Steven Furtick - When God Says Stop
Say "Amen"! somebody. Y'all are going to have to say it real loud today because it's... You know, it's normally pretty quiet at the 9:30 at Ballantyne anyway. I don't know about our Gaston Campus or University City or Roanoke, but at this building, usually they are not caffeinated. The Holy Spirit doesn't kick in until about 10:15 EST, but it's really quiet today, so we're going to need to make a connection. The team here is so smart. Let me tell you how smart they are. They put up a big screen where it's just scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, where I can see your names, but it's going so fast. Stop it for a second. It's scrolling so fast. Can y'all see that?
This is on YouTube. I know Facebook and the Elevation app and Roku and Myspace and… No? Not Myspace? We're using everything right now to reach people…Instagram. We're using all of it… Dropbox, Napster. Can we put this sermon on Napster? We're just trying to get the word out. Anyway, I can see Travis P. Jackson. I can see Rob. I can see Collin Lowe. I can just see your "Amens". Let it go again. Let it scroll. This is amazing. Just go ahead and say "Amen" in the chat. If you're watching this later on the archive, just put "Amen". And do this for me. Tell me where your "Amen" is coming from. "Amen" from Sweden. "Amen" from Cowpens, South Carolina. From Sweden to South Carolina, say, "Amen". I notice different people say "Amen" differently.
I have one dude who sits in the back at 9:30. You know who I'm talking about? You can't miss him when he's here. He shouts at the weirdest times, and I love him. He's a country Christian. It sounds like he grew up in the Baptist church or something. Somebody do it real quick. How does he do it? It almost sounds like he got hit right there in the solar plexus, hit in the Spirit. I remember when I first realized some people say, "Ah-men", "A-men", and of course, in every language, every tongue. The goal is for us to come into agreement with God by faith. Faith is a language. What we want to do together today is realize that God is cross-cultural. God can reach from heaven to earth. He can certainly reach through a screen.
I'm so thankful for the privilege to minister to you today. Go ahead right now and don't just say "Amen" but share with somebody the link to this sermon. We're going to be here with you for the next… I might preach three or four hours. I haven't decided yet. They're bringing out my table and my stool. I guess y'all can go sit down. I asked the worship team… I was like, "Can y'all please stay on the stage with me? Because it's going to be so awkward if I'm just preaching by myself". I said, "I'll have them bring you a stool, and maybe y'all can just stay with me so it won't be so lonely up here preaching". I thought today you could just populate… You could come in and sit right here. We're going to bring you into the auditorium. We're bringing church to you, and then you're going to come.
So, tell me where you're coming from. We have India; South Africa; Philippines; Lakeland, Florida. This one is going so fast. Let me try to see it on my phone real quick. Where are y'all watching from? God is in the house. He is in this place. That's what Jacob woke up and said. "The Lord was in this place, and I was not aware". Sometimes we're looking for God's presence, and really all we need is more awareness. So I pray that this can be a reminder to you today. I have the YouTube app open on my phone. I'm just trying to see who's watching, because I want to put you in the front row. Sometimes people come to church and they come late and they get in overflow. Well, today you all get to be in the front row. This is kind of cool. Normally, it would be Rick Parker and Cissy right there, and then Holly and Amy and on down. Eric would be in the second row. Tom Laymon would be six rows back.
So today, let's see who's in the house. From South Korea, China, Japan. This is cool. Since we can't travel to be with one another right now, we can just be with one another in God's presence. There are no restrictions in his presence. I'm so thankful to be with you today. Connecticut. Tell me your name too. It's kind of weird just calling you by a state: "Connecticut". Tell me your name and where you're watching from. Okay. "Danny from Jersey". There you go. Nepal, Ukraine, Jakarta, Texas. That's a whole country. From the nation of Texas. Isn't that where you're from, Jonsal? From the promised land. I'm going to preach about the Promised Land in a minute, so you'll like this one. This is good.
Somebody was saying to me this is not a time to joke around. The joy of the Lord is our strength. If we lose our joy, we've lost everything. That's our immune system. That's how we fight against what intimidates us: we keep our joy. So don't lose your joy, whatever you do. I know my jokes aren't very good today, but I'm just going to try my best. I told the Lord our church would be here to be used by him in this season, whatever that looks like. Even this week, the team was over setting up some cameras in the basement of my house. The idea was, "Let's get in position". The Lord began to reveal to me this week that we are positioned for a miracle. I know the world is a mess right now, and I'm not trying to minimize that. I certainly am not trying to minimize the misery many people are experiencing.
One of my professors when I first went to cemetery…I mean, seminary (that's an old joke) wrote up on the board, "NMNM", and it stood for "No mess, no ministry". He was trying to get us to see that God does his greatest miracles in our biggest mess. If that's true, then we're about to experience a really big miracle. In order to illustrate this today… I'm so excited to preach God's Word. I have more notes than I could ever get to today, because I've been trapped all week just like you, and I've had nothing to do but think about what I could speak to help God's people. There's only so much we can do. We're all kind of at a standstill and waiting to understand more, but while we wait, we can always worship, we can always stand on God's Word, and we can always receive God's wisdom.
