Steven Furtick - How To Survive Low Moments
This is an excerpt from Life After The Let Down
That's why I wanted to talk to you about life after the letdown. When I say the letdown, I am leaving it open-ended so you can supply your own event, experience, or condition where I say the term letdown. It's kind of like a code language. I have secret hand signals with my family that mean things when we're in public. For the rest of our time today, you are my family, and this is going to be our secret signal to each other. When I say letdown, you put the one in there that you don't talk about.
So, when I say letdown, you will have something you may not even have language for that will come up when I talk about the letdown. We are so quick not only to want to get to heaven when we die one day, but to want to get to the part of the story where Jesus got up, that we will waltz right past the part where he went to Jerusalem to be handed over and crucified at the hands of sinful men. There is really no way for us to experience the events of Easter without experiencing the events of the cross, and there is really no way for us to experience the events of the cross like the disciples did, because for us, the cross has a certain measure of comfort.
We know our sin is nailed to that cross. We know it canceled the written regulation that stood against us. We know the power of shame was broken on the cross of Christ. We know all that, so when we sing about the wonderful cross… When we survey the wondrous cross, we see the promise of redemption and atonement and his blood that was shed for us. But that same blood we rejoice in represented for the disciples a broken promise and an unmet expectation of the kingdom Jesus came to bring. These were his friends. Peter was a friend of Jesus. Everybody has crazy friends, and Peter was Jesus' crazy friend. Who's your crazy friend? "I don't have any crazy friend". Then you are the crazy friend. Peter was Jesus' kind of crazy.
One dude came over to the church. He said, "I just followed my kids over here to see if you're running a cult. My kid came over and was so excited about church. I said, 'My kid is excited about church. That must be a cult.' I came over to find out if you were crazy". I said, "Well, was I"? He said, "Yeah. It wasn't a cult, but you are crazy. But you're my kind of crazy". I gave him a fist bump, and I was like, "That's all right". This whole thing we're celebrating today is kind of crazy. I'll try this side of the room. This side of the room has no anointing of honesty whatsoever today. This is kind of crazy. I'm going to have to preach to the people in the back who got here late. I'm going to have to go out and preach it in the overflow. This is kind of crazy! It didn't seem crazy at first.
When Peter met Jesus, all Jesus said was, "Can I use your boat to preach"? There's nothing crazy about preaching, and there's nothing crazy about doing it from a boat, because that would provide natural amplification for Jesus' voice. As a matter of fact, if you really like the Bible, you were confused when I read the story, because you were like, "Is this a resurrection Scripture? Isn't this what happened when Jesus first called Peter"? You're right. It's the same story from the other side, but let me show you how it started. When Peter was out fishing one night, and he caught nothing… The only thing the stories have in common, really, is that Peter wasn't a very good fisherman in either one. The only thing I can really find that's exactly the same is empty nets.
There's a message in that. There is a message in that about the God who loves to fill what is empty and the God who loves to empty what is full. One is the nets; the other is the tomb. My faith is not in my own fullness. My faith is not in my own ability. My faith is not in my own righteousness. That's not how I'm getting to heaven. You get to heaven how you want to get to heaven, but I don't have the perfection pass. It's not going to let me through. I don't have my card punched. Not all the time. I'm honest, I'm sincere, I love the Lord, and all of that, but sometimes I slip, and sometimes I'm crazy, and not in the Christian way of crazy. Okay. Now that that's out of the way, let me show you when Jesus called Peter.
Look at this. Luke 5:4: "When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon…" That's Peter's given name…not the name Jesus gave him, but the name his parents gave him. He said, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch". Next verse. Peter said, "This makes no sense. We've fished all night. We've caught nothing. We're hanging it up for the night. There's no need for us to keep fishing in the daytime. The fish won't come to the surface when the water gets hot. But because you say so, I will let down the nets". This was the beginning of Peter's participation in the ministry of Jesus.
