Steven Furtick - Choosing Your Chains
Now, Philippians 1:12-26. Paul speaking. Says, "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am...". Get ready for a strange phrase. "...in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry..". Paul said, "Not everybody likes me". Touch somebody and say, "Everybody's not supposed to like you".
In fact, look at the person on your other side that you didn't wanna look at the first time and tell 'em, "If everybody likes you, you're not doing it right". "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here..". I really like how he said that. I am put here not by accident and not even by the decree of evil humans. So I might've been sentenced to prison by Rome, but I'm put here for the purpose of God: "...for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice". Not because everything is going right in my life, not because I got a new car, not because I got a ring, not because my circumstances caused me to have a happy feeling and endorphins, but because of this I rejoice. "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope.."., I, apokaradokia: "that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain".
I win either way. If the situation turns around or if it stays the same. "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ..". I kinda wanna get out of here. I'm an old man now and I'd like to see Jesus. I got crowns waiting for me. It's, "...better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me". That's a whole lotta verses. Let's get the bread and make the sandwich as we go.
Verse 13: "I am in chains for Christ".
Verse 22: "Yet what shall I choose"?
And the titled of the message is "Choosing Your Chains". Ask the person next to you on your way to your seat, "Do you wanna be free"? You may be seated. God bless you. Now, my kids have been saying something to me, lately. Really, just the boys. Abby doesn't say it. They need to stop saying this to me if they ever wanna play Fortnite again. They keep saying, "You sound like an old man". And not just, "You sound like an old man". I can't even use my phone without being judged by them. They tell me, "You did that like an old man". You know, all of my extra movements. All of my three swipes, when it only takes one. They tell me that, sometimes, in my sermons. They tell me the cringest moments of my sermons. It kinda hurts my feelings until I remember that I pay for everything and then I gently remind them don't let these few grey hairs in my beard fool you. I am still the coolest person that you know. Even if I'm not, I can disconnect the technology that allows you to communicate with all of your broke friends who think they're cooler than me. I told y'all, jetlag.
I kinda wanted to say that to Paul reading Philippians 1. I love the text. I've preached from it a few times. But what struck me the most about Philippians 1 on this particular voyage was how Paul sounds like an old man. He sounds like he has the kind of wisdom. Theologians call it the whether or construct. He uses it throughout the letter. The letter which, by the way, he wrote from a prison cell. It's one of four letters that Paul wrote while in captivity. The captivity epistle: Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians. It's a paradox to begin with that he could write the happiest book in the Bible in a prison cell and that he is writing about the progress of the gospel while he himself is on lockdown. Won't that preach? Sometimes, it's when you're in the worst situation of your life, that God is doing the most through you. It's a true story.
Sometimes, when you feel completely limited, when you feel like you've completely lost control that's when God really has you in a place of surrender. That's where He can do the deep work and get beyond the superficial, cliche Christianity where we know all of the right answers and we think that God is all about our parking spaces and trivial things. Sometimes, we go through a trial and we get in a situation. Have you ever had God just take the steering wheel from you? And it wasn't Carrie Underwood. It was God. All of a sudden you find yourself completely out of control. How many control freaks do I have in the room? I need to see where the control freaks are. There are two things I don't really like in life and I'm comfortable admitting it now. I don't like babies. And I don't like airplanes. I don't like either because both are things that I can't control. I don't really don't like babies on airplanes. That is my personal hell. Rapture.
And we were on 75 hours of flights over the last two weeks. Elijah was like, "Do you have any tips for getting through the airport, dad"? I said, "Oh, you want that old man wisdom now"? I told him what one of my friends told me. He said, "Just keep saying to yourself over and over again as you walk through the security line. 'I am not a human. I have no rights. I am not a human. I have no rights.' You'll be set up for success". So we're interested to see Paul. He's older now. It's been decades since Jesus knocked him off his horse, made him go blind, so he could really see. Took away his physical sight so He could show him something spiritual. Knocked him down so He could raise him up.
