Steven Furtick - Miracles In Low Places
This is an excerpt from: There's A Catch
The edge of my next blessing will often be the place of my greatest frustration. Certainly the scene in Luke, chapter 5, seems to be that Peter has decided to try it again tomorrow. Just at that moment when he has all the nets cleaned and ready to be stored away, just at the moment where he has the boats positioned to be dry docked, here comes this radical rabbi with the big crowd. Standing room only everywhere Jesus Christ went to preach. People who don't like big churches wouldn't like heaven. Just a sidenote. Everywhere he shows up the crowd comes. The first element I want to mention in this sermon is conditional miracles.
By "conditional miracles" I mean there are certain conditions in which God is most likely to perform miracles. There are certain conditions in which you are most likely to see the power of God. Now God can do what he wants to, but it seems to be a pattern in Scripture that over and over again God reserves his greatest glory for our lowest points. It seems to be over and over again that it is after we have fished all night and caught nothing that he now, after all this frustration, will give us the blessing we could not achieve in our own strength. I think it's so we'll know who blessed us when he does. That's the best thing I can figure.
I was at this location a few weeks ago, actually was there at the Sea of Galilee. The NIV calls it the "Lake of Gennesaret". It's more accurate to call it a lake. When you call it the "Sea of Galilee" it sounds major, but it isn't necessarily a major body of water. It's the largest in Israel for fresh water, but it's also the lowest. This place would become the base of Jesus' earthly ministry. Eighteen of 33 miracles the Son of God performed on the earth would happen around the Sea of Galilee. This is the region where he revealed his glory. So is there any significance (I believe there is) to the fact that Jesus Christ picked the lowest point…? This is the lowest fresh water lake in all of the earth.
Did he choose the lowest lake to do his ministry because it was the closest or does it say something about a God who often chooses our lowest moments and our weakest places to do his greatest work? Now that's not for everybody. Some people are doing just fine without God. You have money and women and stuff and a full schedule, and you don't have time for this God thing, but just in case there is anybody in here who has been in a little bit of a low place, the conditions are right for a miracle. It's conditions for a miracle, because not only is Peter frustrated, having fished all night and caught nothing, but the people are frustrated because they can't get in to hear Jesus.
The Bible uses a phrase… You see it over and over again in reference to Jesus. You even see it a little later in Luke 5. We don't have time to tell you about how one time Jesus was preaching in a house, and the bouncers wouldn't let this poor man in, but his friends wouldn't take "No" for an answer, so they got to ripping off the roof. (Do not try this in overflow. I promise you we have armed guards who will do something about it if you try.) They ripped that roof off and got that man down, because the Bible says there was such a crowd to hear Jesus they couldn't get in. You have excuse makers who will turn around and go home, and then you have waymakers who decide, "I'll do what I have to do and leave what I have to leave in order to experience a touch from God".
So it's crowded, and Peter is fishing. We have a full crowd and empty nets. In this condition, God performs a miracle. They were listening to the Word of God (verse 1). What were they doing? They were listening to the Word of God. Not like you're listening to the Word of God today. What you are doing today is listening to someone attempt to preach the Word of God. That's not the case here. You have to understand John, chapter 1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him nothing has been made that has been made". "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".
Who is this Word? "This Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us so that we could behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth". They were not listening to a man preach about the Word of God. They were listening to the Word of God preach the Word of God. An encounter with the Word wrapped in flesh. They were listening to the Word of God. Heaven had a committee meeting. Needed to find a way to get the Word into the earth. "How shall we do it? How shall we get the Word into the earth? Perhaps we could find a Palestinian teenager, a virgin womb. Perhaps he could be born into a crowded stall. Perhaps he could be born into a place that no one would have imagined, nor would they have sought him there".
God likes unlikely conditions to perform great miracles. I'm just pointing out a pattern, that it is often at the place of your greatest frustration that God will reveal his greatest glory. I've seen this so many ways. So many ways in my ministry, even in creativity. Sometimes it's when you're just about to give up on an idea… How many creative people do we have? Just when you're about to throw it away, you'll see what it was meant to be all along. We write songs for our church all the time, and some of them are better than others. Some of them you never hear, and you ought to thank God that you never hear them. We don't want to inflict that kind of pain on you. Some of them are just private songs.
But sometimes you work and work on a song… I remember back in 2014… I sent this screenshot to Holly on Thursday, because I wanted her to see something, just a contrast of how something starts and how something finishes. I sent her a voice memo, because I walk around mumbling all the time. Little voice memos, little melodies. I have been known to slip away from the table at a restaurant, go in the bathroom stall, and sing a song idea, so if we ever share a restroom space, men, and you hear some weirdo humming, that might be me. I sent her a memo of this old song I tried to write, a weird little idea called "My life be an altar". It was a really bad idea. It was a very complicated thought I had for the song.
So I gave it to Wade, and I was like, "Do something with this". This was 2014. He went over to try to write something with it. We were on a songwriting retreat. He came back into the room five hours later. I said, "You got something? You got something? Did you do something with it? It's a good idea, right"? He said, "Yeah, well, you know, we, uh…" "We fished all night and we caught nothing," basically is what he said. He said, "We tried. We just can't find anything going on". I said, "Yeah, it's kind of a dumb idea". He said, "No, it's not dumb. We just can't… You know, I just don't think… I don't know". This little thing had been sitting around for six months, and Wade said he couldn't make anything out of it, and Chris said he didn't ever really get it either.
