Steven Furtick - Wrestling With Who You Are
If you're not careful in your life, you will start to believe that you are what you do. One Scripture that got my attention one time was about Jacob in the Old Testament. It just came to my mind when I was studying today, and I thought I should share it with you. Because when Jacob was in the womb with his twin brother, Esau, he was fighting for position with Esau. He tried to come out first so that he could get all the blessings that the firstborn gets. But it didn't exactly work because instead of coming out first, he came out being named after his aspiration: Jacob (deceiver, supplanter, heel grabber). Now Jacob grows up, and he does this little trick thing where he tricks his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. He learns how to play a certain game. He even wears this really wooly suit to pretend to be his brother so that his blind father Isaac will think that he's blessing the older one, but he's really blessing the younger one.
Because you can learn how to trick people with stuff. You can actually act like it and not be it. That's the message here. To the point that when Jacob had to run away from his brother, Esau, and go stay with his Uncle Laban. He was coming back to make peace with Esau after 20 years away from his homeland… The Bible says something really interesting in Genesis 32, verse 20. He said to his messengers, "Be sure to say, 'Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.' For he thought, 'I will pacify my brother.'" The one he tricked. "I will pacify the issue. I will pacify the thing I need to deal with. I will pacify the thing I've been running from". I'm going to preach today. I'm going to preach today in a minute. "I will pacify my problem with these gifts". He sent out all these animals that he had accumulated. He sent out all these clothes he wanted to offer to Esau. He sent his gifts ahead. Say it: "He sent his gifts ahead". One more time. "He sent his gifts ahead". "When I see him, perhaps he'll receive me".
Now look at verse 21. "So Jacob's gifts went on ahead of him…" The things went ahead of him. The things that represented his status went ahead of him. The things that were impressive went ahead of him because, "Maybe Esau will see all these blessings I've acquired, and maybe if I send my gift, he will accept me, so I'm sending it so that he will receive me". But here's the separation. Watch this. You are not your gift. "So Jacob's gifts went on ahead, but he…" One more time. I'm going to leave this alone in a minute. "…but he himself spent the night in the camp". When I saw that, it gave me such a clear picture of what we do when we confuse ourselves with our stuff, ourselves with our gift, ourselves with our ability. Did the disciples come to a point where they began to believe that they could do ministry without Jesus? How many times have I found myself in a state of failure because I tried to do what God called me to do without him? You begin to believe you can just do stuff (it worked last time) and do it again. Do you know what that's called? Manipulation.
You want me to say more about that? I want to say a little more about that. You are not your gift. When Jacob was left alone from all of his stuff, he had to wrestle with who he was. That's the season of life some of us are in right now. We realize at the end of the day, I can drive it, but eventually I have to park it. I can wear it, but eventually nobody else's name can make me feel sure of who I am. If I wear a brand name on the outside, but I don't know it on the inside, if my identity is given through a gift that I have, or even a label that people confer on me, I will always be a slave to their label. It says the other disciples were standing there arguing with the teachers of the law, arguing and fighting while a young boy is dying. And Jesus said, "How long do I have to put up with y'all"? It's like, "I picked y'all, but I'm sick of y'all". "Heavenly Father, deliver me from stupid". Have you ever prayed anything like this? Yet God, God is not like Graham. God isn't still shopping his options on you.
I read something in Ephesians 2 that helped me one time. It says, "For it is by grace you have been saved". How many are really glad about that right there? Let me show you how it could have been without Jesus, without the blood of Christ without the mercy of God. If God were not slow to anger and abounding in love. It could say, "By behavior you are saved," and you'd be burning up. Your butt wouldn't be able to be in that seat right now. You'd be burning with the fire of judgment right now. Little sneaky self. I know what you've been up to. If it was by behavior you have been saved, but no. But he said, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast". Verse 10 really sealed the deal for me because that made me happy to think about it being God's gift not mine that identifies me. I think I need to teach this more in the church. I don't think we understand what it means to have imputed righteousness, our standing in Christ. I think we still secretly think that some days God doesn't even want to talk to you. I think we still secretly think that we can hit a certain point where we actually deserve and are worthy of the grace of God, so we haven't truly accepted Ephesians 2:8 yet. We still can't receive his gift because we're still identifying ourselves by ours. He said it's not a work so that no one can boast.
