Steven Furtick - My Future Is My Focus
What an awesome privilege. Let us know right now in the chat where you are. Are you in Tulsa, Oklahoma? Grand Rapids, Michigan? Are you in the grocery store? Are you in Walmart? Are you in Target? Where are you at? "I'm in my car, so I'm typing while I'm driving". Stop that. Put the phone down and just listen. We need you alive to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Let me tell you where I am. It's a little different. I'm with my staff today. I'm with my Elevation Church staff, my co-laborers in the gospel, my partners. God is so good at his job. The Bible says if you trust in him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, he will direct your paths.
When I got done preaching last week… I preached about Joseph. It took me an hour to get in the car after I preached because I couldn't stop writing down what I wanted to say next. I was telling the Lord, "Are you going to make me wait seven days to say all of this? That is cruel and unusual punishment, Father, Daddy, Abba God". Then I remembered that we had a staff team day with all of our amazing staff, and I said, "Y'all have to turn on the cameras, and I'll preach to them for the whole church and for the whole eFam". So that's where I'm at today. I'm excited. I'm fired up. So, again, welcome. Welcome to every location. Welcome to the staff. Welcome to the graphic designers, eKidz, campus pastors, associate campus pastors, debutants, derelicts, delinquents, and all points in between. God has a word for you today. Ask the person next to you, "Do you want your word, because I'll take yours too if you don't want it"? Like Chunks always looks at my plate and says, "Are you going to eat that"?
People who are hungry for the Word, it's like, "Are you going to eat that? I'll eat it if you don't". But we want to pick up today. Thank you so much for your attendance today, and thank you for the privilege of ministering the Word of God to you. It's going to be amazing. Y'all, one reason I wanted to do it this way… You know, normally I'm preaching the sermon live on Sunday mornings, and that's great. But back in the days of the plague, right after Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, and the plague had put it where I could only have staff in the room for months and months and months… I'm not going to say I miss that at all, because it was a tough time, but there was something special about those moments. I mean, I haven't had Larry Brey in the room with me in six months. So when you hear this… That's LB. LB is back. So, wherever you are, I pray that God would bless you in a great way today. Why don't we do this?
Let's go to Genesis 49. It's hard to call this a part 2 for what I shared last week about Bent Knees Break Chains. If you didn't hear it, I can give you the whole message: humility brings freedom. When you stop trying to control everything and manipulate everything and change everyone, but ask God, "Change me; change the way I see it," then it frees you in amazing ways. So, that was the message. It was a lot better than that. You can go watch it. Now I want to back up to Genesis 49 and give you a picture of the Bible character we spoke about last week, who was Joseph, and what his father Jacob said to him before he died. Now listen to this. Jacob has been speaking to all of his sons, all 12 of them. You know them as the tribes of Israel, because those went on to be the patriarchs God built his nation through, but they were also troublemakers. I'm telling you, not only did they push Joseph in a pit because they were jealous of him, but they were crazy. I mean, they attacked whole cities, whole villages.
So, when Jacob started talking to them…the Bible says something cool…he gave them each the blessing that was appropriate to them, and he went one by one. He gave them each a personal word, and it concerned their future and their purpose, but it wasn't always this polished kind of thing. One of his sons he called a "rawboned donkey". Isn't that crazy? He said, "You're a rawboned donkey". I think that was Issachar he said that to. "You're a rawboned donkey". To one of his sons he said, "You're a snake by the road". When he gets to Joseph, you can tell how much he likes Joseph. He liked Joseph's mom. He loved Rachel. Rachel is no longer, but I think he sees a little bit of Rachel in Joseph's eyes, because he gives him an extra-long blessing.
Now, first point: the one who went through the most, the one who had gone through the most, the one who endured the most was blessed the most. Listen to this. This is what he said about Joseph. Just listen. He said in Genesis 49:22, "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb. Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers".
