Steven Furtick - It's A No Go
Philippians 1:15. Paul speaking. "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...". Remember, I'm where I'm supposed to be regardless of how I got here, I was put here. That's a way of seeing life that will set you free from the need to understand all of the events as they're happening. Just to decide in advance wherever I end up that must be where God has me. Now, this can get dangerous because you can end up blaming God's sovereignty for your lack of responsibility. I lost a job. I guess God wanted me to lose the job. I guess God wanted you to show up on time. So, let's don't get carried away, but when the situation is out of my control it's not out of God's hands. Amen.
Yeah, I feel that Spirit of God on that because when He says, "I'm put here...". that's one way of seeing it. He's positioned. He sees himself as stationed rather than seeing himself as stuck. So, the location doesn't change, but the lens he views his situation through is changing through the years. Since he's old now, he has this great perspective and we get in on it through this letter that he wrote to the Philippian church. So, some people like me and some people don't, but he says, "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But...", and this has been my mantra all week, "...what does it matter"? I found a new radio station. W.D.I.M. What does it matter? And when all of this nonsense starts playing in my head I just turn the dial. I try to find a different signal. The signal that lets me know I can't think short term and I can't let little things, the little foxes spoil the vine. I can't let the flies get in the ointment and mess up something sweet.
So, I gotta get my priorities straight now according to God's purpose for me. What does it matter? I don't know if you want it or not, but we made some bracelets that just say W.D.I.M. on 'em. I got mine. I said it as a joke and the team liked it so much they made 25.000 of these bracelets. It's really helpful. You might wanna put it on your husband's wrist every once and a while. What does it matter? Just a little reminder. It'll be yours today until we run out. If we run out what does it matter? You're not gonna be upset about that. What does it matter? It's not that I don't care about what people think. It's that it no longer controls me. So, 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. Yes...". Yeah, yeah. "And I will continue to rejoice...".
What you gonna do about it, Devil? You hit me with your best shot and I'm still in church. I will continue to rejoice. You couldn't knock the smile off my face if you tried. I'm still smiling. My back hurts, but I'm still smiling. With migraine headaches, but I'm still smiling. My kids are out of control, but I'm still smiling while I yell through clenched teeth. "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 that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage...".. So, oh, I'm not asking God to reduce the conflict. I'm asking Him to increase my courage for the conflict. "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 can't lose. "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me". And the next line I just laughed because he's talking like he's choosing a show on Netflix.
What shall I choose? I don't know. And he's talking about life and death. But he's come to the point in his life where he's like either way I'm cool. I don't even know. I'm torn between the two. I kinda wanna get out of here. This world is a crazy place and I'd like to see Jesus. I got a reward waiting with my name on it. I wanna see the One Who died for me and bled for me. I want Him to wipe every tear from my eye and I wanna be in His presence. I'd kinda like to depart. "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body". So, since you still need me, I probably can't leave. I'd like God to take me to Heaven, but He's probably gonna make me stay. "I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith...". So, I asked God can I go to Heaven?
And so look at your neighbor and give him my sermon title "It's a No-Go". Now, look at it from the perspective of the Philippian church who would have been excited to receive this letter with news about their beloved Apostle Paul. I can almost hear their feet stampeding through the streets. I can almost hear them knocking on the door of Lydia who was the first convert when Paul passed through Philippi. And she opened her heart and then her home and that's how the whole church got started in Philippi in a sense. So, I can hear through the streets of Philippi, "Hey, Lydia we got a letter from Paul". Because they couldn't follow him on Instagram. So, they had been waiting for news of his release or his execution or the date of his release. But we need to know how Paul is doing. We really need him out of prison so he can help us accomplish the purpose of God.
"Hey, we got a letter from Paul. Come on, Lydia". Maybe that Roman jailer was still around who locked Paul up. Then when Paul and Silas sang at midnight and refused to leave the prison until they led that man to the Lord 'cause they were more concerned about him being free than them being free. Maybe he comes around and maybe they all meet up at Lydia's house if she's still living. We got a letter from Paul. You know when you get an urgent email and you just skim past the polite stuff. "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus...". Yeah, yeah, yeah. "God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi...". Yeah, yeah, yeah. Is he getting out? Paul, do we need to get the welcome home from prison committee together? Are you coming to see us? What did Caesar say? Do you have a date set? Have you been able to defend yourself?
