Steven Furtick - Protected By God's Presence
Hey, thought I'd drop a little bonus sermon on you today. This was recorded at the end of 2019 for our Praise Party at Elevation going into the year 2020. There was a lot we didn't know entering 2020, to say the least, but the word God gave us was very prophetic and I've never shared it on this channel until now. I was saving it for the right time and I thought it might help you with your momentum if you're watching this later. I'm sure it'll apply any time of the year, but for those of you looking for some inspiration and perspective... That's the thing, that's what the message is about. It's about perspective. Your perspective on your progress, your pain, your past, and your potential. Look at all those words that start with the letter p. I hope you enjoy this bonus sermon. Let me know in the comments.
We so easily confuse the presence of God with the absence of problems and the goodness of God with the absence of problems. I'm preaching already and I haven't read my verse (2 Kings, chapter 6, verse 8). For how many of you this is your first New Year's Eve ever in church? How many of you, if I knew what you were doing last New Year's Eve, I'd be really proud of how much progress you've made? You're my favorite! In 2 Kings, chapter 6, there is an illustration of what happens in these moments where we must make a decision whether we are going to view our lives through faith or through fear, and I want to share it with you from 2 Kings, chapter 6, beginning in verse 8.
Please pray for me, because I take these moments seriously, not so much just to give you a lesson where you can write a few things down or a few tweetable, quotable lines but to really speak something over your life that will bring to closure some of the conflict you've been going through so that you can transform it and convert it into power for what is ahead of you. That's why we came tonight, and that's what we intend to do.
In 2 Kings, chapter 6, verse 8, the Bible says, "Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, 'I will set up my camp in such and such a place.' The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: 'Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.' So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, 'Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?'"
Do you know how mad you made the Devil just by showing up tonight? I mean, he set so many traps for you this year. He tried to make you bitter. He tried to make you envious of others. He tried to keep you in a depression. I know you've been going through things. He couldn't get you to go crazy so he started messing with your kids. He thought if he could get your kids to go crazy enough maybe you would lose your hope in God. Even some people in your life left this year who you were counting on, and after all of that, here you are. The Bible says it enraged the enemies of Israel, because no matter what they did to try to bring down the king, God had someone on the inside to warn them about it.
Tell the person next to you, "I have somebody on the inside," and it makes the Devil mad, and it makes him a little bit confused, and honestly, it makes him nervous to see you praising God like you've been praising God tonight. I mean this. Some of you, just by lifting your hands tonight, caused all kinds of confusion in hell. Not only have angels been watching you this year, but the demons have been watching you, too. The ones who were assigned to wreak havoc in your mind thought that surely by now you'd be tired. They thought that surely after all you've been through you would skip church and sleep in, but look at you in the presence of God to confuse the Enemy!
Now, we need to take 19 seconds and embarrass the Enemy to let him know that what he did didn't work and that what he did hurts but it didn't work. We still have 11 seconds on the clock! I'm reading my Scripture. This is a dignified moment, you chaotic church members. Well, he was mad, because everywhere he wanted to attack Israel, God's chosen people, there was a… I don't want to call him a spy. He was a prophet (Elisha). He had an ability to see things, and you think Siri is scary? Really, Alexa scares me how stuff starts showing up on my phone. I think Alexa is talking to Siri and Siri is talking to Google and Google is talking to Instagram, and I'm terrified that they're listening to me.
Watch this. This is interesting, because the Spirit of God in Elisha would give him a location where the enemy was going to attack God's people. When they called together all of the different high-ranking officials to see who the one was who was spoiling their ambushes and causing their attempts to attack the people of God not to work, the response came in verse 12. "'None of us, my lord the king,' said one of his officers, 'but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.'" Yikes! Everywhere that Israel would travel God would send a word through Elisha to tell them where they needed, verse 10 says, to be on their guard in such places.
Tonight I want to tell you that for this year, 2020 (like 20/20 vision), you need to see some things with your spirit that you cannot see with your senses. The reason this is so important is because if you don't recognize where the Enemy is attacking you the most frequently and ask God to give you insight into the places of your greatest vulnerability, you will spend all of your energy this year fighting battles you could have avoided if you would have learned the lessons of last year. Y'all don't like this part of my sermon? I know. It makes you mad when you realize a lot of the battles you fought you could have avoided if you had listened to what was on the inside instead of responding to what was on the outside.
