Steven Furtick - 50/50 Faith
And I have a scripture for you today that I think will be a great blessing in your life. It's in 1 Samuel 14:6. The Bible says, "Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, 'Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men.'" He's talking trash about the Philistines. He calls them a derogatory name. He's talking about their uncircumcision. Wow. He must be fired up about something. He's a little belligerent. He's getting bold now. He can't afford to wait around and wait for something to happen from heaven when God has already given him a certain power on the earth. So he turns to who he has available at this point and says let's go, it's just me and you.
Well, touch somebody, say, "Let's go". Now, I want you do me a favor. If you're the only one on your row who praises God today during this sermon, I want you to go and look at somebody next to you and say, "Will you go with me"? Amen. He said, "Let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few". In this third installment of, "Maybe God", my subject in my lesson today is called, "50/50 Faith". I wanna teach you on this principle that has been so useful in my life as a leader and it's useful for me as a husband, as a dad, and just as a man. "50/50 Faith".
I believe this principle is going to set you free in some of the areas where indecision has imprisoned you and you've been waiting around and God is going to show you something today by the power and virtue of His word and spirit that only He could show you about 50/50 faith. Praise the Lord. I celebrated my 39th birthday this week. Appreciate your pity. You know that last one with the three in front of it. I'm owning it. I am so owning turning 40. I am so owning these little gray whiskers that are popping up. I'm not dying them or anything like that. Uh-huh, I'm gonna tell 'em to get a close up on these gray things on the camera. Just zoom right into the grayest patch you can find in this beard. I'm proud of it.
I don't care what my kids say about it. And when they tell me that my jokes are cringey and stuff like that... one of my kids told me that the other day and I just asked him a question back. He said your jokes are so cringey and I just asked him a question. I said, "How many people show up to hear you speak? Since I'm so cringey". Conversational parenting approach. You might wanna try it sometime. But one of the things I think keeps happening to me and is really happening to me at this stage of my ministry in life 'cause I have been doing this as a pastor over 13 years is that I feel so good saying that. It just felt cool. I've been doing this over 13 years. That's a long time to do anything. Amen.
I've never been less certain and I've never been more confident all at the same time. All at the same time. And it's a strange thing how when you give up your need for certainty, you can gain a true confidence that is independent of circumstance. Can I preach to somebody today right here in this back left section of Ballantyne? The passage that I read to you is one of my favorites. If they were giving out an Academy Award for Best Old Testament Narrative Scripture, I would want to nominate Jonathan as best supporting actor because he's not as famous as David, but he's a pretty good example for me and has helped me a lot.
This passage has helped me a lot through the years. Every couple years I preach it, and when I circle back to it, I see a different dimension of faith. I see a different dimension of the kind of confidence that we can have in Christ and in His promises. But I also see all of the uncertainty and self-doubt that it also entails. And that my faith is not a formula and it can never be. The more I try to make it into a formula, the less valuable it becomes to me.
When life challenges all of my presuppositions and all of my ideas about what kind of ways God wants to work collapse under the weight of real life, under the weight of real bills, under the weight of real medical reports. And I need the kind of faith that is not dependent on my presuppositions. I need the kind of faith that can deal with some ambiguity. I need a faith like Richard Rohr says that can be patient with mystery. I need a kind of faith that is not dependent on my plans to prevail. I need the kind of faith that can stand up against the worst thing that happens. I need the kind of faith that can shine when God goes dark. When I don't know, when I can't say it, when I can't see it, when I don't feel like I can make it, I need a faith that can withstand these seasons.
Now, around the verse that I read you is a little episode and if you've been tracking with the series, I've used a few different Old Testament passages from Judges and Samuel to try to give us some sort of arc or to give us some kind of context for the way that transition creates opportunity for us to trust God. In this particular transition, a negative one for the nation of Israel, King Saul has really lost his way and he's abdicated his leadership. But now, Saul, the King, was unable to commit himself fully to the ways and the will of the Lord. Rather than to engage in a relationship with the living God, he has begun to manipulate.
When he begins to manipulate and treat God as some kind of mechanism to get what he wants when he wants it, he loses that unique ability that we have to hear the voice of God. When you lose the ability to hear the voice of God, you waste energy, you waste resources, you waste worry on situations that God didn't even want you to give your attention to. So that's why I need to hear His voice. Saul having lost that ability is now surrounded by his enemies. So much so that his people that he was responsible for leading are hiding in rocks, in caves, in thickets.
