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Steven Furtick - Timing Your Testimony

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Steven Furtick - Timing Your Testimony

I want to tell you a story today from the Bible, from 2 Kings, chapter 8. You might not have heard this one before. It's really good. The Scripture records this: "Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, 'Go away with your family and stay for a while...'" Ooh, I feel God on the first verse of the passage, and we have five more to go. "Stay for a while". Here's the bad part: "...stay for a while wherever you can"... Not necessarily where you want.

"'...because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.' The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years. At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land. The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, 'Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.' Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, 'This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.' The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, 'Give back everything that belonged to her...'"

I need to know who's with me today, because it feels like a funeral in the room, but it's really a great opportunity for you to shout. Say, "Give back everything". This is not a time for lowercase. This is a time for all caps. "Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now". So this is your sermon? You're the one I fought the Devil to get this message for? Well, good. The Lord told me to talk to you today about Timing Your Testimony. Do you know what I mean when I say testimony? For some of you, this will bring up a courtroom image, depending on the path your life has taken or what you're watching or whatever you're aware of. For others, it will put us back in a church during the scariest time of the church service.

How many know what I'm talking about when I say a testimony service in a church? It's totally ad-libbed, and there are no gutters in case the balls go right off... You never know if it's going to hit any pins or if somebody is going to stand up and monopolize the time. Pastor Mickey used to do the testimony service, and he used to have people come up and say stuff. When I started this church, I had people share their testimonies, but I always had a rule. This was my rule, and I think it's a pretty good rule. They could share their testimony, but I always had to hold the mic. I trained our campus pastors. I said, "When you bring somebody up onstage who you can't trust"...

Let me tell you who to trust the least: the one who is the most excited to come up and share when you offer the opportunity. So that's our rule: you hold the mic. I'll tell you why. There's one story that stands out in my mind. I've seen some testimony services go really bad, and maybe you have too. One I heard about... I didn't see this with my own eyes, but my friend Carl had this incident where he was playing piano behind the pastor, and during testimony service, there was a man who stood up and said (I called him this morning to confirm this was true), "I just need to confess to the Lord that I've been having some really bad thoughts about people. And, yes, I mean you, big boy". And he turns and points to my friend Carl's dad. He said, "And I mean you, big boy. I'm talking about you, big boy," in testimony service.

Carl's dad stood up, comes to the front of the church... This is a little church. There's no security. He comes to the front of the church with his chest out and says, "Well, how about we move this to the parking lot? You're talking about me"? So, what's my number one rule for testimony service? "You hold the mic". Because I can't trust you yet. Trust takes time. There are certain things you need to hold on to until you've had enough relational time to develop trust. That's not being paranoid. That's just the wisdom of experience. Another thing I would teach is kind of like a countdown timer. "After 60 seconds, take it back". Take the mic back after about 60 seconds. That's all it takes. If they start with "My great-grandmother"... get the mic. Start pulling it back. Pull it back slowly so it doesn't happen all at once. Just kind of slowly. The truth of the matter is you never really get to share the true story of what God is doing in your life as it is.

You don't really have time to tell everything, and you really don't have trust to tell everything. What I called it in a recent sermon was a time-lapse testimony where you edit out the scenes you don't want other people to see. I think that's wise. I don't think you should just trust anybody talking about the things God has done in your life. What I wonder is if you have even told yourself your true testimony. When I read this Scripture in 2 Kings, chapter 8, it kind of came alive in me to realize that... I guess depending on how you look at it, God either has really terrible timing or really impeccable timing. You could make the case from certain Scriptures that God has terrible timing.

I know that makes me sound like a heretic, and they could probably clip this and put it on YouTube, or something like that, and say all of my false teachings... But four days after Lazarus dies is bad timing to show up and help or the fourth watch of the night just before dawn is a terrible time to step in and stop the storm. In this Scripture, though, it brought to my memory all of the times God was waiting for the exact right moment in my life where he could achieve the most glory out of my situation to step in. Some sermons I preach are like a lesson. This one to me in my spirit feels more like a lifeline that God gave me to give to somebody as you were waiting for the restoration of something you lost. If we can look at this Scripture for a moment today, I think we can see some things to help us, especially in verse 1. It says, "Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored"...

