Steven Furtick - I'm Under Pressure
Have you ever wanted to ask God, "Before I do this, before I trust you on this, what level of pressure is it going to involve"? The truth be told, if some of you would have known the level of pressure that came along with parenting, you would have stayed celibate, because you prayed for the baby, but along with the baby came the pressure. Write this down: with privilege comes pressure. Sometimes I see people who want certain privileges but don't welcome the pressure that comes with the privilege. When we see Paul in 2 Corinthians, we are getting a picture of a minister and a man who is at that point. Have you ever been at that point of pressure where it feels like something is unraveling on the inside of you? I don't necessarily mean it's a clinical breakdown. Paul is under pressure, he says, from every side.
Let's read it again in verse 8, because I think it describes something that maybe you've experienced. Maybe not on Paul's level, because there are levels to it, but one thing I have learned is that pressure is relative. When a 16-year-old gets their heart broken, they don't have the wisdom of experience to know that there will be others, so it really does feel like they want to die. A lot of times you minimize other people's misery because you have graduated beyond that season, but if you could find the compassion to remember there was a time when you, too, listened to Milli Vanilli "Blame it on the Rain" 17 times. Oh, just me? There was a time when the pressure felt so great… Paul said, "We are hard pressed on every side". That means it was all of the areas at once. I believe that the times in our lives when we are able to pick our battles and focus our concentration…
Generally, most of us are able to stand up under pressure if it is coming from one direction. It's when I can't find any relief on any side… Sometimes when I preach, I'll be preaching to one side, and then I'll turn to another side, and then I'll turn to another side to see, "Is this helping anybody"? If I can't find any love in the middle, on the right, on the left, sometimes I just turn around and look at LJ, because I pay him to look happy. Paul says, "It was coming at us from every side". Now understand what this means for Paul, because last week we were talking about Paul on an island called Malta a little later in his ministry. He's there as a prisoner, and he makes it through a shipwreck. Luke gives us a picture of Paul that is kind of a heroic portrait, because Luke respected Paul so much. He talks about how Paul got up and gave a motivational speech to the other prisoners about courage and faith in God no matter the circumstance and how Paul prayed and had a vision and then relayed that vision to the people to inspire their faith, because sometimes somebody is waiting on you to encourage them, to put courage in them that they don't have right now.
So Paul did that. Then when Paul gets to the shore he gets bitten by a snake. Did anybody listen to the message and watch how cool and calm and collected Paul was on the shore of Malta? The snake didn't even seem to bother him. He didn't rebuke the snake. He didn't cry out to God. He didn't "In the name of Jesus" plead the blood of Christ the Lamb. He just shook it off. So cool. Don't you admire people who are like that, by the way? Don't you hate people who are like that, by the way? Just people who never get rattled. Just people who nothing bothers them. Just people who shake stuff off. Luke is telling us, "Man, it was amazing. I was there. Paul just shook the snake off into the fire. It was amazing, and they thought he was going to die, and he didn't die. He just stood there, and they thought he was going to swell up, but he didn't even say anything, and he just stood there. Then he went to Publius' house, and he started healing everybody, and it was amazing. Then Paul went to Rome and lived in a rented house for two years". Paul says, "Wait a minute. It wasn't that easy on the inside". "What you saw was what I did, but you did not see the doubts I had while I was doing it".
You make it look so easy sometimes that nobody even knows you need to be encouraged, because you just do that. You just pay the bills. You just smile at people. You just dress well. You just walk strong and walk tall and walk proud. "But on the inside," Paul said, "I was so pressured. I couldn't find relief on the right, on the left, in the middle. I looked up. I looked down. I looked all around. I couldn't find a companion. I couldn't find a helper, but I didn't die at the pressure point". Pressured but not crushed. They have sayings they put out to encourage you under pressure. We say that pressure makes diamonds. Have you ever heard that? Pressure does make diamonds, but it also makes dumb decisions. For real. Pressure does make diamonds, but it also makes divorces. Pressure does make diamonds, but it also can leave you the proud owner of a timeshare. Some of the things you do under pressure… I don't think God wants to prevent pressure in our lives, though.
