Steven Furtick - The Trouble With Comfort
This is an excerpt from: Comfort Food
Do you have comfort friends? I'm using the term friend loosely. We all need people who can sit with us and be with us and we know they're there. I have several people in this room that I wouldn't have made it this far without them. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about they make you feel better for five minutes. I'm not saying you could avoid them or cut them off, because you have to show love like Jesus. but I just want you to identify this. I think some of us are drawn to relationships that keep us in chains, and we like the chains because they're comfortable. When we meet somebody who would really challenge us to change, we push them away. I like chains. It feels comfortable. But it's not safe. You know there's a difference. Right?
It's kind of interesting to me that we not only have comfort foods and sometimes comfort friends but comfort phrases, things we say to make ourselves feel better. Like, excuses we make, or we blame. Comfort phrases. Not just comfort foods…comfort phrases. We feed ourselves these lines. "Oh, well, that's why I'm like that" and "I never do that" and "Well, they can only do that because of this and that" and "Well, nobody really loves me". That's just all a way to keep us in the comfort of our dysfunctional life. You see it in the Israelites, but you have to feel for them, because they've been in the wilderness for a year now. One year, and they've been eating the same menu item called manna.
The manna is kind of difficult to describe to you. First, because we don't have the same version of that now. I can't bring it up here, pass it around, and do Communion with it. You're not getting this at Whole Foods. I don't know that it was very delicious, but it got the job done. In some seasons, God will provide for you with something… It's not necessarily savory, but it'll help you survive. Some seasons in our lives are like that. When they saw it… Manna literally means "What is it"? It was brand new to them. It didn't taste like anything they'd tasted before.
You have to imagine. The way it would work is when the dew would appear, the manna would come, and they could get enough for that day. "Give us this day our daily bread". That's how God provides for you: enough for right now. There will be more for the next day, but you cannot reach into tomorrow and pull in today's peace or supply or joy or anything like that. That's where you get stressed. That's where you start wanting to go back to Egypt, start thinking about the future or the past. All of these things are dangerous. But what was it like the first day they saw the manna? "Wow! What is it? I'm curious. Wow! There's this strange, sweet food on the ground. It's like honey-covered wafers. It's a strange taste, but at least we're eating".
Remember, God wanted to bring them into the Promised Land. They tasted the grapes of Canaan, but they forfeited their right to the fruit of that land because of their lack of faith. This put them in a position of circling in the wilderness, and they've been there for one year now. The manna has gotten monotonous. The miracle has gotten monotonous. All of us complaining, ungrateful people, get ready, because I'm coming for us. The miracle got monotonous to you. That's how it said it in the verse. "We've lost our appetite. We never see anything but this manna". Like how you felt in quarantine looking at Jonsal every day, looking at that same guy every day.
Do you remember when you used to see him up on stage praising God? "Oh, if I could just be with that man of God with his anointed vocal cords". Then about month three or month four of quarantine, you're looking at him like, "What is it"? It has changed from a statement of possibility to predictability, and now I'm bored with this. You used to watch Elevation Online all the way across the world. Now it's 6:00 a.m. rehearsals. "What is it"? That's what amazes me about how you stay excited. I love that. To eat the same thing every day… What got them in trouble is they had the same thing every day, so they started complaining. "Oh, we want the fish of Egypt, the fish of Pharaoh. Oh, it was so good. I'm sick of this manna. I'm so tired of this manna". "I'm so tired of this man. I'm so tired of this woman. I'm so tired of this life. I'm so tired of this thing. It's the same every day".
I had to keep studying it for the context, because that's where the key was to me understanding what really happened here, what made them want to go back to a place where they were slaves, what made them want to give up their right to freedom to go back into their role as slaves. See, on one hand, the manna was the same every day. It never changed flavors. It's like God put a HelloFresh in the wilderness, but it was the same… It's like it got locked on the same meal every time. You keep waiting on it to change, and it doesn't. At the same time, while everything was the same every day…same wilderness, same food, same diet, same, same, same, same, same… Same ol' crap, same ol' patterns, same ol' me.
I asked the Lord one year, "Could I just have somebody else's dysfunctions, just to try them on and see if I like them better"? You get tired of your own. At the same time that everything was the same and they were sick of it, everything had changed. At the same time that they were eating the same food every day… I want to see if you can relate to this. At the same time that they were doing the same thing every day, gathering the same manna… "Okay. We take it this day. We leave it on Saturday. We get twice as much before the Sabbath, and then we rest". At the same time that they're going through this gridlock system of the same, everything has changed. They've never been free before…not for 400 years at least. Everything has changed, and everything is the same every day. It is the combination of everything feeling the same, mundane, boring along with the instability of everything you've ever known going away that causes them to crave something that almost kills them.