I wrote those three W's down this week: Worship, Word, and Wisdom, the three things that will get us through any storm. They all start with the letter W…WWW. How appropriate for an online streaming sermon: WWW. Al Gore didn't invent it; God did. Anyway, the miracle that I spent significant time… Because I was going through this idea: you're positioned for a miracle. It seems to me that, a lot of times, what we want is the miracle without the mess, like that dude who needed his eyes opened. He was blind. Jesus' response to that was to spit on the ground and make mud. I bet most of us would have been like, "Uh, no thanks. I can manage. I mean, it would be great to see, but if you're going to have to spit in order to accomplish this…" If I was in his same situation, I wouldn't be willing to endure the spit to gain my sight, but a lot of times it's the things we want to avoid in our lives…
I'm going to show you this from Joshua, chapter 3, in a moment, so go ahead and get that Scripture, locate it. I'm going to be in the New International Version, 2011, the new version. Again, maybe you want to share this message with somebody, because I believe God has positioned us for a miracle. You're positioned for a miracle. I know that's hard to believe, but desperation is the setup for revelation. Whenever we're familiar and we kind of know what to do and we know what's going on, faith can't grow. When we feel fear in our lives, like I think every single one of us does right now, it's not something to be rejected; it's something to be worked through.
I know people say, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, and perfect love casts out fear". I know those Bible verses too, but you have to understand that in God's gymnasium, fear is to our spirits what weights are to our muscles. When we feel fear, it gives us an opportunity to exercise faith. God has brought us into this moment together so we can share today. We're doing it online, and all of that, but the important thing about it is that we understand that we are positioned for a miracle. I want to share with you one of my favorite miracles I tend to go to when things around me are not feeling stable. You need a few staple Scriptures, some go-to Bible verses you can just pull out when you don't have time to really think, just things you can pull out.
I wonder if you have any of those staple Scriptures, just ones that get you through. Romans 8:28 has always been one for me, because it says, "All things work together for the good of those who love God". I used to read it wrong for years. I thought it meant everything was good. I preached a sermon when I was really young called It's All Good from Romans 8:28. The Bible doesn't say it's all good. What we're going through right now is not good. Disease is not good. Somebody getting laid off from their job is not good. It said that all things work together for the good when God gets involved. When God gets involved, when God steps into hopeless situations, he positions us for miracles in the middle of a mess.
Now, what I love about this miracle is that at the same time the nation of Israel was coming into what we might say is their destiny, the Promised Land… They're coming into their destiny, but they experience it as a disruption. I just want you to write those two words down. If you still have the kids running around, you need to send them out of the room right now and put it on eKidz YouTube, because we have something to distract them. God knows you do not need another distraction right now. You need just 45 focused minutes in the Word of God. Can I get an "Amen" on the YouTube chat? Even if the chat is distracting you, close it out, because there is too much distraction right now in some of our minds, and we can't even hear from God.
The other day, I was preparing this sermon, and the kids were going back and forth, back and forth, and it got louder and louder and louder. Before I knew it, I heard them screaming at each other to shut up. You know, I'm a great man of God. I have my house in order. My children obey the ways of the Lord and all that, but my kids don't walk around quoting Philippians 4:13. My kids run around telling each other to shut up. When it got to the certain point… There is a certain point your kids can get to… I'm going to need a real "Amen" from a real parent on this one. Not some little halo-polishing parent, filtering stuff on Instagram, cropping stuff out and pretending like your house always looks like that, but a real parent. There comes a moment where you've had enough.
I heard myself scream this even though it was very ironic. I said, "Stop screaming"! Take a moment and let that set in. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "Stop screaming"! It inspired me, honestly, because I was studying the text, and God showed me what to call this sermon today. Are you ready? I have a word from the Lord for you. This message is called When God Says Stop! That's what I want to look at today. Somebody put in the chat, "Stop". I mean, like you've had enough, like you've watched enough CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, every NBC. There comes a point where God says, "Stop".
I thought it was interesting that although we see this chapter in Scripture, Joshua 3, as the beginning of the nation of Israel's entrance into their promise, the Promised Land that God called them to occupy, it also represented an ending of what they knew as normal. That's really profound if you think about it, because in order for God to bring something new, he has to disrupt something normal. When I was saying "Positioned for a miracle", I could almost feel you shouting through the screen. You were like, "Yes, Lord! Pay it off. Take it away. Do it, God". But this passage is going to show us a different way to look at it, that as we're coming into one new thing, we're leaving another.
I want to read the Scripture to you, starting in verse 1. It says, "Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim…" So they're going somewhere. Say it in the chat. "I'm going somewhere". God's hand is on me. I'm going somewhere. God is taking me somewhere. God has not left me. God will not forsake me. God will not abandon me. God will not let me see decay. He will never leave the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread. God will feed me and lead me and guide me and protect me. He said he would. He promised he would. That's what he does. This God is our God forever and ever. He will be our guide even to the end. Holly was preaching the other day on Facebook. She said, "We want God to be our ride, but God said he would be our guide". I was like, "Girl, that Dr. Seuss anointing looks sexy on you".
That is so good. We want God to be like an Uber. Like, "Hey, I'm going to get back here, and I don't want to talk to you. I just want you to take me here. Here's where I want to go. I want a new job. I want my wife to start respecting me. I want my kids to get straight A's, A+. Why not? Just go for it, God. Get them into Harvard, Yale. Harvard undergrad and Yale for the doctorate, God". We want God to just get us there, but we're going to see something today about when God says, "Stop". One thing we need to stop doing is looking at God as a means and start seeing that he is the end… his presence, to know him, to be strengthened by him. Even though I'm going somewhere, it's not so important just about where God takes me; it's what he shows me along the way.
