Steven Furtick - That's Not All You Are
I was telling somebody the other day… They said, "Easter must be the easiest time for you to preach". I said, "Oh, on the contrary". It's really the hardest because everybody thinks they know the story better than they really do. This part of the Easter story is maybe something you've heard before, but if we study it together today, I believe you'll see something you've never seen in John 20:24. It's kind of the climax of John's gospel.
"Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands.'"
Be careful what you ask for. "'Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name".
Now let me give a title to this sermon and you can give it to your neighbor. Tell them, "I know you're a good person. I know you're a Christian. I know you're nice". Tell them, "I know you're moody". I don't want to start anything, but tell them, "I know you're kind of crazy". But that's not the title. Here's the title. Tell them the title. Say, "That's not all you are".
Let's talk about Thomas, or, as you judgmental church people like to call him, Doubting Thomas. If you're new to church, we have nicknames we give certain disciples. We don't do it to all of the disciples. We just pick on certain disciples. Peter gets to be called the Rock, because Jesus called him that. Peter cussed somebody out one time when they were trying to see if he was a church member of Jesus Christ, but we don't call him Profanity Peter. No. But Thomas… Like, for real. I wish you were here right now, because you can hide on the other side of that screen. It's much better when I can see you eyeball to eyeball. I love that.
What's your name? Hunter, do you ever do something that contradicts your beliefs, but you know you should do better, but you do the wrong thing anyway? You were really slow to nod. She nodded quickly. I wish you could have seen it. She was nodding before I finished the question. That's called hypocrisy. What if we called you Hypocrite Hunter? Would that be fair? It would be fair. It wouldn't be kind or gracious or anything like that. Lisa, does Tom ever lose his temper? I've never seen him do it. So we should call him Tantrum Tom. The Bible passage I just said… Thomas was doubting. Oh, he must be Doubting Thomas. Stick a label on him. We love to label things. Is there anybody in the back of the room who ever struggles with overeating? Just ever. Even like on Christmas you eat crap. All right. What's your name all the way up there in the corner of the room, right there in the back of the room? She raised her hand. She said she struggled with overeating. What's your name? Camille. What if we call you Calorie-intake Camille? I'm just making these up. This is what we do.
We love to label stuff, because if I label it, I can be lazy. I can think I know you because you remind me of something that's in myself that I won't admit. This Easter, I would like to talk about Thomas and suggest to you that if any of the other disciples had been in his same situation, they would have had his same doubt. The Bible says Thomas wasn't there when Jesus showed up. Now remember, he rose from the dead. He showed himself to Mary Magdalene. Not to the boys first, because he knows women have the ability to feel and not be so calculative about everything and know things their minds can't conceive and see things spiritually that men are blind to because we are so ego focused we can't even connect with one another, let alone the resurrected Son of God.
Do you like that pandering I did to the female demographic? That was good. But I really believe that. Holly was with a bunch of other pastors' wives a while back, and she was saying, "Oh, it was so good. We opened up, and we talked about this, and we talked about that". I said, "If that had been the pastors of those churches and not the women who are co pastors or pastors' wives, all we would have talked about was things that started with 'How many…' or 'How much…'" We love to label. Guys are really simple. We are still trying to figure out "How much do you bench"? Just now with dollars instead of dumbbells. "How much did you make last year"? and all this stuff, because we love to label. It helps us to accommodate our assumptions if we can label something.
We love sometimes to identify ourselves as Christians by our jewelry even though the cross was originally a torture instrument, not a fashion statement. There's nothing wrong… I have one myself, and I'll wear it. My point is sometimes it's easier to label it than to live it. Doubting Thomas. Yeah. That's really fair. When it says he wasn't there, he wasn't there. We don't know why. You know how you fill in the blanks and assume things about people? "He wasn't there because Jesus had been crucified and he was ashamed to be identified with the others". Or maybe he was running an errand. After all, the other disciples were not exactly full of faith. "How do you know that"? The Bible says they had the doors locked because of fear of the Jews.
You know how you say Easter is the Super Bowl? Not really. It's not really like the Super Bowl, because even though Jesus was risen and they had heard about it, they still had to live with the reality that they represented a threat to the Jewish council that represented the religious establishment of the day. So, it's a strange celebration. It's kind of like how sometimes in your life you can be really happy about something but really worried about something, and you can't exactly jump up and down about this because you're distracted about that. Somebody says, "How are you doing"? and you're like, "I'm good," but that's not all you are. You are good in the particular area of your life you chose to disclose in that moment.
