Steven Furtick - No Shortage! (The Power Of Therefore)
We want to welcome our eFam, our extended family all over the world right now. We're flinging the doors open, the digital doors. Come on in! The church is open! The Spirit is here! God bless you. Turn to the person next to you and say, "If Pastor Steven knew you, you would be his favorite church member". Just tell them that. I believe that. Now, some of us are glad to be here. We have learned that there is bread in the house of the Lord. I'm going to do a no-no. I'm going to use the same Scripture I used last week. I came home last week, and I told Holly, "I don't know how good that went". She said, "It was amazing". I was frustrated. I said, "I don't think I did it the way I was supposed to". Holly said, "Maybe you didn't fail. Maybe you just weren't finished".
Turn in your Bible to 2 Corinthians. Can y'all believe she back talks me like that? The Bible says, "Submit to your husband". You're not supposed to be quoting Scriptures at the man of God. I'm kidding. But it's good. Second Corinthians, chapter 12. I want to talk a little more about your thorn. That was the subject last week. This might be uncomfortable. I'm going to talk about your thorn for a moment or two. I want to read this context. I just want to remind you that usually when God speaks, he speaks in sentences and paragraphs. A lot of times, we'll take a single sentence from the Word of God, and that's cool. It's better than nothing. But to really get the full impact of what God speaks, it's better if you understand the context of when he spoke it.
I don't know if we sometimes read Scripture verses, Bible verses, like they're captions on Instagram or something like that. They're not. This was a letter Paul wrote to a church he loved that he was incredibly frustrated with. Oh, you can definitely feel that way about one person, one church. You can really love and be really frustrated with them. I made the case one time in this pulpit (a lot of people disagreed) you can't really be truly good and frustrated with somebody you don't really truly love. You'll feel the most intense feelings of "I want to kill you" if you are a parent, the person who came from your very body. It goes the other way too with kids and parents. This is the lesson Paul is giving. If I had outlined the message last week the way I should have, where you could take notes and all of that, I would have used three points: a mentor, a metaphor, and a therefore.
I forgot to tell you that last week because I was so busy preaching about Paul as a mentor to the church. Not an advice columnist, not a broke cousin who tells you where you need to invest your money and what kind of digital currency you need to invest in. He's not one of these advice-giving fools. He has real authority. What surprised us about Paul, though, was with such great apostolic authority and such intellectual brilliance, instead of taking the opportunity to exceed his authority, he opened himself up with personal vulnerability. What was amazing about it was (I'm going to read it to you in just a moment, in case you missed it) his vulnerability did not compromise his authority. His being real about what he struggled with didn't keep him from being powerful and being called, and it doesn't for you either. You don't have to fake it. You don't have to go through life pretending. The people you pretend to be somebody you're not to in order to get them to like you don't really like you when they like you. They like the you that you showed them that you concocted just to get their approval.
So it's worthless anyway. If you got it, you got it, and if you know, you know. If God is with you, God is with you, and nobody can do anything to change it, not even the Devil. Oh, I feel a "No weapon formed against me shall prosper" rising up in my spirit. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says in verse 6, "Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth". Paul is the opposite of most of us. He has everything to brag about, but he doesn't. A lot of us have nothing to boast about but plenty to boast about. Y'all ought to say, "Amen". Let the church say, "Ouch". He said, "I'm not even going to tell you about my trip to heaven. I went to the third heaven, but don't worry about that, because what I want to actually tell you about…" He uses a metaphor. He says: "…because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn…" That's the metaphor. He says, "It was a thorn".
Wise scholars have spent centuries trying to identify what the thorn was when Paul clearly did not want us to know or he would have spelled it out, if he would have wanted us to know whether it was a physical issue (it could have been that) or a spiritual issue (it could have been that) or an emotional issue (it could have been that) or an opponent of the gospel because he was an ambassador of Christ. See, Paul was responsible for delivering the theology we still study today two millennia later. Justification by faith is a doctrine we would not know about as we know about it if it had not been for Paul. Yet maybe the greatest gift Paul ever gives to those of us who struggle with stuff, those of us who are confused sometimes about the way God is working in our lives, those of us who are not quite sure if we're going to be in the VIP section of heaven or whether we're going to have to sneak in past the security in the back door and hope God doesn't call us out… This is what I want you to know about that Paul. He gives us the gift of showing us that there is a thorn.
