Steven Furtick - Setup In The Stronghold
This week's psalm is Psalm 142. I have some good news. My oldest son has fallen in love…with an album. It was something I feared may never happen, because we live in the day of the single. Nobody listens to albums anymore, but my son, having impeccable good taste (mostly informed by his genetic code), has fallen in love with an album. If we weren't in church, I'd tell you it's a Kendrick Lamar album, but what was so good to me about that is I was scared he would never have the experience I had when I was about his age. He's 12. He would listen to Spotify-streamed songs and the garbage stuff that's out there now, and I didn't know if he'd get into good-quality music.
I never knew if he would have the moment I had growing up in the mean streets of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, of falling in love with an album. The first album I fell in love with was of course by the great Christian worship band Guns N' Roses. The prophet Axl Rose was the first preacher who ever touched my soul in a powerful way. I wanted him to have that experience, to really get into the music. He looked at me the other day, and he said, "I feel like Kendrick gets me". Compton and Waxhaw are just alike. That point aside, it was good to me to see him get into it. I wanted him to know that and feel that. In this series, I want you to know God gets you, and I want you to get into God.
Can you see how excited I am? It's either that, or I'm caffeinated, or something. Some combination of caffeine and Jesus Christ has me fired up to tell you that God gets you. Touch somebody and say, "I don't get you; thank God he does". The more you get into God, the more you realize God gets you, all of you, and yet, when we come into church, sometimes we read little fragments of Scriptures and phrases and things that sound good. That's like people who say, "I don't listen to the lyrics. I just like the beat". I hate those people. You don't understand the depth and the backstory. You just like the beat.
Sometimes we're like that in church. "I will bless the Lord at all times, and his praise shall continually be on my mouth". You're not thinking about what that says. You just like how it sounds. You're like, "Yeah. I will bless the Lord occasionally, once in a while, or on Sunday for 28 minutes. I will bless the Lord at… Well, not all the time. I'm not going to get in front of people and do it. I'm not going to lift my hands. But it sounds good. I like the beat".
Last week, we were focused on Psalm 59, which was a banger. We discovered not only is David a shepherd, but he is a goat. He's the goat, the greatest of all time. Some people were offended by the assertion that David was the greatest rapper of all time. I stand by it. We are rocking to his mixtape, the book of Psalms. Three millennia after he penned these words, they still resonate in our souls. This week, we're going to look at some things he said that might surprise us in Psalm 142. This is more of a ballad. The tempo is a little slower, because David is conflicted, and he cries out to God about it.
I want to read all seven verses from Psalm 142. David says, "I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life". Elijah, nobody is praying for me. I looked around for help, and all I found was hardship. "I cry to you, Lord; I say, 'You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.' Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name".
I want to so badly, but I can't right now. Set me free. Only you have the keys to do it. "Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me". There's one more thing I want to read you from 1 Samuel 22 before we talk about it for a few moments. This is the backstory to the beat. We'll just read one verse for now, 1 Samuel 22:5. "But the prophet Gad said to David, 'Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.' So David left and went to the forest of Hereth". My subject for today is "The Setup in the Stronghold". When we started Psalm 142, I don't know if you found yourself, like me, wanting to tell David, "You're not allowed to do this".
When he cries aloud to the Lord and lifts up his voice to the Lord for mercy in verse 1, at this point in the psalm, I have predicted this predicament. It is in verse 2 that I'm a little surprised, where David says, "I pour out before him my complaint". At this point, I want to pull David aside and say, "Didn't you know you were supposed to bless the Lord at all times, and his praise should continually be in your mouth"? David said back to me, "I wrote that psalm too. That's Psalm 34, but this one is a little different, because sometimes, before my mouth can be filled with praise, I have to pour out something else to make room for what I know I'm supposed to…"
This is the point in the sermon where people start getting really confused on me, because we have been taught sometimes that unless we can come to God the right way, we can't come to him at all. The fact of the matter is a lot of us don't pray, don't worship, and don't enter into the presence of God in that specific, intangible way wherein he can heal the issues of your heart because we are scared of what would happen if we really opened ourselves up and told him.
In fact, I was talking to my friend the other day about how it's very difficult for us sometimes to tell God how we're feeling, which is funny because I have a feeling he already knows how I'm feeling. I'm scared to tell him, and here's why. It's because of something my dad used to say. Whenever I would start crying, my dad had this line he would say to get me to stop. The line was, "If you don't stop that crying, I'll give you something to cry about".