I want to spend this year with what Paul called open eyes in my heart. It sounds grotesque when you describe it like that, but he was saying there is a kind of sight that does not revolve around external stimuli, and it is more based on internal processing. If I could break it down even more for you, I would use the phrase, on his guard in such places, to describe how I think God intends to protect you as you go into this next season, this next decade of your life. That requires self-awareness. There's a theological term, progressive revelation. It means while God never changes, our understanding of him unfolds over time not necessarily chronologically, but as we experience different things in our lives we come to see God in different ways.
Even the Bible is constructed with a progressive revelation in mind so that you see concepts introduced in the book of Genesis that are mirrored in the book of Revelation. That's the first and the last. By the time you get to Revelation, you get a full picture of what was hinted at in Genesis. You see types and shadows in the Old Testament which ultimately point to Jesus Christ, but they're pointing to something that you have not clearly seen yet. Life is this way. It is that many of us in this season of our lives are going to see things that we only saw a shadow of in a previous season of our lives. Progressive revelation means that God wants to show you some things about himself and even about you that will cause you to be able to avoid what I call unnecessary roughness. It's a football term, but it also applies when we're going up against the Devil.
Let me help you with something really quickly. Some of the battles you fought last year were in places you never should have been. I know it is supposed to be a praise party, but before we party, can I preach for a moment? I have 24 minutes to tell you about this, that there are certain places you need to stay away from this year because, if you go there and then ask God to protect you in those places… I don't know whether to start with Facebook or whether to start with CNN or whether to start with Fox News, but we have to be very careful about where we go…watch this…not just with our bodies but with our minds, because it is very possible that God is trying to warn you about certain places.
Every time you go there you start feeling judgmental, or every time you go there you start having comparison, or every time you go there you start feeling like your life is missing something, and if I were you, I would put that Bible app on the front screen of my iPhone this year. For those of you who aren't saved yet, you might have an Android, but you can put the Bible app on there, too, and I would find that thing that deletes some of the other apps. Can we all just make a covenantal agreement in the presence of God on this, the last sermon of 2019? Let's all not post our workouts until we have been doing them consistently for at least four weeks this year. Can we do that?
Look at somebody and say, "I don't have to post it to prove it," because if I do the work, you will notice the results. I won't have to screenshot my sweat on the floor. Nobody wants to see your Spandex. Thank you very much! Do a rep in the secret place! We'll know. We'll know. It's really interesting how certain places bring me into vulnerability. I just want to ask the question. Have you lived long enough to know yet where you're most vulnerable? There were certain places where the Enemy intended to attack, but because the king had somebody on the inside…
Wouldn't it be nice to have somebody on the inside who could tell you where there is traffic and could show you on the GPS where there is going to be traffic? Wouldn't it be nice to have somebody on the inside like Elisha was on the inside? He was feeding information to the king saying, "Don't go there". Wouldn't it be nice to have somebody on the inside? Wouldn't it be cool if you didn't have to go into this year alone, but you could have somebody on the inside? Wouldn't it be awesome if, when Jesus Christ went to heaven, he sent down his Spirit to live in those who would believe in his name? Wouldn't it be awesome if you had somebody on the inside (the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of righteousness, the Spirit of God) telling you, "Don't go there, don't think that, don't complete that, cut off that conversation, don't give them all of that information"?
Here's the beautiful thing about it. God will show you where to be on your guard if you will give him the opportunity. God will even show you what days of the week you are more susceptible to discouragement so you can plan around it. Y'all don't believe in God? You don't think he's in you? You don't think God can show you about yourself what he knows from the inside out? You don't think the one who created you knows how to counsel you? Yet, all of the time we go into states of discouragement. Then, we try to pray our way out of them, but we got discouraged because of a mental game we played. No clichés can rescue us.
New year, new you! Hmmm… If we told the truth, it doesn't sound as cute. Right? What really has to happen for you to change is that Romans 12 says you have to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That means you have to do things a different way for a long time until the pathways that are in your mind called neural pathways that were causing you to do the things you don't want to do anymore, whether that's an addiction to pornography or whether that's an addiction to a substance or whether that's an addiction to food or whether that's an addiction to gossip or whether that's an addiction to judging people who struggle with pornography, food, or substances, because I can preach to everybody in the room…
"I'll tell you, Pastor Steve. I don't struggle with these sins you mentioned. It's actually great, because I'm starting this New Year with a pretty clean slate. I'll tell you. I've been walking with the Lord for a long time, and I don't really have any of these struggles except the one with self-righteousness that I am expressing by saying that I don't need anything new from God this year". To really have a new year, new you… It doesn't really work like that. New year, new neural pathways… It doesn't preach as good. Who is going to put that on Instagram? The fact of the matter is for God to do something new in your life this year you will have to save your strength for the things that matter, and that means you are going to have to listen to the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God will tell you, "Don't return that phone call. Don't return that text. Don't even go there".
