Steven Furtick — Embracing Limitation
I think this story for most of you will be unfamiliar, which is good. It's good 'cause I'm praying God will use it to speak to you in a personal way and kinda catch you off guard today. And create change in your life. Here's what the Bible says. 2 Kings 7:1, "Elisha said, "Hear the word of the Lord..". You've been listening to your doubts so long. You've been listening to your dysfunctions so long. You've been listening to your disappointments so long. But hear the word of the Lord. "'About this time tomorrow a seah of flour will sell for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.' The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God..". This joker". Even if the LORD should open the floodgates of heaven, could this happen"?
You know how certain people always wanna put limits on what God can do? Tell you a little secret. I actually love limitations. I know that usually in church they say take the limits off! I personally love limits. I think limitation can be a good thing. I think it's a good thing that sometimes we limit our consumption on certain foods. Say amen. I'm a real strict person on my eating 'cause I'm too wild. I'm too wild. I need the gutters on the - I will bowl into the gutter every time if I don't have those little guards. So I actually do it where I'm not allowed to eat past a certain time or before a certain time but during that certain time, I can do it. But I need limits. I need limits. Are you like me?
Maybe I have no self-control. I need limits. I don't even like restaurants with big menus. Cheesecake Factory gives me heart palpitations. The menu looks like Encyclopedia Britannica. I can't do it. I need Prozac to make it through my order. Usually, I'll get Holly to narrow it for me. I'll be like, can you tell me just three things that I might like and can you just narrow the options for me because I can't do it. I like limitations. I like to know even in preaching when I go somewhere to preach. They'll say take as long as you want. I'll say well how long are the people expecting me to preach? 'Cause I wanna know how long I have to work before they tune me out. I can preach as long as I want but they might not listen as long as I want to preach.
Why y'all clapping about that? That was a little awkward. But I'm saying it because limitation can be a good thing. It really can. It can be a good thing. Especially one thing that I love it when somebody tries to put a limit on me that contradicts what I believe God has called me to do. Maybe it's my ego. Maybe I have wounds from my childhood failed wrestling career that I'm still compensating for. But I like somebody to tell me that I can't do something. I do. It fuels my faith. When we were getting ready to start the church one time I sat down with a guy and I was sharing my vision with him. I was telling him that we were gonna start a church and I didn't have any better sense than to tell this guy my dreams. He was a little older and jaded because he had been disappointed in his life. And it's a dangerous thing.
Are you ready to write something down? It is a dangerous thing to entrust your dream to someone else's disappointments. A lot of times that's what happens. We share our dream Joseph and we show our coat to people who are not really ready to receive what we speak. So then if we receive their doubt they will dis our appointment. I put that in for Holly. Holly dared me to put that in my sermon today. I didn't get it at 9:30. There it is baby you owe me some. But it's a dangerous thing to speak some...
So here's what happened. We're sitting down having lunch and I'm like I'm gonna start a church. It's gonna be awesome. It's gonna be great. We're gonna reach this city. We're gonna go to Charlotte. We're gonna have a church. We're these people we break the rules. It's not gonna be all this tradition and religion. We're gonna do it. It's gonna be edgy. It's gonna not be for church people. We'll reach people far from God. The more I was talking the more he stuffed his mouth and just smirked at me, not scalded me. He didn't look mad. He just looked amused. He was just smirking at me. He's stuffing his face with french fries. Overweight pastor just eating. I'm just trying to color the story a little bit. I don't even remember if he was overweight. But what I remember is I went on and on telling him.
We're gonna write worship songs. We're gonna do worship songs. Gonna touch the world. We're gonna write songs they're gonna go around in the world. Oh, and it's not just gonna be a white church. It's gonna be a lot of different kinds of people. It's gonna be white people and black people and old people and young people and Presbyterians and Pentecostals and Atheist and Agnostics and just all kinds of people. Single people and married people and divorced people. I'm going on and on and he's just eating looking at me. When I finished he looked at me and said not gonna happen bud. Not in the south. Not in the south. Not gonna happen. Do me a favor. Look down your row real quick and check your row. And I dare you to shout at the top of your little sanctified Sunday morning voice. Somebody shout it's happening. As a matter of fact, I kinda hope that he watches this sermon on television. Y'all excuse me for a minute so he can see black people and white people and Hispanic people and Latino people.