I love that word. I think we need to use it more in church: restored. "...restored to life". He told that woman, "Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years". Here's what will get you about the story. Verse 2: "The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said". Then when she came back seven years later, she lost what she had. I can understand characters like Jonah to whom God says, "Go to Nineveh," but you want to go to Tarshish, and because you want to go to Tarshish, you end up on the seaweed Mediterranean diet. You end up having to spend the night in a fish. That's understandable. This Scripture suggests that you can do exactly what God tells you, that you can go exactly where he sends you, that you can act on God's word and not see the results you imagined. You can do everything right.

See, this is where we get in trouble. Sometimes we become convinced that the famine is our fault. Notice in the passage the Lord decreed the famine, and the Lord told the woman to leave, but when she left, in the process of going where God sent her to survive, she lost something she had before she left. The famine wasn't her fault, and there's no disobedience. I mean, this woman... You don't know much about her maybe, but she's absolutely amazing. She had a very generous heart. We kind of know this woman. We know a lot about this woman. To me she's familiar because I've preached a lot about her story. But things have changed for her. One day you can stand up and share where you're at in your life, and it's so amazing, and you're so blessed.

One of the reasons I don't teach parenting sermons is because mine still live with me. I don't want to tempt God... Do you understand what I mean? To get up and preach "Seven Ways to Raise an Amazing Kid," and then God sends seven demons in my kid so I can see that sometimes you can do all of the right things as a parent... It'll keep you from getting judgmental to realize this is the same woman... When the prophet asked her, "What do you want..."? See, she had done a great thing for Elisha. When the prophet asked, "What do you want"? she said something interesting. "I don't need anything. I have a home among my own people". The woman who needed nothing in 2 Kings, chapter 4, now has nothing in 2 Kings, chapter 8. What is the point of me bringing it up? Don't be arrogant. In seasons of blessings, don't be arrogant. By the same token, in seasons of struggle, don't despair. The Enemy would love to convince you it's all your fault, even the things people did to you, that there was something wrong with you that made them do it. But the famine wasn't her fault.

Now, I hesitate to preach this, because we live in a time where people don't want to take responsibility for anything. By saying the famine isn't their fault, I'm afraid my sermon will be misapplied. The famine wasn't her fault, but she still had a responsibility. So, she walks back into the presence of the king to ask him to give back what she lost when she left. What you lost when you left. I'm going to share something with you. This is kind of personal. About two and a half years ago, I realized there were some things in my life God wanted to give me and that indeed he had promised me that I had given up on. I'll tell you exactly what it was. It's not some deep, dark secret. I just never really thought to share it with you until I read this passage. Pretty much, I had made up my mind that I was some kind of machine God wanted to use to do ministry.

I thought my greatest value to God was what he could use me to do. I don't think I would have said it like that. I certainly preached the opposite of that. "You're a child of God. You're the righteousness of God. You're not a human doing; you're a human being". But you can say all kinds of stuff with your mouth and not believe it in your heart. I promise you. You can all day long have the right answers and then deep down in your heart have some really dark questions. For me, I was starting to wonder, "Do I matter apart from what I do"? Now, that's a tender thing to say to you, because some of it I'm still undoing.

Let me tell you a little bit of my testimony. I started preaching when I was 16. For me, that was really early for me to become acquainted with the fact that when you stand up and talk you're representing God. I'm thankful God called me at that stage in my life. I really wouldn't change any of it, but what it did in me is started to kind of conflate my identity with my contribution. Or I could say it another way: it started to confuse my identity with my gift. That happens to a lot of pastors. About two and a half years ago, I found myself in the position of this woman. Here's how I relate to her. Not that I'm a widow. She's a woman; I'm a man. This woman, as a matter of fact, has seen a physical resurrection of her child. But I can relate to her in that God wanted to give her something she didn't even know to ask for, and then in the process of surviving a famine, she had lost something.