I want to speak to you today… God gave me a word for you. My Future Is My Focus. Now look all around you. Now look straight ahead. Say, "My future is my focus". Amen. I'm going to teach a little bit today. Can I teach? I might preach a little too. I might preach a little, teach a little, dance a little, shout a little. I might sing a little. You may hear that differently than I mean it, by the way. "My future is my focus". Sometimes I think we use the future as an excuse to waste today. It is possible to look so far ahead… You can wreck your car looking too far just as easily as not looking far enough. So, when I say, "My future is my focus," I'm not talking about that worrying spirit that tries to keep you playing out every "what-if" scenario, like you can think of every contingency. When you get kids, you'll understand this. Those of you who are maybe hoping to have kids, you'll understand that you will begin to plan who they're going to marry the moment you find out what sex they are.
When I married Holly, her mom pulled me aside and said, "I've been praying for you since Holly was born. I told the Lord what kind of man to send for my daughter since the day she was born". I'm like, "Did I fit the list? Did I make it? Am I him? Too bad, because now I am. You might have to adjust the list, because here I am; send me". Anyway, that's good, but you can take it too far, getting so focused on… Holly and I will go on a walk sometimes, and we'll start thinking about "What if our kids marry somebody we don't like"? It's like, "It's all right. Abbey is 11. She has at least 50 more years before we let her date". Say it again. "My future is my focus". A lot of the things that are going on in your mind… I'm just going to be honest with you. You're trying to do too much too soon. You know that feeling you can get in a conversation where you're talking to somebody, and then you take it a little too far, and you even kind of back up and say, "Too far"?
This happens to me all the time, because I'm a pastor, and people have a certain perception of me as a pastor. Sometimes I like to let them in on what I really struggle with, and I'll say something that's not completely sanitized, and I'll get this sense like, "Ooh! Too far. They can't handle that. That's too far". I get that sometimes when I'm preaching. Sometimes when I'm preaching, I'll start digging at something, and I can tell, "Ooh, this is a little too deep too quick. This is not a Sunday morning point. This is something for a Bible study. This is for a men's Bible study. Back it up. Back it up. Back it up. This is for a men's only Bible study". Too far, and then there's too soon. So that's a real danger. It's a real danger when you start trying to use today's faith to forecast tomorrow's problems.
Remember the hymn writer said, "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow". God will never give you strength for tomorrow and hope for today. He will give you strength for today and hope for tomorrow, but a lot of us get it backward. We want hope for today and strength for tomorrow. What do I mean? We kind of get in our minds that what's next will be better. When we get that in our minds to a certain degree, we do the opposite of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph did not wait until he was in a position of influence, like we talked about last week, to begin to serve God with integrity. His integrity led to his influence. It wasn't a by-product of the influence. It wasn't when others were watching him that he started working hard. It wasn't when a great opportunity to relieve Egypt of famine appeared that he submitted his job application to be the second in charge to the Pharaoh.
We saw last week… I hope you saw the message last week. That message last week… We covered 40 years of faithfulness in Joseph's life that led him to this point of forgiveness for everything that had happened to him in his past, for everything that had happened to him at the hands of others, for everything that Joseph couldn't necessarily let go of, but God helped him get over what he couldn't let go of. There's something in your life right now you can't let go of, but the word God is going to give you today is going to help you to get over what you can't let go of. I don't necessarily mean something somebody did to you, although it very well could be that. It could be your idea of what somebody did to you, but if we asked them, they would see it differently. So, we're not talking about what somebody else did; we're talking about what is happening on the inside of you.
Now, to get us to this place, I want to revisit Genesis 50 from last week and kind of take it a little bit deeper than what I was able to share. Let's go beneath the surface of this conversation. Just to remind you… I was telling my friend… My friend said, "I liked your sermon, and it made me mad". I said, "I did it right. I did that one right". If you could hear this idea that you are not in the place of God, what Joseph said and what you're going to see in a moment… If you can hear that and it doesn't challenge you, you didn't really hear it. If you hear "You are not God," and all you hear is "So I have no responsibility, because God is going to do it," then you didn't hear the message. You didn't hear the Scripture. You turned the Scripture into a sedative, but it doesn't strengthen you. If it only sedates you… "Okay. I'm not God, so I'm just going to let God work it out. I'm just going to let God do it".
