when I'm alone. I will praise him on a mountaintop and I will praise him in the valley. How many of you in this room say it's time for me to start praising the Lord to start praising his name in my struggle?
I praise his name. I praise his name. You see, the devil doesn't just try to steal your relationships. He's trying to steal your praise. The devil isn't just trying to steal your health. He's trying to steal your praise. So when you're sick, you don't praise. And you say, "Why am I sick, Lord? I thought you'd heal me." What's the devil after, you being sick? Not exactly. He's after stealing your praise. When you've lost, he's not after your confidence. He's after your praise. He's not just after your ministry to ruin your ministry. He wants to ruin your ministry so he can end your praise. He wants nothing but you to stop your praise.
So when your health is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When your family is not what you want it to be, maybe your children are prodigals and you're worried and you're stressed when your family is not what you want it to be, you still have your praise. When you are not a Rachel, you are a Leah. You still have your praise. And let me say this, by the way, at some time or another, every Rachel becomes a Leah. You think you're beautiful. You're a Rachel. And you go to a Hollywood and Los Angeles and all of a sudden in Hollywood, Los Angeles, all the Rachel's from the small town are now Leahs.
So don't worry if you feel like you're a Leah, because to Jesus, you're a Rachel. And so if you feel like a Rachel, don't let it rob your praise. You still have your praise. Oh, I don't have any money, but you have your praise. I don't have a big church, but you have your praise. I'm not talented, but I have my praise. When my body is weak, yet I will praise him. When my journey is hard, yet I will praise him. When the seats in my church there are kind of emptier than I want to be, yet I will praise him. When my heart is overwhelmed with troubles, yet I will praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
You say to the devil, you can have my body. You can have my money. You can have all these things, but you can't steal my praise. You can't take my praise. You will never take my praise. I will praise the Lord at all times. My praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will bless the Lord, I will exalt the Lord. I will call on his name and he will hear me. He will see me. He will deliver me. He will be mine. I will bless the Lord. I will bless the Lord. When I am not seen, I will praise. When they don't hear my voice, I will praise the Lord. When I don't feel loved or accepted, I will praise the Lord. When I've been wounded as a child and I don't know how to overcome it anymore, I will praise the Lord.
When the addictions get back in my brain and say go back to that world. I'm going to say, no, no, no. You can't have that because I'm here to praise the Lord. I will not stop praising. I will not give up praising. I'll give up a lot of stuff. I'll give up a lot of popularity. I'll give up a lot of fame. I'll give up a lot of notoriety. I'll give up a lot of affection, but I will not give up my praise. I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Hallelujah. Praise him. Praise church. Let's praise him right now. This is how we praise you Jesus. Through the storm, though the difficulties, through the night, through the fire, through the wilderness. I will praise you Lord, I will praise you Lord. Oh, God. Through it all, I will praise you God.
When I'm struggling, when I'm hurting, when I'm weak, when I'm lonely, when I feel like I'm not enough, I will say I praise you God. I praise you God. I praise you God. Shout it out to him. Praise God. Praise you God. Praise you for the victory. Praise you for the power. Praise you for your love. Praise you that you are enough. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him in the morning. Praise him in the afternoon. Praise him in the evening. Praise him on Sunday. Praise him on Monday. Praise him all week long, praise him in January and praise him in December. Praise the Lord at all times I praise you, I praise you, because you are worthy because you are worthy. No matter how I feel, I will praise you. No matter what the state of my emotions, I will praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you. Praise you. Praise you, praise the Lord.
Hallelujah. Yeah. Yeah. Praise him. Praise him. Who's worthy to be praised? Jesus. Who alone should be praised? Jesus. Who takes away all of our wounds and pain? Jesus. And when he takes it away, what are we going to do? Praise him. Praise him, praise him. I praise him because my wife said yes and she married me so I said praise him. But if she had said no, I still have to praise him, right? If you're married here today and you love your wife or husband, you say, praise the Lord. If your husband or wife doesn't love you very much, you say, praise the Lord. If your church is exploding with thousands of people being saved, you say, praise the Lord. But if your church is small and it's kind of struggling and you're hurting a little bit, you still say, praise the Lord. When do you say it? You praise the Lord at all times and his praise shall continuously be not in my emotions, not in my mind, not in my thinking.
It'll be in my what? My mouth. That's what you're doing here today at church. You're putting it in your mouth, but let it come through your mouth one more time. So I say I praise you Jesus. I praise you Lord. My praise is healing my wounds right now. My praise is healing my wounds. Lord, my praise is healing my rejection. My praise is healing things that happened to me as a child that should have never happened. There are women in this room who were abused, who were abandoned and your praise right now, Jesus says, that this is your Judah. You don't have to strive anymore to get healed. You are healed. That's your praise. There are men in this room. You're still trying to prove yourself. I can prove myself that I'm worthy. You can lay all that down, all you have to do is praise.
Praise shall continue to be in my mouth.