Steven Furtick - It Works In Reverse
Let's welcome our eFam all around the world. Welcome, wherever you're joining us from today. We welcome you. Put it in the comments where you're joining us from. I want to pick up and tag-team with Holly, right with what my wife shared last week. I've been thinking about it all week. I'm going to pick up from the Scripture she shared beautifully from last week. Didn't you think that was a beautiful word my wife shared last week? We've been talking about this. When we were talking about it, I said, "Holly, I think you wrote this Scripture, not David," because I really see her live this out. It was such a joy to hear her share that message. We kind of ended up doing a trilogy on trusting in God.
The first week was Ugly Trust. It doesn't always look pretty. Thank God he doesn't need you to pray a pretty prayer to give you an answer. Then I preached about Delayed Praise, and then she got up here and preached the house down on Sudden Strength. To continue in the flow where she left off… The Scripture we have been talking about a lot is in 1 Chronicles 28. It's a really powerful promise from God and a principle. I want to be very simple today, if that's all right, and not dumb it down but really bring it right there into the doing of this word in a way that can develop your faith.
In 1 Chronicles 28:10, this is where David tells his son Solomon, "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work". Verse 11: "Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things". Verse 10: "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work".
I'd like to talk to you today from this thought and just let you know It Works in Reverse. That's what the Lord told me to tell you today. "Be strong and do the work". It Works in Reverse. As wonderful as my wife is… You're like, "What comes next after that that doesn't end with you having a bad afternoon, Pastor"? Just hear me out. Sometimes when she's telling me about a conversation she had, she uses this phrase that lets me know she is slightly exaggerating it. Not because she's a liar but because she's telling me what she thought, but she's communicating it like she actually said it. Here's how I can know that's happening. She'll say, "And I was like…" Then she'll start saying stuff. When she says that phrase, it usually is followed by something I know she would never say.
You know, "I ran into [so-and-so] at the school, and do you know they had the nerve to say to me [boom, boom, boom]? And I was like [boom, boom, boom]". And she goes off. But I know her. She's not confrontational like that. She's whatever the opposite of that person is on the Enneagram. She's the other extreme of that. (I still don't remember the Enneagram numbers she gave me one time to tell me who I was and who she was.) She'll go into this whole thing, and she'll be telling them off. Like, "They said, 'Well, do this and that,' and I was like…" When she gets finished with them, I'm like, "You said that"? One time she looked back and was like, "No, but I was like that". I love that. Look at your neighbor and say, "I was like that". You know how in church when we get to preaching really good, you're like that? "I trust in God my Savior, the one…ha! Like that. That's why I trust him. I'm like that. I'm like David with a smooth stone, taking out Goliath. Right there on your forehead, giant. It's like that. This uncircumcised Philistine will fall".
At 3:13 p.m. today, you might be like something else. (All right. So, y'all are going to do me like that today in church, just be really fake, really plastic today.) I think that idea that we get a picture in our heads… In Holly's instance, it's what we want to say in a moment, but we can't. It's the perfect comeback that we think of three weeks later. You know, it happened in Target, and then you thought of what you wanted to say. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night thinking of what you wish you would have said to somebody, but it's too late? Because now if you bring it back up, you're just going to look petty, because it's weird now. You just call them randomly. "And I was like…"! I think we get pictures in our heads of what we want our lives to look like, what we want to be like under pressure or the way we want our kids' childhood to feel like. "I want it to feel like that".
You even see stuff on TV. I had to quit watching This Is Us for a little while when it was on because… I can't say it like I really want to say it because y'all are really super sanctified today, and I can't figure out what happened to you. I told somebody one time it was emotionally like… Not as a bad show. I like the show, and all of that. It's a great show, but sometimes it's almost pornographic because everybody is doing exactly what you wish your best self… Like, they have these speeches, and the speeches are so amazing. You're like, "Yes! That's how I want to explain my feelings. Yes! I want to be more like Jack. Not 'What would Jesus do?' What would Jack do"?
