(Photo: Fresh Life Church)
Pastor Levi Lusko spoke at evangelist Greg Laurie's Harvest Church in Southern California, sharing a message titled, "Running with Horses," which he wrote after his five-year-old daughter died eight months ago. He delivered the message about the purpose of suffering in believers' lives on Sunday, the day she would have turned six.
"It's a challenging day, a challenging weekend… it's my daughter's birthday," Lusko, pastor of the multi-site Fresh Life Church in Kalispell, Mont., told the congregation at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif.
"Running with Horses (Cue the Eagle)" is the first message Pastor Lusko, 31, wrote after his daughter Lenya's death in December last year. "It's a clumsy, awkward thing to have a birthday without the birthday girl… I know where she is; she is home," he said.
Lusko said the message is based on Jeremiah 12:5, which reads, "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?"
This was God's answer to Jeremiah when he told God things were not going well, the pastor explained. Jeremiah was discouraged, and wanted encouragement. "But God tells him, you ain't seen anything yet... Where is the encouragement? ...God knew this is not what Jeremiah wanted; this is what Jeremiah needed. God knew he did not need to be cuddled; he needed to be challenged... So do we."
God's primary concern is not to decrease your pain, but to increase your threshold for suffering, Lusko said. We tend to focus on how much it hurts, while we need to focus on our calling, he added. "If He's called you there, He'll get you there... Our calling is pregnant with power... You are meant to run with horses."
Whatever you have achieved, wherever you have been, you have not achieved perfection, Lusko told the congregation. "There's more in you. There's potential that hasn't been tapped into… God has been dreaming about you even before you were born."
Look at more than yourselves, the pastor said. "You're a brick in the wall of God's house."
Lusko acknowledged that Harvest Church has made a great difference through Harvest Crusades, but that's just the beginning. "You're intended to run with horses. You ain't seen nothing yet."
Last month, the church marked the 24th year of bringing Harvest Crusade to Orange County, Calif. SoCal Harvest exceeded organizers' expectations with a total three-day attendance of 105,000 and more than 9,263 people making professions of faith.
Lusko warned the congregation, saying, "Opposition always escalates with opportunity."
Jeremiah had a 40-year-long ministry, but he did not get even one convert in his entire ministry, he said. Jeremiah was beaten up, he was tortured, he received death threats, but all was in the will of God, Lusko stated. And eventually, the nation didn't listen, and Jeremiah was finally stoned to death in Egypt.
"God fulfilled every promise," Lusko added. Jeremiah preached before kings, he was part of God tearing down nations, he was talked about all over. "[But] as his platform got bigger, things got harder... And it will be the same with you."
You need to know that when you give your life to Christ, it's going to be more difficult, not less, the pastor went on to say. "You need to train for the trial you have not yet in." Jesus said, in this world you will have trouble. Know that trouble is on its way.
You don't train when trial comes, you prepare yourself ahead of it, he emphasized. "Storms reveal the foundation; they are not the best times to begin working on it… Right now, you are in training you don't know for what."
"Eight months ago, when Lenya went to heaven, we didn't know it was coming... And I'm so thankful... though I didn't know it was coming... for all the training, for all the early mornings in God's word."
God puts to use what He puts you through, Lusko said. "Nothing gets wasted. God never wastes a trial." Even Jeremiah's suffering for God's ministry didn't go waste, he said. We are learning from the Book of Jeremiah, he told the congregation. "They didn't listen, but we are listening." People have been reading and benefiting from it for 2,500 years. "We need to have a bigger view of God's redemptive plan... I dare you to trust God with your pain. He wants to use it."
However, Lusko again warned that as believers run with horses, "your strength will fail… Remember that horses are faster than people. So God wants you to do something you can't do."
So what should believers do? He read out Isaiah 40:30, 31, which says, "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Lusko concluded the message by explaining, "Horses are faster than people, but eagles are faster than horses."
Pastor Laurie believes that God is going to use Lusko in a powerful way in the coming years. "Levi is, when it's all said and done, a Bible expositor," Laurie told The Christian Post recently. "Yet, his style is so engaging, relevant, and humorous, people might not catch that right away.
"In a day when some ministers sound more like motivational speakers than preachers of the Word of God, Levi stands out and gives me hope for the future. He faithfully teaches and preaches God's Word with clarity and passion," said Laurie, who has brought Lusko alongside his Harvest Ministry's outreach events as an emcee for the last several years.