Paul is past the point now of needing people to like him. Paul has zero left to give what people think about him or say about him. Only one thing matters to him now and it's called purpose. Not popularity. Purpose. Not promotion. Purpose. Not prosperity in this physical razzle-dazzle-bling sense, but purpose. Paul has passed the point of needing people to validate him. So he says something really cool and I'm actually gonna get a bracelet made off of verse 18. You can look for it. It'll be available at campus resources. You know how we used to have W.W.J.D. bracelets? This one's gonna be called W.D.I.M. and it comes from Philippians 1:18. This is Paul's slogan. He says, "What does it matter"? Do you know how much better you would sleep at night if you had that on your wrist? Do you know how much stress would just disappear if you could get...
Now you don't really get this in your 30s or maybe even in your 40s. Paul is older now. They've beat him. He's been shipwrecked. They called him a fake. They called him a fraud. He kept preaching. They threw him in prison. God busted him out. In fact, the first time he went to Philippi when he was getting the mission started they threw him in prison. Paul did what you always do when you're in prison with your feet in stocks and your back beaten raw. He started singing praises to God at midnight 'cause Paul knew something. You can either let your chains break your praise or you can let your praise break your chains. Why'd y'all get quiet while I was gone? Y'all used to shout at Elevation Church. When he praise God at midnight, all of the chains of all of the prisoners came loose. Sometimes God will use your situation to set somebody else free.
Can I stay on that for 45 seconds? You have been questioning what you have been going through and it's not even about you. God is using some of you to break generational curses off of your children. There are things that you struggled with that your children will not have to struggle with like you struggled with them because you were willing, watch this, to embrace the chains. Some wisdom God can only give you after you've lived a little while. Some wisdom God can only give you when you've got that old man Apostle Paul swag where he said it doesn't even matter. Hey Paul, did you hear they got a fake Facebook account with your name on it?
Right now, I hate to do this, but can we interrupt the sermon? I need you to pray for me at every location. I need you to pray for me because I'm not that good at this. I let stuff that doesn't matter weigh me down to the point that I get so distracted. Please pray for me right now. Would you stretch your hands toward this stage and say Father I pray for Pastor Steven that he would stop being so stupid to let stupid stuff sidetrack him from what really matters. Now put your hand on the person that's next to you on your right and on your left and say God I pray for this person that they would stop being so petty and letting little things ruin their day, contaminate their joy, poison their spirit, and distract them from their destiny so that they can get focused on what really matters and realize that half the stuff they're worrying about you're already working out so they don't need to have an ulcer. They can throw up their hands right in the middle of the storm and thank you for being Lord of all. In Jesus' name amen.
What does it matter? What does it matter? That's why you gotta go to your 20-year high school reunion. I just went and all the people I was so obsessed with impressing, I didn't even remember their names. Who are you again? That's why I was preaching to the teenagers. Because if they can get on mission with what really matters, if they can get a sense of what matters. It doesn't matter what they say. It doesn't matter what they think. They don't have a heaven or a hell to put you in. They don't have a crown to crown you with. People can't complete you. Only Jesus can. Why would I live for the approval of people who can't complete me? Sorry, Jerry Maguire. Sorry, Rene Zellweger. Only Jesus can complete me. It doesn't matter. Because what matters more, now here's the key, what matters more this is your priority and for Paul, the priority was never popularity.
So some say this and some say that. Paul's like, "I'm old now. I know something". This is what the old minister told me when I was first getting started. He said, "There are certain things in your ministry you will go through that you will question". I said, "Well, what would you change if you could change anything"? Why aren't you getting your Elevation pen ready to write down what the old man said? He said there's a lot of stuff that I wouldn't choose, but there's nothing I would change. Because now I've been through enough to know that it took some of the breaking to get to some of the blessing. It took some of the betrayals to get to the blessing. It took some of the conflict to get to the calling. It took some of the weakness to get to the strength. I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't choose it.
