Steven Furtick - What's The Point?
This is an excerpt from: The Power of Pre
Here's the thing about perspective. If you're watching the news sometimes and you're seeing somebody you disagree with and your first instinct is to argue with them, before you argue with them, try to get their perspective. Try to get an inverted perspective. That's called empathy. Jonathan was texting me yesterday about reading the Bible and preaching and all of this, and I was trying to show him some things. When you take Jehoash as a villain and a lazy man and don't stop to think about what's happening here… How many times have you stopped because it didn't make sense?
The reason I believe he stopped is because arrows are supposed to go like this. What sense does it make to put an arrow in the ground? I want to point this out to you. To do this with something that's supposed to do this… It's hard to be persistent when you can't see the purpose. That's all I'm trying to say. I guess what I wanted to tell you, Daniel-san, is that Mr. Miyagi isn't always going to explain to you why you're painting his fence. He's not always going to tell you why you're waxing his car. I know that you would paint the fence if you knew the purpose of painting the fence, and I know you would wax the car if you knew the purpose of waxing the car, and I know you would stay a virgin if God would give you your wedding date. Jehoash had a calling, and Elisha enrolled him in a class.
Write this down. Don't expect the class to look like the calling. Don't expect your training… Don't expect your preparation to look like your promise. The place God prepares you the most is the place that seems the most pointless to you. I laugh when people talk about Elevation Church being a marketing phenomenon. I laugh because in a sense they're correct. "Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl? You put it on a stand and it gives light to everybody in the house". I didn't get the gospel to keep it to myself. I didn't start a church so I could get 120 people, send everybody else to hell, bolt the doors, and everybody sing, "Kum Ba Yah" while the ships come sailing by. So in a sense you're right. We want to get the word out. But it takes me back to my preparation.
To understand why Elisha was angry, you would have to understand something about his process. You can't understand someone's priorities without knowing their process. I didn't start marketing the church with a budget. I started marketing in ministry, if you want to call it marketing, printing out flyers, because Jamie Williams gave me his code to the copy machine at First Baptist Church and let me run off 300. He said, "No more than 300," but I gave them out every Monday to FCA at Berkeley High School. I was marketing with a copier code. I was marketing on the summer Impact team. When I say "Work your window," when I say, "Even if it's a peephole right now, if you work your copier code, maybe one day God will give you a billboard," I know what I'm talking about from my personal experience.
It's not a theory or a principle or a philosophy. It is my personal experience that if you are faithful in little, he'll make you faithful in much. Why would he waste more if you're not working what you have now? We traveled to this small town in South Carolina. I don't remember if it was Camden. I think it was Camden. We were supposed to hold a youth rally. Holly can tell you. We were on a summer Impact team, a ministry team that crisscrossed the state of South Carolina hosting backyard Bible clubs and revivals. We were so excited about our theme that we had developed called "Run to Win". I had a theme, and I had a team, and I put Holly on my team, because I liked her, and I figured "If I can get her in this van with me for 11 weeks she will get attracted to my anointing".
I worked my window all the way to my wedding day. I'm just preaching what I practice. Look at me, y'all. We went to our first stop. I'm so excited. Run to Win. The youth is our first stop. We're going all summer. It's an 11-week ministry extravaganza across the state of South Carolina. The youth pastor said, "Well, I have some good news" when we got there. I said, "Cool, man". He said, "No kids signed up". I said, "How is that good news"? He said, "Oh, you can chill by the pool this week. Take a little break". I said, "Bro, it's my first week. I don't need a tan. I need some kids".
Am I lying, Holly, that we hit the streets so hard? Was it Camden? Am I getting the town wrong? I don't remember, but we canvassed that town. Let's call it Camden. We canvassed Camden. I mean, flyers on every door. By the last night of the crusade, we had it at 40 kids. You aren't clapping because you don't think that's big. Forty is big when you thought you were going to be by the pool at the Motel 6 all week in Camden. I know what you're thinking. "What's the point"? That's exactly what I was thinking. It's called ground game. It's called preparation. Why would God have let me pastor thousands if I wasn't willing to hit the streets for 40? I wish I knew… I could preach so much better if I knew what God has you doing right now that seems kind of pointless.
I would have stopped too. I don't even know if I would have put two or three arrows in the ground. It doesn't make sense to strike the ground with something that's supposed to fly in the air. It doesn't make sense to declare victory with an instrument of death called a cross. It doesn't make sense to kill a giant with a slingshot with the most inexperienced one on the battlefield doing the slinging. It doesn't make sense to deliver a nation with a stick in your hand. It doesn't make sense. God prepares you to trust the teacher by putting you in a class that does not look like the calling. Lions and bears don't look like Goliath, but they are the perfect preparation.
