Steven Furtick - Fighting A Distracted Mind
This is an excerpt from: Torn But Trusting
The truth is I'm torn. That's one of the things about being between things. You can feel kind of torn. Just imagine (I'm not going to demonstrate it) two big, strong guys standing on either side of me today, and one is pulling me here, and one is pulling me there, and here I am in between two things…in between my heavenly calling (called, justified, glorified, right with God), and then my sinful tendencies (laziness, self-pity). I can be a very convincing victim. "It's their fault. They didn't. They should have".
I can be a lot of things. I'm torn. I knew starting the sermon this way would be kind of interesting, because I think what people are looking for when they come to church is for me to talk about certain things and to leave other things for Monday through Saturday. The problem with that approach to ministry is it's what happens in between our Sunday meetings… It will not be sufficient if you write down everything I say today and live none of it out until the next time I see you. It will not be sufficient for us to get a Bible lesson today that, for a few moments, maybe tickles our intellect or enlightens our senses or helps us to know something grammatical or historical about the Word of God. It is what we do in between. I'll prove it from the Bible.
"Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God, but faith without works is dead". So, Jesus said a sower went out to sow. He started sowing. Some of the seed, before it even hit the soil, got snatched up by the bird. Can that really happen? Of course it can. In between the release of the seed of the Word of God and the fertilization in the soil… Even before it could hit the soil, let alone germinate beneath the soil… Before it even had the opportunity to be what it could have been, what it should have been, and what it really was on the inside, something snatched it in between.
So, you have to be very careful about how you spend the first 30 minutes after you hear a sermon. You have to beat back birds the first… The Enemy of your soul, the Devil, Satan, old "Slew-foot Lucifer," that old Devil… He ain't a pitchfork devil. He's a little bird. He's a cute little bird. He comes up as a distraction and snatches it in between. You can't even get to the car and hold on to what has been said, because we don't know how to be bored anymore. We don't know how to sit with anything anymore. We can't think about a word. We can't get out of church and reflect on it for a minute. So it can't germinate, because you don't meditate, because it got snatched in between.
How many feel convicted? We just run from one thing to the other, and nothing in between. Now I have so many games and so many apps and so many distractions on my phone that I have no time for any creativity. How could God remind me of anything? I gave him no space to set up in between my appointments. Our lives are very crowded, because even the Bible itself is full of amazing things that happened in between. Think about that. If we took out everything in the Bible that happened as the characters were going somewhere else, we would have removed some of our best Bible stories, and we would have neutered some of our best Bible characters, like Moses and the burning bush.
If Moses had had data on his phone, he wouldn't have seen the bush burning. All he was doing was trying to go to Horeb with the sheep for his father-in-law Jethro, and then he was going to go back to Midian. In between, this bush catches on fire, and God says, "By the way, you're about to lead a nation out of slavery". That happened as he was going to do something else. If that had been me, I'm very sure I wouldn't have looked at the bush, because I would have been right here looking at something else. The Enemy is good at filling the in-between spaces so you don't even see God.
I see this in the life of Moses. I was thinking about (I guess it's my favorite Bible story, because it's the first one I ever preached) how Peter walked on water to Jesus. You know that happened just as they were trying to get from… Jesus didn't set up a water-walking seminar that day. All they were trying to do was get from the eastern shore to the western shore, and they were going to the western shore to do miracles, but they had to leave the eastern shore to go to the western shore. Along the way, here comes a storm. In the middle of the storm, here comes Jesus, and as Jesus comes toward Peter, Peter is like, "I want to come toward you".
Peter comes toward Jesus, and he falls down. Jesus picks him up and takes him back to the boat, and they say, "Truly you are the Son of God". We love that story, but it happened in between. Do you think Mary wanted to give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem? Do you want to give birth to Jesus away from your doctors, away from your hometown? They were there for a census, and the Savior of the world was born. I'm just trying to say that some of the best stuff happens in between. I want to remind you of that. Some of the best things in your life, while you're so focused on "Oh, when I get through this… When I get through that… Oh, I just want to get to the end of 2022".
You've been saying that for the last 47 years. About this time every year, you start thinking, "If I could just get through this year. I'm just waiting for a new year". Here it is fall. "Oh, okay, just a few more months. If I could just get through 2022…" If you could just get through 2022, you are going to take 2020 you into 2023, and 2022 isn't going to kill 2020 you. I got stuck in a trap at one point in my life of just surviving between Sundays as a preacher. At that time, we were doing Saturday night services. (I haven't forgotten about Jacob. I'm setting this up. I haven't forgotten about it, but I'm going to tell you something in between. I read my Scripture.
Now I'm going to illustrate. Then I'm going to go back to Jacob.) I used to think, "If I could just get to Sunday and get another sermon…" Study, pray, beg, plead, offer my children on the altar. "What do you want"? It's a scary thing. Y'all's expectations are really high. Y'all really do have high expectations. "Be serious. Be funny. Be youthful. Be wise". You want a lot. "Speak for God. Keep it real". I'm so torn. If you could see me right now… I mean, I might be holding it together on the outside, but on the inside… So I'd just try to get to Sunday, and then I'd think, "If I could just get through Sunday…"
So wait a minute. Your whole life is getting to and getting through, and you are missing so many things in between. "Oh, if I can get this degree…" What do you think that degree is going to do? What do you think that degree is really going to do? It's going to open doors. What's on the other side of a door? What do you think is on the other side of the door? A massage table? Do you think it's a beach on the other side of the door? The degree will open a door. Then you have to do the stuff they taught you to do that isn't really what you have to do, because they don't really teach you in school what you have to do. What do you think that degree is going to do for you?