I've preached about it many times in the church, so I won't bore you with a review today, but when he let down the nets in that passage of Scripture, he could have had no way of knowing how his life would change because of the moment that he let down the nets. He could have had no idea that he would have a front row seat to blind eyes open when he let down the nets. He could have had no way of knowing that he would see the widow from Nain's son raised from the dead when he let down the nets. He could have had no idea that he would have seen a roof come off a house because the ministry of Jesus would be so popular that people… Watch this. On an Easter Sunday, if they couldn't get in the overflow, they would repel down the roof to see Jesus.
I don't preach as well as Jesus, so the roof is still here, but Jesus had so much power that stuff started falling from the ceiling when they said, "I'm so sorry; you'll have to sit in overflow". They were like, "Nuh-uh. I'm not sitting in overflow. I'm sitting in the room. I have a friend who has a need, and I'm going to get my friend to the feet of the one who has the Word". He taught with so much power and authority that the crowds loved him…until he got to the part they couldn't stomach, until he let them down.
This is something I want to bring you today and see if it resonates with your heart. Are you a come-up Christian only? Do you know what I mean by come-up? In the original Hebrew, come-up means the part of the story where the success is accumulating and the benefits are accruing. It seems that Peter, as he followed Jesus through a certain season, was experiencing the come-up, which made it the ultimate betrayal of Peter's faith when Jesus went to the cross. When Jesus said, "I'm going to the cross," Peter said, "No, not you". The cross interrupted the come-up.
Now, we experience the cross in the knowledge that Jesus isn't there anymore. We experience the cross with the knowledge that the ultimate destruction can be transformed into the ultimate redemption. We experience the cross that way, but for the disciples, the cross was shaped like a question mark. "Did we waste our lives? Did we throw our careers away? Should I have listened to my mom and not followed this carpenter's son all through the Galilean region"? So, I think, before we rush to the part where he got up… That's the Easter part. I can make everybody in the room clap real quick. High-five three people and say, "He got up". What you won't see while they're high-fiving you is the letdown that they push down. That's why yesterday was hard for me.
I was imagining us together, and I knew you were going to wear your best button-down shirt because Mom came to church with you today. You don't tell her you normally come to Elevation Church in a tank top, but you dressed up today. I spent yesterday thinking about the fact that before he got up, they were let down, and the Lord was ministering to me about my letdowns. Yeah, I have some. I went through my camera roll recently, and I was laughing at some pictures and smiling at some pictures, and some of them made me want to cry. It made me want to cry because I could almost divide my camera roll into halves based on certain things…people, plans, and places where I experienced a letdown. One of them, in particular, was right in the middle of the summer 2013 when Dad died. I could see a dividing line, almost, between that year. That was a hard year for me in general.
A lot of things happened that year. I'm not here to have you do therapy for me. I don't want you to send me a bill. But I could almost see my eyes change in the pictures before and after. You know how we say the birth of Jesus Christ changed everything? That's an incomplete statement, because if he didn't die, it changed nothing. His teachings wouldn't be here. They wouldn't be recorded. And if he died and didn't rise, then his death was in vain.
So, really, the dividing line for my understanding of my relationship with God is not that he was born in a manger and not even that he died on a tree, as much as both of those things inform my faith. The fact that he got up is what divides my life, and yet… Don't clap. Y'all want me there so badly. Yes, he got up, like popcorn going up all over the church. The Lord directed me… Before we can really get to that in a way that matters more than a motivational speech, we need to decide…Is he the Lord of your letdowns? Why did you give me this message for Easter Sunday, Lord?
This is supposed to be a happy day. I was looking through the pictures, and I thought, "Man, that guy who was 28 didn't know what that guy who's 42 knows". Some of it… I feel like this gray hair gave me a little bit of authority, wisdom. Can't you feel it? But some of it… I saw something had changed in my eyes after I found out what people can do to you, after I found out that not everything I'm going to put on my wish list of God to do is going to come. Here's the biggest one. A lot of times, we talk about letdowns in terms of the thing you went after that you wanted that you didn't get.
