Steven Furtick - What God's Grace Is There For
This is an excerpt from: No Shortage
Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your giftedness? If you're grounded in your giftedness and you fail, your faith falls apart. Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your feelings? Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in the latest blessing God gave you? Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your goals? Because you're not going to reach all of them. Paul said elsewhere in Philippians, "I press toward the mark, toward the goal". Paul is still pressing and I'm thinking I'm going to reach the goal? You're not going to reach the goal. He said, "To keep me grounded in grace, God gave me a gift I didn't ask for".
Heaven has no gift exchange program. But God delivered it in an unusual way. This is what we studied last week. "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…" An aggelos, same word we take angel from. In Greek it's aggelos. It could say, "An angel of Satan". We've never heard of that before. To us, angels… We're touched by them, and Thomas Kinkade, and light, and all this. But he said, "It came through an angel, and I hated the angel". It was a messenger… That's all angel means: messenger. That's what the word means. It's the same word. He said, "The messenger God brought it through was my enemy. God gave me a gift through my enemy". That's the context of this great verse where he said, "My grace is sufficient for you". There's no shortage of grace.
Can I tell y'all something as a pastor who has pastored through the last two years right now? They might be short right now on masks. They might be short right now on staff. I'm sure in your industry you could tell me a shortage that's affecting you, because I know you have some too in your industry. In my industry, there's no shortage of thorns right now. I think the last 20 months have been some of the thorniest I've ever pastored people through. There is no shortage of the things Paul lists. There's no shortage. I said that a minute ago, and y'all shouted. But when I said there's no shortage of thorns, you didn't shout. And you shouldn't shout about that. After all, Paul said nobody in their right mind asks God for a thorn. There's no shortage of marriage problems in my church today. There is no shortage of things that could make you feel so bad about yourself if you wanted to right now.
One of the things the last almost two years now has done to a lot of people is it put them in isolation in a season, and then things grew in the dark that are now coming forth and growing, and they're not good. There's no shortage of thorns right now. In some ways, I want to thank all of you who are honest enough about your thorns to come to church. In some ways, I feel like I owe every big sinner in here a big "Thank you," because you give me job security. As long as you have thorns, I have a job. Don't ever get your life fully together, because then you won't need me, and I need to be needed. I don't preach for the praise of men. Amen? There's no shortage of thorns. There are just those who are better at hiding them than others. All you see are the lilies in the life of the person next to you.
I am so thankful Paul taught me the theology of the thorn. This is the theology of the thorn: "When I am weak, then I am strong". I need that one. I'm thankful for everything Paul taught me. But above all, maybe the greatest lesson he taught me was to look for the therefore. Have you been more thorn conscious than grace conscious in your life lately? The Devil would love to do that to you. In fact, here's what I think about this passage. Okay? I don't know if you care what I think about it, but this is what I think about it. I don't think it matters as much what Paul's thorn was as it matters how Paul thought about his thorn. Likewise, I don't believe the most important thing about your life is the challenge you're facing or the insecurity you have or the mistake you made or the thing you do that nobody knows you do or the thoughts you think that people would be shocked… Elijah and I were talking the other day. How much would we pay to keep all of our thoughts from being broadcast on a screen in front of the whole world? We both decided: everything we have. Every dollar I have. There could not be too great of an amount.
So, even if those thorns are just in your thought life, Paul is convincing you today… And you need to lean into this word, because this is bigger than a Sunday lesson. This is bigger than a YouTube clip. This is bigger than an Instagram post, what God is saying today. He is saying if you keep looking at this thorn… Paul doesn't talk about the thorn for seven verses. Paul doesn't give a whole chapter to the thorn like we do. We get so stuck about what's wrong with us. Is that why he called it a thorn? Because it's the thing you get stuck by and stuck with and stuck in? But Paul doesn't talk about the thorn. He talks about the therefore. Did you see it in the text? Come on. Did you see it in the text? It's in the text, class. We are not going to recess until y'all get this lesson. He said, "Therefore…" This is the important thing. What is your thorn there for? Some people never find out. They get so stuck in what's wrong with them, what they can't do, what others can do that they can't do, what others got that they didn't get.
Paul said, "It was in order to keep me from becoming conceited". What a thing to admit. Paul said, "I would have had such a big head I couldn't have fit through the church door if God didn't give me this thorn". What is it there for? I could preach all day. When we title this message on YouTube, we may call it "The Power of Therefore". When you find out not only what has been tormenting you but what it is there for… "Is this here to teach me something"? Notice. People can't tell you this. They mean well, but they'll say, "Well, the reason your kid is misbehaving is because you should have took him to the other school. See, we homeschool our kids, Brother Steve, and that's why our kids don't struggle with any of…" Those kids sometimes are the biggest crackheads at age 21. Nothing against homeschooling. Nothing against not homeschooling. But Paul did not ask Silas about his thorn. I'm not saying don't get input from people, but some things only God can show you what it's there for. Only God can show you why he gave you that gift.
That's why a beautiful young girl… You have to make sure you go to your Father to find out what your beauty is there for. It is not for some boy to put his hands all over something that he doesn't own. That's not why God gave you that beauty…so you could spread it around until you feel empty. No, no. You have to ask God, "What is my gift there for"? I don't just get to do whatever I want with my life. It's borrowed. I don't just get to do whatever I want with my gift. It's borrowed. It's on loan. It belongs to God. I'm a servant of him. It's so powerful…the power of therefore. Put it in the chat. Put it in your mouth. Put it in your spirit. Say "Therefore". Some of us so glorify the thorn. "Oh, my thorn. Oh, I'll tell you right now. Oh man, if you knew about my thorn…" But Paul said, "It was there for a reason". Only God can show you what that is. Therefore…
My favorite therefore in Scripture… I looked at 20 of them, but I only want to give you two. The first one comes from Romans 8 where Paul said, "What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering". "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". That's my second favorite therefore. My first favorite… I don't know if I should break it out right now, because I'm just not sure if you… No, I'm not sure yet. I'm not convinced yet. Should I show them, Lord? Should I take them to my secret stash over here in Lamentations? "How are you going to preach about Lamentations and you're talking about therefore"? Well, this is the perfect place to look at it.
See, Lamentations is a very sad book in the Bible. It's sadder than a Nirvana song. I mean, this is really sad stuff, and it can really bring you down. Jeremiah the prophet was ministering in a very hard time. He wasn't seeing much fruit…all thorns. Now listen to how he starts in Lamentations 3:18. "So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.'" What a place to start. "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. [I'm stuck in the thorns.] I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me". That's a prophet saying that. He said, "The memories haunt me. I taste the bitterness right now while I'm talking. It's still on my tongue. You can smell it on my breath. I'm still stuck in that". Verse 21 says, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore…" That's my favorite word in the Bible today. "…therefore I have hope". That's not the good part. This is the good part. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail".
Here's the verse you might know: "They are new every morning…" There's no shortage! If you screwed up three days ago, there's grace for it right now. There's no shortage! They might not have sauce at Chick-fil-A, but there's no shortage of mercy in the house of God! They are new every morning. Watch this. "Well, Pastor Steven, I can't praise God. You don't know what I've been doing. You don't know what I've been struggling with". What do you think his mercy is there for? "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me". When he hung up on that cross and he didn't come down, what do you think he was there for? That's what his grace is there for: your weakness. That's what his grace is there for: the insults. That's what his grace is there for: the persecution. That's what his grace is there for. The hardship, the difficulty, the thorn is what grace is there for.