The disciples are down there arguing because they thought they were the work they were doing. Now verse 10 is awesome. You thought verses 8 and 9 were good. Look at verse 10. This is a prime cut, baby. You ready? "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". That blessed me to know that God created the work for me to do before he created me to do it. Read the verse again. It said God prepared the work in advance. We define ourselves by the work that we do. That's why, for some of you, the last year and a half has been the hardest, because either you've been unemployed for the first time in your life or your position has been shifted. I told our campus pastors a few months ago how hard it was to be a pastor when there were no people in the building. When there were no people to pastor, and you can't lay hands on people, and you can't pray for people. If you touch them, they'll come lock you up; the CDC will shut you down. That's fine. That's good to be healthy, but I talked to them about how difficult it is when you've identified yourself one way in one season to have that stripped. But the Bible says that Jacob got the greatest blessing of his life when he was stripped of his gifts and left with himself.
So if it gets me to the core of myself to realize that before God gave me the work to do, he created a work with my name on it… God isn't like Graham. He isn't shopping. "Would they be a better parent? Would they be a better fit for this opportunity? Hmm, I wonder if I could get somebody a little bit smarter, a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller. I wish I had a good…" (No, that's another era in time.) God is not doing all that. God doesn't pick people like people pick people. God formed the role, and then he filled you with his Spirit to do the thing he formed you to do. This is where theology becomes therapy. See it? This is where I understand that I'm not it. I'm not it. For years, I've preached this passage, and I would share… It's a difficult passage to preach, right? Because the first group of Christians, they want to make it all about foaming at the mouth, and all about the symptoms of the boy, and demon possession. I've seen all of that.
I have been preaching since I was 16, so I've seen every manifestation of evil. I think I've seen every category, if not every specific one, I've at least been in the neighborhood. Some of it I saw even in my own dad. When he was dying, we'd be like, "That's not him. That's not him". It was partially… He died of ALS. It was partially the sickness. It was partially the, I think, the medication, the loss of control. Part of it is the crazy that you can keep down for most of your life, and then it has built all the strength and comes back up when it sees a door. My dad had a lot of crazy. Oh, man. He started telling stories in the last year of his life, and I'm like, "How were you so normal compared to what you should have been"? I thought he was crazy till I understood the context of his crazy and realized he was the most normal person on earth for the context of crazy that he could have been.
Look at somebody and say, "Be nice to me. You don't know how bad I could be". Be nice to me. You don't know. If you only knew what I wanted to do that I don't do, you wouldn't judge me so much. After all, there is a judge, but then you hear the preacher say, "You are not it". You're not my judge. You're not my jury. You don't get to tell me how far I've come on my journey. I'm praising God for where I am. God made me. I'm his handiwork. He's my manufacturer. You are not the Customer Service Hotline. I'm not calling you about my defects. I'm bringing it to Jesus. There is a power that can heal. There is a power that can deliver. There is a power that can save, and you are not it. Did I ever tell you when the Holy Spirit starts speaking to me when I would say, "I don't want to preach today"? He said, "You don't have to. There are other preachers. You're not it". A two-letter word in the passage, and y'all were laughing when I read it because it's so funny. He said, "If you can do anything. If you can do anything".
How long has he been like this? From childhood. He didn't always say if. There's a good chance this father, if he's the kind of man who has the instinct to put up with the dumb disciples long enough to wait on Jesus to get down the mountain, to put up with the arrogant Pharisees and Sadducees who are arguing with the disciples. I have to put this in because I'm going to forget it. Once I take this next turn, there's no coming back to this, but I have to tell you this. Sometimes you are fighting against them, and the real enemy is it. That first verse said that they were arguing with the teachers of the law while the spirit was wreaking havoc on this boy.
Sometimes we are fighting somebody when we really ought to be fighting a spirit. Everybody that's been married under two years, stand up. Sometimes, she's going to be the one that you're frustrated at, but y'all have to square up together, man, because it's not... This is what the Lord showed me one time with Holly. It's not me versus you right now; it's us versus it. Do you hear me? I know y'all don't ever fight, but if you ever did… Yeah, you can sit down. I know it's embarrassing to stand up in church. The people at the other campuses aren't even doing it. They're like, "He's on a screen; I'm not doing what he says. Hate this guy". But watch how we'd fight against them and not it.
I was talking to somebody I love the other day, and this came out of my mouth. Aw, I wish I could take it back. I wish I could have taken it back. I said it, but I didn't really mean it. I said it, but I was just frustrated in the moment. I said, "You're so negative". I could see the color drain out of their face, and the more we talked about it, this is what the person said to me. "Next time, can you make it about what I did, not who I am? Because I can't fix it if it's who I am, but if it's about what I did, we can discuss it". "So next time, will you say, 'Man, I feel like you're being kind of negative right now". Now it still would have pissed a person off (I'm sorry, I said that word in my sermon), but that would have made it about the problem, not the person. The Devil wants us arguing against them, so we never deal with it.