Y'all, God did not preach this sermon to me today; I studied it. "Lord, give me the message". Do you know the next thing the Lord said? "Open your books. You know those big books you don't like to read? Your message, your blessing, is in your books". So, when she said, "I liked it; it made me mad," I said, "Good, because it's going to do you some good if it irritated you a little bit". Look at this. I'm going to go through it slowly today. Are you ready? Listen to Joseph at age 56 in the halftime of his life making a decision about what he's going to do with his brothers, who betrayed him, who are now kneeling before him begging him, "Be good to us". Remember, they haven't changed, because they are still lying to him, saying, "Your dad wanted you to forgive us. It was Dad's idea". That's like staff members who say, "Pastor wants you to be on time". Pastor doesn't want you to be on time; God wants you to be on time. It has nothing to do with Pastor. But they did that.
Have you ever been there? He is having to forgive them, but they are still doing the thing that hurt him. It's one thing to forgive them and they've been dead 23 years. It's one thing to forgive them and they moved to Alabama, and now that they're living in another country…I mean, another state…you don't ever have to see them again. But now he's having to deal with it… In the face of his present, he's having to make a decision about his future. Let's go. Verse 15: "When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, 'What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?' So they sent word to Joseph, saying, 'Your father left these instructions before he died…'" I can't resist telling you this. I want to save it, but I can't. He already heard from his father in chapter 49. He doesn't need a secondhand explanation of what his father said from his dysfunctional brothers.
That's why I'm glad I have direct access to God. I have a direct line to heaven. I have a direct connection to the heart of my Father. He knit me together, made me, stitched me, and sustains me, so I know what he said. I don't have to hear it secondhand. That means you don't get to dilute it or pollute it or mix it up or twist it. I know what he said because he told me. Verse 17: "'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father". They didn't even have the guts to do it face-to-face. They sent a messenger. "When their message came to him, Joseph wept". Remember, he noticed his emotions, but he was not controlled by his emotions. That's where you have to get. That's where I have to get.
You notice the emotions if you want to be free, but you are not controlled by the emotions. Being controlled by your emotions will always limit your future to the level of your feelings, so you will only do what's right if you feel like doing what's right. "Oh, I just wasn't feeling it today". Well, those are the times to "faith" it. I didn't place my feelings in Christ; I placed my faith in Christ, who's greater than my feelings. Joseph said, after he finished weeping… They came and said, "We are your slaves," and he said to them (verse 19), "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God"? The obvious answer is "No," but to the naked eye, he kind of is, because he's so powerful at this point in his life. He's not the little brother they picked on anymore. This boy is so blessed they didn't even recognize him the first trip they made to Egypt to get food. He stood right in front of them dressed in Pharaoh's coat. Not the one his father gave him. The one they stripped from him was still in the house of the father, but God always has a coat for me somewhere if I keep my character.
If I keep my character, you can have my coat. If I keep my sense of who I am, I can go through things that would have killed somebody else's character. This is the word. This is the verse we focused on last week, and I'm going to break it down again. He said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives". All right. I want to illustrate this. Who can I use? I need three strong men, three strong brothers. I need three. There we go. We'll do that. One, two, three. Perfect. I want you to see it. Last week, when I got on my knees in that sermon, that wasn't for a show. That was so you could carry the Word of God forward so that it would have an imprint in your life and you could ask the question, "Am I in the position to make the decision or am I letting my pain get the best of me"?
Okay. Y'all line up from strongest to weakest. All of these campus pastors. Stand up. I'm done with that image. This is a different image. I did that last week. That was last week. Y'all watching online, Youtube.com. I want the strongest one on that side and the weakest one on this side. We'll start with the weakest. I did this last week, but now let me illustrate it. Let's call him bad. Jeff Bates. Let's call him bad to represent not that he's bad…the bad things that happened in Joseph's life. Remember, "You meant it to harm me. You intended it for evil". So, let's say he's the bad thing. What I endeavor for you to see today is that at this point in Joseph's life… When something bad happens to you, when something bad is done to you, when the bad thing is because of you…all of it… I'm trying to get you to see that all things fall under the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty. It means God uses sinful men to accomplish saving purposes.
