Steven Furtick - Stop Sugarcoating It
This is an excerpt from: Get To The Good Part
But in the same way, we have this tendency to get confused. What God calls small we call big. Like, our character. That's big to God. It's small to some of us. We'll compromise our character to get clout. God says, "I'll make your name great. You don't have to take any of your clothes off on TikTok". Who am I preaching to like this? In the same way that we can confuse what God calls small with what we call big and what we call big and God calls small…
The prophet Isaiah says we have this problem. I want to give you this verse in Isaiah 5:20. It's very powerful. Let's call on the prophet. He said, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter". What's he talking about here? I think you know exactly what he's talking about. I think you've experienced it, probably even in church, where people can sometimes even use religion as a cover-up for prejudice. That's what Isaiah is talking about. When you call evil good and good evil… Christians can be some of the most closed-minded, hateful people. And I love us. I have no choice. I'm stuck with us. I decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. But I didn't know all of these fools were going to be doing it with me.
See, it's in my own heart. Before you start shouting about other people, I'm really talking about you. Sometimes you use your relationship with God as an excuse to be closed-minded and not get another perspective. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it". "I'm standing on the Word of God". No, you're not. You're stuck in tradition. People will use the message of the Bible as an excuse to be mean. I know it's a corny joke. I haven't told you this one yet. This woman went to church. She hadn't been in a long time. She didn't have any nice clothes, so she was wearing clothes that were inappropriate to go to church. When she got there, the preacher talked to her afterward. He was like, "Hey, you need to wear something different when you come to church next week. That isn't appropriate. You know, you might want to put something different on. Ask God what he wants you to wear next week".
She came back the next week wearing the exact same thing. The preacher said, "She obviously didn't hear me the first time". He met her at the door and said, "I thought I told you before you come back this week to ask God what you should wear to church. I want you to go home, and before you come back next week, ask what you should wear to church". She comes back in the same thing. That's all she had. She had a rough life. She didn't know what to wear to church. She hadn't been to church in a long time. She came back the third week wearing the same stuff. The preacher was mad this time, because the deacons were mad at him, so he was mad at the lady. It was a whole chain of condemnation that was going on in this little fictitious church. He looked at her and said, "I thought I told you to ask God what to wear before you came back to this church". She said, "I did". He said, "And what did God say"? She said, "He said he didn't know what I should wear to this church because he's never been here". That's a classic.
How many of you knew the punch line before I said it? And you were waiting for me to get to the good part. Right? "Tell them, Pastor. Tell them"! Oh, it's so amazing. Church people. So, what we do is we substitute judgment and call it holiness. We call evil good, and evil is only what others are doing. The decibel levels are going down as I get more personal. "Come on, get back to the good part". This is the good part. This is the good part of a sermon where it challenges your assumptions that are keeping you from accessing the blessing of God.
Let me tell you another thing. The Pharisees in the Bible were the religious ruling party of Jesus' day, and they would come up to him to test him. One time they came up to him, and the man didn't have good motives. He said, "Jesus…" He called him, "Good Teacher". Sucking up, you know, but really, he was trying to catch Jesus in a contradiction, which is a bad idea. But he didn't know yet that Jesus was the Word made flesh that dwelt among us. So he said, "Good Teacher…" Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? Only one is good. That's God".
That verse spoke to me this week. I don't know if I can call myself a good man. I want to be. I try to be. I aspire to be. Holly says I am. I have some dark parts, though. (All I can see is your halo right now. I can't tell if you're sympathetic or sitting there judging me.) Every good man has dark parts. There is a part of every person that is really dark. Different things bring it out of us at different times. Some people's dark is more socially acceptable than others. If the people around you haven't seen your dark part, they haven't gotten close enough yet. Even Joseph, who is held up rightly as a hero, kind of an example of how to deal with life's disappointments and setbacks…
Let's be honest. He went through rape charges. He went through false imprisonment because of those charges. He went through being forgotten by the people he helped…all of the things we deal with times a hundred. We deal with little versions of these overlooks and these offenses. Well, he dealt with them on the grandest, most epic scale, and he was able to say something so powerful. "God intended it for good". If you only read that… I think this is why you don't like the sermons about Joseph. In our effort to skip to that and make it all good… You know, these little things. "It's all good. Romans 8:28. It's all good".
