Steven Furtick - 3 Ways We're Kept From Experiencing Freedom
This is an excerpt from: Never Stop Knocking.
I want to show you why most of us stay in prison. We stay in prison to ourselves. We stay in prison to our past. We stay in prison to our preferences. We stay in prison to our pain. I read through what the angel told Peter, and I noticed something about the interaction that's different than how I relate to God. This angel, by the way… I want to be serious about the angel for a moment. It represents an appearance of God, but Peter doesn't know that yet. That's important to point out. You won't always know that it's God. In fact, sometimes you'll think the opposite. If somebody hits me, I don't think it's an angel. Isn't that crazy? God shows up, and the first thing he does… Bap! Some of us have been through the "Bap". What if that's not the Devil? What if that's the angel? What if that slap across the face, lovingly, is from your good, good Abba Father? What if he loves you enough that he would rather strike you than allow the Enemy to slay you?
Now, don't try this at home, but this is an aggressive angel. This is an aggressive attempt to get Peter free. The angel doesn't have time to explain to Peter, so Peter just has to move forward by faith without explanations. Here's what it says: "He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. Then the angel said to him, 'Put on your clothes and sandals.' And Peter did so. 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,' the angel told him". I wrote some notes about that. Here's what I would have said to each of those commands. There are three. "Quick, get up"! I would have said, "How? I'm chained to these guards. How do you expect me to get up when I'm chained to something bigger than me"? Have you ever felt like that? "How do you expect me to get up when I'm chained to something bigger than me"? So, I would have said, "How"?
Notice this. Peter got up, and then the chains fell off, not the other way around. Do you know how I want it to work? The chains fall off, and then I'll get up. "God, just give me the desire and I'll obey". No, no. You obey, and you develop the desire as you obey. That's why you can't say things like, "I'm just not one of those kinds of people" and limit yourself to your current state of progress. The freedom comes through obedience. How many of you have been delivered from something in your life that one time you thought, "A stronger me… I'll never be free of this," and now, by the grace of God, you're free. You didn't get free by asking more questions. You got free by taking action. True? You reached out to somebody. You knocked. You went to God with it. You prayed. You knocked, but you did more than that. There was something you did, and there is something God is giving you to do right now. Not an explanation, because Peter could have said, "How am I supposed to get up? I'm half asleep. The guards are here". No. He got up and the chains fell. He didn't get an answer. He just took an action. How good is that? He could have waited for an answer until his head was rolling on the floor next to James, but he acted.
I don't know what that means to you, but I know I never get anywhere by waiting for God to explain everything. Never. Oh, I do actually get somewhere. It's a nice little town called "Depression, USA. Anxiety, North America". That's where I end up. That's the only place it ever takes me. Then the angel says something else. It makes no sense. He said, "Put on your clothes and sandals". Now I'm going to ask, "Why? For what? So I can look good for my execution"? So, then we ask, "Why? What's the point"? Well, Peter has learned a lot, because he used to be that "Why"? guy. He used to be the one always questioning and confronting Jesus. This passage is so much richer if you know Peter's natural personality, because it gives you hope that anybody can change. He was the craziest one of all of these disciples. He was the dumbest one too sometimes. He was telling Jesus stuff like, "You can't go to Jerusalem; they're going to kill you," and Jesus was like, "News flash. I told you three times I have to die. That's why I came: because you're a sinner and I have to save you. If I don't bleed, you don't get a breakthrough, so you'd better let me go".
Now he's just doing what God is telling him to in the absence of answers. The angel didn't say, "Good news! We're getting out of jail". He just said, "Get up". He doesn't show you everything all at once. One guy asked me the other day (this is funny), "So, what's the 10-year plan for Elevation Church"? I wanted to say back, "I'm looking for a 10-minute plan for Elevation Church," because it's crazy right now, and none of us really know all of the outcomes of how things are going to be. It takes faith to stand up here and preach to you people every week, because you want answers, and all I have to give you is commands from God's Word, not from my mouth, but the promises of God are not automatic either. So, he acts on the first one. He acts on the second one. I think that's a beautiful Scripture. "Put on your clothes and sandals". Verse 8: "And Peter did so". I would have said, "Why"? He just did so.
This is how we can take as a model for our unanswered questions. It could be anything. "God, when am I going to have somebody"? or "God, when is this going to turn around"? or "God, when is it going to happen"? But you'll get your head cut off if you stay stuck in how and why. This is the third thing. This might be the hardest one of all. Verse 8: "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me". Now, what would you have asked? "Where"? He said, "I'm going with". I would have been like, "As long as the temperature is good and the job market is solid and the cost of living is low". I love LB, because he just said, "I'm going with". That's what reminded me of Peter, LB. You remind me of Peter, because you do dumb stuff sometimes… This man almost drove through the gate of a storage unit to get a prop I needed one Sunday because he couldn't get the code in. He was backing up the truck to run into the gate. So, you're kind of dumb, but I like you because you will do it. He said, "I'm going with". Where? With. Peter is going with the angel.
So, you have to let God know, "I'm going with," even if Psalm 23 becomes a reality. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me". Say it out loud: "God is with me". That's my confidence, and that's what I know, and that's how I hold on in this season, and that's why I'm not going to let my head hang low. That's why I'm not going to have a panic attack about this. That's why I'm not going to control the situation by human means and flesh. That's why I'm not going to send in Abraham to sleep with Hagar and try to produce a promise from God in human strength: because God is with me. The angel took him out of the gate… Let's not even stop and preach about the gate opening by itself, how it was motion activated. I wonder if some of the things… I'm not going to preach this point, but I could. You're standing there waiting for an answer, and God is waiting for an action. It's like, the church is praying, knocking… That's how prayer is described in Matthew 7. "Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened". They're praying, which is a kind of knocking. While they are knocking on God's door, God is knocking on theirs.
Now Peter is at the door, and he knocks, and there's no answer. They have no idea that what they're praying for actually happened. I'll tell you why I really was crying when I came up here for the little opening song. I don't want to talk about it, but I will. It was because I'm standing in an answered prayer. Not only this church that the Lord Jesus allows us to pastor, but all of the times I stood in this church with you and I needed God too. Preachers have prisons. Peter is not the only one. You're not the only one. I've stood and had to sing songs of lyrics that I wrote while I was laughing at the reality that they could even be true. It's almost laughable that they're praying for the one who's standing at the door, and they don't want to interrupt their prayer meeting to praise God for the answer. The Lord said to me today… You know, I have a sermon to preach, and I have another one to preach after that, and another one to preach… He said, "Pause for a moment in between knocks about what's next and take a moment to notice what I've already done".