Steven Furtick — Save Your Strength
I thought I would take a moment and just illustrate how sometimes where something shows up is not where it started. This sermon that you're hearing today came from a note that I made last year. And sometimes where something shows up isn't where it starts.
By the time you hear the sermon, it's already been, hopefully, in the process of me thinking about it for a long time. 'Cause I don't wanna just think of something Saturday and say it on Sunday. I even realized that about your life. You showed up today and I'll see you, but I don't really see what it took for you to get here. Or what is affecting your mind as I preach.
Sometimes people would say, "That's the best sermon you ever preached." And I'll say, "That's just the best you ever listened. Wasn't that good." But the sermon starts before it starts. I always tell the parking team, "Hey help me out". When people are coming in smile at 'em, wave at 'em, put 'em in a good mood.
It'll make my job easier. 'Cause the sermon starts before it starts. It starts before it starts. It starts checking in your kids, so make sure, make sure that you get as good of a start as possible. And this time of year we're so focused on new beginnings, but the longer you live the less you really believe in new beginnings.
And the cliche don't really comfort you in the same way or inspire you at the same level anymore. "New year, new you." Nope. I didn't grow three inches. No, I'm the same me. You can't really get a new start to your story. What you can do is change the ending. And the only real way for you to affect the ending is to understand the starting place.
It's very important that we understand the scripture that I read in the context of the times because there would have been an outside gate, the outer wall of the city with a gate for entrance, and an inner gate — as a line of defense — and then this space between the gate where justice was supposed to be served.
Negotiations happened, and people would buy and sell. That was the space between the gates, where the negotiations of life and the deliberations took place. But between the gates. The realm of your decisions, the realm of your thought process. The space between what you see with your eyes and what you do in your life. What you hear with your ears and how you act when you go home. That's space, that's where the battle is won and lost.
Now, by the time the battle is won, there has already been significant work done. Nobody wins the Olympics at the race. They won the Olympics in the dark, at 4:30. Where their success showed up is not where their success started. Usually when you see an issue in somebody's life, where it showed up is not where it started. It's the same with victories that it is with defeat.
I told a story last week about my dad. And the reason I like to tell so many stories about my dad is 'cause he's not here to correct them. I can tell 'em how I wanna tell 'em. The one I told about him last week made him sound kinda bad, but I thought I would tell a good one about him. No, my dad was a good dad. Especially if you compare him to the standard that he didn't have a dad to show him how to do it and he was making it up when he was doing it.
He was winging it. And I have mad respect for that, 'cause it's hard enough to be a dad when you've seen a dad, but he had to make it up. So some of his tactics were not FDA approved. Some of his tactics were kinda street tactics. One time I told my mom I wanted to kill him. Yeah. Not my finest moment. "I'll kill him! I wanna kill him!"
And when he picked me up from school that day, early dismissal, picked me up from school and said he had two guns in the back of the truck and I was gonna get one and was gonna get one 'cause he heard I wanted to kill him and if I didn't shoot he was going to.
And that is not the necessarily the type of parenting you hear about on Focus On The Family. But he was doing the best he could. And he didn't actually do it, he let me cry for 10 minutes and think that he was gonna do it. But I never said it again. I don't know where he got the idea to do this.
One of his finest moments, though was when he began to talk to me about addiction. He began to talk to me about addiction because his father committed suicide and had been a very mean drunk. His father's father had been an alcoholic. And somewhere along the line he made the decision that I can't go back and rewrite how this story started in our bloodline, but I'm gonna impart a vision to my son so that he might be the one to write a different ending.
You can't create a new beginning, but you can write a new ending. That's what I'm trying to say. You can't change who wasn't there for you, but you can write a new ending. And maybe we should start this year not as an expectation of new beginnings, but new endings. That from this point forward. I said from this point forward.
Paul said, I press towards the mark, this one thing I do forgetting what is behind me. There is no strength in what's behind me. I stretch toward what's ahead. And so my dad, he would pull me aside, even from a really young age. Like, I was eight years old and he would pull me aside and start talking to me about the dangers of alcoholism. Eight years old!