If you saw the show, you know what I'm talking about. He gave his life too…Jack did. Go watch the show. I had to pause it for a little while because it would make me feel bad. I'd be like, "Oh, I want to be there for my kids like that. I want to make beautiful moments like that". But mostly I'm just annoyed and grumpy, and that's probably what they're going to remember: me just being like, "Hey"! Then you watch them, and it's like, "Oh, I want to be like that". When Holly was preaching last week "Be strong and do the work…" We kept talking about it all week, and we realized that when you hear sermons from God's Word, "Be strong and do the work," you really do want to be like that, where you don't stress out over stupid stuff but you pray about things. You really do want to be like that. At least that's my core belief.
I believe everybody who has the Spirit of God has the desire of God and really wants to do these things in their life. Yet sometimes you're like Holly, where you're like, "I didn't do that, but I was like that. That's what I'm going to be like one day". So, there is this sense you can get from time to time that "This isn't working". You know, "I'm committing to this path of progress. I'm trying this new way of relating to people. I'm trying to smile at people more. They don't smile back. This isn't working. I'm just going to go back to…" "I'm going to go back to my…" You know how I say it. RBF is "resting blessed face" in my vernacular. There's a sense in which you can get discouraged. The Lord said for me to tell you today that it's working, but to let you in on this little secret: it works in reverse.
When David was giving Solomon the plans for the temple, you have to understand this was not his preference. He would have wanted to and actually prayed to and thought for a little while that he would get to build the temple himself for God, possibly to atone for the mistake he made. We call it a mistake. It was really a grievous sin what he did with Bathsheba, and he had her husband murdered on the front lines of battle. He spent his later years writing psalms and planning this very elaborate place for God to dwell. He did that. As he's nearing the end of his life, like we read just now in 1 Chronicles 28, he calls Solomon and says, "The Lord showed me how this temple is to be built. I'm not going to get to do it because God chose you to do it, but I'm going to give you the plans for it. Make sure you build it like that. God showed me specifically what this temple was to look like. Don't cut corners. Don't take shortcuts. Don't be lazy about it. Don't deviate from the blueprint. God showed me what to build, and he put it in my mind".
It's going to be from David's mind to Solomon's hand. He's going to show him what to build exactly to the dimensions. I mean, man, it gets specific. I often wish God would give me more specifics. Don't you? "Just write it out for me, dear Lord. Show me the way. Guide me on the path and tell me where to turn, and I'll do it". But the truth is I wouldn't do it. He did tell me a lot of stuff to do that I'm already not doing. There's no reason for me to think if he told me exactly what to do in every other area I'd just start doing it. He already told me to do everything without complaining. I'm doing pretty bad at that. I'm like, "No, God, something else. Show me specifically what else to do…where to invest my money. Show me that. What real estate to buy. Show me that. I want you to show me and guide me like that".
Well, if you hear this first part of the sermon, and then you have to leave, you would have gotten a lot. The thing the Lord says to Solomon through David… It's hard for us to believe God feels this way about us, but I want to put it right there in your heart today. Verse 10: "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you…" There's a lot I don't know, church. I don't know when Jesus is coming back. I don't know who the Antichrist is. There's a lot I don't know about the future, my future, your future. There's a lot I don't know in this Bible, but I know I'm chosen. I know that. I know God chose me to speak this word to you today. I know that. I know that. I don't believe you can fully know what you were chosen for as you're going through it, but you can start from the belief, if you choose to, that God has chosen you. You will need to understand that God does not choose like people choose. God does not judge… Remember how he chose David? He said, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart".
When God chose David, he wasn't looking for how tall he was. When God chose David, he wasn't looking for how much ability he had, even though he had great ability that he grew into. Yet when it comes to heaven, he never starts with our ability but, as one preacher said, our availability. That means he doesn't call the qualified; rather, he qualifies the called. For those he has called he will resource for everything he has chosen them to do. Somebody shout, "I'm chosen". That ought to make you feel good in your bones just to know that God chose you. Not only this, but the God who is eternal who lives outside of time and space, when he was looking for somewhere to live, guess where he said he wanted to dwell. Not in a temple built by human hands, but he said, "I want to come and live inside of you". I'm chosen.
God walked around the whole neighborhood, and he said, "I want that house". God looked all around. He was very, very choosy. He had to be, because there is a very specific assignment God has for your life, and he chose you to do it. Now, if you don't get what I just said, you will struggle with the rest of what I say, because most of us would think that while Solomon was chosen, there is nothing significant about us. While the temple of the Lord is filled with splendor and majesty and onyx and stones and precious rubies, and things like that, we look at our lives and see that we are made of clay. We are vessels that are scooped up out of the dirt into which he breathed the breath of life. God said to stop apologizing for the simplicity of the temple of your life and let him fill what he built with what he wants to fill it with. You are chosen.