My dad was a great dad, and I get it. But when David uses this image, I was surprised. I'm so used to the Psalms being a place where we pour out our praise. I was surprised to see David pour out his complaint, because I didn't think you were supposed to complain if God was good to you. I read the whole psalm, and he started the psalm by saying he was pouring out his complaint, and he ended the psalm by saying God was good to him. I couldn't put the two together, because what do you have to complain about if God has been good to you? I'm sometimes afraid to complain in the presence of God, so I don't pray. I can't say what I know I'm supposed to say, so I don't say anything.
I'm scared if I say what I really want to say, God might give me something to cry about. I'm scared sometimes to pray to God before I come preach what I really feel like praying to God, which is, "I'm not feeling this today". I'm scared if I say that to him, he'll put something on my voice box so I can't preach. I'm afraid if I complain to God about my children, he might look on somebody else who can't have kids and has been praying that they could have kids, and here I am complaining about something I prayed and asked God to give me. I feel kind of guilty, so now I stand at a distance, and I won't tell God what I have to say.
I learned something about God. He is the only safe place where I can pour out my complaint. If I don't learn how to pour out my complaints in his presence, they will spill over somewhere else. Where else can I go but his presence? Who else could I tell but the one who knit me? Where else is it safe? What are you going to do? Are you going to go on Facebook and tell your troubles? The presence of God is not a place to bypass your emotions; it's a place to process them. That means the only way into the presence of God is from where you really are, not from where you wish you were. You can start your prayers with, "Oh sovereign God of the seas, Nemo, Dory, and Sidney, Australia, oh God, sovereign Father…"
You can start there. That's preferable, but in case you can't, in case it's one of those days, in case you don't even feel saved, in case you just want to bust some heads, in case you don't feel God at all… It's okay to tell God, "I don't feel you right now, but I need you. God, come to my rescue. You know who I am. You know how much I need". How in the world are you going to get to the attitude and the mindset God wants you to have and the place he wants you to be if you don't start from where you really are? It gives me permission. If David did it, so can I. I can pour out my complaint in his presence. He said, "I cried aloud to the Lord…" The word aloud has different meanings if you spell it differently. You're allowed to complain aloud. This is something that took me a long time to learn.
I always tried to fight what was going on in my mind in my mind. The only problem with fighting what's going on in my mind in my mind is that is enemy-held territory. I have strongholds in my mind, and when I go to pray and my heart is overwhelmed, my mind can't keep up with my spirit, because my spirit knows when I need to pray, but my mind gets in the way. Who am I helping so far? I wish I had brought them out, but I didn't remember. I have some AirPods I put in my ears so people will think I'm having a conversation on the phone in case they look in my car or they see me going through… Well, I don't ever go to Target, but if I happen to go to Target once a year, on my annual trip to hell, I put in my AirPods.
I don't fight my mind in my mind, because I can't win on the level I'm fighting on. I have to get altitude. I have to fight from an elevated place. I fight my mind with my mouth. You can pray any way you want to, but when you really get into a situation, you don't fight in your mind. You pray out loud. You can do whatever you want after this, but for the next seven days you're allowed to pray aloud. I want you to stop closing your eyes and worrying and calling it prayer. You can think a thousand things at once.
How many aren't even paying attention to me right now because you have something in the oven? But you can only say one thing at a time. When I open my mouth, I'm not just being emotional; I'm being strategic. In fact, why don't you shout right now to let God know. Come on, Rock Hill. Shout, somebody in the back of Ballantyne. Shout in the overflow. Let's fill the place with praise. What I love about God is I don't have to start with the script, "Oh, thou mightiest only-est God-est of the sun-est and the stars-est". I can look at God and say, "God, I hate myself right now. Did you see how I just acted"? God will say, "Yeah. As a matter of fact, I did, and I see how you're going to act tomorrow, and I decided to send my Son to die for you with complete foreknowledge of all your faults".
If I make my bed in hell, you are there. If I say, "I'll dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea," God is in the depressed place. God is in the darkness. God is in the cave. David starts writing this psalm, and he has good acoustics. Do you know how you can sing really well in the shower because the acoustics make you think you can carry a tune? Have you ever done that? You got in the shower, and you were like, "I should probably get an agent. I sound just like the recording".
