Steven Furtick - Trapped In Transition
I wanna share with you from Acts 3:11, "While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded. And when Peter saw it, he addressed the people. 'Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this? Why do you stare at us as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had determined to release Him, but you denied the holy and righteous one. And asked for a murderer to be granted to you. And you killed the Author of Life whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in His name has made this man strong whom you see and know. And the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all'".
I wanna speak to you today for a few moments on this subject: "Trapped in Transition", "Trapped in Transition". And I wanna pray before we get into it one more time. Let's pray:
Father, now, I call on You to do the thing that only You can do. I can study. I can prepare, but I can only preach to a certain level unless You inhabit this holy moment. Holy Spirit, there is a design, custom, tailored message that each person needs. I ask now that You would measure that out to each heart. Help us to get past all of the distractions that would keep us from understanding the things that You desire to say. And we give You all the glory in Jesus' name. Somebody shout, "Amen".
On your way to your seat, touch somebody and say, "I am in transition. I was standing up, and now I'm sitting down". You know it's really interesting, when we travel, Holly likes to do stuff. That's where we're different. I like to get in and get out. If I'm preaching somewhere, I don't need to see the sights. Just show me the stage where I need to do my job. Get me back home where my refrigerator is stocked with Diet Coke. Not very adventurous. She's the opposite. She wants to go and see all the touristy stuff. And God help that woman in a gift shop. I'm serious. When we go through the gift shop, I just know every time that it's gonna be a piece of my kid's college education fund that's gonna be left. Is this a true story, those of you who have traveled?
Holly Furtick is a good 45 minutes in any gift shop. And I understood it till we went to Alcatraz. I couldn't understand why you wanna buy something, you know, the prison. It's not a prison anymore. Now, it's a national park, but until 1962, it's a prison. And I honestly enjoyed that one. Now she's taken me to some really boring places. And at Alcatraz it was different because not only was my wife interested to visit Alcatraz, but she was interested for me to hear the stories on the headset that they gave you for the guided tour. And I don't know if it's because I love Shawshank Redemption and it's my favorite movie, but something about that just, it connected with me, okay. Maybe it's all the prison stories in the Bible. I don't know why, but at Alcatraz, it was different. And I wasn't bored. I was actually really fascinated, especially at this one part. I brought you a picture from when I visited prison as a tourist.
This is me and Chuck standing at the part of the tour where they would show you how the prison Alcatraz, because it's an island, it was directly positioned where you could see one and one quarter miles across the ocean. You could see San Francisco. And what they said on the headphones, and I didn't forget this, is that what made it so agonizing for a prisoner was that you could see just a little over a mile everything that you wanted in life, but you couldn't get to it. When I heard that, I paused my headphones. And then I started making a sermon illustration about how many people today can see in your mind's eye the person that you could be if you could ever be free from an addiction, a habit, depression, or panic. The ability to see it, but I can't swim to it. The ability to see it, visualize it, and maybe even taste it, but not experience it. It is a certain type of torture that is only known in transition.
When we read the scriptures, we would do well to pay attention to the transitions, and this is for Jason and Tim and Brad and Chad, and all of my campus pastors who preach from time to time. It'll make you a better preacher if you pay attention to the transitions. Just when you're reading the Bible, look out for the transitional phrases and even words like "therefore", and "wherefore", and "wither", and "hither". And the transitional words that take you from place to place, pay attention to the transition. As a matter of fact, it's not only good for preaching. In life, you will be so much more effective if you learn to pay attention to the transitions.
And the scripture that I read to you today is a transitional miracle in the book of Acts. I call it a transitional miracle because it gives us a picture of what the author Luke is already explaining as he chronicles the birth of the church. Not only is the church in a transitional period going from being considered a cult with very little political capital to going into influential spaces and beginning to turn the world upside down for Jesus Christ the carpenter who was crucified, but the position of Acts 3 is transitional in that it is the first miracle that is recorded other than the Pentecostal miracle of those being filled with the spirit. It is the first miracle of healing that is recorded in the book of Acts. It will not be the last. It is the first. And that's why I call it a transitional miracle. Because it is giving us a picture of what Jesus meant when He said to His followers, "Don't leave Jerusalem".
