Steven Furtick — Don't Blow It!
Something God told me very clearly as we begin this series called "Waymaker", is that before we can change the world, we have to change our ways. Would you please turn with me, if you can find it in your Bible, to the Old Testament book of Haggai? I'll give you about 15 minutes to find the book of Haggai. After that, the screens will kick in and give you assistance. Touch somebody and say, "We can't change the world until we change our ways".
This is the message of Haggai the prophet. I'm having you seated because it's a long scripture today; 15 verses we will endeavor to preach. "In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest". Verse two, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'These people say, The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house.' Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?'
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'" There's that word, ways. "'Give careful thought to your ways.' You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'" You are drowning in information and starving for wisdom. You have 24-hour news feeds and 24-hour ignorance.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build My house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the Lord. 'You expected much, but behold, it turned out to be little. And what you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.'"
I have a very challenging message for you today, and I hope you're ready for it. And I'm gonna need your help to preach it, so look at the person next to you and say, "Neighbor, God has given you a great opportunity". Now, look at 'em and give 'em my title, say, "Don't blow it". Don't blow it. Don't blow it. I think God presents Himself in the form of opportunity.
And when you look at Haggai chapter 1, you are seeing a people who are responding to an opportunity. It's interesting because Haggai has a very hard job as a preacher. He has to deliver a message of urgency in a time of discouragement. Often, it's difficult to motivate or inspire people to action when they are already discouraged about the outcome of their life. In order to create a sense of motivation, he gives the people a contrast between their effort and their outcomes. He has them evaluate the results of their lives relative to the effort.
And so, thinking about this passage, of course, made me begin to think about seventh grade South Carolina geography class, because apparently the people were saying something in Haggai's time. They had a saying, and God overheard them talking. And they would say, verse 2, the people would say, this is the people from Judah which is the Southern Kingdom of Israel, "The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house". Notice that. These people say, "The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house". Now, different cultures have different sayings. You know this, right? And if you did not grow up in the south, perhaps from time to time it is shocking to you to hear some of our sayings and to decipher the meaning of them.
I will never forget Ms. Taylor. I probably should have given her a pseudonym, but I've said her name now. The day that she corrected my southern slang in front of the whole class... now, granted, I deserved it. I was such a punk in seventh grade. Granted, I deserved it, because she had told us to pull out our books and begin our silent reading time. Granted, I was talking to somebody instead of pulling out the book like I was told to do. But did it give her the right to say the following? I'll let you be the judge. "Steven Furtick, did you not hear me say, Pull out your book"?
Now, Ms. Taylor was a northerner. So what I said next, she had no context for. I said, "I'm sorry, Ms. Taylor. I'm fixin' to". She said, "Steven Furtick," she said, "before you leave my class, I am going to make sure that you understand how ignorant you sound when you say things like 'I'm fixing to'. Nobody else in the world outside of South Carolina says things like, 'I'm fixing to' and if you go anywhere else in the world in your life and say 'I'm fixing to', it is going to automatically cause people to question your intelligence. Not only do you not have your book out, you are not even able to speak intelligently to deliver an excuse about why your book is not out".
I said, "I'm about to. Is that better"? And it really doesn't matter what you call it, the problem was procrastination. And I found out, we have a lot of different things we say to disguise our procrastination. Can I give you one thing we say in church? We don't say, "I'm fixing to". We say, "I'm praying about it". I will preach this word until three people are left in the first two rows of Elevation Ballantyne. And it's cool because you do need to pray about some things, but some things that God just told you to do -- get your book out -- do not require prayer. They require action. That guy has a hard job because the people, on one level, are making progress; at least, it seems to them like progress.
And the question becomes, this is point number one, they'll put these on the screen, is it progress or is it procrastination? Because apparently, there was some really nice subdivisions going up in the suburbs of Judah. The exiles had been back from Babylon now 20 years and that was a God-thing, wasn't it? I mean, they didn't know if they'd ever come back, and only because Persian control took the territory of Babylon back were they able to come back and rebuild their homeland. And when they first got back, they thought they'd rebuild the temple because it had been destroyed. It was the preeminent place for the presence of God to be manifest among His people so that He would have a dwelling place.