This is a pivotal moment in my life and your life, because we're not really sure about the destination or how long. How long is the coronavirus going to dominate our headlines? Then even after that, how long is it going to terrorize our economy? We don't know. It's interesting, because the Bible says… Let me just read the Scripture. I'm so excited. Can you tell? The Lord has really been speaking to me. God's Word never stops. It never returns void. It's almost like the more trouble we get in, the more of God's presence and more of God's grace and more of God's Word… He just makes it available to us. The Lord has really been overflowing in my heart. It said, "Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites…" This is good. The first thing God said "Stop" to me about…
He said, "Stop acting like you're the only one". Like I'm the only one scared right now, like I'm the only one struggling right now. Or even for America. We have a global family. We call it eFam. It used to stand for extended. Now it stands for everywhere, because we're all eFam. Even our local congregation is having to experience God's Word from a distance. One thing people keep saying that bothers me is, "Well, we're all in the same boat". No, we're not. We're not all in the same boat. This storm we're going through, if I can use that analogy, affects all of us in different ways. While one man in my church right now might be thinking, "Well, this is good for me. I get a break. I get a break from the stress of life", and maybe the shutdown of commerce and industry to that man represents a break or a sense of relief or a welcome interruption of the rhythm.
About the time he's feeling relief, somebody else in my church just laid off 150 employees. That happened this week. This is not theoretical, hypothetical. As a pastor, I get to see how something affects all of the people. I think it's really arrogant when we put ourselves at the center of a struggle. Another thing it does is it increases our anxiety, because we start thinking we are the first ones to ever go through anything. Then, if you get that self-centered, you get shortsighted, so then you start thinking, "This is the only thing I've ever been through like this".
I heard someone say that the other day. They said, "We've never been through anything like this before". Hello! In 1918, the influenza that killed… Look. Somebody from 1918 is watching us from heaven right now go through this. Not understanding our frame of reference can be detrimental to our revelation of God's power. When we think we're the first ones who ever went through anything, before long, we start thinking this is unlike anything else we've ever been through. So I want to remind you today that you are not the only one. I'm not the only one scared. I'm not the only one uncertain. I'm not the only one with questions. We are going through this together.
Now here's what's interesting. We are all always going through something, but right now it kind of feels like we're going through the same thing. Yet although we're going through the same storm, we're not all in the same boat. Some people are going through this current crisis in a battleship, barely feeling it. You can almost see them on Instagram all the time. They make you sick. They're like, "I'm all out of Cheetos. Got to move to Doritos now. #quarantineproblems". Like, whoa! Somebody else is in a kayak going through the storm, and they're like, "I'm thinking about feeding my family on minimum wage".
When I said we're positioned for a miracle… I think God is positioning us for the miracle of empathy, to really be able to stop for a moment disagreeing about petty stuff, stupid stuff, stop arguing for a minute about stupid stuff, because they all had to go through together. Now, this is the passage to the Promised Land. We're not going into a geographical land here. We're talking about the promises of God, everything he has promised you…peace, provision, protection…all the stuff we want. Right? But they all had to go through together. That really touched me. It touched me, because I have three kids. This is two million people. I can't even get my three kids to get in the car to get across South Charlotte to get to school before 7:30 a.m. together, and now Joshua has to lead… It says in the Scripture, "…all the people".
Well, this is a miracle. I can't even get my kids to agree on what show to watch, and Joshua has to get all of the people across. This is a miracle. You know, Graham asked me the other day… This is funny. Actually, this was several months ago. He came up to me. He was in a Bible class. He goes to this Christian school. He was asking me a theological question. He goes, "Dad, why do you think God stopped doing so many miracles like he did in Bible times"? I said, "I don't know. Why do you think"? He said, "Maybe because he was younger back then and had more energy".
I love it. This is the Old Testament. Right? And we're all like, "Oh, I know this story. Joshua 3. God parted the waters, and all of the people went through. Why doesn't God still do miracles like that"? Yet you are holding a phone in your hand right now or you are watching on Roku or Apple TV or some newfangled technological device. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for making this moment possible. We will sit in a miracle and not recognize it as a miracle, because we have a very difficult time appreciating a miracle when we're in it. We have a very difficult time appreciating a good moment when we're in it. So then we start looking back at old times. "Oh, those were the good ol' days". You know, Flashback Friday and Throwback Thursday. It's like we want to be anywhere but here.
So God gives us a moment where we have to stop and be here because March Madness was canceled. The whole NBA just stopped. That's when I knew this was bad. When the NBA stopped, I was like, "Oh God! This is real". There's a moment in this Scripture… I was reading it word for word. It's amazing how the little things in Scripture come alive when you stop and think about them, just go through them. Since this message is called When God Says Stop! I want to stop on something that's significant. "Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan…" Which is the place where God always reveals identity. You remember. That's where Jesus went to be baptized: the Jordan. "This is my Son…" That's where God always shows you who you really are by what he brings you through.