Thomas wasn't there. The only difference between Thomas and Peter is Peter got to see Jesus when he showed up. Peter didn't have greater faith than Thomas. He just had a different experience. Don't judge people about where they are if you don't know where they started. Maybe he wasn't there because he was scared or maybe he just struggled with punctuality. Maybe Thomas was late. It's no worse of an assumption than the fact that he wasn't there because he didn't love God. We don't know why he wasn't there. It just says… Let's read the text again so y'all will think I'm not making this up. I don't want y'all to trust me; I want you to trust the text. "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came".
What if he's not Doubting Thomas at all? He could be Tardy Thomas. Do you know how I think Jesus would call him? I was thinking about this. What would Jesus call Thomas? What would Jesus call the one who wasn't there? What would Jesus call the one who he came back a week later to make a special guest appearance to? He thought so much of him he showed back up. Maybe Jesus would call him Honest Thomas. I think he said a good thing. He said, "I've got to see it for myself". There comes a time when your faith in God on what your grandparents taught you or what you learned on a flannelgraph in a Sunday school can't really get you through the real complications of adult life. What he said wasn't, "I won't believe". He said, "I won't believe unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side". "I won't believe unless…"
What would it take for you to believe that God was with you in this moment, in this season? What would it take for you to believe God had your kids in his hands? What would it take for you to believe he knows what's best for you? What would it take for you to believe that God does not relate to you on the basis of the thing you're most ashamed about? What would it take for you to believe? Thomas has already seen so much. He has seen a lot. John says Jesus did so much we couldn't write it all down. John in making this… We call it a book, his gospel account. He says, "I put the ones in the book that would serve as a sign so you could believe". He includes seven of them, which is a significant number, especially for the Jewish mind, because it was seven days of creation.
John is saying here, "I'm going to show you seven things". He starts talking about the signs in John, chapter 2, where Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding. Then in chapter 4, Jesus heals this official's son. It's crazy, because Jesus didn't even have to go physically to the place in order to heal the boy. All it took was for the man to believe. It was his faith that made his son well. In John, chapter 5, there's a man trying to get to the water, and Jesus says, "Well, it's a good thing the water showed up since you can't move," because the man was actually paralyzed. He could not get to the water, so Jesus brought water to him. That's the third sign.
One of the miracles we've heard a lot about if we were around church was when Jesus fed 5,000 men, women, and children. The "and children" is significant in this particular sign, because when they found this little boy in John, chapter 6, they said, "Here is a boy". To them he looked like a boy. He was carrying a buffet. Isn't that amazing? Look at your neighbor again and say, "That's not all you are". You look like a boy, but when your bread gets in the hands of the one who knows what to do with it… As a matter of fact, when Jesus went walking on the water, they thought he was a ghost. They didn't recognize him at first. They didn't see him at first. They felt fear at first, not faith.
Then in John, chapter 9, I think it is… (You can check all of these later. I'm giving you a Bible study for the next week, by the way. You could go through all of this.) This man was born blind, and Jesus healed the man born blind, which was amazing, but the greatest thing he did to show who he was started with what he didn't do. My favorite story in the Bible last year was the story of Lazarus in John, chapter 11. I spent the greater part of the year off and on looking at this story. I want to show you something that's in the story that I think might relate to your season of life as well. If you have John, chapter 20, right now, maybe put that little ribbon in your Bible… Who am I kidding? Like y'all brought paper to church today. Just mark it on the screen and go to John, chapter 11, for just a moment.
If we flip back to John, chapter 11, it will show us something about who Jesus really is. John says, "I can't tell you everything, but I told you enough that you can believe for the part you can't see. I can't tell you everything he did, but I gave you enough to believe". God said, "I'll give you enough to go on". When Moses asked God, "Who are you"? he said, "I Am". "You don't have time for me to tell you all that I am. The moment I tell you exactly what I am, you will label me, and the moment you label me, you will limit me". It's like this. People will say, "Oh, that must be a Pentecostal church. That must be a Baptist church".
I remember one person said one time, "I don't like how Elevation mixes different genres. It should either be worship or gospel, not both". The definitions I found in the Bible confused me, because I thought worship was our job description and gospel was our message. Now watch what we'll do. We want to create a genre about a God who's worthy of eternal worship, because if we can categorize him, we don't really have to trust him. Thomas wasn't the only one who wasn't there. Jesus wasn't there in John, chapter 11, to heal his friend Lazarus. What I'm discovering in the Bible is you can learn just as much about God through absence as you can through presence. "Prove it to me". Okay. One time Paul said, "I had this thorn, and I wanted God to take it away, but God didn't do what I asked him to do".
