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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - Rags to Righteous

Steven Furtick - Rags to Righteous

Steven Furtick - Rags to Righteous
TOPICS: Righteousness

Clap those hands and bless the Lord. The Devil never should have let you find out that God was for you and not against you. That's going to change everything. That's going to change the way you walk. It's going to change the way you talk. It's going to change the way you weep. You're not going to sorrow without hope, because you know that God is not against you. It's going to change the way you celebrate, because you know it wasn't your own strength or your own might, but if it had not been for the Lord fighting for you… How many have a testimony that God brought you this far? Praise the Lord.

As amazing as it is for us to remember that God is for us, we also need to know there are people who are also for us. In a divided world, there's real power in unity, so I want you to make a connection with the person on either side of you. Either grab their hand or touch their shoulder, depending on your level of germophobia and faith. If you're watching online, we welcome you. We connect with you now by the Holy Spirit. Even if you're watching alone, you're not alone. There is no distance in the Spirit.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for what I feel in this moment, the faith that is rising in my heart on behalf of the people you're going to speak to today. Lord, I ask now not only that you would speak but that we would hear, because those two have to happen at the same time for results to be produced. There may be things that would keep us from hearing what you say today. There may be distractions. There may be things in our minds that are replaying from yesterday that would keep us from being in this present moment. Now we just want to do that one needful thing and to sit at your feet to learn from you, to be with you, to receive from you, to worship you, to praise you, to glorify you. Your Word says that if two of us would agree concerning anything in your name it would be done. We come together two or three, 20,000 or 30,000, two or three million strong all across the world today, believing for breakthrough, believing that anything is possible. We clap our hands and celebrate in advance what you're going to do. In Jesus' name, amen.

Welcome to week four of our series Do the New You. We made it to week four. I want to walk you back through the mindsets really quickly. I'll have you say them out loud, and then we are going to get into a good one today. I've got something for you today, but let's catch up. First, say, "I'm not stuck…" All right. I know the Devil stole an hour of sleep, but you're going to have to caffeinate really quickly or something. Say, "I'm not stuck…" Touch your neighbor and say, "You're not stuck unless you stop". Put that in the comments. "I'm not stuck unless I stop". Now get a deep breath and say the second one. "Christ is in me; I am enough". Say it again. "Christ is in me; I am enough". Third, "With God there's always a way, and by faith I will find it". Look at somebody and say, "It might be hard to find, but I'll find it".

Come on. I've looked under the couch for things less valuable than this. I'm looking for this. Today we came to talk about something so fundamental and foundational that I pray it will grip you from the inside out by the Spirit of God. I want you to repeat it after me, and then we'll spend our entire time together today giving a lesson on it from the Bible. It may be hard for you to believe this, but you just sang it, and I hope you will begin to live it more and more in your life. Repeat after me. "God is not against me, but he's in it with me, working through me, fighting for me. God is not against me". Clap your hands like you know. Yeah, that's the right response. Thank you, Jesus. I will take you now to Jeremiah 38. I share with you a story. I'll let you decide whether it's an uplifting story or not, but it is a story that pulled at me in a serious way this week, so I'm very excited to share it with you. The Bible says in Jeremiah 38… Let's drop to verse 6. We'll be jumping in in the middle, but I will give you the backstory as a backfill in just a moment.

Jeremiah 38:6: "So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king's son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 'My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.' Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, 'Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.' So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, 'Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.' Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard".

I want to speak to you today from this subject or this title. I want to call the message this. Instead of "Rags to Riches," I want to call it "Rags to Righteous!" As I move farther into this talk with you, I just want to tell you something my family picks on me about. They call me Safety Steve. The reason is that although I pride myself in being somewhat of a risk taker in ministry to reach people for Jesus, like, doing whatever I need to do to get the message across, when it comes to average, everyday stuff I'm a little bit of a wimp; I'm a little bit fearful. Out of my loving heart, sometimes I go a little overboard. I'm not a helicopter parent exactly, but I do require bicycle helmets on every bike ride…even for Holly. I'm not saying you'll never catch me without a bicycle helmet, but I'll usually have on a bicycle helmet if you see me, because the shield of faith will not stop me from crushing my head on the pavement with the way some of y'all drive. So I need protection.