You'll start thinking something in your mind, and the Spirit of the Lord will show you, "You can't afford to play with that". You can't play around with the Devil and then ask God to deliver you from the Devil you were playing with. There are some places you cannot afford to go this year. Your soul cannot afford it. Your joy cannot afford it. Your peace cannot afford it. I've got somebody on the inside who can show me where the attack is. Wouldn't it be cool if some of the battles you fought last year you could avoid this year? You'll be singing, "This is how I fight my battles," and you're just sitting there. They're expecting you to be swinging, but you're not fighting your battles by swinging. You're fighting your battles by staying away from the places.
I know this is heavy for a party, but I have to preach it because God will not strengthen you for a battle he did not call you to fight. You've got to let go this year of the need to prove things to people, because that is not a battle God has called you to fight. You have to let go this year of trying to make up for things that are in the past that God has already forgiven. That is not a battle God has called you to fight. It is over. It is gone. The old is gone. The new has come. You have to ask the Spirit of God what areas to avoid in this year. Elisha is giving the information for the military attack, and I wonder if the Spirit of God is trying to give you information for the spiritual attacks you're under. You keep going to old places.
When he found out about it, not only was he mad, but he was determined to get rid of this guy, because Elisha was a problem. Elisha was a problem. Are you a problem for the Enemy? I'm going to tell you how you can know if you are. If nothing ever goes wrong in your life and you never burn the toast… If everything is so nice and neat and orderly and you never face any kind of resistance, it means the Devil isn't threatened by you at all. Here's how I know that from the text. Again, we often perceive the presence of God is proven by the absence of problems. Right? Wrong! It couldn't be more untrue, because when Elisha was giving the word of the Lord to prevent the attack for the people of God, watch what the king did in verse 13. "Go, find out where he is…"
The moment you begin to fulfill the purpose God created you for the Enemy will dispatch special forces. Raise your hand if you had some things happen this year that made you question if God even loved you. Raise your hand. Be honest enough to raise it. I suggest to you…keep it up…the reason you had some of your problems was because you are such a problem for the darkness because of the light you carry. Somebody shout, "I'm a problem"!
Let me tell you how you can prove that God is with you. The way you can prove that God is with you is not by the fact that nothing bad ever happens to you. My mom used to say, "The proof is in the pudding". Well, I found out when it comes to the things of God the proof is in the problem. How do I know God is using me and that he has great plans for me? How do I know God has put a big calling on my life? How do I know God has something outstanding for my future? I know the size of my calling by the size of my problem. Y'all shout if you've been through something this year!
When Elisha started telling the king where to look for the attack, the king of Aram said, "You have to find him! He's a problem"! The Enemy sent special forces for you this year because you were right on the verge of breaking a generational curse and changing a bloodline. You're a problem for the darkness! You're a problem! "'Go, find out where he is,' the king ordered, 'so I can send men and capture him.' The report came back: 'He is in Dothan.' Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city".
Now, verse 15 is really what I want to preach. Get ready. Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? I only have 12 minutes to preach this, and I'm going to need a little bit of help. Are you ready for verse 15? No, you're not. You can't be. "When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. 'Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?' the servant asked".
Now, this is something I need to illustrate. Get me six men on the stage really quickly…six men who are not very big. He's too big. I need six men who are not very big. Don't be insulted if he chooses you. I want you all to form a circle around me and look intimidating. Not too close. Just like how the servant woke up. Get around me. Six men who are not too big. We may need two more. Give me eight men who are not too big. One… two… three… four… You all get around me. Get all around me and look ferocious. Look at me like, "We're going to kill you! You're that prophet who has been messing up…" Come on! This is a problem! Come on!
