Steven Furtick - The Blessing Of Letting Go
I do want to take a moment and say to each and every one of you… You know, I don't wear a red hoodie for just anything…fall season, holiday season. God is going to give us a very strong end to this year. How many are believing for that? How many of you have some catching up to do because it has been a really weird year so far? We're going to believe God that every blessing you haven't received that you're supposed to receive this year God would compress into these next few weeks for you. I'm believing that he's going to give you supernatural guidance, his wisdom, his reflexes, his response. In fact, that's what I want to preach about today. I want to preach about the blessing God wants to give you. Sometimes these things do come in unexpected ways, so prepare for it. Tell your neighbor really quickly, "Get ready for it".
I want to share some time with you today in Genesis, chapter 32. Remain standing for the reading of God's Word. Greetings to all of our campuses and our eFam around the world. Let's thank God for all who are joining us today, that they would receive the flow of this anointing right where they are. Come on, Elevation Ballantyne. Put those hands together. Let's welcome our worldwide eFam. I had a hard time deciding how much of this to read to you, but I decided we should go from at least verse 7, so buckle in. This passage of Scripture… Wow! It's really for those of you who are wrestling with something, and you've been struggling to rest in what you have and who you are because of what you're wrestling with.
That's who I'm preaching to today. Genesis, chapter 32, verse 7. The Bible says, "In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, 'If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.'" Now, for everybody who is kind of a control freak, you can relate to this. You start making all of these plans and backup plans for your backup plans, and all of these ways you start working it out. Jacob is doing that because, it says in verse 8, he thought Esau, his brother, was coming to attack him. But look at verse 9. This is a turning point in the passage.
"Then Jacob prayed…" So, watch this. Verse 8: "He thought…" Verse 9: "Then Jacob prayed…" You know, the Devil shouldn't have let you get here today, because he has had you in your head, and you've been thinking about the attack, but the moment you started praising God today and lifted your eyes to him… Come on. I declare a level change in your situation.
"Then Jacob prayed, 'O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, "Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper," I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, "I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted".' He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau…"
I'm going to read you the whole list just so you can see how blessed Jacob was. "…two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls…" Ol' boy is doing pretty well. He said a few verses ago, "I started with just a staff". Look at what God gave him. "…and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, 'Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.' He instructed the one in the lead: 'When my brother Esau meets you and asks, "Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?" then you are to say, "They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us".' He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds…"
He's covering all of his bases for this thing he has to deal with the next day. "'You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. And be sure to say, "Your servant Jacob is coming behind us".' For he thought, 'I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.' So Jacob's gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp. That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons…" That would keep you up all night. All of it…the 11 sons, the 2 wives…all of it. That would give me indigestion and insomnia. They don't make a Lunesta strong enough for this situation. And your brother might want to kill you.
This is what he's dealing with. He took all of that "…and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" I want to speak to you today on the subject The Blessing of Letting Go. Let's pray one more time.
Father, your Word is eternal. It produces what you send it to produce. It accomplishes what you intend for it to accomplish. May it be so. We call it done in the lives of these, your children, and today, when the harvest comes from this Word, we'll give you all the praise because you deserve it. In Jesus' name, amen.
On your way to your seat, tell your neighbor, "Yes, I'm blessed". Say it convincingly now. That first time you sounded like you were saying it under compulsion. You sounded like I sent you to apologize, like your mom made you say that. "I'm sorry". Look at them like you need to sell something to eat tonight and say, "Yes, I'm blessed". All right. Because, I mean, even the most basic reading of this Bible story is confusing. You don't even have to get into all of the nuances of, "Wait a minute. God broke a guy's hip"? You don't even have to get into that to be confused. You can just be confused…
Okay. This one verse is confusing just by itself, the one I stopped on, where Jacob says to this guy, who turns out to be an angel of God or an appearance of God, but he doesn't know that at the time, because it's not always obvious that it's God when you're going through things… Sometimes you will give the Devil credit for something God is actually doing. You'll be like, "The Devil is testing me". No, God is training you. At the very end of the passage we find out it was God with Jacob. But the confusing thing (I want to know if it confused you too) is after reading that whole list of rams, bulls, goats, donkeys, all of those things God gave Jacob… He turns around and says to whatever he's wrestling with that he doesn't really know what it is yet… He says (verse 26), "I will not let you go unless you bless me".
