Steven Furtick - Can I Have Your Attention Please?
Sometimes we're asking God to reveal his presence in our lives, his provision in our lives, his purpose in our lives. Sometimes we even pray about it, and we pray like we're trying to get God's attention. I've come to believe that prayer rightly done is less about me getting God's attention and more about him getting mine. I live my life from the foundational belief that I already have heaven's attention. I mean, if I didn't have heaven's attention, the Son of God certainly wouldn't have stepped down the spiral staircase of time and been wrapped in flesh, made in the appearance of a sinful man, to be a sin offering so I could approach God boldly and come before his throne with confidence because of a drop of blood on the mercy seat to make a way of access into the presence of God.
When I come before God, when I worship God, when I need God, when I call on God, I'm not trying to get his attention. I'm not trying to get him to notice me. Maybe as I go through my life a better question isn't, "Is God paying attention to me"? The question might be, "Am I paying attention to him"? Help me out today. Shake your neighbor awake and say, "Pay attention". Maybe the same reason we don't experience God sometimes in our lives is the same reason we flunked the math test in seventh grade, the same reason for that fender bender on Tivola. Maybe it's the same reason we burned the dinner. Maybe the reason we don't experience God's presence is the same reason we didn't see our kids were hanging out with bad influences until it was a little too late. Because we weren't paying attention.
John says, "After this I looked, and there before me was a door. It was open in heaven". I want you to know today that you have a standing invitation to experience God's presence, but you have to pay attention, because attention creates access. Let me teach you a little bit. Attention creates access. If negative emotions have access into your heart, it's because you gave those emotions your attention. If memories of pain and hurt dominate your thought life, it's because those memories have your attention. How can a memory hurt you? It already happened. It can only hurt you if it has your attention. There are some things you've been giving your attention to that if you would turn your attention from them, you would take the power of them. God wants to know today what has your attention.
John said, "After this I looked, and there before me was a door. It was there all along, but I saw it when I looked". John could have been looking at a lot of things. The guy was an exile on a little tiny island called Patmos. He had been sent there because of his testimony of the Word of God. He calls himself a fellow sufferer and a patient endurer in the kingdom of God. It's interesting to me that God gave the greatest revelation of himself to a man who was in exile. I want to stop for a moment and announce that God is a God of access in exile. It means that even if you feel like you're on a little island today all by yourself, you still have access to the presence of God. There is nowhere that life can take you that God's presence cannot reach you. There is nothing people can do to you to keep God from getting to you.
We see a pattern in Scripture that God is a God of access in exile. Ask Moses. He was in Midian in exile, running from his act of murder, but when he turned aside and saw the bush, when he turned aside and gave the bush his attention, he heard an announcement. God said, "I've come down to deliver my people". "I know you've been in this desert a long time. I know you've been on this island by yourself. I know you feel like nobody hears you, but I am the God of access in exile. You're not alone. You're never alone. The God who was and is and is to come is with you in this moment". Ask Daniel. He was a Babylonian exile, and he saw a revelation of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus Christ was born, Daniel saw him, and he saw him in exile.
I thought that might encourage somebody, to know that you have access even in exile, but you have to pay attention. He said, "After this I looked, and there was a door". The door represents the revelation God gave him. "After this I looked, and there was a door". I think it's important what the door means, but I also think it's important where the door was. He did not say, "After this I looked, and there behind me was a door". The open door is never behind you. Who's this for? You've been stuck in regret. You've been stuck in what happened. You've been stuck in what was. John said, "After this I looked, and there before me was a door". The open door is always before you. It's before you. "Look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame".
The open door is before you. The open door is not in 10 years ago the opportunity that was missed. I know there's some stuff behind you that you can't get back. I know there are some things that happened to you that weren't fair, but you're not going to get access by giving your attention to what happened back there. The open door is before you. It's in front of you. Your best days are not behind you. What God has for you is in front of you. Look ahead! Help me preach. Find three people and say, "Look ahead. It's right in front of you". Maybe we've been at the baseball field too much, Coach Dave, because I keep telling Graham what I hear you tell him. You always tell him, "Keep it in front of you".