Give me all around eight men who are not too big. I want to show you something. This is going to be so helpful for you to understand what you go through in the next 12 months and in the next 10 years and for as long as God's hand will be on you. The servant woke up, and the first thing he saw that morning when he got up was something that he didn't know how to handle. Hmmm… Hmmm… I think everybody here, personally speaking, has something they're looking at that they don't know how to handle. It's usually not a military thing; it's a mental thing. I have maybe a decision I don't know how to make. I have bills. I have this. I have that. I have transition. He's looking around, and he's like, "Oh no, my lord! What shall we do"?
Now, Elisha is the prophet who would tell the king where the enemy was going to attack. Here's my question. If he knew where the king was going to be attacked, why did he get attacked? If you have the ability to know when other people are going to be attacked, how can you not see it when you're going to be attacked? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to give other people advice for their marriage or for raising their children? Oh, but mess around and have one of your own and you will shut your stupid mouth when it happens to you! The servant goes, "Oh no, my lord! What shall we do"? Watch what Elisha says. "'Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered".
Oh, man! This sounds like great advice. "Don't be afraid". These are chariots and horses. No offense, but this is not you. These are trained Syrian soldiers, and the prophet says, "Don't be afraid". "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them". James, get me 12 men who are really big. Get me 12 men who are as big as you. Come on! Right now I need 12 really big men. I need 12 really fierce men. I need 12 men who are on CrossFit and creatine and protein and TRT and HGH and steroids. Come on! I need 12 big men, and I need you to come here, because I'm going to be Elisha. I'm going to be Elisha, and I'm going to stand in the middle, and I need you all to come surround me.
The Bible says that when Elisha… Come on. Get really close. Get really close. I don't have any proximity issues, but not that close. Back up a little bit. Come in as close as we can get and I can still function. Come on! Get in close. Get in close. Elisha said, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us…" Come on! Surround me all the way. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them". "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them". It not only means we have more in quantity, but they are greater in strength because those who are with us are more than those who are with them. I'm going to show you something really quickly. He said, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them".
Then, the next verse (verse 17) says, "And Elisha prayed, 'Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.'" Watch out. I'll be right back. Stay right there. If I'm the servant, I'm thinking that God is about to do something so awesome and he's going to make all of the enemies (the first ones who came to attack)… I'm going to close my eyes, and he's going to pray, and when I open my eyes, all of the enemies are going to be gone. Y'all leave really quickly. Just go somewhere. Not the good ones, the bad ones. That's what I'm expecting. I open my eyes. Wow! It's a miracle!
Come back. Come back. Come back. Instead… Get back into position quickly. It's almost midnight. I have to show you something. Elisha is praying. He's like, "Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see". He opens his eyes, and what does he see? The same enemy he saw before the prayer. In fact, go to the next verse (verse 18). "As the enemy came down toward him…"
Now, stop! How did Elisha pray and the enemy still came toward him? How did Elisha, the powerful man of God… How did Elisha, the prophet who struck the water… How did Elisha, the successor to Elijah… How did Elisha, who led an entire nation into a time of revival, and who could purify the waters of the Jericho… How could Elisha keep praying but the attack kept coming? Well, the proof of the presence of God is not the absence of problems. The proof of the presence of God is not that the problems disappear. The proof of the presence of God is that he kept me surrounded, and the Enemy came, but he couldn't kill me.
The Enemy came. Depression came. The panic attack came. I could barely catch my breath, but somehow the Word of God sustained me through every season of my life. I almost lost my mind. I almost gave up. I almost let go, but there were more for me than against me, and I declare it to the darkness of your life. Greater is he that is in me! The proof is in the problem. If God sent you a really big problem, he's about to demonstrate that he's a really big God. I have a really big God. I have a really good God. I have a really faithful Savior, so I have a really great praise not because of the absence of problems but because of the presence of God. Stand up. There are two minutes and 43 seconds until the next decade of your life. There are two minutes and 38 seconds until the next decade of your life. Tomorrow morning, when you open your eyes, guess what is still going to be there. Your problems. Guess what is within you. Y'all got my back?
When I say this, get ready to rejoice. Get ready to rejoice. The bigger the problem the greater the opportunity for the presence of God. Y'all don't even need me to finish the sentence. You know what I'm saying. The Devil has done everything he could to track you down. He put a target on your back. He aimed right at your head, but look at your praise. Look at your purpose. Look at your praise. Look at your God. I say… I'm going to put it up to a vote. What say you, Elevation? Let's stop telling God how big our problem is and start telling our problem, "I have an even bigger God. Greater is he! Greater is he"! If God be for you, who can be against you?