Steven Furtick - A Battle Strategy For Your Mind
This is an excerpt from: Cover The Spread
I feel like there are some people who are listening to me preach today, and you are carrying a letter of your own that was sent by an enemy into church today. I can't see it, and it's not on papyrus, but some of us have what I would like to call emotional scrolls that we carried into church with us today. It's rolled up so no one can see it. It's tucked away. Not a letter that was written by human hands, perhaps, but a letter that is written in your heart, the words of the Enemy that he has spoken.
Sennacherib loves to get in your head. How many of you tend to be, a lot of times, in your head too much? The reason those of us who are in our heads too much are in our heads so much is because of all of the people who are in their heads too little. Somebody has to think for y'all or we're never going to get these bills paid. Holly is so good for me because I'm in my head all the time. She's in the moment. Take that however you want. I'm not saying I'm smarter. She's so good for me, though. This used to annoy me in our marriage. You know how they say, "In marriage opposites attract, and then after marriage opposites attack"? It used to make me so mad. I'd be telling her something so deep, like, "If he watches over every sparrow…" I would think she wasn't listening. I was like, "What are you thinking about"? She was like, "The grocery list".
But I liked eating, so I was glad she was thinking about something kind of practical while I was thinking about something ethereal, abstract, and spiritual, because I don't want to fast. Our marriage, in many ways, has been a merger of her style of processing and my style of processing. I'm in my head a lot, and she's really good to get me out of my head. I was on the brink of meltdown four years ago with some stressful stuff that was happening with the ministry, and she goes, "I know what we're going to do. We're going to go for a walk". When she said, "I know what we're going to do," I thought she was going to give me the solution. This was a complicated situation. I'm like, "Walk"? She goes, "Yes, as people do. It's not that deep. We're going to walk. You're going to feel better". And she was right.
When I'm in my head, the problem I'm considering seems completely unsolvable. When I'm in my head, it appears to me that I have no assistance available. When I'm in my head, every text message somebody sends me has a secret, covert, malicious intent to it. "Why did they say it like that? Why did they use a comma? Why is there no period? Why does that emoji have drool coming down its mouth"? Now that is weird. I should look into that. You start reading into everything when you're in your head. "Oh man. Why did they say it like that? Why did they look at me like that"? They weren't looking at you. It's completely ridiculous for you to think that everybody in that video game called your life is an NPC and you're the main character. Yet we do that when we get in our heads.
Have you been stuck in your head this week? Is that what has been happening in your life that God took me all the way back thousands of years before you were even born, before you even got into this battle you're in, before you even started feeling these symptoms in your body, before you even started feeling this stress that has you completely wound up and unable to deal with your life… Is that why God had me studying about a king who, thousands of years ago, before you and I were ever even a thought, before you and I were ever even a shimmer in our mama and daddy's eyes… Before you and I were ever even a part of this planet, this king named Hezekiah gave us a pattern for what to do when the Enemy tries to get in your head.
Aren't you glad for the strategy of God? Honestly, I need a strategy. I need to know how to do battle in my brain. I need to know what to do when what I believe about God is telling me one thing and what I see in my life is saying another. I need to know how to respond to Sennacherib. I have my own Sennacheribs, and they send me letters. They are my personal fears. They are not yours. My fears speak differently than your fears. My devil is custom designed to defeat me according to my weaknesses and my strengths, and so is yours. So, the challenging thing for me today is that I know what this Bible says, but I don't know what your letter says.
I know what this Word says about what God is and who God is and what he can do and what faith is (the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen) and what his Word is (the everlasting seed which produces change). I know what his Word says. I don't know exactly what your letter says. I don't know if your letter is something real that you're going through and it really is a diagnosis or if it really is just something you're imagining that hasn't happened yet. I don't know if your letter is something that's going on in your industry, your company, or something going on in that corporation called your family. You know that company where you can't fire anybody?
I don't know what your letter says, but Sennacherib told Hezekiah, "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to wipe you out. It's going to be humiliating". Sometimes the letters the Devil sends me to get in my head is he tells me something in my life is going to happen to cause me great shame. Let me tell you another thing. In the day we live in, you don't even have to do anything wrong to be publicly shamed. So, that can feel like a real threat, can't it? When things are going well in my life, Sennacherib tells me, "It won't be this way long". When things are going bad in my life, he flips the script. "It's going to be like this forever". Sometimes when I preach, they'll say, "It was like you were reading my mail". The Holy Spirit will read your mail.
Today, we came to see what we need to do when we're holding in our hearts a letter of condemnation for our past that is behind us and forgiven by the blood of Jesus, but we don't feel forgiven, so we keep repeating it. We came to find out what to do when we're handed a letter of impending doom, even when there's no clear indication that it's going to happen, but we imagine it. I'm going to tell you why you keep imagining it. You need to stop listening to so many serial killer podcasts, Chunks. (I'm just messing with him. That's my dude.) Sometimes we feed ourselves the raw material, and then the Enemy makes our letter out of what we feed him. Sometimes it's more passive than that. Sometimes it is things we didn't consciously choose.