How many have something in your life right now that God is not doing that you asked him to do on the timetable you're asking him to do it? And if he is doing it, he'd better go ahead and get to it, because it's going to be too late really soon. This is the situation in John 11. At first Lazarus is sick, and then Lazarus is dead, and they do not get the attention of the healer. We can see this most clearly, because there's a lot in this passage… I wish I could preach it all to you right now. If I summarized it, it would actually ruin it because I would squeeze out of it all the detail, so I'm not going to summarize it. By the way, just a side point: don't trust the summary. When we try to summarize something, we squeeze out of it the meaning. If I tell you, "John, chapter 11. Lazarus died. Jesus raised him from the dead," you miss the tears he cried at his tomb.
Don't even try to summarize salvation and just make it about heaven and hell, because I need Jesus on this earth. They needed Jesus to show up and heal their brother, and they had a reason to expect, because he would stop through Bethany every time he needed Airbnb at Martha's house. Mary would listen, because she had a good heart, but Martha actually knew how to cook, so she's the one doing the work, paying the mortgage, and Mary is over here… Anyway, it's a whole dynamic. Again, I can't summarize it. It's a very, very involved story. But I thought I would show you John 11:32, because their brother is now dead, and Jesus missed the opportunity to heal him. Very specifically, before I came, God said, "You're going to speak to somebody today who thinks it's over, and the limitation they have placed is not on a genre of music. The limitation they have placed is on themselves".
In the story of Lazarus, they asked for the healer to come. They call him the teacher or the rabbi. That's how they knew him. It says in verse 32, "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked. 'Come and see, Lord,' they replied. Jesus wept". "Wait a minute. I thought you were God. You're supposed to be drying tears, not crying them". What if what you've heard about God is not all there is to him? What if the God you've heard about is only a sliver?
People will describe God in many ways, and they'll say God is a healer, but then someone you love will die. To assume he's not as powerful as you thought he was because he didn't do what you thought he would misses the entire basis of true faith. Our problem is just like we do to Thomas, we do to God. We want to define people and even define God and even define ourselves by our worst moment. The danger in this passage is that by seeing their expectation unmet, their faith could have been discontinued. You have two perspectives at the tomb of Lazarus this day. In verse 36, the Jews said, "See how he loved him"! But some of them said… Watch this. This is my message. "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying"?
Do you see what they did? They labeled him according to their limited experience of what he could do, because they heard he was a healer. So, to them, that's all he is. And if he's a healer and he didn't heal, then it's over. If he's only the one who opens blind eyes and your brother died, then he didn't do what he could do and he can't do it now. Sometimes you have to have enough faith to say, "God, I thought you were a healer, but that's not all you are. God, I thought you were the one who would keep it from happening, but that's not all you are". Have you ever had God not stop something and he could have? Then you're just like Jesus. His Father could have stopped him from going to the cross. Even Jesus said, "I could call a legion of angels and they would rescue me".
They thought he was a king. When we worship Jesus and say, "You're a king," he is. He's also a carpenter. The greatest revelation Jesus ever gave anybody in the Scripture of who he was was after what he didn't do. So, let me break this down really simply. I was talking to a YouTuber the other day. There's nothing uncommon about YouTubers, but he's 59. He was sharing with me how he had been a music producer, and then when that stopped and he was down to his last little bit of money in the bank account… He kind of was at the point in his life where… You know, by the time you're 54 (he was 54 when he started his channel) you kind of have a pretty good idea of what you can and can't do. He told me this story. He said one day his intern walks in and says, "You should start a YouTube channel".
The beautiful thing about this guy… He has the grayest gray hair, shocking white, like the transfiguration of Jesus Christ himself. He said, "There's nobody with hair like this on YouTube. I'm a producer. This is what I do. I'm a music teacher. This is what I do. I don't even know how to make the videos". I wouldn't be telling you this story if he tried and failed. Obviously, he succeeded. I was studying. There are all of these other YouTubers who are younger with more hair and different colored hair and all of these different things. I'm telling you this story because you can tell yourself a summary of what you are and what you're not based on the experience you've had, not the potential you carry. What he said was, "I'm not a YouTuber. I'm a 54-year-old producer". His channel is bigger than all of the young guys today.
