Steven Furtick - Their Opinions Don't Matter
How many realize that everything people called you is not something you should respond to at this stage in your life? You have to move past some things and see yourself in a new light. At least that's what God told Joshua when he instated him as the new leader of Israel after Moses left. He said, "It's a new day, and you are the leader I have chosen and appointed to lead these people into the land that I promised their ancestors". God, in Joshua, chapter 1, reminds Joshua of his reputation. Not the reputation of Joshua; the reputation of Jehovah. He said, "I am the God who spoke to the forefathers of this faith tradition, which you are a continuation of, but it didn't start with you".
God says, "I have a reputation. When you face the resistance when you go into this new land I've called you to conquer, I want you to remember my reputation". God said, "I have a reputation of picking people out who are obscure and unknown and using them to accomplish my purpose in the earth. I have a reputation. I have a reputation for calling men like Abraham and taking him from Ur of the Chaldeans, and even though he's too old to have babies and there are no prescriptions available to help him procreate, I have a reputation for doing what cannot be done in the flesh. For it is not by might nor by power but by my Spirit," says the Lord.
"I have a reputation". Sometimes we need to be reminded of God's reputation. We need to be reminded every once in a while that the wind and the waves know who he is. They know that voice. Do you? "My sheep know my voice". "I'm the one who dried up the Red Sea. I just want you to remember my reputation". That's why I mention Bible stories in church, like Daniel in the lions' den. The lions knew that when God spoke their mouths had to stay shut. They knew that voice. I'm encouraged to know that God's reputation is the basis of my faith, not mine. I think it's really funny sometimes how much time we spend trying to build our reputation with people whose opinions don't ultimately matter.
When I first started the church, a well-meaning minister gave me a piece of advice. He said, "Protect your reputation. You only get one". I wish that were true. I wish you could protect your reputation and that if you always did the right thing people would always say the right things about you. The fact is we live in a world that doesn't know the difference between a rumor and a reputation anymore. To spend all of your energy trying to protect your reputation… The Lord really spoke to me and dealt with me the first time I would defend myself against people who were critical of my ministry. You can spend so much time trying to protect your reputation, which is really ego, wanting people to have a certain image of you, that you start preaching to the people who don't like you, and you're angry at people who are smiling at you because you're not really talking to them.
It happened to me early in ministry, and the Lord spoke to me. He spoke to me very specifically. He said, "Why don't you worry about protecting your integrity and let me protect your reputation"? When you stop to think about it, even the premise that you only have one reputation is faulty. I mean, really, you have as many reputations as you have relationships. Isn't that true? What I mean is some people at work think you're quiet, because you are around them, because you don't trust them or like them or have anything to say to them, but if we asked your family… I will never forget when our middle child Graham first went to school, and the teacher emailed us how he talked too much in class. It was so funny, because we could not get him to talk at home. He was so quiet at home, and the teacher said, "He will not shut up in class. He's a wonderful child, but could you just talk to him about talking out of turn in class"? I said, "Well, could you talk to him about talking in turn at home? Because we can't get him to say anything".
Now he's 11, and he talks all the time. I remember thinking how strange it was that he could be known as the talkative kid in class, but maybe the birth order or something at home… Maybe we won't shut up long enough to give him a chance at home. It's really true, because sometimes we only get to know church you. I wonder how big the gap is between your reality and your reputation. It has never been easier to develop a virtual reputation. I see people online, and in their profile it says, "Life coach," and they're 13. I don't understand. How are you going to coach me and you've never been on the field? It says "Public figure," and you have a private account with 12 followers. I don't understand it, but I do, because we are living in a world that wants reputation without repetition.
A true reputation is not built by what you occasionally do or wish you were or want people to see you as. It's not something you project or perfect. Your real reputation comes from relationship and repetition and relationship and repetition. I had to come to the point where I realized it is not what people who don't know me think about me or what I can convince them of that brings me peace in my heart and fulfills my calling. I want to focus my life on developing a reputation that is based on repetition and relationship, that I would do the right thing over and over and over and over again, and when I don't, I'll apologize and get back on and do it over and over and over. Isn't that how God built his reputation in your life? Because he helped you over and over and over and over again, and he gave you mercy over and over and over and over again, and he made ways over and over and over and over again, and he heard your cry over and over and over again, and he forgave you for that same sin that you committed over and over and over again.
When you needed grace you found it over and over and over again, and he woke you up over and over and over again, and he let you see another day over and over and over again. So I will praise him over and over and over again, because God has a reputation with me. I know him as faithful. I don't let anybody else build my belief about who God is. I don't need to believe somebody else's report about God. I have a personal relationship with him. God's reputation with me is based on his faithfulness in my life. I don't go off of what I heard about; I go off what I know. Don't ever let somebody else misrepresent God and run you away from church. You ought to know God for yourself. It's a relational thing. We're losing that, and we're so quick to tear people down. God forgive us for all of the times where we've believed a report about someone we didn't even know, in a day where it is so easy to project a false reputation and so easy to destroy a reputation. You can destroy your own reputation with 280 characters. Am I right?
