Steven Furtick - Unhealthy Ways of Escape
There's nothing you're fighting against right now that somebody didn't already fight against. That ought to take away a lot of the shame for those of you who don't feel like you deserve to be in church. If what the man said was true, that no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man, that means even if you struggle a little bit differently than the person three seats down your row, they need the same grace you need to be saved, and you don't have to be ashamed about your need for grace. Yet there is this particular way in which when we are tempted we think we're the only ones. "I am the only one who is experiencing loneliness in this unique way. I am the only one who deals with these thoughts. I am the only one who cannot get over this and just move past it and deal with it". Paul says, "No. It's common. You're not really that special. Satan didn't just make up a whole new temptation for you. You're really not that special".
It's the same temptations, and it's the same grace that was available to me as a teenager when my biggest temptation was AOL Instant Messenger. It's the same grace for Snapchat. It's the same grace. It's the same temptations. The Reformers had a term called common grace that they used to talk about how all people experience the grace of God in some measure just by virtue of being humans who were made in his image and according to his likeness. Then there is that special saving grace, but here Paul wants us to know that just like there is a common grace, there is a common temptation. So you're really not alone, and you're really not that weird, and you're really not that broken, and there really were no parts or pieces missing in your box. You really do have everything everybody else does that is needed to accomplish what God has purposed for your life. Just like we think the world has never been worse than it is right now, Paul says, "This is nothing new. This is the same old crap".
(Can I say crap in my own pulpit after being a pastor for 13-1/2 years, a grown man with gray hair in my beard? I'm sure I can say crap and you wouldn't be offended by that. Right?) It's the same crap, same old stuff they were dealing with in Corinth. This church at Corinth was wild. They would come in for Communion and get drunk on the Communion wine. That's why we don't even put alcohol in the cups when we do Communion. I don't trust y'all. It's grape juice. It's pre-fermented. It's Welch's. Some of y'all would be wilding in church, talking… Anyway, it's the same temptations. People say, "Oh, we need to get back to the church of the New Testament". You mean the ones where Paul had to write them a letter and say, "You shouldn't sleep with your stepmother"? Because that was the church… It's the same old stuff. It's the same temptations. Like there was some pristine, pure, holy time when people didn't struggle. It's a different manifestation, but it's the same temptation. It's the same stuff.
We have to be really careful, because we'll start judging people if their temptation has a different flavor than ours. "I just don't see how they could…" Well, maybe they don't see how you could. Paul wants us to know that this is nothing new. It is the same temptation. In many ways, I've learned that the temptations I'm facing now as I approach the age of 40 are the same temptations I was dealing with at age 14. The reason I was so honored to preach to our youth is that I was hoping to help them to see the way they will deal with temptation today will have so much to do with what they have to face in the future at a later time. It was important for me to get that point across, because it's really nothing new. What you struggled with then you struggle with now. It's many of the same temptations that cycle through our lives. It's the same need for approval, the same need for validation, the same reach for something to fill our souls. It changes clothes, but it does not change nature. It's the same temptation at the root of it in our hearts.
It is our quest to depend on anything but God, to reach for something physical and visible, to make for ourselves golden calves and graven images that we can trust in and say, "These are your gods that brought you out of Egypt". As we grow weary waiting for the real God to deliver us in our situation, as patience becomes harder and harder for us, as we await the fullness of the presence and the promise of God in our own situations, we devise for ourselves escape routes, a way out. It's hard to be human. It's hard to deal with the fragmented heart that is common to each of us, so early in life we begin to manage the pressure to escape the pain, and we all find different ways. Some ways are innocent enough, some ways are destructive, and most of the ways are somewhere in between. There's always a way of escape.
Everybody in here, young and old, Baptist, Pentecostal, atheist, agnostic…we all have a way of escape. I wonder what it is you're trying to escape, and I wonder what it is that makes you feel trapped like you can't get out. It's one thing to be trapped in a situation. Have you ever been trapped in a situation? I hope this is not one of those right now for you. What was that ballet you tricked me into going to? Oh, she took me to Sleeping Beauty, but she didn't tell me there wouldn't be any speaking parts. I was 10 minutes into that ballet with Holly and Abbey, and I was praying… First, I was praying for the rapture, and then I was looking at the fire alarm, thinking maybe I could pull that. Then I was praying, "God, if you have to kill me, if you have to give me a brain hemorrhage to get me out of this…"
Come on. Have you ever been trapped? It's one thing to be trapped in a situation. It's another thing to feel trapped inside yourself, to feel like there are habits in my heart, ways that I lean and I prop up on things that can't support the weight of my worry, but I find myself doing it over and over again. So you devise a way of escape. You find a way to not have to feel what you feel. You find a way out. The context of 1 Corinthians 10 gives some real insight to the meaning of verse 13, because in order for Paul to show the Corinthian church, "Hey, this is nothing new what you're facing, and God is greater than your situation and greater than your sin and greater than your shame and greater than the thing that has a hold of you that won't let you go; God is greater than that," he takes them all the way back to Egypt.