Everybody say this: "There is a thorn". The people who don't say it are probably lost in the metaphor, so let me break it down. The thorn is that thing you don't talk about on the first night of eGroup. The thorn is the thing you don't tell somebody in the grocery checkout line. And you really shouldn't. I mean, it's not wise to share everything with everybody. We kind of live in a culture where everybody is boasting and posting so much. It's refreshing that Paul has the discretion to say, "I had this thing, this thorn. It came from Satan". Look at this. "It was a messenger of Satan to torment me". That's what I flipped last week that God showed me. He showed me torment, and if you flip that, it's mentor. If you say torment and you say it the other way… You weren't here last week? That's what I did last week. He said, "The thing that is tormenting you, if you'll submit it to my throne…" This is what you have to learn to do. Take that thorn to the throne. Don't take that thorn to people, because people don't have the power to turn it around.
Paul did something so wise. He said, "God, would you take this away"? God said nothing. Paul said, "God, I don't know if you're busy doing something for Peter over there, but, uh, this is Paul. I need you over here. Take this thorn away". What was it? We found out last week. It was his mentor. Because some things you can only learn through what you are afflicted by. Yet the warning is so clear in my spirit that the Lord wants me to tell you today: it's not really about the thorn. That's not the real thing. The thing we bring to God… "Fix this. Change this". Or if you're like me and you're a control freak and you think everybody else needs to get on the same page with you, "Fix them". Some of y'all's thorn weighs 197 pounds and is sitting next to you. "God, would you…"?
This is the message Paul gives us. Watch this. If God doesn't remove it, you can expect him to use it. So, whatever you bring before the Lord… I don't care if it's an addiction, a propensity… You say, "God, make me not want to do this anymore. I don't want to want that anymore. I don't want this desire anymore. I don't want this darkness anymore. I don't want this feeling anymore". Well, sometimes God will take it away. I have some things in my life that I prayed about, and God got me through them. I have other things… These are the thorns that God said, "I'm not going to remove it". So then Paul says, "All right. If God is not going to take the thorn away that is tormenting me…" You've been tormented by it long enough. You ask God three times… It's amazing how Paul gives us this contrast of action and acceptance. "I asked God to do it. I believed God could do it".
When I first read this, I'm like, "Paul, you needed to just have more faith. 'Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.'" Paul is like, "I wrote that verse, dummy". It's Ephesians 3:20. This is 2 Corinthians 12. I'm talking about the things God chooses not to remove, the things God gives you grace for in the place of change. "This won't change, but I have grace for it". Make the confession by faith right now with your mouth: "I've got grace for it". They had an ad campaign when I was a little boy called "Got Milk"? I'm revising it right now to say, "Got grace". The Lord told me to tell you today… I hear the Lord saying… I hear it so clearly. I can't get it out of my spirit. There's no shortage. "When I asked the Lord to take the thorn away…"
We're living in a time where you haven't heard very much about no shortage. I mean, when it started out… I know the words global pandemic just make your mouth dry even to hear them, because we don't really want to talk about it or hear about it anymore, and I try not to talk about it too much in the pulpit, because God knows you hear it everywhere else. But I knew it was bad… We were scared when COVID came because God didn't take it away, and then they didn't even have enough masks for us to wear because there was a mask shortage. Then the people who ended up in the hospital… There was a ventilator shortage, and then there was a staff shortage, and then there was a test shortage, so we can't even know now. There was shortage, but then it started getting crazy, the things we were short on because of the supply chain that seemed to have nothing to do with sickness.
I went to buy my oldest a used car the other day, and the price is like 60 percent more right now for a used car. The dude was telling me, "Oh, well, there's a chip shortage of new cars, so the used cars are more expensive". All I heard was, "You're ripping me off". This is the worst time to buy a car. I don't even want him to drive. I'm scared to death to put him on the road, and now it's expensive too, because there's a global chip shortage. But I knew it was bad when Holly came home from Chick-fil-A one day. This was when I knew. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! My God, why have you forsaken us"? When Chick-fil-A had a sauce shortage. If there is one restaurant God loves, it's the one that's closed on Sunday. When Chick-fil-A is running out of Polynesian… "O God, where is your promise? Ichabod! The glory has departed".