I thought this was relevant because a lot of us are in situations today that we would not choose. Nobody chooses sickness. Nobody chooses a kid who is off doing the opposite of everything you raised them to do and you find out what Paul found out. You were never really in control. The more you think you're in control the younger your kids are. I tell you if it was your teenager you would be locked in a room with prescription pills. Shut up. Paul's just like what? Everybody say what. You gonna keep me in this prison? I got these chains and I know it looks like I'm chained to these Roman guards, but actually these guards are chained to me. I wouldn't choose these chains, but actually, if it takes my chains to set somebody else free, if it takes my pain, if it takes going through a season of loneliness to really discover joy, I would choose the chains. I'd rather have chains on my feet and be free in my mind and free in my spirit and free in my conscience. "Because," Paul said, "to me, the important thing is..". the important thing is.."..
Now, it's very important what you put next. This is verse 18, guys in the production room. The important thing is whatever you put next, will determine what your joy is chained to. Whatever you put after the important thing is, your joy will move up and down with that thing. So whatever you choose to chain your joy to, whatever priority, If for you, no matter what you would say, 'Cause we would all say that Jesus is the head of our lives. You don't get up and come out here to a place like this if you're not gonna say the right answer. But I'm talking about reflected in your choices. If the important thing is that people like you, then when people like you you will like you. If the important thing is that God loves you then when people don't like you you still like you. Because I'm accepted in the beloved.
If the important thing is comfort then when everything is just right and when the climate is 72.4 Fahrenheit, you will be happy about the climate or the environment. But if the important thing to you is not comfort, but calling, you can be in a miserable situation and turn it into a ministry. I'm looking for somebody today who is no longer concerned about popular opinion or personal preference, but you've come to the place in your life where you say: I wanna know Him. I wanna make Him known. I want real joy. Joy that the world didn't give and the world can't snatch it back! I missed you. Let me preach like I wanna preach! So you won't be tossed to and fro and yanked back and forth by the affairs of life.
Paul says, "My feet are locked and my hands are chained, but my mind is free. I'm here, but the mission is moving forward". The important thing is The important thing is you get to choose what comes next. What is your priority? You can't have God's peace without God's priorities. You could pray for it, but if you tie your joy to how your husband treats you or how the crazy girl in the cubicle next to you, you knew she was crazy. Her eyes were crazy. You're gonna put your joy on crazy girl? I can't hook my joy to that. I can't hook my joy to what the boss decides or what his boss decides. My joy is not connected to my job. So I gotta find something else. And, for Paul, it was purpose. Not preference. Not popularity. Some say this. Some say that.
What does it matter? This is your choice. One scholar said Paul must be going senile. He maybe took one too many to the head. 'Cause he's in chains, talking about a choice. I don't know if I wanna live or die. Paul, they didn't ask you. When he put it as a choice, he's saying, "I can't choose how long these chains stay on me". I'm still waiting, but I get to make a choice not about what happens next, but about my response. And I choose since God hasn't removed these chains, since God hasn't fixed the situation, since God hasn't fixed the relationship, since God hasn't given me the breakthrough yet, since I'm still dealing with the addiction, since it won't just go away like they told me it would, and I prayed that one time and I still went home addicted. And they told me that if I prayed this, that the chains would fall off, but the chains are still there. And, since God won't remove the chains, I'm gonna ask Him to use the chains.
What shall I choose? You have a choice to make, you always do. The greatest gift God can give you is a choice. He said, I'm in chains for Christ. Christ didn't put these chains on me, but now that these chains are on me, I'm gonna let Him use them. He didn't bring the disease, He didn't bring the divorce. I wouldn't choose it, but if I can't change it, God, will you use these chains to change me. Make an example of Your grace, that's your choice. And God's not the only one who gives you a choice. This is what I was trying to explain to the youth, and I really think I was talking to my 16 year old self. That's where I made the choice to follow Christ.