That spoke to me. When we're going through something, the goal isn't just to get through it; the goal is for God to show us something in it that will make us better on the other side. I'm going to be better on the other side. It may look different. It's not going to be normal. We're not going back to normal, but I'm going to be better on the other side of this. You have to go in with that assurance or else you're going to stand… The Israelites stayed for 40 years on the wrong side of the Jordan. I'm going to tell you something else. God didn't stop them from going into the Promised Land. God didn't stop them. I used to preach that they got stuck in the wilderness and how some of us get stuck in temptation or we get stuck in unbelief or we get stuck in fear.
One day I was preaching that, and the Lord slowed me down and said, "They didn't get stuck; they stopped". There was nothing keeping them in. There's nothing keeping us right now from being grateful. "You haven't seen my bank account". I'm not talking about your bank account; I'm talking about your belief system. I'm talking about you believe that God is good at the bottom and you have this hope as an anchor for your soul. That's a rock. That's a foundation. It can't be shaken by a storm. The winds can come, the streams can rise and beat against the house, and it didn't fall; it only showed the foundation for what it was. When they crossed the Jordan, they were doing what the previous generation could have done, but they stopped. Sometimes we tell ourselves we're stuck when the fact is we just stopped.
"Oh man. I've just been depressed lately. Everywhere I look is bad news". Stop watching it! I feel an anointing on one word. I preach so many sermons on "Go"! You know, God told Abraham, "Go to the land I will show you". He said, "Go and make disciples". That was the Great Commission. "Go! Go! Go"! But what about when God says, "Stop"? I believe God is issuing… Like I yelled at the top of my lungs the other day. "Stop! Stop scrolling". "I wonder why I don't have any peace. God, give me peace". But you have a leaky bucket you're asking God to put peace in, because you won't turn off your phone. It needs to charge. It's getting hot. It's burning your hand. You're going to feed yourself fear and then pray for more faith? God says, "Stop". "Yeah, well, I need to be informed". Hey. Nobody knows right now. Nobody knows. I mean, you know everything everybody knows right now. You know enough.
I want to tell you something else. You know enough about God to get you through this valley. We talk about going through. I know I'm going to get through this. I don't say that in a callous way or a cliché way or a hashtag kind of faith. I'm saying the Lord is my shepherd. I know that. He's my guide. I know that. I shall not want. Hang on a second. There's a weird part of this passage. It says, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures". It's like he's saying God will guide you, and sometimes, in order to get you to green pastures, he has to give you a red light. He makes me lie down. It's right there in Joshua 3, how God is leading his people. He has led them 40 years in the wilderness. They've been through things before, but now they're standing at something new, just like we are.
Some of you God has seen through divorce. He has seen you through a miscarriage. He has seen you through a suicidal impulse, that you almost took your own life, and then you didn't. He saw you through the worst decision of your life. He saw you through financial mistakes. He saw you through all of that, and now you are standing at this, and you're like, "I've never been here before". In that moment, what you know has to take over what you feel. That's what I want to illustrate in the text: when God says, "Stop living by feelings and start living by faith". Stop living by sight. I feel the Holy Spirit. When God says, "Stop". It's so important that we listen to the Holy Spirit when he says, "Stop". Stop playing out all the worst "What if" scenarios in your brain. You've gone way past planning. "I'm just getting a plan". Is that what you call it? A plan?
When you're projecting every possible scenario and trying to predict… You think you're Miss Cleo or something like that? You ain't a prophet. You're going to give yourself an ulcer. I prophesy Pepto-Bismol in your future every night before you go to bed if you don't stop it. I love what God gave them and how the presence of God sometimes will tell you to stop. All this in verse 1. Don't y'all get scared, but I have 17 verses. But I will stop at some point so the next service can run. It says, "Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan…" The place of identity. The instruction was, "Camp before crossing over".
Isn't that cool, how God was bringing them into something new, and before he could bring them into this new space, he told them to stop and camp? What he tells them to do next I want to give you as a prophetic word for what God might be saying to you for this season of your life. We're all going through this at the same time, but we're not all going through the same thing. Some people are making real decisions right now. Like our church… All week, it was just decision after decision after decision. The problem is we're all trying to… Okay. I'll go ahead and give you the next point. Are you ready? Stop wasting today's strength fighting tomorrow's battles. Stop! Stop trying to defend yourself against doomsday that may or may not happen. Make decisions. God will give you the wisdom for the decisions you need to make right now. I believe he will. I'm believing that for every health care worker.
I'm believing that for our leaders. I'm believing that God is going to bring our country together in a way right now that we're going to figure out some stuff we've needed to fix for a long time. And your nation. God is going to bring us together. We're positioned for a miracle, but we have to go through together. We have to get through this together. If the church stops giving right now and we start acting like we need a building to be blessed, we're going to miss it. We have to come together like never before. That's why we were giving out over 200,000 meals this week as a church. This is a time for us to stop, pause, and before we go into what's next…
Look at what the Scripture says in verse 2. "After three days…" Ooh, that's a good number when it's in the Bible. "After three days…" We're living through something right now that's going to take longer than three days. The economic impact of the coronavirus, this global pandemic, is going to take longer than three days. But notice this: they camped before crossing over, yet God didn't call it quarantine; he called it something else. Watch this. "After three days the officers went throughout the camp…" These are the leaders. Verse 3: "…giving orders to the people…" God is teaching us how to follow instructions. God is teaching us how to come together. God is teaching us how to put our preferences and our pride aside.