Now I've come to the point in my life where I'm learning to trust my Teacher to know that even if this doesn't look like it, everything is preparation. I mean everything. Every fence I paint, every car I wax, every offense is preparation. Maybe this won't take your pain away, but if you would start seeing your pain as preparation… I'm not saying God is the one who hurt you. I'm saying in his hands, whatever hurt you will become healing for where he's taking you. I'm prophesying to somebody. I don't know who you are, but God is preparing you. He's getting you ready. You're in the field. You're tending sheep. God is preparing you for what he has prepared for you. It's not failure; it's preparation. It doesn't feel like preparation. It feels like failure, but the failure was preparation so that I would have the infrastructure and the fortitude for the success.
God has me in the garage right now. The garage doesn't look like the racetrack, but God is not done. He hasn't hit "post" yet. "All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose". He's preparing me. The point is for you to trust the Teacher. That's the point. Take the arrow and strike the ground. I spent all week trying to figure out something. I was preparing this week. I wanted to come to the pulpit prepared. I knew there would be at least one person paying attention who would want to know, "Why would Elisha get so angry over something so simple"? Well, first of all, he was about 110 years old. I don't imagine there's much to be happy about at that age. You'd be crotchety too.
So that's first, but for my second clue I wanted to give you the third point: the plow. I figured there would probably be something about Elisha's process that would help me understand his insistence on perseverance. He could not believe what he saw. He could not believe that someone would have an arrow of victory in their hand but refuse to do what needed to be done to secure the victory. So I went back through his life and remembered a few things. This is one of my favorite Bible characters. He was the subject of my book called Greater, so he and I spent a lot of time together. One time, these kings needed rain. They needed provision from heaven, and Elisha told them, "Okay, you want rain? Dig some ditches".
It wasn't raining yet, so they didn't need an irrigation system. But Elisha knew the key to receiving provision is to make preparation before you can perceive it. So he told them to dig some ditches. The first thing he did when he took the mantle from Elijah, the one who left him in transition, was to heal some water in a town called Jericho, some water that had become toxic. To revive the economy he needed to heal the water supply, so he asked for some salt. Salt comes out of the ground. Of course we know this. It comes either from the ocean or from the mines, but either way it's manufactured by pressure. I could preach about the power of pressure too if I wanted to. It looks like pressure, but it's really preparation.
Think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means olive press. It was the pressure of the garden, so great that it was like drops of blood. When he sweat it was like drops of blood. I don't know if he burst the capillary or if it was like that metaphorically or literally. Either way, he was under pressure. His pressure was his preparation. Quit asking God to take the stress away. Start asking him to show you how to handle it. "Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done". He made a pre-cision. It's the power of pre. It's the power of preparation. It's the power of taking salt and throwing it in the water, and the water was purified. I was noticing how Elisha wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, which took me all the way back to the first time I saw him in Scripture. Elijah had had a little meltdown and threw a little hissy fit.
God doesn't need you to be perfect. He just needs you to keep making progress. When Elijah went back, God said, "All right, I have made preparations for your success". Elijah was so tired he didn't know what to do next. Jezebel wanted to kill him, and he didn't have a backup plan. But God did. God said, "If you'll get back going the way you came, I have your succession plan already in place, and I'll show it to you when you get back in position". Elijah is walking. I had them pull this one Scripture for you, because it was so profound when it hit me. I understood at once why Elisha was angry when the king would not strike the ground.
It's in 1 Kings 19:19. I want you to look at this. It says, "Elijah went from there…" The place where he was making excuses, feeling sorry for himself. He went from there, the place of pressure, the threat of Jezebel, the anxiety of the future. He went from there on the word of the Lord. "…and found Elisha…" Please read with me, because what I'm going to show you next is going to explain to you why the season you're in doesn't feel significant, but it is so important that you do it with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. He found Elisha, son of Shaphat, and Elisha was plowing. Remember, his calling was to be a prophet, but sometimes the classroom doesn't look like the calling. He wasn't prophesying; he was plowing. He was digging up hard ground. Not only was he plowing but, "He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair".
What do you think the view is like when you're last in line? At first I couldn't figure out why Elijah didn't go to the prophet school. If God was preparing somebody to take up the mantle of Elijah, wouldn't he get him from the prophet school? But he didn't want somebody who knew how to preach. He wanted somebody who knew how to plow, because if you're willing to plow I can teach you to preach, but I need somebody who's not scared, not backing up, not going to get tired and turn back. "He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God". I need somebody who knows how to plow. We have a generation that knows how to post but doesn't know how to plow.