Jerusalem, the city of peace. "Don't leave this place of peace, but wait until you have received the Holy Spirit". It is difficult to sit still in transition while you are threatened by opposition from the outside. And they didn't like Jesus, and that's why they killed Him, but Jesus told them to do something very difficult. To sit still in transition and wait for Him to do it His way. It's the hardest thing in the world. And yet, every time Holly goes through the gift shop, they get her every time. 'Cause they position that gift shop after she's seen all the history. I mean, I understand a mug, but this woman, she'll buy a journal, a mug, a memoir, a baseball cap, a beanie, a sticker. This woman, she's a sucker. They get her every time. Now, I want y'all to pray for the woman of God that leads this church, because she doesn't get it. You are so vulnerable on your way out. She doesn't get it.
One time, I was doing an assessment with someone who was looking at our security in our church. And they said the most important place to make sure that there's plenty of security is anywhere there is transition. Because where there is transition, there is distraction. And where there is distraction, there is opportunity for someone who means harm to capitalize on the lack of focus and create instability. That's what I've been thinking about, in regards to Acts 3 this week. How that the enemy will often set up a gift shop to take your stuff at points of transition. On the way out, on the way in. That's the only two times it costs me money when she takes me to a museum. They charge me for a ticket to get in. And then my wife empties our retirement fund on the way out, but it is at those points of transition.
I'm preaching today to somebody who is in a transition in your life that is significant. And it is the most significant place of opportunity, and it is the most vulnerable place of insecurity. At those points of transition. And maybe I should show you in the text. Yeah, maybe before Holly gets mad at me for this illustration, I should show you in the text. Go all the way back up to Acts 3:1. Y'all feel like studying the Bible a little bit today? Let's look at it. "Now, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. The ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple called Beautiful, to ask alms from those entering the temple".
Everything I just said is transitional. Every single component of the verses I just read has a transitional element. And when I saw that in the text, I was like, this is perfect for what we're trying to understand in our lives. Because our lives are constantly changing. And they are changing so fast that by the time we recognize the change, we don't have time to make the adjustment. By the time we know how to be a good parent, they are 53 years old. By the time we know what we should have saved money for, it's too late and the bill is already overdue. By the time we get the wisdom, we don't have the strength to implement it, because we're tired from all of our dumb mistakes. So when I read it, and I realized everything is transitional. Put it up again. Acts 3:1, "Now", it's a transitional word. "Peter and John were going up to the temple", they were on the way somewhere. "At the hour of prayer", it was a transitional time.
So, they're going about their day. And now it's time to pray. Ding, ding, ding. Everybody to the temple. Peter and John are transitioning to the temple. They are transitioning in their ministry because up until this point, they've always had Jesus in human form to supervise their miracle working attempts and efforts. And sometimes, they didn't get it right. And He was there to correct them, but He's not here in human form anymore. And they are in transition. And so, here now they're going to church at three in the afternoon. That's what the ninth hour means. It's a transitional period where all good Jewish men and women would go to the synagogue for prayers. Peter and John are moving toward the temple. Transitional period for the church. Transitional moment in their day, in between two activities.
Then it says that, verse two, there was a man who was being carried whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate. So now, the church as a whole is in transition. As the spirit of God is beginning to manifest Himself through signs, miracles, and wonders. Through the hands of the apostles. Peter and John are in transition on their way to the temple, which is their daily routine. And there's a man who the Bible says is being carried. I don't know how I missed this for so many years. I always pictured this miracle with the man already lying beside the gate, but he wasn't at the gate yet. The Bible says he was in transition. He wasn't even in the spot yet, because, see like, if you were gonna make it, and you couldn't walk, you had to have a racquet. And so, the best place you could go, pick a spot while people are going to church.