They must have been surprised that Paul only gave a half of verse to his situation and the rest of the entire letter Paul teaches them a lesson. And it's this. I wanna do my best to teach it today. God, help me teach this today. He teaches them how to be released in reverse. How you can still be in the same situation that you prayed to get out of, but even though you're still in that situation, you are free in your spirit. So, we have to go quick. I don't have a lot of time to tell you this, but, God is more interested about freeing you in your spirit than He is freeing you from your situation. This is a core teaching and a core tenant not only from this pulpit, but it is the essence of the gospel is that God is more interested in delivering us on the inside, changing us on the inside and rearranging our internal condition than He is about arranging our external affairs.
This gospel is not popular to preach in an age that is so consumed with changing scenery. We are more concerned with the scenery than we are with our spirits. Paul is teaching us a lesson we'd be wise to listen to him. He says, "I'm not out yet, but I'm free". "I'm still right here in this cell, physically, but spiritually, I'm free". Free from what? Free from pain? Nope. No, I'm hurting. Free from uncertainty? No. I don't know what they're gonna do to me. Have you ever asked God to set you free from certain people? And He keeps trying and you keep texting 'em back so work with the Lord. That was a whole series right there. And Paul says, "I'm free". Oh, you're coming home? No! But I'm free. I'm free! I'm free.
Watch this. This is what I've been praying lately. I stopped praying "God set me free from 'it'" whatever it is. You know, this imagination that if that got better I would be better. Because, sometimes, that got better and I got worse. So, I stopped praying "God set me free from it" because, sometimes, God set me free from the situation and I took myself into a new situation and I took my same chains from the last situation, the last relationship, into the new relationship. So, lately I've been praying and if you wanna pray it with me repeat after me. God, set me free from me. If you don't get that you haven't lived long enough. 'Cause you will get tired of yourself at some point and you will get tired of making your own movies of which you are the star and everyone else is a prop. You will want something bigger in your life than how I feel in this moment. You want something bigger in your life than what I am earning. You'll want something bigger in your life than status.
So, Paul said, "I'm free, not the freedom that you can see, but I'm free from the invisible prison. So, I'm free because I'm releasing some things. Paul says, "I'm releasing myself from the prison of resentment. I'm releasing myself from the need to know the reason why everything is the way it is. I'm releasing myself". It's really beautiful because he could have waited around to be set free by somebody else. But he decided, "I'm gonna use the keys that God has given me". So, I've got my own keys called faith and trust and praise and gratitude. So, I don't need you to free me. I am setting people free from my need for them to validate me. I found freedom when I realized that I have all of the resources I need through the Spirit of God. It is through the provision of His Spirit.
It's just an intro. But it's so good! 'Cause Paul's saying, "I'm not out, but I'm free! Nothing has changed in my situation, but I don't need my situation to change. God has changed me and whom the Son sets free is free indeed"! I'll stop screaming. When you get free, it makes you wanna holler. When you get free it makes you wanna clap. When you get free it makes you wanna shout. It makes you wanna throw off the chains. Shout I'm free! Look at the person next to you and say, "Free from what you think of me". I won't lift my hands in worship. I don't want people to think I'm one of those weird Christians. I think it's kind of weird that somebody that didn't die for you would dictate the level of your faith and that you would ever been ashamed of the gospel when you claim to be free. If He set you free... We don't have long. Take ten seconds and praise Him. That's good. Six, five, four, three, two, one.
Philippians 1. Paul said, "I'm free. I don't know whether I'll get out of this prison, but whether or not I get out of this prison is not the hinge on which my fate swings because I made a decision to be free. Free of bitterness. Free of blame. Real freedom. Freedom that nobody can give you, but Jesus and freedom that nobody can take away. It's a different kind of freedom. It's not just the freedom to do whatever you want and say whatever you want, that pretend freedom. It's the real freedom. The deep freedom. It's a freedom that I hope to experience more and more in my life and I pray the same for you. Because Paul said, "I want you to be free". Isn't it funny that he's praying for them? He's in prison and he's the freest one of them all.
Some of the least free people I ever met in my life had the most stuff. Paul is so free at this point. He's free from the need to know what happens next. He's free. He's free. Wouldn't it be good to be free like that? He sets himself free instead of waiting for someone else to. How he does it is kind of a cool I guess it's a psychological and theological lesson all at once. He does it by remembering because if he dwells too much on what he's going through right now, it will cause him to lose hope. If he dwells too much on what's going to happen next it'll cause him to be unstable and he can't control that anyway. So, listen Blakeney, he says, "I thanked my God in every remembrance of you". This is Philippians 1. "In every prayer with joy and I thank Him for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now".