Come one. And loud people and quiet people and big people and little people and young people and old people and broken people and whole people, altogether. It's something because the limitations you embrace will regulate the blessing you experience. When you allow beliefs to limit your God because your mindset is too small to accommodate the magnitude of His glory you miss out on the very miracles that have your name on them. Please follow me for a moment. When the officer said to the prophet, "Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the Heavens could this happen"? What he did is he closed the gate on the gift that God was giving him. So it was a desperate situation in the nation because the famine had been going on so long that within the gates of the city walls the people had resorted to cannibalism. I debated whether to tell you this. But it's right in chapter 6 should you chose to read it. They had started eating their own babies. It sounds extreme however I think we can all see ways that at times we compromise the next generation when our value systems get shifted.
So as the value system has shifted within the nation, the favor of God has not been so much withheld as it has been held up. Here's the difference. When you read about famine in the Bible you probably associate famine with drought. Usually, when you see a famine in the Bible it is connected to a pronouncement by a prophet. Like when Elijah said there will be no rain or dew in the land for the next few years except at my word to King Ahab. And God withheld the rain from the heavens. God cut off the source of supply so that the people's hearts would turn back to him.
Now in antiquity, people did not regard famine and drought only with agriculture or weather conditions. In antiquity, people regarded rain as a sign or symbol of the presence and blessing of God. Because blessing was associated with life and life with blessing and without rain there can be no life and so where there is not blessing there is not life. Where there is not rain there is no food. Where there is no presence of God, where there is no worship, there can be no life, no strength, no hope. However, this is a different kind of famine that was not created by a drought. This famine started with a siege. Benhadad was an excellent military strategist so when he surrounded the northern kingdom of Israel which was known as Samaria what he did, a common military tactic, was that he cut them off from their supply. When he cut their line to their food supply it wasn't that he eliminated the food, it was that he prevented them from accessing it.
So since the Devil cannot prevent God from blessing you, his only alternative is to put you in a state of spiritual siege so that you cannot access the blessing that God has freely given you. Sometimes we are starving not because of something that God did not supply but because of something he supplied that we cannot seize. When the enemy puts you in a state of unbelief it blocks you from your own blessing. King Jehoram had the wrong people around him at this time. We saw it in the text. The officer, verse 2, on whose arm the king was leaning. Side note for all the students. Be careful who you lean on. He was leaning on a man who would not believe, who would not connect to the prophecy by faith. When you lean on people who insist on dragging you into their dysfunctional way of thinking... This might be only for five people. But sometimes something you lean on in one season that props you up can paralyze you in the next season. Sometimes we build in our lives support systems that are unable to accommodate the weight of what God is speaking to us. So be real careful who you lean on.
Ask somebody can I lean on you? Because see, I don't wanna get in the middle of a famine and be leaning on someone who doesn't have faith. For the life that I'm trying to live, I can't just be surrounded by people who refuse to believe that better days are ahead and that greater things are in store. So sometimes I have to restrict access and I can't just be around anybody and I can't just listen to anything. I cannot believe everything I see and I certainly cannot believe everything I think. So sometimes I've got to shut it down and sometimes I gotta mute some people. Sometimes I gotta spend some time in the presence of God because my signal to noise ratio has caused me to miss the provision of God because I'm leaning on the wrong people and listening to the wrong voices. This is the word of the Lord. I'm not saying be mean to people. Just don't lean on 'em. Lean on the everlasting arms. Lean on the promises of God. Build your house on a solid foundation not the shifting sands of people's opinions.
And the man on whose arm the king leaned said could this happen? Look how Elisha responded. He said you will see it with your own eyes but you ain't gettin' none of it. That's the new new international version. New new. I was just thinking how said that was that it was a day of deliverance and the top advisor of the king starved to death. Matter of fact, he didn't even get the chance to starve 'cause look when the people went into the enemy's camp and plundered the enemy's camp in accordance with the word of the Lord, verse 17 says "Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate". Question. Who have you put in charge of your gates? What regulates your thoughts? What regulates your belief? What regulates your self-image? Look, he put the man in charge of the gate.
There's a lot of revelation in this message. I'm gonna give you all of it I can. But you will need to lean into this message because sometimes you have put a past experience in charge of the gate to your future. Listen, when you let your past experience regulate access to your future, you will always be stuck in a stage of life that can no longer accommodate what God is speaking in this season. Not gonna happen bud. What if I had listened to him? We wouldn't get to hang out today. What if I had listened to him? I would have built me a little white church with some little white people and there'd be about 50 of us and we would just preach to the choir and we wouldn't change anything and we wouldn't touch anything. We wouldn't have e-fam watching all over the world. The Devil is a liar! It's happening and it's gonna happen with or without you! You might as well get in on it 'cause it's here baby! Preaching my watch off my wrist. Shove somebody say it's happening.
