Steven Furtick — Naming Rights
Rachel has just left Bethel along with Jacob and the caravan of people. It's been quite a journey for Jacob. If you remember in week two, we went to Bethel with Jacob because we've been on a journey in this series. We went to Bethel with Jacob.
In fact, we didn't just go with him. He went twice, and we went with him the first time where God appeared to him, and then we went with him the second time 21 years later where he fulfilled his vow to God that he had made the first time. And when he was in Bethel the first time, Jacob was negotiating with God: "If you'll do this, I'll do that. If you'll do the other, then I will." God kept all of His promises.
And so the second time Jacob went to Bethel, he didn't make deals. He built an altar. And I think you can assume that your life is progressing spiritually when you stop making deals with God and start building altars, because an altar represents a sacrifice, the place where you lay your life down and say, "Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. I don't know how to drive my life. God, you take the wheel."
Jesus... Anyway, so there's a sense in which, when Jacob returns to Bethel the second time and makes this sacrifice to God which he had promised to make, we're expecting that the next thing God will do is bless him, because healthy relationships are reciprocal. A healthy relationship is you don't just always do for me and I never do for you. A healthy relationship is reciprocal.
You do for me and I'll do for you, and I'm not doing for you so you will do for me, but I do expect, and this is probably something I need to grow out of, but if I do something nice for you, I expect you, if you're in the position, to repay the favor. It's just healthy relationships, reciprocal. You can't just sow, sow, sow into somebody's life and never reap. Healthy relationships are reciprocal.
And so anyway, they move on from Bethel. Jacob has just made a sacrifice to God and he's kept his end of the bargain, and what we're probably expecting next is for God to bless Jacob, bless him again because Jacob made a sacrifice to God, because, you know, when you do something for God, you kind of expect Him to look out for you when the time comes. And God does bless Jacob.
It says, "Then they moved on from Bethel, and while they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth," which is a huge blessing, because we met Rachel and became acquainted with her last week, and we know that she was very lovely on the outside, but she was barren on the inside. She couldn't have children. And it was a source of great contention between her and her sister Leah.
Now, y'all remember Leah. And Leah, remember, she was a kind-hearted person, but it doesn't talk about her figure in the way that it talks about Rachel's figure, so we're left with assumptions. I was thinking, you know, if I ever meet Leah in heaven, I'm going to have a lot of apologizing to do.
If I make it to heaven and if Leah's there, you have to listen to last week's sermon, but Rachel, the one that Jacob loves the most is unable to give Jacob what he wants the most, which is a son. Except that after many, many failed attempts to conceive, she finally gives birth to a son, and his name is Joseph, and he becomes very important in the narrative of scripture, very important to not only Israel, but he becomes very important to the whole of the Bible, Joseph.
When she was having Joseph, she prayed as she was having Joseph that God would add to her another son. She wanted one more. See, her sister had six babies. She only had one. And so she prayed that God would add another son to her. And so Jacob goes to Bethel, makes the sacrifice, and it appears as if God is rewarding him for the sacrifice by giving the love of his life, Rachel, the one that he worked 14 years to marry, another child.
And the Bible says that at some point along the journey, as they were headed home, she begins to give birth. But in the process of her prayer being answered, this prayer, this longing that she had carried with her a long time, in the process of giving birth, she begins to have great difficulty.
Now, I want to tell you something about life and about your life and about my life. Sometimes God will answer our prayers, but it will cost us a price that we never imagined when He does. Because she asked God, "Give me another son." She did not know what we now know, that the son would cost her her own life. And so it's one thing to ask God to add something to your life, but you never know what you'll lose in the process of what God will add.
And so it's wonderful to ask God to use you, but just make sure when you say, "God, use me," you're aware that sometimes God will answer your prayer and use you, but it's going to require you being poured out in ways and broken in ways that you might not have seen coming or imagined in your heart when you were asking God to use you.
When you ask God to bless you, it's good to ask God to bless you, but just understand that with the blessing will come certain burdens that you might not account for, because for a while, I'm sure that everybody in Jacob's caravan was celebrating how God had given Rachel another child. Look how good God is.
Jacob built an altar, made a sacrifice, and Rachel's having a baby. She's finally getting what she prayed for. But somewhere in the process of giving birth, things took a turn for the worse, and Rachel started to lose blood. And since there was no medical technology, many women died in childbirth during this day. And so when the difficulty arose, and Rachel is a little bit older, there's a high likelihood she is not going to make it. And she doesn't make it, and she dies as her son is being born.
Let me make another point about life, another observation. In our lives, something is always dying while something else is coming alive. In your life, something will always be dying while something else is being born. We have colloquialisms that we say and little phrases that we say that we don't stop to think about whether they're true or not, and one of those things that we've probably all said in the room, it's just an expression, there's nothing wrong with saying this just as long as you know it's not true.
It's never true about anybody. One thing we say is, "It's all good." And let me just tell you right now: No, it's not. It's not all good for anybody ever. It is never all good for anybody. Ever. There is no point in time where everything is going to be all good in your life, ever.
So if you're waiting for that point when everything is good and all these blessings are being born and everything is going up into the right in your life and everybody's getting along with you and everybody likes you and everything is accruing int, I mean, it's never all good.
Sometimes it's going to be like it's all good at work and it's kind of funky at home. Sometimes it's going to be really, really good at home, but they're edging you out at work. It's never all good. Touch somebody next to you and say, "I'm sorry to upset you, but it's not all good." It's not all good. It's never all good. It's never all good. And it's not all good for Jacob.
Something is being born, but something else is dying. Something is coming to life, but something else is dying. And I came to speak to somebody today who has some triumph in your life, but you've also got some trouble. You've got some joy in your life, but you've also got some sadness. Along life's way, along this journey that we're on, God does not promise that it will all be good.
Now, He did say in Romans 8:28 that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. But based on the construct of that sentence, I take it to mean that if He has to work all things together for the good, that assumes that everything is not good before He gets a hold of it.
That means there must be some stuff that's good, some stuff that's not, and what He does is, He takes what's living and what's dying and He makes it all work together for the good to bring forth His purpose in your life.
Say amen to that if you've lived a little while, if you've ever lost anything, if you've ever been hurting but had to smile, if you've ever had something to celebrate about. And if you wait until it's all good in your life to give God praise and to be happy and to celebrate victories and to have peace in your heart and to enjoy what God has given you, you never will, because it's never all good. Always in our lives there's something being born, there's something dying.
I have to accept, as the pastor of a church, there are always going to be new people coming in and some people leaving. God bless them both because God knows the ecosystem of His intention for my life, and He knows how to make certain things leave and certain things come, but He'll never leave me alone.
That's one thing I can count on, that whether something's dying or whether something's being born, God is superintending my life, and He sees every loss and He sees every gain, and He measures all my pain, and He catches every tear, and He knows what to give to me, and He knows when to give it to me, and He knows what He's assigned me, and He knows when to fulfill the order that He's placed on my life.