A funny thing about my kids is sometimes they confuse my protection as punishment. I remember clearly one time we were on vacation, and we were getting on our bikes to ride. Elijah was about 13. I said, "Where's your helmet"? and he said, "Dad, do I really have to wear a helmet? I'm 13". By the way, happy birthday to my newest 13-year-old, Abigail Faith Furtick. Today is her birthday. I now have three teenagers. Watch this beard go totally gray over the next few weeks. So, when he turned 13, Elijah said, "Do I really have to wear a helmet"? I said, "Yeah, you really have to wear a helmet". He said, and I quote, "But, Dad, you're ruining my fit". He had dressed exactly the way he wanted, and then the helmet clashed with something he was wearing. He said, "You're ruining my fit". I said, "Son…" I don't know if I said it this eloquently, but I tried to convey this thought. "I'm not worried about your fit; I'm worried about your future. I would like you to live more than I would like you to look good".

Somebody say, "Amen," because I'm really not talking about bicycle helmets right now. I'm talking about God our Father who is never against us, who is always for us, but sometimes what he wants for you is so much greater than what you want for you, because God thinks legacy while you think lunch. God thinks destiny while you think desire. "What do I want right now"? God knows what he's walking you into, so sometimes, while you are so worried about messing up your fit, God is trying to protect your future. Therefore, when we say, "God is not against me," we cannot assume that means God will always be in complete agreement with us any more than I allowed Elijah to take off his helmet so it didn't clash with his shoes.

This is so important as we understand the context of the Scripture I read you, because God has a prophet named Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, was a priest who ministered to the southern kingdom of Judah just before they were destroyed. They were destroyed because of their disobedience. I want to point that out. They were destroyed not because it was their destiny but because they were disobedient. Do you ever notice how a lot of things we call destiny really, if we look at it, dissect it, take it for what it is, and don't deny it… Really, what we call destiny sometimes was a series of decisions we made. Looking back at it, we say, "That's just the way it happened. That's just the way it went. That's just the way it unfolded, and there was nothing I could do". Yet throughout the book of Jeremiah, we see that what we call destiny is a collection of decisions.

In many ways, Jeremiah exists to turn the nation back to God, but knowing they would not turn back to God, God sends him as a warning, and then, after they are taken captive into Babylonian exile… I know I'm covering a lot, but I have to, because you have to understand why Jeremiah is in this pit when we pick up in verse 6. Really, Jeremiah's words did not accomplish the purpose he intended them to accomplish; therefore, it would be easy to assume that he failed, yet he did not fail. The Bible says as he prophesied and told the people, "You really do need to surrender and turn back to God…" In this particular case, he was telling them, "You need to just go ahead and go along with what God is doing".

In this particular instance, God was sending the Babylonians to take his people captive for a season to bring them back to him for a greater purpose in the future. God is allowing something in their life in order to bring them into alignment with him for their future. Sometimes what God allows is for alignment. When God sees your life getting out of alignment with the word he has spoken and the purpose he desires to achieve, he will allow something in your life even if it feels like an attack. God will use the attack of the Enemy to bring you into alignment with himself. Tell me he won't do that. Tell me he won't make you put your bicycle helmet on and take your phone if you want, because he'd rather take your phone than for you to crush your skull.

I know this isn't what you expected when we started, because I said, "God is not against me"! Yet I'm telling you that God is against some of the things that hurt you. God is not against you, but he is against some of the fake stuff you call you that is not you that rots you and robs you of what he calls you. Now, Jeremiah kept coming to the king and saying, "I'm telling you, you need to go with what God is doing. You should have turned earlier. You didn't, but now if you just surrender, God will save you," and they still won't surrender. So, these four officials, these four cronies of the king, the cabinet of the king, the guys who tell him what he wants to hear… They say, "You need to deal with Jeremiah. You need to lock Jeremiah up. Let's put him in a cistern. Let's find one of those things that holds water, and let's throw him in there so he will shut up. He's discouraging everybody because he's preaching negativity".

He wasn't preaching negativity; he was preaching repentance. Repentance is the process by which when you find yourself in a pit, you stop digging. That's what repentance is. Repentance is realizing, "Oh! I'm in a pit. Maybe I should stop digging". The best strategy when you find yourself in a pit of sin is to stop digging. Let me just see if I'm the only one here who came to church willing to be honest and vulnerable and open today. How many have ever found yourself in a pit because of your own sin? Let's try that again. How many of you have found yourself sinking deeper and deeper into something God tried to get you to stop sooner? How many of you waited until the consequences got so bad…? How many of you waited until the pain became so severe…? How many of you waited until the point where now you have to pray three times as long, because now you have 10 times as many issues?

