Steven Furtick - Left On Read By God
God's love language is trust. If you were to ask me from just studying the Bible for however many years I've been studying, since I was 16, how God receives love… He loves to be trusted. More than he even loves to hear you sing (and I'm not saying you don't have a great voice), he loves when you trust him. More than he even loves when you wear a cross around your neck, he loves when you trust him. More than he even loves (and I probably shouldn't say this as a pastor) when you come to church, he loves when you trust him on Tuesday. He just loves to be trusted. One of the most difficult things, I think, in our lives is that we often equate love with comfort while God equates love with trust.
If we are not studious and if we don't give attention to the Scriptures, we will conflate and confuse our human definition of love with a divine love, a love that is not simply an action but an essence of who God is. I don't know about your first job, but I will put myself out there as maybe having the most interesting first job in the whole room. My first job at age 15 was to work at Pet Rest Cemetery and Cremation Service. I'm proud of that. I did those funerals with dignity. I lifted 180-pound bull mastiffs. That's part of how I learned to preach in dead churches, because right after my ministry of burying and cremating dogs I had to go preach at Baptist churches. The atmosphere could sometimes be really similar in some of the churches. (Don't be hateful; I'm just telling you about my experience.) It was a good job, and people often judge me when I tell them.
On the way to the mall, I'd tell Eric, "I just need to stop by and take care of these dogs real quick". You can tell who your friends are when you stop by the crematory on the way to the mall. Some people would judge me. You tell them that you cremate dogs, and they look at you like you deal drugs. It was a service with dignity. I'm, again, very proud of the fact that I was 15 years old with a job that paid $150 a week, and I got my own beeper. Do you know what I think one of the worst jobs would have been? To be the PR manager for Jesus Christ, to have to explain his actions or to have to give a press conference for Jesus, especially when John, chapter 11, says things like, "He loved them. He received hospitality from them, but when it came time for him to help them, he stayed away two extra days because he loved them".
It's an interesting construct. We come to find in all of our lives the difference between God's job and our job. See, God's job is outcome; your job is process. The longer you think you can control outcomes in your life, the more frustration you are going to experience in this journey of faith. Many of us were taught starting out that faith was a way of controlling outcomes. It was like, "If you pray this and do that, then you can expect this". But everybody in here has a Lazarus. The Lazarus factor is the thing in your life that made the formula fall apart. The Lazarus factor is the thing in your life that caused you to question the very nature of faith. Start to see at this point in this passage that faith is rarely a form of manipulation by which we get God to keep our schedule. I have news for you. God will not be manipulated. God will not be moved just because we get uncomfortable in a situation.
I hate to break it to you, but faith is not a means of manipulation. It is a patience with mystery, the kind of mystery that can say on one hand, "God can do anything," but in that very same breath that you say, "God can do anything," there is something in your life right now that God will not do that you see in his Word that he did for somebody else but he has not done for you yet. I'm simply trying to say that everybody in here has a Lazarus. Everybody in here has something that was supposed to be done. If God really loved you, he would. If God really saw you, he would. If God was really strong like they say he is, he would. If God really had all power in his hand, he would have. We confuse God's love with proof in circumstantial evidence. We never really get to the foundational core that the love of God is not always proven by the way I feel his presence; the love of God is proven by the way I deal with his perceived absence.
The love of God is not only proven in the times where I thank him for my blessings; the love of God is proven in my life where I cannot feel him but by faith I praise him because he is God. Even when I don't sense God, he is God. I wonder if there is anybody who's willing to give God a praise by faith in this place today at Gaston, at Blakeney, at Ballantyne, at UC, online. Give him a praise if you don't praise him for what he does but who he is! They didn't have text messaging, so when Martha sent the message to Jesus, "You need to get here quickly. The one who you love needs your help," she would have to wait several days…two days to be exact…from the time the messenger got there until the time he got back. But there was one problem when the messenger started coming back to Bethany. He was by himself. He was supposed to bring Jesus. You know how it is when you see the person you didn't want to see and they don't have the person with them who you really wanted to see. "Where is he"? She sent him a message, and Jesus left Martha on read.
Have you ever been left on read? Honestly, I only became familiar with this phrase a few months ago. There was somebody I was ignoring, and I ran into them in real life. He goes, "Bro"! I'm like, "Praise the Lord! Brother". I get really fake when I have to see somebody face-to-face who I don't like. I'm like, "What's up, man? What's been going on"? He's like, "I've been texting you. You left me on read. You got a new number or something like that"? "No". "Did you get my message"? "Yeah, I got it". Then I faked a heart attack. I didn't know what to do. "Hey, Jesus, the one you love is sick". "Hey, Jesus, I'm depressed. Hey, Jesus, I can hardly breathe right now. Hey, Jesus, I feel all alone. Hey, Jesus, I need to know how to make this decision. Hey, Jesus, I need you to show my husband how to stop being crazy. Hey, Jesus, I need you to do for my kids what Prozac can't do and calm them down. Hey, Jesus, I need you to straighten this out".