The exodus story was critical to the heritage and the history of the people of God. It was in Egypt that they escaped from the famine. When the famine hit Canaan, God had Joseph positioned in Egypt. How many know God always has someone in a position to meet the needs of his people? I need you all to shout. With an election year coming up, God is going to take care of us, and that's true in every area and season of your life. When they started starving in Canaan, Joseph said, "Get Dad and bring him to Egypt. God has given me favor in the midst of this famine". So they escaped Canaan where there was a famine, and Jacob, with his 130-year-old self, had to relocate. Not to South Florida but to Egypt, a foreign place where he did not know the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh knew Joseph, and since the Pharaoh knew Joseph, Jacob and all of the patriarchs and all of their wives and all of their children…
Not only did they get to move into Egypt, but they got to go to Goshen. Goshen was the place with the Kentucky fried quail. Goshen was the place where you could eat off the fat of the land. Goshen was the place of provision for a little while. For years and years, while others were starving, the house of Jacob was eating good in Egypt. Until one day, the Bible says, a Pharaoh, or a ruler arose in Egypt who knew not Joseph. When Joseph died and Pharaohs changed, all of a sudden, the place where they had escaped to became the place where they were enslaved in.
Sometimes the place you go to to escape will become the place where you are enslaved. Can I break this down? It may be that you are escaping for survival. You escape to a relationship that is really not good for you. You know the relationship is not good for you, but you are so lonely. Rather than live by yourself, because you feel like you're dying inside, you would rather join up with someone who is bringing you down. Even though you know they're bringing you down or they are abusive or they are not walking in the same direction as you, you would rather walk in the wrong direction than walk alone in the right direction. Credit to you for being a survivor, because some of the things you did in your life, you went to Egypt to survive. You went to Egypt not because it was a sin; it was just a matter of survival.
Some of the things we learn to medicate with, some of the habits that later in life become masters over us did not start as masters; they started as medication. We took a pill at first just to deal with it so we could deal with everyday life, but then it was two, and then it was three, and then it was a bunch, and now all of a sudden, I find myself enslaved by something I escaped to. This is not just true of pills. This can be true of sex. You can look for a connection in sex and substitute it for love. It's not that you wanted to be dirty. It's not that you wanted to be promiscuous. It's not that you don't respect yourself. It's just that you wanted to feel something. The feeling of loneliness can be so great you would rather feel a dirty connection than a clean sense of confinement that comes from being quarantined in your own mind.
The danger of escape is that Egypt can feed you quail one day and whip you with chains the next day. The place you escape to becomes the place you are enslaved in. Thank you for helping me, Lord. I told the Lord I wanted to preach this message with energy like it was my first time preaching it, and I feel his help today, a chain-breaking kind of anointing that can get deep down in your heart and help you to see how sometimes the place we run to can become the place we're trapped in. I just want to escape. I just don't want to feel like this anymore. That's why I'm going outside of God to meet a God-given need. That's why I'm doing things that make me feel bad in the morning. I'm doing things that leave a wake of consequences that's going to affect me in a way that has no alignment with the real intention of what God has spoken over my life, but I just have to get out of this.
I hope one day I'll have the courage to do this series called… I already have the name of it. I just don't have the guts to preach it yet, because I know how church people are, and I can already see the YouTube comments. Y'all pray for me. One day I'm going to preach a whole series called "Sins with Benefits". (Y'all sound a little too excited about that. It's kind of sketchy how much y'all clapped about that.) We will hear a lot of times about the consequence of sin, but if there were no benefits to it, it wouldn't be so popular. There is a need that Egypt meets. There is a need that is met. There is a longing that is fulfilled. When I go outside of God to meet a God-given need, it works. See, that's the problem. It works. It gets you out for a little while. It works until it doesn't. It works until it gets old. It works until it fries the neural pathways, and now it doesn't work anymore. Now I'm doing it, but it doesn't even work anymore, and now I'm chasing something that doesn't deliver, and I want a way out.
So Paul says now you have to back all the way up to Egypt. Look at verse 1. This is in the Bible, y'all. He said, "I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud". It's the same stuff. "They were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea". Remember the Red Sea that God brought his people through? Has God ever brought you out of anything? I don't mean you had a headache and it went away. That was ibuprofen. I mean something that was deep. It was a pit. It was a depression. It was a darkness. It was a mistake. It was a mess you made, but God brought you out. Shout for 15 seconds! As a matter of fact, shout if he didn't just bring you out. Shout if he brought you through. He didn't just bring me out of it; he brought me through it.
Since I went through it, I got something from it. I'm stronger, wiser, better. I had to go through the valley of the shadow of death so I could know it's just a shadow. The Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want. Now I have a table in the presence of my enemies, but the only way to the table was through the valley. I had to go through the pain. That's what God did. Now watch. This is a history lesson. Tell somebody, "It's nothing new". What you're going through… God's people had been standing in front of stuff they didn't think they could make it through for a long time. They came to that Red Sea, Pharaoh behind them, the chariots clacking. These were not basic chariots. These were Lamborghini chariots, faster than them, stronger than them, but somehow, someway, they passed through the sea. God brought them through it. God said, "I'm not just going to lift you out of it; I'm going to give you the strength to walk through it". No temptation…