I think in the process of building this church, which I believe God called me to do, as a leader, as a preacher, there are some things that while I was doing what it required to do that, I kind of left myself out of it. Y'all are like, "What drug was he on"? It wasn't like all that, because it doesn't always have to be like all of that. All I know is I would find myself many times wondering, "If I couldn't do what I did, would I have any right to be here"? Basically, I thought the only way for me to belong was to bring something external to myself for others. There came a point... Sometimes you have to go low enough. I experienced several moments that God gave me. I really see it now as a gift. I didn't see it as a gift at the time. God let me get low enough that I had to make a decision (and I did) that "If this is what it costs to succeed in ministry, I would rather fail in people's eyes but have joy inside myself than achieve everything the world offers and feel empty".

The reason I'm telling you this is because I think this happens to all of us from time to time, that we have to do certain things in certain seasons. Like, being a mom... If you've ever been a mom or you're considering being a mom, you should know or testify to the fact... If you've experienced it, you can say "Amen" to this. If you haven't experienced it, you can consider it in the contract of becoming a mom that you become a hostage to another human. And it's not just for moms. Sometimes, as a man, to build your career, you find in the process of making a living you lose a sense of yourself and what's important. So, the prophet said, "You've got to get out of here," and she did what the prophet said. She wasn't running from God. She wasn't disobeying God. She was doing what she had to do to survive.

Can you own the fact that some of the things you did in your life, you were doing what you had to do? The Devil just beats you up with it at night, like, "How could you do that"? "That was the best I could do in that season. I was doing the best I could. I was balancing so much. It was all I could do to stand up straight". Then the Enemy will come along and subtract all of those factors of survival. She didn't run from God. The prophet told her to go away, and she lost what was hers in the process of being obedient to God. I kind of felt like a hypocrite when I was struggling emotionally.

Here's how it would be. I'd come out to preach. The worship team was going into something very powerful and anthemic, and sometimes it was a song I wrote, and I wouldn't feel the lyrics to the song I wrote. But I have a job to do, and I want to be responsible. I mean, good God. If I'm a plumber, I don't get to feel putting a wrench on a pipe. You have to just fix something. I have a job to do. So, I'd come up here and inspire faith (not every time, but a lot of times) and I would feel guilty. What it took out of me to build the ministry put me in a place where I could not receive ministry myself. It scared me. It scared me that I could become a shell.

I had to have a moment, and I had a moment, that reminds me of this woman boldly going to the king and saying, "I want it back". I want it back. I don't want to just build something or survive something. I want it back. "I want it back". You're scared to say that, because we are taught that if God wants us to have it, he'll just give it. And he will.

The other day, we were driving in this rainstorm. We were coming home from the mountains, and it was raining so hard. There was a flash flood warning on all of our phones, and I was just driving. I could barely see out of the windshield. I was just driving. Graham is the kid in our family who will say the most with the least words. He said, "Is no one else scared about this other than me? Am I the only one who's concerned about this"? I was just playing around, but I said, "Son, God's hand is on our vehicle, and God will see us through this storm". The boy says, "There's only so much God can do. Maybe we should pull over".

How does he get this at 13 and we don't at 30? At the risk of running you out of this church, let me say something theologically deep. There is only so much God can do. No, no, no. God can do anything. He can make the stars, he can make the sun, he can move the mountains, but you have to speak the word. It starts with me being honest about the fact that in the process of surviving a famine I didn't cause... Some of you were doing the best you could. You didn't have an example for it. You were doing the best you could. You didn't have a frame of reference for it. You were doing the best you could. You had never been this way before.

The Lord sent her to the land of the Philistines. What do you know about the Philistines in the Bible? Good guys or bad guys? Good place to be or bad place to be? She had to go into an enemy-occupied place to survive a famine, and so have some of us. For some of us, that's where our addictions came from. In order to keep ourselves on the planet, we had to do something to numb the pain. I love this sermon, because it takes the shame out of where I've been. It helps me to understand there comes a time where you have to appreciate where God fed you during the famine but be willing to leave and go back to the place where you really belong.

