Steven Furtick - Focus On The Fruit
Oh, pray for us. We're getting happy in quarantine. Pray for us. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords. We came to crown him today. How many came to crown him? Take about 12 seconds and find the crown emoji. Just let everybody in the chat know, "This is what I came to do: to worship him, to declare the praises of him who called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light". Welcome all over the world. It is release weekend. This is the day we declare the life of God to every situation. I don't even care what it is. It might stink where you are, just like it stunk where Lazarus was. The stink doesn't scare Jesus. He is attracted to what others back away from.
I know some of you haven't had your shower yet. You didn't brush your teeth, but that's all right. God doesn't care about your bad breath. Let everything that hath breath…minty breath, fresh breath, bad breath. If you have breath, if he let you see another day, shout, "I'm alive"! Author of life, we give you praise today. We return back the breath you gave us as a gift, and we offer it. We offer you this breath. We offer you a thought. We offer you our hearts. We don't feel like they're very worthy, but you said you wanted to live there. We don't feel like our praise is very magnificent, but you said you wanted to inhabit it. So come and do that now, God.
Somebody said, "I'm watching church", but they were wrong. They're not watching anything. When they worship you in the beauty of holiness, you set up shop, if it's in a kitchen, if it's on a futon, if it's on a porch trying to get some vitamin D. Thank you, Jesus. I speak another vitamin D: deliverance. God, would you set the captives free today? Do what only you can do. I don't know what they need, and even if I did, I don't have it to give, but you do.
Lord, I pray that would be the testimony of every person today when we get into this word, that their spirit would agree with what is spoken, come into alignment with your purpose for our lives. I thank you for what I feel standing in an almost empty room. I feel the fullness of your presence. Right now, I confer my faith to join with my brother, my sister, that they would feel your presence in that room, even if it's a hospital room, even if they're in a prison cell. God, your Word can go anywhere. Your Word can do anything. Nothing is impossible for you. So do the impossible, the unimaginable. We give you all that we are. We focus our hearts on you, not on the diagnosis, not on politicians or governments or bills or people who get on our nerves. We came to worship you, and we honor your presence. In Jesus' name.
And everybody in the chat… Come on, y'all. Break the chat. Say, "Amen". Say "Amen" in all caps. I wonder, can we break YouTube today? I want to see if we can shut down YouTube today. I want to get Google out of their bed to see "What happened to our YouTube today? Oh no. They're having church". They can't contain us. They never could. They can't lock us down or lock us out. So here we are. Here you are. Here I am. What's up? How are you doing? Take another bite of your bagel, and get ready for the Word of God. How many are grateful that he turns graves into gardens? What else does he do? He turns mourning to dancing. What? You say that you can cry a tear but still have a testimony? Absolutely. My tears are my testimony. He wept with me. He is the God who sees and knows.
Welcome to week three of a series called Looking Forward to Normal. I feel this one in my bones. I'm already sweating right through my limited-edition exclusive Graves Into Gardens jacket. Don't even ask where you can buy it. It is not for sale. This is special. This is the pastoral edition. This is the founder's right. We do want to make sure you're listening to these songs. One of the things I'm going to speak about today in just a moment… Go ahead and grab your Bible if you have one around. This would be a good time to get one with pages from trees, because it'll help you focus, and that's going to be important for my message today. You'll see. Really, that's what we're talking about…focus, looking forward to normal. What you focus on right now determines whether you will go forward or whether you're just going to repeat the same old dead routines, repeat the same old disgusting stuff.
God is helping you keep your New Year's resolutions right now. You were so busy and distracted, so he said, "Here. I'll help you out real quick. What if I just unplug all of the other stuff, and then we can get some things right". I was praying that, like, "God, what is it that is good that you want to do in this situation"? I'm just being honest. It made me cry last night to watch our videos, which you can go see right now on YouTube. Shameless plug. Oh yeah. I plug stuff I believe in. I plug stuff with a purpose. I was watching those videos from the night we recorded Graves Into Gardens and we sang "My Testimony" and "Available". The Spirit of God just swept through this room.
Our church has 20 physical locations and watch parties all around the world, not just in Charlotte but all over the world. Our family spans the globe. It made me so sad to think about not being able to be together and sing "Rattle". I felt like… Billy Corgan said, "I'm a rat in a cage". "Despite all my praise, I am still just a rat in a cage". Something like that. I felt like, "God, let the people come. Why can't they all be together"? This is our family. I really do love being with my church. Yet I found out that, a lot of times, when God doesn't let you out of a certain situation when you want to come out, there's something he wants to bring in to you that can never be taken away.
So I started praying maybe these seven weeks, eight weeks, nine weeks, ten weeks, however long it goes that we're meeting like this and just finding a way to have church even if we can't hug each other… All we can do is put hearts on a chat, on a screen, or something like that. Maybe God is showing us that his presence is not limited to a physical location, and maybe the same way we're having church in our homes right now we won't just have on Sunday, but maybe this is going to be a training ground for us to learn how to just have church anywhere we are. God is where you are. You don't go to a place where God is. How stupid is that? He's omnipresent. You think God is keeping a desk somewhere in a corner office, like an old college professor on Sundays? Like God is an old man in a nursing home. "I wish you'd come see me more". No. God is energy. God is spirit. God is a molecular structure that fills all in all. That's what it means to say that Christ was from the beginning.