That's the whole book of Genesis in a nutshell. God uses sinful women to accomplish saving purposes. "You intended to harm me. God intended it for good for the saving, salvation, of many lives". So, sovereignty, salvation. But it was bad. We said last week that that's so important. It was bad. Now, if Joseph spends the rest of his life in the first part of this sentence, "You intended to harm me," then the bad thing that happened becomes a chain to who he blames for it. (Chet, you're blame.) "You intended to harm me". Then he starts name-checking them. "Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, you rawboned donkey…" He starts calling them names. He didn't call Issachar a rawboned donkey. He could have. He could have spent the rest of his life describing how they harmed him. It's such a small thing to say. "Harm me".
How much time do you give to that? I'm telling you, some of us would have spent the next 55 years describing the first part of that sentence. "Let me tell you what it was like. First I had to go down and be enslaved by the Midianites. I was picked up by the caravan. I was shoved in the back". He would have spent the rest of his life… Because if you start there, then you have to talk about "Then I excelled in the house of Potiphar, who I served, but then his wife was crazy, and his wife kept on trying to get with me. I mean, who can blame her? I am well built and handsome". The Bible says that. He was well built and handsome. But he didn't go into any details about Potiphar's house. He didn't go into any details about what happened after Potiphar's house, which was prison. He didn't go into any details about being forgotten in prison when he was the key to one man's freedom. He didn't rehearse the lack of reciprocation. Now come into the story with me. Don't just sit there. I know Jeff and Chet are handsome together like that, and all that, but I want you to see yourself chained to whatever you blame. You gave your power away.
Now watch. Try to get away from Chet. Nuh-uh. It's not going to be that easy. This creates, what we called last week, the chain of events that could have defined Joseph's life. Even sometimes I think you can blame yourself and think that is somehow honoring to God. I thought you weren't God. Telling God you're worthless is an insult to the word he spoke over you. It is the opposite of worshiping God to tell him how worthless you are, because the focus is on you. Watch this. This is a chain, and what it becomes… It's terrible, but it becomes bitterness, and now you have bondage. Walk with it for me in your own life. Something bad happens. "Oh, that's horrible. I didn't get to finish because of them. They weren't there for me". I mean, if we just named everything that's in this room… Forget about all over the world. If we just named everything that's in this room… If we named everything bad that happened in this room, I wouldn't get to preach another sermon until 2064. If we spent the rest of this day, we would spill over into tomorrow.
Yet Joseph, after everything he has been through… Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me…" That's all he said about that. That's freedom. He wasn't in denial either, because he still wept. There was a process. He didn't say it the next day. He didn't say it in the pit. He didn't say it in the back of the caravan as he was being sold and chained, but at some point, his perspective became "But God…" So, you break it with a but. Let me show you again. "You intended to harm me…" That was bad. Now I could blame you, I could be bitter about it, and I could spend the rest of my life, but God… Let me show you again. Let me show you until you see yourself interrupting what the Enemy sent to destroy you, and you can break it with a "But God…" You can break it. So, now I'm looking… My future is my focus. I'm looking for everything in my life that has me in bondage, and I'm looking to put a but right here to see what God is going to do next. The power to break it is in your praise, in your perspective, in your purpose! That's how you break a chain. "They left me, but God has somebody else for me. They hurt me, but God healed me. He's healing me right now".
Somebody say it in the chat. "But God…" I feel like preaching in this room today! Like God is breaking chains… I'm serious, y'all! You can break it with a but. We were dead in our sin, but God… You meant it for evil, but God… The weapon was formed against me, but it didn't prosper, because I'm still breathing, living, walking, talking, moving! But God! I can break that thing. You break it before it breaks you. So start interrupting yourself. I almost played "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Joseph right over". Y'all didn't play that game, huh? Y'all played the blame game. "Yeah, man, I'll tell you…" (Let me talk to the staff for a minute. I'll be right back with the whole church.) "If my supervisor would let me…" But you didn't do the last thing they asked you. (I'm going to leave y'all alone, I promise. I'm going on my summer break soon. Y'all won't have to put up with me for a while.) I want you to begin…let's get very practical…to interrupt your self-defeating, God-dethroning self-talk with a but.
