Steven Furtick - Letting Go of Normal
Let me show you how God's people have always been trying to go back to normal at the moments when God is trying to bring us into something new. This message is for my business owners in the church, those of you who are hoping things go back to normal, but you know they won't, but you don't know what to do. This message is for those in the church who are trying to deal with a level of uncertainty that was unprecedented in your life before, and you're just trying to even get a daily schedule figured out. This message is for you. This message is even for those who have lost something in this season that you will never get back again. The question becomes…What is the new normal God has known all along? What is the new normal I should look forward to?
Now, remember this and write it down: faith looks forward. You'll see in Exodus, chapter 14… Remember, a nation that has only known slavery in Egypt for 430 years. When that is all you've known, that's what is normal. On one hand, they hated it. They hated it because not only was there no freedom in it but there was frustration that was increasing because the Egyptian taskmasters had begun to require more from the Israelites than they could reasonably do. I mean, they'd make them make bricks, but they wouldn't give them straw. "Go fetch your own straw and make the same number of bricks. You still have to fulfill your quota, but you're not going to have enough to do it with".
Listen. This is a generation of people who had gotten used to never having enough. I wonder, for us, has never enough become our normal? I'm not talking about last week or the week before that, and I'm not talking about bank account. I think the spirit of this age is the spirit of never enough. We can never get enough information. We can never get enough what we call connection. It's not really connection; it's just the apparatus. It's just the illusion of connection that really keeps us more fragmented than ever before.
So now we call ourselves connected in the world because we have social media. I'm thinking about introducing a new trend. Social distancing is catching on. We're practicing it right now. But how about social media distancing? That's when you can go more than five minutes without your phone. Social media distancing. It's a thing. Put it in the chat. Five minutes without your phone. See, to us now it's completely normal for us to be overloaded all the time and to have access to everything that's happening in the world, and then we wonder why we are so fearful, why we can't feel. It's because we were never intended to carry so much in our minds and in our hearts, but to us it's just normal. We're used to making bricks without straw. Many of us are used to never really getting a good night's sleep. It's just normal. We're used to running around this and that and the other. We're used to spending too much money. It's normal. Totally normal. It's what the neighbors do. It's what my dad did.
So, what we're seeing in Exodus 14 isn't just God's people coming out of Egypt as a territory; they're coming out of what they've known as normal. So while it sounds sexy… "Open the grave! I'm coming out! I'm going to live"! But what if you've gotten so used to death that real life seems weird? "Get back to normal". I'm not so sure. This is how the Israelites expressed it. Are y'all ready? Exodus 14:10: "As Pharaoh approached…" Wait. Pharaoh represents fear. Pharaoh represents the old. Got it? Pharaoh said, "Eat," you ate. Pharaoh said, "Make bricks," you made bricks. Pharaoh is the old boss, the old regime. Pharaoh is the old ruler, but he's also the one who fed you.
So Pharaoh is the one who fed you and Pharaoh is the one you fear. A lot of the things we get used to meet certain needs in our lives, and until we know a better way to meet that need, we will always depend on the wrong source. That's what addiction is. It meets a need. For some of you, that's what that person you keep running back to every three weeks who isn't good for you is. That's a form of Pharaoh. That's what certain thought patterns we embrace are to us.
See, they're familiar, and this is the principle I want to show you: when you are afraid, you reach for what's familiar. This is very explicit in Exodus 14. "As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians…" The ones they were running from. "…marching after them. They were terrified…" They were afraid. They experienced fear. "They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?'" The sarcasm is dripping in this statement. Egypt was famous for graves. Three quarters of their land mass was set aside for graves. So when they say, "Were there no graves in Egypt"? it's like saying, "Were there no trees in Charlotte"? It's like saying, "Was there no orange at Elevation"? It's like saying, "Was there no electric guitar in Slash"? It's like, that's what Egypt was known for. It was known for graves.
Watch this. When you feel afraid, you crave familiar, even if familiar is killing you. Egypt was killing them, and on one hand they're crying out, "Get us out of here! We'll go anywhere. We'll do anything. God, just make it stop". Some of y'all were praying that three months ago. "God, I need a change. God, this is not working. God, I'm not happy. God, I don't feel joy". Remember? Remember three months ago when you were praying, "God, help me get my priorities…"?
Remember your New Year's resolutions? I know that was like BC, before corona. You're like, "Oh, well, I've gained 17 pounds since then. I'm just trying to breathe. That's my new New Year's resolution: Take another breath. Take another breath. Take another breath". But when you feel fear, you reach for familiar. When God showed me this, I realized why, to me, sometimes negative feels normal. A lot of times, when I'm feeling uncertain, unstable…little thing, big thing…I reach for something negative, because negative is what I know. Not because I had horrible parents. I had great parents. But I will say this: My dad was not normal. His childhood was not normal. His dad killed himself when he was 9, on his ninth birthday. That was not normal.
In fact, one of the last things my dad said to me while he was alive was, "I only ever wanted to be normal". He was talking about his upbringing, when he was sent to reform school, and just the different things that happened in his life, you know, blowing through two marriages before he met my mom, and all of that. He was saying, "I just always wanted to be normal. I've never been normal". The Bible says that about Moses who was leading the people out of Egypt. Did you know that? It says in Acts, chapter 7, verse 20, that Moses was no ordinary child. Isn't that cool?