Jesus left Martha on read. Have you ever been left on read by God? Have you ever prayed a prayer that hit the ceiling? Have you ever prayed a prayer that bounced right back? Have you ever prayed a prayer that came back to you with such velocity you barely got it out of your mouth before you had to stare at the same situation back in your face? He left them on read because he loved them. Not because he was busy, but because he loved them so much he didn't come. I don't know what to do with that. Humanly speaking, my love language is presence. "I love you, Pastor". But you don't come. You don't love me if you don't come. That's how I feel about it.
People will say things sometimes. "We're there with you in spirit". I appreciate that, but there with me in spirit doesn't help me move these boxes. There with me in spirit doesn't cook chicken noodle soup when I have a cold. Then people are really annoying. They'll give you clichés and think that's supposed to comfort you. "Well, if God put it on you, he won't give you any more than you can bear". They always have a Scripture for you. That's why when I sent you the Scripture the other day I said, "Delete this if you don't want to see it right now". Because sometimes the Scripture is annoying. I love how y'all look at me when I say stuff like that. That's how I know I'm preaching good. It's the face you make when you've thought it but you would never say it out loud. Halloween is over. Take your mask off and admit for a moment.
Come on, y'all. This is my job: to say the stuff you're thinking anyway so you don't think you're going to hell for thinking it. You can have great faith and still be frustrated. You can have great faith and still wonder sometimes, "What the…"? One day I'm going to put out a whole CD called "Honest Worship," and it's going to have songs you love like, "You're never going to let, never going to let me down, except that one time. You're never going to let…" It's going to have ad libs like, "You seldom lost a battle, except when I was 14," and you're going to sing about the real situations. "The one you love is sick". We often conflate God's love with the circumstances of our lives.
Now, if you look to the circumstances of your life for the proof of God's love, you are looking for love in all of the wrong places. So, Jesus says one of those things that could sound like a cliché on the surface. He says, "This sickness will not end in death but for the glory of God". Well, hallelujah. Do you know what I mean? "God is your provider". "But he's not paying my rent". The stuff you won't say. In fact, when we put this online, let's put, "The stuff you wish you had the guts to say". Martha said it. I want to show you how she responded, because everybody has a Lazarus. Everybody has something God was supposed to do for you that he did not do. What I love about the Bible is that it gives us the insight of hindsight. The insight of hindsight means I know why John wrote the book of John, because at the end of it, he says, "The reason I wrote all of this was that you may believe". He organizes his gospel account…
If you ever read the gospel of John, it reads differently than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Those are called the Synoptic Gospels. Optic (see), syn (with). See with. They saw with one another. John is on a whole different wave. John takes seven signs Jesus did, seven statements Jesus made, and then he organizes it not as it's happening but after it happened and after he has the insight of hindsight. So he addresses who Jesus is with a knowledge of what he came for after he saw him do all that he could do. The insight of hindsight is really powerful, but we don't live our lives with the insight of hindsight about every situation.
I would like to suggest to you that Mary and Martha, who were mourning the loss of their brother Lazarus in John, chapter 11, never read John, chapter 12. That's just a guess, especially since John didn't write it until AD 85. Jesus died in AD 32. That means they didn't get to read chapter 12 while they had to live out chapter 11. Who am I preaching to who is in chapter 11 today? Let me show you something if you're in chapter 11. It's in verse 2. It's in parentheses. I want to caution you. Be very careful to never put a period where God puts parentheses. "What do you mean by that"? I mean that some things in your life will make sense after the fact that don't make sense right now. John, chapter 11, verse 2, is very interesting, because it says not only did Martha cook for Jesus, but Mary worshiped Jesus.
"This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair". The only catch is that didn't happen until John, chapter 12. That happened after what we are about to read. That happened after the revelation Jesus was about to give, but the writer puts it in chapter 11, because if you do not see yourself worshiping in John, chapter 12, you will not have the strength to wait in John, chapter 11. I don't know who this is for, but God said, "This morning, I want you to see yourself in John, chapter 12. I want you to see yourself worshiping. I want you to see yourself grateful. I want you to see yourself restored. I want you to see yourself better. I want you to see yourself free. I want you to see yourself delivered. I want you to see yourself healed. I want you to see yourself with a testimony".
Come on, y'all! High-five 12 people and tell them, "I read the next chapter. I found out it doesn't end in death but for the glory of God". I speak that over your children. Your children will worship the Lord. Your children's children will have a legacy. You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Shout if you believe it!