I just wanted to put the work thickets in there 'cause I don't get to use it on an everyday basis. But we're all hiding in places sometimes, we find ourselves tucked away in mindsets, in patterns, in isolation, away from people, away from life, away from joy, away from risk, away from opportunity. And this was the situation in 1 Samuel 14. Pick up Verse 23 from 13, "Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Michmash". It's always helpful to point out that the enemy always attacks you at the passages. He always attacks you at the places of transition from what you knew to what you don't know, from where you were to where you're going.
And so when he can set up an ambush at the passage, he can keep you from moving forward in those transitional, pivotal moments of your life. And then, "One day..." Somebody shout, "One day". "One day Jonathan, son of Saul, said to his young armor-bearer, 'Come, let's go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.' But he did not tell his father". Be very careful who you talk to about what God is doing inside of you. Be very careful who you communicate with about the impressions that God is stirring inside of you. If you talk to the wrong people about the right idea, your idea will die before it has the opportunity to conceive and give birth to what God is doing in your life. How many know I'm right about that?
"Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about 600 men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was the son of Ichabod. He was the son of Ichabod's brother rather, Ahitub, son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. On each side that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff. One was called Bozez, and the other Seneh".
Bozez means slippery, Seneh means thorny. Nobody told me it would be easy. God didn't promise me that His will would be convenient. Quit thinking that proof positive that you're in the will of God is that it feels good to you. Quit thinking that proof positive that you're in the will of God is that everybody understands it. Quit thinking that proof positive that you're in the will of God is that it just falls into place. No he had to go through a thorny place, a slippery place, an uncomfortable place, an uncertain place. And just because I'm in an uncertain place doesn't mean I don't have a certain purpose. I'm gonna need somebody to shout on that right there. Right there. Right there.
Touch somebody, say, "I'm in His will". And one of the proofs that you're in His will is that you're experiencing warfare. It could be in terms of an internal resistance that you feel or even if some things are going crazy in your life. And on each side was a challenge. On each side was a challenge. "One cliff stood to the north toward Michmash, the other to the south toward Geba. And Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, 'Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.'"
God, I love Your word. I'm gonna take a moment and just talk to Him about it. Thank You for putting that one little word in Your word. Not the one where He said nothing can hinder the Lord. Not the one where He said come, let's go over. But that one little word where He said 'perhaps'. 'Cause that word gives me hope. It gives me hope for my insecurity. It gives me hope for my impossibilities and my uncertainty. It gives me hope to know that sometimes even in the midst of making progress in my life, even in the midst of obeying the revealed will of God, there are going to be moments where one minute I have great faith and the next moment I'm overcome by great fear.
But watch the armor-bearer. He says back to Jonathan who had a crazy idea, "Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead. I am with you heart and soul". And Jonathan said, "Come on, then. Since you're talking like that, come on, then. Since you wanna do it too, come on, then. Since you don't think I'm crazy for wanting to move toward the enemy even though we're outnumbered, come on then. Since you don't have any more brain cells or common sense than I do, come on then".
Sometimes you need somebody who will help you even though your plan sounds like a bad plan to try to find God in it just so you don't stay stuck and standing still. Come on, then. I like how he talked to him. He's like come on, then. And then the armor-bearer's like go ahead, then. And he's like well, come on, then. And they're pumping each other up. They're chest bumping each other, you know, and they don't have anybody else 'cause watch this. "The people who should have had faith have been overtaken by fear".
Now, this is the part of the passage that's gonna give me the contrast as we look at together two different ways that we try to figure out God's will. And everyone has a way that you try to figure out what the will of God is even if you don't call it trying to figure out what the will of God is. You have a way that you make decisions that you hope will be most advantageous. You have a way that you try to discern wisdom and you can't always get it from a book. And you can't always get it from a class. And you can't always get it...
Here's what I figured out, we're all making it up as we go. This part of my sermon is meant to encourage you. All the people that are writing parenting books, about 15 steps to raise a perfect kid, they left out some footnotes. And the bottom line is, they just had good luck in the gene pool because God can give you a kid that can make you question all of your theories. I love my children. I'm just saying all of us as parents are making it up as we go. All of us. All of us are trying to figure out with each child and they're all different. I know Holly was faithful to me, but sometimes I'm like how could they all be so different if it was just the common factor of me and you. But I trust her, but sometimes they're so different and I'm like well you respond like this and you respond like that.
And watch Jonathan's plan. This is the dumbest idea that you can find in the Bible. The only one I can think of as dumber is Moses stretching out his stick over the Red Sea. That's pretty dumb. Or maybe David throwing a rock at a giant who has a sword. That's pretty dumb. Or maybe Jesus commanding the lunch from a little boy in the crowd and trying to feed 15.000 people with it. That's pretty dumb. Or maybe Mary going to Joseph and saying I'm pregnant, but it wasn't another man, it was the Holy Spirit. That's pretty dumb. Or maybe it was a widow going around borrowing jars from her neighbors when she didn't have an oil and thinking some would, that's pretty...