You know how I said this was like a lifeline? You've convinced yourself you can never have it. You've convinced yourself you can never be happy, and you quote Bible verses. "God wants you to be holy, not happy". That's in the first version of you. That's not a Bible verse. That's the book of your dumb cousin's opinion. Have you ever read that?

Now, in case this seems like a stretch to compare us to this woman, let me tell you a little bit more about her story. She wasn't really looking to get something from God; she was looking to give something to God. You can go watch the sermon online. I preached it to Holly. It was called Just the Two of Us. I preached it in the whole empty room. It was just her on the front row and a few people who snuck in the back. It was just the two of us. I used it to talk about this woman and her husband. It was the most awkward sermon I ever preached, because it was just two of us in the room. It's a very big room. This woman was determined to use what she had for God, expecting nothing in return.

When I say "Timing your testimony" and I use these examples about taking the mic away, and all of this, what I really mean is trusting God to obey him before he has shown you exactly why he's calling you to do it. It's really easy to say after the fact that God connected this and that and the other, but the trick of it is she made a room for the prophet to come and stay before she knew what God was going to do through her act of obedience. Isn't that the hardest thing? Like the author said, to believe in advance what will only make sense in reverse. That's the hardest thing in the world. To let down the nets for the catch before you have any clue that this carpenter knows where they are. That's the hard part.

After she did that, the prophet said, "You've gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can we do for you"? She had something in her heart she wanted God to do, like you have something in your heart you want God to do...a freedom you want to experience, a gift you want to see God develop, a greater state of meaning than just survival. She had it in her heart, but she had learned how to hide it. When the prophet asked, "What can I do for you"? the woman said, "I have a home among my own people". Because she did then. What she didn't have was a son. The Bible tells us her husband was old. I told you. God has terrible timing. He waits until this man is shriveled up. Can I say it like that?

He brought her what she had stopped asking for. It was so painful for her to consider the potential that it could be any different she said, "Stop messing with me. Do not mislead your servant, man of God," and she pushed away the promise of God. She pushed away the possibility of something different. That's what you've been doing to everything God has been sending into your life to mature you and restore you. She is pushing away the very thing that came from the mouth of the one she made a room for. She is pushing away the promise God has sent her, but God did it anyway. The prophet looked at her and said, "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms," and she did.

There is no record that she believed it. There is no record that she had faith for it. There is no record that she all of a sudden came into a Scripture quotation phase, did a Beth Moore Bible study on pillars of faith. There is no record of that, but she held a son. One day, unexpected to her, that son died unexpectedly. So let's recap. "I didn't ask you for a son. You gave him to me anyway, and then you let him die". She brings the boy and puts him on the bed of the prophet. She went to IKEA and picked this bed out herself, put it together herself. She said, "I'm going to put this back on the place you were lying when you told me God would give it to me". And Elisha restored the boy to life.

That boy is the boy who's standing in the king's court at least seven years later in 2 Kings 8, the boy she didn't ask God to give her, the boy who died even after God gave the boy to her and came back to life. What got me about this text was realizing the thing that died in one season of her life was the thing that stood beside her in the moment of her greatest need. You have to imagine it. Gehazi is the servant of Elisha. The king calls Gehazi and says, "Tell me some stories about Elisha". Gehazi has many. "Well, there was one time... One time he took his cloak and struck the Jordan with it, and the waters parted. The people were waiting to see 'Is he really a man of God?' and the waters parted. Then one time there was this spring in the town, and the water was poisonous, but Elisha put some salt in the water and purified it, and he said, 'Your water will never be cursed again, and you can drink from it.' Well, one time there were these boys who called him 'Baldy,' and he called some bears out of the woods to maul them, but let's skip that one".