If you just would have said something when you started sinking… "God is not against me"! He's always for me, and he's always with me. He's always with me, and he's always for me. So, now we have to answer the big question of Jeremiah 38:6. Let's go back to that Scripture again, because now you're really ready for it. It says, "So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern…" The cistern isn't very big in diameter, only about three feet, but then it has a bulb at the bottom, because it's 15 feet deep, and the deeper it goes the wider it gets. These cisterns were meant to collect rainwater, not human bodies. Yet in the nation of Israel, there was not much water to be found. The Bible says there was only mud in this cistern. Look at it again. "They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud".

That makes sense if Jeremiah sinned. I understand sinking when you sin, because I've done it. I understand sinking when you're bitter, because I've been it. I understand sinking in an addiction, because I've dealt with that. I understand sinking in my own dumb decisions. How many of you have ever sunk in stupid? It isn't even always sin. Sometimes you just bought a time-share. There's not necessarily a Bible verse about that, but nature reveals… You're still sinking 762 months later, and you've been there three days, and it has roaches. Now we must ask the question. If Jeremiah was speaking for God, if Jeremiah was serving God and not sinning and not stupid… We've all sunk before because we sinned, and we've all sunk before because we were stupid.

When you're sinking in sin, you repent. What do you do when you are sinking while serving? This is the question I came to have a conversation about today. I'm serving God. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I'm serving God, and I'm sinking. It would surprise you where some of my sermons come from. It would. Some of my sermons, if you asked me where I got them from, I would have to tell you honestly I got them from the mud. Some of my sermons I preach to you… I must be honest with you. They came not because I was so high and not because I was so holy and not because I was so right and not because I was so righteous and not because I was so brilliant and not because I was so bold. Some of my sermons that I preach to you… I got them from a muddy place. Muddy messages. I know my boots are clean at this moment, but some of the stuff I've walked through and that you've walked through to be in your seat today would surprise somebody.

Some of the messages you get in your life come from the mud. Some of the things you help people with are from the hell you've been through that you don't want anybody else to go through. So you tell them, "I've been through this hell so I could hand you this helmet so I can tell you…" That's called a callback. Remember the helmet from the bicycle? Remember when he was mad because I made him wear the helmet? I told him, "I don't want you to have to go through hell when you could just put on this helmet". I don't want you to have to suffer the consequences when you could just listen to God. I don't want you to have to go through 16 sexual partners to find out that you can't get it from that, and after they're gone, you're still left with you. If you can't be complete in Christ, nobody can complete you.

See, you have to get this from the mud. The people who are praising God on this point have been through something. The people who are cute are still not climbing out yet. When you've been stuck in something and finally take a step out of it, it'll make you jump up and holler. "Look how he lifted me when nothing else could help"! Nothing but mud in the cistern, and Jeremiah, God's man, is in the mud. What is God's man doing in the mud? What is a prophet doing in a pit? I thought if you worked for God he would work it out for you. "Working through me…" I thought God was fighting for you. So, shouldn't Jeremiah 38:6 read thusly? "So they took Jeremiah and tried to put him into the cistern, but the angel Gabriel grabbed them by the throat and said, 'Touch not mine anointed.'"

So, this is what I'm learning, because I talk to people who love Christ and have cancer. I talk to people who raised their kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and their kids still went buck wild crazy and never wore a helmet. I could say other stuff. Pray for me. I feel unfiltered right now. I don't want this message to get so muddy you miss the heart of it. The point of it is you can do everything right and things still go wrong. I release every parent of the parental guilt that says, "If you would have put them in the special school when they were 2-1/2 years old… If you would have taught them Spanish by the time they were 4, they would have been doctors. They would have been the president".

First of all, they can't be the president until they're over 80, apparently. I told you it's getting muddy. This is the dirty version today, I guess. It's good to be back home. You can't say this kind of stuff just anywhere. I can't talk like this in Philadelphia. We were talking about Jeremiah, God's man in the mud. Notice how it said he sank down into the mud. Now, I'm just going to minister this for a moment, because it seems to me very important. Strong people sink. If we want to get really technical about it, the more weighty the object, the more quickly and deeply it sinks. Strong anointing means strong attacks. Now I see why he was sinking…because he was saying something.

