Steven Furtick — Graduating Gratitude
(1 Part) I want to talk about graduating in gratitude. Graduating in gratitude. Moses speaks to this, he's come to give us a commencement address to say that maybe what you need in your life isn't the next level of accomplishment, or the next level of accumulation, but the next level of appreciation for what you have that will set the stage for you to make the most out of what you accumulate in the future. And Moses is saying, hey, make sure that when God blesses you, you say the blessing. That's my first point. This is our first level. This is the foundation of real gratitude and perhaps real faith. Say the blessing. This is the basics of praise. Four of them. This is where it starts.
So David comes along and says, "I want to move you from the kiddie table to the banquet table". Bring out the banquet table. David, who was not only a subject of the king, but a king of the people, had spent some time as a shepherd, and so when Moses is teaching the people to relate to God on the most basic level, when he blesses you remember him, when he blesses you obey him, when he keeps his covenant with you, keep his commands that it may go well with you. This is basic. David steps in and takes it a little bit deeper. Let's go deeper. David says, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads my beside still waters".
Have you heard this before? Maybe you heard it at a funeral, maybe you heard it at a time of mourning. David wrote it in the valley. He says something interesting in Psalm 23, and this takes us to the next level of praise. Psalm 23:4, he says: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me". Moses teaches us how to thank God "for the", David comes along and teaches us how to thank God "even though".
This is a graduated form of gratitude. This is the remedial level. Thank you for the. But this is the place where you learn to praise God even though, even though. This is where you could have all loose breaking loose in one area of your life, but say, it is well with my soul when peace like a river attending my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my life you have taught me to say it is well even though my heart is broken, it is well even though I lost some people, it is well even though I'm going through, it is well even though, even though. This is the table where you learn to thank God for what you can see. This is the table where you learn to trust God with what you cannot. Even though I walk through the darkest valley.
Now Church, it's one thing for Professor Moses to tell us, "Thank God for the good land". But now we've got to decide what kind of Christians we want to be. Are we only going to thank Him for the food, are we only going to thank Him for the finances, are we only going to thank Him for the fiancée, or are we going to thank Him even though I'm single? Where do you want to sit? Am I only going to thank Him when I can see the evidence of his presence? Even though recognizes His presence in the presence of enemies. This is the stage of praise where you're no longer thanking God for his provision only, oh you carry that over, you're still grateful for the provision, that's a starting place, but now I'm thanking Him for his presence. You're going to need this if you want to be a big boy and you don't want to be a baby, you're going to have to sit in this seat and learn to eat with enemies all around you.
Can you keep your eyes fixed on the presence of God in the presence of your enemies? Because at this table, David said, "God isn't the only one seated. I got enemies all around me". You prepare, verse 5, a table for me in the presence of my insecurity, in the presence of my deficits, in the presence of my addictions, in the presence of my confusion, in the presence of what I've lost, in the presence of the threat that I won't make it, in the presence of my enemies, I'm looking straight ahead.
Would you do me a favor, would you touch the person next to you and tell them, "Set the table". Because when you learn to have a heart of praise in the presence of enemies, you set the table. That's what David said, right, "you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies". And that you can walk in God in darkness enough depending on the light that he showed you in the last season, you'll learn to read your enemies as a sign that it's time to eat. David said, "God made my enemies serve me my entrée, God made the things that conspire to take me out, feed me for the place he was bringing me into, I got a seat at the table, I'm a big boy, I can handle trouble, I can handle tests, I can handle it.
So I'm sitting down in the middle of all kinds of nonsense, but I've got my eyes fixed on the presence of The One who is within me and greater is He that is in me". Wouldn't it be great if you could turn the tables on your fear today and make the thing that was coming after you serve the purpose of God in your life? David said you can do it, you can do it, if you can eat in the presence of enemies, if you can be blessed under the weight of burdens, if you don't always need me to bring it up to the table and set it before you, but if you can set — see when I praise God through pain.
Everybody shout, "Even though". No, no, shout it like you want the devil to hear. Even though. Even though you came at me I'm still standing, even though you set an ambush against me, even though you tried to make me born, I'm still sitting at the table. And when you praise Him in pain it is preparation for provision. If you can keep your seat. And don't come back over here crying: I don't like kale. Grow up, grow up, grow up. God has been good to you. Grow up. He knows the plans He has for you. Grow up. Shove your neighbor, say, "Grow up". Grow up, man. This ain't no Easy Mac message, this is crockpot Christianity. It may take a little while but it's going to be good.
That's good. That's good, but we need one more commencement speaker so we can graduate at the top of the class. This next level is a level that I am not sure that I have ever lived out, but I would like to. I would like to be able to live here. I've done the kiddie table thing, "Thank you, Lord, you're so good to me, thank you for the sunshine". And you know what, I've even praised Him in the rain, in the face of criticism, and some adversity, and some set backs, I've set at this table, and I've said, "Even though, though he slayed me yet will I trust him, even though". I did that, I did for the, I did even though, but to really graduate I don't think we can do it in a banquet hall, we've got to learn to praise off of prison food.