(And we love Chick-fil-A. I'm going to say that on the record. If y'all want to send me some coupons or a sponsorship, I'll wear a shirt.) Holly said they said, "Welcome to Chick-fil-A". You know, all happy like they do at Chick-fil-A. Then she said, "I want a grilled chicken sandwich". He said, "We don't have any chicken". I said, "Chick-fil-A didn't have chicken"? I think y'all might see where I'm going with this if you work ahead a little bit. She ended up ordering something she didn't even want, but that's not the point. I'm not really talking about Chick-fil-A or how they didn't even have ranch dressing or kale for a kale salad. Do y'all think Holly's first choice was kale? That girl loves waffle fries more than she loves worship. They didn't even have a kale salad. She just had to make it work. To me, it's kind of crazy when Chick-fil-A doesn't have grilled chicken, but what would be crazier than that, if you can imagine a thing like that…
If you can imagine something crazier than that, here's what it might be: for you to think, as a Christian, that you're going to need grace from your Father in heaven and, for some reason, there's a global supply chain issue in heaven where there are not enough angels to staff, because we can't get any angels to come in and work. Here's one thing. There's no shortage of angels in heaven to praise God. The Bible even says this. If you don't praise him, the rocks will cry out. Jesus said that. So, for everybody who's like, "I don't like all of that when he tells us 'Praise the Lord and give God glory.' I don't really feel like it. I only got three hours of sleep," that's fine. You don't have to. There's no shortage of glory to God in heaven. There's an angel right now saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty! Holy, holy…"
So, if you don't want to say he's holy, there's an angel saying it. You can take a break. You can take the day off. God will always have a praise! God will always have a worshiper! God doesn't command you to praise him because he needs it. He's not an egomaniac. You need it. When you give him glory, it releases grace. There's something about it. Once you realize he's able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine… There is no shortage in heaven of what you're hurting for on earth. There's no shortage. In fact, I love people who come to church and are like, "Pastor, if you preach, it's good. If you don't preach, it's good. I don't really care. I brought my own sauce. I have my own relationship with God". I want y'all to start bringing your Bibles back to church, a leather-bound Bible, a big fat leather-bound Bible, a holy Bible back to church with a pen and a highlighter so you can go through that thing, and when I'm not there… Because I'm not going to follow you to work tomorrow. It would be weird. They probably wouldn't let me in anyway. "Security"! But when you have your own word from God… Are you so focused on your thorn you are missing your therefore? I'm going to make you a little grilled chicken Scripture sandwich real quick. All right?
In 2 Corinthians 12:7… I love the Word of God. The more I study it, the more ignorant I realize I am about it. I would have missed something like this. He said, "I had these great revelations. I saw this amazing glory in my life". Paul is saying this. "I was gifted by God in a unique way. I studied under Gamaliel. Check my résumé. I come from good stock, a Hebrew of Hebrews, the tribe of Benjamin. That's me, your apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. But because of how good God had been to me and what he had shown me…" Here comes the teaching. "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited…" "In order to keep me grounded in grace…" Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your giftedness? If you're grounded in your giftedness and you fail, your faith falls apart. Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your feelings? Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in the latest blessing God gave you? Are you grounded in grace or are you grounded in your goals? Because you're not going to reach all of them.
Paul said elsewhere in Philippians, "I press toward the mark, toward the goal". Paul is still pressing and I'm thinking I'm going to reach the goal? You're not going to reach the goal. He said, "To keep me grounded in grace, God gave me a gift I didn't ask for". Heaven has no gift exchange program. But God delivered it in an unusual way. This is what we studied last week. "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…" An aggelos, same word we take angel from. In Greek it's aggelos. It could say, "An angel of Satan". We've never heard of that before. To us, angels… We're touched by them, and Thomas Kinkade, and light, and all this. But he said, "It came through an angel, and I hated the angel". It was a messenger… That's all angel means: messenger. That's what the word means. It's the same word. He said, "The messenger God brought it through was my enemy. God gave me a gift through my enemy". That's the context of this great verse where he said, "My grace is sufficient for you". There's no shortage of grace.