Touch your neighbor and say, "You're chosen". Tell them a little bit more convincingly because, honestly, you sounded a little bit uncertain about that. God is not unsure about it. God is not confused about it. You might be confused about it. You might look at your life and see it as insignificant. God doesn't. In fact, I would just put in here whatever you need to put in here. "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary". But I can do better. God has chosen you to be a house as the sanctuary. Why is this so good to me? I just love the Word. Maybe I need to be reminded of it today. Maybe I just need to walk through my house saying, "I'm chosen". Maybe it's more than a TV show title. Maybe it's more than twelve disciples chosen. Maybe it is a new operating system and a framework from which I need to come at every challenge in my life, knowing that if he gave me the challenge, he chose me before he gave me the challenge.
That's why I can fight Goliath. Before this challenge showed up, I was chosen to go for it. I was chosen to fight through it. I was chosen to do it. The Lord showed me in my prayer time that you don't feel that way a lot of times, and that's okay. God shows you what you are chosen for as you go forward. It works in reverse. "Be strong and do the work". How do you hear that? Do you hear "Be strong" as a condition, like, "I need to be strong"? And do you hear "Do the work" as a command? "I need to do the work". The problem if you hear it that way, if you do hear it that way… Maybe you don't, but that's probably how I would hear it, because that's how he said it. "Be strong and do the work". Sometimes I don't feel like I meet the condition, "Be strong," to follow that command, "Do the work".
In other words, I feel overwhelmed by it. I feel like the work that is in front of me is greater than the power that is within me. I said I wanted to keep this simple, and I don't know how to keep it any more simple than to put it on a poster. Holly said she was going to put it on a coffee mug and a sweatshirt. I didn't have time to do either of those, so I just had them make some posters last night. Y'all bring me my posters real quick. Everybody shout, "Be strong". Everybody shout, "Do the work". I'm going to need your enthusiasm. Shout, "Be strong"! Shout it like you need to get another rep. "Be strong"! You've got this. You can lift this. You can make this. You can do it. Here you go, Chunks. Take this one. "Be strong".
Find somebody in the church…just walk around until you find them…who looks strong. I mean a big ol' guy. Not like a prayer warrior. I'm talking, like, physically strong. Big and strong. Just walk around for a minute. Chunks, look at me. Somebody you wouldn't mind looking like. All right? I'll just qualify it like that. He's going to find somebody while I'm talking. Everybody shout, "Do the work". Who's somebody in the house (I'm going to let you choose yourself) who wants to work out more, getting ready for the summer? Okay. Do you want to do it? Do you want to do it? I don't know.
See, here's the way this works. When God chooses people, he knows who he's choosing. I don't know you. So, should I choose him for this illustration? I'm going to come over here. I don't know him. All right. Over here? Anybody? You know what? Because you have a tie-dye shirt on, I'm going to use you. I just think you look handsome. Hurry up. We have to get this done. Come on. Did you find somebody, Chunks? Is he big and strong? He's big and strong. All right. You come up. Oh, you don't know what I'm going to make you do. I saw you doing some calisthenics. Come on up. All right.
Now, I'm not saying one of you looks better than the other. Y'all identified yourselves. You said you wanted to work out more. So, let's do this really quick. Come here. Stand here. Yeah, that's the verse. "Be strong". "Do the work". I'm sorry. You volunteered. Remember? I was on the whole other side of the church, and you were calling me. "Choose me, Pastor". Okay. You got what you wanted, Tie-dye. You already look good. I'm going to be honest with you. To me you look good. I want to show you something the Lord showed me. He showed me that "Be strong" is what everybody wants to look like. Would you have worn short sleeves if you'd have known this illustration was coming today? You had no idea. He said, "I would have worn a tank top". You would have gotten a pump, too, wouldn't you? You didn't need one. You look great. Okay. So, be strong. Everybody say, "Be strong". Everybody say, "Do the work".