Now I see why he was under attack…because he was valuable. Now I see why he was under attack…because he had an assignment. Do you understand that about your life, that your assignment to glorify God, your assignment to shine a light for Christ, your assignment to make a difference in the lives of others will sometimes cause you to sink? So, full disclosure. "God is not against me; he's in it with me, working through me, fighting for me" was written by me one morning driving to this church to preach to this congregation whom I love. The anxiety of standing up to preach will often create in me a fear that I have nothing to say and I'm not worthy to say it. One morning, as I drove up to the church, I began to say to myself, "God, I thank you today that you are working through me as I preach and that you want me to do a good job". Isn't that an amazing thought? Why would I even have to tell myself that?

Well, let me tell you. The reason I have to say, "God is not against me; he's in it with me, working through me, fighting for me" is just because God doesn't ever line up against me, just because God is not against me doesn't mean nobody else is. There have been times in my life and ministry where people have uttered an unkind word or two in my direction. If you are not intentional, you will begin to assimilate the hatred of people, the criticism of people, the opposition of people, or even the trials of your life, and you will begin to think that since they are like that and since life is like that, God is like that. When we say, "God is not against me," perhaps it seems to you unnecessary. Perhaps you've never had the thought that God was against you, but is it possible that while confessing "God is for me," life is coming against you in a way that is making you wonder, "If God is with me, why is there only mud in this pit"?

I don't know if you noticed, but the one thing that was never mentioned in the chapter I read you was the presence of God. It does not say Jeremiah was thrown into the pit but God was with him in the pit. It says that about Joseph in prison in the Old Testament, but this is a little different. This is one of those moments where Jeremiah must have been thinking as he was sinking, "Where are you, God"? We know he thought this way, because in the book of Lamentations… I mean, think about the name of that book. Jeremiah wrote that book. Lament. It means to grieve. It means to question. In that book as well as the book that bears his name, many times he would speak the word of the Lord, but he would also question within himself. "God, if I'm your man, what's up with this mud"?

This is his third imprisonment for preaching the word of the Lord. "God, if I'm your servant, why am I in this cistern? God, you called me to be a prophet. You told me before I was born that you knew me and appointed me". Yet he's learning, as we all must learn, that just because you are appointed doesn't mean you'll never be attacked. I'm going to say it again. I know you don't want to wear this helmet, but I don't want your head to crash on the pavement that you think just because you have a purpose and a promise from God there will be no pits. If I preach this, but I don't tell you about the pit stops on the way to purpose, you will smash, you will splatter, you will smudge, you will stop, you will feel stuck in the moments when the feeling goes away. Yet the time to sing "God is not against me!" is not when you see it. Let me tell you when you need to sing, "God is not against me"! Sing it when you're sinking.

So, this is how it's going to work in your life. When you start to sink into the pit of your own problems… I feel anointed to help somebody up today. I see you've been sinking. I see you've been going down in it. I see you've been going back to past habits that are beneath you. I see you've been going into memories you need to leave in a room, but they keep coming out. I see you keep going into self-pity. I see you keep going into old ways of processing. I see you keep going into despair. I see you keep going into suicidal thoughts. I see you keep going back to toxic relationships. I see you keep going back to the things that break your heart. I see you keep going back to the things that pulled you. I see you keep going back to the things that offer you temporary relief, and I see you sinking, but I see you singing as you're sinking. "Love lifted me". Faith doesn't mean I won't sink; it means I won't stay there.

Please do not let our songs confuse you into thinking that we never sink. Of course we have low moments. It's called human experience. It's called being born of a woman. It's called having a nature that was given to us by Adam but was redeemed by Christ. When I was sinking, he reached down and rescued me. I need somebody who has been rescued to get up and rejoice that he rescued you. Yeah, we're getting there. I'm not rejoicing because the Enemy never resisted me; I'm rejoicing because when he resisted me, God rescued me. It is never mentioned in this Scripture that God intervened, but I'm going to show you something. I never read about it before. I went to cemetery (seminary), went to Bible training school. I never read about it. I read about Jeremiah, but look at what happened when he was sinking.

This is what's happening in your life right now whether you realize it or not, whether you see it or not, whether you feel it or not, whether you can believe it right now or you just think I'm hyping people up because I've got to give them good energy and that's what I do on Sunday morning. That's not just what I do on Sunday morning. This is what I do on Monday morning. This is what I do on Tuesday morning. This is what I do on Wednesday morning. This is what I do when I'm in my own muddy moments so I can encourage myself in the Lord. Why are y'all looking at me like you work security? You look suspicious of this. Yet I am telling you that I sink. Safety Steve is also Sinking Steve. Speaking Steve is authoritative. Sinking Steven has to remember, "No, no, no. He's not against me. Life is. Trolls are. Aging is, but God is not".