Can I tell y'all something as a pastor who has pastored through the last two years right now? They might be short right now on masks. They might be short right now on staff. I'm sure in your industry you could tell me a shortage that's affecting you, because I know you have some too in your industry. In my industry, there's no shortage of thorns right now. I think the last 20 months have been some of the thorniest I've ever pastored people through. There is no shortage of the things Paul lists. There's no shortage. I said that a minute ago, and y'all shouted. But when I said there's no shortage of thorns, you didn't shout. And you shouldn't shout about that. After all, Paul said nobody in their right mind asks God for a thorn. There's no shortage of marriage problems in my church today. There is no shortage of things that could make you feel so bad about yourself if you wanted to right now.
One of the things the last almost two years now has done to a lot of people is it put them in isolation in a season, and then things grew in the dark that are now coming forth and growing, and they're not good. There's no shortage of thorns right now. In some ways, I want to thank all of you who are honest enough about your thorns to come to church. In some ways, I feel like I owe every big sinner in here a big "Thank you," because you give me job security. As long as you have thorns, I have a job. Don't ever get your life fully together, because then you won't need me, and I need to be needed. I don't preach for the praise of men. Amen? There's no shortage of thorns. There are just those who are better at hiding them than others. All you see are the lilies in the life of the person next to you.
I am so thankful Paul taught me the theology of the thorn. This is the theology of the thorn: "When I am weak, then I am strong". I need that one. I'm thankful for everything Paul taught me. But above all, maybe the greatest lesson he taught me was to look for the therefore. Have you been more thorn conscious than grace conscious in your life lately? The Devil would love to do that to you. In fact, here's what I think about this passage. Okay? I don't know if you care what I think about it, but this is what I think about it. I don't think it matters as much what Paul's thorn was as it matters how Paul thought about his thorn. Likewise, I don't believe the most important thing about your life is the challenge you're facing or the insecurity you have or the mistake you made or the thing you do that nobody knows you do or the thoughts you think that people would be shocked… Elijah and I were talking the other day. How much would we pay to keep all of our thoughts from being broadcast on a screen in front of the whole world? We both decided: everything we have. Every dollar I have. There could not be too great of an amount.
So, even if those thorns are just in your thought life, Paul is convincing you today… And you need to lean into this word, because this is bigger than a Sunday lesson. This is bigger than a YouTube clip. This is bigger than an Instagram post, what God is saying today. He is saying if you keep looking at this thorn… Paul doesn't talk about the thorn for seven verses. Paul doesn't give a whole chapter to the thorn like we do. We get so stuck about what's wrong with us. Is that why he called it a thorn? Because it's the thing you get stuck by and stuck with and stuck in? But Paul doesn't talk about the thorn. He talks about the therefore. Did you see it in the text? Come on. Did you see it in the text? It's in the text, class. We are not going to recess until y'all get this lesson. He said, "Therefore…" This is the important thing. What is your thorn there for? Some people never find out. They get so stuck in what's wrong with them, what they can't do, what others can do that they can't do, what others got that they didn't get.
Paul said, "It was in order to keep me from becoming conceited". What a thing to admit. Paul said, "I would have had such a big head I couldn't have fit through the church door if God didn't give me this thorn". What is it there for? I could preach all day. When we title this message on YouTube, we may call it "The Power of Therefore". When you find out not only what has been tormenting you but what it is there for… "Is this here to teach me something"? Notice. People can't tell you this. They mean well, but they'll say, "Well, the reason your kid is misbehaving is because you should have took him to the other school. See, we homeschool our kids, Brother Steve, and that's why our kids don't struggle with any of…" Those kids sometimes are the biggest crackheads at age 21. Nothing against homeschooling. Nothing against not homeschooling. But Paul did not ask Silas about his thorn. I'm not saying don't get input from people, but some things only God can show you what it's there for. Only God can show you why he gave you that gift.