Now, that I come to think of it, a lot of the stuff that God did in His word looked like a dumb decision to the people while they were doing it. Listen how dumb this is. Listen. Listen how stupid this strategy is. Somebody say, "Bad idea". All right. "Come on, then. We will crossover toward them and let them see us". Thought you were supposed to sneak up on somebody if you wanted to kill 'em, but whatever. "If they say to us..."
Now watch this, he's making this up 'cause I want you to notice one thing about this passage, God gives Jonathan the victory, but God doesn't say a single word. The only people who speak in this passage are Jonathan, his assistant, and his enemies. God doesn't say a word. But Jonathan, he makes up this strategy. He's an innovator. He's like, "All right, my dad's under the tree by the threshing flood and the priest isn't doing anything and so let's go over and show ourselves and expose ourselves to our enemies. And if they say, 'Wait there until we come up to you,' we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, 'Come up to us,' we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands".
And just when it can't get any dumber, Verse 11, "Both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost.' Look, ' said the Philistines, 'there's two of them and dozens of us.' The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in. The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, 'Come up to us and we'll teach you a lesson.' So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, 'Climb up after me. The Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.'"
How're you gonna speak in past tense about a battle you hadn't even fought yet? Because I know something that is greater than what I know in my mind. I know it with my faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. So wait, it gets dumber. "Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet". You know how vulnerable you are climbing up something thorny or slippery using your hands and feet? A quick thing just for you. I love y'all. Victory requires vulnerability. Victory requires vulnerability in anything. You have to make yourself vulnerable to experience a great relationship. You have to make yourself vulnerable to step into a new dimension in your business. You have to make yourself vulnerable to connect on any meaningful level with the life that God has given you.
And so in this position of vulnerability, Jonathan prophesized a great victory. I feel the Holy Spirit. And it says that his armor-bearer was right behind him and the Philistines fell before Jonathan and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack, Jonathan and his armor-bearer kill some 20 men in an area of about half an acre, all because Jonathan turned to his armor-bearer and said, "I got an idea".
You know, he said it like that. But I'm at the place now where I don't really think that the value is in the idea. The value is in the courage and to act on the impulse. When I put it like that, you got to realize how many people say things like this every day, you know. I remember talking to somebody about Uber and they said, "Well, I could have thought of that".
You know, really you think thinking of something is the key to succeeding at something? Anybody can think of something. I mean, today I was walking out the door and Abby turned me into a dog because of my fuzzy sweater. And she said, "You want your belly rubbed? You want your belly rubbed"? And I licked her face and I left and came to church to preach. That's what dogs do. But she can think of stuff. I mean, thinking of it. Holly was telling me now they got like Uber for photography. I really should find out the name of this and see if I could get a sponsorship.
This message goes to a lot of people. But they said that you can go on and get a photographer anywhere in the world that you are just like you can get a car from Uber and you can get a photographer anywhere you are. If you're off with your family and you wanna get a family picture like that so that you don't have to ask some random stranger who apparently has never used a smartphone in their life and doesn't know to tap the screen to make it lighter. You can get a professional to come out and capture the memories, you know. And when she said it, I was like why didn't I think of that?
Well, there's a lot more to it than thinking of it. People call me all the time and they'll be like, "I heard this thing. Uh, there's a sermon in that somewhere". And so to that I'm like, "Where, where"? Like just 'cause they can think of it, you know. I read this headline, you should preach about that, you should write a song about that. And I'm like you should shut up until you can write one of your own. I know you mean well, but the hard part isn't thinking of it. The hard part isn't thinking of it. And this is why when they give you advice sometimes in marriage like be the first to say you're sorry, it's not the thought that counts.
Can I upset conventional wisdom for a moment? One thing that was really, really striking to me in the text was not what Jonathan did, but what the people who should have been leading were doing at the time when Jonathan had to act on something that was partial and imperfect. They had the means of making decisions to know the will of God, but their fear had put them in a place and their complacency had put them in a place. Because when you have the instruments, but you don't use them, how can God speak to you when you can't find this between Sundays.
How can God give you His wisdom? And the important thing about it was Jonathan said we don't have the ephod. Ahijah has the ephod. We don't have complete clarity on this situation. But what he had that was so important, he had the right person to turn to and talk about it. I need you to understand the value not only of what God says to you in your life, but about who you say it to after God say it to you.