And they would do it different; they wouldn't get you on the way out, 'cause you already gave an offering in church. So, they would get you on the way in, right? And if you could catch them on the way in, maybe they'll drop you some change. And maybe they'll, you know, considered piety to give alms. And so, they're catching people with a gift shop at the gate by the temple. He wouldn't have been the only one. This was a very common place to set up, but I was blessed by this and I thought you may be, too. He wasn't even in his spot yet when God decided to give Him a miracle. I think a lot of times that if I could get here or if I could arrive there or if I could accomplish this, or if I could do that, or if I could fix it, or if I could establish it, or if I could move through it, but I want you to notice this is a transitional miracle.
It means that church hasn't even started yet, but God is already on the scene. It means that God does not need for your life to be at a certain point where people say it should be, in order to bless you. So, this is for everybody who is in transition, and I don't know if you're switching jobs. I don't know if you're switching girlfriends. I don't know if you're switching schools. I don't know if you're switching ways of living. I don't know if you're switching from you used to get high on a substance, but now you're trying to connect to Christ. I don't know what the switch is, but I love the fact that God was what, waiting to bless the person before he even got to the spot. It is a transitional miracle. And here's what I wanted to say; God is gonna bless you on the way. God is gonna bless you. He's gonna meet you and cut you off on your way to your spot, and bless you, anyway. How many know God can cut you off, and bless you?
So, he was about to go into the gate. And what is a gate? It's a symbol of transition. Everything in the text is pointing me to the fact that God is most active in moments of what I perceive to be instability and transition. Now feel the Holy Spirit just all up in your stuff. 'Cause there's something you're trying to get through, but you don't have to wait to get through it. You can believe God right smack dab in the middle of it. It sounds good. Preaches good. Doesn't feel good. I mean, it's so weird how we ask God to change our lives. And when He really does. 'Cause now he changed your life. Now it's gonna change your friends. Now He changed your life. Now it's gonna affect how you spend your time. Now He changed your life, and now it's gonna destabilize everything that you've come to depend on.
It's a transitional text. It's a transitional moment for the author Luke, as he's compiling a history of the church. He's going from an explanation to a demonstration. That's when it gets good. When you go from theoretically believing something to practically acting it out in your life, the miracle is in the transition. That's how we walk, right? I transition the weight of my body. And until I transition the weight, I cannot move. The center of gravity must change. In the same way, every time God is moving you forward in your life, there will be a period of transitional instability. In this passage, the man has never walked before in his life. He's being carried to the gate. Peter and John are going to church and in transition, God sets up a moment for transformation. And when it happens, it's so shocking not only to the onlookers, and not only to Peter and John, who were just trying to get to Sunday School.
Now this is important, too. Can I throw this in? This is for free. I won't say it in the next service. I will just say it for you, all right? Y'all are first to the trough. You know, the early bird and the worm and all that, it all applies right now. Now look at me. The first miracle that is recorded in the book of Acts was waiting in something that everybody else was stepping over to get to something they deemed more important. That's just for y'all. Now let's look at it. And Peter, now they saw Peter and John, this man is on his way to his spot. Peter and John are on the way to church. Study in the Bible, how many things that happen on the way. How active God is in the journey, in transition. How many things that God uses to change our life, happen in between two fixed points that we deem important.
Just all the little places Jesus would stop and do a miracle. Because you know that the feeding of the 5.000 was not on Jesus' itinerary. He was just trying to get somewhere else, and there happened to be 20.000 people that wanted to hear Him teach. Some of the greatest stuff that God will do in your day will not be on your calendar. Some of the greatest stuff that God will do in your life will not be in your five year plan. Come on, some of the greatest stuff that God will reveal in your life will not be on your dream board. And they're just trying to get to church. And the man is just trying to get something to eat. And they meet in transition. And God is in position. And the man is in transition. And Peter and John are in transition. And God is positioning all of it just like He is in your life today. Just like He is in your family. Just like He is in your situation. Just like He is in our church. And He's arranging a meeting.