So, he revisits in his mind a time maybe 30 years earlier that he began this work with these friends in Philippi and now he's writing them a letter about his current situation, but the way that he deals with his anxiety. How many of you are dealing with anxiety in your life and you don't mind raising your hand so I can preach right to you? He remembers. He remembers. He concludes something when he revisits his memory of God's faithfulness because there is a way of remembering the past that will paralyze the potential of today. But there is a way of remembering the past that can fuel your faith for tomorrow. Paul does the latter. He says, "I thank my God every time I remember you and I remember your partnership. I'm not in this by myself. From the very first day until now. I am confident of this. That "He who began a good work in you...". Who started it? That's what they used to say in middle school when there was a fight and you get dragged in the principle's office. So, we used to have a saying, "I didn't start it, but I finished it".
So, God does both and when the Devil starts picking on you don't forget who started it. If God started a good work in you, guess what He's gonna do? He's gonna finish it. Now, you won't know all the details when it starts, but God is not like you and so He knows the end from the beginning. God saw the last frame of the movie before he started casting or directing. So, God reveals these things to us in reverse. It's like Abraham, I'm gonna bless the whole Earth through you. OK. Can you tell me how? No. Go to the land I will show you and the details will unfold as your obedience does. So, Paul says, "I remember how this started. I know who started it. It was God because I wasn't even trying to get to Philippi.
Actually, when I think about how I came to you, how we started, it was almost an accidental miracle. I call it that knowing that nothing is an accident to God. One day I'm gonna preach when I ever get the courage to do it a whole sermon called miracles by mistake. Just like what feels like the worst mistake of your life and it was really God using human weakness to display divine strength. My young people know what's up. I love it. So, Paul he has like a faith flashback. David did the same thing. There's Goliath. He's big. Lion was big. The bear was big. The bigger they come, So, if the lion went, and the bear wen, Goliath is about to go, Just call it faith flashback.
Paul says, "I remember. I'm released in reversed". It's kind of weird. In order to go forward with faith, I gotta remember how I went out preaching and I went to the Jews first, but as I was preaching to the Jews, the Gentiles wanted to hear it, too, and the message was too big 'cause God told Abraham I'll bless all people through you. So, God started using me to do what He said He would do. He chose me. In fact, Acts 9 calls Paul God's chosen vessel. We've been talking about choices. Always remember you didn't choose God. He chose you. If He started it, He's the Author and Finisher of your faith. So, I started preaching, went on a little tour, started some churches. Galatia. Went really all around. I wanted to take the gospel farther.
When I got home the people who should've been celebrating were suspicious. 'Cause, sometimes, we don't like when God doesn't meet our rules of who He's supposed to reach and who He's supposed to bless. You wore what to church? You listen to what? Come on man. You can't be a Christian. This is what they thought. You know, you have to keep the Sabbath. You have to be circumcised. Now, let me tell you what that did. That shut down the men's ministry. Paul was like, "No, I don't think so. I think it's about the inside. I don't think it's about the outside. I think that's what Jesus came for". So, we could stop fixing things up on the outside and smiling pretty like our life is Pinterest and get real and come into the presence of God imperfect. I don't think it's really important what you wear or if you can say the right words. I don't think that matters. I don't think that's the priority.
So he just shared the gospel freely with everybody. The grace of God. When we got home had to have a little meeting to decide could the gentiles come in to the church. And it was a rowdy meeting. But ultimately they said, you know, we probably should just go with God. Imagine that. If God's doing something we should probably stay out of His way. So go ahead, Paul. Not that we really like you anymore but we're not gonna stop you so go preach. Now Paul leaves to go preach again. But this time he has an idea. He's like I need to go check on the churches that I started and see how they're doing. I need to go back to some of the places where we planted a church and see if the seeds have become trees. I need to go strengthen people in the faith that began and I wanna see if they're still moving. I wanna see if their choices are becoming habits, are becoming automatic.
Can you bring me that? Yeah. So Paul, perfect, I was like I'll make sure there's no missing pieces. I wanna make sure that what God started gets completed. Come here Tyler. So he goes on this preaching tour. Hashtag strengthen the Saints. Hashtag checking on the church. Now you can't take Barnabus. Barnabus was the first Christian that liked Paul. Most the Christians didn't like Paul 'cause Paul used to kill Christians. It's kinda hard to apply for a senior pastor job with that on your resume. Our guest speaker tonight, Ahh! You know. But Barnabus was like naw he's cool. Then Paul and Barnabus got in a fight about John Mark. 'Cause it doesn't matter how delivered you get. You never fully get delivered from drama. I left that church. There was too much drama. What church are you gonna join? 'Cause the moment you join that one will have drama too. Anyway. So Paul goes preaching.