So, since he's eternal and he's not bound by time or by location, since he can move with the cloud or move with the fire, since God is always moving, that means he can visit and inhabit anywhere we choose to give him praise. Thank you, Jesus. I haven't read my Scripture yet. What we want to do in this third week… And I don't think this will be the final week. I really don't think we're going to leave this teaching for a long time. Looking Forward to Normal. What if normal is not back there? What if normal isn't stressed out, like you were three months ago, like you have been for the last three years? What if normal is something you've never known? What if there is a joy unspeakable and full of glory in the Holy Ghost? What if people of faith aren't weird? What if we're the ones who got it right?
Every time I turn on the news, they're talking about how an invisible virus is shutting down the visible world, and everything we can see is affected by something we can't see. Well, that's what the Scripture has been saying all along. Right? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". I don't see it, but I believe it. I can't point to it, but I know it on the inside. So this is an excellent time to pull out some of these Scriptures that help us to see that the kingdoms of this world and the kingdoms of our God do not have much in common…what Romans 12 called the patterns of this world, the way we get used to doing things, how if somebody offends us we offend back, and then we get offended. "Oh, I got offended". Well, that was a dumb thing to do. Why would you get that? "But they offended me". No, no, no. Offense is an event; offended is a decision. So why would I make a decision…?
These are the ways of the world. "If you offend me, I'm going to be offended". The kingdom of God… The renewing of our minds says you can bring me an offense… One time I preached a message where I built a fence on the stage. I said, "You can either drive it into the ground and create separation or you can drop it". That's really weird to the world until you realize that God's ways actually work. Who would have thought? He actually knew what he was doing when he made you, and if he made you a little weird, if he wired you a little differently, if you're wired a little differently…
We came out and had church before church, and I almost spilled my Starbucks all over the stage. Broke a stool. We were singing "Rattle". I told them everybody is telling me that the song "The Blessing" makes them cry. I was like, "I guess I'm weird because 'Rattle' makes me cry". Mom, when did you drop me? Because something got wired wrong in my head. You're not supposed to cry singing "Open the grave; I'm coming out", but I do. I cried when we were writing it, and I cry when I hear it. Somebody put in the chat, "I'm wonderfully weird". And don't look at the person next to you and say, "You sure are" if you're sitting on the couch with somebody. I don't want any strife in the home.
Look at this. Paul was weird. (He wrote Philippians.) What was weird about Paul was that he had this ability to communicate uncertainty and confidence in the same breath, in the same letter. That was what was weird, because he would say something and he would sound so courageous, and then he would say something else about how his situation was so unstable. I want to show you a passage I really love. If I were your waiter, I would tell you this message pairs well with a message I preached awhile back called Choosing Your Chains. It's available for you right now. As I'm finding lately, these messages and these passages are taking on a new relevance to me.
The Word of God is alive and active. That's what it means. It means as your life changes, God's Word doesn't change, but your perspective does. You have the ability to look at a situation that you used to say, "Man, that was unfair". Three years later, you're like, "I am so glad they didn't keep me around". You look at a situation on one hand and go, "That was the worst week of my life". You'll look at it in a few months and go, "I learned a lesson from that. Oh, I wouldn't trade that lesson for anything".
Today, let me give you just one verse to start with. I want to read a lot of verses, so clear your calendar. Okay. Check. Now listen to this one verse. There's something about it that took me by surprise. In Philippians 1:22, Paul says, "If I am to go on living…" If? I thought no weapon formed against you will prosper. Isaiah 54:17. Paul, didn't you read Isaiah 54:17? Paul is like, "Yeah, man. Me and Isaiah are peers. We're both writing the Bible. He just wrote it a few centuries ago". Y'all listen. You have to listen with your spiritual ears, because your physical eardrums are blown out because we were just rocking up here. Listen with your spirit. He said, "If I am to go on living… I don't know how this will turn out".
How many feel that way about something in your life right now? "I don't know how this is going to turn out. It is inconclusive. The ruling on the field is under review. They put me in this prison for preaching the gospel. I didn't sell dope. I didn't hurt anyone. I was just trying to help, and here I am in prison". I believe Paul was under house arrest in Rome. That's kind of where his ministry concludes in Acts, chapter 28. There is debate about which imprisonment Paul was facing when he wrote this letter to the Philippians, but one thing we know is that he was in prison, and the other thing we know is that he saw a purpose in it.
So, since Paul has this perspective to offer us today, let's ask him about what is important to him as he sits in a prison cell. Maybe we need to make it applicable to us. Most of us are not exactly locked up, but we're locked down right now. I don't even mean whether or not you can go get your nails done or whether or not you're allowed to visit your barber or whether or not you're going into the grocery store without wearing a beekeeper suit. I'm talking about the fact that most of us are trapped inside of what we don't yet know in this transition. So, since Paul is awaiting whether or not they're going to kill him for preaching Christ or let him live, I want to hear what this preacher has to say. It doesn't get any better than this.