He said, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it". When you see the ark, follow it. Verse 4: "Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before". Is that not a word for 2020? Was the Bible written yesterday? I feel like this just got an update and it just spoke right to our situation. We've never been this way before, and that gives us an amazing opportunity to rely on God like never before. We are positioned for a miracle. We are a candidate for the presence of God to show up and do something awesome in our crisis, yet it requires us in this moment to stop and to pause. The Bible says something very interesting. "Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before". It doesn't mean it has never been this way before. It doesn't mean bad things have never happened before.
Someone said to me, "This could be the end of the church as we know it". I was like, "Huh? The church as you know it. The church as they knew it in the Bible". I hate to break this to y'all. They didn't have YouTube Live. They didn't have campuses. They did not have (and I know this is going to break some of your hearts) a vestibule. They did not have poinsettias. They did not have a pipe organ. So this is nothing new for God. It's new to you; it's not new to God. God saw it coming. God is already in your tomorrow, and God says, "Give me my job back". God's job is tomorrow; your job is today. "Give us this day our daily bread". "What am I going to do today? I'm going to keep from killing my kids. That's what I'm going to do today". All right, good. That's your job. "I'm going to pray today". "What am I going to do today? I'm going to set aside some time and listen to the Word of God". This day.
We get so confused, because we get to the point where we think we can help God with his job a little bit. In a moment like this, we're like, "Well, maybe if I'll just freak out and call it prayer, then God will do something". Some of y'all know the only thing you're doing when you're praying is you are applying a spiritual dialect to a fearful position. By the time we get done with all of that, we're worse off than if we had just gone for a walk. So here's what I want to show you today. It said they camped before crossing. This was weird to me too, because I'm used to God saying, "Go", and he told them to stop. So that was weird, and the second thing was I'm used to God coming close. The relevance of the text is almost scary. It's almost spooky. It's a little freaky to me how God said, "Since you've never been this way before, since you're not God…"
How many are glad you're not God right now? I was watching the president and the vice president and the task force the other day. I was like, "I'm so glad I'm not the president". I'm so glad I'm not God. I'm so glad I don't have to figure it all out. I'm so glad I have a God who has gone before me. I'm so glad I have a Father. If I did not have to run around like the pagans… "What am I going to eat? What am I going to drink? What am I going to wear"? Jesus says, "Stop worrying about what God is already working on". So, he says, "I'm going to lead you. I'm not going to take my presence from you. It's going to be different this time. It's not going to feel familiar". Your faith grows in unfamiliar places, when you don't know where to go. That's when you get to know who God really is. I feel that for somebody right now.
"What about my business? What about my boat? How's my boat going to be in this storm"? Let me tell you something. When God says, "Stop", the storm has to listen. One time, Jesus was in a storm, and the disciples felt like some of us feel right now. "You don't care? This is weird. I thought you were the Son of God and stuff". Do you know what Jesus was doing? He was doing the most inappropriate thing you can do in a storm. He was sleeping. Jesus was sleeping through a storm. Here's what I want you to know. After the disciples had stressed out and scrambled… See, you have the disciples scrambling, and Jesus is sleeping, because he knows something they don't know. I want you to do me a favor. Ask that storm what happened when Jesus told it to stop.
When God says, "Stop", the elements have no choice but to obey him. When God says, "Stop", the Red Sea has no choice but to stop standing in my way. When God says, "Stop", any weapon that is formed against me has to bow its name to the name of Jesus. So I want you to insert God's name over and against whatever need you have. His name is, "I Am", not "I was" and not "I will be". God is with you in this moment. Not just when I get to the other side, but when God says, "Stop", every storm has to stop raging. When God says, "Stop"! Ask Lazarus what happens when God says, "Stop". The worms had already started eating his body. The process of decomposition was already in progress, but when God says, "Stop", the consequences have to be reversed.
God speaks peace to every anxious heart. When God says, "Stop". I want you to tell the terror right now, "God says stop". Put your hand out like this. Put your hands up like this on an emoji and fight the Devil with an emoji. God says, "Stop". Fear stops here. You can have my finances, but you can't have my faith. It stops here! Here's the line! God said, "Stop"! Don't give him space. Don't give him your… Get some sleep in the stern of the ship, because if Jesus is in the boat… We're all in the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat. Here's what I've found out: Faith doesn't keep me from having to go through a storm. It doesn't exempt me from the challenges. We're all in this together. But I have somebody in the stern, and when he says, "Stop…" God says, "Stop".
I wonder what God is saying "Stop" to right now… patterns of pessimism. God said to tell some of y'all, "Stop talking". I know. They didn't tell you to take a vow of silence; they just told you not to come out of the house. I'm saying, "Shut up". We're talking about Joshua. Right? Do you remember what Joshua told them to do when they marched around the walls of Jericho? They did get through it, and we will get through this. We will get through this. The question isn't whether we will get through; the question is…Will we go through in a way that makes us better when we do? Just like Jesus interrupted the storm cycle from the boat, there are some cycles he wants to interrupt in our lives right now, and he wants to do a miracle in your home.
I see marriages coming together while y'all are stuck in the house together. Y'all are going to stop living two separate lives and come together and figure out, "How do we all get through this"? I believe God is positioning us for a miracle. I see our church getting stronger. I see people watching this sermon right now, and you know you normally would not be watching a sermon on Sunday morning, but you didn't have a club to go to last night. So you woke up and you were bored, and here I am. God stopped you right in your tracks to speak his Word to you. When God says, "Stop". They camped before crossing, and it says they saw the ark.
