Craig Groeschel: 'The biggest enemy of faith is the familiar'
The atmosphere was electric during the first night of Hillsong's No Other Name conference on Thursday – featuring an astronaut flying through the air in a harness and head-banging during worship, over 10,000 people gathered together in the 02 Arena in London.
Hillsong has many famous associates around the world - Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Ja Rule are all said to attend Hillsong churches.
Its conferences, known for high production values and lively worship, are held annually in the US, Australia and the UK.
67 nations are represented this week. Last night a Brazilian and a German were asked to come on stage to hug in "reconciliation" for that devastating World Cup match, to huge appaluse from the audience.
Several speakers have been lined up talk over the coming days, including Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, but following worship led by Taya Smith, Joel Houston and Reuben Morgan, Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv – the second largest church in the US – was the first to share a message, with a sermon taken from John 5.
Exploring the story of the healing by the pool, Groeschel focused on the question Jesus asked the disabled man as he lay waiting on the ground: "Do you want to get well?"
"Now I don't want to question Jesus, but isn't that like saying to a broke person, 'Do you want $100?'" Groeschel asked.
"Or it's like my wife, Amy, asking me: 'Do you want to make out?' Uh yeah!" he laughed.
Texas-born Groeschel went on to unpick the man's situation; noting the importance of faith, and believing in the power of Jesus to change a situation, even when all hope seems lost.
"The longer a problem exists, the more discouraged we become. This man had been ill for 38 years!" Groeschel explained.
"Plus, the longer a problem exists, the more excuses we make and the more we learn to compensate. But you cannot change that which you tolerate. And a moment in the presence of Jesus can change everything."
Groeschel highlighted the familiar as "the biggest enemy of faith", noting that people often assume doubt, fear and worry are the biggest obstacles but that when we get used to what is familiar, we fail to enact change.
"We get used to accepting what is, instead of trusting God for what could be," he said.
"Do you want his presence, his power, his healing? Then you're going to have to depend on him like you never have before. God only wants to help someone who wants help, but it takes faith to step out of the familiar.
"To step where God wants you to be, you have to step away from where you're comfortable."
Groeschel noted that the man in the story did not ask to be healed, did nothing to earn or deserve Jesus' grace and did not expect that he would receive it, "but it's amazing what God will do when you simply get closer to Jesus".
"Seek him first, pursue him, and he'll do things you didn't even ask for," Groeschel urged.
"This man thought he needed to get in the water, but he had no idea that he would be healed through the living water."
Brian and Jen Johnson from Bethel in Redding, California, then closed the evening with by leading the venue in more worship.