I started week one I was saying get back in the gate. But I heard the Lord saying this time get out of the gate. I said what is it? He said make a move. You hear all this teaching. You hear all this excitement. Ah, it's good. But you gotta get started. He died in the gateway. He blocked his own breakthrough. He saw it but he did not experience it because he would not believe it. It is our unbelief that blocks our blessing, not others. Some of us we block ourselves by blaming others. So we start locked in prisons of offense and we miss blessings because we would rather blame somebody else than believe God. See, let me preach this. You cannot believe God and blame them at the same time. You can't believe God and blame others. Either you believe that what people meant for evil God means for good, or you don't. If you believe God it means there's nothing life can do to you. There's nothing people can throw at you. There's nothing they can say about you, think about you, or lock you out of that will keep you from receiving what God has assigned to your life.
So here's the announcement Elisha. You can have your breakthrough or you can have your blame but you can't have both. When the king came to Elisha he said this is God's fault that we're in this famine. It wasn't the Lord's fault. It was the fault of the leader. Sometimes we will not lead our own lives and take initiative for our own repentance. So we block our blessings. Boys, do you hear me? We block our own blessings. Not the Devil. Our disbelief. God's gonna do it. The other day a great man of God was encouraging me. Great man of God. If you made a list of the top five people in the world he would be in my opinion somewhere in the top ten. But I respect him so much.
Now, why I respect him, he has longevity in ministry. He was introducing me to speak. He had invited me to speak. He got up to introduce me and the things he was saying about me they were so nice and encouraging I thought he was talking about someone else. It was a kind of introduction where he wasn't just speaking like he wrote a book or he pastored a church. He was saying things that he saw in me and how God had called me and our ministry. A voice to the generation. A bridge to reconciliation. Just things that: While he was saying them, at the same time that he was affirming me, watch this, there was another voice. Not on the stage but inside my soul. You ever had this happen? Like, somebody is trying to affirm you, trying to love you, trying to validate you, but you cannot receive it because your gates are blocked. There is something in the way called you that will not allow you to receive the love that God is trying to give you through someone else. While he was saying these things about me it was almost like the more he said good about me, the worse I felt. Cause what I thought is he doesn't know me.
The problem with you is you've got too much dirt on yourself. And the problem with you is you think you know yourself better than God does. The moment the revelation hits your life that the only one who knows you completely is the same one who loves you unconditionally, you will be unstoppable in the Kingdom of God. While he was sitting there affirming me and saying the things about me, the Devil that old slithering serpent that came crawling up to Eve talking about, "Did God really say He was placing limitations"? It was my own limitation. It's hard for you to take on giants when you see yourself as a grasshopper. It's hard for you to come out of a famine when you are living in the depths of your own frustration. Even when I preach sometimes some of you play me off and hold me off and cross your arms and close your heart and you lean back and it is your way of shutting the gates.
But you are missing the miracle! Because you feel unworthy. But God never predicated His blessing on your worthiness. Perfection is not the price of admission to the Kingdom of God nor to the great works and mighty things that He has called you to do in the Earth. I feel anointed to tell you today imperfection has never stopped God from blessing anybody. The only thing that blocks your blessing is unbelief. When I dare you to shout right now loud enough that that Devil can hear you. I believe! I am the righteousness of God!
Elisha said, "You'll see it, but you won't experience it". He doesn't say how. You ever notice how God doesn't give you a lot of the details, sometimes? I wish He did. It'd be super nice. But He doesn't. All He says is, "This time tomorrow the famine is gonna be over". How's He gonna do it? Oh, we're gonna get some manna from Heaven. Little flashback Friday. Famine flashback. 'Cause remember when they're in the wilderness? God dropped down the manna out of Heaven so manna dropped out of Heaven. What's it gonna look like? How's He gonna do it this time? You might be surprised how God blesses and delivers the nation. 'Cause the Bible says, I love this part right here.
Can you tell that I love what I do to preach to you? 'Cause I really feel like I've been cooking this all week and we 'bout to eat something right now. I mean, I smell it. Oh, it smells good. Verse 3. "Now, there were four men..". Everybody say, "Four". Four. Number of creation. North, south, the east, and the west. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Four represents creation. There's a creative miracle on the horizon. "Now, there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate". Now, contrast emerges. I got somebody in the gate who doesn't believe and then we've got a group of men they are outside the gate. Not because they're coming back from Whole Foods.
