Steven Furtick - How to Reset Your Standards
Who is the source of your strength? If you haven't decided it by now, you need to decide it really quickly, because if the source of your strength is who you're sitting beside you will live a very disappointed life. If the source of your strength is a number at the bottom of your balance sheet, something will hit your life so hard you can't buy your way out of it, and you will find out really quickly that net worth is a terrible place to put your sense of self-value. If the source of your strength is how people look at you or treat you or think about you, if the source of your strength on any given day is the condition of your health, you will always be susceptible to the elements.
Isaiah says, "He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment and a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate". To make God the source of your strength means you depend on him. As one psalmist said, "Lift your eyes to the hills. From whence cometh your help? Your help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to be moved. The Lord which keepeth thee will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade upon your right hand. The sun will not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. He will preserve your soul even forevermore".
To know that all your help comes from God, that all your hope is in Jesus, that all of your help comes not from the right, not from the left, not from the north, not from the south, not from the economy, not from the job… Touch somebody and say, "Not you. God is my source". Go ahead and clap right now if you know God has your back. In fact, stand up on your feet and shout about it if God is your source in every season of your life. In every famine I have a friend named Jesus. He is my source. I am so tempted to preach on this part of the verse I almost forgot what came before it. Isaiah said, "In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people".
Now what is a wreath and what is a remnant? Besides a Christmas decoration, a wreath symbolizes victory. He is preaching victory to people who are about to experience defeat. He's preaching about the impending Assyrian invasion to the northern territory of Samaria, the crown jewel of the northern kingdom of Israel, set on a fertile valley. He's speaking to them about their potential, and he's telling them how their protection is gone, so now they're going to face a season of defeat. In the same breath that he promises to be a source of strength, he warns them of a coming defeat, yet he speaks about victory in the context of defeat. He says, "In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people".
God said he will be a wreath for the remnant. The wreath symbolizes victory. The remnant represents what's left. God always has a remnant. No matter what you've lost in your life or who walked away from you, God always leave a remnant. No matter how wicked this world gets or how dark the times we live in may seem to be, God always has a remnant. In every office, God has a remnant. In every church, God has a remnant. In every city and every generation, God has a remnant. God always has a remnant. There's always a little bit of oil in the house even if you feel like you're starving to death. God always has a remnant. There's always a little boy with a lunch. If you call him forward and put it in the hands of the Master, it will multiply, because God always has a remnant. No matter how many leave, Gideon, there will always be 300, and God is able to win with the remnant. God said, "I'm going to bless what's left. I will not be limited by what you lost. I will be a wreath for the remnant. I'm going to bless what's left. I'm going to bless what's left. Stop weeping over what's lost. I'm going to bless what's left".
I want you to shout right now over what you have left. I want you to shout right now over the gift you have, the strength you have, the friends you have, the opportunities you have, the time you have. God said, "I'm going to bless what you have left. If you will not stay stuck in what walked away, I'm going to bless what you have left. You can win with what you have left". I feel like preaching to the remnant. Where's the remnant? Where are the ones who went through the fire and came out unbound? "I'm going to bless what's left. No matter what happens at the leadership level, I'm looking for someone who will turn back the battle at the gate". "In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people".
Then he mentions two different spirits. Watch this in verse 6. "He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment…" That's the first one. "…and a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate". So you have the spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment and the source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. I studied that text all week, and I thought it was talking about two different things, but the more I read it, the more I realized this is two functions of the same spirit. "He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate".
The first part of the verse is about standards. He will be a spirit of justice. He will decide what is wrong and right. To the one who sits in judgment he will be a spirit of justice and a source of strength to the one who turns back the battle at the gate. The same God who is the source of our strength is to also be the source of our standards. Here's the question I came to ask today…How can I expect God's strength if I do not embrace God's standards? How can I call God the source of my strength if I have not made him the source of my standards? "He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment".
Now if I have left that seat open and I have left culture to tell me what's right and wrong… How can I look to culture for my standards and then look to God for my strength? How can I look for the world to tell me how to live and then expect God to give me strength for a standard that was not his? How can I call God the source of my strength if he is not the source of my standards? How can I expect his strength and resist his standards? That's why I feel weak sometimes. I'm asking God to strengthen me, but I have given away my strength because I have lowered my standard. Then the Enemy comes in like a flood, but I don't have a standard. Then I ask God to give me joy. "In your presence is fullness of joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength".