You would be clapping so hard if you realized that whatever you have told yourself is the stopping point of what you can be fails to factor in that the limitless God who says, "My name is I Am" and will not be confined to one category is living on the inside of you. "So, if he was going to do it, he would have done it by now". Well, maybe he wants to do something different. "God, I expected you to be this in my life. I expected you to plan it and do it and execute it like this, but what I thought you were is not all you are". The message of Easter is just like the tomb: I'm open. The thing about it is I'm not open to what I hoped would have happened. I'm not open to what I thought would have happened. I'm not open to what I think would be best. God, I believe if you could put a 59-year-old on the top of a YouTube mountain… Watch this. If you can heal a man who has been in the grave so long his sister is more concerned about the stench than she is about the potential… If you can do that… "I'm open".
God wants you to unlearn your limitations. You have to unlearn your limitations. Stop thinking it had to be on one schedule. "Well, their kid is smarter than mine". Their kid is peaking too soon. That's all it is. Your kid has street smarts and Ds on their report card, and later in life… The lateness of God. Why did he make Thomas wait a week? Thomas wasn't there. Jesus could have waited or caught up with him somewhere else. Why did he wait a week? You didn't see it when I read it. Okay. I'll go back to it for you. Elijah is reading through the book of Matthew right now, and he said, "Dad, do you ever feel like Jesus is trolling his disciples"? I said, "Kind of he does, doesn't he"? Like, "I'm going to pay the temple tax, but go fishing. It'll be in the fish's mouth". He's like, "This is just weird". I'm like, "It kind of is".
I'm glad he's reading the Bible for himself so he can learn to wrestle with questions about God and about life and not just trust the summary that Jesus loves the little children. Jesus does love the little children. Jesus also flips tables. I asked him the other day, "Did you get to the part in Matthew yet where he's cussing all of the Pharisees out"? Not exactly cussing, but he might as well. I mean, everything you'd want to call them. He's calling them whitewashed tombs and all of these things. See, when you have a view of God that thinks he only says soothing things, you get surprised. That's why I hate preaching on holidays. We took something as powerful as the resurrection and dressed it in pastel. Let me tell you my Christmas sermon. I already have it. Are you ready? My Christmas sermon.
You know, "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright". Away in a manger No crib for a bed The little Lord Jesus Laid down his sweet head. The cattle are lowing The baby awakes But little Lord Jesus No crying he makes. That's a lie. I like the song too, y'all, but it's not true. He's a baby in a barn! He's crying. So, I'm going to do a message on Christmas. Not "Silent Night". It's going to be called "Screaming Jesus". It's December 25, 2021, right here from this pulpit. Coming soon. "Screaming Jesus". "I know you know me as a healer. I know you know me that I opened the man's blind eyes. I know you know me in this season of your life as this. I know you know me as that. I know up until this point I provided for you this way, and I know you think what you've seen is all there is, but blessed are those…" This is what he told Thomas. "…who have not seen and still believe".
Who's he talking about in that? He's not talking about the other disciples. They saw. Who's he talking about? I think he's talking about Mary and Martha. Martha was like, "If you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died," and Mary was like, "If you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died. If you would have done what I thought you could do…" But Martha said something really powerful. She said, "But I know that even now…" "It's too late, but even now… You didn't fit the definition of what I thought a good friend was, God, but even now… You withheld the healing you easily could have given and you intentionally missed the opportunity to perform, but even now… I thought you were a healer, but that's not all you are".
Martha's confession is the powerful confession. She says, "You are the Christ, the Messiah, who has come into the world". "Whatever I thought you were, whatever I thought you would do, whatever I expected from your hand, that's not all you are". Would you say that to God this Easter? "I had my nice little pretty picture of little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay or the great King Jesus who destroys every devil and drives out all darkness, but you're also the one who weeps with me in something you could have prevented. You are the one with all authority. You are also the one with all empathy". I wonder what else you are. For years now you've been defining yourself by your dysfunction. I hear it because I talk to you. I hear you. I hear when you talk. You do it. I do it. I do it all the time.
I think it's somewhat of a cop-out from us having to grow, because if we condemn ourselves we don't have to work toward change. "That's just how I am". "Hey, man. I'm just not organized. I can't help it. I'm just not organized". You know there are methods for that. Right? And now I'm worried because… When they do personality tests, Myers-Briggs and Enneagrams and all of this… I know Enneagram is not a personality test. Trust me. I get a lot of feedback every time I make fun of Enneagram on the Internet. I'm grateful for that. It's a blessing. That's a helpful tool, but if you take something that was meant to be a tool… Do you know Enneagram? You put a number, and that's kind of your dominant sin or weakness, or something, and you can understand it and all that. That is really what it is.