Isn't he already blessed? I'm just asking the obvious. How many donkeys was it? Were you counting them? I wasn't counting them. There were so many donkeys I lost count, so much livestock. I mean, in Hebrew culture, the proof of blessing was life, so having 11 sons, who would later go on to be the tribes of Israel… Benjamin isn't born yet, but Benjamin completes the roster, the starting lineup for the nation of Israel. All of that is traveling with him, and he's blessed. If you were to ask Jacob if he was blessed, he'd say, "Yes". He even said to God when he was praying, "You've done so much for me. I don't deserve it. I'm looking at a life I couldn't imagine, and now I'm living in something I never would have imagined through the lens of my past".
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a great entrepreneur. He was sharing with me about the pressure he faces on a daily basis, and his solution was, "I just need to be more grateful. God has given me so much. I just need to be more grateful". We went through a list of some of the accomplishments he had seen. At the end of him talking about how he felt so guilty because he wasn't more grateful, I asked him a question, and it's a helpful question that I want to ask you as well. I said, "You keep saying you're not as grateful as you should be for everything God has given you, but I wonder if what you're calling a lack of gratitude in your life really isn't just the load of pressure you feel because of the blessings God has given.
So, I don't think it's necessarily that you aren't grateful for everything you just listed that you know God has given you. I think it's that, at times, you realize, 'Yes, I'm blessed, but…'" Look at your neighbor again and say, "Yes, I'm blessed, but…" Say it in that little high voice like that. Look at them again and say, "Yes, I'm blessed, but…" I wanted to call this message "Yes, I'm Blessed, But…" When you came to church today, you brought your "blessed but". It's amazing to me how Jacob could be so blessed that God has done so much, that God has given so many things, but the Bible says he was terrified, he was threatened, he was uncertain, and in the same prayer that he's telling God, "You promised me you're going to create something great out of my life," he's reminding God he has a brother named Esau who's about to kill him.
So, he looked up one night and saw all of the blessings God had given him, but he also saw Esau. Not physically, but he's imagining this brother. Do you know about Esau? Esau is the brother who was the firstborn of Isaac who was supposed to rightfully carry the birthright to bring forth the nation of Israel. But Jacob tricked his father into giving him the birthright and the blessing. Isaac was going blind, so Jacob dressed up like he was Esau. It was his mom's idea to do it. She was like, "I've got some of his clothes. I can make some food. We can take it in to Issac, and Isaac won't know the difference, and we can get him to bless you instead," because she kind of liked Jacob, and Isaac kind of liked Esau.
So they switched it up and bamboozled Isaac to get Jacob blessed. That is the background of this story. Jacob is blessed, but… Blessed, but. It has been 20 years since he has seen Esau. He has been a lot of places. He has seen a lot of things. He lived with Uncle Laban for most of those 20 years in a foreign land. He has two wives (you read about that in the text), Rachel and Leah. Rachel was beautiful. Leah had a good personality. Now he's going back with everything God has blessed him with, but… He's blessed, but… He has a thousand reasons to be thankful. He has a thousand reasons to be confident. He has exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, and K that God keeps his promises, but… He knows the story of how God told his grandfather Abraham, "I will bless you, and you will be a blessing". He knows all of that so well he can rehearse it in a prayer back to God in perfect prose and remind God of how far he has come.
It is not wasted on him what God has done for him. He's very blessed, but… It is important for us to realize, as we bring God our praise for the blessings we have received… I need all of the blessed people to take a moment and clap your hands and thank God that he blessed you, because if he hadn't have blessed you, you probably wouldn't be here. If he hadn't blessed you, kept you, fed you, led you, shown you, crowned you, clothed you, walked you through… You wouldn't be here if you weren't so blessed.