And the man sees Peter and John, and he asked to receive alms. "And Peter", verse 4, "directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us'. And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them". I always liked to say that he was expecting the wrong kind of change. He wanted to know, "Do you have a few quarters? Do you have a few dimes"? And Jesus like, the one thing I've learned about Him is sometimes He doesn't meet your expectation because He wants to exceed it. Don't be too disappointed if God didn't give you what you wanted. This man in this moment is about to receive a change that he didn't even have the faith to ask for. And God sets up in his spot, you know. The spot where he was just gonna beg and get through another day and some change. Some spare change. And Peter's like, "oh, I got change for you".
See, this is a transitional moment. Remember that Jesus said that if you ask anything in My Name, I give it to you. His name represents His authority and His power. And so when Peter said, what he said next in the next verse, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you". At first, this man is thinking, "Oh, another one of those Christians that leaves you a track and doesn't leave you tip at the restaurant". But Peter is saying, "Now look, let's get past what you expected. Let's get past this temporary change that you desire. I have no silver and gold, but what I do have, I have a name. it's not my name, because in my name, you get nothing. In my ability, there is limited strength, power, and resource, but I know a name. and the one who has this name gave it to me. So I'm not operating in my own authority".
But watch: this is the transition of power. Jesus said, if you wait for My spirit, you can receive My power. So if you don't get out and move the way you think you wanna move, but wait for Me to direct your path. If you will be in position, you can receive My power. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand". By the right hand. That's the hand of authority. Why the right hand? Because all power and authority was given to Jesus. Come on, get happy with me. I don't care if it's 50 of y'all. But God said, "I'm standing over your situation, presiding and prevailing".
Oh yeah, I forgot something. Sit back down. In psychology, they make a distinction between change and transition. Okay, the two are not the same. And we'll see it in this man's life. Because in this transitional miracle, what is often unstated is that just because the man received a miracle, it didn't immediately fix his mindset, okay. And I wanna spend a moment here, because I believe many people are frustrated in their inability to change. And I think in the text is a clue as to why, but we're gonna have to pay attention to the transitions in this text. And if you will lean into this text for just a moment, it's gonna show you something about why some of the changes in your life don't stick. Why some of the changes in your life as soon as they're introduced, it seems like, you know, everybody wants change in a certain area. And it's often been said that change is the only constant in life, and I agree with that. But change is traumatic, even if it's positive, right?
So, there's desirable changes. There's undesirable changes. And while we're running around thinking that we control our lives, you know, the thing that really changes everything is the text message that you never expected. I'm telling you, I used to think that our church could avoid criticism, right? Cause I would think, "Well, if we do this right, and we do that right, and we have integrity over here". It's never gonna be the things that you expect that people are going to attack you about. It's gonna be something that you never even thought possible. It's just gonna be something that you didn't have the foreknowledge to expect. Like this man, okay. He never knew that he was about to get healed. But healing creates a new set of problems that if you don't understand this dimension, and it is a distinction, change and transition are two different things.
So, the man says, "I want some change". Peter's like, "Cool. I'm about to change your life". He like, "No man, three dollars is fine. I mean, I'm just looking for a burger right now". But Peter's like, "No, no. I don't wanna give you, I don't want you to buy a whopper. I want you to walk. Take my hand. This authority". Boom, and like a current, shoots through his body. And watch what happens to him. This is a beautiful thing when God blesses you in a moment. And immediately, "he took him by the right hand", verse 7, "and raised him up. And immediately", there is no duration. There is no progression. "And immediately" the man's "feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk".
Before you shout about that verse, pay attention to the transitional words. Because it says that he "began to walk". And all he knew how to do was beg. Because he was born unable to walk. This is part two of last week when I told you that sometimes better feels backwards. And it's wonderful that he could walk. But where's he gonna go? Every day he was carried to this spot. Now what? Cool man, you didn't wanna buy me a sandwich? I would've took Popeyes or Chick Fil A. But now I'm standing here and I'm leaping, and I'm happy, and I'm changed. But it represents a transition. Now, change, let me read this to you so I don't mess it up. This is outside of my realm. I do theology. The psychology part, I wanna read it. Make sure I get it right. I don't wanna get sued for malpractice up here.