Now be honest really quick and say, "But I'm not strong". How many of you have felt that way in an area of your life this week? It could just be a simple feeling. You may not have said that, but it may be the way you felt. What the Lord was showing me as I was studying this is we think this is the condition to follow this command. So, in moments where we feel strong we do strong stuff. In moments where we feel solid we show up consistently and committedly. Then the command "Do the work" becomes dependent on the feeling of our strength. See, that's fine for people who live by their feelings, but you're not one of them. That's fine for people who aren't chosen, but you're not one of them. That's fine for people who have nothing important to do with their lives, but you're not one of them, for you're a child of the King, for he has given you a temple to build, for he has given you an assignment to complete, for he has given you a testimony. Are you feeling this?
I'm feeling this, standing between the two of y'all right now. I'm feeling strong as I preach, but I don't always feel strong. Sometimes I have to do stuff that strong people do when I don't feel stuff that strong people feel. The Lord was showing me, "You've got this thing backward, Furtick. You still don't understand faith. You think faith is when you feel a certain way, you can do a certain thing. You think faith is when you get details, then you can follow God in obedience". But the Lord said it doesn't work like that. In fact, it works in reverse. You keep saying, "When I get stronger, when I get clearer, when I get older, when I get better, when I get richer, when I get through this, when I get done with this, when I get finished…" But God said, "I'm not telling you to do the work when you feel strong. I'm telling you…" Switch places. It works in reverse.
God said, "I see you feeling weak, but you keep waiting on strength. It doesn't work that way in the kingdom, because in the kingdom, if you want to be strong, you have to do the work". "How do I get up out of this pitiful situation? How do I look like that? I want to look like that. I want to function like that. I want a big back like that". Well, God says if you want to be strong, you have to do the work, and if you do the work, you'll be strong, and if you'll be strong, you can do the work. That's why I brought you to church today. I've got you in the gym today, because I want to fill you with the Spirit of Jesus and resurrection power of God flowing through your body so you get big and strong and build your temple. That's what Holly taught y'all last week. Give somebody a high-five and say, "Do the work". Do the work and you'll get strong. "I don't feel like worshipping".
Worship him and you'll feel it. Call it till he comes. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy"! That's what praise is. Praise brings power. Do the work! All right. So, you want to look like that? You know, I found out where the Devil lives. God lives inside of us. How many believe that? "Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world". God lives inside of us. I know where the Devil lives. The Devil lives in YouTube Shorts. I found him. I thought I'd deleted every bad apple on my phone, but the YouTube Shorts get me. Somehow, right now my algorithm is only showing me preaching clips, guitar solos from the 1980s, and workout videos. All of the workout videos are clickbait. It'll say, "The only shoulder exercise you ever need to look like this". I clicked on it, and I saw how the man looked, and I was like, "Oh, I want to look like that. That's how I want my shoulders to look. Yeah, like that". Like that. Look like that.
So, God gave me a question. He said, "You want to look like that. Do you want to lift like that"? Because that guy, when I watched what he was doing… Yeah, it's the only shoulder exercise you'll ever need, but he was doing it with five times my body weight. He looked like he was about to die. So I clicked off. I'm like, "Oh yeah. I want to look like that; I don't want to lift like that". All we want to hear is, "The Lord has chosen you. Be strong". Or we want to hear, "Okay. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power," but a lot of times, what we resist the most is the work. This is the principle: the strength you want is on the other side of the weakness you are willing to work through.
Now, let's sit down and talk about this for a moment. When we preach the Word of God to you, it works. The Word of God will work in your life. Don't tell me it won't. You're arguing with the wrong dude. I know too much about it. I've experienced it. You may as well try to tell me Holly can't cook. I've had too much of her food. You can't convince me that God's Word doesn't work. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Do you know how much doubt I had about what I stood up to preach to you today? Zero. Because it's working for me. I would feel sorry for a preacher who got up and was just trying stuff out. "I hope this is a good sermon". I don't hope this is a good sermon. This sermon has been inside of me, working in me. I mean, when I tell you Holly and I are tag teaming, we talked all week about this. "What kind of work has God called you to do? And where is the line between us trying to work to earn our own salvation versus accepting the grace of God"?
People will try to make them opposites, and they're not opposites. The more grace you get from God for your situation, the more stable you're going to be to show up for it and fight the good fight of faith. So, these are not opposites. The grace of God comes in order to grow me into the person God has called me to be. That is why God does not start with who you are right now. He starts with what he chose you to do, what he called you to do. God does not start with your experience level. God works in reverse. God knows what you need to build. Whether that's a business, whether that's a family, whether that's a discipline, whether that's a habit pattern, God knows what you need to build, and nobody else can build it, because he chose you to build it. If you don't do it, it won't get done.