Well, actually, He made the choice. He chose me, I didn't choose Him, theologically speaking, but it was the moment that I became aware of His prevenient grace in my life and surrendered to what He was already doing. But the moment they come to that choice, the devil comes with little choices, because the enemy sees their potential. And sometimes, the enemy believes in your potential more than you do. And so, you get around some friends and you're young, 13, 14, and they're looking at porn, and it's just a little porn. It's just one time porn. And they're calling you gay and weird if you don't look at it, so you look at it. It's just that choice. And they're drinkin', they're smokin', they're vaping, so it's a choice. It's not gonna send you to hell. God's grace has got you covered, but it's just a choice.
What you don't know until you know is that choices don't stay choices, they become habits. And it's just one choice. It's just a little, you try it out one time and then it's like, well, maybe I'll do it again. And I lied to my parents one time, so, you know, you don't think this is a youth sermon? If somebody would have preached this to a lot of us earlier, we could have seen the choice for what it was, but we didn't know what mattered then. We couldn't know what mattered then, you know, so it's just a little thing, but then it becomes a habit, and now you keep doing it. And it doesn't quite hit, it doesn't quite get you as high as it did the last time, so you've got to do more of it now. It takes a little more, it takes a little more. You can handle it, it's good, but then it becomes a habit, and now you know it's not just a glass of wine to relax.
And oh, by the way, I always get scared when I do this part, because it's not just sex and drinking that I'm talking about. Some of us gossip so bad it would be better off if we were alcoholics! I mean, the damage we do with our mouths is way worse than what a bottle can do, okay? So, I'm not just talking about whatever specific sin you don't happen to struggle with. Some of us are so angry, just mad, just... And we used to get mad with good reason. It was a choice, but then it became a habit, and now it's automatic. You don't even choose anymore! Now it's the default setting. Now it's just what you do to get your way, and you hate yourself after you do it, but it got you what you wanted, so you do it again. And it's kind of like, one time Paul was saying, I don't do what I want to do, I do what I don't want to do. "Who will deliver me from this body of death"?
And he wasn't saying this before he met Christ, he was saying this as a Christ follower. I made some choices. The choice became a habit. I didn't know it was a big deal at the time. It didn't seem like a big deal. I didn't forgive one person, and I let the bitterness get ahold of me. And then the bitterness was no longer just one person, I started getting mad at everybody, and I started blaming everybody! And now it was my habit, and now, when something doesn't go my way, my first response is to blame all of the people who weren't there for me, or if they would have, or if she would have. I started complaining. I made the choice to complain, and I used to just complain when things were really bad, but now instead of "His praise will continually be on my mouth," now it's complaint is continually on my, it's a habit, it's automatic, it's my first instinct! I can't even see what's right!
I walk in the room and all I see is what's wrong, it's automatic. And before long, it's not just what I do, it becomes my identity. Now it's who I am. I'm a slave to fear. I'm a child of God, but I feel like a slave to sin. I made a choice. It became a habit. It became automatic. That's what the Bible says when it says, "Don't walk in the flesh," the habits of the old life, the patterns of your perspective pre-Christ. And you just keep doin' it, it's pulling on you, and it pulls you back into it. You don't tell your E-group about that stuff. You can't. These chains aren't the kind of chains that you wear around your neck. These chains is the choices that become habits, and now it's automatic. You don't even want to do it anymore, but you think it's who you are, you think it's your nature.
You see that? I'm trying to show you, and I hope that you'll discuss this with your kids after church, and I hope that you'll discuss this with some people in your life that you can trust about the choices that became habits, that became automatic. I'm just offended all the time now. I made the choice to be offended. The person hurt me, and I chose to let that hurt on the inside, and I didn't let it heal, and now I'm pushing good people away because of who hurt me back then. And I want you to see how today's choices become tomorrow's chains. Come here, Nick, Jake. It's crazy. It's crazy how young this happens, because Jake has a calling, and Jake has a purpose. I said Nick, 'cause that's his dad. His dad is MacGyver. He fixes everything. And Jake is a worshipper.