Some of the biggest letdowns are the things you wanted and went after, and you got them, and you can't send them back. Do you know why it feels so uncomfortable when we get to this part of the story? Because we know the ending, so we just want to skip there. Peter did it! He went fishing. There's nothing wrong with fishing. "Do you hate fishing, Preacher? Are you saying fishing is a sin"? No. Peter didn't do anything sinful. There's nothing wrong with fishing. Peter didn't go open a strip club. "Oh, well, I guess if God isn't going to do what I want, I'm just going to go sell drugs. I've got to provide for my babies. I've got to take care of my family. I've got to do what I've got to do".
Peter went back to what he knew. It's not what he did that shocked me; it's when he did it. This is the third time he has seen Jesus since he has been alive from the dead. I can totally understand Peter goes fishing because Jesus hasn't made a special appearance yet, but he has already seen Jesus, and he's back fishing, because he's still living in the letdown. "I don't know what you're talking about, Preacher. I trust God. So, when God says yes, I accept it, but when he says no, I equally accept it, knowing that he knows what's best for me".
This is not your Easter sermon. The Lord didn't give me a message for you, because apparently, you are already in heaven. The rest of us need a message about the low moments of our faith. This is so powerful. How can you go fishing when there's a whole world to be reached? How can you go fishing when Jesus hasn't even ascended to heaven yet? This is only the second week after his resurrection. We still have weeks to go, and Peter is fishing, and Jesus has nothing better to do than to cook breakfast. What about that? Jesus needs a time management class. You want to change the whole world, and you have a message of resurrection, and you are wasting time here cooking for these jokers who forsook you on the cross. Not only that. He calls them his friends. I need God to help me to give me that kind of love, because I have this certain line that when people cross it, I have a really hard time letting them back in again.
I don't know if this is right or wrong. There is a certain line where if somebody lets me down long enough, I'll just start working around them. I won't cuss them out. I won't call down curses from heaven on them. I'll just stop letting them in. I'll just kill my expectation of you if you let me down long enough. I'm the same way about life. If I pray for something or go after something or work toward something, and I do it long enough… If I get let down long enough, I will not let hope in anymore. So, Jesus stands as my model, and Peter stands as my message. Jesus is standing on the shore, calling to the same disciples who let him down in his lowest moment, and he approaches them with empty nets and says, "Would you like to eat some breakfast"? This passage I selected… The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a well-documented event. You believe it or you don't. But this part will redefine your relationship with the resurrected Christ.
If you think he only got up for the moments where your faith is high, you have missed the message of John, chapter 21, which says that before Jesus could go forward, before Jesus could be taken, before Jesus could be seated at the right hand of God, before Jesus could sit down and call his work on earth finished, he had to find Peter. This is not the first time, the second time, or the last time, but there is something significant about the third time. Peter had three denials. Jesus was dead for three days. Three times. This is the third time. It represents the point at which their expectation had run out. Jesus steps into this moment, the moment at which they still had no fish. Jesus steps into the moment where the fog and the mist are so cold on the sea that it is blowing against their faces, and they cannot even recognize his presence. He chooses the lowest moment of your life sometimes to reveal the greatest love.
So, while we can praise God for all of the great things he has done, and while we can praise him that he got up, because we read that part, because it's in the Bible… It wasn't in their Bible, because this book hadn't been written yet, so they had to sit there in the boat and wonder in the middle of the storm. Just because he got up doesn't mean they knew what to do next. We preach it like that, like, "Accept Jesus and life will be wonderful". What?! I have found my Christian experience doesn't help me to avoid any of the disappointments of life. It's not avoidance. You keep thinking that more and more, if you pray, God will help you avoid certain storms. No, no, no. Faith doesn't make me avoid it; it helps me transform it.