And he would tell me, "My dad was a drunk, and his dad was a drunk, and his dad was a drunk." And he would say, "You could be the first Furtick that wasn't an alcoholic." He put it out there like a challenge to me. Like, you could go to the moon. You could be the first Furtick. And I kinda liked that.
I was only eight! I was eight. I don't know what he thought that kids were bringing to school in their juice boxes like what temptation he thought I was under. You could be the first Furtick. And it got through to me even when I got a little older, I could be the first Furtick.
This is not a sermon about don't drink, by the way. Okay, I don't want you to get all nervous, like that. I'm not one of those preachers. 'Cause I have noticed that a lot of preachers who don't drink are 80 pounds overweight so apparently they skipped all the verses about gluttony and... Okay, okay. You didn't come for all that. Let's get back to the scripture.
Isaiah said, that, "He will be..." -- is anybody leaving? I can't see very well back there. Y'all still there? Okay. "... a source of strength to him who turns back the battle at the gate." In other words, God will strengthen the will of the one who makes the decision. It stops here.
I'm taking my place in the gate to say that I cannot affect how the story has started. But my dad said if you really wanna be the first Furtick to beat this, you gotta beat it in your blood. Because if you taste it, you're gonna like it.
So I wanna challenge you, just don't ever fight it. He was trying to get me to see that sometimes the best place to fight the battle is before it ever begins. To draw a line and say, "I'm not even going there. I'm not even playin' with this. This is not going to be a part of my children's legacy. I can't control what it's been until now, but from this day forward, by the grace of God, I am a new creation in Christ. And I'm gonna beat it in the bloodline. I'm gonna make a stand for the next generation. There are going to be some changes at the gate."
The place to beat it is before it begins. Because if you let it in, you've already let it win. It's like this in marriage by the time you let resentment in, you've already let bitterness win. It's like this in our thought process by the time we let worry in, we've already let anxiety win. And this is the year we no longer fight the devil on his level. Because Isaiah said there is a strategy. You can turn back the battle at the gate. It's a powerful thought.
Sometimes people make fun of me when we go out to eat. They say, "Oh yeah, I forgot, you don't drink." You know, it's fine I'm not judging you, drink what you wanna drink. I drink 14 diet Mountain Dews a day I got no judgement for your liquid consumption. I just got a different drug.
What I'm saying is this is a decision I made. It's a standard that I have set. And the problem in Isaiah is that the leaders who should have been setting the standard for the people have lowered the standard and left the people vulnerable. This has no relevance to our modern day of course. The Bible is an ancient book. In fact, Isaiah says, he gives a picture of it.
He says that the leaders who are supposed to be sitting in their seat of judgement rendering decisions of virtue and justice, verse 7 he says, "They stagger from wine and reel from beer. The priests and the prophets..." Wouldn't this make church more interesting? The priests and the prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine. Y'all I have a hard enough time making sense when I'm up here sober.
Could you imagine what I would sound like if I had a few. He said, "They stagger when seeing visions..." They cannot see correctly so how can they lead correctly? "...they stumble when rendering decisions." They are the ones who are supposed to calibrate the calling of the nation. And yet they are so drunk...
Ьaybe it's a metaphor. Maybe it's not just that they are drunk on alcohol, maybe they're drunk on pride. Maybe they're intoxicated with power. Maybe it's self aggrandizement that has caused the leaders of this day to begin to weigh self interest in a different scale than the best interest of the people. And yet Isaiah says something that rings true today. That God will be a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.
Notice he says that no matter who sits in the gate, God is still the source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. It would be worth answering the question, who is the source of your strength? If you haven't decided it by now you need to decide it really quickly because if the source of your strength is who you're sitting beside, you will live a very disappointed life.
If the source of your strength is a number at the bottom of your balance sheet, something will hit your life so hard that you can't buy your way out of it and you will find out really quickly that net worth is a terrible place to put your self-sense value. If the source of your strength is how people look at you, or treat you, or think about you, if the source of your strength on any given day is the condition of your health you will always be susceptible to the elements.