This is what Coach Dave tells Graham, because he coaches some 8-year-olds, and 8-year-olds don't have the best attention span. They'll be standing out there in the field in the fifth inning acting like the ball is not going to come to them. So then when the ball does come they have to come back like this. But Coach Dave said, "I want you on your toes so when they hit the ball…" (See, not every pastor can do a lateral movement with that velocity. You ought to feel blessed you come to church here. Can I do it again?) He said, "I want you to be ready, because you have a better chance to stop the ball if you keep it in front of you". You have a better chance to have joy and a better chance to have success and a better chance to have hope if you keep it in front of you. That's what Coach Dave said.
I heard the Lord say, "Where one door shuts, another door opens". They might have you on an island called Patmos, but you're not stuck here, because if you can't find a way out, God will give you a way up. Touch somebody and say, "We're going higher". I might be down here on this island in my body. I might be down here on this job I don't like in my body. I might be in a bad situation in my bank account, but you can't chain my mind to the ground. I'm coming up higher. Let's talk about altitude. The invitation is to see the open door before you. "And I heard the voice…" Your life is moving in the direction of your vision and your voices. It's always what you see and what you hear that determines how high you go.
John's revelation is interesting, because in apocalyptic literature, when they saw a vision of God, they had to go through an arduous journey to get to him. If you read some of the Old Testament revelations of God, usually in the apocryphal, which is not the Old Testament but some of the books we have of the prophetic imagination of the past, they would have to make a difficult journey to get to God. John's vision is a little different, because he says, "I didn't get there by effort. I got there by invitation". The invitation goes like this. It was a voice like a trumpet making an announcement. It said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this". "At once I was in the Spirit".
Do you know how quickly God can lift you if you let him? He really can. John didn't say he went into a trance for 43 minutes. I'm doing some practical work on my life right now. I'm just trying to be a better person. Not a better preacher. I mean, I want to be a better preacher too, but I think a better person makes a better preacher. I'm just working on things. I'm a little on the grumpy side by nature, especially before, let's say, 9:45 a.m. I do not feel saved, sanctified, and Spirit-filled until about 9:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Another thing is that not only do I kind of start my day sometimes in that grumpy place, but I notice I end my day in an anxious place. Just observing my patterns lately, I figure that that can't be the best way to wake up and go into my day and then end my day. So I'm working on that. I'd like you to work on it too, because your altitude is going to determine your access. Where you start your day is kind of important. Where you start your day really does matter. You have to start your day with some caffeine. The Lord said you could. I shouldn't tell you this, but I drink a cup of coffee every morning. That's not the part I shouldn't tell you.
The part I shouldn't tell you is I chase it with a Diet Mountain Dew, because I like the contrast of the warmth and the cold carbonation. It blesses my soul. Don't judge me. Go away. It helps me think about higher things. Then I've been practicing the voices I pay attention to early in the morning. Can we talk not apocalyptic; let's talk "apractilyptic". It's real easy to get excited about Jesus comes on a horse and wipes out the world, but what about until he gets here? What about until that happens? He left us here in the meantime. We can't do his work if we're at the wrong level. I have to get up in the morning, even if I'm mumbling when I first start, even if I have that stuff in the corner of my eye and I have to flick it out when I get out of bed.
I have to flick that stuff on the Devil's head and say, "I'm awake. You should have killed me in my sleep. I'm awake, and I'm blessed. I'm awake, and I'm a blessing. I'm awake, and I'm a river. I'm awake, and I'm a giver. I'm awake, and I'm alive. I'm awake; I'm redeemed. I'm awake; my eyes are open. I'm awake; my heart is open. I'm awake; my soul is ready". I've just been trying to get myself up to a higher level, because I need some runway. I don't know what I'm going to run into when the day gets started. I don't know what kind of crazy person is going to be driving in traffic trying to cut me off. If I'm at the wrong level, I might not pray for them, so I have to get a little runway. I have to come on up higher.
Isn't that what the announcement said? "Come on up here to a higher place". I know we don't have the same invitation John had to see the unfolding of end-time events and the history of the world before it happens, but we do have a standing invitation in heaven that anytime we want to lift our eyes to the hills we can look to our help, we can look to our God. I'm going to stop screaming in a minute. You have to understand I'm just excited about the invitation God has given me to come up higher.