The apostle Paul is the guest preacher at Elevation Church this weekend. He says, "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know"! Wow! He doesn't say that much. Did you hear what Paul said? You'd better underline this, because you're not going to hear him say it much more. He doesn't say this many times. He said, "I do not know". I wish somebody was honest enough to put it in the chat. "I do not know". You think the four words that express the greatest faith are "God will come through". No, that's not it. You think the four greatest words of faith are, "He can do anything". You think the four greatest words of faith are, "I trust in God". All of those are fine, but sometimes the greatest statement of faith you can make is when Paul said, "I'm waiting on a verdict. I'm in this quarantine…prison… I'm in this situation, and it's uncertain what will happen".
Remember, the church at Philippi love Paul. They love Paul way more than Elevation Church loves me, because Paul was a better pastor. They love him so much. He started the church at Philippi, and now they're having to make it without his physical presence. They're having to make it without the person who taught them the gospel. They can't be together. So he's backing up to tell them, "Let me give you a report on how I'm doing. Let me give you a report on how things are going in the prison". Philippians 1:12. Remember, he started the church at Philippi, but now things have taken a turn for the worse, and it's uncertain. It's uncertain in your life right now. It's uncertain about when certain things are going to kick back in. It's uncertain about whether or not you're going to be able to meet this need. It's uncertain about whether or not life is going to get back to normal.
Y'all, I don't know if we'll ever hug people again who don't have our last name. I'm hoping kind of not. I don't like to hug anymore. But I don't know, and that's what Paul says. Listen. The way he models for us confidence in the face of uncertainty is a lesson that I think can change your life. The title of this lesson is called Focus on the Fruit. Since the message starts with focus, if you need to close the chat to listen to me, do it. If you need to give your kids a shot of NyQuil early in the morning to listen to me… Listen to me. Focus on the Fruit. All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit right now as I speak. The Word of God does not return void. No, it never does. It accomplishes what he sends it to do, but you have to focus on the fruit. There's no title coming up behind me on screen. You are the production team today. Put right there in the chat, if you haven't closed it, "Focus on the fruit". That's the word of the Lord today. I'm excited about it. Paul starts with telling the church at Philippi about the events that have transpired since he last saw them.
Now, remember, Paul wasn't able to post this on Facebook, so it's going to take a while for them to get the correspondence through something that's way slower than the United States Postal Service. Paul has to get them this message, and they have to wait to receive it. The man of God is trying to give them a message, but they have to wait to receive it. While you're waiting, learn to worship. It is the worship you offer God while you are waiting that will prepare your heart for the Word. That's what tills the soil. When I offer God praise in my heart while I'm waiting, that's what makes me ready and receptive for what he speaks. Some of us are so anxious for God to do something, but often in those seasons of transition he's tilling the ground. Who is this for? He breaks up our hardened heart in waiting seasons as we praise him by faith.
Philippians, chapter 1, verse 12, says, "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually…" Actually, what had happened was… Actually, what's going on… There are certain things that are apparent, but what if what is apparent isn't what is actual? Do you see what I'm saying? I just want to read the Bible slowly because I have nothing else to do. He said, "Actually…" This is what's actually happening. Physically speaking, what's happening is I'm in chains, locked up or on house arrest. Physically speaking, I'm not able to preach outside of these walls. Physically speaking, I'm quarantined. Physically speaking, some things are going on right now in my bank account, but actually, it has served to advance the gospel.
If you are a note-taking nerd, write down that the word advance means to make headway despite severe blows. This is the kind of progress that isn't pretty. This is like me doing squats. I'm not doing it so my face can look pretty; I'm doing it so my muscles can grow. This may not be the prettiest part of my life, but by faith I believe it's going to be the most productive. The most productive parts of your life will not be the prettiest. The greatest miracles in your life will come in the middle of the biggest mess. He said, "Actually, what happened…" He doesn't go into this long, long, long, long list of events.
Holly, he doesn't go into a long list of events. Some of us are more verbose than others. When Holly tells me what happened in her day, it takes her more word counts (because she's smarter) to get it done. She's like paragraphs and I'm like sentences. Paul doesn't even give them a sentence on his condition in prison. "Food sucks, y'all. Pray for me. It's loud here". He doesn't give them a single sentence. I wonder why. I wonder by this point in his life, does he have his priorities straight, to know that what is happening in me is always more important than what's happening to me? I wonder, do I have it straight? Not really. Not yet. I'm still conformed to the pattern of this world. I'm still acted upon by external events. If I feel it, I believe it.
Well, Paul is past that. Paul is like, "Look. I could sit here and tell you all about prison. Blah, blah, blah. I've been here so many times before. It's not even worth wasting the papyrus I would write it on. I only have so much scroll, and I don't want to take up the time telling you how bad my day was. I don't want to spend so much time just thinking about, talking about, and guessing about all this stuff I can't control. What I want to focus on instead is the fruit. And what has happened to me…" Get this. Beneath the surface, God is growing something greater than our minds can imagine. Something is happening in the soil.