The enemy knows that, so he wants to come to Jake early in life with a choice. Certain friends, certain things, certain outlooks. What he wants you to do, he wants to get you locked up good and tight while you're young, because he knows what God put inside of you. He knows that this young man could be a chain breaker in his generation. The enemy knows his purpose, so what he wants to do, while you're young, now, he's clever. The enemy is crafty, so he's not gonna come at Jake with a chain, 'cause if he comes at Jake with a chain, Jake's gonna run. Right? So he comes, I'm helping somebody today, I feel it in my bones, with a choice. He wants to lock you in to thinking, believing, and insecurities early.
So now, later in your life when you decide to pursue a mission, go ahead and try to pursue a mission. Nope. 'Cause I got you. And later in life, let's say he plants a sexual addiction in your mind at an early age, and then you get a wife, and now you want to love your wife, and be a good man and be intimate with your wife in the way that God intended. But see, you move toward intimacy, but I got you with a choice that became a habit, that became automatic, and now you can't treat a woman like a woman, you treat her like an object, because I got you in chains. Jake, you're bein' real dramatic. You don't have to jerk that hard, just stay right there. He's got you in these chains.
So you want to make a change in your life later, but he got you in chains so early, and some of us spend decades being dragged around by the devil, being dragged around by decisions that we made in our past, that I've got news for you, are already covered by the blood of Jesus Christ! And I read in my Bible, "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed". It means I don't have to spend the rest of my life being dragged around by the decisions of my past! I don't have to stay in these chains! I know a name that will break every chain! I think we need to shout on this word, because some of us are chained to mindsets, and chained to scarcity, and chained to panic, and chained to our imaginations, and chained to memories. But I read in John that, "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed," and if you believe that, shout like you're free!
Paul said I found another chain! This chain is called grace, so let the devil know I'm not chained to these Roman guards, I'm chained to grace! That means I've found a love that will not let me go, even if I try to get away! Go ahead, try to get away, try to get away. He won't let me go, even if I try to run! Try to run. He won't let me go! Pull as hard as you want to pull, Jakey-Poo. I might be old, but I lift, and as long as I got you in my grip, you're not going anywhere! "Whom the Son sets free is free indeed"! God is pulling me closer. I'm chained to grace. I'm no longer a slave to fear. I'm a child of God, and I choose: everything I've been through, even my shame, God's gonna use it to tell a greater story of grace. God's gonna use my chains to break somebody else's. My son won't have to go through what I went through. God's gonna use my chains to set somebody free. He's got you, and you get to make a choice today. Everybody in here is serving something.
What do you want to serve? Who do you want to serve? Paul identified himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. What he meant was grace is a bigger chain than sin. And no matter what my decisions might say about me or indicate otherwise, I am a child of God. You're gonna wander sometimes. Go on, wander off. Wander off, wander off. Come on, try hard. I got you. I got you. And grace is stronger. Heather, don't sue me if I break his wrists, it's for a good cause. I got you. I see in the Spirit God pulling on you today. You didn't even want to come to church today. Look at you, right here in church. You made so many dumb decisions, and today you're standing in the presence of a chain breaking God. So it's your choice, worshipper. What will you choose? Paul made his choice. He said I'm gonna let God use these chains to declare His grace.
And for everybody who's stuck in a situation that you can't change right now, and sometimes that situation is yourself, I want you to make a decision, a choice, because choices? Choices become habits. Yeah. You choose to trust God in this season of your life, and you know what? If you trust God a few times, guess what it becomes? Automatic. And now you find yourself leaning not on your own understanding, but in all your ways and knowledge in Him, and you realize the devil has been lying to me this whole time. I'm not a slave to what they said, I'm not a slave to what they did. I am a child of God. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.