When you say "But," it signals to your brain "We're moving on. We're changing the focus, because my focus is my future". They say you can't change the past. That's not true. Certainly, you can't reconstruct the events, but do you really think you remember it exactly as it was, and do you really believe you are at the point in your life when you can fully understand why it happened, how it happened? When the Bible says the Lord was with Joseph… I want you to understand that was written years after, decades after, the events had transpired, after he wept, forgave; wept, forgave; wept, forgave; wept, forgave. You have to do that sometimes. Every time you find yourself stuck in that first part, "You intended…" I sometimes see these things, and I don't show them like I should. Put verse 20 back up. "But God…" That's how you break the chain. That's how you get set free to live beyond your feelings. That's how you break addiction. Not just forgiveness, bitterness, blame.
That's how you break any cycle in your life. You have to interrupt it every time it happens, even if you weep five times to get there. If you weep five, you worship five. If the Enemy attacks five, you interrupt five. "But God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done". "I thought we were preaching about the future". Well, the only way you can affect the future is to be faithful right now. Let me give it to you like this. Everything God wants to do next in your life is connected to what he is calling you to do now. It took Joseph's attitude in the prison to interpret someone else's dreams while he himself was still in a dungeon to bring him to the place where he could be everything God called him to be, and not just for himself, but for others. Some of the things you're fighting with are not for you. They are for your children. "I don't have children yet". No, I'm not talking about your view of things. I'm talking about God's view of things. He already sees them at 6'2" and you're only 16.
That's how God works. He says, "I have plans to give you a hope and a future". When we say, "But God…" I just think about how this needs to operate in my life. The church now is not what it was before the pandemic, but God brought people into our church through the pandemic who would have never even gone to church if there were not a pandemic. If you just let the Enemy attack you, attack you, and you don't learn to interrupt him, it just strengthens the chain. It becomes bondage. Your belief becomes your bondage. That was Joseph's belief. "God is using this for good, and everything I went through that wasn't good…" I don't know if you've ever heard a preacher say, "God will work it out". That's cool. Let me give you one better. God will work it in. Whatever happens to you, God will work it in.
One time I was preaching about the woman who worshiped Jesus, and I was talking about how she poured it on his feet, how she poured the oil on his feet to anoint him, and how everybody thought it was a waste. I was preaching so hard. It was only about 150 people in the room, not even this many who are here with the staff today. It was about 150 people in the room, but I was preaching so hard, because I don't just preach big when the crowd is big. I don't just do it big when a lot of people are watching. I never did. Ask Holly. I don't do everything right, but I've always been passionate about this. I used to travel to tiny little churches, tiny little crowds, and the first place we would stop was Walmart. We'd go to the Walmart in that town, and I would buy a mirror for $5.97 out of my pocket, because they didn't pay for it out of the ministry fund at the college ministry team we were interning with. So, we would go to the Walmart. I knew exactly what aisle I could find the mirror on. I would get the mirror, and I'd stand up and preach to those kids.
I had a hammer in the van, and I'd start preaching about the image of God. I'd hold up the mirror, and then I'd get really condemnation oriented, and I'd take the mirror and start smashing the mirror. I did it all the way until a kid got a piece of mirror in his eye and the parents almost sued me, but I prayed, and the Lord is faithful. You need to stop waiting for it to discover what God has put in you. If you don't have it in the prison, you won't have it in the palace. I was preaching. It was a worship night. I was flailing my arms, and my water fell over. I was so embarrassed. My water falls and spills, and it totally broke the flow of my message. Until I realized, "Don't cry over spilt water. Work it in". Since I happened to be preaching about the woman who poured out her oil, the image kind of fit, because it was fluid. If you stay fluid like that… You have to be fluid in those moments.