High-five somebody and say, "Yes, I'm blessed". But… "I'm blessed. God gave me kids. We struggled through infertility for three years. God gave us kids. I'm blessed. Children are a blessing, but… I can't talk to you about this in church. We'll talk about it later. In fact, I don't talk to anybody about it because I don't want anybody to see my 'but.' You don't talk about my 'but.' I'm going to cover my 'but.' I'm going to show you my blessing; I'm going to cover my 'but.' I'm going to post my blessings; I'm going to cover my 'but.' All up on Instagram are all of my blessings. You don't see my 'but' on Instagram".
Now, the thing about the passage I need you to realize is that the presence of the blessing does not mean the absence of pressure. Sometimes we get confused about the things we feel. Sometimes we get confused about the thoughts we have. "I'm blessed, and I know I should trust God, because I know I've seen him come through before. I am blessed. I have seen so many times that he came through for me, but I'm waking up lately at 3:00 in the morning, and it's not just because of my liquid intake. I'm working through scenarios right now that I can't figure out how to sort. I'm blessed. I mean, don't get me wrong, man. I'm not in here to complain to you. I'm blessed, but I've got to go back to the doctor next Wednesday. And he's my healer. God is my Jehovah-Rapha, but I still kind of wonder what this doctor is going to say to me when I go see him on Wednesday".
I'm describing scenarios. These aren't my scenarios. These are the "buts" you brought to church. A man told me, "I'm so grateful God allowed me to open this restaurant, but I've got this pain in my shoulder right now. I'm coming in, and I'm getting here at 4:00 in the morning. Will you pray for me, Pastor? Because I trust God, but my shoulder… God has blessed me with so much, but this hurts. I'm waking up with this pain in my body. I'm not able to sleep at night. Would you just pray for me? I love God. I trust God. I'm blessed, but…" Don't get this confused. The load I carry does not mean I don't love God, nor does it mean that I doubt his love for me. I'm blessed, but…
"Yes, I'm blessed, but this addiction is kicking my butt. Yes, I'm blessed, but I still can't understand why I emotionally eat, so every diet I try fails, because there's something driving me back to that eating, and I don't even know what it is. Yes, I'm blessed, and I'm not complaining, because I know there's somebody somewhere who doesn't even have food to eat. So I'm not comparing myself and saying that I don't appreciate what God gave me. I know overeating is kind of like an American 'blessed people' problem to have anyway, but I still have it. I'm blessed, but I can't control this, and I don't know how to control it, because I'm wrestling with something I can't see". "I'm forgiven of my sin, but I don't feel free from it yet. I know it's under the blood, but it's still going on in my house. I can say the right words to you, and I can sing the right songs with you. I'm blessed, but…"
You probably don't want to hear about this. I'm blessed, but… This is what I feel sometimes when people say, "Boy, it must be wonderful to know that God uses you to help thousands of people through your preaching. That must be a blessing". It is a blessing, but… Y'all don't want to hear about that. No. It's just the Holy Spirit just flows, and I just let him say what he wants to say, because it's his work, not my work, and it's his way, not my way. I believe that, but sometimes I want to get up and say what I said last week, "Do it," and walk off the stage. The amazing thing about this wrestling match… Let me give you another verse that… To me it's not confusing, but it shows what Jacob is going through in this passage.
Verse 24 comes around, and he has sent everything across the stream because he has to deal with Esau. He thinks Esau is the enemy he has to face. What happens is he has a fight he didn't plan for as he's getting ready for the fight he's not going to have that he thinks he's going to have. This is kind of what worry does to you. It gets you fighting battles that probably aren't even going to happen to deplete you of the strength you need to do the things you can do, to affect what you can affect, to impact what you can impact. The Bible says that after Jacob was separated from all of these blessings…donkeys, camels, ewes, Rachel, Leah, Simeon, Levi, and all of these tangible expressions of blessing… After those have all gone, it says in verse 24, "So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak".