The right people will give you the go-ahead. The right people will say, "You know what, I'm gonna help you as you do this. I know the addiction has got you about three different cycles now. And it looks like this one won't be any different. But whether or not you make it, I'm gonna be here with you on it. So let's go ahead and do this dumb thing, this impossible thing, this crazy thing". And then sometimes they gotta turn and tell you, "That ain't God at all". But it's who you say it to. It's who you say it to. It's a 50/50 thing. It's not just my relationship with God. It's my relationship with others.
And a lot of us are suffering in silence in our relationship with God because we're living in bitterness with our relationship with others. You can't hear God just like this. I guarantee you, if Jonathan would have had an armor bearer, who told him, "You know what, man, let me know how that turns out. I'm praying for you", sign of the cross. I guarantee you the battle wouldn't have moved on beyond Beth Aven that day like it did. Uh-uh.
And even for me, I can say this, when people say, "How did you know God wanted you to start a church"? I read a book, I felt inspired, I got up and preached, it seemed to help people, read a book, I got a wife, we were doing our thing. One day, she looked at me, in the mountains of Tennessee, we were at some youth camp, Carl Carty was leading worship. We came back to the room. People say, "How did you know? How did God speak to you, it was time for you to start the church"? Because I wanted to start it when I was 40. The church wouldn't even be here right now, if Holly didn't turn to me, not God. She was my Urim. God used her like that. She said, "It's time for you to go start this church". I said, "When I'm 40". She said, "No".
I love J.J. If you hear me saying on this message, you know, God's calling you to go. You know how many people I've seen go start coffee shops because they like coffee. And they hear a message like this and abuse it. And they think that the whole point of the message is just go do the dumbest thing you can think of, that you have a halfway interest in, and then blame the devil when it doesn't work out, because it was spiritual warfare and attack, and nobody believed in my dream and I'm nothing but Jesus on the cross, and the Garden of Gethsemane, squeezed like the olives and the oil is coming out.
All of that is dumb, because I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about who you talk to about what God is saying to you. And now, now I get to return the favor. I mean, the other day, she turned to me and was like, "Hey, I'm about to tell you something that I think God is speaking to me", because it's always a 50/50 thing. Always, always. So, I'm confident... But I'm not certain, you know? And she was like, "Don't laugh at me". I'm like, "Why would I laugh at you? Tell me". What she told me, I said, "Not only have you got to do that, but you got to do this, this, and this, and this, and this because that's awesome". That I think she was sorry that she told me, because she didn't want to do this, this, this and this she just wanted to do that, but we started talking.
You see how important it is, not only what God says to you... It's not only this beam of the cross, it's this one, too. So I don't have Urim and Thummim, but I got Eugene. I needed a rhyme, it was it was a stretch at best, and Irene and I got people. Now this is so key. It's a 50/50 faith. It's a 50/50, that means it is a divine partnership, where Jonathan says, "You know there is something that God can do, and then there is something that God will not do that only we can do". Faith is 50/50. James proves it clearly. Not only does Jonathan exemplify it, James explains it when he says, "Faith without works is..."? It takes two, this is a 50/50 proposition.
Why would God do for you what he gave you the strength to do for you? It is a 50/50 faith, it is not my faith that saves me and I'm grateful for that. How many are grateful that your faith in Christ for salvation is not 50/50? Come on, because if it was, I would be in hell before Monday at 3:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. But because He is my great high priest, y'all I'm about to get happy on this sermon. And because He took the breastplate of His own righteousness into the Most Holy Place and shed His blood on the mercy seat. I don't ever have to doubt if He wants to see me, or hear me, or love me, or throw His arms around me. He is my righteousness, and I am His child, and He is my great high priest.
Come on shout about it like you got the good sense to know, this thing doesn't depend on me. Foundational faith, even that faith is a gift of God, so that no one can boast. But watch this, Jonathan said, "Perhaps, perhaps the Lord will..." it's 50/50. I know He can, I think He will. 50/50. I know God is with me, and I think this is where He's leading me, it's 50/50. I'm a 50/50 leader.
I pulled 70 staff this Monday and said, "This is what I think God's doing and I can't put a bow on it but we're gonna find out together". Why? Because God won't reveal truth if I don't move toward it, ever. And the issue is this, experience is the friend of wisdom, but it can be the enemy of faith. You need me to run that back? Experience is the friend of wisdom. But if you get like Saul and Ahijah and keep the ephod under the pomegranate tree, Jonathan said, "We're gonna have to be our own ephod. We're gonna have to put ourselves out there and see if God will".
