Steven Furtick - This Is Draining Your Strength
This is an excerpt from: Don't Blow It!
I found out we have a lot of different things we say to disguise our procrastination. Can I give you one thing we say in church? We don't say, "I'm fixin' to". We say, "I'm praying about it". It's cool, because you do need to pray about some things, but some things that God just told you to do ("Get your book out") do not require prayer; they require action. Haggai has a hard job, because the people on one level are making progress. At least it seems to them like progress. The question becomes…Is it progress or is it procrastination?
Apparently, there were some really nice subdivisions going up in the suburbs of Judah. The exiles had been back from Babylon now 20 years, and that was a God thing, wasn't it? They didn't know if they'd ever come back, and only because Persian control took the territory of Babylon back were they able to come back and rebuild their home land. When they first got back, they thought they'd rebuild the temple, because it had been destroyed. It was the preeminent place for the presence of God to be manifest among his people so that he would have a dwelling place. You and I understand that now this temple is not a physical building but it is you and me, the temple of the Holy Spirit, where God dwells and where God lives.
In the midst of rebuilding this place where God had appointed his presence to dwell, something was lacking in their perseverance, or perhaps it was just that they got distracted. This has helped me so much in trying to minister to people and challenge people and call people higher to God's standard. Often people are not willfully disobedient; they are just distracted. I don't think people always decide to live in disobedience. Sometimes life just creates such a scenario… Listen to what Haggai said. He said, "Each of you is busy with your own house". I thought that was an interesting phrase, that he said, "You're busy with your own house". He didn't say they were bad people, just that they were busy people.
Sometimes you are struggling in your life in ways you do not understand, but you are not directly discerning the source of the dysfunction. Such was the case for the people in Haggai's day. He said, "You're disappointed, aren't you? I know you are. It's August. It's the season for figs and grapes and pomegranates. You planted a lot of seed, but when you went to get the harvest it was only half of what you expected". Have you ever invested in something or someone only to wonder, "How could I put so much into it and get so little out of it"? Have you ever?
This is the scene in Haggai's day. Remember, this is a specific word to specific people, but I think it has universal application and is a timeless truth. When you do not start your process with God at the center, it will always end in disappointment. It will not matter how much energy you give it or how much talent you have or how sincere you are in your efforts. I'm telling you, I have sat with rich people, famous people, people with great status and no satisfaction, great prosperity and no peace, because any process that does not start with God ends in disappointment.
Write that down. Teach it to your kids. Put it on your mirror. Any process that does not start with God ends in disappointment. You plant much; you reap little. You get dressed; you're not warm. You drink, you drink, you drink, you drink, you drink, you drink, but you are bottomless, and even the blessings God gives you will be hollow. It's a hollow harvest. While the people were busy building their own houses, busy building their own bodies, busy building their own dreams, busy planning their own futures, they neglected the place of God's presence.
I was praying about this message. I said, "God, I can't preach that. I don't want to make them feel bad. Their lives are already hard enough". God told me… (I didn't hear this out loud. It was just an impression I had. Let's get that straight right now.) The impression I got was "If you don't ever make that connection, you will live in a continual state of frustration and wonder 'Why am I doing so much and receiving so little?'" "Why am I fishing all night and catching nothing"?
That's what happened to Peter. He fished all night and caught nothing, but the moment he gave his boat to Jesus, his biggest problem was breaking nets. God is in charge of the harvest. There is a certain part of success and a certain part of life that you don't control. You can decide how much to plant, but without the cooperation of the elements it will only grow to be so much. It takes a little while to learn this. You can do everything in your human strength that you know to do to guarantee a happy life, but there is a certain dimension of life that is outside of your control. Here are these people. It has been 20 years. I understand. They come back from Babylon. They're really trying to get acclimated to being back in a place that has been so ravaged. They're settling into their towns. Maybe 2 years, maybe 5 years, but it has been 20 years now, which is a significant number for me.
Let me tell you why. This summer, I was going back and watching some of the sermons that inspired me to be a preacher. They are all on YouTube, and it's cool because I don't have to pay for them. I can bootleg them now. I've long since lost the cassette tapes, but they're all online now. So I was online watching some of my favorite preachers who were inspiring me as a boy. These were my heroes. I was watching them just to kind of get in touch with 16-year-old Steven, who used to walk around the block with a Walkman. I would preach with the preachers, and I would hold an imaginary microphone. (I've said too much.) I was listening to them preach, and I was watching them on YouTube, and I thought, "Man, these guys looked so much older to me".
Then I did some math, and I realized the guys I used to watch when I was 16 were the age then that I am now. You talk about a broken heart. You talk about a wake-up call. See, I still feel like I have all this time. I still feel like we're just getting started. The church is just getting started. I mean, in my mind this is still the IPO. It was a wake-up call for me to realize, "What they were to you then, you are to somebody now". In other words, you don't have any time to waste. You only have so much time. I know you keep telling yourself, "One day when…" and "We're going to get around to it" and "I'm fixin' to," but you might find yourself one day running out of strength.
What is in your heart to do? You'd better do it now. That was 20 years ago. If we're going to build it, we have to build it now, but sometimes the Devil will tell you you're being patient when really you are procrastinating. If he can get you to mistake procrastination for patience, he can keep you locked out of the blessing that is on the other side of your obedience. Yes, it's a process. Yes, it takes time, but really? Twenty years? "After all," Haggai says, "it looks like somehow you found time to build your own house".
I'm so glad Pastor Mickey taught me that. He beat that into my head. He said, "Boy, you find time for what you want to do". He said that because I told him I didn't have time to do something he told me to do. He said, "Boy, you find time for what you want to do". You find time for what you want to do. You find passion and energy. If I could get some of you to apply the same energy to serving God that you apply to sin, we would turn every county in the United States of America… It looked to them like progress, but the prophet Haggai says, "Wait a minute. Progress is more than just effort. Progress is effort in the right direction". "Consider your ways".
He gets into a vivid description. This sounded so modern when I was reading it. I don't know if you had the same experience. I thought about all of the streams and feeds we live in now. When he said, "You eat and are never full, and you scroll and are never entertained…" He didn't say that, but that's what it made me think of. He said, "You YouTube, and now you're over in cat videos, and you don't even know how you ended up…" "How did I get here on a Minecraft tutorial? I'm 37 years old". Then it gets kind of dramatic. I don't apologize for God's Word. He said, "When I saw that you were so busy with your own work, when I saw that you were so busy with your own interests…"
"I didn't mind you building your own house. I didn't mind you driving a new car. I didn't mind you enjoying yourself on the weekend and telling your friend who's always trying to use you that you didn't have time to help them move. It was fine because they're always asking you. What I minded was that you lost your sense of what was really important". So now God says, "I had to take action. I had to frustrate your process to remind you of your priorities". You know how sometimes you'll be doing something that used to be fun for you and it's not fun anymore and you can't even explain why? Sometimes that's God sucking the fun out of something that is keeping you from your calling and purpose.