Something is taking root in your heart right now. In this season of my life, God is giving me a root system. In this season of my life, God is teaching me to focus. Remember, I'm looking forward to normal. God is pruning some stuff out of my life right now to make me ready for what's next. Can I get one witness in this room that God is rooting me, establishing me, so that I can bear more fruit? Well, we like the fruit, but the root is kind of boring, kind of not too sexy, kind of ugly when you get down to it. Have you ever put roots in a vase and handed them to somebody for Valentine's Day?
I want what's on the other side. We all want what's on the other side. On the other side of the Red Sea, I'm going to give you praise, Lord. God, when we get back to church… I saw y'all on Instagram. I've been going through your Instagram posts, everybody who tagged me or Elevation Worship, singing a song. I scrolled through them. Ask Abbey. Ask Graham. We spent three hours last night just scrolling through y'all. Some of y'all couldn't sing on key, but we still enjoyed seeing you sing these songs. I saw so many people say, "When we get back to church…oh man! Watch out". Well, why wait? I thought you were church. I thought the Holy Spirit lived in you. Jordan, if you were at Riverwalk, you'd be standing up shouting me down. Why do you need a crowd to shout me down? I thought the Spirit of God lived in you.
Now look. We love to shout over fruit, but fruit without root doesn't last long. I want something sustainable in my life. I want not only the blessing of God, but I want him to build me up so I can bear up under it. I want to yield my fruit in season. There is a time for everything, Solomon said. There is a season to mourn. So if you're mourning right now, that's the root. But you will rejoice in the morning. That's the fruit. I'm not focused on what I'm going through. I'm focused on what God is doing through it. Focus on the fruit. "How was your week"? Well, it depends. What part about it do you want to know? When I almost strangled my kids or when I hugged them? I did both. The part where I was walking around the house cussing under my breath or the part where I was singing, "Amen"? Because from the same mouth, the fruit of lips that profess his name and the fruit that will tell you other stuff too.
Listen. Out of this great season of uncertainty… Somebody put again in the chat, "I do not know". You are allowed to say that. I don't know what makes people think preachers know stuff we don't know. People will ask me the weirdest stuff. "If a cat dies in the middle of the night and the owner went to church the day before, will it get to heaven or does it have to pray…"? I don't know about your cat. "In the book of Revelations, where it talks about the horse and the heavens and the earth…" I say, "I didn't break open the scroll. The Lamb did that. I'm not the Lamb. I'm a dumb sheep like you". So, knowing that I don't know… What a powerful concept. Knowing that you don't know makes you open to wisdom. Knowing that you don't know.
I talked to Craig Groeschel yesterday about when church is going to open, and this and that and the other, and all of the states are different. I don't know if our governor is ever going to let us out of the house again or not, but certain states in the United States of America are opening up. Certain nations are more open than others, and we're all on different waves dealing with coronavirus. (If you're watching this in a time capsule in 2032, things were weird. This was not like Elevation Church had a bad growth season. We weren't allowed to come.) I was like, "What do you think, man? Another month? Another six months? Another 12 months? Will we go to church and come back"? We went back and forth just talking, just burning up our data plan talking to each other. Finally, I said, "Do you know what the smartest thing we've said on this whole call was? When you said three minutes ago, 'I don't know.' That's the smartest thing either of us have said".
Here's what's really cool about right now: We are all idiots at the same time. We are all equally ignorant of what comes next. Nobody has a crystal ball. I know your uncle's cousin's friend worked for the Pentagon. Shut up. Hearing from everybody. "Well, my dad went to college with Dr. Fauci". Shut up. Nobody knows. Paul didn't know. Are my kids ever going to have a real teacher again? Nobody knows. They might send them to school and they might send them back. Nobody knows. When is the economy…? Nobody knows. Nobody. "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor"? This is Romans 11. Right before Romans 12 where it says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind", he says, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord"? Who knows? Not me. Not you. Not Paul. Paul always had an answer.
One man said he was often wrong but seldom in doubt. Do you know anybody like that? That was Paul. Paul always knew. You're going to see him. He starts this passage. He says in verse 12, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters", and then by the time he gets to verse 22, he says, "I do not know". So how are we supposed to know if you don't even know? I love this, because the truth is in the tension. Hermeneutical principle 101: the truth is in the tension. The presence of faith does not eliminate uncertainty. In fact, it operates by uncertainty. He said, "I want you to know that the gospel is going forward". That's the important thing. Verse 13: "As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard…"
Wait a minute. He's talking about clarity, but he's still not defining the outcome. His clarity is not about the outcome; his clarity is about God's presence in the process. What a word. I'm focused on what God is doing in me right now. I can't control what politicians do. I can't control how long this prison sentence is. There is something outside of my control. This is what I told Elijah in the pound the other day, Graham. I'm giving him life lessons, and I think this has to be number one. If you strip it all away… And I don't even need a Bible verse for this. This is what I taught him. The only thing you can really control is your focus. What are you going to do…make it sunny? What are you going to do…make it rainy? What are you going to do…make people nicer? Are you going to make people stop being crazy? What are you going to do? Are you going to pray away the virus?