Change is external. It's something that happens to you, okay. The man didn't do physical therapy and learn to walk. It was an unexpected change, good or bad. Change is external. Change could be traffic. Change can be weather. Change can be something that happens in your body. Change can be something that happens globally. Change happens externally. And it is a situation that is imposed by outside circumstances or unforeseen conditions. That's change. Follow me. Transition is always an internal or a psychological event. You see the contrast? He jumped up immediately. That's change. He began to walk. That's transition. Some of us are frustrated by change, because we are unwilling to endure the process of transition. I need God's help to preach this now.
So, we jump up and we jump up happy. You know how you get happy when God does something awesome in your life. That's a change. But transition is where transformation happens. Not by something external, but by something internal. I'll prove it to you. David said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me". What does that mean? David wasn't praying about his situation. He was praying about his spirit because he understood that if God changes your situation, but the spiritual process is left underdeveloped, it will cause an implosion. Now, the change happened. It was not illegitimate. He jumped up. He walked. His feet and ankles could do it. But it wasn't his feet at this point that was the problem.
Just because your feet are strong, and just because your legs work, and just because you now have the strength to stand doesn't mean you have the understanding to walk. And you're in transition. And it doesn't make much sense to you when you're in transition. And it's unstable when you're in transition. In fact, when you're in transition, you can feel trapped. Here's why. I left Egypt. I'm not in Canaan. I'm trapped in transition. I'm saved enough not to go to hell. But I'm not saved enough to not wanna go to the club. I'm trapped. We got the angel choir over here in this section. The reality of it is this. Transition takes time. And change happens suddenly. And to be trapped in transition is to be waiting for your mind to catch up with the transformation that has already happened in your life.
So, I was praying about it. And I was asking God to give me a picture of what this looks like. I went back over to Hebrews 5 and I looked for background on that particular situation where you see a Christian community struggling to come into the fullness of what God has for them. And in one of the most middle school teacher passages of scripture of all time, because he's really, really frustrated with his pupils, this anonymous author begins to rant in Hebrews 5:11. Cause he's trying to get something out. And it's frustrating when you have something valuable but you have nowhere to put it. It's frustrating when you feel like you have something to give, but nobody to receive it. Especially in a relationship, where you want to give more. But when you look to give what you have in you, you don't find anywhere to pour it into. That's frustrating.
And as he's building up. And he's describing maturity. He's describing not just the miraculous salvation event. But the maturity of following Christ into deeper things and better motivations and new ways of doing things that rely on grace rather that legalism or the law. As he teaches them this switch, he becomes frustrated. And somewhere in his letter he senses that he's losing their attention. So he goes, "About this we have much to say", 5:11, "and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing". I love this. This means it's your fault for not getting it. It's not the preacher's fault for not saying it right. I'm gonna put this verse on my pulpit. You have become dull of hearing. It's not that I'm confusing. It's just that you're slow.
Okay, verse 12. "For though by this time", that's what he said. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers", you hear it? You ought to be teaching somebody. But you didn't transition. You didn't transition. You got up and learned to walk, but you didn't reach back your hand to anybody else. You been a Christian for 14 years, and you're still not asking any better questions of life. You're still simplifying it. You've been walking with God this long, and you should be further. But I'm frustrated, because you're not farther along. And as he's, I don't know. He's frustrated. It's a half time talk, you know. He' sin the locker room. "We're better than this, team. We're better than this, yeah. You're better than this".
That's what he's saying. He said, "You have need of someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained", oh, it's a skill. Transition is a skill. Change is a gift. Transition is a skill. And he said this skill requires use and "practice to distinguish good from evil". The only way to know the difference between God's will for your life and your will for your life is you've got to go to Gethsemane. You've got to go to the place where Jesus went to, where He learned the separation between what I want based on comfort and convenience and human preference and feelings, and that God wants based on the position He has put Me in.
