Steven Furtick - Waiting For Restoration
This is an excerpt from: Timing Your Testimony
Some sermons I preach are like a lesson. This one to me in my spirit feels more like a lifeline that God gave me to give to somebody as you were waiting for the restoration of something you lost. If we can look at this Scripture for a moment today, I think we can see some things to help us, especially in verse 1. It says, "Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored"... I love that word. I think we need to use it more in church: restored. "...restored to life". He told that woman, "Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years".
Here's what will get you about the story. Verse 2: "The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said". Then when she came back seven years later, she lost what she had. I can understand characters like Jonah to whom God says, "Go to Nineveh," but you want to go to Tarshish, and because you want to go to Tarshish, you end up on the seaweed Mediterranean diet. You end up having to spend the night in a fish. That's understandable. This Scripture suggests that you can do exactly what God tells you, that you can go exactly where he sends you, that you can act on God's word and not see the results you imagined. You can do everything right.
See, this is where we get in trouble. Sometimes we become convinced that the famine is our fault. Notice in the passage the Lord decreed the famine, and the Lord told the woman to leave, but when she left, in the process of going where God sent her to survive, she lost something she had before she left. The famine wasn't her fault, and there's no disobedience. I mean, this woman... You don't know much about her maybe, but she's absolutely amazing. She had a very generous heart. We kind of know this woman. We know a lot about this woman. To me she's familiar because I've preached a lot about her story. But things have changed for her. One day you can stand up and share where you're at in your life, and it's so amazing, and you're so blessed.
One of the reasons I don't teach parenting sermons is because mine still live with me. I don't want to tempt God... Do you understand what I mean? To get up and preach "Seven Ways to Raise an Amazing Kid," and then God sends seven demons in my kid so I can see that sometimes you can do all of the right things as a parent... It'll keep you from getting judgmental to realize this is the same woman... When the prophet asked her, "What do you want..."? See, she had done a great thing for Elisha. When the prophet asked, "What do you want"? she said something interesting. "I don't need anything. I have a home among my own people". The woman who needed nothing in 2 Kings, chapter 4, now has nothing in 2 Kings, chapter 8. What is the point of me bringing it up? Don't be arrogant. In seasons of blessings, don't be arrogant. By the same token, in seasons of struggle, don't despair. The Enemy would love to convince you it's all your fault, even the things people did to you, that there was something wrong with you that made them do it. But the famine wasn't her fault.
Now, I hesitate to preach this, because we live in a time where people don't want to take responsibility for anything. By saying the famine isn't their fault, I'm afraid my sermon will be misapplied. The famine wasn't her fault, but she still had a responsibility. So, she walks back into the presence of the king to ask him to give back what she lost when she left. What you lost when you left. I'm going to share something with you. This is kind of personal. About two and a half years ago, I realized there were some things in my life God wanted to give me and that indeed he had promised me that I had given up on. I'll tell you exactly what it was. It's not some deep, dark secret. I just never really thought to share it with you until I read this passage. Pretty much, I had made up my mind that I was some kind of machine God wanted to use to do ministry.
I thought my greatest value to God was what he could use me to do. I don't think I would have said it like that. I certainly preached the opposite of that. "You're a child of God. You're the righteousness of God. You're not a human doing; you're a human being". But you can say all kinds of stuff with your mouth and not believe it in your heart. I promise you. You can all day long have the right answers and then deep down in your heart have some really dark questions. For me, I was starting to wonder, "Do I matter apart from what I do"? Now, that's a tender thing to say to you, because some of it I'm still undoing.
Let me tell you a little bit of my testimony. I started preaching when I was 16. For me, that was really early for me to become acquainted with the fact that when you stand up and talk you're representing God. I'm thankful God called me at that stage in my life. I really wouldn't change any of it, but what it did in me is started to kind of conflate my identity with my contribution. Or I could say it another way: it started to confuse my identity with my gift. That happens to a lot of pastors. About two and a half years ago, I found myself in the position of this woman. Here's how I relate to her. Not that I'm a widow. She's a woman; I'm a man. This woman, as a matter of fact, has seen a physical resurrection of her child. But I can relate to her in that God wanted to give her something she didn't even know to ask for, and then in the process of surviving a famine, she had lost something.
I think in the process of building this church, which I believe God called me to do, as a leader, as a preacher, there are some things that while I was doing what it required to do that, I kind of left myself out of it. Y'all are like, "What drug was he on"? It wasn't like all that, because it doesn't always have to be like all of that. All I know is I would find myself many times wondering, "If I couldn't do what I did, would I have any right to be here"? Basically, I thought the only way for me to belong was to bring something external to myself for others. There came a point... Sometimes you have to go low enough. I experienced several moments that God gave me. I really see it now as a gift. I didn't see it as a gift at the time. God let me get low enough that I had to make a decision (and I did) that "If this is what it costs to succeed in ministry, I would rather fail in people's eyes but have joy inside myself than achieve everything the world offers and feel empty".
The reason I'm telling you this is because I think this happens to all of us from time to time, that we have to do certain things in certain seasons. Like, being a mom... If you've ever been a mom or you're considering being a mom, you should know or testify to the fact... If you've experienced it, you can say "Amen" to this. If you haven't experienced it, you can consider it in the contract of becoming a mom that you become a hostage to another human. And it's not just for moms. Sometimes, as a man, to build your career, you find in the process of making a living you lose a sense of yourself and what's important. So, the prophet said, "You've got to get out of here," and she did what the prophet said. She wasn't running from God. She wasn't disobeying God. She was doing what she had to do to survive.
Can you own the fact that some of the things you did in your life, you were doing what you had to do? The Devil just beats you up with it at night, like, "How could you do that"? "That was the best I could do in that season. I was doing the best I could. I was balancing so much. It was all I could do to stand up straight". Then the Enemy will come along and subtract all of those factors of survival. She didn't run from God. The prophet told her to go away, and she lost what was hers in the process of being obedient to God. I kind of felt like a hypocrite when I was struggling emotionally.
Here's how it would be. I'd come out to preach. The worship team was going into something very powerful and anthemic, and sometimes it was a song I wrote, and I wouldn't feel the lyrics to the song I wrote. But I have a job to do, and I want to be responsible. I mean, good God. If I'm a plumber, I don't get to feel putting a wrench on a pipe. You have to just fix something. I have a job to do. So, I'd come up here and inspire faith (not every time, but a lot of times) and I would feel guilty. What it took out of me to build the ministry put me in a place where I could not receive ministry myself. It scared me. It scared me that I could become a shell. I had to have a moment, and I had a moment, that reminds me of this woman boldly going to the king and saying, "I want it back". I want it back. I don't want to just build something or survive something. I want it back. "I want it back".