Steven Furtick — All Systems Go
You can go through situations that look like, seem like, and feel like they are going to kill you, but you get to the other side, and you see a table that is spread of provision in the presence of your enemies. If there is one thing I believe, it's that goodness and mercy have been following me all the days of my life, God led me to a Scripture in Numbers 9.
I want to read this for you. It may be unfamiliar, but hopefully it will build your faith, and that is my prayer every time I stand in the pulpit to preach, that God would use me to build your faith, because it is your faith that enables you to experience God's presence in your life. And so, as we read this Scripture, I want you to just kind of, like get a flow for it.
It's an unusual Scripture. I don't know that I ever heard a sermon on it before, but I was looking at how God gave His people this cloud. They were coming out of Egyptian slavery, and they were trying to get to the Promised Land, but they were experiencing a delay. You ever have one of those? Huh? You ever been stuck somewhere? Stuck in something?
So, that's where they were, and it was mostly their fault, but you can't really blame them. They were trying to figure out who is this God, and who are we, and all they had ever known was all they had ever known. And so, God gives them a gift in the midst of this, and that's what I want to share with you about today.
Numbers 9:15, I'm calling this sermon, "All Systems Go". All systems go, you know, like when they launch a rocket ship? You all saw "Hidden Figures". And so, we're getting ready for what God is doing in our lives. Everybody say, there is a cloud. "On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up"...
I need to say something right here. Every situation is a set up if God is in it. Here they are in the wilderness, but God is still establishing His presence. I just want to point that out. So, they set up this tabernacle, which was a portable house for the presence and the glory of God, and it says that there was a cloud that covered it.
"From evening till morning, the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That's how it continued to be. The cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out. Wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord's command, the Israelites set out, and at His command, they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days. At the Lord's command they would encamp, then, at His command, they would set out."
Now, what's the common denominator? Whether they're coming or going, they are doing it at the Lord's command. And the whole reason they're in this wilderness is because they would not go into a place that God said He had promised to them. So, now they've got to learn some lessons, and God is using this cloud as a personal trainer. Amen.
Whoa, I'm excited to preach about this today. Because it means that God is developing their faith, even though they were disobedient. But, He doesn't give up on them. Instead, He uses the opportunity to guide them in a place where He didn't want them to wander, but even in their wandering, He was teaching them how to walk with Him. Thank you, Jesus.
So, they were walking, this cloud would go, and listen to this, Verse 21. "Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening until morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night"... whether by day or by night, whether in the good times or the bad times, whether I'm clear or whether I'm confused, whether I did it right or whether I did it wrong.
God was right there, night, morning, wilderness, Promised Land. Wherever you'll find yourself, there He is. And so, when the cloud would go, they would go. "Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days, or a month, or a year, the Israelites would remain in the camp and not set out, but when it lifted, they would now set out."
And by this point in the passage, you're thinking, we've got it. They followed the cloud. But, we don't got it. You know, we need things to be reiterated for us. I mean, how many times have you done the same dumb thing, expecting a different result in your life thus far, and you're only 12? Let me read one more verse.
Verse 23, "At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out. They obeyed the Lord's order in accordance with His command through Moses."
All systems go. Holly and I just celebrated, get ready to applaud big. This is a big one. We just celebrated 15 years of marriage. Some of you all look like you're too good to clap for my 15 years. Maybe you've been doing it 30 years, 35 years, but to make 15, it's above the average. I already beat the odds. Feels kind of good, and I attribute our marital success to a couple of different factors. I will list them for you in this order.
God, Holly... that's neck and neck, they're like right there together. And, the third one is not me. The third one is, and this is going to sound strange when I say it, the invention of the GPS system, the Global Positioning System. If it had not been for the GPS system, because some of our worst fights... somebody over here must be like me.
Some of our worst fights are in the car, because I have no sense of direction, and she is supposed to have one. It was part of an unspoken prenuptial agreement. I grew up in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. She grew up in Miami, Florida. She's supposed to know her way around places. I told her I was country when I married her.
We talked about this. And so, we used to travel, and I know this is prehistoric and primitive, and I'm not relating to the young people anymore when I say stuff like this, but when we used to print our directions off of MapQuest... what? What? Our marriage was in trouble on those MapQuest directions, because now we've got it down.
I mean, one Christmas she bought me a TomTom. You all don't remember nothing about a TomTom. Now you've got it on your phone. You've got Siri and everything like that. But, boy, we used to talk about things in the car, because she would tell me when to turn.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, we made it. Somebody shout, they made it. And we made it because of the GPS, because for me, it's a real thing. I cannot overemphasize to you, and I'm going to stay here for a minute, because I do have a point to all of this, and it really has nothing to do with GPS. It's really a spiritual point.
I have found out in my life, both as a driver and as a person, that I am not really good at finding my way around by myself. Even as a pastor, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I've never done this before. I told Elijah that the other day. He was arguing with me about something. He wanted to listen to some Lil' Yachty or something, and I said you can't, because I don't know if it's the clean version.
And he said, well, you listened to worse stuff when you were growing up, and I said, but I have a parental right of hypocrisy, now shut up and do this, because I've never done this before, and we're going to do it the way I want to do it. He did. He said Snoop was just as bad. His album was called, and he said the name of the album from 1993, so we had a discussion.
Some of y'all are too safe to come to this worship experience, I'm going to tell you. But, thank you for coming. And so, we were talking, and I was like, I never did this before. And it kind of gave me compassion, even for my dad, you know. He didn't have a dad. I had a dad.
My dad's dad ended his own life when my dad was nine. So, one day I was going off about my dad to my mom. You know, he doesn't get it, and he doesn't this, and he doesn't that, and probably some of my gripes were legitimate, but she said back to me something. She said, he never saw it done. He's trying to stay, but he never saw it. It's like being the tour guide in a town you've never been to.
And really, raising teenagers in today's world is like being a tour guide in a town that changes every ten minutes. Huh? We used to have to go to the gas station to buy a magazine with pornographic material. Now they can get it on the same device they can read their Bible on. So like, how do you navigate that?
So, I've come to the conclusion in life that I need a leader. I need a leader. God knows that about me. He knew that about His children. He knew they were frustrated, He knew they were confused, and He knew that they were following a man, Moses. Moses had tried to talk God out of choosing them, and yet he saw what God wanted, and so, God gave them a gift. He gave them kind of like, it's a primitive GPS system. Did you see it in Numbers 9?
God was doing the cloud way before Google, okay? And so, this cloud, everybody say there is a cloud. He put this cloud in the wilderness for three purposes. Please take notes, because I believe there are three things that God wants to do in your life right now, and I'm speaking to the person who has been in a state of confusion. I wanted you to know that there is a cloud over your life, whatever wilderness you find yourself in today, whether as a parent, or whether as a prepubescent.
You know, I could be speaking to a pastor listening to this on a podcast, but I want you to know that there is a cloud, and God sent the cloud to guide you. To guide you. It's actually better than that, because God did not just say He would guide you. He said, in Psalm 46, that He would be our guide. That's better. Because if God gave me guidance, I know something about myself. I'm not good at following it.