Somebody shout, "I'm in between"! You didn't shout it convincingly, because it's not sexy. Watch this. Somebody shout, "I made it"! Do you see how much better you did that? Shout this: "I'm going to do it"! Come on. Shout it from your chest. But that "in between" thing… You didn't say that too good. We don't practice that. We don't practice that in between. We don't really know how to be in between. We really don't know how to be in between. Oh, we definitely know how to think about the future. We know how to, in our minds… I picture Jacob. He's going to meet with Esau. He's like, "Okay. Now, when you get there, give him a first gift, and then you give him a second gift so he won't kill me. You give him a third".
He's out there in the future. He's really good at sending stuff ahead. He's sending everything ahead, so he thinks it'll be all right when he gets there. He's sending everything ahead. By the way, he has come a long way. He just got back from Mahanaim where the angels of God met him, where the angels of God attended to him, where the angels of God showed up. So, he has seen a lot of wonderful things behind him, but now we see Jacob in a very interesting place. He's not in Shechem yet where he's going, but he can't go back to Laban's house either. That's his uncle who he has been living with for 20 years. An angel of God tells him, "You have to get up. You have to go. You have to move right now. You don't have time to think about it. You don't have time to strategize it".
The only problem is if he leaves Laban, he has to deal with Esau, and the last time he saw Esau, Esau had blood in his eyes. Now we meet Jacob in Genesis, chapter 32, and the Bible says the angel of God begins to wrestle with him at night and wrestles with him all night. All night long, Jacob is struggling with something that he doesn't know what it is. This is nothing new to Jacob, you see. He has been practicing this since the womb. He has been manipulating situations since he was old enough to calculate. He has been moving here and moving there and doing this and doing that and scheming things and plotting things. Not only did he steal his brother's birthright, but he stole his blessing too by pretending to be his brother.
Now he has to face the one he pretended to be who wanted to kill him the last time he saw him. "I can't stay with Laban, but I can't deal with Esau. I'm standing here needing the help of God". So God comes not to help him, but to wrestle with him. It's interesting to me that the fight didn't happen when he got to Esau. Esau gave him a hug, and God gave him a broken hip. I'm confused. I thought you asked God to bless you, Jacob. He said, "Bless me. I'm not letting go until you bless me".
Let's read the text again. Wow! This is just unbelievable. For everybody who's in between right now, for everybody who's torn between what you believe God has spoken that you really are and what you feel like from time to time… How many of you are in a seasonal shift in your life where it's very difficult for you to comprehend where you're at? I'm 42. How many of y'all think that's young? How many of y'all think that's old? I'm torn. Graham's hand went up so high when I said "old," and half this section… I don't know what's going on over here in this section. Y'all said it was really young. I'm torn. I don't know which one to believe. Life is tricky because life will intersect in-betweens.
So, you raise teenagers, but you're also a tweenager. He's about to turn 15. I'm close to turning 50. Both of us are in the middle of something. I don't know what I'm in the middle of, and he doesn't know what he's in the middle of. So now I'm trying to raise somebody as I walk through something I haven't seen the end of yet myself, and look back at what he's in the middle of while I'm in the middle of mine and tell him about the middle of his and bring him safely through it and not get him killed. And he's stubborn, so when he wants to learn how to drive, he doesn't have enough money to afford a car, but he doesn't have enough humility to listen to me when I'm teaching him how to drive it. (I'm just kidding, Graham. You're so perfect.)
He's going to be a great driver. I prophesy it. I declare it. I decree it. I plead the blood. That's what I mean by "in between". It's Jacob knowing, "I can't stay with Laban," where he met his wife Leah and his other wife Rachel. He married one and thought he was marrying the other. This dude has a lot of problems at night. Jacob needs to put a 9:00 p.m. curfew on himself, because he gets in trouble at night. He went and slept with the wrong sister at night. The Bible is so funny. The Bible says he thought he laid down with Rachel. That's who he wanted to marry. He commits to her father, "I'm going to work seven years so I can marry Rachel".
Okay. At the end of seven years, the father Laban slips in Leah, the other sister, who has, what we say, the good personality. Leah has a good personality. Jacob goes to bed thinking it's Rachel, wakes up, and the Bible says, "There was Leah". It's so funny. This is kind of like that. Everything in the text… Watch. This is what drew me to the text when I was thinking about being in between things. Nobody is calling me the "young pastor" anymore, but nobody thinks I'm an old sage either. O God, what am I? I am not a spiritual, Bible-quoting, tongue-talking Christian all the time, but I'm not trying to cuss people out either and start fights, because I've learned too much to be ugly all the time and know I'm going to have to clean up messes after I make them.
So, I'm too saved to be angry and too fleshly to be perfect. I'm stuck in the middle feeling like, "Argh"! If I had the self-control to just pray for people, that would be one thing. If I was just worldly and knew jujitsu, I could handle it that way, but it's the in between. So, it's nighttime. Jacob is heading to what he thinks is his appointment. He's leaving what has been his refuge, and God meets him in between. The Lord said to tell you today he's trying to meet you in between, and he's got you in between for a reason.