This is a gated community in the sense that these men when the white, flaky spots started showing up on their skin, they had to go to the priest. Leprosy was used to refer to a wide variety of skin diseases in this day. From the most moderate being a change in coloration to bloody sores and since leprosy is a progressive disease, eventually, maybe, your fingers start falling off. But, it's also a contagious disease so when you start to see the signs and you are pronounced ceremonially unclean they move you and quarantine you and position you outside the gate. Now, your only hope of survival is to beg because you can't even carry on a normal conversation. If you approach somebody you have to announce your condition before you engage. So to even get into the gate you would have to start hollering within about 10 or 20 feet, "Unclean! Unclean"!
Can you imagine if you had to announce your condition to people out loud before you met them? You would have no friends. I'm serious. If you had to externalize things that people don't know what's wrong with you. Some of y'all would have to announce, I don't know, "Amazon addict"! Huh? What if you had to announce everything that was wrong with you? Lust, perversion, what would that be like? What would is be like? "I talked bad about you the other day, but, hi, how you doin'? I can't stand you". Had to announce their condition. And they're outside the gate and they're isolated and they're desperate. And they're not welcome and they're starving. And the doggie bags have stopped coming 'cause the people inside the gate are gonna take care of themselves first and foremost. And they're outside the gate and there's four of 'em. Like those four men you remember the New Testament, don't you? 'Cause Jesus was preaching and so many people were in the house, nobody could get in.
There were four crazy men who were a friend to this man and so they got creative - and don't you try this if you come to Elevation Church, and it's full. They ripped the roof off of the house and lowered - I promise, security will wrap you up. But this was Bible times. They ripped the roof, "I ain't sittin' in overflow". "Yes, you are". They ripped the roof, lowered the man down, and the man got healed because of the faith of four crazy men. Watch the crazy faith. Somebody say, "Crazy faith". I'm just gonna say this right now. I don't mean to offend you. But some of you have way too many limits on what you will and won't do to obey God. You have too many limits. You have too many conditions. You don't wanna look weird. You don't wanna be different. You don't wanna stand out. You don't want people to talk about you and so you're starving inside. But these men they didn't have the option to stay inside and they couldn't stay where they were.
The Bible says that they, eventually, after many days of this, "...said to each other, "Why stay here until we die"? What a question. In other words, it is complacency that kills us. It is our willingness to stay in places where we are starving because we fear the repercussions of our obedience. So we don't join an e-group because we're scared of being seen. So we stay in isolation and we die outside because we won't let anybody in. But they didn't have that option anymore. They did not have the luxury to sit back and wait and see what God would do. They no longer had the luxury of patience so they said to one another, "We can't stay here and if we say..". 2 Kings 7:4, "'We'll go into the city... the famine is there..". So, we can't go there and we can't stay here so we only have one thing left to do. Let's go. Somebody shout, "Let's go"! You didn't shout it. Shout, "Let's go"! "So let's go over to..". the enemy's camp "...and surrender. If they spare us, we live; If they kill us..". at least, we die quick. 'Cause I'm hungry.
Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. We can't stay here and we can't go there because we're outside the gate. Here's what I love. If you've ever felt like an outsider, raise your hand, right now. If you've ever felt, yeah, like an outsider, that surprises you, right? 'Cause where're the insiders if we all feel like outsiders? That was kinda weird how more of us feel like outsiders. Here's good news for the outsiders. These men were on the outside of the city gate because of their condition. But what I love is God was using their condition to position them in the place so that they would not be comfortable enough to stay. And their condition — Here's what I love. I love preaching to you. I'm gonna preach this whole point just to you. Their condition positioned them to be God's secret weapon to save a whole nation. I am trying to say that, sometimes, the thing that you hate is the thing that God will use.
Sometimes, the thing that makes people not like you and reject you is the very thing — I'm about to fall off this stage. That will cause God to select you and chose you and use you for a breakthrough. Does anybody believe... that the stone the builders rejected... Why y'all leaving? I'm preaching good. Somebody shout if you know God's using unlikely people. Yeah. If they had been inside the camp, they would have died. It was the fact that they were not allowed in the camp that led to them — Look what they did. This is so stupid what they did. It makes no sense. It makes no sense. Sometimes, in order to see what God has spoken come to pass you can't be so focused on making sense. Your senses are killing you. Living by what you see is killing you. Living by what you feel is killing you. Living by what you hear is killing you. They had no choice. These are not the people who come to church to check it off a list 'cause it's a nice thing to do and their grandma would be proud if she was still alive today. These are the people who come to church because I need God to survive. These are not people who come to church so they can get a good parking space perhaps on Tuesday morning. These are the people that come to church because I can't make it.