That's why a beautiful young girl… You have to make sure you go to your Father to find out what your beauty is there for. It is not for some boy to put his hands all over something that he doesn't own. That's not why God gave you that beauty…so you could spread it around until you feel empty. No, no. You have to ask God, "What is my gift there for"? I don't just get to do whatever I want with my life. It's borrowed. I don't just get to do whatever I want with my gift. It's borrowed. It's on loan. It belongs to God. I'm a servant of him. It's so powerful…the power of therefore. Put it in the chat. Put it in your mouth. Put it in your spirit. Say "Therefore". Some of us so glorify the thorn. "Oh, my thorn. Oh, I'll tell you right now. Oh man, if you knew about my thorn…" But Paul said, "It was there for a reason". Only God can show you what that is. Therefore…
My favorite therefore in Scripture… I looked at 20 of them, but I only want to give you two. The first one comes from Romans 8 where Paul said, "What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering". "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". That's my second favorite therefore. My first favorite… I don't know if I should break it out right now, because I'm just not sure if you… No, I'm not sure yet. I'm not convinced yet. Should I show them, Lord? Should I take them to my secret stash over here in Lamentations? "How are you going to preach about Lamentations and you're talking about therefore"? Well, this is the perfect place to look at it.
See, Lamentations is a very sad book in the Bible. It's sadder than a Nirvana song. I mean, this is really sad stuff, and it can really bring you down. Jeremiah the prophet was ministering in a very hard time. He wasn't seeing much fruit…all thorns. Now listen to how he starts in Lamentations 3:18. "So I say, 'My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.'" What a place to start. "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. [I'm stuck in the thorns.] I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me". That's a prophet saying that. He said, "The memories haunt me. I taste the bitterness right now while I'm talking. It's still on my tongue. You can smell it on my breath. I'm still stuck in that". Verse 21 says, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore…" That's my favorite word in the Bible today. "…therefore I have hope". That's not the good part. This is the good part. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail".
Here's the verse you might know: "They are new every morning…" There's no shortage! If you screwed up three days ago, there's grace for it right now. There's no shortage! They might not have sauce at Chick-fil-A, but there's no shortage of mercy in the house of God! They are new every morning. Watch this. "Well, Pastor Steven, I can't praise God. You don't know what I've been doing. You don't know what I've been struggling with". What do you think his mercy is there for? "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me". When he hung up on that cross and he didn't come down, what do you think he was there for? That's what his grace is there for: your weakness. That's what his grace is there for: the insults. That's what his grace is there for: the persecution. That's what his grace is there for. The hardship, the difficulty, the thorn is what grace is there for. See, Paul had to pray about that thing three times, three seasons. Do you think he wasn't fasting? Do you think he wasn't keeping a journal, a thorn journal? Do you think Paul wasn't doing everything in his power to get that thing to go away? And you have been too, and that's good, because we don't want to glory in our thorns.
Some people will pervert any message you preach. "Well, Lord, I'm going to just go over here on this pornographic website. Lord, that's what grace is there for. I'm just going to go on over here and just do it". "Thorn-ographic website" I should have said, where you just keep recreating the weakness by not dealing with it. But grace is there to change you too. It's there for you when you fail, but it's also there to build you up so you can get stronger. "When I am weak…" Some of us worship our weakness, just going off on people. "That's how I am. That's just my thorn in the flesh. You heard old Pastor Furtick over there at the Elevation. He said there'd be grace for it. Now you need to put the grace on me". Well, they're not God. They might slap you across your face if you act thorny out there. It's not like, "Oh, well, let's just all be. Everybody, let's have a thorn party. Let's all tell our thorn stories. My thorn is bigger than your thorn". That's not why we came to church. We want to be transformed. We want to receive grace for what we struggle with.
