Steven Furtick — It Had To Happen
Alright, look at this from Acts 27. I preached this passage back in 2013, and this is the sequel. Back then, I did a message called, "It Will Happen". Touch somebody and say, it happens. However you want to take that. It's a message about faith and fear, and I'm going to get back into it today and share with you another level of it.
And let me read Acts 27:20. Paul is in the middle of a miracle, but he's also in the middle of a mistake, and sometimes the two are the same thing. That's about perspective. Sometimes the two are of the same thing. Well, the Bible says, in Acts 27:20, "When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and the storm continued raging" — because it was one of those things that wouldn't let up.
It was not the kind of trial that you go through and just get through it. It's like when you don't see any end in sight. It was that kind of thing. So, what happened was they lost all of their hope, and they quit believing that they could be saved, that it could be different, that they could be delivered. And right at the time that they started to let go of their hope, God spoke to Paul in a powerful way.
And of course, Paul was that great missionary who took the Gospel to the Gentiles, and so, it was a good thing for them that he was on board. Touch somebody and say, you ought to be glad you're sitting next to me. Because, any boat that I'm on is better cause I'm on it! Come on, now! Come on, now!
So, the Bible says, "After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said, "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete, then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss, but now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost. Only the ship will be destroyed. Here's how I know. Last night, an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, "Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar."
In other words, you can't go down in this battle, because I've got a bigger one ahead of you. "And God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith that It Will Happen just as He told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island."
So, 3-1/2 years ago, I preached a message called "It Will Happen", and today, I want you to announce my sermon title. Look at your neighbor and tell them, neighbor: "It Had to Happen".
Father, I thank you for your Word. I pray that it would go forth in clarity now to bless the people that you've brought here to hear it. Not only would they hear it, God, but I pray that they might apply it, so that it can strengthen their lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
On your way to your seat, touch your other neighbor that you hadn't talked to yet and tell them, it had to happen. Because Paul, as spiritual as he is, is apparently not above telling someone I told the sailors who were on this ship that was headed to Rome. They were trying to get to Italy, and Paul was on there for preaching the Gospel. He didn't do anything wrong, but sometimes the reason that you go through things isn't because of something wrong that you did.
You know that, right? Even as a Christian. And sometimes, the things you go through are directly you did right, and you can't always know the reason, and that's difficult for me. I always want to know the reason. And I feel like I'm really good at dealing with resistance if I know the reason for it, and even with people, I'm kind of skeptical.
I don't always take people at face value for what they say they want in a relationship. And I probably shouldn't be so paranoid. Holly tells me I should trust people more, but I think she should trust people less, so we just balance each other out. I really do. I think you should trust people less, because people will say that they want to be your friend for this reason, and sometimes there's a deeper reason.
And I know you can't go through life living like that, and you should assume the best about people and all of that, but I don't sometimes. Sometimes I get in situations where I'm like, hmmm, I wonder what the real reason... even with my kids, you know, if they're too nice to me. You know, if they hug me a little too tight. You know, they come running a little too fast. Hey, Daddy! I know that behind the affection is an ask.
It happened today. I was coming out to preach. I heard a noise in the bathroom back in my green room, and I was in another room. And I knew it was Elijah, because I heard the pop of the product, my hair product. And I said, "Who's in here"? And I knew it was him, and I was messing with him. And he said, "It's me, Daddy! I just came to say I love you!" And I said, "And to use my hair product"? I know why you're really in here. And he said, "And because I love you"! And I said, "Well, mostly because you want my product". And he said, "Why can't it be both"?
That was pretty good. And for me, I hear Paul. Okay, he's on a ship that he doesn't believe he rightfully belongs on, taken as prisoner for a crime that he didn't commit, being accused of things that he didn't do. And I hear, when he's talking... I kind of hear two things. I hear faith, It Will Happen, and I hear frustration, this didn't have to happen.
And I hear both, because watch. He says, "If you would have taken my advice, you would have spared yourself this damage and loss". In other words, the reason we're about to wreck is because of a decision that you made. But, if we stay too long in the reason, we're going to drown. Because what matters at some point... you have to get past, at some point, trying to figure out why it happened, and this is difficult. This is difficult for those of us who want to know a reason.
Even pastorally, when I call someone and maybe they've gone through a loss, a tragedy, and I say, I was just calling to pray with you, there's a temptation for me to try to give them a reason for why it happened. And when I was a rookie pastor, before I became the sage of wisdom that I am before you today... can you feel me rolling my eyes at myself in sarcasm?
I would always feel compelled to give them a reason, you know? But God is going to use this for good, you know, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11? Every little coffee cup verse I could spit out at them, just as fast as I could. You know, there's a reason for that. And I realized at some point during giving people reasons, sometimes people don't need a reason when they're in the middle of a storm. They just need a reassurance that God will not leave you alone in it.
So please, when someone that you love is suffering, don't be so quick to give them a reason. Don't be so quick to point your finger. Well, the reason your kids are rebelling is because... no, no. Now's not the time for that. People don't need a reason when they're going through a great trial. What they need is someone to reassure them that God is with you, and so am I.