David has good acoustics. He's under attack, but he's in a cave. Some of the best expressions of your relationship with God will be born not when you are crowned in victory, but when you are hiding in despair. David is a giant-killer, and David has a future as a leader of an entire nation God has called out, his people. Have you ever had your calling in conflict with your circumstances? This is David's situation in Psalm 142. I mentioned it briefly, but I want to go back to the historical record in 1 Samuel 22. David is in a safe place, a cave in Adullam. The Bible says in verse 1, "David left Gath…"
Do you want to do something really cool this week? Go study where Goliath was from. I'll go ahead and tell you now, because I studied it for you. It's Gath. He has to go hide in the place where he just defeated an enemy. He has to go hide for a little while in a place where he doesn't belong. The problem with David going to Gath is he still has Goliath's sword he took after he cut off his head. Maybe there's still a little bit of blood on it. David is on the run from Saul, whose throne he is going to occupy. He can't stay in the place he belongs because the king wants to kill him, but he can't stay with the enemies he's fighting against.
Have you ever felt like you didn't quite fit anywhere? Are there at least three weird people like me in here? Do you ever feel like you don't fit where you came from or where you're going? Have you ever felt too churchy to be worldly, but a little too worldly to fit into some churches? I hit something right there. David escapes, but watch this. This is the phrase that got my attention. Everybody has a way they escape. That's what Guns N' Roses was for me, and that's what Elijah's headphones are for him. It's a way for me to escape. Just for a little while, I can get out of my situation and get into something else. Here's the principle: The way you escape could lead to greater captivity. It is so important where you go when you run, because sometimes what you run to will end up running you.
The Bible says David escaped from the land of Gath, and he was safe from the spear of Saul. He escaped to the cave, which is a safe place, but he escaped to something he was trapped in. Now we understand what David had to complain about in Psalm 142. He's supposed to be a king, and he's stuck in a cave. He's safe, but he's stuck, and he knows, "There is more to me than this". And David is shocked. Watch this. David is not surprised by the enemies who surround him; he's surprised by the friends who didn't. David was not expecting it would be easy to be a king. He was not expecting to ascend to the throne without any battles. He wasn't expecting cotton-candy-lollipop-Santa-Claus Yahweh. He wasn't expecting to be able to take the moving sidewalk to the throne to rule the people, but he was expecting the people God called him to serve would have his back.
He looks around in Psalm 142 from the cave of Adullam and says, "I'm not surprised by who's surrounding me to kill me; I'm surprised nobody is surrounding me who cares about me". Have you ever looked around and been surprised? "Where are the people I helped? Where are the people I prayed for? Where are the people…"? This is what it's like to be a parent. I thought, "It must have been lonely for David to be all alone in the cave," but then I kept reading, and I discovered he wasn't alone. Can I show you? I love this stuff. Touch somebody and say, "Get into it". Don't settle for a little cassette single. Don't settle for, "This is the day the Lord has made," because you like the beat.
The backstory is David is in the deepest place of despair not because he's surrounded by trouble, but because he can't find his support. He's in a stronghold looking for a support system. He's looking for somebody to be there for him. "I killed this giant who was defying the whole nation…" "I helped you move…" I'm trying to make it practical with something we can live with. Most of us aren't hiding from wicked kings, but it doesn't mean we can't relate. David says, "I looked around and nobody was there". But it wasn't true. Read the rest of the verse. It's verse 1, the same verse. He's in the cave of Adullam. He said, "I looked to my right, and nobody was there". That's what he wrote in Psalm 142. "When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there".
He was surrounded, but there is a difference between being surrounded and feeling supported. God sends David some people into a cave. Maybe he wrote that before they came, and maybe he wrote it as they came. Here's one thing I know: Everybody in that cave needed something from David. Here's how I know. The Bible describes David's team in verse 2. It says, "Not only did his brothers and his father come…" By the way, his father didn't believe in him. His dad didn't even bring him in on draft day when Samuel came through town with a horn of oil looking for the next king. "Now you want some help in the cave, because Saul has gone crazy, and you think maybe I can defend you because I'm good with a sword and a slingshot"?
Have you ever felt like people only call on you in certain times? You don't hear from them for two years, and when they call you, you kind of want to say, "Why don't you just cut the crap and tell me what you want, because I know you didn't call me to check on me. I know there's no way in the world you called me to see how I was doing. Let's get through the preliminaries. 'How are you doing, bro? I'm doing well.' Just tell me what you need, and I'll tell you whether I'm going to do it or not. Let's cut through all this so I can save the time you would spend pretending like you care about me". Maybe its just me. "I will bless the Lord in all times".