He said, "I prayed…" Raise your hand if you want me to go deeper in this. Or you can raise it in the chat. Just put in the chat right now, "I've got grace for this". The beautiful thing is you don't even have to specify what this is to the other people in the chat. It's none of their business. It's none of mine. You take it to God, and you get the grace you need for the season. Don't take it to so many other people either to tell you what they would do if they were you. They're not. The God who knows your thorn knows the grace you need. Now, this is pretty beautiful. How many of y'all actually really love the Bible and you're not even a little bit bored right now? For you… That's not the only therefore in the passage. We're back in 2 Corinthians 12:8. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away". Is he the Lord of your thorn? Does he get to decide what to leave in your life, who to leave in your life, and what to remove? Is he the Lord of your thorn? He says, "I was given a thorn". The messenger was Satan, but the master was the Lord.
So, whatever the Devil is doing in your life, he doesn't get the ultimate authority. It's not about the thorn; it's the story you tell yourself about the thorn. Paul could have just as easily come to the conclusion… Because he said, "It was a messenger of Satan to torment me, but God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" I read that so many times this week. I felt there was something in it for us, and there is. "But he said to me…" Back to verse 8. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord…" Verse 9: "But he said to me…" So, Paul asked three times and God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". Then what's the next word in verse 9? Therefore. That's the sandwich. "Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, there was given to me a challenge I could not handle in my own strength, something that made me realize I don't have enough IQ to do this. I don't have enough physical stamina to do this. I don't have enough experience to do this". He said, "That's what it was there for. I had so many things going for me in my life there had to be this thing".
It was said one way by one preacher. He said the thorn took him to the throne. It reminded him he wasn't in charge. Then after he says that he says, "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will…" Not post, but boast. "…all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me". Not so I can just stay complacent, stay selfish, stay mean, stay hateful, stay sick, stay in this bad physical condition. That's not what I'm glorying in. He said, "Therefore, I realized what the thorn was there for". He could have taken this any way. Remember, Paul persecuted the same church he ultimately helped to build. If this had been your thorn, whatever it was… Is it Paul's eyesight? Who knows. Was Paul a little short? Who knows. Was Paul talking about the people who followed him around in every city trying to run him out? Was he talking about the people who threw actual stones at him trying to persecute him for the gospel?
We go, "Oh, persecution. I relate with Paul". You don't relate with Paul because one atheist on your Facebook said they didn't like your Bible verse. That is not what he's preaching about here. But Paul could have just as easily told himself this thorn story. Are you ready? "Well, this is what I get. This is God punishing me for all of the bad things I did. I guess it doesn't matter how much I change. God is never going to really accept me". I do happen to know Paul struggled with an inferiority complex, because one time he called himself the "least of the apostles, as one abnormally born," because he didn't physically walk with Jesus like Peter did. He could have just as easily told himself this story about the thorn. "Well, I guess if God is not going to take this thorn away from me, it's really not worth serving him". He could have just as easily told God, "Well, if you would have wanted to use me more, then you should have made me more whole".
I tell the Lord these kinds of things all the time, just to be honest with you, because I can get in this thing of comparing myself to people whose thorns I don't see. I'm not saying they don't have them. I just don't get a viewing party. I don't think it's as important what your thorn is. You could name it if you wanted to in your heart. I think the story you tell yourself about the thorn… Paul says, "The Lord said to me…" "He said to me…" I don't think he heard God out loud, and I don't think God's voice was the only one speaking to him about that thorn. Remember? He said, "A messenger of Satan was sent to torment me". So, at the same time Paul is trying to do ministry or you're trying to raise your kids or you're trying to grow up in a really weird, wicked world and have some integrity about you, there are two voices going on, really.
There are two stories being told. He said, "There's a messenger of Satan that's tormenting me, and then there's the voice of grace that's coming forth to strengthen me". If I listen to the first voice, the messenger of Satan, in this season of my life, I will not have the strength to get up and face myself in the mirror tomorrow. If I listen to the message of Satan in my life, I'm going to wind up like the prophet Elijah, who had the power… You talk about strong. You talk about a mentor. You talk about somebody who had the sauce, who had the glory of God. Elijah, Eliyahu, "My God is Yahweh". Called down fire on the prophets of Baal. Called down fire on the prophets of Asherah. Eight hundred fifty died in the valley that day as the nation was turning back to God. Spoke and the rain stopped. Spoke again and it rained, a cloud the size of a man's hand. Then how in the world did Elijah wind up standing at the mouth of a cave in 1 Kings 19?