Do you know what Peter showed me in the New Testament? Then I'm about to show you something that's going to blow you away. Peter showed me in Matthew 14:30… Peter is walking toward Jesus on the water. He has a path toward purpose. Then, all of a sudden, he saw the wind, which was against him, and he was afraid. Beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me"! That's the only verse you need for your sinking moments. That's what you need. He started sinking because of what he saw. The wind was against him. Sometimes what you see is against you, so you forget what is in you that is for you. "Beginning to sink…" Peter doesn't sound like this when he cries. He's not gurgling anything. I don't even think he was up to his waist. He said, "Oh, no. I'm not going all the way down there when Jesus is right here".

I want you to get that mentality about your day. "I'm not going to do it after I drink eight glasses; I'm going to cry out when I start to sink". "I'm not going to do it after I've already gone off on everybody in my phone and ruined all of my friendships. When I start to sink…" He started to sink, and he said… What do you say when you start to sink? "God is not against me". So, you start to sink. The wind is against you. Remind yourself, "God is not". They might be, but God is not. It might be, but God is not. If every demon in hell is against you, God is not. God is not done with you. God is not fed up with you. God is not gone. I'll show you this from Jeremiah 38.

Now we're ready for Jeremiah 38:7. He was sinking down in the mud. Verse 7: "But…" You missed a shout. Let's do it again. He sank down into the mud, but… Let's do it again. He sank down into the mud, but… I'm not shouting about the mud; I'm shouting about the but. I'm sinking into the feeling of anxiety… You got it. I'm sinking into the old way of doing it… One of the best Scriptures you'll ever see is, "We were dead in our transgressions and sins, but God…" Yet the Bible doesn't mention God in this passage. It says he was sinking in the mud, but Ebed-Melek… Baby name possibility right here…Ebed-Melek. Your child will be the only one in class raising their hand if you name them Ebed-Melek. Ebed-Melek, an Ethiopian… It says here "Cushite". It also says he was an official in the royal palace, but that's not specific enough. He was a eunuch who was brought over as a slave and was put in a position of service.

In fact, the name Ebed-Melek… Ebed means servant; Melek means king. "But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite…" A eunuch. The eunuchs, when they were brought over to serve, were castrated. The Levitical law forbade anyone who was castrated from entering the assembly of the Lord. So, I want you to get the preciousness of this partnership and the unlikeliness of this deliverance. A man from Ethiopia who was brought to a land that was being ravaged by enemies, who was serving a king who had no courage, speaks up and steps up. As Jeremiah sinks in a cistern in a pit, he speaks up as a servant in the palace. God is working in places you can't see. God is working through people you don't know about. God is working through people who you think don't belong in that position. I'm pointing it out to you because some people have let you down.

Maybe some people have been like the men in this passage who threw Jeremiah into the pit. "Oh, thanks a lot. I was just trying to help". But while they were throwing him into the pit, God was already preparing somebody in the palace to speak up on his behalf. I'm preaching this word to somebody who feels forgotten. You are not forgotten. God is just going to use something foreign… I said God is going to use something foreign. Think how wild this is. God needs somebody to move to get Jeremiah out of the pit. Who does he choose to use? Somebody who wasn't even allowed to come worship. You're going to have to watch this message twice to get it, because it's going to remind you that no matter who betrays you, God always has a "But Ebed-Melek…" He not only comes to the king, but he confronts the king.

This is the kind of courage you have when you know "God is not against me, but he's in it with me, working through me, fighting for me". Isn't it amazing that you would stand up to a king? And he is not even considered a true worshiper. Not by that culture. God uses who he wants to use. I want to talk to everybody who doesn't even have a high school education. God uses who he wants to use. I want to talk to everybody who has had an abortion, and people try to make you feel terrible about it. God uses who he wants to use, and he's going to give you something in your future to help somebody. So, let's turn those tears into testimony so you can help somebody, so you can hand somebody a helmet.