I don't call names from this pulpit, but you know what I'm talking about. Yet we stand between the reality of who we are and kind of who we think we need to be, and into that gap God speaks. It's the most amazing thing. I can't get over this, and it doesn't seem like a smart strategy, but God chooses over and over again… The faithful God entrusts his reputation to faithless people. So for 40 years, the Israelites will wander in the wilderness, because they believed a bad report, even though they had a history with God. Now Joshua does something interesting after he calls the people together and tells them, "Prepare and consecrate yourselves for what God is going to do" and reminds them of what God has already done.
He sends (back to verse 1) two spies instead of twelve. When Moses got ready to check out Canaan four decades ago, he sent 12 spies, and 10 came back with a fear report. It's almost as if Joshua has learned from that exploit, being one of the two spies who said, "If God is with us, we can't fail". He made up his mind this time, "I only need two". I don't need too many opinions in this stage of my life. I'm out of middle school now, and I can't live by what everybody else thinks or does. Not anymore. I only need two. I read in my Bible that, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life". I have goodness and I have mercy. I only need two. I can't afford to consult everybody's opinion and every cable news channel. I have goodness and I have mercy. I don't need Fox. I don't need CNN. I don't need Twitter. I don't need Facebook. I don't need Instagram. I don't need my past to consult. I don't need to consult too many people.
When you start calling people and asking them for advice, you really don't want advice anymore after you've called the third person; you want affirmation and attention. I have a shortcut now, as a pastor, when people say, "I'd like your advice on…" Whatever they say next I don't respond to. I say, "What do you want? Because I'll just say what you want to hear and save you the time from calling the next person and the next person until somebody will finally tell you what you want to hear". A lot of us… Maybe not you. Maybe somebody you know. A lot of us live our whole lives consulting opinions. When you get too many opinions, it really crowds out the voice of God. What's funny about people… You have to be so careful, because people will a lot of times and situations will a lot of times… They will categorize stuff.
The Bible says they went into Jericho and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Why would you go into the house of a prostitute in order to discern the promise of God? Let me tell you a little secret. God uses who he wants to use. Isn't it fascinating that the God who has a spotless reputation, when he gets ready to bring his people into the promise, uses a woman with a reputation? Not a reputation like we think God can use, not a reputation of perfection, but God uses someone with a reputation and, furthermore, someone who the spies would consider an enemy. Technically, Rahab was an enemy of Israel, yet God used their enemy to show them who they were. She said, "I know who you are, and I know that God has given you the victory".
Is it possible that your enemy knows more about who you are than you do? Is that why he has been fighting you like he has been fighting you? It's just a question, saints. Is it possible, just a little bit possible, that the trial you're going through is actually a testament to the power that lives within you? The Devil doesn't waste bullets. If he's leaving you alone, he knows you aren't anything worth fighting against. God used their enemy to show them who they were. God used their struggle to confirm his Word. It's crazy how we have set up a false expectation that the proof of God's favor in our lives will always be that our fights will decrease and our comfort will increase.
When God was revealing himself in the book of Job, the Devil was going all through the earth, trying to look for somebody he could tamper with. When the Devil presented himself before the throne with the angels… The Enemy can't do anything without God's permission. I'm afraid in a lot of our churches we've given the Devil a reputation that he is an equal power with God. He's not. God asked a question to Satan. He said, "Have you considered my servant Job? Have you thought about picking on him, because he's my guy"? Now, whatever you have to do to get on that list where God tells the Devil he can mess with you, I don't want to be that holy. I want to find that mark and slip right under. God said, "Have at his stuff. You can touch his family; you can't touch him".
When the Devil came back and said, "I tried it, and you were right; he didn't curse you, but if you let me hurt him… It's one thing for everything around him to be affected, but if you let me hurt his body he'll curse you". God said, "You can do it, but you can't kill him". After that period of testing had been completed, after Job survived all of the rounds… This means he lost not only his income, not only his business, not only his belongings, but his children. The only person who stayed alive with Job was his wife, and if you read about her, he was probably praying God would go ahead and wipe her out too, because she wasn't a very good wife. She said, "Go ahead and curse God and die. Let's get it over with. Are you really going to put up with this and still serve God"? But Job would not charge God with wrongdoing.
Yes, at the end of Job's life he was doubly blessed, but I don't think the point of the book of Job is that Job got double for his trouble. That's nice for a bumper sticker, but he still lost his children. What's the point? The point is that the Devil didn't mention Job's name; God did. Job had a reputation with heaven, and heaven knew about Job, "He can be trusted with trouble. He won't break beneath the weight of a burden". Heaven knows about you. You can raise those ADHD kids, those ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP kids. God knew he could give you the whole alphabet and you wouldn't kill them. God knew he could trust you with sorrow. God knew he could trust you with trial and tribulation. He knew that about you. If the Devil isn't messing with you, maybe he doesn't even know you're here.