Look at verse 4. Do you see this phrase in verse 4? "Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits…" That's 3,000 feet, 1,000 yards, 10 football fields, 900 meters. (It's a worldwide audience. I have to get everybody in here.) It said that God, who normally comes closer, told them the ark needed to be kept at a distance. And that's a big distance. That's way more than six feet. I heard of social distancing; I never heard of spiritual distancing until I read this text. I was wondering why God when he's leading his people would tell them that the ark of the testimony… It's also called the ark of Yahweh…I Am, God's name. God has a name for every need in your life. God says, "I Am". He's a present help. It's the ark of the testimony.
How many have a testimony? Why do we keep thinking we're going to get a testimony without having a test? God said he's using this season to show us "Stop expecting to have a testimony with no test". That's how we want it now. We want the pecs without the push-ups. I'm just trying to modernize it. I've got nobody else to preach to; I might as well preach to myself. We want the triceps without the try. Testimony starts with test. I know it's corny, but it's true. We haven't seen the ark in a long time, and God said, "You're going to bring some things out of storage". Like, Joshua 3… This is the first time we've seen it. Remember, it's not very big. It's like 27 inches high, 27 inches wide, and then 50 inches long, approximately. Yet God was going to guide them by something that was small, acacia wood overlaid with gold. The wood represents humanity; the gold represents divinity. God has got you covered. You're coming out as gold. You're coming out of this fire. You're going to get through this, and God is going to purify us.
He said, "I want you to follow the ark now, but don't follow it too close". I was so confused. Isn't God supposed to come close in a crisis? This is a traumatic moment. They've been in the wilderness for 40 years. Most of the people they've relied on are dead. Now they have to go through, and they have to go through together. Not three kids…two million people, and 12 of them couldn't even agree on a church vote 40 years ago, and that's why they didn't go in. Now they have to get through together. God said, "I'm going to give you something to guide you, but in this season of your life, I'm going to give you the gift of distance". I pondered that for a long time, because I was like, "That's not what I want when I'm going through something. Come on. I have to go through the Jordan River and trust you to bring me through it, but you're going to be distant"? No. God is teaching us that when he feels distant, he isn't. So, if God feels distant to you right now, you're not alone.
All of us, even in our strongest moments, have this place in us where it's like, "God, I wish I had a sign right now. I just feel uneasy. I don't feel at rest". That's all completely human and completely normal. Sometimes God uses distance in our feelings to call us deeper in our faith. I thought it was important to say that right now, because while we're having to keep physical distance, I believe God is calling us to spiritual depth. See, I don't want to just get through it. I'm tired of just getting through it. What's the point? Let's just all go to heaven right now if all we're going to do is get through it. They have a harp with my name on it up there. Come on. I sing like Zeke in heaven. Just let me get to heaven and get my glorified vocal cords. Let me get my eternal larynx in heaven and just go ahead and glorify the Lord with the… No, no, no. "God, don't just get me through it. Teach me".
There's something about distance. Graham asked, "Why did God do all of the miracles back then but he doesn't now"? It's not that God does fewer miracles; it's just we see them better in the distance. It's like, "God, why won't you do a miracle"? while you're watching me preach on your phone. This is a miracle…right now, in this moment. Take a breath. It's a miracle. Think about all the sin he canceled. We're talking about everything that was canceled. I'll tell you what was canceled: the record of wrong that stood against me that he nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. So it is well with my soul. I looked at my portfolio for finances. It wasn't well. But then I looked at my soul, and I found out he's still with me and he's in me and there's some kind of hope that comes rising up to the surface. When God feels distant, he isn't. He's positioning you for a miracle.
Do you know what's really cool about the ark? It was called the ark of the testimony, the ark of Yahweh, and the ark of the covenant. That's really cool, because in a time when they were going through something they'd never been through before… You hear me. Are you going through something you've never been through before? We all are. We're all going through it. Be nice. We're all going through it. Think about it before you post. We're all going through it. We are all going through it in different ways. Maybe God is going to make you a miracle for somebody else. Have you thought about that? In moments where we're going through places we've never been through before, it feels like God is distant. He isn't. He's showing us what can't be canceled. He's shutting down everything right now. They are shutting down everything right now. I'm waiting on Holly to close the kitchen. I hope she doesn't cancel the kitchen, but I don't know.
Every time I turn around… I'm waiting to turn on my phone and it's canceled. Instagram told me to stay home. Everything is being canceled. Isn't it so cool that as God is bringing them across the Jordan, the ark of the covenant… That's what it's called: the covenant. That's not your agreement with God; that's God's agreement with you. Let's be honest. If it was dependent on the first one, if it was dependent on you, you wouldn't make it through. If it was dependent on me to have perfect faith, I wouldn't make it through, but I'm so grateful that when I'm going through what I can't understand, what I've never been through before, God gives me something to look at that represents what cannot be taken away: his oath, his covenant, his blood.