Now, I have been in a nostalgia hole all week watching 1991, 1992, and 1993 wrestling matches. I don't mean the kind where they compete on a collegiate level. I'm talking about the Four Horsemen. I'll be honest. I even went past… I quit watching wrestling when I was about 13 or 14. I even went past when I stopped watching wrestling, and I watched when Hulk Hogan became a bad guy. That was heartbreaking, because when I was growing up he was telling me to eat my vitamins and say my prayers. I had a little Hulk Hogan workout cassette tape, and I listened to that thing. To watch Hulk Hogan look at the crowd and say, "Shove it…" I'm like, "'Shove it'? You're our guy. You're our hero. How could you do this to me"?
I was watching it all week long, but I was watching it through the lens of Jacob. I was trying to figure out what that had to do with Jacob. I realized it right here. You know, they have a lot of arguments about "Is wrestling fake or is it real"? I heard one wrestler say something. He was like, "Let me slam you, and then you can see how real it feels or how fake it feels". So, when the Bible says he was wrestling, and he was wrestling alone, it lets me know two things. First, no one else got to see how he struggled. No one else saw this struggle. Secondly, he wrestled at night, which means that even he couldn't see what he was struggling with.
Isn't that the nature of the real things we wrestle with? I'm not talking about where the issues show up in our lives; I'm talking about the source of the issue. The source of the issue determines the strategy for the battle. So, if you live your whole life thinking, "Oh, well, I'm wrestling against them. I'm fighting against them. I need to convince them, if they would just appreciate me," you are making them the source of your struggle. If they are the source of your struggle, and they are a person… If they're external, if it's an issue… If it's the source of your struggle, then the source of your strength is also external, because the source of your struggle will determine the source of the strength you need to defeat that struggle. I'm going to make it plain in just a moment.
When I'm fighting with something I can see, I need to fight with things I can see. If I'm fighting against something that is visible, I need to fight with something that is visible. But what do I do when the fight is happening at night? What do I do when the fight is happening in a place in me that I can't even really tell you about and I'm not even really sure you want to hear it anyway? Because I'm blessed, but… I'm thankful, but… I've come so far, but… I told God I didn't want to preach this message to you, because the "Yes, I'm blessed" thing works so much better on Sunday without the "but". But when you come to this church, as long as I get to be the pastor, you can bring your "blessed but" into this church every single Sunday.
What does that mean? You can come in confused. What does that mean? You can come in conflicted. What does that mean? You can come in crying. You can leave crying. You don't have to shout. You don't have to clap. You don't have to say, "Amen". You don't have to have a highlighter. You don't have to know 35 Scriptures. You don't have to know how to quote the Apostles' Creed. You don't have to be born in the right place at the right time. You can be conflicted and still come. In this church, you can bring your "blessed but". You can come in here with questions and not even leave with answers, but throw up your hands and say, "I met with God fresh, and the angel told me it's going to be all right". Your "blessed but".
You're blessed, but you struggle. You're blessed, but you wonder. You're blessed, but you're still not completely healed from it yet. It happened 15 years ago. "I'm blessed, but there's a part of me that still can't forgive what they did to me. I'm blessed, but I still replay it in my mind. I'm blessed, but I still run back to it when the pressure is on. I'm blessed, but I still can't make sense out of it. I'm blessed, but I still don't feel ready for it. I'm blessed, but I still feel exhausted when I go to it. I'm blessed. God has given me so much, but I spend so much time wondering, 'Can I keep it up?' Because God gave it to me, but I can't keep it up".
Here's the good news: if he started it, then the pressure is on him to finish it. You need to remember that the source determines the strategy. If the blessing comes from you, then it's on you to keep it going, but if it comes from God… I learned this in my life. When I give him praise, it takes off pressure. Somebody said to me, "Y'all praise God at Elevation Church very externally and very openly, and it's kind of shocking". I'm like, "Why is it shocking"? The world is crazy externally and verbally. So, if it's crazy externally and verbally, then when I'm fighting back against the craziness, I need to fight it externally and verbally. So, if the Devil is telling me, "Esau is going to kill you," I need to speak back and say to God, "You promised. I have your word on this. I have your assurance on this. I'm in the middle of your purpose".