We like to slap a number on something so we don't really have to know it. I hear people walking around all the time. "You're a Seven. You're a Three. You're an Eight". I'm like, "I'm at least a…" Holly told me I'm a One. I'm at least a 1.5, a 1.7. Do I get a decimal? Do I really have to be that exact of a thing? There's nothing against all of that. It's good, it's good, it's good. But we will even turn a tool into an excuse. "I'm a perfectionist. That's just who I am. That's just how I am". You're also aggravating to some people. That's not all you are. I love y'all in church. "I'm a child of God! I am a child of God"! That is not all you are all the time. If you clap, I won't call you out. We will pretend like you are always holy and righteous and blessed and full of faith. So, how do we deal with this? Thomas (aka Didymus)… I love how he even had a little nickname. It means the Twin.
Do you ever feel like there are two of you, by the way? This is an opportunity for him to experience Jesus not through another spectacular miracle but through a sacred scar. Notice what he wanted to see. "I've already seen him walk on water. I've already seen him feed the hungry crowds. I've already seen him open blind eyes, but I never saw him die before". The experience of the cross would be enough to confuse any of us. How can God be with you and how can God be for you and you go through this? So, when Thomas says, "My Lord and my God…" One commentator said it is the most powerful expression of faith in any gospel account. Let me ask you something. What do you take from the fact that the most powerful expression of faith in the whole Bible was uttered from the mouth of the disciple with the greatest doubt?
I think it means that even though you might be a skeptic sometimes, that's not all you are. Even though you might be addicted to something right now, an addict is not all you are. Even though you've limited yourself to the path you've seen this far… Jesus said, "It's great to see it and believe it, but blessed are you if you really can believe it and you don't even see it". If I don't see God making a way, is he still a way maker? This is the decision of Easter. This is the decision of every day. Don't trust the summary, because people will tell you things in the summary that are just too simple. "God is good all of the time. All the time God is good". Oh, they repeated it. It must be true. That's cute. But to really know God is good… For Thomas, he had to touch the wounds.
The most powerful expression of faith was uttered from the one with the greatest doubts. I think sometimes God can use the people the most who are willing to get honest about where they really are and just be willing to admit that every day doesn't feel like Easter in your heart. He showed up a week later because Thomas was ready. Isn't it crazy that the only thing that would stop God from revealing himself to Thomas was his own belief? "Stop doubting and believe". It makes it sound so simple, doesn't it? "Stop doubting". I wish it was that simple. Siri came on in my office before I came to preach. I said, "Hey, Siri, stop". She said, "There's nothing to stop here". "Who are you talking to right now? 'There's nothing to stop here.'"
I wish doubt could be like Siri. "Hey, fear, stop. Hey, bad memory of the thing that… Stop. Hey, worrying about things that haven't happened yet, stop". The more I studied it, I realized Jesus wasn't just telling Thomas to do something mentally. The thing he said is actually better translated like this: "Stop becoming an unbeliever and become a believer". That's what he literally said. "Stop becoming an unbeliever". When did you start becoming an unbeliever? When did you get so jaded about others, about yourself? When did you start trusting more in the summary than you did in the Holy Spirit?
So, I want to share something with you today on this Easter. A few months ago, I was kind of unsuspecting on a Thursday afternoon, writing some thoughts down about Lazarus who eventually did get up and rise from the dead. There's so much good stuff in that story, but it's for another time. The opening line to what I thought was a poem came to me. It said:
May I never lose the wonder
Of this gospel mystery
From the heavens came a Savior,
From the ground arose a King.
I sat with it for a moment, and it just kept coming to me in this way, and I wrote down the rest.
Every day is born in darkness,
Every winter yields to spring,
So let us speak of resurrection
Even in the suffering.
As the sisters begged the Savior,
"Come at once to Bethany,
For the one you love is dying,"
But his yes was not to be.
And his weeping begged the question:
Could his friend he not have healed?
But he still is resurrection,
Even when the tomb is sealed.
Speaks a whisper in the silence,
Sleeps the harvest in the sea,
Cradled now a new beginning
In the heart that dares believe.
So crucify your hesitation,
Wounded expectation bring.
Will you welcome resurrection?
Will you crown the risen King?