Steven Furtick - Stop Limiting God
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.