Now I wanna illustrate this to you how the grace of God was unleashed and really that's what the whole book of Galatians is about one of the places Paul went to check on. He went to Galatia. And this might be a little complicated for just like a normal sermon. But maybe you could study it on your own time. I try to put enough in these messages that you can take home some Tubberware and then go back and visit things that you wanna look more into. But, Paul had an idea to go check on the churches and God didn't tell him to do it. In fact, Paul in this particular scenario, he's not so much being led by God to do it as he is being led by his burden to do it.
The only reason I point that out is 'cause I think that a lot of us think that God leading us looks like this. You know? That's almost how we follow Christ. Like, OK, God. Come on Tyler. Make the face. OK God. Ugh. You're not making the face. You look too happy. OK. But actually, it was more like this. Paul set out. Go ahead. So that's a simple principle. Divine empowerment often awaits human initiative. So Paul went out and he went to check on the churches. It was a very effective trip. A very effective preaching tour. He couldn't take Barnabus so he took Silas which is good 'cause Silas liked to sing. They needed to sing at midnight when everyone's chains were so tight so that everyone's chains could come loose. Because God will put in your life who you need for the season that you're in. Just because Barnabus left doesn't mean God did. So pick up Silas and hit the road.
Paul said let's go. Let's go. Acts 16:4 records what happened next. The traveled from town to town and they told all the churches good news we met with the counsel of Jerusalem. You don't have to be circumcised. And all the men said? So Paul's like alright put down your knives. We're not doing that anymore. Just here's what you do. Don't worship idols. Don't eat food with the blood still in it, strangled animals. And you can come to the Kingdom. They went around delivering it and watch what happened. Next verse. "So the churches were strengthened in the faith...". Everywhere Paul went God gave him the grace to go and God gave him the evidence. "...and grew daily in numbers". And then verse 6 happens. Verse 6 says, "Paul and his companions traveled...". Let's go. "...throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the...". Devil from preaching the word in the province.
Rick Parker, you sound upset. What's wrong? Did I mispronounce Phrygia? Did I say the verse wrong? Having been kept by the Oh the Holy Spirit? Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching? I understand the Holy Spirit keeps me from doing certain things. Please don't look at me like you've never had the Holy Spirit have to restrain you. Please don't look at me like there's never been cuss words coming out of your mouth and something that was God on the inside of you yanked 'em back in and it was like swallowing down vomit to get it from coming out. It tasted bad. Graphic illustration. I understand the Holy Spirit kept me from going off. I understand the Holy Spirit kept me from certain parties. But I didn't know the Holy Spirit would keep you from preaching. I haven't been kept, isn't that a weird verse?
You've heard this sermon. This is the third time you heard this sermon. Haven't been kept by the... I wanna blame the Devil here. Because everything that I want to happen in my life that doesn't happen I give the Devil credit for it. Every dream that I have that doesn't come true it's the Devil. It's the Devil. The Devil is more popular than God in most sermons. It's the Devil. It's just nothin' but the Devil. The Lord really spoke to me the last time I went down that line of logic. The sense that I got is He was telling me stop giving the Devil credit for stuff I'm trying to do in your life. Particularly stop giving the Devil credit for the moments where I hold you back. Because Paul was the most brilliant preacher that ever lived.
There was nobody better to preach in Asia than Paul. Watch what he says. He said I wanted to do a good thing. My desire was right. It wasn't out of bad motives. I was trying to strengthen the church. I was trying to build people up in their faith. I was trying to do what I thought God told me to do. I went to Galatia and God let me. I went to Phrygia and God let me. But when I tried to go to the border of Mysia and enter Bithynia watch what it says next. "The Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to". What's up with God holding Paul back from preaching the Gospel? Why would God send his Son and not spare His Son? Then Paul goes to try to preach and God says no! So Jesus says go into all the world and preach the gospel. Paul's like OK. God says no not there. I'm just trying to do what you told me to do! Try again. Maybe we can get in Mysia. They goin' to Mysia. Got to the border. No.
Most of us right here would have gone back home. Because the moment that we make progress and then the progress stops, and I know your wrist is starting to hurt and there'll be a reward in Heaven and a crown with some big jewel in it when you get done with this sermon and an ice pack. But see, here's the thing about being a good parent. You really don't know what kind of parent you are until you have to tell your kids no. Yeah. True. 'Cause I play this game with the kids and I know it's terrible. But sometimes I ask them who would they choose to live with. It's just a game. You look so disturbed, sweetheart. It's just a game. It's not real.