Look, man. I'm praying just as hard as anybody for stuff I can't control. That's all I can do. But what I can control is my focus. I can control my focus. "Not me, Pastor Furtick. I can't control my focus. I'm ADHD". I am not talking about physical focus. I'm talking about emotional focus. I'm talking about spiritual focus. I'm talking about focusing your priorities. "Now the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control". Galatians 5:22-23, cross-reference for your Bible study. The fruit of the Spirit is joy, but the root of the Spirit is priorities, what you are planted in, what matters to you. This is Paul's message. He's writing back to the church he founded in Philippi. He led that purple cloth dealer Lydia to the Lord, and the city was never the same. He got locked up with Silas in prison in Philippi for preaching the gospel. Remember that story?
Most people don't know that he is writing a letter to the same people who only have a church in their city because Paul was thrown in prison. Did you hear me? The only reason there is a book of Philippians is because Paul was thrown in prison. The only reason he writes in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…" Philippians 4:19 says, "My God will supply all your needs". Paul is saying, "I don't know how this ends", yet he's saying, "My God will supply all my needs". I don't need to know how it ends to know that I'm going to see the glory of God in the middle of it. Some things I don't need to know. That is why I am encouraging you to limit your intake of the news. You do not need to know everything up to the minute. Amen.
You do not need to know the things you cannot directly affect. You do not need to know all of the details to take your next step. Just ask Abraham. You do not have to know the 10-year plan for your life to give God your best today. You do not have to know how long until there is a vaccine for a virus to praise God and worship God for the life he has given you in this moment. Releasing my need to know is the hardest thing, because I thought information was the key, yet Paul says there is a confidence that goes beneath knowledge. Let me sit back down, because I have more to say about this. In fact, I haven't even started my sermon yet. Paul said, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more…" I'm going to praise him all the more.
Oh, thank you, Devil, for challenging my faith. It's going to make me more grateful. Oh, thank you, Lord, for pruning my branches. It's only going to make me more fruitful. More fruit. I don't know who it's for, but you're going to have more fruit. Even if I have a little less money right now, I'm going to bear more fruit, because my roots are going deeper, because I'm humble and open, and where I am not a closed system, God can sow the seed of his Word and bring forth something my mind can never conceive. Verse 15: "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love…" This is all the stuff Paul can't control. He's like, "Yeah, some people are talking about me. Yeah, there are some idiots out here. Yeah, I've got trolls too. Yeah, I just block them and move on".
Isn't it crazy how you focus on the one thing that's against you? Do you do this too? Okay. Pray for me. This is what I do. I could have a thousand people say something nice to me and one person say something nasty, and I will snuggle up to nasty. What am I doing? I'm being immature. That's immature. It means I'm not rooted enough yet in love to know "God is for me. Who can be against me"? Paul knew that. He actually wrote that. "If God is for me, who could be against me"? So he knew it. He wrote it. He said it. It came from within him. He knew it because it came from within. I almost called this message… Holly hates when I do this. She says, "Just give it one title. Don't give it the alternate titles". Here's the alternate title for this message: "Prison Sentence".
We hang up Philippians 4:13 in a weight room: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Paul wrote that sentence in a prison. Prison sentence. I wanted to know what's going to come forth out of your life in this season of frustration. Prison sentence. I could do a whole series on prison sentences. It has a double meaning. I don't know how long I'm going to be here, but I'm going to bear some fruit while I do. I am like a tree planted by the streams of water. I don't know how long, but I know how high, how wide, how deep, how unsearchable is the love of Christ. I know it is beyond my comprehension. I do not know, but I know there's more fruit, more favor, more faith. So he said, "I'm going to ignore what I can't control". Yeah, but, Paul, don't you need to be informed? You think you get informed by watching the news? You think you get informed by receiving fragmented information? No, no, no. Paul said, "Focus on the fruit".
You will know the tree by its fruit. We should step all the way back real quick before we get to this really good part of the passage. I still haven't gotten to the good part. Man, I feel like I know something that you don't know yet, and I can't wait to show you what I know that you don't know yet. It's so good. For now, let's go back a couple thousand years real quick. Let's go back to normal. Everybody wants to get back to normal. Let's get back to normal for a minute. Adam and Eve are naked in a garden, and they can eat anything they want, and they don't have to Uber Eats it or DoorDash it. It's just there, and that was normal. Some of us are so used to scarcity that abundance doesn't even feel normal to us, and when God brings it, we reject it because we've never known it before. Deeper. God will send someone to love us, but if they love us too much we will push them away, because we are not used to receiving fully.
So we do what Adam and Eve did. Do you remember what they called the tree? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of the knowledge. Do you remember what the snake told Eve? He said, "If you eat it, you'll be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil". Y'all, they didn't get in trouble because God didn't like apples; they got in trouble because they lost focus. Of all of the things God had given them to eat… Of all of the choices God has given us… We have a choice how we spend this time. You made a good one today. You know all the crap you could be watching on YouTube, and you're in church. Give yourself a clap hand emoji right now just to thank God. "I made a good choice today, a quality choice today. I'm going to plant myself by streams of water this week, not by stagnant ponds of misinformation and speculation. I'm going to plant myself today. I'm getting my roots right".