So Jacob… Oh, I love this story. It's so amazing, because Jacob all of his life has been blessed by grabbing on to what he wanted. Oh, he's a go-getter. When Jacob sets his mind out to do something… This is how ambitious Jacob is. When he was born, Esau was coming out first, and he came out… All y'all Bible nerds, don't ruin the punch line for me. He came out grabbing the heel of his older brother so he could be first. So, they saw him doing that, and they were like, "We need to call him Jacob," because Jacob means heel grabber. What amazing creativity. Secondly, what an amazing picture of the way he lived the rest of his life and the way so many of us do…grabbing for something God wants to give him.
Let me be honest with you. We live in a time where it's very easy to confuse Christianity with discipline. To be a good Christian, in many of our minds, means "This is how much I'm going to read the Bible. This is how much I'm going to pray". And I hope you read the Bible and pray a lot and more and more every day. I hope you do, and I hope I do. I hope we all do. That isn't what makes you a Christian. That isn't what makes you a better Christian. That isn't even what makes you a strong Christian, just by how much you pray, how much you read the Bible. That is not how to be blessed God's way, the gospel way.
The reason I know that in my life is because I've spent too many of my years thinking the blessing of God was something I had to hold on to or it would get away from me. For all of the Christian control freaks, which is an oxymoron… "God, I give you my life…as long as I'm married by age 23". "God, I give you my life…as long as this job opportunity opens up in the right market and I like the climate as well as the school educational system". "God, here are our children. We devote them to you. Lord Jesus, I believe she would make a great worship leader in the church, just like that girl Tiffany, and she should sing just like that. I know she's not blond, but we'll dye her hair, Lord, and she can be just like that girl Tiffany. That would be wonderful. But I give them to you, Lord".
So, the interesting thing for me in my life has been how to have a real commitment to Christ without trying to control his will in my life. How to be serious about my relationship with God while staying surrendered to the God I'm in relationship with. This is not as easy as it seems, because you will find yourself often really, really committed to trying to get God to bless you, committed to "I'm really going to get my life together," committed to "I really want to be free from these patterns," committed to "I want to be an example, make a difference, have an influence, make a mark, fulfill a purpose…"
Really committed to that, but then commitment becomes control, and you cannot follow Christ and have control. I'm sorry. I want it to be where you can. I want it to be where Jesus lets you code him, where you get to give him the commands and you get to give him the thing, but every time I read in the Bible, he's giving the commands. Every time in my life he brings me into something new, he takes me through something scary. Every time in my life he sets me free from something I don't want to give me something I do want, I cannot reach toward what he's giving me without letting go of what I held.
There are a lot of us who are not going to get what we need from God in this season until we let go of what we held to in the previous. There are some blessings that only come through holding on. I'm telling you, sometimes you have to get around a promise from God and say, "I don't care how many things blow against it. I don't care how many things shake it up. I don't care how many years pass. I am holding on to what God said". There are blessings that only come from holding on. That's Jacob. He's like, "No, you're not leaving until you bless me. I need a blessing. I've got a fresh battle; I need a fresh blessing. I've got a fresh test; I need a fresh blessing. You are not leaving. I am not going to let you go unless you bless me".
Then God says, "But I cannot bless you unless you let go". Let go of the way you thought it was supposed to go. Let go of your comparison to other standards that have nothing to do with who the sovereign God called you to be. Let go of the expectations of perfection you have for yourself that can only be satisfied through the perfect work of Jesus and is already applied to your account. Let go. There are some blessings you can get by holding on. Oh yeah, Jacob was blessed. His father blessed him. He got the blessing of the firstborn, a double inheritance, the naming rights of the children, the patriarchy of the whole nation. He got blessed by Isaac, but he didn't get blessed yet as who he really was.
