Steven Furtick - I Can't See The Promise Yet
I believe our faith must survive the invisibility stage. The stage where you maybe, like Elijah, have heard something, sensed something, perceived something, believed something that you do not yet see. I spent like $70,000 on my seminary education, so every once in a while I like to say stuff I learned there. They talk about the "already/not yet" eschatological tension. That is a $70,000 word. It just means that as things unfold there are certain realities of your new nature in Christ that you will experience already, but there is a part of it that is not yet fulfilled. Watch this. "Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain'". Which isn't good news if you just washed your car or if you have an outdoor wedding or if you're a pastor.
I can tell how stupid my staff members are by how they act when it snows on Sunday. If they're posting stuff on Instagram, "The snow is so beautiful…" No. Snow sucks on Sunday if you're a pastor. It's pretty for people who don't go to church, but if you're a preacher, that is the worst thing you can see on Sunday, which means that the conditions of the weather and how they affect you depend on your expectation. If you've been in a famine, like the nation of Israel had for three and a half years, and you hear the sound of rain, it is not inconvenient. Sometimes people will yawn while I'm preaching. They are not desperate enough yet for the Word of God. So while I'm preaching they're yawning.
If you get in a situation where you really need God to speak to you, if you get in a situation where you know you need every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, that you cannot live on bread alone, you won't be yawning. You'll be like, "Please, God, let him hold me two hours. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I hear the sound of the abundance of rain. As a matter of fact, I have seed in the ground, and unless it rains, it can't come forth. So bring the storm. Bring the rain. The storm will only serve to reveal the foundation. I built my house on the rock". "The rain came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock". So Ahab goes off to eat and drink. The famine is over. The drought is over. "But Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel".
Now I love you guys, and I like to demonstrate the Bible where appropriate, but it does not seem to me to be appropriate to demonstrate what he did here physically, so you'll just have to imagine it. "He bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees". I don't do that yoga preaching stuff, the hot yoga, cold yoga… I don't do any of that yoga. So everything is in motion. I don't know if you know about Elijah. He was a rainmaker, but he was also a refugee. Everybody in here is a little bit of both as well, by the way. He has been hiding for three and a half years because he called for the drought because the people had started depending on sources other than God. Anytime you depend on a source that is not God, he will cut you off, because he will not allow your life to be sourced by something that cannot sustain your life. So he will cut you off for a little while so you will come back to what you needed all along, because he loves you that much.
Elijah is hiding the whole time, because if Jezebel, who is in charge of all of the rain gods… They served this god called Baal, who wasn't really a god. He didn't have all power. You know, like politicians who say things but don't really have the power to change all the stuff they make promises about. I'm not saying politicians are bad. We have politicians in our church, and I love the politicians in the church. There are great politicians, and there are other politicians. There's all of that. But God being the true and living God will not be corralled or confined by human need. He's not corralled or confined by human expectation. He will not be manipulated by the mechanics of humanity. So now the rain has stopped falling.
You will come into a season of your life where God will cut you off. He won't stop loving you. He won't stop providing for you. It's just that God will allow situations to get your attention. You can pray and ask him to change the situation all you want, but until you allow him to change you, nothing is going to change in the situation. When the time came for Elijah to come forth and present himself before Ahab and Jezebel, that king and queen whose wickedness was responsible for the nation's famine, he comes before them boldly. He calls for a summit. By this time, he has survived so much… Did you ever see that show Survivor? We watched it for a couple of seasons. Holly used to tell me all the time… Isn't this a mean thing to say to your husband? She was like, "You would be the first one voted off of Survivor".
I couldn't argue with her. She's right. I have no survival skills. None. All I can do is talk, and sometimes I'm not even that good at that. This is the only thing I do. That's why I hold the mic so tight, because I don't know what I would do if I couldn't talk, because I have no survival skills. None. Elijah the prophet had the skills to survive the drought, and he did. He survived in the drought. He survived the dry season, and he did it really well. He did it by obeying the voice of the Lord. So when the voice of the Lord told him to go to the brook… "I'll have birds there that will drop your breakfast off. I'll have birds dropping off biscuits. I'll have birds dropping off Bojangles biscuits. I'll have birds dropping off Bojangles spicy Cajun Filet Biscuits".
God will provide for you in some strange ways, if you haven't noticed. God had ravens, which is a dirty bird… I mean, the only people who like ravens live in Baltimore. God used a dirty bird to feed his man in a time of famine. Stop telling God how he can and can't bless you. Stop telling God how he can and can't feed you. Stop telling God what style he can and cannot use. Stop waiting on a song you like in church to worship God. What if God wants to bless you in a different style, bless you in a different way? He's very creative. So he's supplying for Elijah at the brook. The brook dries up.