Do you think this is a little bit like us in the year 2021, where it feels like everything changed, and at the same time, every day just feels like another replay…the same bad news, the same fear? I have to tell you the whole story, because if I just give you a compendium of this, you will miss the essence of it. It's really important that you get inside of this. They had to move constantly in the wilderness, and they had no… Are you ready to see how relevant the Bible is? They had no schedule for it. Every day, it was like, "Am I taking my kids to school? Am I going to drop them off at school? Am I going to drop them in a river? Am I going to homeschool them, cook them lunch? What am I going to do with them today"?
The manna was day by day, but it was the same, but everything had changed. So, at first I thought, "Okay. Well, they just wanted a change". But no, they wanted the same, but they wanted a change, but they wanted the same. They were stuck in between, and in between you have nothing. That's what Bono said. They were about to break up U2. He said, "In order to get to the next expression of the band, you have to reject the first one, and in between you have nothing". That's what it feels like at first. So, to fill it, you want to go back to what you know. That's why we can preach these sermons. "I want you to leave your life of sin behind".
That sermon feels good for five minutes. Okay. I'll give you 15 minutes. I'll even give you three days. But that doesn't really change anyone, because what is happening as you are embracing your new nature in Christ is you got out of Egypt, but all of Egypt is not out of you yet. It's not that you're not a real Christian, and it's not that you're a bad person, and it's not you need somebody to beat you up. "Sprawl! Crossface!" "I have something on top of me that I need to know how to deal with". I feel the famine, and then the question becomes…Where do you go when you feel the famine, when you feel alone, when you feel ashamed, when you feel afraid? I heard it this way in my mind: Fruit or fish?
Not that one is bad on a dietary level. I'm no nutritionist. I promise you that. I can teach you about boiled peanuts and the correct way to eat them and the exact time to eat them. We could teach you these things in another seminar at some point. Remember what God wanted for his people when he let them spy out the land? The grapes of Canaan. Then look at what it has come to after one year in the wilderness. Think about what it has come to after a year of us going through a very unsettling time, and at the same time it's unsettling, it's completely boring. How can we be so bored and so scared at the same time? It has been one year in the wilderness.
I remember when the first guy came to Elevation with a mask on. I told security to keep an eye on him, because I'd never seen that before. This was before the pandemic, before the NBA shut down, before we had any clue that this was going to be what it is. I remember them telling me on a Saturday night, "There's a guy here with a mask on". We thought he was an alien. We'd never seen that before. Now the whole world feels like…no offense…a TSA checkpoint, where I don't know the rules from one thing to the next, and I'm completely disoriented. If I wear a mask in some places, they're like, "Oh, that's great. You love your neighbor". Others, "You're a Communist. You're a conspiracy Illuminati". Everything is so predictably stupid, everybody is so predictably mad all the time, so now I crave something stable.
But watch this: chains aren't stable; they only make you feel that way. So, if I stay in Egypt, if I stay with meeting the need, if I stay with Pharaoh, whatever my Pharaoh is, I will never be full. That's the thing about Pharaoh's fish. "We want fish like we had in Egypt". Really? Do you want whips like you had in Egypt? "I want to get back to how it was BC, before corona. I want to get back to the old ways, the old times. I want to get back to how it was when I was having a nervous breakdown and I was on the verge of divorce. Yeah, get back to that…garlic and onions and leeks". That's what they were talking about.
The reason they were thinking about Egypt's garlic is because they had forfeited Canaan's grapes. It's the same every day, yet we can't plan anything. I just thought I have to preach this because it feels like it belongs in a newspaper. It feels like it was written for us. We're hungry, and we have to decide whether we're going to crave the fish of Egypt or move forward into the fruit of Canaan. The manna was never meant to be permanent. The manna was the mercy of God. Do you know the reason they didn't like the taste of manna? They weren't supposed to. God didn't want them to die in the wilderness. So, he's using those things to get you going forward to the grapes. He's using these things. He's using this dissatisfaction so you don't settle in a place of survival but you step into everything he has for you. Some of us were going to die in the wilderness, but God allowed us to lose our taste for comfort food.