So, you say, "Wait a minute. You read me a Scripture, and you said the key to being blessed is holding on". Sometimes that's true, but I want you to read just a little bit farther in this passage and see the real blessing God wants to give you in this season. I believe God has a blessing for you in this season that your eyes haven't seen yet, that your ears haven't heard, that hasn't entered into your hearts, that you will be speaking about for years to come, but watch this. There is a blessing that comes from holding on, persevering. There's a blessing that comes through tenacity. "Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'"
Now watch this. On the surface so far it seems like Jacob got this blessing the way he got every other blessing. Maybe right now you're trying to do it like you always did it, and it's not working. You're trying to face it like you always faced it, and it's not working. But watch what the angel said. This is the turning point in this transformative experience for Jacob and for you. "But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' The man asked him, 'What is your name?' 'Jacob,' he answered. Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.'" When he said, "What is your name?" it reminds us of 20 years ago, in Genesis 27, when Isaac called his son to bless him. He thought he was talking to Esau, because he was blind. He said, "Who are you?" and the voice came back, saying, "I am Esau," but it wasn't Esau; it was Jacob.
In two days, there will be enraged Christians on social media arguing about Halloween. Is it right or is it not right to celebrate Halloween? We will not discuss that in this pulpit today. That is not the purpose for which God sent me. But I will tell you one thing God is very concerned about. Anytime you dress up as something you're not… Anytime you start putting on clothes, anytime you start putting on personas, anytime you start putting on something that doesn't come from who God made you to be, anytime you start dressing yourself, disguising yourself, trying to gain the acceptance or the approval, it's always a trick, and it's never a treat. God says, "I don't need you to be Esau to bless you, because when I bless you, I'm going to bless you". The real you, the short you, the tall you, the old you, the new you.
God said, "When I bless you, you won't have to pretend about anything. You can just praise me, because I am the source of your strength and the strength of your life". So, Jacob was already blessed, but he didn't know who he was. God said, "After all I've done for you, do you still not know who you are? You're my child". You're the head and not the tail. You're blessed. You are redeemed from the pit. You are blessed. You are chosen and loved as the apple of his eye. You are blessed. You are an overcomer. You are blessed. You are the purchased of God. You are blessed. You are blessed to be a blessing. Now shout like you know who blessed you, because when you know who blessed you, you know who to go back to when you need some more of it. "Hey, God, it's me. It's your boy. It's your daughter. It's your child. I need you".
High-five 11 people and say, "Yes, I'm blessed". "I'm not bragging, but I'm blessed. I'm not perfect, but I'm blessed. I'm not 100 percent honest all the time, but I'm blessed. Let me just be real with you. He has blessed me with every blessing in spiritual places. I've got it in the heavenly realm. Now I've just got to bring it in my life". The Bible says he blessed him there in the place of his real name. Do you know what God wants to give you today? A surrender of who you thought you were so you can receive who you really are. I wonder if anybody is ready to receive who you really are. I've got to warn you. It's not like changing your name to "Hollywood Hogan". It's not like changing your name on wrestling. It's not that kind of wrestling match. Sometimes it is a letting go that feels like death, but it's really a blessing.
I confer upon you today and impart to you in the name of Jesus Christ your Savior the blessing of letting go. Not when you're driving home. That's not the time to let go; that's the time to drive the car. I want to say that there are some of us in here who are saying, "I won't let go until you bless me, God. I won't let go until you bless me". I hear the Holy Spirit saying, "I can't bless you until you let go". Do you hear it? When God showed me that, it was like, "Oh, I don't want to really admit that's the way it works," because this goes against my control freak Christianity that I invented that is nowhere in the Bible.
I want to achieve this thing. I want to earn this thing. That's why God gave us the New Testament example of Paul. He said, "Man, I was stacking stuff I did. I was stacking successes in the spiritual, religious realm that amounted to status you wouldn't imagine. A Pharisee of Pharisees, a Hebrew of Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day. I studied under Gamaliel. What? But all of these things I count as loss. Yet in order to balance these great revelations God gave me, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan sent to buffet me". You'll always have a buff "but" to buffet you, and the bigger the blessing, the bigger the buffet to keep it in balance so you know where your source is. As a matter of fact, Paul said, "I had this thorn in my flesh, and three times I asked God to take it away. Three times I asked God to do it".