David is surrounded, but he does not feel supported. He has a full email inbox. Does anybody still email anymore, by the way? It's not that he's not getting any texts; it's just that they're all transactional. It's not that he doesn't know anybody; it's just that nobody really knows him. Nobody cares. He didn't say, "Nobody came". He said, "Nobody cares. I have a crowd around me, and I smile so well they have no idea I feel like it's all fake". Do you see how quiet it's getting? That's when I'm preaching my best. When they're standing up and shouting and all that, I'm not saying anything really important. When it gets like that… Do you hear it? Do you hear that funeral vibe? That's what I like. "Who really cares? If I couldn't provide for them, would they care"? I think I wonder sometimes, "If I couldn't pick up the mic, and if I couldn't do what I did, who would I be? Who would really love me if I didn't have a big church"? I'm trying to tell you, "I'm not David, but I can relate".
I have a feeling every husband can relate, every wife can relate, and every friend can relate. I know every parent can relate. You look around and wonder, "Does anybody really care about me as a person? When are they going to ask me, 'How are you?' Everybody around me needs something from me". Look who God sent to David in the cave. Thanks a lot, God. Look at verse 2: "All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him…" Really? This is my team? I don't know the sequence, and nobody does, but was God messing with David? "Nobody surrounds me"! God said, "All right. I'm going to send 400 of the roughest thugs you've ever seen. You're going to have some company in the cave now, David. Make some room. Get the cot ready. I heard you, David. Here comes some backup". "But God, I don't want them".
What David didn't know is these men would be the same men who would bring him to the throne. These men God sent to David in the cave would be the same men who would chase down lions in pits on snowy days and rip their mouths open. If they hadn't been rough, they couldn't have been relentless. If David hadn't been in the cave, they wouldn't have come to him. It was a setup. That's what I'm trying to say. There are some things that can only come together in the cave. When you get alone, you feel alone, and you say, "God, I need you," and God says, "Now that you know I'm what you need, I can give you what you don't even know to pray for. If you'll get desperate, open your mouth, and get real…"
Come on. Is anybody ready to get real with God? I'm done pretending. I'm done playing. Do it by faith. Touch five people and say, "You have what you need". It might look like debt, it might look like disorientation, and it might look like discontent, but those were David's mighty men in disguise. I'm telling you, a little boy's lunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet when God puts his hand on it. What you have is what you need for where you are. You are not stuck. It is not over. Saul can't kill you, and you are not alone. Shout about it. David is not alone.
Touch somebody and say, "You're not alone". Look them in the eye and say, "You're not alone". The person on the other side of you you've been ignoring every time I told you to turn to your neighbor… Look at them and say, "You're not alone either". Don't leave them out. You've been in a stronghold. David doesn't know what's next, and he says something really crazy. The men, the broke relatives, come to him. Everybody wants a piece of David now that he has a contract. He's like, "I don't know. I'm in this place right now. I'm in this cave". He leaves the cave with these folks. He has to do something with his mom and dad. He goes down to Moab where they have good retirement communities and assisted living… No. He had a tie there because his great-great-grandmother was a Moabite.
You can study this as much as you want. There are a lot of connections here, and which ones you see are determined by how you look. When he drops his parents off in Moab… I want to read you this. I didn't really get to key in on this last time, but I want to say it here. He tells the king of Moab, "I need a safe place for my family to stay. Would you look after Mom and Dad, who weren't really looking out for me and demeaned me"? Do you know how it says, "David was a man after God's own heart"? Do you know how Jesus is called the Son of David? They had one thing in common. They did it for others who wouldn't do it for them. They were willing to die for the people who were willing to kill them.
David makes arrangements for his parents to stay in Moab. The only problem with Moab… It's not really a bad place. I don't want you to conjure up images of Nineveh, where they would impale their enemies. I don't want you to think of Nero, who was persecuting the New Testament church and frying them in vats of oil. Moab was a place where they worshiped other gods. David goes down to a place that's not necessarily bad. Sometimes you go places to survive that end up imprisoning you in the process. He drops off his parents, and he says in verse 3, "Can they stay until I learn what God will do for me"? "David, you know you're destined to be a king". "Yes, I do, but right now, I'm in this cave of confusion. What I know God has promised me does not take away the confusion of wondering how he will bring it to pass. I need a safe place to stay while I figure out how God is going to do this".