They all said it really politely, but they were basically saying the same thing, and I said, "Well, we should probably just throw it away". "Unless… Hang on. What if it wasn't 'My life be an altar'? What if it was just 6/8 time, and it was not that moody vibe I had down, but what if it's just 'Oh come to the altar'? Like, 'Oh come to the altar, the Father's arms are open wide.' What if it was just that"? Chris goes, "Oh, if you're going to do that, I've got this thing I've been mumbling into my phone that I thought was stupid too". He plays it, and it says, "All you hurting and broken within…" I said, "Chris, did you just say 'Are you hurting and broken within'"? He said, "No, all you hurting and broken within". I said, "No, it's are you hurting and broken within. It's a question. It's going to open the whole song. It's going to be an invitation".
Four hours later we had the song. Three and a half years later, this week it was the number-one song on all Christian streaming songs. I was telling you that because you have some things in your life that you're just about to throw away. I was just about to quit. Just when I thought it was nothing, God said, "Give me that back". Just when I was putting up the boats on the shore, just when you were walking away from the marriage, just when you were about to quit praying for your kid, God says, "It's not over". High-five three people and say, "Not yet". The Devil thought he had him on Saturday, but there's a catch. It's a setup. Sunday is coming. It's not over! There's a catch, because it's conditional. What's it conditional upon? Your obedience, your perseverance, your willingness to do something you don't understand.
Now watch this. This is funny. Possibly illegal what Jesus does next. I think so. Jesus, who is the Word of God, who spoke the world into existence (Colossians 1:16), needs a way to get out into the world he made the message that he is. He needs a way. This is crazy, because the Maker… "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made that were made, and without him nothing has been made that has been made".
That one, the Maker, needs a way to get the Word… The Word needs a way. The Maker needs a way to get the Word into the world that he so loved that he came wrapped in flesh. He needs a way. It says he saw two boats at the shore, and one of them was belonging to Simon. Watch what he does. Verse 3: "He got into one of the boats…" Okay, you're looking like that's normal. No conversation. No lease agreement. If you don't think this is weird, try it when you leave church today. No, I'm serious. If you don't think this is weird, just find the nicest car you like in the parking lot… Just the nicest one.
Don't do a Camry. There's nothing wrong with Camrys, but if you're going to steal a car, pick the nicest one in the parking lot, and just do what Jesus did. Just get in it. When they come up to the window and ask you, "What are you doing in my car"? say, "I noticed your Elevation sticker. I figured you're a Christian. I need to use it. Can I have your keys"? Because that's essentially what Jesus does. He sits down in the boat, the one belonging to Simon Peter… Why did Jesus pick Peter? Have you ever thought about that? I have. I can think of a lot of reasons why he wouldn't pick Peter. Peter was impulsive. Peter was a know-it-all. Peter was violent. You don't cut off people's ears if you had a normal upbringing. That's not something… Peter had a filthy mouth. I heard one preacher say, "Because Peter was bold. That's why Jesus liked him. He was bold". I don't think so.
Remember, the Bible was written pre-Uber, and Jesus had a lot to accomplish in three years. The word had to get out. We have to get the word out. How are we going to get it out? No Facebook. No YouTube. No Instagram. I have come to believe the reason Jesus picked Peter is that he had a boat. Okay, let me talk about the second point. I want to talk about creative collaboration. Now here is the Creator partnering with his creation. Here is the Word of God who has the ability to walk on water… Don't forget that.
If Jesus had wanted to just get away from the crowd and preach and create a little distance… We know from Matthew, chapter 14, that if a storm comes up and the boat is not available and Jesus needs to get somewhere, he will just suspend the laws of buoyancy that he himself created. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God". If Jesus can't find a boat to ride on, he'll speak a word and walk on the Word that he is to the place that he… But he doesn't want to do it like that.
I would have done it like that, because this is early in his ministry. If you moonwalk back on the water and then preach to the crowd, they'll pay more attention. Don't you think? He said, "No, I want a boat. I want his boat". "I want her boat. I want to use their life. I want to use their weakness. I want to build a church. I want to call people together from all different nations around the world who will be a part of the e-fam. I want to call people from different backgrounds. I want to call people of different kinds, different types. I want some people who own their own businesses. I want some people who are unemployed. I want some people who suffered great abuse in their childhood. I want to bring them together. I want to use your boat".
It's the hardest thing for us to understand sometimes. Why would the one who can walk on water have any use for our boat? I think the Devil uses it to give us excuses why we don't offer God what we have. "My boat is not as big as his. My boat is dirty. I fished all night and caught nothing. What would you want with me, Jesus"?
I went from thinking that Jesus needed Peter's boat to realizing that Jesus didn't need Peter's boat; Peter needed Jesus' blessing on his boat. That same thing happened to me in the area of giving, when we give the offering. I thought giving was the way we supported the church to keep the lights on, to keep the salaries paid. Forgive me for being so naïve. I thought God needed my boat. I thought he needed my gift. A little bit of life rolled by, and I realized that God was God before I ever showed up. I'll put this out to you. There were two boats on the shore, so I believe if Peter had said "No" Jesus would have gotten in the other one. It means he doesn't have to use us; he chooses to use us.