You know, you tell selective stories. "One time there was this confederation of kings, and they were in the middle of a drought. Elisha came out to them and said, 'I don't even want to talk to you because you follow the wicked gods of your ancestors. If I didn't have respect for Jehoshaphat, I wouldn't even speak to you, but now bring me a minstrel.' And the minstrel started playing, and Elisha started prophesying in the dry valley. He told them, 'Dig your own ditches and prepare for the rain you can't see.' And the rain came from a direction that it wasn't expected". It didn't come from the sky like normal rain does. It came from somewhere else. It's just the way Elisha was. You can picture Gehazi. He's getting fired up telling these stories. He's remembering. He's rehearsing the things God did in a previous season.

"One time we went to this widow's house, and she had a little bit of oil. She thought she had no oil, but Elisha told her, 'Go back and check the thing you called nothing again, because what you call nothing is exactly what God needs to do something.'" So, he's telling the stories. There's one he skipped with Naaman. Naaman was a leper who came to be healed, and when Elisha pronounced healing over him by dipping seven times in the Jordan, which is a ridiculous thing to do, because the Jordan is a little dirty body of water and Naaman was a great commander... He could have bathed in the waters of Abana and Pharpar, but he had to come all the way to the prophet and dip in the Jordan seven times for his flesh to be restored like a young boy. He was so excited about his miracle he tried to give some gifts to Elisha, and Elisha said, "I don't want your gifts. I didn't do it for that". Gehazi chased down Naaman and said, "Hey, my master changed his mind, so whatever you have, I'll take it back to him," and he kept it for himself.

Elisha, the man of God, knew about it, and he called him out, and Gehazi had leprosy. So what's he doing in the court of the king? A leper can't be in the court of the king. It looks like the little boy isn't the only one God restored. I have to put this in, because if I don't, you'll think only if you're like the woman and you do what God told you to do you can ask God to restore what you lost. Gehazi is standing in the presence of the king to let you know that even if you did it, even if it was your fault, even if it was your selfishness, even if you were the one who let go, even if it was your irresponsibility, you can stand in the presence of God under the blood of Jesus and say, "I want it back! In the name of Jesus, I want back everything Satan stripped from me and stole from me and took from me"!

So, he's telling the king the stories, and he gets to the one about the woman. "She built us a room and put a bed in it. She didn't have a son, and Elisha said, 'You're going to have a son.' She was like, 'I don't even want a son. I've given up on it.' And Elisha prophesied the son, and she shows up pregnant. Then the kid dies. He's in the field, and he starts screaming about his head. Then they put him on the bed. I was going to go try to heal him with my staff, but Elisha said, 'No, this is a job for me.' And he came in, and I don't know what he did in that room, because it was just him and the boy in there, but they both came out".

As he is talking, the woman walks into the room. Do you understand the statistical improbability that at the exact moment...? There are so many stories to be told about Elisha. I didn't even give you half of them. God knew the exact moment Gehazi would be talking about that woman. I don't know if she hit traffic on the way so she was late or whether she caught every green light so she got there right on time, but I have learned something about God. You can trust his timing. You can give him the mic. You can let him speak what he wants to speak over your life, and in the appointed time, it will come to pass. I've seen it in my own life. God knows exactly what, who, where, when. Oh, this is the best Scripture. Do y'all want the best Scripture in the Bible?

Here's the best Scripture in the Bible: Psalm 119. This is the best Scripture today. I'll have a different one tomorrow, but this is the best Scripture I've ever read in my life right now. God will give you a certain word at a certain time. Here's what he gave me. Psalm 119:125: "I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies". Here's the part that hit me. Before I read it, who is this for? "It is time for thee, Lord, to work"... Not for me...for thee. I want you to come into the presence of the King. Not the king of Israel. I want you to come into the presence of the King. The Lord told me to tell you it's time for him to work. You've done everything you can do about it. You have manipulated it so much you've messed it up even worse.