Have you been asking God to change something in your life, and he won't do it? This is your verse right here. Second Corinthians 12:9: "But he said to me…" Paul, the great apostle, who took the mission of Jesus Christ to sites that had previously seemed too distant, who spoke with eloquence yet simplicity Christ crucified, but did it in a way that the philosophers were confounded… Paul said, "I was given a thorn in my flesh along with all my blessings. I'm blessed. Don't get me wrong. I saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. I preached with such power that people were converted, that cities went into riot. I was so blessed to be able to do that. Yes, I'm blessed, but I had a thorn. I asked God to take it away, and he said, 'No. But my grace is sufficient.'"
That's the blessing of letting go of the way you thought it was supposed to be. You get the grace to accept what it is. That's where the transformation is. That's where the power is. That's where the revelation is. "What is your name"? He said, "Jacob. I'm not pretending to be something else anymore. I'm not striving to be something anymore. I'm not going to dress up like anything anymore". For all of you who think you need approval from a person, you don't need approval from a person. If the person gives it, the person can take it, but if you get it from God, it can never go away. Let them say what they want, think what they want, do what they want, write what they want, take what they want, leave what they want. I'll never be alone. Not when God is with me. I might look alone, but I'm not alone. The blessing of letting go is grace. Can you imagine?
All your life, like Jacob, you have been running to chase something you thought you needed to be to be successful, that you thought you needed to be to be whole, that you thought you needed to be to be worthy, that you thought you needed to be because your father didn't give it to you, that you thought you needed to be because nobody ever spoke it over you. Can you imagine the moment of release when the angel said, "All I want is you. What's your name"? When you say your name, you receive his nature. Today I came to call you to something that isn't awfully popular in pulpits where the message is, "Hold on and you'll be blessed".
I came with a little different twist. For some of the things you're staying up at night about, for some of the "Esaus" you're facing, the only way God can really bless you… Let go. Quit trying to live out your high school quarterback career through your kid. Let go. He's good at video games. You can make money on that now. I'm going to show you in the text something you never expected to see. You're up all night worrying about it. You're up all night thinking about it. You're devising different ways to get out of it. You have lists on lists on lists. "And if it does that, let's do that". You're all in your head. Then he prayed, and guess what happened when God blessed him.
Chapter 33 says he got up the next morning and saw Esau coming toward him. He thought, "He's going to kill me now. Oh, I hope that prayer worked". "I don't know. I hope that sermon worked that Pastor Furtick preached. I mean, he preached really hard. He preached as hard as he could. I hope it works". Genesis 33:4. I want you to see this. Will you help me illustrate this? Here's Esau, the one he was so intimidated by. For 20 years, he has been thinking, "If I ever see Esau again, he's going to kill me". The guilt you carry, the shame you carry, the hypotheticals you build out in your mind, everything you worry about at night… Watch what God did while Jacob prayed. Verse 4: "But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him…" Wow!
The thing he was afraid of was waiting to embrace him. "…he threw his arms around his neck…" First it sounds like he's a little violent. We're not going to act all this out. Don't worry. But you get the picture. Jacob bowed down on the ground seven times, putting on a big show. All of the things we do to try to make the situation better that God never told us to do. All of the ways we wear ourselves out when we could really just worship. For 20 years, he worried about this moment, yet Esau says something very powerful. Esau said, "What's all this stuff you brought"? Jacob said, "Oh, these are my kids that God graciously gave your servant. I probably should have stopped at 10". Esau looks up and sees all this stuff.
Verse 6: "Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down". Jacob put the pretty wife behind the other one. I don't know why he did that. Look at verse 8. This is the point. "Esau asked, 'What's the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?'" "What's all this stuff you're trying to do to make peace with me"? "'To find favor in your eyes, my lord,' he said". Watch this. "But Esau said, 'I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.'" Esau was already blessed. If he would have spent 20 years in bitterness, he wouldn't have been, but he said, "You know what? I let go, and you can too. Now bring it in".