Watch this. "Support me in the whelming flood". That's the old hymn from the Methodist Church. Do you know what I found myself doing the other day? I found myself breaking out the ark, the old stuff, the old hymns. I started quoting hymns around my house the other day. Some of us are going through a new thing, so we need to break out the old stuff. You have not prayed in three months. You might want to pray a little bit right now. You have not been very grateful lately. Now would be a good time to bless the Lord. Now would be a good time for Martin Luther to come to Elevation Church. "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark…" What? A bulwark? You haven't talked about bulwarks in a long time. I need a bulwark right now. I'm fighting a big Devil. I need a mighty fortress. I need a safe place. I need a shelter. God is with me.
Verse 5: "Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves…'" Watch this verse. This is the whole thing. Y'all thought I was preaching? I wasn't preaching yet. This is the sermon. "Consecrate yourselves…" That's your part. Not isolation…consecration. It's just all in how you look at it. I wonder what God is preparing us for right now. I wonder what he is mending, like he mended Peter's nets after he stopped fishing. In those moments, God is mending. I wonder what he's mending in our hearts in this moment when we just stop for a minute to be still and know he is God. He'll be exalted above the heavens. The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. All the old stuff comes back.
See, here it comes. It's the convergence of what God has done, what he will do, but it's all found in his presence. "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you". Do you see how clear that is? In that verse, God has a job and you have a job. Do you see that word tomorrow? That's on God's job description. Do you see it in the Scripture? Put it in the chat. I need you to say this. "Tomorrow is God's job". So, here's what we have to do: we have to trust God with tomorrow's problems and embrace today's process. "Consecrate yourselves". That's today's process. That's cleansing. That's setting apart. That's knowing he is God. That's devotion. That's this. That's like, "I'm not going to stop coming to church just because I can't physically get there. In fact, I'm going to use this time… I'm going to start sharing the gospel more with people. I'm going to make the Devil so mad he's going to have to let me out of the house. I'm going to start forwarding every clip, every sermon, every song".
We put this song out the other day called "The Blessing", and the reason we put it out is because God gave us this song, and I don't know how to stop the virus, but I know how to spread the blessing. So, I have a job; God has a job. What is God's job? God's job is tomorrow. That's like when I went to Australia the first time. Is anybody watching from Australia right now? Yeah, I see you lighting up the comments. I see you, Cheryl, Eric, Brandon. I see you from the Ukraine. Tomorrow is God's job. But here's what's awesome: somebody is watching in Australia, and it's already tomorrow. The first time I went to Australia to preach, I got off the plane, because I was stupid, and went straight to the stage to preach, but before I went to the stage, I landed at like 10:00 a.m., and then I was preaching at 12:00 p.m., so I just had time to take a shower.
Just before I started to head over to the arena where I was preaching in Sydney, I FaceTimed the kids. This was years ago, so the kids were really little. I FaceTimed them because my room had this beautiful view. Pastor Phil Pringle put me up in this beautiful room, and I could see the Sydney harbor, and I wanted the kids to see it. The sun was shining so pretty over the harbor, and I took a FaceTime. I said, "Hey, kids, I just wanted to say hey to you from tomorrow". I was telling them how we were across the international date line. I was telling them, "Well, it's tomorrow in Australia, but it's nighttime there". Remember, they were really little. Holly was tucking them into bed, and they're all gathered around the FaceTime and everything. I think Abbey was already asleep. She was really little. And then Graham and Elijah, and we talked for a minute. I said, "I've got to go preach now", and Elijah interrupted me and said, "Hey, Dad, before you go, will you tell us what happens tomorrow"? It was like he had this moment. "You're already there. You're my father".
See, I have to let God be in my tomorrow and consecrate myself today. That's all I can do. I cannot predict the path. All I can do is walk in it. Yet the beauty of the passage is this: if you will consecrate yourself today, God is already in your tomorrow. So all this "How long is it going to last"? That's God's job. You know what? I thank God for everybody who is helping in a practical way around the clock to bring remedies and solutions to our nation for this virus. We are praying for you. We celebrate you. We love you. One of the good things that's going to come out of this is we are going to appreciate people we used to think were unimportant who are going to be the very people God uses to stop the virus. It's not going to be just celebrities who we've always been used to celebrating; it's going to be people who are standing on the front lines, like those priests did. God told the priests, "You go stand in the middle of the Jordan".
That must have been scary. God was bringing them through. God is going to bring us through. It's so important that we don't get so focused on getting through it we don't get what God wants us to get out of it. When God says, "Stop". He makes me lie down. God is my guide. He told them to camp before crossing over, and then, if you can go all the way to verse 15, I want to show you one more thing. Is this word helping you? If it's helping you, just put something on the screen right now. Put a heart. Put a purple heart. Put an orange heart. Put a red heart. Put three pink hearts. I'll take anything right now. This is the message God gave me. I was going to approach it the other way. I was going to say we're positioned for a miracle, but I thought, "You know what? If I call it that, people are going to think it has to be something big. They're going to think, 'Oh, when this virus is gone, that's a miracle'".
What about the miracle in the middle of it? That's what my attention was drawn to. Before I go, I want to show you Joshua 3:15. When God says "Stop". The Bible says, "The Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest". Well, that's a sermon right there. God didn't bring them through some shallow water, some little problem. The size of the problem creates the opportunity. When I say we're positioned for a miracle, it doesn't mean the problem gets smaller. When I say we're positioned for a miracle, it doesn't always mean God is going to do something we see as really big. Sometimes we have to see it from a distance. Can you imagine having to follow that little ark? The ark of the covenant. God keeps his covenant.