Whatever the situation is, it stopped me in my tracks when I saw what Hezekiah did about the letter he received, and it helped me so much I wanted to pass it along to you today. Do you want it? Verse 14. He received the letter from the messengers, and he didn't rip it up and pretend it didn't exist. That's one way to handle it. Right? Some of us don't deal with anything we feel. We don't deal with anything we think. We don't deal with anything we need to work on. We don't deal with anything that's stressing us out. We just rebuke the Devil of stress, but if you rebuke the Devil of stress without fixing the source where some of your stressful situations are coming from… I was trying to rebuke the Devil one time, and it was like the Holy Spirit said to me, "You're trying to rebuke the Devil when you need to rebuke your decisions and reverse them and make better ones".
Am I reading your mail? Is that what that feels like? So, he didn't rip up the letter. I think that's, a lot of times, how we're taught to do this faith thing. Like, "Oh, no. I believe God is going to make it better, and it doesn't matter what the Enemy says". Well, the truth is there are some things we have to deal with. This is not a king who's receiving a threat he can just ignore. He actually does have to respond to this threat. As we read at the end of the chapter, there are 185,000 Assyrian soldiers waiting to take him out. So, if he gets the letter saying, "Hey, we're coming in" and just goes, "I don't focus on the negative; I'm an optimist…" You're going to be a dead optimist. You're going to be an optimist with a crown on is what you're going to be, Hezekiah.
An optimist with a crown, but there's going to be no head on your shoulders. It's going to be rolling on the floor. You're going to be a headless optimist, a dead optimist. A lot of people are like that when it comes to their faith. "I rebuke this bill". The power company doesn't cut it back on because you said, "Let there be light". You can quote Genesis 1 over the power bill all you want…in the dark. Watch this response. He doesn't rip up the letter, saying, "Well, that's not true. You're not powerful. You can't do that". Yes, it is true. It is real. That's the reality of the situation.
The second thing I noticed he didn't do… I'm telling you what he didn't do so that when I show you what he did do you will have something to compare it to. He received the letter. Remember? "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you just like I killed everybody. I'm going to kill your family. I'm going to take your kids out. Your kids are going to end up on drugs. Your kids are going to end up divorced. Your kids are going to end up worthless because you yelled at them this morning". That's how it goes for me. It spirals really quickly. I will be a little too harsh with the kids, and the Devil will be like, "That's why you're going to be bailing them out of jail right there. They're going to have a needle in their arm right there, and it all started with you". It can spiral really quickly.
So, this is the second thing Hezekiah didn't do when he got the letter from Sennacherib. They're like, "Hey, king, we don't know what to do. We can see you've already ripped your clothes. It is a bad situation, but he sent another letter". So, he received the letter (verse 14 again), and he read it, and he read it again and read it again and read it again and read it again. He read it over and over and over until he had memorized it. Then he gathered the whole nation and recited the letter for them that their enemy had written. Then he had it translated into 30 different languages so everybody could hear in their own language the threat of the enemy. Then he began to study it, and he broke it down into different syllables, and he made songs around it, and he began to sing the songs of Sennacherib.
That's not in the verse, is it? I can't prove this, but I think when it says he received the letter and read it that he only read it once. After he read it once, look at what he did next. He read it, and then he went up to the temple of the Lord. You don't even know how anointed that is what I just showed you. That's what stopped me in my tracks. When I read that verse, I stopped and said, "Oh! That's my problem". When I get a letter from the Enemy, I read it over and over and over. When he puts a thought in my head to draw me away from my hope, I play it over and over and over. When I have an experience where I make a mistake, I play it over and over and over, but when I get a word from God, I listen to it once and go to lunch.
So, my problem is I've given more attention to Sennacherib's letter than the Spirit's message in my life. So, he read it. He dealt with it. He faced it. He accepted it. He acknowledged it. "I'm in debt. I'm overweight. I'm stressed out. I'm busy. I'm torn apart right now. I'm not in the position I need to be in to make the difference in the life of my kids. I'm not the example I want to be". Okay. I read it. But after he read it, he didn't stay down in it.
If I stay down in it and memorize it, then I'm going to get more of it. But come on y'all, 2023. Let's follow Hezekiah and do what Hezekiah did. What did he do? He read it, and he went up. I came to call you out today and tell you it's time to go up to the temple and see what the Lord says about this situation. If you stay in your head, you're dead. If you stay in your head about this, you are going to go through hell over this, and the Enemy won't even have to shoot a single arrow because he will defeat you by getting in your head and causing you to forfeit the very thing you couldn't lose if you would stand firm and see what God has said.