I want to speak to everybody who has been cast out, cast aside, castrated, and left. Isn't it crazy that the one who was left out is the one who lifted up? Sinking in loneliness right now. Oh, but Ebed-Melek… I've been spending time with this guy all week. The more I studied him, the more it touched me what he did. He heard they put Jeremiah into the cistern, and the king was sitting in the gate. Now, I want to point something out. The king is in the palace; Jeremiah is in the pit. God is not with the king. God is with Jeremiah. Get this. The palace does not prove God's presence. The pit does not prove his absence. Stop looking at the circumstances. Every time you get out there, you go, "Well, it must not be God's will; it didn't work out. Well, it must not be God's will; it's really hard. Well, it must not be working".

We've all felt that way. But if you're serving while you're sinking, if you're sinking while you're serving, know that God has an Ebed-Melek positioned in the palace. Verse 8: "Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 'My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. [This is not right.] They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.' Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, 'Take thirty men from here with you…'" Thirty? This is overkill. Like, "I don't really need 30". "No, take 30". Here's what I want to prophesy. When God does lift you out, there is going to be more than enough strength to do it. I'll tell you why. God is a show-off. God wants to show his glory. God sends 30 men for a task that three could handle. But not only do they have extra resource, not only does God have more than enough power to pull you out of the pit, but the Bible says he told him to take a rope, go down there, and get him out of the cistern before he died.

In other words, he's sinking, but he's not all the way sunk. He's sinking, but something stopped him from sinking. Did you ever wonder why God still left you here after all you've been through? Did you ever wonder why what came against you didn't take you totally out? I believe it's because God has something more for you that he wants to do through you. After all, we were singing a minute ago, "He's in it with me, working through me". I want to ask the question today, not only what you need to be lifted out of, but who have you lifted lately? Maybe God put you in a position to lift somebody. Did you ever think about the fact that maybe the reason you're in your pit is because you won't lift anybody else out of theirs?

I want God to be in my pit with me, but what if he is using me to visit somebody else in their pit? I want you to start using everything you go through for God's glory. The moment something bad starts happening to you, I want you to go on a counterattack. I want you to say, "If the Enemy is going to come against me, he's going to learn it's going to cost him a little bit. So, every time you discourage me, Devil, just know I'm going to send three texts to encourage somebody else. Oh, you want some? You want to put me down in the pit? Watch me lift somebody else up with the strength I do have, with the gift I do have, with the skill I do have, with the life I do have, with the opportunity I do have".

High-five somebody and say, "I came to lift you up". "If you don't have faith, borrow mine. If you don't have joy, borrow mine. You can surf on my wave for a little while. You might be going through something, so hitch onto me, and let's get out of this pit together"! I'm looking for a lifter in this house, an unlikely lifter. You've been through hell, but you're praying for other people. You're trying to hold your own life together, but you're a source of comfort. After all, the famine was affecting Ebed-Melek too, and he found the strength to lift Jeremiah. I have to show you one more thing, because when I read it, I thought, "What a beautiful story about how sometimes life puts us in a pit, and we don't always feel God's presence in a pit. And sometimes, when God sends a person to bring us out of our pit, we don't recognize him. It's not what we expected".

I thought that was a great story, because everybody in here either needs to be more like Jeremiah and not die in the pit or be more like Ebed-Melek and come get somebody out of a pit. The Lord said… He didn't say it like this, but the Lord said, "Dummy, how did he do it"? And I read about the ropes. It said the king told him, "Take thirty men from here and lift Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies". Verse 11: "So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern".

Now, you're Jeremiah. You've been sinking. You've been starving, and something starts coming down into the cistern. You've been down here, and you've been wondering, "Am I done"? We can all relate to this, even if not this extreme example that we are the prophet of God to the nation in a time of backsliding and wickedness. We can relate to these moments in the pit where we do not feel, sense, or discern the presence of God. All of a sudden, here comes the rope, but not yet. The Bible says in verse 11 that Ebed-Melek took the men with him, and on his way to the cistern, he has to make a pit stop. Watch this. He stops by the treasury in the palace. If you're one of the 30 men with him, you are thinking, no doubt, "Oh, he's going to get some gold or some silver, and we're going to buy Jeremiah out of the pit".