Say this as a compliment to whoever you're sitting next to. I hope this doesn't start an argument. Tell them, "You're not normal". In fact, tell them stronger. Say, "You've never been normal". You've never been normal. There's nothing normal about you. Normal is just a story you've told yourself. So, the Israelites, God help them… They are standing at a Red Sea, which is a body of water they have no context for. Like us right now. We have no context for this crisis. We have no context for this challenge. We have no precedence for this global pandemic because we've never lived through one. When they felt terrified, watch what they did. They craved familiar.
"Were there no graves in Egypt? We'd rather be dead in Egypt than alive in uncertainty". They craved the grave over having to stand in front of something in an uncertain situation. And so do we. We do it all the time. We go back to places that kill us, people that kill us, patterns that kill us, routines that kill us, bottles that kill us, pills that kill us, stations that kill us, feeds that kill us, websites that kill us, accounts that kill us, thoughts that kill us, because it's normal, and normal is nice. If you don't think so, you never had a nice old sweatshirt. It's nice because it's normal. It's not nice because it looks good. It looks terrible. You look homeless, but it's normal.
"Oh, I like this. This is my good sweatshirt. These are my good underwear with seven holes in them. It has seven holes, but it's normal. It feels familiar". So watch this. Normal is not all that. "I just want it to be the way it was. We want to go back to Egypt. Take us back to Egypt". The place you were crying out to God to take you from? Now you want to go back? "Yeah, I want to go back. I want to go back to normal. God, I will never complain about my kid's teacher again just as long as it doesn't have to be me. I'm going back to normal. I just want normal. Just normal. I just need something normal".
That's why I wanted to come in the building to preach to you. It was like, "Do you want to do it in a studio"? I was like, "No, no, no". Because I want people to get a little bit of normal. I think it'll help people. Even our eFam that meets all over the world… When I say "all over the world," watch the chat. Put in the chat if you're from somewhere other than Charlotte, and put where it is. I just want you to see I'm not lying. There's nothing normal about this church. The church I grew up in was like 100 people. It was an amazing church, but the town of Moncks Corner was only 6,000. That was my normal.
So as the ministry grows bigger, to me it's not familiar, so sometimes I fear when something is expanding or getting bigger because it's not normal to me. It's really difficult for us to understand, those of us who were coming to church buildings in Riverwalk and Concord. "O God, we're building a building for Concord, and now we don't get to use it. That's so bad, God. Just let us get back to the plan. Let us get back to the thing we had a few weeks ago. I know I was complaining about it, but I'll take it. I'm sorry, God. I'm so sorry. Give it back. Give me my job back. I'm so sorry, God. Get my car back. I'll ride my Honda Accord. Just let me take it somewhere. Just have something for me to do. God, I'll do it, I'll do it, I'll do it". Because when you're in something you don't know, you crave normal.
Do you see all of those cities and hamlets and provinces on that screen? I can't read them all out. There are too many. That's amazing. You know, I used to say this all the time to our church. I used to say to the people who could come to church here in a physical location, "Some people came here this weekend on their honeymoon, their vacation. They wanted to come to Elevation". "Where do you want to go to vacation this year? Do you want to go to Disney World"? "I want to go to Elevation". The vacation destination of the world right here off of 521.
Some people would be here like, "Man, this was on my bucket list to come to Elevation". People would say that. "This was on my bucket list". I used to say to those of y'all who were sitting out there, "Don't ever take for granted that what God put in your backyard is on somebody else's bucket list". Didn't I say that? Now I can show you better than I can tell you. Some of the same people who used to complain about the parking lot at Ballantyne… I bet you would love to have to wait for a parking space right now if you could just come to church and be in the presence of God.
Now, I know some of you are like, "No, I kind of like this 'church at home' thing better. This is actually pretty awesome, Brother Steve. I'll tell you what. That eFam was on to something. This is really an innovation right here. I'll tell you what right now. I'm sitting right here. I've got my Oreos, and I'm getting spiritually fed as well. Praise the Lord. Christ and carbohydrates. This is the ticket. I'll tell you what. I praise God for innovative ministry. This is a digital revolution. This is a revival".
You know, all I'm trying to think about these days is not the normal I want to get back to, because I have a feeling… And I think you do too. Let's just have the funeral right now. We are not going back to normal. We're not. I was on a Zoom call this week with a department on our staff, and by the end of it I was beating the desk, saying, "Y'all aren't getting it. Everything has changed. Y'all are having a normal meeting. This is not a normal time. People need the gospel more than ever before, and y'all are talking about what happened 10 days ago. Right now for our ministry we have to be in the moment, because people need this oxygen".
This is not a normal time. This is not a normal church. I hope in some ways this building is full again, but I hope we never go back to normal where we come into church and act like it's just our right to come in here. I hope we never go back to normal where we just come in and we can't get the eye booger out of our eyes until the fourth song, until they play our favorite song, and everything has to match our preference, and we just kind of yawn and wait for it to be over. I hope we never go back to normal! I'm never going back to normal.