Steven Furtick - This Will Change Your Relationships
This is an excerpt from: Fix Your Focus
In any relationship or in any season of your life you choose what you magnify. I hear single people talking about they're lonely. I hear married people talking about they're lonely. I heard a married couple the other day talk about having no friends and it brought them to tears. Well, there was a time where they would have said to each other, "All I need is you". Then you get with them and you realize, "Well, they're not a savior, and if I'm going to be happy in this season of my life I have to choose what I magnify, what I make bigger".
What you magnify you get more of. Focus. I'm deciding any given moment in a relationship what I'm focusing on. I was so mad at my dad. I was so mad at that man, because he was impossible. In the last two years of his life he was impossible. He wouldn't let us take care of him, so he moved away. He went to go live by himself. He was dying, but he wouldn't let my mom take care of him. He wouldn't let us take care of him. Anytime we'd try to put a plan together he would just blow it up. I was so mad at him. It got to the point where anytime I would try to talk to him on the phone, we couldn't have a conversation. This went on for months. When we would get on the phone, he would go into a rage within two minutes. It would start here and it would quickly escalate.
I was so mad at him. I would send people I would pay for to go and take care of him and he would fire them. He fired four people I sent to take care of him because he wouldn't stay here and let us take care of him. I couldn't see at the time that he wasn't responding out of his own will; he was responding out of his pain. When you're in something like that, you don't see the person's intentions or you don't see the place it's coming from. You only feel how it's affecting you. I was so mad at him and I just decided, "Well, fine. If he has to die and we can't speak… I can't have somebody treat me like this".
I was so mad about it. In the middle of being so mad about it, my father-in-law said something to me that made me so upset, because the last thing you want to hear when you're upset is something like this. He said, "Well, try to remember the good times. He did a lot of things right". "Well, shut up". This is the one time you're not allowed to say amen while I'm preaching. It was Father's Day of 2012 or 2013. Forgive me for being imprecise on the date. My memory of it is that I was driving home from vacation with the family on Father's Day, feeling bad that I couldn't do anything with my dad, with my father-in-law's voice in my head. "He did a lot of things right".
I came to an idea, and I asked Holly if we could pull over and switch and she could drive, because we were going through the town where I grew up, where my dad was living by himself. I had the idea, "Write down one memory for every year that he was your dad and take it to the house and give it to him. One good memory from every year he was your dad". Man, I'm telling you, when I first started making that list my pen was moving so slowly. It was all I could do to get a letter on the page I was so mad at him. I was so mad at him because all I could see was how he was treating me right now.
When I started writing, I started remembering. The first thing I remembered was when I played on the Pirates and he was my coach and we sucked. We sucked so bad he wouldn't let any of us swing at the plate. He made us all bunt every time we were at bat for the whole season. So I wrote that down: "Bunting". It was my first word. It got me started. Then I remembered at about age 14 that he couldn't find a way to connect with me because I was into music and he was into fishing. He took me to a punk rock concert in Ladson, South Carolina. The worst music you've ever heard in your life was played in that VW hall that day, but he took me and sat with me. I wrote down, "Punk rock concert, Ladson".
Then I started remembering how after he gave his life to Christ he wanted me to go to church with him. One of his customers in his barbershop had invited him to their church revival. This was not like a Code Orange Revival that's uplifting. This was like a hellfire and brimstone revival. The preacher was preaching so hard. We went out to this little country church and my dad and I wondered, "What have we gotten ourselves into"? They seated us on the front row. We were there on the front row in this independent fundamentalist Baptist church. All the women are in dresses and everything. We're in tee shirts and we're sitting there in the church not knowing what we're getting ourselves into. The preacher got so fired up at one point this little boy stood up and shouted, but he didn't say, "Amen," "Praise the Lord," or "Preach, Preacher".
Here's what the little boy said. He said, "Let the wild hog eat"! I never heard that shout before. So I wrote down, "Let the wild hog eat". I got to the house and knocked on the door and handed him the list. I said, "Here". I didn't even hug him. I said, "Here, I made you a list, 32 things". He said, "How did you remember this stuff"? Because you choose what you magnify. Our story had a happy ending. We reconciled. Not right at that moment. At that moment I handed him the list and walked out. I didn't want to see him. But it started something. I know reconciliation is not always possible on that level, and I'm not even saying that it's always preferable.
What I am saying is that whatever you've lost, if you choose to magnify it, you're going to live in what you lost. Whatever they're doing to you right now, if you want to magnify that… You can forget the thousand nice things they said because of the one text they sent that said that one thing they weren't even thinking about, and in your mind you will begin to magnify. Man, we should use these more in dating, because we don't look for any warning signs in dating. We don't ask any questions about their bank account. "Well, they love God". Yes, but do they have grocery money? You need one of these in a dating relationship. You need to see as many specks as you can see. Then you have to use it for a different purpose in marriage. You have to use it in a close relationship where you're committed.