I want his strength, I want his joy, but if I have not applied his standard to my thought life and I let my mind think whatever it wants to think and I go to God for strength but I did not go to him for standards, I am asking him to violate the very nature of our relationship. How can he be the source of my strength if I won't let him be the source of my standards? Who set your standards? Was it God who set your standards? I was talking to one guy the other day. It became very apparent to me pretty quickly that he sets his own standards for right and wrong. I admire him for that, because I don't trust myself that much. I mean, he must be really perfect to have his own standards for right and wrong.
See, I need a God. I need a God who's bigger than me, wiser than me, who has been around longer than me. I need a God who can see around the next corner and know how this decision is going to affect my destiny. I don't want to occupy that seat. I need a God. Sometimes we're so crazy as Christians we will allow the world to set our standards as a church and tell us what the church ought to be and not be and put us in a box and call us by a denomination, but I will not be standardized by a dysfunctional world. I have a higher standard. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness.
One of my friends said, "You know, you preach too hard". He said I holler too much. Then he said, "You could take a little bit extra time for yourself and not prepare so hard, and people wouldn't even know the difference". I shouldn't tell you he was a pastor. Do you see what happens when leaders lower the standard? To be honest with you, I don't preach to your standard. The only question I have when I get done with this sermon is, "God, did I get it right"? And if I got it right, I don't care how many "likes," clicks, shares, downloads…
I don't care who gets up and walks out in the middle of it because I made them uncomfortable or they wanted to watch a football game. I don't care if they laugh or stand up and clap. I'm not preaching for the… One preacher one time said, "I don't preach for the praise of men. Amen? Amen"? Who set your standard? Have you even thought about it or did you just inherit it? Who set your standard? You're looking to celebrities for your standard? Really? Them? The ones who are so miserable they can only be happy when they have attention? Really? That's your standard? Who set your standard? Who set your standard of what you will and will not listen to? Who set your standard?
"Oh, you think you're better than us". That's what they'll say when you start living with standards. "Oh, you think you're better than us". No. It's just that I know how much I need a source that is not me, because I am weak without him. In fact, I'm nothing without him. So excuse me, but the battle I'm in is too real for me to play around and live my life with exposed places and low standards. I have to get this right this year. I like that boy right there. He looks like a teenager with standards, sitting there leaning in in church. Some kids will be texting in church, but not you. You look like you want something from God, boy. You look like you have a mission. You look like God might use you.
Don't you live down to the level of your friends. Your friends don't know anything yet. God is taking you places. Stand up on your feet right now. Raise the standard; don't lower it. When you show up at school, God walks through the halls. When you show up at school, the presence of God moves. Raise the standard! Are you really going to let your unmarried friends tell you how to do your marriage? "I'll tell you, if I had a wife I wouldn't…" Uh-huh. You said all I needed to hear in that "If I had a wife" part. If I wanted what you had I'd do what you're doing, but I want something better.
What's your standard? Sometimes our standards need to be lowered. Yeah, sometimes they do, because sometimes it takes too much to make us happy. Who set the standard for what it takes to make you happy? Who set the standard for what it takes to have a good day? I'm bad about this. One bad meeting and I had a bad day. No, no, no. It's like that old man told me that time. I said, "How are you doing"? He said, "I'm alive". I thought, "Well, you didn't answer me," and then I realized yes, he did, because, for him, to be alive… He woke up. It's a good day. Who set your standards? When did we come to the point when kids had to watch a movie in the car for a trip to Target? I used to have to ride four hours with a crayon and a book, and now you need Elsa to get to Harris Teeter.
Who set this standard? Have we lost our minds? One time I was complaining. I preached on a Saturday night. My friend came. He's on staff at another church. I was apologizing to him because the crowd was a little down, because I was used to it being packed out at Elevation on Saturday night. I said, "I'm sorry, man. It was kind of down today". He said, "Your down day would be my revival". I needed that, because sometimes you let your standard get out of control. Sometimes, as the church, we want to put a standard on the world that we ourselves don't even exemplify. We can't even figure out racial reconciliation within the context of the community of faith, but then we want to judge it when it's in the world? But God has a remnant. God always has a remnant.
I believe God is raising up Elevation Church as a remnant in this day to raise the standard of what church can be and how broad this message really is. We're here to raise the standard. I wonder who set your standards. How can you expect God to be your strength if he didn't set your standards? How can I expect success if I don't have a standard of excellence? If I have not established a standard of excellence in my life, why would I expect God to bless my blemished offerings? "You could take a little time off your sermons. Nobody would notice". But why would I ask God to bless something my whole heart wasn't in?