He drops his parents off in verse 4, and he has everything under control. The king says, "Sure". What else are you going to say to David? He'll hit you with a rock or something if you don't help him out. "…they stayed with him as long as David was in…" There it is. "…the stronghold". God sent me to preach to somebody today who is in the stronghold. The stronghold is not a bad thing. Please understand when 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, "We demolish strongholds," if you stick around church for a little while, you'll hear us say some churchy things. We have these vocabulary words, and we talk about pulling down strongholds, but before you pull them down, understand what they actually are. I know you understand the military term that a stronghold is a fortified place.
A stronghold is a place where opposing forces can't get to you. A stronghold that protects you from one enemy might imprison you to another one. In one of the only two times we see him in Scripture, the prophet Gad says something to David I think the Spirit of the Lord might be saying to you today. Lake Norman, University, Online, Kansas, Nebraska, and from sea to shining sea, I want to make an announcement. Teenagers, people who are not teenagers anymore, and people who have lived several lifetimes since your teenage years, I want to declare the Word of the Lord to you. The Word of the Lord to you is this from 1 Samuel 22:5: "Do not stay in the stronghold". It's a setup. If you stay in Moab too long… Moab is a state of mind. It may not be a physical location.
I'm not talking about your marriage. I'm not telling you to get a divorce and blame it on God because he said to leave Moab. People take my messages and twist them. The stronghold is usually something you ran to to protect you. Let's see how real you're willing to be right now. I want all the pessimists to raise their hands right now. All the spouses of pessimists, grab the wrist of your partner and make them play along with my interactive sermon. I'm going to tell you why you're a pessimist. It's a defense mechanism. It protects you from disappointment. Like the Gin Blossoms used to say, "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down". I got let down, and I didn't like how that felt, so now I just expect people to suck, and when they do, I'm not surprised.
How many pessimists are in the house? It's fine to be realistic, but what you don't know is when you develop a pattern of pessimism neurologically, in your brain, and spiritually, in your heart, when you hide in that stronghold, it protects you, but it traps you. It protects you, but it also ensnares you. You now create the reality you projected through your expectation. You are not surprised life sucks, but life sucks because you were not prepared to be surprised by anything other than the fallen condition of sinful man. When God really wants to show you his goodness in the land of the living, you can't see it because you're in the stronghold. Pessimism protects you from disappointment, but it imprisons you as it protects you. Every addiction is, at its root, a form of self-defense.
I'm taking something, I'm seeing something, I'm doing something, or I'm saying something… You can be addicted to a whole lot of stuff more than pills. I have some friends who are addicted to problems. If it even looks like it's going to be a good day, they will spike the coffee just to screw things up so they can feel normal in a state of self-sabotage. I'm preaching like I know you now. Only God could show me this about you. You are addicted to drama. It protects you from having to be productive and steady, because if you create drama, you'll have something to blame. It's a way of escape. That's why a lot of us blame others. It's a stronghold. It's a way for me to not have to take responsibility. If I blame you, I don't have to deal with the shame of me, but now I'm imprisoned to bitterness.
"David, if you stay in the cave, you won't be able to save the people of Keilah". David had a battle to fight in Judah that he didn't know about. He had an army God was forming, and he couldn't see them for what they were because he was in the stronghold. There are things God has surrounded you with that you can't see in the stronghold. If the prophet says, "You have to go to Judah," you have to go to Judah. If I had a fired-up church, I would preach this thing. If this were Code Orange Revival… If I were at Matthews right now, and if I were at Lake Norman, I would have you touch seven people and tell them, "Get to Judah as quickly as you can". Judah is the place that represents praise. In fact, the very word Judah means praise.
Now I see what David was doing in Psalm 142 is what the prophet was saying in 1 Samuel 22. I'm leaving the stronghold. I'm stepping outside of myself, outside of my feelings, and outside of my circumstance, and I'm stepping into my future. Is anybody going to Judah today? Give him praise! Get to Judah. You won't see what God can do for you in this cave. You have to go to Judah. You have to get back to the place where you will be crowned as king. You have to get back to the promise, King David.
Stand up and help me close this sermon. He starts Psalm 142 trapped in a cave, but he ends Psalm 142 coming out of prison. He starts Psalm 142 behind bars, but he ends Psalm 142 writing bars. He starts Psalm 142 in a cave that seems safe. He ends Psalm 142 knowing, "God is my refuge, and nothing can, by any means, harm me". Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, and no one can stand against the promise of God. He started with complaint, but by the time he got done, he was filled with praise. I know you came to church hurting, but why not lift your hands and praise him? I'm not stopping where I started. I'm not staying where I started. I'm in the presence of the Lord.