So Paul takes the stage and says, "Graduates, graduates at the church of Philippi," he's writing a little letter from a prison cell in Rome, and in the prison cell, they were trying to stir up trouble, they were trying to see if they could get him killed, get him executed. And he's writing about his feelings about that and how he's responding to it, and he said he wanted the church to know that there were some people, verse 17, who were preaching Christ out of selfish ambition. Watch this: "Not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains".
Bring me my last stuff, my last thing here. He said, "There are some people in here that are trying to stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. There are some things in my life that are stirring up trouble for me, there are even some people that I trusted and some situations I'm going through and it's getting hot in here". I'll leave it right there. But he said, verse 18: "What does it matter"? This is a whole different level. This is like PhD stuff right here. OK, Moses got us through kindergarten, David made sure we got our GED, but now Paul comes along to say, "This is the terminal degree of faith". He said, "I have some priorities and I know my purpose".
So watch this: "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And..". Here's the third level, "...because of..". you need me to point at it with the laser, will that help you? I'ma show you this. This is when you meet somebody who went through something that would have caused you to give up, and they're not even praising God in spite of it, they found the purpose that God worked out of it. I'd never been here before, I haven't gotten there yet, I'm doing good to be at the even though table, but I am asking God that I could have a concrete enough sense of his purpose in my life that I could not only praise Him when He feeds me for the food He brought me, and not only praise Him even though I'm going through something, but could I get enough faith to praise Him because of.
Because of this. Because of what? Not because of the pain. I don't praise Him for the pain. I praise Him for what the pain is producing. You remember Elijah and I heard a woman talking the other day, she said, "You have to thank God for all things". Elijah turned to me and said, "The Bible doesn't say that. It says, 'Thank him in all things.'" Ten years old, preaching with better theology than the reformers, preaching with better theology than John Wesley and John Calvin. It wasn't because of the experience of pain, it was because of the increase of purpose that the pain provided. That's why I praise Him.
That's why I praise Him, because of what He's doing, that's why I rejoice. I praise Him because of His purpose. I praise Him, this is maturity, this is grown folk faith, this is where you've graduated past the need to be served the dish, this is where you trust the cook enough to give praise in the kitchen. Stir the pot, stir the pot, stir the pot.
When you praise God for what He's given you, that's great, you thanked Him for provision, you said your blessing, good job, you're five. When you praise God in spite of what the enemy is doing to you, that's pretty mature, you're going to make it through the valley. But if you want to have a PhD in faith, you can't just praise God in spite of it, you actually have to look at the thing that you're going through and say, "You know what? I've eaten at the table of the Lord long enough to know..". Come on, help me preach this message if you've got faith, "...that He knows what He's doing in my life".
When me and Holly first got married and I walked in the kitchen and she was cooking something, I wanted to know all about it. You know, "Oh, you're putting that in there"? I hadn't tasted enough of her food to trust her process. But we've been married 13 years now, and she can cook, and she's been through the experimental phase, and she's been through the phase of trying this and trying that, now she can be trusted, so when I walk into her kitchen now, I don't ask any questions, I just start stirring whatever she puts on the stove.
Y'all aren't getting this. Y'all aren't getting this in the back. They're not getting this in adversity city, they're not getting this. God said, "I want you to get to the place where you can praise me in the kitchen, because you know that whatever I serve up is going to be good. It's going to be good". Come on, high five seven people, tell them it's going to be good. Stir it up. I can take the heat, so I came into your kitchen today, God, to give you praise for whatever you're cooking up in my life, and I want to thank you for every ingredient that you allow in my life because I know that you know the plans you have for me. If it didn't serve God's purpose, he wouldn't have let it get in your pot.
We know that all things work. I like preaching to people who know how to stir themselves up. It's not everybody, but it's some people, you don't even have to stir them up, because they are stirred by purpose. They are stirred by purpose. I like that sound. You like that sound?
I walk in sometimes and Holly says, "Taste this". Taste this. Taste this. You see I'm smart, I don't say anything about how it tastes right now because it's not done, she's just showing me that she's working — she's working on it. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. So now, I walk in this kitchen I don't even ask what's in the pot, because I trust the cook. I'm not a little baby over here, drooling on my bib and drinking from my bottle. And I don't even want to just set the table and wait for God's blessing to come.
Paul said, "I continue to rejoice". I continue. You don't have to feel grateful to be grateful. That's the sound right there. I don't eat the garlic. If I eat the garlic, before it gets stirred into the marinara, that's a disaster. Some of you are only tasting the bitterness, "I don't like that, God. You heard what they said about me"? "No. I didn't say that all things were good. I said that all things..". Y'all aren't helping me preach, y'all aren't helping me stir, y'all aren't helping me stir, there's a whole section of people I wish you would stand up and help me stir.
I'm telling you, God is up to something in your life. He's the master chef, He knows what He's doing. Stir it up. Stir it up. Stir it up. Stir your expectations. Stir it up. Stir your guilt. Stir it up. You don't know Bob Marley. He was on to something. He was — Bob Marley was a prophet when he said, "Stir it up". Turn to your neighbor, tell them, "Stir it up". Tell them again, say, "Stir it up". I'm at the wrong church for this message, I'm at the wrong church, are there any stirrers at all in the church? Any stirrers? Come on, when you shout that stirs something in your spirit. Stir it up!