Yeah, it's just a terrible evil game that I play with my kids. I used to feel like it was a compliment when they said me until I realized that the one they would choose to live with is usually the parent who doesn't know how to say no. You say God is a good good Father. It's who you are. I like the song too. But is He still good when He says what every good parent has to say every once and a while, "no"? No, I'm not gonna make it easier. No, I'm not gonna bring them back into your life. No, I'm not gonna take the thing away. See, Paul had experience with this you understand. 'Cause he had something that he called a thorn in his flesh, something that he wanted God to take away. Because he thought I could be so much more effective if it wasn't for this thing that's holding me back. And we all have that thing.
So, Paul asked God take it away and God said no. So, Paul came back a second time and he said pretty please. And God said no. He asked him a third time with a cherry on top and God said no. The answer is still no. This is my question. Is He still good when the answer is still no? Or do you have a conditional faith that when God says no you go home? That when it doesn't happen overnight and that when you don't see results right away not only do you quit the gym but you quit church and you quit praying. So we tried here and we tried there and God said no. So I guess it must be God's will for us to go back home. But Paul didn't see it that way. Paul knew that just because God says no doesn't mean it's over.
I prophetically proclaim that over someone's life today. I don't know what no you've been told by God, by life, by the doctor, by another person. I don't know what the no is. But I don't have to know what the no is. Here's what I know because He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. It's not over. It's not over. Show 'em on the screen. It's not over. In fact, here's what I learned about God. Sometimes when He says no it's because there's a greater opportunity that I don't know about yet and God is so good. Help me preach now. I'm closing the message. But this is for somebody who's been told no and the pain hasn't gone away and the memory hasn't gone away. It hasn't gotten easier. The seeds haven't gotten smother and it doesn't seem to be changing in your situation. But God came to give you strength in your spirit. It's not over. Just because God said no doesn't mean He's left you alone. He is with you in the no like He was with you in the yes. He knows what's on the other side of no. So don't go home. Don't go home just because God said no.
Oh but I'm trying so hard. I asked God. I told my e-group leader? I guess it wasn't meant to be. I guess it wasn't meant for me. Paul said no. Let's go to Troas. It's at verse 8. When they went to Troas they passed by Mysia. That's where Paul wanted to go. Go ahead. And God wouldn't let him. So they had to pass by. Sometimes you have to pass by your plans to get to God's purpose. Hear me with spiritual ears he passed by what he planned to get to what God purposed. So he passes by Mysia. See ya. And goes to Troas where he waits in confusion. But he's chained to grace and he waits 'cause he knows that if God says no I won't remove it. The obstacle. The thorn. I will give you a grace that is greater so that you can overcome it.
It's a No-Go. It's not over. It's a greater opportunity, because while Paul was at Troas, not the place he planned. The place God purposed. He saw a vision in the night. This vision, it wasn't a vision of God. It was a vision of a man from Macedonia and he was standing there beginning Paul. Come over to Macedonia and help us. God didn't show up looking like an angel. God showed up looking like a need. God might be speaking to you about your next season in the context of the need that's standing right in front of you. I feel that so deep for somebody, man. Because they're just about to go home. Just go home. It's over. That's what the enemy has been telling you. Just quit trying to be free. Just quit trying. Just give in. That's just who you are.
No, I'm loved by God. That's who I am. He's a good Father. If He says no there's something that He knows that I don't know. That's what makes Him God and that's why I worship Him and I serve Him. He doesn't serve me. So verse 10. "After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready...". Luke says. At once. And we left "...for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Eleven. From Troas...". The place where we were uncertain. "...we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi". I thank my God in every remembrance of you in every prayer with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. We got to Philippi. The place we didn't plan for but the place God wanted us to be all along. See, because Philippi was "a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia".
Philippi was the first place in Europe where Paul established a church. In fact, it was the first place in the western world that Paul established a church. Those of us in the western world, we are a part of a church that started, because God told Paul NO! And I just wondered today what's on the other side of your no that you will miss if you go home because you're disappointed? If you receive God's yes with praise why not receive His no with trust?
I just wanna minister, man. I know we're out of time but people are frustrated and hurting and disappointed and been struggling with stuff for generations and generations. You keep thinking that because it didn't turn out the way that you planned that you must be outside of God's will. You're where you're supposed to be. You're who you're supposed to be. It was Him all along. It was Him in the yeses. It was Him in the nos. It was Him on the mountaintop when you had it. When you were succeeding. When you felt it. It's Him in the valleys. He's the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Would you praise Him right now for His purpose? That He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!