You say, "Well, God will do it through somebody else". He will do it through someone else, but there will be a great loss in the process of you not choosing to do what God called you to do. That's why I holler. That's why I scream. Do you really think there aren't people listening to me today who feel so abandoned and so small and so unchosen and so picked over and so unwanted and so rejected and so betrayed that even just to hear, "God chose you. God wants you. God sees you. God chose you. God wants you. God sees you…" God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Do you know why you liked that so much when I said it? Because it's a Bible verse. First Corinthians 1:27. "God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong". God chose. That's what we started out saying, right? God chose Solomon.
Who was Solomon? He was the son David would have never chosen to build the temple. David would have chosen his son Absalom. God chose Solomon. Anybody want to take a guess, when David made the biggest mistake of his life and slept with Bathsheba and the child born died and he went back and had another child… Anybody want to guess the name of the child who he had after his greatest mistake? Yeah. I thank you for having the boldness to say that, because I think everybody else in the church was like, "It must be a setup, because it can't be Solomon". There's no way, right? How could it be Solomon? He's inexperienced. He was the product of a bad decision David made. How could God use the weak thing to build the glorious thing? You might be wondering that about your life today. Maybe that's why God gave me this word for you: so you could know that people build on your successes, people choose according to your wisdom, but with God it works in reverse.
I want you to get that in your spirit. It works in reverse. God does not choose the moments when you feel the strongest to show up the most in your life. I'm a living witness. It is the moments when you are working through the weakness, whatever it may be… Some of you have a temper. Some of you have an addiction to something that is chemical in nature. It could even just be food. It could be an addiction to bitterness. I mean, there are all kinds of addictions. Do I really need to list every single one of them? I promise I will. I will go in alphabetical order until I hit everybody on every row. "Oh, no. I'm not addicted to anything". Just let me get to C, you control freak. And if I get to the Ps, I'll talk about your pride for saying you don't have any addictions. We will rattle them off. The good news of the gospel to me is that God chose the weak things.
When you put it on the coffee mug, Holly, put it where it can go both ways where you turn it around, so when I'm drinking my coffee in the morning, after next Mother's Day… I can picture it right now. I promise you one thing. I am not strong without coffee. I know I need caffeine. I need Christ, and I need caffeine, but I usually need them in the opposite order. It's usually the caffeine then the Christ, because I can't find Christ without the caffeine. I am confessing in front of thousands. Make sure when you turn the mug around it says, "Be strong, do the work," but make sure it's on two sides so we can remember this message, where we can say, "Oh, I don't feel strong. How am I going to be strong"? Is this too simple? Do y'all want me to give you a detailed explanation of the dimensions of the temple Solomon built and the type of bronze that was imported from King Hiram for him to do it and the dimensions of the inner courtyard and the outer courtyard and the lampstands and the insets? Is that what you want?
I think the deepest thing we can do with a word from God is to do it. I'm preaching a lot from the Old Testament this year because I'm having a very special time with my own family reading through the Old Testament chapter by chapter with Elijah, my oldest son. He was going through the Bible… I've told you this, but I want to tell you again because the Holy Spirit brought it to my attention. He had the great idea to go through the Bible slowly. He was like, "I don't want to just rush through it. I want to go slowly". So, he and Kelsey were reading, and then I jumped in and kind of invited myself to the group and started giving them a key verse every day.
Now, the reason I chose the key verse principle is because sometimes you can just read a Scripture or hear a sermon and go, "Oh, that's good". It's like that YouTube Short. "The only Bible verse you'll ever need to have big shoulders for the Lord, to have a strong spirit, to be worry free and anxiety free". I love all of these YouTube Shorts. I, of course, put content on them. That's not my point. My point is I never got stronger because of something I clicked on. I've gotten a lot stronger in my adult life because I work hard at that physically but never because I clicked on something. It was always something I did. I might click on it to learn something, but until I did it… Now, this sermon could be something you click on today. It could be something you click on and go, "Oh, that's really good and true. 'Be strong and do the work.' Yeah! Yes! That's awesome".