That's what Holly said to me. She was going to the beauty shop. Remember beauty shops? She said, "I'm going to get my roots right". Put it in the chat. "I'm getting my roots right. That's what I'm doing today". I'm getting my roots right. I'm getting my mind right. I'm getting my belief system right. I'm getting my priorities right. I'm finding out what really matters right now. I'm going to do it in this prison cell. I'm going to see something. God is going to show me something. The gospel is going to advance through this season. We're getting our roots right. Yet Adam and Eve wanted to know. They wanted to be God. Our need to know is what keeps us from receiving. That's what was so bad about that tree. Nobody even knows what fruit they ate. I hope it was delicious, because it really was expensive. Eve had to put her clothes back on.
Just imagine how it could have been. I called this message, option number three: "When Naked Was Normal". Adam and Eve just walking around, nothing to hide. It is what it is. We are who we are. We're loved by God. We walk with him in the cool of the evening. We pluck what we want anytime we want. Naked was normal. Didn't have to hide behind fig leaves. Didn't have to create a covering. Didn't have to create a persona. Didn't have to create a pretension of good behavior and pretend to be somebody you're not. Didn't have to try to bear somebody else's fruit with plastic so you could be impressive to get people to like you. Just walking around because God made me, because God breathed in me, because I am who God says I am. When naked was normal. Now it's more normal for us to hide, cover ourselves, compare ourselves.
The first thing God asked Adam is the thing I want to ask you today. When Adam felt the shame… Remember, shame is what makes you cover. Shame is what makes you shrink. Shame is what makes you pull back. Shame is what makes you believe, "Well, maybe I'd better not try". Shame is what makes you start staying up in the middle of the night, thinking, "Maybe it's all going to catch up with me". Christ died to take away my shame. The first thing Adam did when he believed a lie was to hide, and God said, and I want to say, "Who told you that you were naked"? Who told you that you had to do something else or be something else or have something else? Who told you that it took something extra for you to be accepted? Who told you that life has to be perfect for you to have a praise? Who told you that what you've known is what's normal? Who told you that? "Yeah, well, I'm just not good with money". Who told you that? "Yeah, I'm just not very good with…" I'm going to set a teenager free. "I'm just not good with girls". Who told you that? You could fake some swag so quick and have them lined up when the quarantine is over. Who told you that? Who told you that? "I'm just an introvert".
This is a time where God is trying to get us to prune ourselves of perspectives that did not come from heaven. Who told you that? Did it come from God? See, in this season of my life, I have to focus on what he is speaking. Prison sentences. I have to let his Word get in my life, my heart, my mind. Transformed by the renewing of my mind. Not conformed by my situation, transformed by my revelation. Situation; revelation. Paul saw it one way. Y'all see chains; I see opportunity. Paul saw it one way. Y'all see limitation; I see an opening. Paul saw it one way. Y'all see captivity; I see freedom. I see what God said, and I speak it over your life. Focus on the fruit, not the frustration. He could have spent every sentence in Philippians…
How would Philippians 4:13 be? "I really have a headache right now, and I'm sick of this". Would you quote Philippians 4:13 if he didn't focus on the fruit? He said, "No, I'm going through stuff, but I can do… What I went through showed me what I can do, because Christ is in me". Focus on the fruit. Paul said, "I don't know". Isn't it funny how he's so used to calling the shots that he's still talking like he has a choice? When you've been in charge a long time… My dad thought he could beat me up when he was sick in his bed and couldn't move. He still said, "Boy, I'll whip your so-and-so", and stuff like that to me. I was walking around with muscles and stuff, and he was lying in the bed. He was so used to being bigger and stronger than me.
Paul is almost like that. He's waiting on a verdict. Do you live or die? Then look at what he says. Are you ready for verse 17? He said, "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter"? What does it matter? What actually matters? When you get that clear, it'll set you free. What actually matters? This one woman told me the best parenting advice is don't spend your whole life chasing clean carpet only to wish when your kids went to college that they could come back and mess it up one more time. She said her biggest regret was she spent her whole life chasing clean carpet. What actually matters? We do this in worship. Right? I don't care if you hit the note right. I care if the note hits your heart right. I don't care if we have a mistake.
Let me tell you about this sermon. I don't care if I'm grammatically correct. Who cares? I care if the spiritual fruit… As a matter of fact, I don't really care if you like this message. I don't care. I mean, I do. Okay, I want you to like the message. I wouldn't post it on Instagram if I didn't want you to like it. That's literally how the system works, but I care more if this message bears fruit in your life than if you like it. I hope you fight me today in your mind. "How dare he say it doesn't matter, this and that? He doesn't know what I'm going through". No, I don't. That's why I'm so glad I called Paul to preach, because Paul went through this stuff. Paul went through the "This isn't fair". Paul was trying to do right.