There comes a time where Holly tells us, "Get out of the kitchen. You are not helping". I heard the Lord saying to somebody, "Get out of the kitchen and let me work". "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law". "It is time for thee to do something about what they did". This woman left a homeowner, and while she was gone surviving the famine, somebody else took her home. Go back to 2 Kings, chapter 8. This is so anointed I can barely get it out of my mouth. There's so much jumping up in my spirit while I preach to you, because the Lord said this is a lifeline for somebody. "It is time for thee, O Lord, to work". She comes into the presence of the king to ask back what she lost when she left. At the exact moment she walks in, Gehazi was telling the king her story.

Does God not have the craziest timing? Gehazi said, "That's that woman, the one who put the table and the lamp and the bed in the room, the one who gave us a place to stay. That's her, the one whose son Elisha restored to life, and there's the boy". You have to drag what God did in your past into the room and show the thing you are facing today what God did for you yesterday. That's what you have to do. "It is time for you to work, Lord. Just like you gave me this back, I need that back. Just like you restored this that I thought was gone forever"... God did that for me. There are some things that I know that I don't have to prove it to you. You don't have to agree with it. God did that for me. Nobody else. It wasn't a human. God might have used somebody, but only God could bring the dead back to life. The God who did this, I need him to do that.

Verse 6 says something very interesting. This is the last verse I want to give you. "The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then"... Read it again. She told him what God had done for her, and then he assigned an official to her case. So, she only got back what she needed when she told the story of what God had done. Do you follow the sequence? She could have told herself any story. "Life isn't fair. This isn't right. I tried to obey God, and now look at me". But she told the story of what God had done. So, God wants to know, "Why have you stopped telling the story? Not to yourself. Why have you stopped telling the story of what I did for you and replaced it with a story of fear of what might happen next"?

While you are telling yourself these hypothetical stories of what might happen or these shameful stories of what did happen, you are standing next to a story, a living, breathing, walking, talking miracle, a product of nothing but the grace of God. That's why April Carter told me... She said, "God did this for me". I said, "Well, why didn't he do that"? She said, "In all fairness, it's not your story". See, she never stopped telling herself the story. You stop telling yourself the story of God's faithfulness, and you start telling yourself the story of fear. She told him what God had done, and then... I'm telling you, that one word... Let me give you another word: yet. "I don't have it yet. I haven't found a way to get set free from this yet. I don't see how it's going to work out yet".

Timing your testimony. Don't tell it too early, because you don't know what God is going to do in chapter 8. The timing of God is so amazing. Every time you tell yourself a story about the things God did then and bring it into the presence of what you need him to do now... He said, "Give her back what belongs to her". Say it out loud. "Peace belongs to me. I am a child of God. Joy belongs to me. I am a child of God. Freedom is my inheritance. I am a child of God. I belong because I believe. I am a child of God". Tell yourself that story. Preach the gospel to yourself. If Gehazi can rehearse the great things God has done, who was a leper and a scoundrel, can't you? Can you trust God's timing enough to give him the mic and believe what he speaks? Though the vision tarry, wait for it, for it has an appointed time. It's taking me awhile to understand God's timing is created to increase my trust in him, whether that's the fourth watch of the night or whether that's the fourth day after I have lost something I love. God gives you these little gifts. What are yours?

Have you told anybody that part of your story or are you so consumed with your present struggle you have stopped rehearsing your past victories? I know I've told you this before, but can I tell you one thing that happened to me? Do y'all remember me telling you in 2016 how I was on vacation with the family near Charleston and went over to the farmers' market? Yeah, you know this story. All right. Well, I'm going to tell it for somebody else. It's too good not to tell you. I'm at the farmers' market with Holly because she dragged me there. I don't go to farmers' markets of my own volition. But I went, not knowing why. The whole family was there. This girl comes walking over to us from... She had a bakery stand at the farmers' market. She was so nice. Her name was Addie Mae. She came up and said, "I want to give your family some sugar". To get the kids hyper. She said, "I love your podcast. Can I get a picture"?