All of a sudden, I said, "Just like that water hit that ground, and y'all are all wondering if I did it on purpose, some of the things in your life that you're wondering, 'Is this on purpose…?' You have to turn it to worship. Other people will see it as a waste, but you have to turn it into worship". Y'all, when I say that was better than any illustration I ever could have planned… Because I worked it in. Joseph's message to you today is not "God will work it out. The future is your focus. God will do it later. God will send it when you need it". No, no, no. He said it is what is now being done…this season of your life, this moment of your marriage, this moment of your ministry, this moment of your business, this moment in your heart, this moment where you're deciding, "Am I going to go see a counselor or not? Am I going to work through this or not? Am I going to keep repeating these same powerless patterns or am I going to take my power back"?
You say, "I don't have power. God has power". Right. And in Acts 1:8 he said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you". You give your power away every time you stay focused on what happened. Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me…" You can change the past this way. "You intended to harm me". Let me break this down. I hope this makes sense. You can change the meaning of that by what you put after it. Put the letters O-N-Y. What comes after that? Now you will be reminded of the New Testament companion verse of Genesis 50:20. "All things work together…" What's harmony? It's when I take one note and take another note, and it's not the same note, but when I put them together… Do you hear this? You have to let God bring this thing together, because it's what comes after the attack… Let me tell you what Jacob said about Joseph. He said, "He is a fruitful vine who climbed over a wall". He climbed over a wall. I wonder what wall you think is stopping God from doing what he's doing in your life right now. "He's a fruitful vine who climbed over a wall".
So, question: Are you going to be defined by what stood against you or how you got over it? I'll tell you something right now. I want to find out what's on the other side of the wall. People don't put up walls unless they're concerned about something on the other side. So, whatever the Devil has been fighting you with, I just wonder… Why is he so threatened and worried about you getting through it? What's on the other side is what I want to find out. For Joseph, he saved a whole nation. He preserved his entire family in posterity. I wonder what's on the other side of your wall. Now, we probably wouldn't have called Joseph a vine by our definitions, because we live in the days where everybody gets a trophy. Everybody gets a ribbon. "Oh, I'm so sorry you didn't get what you wanted. You didn't get your seat. You didn't get your opportunity. You didn't get to serve where you wanted to serve. You didn't get the feedback you wanted. Nobody told you it was good".
If we would have been Jacob, think of how we would have spoken to Joseph. He's going through their lives, and he's defining their lives as their father, and he's saying some things to each of them. In Genesis 49:22, he gets to Joseph. "You rawboned donkey. You snake by the road". Talking to all of the other brothers. He gets to Joseph, and he's like, "Joseph is a vine". But I thought he was a victim. His father called him a vine. But he was a victim. But he was a vine. But he was a victim. What made him a vine was what he climbed over and what he brought forth. He's not just any vine; he's a fruitful vine. Tell somebody, "I've got something to give. No, I'm not just surviving for me. I've got something special. I've got something to give. It will be the fruit of what I've been through that will preserve my purpose". You're sitting next to a fruitful vine. Wow! Look at that fruit. He's not just a vine. He doesn't just talk about a wall, and he doesn't even describe the wall. I love it. He doesn't even care. What kind of wall? It doesn't matter. It matters more what the vine was made of than what the wall was made of.
Listen. This is the meaning of a fruitful vine. Because you are abiding in Christ, because you are choosing and deciding to focus on what he is doing…not what you have been through, but what you are bringing forth… That's how you interrupt it with a but. "Wow, that was horrible, but God was there with us". Did you ever watch somebody die, and it was horrible, but there was a grace that was almost more real than the air you breathed, and you almost feel sorry for the people who weren't there because of the grace that grew from the grief of that moment? That's what I mean by interrupting it with a but. So that you don't stay chained to the way things went down, so you don't stay chained to what other people called you. The only reason Joseph was able to do what he did in chapter 50 is because of what his father said in Genesis 49. You have to hear it firsthand from your Father. Some of you didn't have an earthly father who told you this, so now God is speaking this over you. "You're more than a conqueror. You're an overcomer. Greater is he that is in you than the wall that is in the world".