I don't think anybody was smarter than Paul. That's why I was so surprised he said, "I don't know". What? That's like one of my kids saying, "Thank you". I'm like, "What's happening right now? Is it the rapture"? He said, "I know what's important". Do you? Most of us don't. Most of us, it takes our whole life… What if this season is fast-forwarding us into the correct priorities? Would it be worth it? What if we're going to get 50 years of wisdom, the fruit of a season of frustration? Can I show you something else Paul said? Go to Romans 8. Focus on the fruit. Or you can focus on all of the things you don't know. You can spit ignorance with everybody else…conspiracy theories. I saw a UFO the other day. It barely even registered because the world is so screwed up right now. You can focus on the UFOs, the "Unknowable Faith Outcomes". I'm playing. I love y'all so much. I wish y'all were here. One day we'll get back together. When? I don't know. But in the meantime, let me speak this over your life. How much do you want?
I have 10 verses and I have 2 verses. I can do it either way. Let's take a vote in the chat. On a scale of 2 to 10, how much of God's Word do you want today? Y'all ought to be sharing this message right now. You ought to be sharing this link right now. See, the gospel can bear fruit only if it's sown. You ought to share this message when it's over. We have other services all through the day. You ought to tell somebody, "Catch it when it comes on again. You need to receive this word". That's how we sow the gospel. Okay. I only see tens. Block everybody who said "Two". Ban them from the chat. Kick them out of the church. Romans 8 is really good for perspective.
Verse 18: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us". Both are a focus. Suffering and glory at the same time. What do you want to focus on? The frustration or the fruit? I am convinced. I am persuaded. I have made up my mind that what I am going through is nothing compared to what is going to come forth from it, because I've seen God do it before. "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration…" But I'm not focused on the frustration. I'm not focused on the fear. I'm not even focused on the facts. "…not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God". You want me to keep going? This is good to me.
"We know…" Some things I just know. Some things I just know in my soul. Some things I can't prove from a book. Some things I can't Google. Some things I can't get from the news. Some things I can't learn from Twitter. Some things they can't teach me in a classroom, but I know in my spirit. "…that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits…" Focus on the fruit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control".
What God is doing in me right now is setting me free from everything that doesn't look like him. I have the firstfruits. What you focus on. Focus on the fruit. That's why I still tithe in a recession. You think I'm not going to bring back to God what he gave me? He is my source. Yet there's this groaning. There's this tearing. He said there's this groaning that words can't explain. There's this tension. It's unsettled. It's the 3:00 a.m. stuff. It's the 3:00 p.m. crash. It's the "Another day of this". It's the "I'm so sick of these people around me". Yet if I focus on the fruit, he said my present suffering isn't even worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed.
Can I keep going? "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved". Hope is a focus, people, not a feeling. Hope is a focus. I'm focusing on the fruit. I'm focusing on the character. Perseverance builds character. Focus on the fruit. Look at what God is doing in you right now. He said, "In this we hope…" Even though we don't know. There's an instability in the world. There always has been. "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have"?
See, if I know it, I don't have to hope for it. That's where my faith grows. That's the soil. That's where the seed breaks apart. That's where you are right now. That's what God is doing in this season. Thank you, Lord. "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know…" Come on, Paul. Make it rhyme. Make it ring. Come on, Paul. Give me the facts. Come on, Paul. Set it up. Come on, Paul. You can preach better than that. "We do not know…" That's the soil where hope springs forth and buds like faith and looks like resurrection. You alone, Lord, know if these bones can live.
Verse 26: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans". I don't even know what to pray. God said, "I'll take it from here. I'll finish the sentence". Paul is in prison. God said, "I'll finish the sentence. Even if the Devil started it, I'll finish it". He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. I'm focused on the fruit, because God is helping me. Verse 27: "And he who searches our hearts knows…" He knows. Do you remember Jeremiah? They were in captivity to Babylon. He said, "It's going to be 70 long years, but God said, 'I know the plans I have for you'". You're not supposed to know them all. There are some things you're not supposed to know, because that's where faith grows. That's where hope grows. That's where maturity takes root. The Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. Here comes my favorite verse.
"And we know…" Have you ever heard Romans 8:28? Oh, you can put this anchor down in the deepest water and get through the storm. "…that all things work together for the good of those who love God…" Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That's where people stop. Finish the sentence, like Paul in prison. Do you know that when Paul and Silas were in prison the doors opened but they didn't leave? Why? We still have work to do. I'm going to finish the sentence. I'm going to see the goodness of the Lord. Don't let the Devil cut you off now. Don't let him speak fear while God is building faith. Finish the sentence. Finish the work. Be strong and courageous. Take the land. "For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love him". I don't know much, but I know I love you, Lord. That may be all I need to know. I know I love you. I know I'm called. I know I'm appointed. I know you spoke it! I know you're able! But finish the sentence. "All things work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose".
That's the fruit. Focus on the fruit, because if you don't focus on the fruit of what God is doing right now, you will die in the frustration as you wait. I want to give you a choice. Paul said, "I haven't decided yet what I want to do". It's like, "Paul, this is not Applebee's. There is no menu". Do y'all remember Applebee's? It was an American food chain that existed before the plagues. Paul, this is not Morton's. You're not deciding steak or chicken. This is prison. Nobody is asking you if you want to live or die. Yet Paul still had a choice. You still have a choice. The choice is your focus. Focus is always chosen. How are you going to start this week? How are you going to start this day? How are you going to start tomorrow? What are you going to look at? Focus is chosen. That's the only thing you can control. That's the only thing that will really create peace in a storm.