Go over to James, chapter 1, because this is why I do the key verse principle with my family. I think it would be a wonderful thing for us to go over as a church together. In the book of James, he's making the case that faith without works is dead. He is not saying that the grace of God and the blood of Jesus are not enough to cover your sin, but he's saying if you come to the place where you hear the Word… In fact, he gives an analogy. He says, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…" I love that phrase. In the King James it talks about superfluous naughtiness. Look it up sometime. The Bible is awesome. You can click around all of the translations. But clicking into a different translation won't save you, will it? Clicking around or highlighting stuff… That is wonderful. It is wonderful that you are hearing this word. The Word of God is wonderful, but this is a process that James says. He says there is a getting rid of moral filth.
This is a very specific thing he's talking about here. He's talking about everything that surrounds you, everything that is covering the true potential of the Christ in you. All of that has to go. "…and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you". That's interesting, because it doesn't say it will save you; it says it can. This Word can help you today. This Word can set you free today. God's presence can touch you today. God can get into your situation and show you stuff you don't know. He can put in your mind what only his Spirit knows. He can. But this is not in the category of the salvation you get when you come to Christ. This is salvation from yourself. He says the only way to be saved from your self-deception is to humbly accept the word that is planted…where?
So, you have all this moral filth around you, and you have this Word from God planted in you. So, now I understand I've had it backward. I've been too controlled by my environment. I've been too controlled by my surroundings. I've been too controlled by cultural programming. I've been too controlled by thoughts that didn't even come from God. I've been too controlled by what I see, what I feel, what I think, what I knew up to this point. That's what's around me. When what is around me contradicts the Word that is planted in me… God says we have to get this thing switched up, because the Word that is in you has potential to save you, but with God it works in reverse.
See, most people live this way. Whatever happens on the outside, they react to it. Whatever happens on the outside, they move to it. Whatever happens on the outside, they dance with it. Whatever happens on the outside, they surrender to it. Whatever happens on the outside, that's what they consult for their next step in life. Not you. You're chosen, so you do it differently. In the kingdom of God, it works in reverse. So, I don't start with my situation to see how it's going to turn out, because it works in reverse. I can be in a filthy situation, a naughty situation, a nasty situation, a grimy situation, a dark situation, a confusing situation. If I walked according to the world, I'd be down about it, and I'd be weak about it, and I'd think there was no hope in going forward and no cause to continue in it, but I don't walk according to what I see, I don't walk according to what I feel, and I don't walk according to who I've been to this point, because I found out I'm chosen. I found out God is building a temple. I found out I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it works in reverse.
So, in this season of my life, I'm getting rid of some things that are in the way of my relationship with God, because it works in reverse. This is what I think it means to seek first the kingdom. I think it means you've turned the whole thing around, that you would say, "I would rather have peace and be right with God than be popular with everybody else in the world. I'd rather have peace with almighty God than have all the money in the world". Are y'all feeling this yet? See, I don't wait for you to feel it before I preach it. I'm going to preach it until you feel it, because it works in reverse. That's how the Word works. The Word will feel weird when you hear it. It will call you a conqueror when you feel like a coward. It will call you a winner when you feel like a loser. It'll call you seated in heavenly places when you feel like you're at the bottom. He chose the weak things to shame the strong. That's how it works, y'all.
Of course you don't feel strong. You're not working through your weakness. You're going to feel stronger when you sit there anyway. I talked to somebody the other day. They were like, "I had this appointment. It was awkward. I walked out". I said, "Then you are going to be stumped at the level of your discomfort, because you can't sit in anything that makes you feel uncomfortable long enough to be developed". I told him that to his face, and he received it. He said, "You're right. You're right. You're right". I said, "I don't mean to preach to you". He said, "No, preach to me, man. I need it. I need it. I need it". That's what he said. "I'm sick of being stuck. I'm sick of needing to feel a certain way to do a certain thing. I'm sick of coming to church and going like, 'Oh, yeah. I want to live like that.' I'm sick of clicking around YouTube videos and going, 'Oh, yeah. I want to live like that.'"