God sends Elijah to a widow. "Why would you send me to a widow to provide me with food"? Because sometimes God will show you how great his supply is by sending you to someone with a greater need than you had to begin with. Sometimes you will realize in the course of meeting someone else's need how great God's supply already is in your life. So he does all that, and for three and a half years he is a refugee until it comes time for the refugee to become a rainmaker. I love it. That was almost my title of the sermon: "From Refugee to Rainmaker". I like creativity. I like creative process. I write 17 titles for every sermon I preach. I just love it. He stands up and gets all of the prophets of Baal, all of these little rain dancers. He makes fun of them. He calls them names. He's like, "Maybe Baal is in the bathroom. Maybe that's why he can't hear you".
They had a deal. "You call for fire. I'll call for fire. The God who answers by fire, he is God". When Baal didn't answer, Elijah said, "Maybe he's in the bathroom". I love the Bible. At the end of the whole thing, the Bible says that after wetting the wood… Watch this. This is the nature of faith. You wet wood before you call for fire? You do when you're walking by faith, because that's how God often proves his presence: by putting you in an impossible situation. I'm preaching to somebody today. You are in an impossible situation, and you are in the stage called invisibility. That's where you don't see any way that it could happen.
I was even talking to one of my friends this week. He's very successful, but he has another level God is calling him to. It isn't just for the people who need God to heal them of cancer, although this message would apply to you in that situation. This is somebody who's going from one stage to the next. Here's what he said to me: "I feel like God is doing something new in me, but I just don't see the path to it yet". Invisibility. "I sense God doing it. I hear the sound of rain, but I don't see anything yet". Elijah, while the king goes off to eat and drink, buries his head, closes his eyes, and believes by faith that what he has spoken will come to pass. The servant runs up to the top of the mountain. I just want to show you what he did. He goes up to the top. He's going slower on the way back down, because he has to deliver some bad news to the man of God.
In case you hadn't noticed, you don't want to give bad news to Elijah. I mean, he's the kind of guy… You do not want to give Elijah bad news. Elijah slaughtered all 850 false prophets. So now you have to come to the guy who just killed just under 1,000 false prophets, and he doesn't even look up at you. He's in this weird position, this prayer thing. Now you have to tell this guy, who just told the king, "Get your chariot ready and go down before the rain stops you…" You just told the king it's going to rain. You've sent your servant to go see it, and the servant comes back and says, "Um…" Look at the phrase. "There is nothing there".
Can I ask you a question? Was the servant wrong? Remember, we're talking about a rain cycle. Before you see the cloud form it is rising from the sea. Something is happening when nothing is seen. The guy is like, "I don't know if you want me to go catch up with Ahab and tell him to take it easy on the food and drink, because I don't know what you heard, but, um…" Whenever you start in faith… Remember we were talking about the start of the process? It always feels like nothing. Do you know what this church started with? Nothing. Do you know what the disciples packed when Jesus went out to teach one day and 5,000 men and the women and children needed to eat? Do you know what they packed in their cooler that day? Nothing.
I wonder if you are in the "It's nothing" stage. There is nothing. Maybe the doctors have told you, "There is nothing we can do". Maybe you were told since you were a little girl, "There is nothing special about you". The invisibility stage. It's kind of tough, because you know what you heard and you know what you sense sometimes, but what you see is a direct contradiction of what you sense. I know what it feels like to be looking at nothing and hearing something. Do you? Do you know what it feels like to be believing God for something and seeing nothing? I mean, no change in your kids. I mean, the more you pray for them, the wilder they get. I mean, nothing. I mean, no new revenue. I mean, no way forward. Elijah does something. This is spectacular.
Elijah says, "Go back and look again". He goes back again and looks again. "I have bad news. It's still nothing". I'm going to drag this point out, because this is how it feels. This is how faith feels. This is how it feels to write a sermon. This is how it feels to write a song. This is how it feels to raise a kid. This is how it feels to wait on God by faith. This is how it feels to worship God in a dry season. This is how it feels for three and a half years when you hear the sound but can't see the sight. "Go again. Look again". Notice Elijah is not moving. He sends a runner. Maybe he knows that if he uses his eyes his faith will die. Maybe he knows, "Where I am right now and how it seems right now, I can't look at my situation. I have to listen right now. I have to hear what God says. If I go by what I see, I'll die in this drought".
Here's my message. Still nothing? Go again. Still nothing? Go again. One lap around the Jericho walls. Still nothing? March again. Two laps around the Jericho walls. Still nothing? Go again. One dip in the Jordan River, Naaman. Still nothing? Go again. Two dips. Still nothing? Go again. Five trips up the mountain. Still nothing? Go again. Still nothing? Go again. Still nothing? Go again. Still nothing? Pray again. Still nothing? Sing again. Still nothing? Praise him again. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". Just because you can't see it doesn't mean he didn't speak it.