Peter didn't fall down when he got out of the boat because the water got wetter. He didn't fall down because of strong wind. He fell down because of broken focus when he took his eyes off Jesus. That's what happens when we go by sight, when we need to know too much. Focus on the fruit. If God is squeezing you right now, something productive is coming from it. I promise you it is. "For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God". But check this out. Romans 8:19: "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed". The creation waits for a revelation. Waits. Eager expectation. What does that look like? Eager expectation. It doesn't look like certainty.
The Greek word is three words: apo-kara-dokia. The prefix apo means to turn away, ignoring other interests. You can't translate it with one word, so they put eager expectation, because there is no way to describe, humanly, the kind of hope Paul had. You can't put it in just a word. He actually made his own word up, and you can only find it in early Christian literature. Nobody in the Roman empire said the word apokaradokia. Paul made it up. It was a prison sentence. It was something he could only get when he was going through. There is some fruit that can only be born when you're going through, but you have to focus. Apo is the prefix, and I could preach a whole sermon on that prefix. Apo: to turn away, ignoring other interests. It means I have to choose my focus right now.
Moment by moment, what will I look at? Will I look at the waves or will I look at the one who created the waves and the wind is subject to his word? What will I look at right now? If I look away from Jesus, I'm going to fall. If I look at what it feels like, I'm going to fall. If I look at what I don't know, I'm going to go crazy. If I keep looking at my phone, I'm going to fall. God, show me something greater on the inside. Apo. Kara is simple. It just means head, which is significant, because the only thing you really control is what goes on in here. That's the only domain I can control right now. You can't have my imagination, Devil. You can't have my meditation. I'm not going to dwell on sentences of unworthiness. I'm not going to dwell on what was spoken over my life by people who didn't even like me. I'm not going to go off of what the world is saying. I have a new mind.
Don't you wish they made a mask for your mind? I would buy it, sell it, wear it, declare it. I'd put an Elevation logo on. I'd make a fortune if I could keep all of the thoughts from coming out of my mind, but it doesn't work like that. You have to focus. Apo-kara-dokia. Dokia is the most anointed part to me, because after I've turned away… This is what he said. The creation waits in apokaradokia. The only other time this word is in the Bible is in Philippians, chapter 1. That's the only other time it's in the Bible: when Paul was in prison. If he looked at the chains that were on his hands, he'd get depressed. If he looked at the situation he was in, he'd get depressed.
So he said, "I can't look at that right now". Come on, close your eyes. You've been looking around too much. He said, "I can't look at that right now". Apo. Turn away, ignoring what I could focus on. I could focus on the pain, but I'm focused on the purpose. I could be petty or I could give praise. I'm turning away from what I could complain about. I have a reason to be grateful. Apo, kara (head, mind), dokia (to stretch forward). Did you hear it? Paul said, "I'm looking forward. I don't know how long I'm going to be here, but I'm looking forward to my fruit on the other side".
I'm looking forward to glory on the other side. I'm looking forward to a greater anointing, a brighter day, a peaceful heart. I'm looking forward to a purpose, because I know that all things work together for the good of them who love him! I know I have a purpose! I know he has a plan, and I will see it come to pass! This is the word of the Lord. You are in a season where you must focus on the fruit…your fruit. "He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water which will yield its fruit in season". All you have to do in this season is yield your fruit, and you will make it. You will see it. Now, caution. If you focus on your fears, you can die on the other side of something God had for you. You really can.
As a matter of fact, give me Numbers 13. Focus on the fruit. You are going to make it. You are going to come through. You are going to see it if you focus on the fruit. We've been preaching about Egypt. Egypt is what they were leaving. When the children of Israel were focused on where they had left and what they had lost, that generation died in the wilderness. Here's why. Look at Numbers 13:27. The spies who went into the land said, "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit". They were carrying a cluster of grapes on a pole. It took Zeke and Brandon to carry the pole. They're telling him, "Here's the fruit".
Look at the next verse. This is sad. It's a focus. "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there". They were so focused on what they had to fight, they were so focused on what they feared, they did not even eat the fruit they carried. God said, "Right now in this season, I need you focused on the fruit". Faith comes from focus, but so does fear. The land does flow, but you have to focus. There is a flow: the administration of the Holy Spirit. Receive it through the screen right now. There is a flow, but you need a focus. Here is its fruit, but there are giants, there are insecurities, there's uncertainty. Are you really going to let what you don't know become greater than the God you do? You know him. Focus on that.
God, show us the fruit, the grapes, the promises, the blessings. Enlarge in our minds the reasons we have to have faith, and help us like Paul… Maybe we can't move our feet or our hands like we want, but we can stretch our faith. We thank you, Lord, that in this season, even if you are pruning our branches, we will be more fruitful on the other side. It's in Jesus' name I pray.