Strong people have weak moments. Strong Christians have sharp thorns. Every believer has places of brokenness. and I need you to know this so that you don't quit. God doesn't have enough grace for you or because you stopped showing up for the role God gave you because you don't think you're smart enough. You're not! The thorn is there for you to realize, "I need your wisdom, God. I don't look to the north, the south, the east, or the west for my wisdom. My help comes from the Lord". So, God has given it to me like this. Turn to somebody next to you and say, "The thorn came from the Enemy, but the grace came from God". I'm going to say it again. The thorn came from the Enemy… That was the messenger. "I hated the angel that brought it". You don't have to like what's happening in your life. You don't have to like the people who are in your life. You don't have to like the challenge. You don't even have to like your personality. But you do have to realize it must be submitted to God's purpose. The power of your therefore is greater than the power of your thorn. God's purpose will prevail.
Paul said, "Three times…" That's a significant number in Scripture. Three represents perfect unity. Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane. He said, "Nevertheless, I'm going to take this cup even though I don't want it. I'm going to do this, what I came to do. This is what I came for". Don't you see it? You are running from the stuff God put you there for. You are not praying about the things God's grace is there for. You don't just get to bring God your praise. You get to bring him your pain too. That's what the grace is there for. "Three times I asked the Lord to take it away. But he said to me…" He didn't hear it out loud. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".
For us, that's a cute Scripture. For Paul, that was a story he had to tell himself every time that thorn pressed into his flesh. God's power is made perfect. Every time it presses your flesh, I want you to tell yourself a different story. You don't get to choose your thorn. You get to choose your story. He said, "There's no shortage of grace". He said, "Three times I asked, and one time he answered". Do you know what that means? That means the first two times Paul prayed about his thorn…silence. Some of us are standing in the silence right now, asking God to do stuff, and he didn't say yes, but he didn't say no either. That waiting place. That's what grace is there for: that silence. It's the story you tell yourself about that silence that determines whether or not you walk in grace or whether you give up. The story in the silence. "Three times I asked; one time he answered. 'My grace is sufficient.'" Silence. "I don't know if this is going to get better". Silence. "I'm waiting for this to come through". Silence. "I have no idea if my kid's life is going to turn around, if they're going to come back to God". Silence. "I don't know if I'll ever be in a loving relationship again". Silence. "I don't know if I'll ever feel better".
What story are you telling yourself in the silence? Satan wants to use that silence and plant a seed. "See? God doesn't love you. See? God isn't with you. See? The whole thing is a bunch of fairy tales and myths. See? You'll never be good enough. See? You can't change. Everybody else can. See? You knew this church thing wouldn't work. See? There's no way. You never stick to it. You never do it". I believe the Spirit wants to plant a different story in the silence so you can know that's where grace lives. The story in the silence. "Then he said to me…" He'll say it to you too if you let him. "My grace is sufficient for what you struggle with. My grace is sufficient for your mistakes. My grace is sufficient for your inexperience. My grace is sufficient for your sin". Oh yeah. Where sin abounded, there did grace abound that much more. I praise God for grace that is greater than all my sin. I spent all week thinking about the silence.
"I asked God. He didn't answer. I tried that. It didn't work. I waited for it. I don't even see a sign of it coming. I have no idea what that was there for". I saw Elijah, God's great prophet… Paul wasn't the only preacher who had to deal with the silence. You're not the only one either. The great prophet who called down fire from heaven, in 1 Kings 19:13… The Bible says God was passing by Elijah. He was depressed now. He was discouraged now. He was tired now. He was exhausted now. The nation had rebelled against God, and he had been suffering from the ramifications of a drought for so long, and he was considered by many to be the troublemaker who started it all. Even after calling down fire from heaven, he still felt something in his soul. It was the isolation of the drought that landed him in this place. Elijah said something in 1 Kings 19 that you may have said a few times this past week: "I have had enough, Lord. I'm sick of this".