Climb or die. If you turn around the first wall you see, the first rejection you get, the first no you hear, the first relapse… He said Joseph climbed over stuff that would have killed others. By the way, it's almost impossible to climb over something while you're complaining about it. Get it out of your system. Tell who you need to tell, but then start climbing, and start bringing forth what you're supposed to bring forth. "Show me what you are doing through this that is for the benefit of others". Paul said he comforts us with the comfort by which others may be comforted. That's a generational way of thinking about your faith. Now, faith is a fight. It's a fight for focus. You're not fighting against people. You're not fighting against Reuben and Simeon. You're fighting for your focus, and it's the fight of your life. How can God bring it into harmony if you die on the vine? He said he's a vine climbing over a wall.
Isn't that a great picture? A fruitful vine. "You rawboned donkey. You snake by the road. You fruitful vine". Are you going to be defined by what stood against you? The next image is cool too. One of those images is kind of pretty, and the other one is grisly. I like this grisly image. I like this testosterone prophecy that he gives him. Verse 23: "With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility". "You intended to harm me…" When Jacob says this to Joseph before he dies… At the moment that Joseph is standing before his brothers making the decision about what comes next in his life, he still has this picture of the fact that every arrow that was shot at him missed. But he went to prison. But it didn't take his purpose. But he was thrown in a pit. But it didn't take his purpose.
That was the word that kept coming to my mind when I said, "My future is my focus". I kept thinking about preference and then purpose. I thought that what Joseph was meaning when he said, "You hit me with your best shot, but it didn't work. You tried to kill me…" He didn't say it didn't hurt. He said, "It didn't move me from my purpose. In fact, it was the exact thing God used to bring me to this place where I could stand in my purpose and fulfill the promise God gave to the nation". Isn't that awesome? Jacob said they shot him. They attacked him with bitterness. It was their bitterness, not his. He didn't let it in. They shot it at him, but it didn't get in. That's the challenge. Don't let it get in. Deal with it, acknowledge it, notice it, but do not let it define you, whatever "it" is. Let God work it in so you can be like Joseph. (I've never shot a bow and arrow in my life, so I might look stupid doing this.) It said in verse 24, "But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel…"
Now I want you to see what I saw in the Spirit. It's a picture of Joseph who, through all of the pain he went through, never lost his focus. That's what you do when you aim. Right? You have to focus. Do you know how hard it is to focus when you have everything flying at you? We went out on tour a couple of weeks ago. Every night was such a challenge because it was big rooms. When I preach at our church, everybody is paying attention, taking notes, and nobody is bored. Y'all, in those arenas, there are people there who are literally praising God with one hand and eating popcorn with another. They have a chicken finger in their beard and talking about "O God, my God, I need you". It's very distracting. I'm sitting there one night. I'm about to preach in a few minutes. I'm like, "This is so distracting. I can't even focus on the Word. Look at that guy down there. I think he has a beer. Are they selling beer? No, they don't sell alcohol here. It looks like a beer".
It's almost like I'm saying, "God, I can't preach with all of these distractions". The Lord was like, "Um, whose sockets are your eyeballs in? You know at any time you can stop watching Mister Chicken Fingers, and if you look three seats over… Look at those three guys right there". These three big guys had their arms around each other. I'm like, "Oh yeah. There are way more people worshiping God than sitting here getting a snack". It's up to me to focus on what I want more of. When I read it, it said the archers shot at him, but his bow remained steady. His bow, not their bow. It's not their bow that matters. If you get that… I know you're 24. I know you haven't been through a lot of life yet, but I'm telling you… You can be attacked on every side. You can be attacked by everything. You can be attacked by the worst thing hell has to throw at you. But if your bow stays steady, if your gaze stays on God… Let me give it to you like this. If you point toward your purpose… It's about purpose. It's not about problems. It's about walls and weapons. It's about what you climb over, and it's about what you focus on.