But look at verse 11. He doesn't go into the room where the riches are. The Bible says he went to a room under the treasury. The treasury was where the valuables were stored. The treasury was the room that accessed all of the spices, all of the relics, all of the valuables, and all of the memorials. He didn't go into that room. He went to a room under the treasury in the palace, a room he knew how to get into. What kind of room is this, and why are we stopping on our way to a rescue to go into a room under the treasury? He stops and goes into a room, and he emerges some time later with an unexpected resource, because this room under the treasury is not where they kept the riches; it's where they kept the rags. On his way to rescue Jeremiah, God's man in the mud, who has been sinking and starving and can't spare another second, he goes into the room. "He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern".

Verse 12 says the welcome voice of Ebed-Melek echoed and said to Jeremiah, "Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms…" "Jeremiah! We've come to help you. I'm Ebed-Melek. I'm an Ethiopian. I'm not the kind of person you're used to, but God has put me in a position, and he heard your prayers". "We're here, Jeremiah, and I have 30 of my boys. We're about to get you out of this pit". I said, "We're about to get you out of this pit, Jeremiah. We're about to get you out of this pit. We have enough power to do it. We have a heart to do it. It's the purpose we came here for. But, Jeremiah, before we pull you out of this pit, put these rags and these clothes under your arms. I know they're old, I know they're worn out, but I brought you something, Jeremiah, that you didn't expect. I'm going to drop it to you now. I'm going to drop you these rags before I drop you this rope".

These rags came from our house. I was on my way out this morning, and before I came to preach to you, it crossed my mind to make a pit stop, because I wanted to stand in this sermon in the moment and speak to everybody who's waiting for the ropes to come, waiting for the ropes to pull you out, and knowing that God has the power to pull you out of it…every stronghold; every wicked thing; every low place; every spiritual, demonic force that is pulling you down. God is greater than the gravity of that, and he has the power to pull you out. But I heard the voice of Ebed-Melek saying, "Before you grab those ropes, I want to give you these rags. I know they don't look like much, and I know you don't see the purpose in them. I know this is something that, normally, people would throw away, but, Jeremiah, I brought you a rope, and I brought you some rags".

The rags always come before the rope. I'm saying this because you've been in a pit, praying for God to provide for you, and he is. He's giving you rags right now. "Jeremiah, I'm going to drop these rags. I work in the treasury, and I know about a secret room where they keep the old cloths and the old rags and the discarded clothes. I came to bring you something that people would throw away but that God is going to use so that when I drop this rope, it will not kill you; so that when I drop this rope, when I pull you out of this pit… When you take these rags and put them under your arms, when the ropes pull you up, when the ropes bring you out, because of the rags I'm dropping now, the ropes are going to do what they're supposed to do. If I didn't give you the rags, you couldn't handle the ropes".

So, you're praying for ropes, but God is giving you rags. It is the same hand of almighty God. It is Jesus Christ, the Alpha, the Omega. The Lamb of God is the Lion. The one who wore the rags is the one who holds the rope. I'm telling you this right now, because I see God dropping stuff into your pit, dropping stuff you took for granted. I don't even know what's in this basket, but God does, and God is sending it. God is giving it. God is supplying it. God is answering. God is giving. God is supplying. God is saying, "When you take those rags that look like nothing and get ready for what I'm about to do… When I say 'three', Jeremiah, I'm about to pull you up out of every pit. I'm about to pull you up out of generational poverty. I'm about to pull you up out of despair".

On three, let's praise him for the rags! One, two, three! I'm ready for the rags! The rag is not the rope; the rag is what gets you ready for it. I feel God getting somebody ready for your next season, your next assignment, your next endeavor, your next moment, your next move. That's the message of the gospel. Not rags to riches, but rags to righteous, because he became sin who knew no sin. Oh, 2 Corinthians 5:21, I hear you calling me. He became sin who knew no sin. He dropped his rags that I might become righteous. I speak today by the Spirit of God that the thing you've been overlooking…that's your rag. The thing that you've been waiting for it to be over…that's your preparation. The thing you've been praying God to take away…that's how he's getting you ready. When you're ready, here come the ropes.

Touch three people and say, "Here come the ropes". The ropes are wrapped in rags. You say, "But, Pastor Steven, I have no Ebed-Melek". Oh, you haven't met him yet? Ebed means servant; Melek means king. Have you not met the Servant King? Have you not met our Immanuel? Have you not met the one who laid aside his crown as king and wrapped himself in the rags of flesh to make you righteous? You have an Ebed-Melek. His name is Jesus. For every pit you've ever been in… "Jesus was my Ebed-Melek. Jesus was my fourth man. Jesus was my rescuer. Jesus dropped his rags and washed my feet and made me righteous".