I live and I breathe and I move and I have my being in Him. And, "At dusk..". before the light came "...they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp..". Watch this. Nobody was there. God had already displaced their enemies. All they had to do was show up. See, they went to surrender to the enemy, but the enemy had already surrendered to them. When will we realize that when we run from the Devil we are running from a defeated foe? See, the Bible says that he is already under my feet. So all I have to do to have the victory in my life is to take another step. See, God moves when you move. The Devil runs when you take your stand. When you put on your shield of faith the fiery darts of the Wicked One will be quenched. When they got to the edge...
Touch somebody, say, "I'm moving. I'm moving. I'm moving. I'm not dying here. I'm not dying like this. I'm not living in this mess. I'm not passing this on to my kids. I'm not going out like this. I'm not starving when my God owns the cattle of a thousand hills. Not like this"! "For the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses..". God caused the enemy to hear an army that wasn't even there. When Elisha released the word of God. When you make a declaration of faith it goes before you into your future. Matter of fact why not shout right now? Because when we praise God, the Devil gets a panic attack and he has to turn loose... I feel like preachin'!
Now, I'm real sorry if you don't like it loud like this. But somebody is starving in this church today and it wouldn't be so bad if you were starving and there was no food. But when Christ died to give you life and the thief came to kill, steal, and destroy, I'm sorry, but I can't stand by silent while the Devil wipes out a generation. I can't stand by silent while teen suicide is at an all-time high. I can't stay silent! The gates of Hell won't... If we stay silent, we die. If we hide our leprosy, it kills us. God used somebody who wasn't even allowed in the city, to save it. God's gonna use all of you who feel unworthy and all of you who feel not good enough, and all of you who've been ostracized, and all of you who feel limited. That's how God works is through your limitation. These men were so diseased that no one was allowed to even touch 'em.
Come here. Couldn't even touch 'em. And that's who God chose? So they went in the camp. Let me show you this. They went in the camp and they saw that the enemy was already gone. 'Cause a lot of times, what you're running scared from, God has already dealt with. But the enemy has you under siege. He puts a spirit of fear on you. 'Cause, if the spirit of fear ever lifts, you will find out who really are in Christ. But when they got there they saw that it was theirs for the taking. So now the first thing they did wasn't to pray and give God the glory. The first thing they did was eat. They went in this tent and when they reached the edge of the camp they entered one of the tents and they ate and drank. Then they started carrying away the spoils: the silver, gold, clothes, vibranium.
This is good. This is good. This is good. But then they went off and hid them. Went off and hid them. 'Cause that's what you do when you're a leper. You hide. That's what you do when you're ashamed. You hide. That's what you do when you feel like an outsider. Remember the man in the parable that said, "I was afraid, so I took what you gave me, and I hid it? The enemy wants to keep you in hiding, and if he can, he'll give you a condition that will cause you to hide your gift. You hear this word I'm trying to preach to you? I wish I could sit down one on one with everybody in the church and say, "What are you hiding"? Because here they are, God has given them the victory, and they're hiding it.
Sometimes, we hide because we are convinced we are not worthy. Sometimes, we hide because we are afraid of what might happen if we let our light shine. But they had a revelation in verse 10 I believe it is. No, it's verse 9. Then they said to each other, "You know, this is not right. Here we are. We don't deserve to be here. This is a day of good news and we're keeping it to ourselves. Now, if we wait till daylight, if we hold this in, if we keep this to ourselves, punishment will overtake us". What you hold inside, when you don't show your issues, you die. When you don't share your gift, you die. You are dying because of what you are hiding. If we wait, if we sit on this, we die. If we expose our sin, we can be healed. If we hide it, we will die.
Here's the thing: A lot of us are dying on the inside because our issues are beneath our skin. So we stay outside the camp, don't tell anybody. I'm fine. I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. We post and we pretend. Do our thing. But they had a revelation. God is blessing us now and we have to share what the Lord has done. Even though we're lepers. Even though I'm imperfect. You know how preposterous it is for me to preach to you? When I struggle like I struggle. I stay on this stage before you each week by faith. See, but the thing about it is, what if the reason God chose the lepers to discover the treasure was because they knew how to make an announcement?
See, once they found the goodness of God they said, "Let's go, at once, and report this in the royal palace". Then look at verse 10. "So they went and called out..". Because that's what lepers do. Only this time they were not shouting, "Unclean! Unclean"! This time, they were shouting, "Let's go! Let's go"! The only one who can really shout the victory is the one that God has raised from the ashes of defeat. So I wanna give you an opportunity if He healed you, if He saved you, if He raised you, if He's been good to you, if you have a testimony, if you are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, all the grateful people, shout right now!