Now understand this. When Jesus finally got to the cross, He had no trouble giving up His life. It was only in Gethsemane, transition, where He had to pray, "God, if there's any other way", is in transition. So get ready for this. If you are being tested, you are in transition. And what that means is, the greatest oil of anointing is in transition. So, God is growing you up. That's what He's doing. He's growing you up. He's teaching you to stand, therefore, to stand when it's uncertain. To stand when it doesn't feel good. To stand when it's controversial. To stand when it doesn't seem to be happening. To stand on what you know when you can't trust what you see or what you feel. And you're in transition. And transition takes a little time.
And now the decision is this. Do I hold onto the old, or do I lean into the new? That's what the man had to decide. And so do you and so do I. Because I had my spot. I had my system. I had my support. Now I'm in transition. And I can't do what I used to do anymore. So, I had this cup where people would come by, and they would drop change in my cup. And I had to drop my cup to grab hold of Peter's hand. So I could stand up and begin to walk. But that's not the part of the text that got my attention. Because after the man stands up, everybody is shocked to see this man who they were used to ignoring, who used to be kept on the outside. And they were like, "That's Joe". I gave him a name because the scripture didn't, and it doesn't seem right that I would spend 50 minutes talking about him and not even give him the curtesy of a name.
"That's Joe". "No, it can't be. Dude's walking, jumping, dancing". "No, Tom, I'm telling you. That's him". "How you know it's him"? "Cause I know. I walk by him every day. I used to walk by him every day. I walk by him every day. I walk by him every day. He'd come in, and I'd, and we would transition past each other every day. And then we would". And see, when he started to change, they couldn't understand it. And they didn't like it. Transition is traumatic, you know. And the way I know it's traumatic is cause he dances. He walks. He goes past the gate and goes into Solomon's portico. This was a big, long porch, man. It would take the whole, that whole side of the temple was one big porch.
And I never forgot this verse when I read it, because it said that in verse 11, that the man "clung to Peter and John". I never forgot that. That just gripped me when I read it. Cause I realize that it matters in these moments of transition what you cling to. And I hear the spirit saying to somebody today that you are going to have to choose to cling to something that is new and uncomfortable to you to move forward in this transitional season of your life. For many of us, this means that we are having to let go of something old that exists in the paradigm of our mind, in order to embrace something new. I mean, just because the man can walk doesn't mean that he can stand by himself. So now when we met him in the text, he's being carried. And when we say goodbye to him in the text, he's clinging.
What makes that significant for our lives is, you cannot take hold of what's new while you have a death grip on what's old. And God is saying, "You have gone as far as you can go holding on to what you used to be". This requires that the excuses that have become so embedded in your life have to be left behind at the spot of your transformation, because you're in transition now. God is giving birth to a new thing in your life. It is going to require letting go of old habits. Look man, if you are a husband now, you can't be single in your mindset anymore. You've got to consider a new responsibility. What happens a lot of times is, we go into new situations holding onto old habits. You can't have a husband situation and have bachelor habits. Before long, it will tear you apart trying to hold onto two things.
So, I hear God saying today, "Let it go. It is not serving you in this season anymore". Why would you hold onto something that taught you how to beg? That taught you how to blame? It can't heal you anymore. Something greater is here. There is a name that is greater than any other name. Higher than any other name. Stronger than any other name. But you gotta cling to it. And cling doesn't mean that you kinda swat at it. Cling means that you grab for Jesus with all you've got because you know like Jacob, that if He doesn't bless you, you won't be blessed. Said "he clung to Peter and John". And what you cling to in this season of transition in your life, will determine whether you go forward or stay at the gate.
You know what, the first thing that Peter did when he saw the man grabbing onto him was? He used him for a sermon illustration. God wants to use you. God wants to use you. God set it up so He could use you. Got set it up just so He could use you for His purpose and His glory. But you're in transition right now. And by holding onto the old, you forfeit the future. I came to say, let go of that thing that keeps you paralyzed. Let go of that thing that keeps you fearful. And let go of that thing that keeps you stuck. This is a metamorphosis. And to be stuck at one stage of your spiritual growth, when opportunity, power, and authority is standing in front of you is a terrible thing.