Let's read it again. I think there's a point to the pressure. Maybe today you have come to that point. Paul describes it. He said in verse 10, "We carry around in our body the death of Jesus". It means that I feel like I'm dying inside. That's the kind of pressure that Paul, "snake shaker" Paul, "shipwreck survivor" Paul… He says earlier in his ministry, "There was so much pressure I thought I was dying". He says, "I was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed". Now I always heard people shout about that verse, but realize that it's not automatic. When I read that verse, some people are like, "Yeah, hard pressed but not crushed," but that verse suggests that pressure can crush you. Oh yeah. I've met so many people who let the pressure… I had a friend whose family had a recycling plant, and you'd see the cans just crushed into these cubes. I have seen people crushed into cubes and melted into a little bit of nothing and sent away and their dreams deferred and their hope crushed because of pressure.
So before you shout, "I'm pressed but not crushed," realize that if you don't know what to do with the pressure it will crush you. If you don't know what to do with the snake, the poison will kill you. "I'm pressed," Paul said, "but I'm not crushed. I'm perplexed…" That's mental pressure. "…but not in despair". "I'm persecuted…" That's pressure from other people. "…but not abandoned. I'm struck down but not destroyed". Now I see a contrast. It is the contrast between what is pushing on Paul and what is pushing in Paul. Can I preach a little bit? I'm going to help you today. Your pressure is trying to point to something. So many times in my life, the reason I was under pressure is that I was full of pride. He said, "We have this power, this treasure in earthen vessels," or vessels of clay. An ordinary vessel, and it's an extraordinary power. I'm an ordinary person with an extraordinary promise of the presence of God, but sometimes I get confused and forget that I'm just the pot; I'm not the power.
Sometimes I get so burdened because I put the weight of the world on my shoulders and carry a cross I'm not strong enough to carry that has already been carried for me. So I'm under pressure sometimes because I'm full of pride. Sometimes (not all the time) pressure comes into your life not because of what you're handling but because of how you're handling it. You forgot your source and you lose your strength. Pressure sometimes points to pride in your life. I'm going to help you today. I'm going to help three people today who are under pressure, because when pressure comes, some of us begin to perform to a standard that we have projected that isn't even true to our purpose. I saw it like this. Maybe I could illustrate. I've been preaching a lot in the last year about the gap. I've been preaching this message really all over the country, all over the world, I guess, about the gap, and it's the gap between where I am and where I want to be, where I am and where I used to be. I think I'm going to keep preaching it, because it continues to speak to me, that there are two gaps in my life: one is for my gratitude and one is for my growth. One is how far I've come. I look back and it makes me grateful.
I can't stay there too long, though, because I have to grow or I die. This week, I was seeing a different gap in my mind, and it's the pressure gap. Again, I'm not saying that all pressure is bad, but there is a type of pressure that is rooted in pride and manifest in performance, and this is it. This is the gap between who I think I need to be and who I believe I really am. Stay right there with me, because when you think you need to be something you secretly believe you are not, the pressure is crushing. When you secretly believe that you need to have an ability, that you need to have a strength… This is what I do all the time. Therapy session. Bill me. Holly says I do it. She says I got it from my dad. He's not here anymore, so he can't defend himself, so we talk about this genetic stuff all the time, but my mom is perfect. She's right over there in the front row.
Holly says, "You've got to quit drawing thought bubbles on other people". She says, "You project expectations on people that they don't even have of you, and you disappoint imaginary expectations that don't even really exist". Can you believe my wife would talk to me like this? She didn't read that Bible verse about "Submit, woman". But she's right. I do it all the time, and then guess what I do? Because of the pressure, I start blowing up and exploding at people with frustration because of projection of expectations they didn't even have. So now I'm mad on the inside, and I'm walking around with all this combustible pressure. "What do you want from me"? and people are like, "Nothing, man".
One time I was getting up to preach… Actually, it was when the podium comes up. We have some traditions here at Elevation Church. My little pulpit comes out right at a certain moment during a certain song. It's just little things we do, because it has to get out here at some time, so we just put it out there right then. They were carrying the pulpit out, and I felt this weird pressure to perform, and God spoke to me. "When you were 16, did I call you to be a performer"? The moment I realized I was projecting an expectation that was not from the heart of God, the pressure left the building and I was free to preach. But it was right when that pulpit was coming out and they were doing the last song and Chris was hitting a high note. It was a pressure point. I wonder what it is for you.