Let that thing go. Let it go. God is not against you. Let it go. He's fighting for you. Let it go. He has not abandoned you. That's him you're wrestling with. You're coming forth stronger. You're coming forth stable. Let that thing go. Hug at least three people and say, "Let that thing go". This is your day of grace. This is your moment to let go, and when you let it go, lift your hands and expect a blessing that you will not have room enough to receive. I declare the blessing of peace coming to your house in the place of the shame that Christ took away. I declare new relationships, new favor, new opportunities. In the place of your "Let go," here comes the grace of almighty God. "Yes, I'm blessed. Yes, I'm chosen. Yes, I'm sealed. Yes, I'm anointed. Yes, I'm called".
Let's give God the best "Yes" praise we've given him all day. "Yes, I'm blessed. Yes, I'm healed. Yes, I am". What are you so afraid of if you have angels? This is the blessing of "Let go". I pray that this letting go today for you would take you into a place of freedom. Tonight, when you lie down to sleep, your sleep will be sweet, because God is dealing with Esau because you have met with him. God is giving a word to somebody right now. "How do I deal with it? How do I deal with the anxiety? How do I deal with the panic? How do I do it"? Okay. God says, "Every time you think about Esau (what you have to deal with that you can't get over), pray to me".
Every time you think about bills, pray to your provider. Then when you pray, expect him to direct you to the next step. Every time you feel the hurt, every time you feel the old offense, you pray and thank God for his forgiveness for you and that person, and you open your arms, because for what God has for you in the future, you cannot afford to hold a grudge. You cannot afford to carry around guilt. It's too big for you to be burdened. "Yes, I'm blessed, and because I'm blessed, I expect God everywhere I go, and because I'm blessed, I accept every space in between".
So, now, Lord, we come to you, the blesser of our coming, the blesser of our going, the blesser when we rise up, the blesser when we fall down, the blesser of our in between. We declare now that your face is turning toward your children. I know that for some today this will be a good reminder. For others it will be a life-changing revelation. Let go. God says, "It's me. I'm here with you. You're not alone, Jacob. I'm changing your name. I'm changing your life. Let go". I surrender all, I surrender all, All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all. Let go. He's got it. I surrender all, I surrender all, All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, I want to give an invitation for those who need to give your life to Jesus Christ. You will never get to him by climbing. You will never get to him by trying, only through receiving his grace. Right now in this moment, I think there are probably a lot of you who need to make this your day to receive God's grace for your life, to turn from your sin and to realize there is a God and you are not him, that there is a Savior standing ready and willing to forgive you, cleanse you, and give you a brand-new life.
So, right now, we're going to pray as a church family, those online as well. If this is your moment and you know, "This is God calling me. Pastor Steven, while you were preaching, I realized I need to let go of my life, my way; I need to receive this gift of salvation through Jesus," right now I want you to pray with me. We're going to pray as a church family out loud for the benefit of those who are coming to God for the first time or back to God in this moment. Now pray with me. If you mean it, God will hear you, and this will be your new beginning. Repeat after me.
Heavenly Father, I am a sinner in need of a Savior, and I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and today I make Jesus the Lord of my life. I believe he died that I would be forgiven and rose again to give me life. I receive this new life. This is my new beginning.
On the count of three, shoot your hand up if you prayed that. One, two, three. I'm celebrating with you right now. That's amazing. We see you. God sees you. Come on. Can we thank God for everybody who just made that decision to let go, to let God? Oh, man! Beautiful. Let's thank God one more time for the great work he did in our lives today. Amen. So, all of our campus pastors, you can take it right now. They're going to close. Can I bless you here at Ballantyne? Stick with me for just 90 more seconds. I want to bless you, because you've been saying, "I don't know if I can hold on much longer". God says, "You don't have to. You weren't the one who grabbed me to begin with".
I have a Scripture for you. This is a Ballantyne 9:30-only special. Nobody else will see this. Y'all fight through the parking, you get the cherry on top. Let me tell you how blessed you are. Are you ready for this? Oh, great googly-moogly, you're not ready for this. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything…" Oh, he's working it out right now. Take a nap today… He's working it out. "…in conformity with the purpose of his will…" Everybody shout, "Yes, I'm blessed"! You're dismissed. I'll see you soon. Have the best week. Yes, I'm blessed!