I was more than happy to do that, but at the same time I looked like a bum, so I was kind of worried I wouldn't look too good in the selfie. She said something I thought was kind of weird. She said, "My pastor is going to be so jealous". I said, "That we met"? She said, "Yeah. He loves you". I said, "Tell your pastor I said hi. What's his name"? She said his name. I said, "That's great. Tell him I said hi". She said, "I'm going to go tell him right now. I'm going to go call him". And she called him. She came back over with the cupcakes because we were about to leave. She said, "My pastor said we actually invited you to preach at our church this week about a year ago and your office declined because they said you were on family vacation".

I was like, "Well, they weren't lying. I'm right here on family vacation". She said, "All the same, you should come over to our holy convocation this week". I said, "No, I said vacation, not convocation. This is a holy vacation. Let me tell you, it's a whole different rhythm". But just to be polite, or whatever, I took the dates. She wrote it out on a card, the church name, all this stuff. I'm telling you this story for a reason. I promise I am. The Lord told me to tell you this story. Sometimes I have to do this just to remember, because I have moments where I wonder, "Is God really ordering my steps or is this random"?

I have to tell myself these stories of times where God made at the right moment... Can you remember one where God brought at the right moment...? Raise your hand if you can remember one. Just even one. That's a testimony, and we overcome the Enemy by the blood of the Lamb (that's what Jesus has done) and the word of our testimony. Remember what Graham said: "There is only so much God can do". Yes, he can do anything, but he will not tell your testimony for you. That is your story. That is your testimony. That is your choice to believe. So, she writes down the name of the church, and she says, "On this night so-and-so is speaking, on that night so-and-so is speaking, and this night so-and-so is speaking". The last one she put on my card, I think on the Friday night... She said, "This guy is speaking," and I had always wanted to hear him preach.

All of a sudden, I'm like, "Well, maybe I will go over there," and I'm kind of glad I met her. I had somebody in my office call over to the church and see if that pastor was coming on that night, and he was. The pastor said he wanted us to meet and hang out. Whatever. That's not the point. Let me get to the point. The day I'm going to go over to the church comes, and I get a text from my assistant that says, "The pastor who was going to come can't come. He had a back injury". I'm telling you, the voice of God is much louder than a shout. With a shout you can put some AirPods in and noise cancel, but when God speaks to you, you can't do anything with it. Either obey it or be miserable. In that moment, I knew, "You need to call that pastor that Addie Mae gave you the card and offer to go over there and preach tonight".

So, I'm going through my mind... It has been two or three weeks since I've been in my own pulpit. I'm like, "I don't know that I remember any Bible verses," because I don't always read the Bible every day on vacation. I'm like, "Well, I'll call, and it'll be like... I'll just put out a fleece like Gideon, Lord". In fact, first I said, "I'll get my assistant to call," and the Lord was like, "No, you do it". So I'm like, "Oh, I don't know the number of the church. I just know the name". The Lord said, "Google". I call the church. The pastor doesn't answer. Nobody answers. I leave some message, and I'm like, "Okay, Lord. I offered Isaac on the altar and you didn't want him. I'm going back to the beach".

I leave this weird message on the phone. I say, "Hey, this is Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church. I'm out here on vacation. I met a girl named Addie Mae, and I heard your speaker canceled tonight. I was just calling to see if you needed a preacher, or whatever, but I'm sure you don't, so, uh, have a nice day, and God bless. Ephesians 3:20". So I hang up. About the time I can get my beach attire back on... I'm headed out to the beach. The phone rings, and it's the pastor. He said, "This is Steven Furtick"? I said, "Yes, sir". He said his name, and he said, "You really will come preach for us tonight"? I said, "Yeah, I guess, but I have to tell you, I have no convocation clothes. I'm out here on vacation with my family. I look like Tom Hanks on day 81 with Wilson out here, so it's just going to have to be". I said, "The dressiest thing I have is Yeezys". He said, "I'll wear my Yeezys too if you'll come". I said, "I'll come. I don't know what I'll preach, but I'll come".