And when Eugene Peterson, he had this idea, right? He was trying to preach the Bible. He's in heaven now. But he was trying to preach the Bible to his church, he realized that they weren't really getting it. So he sat down to write a translation of the Bible in a way they could understand. You know, that little version Bible on your phone? I hope you got the Bible on your phone. I hope you got the Bible up above Facebook on your phone, because you need that one to start your day. You really do. You really do. You don't need to know what's going on in Russia every second, but you need to know what's happening, what God intends for your life.
And if you click on it, there will be one version that says MSG. And it has nothing to do with a Chinese restaurant; this is the message translation. And it was written by a man who just had an idea, "What if I write the Bible in the language that's common to the people"? And he ended up translating the whole Bible that way, Message Translation, all because, maybe God will use this, you know, if you act on it, if you act, it's 50/50. It's 50/50. I'm not sure, I don't know. Look what he said when he translated.
1 Samuel 14:6; my favorite verse about faith in the Old Testament. Look what he said, That, "Jonathan said to his armor bearer, 'Come on now.'" Come on, now. "'Let's do it now.'" Not when the priest gets his act together. Not when the government gets its act together. Not once it, but now. "We got to do this now. Now, come on now. Let's go across to these uncircumcised pagans". And then he said the title of my series, "Maybe God will work for us".
Maybe. Maybe? Faith is being able to move on a maybe. And you know what that means? It's 50/50. It might not work, but God is always working. I'm confident in the second, even when I'm not certain in the first and it takes the kind of faith, Church, to say maybe. Maybe if I do this... Maybe. And maybe, it won't. And maybe God will use this thing that I think I'm supposed to do, to lead to something that I was really supposed to do. So that even if the first thing fails, at least I'm not sitting still in fear. But it takes faith to move on a maybe.
When Urim has gone dark and Saul is under a tree, and you don't know what to do, but to move toward it. God says, "Move toward it". It may work and even if it doesn't, I will. It is the power to move on a maybe, to know that God is mystery, but He has revealed His character is trustworthy. I can move on a maybe. Father, I don't want to do this, but nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done. So I'm going to go see about this and maybe, somebody shout, "Maybe". Maybe, I've got a maybe faith, enough faith to do it and not know the conclusion, but trust God in the process, it's a maybe faith. I'm confident, I'm not certain, but I'm confident.
And you will find yourself, many times in your life, in a maybe moment. Some of you are there right now. It's a maybe moment for you. Maybe you are giving yourself to a marriage that you don't know if it can live like Ezekiel in the Valley of Bones. You don't even know if anything's going to happen, but you're prophesying and speaking forth and believing God to send the wins and you're living in the maybe moment. Maybe if we start a church. Maybe. I know who God is and I know nothing can stop Him, but it's 50/50, man. You want to do it anyway? Maybe. The miracle is in the maybe.
I wish I could preach this to every discouraged heart today. God lives in a place called maybe, faith lives in a place called maybe, so if you are in a maybe moment today, that's where God lives. Stand up. When you're in that maybe moment, and if you are, you know it, and if you're not, you will need this message within the next six weeks. Because life is full of maybe moments. You will feel in that moment, the coexistence of uncertainty and confidence and you'll feel like you're making it up as you go. I like that image because Jonathan said, "Climb up after me". Climb up after me.
I was thinking about how they made it up as they went. But I had to go, I had to do it. I had to trust God in a in a maybe moment. Maybe moments are like, the moment where you could look stupid. Maybe moments are the moments where you could be rejected. Most of us aren't facing Philistines and thorny slippery cliffs and geographical obstacles. Most of us are facing things that are on the inside of us that seem insurmountable. And God is in the maybe moment of your life, when you move forward anyway, I believe God sent me with this message today. Listen to me, listen to me. You're in a maybe moment. You're in a maybe moment, slippery on one side, thorny on the other, don't have everybody with you that you thought you'd have with you, just got a armorbearer.
Father, I pray today for the faith for your people to move forward on a maybe. In this moment, You are the God of all wisdom. You are the God who sees all, knows all, and can do anything. I thank You, Lord, that there are miracles emerging, even now as I speak, in bodies and relationships, in careers in families. God, I thank You, that ministry is birthed out of maybe. We thank You, God for giving us the Holy Spirit inside of us. We thank You for giving us the finished work of Your Son, to let us know that You are good and You do good and all things work together for the good of them that love You. I speak over every maybe situation, give Your people now, by Your grace, the kind of faith that it takes to move forward in a maybe.