That is the message God gave me to give you. He has put a hope and a future ahead of you, but you will not see this future by watching somebody else's bow. Your future, your fruit, your focus. They do what they do. They are who they are. They say what they say. They go where they go. They leave when they leave. They stay when they stay. They are not God. I am not God. He is the Holy One. He is my Rock. He is my fortress. He makes my hands strong. He teaches my fingers to war. All I have to do is hold that focus and point toward my purpose to know that in all things, the good notes and the bad notes work in harmony. "You meant it to harm me, but God took what you did to harm me (that was the bow) and shot me to Egypt. I was the arrow. I am where I am not because of the schemes of men or the failed plans but because of the purpose of God".
O Lord, send this word where it's supposed to go today. Send it like an arrow flying through the night sky. Send it like an arrow. Send it like a weapon they can use against the Enemy in the dark night of their soul. Send it, Lord. Send it like you sent Joseph ahead of his brothers to Egypt where they sold him. You sent him where they sold him. I want to bring before you again today, Lord, all of the things that are in all of the hearts of all of these people that they cannot name. It's too painful to name. Some of it they didn't even quite come to terms with yet. They can't even really verbalize it. Yet I know that alongside each deep trauma and every breaking disappointment and crushing betrayal, there are those little things, those little foxes that spoil the vine. Sometimes the wall we can't climb over is only two inches high. Sometimes it's not the height of the wall. Sometimes it's the lack of our strength, because we are not rooted in you. I would pray today, God, that on our staff and in our church you would raise up Josephs, that even today as I have spoken you have been pointing to purpose. We don't always know what that purpose is, but, God, we're shifting now from "You intended to harm me," and we're going to what comes after that comma, "But God…" I thank you that you are using everything they've been through.
I speak now to childhood abandonment. I speak to the anger you feel that you can't contain sometimes. I speak to the isolation that is a by-product of your insecurity. There is enough in you to climb over it. There is enough in you to climb over it. Y'all, I don't have to yell to preach a powerful thing. What I just said is worthy of your meditation. There is enough in you. The Spirit of God, the fruit of the Spirit, his love, his joy, his peace, his patience, his kindness, his goodness, his faithfulness, his gentleness, his self-control… All of that is yours, and you will receive power…power to get up out of the pit, power to do what you were sent to do in the prison, power to do what you were intended to do in the palace, power to point toward your purpose in every painful season of your life.
My focus is my future. When I said that title, I intended for you to hear it two ways. One is that you stop focusing so much on the bad things that happened and blaming people who aren't even here to pay for it anymore, becoming bitter in your own soul, and that you would break that chain, but I also meant it as a prophecy. The future you experience is going to be based on the focus you choose right now. So, if you don't get some help with this, if you don't own it, if you don't submit it to God, if you don't get like Joseph and say, "I will provide for you; I will do what I'm supposed to do," your future is just going to look like more and more of the same frustration you're living in right now, but it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way, because the chain-breaker is in the room. "But God…" How will you finish the sentence? "The first 18 years of my life were rough, but God made them up to me". But God… How will you finish the sentence?
When you go to prison, they call it a prison sentence. Joseph refused to stay chained one more day. He said, "I've been in prison long enough. I'm not going back. I'm not going back in my memory to the prison God brought me out of in my reality. I'm moving into my future. That's my focus". "How can God use what I've been through"? Oh, it gets glorious when you ask that. I came to attack not only every devil of your past, but every devil of your own regrets; not only what happened to you, but what you keep saying to yourself about it. I came to beat every "shoulda, coulda, woulda" devil off your shoulder today in the name of the Lord. "Oh, if you'd have done this, and if you'd have done that, it wouldn't have ended like that".
Why would you bow to a "shoulda, coulda, woulda" devil when you have a "sure enough gonna" God who is able to do…? I have a "sure enough gonna" God who is sure enough going to bless you! "And blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you". That's the promise I stand on: the Rock of Israel. On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand. Father, I thank you today that the bow stayed steady because of the strong hand of God.
I want you to lift your hands right now and worship God, knowing that it's his hands that are holding up your hands, that it is his purpose that is aiming your bow. With your hands lifted up and with your heart filled with faith, I want you to say again what we said an hour ago, but I want you to say it with faith. "My future is my focus. I'm going forward in the name of the Lord". Now let's give him thanks and praise at every location. Thanks and praise with your mouth, the fruit of lips.