When I got there that night and showed up to preach, I got to see Addie Mae, and then I got to see the pastor. When I saw him, he had tears in his eyes. He said, "After so many years in the ministry, several decades, I never had the Lord answer a prayer as directly as he did today". He said, "You were our first choice to come preach tonight, and I've done three funerals this week. When you called, the reason nobody answered the phone was because we were in a prayer meeting asking for God to send us a preacher".

And I preached. I don't know if it was any good. It didn't matter. The point was obedience. Oh, not my obedience...Addie Mae's. Think about God. At just the time the Furticks are getting to the farmers' market... In 30 more minutes, she would have packed up those cupcakes. At just that moment... The pastor said, "You were my ram in the bush," talking about Genesis with Abraham and Isaac. I like to tell that story to remind myself that God is going to bring things together in the right time, and I can trust him in that. I want to tell you something I never told my church before.

About two years ago, I sent Chris Brown out to do some music with this amazing worship team called Maverick City Music. I said, "You've got to go out there". When he came back, I wanted to know everything, because there's such a great anointing on this ministry. I said, "What is God doing? It feels punk rock to me. Is it punk rock"? He said, "It's so punk rock for the Lord". He said, "But do you know about Chandler"? I said, "Yeah. That's the guy. He's amazing. What about him"? He said, "That was his dad's church. His dad was the pastor you went and preached for in 2016 when Addie Mae invited you".

God gives you these moments, something that seems so small to you in one season. Then I find myself last year sitting in a room with Chandler, Naomi, and Chris writing a song called "Jireh," a song we weren't even trying to write. He was sitting at the piano, and he just sang, "Jireh"... I said, "Did you just say 'Jireh'"? I said, "Have you ever said that in a song before"? He said, "No". I said, "We're going to say it in this one". Jireh means "will see to it". Jehovah-Jireh. That's what Abraham called the place where the Lord gave him a ram so he wouldn't have to sacrifice his son. Sometimes I need to remember and tell these stories to myself for when I'm wondering if God is going to come through for me. If you've been feeling that lately, just lift your hands.

Sometimes I need to remember that the same God who brought me to the farmers' market to meet Addie Mae so I could preach in my Yeezys at a holy convocation for a pastor I didn't know whose son was a songwriter who I would later collaborate with to release a song that God would send into the hearts of millions of people... That God can be trusted, and at the right time, if you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, in due time he will lift you up. Addie Mae is not here anymore on the earth. She was Chandler's nanny, and he lost her, but she brought us together, so she's right here. Some of the things you've lost in your life... I feel God's presence. Give me one moment. Some of the things you've lost in your life, God is not going to bring them back in the exact same way. He is going to restore them to you in a greater way than you have ever seen them before. Your only job in this is to look for the ram in the bush.

Father, we've come into your presence today not, not at all...not thinking we've been so good or so worthy or so perfect we just deserve the blessings you've given us, but we come to you on the merit of your grace toward us and our position in your heart as your children. I thank you, Lord, that our times are in your hands. Now it's time for thee to work. It is time for thee to work. We were in the land of the Philistines for seven years, but we are coming back into your presence, the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to receive back that which you have spoken over our lives with interest.

Lord, I thank you that even in this moment you are restoring the hopes and the dreams and the sanity and the peace and the right mind of your children, restoring the years the locusts have eaten, restoring the years we wasted. We thank you, Lord, that you are bringing it all back and that little by little, day by day, we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land... It's time for thee to work, O Lord! We've done all we can. We've done all we know. It is time for thee... We want it back! We want your glory back. We want your joy back. We want our purpose back. We want our focus back, our passion back. We want it back in the presence of a God who will freely give us all things.

In the name of Jesus, we receive it! Though it tarry, wait for it. Though it has been seven years, bring every expectation into his presence. Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine, according to his power that works mightily in you, to him be glory through Christ Jesus in the church, now and forever. Come on, give God a great shout of praise. Thank you, Lord.

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