When James comes along, he says something very simple in James 1:22. "Do not merely listen to the word…" I stopped there when I was studying this week. I'm like, "Lord, that would be good if people would even just listen to it. I mean, they're doing pretty good just to listen to a sermon when there are so many other options. Why are you being so hard on them? They're listening to the Word". But he showed me that when you listen and don't implement, it limits you that much more the next time you hear it. It puts a lid on the potential he has put inside of you. So, the next thing becomes very, very integral to your spiritual development. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says".
Elijah, where are you at? Thank you for that Bible club, and thank you for this. Every time he sends his key verse… We pick a verse, and we say, "This is how I'm going to try to do this today". Every time he sends his key verse, it's so practical. He's so smart. He's so analytical. He always has been. When he was, like, 4 years old, he was asking me questions that made me feel like I needed to go back to Bible college again. He has asked me stuff about God that God hasn't even asked about God. Yet every time he does it, he puts it so simply. At the end of his key verses, he'll always say, "I hope this isn't too simple". Don't ever say sorry for keeping it simple. What you put the other day about David where you said, "Okay. I know this isn't probably the deepest application of the text…" No, the deepest thing you could have found is what you found, because you found the thing God was actually calling you to do.
I thought that was so powerful. I'm like, "That is what a disciple…" Not that you're perfect or I'm perfect or not that "Oh, we're reading our Bible every day so we're so great". But I love how I see you working the Word. Here's what I know about God's Word: it works in reverse. God is giving him wisdom today for experiences he doesn't even know he's going to have yet. He's digging a well today every time he goes to the Word and puts it into practice. Principles without practice are powerless. Every time he puts it into practice, let me show you what he is defying. I close with this image. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says". Listen to this picture. Remember, when it comes to God's Word, he gives us a picture of who he is (we can't see it fully, but we see in part), and he gives us a picture of who we can be in him. He shows us the strength we can have in him and the future we can have in him and the way of life we can know in him and the peace we can have and the joy we can have. He gives us a picture.
But watch what James says as a warning. Verse 23: "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror…" Isn't that an interesting image? "…who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do". "Be strong; do the work". What happens when you do the work? You'll be strong. Not perfect but stronger. Not there but closer. Not monastic but maybe not going off on everybody. Not perfect but blessed. He said it's like a mirror. The Word God gives you is like a mirror, and it shows you who God is, and it shows you who you really are.
That's why something comes alive in you when you hear God's Word and it hits you in your spirit: because it's going in you. Every label that has been slapped on you, even by your own words… When you get in the mirror of God's Word, it begins to reverse every curse that has been spoken over your life. When Holly was getting dressed the other day, she put on this hoodie for Can You Imagine? She was looking at it in the mirror, and when she was looking at it, she said, "Is it backward"? I said, "Yeah". She said, "But I'm confused. Oh yeah! I'm looking at it in the mirror". On this hoodie it's backward, but when you get in front of a mirror… What does a mirror do? It reflects back whatever stands in front of it, but the light makes it reflect back backward. God says, "When you come into my presence, when you receive a word from me…"
When you stand before heaven, you're not just looking at yourself; you are looking at your Father who is perfect, your Father who spoke a word over your life. Before you were knit together, he knew you. "I'm going to show you who you are in reverse". Everything in your life that does not match God's purpose he's going to turn around for his glory in this season. Shout if you believe it. He's turning it around. That's why I have to get with him. I'm surrounded by filth, but I don't want to become like what I'm surrounded by. I don't want to think like what I'm surrounded by. I don't want to speak like what I'm surrounded by. I want God to put his Word on my life and show me in the mirror of his image what I'm really worth in his hands. I'm working through some weaknesses like you are.
The strength you want for your life and the strength you want to pass on to your generations and the strength you want your kids to see you walk in is through the stumbles you recover from and keep moving forward, believing that God is not against you. I reverse every religious spirit that has tried to tell you God is ashamed of you. If he's ashamed of what he made, that means he made a mistake. God doesn't make mistakes. God doesn't call the qualified; he qualifies the called. He chose you. Now be strong and do the work, and if you do the work, remember, you're working with him. I almost want to call this message Dirty Work to keep with our theme of two-word titles. Do you want to look like that? Who doesn't?