And here's Paul, standing in the middle of a storm, and the reason it's happening is because of their dumb decision. Have you ever had to go through a storm because of somebody else's dumb decision? This is an awkward moment in my sermon, the person next to you is going to know.
Paul says, if we would have done it this way... oh yeah, because not everything that happens to you happened because God wanted it to happen to you. And certainly, not everything that happens to you happens because the devil did it, because if the devil did it, Sometimes I think we've got the wrong word sometimes, because I think they both start with the letter D, and we get confused.
Sometimes it's not the devil, it's the decision. It's just too crowded in church today. I need to free up some seats for the next week, so... I don't want you to have to sit in parking or anything like that. And sometimes this didn't have to happen like this, and those are the hardest for me.
Really, the hardest for me is when I feel like, this was avoidable. You know? And when I feel like I could have avoided it. and that's the tension, isn't it? I was talking to one of my best friends the other day and I said, "A year from now"... we were going through something and we were talking through it, and it was something that we couldn't understand.
And I said, "A year from now, we will understand why this had to happen". And he said, "Do you really believe that"? I said, "Yeah, I believe that in time, God will show us". He said, "No, no, not that part. Do you really believe it had to happen?"
Because what he was doing, he was reverse engineering all of the decisions that led to it, and what I kind of wanted to say to him that I wasn't smart enough to say in the moment, but I've thought about it for a few weeks now and I want to tell you... is that I've come to the place in my belief system where I no longer try to figure out whether God did it or the devil did it, because it has to pass through the same hands before it gets to me.
And I've read enough of the Bible to know that God will use other people's bad decisions to get me to my destiny. And I've seen enough play out to know that Joseph, at the end of his life, was only able to look at his brothers and say, don't even worry about it, because you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Which one was it, evil or good? It was both.
Why can't it be both? Why can't it be an attack from the devil that God used and put to good usage and repurposed in order to accomplish... that's what Paul is saying. He's saying it didn't have to happen! I don't want you to blame this on God! We could have avoided this! You didn't have to date him! Your mom told you he was crazy, and you wouldn't listen to anybody!
But if we stay stuck in the reason, we'll miss the revelation! Because Paul says, you know, there's a reason this happened, and it could have been avoided. But last night, while the storm was raging, last night, I was all alone and God showed up and reminded me that His purpose is still intact, even if the ship goes down. It had to happen.
It had to happen. And, God doesn't tell Paul a whole series of explanations. He doesn't give him a reason, he gives him a revelation. Revelation is more powerful than reason. See, you can't fight the devil you don't know the reason. Sometimes you have to go back to who God showed you that He was, and God is very tactical in this, so He will create a situation for a revelation.
Can I preach about this for a minute? And He loves Lazarus. And when they tell Him that Lazarus died, He'll say, I'm glad it happened! Jesus actually said, "I'm glad he died". Why? Because now we've got a situation, and the situation is what enables the revelation. It's not just true because it rhymes, it's true because it's true. They knew Him as healer. Now they needed to know Him as resurrection.
And so He said, I'm glad it went wrong. I'm glad it went poorly. Paul said, we must run aground on some island. Somebody say, it had to happen. It had to happen, for a reason, He will bypass the reason and give you a revelation. You still belong to me. You're still my child.
See, I don't operate by reason. If I operate by reason, sometimes I'll be up, sometimes I'll be down. I operate by revelation. I know He is good, and He does good! I know He's with me, I know He's for me! I know He'll never leave me, nor forsake me! That's my revelation. Touch somebody and say, I've got a revelation.
And so, when you get in trouble, you don't need a reason, you need a revelation. Elijah looked at me the other day, and I was telling him to do something, and he's 11 years old, and so he is being visited by demons of 11 year oldness. And he's coming up to me, talking about, "Dad, I'll do it if you tell me the reason". He said, "I'm not the kind of person who can just do something without knowing the reason".
Did you ever see The Simpsons? I know you don't watch TV, you read the Bible all the time. When Homer grabs Bart around the neck... and I know I probably couldn't do that. When he said, "I need a reason", and I looked back at him, and the only thing that came to me was... I looked at him, the spirit of Star Wars came on me and I said, "I am your father". You don't need a reason to do it, boy. You need a revelation of who I am!
See, sometimes in your life you won't know why, but if you know who... Paul said, "Last night, an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve"! So, look. High five somebody and say, I got a revelation. And Paul says, we're going to make it, but the boat isn't. The boat has to break, but we're going to make it.
We will suffer loss, but we will not lose what's most important. That's the promise. Alright, so you know what's amazing about this story? It happened just like Paul said it would, and they all got to the shore. And they got to that island, look at this in Acts 28:1.
Somebody say, it had to happen. That's the Word for you today — it had to happen. And, when they got there, the Bible says, Acts 28:1, "Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta". Malta means refuge.
So, the grace of God does not always prevent the consequence, but it gives you a place to land. And so, we must run aground on some island, and when we got there, we found out the island was called Malta, and it must be a relief now that we're no longer on these open seas, because they've spent weeks thrashing around, wondering if they'd ever see dry land again.