You and I understand that now this temple is not a physical building, but it is you and I, the temple of the Holy Spirit, where God dwells and where God lives. But in the midst of rebuilding this place where God had appointed His presence to dwell, something was lacking in their perseverance, or perhaps it was just that they got distracted. This has helped me so much in trying to minister to people and challenge people and call people higher to God's standard, is that often people are not willfully disobedient; they are just distracted. You know what I mean? I don't think that people always decide to live in disobedience. Sometimes life just creates such a scenario... And isn't what Haggai said. He said, "Each of you is busy with your own house". I thought that was an interesting phrase, that He said, "You're busy with your own house". He didn't say they were bad people, just that they were busy people.
Now, this is where the word gets rich. Sometimes you are struggling in your life in ways that you do not understand, but you are not directly discerning the source of the dysfunction. Such is the case for the people in Haggai's day. He said, "You're disappointed, aren't you? I know you are. It's August. It's the season for figs and grapes and pomegranates and you planted a lot of seed. But when you went to get the harvest, it was only half of what you expected. Have you ever invested in something or someone — keep eye contact with me when I say what I say next — only to wonder, "How could I put so much into it and get so little out of it"? Have you ever? Have you ever? This is the scene in Haggai's day.
Remember, this is a specific word to specific people, but I think it has universal applications and it is a timeless truth, is that when you do not start your process with God at the center, it will always end in disappointment. And it will not matter how much energy you give it or how much talent that you have or how sincere you are in your efforts. I'm telling you, man, I have sat with rich people, famous people, people with great status and no satisfaction, great prosperity and no peace, because any process that does not start with God ends in disappointment. Write that down. Teach it to your kids. Put it on your mirror. Any process that does not start with God ends in disappointment.
You plant much, you reap little. You get dressed, you're not warm. You drink, you drink, you drink, you drink, you drink, you drink... but you are bottomless. And even the blessings that God gives you will be... Can I say it this way? Hollow. It's a hollow harvest. And while the people are busy building their own houses, busy building their own bodies, busy building their own dreams, busy planning their own future, they neglected the place of God's presence.
I was praying about this message. I said, "God, I can't preach that. I don't want to make 'em feel bad. Their lives are already hard enough". And God told me — I didn't hear this out loud; it was just an impression I have, okay? Let's just get that straight right now. But the impression that I got is if you don't ever make that connection, you will live in a continual state of frustration and wonder, "Why am I doing so much and receiving so little"? "Why am I fishing all night and catching nothing"? That's what happened to Peter, you know? Fished all night, caught nothing. But the moment he gave his boat to Jesus, his biggest problem was breaking nets because God is in charge of the harvest.
There is a certain part of success and a certain part of life that you don't control. You can decide how much to plant, but without the cooperation of the elements, it will only grow to be so much. It takes a little while to learn this, that you can do everything in your human strength that you know to do to guarantee a happy life, but there is a certain dimension of life that is outside of your control. Touch your neighbor, say, "Don't blow it". Here are these people, It's been 20 years. I understand they come back from Babylon, they're really trying to get acclimated to being back in a place that has been so ravaged. They're settling in to their towns. Maybe two years, maybe five years. But it's been 20 years. It's been 20 years now, which is a significant number for me.
Let me tell you why. This summer, I was going back and watching some of the sermons that inspired me to be a preacher. They're all on YouTube, and it's cool because I don't have to pay for 'em. I can bootleg them now. And I've long since lost the cassette tapes, but they're all online now. And so, I was online watching some of my favorite preachers that were inspiring me as a boy. These were my heroes. I was watching 'em, just to kind of get in touch with 16 year-old Steven who used to walk around the block with the Walkman and I would preach with the preachers and I would hold an imaginary microphone. I've said too much.
Okay. And I was listening to them preach and I was watching 'em on YouTube, and I thought, "Man, these guys looked so much older to me". And then, I did some math and I realized that the guys that I used to watch when I was 16 were the age then, right, that I am now. You talk about a broken heart? You talk about a wake-up call? Because see, I still feel like I got all this time. You know, I still feel like we're just getting started, the church is just getting started. I mean, in my mind, this is still the IPO. But it was a wake-up call for me to realize that what they were to you then you are to somebody now. In other words, you don't have any time to waste.