We have to remember that right now. If he said it, it's sure. If he promised it, it's rock solid. God promised me the grace for today and the hope for tomorrow, so I have to let him do his job. What that means is I can't wait for something to be over in my life. "I need to know what they are going to…" We all want to know, but we've never been here before. "How many weeks till we're coming back together, Pastor"? I don't know. But if God will give me the strength, I'm going to keep preaching until you're through it. We're going to get better together. I promise you we are. In fact, when I finish preaching in a minute, y'all are all going over to a Facebook group, and instead of going out to try to eat Mexican and get a Speedy Gonzales for lunch after the preacher's sermon and not even think about what I said or turn on some game… All of the games are off.
Now you have to talk about God for 15 minutes after I get done preaching. You know you're too scared to go shopping on Amazon, so just talk about the sermon. God is with me not just to get me through it; he's my God. He's with me in it. That's the message. That's why it's called the ark of his presence. Consecrate yourself today. Be present. God is calling us to greater presence, not less. Hey, be careful that you don't sit there and go like, "Oh, I'm so connected". Connection is about depth, not about breadth. In this moment, I believe God wants to connect with us in a deep way and do a deep work in our lives. He will do amazing things among you, things you don't even know to ask for. Ephesians 3:20. God, give them a miracle. There's a mom right now who needs a miracle. There's someone who can't get to their mom or dad. They're not able to be with them physically. They need a miracle from you. Give it to them. But not when it's over… while I'm in it. There's a miracle in it.
The Bible says, "The Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest". There was no way they could have crossed it on their own. "Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water upstream stopped flowing". When God said, "Stop", the water was cut off. Do you see it? When God said, "Stop", the Jordan River had to obey him. When Jesus said, "Stop", the storm had to cease, but before he stopped what was happening outside the boat, he had to stop what was happening inside their hearts. I believe God is saying, "Stop" today to the terrorist of anxiety that has been ruining your imagination and interrupting your rest. It said as soon as their feet touched, the water from upstream stopped flowing. When God said, "Stop", the water that was in front of them, the thing that was keeping them separated, stopped flowing and piled up in a heap a great distance away.
I love the Word of God. It's in the distance. God is going to keep it at a distance. God is going to get you through this, and he is using distance right now as a gift to call us closer to himself. Do you see it? It's the revelation right there in the text. It stopped flowing opposite Jericho. Thank you for your Word, Lord. Verse 17: "The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground…" Get set, because we're going to worship in a minute. We don't worship when we get through hard things; we worship while we're in them. "…and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground".
Oh yeah. We're going to get through this. That's not the question. The question is… Why did the priests stop in the middle? See, God had told Joshua something very important that he has been speaking to me. It's not just that you get through it; it's that you take something from it. When the priests stopped, God said, "Stop"! right in the middle. Stop right now and say, "This is the day the Lord has made". We can't take things for granted anymore, y'all. This morning is a miracle. His mercies are a miracle. We can't take it for granted anymore. So God says, "Stop in the middle of it". Stop projecting, and stop living in what it was and worrying about what it will be. Stop right here in the middle. They each took out a stone, and they carried it to the other side.
I declare over your life today… I want you to receive this right now. I don't care if you're watching this with five other people and three of them are eating pancakes and one of them is on their phone. This word is for you. It's for you. God is saying, "Stop". There has been a spirit of fear that has been washing over you. It has been keeping you from your peace. It has been robbing you of your joy. You've been living in a fictional tomorrow, and right now God says, "Stop". Make the decision, "I'm going to trust God in it. I'm not going to miss the miracle of today because I'm living in tomorrow".
God, we thank you for miracles in your presence. We thank you that even right now connections are being repaired, homes are being rebuilt. I thank you that in the months to come you're going to give strategies, innovation, ideas, creativity, wisdom, unity to your people. Do it, God. We are positioned for a miracle. Your presence is with us. You are not far away. You are within us. You made a covenant. You keep your word. You never break your promise. We believe you right now. Not when it's over…right now. Not when we get through it…right now. Right now, a miracle can happen. Right now, grace is available. Right now.
Just like your next breath is here, God's presence is here. Not only is he going to get me through this, but I declare in the name of the Lord I'm going to have better priorities. I'm going to have more peace. I'm going deeper in my walk with God. I'm going to get through this. I'm not waiting until I'm on the other side to sing. I know my Redeemer lives. He is with me. He is for me. He is more than enough. We declare miracles over your house, miracles over your children, miracles in your body, miracles in your mind. Miracles, provision, peace, joy, love, hope, perspective! Do it, God! We see the ark of your presence, the name of the Lord. Come on, lift your hands right in that room. His presence is here. He is enough! Mighty God! Jehovah-Jireh! Jehovah-Shammah! The Lord is present! The Lord is here!
Come on, lift your hands! There's an anointing that breaks anxiety. There's an anointing that breaks the back of sin. Come on, declare it in his presence! Come on, worship him, Nairobi! Worship him, London! Worship him! Come on lift your hands! A miracle right in the middle of the Jordan! A miracle right in the middle of the crisis! Right in the middle of the storm! Peace to your mind! Peace to your heart! "For I know the plans I have for you, and they cannot be cancelled"! Give God a great praise in the place!