Man, this is so bad for your ego. I'm a little worried about you. You are an example of the righteousness of Christ today in a Ralph Lauren shirt. That's just phenomenal. Thank you for helping me out. I just wanted to know today… Is there a weakness you're working through right now, so you think, "Oh, okay. This isn't working. I quit"? The reminder of the Scripture is that as you behold your God, he reflects to you backward what you can become, and what you can become starts with who he is. Everything God has in your life is in seed form right now. It is surrounded by dirt, superfluous naughtiness, but that's okay because God does dirty work. Please believe me when I say that. You have to do it dirty too. On the days you don't feel like it, on the days where everything in you is telling you not to, the strength… What did you say last week? The strength you need for tomorrow is in the work you do today.
God is working in weakness. That's how he works. He works in reverse. Sometimes he sees you struggling, and he wants to help you, but you won't let him. What was your first job, Jay? Do you remember? You were working security? Were you, like, 12 years old, eating spinach, taking steroids, working security? I want to look like you, Jay. That was your first job? Listen. I don't think anybody in the room had a crazier first job than me. When I was 14, I worked for Pet Rest Cemetery & Cremation Service. That was my first job. It was a cool job, too, because not only did I get to send pets into the afterlife with dignity… The Lord was preparing me to preach. I just had to start with lesser animals in the kingdom.
Well, the coolest thing about the job was it came with a pager. On the nights where I would need to go cremate the dogs… Why are y'all looking at me like I killed them? This is a service people hired us to do. It was good work. I loved the job. I appreciated the job. I liked the pager, too, because it looked so cool. I'd wear it on the outside of my pocket. "What do you do for money"? "Don't worry about it. It involves freezers". The worst part about that job was in the middle of summer when a lot of dogs would die from heat exhaustion… It's obviously sad, but even worse than that, it was so hot in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. I would never wake up early to go dig the graves, because I had to dig the graves too, and I had to do it by hand. This dirt in the Lowcountry is not friendly dirt that's just waiting to be dug. This is, like, clay.
So, I would go out there in the middle of the day (true story) with a pickax, a shovel, a little riding lawn mower, and a little trailer, I'd break up the dirt and dig the graves. One day, I was out there. It must have been 115 degrees in the Lowcountry that day. I was dying, but I had to get it done by 4:00. I'm out there just killing myself. Now, I need to set this up for you. The pet cemetery was right next to a people cemetery. Just right there. You could see it. At the people cemetery, they had better equipment than at the pet cemetery. I would always watch this guy named Charles. He would dig the graves over there with big, heavy machinery, like a backhoe. I would always lust after that while I was out there.
One glad day, while I was… I'm literally out there going, "Man! I should have made Eric come with me today. This is horrible. This sucks. I hate my life". Thinking about throwing my pager in that grave and jumping in there with the dog. I'm out there breathing hard, but here comes Charles on the backhoe. He's coming over. I'm like, "No way. This is what I've always…" Imagine. He pulls up. He doesn't even say anything. I just step aside. He doesn't even say anything. He just starts moving stuff. Twenty minutes later, we had a hole. What did I do? I stood there and pretended to be helping. I just stood there and prayed that he wouldn't leave. "Just stay, Charles. Oh, thank you, Charles. Hallelujah, Charles. I love you, Charles".
Charles was a big guy too. He was short, but he was stout. But he didn't need those muscles because he had something I didn't have before he showed up and just started digging. I'm telling you, 20 minutes later, we were done. I'm like, "This is awesome. I'm about to go get lunch. I'm about to go get Taco Bell. I'm going to get some for me and some for Charles. We're going to have a picnic. I'm going to name my kid Charles. This is amazing. Thank you, Charles. This is the greatest gift I've ever been given. What do I owe you"? I thought he would want a cut. You know, 15 percent on the first grave, and after each additional grave, 20 percent. I thought he was running a side hustle.
Charles said, "No, I don't want anything. I saw you struggling. I saw you sweating. I saw you out here doing everything you could do with what you had, and I thought to myself, 'He could dig all day and not get this done.' So I decided, 'If he'll let me, I'm going to help him.'" I said, "Charles, I will be the best 'letter' you've ever met in your life. I'm going to let you help me. Anytime you see me with this pickax, pull up, because I need you, Holy Spirit. I need you, Jesus, because you have what I don't have, and you can do what I can't do, and you can give what I can't earn". I hear God saying to somebody today, "I'll make you strong. I'll give you hope. I'll breathe into your sails. I'll make it happen. I'll blow the door off the hinges. I'll come in and make a way through your sea". Give him praise if you believe it!