Touch your other neighbor and say, "Don't blow it". You only got so much time. I know you keep telling yourself "one day when" and "we're gonna get around to it" and "I'm fixing to", but you might find yourself one day running out of strength. What is in your heart to do, you better do it now. Shove your neighbor, say, "Do it now". Cock-a-doodle-do. This is your wake-up call. That was 20 years ago, man. If we're gonna build it, we gotta build it now. But sometimes, the devil will tell you you're being patient when really you are procrastinating and if he can get you to mistake procrastination for patience, he can keep you locked out of the blessing that is on the other side of your obedience. Yes, it's a process. I mean, yes, it takes time. But really? Twenty years? And after all Haggai says, it looks like somehow you found time to build your own house.
I'm so glad Pastor Mickey taught me that. He beat that into my head. He said, "Boy, you find time for what you want to do". He said that 'cause I told him I didn't have time to do something he told me to do. He said, "Boy, you find time for what you want to do". You find time for what you want to do. You find passion and energy. If I could get some of you to apply the same energy to serving God that you apply to sin, we would turn every county in the United States of America. And it'd look to them like progress. But the prophet Haggai says, "Wait a minute; progress is more than just effort. Progress is effort in the right direction".
Consider your ways. He gets into a vivid description. This sounded so modern when I was reading it. I don't know if you had the same experience. 'Cause I thought about all the streams that we live in now and the feeds. And when he said, "You eat and are never full, and you scroll and are never entertained..". He didn't say that, but that's what it made me think of. He said, "You YouTube and now you're over in cat videos and you don't even know how you ended up..". How did I get here on a Minecraft tutorial? I'm 37 years old. And then, it gets kind of dramatic.
And I don't apologize for God's word. He said, "When I saw that you were so busy with your own work, when I saw that you were so busy with your own interests... I didn't mind you building your own house. I didn't mind you driving a new car. I didn't mind you enjoying yourself on the weekend and telling your friend who's always trying to use you that you didn't have time to help them move. It was fine, 'cause they're always asking you and they're... But what I minded was that you lost your sense of what was really important". And so now, God says, "I had to take action. I had to frustrate your process to remind you of your priorities".
You know how sometimes you'll be doing something that used to be fun for you and it's not fun anymore and you can't even explain why? Sometimes that's God sucking the fun out of something that is keeping you from your calling and purpose. It is getting frighteningly quiet on week one of Waymaker. Good news is if I keep preaching like this, you will have plenty of seats for the rest of the four weeks of Waymaker. This is a space-maker. That's what this sermon is. No, but He said, "I had to do something about it. I had to interrupt you in order to get your attention because I brought you back from Babylon. I made a way for you and I gave you an assignment to rebuild My temple, but you took what I gave you and you spent it on yourself". And so, here's what I had to do.
Now, watch this. You might not like this view of God. It's okay. God is not running for any office. He does not need your vote. I said He does not need your vote. He is not on any ticket. "You expected much..". verse 9, "...but see, it turned out to be little". This is the part. "And what you brought home, I blew away". Well, that's not nice, Heavenly Father. I thought Your eye was on the sparrow. I thought You had the whole world in Your hands. I thought You would "give me this day my daily bread". I didn't know you would blow it away. Touch somebody; say, "Don't blow it". "What you brought home, I blew away".
Why would You do that? Why would You... Why would a good God... cause something... to leave your life? I blew it away. It wasn't the devil. This would be my first assumption. Anytime, anything, that I don't like happens, it was the devil. The devil made me do it. The devil gave me a flat tire. The devil gave me a stomach flu. The devil gets more press time in a lot of pulpits than Jesus Christ does. God said, "No, I did that. I let it go bad. I made him break up with you. I made her not call you back". This is crazy stuff here. Now, this is the stuff that you get in the parts of the Bible like Haggai that you flip past to get over to the good stuff. "My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches". Can we get back to that? No, not this week. This week is Haggai. And Haggai said, "God blew it away". Why? Why would you do that? Why would you blow it away? Why would you blow it? God said, "So you wouldn't". It was not to punish you.