A woman named Jezebel, who was the wife of Ahab the king, was chasing Elijah. She sent a messenger to threaten him, which lets me know there was really nothing she could do to him. She was just trying to intimidate him to the point that he would leave the place where God had assigned him. That is what Satan is trying to do to you right now. He's trying to run you off from the place where God's greatest grace is about to be released in your life. That place of weakness… That's where the grace is coming. So, let me preach this for every Jezebel, for every thorn that has been threatening you, that has been tormenting you, that has been pressing into you, that has been causing you pain in your spirit. It's worse than pain in your body. It's a pain in your spirit you can't shake, and God won't remove it. The Bible says when Elijah heard the voice of God… By the way, God didn't shout to Elijah; he whispered. "[Elijah] pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave".
I know it's just a figure of speech, but knowing it's called the mouth of the cave makes sense to me. That was the place where he had holed up waiting to die. That was the place where he had shut himself in because he didn't want to take it anymore. That was the place where he was all by himself with nothing but the movies in his mind to watch of how bad his life was. Now he's standing at the mouth of the cave, and so are you. The only voice you hear in the cave is an echo, the thoughts that bounce around your head, the thoughts that torment you. You've already thought those enough that if those thoughts could bring you out, they would have by now. When he stood at the mouth of the cave, he heard the voice of the Lord, and the voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah"? I could ask you the same question. What are you there for in the cave when God has a great ministry for you, when God has a great future for you?
Remember, Jeremiah said, "This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope". What are you doing in the place of shame when there's so much mercy with your name on it? What are you doing running around to people to get what can only come from God? God said to Elijah, "I still have an assignment for you if you want it. I still have a job for you if you want it. I still have grace for you if you want it. I still have a hope for you if you want it. I still have a future for you if you want it. I have joy for you. There's no shortage"! It's the power of a therefore. Lift your hands. The Lord is passing by. The mountains were ripped apart. That wasn't God. The wind came sweeping through. That wasn't God. The fire came sweeping through. That wasn't God. The earth started shaking. That wasn't God. It was in the whisper that Elijah heard his voice.
Lord, I thank you for a new story in the silence. We come against every false belief and every messenger of Satan that was sent to torment us today. We flip it in Jesus' name. No, no. Not in our strength…in Jesus' name. What tormented you before is going to bring you to the throne of God for a greater release of grace. I speak greater anointing over your life, greater anointing over your leadership, greater anointing over your relationships, greater anointing over your mind. Here comes your peace. Here comes your joy. Here comes your provision. There is no shortage in heaven for a heart that is open to God.
So lift your hands. If he dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor, How much more will he clothe you? If he watches over every sparrow, How much more does he love you? This is the new story I want you to tell yourself in the silence: the more thorns you're dealing with, the more grace you are to expect. Holy is your name, God. Glory to your name, God. We worship your great name, God. Glory to your name, God. Release your glory in this place. Release your glory on every location. Release your glory on Lake Norman. Release your glory right now all over the world through this broadcast, through this sermon, through this worship moment. I pray a great release of grace, a great release of glory. We give you glory, Lord. A new story for the silence. Father, we bring those thorns right now to the throne. You are the Lord of the thorn, and you are the God of all grace. When I stood up today to preach, Lord, I had no idea whose thorn I would be preaching to, but you did. I had no idea who would take the time to come to church, to log on, but you did. They didn't even know what they came for, but you did.
Now I know what I was here for. God wanted me to receive this grace, and I receive it right now in the name of Jesus. I receive it right now in the name of Jesus. I receive grace right now in the name of Jesus. I receive healing right now in the name of Jesus. I receive joy right now in the name of Jesus. I celebrate your grace, God. I celebrate your grace for my thorn.
Come on. We didn't come to have a pity party about our thorn. This is a celebration of grace. Sing that song again. There's no shortage! My God will supply all your needs! "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in the things I used to complain about". When Paul was locked in prison at Philippi, when God opened the prison doors because he sang a song at midnight, Paul didn't even leave. He wanted to lead the jailer to Christ. He said, "I'm not coming out until I find out what I was there for". Do you not know that the church at Philippi was born out of that situation? So, tell the Devil, "I'm not leaving until I find out what God has for me in this situation. I've come too far to turn around".