Steven Furtick - God, I Don't Understand
Often, the first impulse when God really shows up in your life is fear, and it is only in pushing through the fear that you find the love of God on the other side of your fear. "What's this all about"? But the angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. And I have an assignment for you. Because you have found favor with God, you will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end".
Watch Mary's response. "Well, praise the Lord, and glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, and good will to men on whom his favor rests. Your words to me are like drops of gold assurance in a heart that…" No. The first thing out of her mouth was, "How? I know how pregnancy works. How am I pregnant? I promise, God, Joseph and I have been keeping it clean. I promise, God, we have not been in the back seat of a 'Camellac.' How"? Her first instinct is not, "Yes"! It's, "How"? That is always the response when God really knocks.
"How? How can I really be forgiven by someone who died on a cross before I was ever born? How can somebody else's death really affect my life? How"? That's a good starting place. "How can you really use me? Look at me. I'm nobody. I'm nothing. How? How can I move forward after this? How can I believe that I still will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? How? How? How"? The greatest gifts God ever gives are on the other side of your how. On the other side of your questions, on the other side of your "I don't get it," on the other side of your "I don't understand," on the other side of "Who, me"? on the other side of, "What, now"? on the other side of "Why this"? That's where the gift is. "And you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger".
God wrapped his Son in something that looked so common you would walk by it if you weren't looking for it, because the greatest gifts God gives are wrapped in doubt. The promise is wrapped in doubt for a reason. If he gave you proof you wouldn't need faith, so he hides it. He hides his promise in the darkness to protect you. This will not make sense in an Instagram generation, but sometimes God needs to work on the big picture of your life in the darkroom to let it develop. Doubt is where faith develops. Doubt is where faith matures. Doubt is where faith gets hardened past Christian clichés that fit on a bumper sticker or Pinterest.
Let it develop. "Let patience have its perfect work in you, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing". It's the darkroom. In fact, Isaiah, who was quoted to Joseph, also said in Isaiah 9:1, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom…" I want to write a song one day called "Nevertheless". It's one of my favorite Bible words. It means it looks one way but it's really another. It means give it time and let it unfold; God is up to something. It means the verdict is already submitted; just give the evidence time. You will see it. Nevertheless, no matter what you see right now. It means the ruling on the field can be overturned at any time. It means there is a review booth called heaven.
"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the Way of the Sea, along the Jordan…" I need to insert this, because Galilee means valley of shade. Now watch what happens in the darkest valley. The prophet says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light". I was confused at this point, because I thought he was talking about something that would happen 700 years later. The prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before the birth of Christ, but now he is speaking about something that is yet to be as if it already happened. This is called the prophetic perfect.
You see it often in Scripture. It's when God, who stands outside of time, knows exactly what you're going through, how long you're going to go through it, and what he's going to do on the other side. It's the God who spoke "Let there be light," and molecules and particles rearranged themselves to spread out into the universe to darken every corner of this globe. My faith gives me the ability to stand in the darkest valley, believing that the light has already come, if I let it develop. Faith is developed in doubt. Faith always develops in doubt. Faith learns to depend on God because of doubt.
If you never doubted God, you would be him. Before long, you would start worshiping yourself and singing, "How great thou art" in your full-length mirror. God is not going to allow you to become so arrogant you never have doubts. If he removed the doubt he would remove the need for him, for you to know that he is God and you are not. That's why you doubt. There are benefits to the doubt. There's a benefit to having to wrestle with God and wrestle with where you are and wrestle with yourself and wrestle like Jacob did. That's where you find the revelation of the goodness of God: not in your self-confidence but in your self-doubt.
Mary said, "How will this be? I am a virgin". The angel said, "The power of the Most High will overshadow you, but you must make the decision to believe God in the face of evidence that seems to contradict his promise, to believe God that every dead end is a doorway if you decide to go through it". There is someone here who is standing at a doorway today called doubt, and if you will walk through it and make the decision to trust God in this situation you will find on the other side a greater glory revealed to you than you have ever known, but if you stop here, if you stop with "How"? and "Why"? and "When"? and "What"? if you wait until you have all the evidence to trust God, you will never take Mary home, and you will never see the promise of God come to pass. All of the greatest faith is on the other side of your deepest doubt.