If you come to this church looking for crap to get mad about, let me save you a whole lot of time and searching effort. You will find what you look for. "Seek and you will find". Isn't that what Jesus said? That applies to the good things and the bad things. This is one thing my wife is really good at. I don't know if we understand the power we have to magnify things in other people that we can bring out of them, the good stuff. I don't know if we understand the power we have. I told you at the beginning of my sermon that I've been traveling a lot lately and preaching. When I do that, I always feel like I'm cheating home. No matter how much I try… I'm probably not doing as bad of a job as I think I am, but I tend to be really hard on myself.
Wherever I'm giving, I'm feeling guilty about where I'm not giving. Are you like that? It's like it's never enough, so I'm sitting there feeling bad. One Saturday morning, I had all of my notes for the sermon that weekend spread out on the table. I'd been gone somewhere else preaching all week, so I'm feeling kind of behind and just a little bit distracted. The kids are all around me. They're trying to get my attention. I'm paying them no attention. They're screaming my name and I'm not listening. I know I'm not listening and I kind of don't care because I have to get this sermon ready, but I kind of feel awful about it. I'm just feeling that thing like I'm stretched apart.
If you don't have a lot of little kids around, maybe this wouldn't apply to you, but I think everybody has felt this way at some point. "I can't give enough to anybody anywhere". I was feeling really like a failure. It was a very mild level, but I felt it. I was feeling uptight and all that stuff. I need to be a good dad, but I also need to be a good pastor, and I don't know how to be both at the same time. I'm sitting there feeling all this and the kids are yelling and I'm kind of mad at them and annoyed with them, but it's not their fault. I'm the one who has been gone. Holly speaks up and she goes, "Kids! Your dad is a great man. I hope when you grow up that you grow up to be a hard worker like your dad. He has been gone all week preaching, doing what God called him to do and providing for our family, and now look at him. He has these notes spread out all over this kitchen table".
Let me tell you something. In just one little speech she made me bigger. I'm telling you, ladies, you can make a man bigger. You can. You can make him stronger. You can make him bring in more groceries from the car. Just tell him how strong he is. I don't know where she learned this, but when we first got married, I was carrying in the groceries from the car one day. (I don't do that anymore. That's what I had kids for.) I was carrying in the groceries one day and I had a couple of bags, you know, bags around my arms, bags everywhere. I'm coming in the house and Holly said, "How do you do that"? I said, "Well, it's easy. It's easy for me".
I started curling the grocery bags. I put a grocery bag in my teeth. I put one around my neck. Why? Because she magnified something so small. You magnify the little thing and it gets bigger. You magnify what you don't have and it gets bigger in your mind until all you can see is what you don't have. Do you magnify what they're not or do you magnify what they've got? I think this makes all the difference. So what is your focus? Jesus said you can look at the speck or you can look at the plank. It's interesting to me, because knowing very little about carpentry I do realize the sawdust comes from the same material the plank is made of.
Usually when I see something in someone else that makes me angry or offended it's because it represents something that's in me. I told you there were two tools (and there are) when it comes to the relationships that matter the most and when it comes to the things that offend us in other people, because everybody has issues and most of us have a subscription. Do you know what a great dating conversation would be? "What kind of crazy are you? I can't tell from this distance, but if I get close to you…" All these issues… You have to decide, "Am I going to focus on theirs or mine"?
I think the key to this thing of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves… Sometimes you have to put down this and pick up this and just ask God, "So, Lord, what is it that you're trying to teach me or what is it that I can change? I tried changing Charlie and Charlie won't change. So here I am, Lord". In the words of the King of Pop, if you want to make the world a better place, where are you going to start? Sometimes you have to start with your own self. God says you can't even help the people you love when you're infected with the very issue you're trying to solve. It's "Love the Lord your God". That's one half, but it's also, "Love your neighbor as yourself". That's the other half.
You can't have this half right and not have this half right. You can't treat people like garbage and worship God at the same time. You can't get this right, though, until you get this right. You can't treat people well if you don't know God loves you, and you can't love God until you have received his love freely. That's what makes it a cross. That's what makes it complete. It's this and it's this. One thing I never noticed, though… Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength". We go around trying to love people and we're not even whole within ourselves. The other thing is that he said, "Love your neighbor as yourself".
I've always known that was a command, but it's also just an observation. The way you love your neighbor is the way you love yourself. If you haven't received God's acceptance of you, you won't be able to accept anybody else as they are, because you don't even love yourself. A lot of times it starts there. It starts with saying, "God, I can't go into these relationships anymore half empty and needing people". Sometimes I'm so needy. I was asking God the other day to help me not be so hard on others, and God said, "Well, first you're going to have to not be so hard on you". What starts here flows here, flows here, flows here. I just wanted to begin this series today asking you, "Where is your focus"?
If another person is at the center of your focus and they're responsible for the fulfillment of your joy, you're going to always be miserable. If you're trying to do God's job in fixing somebody else and you have a focus on what they need to become, let me tell you something. There is no worse strategy for your own personal satisfaction in your life than to place that responsibility in someone else's hands. For all of us who have been saying, "I need someone to complete me," or "I need you to complete me," or "I need this," the message I think God has for us today is, "Give me my job back. I'm a good God. I'm a good Father. I know what you need". Here's the difference between God and everybody else in your life. Not only does he know what you need; he has what you need, and he's the only one who has what you need.