And then, they get to the place, and the Bible says in verse 2 that "The islanders showed us unusual kindness". Now, islanders is a kind term. The actual word that is used here from Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, is barbarians, and he called them that because they didn't speak his language. Malta is an unfamiliar place. And it's an unfamiliar place, not only that, but "They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold".
Now, imagine this. Can we empathize with Paul for a minute, because he survived the shipwreck, only to shiver in the cold and an unfamiliar language. And he survived, but now the place where he is, is unfamiliar to him. I mention that because many times in my life, I have found myself on Malta.
Have you ever been to Malta? Oh, sure you have. It's that place... let me show it to you. Let me show you on the map here, in my Bible. Look. That's where Paul started. That's where the wind blew him around for like, several weeks. And that's Malta, where they landed. Look! Can you see that? That little tiny island called Malta. See how small Malta is? See how tiny it is, how small it is? That's where Paul was going, and that's where the wind blew him. That's where Paul had always wanted to visit, Rome, where he would stand trial before Caesar and be used as God's great spokesman, the most powerful place in the world, in its day.
Have you ever ended up somewhere you never planned on being? That's what I'm trying to say. Have you ever been to Malta? I need somebody over here in this section who's been to Malta. Now, Malta is the place you didn't plan on staying. Malta is the season you didn't plan on experiencing. Malta is the layoff you didn't see coming. Malta is the relationship you didn't see ending. Malta is the emotional place you never thought you'd experience.
You saw other people depressed, you never thought you'd be depressed. You saw other people's kids act crazy, you thought yours would act right. Malta is that place where you're 28 and single. Malta is that place where someone who was there for you is no longer there for you. Have you ever been to Malta? What is somebody as important as Paul doing somewhere as small as Malta? Let's find out! Let's find out!
I love the Bible, man! The Bible says that Paul got to Malta, survived the shipwreck. Have you ever survived anything? Have you ever survived anything? Have you ever gave up hope, and just when you gave up hope, and grabbed hold of you in the depths? I've been preaching this all weekend, but I feel something special happening right now for somebody who is in an unexpected place, a stuck place.
The Bible says that those islanders were so kind to the prisoners, 276 of them in all, that they built them a fire. And Paul was such a good dude that he decided to help. So, they're building a fire, and Paul doesn't want to stand over there like me at a Love Week event, looking like some lazy preacher who doesn't know how to do anything. And Paul grabs a piece of wood.
Look, it's right there in verse 3. "He gathered a pile of brush wood, and as he put it on the fire, trying to help, a snake came out." So, let's go back to everything that's happened to Paul. He's imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He's shipwrecked, because the sailors are too stupid to follow his advice. Now, he's cold, on Malta.
We're talking about Malta! Stuck and stranded, shivering and cold, uncertain in an unfamiliar place. And just as he thinks he's made it to safety, he gets struck by a snake! This is almost comical! Unless you've been there... just when you thought the fight was going to be over, here comes something else! Have you ever? And the snake pops up, out of the fire that Paul was simply trying to help them build, on an island called Malta, where he never even planned to go, and the Bible says it fastened itself to his hand!
So, this is not some quick little... this snake bit down on Paul! And watch what the people did, because you've got to be careful about people. Let me tell you, you've got to be careful about people, because when that happened, people will always assign a reason to why you're going through what you're going through. Well, if I were her husband, I would have left her.
People will say stuff like that, not to you. They never say it to you, they just think it about you. They think that the reason bad things happen to you is because of something that you did. Well, the islanders are watching this guy, who's got a snake on his hand, who just came crawling out of the sea with some seaweed around his ears, and he claims to be a preacher, and he claims to be a servant of God.
And so, if you're a servant of God, why isn't God protecting you? Has the devil tried to convince you lately that if you really had a God, you wouldn't be going through what you're going through? And so, they stood back. They stood back and said, this dude. When they saw the snake hanging from his hand, which means it was there for a minute. When they saw the snake hanging from his hand, they drew their own conclusions. He must have done something wrong. He must be a murderer. He must be out of the will of God.
"For though he escaped the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live." I love the next verse, because Paul preaches one of the most powerful sermons in the New Testament. Watch this. When Paul saw them all looking, he knew he had a captive audience, and verse 5 says that when Paul saw them looking, he said ... and this may not be in your Bible. I'm reading from the TSV, the Taylor Swift Version.
He said, players gonna play, play, play, play, play. Come on, y'all. Go back to 2014 with me for a minute. And haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Five times, that's a quintuplet in the New Testament. Heartbreakers gonna break, break... we get the point, Pastor. You don't have to quote the whole chorus and the verse. Paul's response... that's the word, response.
Watch this. He didn't say a word. He didn't try to convince them that God was with him. He didn't feel sorry for himself. He didn't go on Facebook and write a response post. Watch what he did. He did what you've got to learn how to do when you make it through the storm and all hell breaks loose on the shore!
Come on, when they talk about you, when it looks like this is the end, when you've been through it and it keeps coming! The Bible said Paul shook it off! Touch seven people and say, shake it off! Shake it off. Shake if off right now, before it gets in your system!