Romans 8:28 doesn't say it's all good. Tim Fara was working on a sermon one time. We were in a meeting, and he goes, "I want to preach a sermon at the Rock Hill Campus called 'It's All Good.' Romans 8:28. 'All things work together for good…'" I'm like, "Timmy, I love you. You can't preach that. That's not what Paul said. He didn't say all things are good. You have people out there who have been molested. You want to preach it's all good? You have people out there who can't pay their bills. You want to preach it's all good"? I wasn't mad at him. We were just studying the text together. This is how I show love. I said, "It's not all good. If you want to preach that passage, you can preach 'It's going to be good.'" This is what I want to preach to you about today.
I want to preach to you about how to get to the good part, but I want to warn you. You can't get to the good part if you're not willing to go through the dark part. There is a dark part in every person. Even Joseph, when confronted by his brothers, was tempted… This great hero was tempted to make them pay. Nobody probably put that part in the sermons Holly heard about Joseph, where Joseph was tricking them and hiding the cup in the bag and trying to accuse… He still couldn't decide what he wanted to do. Like you right now. You're trying to decide, "How do I respond to this? How do I respond to something that wasn't good that God let in my life"? It wasn't good how my dad died. It wasn't good how your dad walked out. That wasn't good. So we can't preach "It's all good".
Before Joseph could get (this is what blew my mind) to the good part where he could say, "I will provide for your family…" Do you see how selfless that sounds, how responsible, how mature? "I'll take care of you. Don't worry about it. It's all good". Before he could get to the good, he had to go through the dark. So do you, and so do I. I have to realize that my first reaction is not always coming from my realest self. People will say this. They'll just go off, cuss people out, flip people off, turn stuff over, wreck their lives, all this stuff, and say, "I'm just keeping it real". No, that's just your reaction. That's just you letting the dark part run the show. But greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.
That verse is about Jesus, and he's in me too. But in order to get to that part… You know the part of you that's wise and kind and good, and I don't have to say anything back, and I'm focused, I'm good…the good part? Sometimes, to get to that good part you have to keep your mouth shut through the dark part. We don't know what to do with the dark part, so we never get to the good part. You'll never get to the good part if you don't learn how to deal with the dark part. So I guess they're right. You have to make it through a few seasons before it gets good. You have to get through some confusion. You have to get through some things. You have to put it in perspective. After all, by the time Joseph said this verse… I promise you.
So many of you are new to church, and I want you to know you will hear this verse preached again. It is so popular. You will hear this verse preached out of context, like Joseph just said it when he woke up one morning. "What you meant for evil God meant for good". Nuh-uh. Without the setup, that punch line is empty. It has been years since Joseph's brothers came back. He has had years to look back on it. He has had time to reflect on what it is God was doing. Our problem is sometimes we just want to spoon-feed people these sugarcoated answers. "There's a reason for everything". That's not always your job to remind somebody of that. I went off on somebody one time. "There's a reason". "Well, tell me what it is! Since you're God, what is it"? Joseph said, "I'm not in the place of God". Yet he acted like him. He saw what was good through what was dark.
Isn't that what God did in Genesis? I never realized that Genesis 50:20 was just the continuation of Genesis 1:4. Light was the first thing… You know the seven days of creation. God made the light, and then he made the atmosphere, or the firmament. I'd quote all seven, but we don't have time (and I'm scared I'll get them out of order). There's all this stuff. "This is really good". The dry ground and the plants and the sun. He made the light before he made the sun, which I can't figure out other than the fact that he is light. But all of it…the fifth day, the birds of the air and the fish in the sea and then the land animals on the sixth day… Look. I got them all right.
All of that becomes more powerful when you realize that in Genesis 1:4, God saw that it was good. He doesn't need light to see; he is light. He saw it was good while he was still doing it. The most important thing I've learned in creating a sermon, a song, really even in building a family and trying to create a great relationship, is that there's always a dark part. Just like you have flesh and I have flesh and you have memories and I have memories and you have temptations and tendencies and I do too, every process… Not just every person, but every process has a dark part. I can't think of a single song I ever wrote that I didn't at one point during the song feel like Ichabod. "The glory has departed. I'll never write another song. What am I trying to do"? At these moments… I don't know how to explain this to you. I'll be sitting there going, "Tom Petty wouldn't have liked this song".
Tom Petty is dead. Tom Petty never even heard of Elevation Worship while he was alive. I have Tom Petty looking over my shoulder going, "Eh, not so sure". Where did Tom Petty come from in this? But that's a part of the process: pushing through that judgment. For you, it's not Tom Petty over your shoulder. Okay. It's your mom. "Eh". When you go to do something for God…write a song, take a step, make an act of service, change a habit… I don't care what it is. There is a part of every process that's dark. It can come right before the best part. If you let it die in the dark, you'll never get to the good part. I promise you it's not just the caffeine in me. God sent me out here to say to somebody: you have to get through this dark part.