I'm speaking to everybody today who's in a pit. I want you to watch for the rags to the rescue. It's going to be the rags. Do you understand what I'm saying to you? It's going to be that. You're like, "But I don't want that. I want a rope". God is like, "This will get you ready for that. And if it's not that, it's this. So take this and get ready, because the ropes are coming". The ropes are coming. He has the power to pull me out. What are you going to do with these rags? I know what I'm going to do. I learned it from Proverbs 24:16.

The Bible says, "The righteous may fall seven times…" I might be in the mud seven times. "…but they rise again". They rise again. So, child of God, I just wanted to encourage your heart that God is not against you. He's in it with you. He's working through you. He's fighting for you. Somebody shout, "God is not against me"! Now high-five everybody you can reach and say, "Help is on the way"! Here come the ropes! Here come the angels! [Worship] Bow your head and close your eyes. Say, "Thank you, Jesus, for being in this pit with me". Oh, your presence is wonderful, Lord, even more intensified when we don't feel it. You are the God of rags to righteousness. Thank you for what you've done in our lives. Thank you for cleansing us.

Now I want to pray for somebody who needs to receive the gift of Jesus Christ, the gift of salvation. It is a gift. You can't earn it. In fact, the Bible says our own righteousness is like filthy rags. That means you don't sit here and say, "Okay, God. I'm going to get my life together. I'm going to be better. I'm going to stop cussing. I'm going to stop drinking. I'm going to stop doing all the bad stuff". No, stop. You're just going to sink deeper thinking that way. You need an Ebed-Melek to rescue you. You need a strong arm. You need a God. You need a Savior. Right now in this moment, the Savior of the world is in this place. I'm not saying just this room; I'm saying wherever you are. God knows how to go into the rag room of your life and turn it into something wonderful.

Right now, I want to pray for those who need to give their life to Jesus for the first time or need to recommit their life to trusting in his grace. Repent of your sin, turn to him, and live. I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now. We're going to pray it out loud for the benefit of all those who are coming to God for the first time or coming back to him. You pray this prayer, and God will lift you from the pit. You pray this prayer, and God will hear from heaven. He will turn you around. If this is your moment and you know it, repeat after me, church family.

Heavenly Father, today is my day. I humble myself that you may lift me up. 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 repent of my sin. I believe Jesus 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. Shoot them up all over the room. Shoot them up. God bless you. Beautiful. It's a beautiful thing. Online, just say in the chat, "I received Jesus". Come on, let's clap our hands all over the room. Let's rejoice all over the room. Glory to God! Wow. Say it. "He's in it with me, working through me, fighting for me". Hug somebody and say, "God is not against you". Let's clap our hands and thank God for his presence today. Did you receive a word from the Lord today? Rags to righteous. Keep this purple thing and remember what I told you today. When the Devil tells you you're not the righteousness of God, wave it in his face and say, "I know, but I have an Ebed-Melek. I have a Savior. I have a Redeemer".

Every time you want to go back to the old way, just wave that thing. "No, I've gone from rags to righteous". "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come". Brag about your rags. Not about your sin; brag about what God did for you that seems like nothing. Not your sin; brag about what he did to pull you out of your sin. Tell the story, and tell your testimony that God has the power to pull you out. It's painful sometimes. Just because he has the power doesn't mean there won't be pain, but God is pulling you. You can feel it. You can feel him bringing you higher. You can feel him bringing you above it. You can feel it. I'm going to seal it right now with a prayer. Join hands one more time. If you haven't caught something from them already, you're not going to. This won't make any difference now.

"God is not against me". I want you singing that when it feels like the wind is against you. No, no, no. You worship and say, "God is not against me". Oh, I'm going to make a choir today. Do y'all want to be in the choir? Come out next Sunday. We're going to record some new songs. On Sunday, March 17, we're going to be here. That's next Sunday. We're going to be singing new songs. We're not going to be singing this one that night. We're going to sing it tomorrow.

"God is not against me". I'm going to see which section believes it the most before we close. This is your chance. Ready? Three of 10. I'll come back to you. This side… I'm going to check y'all out. Do you hear how they did it? Watch them in the middle. You won't believe how good this sounds. They sound like professionals. "God is not against me. God is not against me". I'm going to join the praise team. Now unto him who is able to pull you up, who is able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine, to him be glory through Christ Jesus in the church, now and forever! Somebody say, "God is not against me"!
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