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Watch 2022 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - When Success Feels Empty

Steven Furtick - When Success Feels Empty


Steven Furtick - When Success Feels Empty
TOPICS: Success, Failure

This is an excerpt from “What It Means Is Up To Me


Short-term success sometimes is the ultimate failure. Have you ever seen somebody who got in really good physical shape but did it the wrong way? Then it ended up creating this cycle to where they just keep gaining weight and then taking weight off. If you do a good thing the wrong way, that becomes its own problem. You can have a short-term success and long-term failure. You can have a short-term failure and long-term success. Many of you have experienced that in your life. How many of y'all had a breakup that was a blessing? Let me ask it like this. How many of y'all would be living with somebody who would make you want to move out if God would have answered your prayers?


Like Garth Brooks said, some of God's greatest gifts… I saw Garth on the Billboard Awards last night. Did you see him? It started making me feel like a failure. Sometimes I feel successful when I'm comparing myself… Because this is all relative, you know. I'm comparing myself. We wrote these songs that are big songs, and then Garth Brooks is chasing whiskey and drowning Diamond albums. I got a Platinum album last year. I gave it to my mom. I put it up on her wall. Platinum album. They said on the thing I think Garth has 10 Diamond albums. Now I have my little pitiful Platinum album. "Let me take this down. Garth has a Diamond album". Unanswered prayers. "Lord, what's my life even worth"? And all of that. I was listening to one thing the other day where the guy was talking about how he won a Grammy, and then he wanted to win an Oscar, so he started being in movies. Then he started wanting to win an Emmy, so he did a TV show. He said the only thing left for him to achieve that was driving him crazy was to win a Tony for a Broadway play. He said that's called an EGOT, when you get an Emmy…

Not many people do it. I don't know how many, because I'm not in it for these worldly pleasures. He said an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar, but then he said, "But I don't have a Tony". He said, "Right now it's just EGO". How many things that the world calls success, how many things that the Devil uses to get you to think "My life doesn't matter" are just ego? He said, "I've got to get an EGOT". Then I started thinking about what I got. I got mercy. I got grace. I got love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thankfulness, gentleness, and self-control! I got the fruit of the Spirit! I got it. I didn't earn it, but I got it. I got loyalty and royalty and all of that. Paul said, "I got it inside of me. I got courage to make it no matter the outcome. I got it". Pressing toward the mark to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus has already taken hold of me. I've already got it. The guy was talking about all those Grammys and Tonys, and he said, "I don't know why I think the next one is going to make me feel any better. It didn't do what I thought it was going to do".

Have you ever had that before? I haven't won a Grammy or anything like that either, but have you ever got it? When you get it and it's empty, it's a really weird feeling. It's almost worse than never getting it. Paul is showing us something here. Remember, coming back to this theme "Are you in control"? You are in control of what success means to you, and if you align that with the worldly definition of success, you can expect at some point an emptiness that comes when we try to give our own definitions to God's concepts. I found out you can really make anything mean anything you want it to mean, even in the Bible. If we were talking to Paul and we were talking about what failure is and what success is, it would be a very confusing class. Right here in Philippians 1 he's saying, "What's happening right now… The gospel is succeeding even though I'm in prison". He uses the word fruitful. "This means more fruitful labor". He says, "It's working in me," even though the work he could do was limited.

Sometimes I say things like this and don't break it down. I know you're not in prison physically. You're watching this. I know you're not necessarily a preacher, an apostle of the gospel like Paul was. I understand that. I know you're not sitting there thinking about Oscars or Tonys or anything like this, but I think the dynamic applies to everybody listening to me, and I want to know if I'm right. Like how Solomon said, "Meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless". Everything is meaningless until you give it a meaning. Where we get it backward is we're searching for meaning and stuff, but everything is meaningless until you give it meaning. I want to talk about that a little bit. She asked, "What's failure"? Then I had to think about, "Well, what's success"? Then I didn't really know how to answer her. Of course, certain things change meaning over time. Since we're talking about "What does it mean?" today, we can all agree that from generation to generation…

It's funny, because when you're first raising your kids you have to tell them what words mean, and then when they turn to teenagers they have to tell you what words mean. Right? How many have teenagers or used to have them or something like that? Well, they sometimes save you a lot of trouble. Elijah is my sermon collaborator. I don't want him to hear this because he'll start wanting a royalty, or something like that, but he helps me on multiple levels. One thing he'll do sometimes is he'll say, "Dad, don't say that". One time I was telling him… I was going to preach, and I was just going on and on about how we don't need to waste our lives and we need to make the most of our time, and I said, "Some of y'all just want to Netflix and chill". He said, "Whoa, whoa, Dad". This was a couple of years ago. I just heard somebody say it. "Netflix and chill". I thought it meant be lazy, sit around. He said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Dad, that doesn't mean what you think it means". And I was thankful.

I wonder how many times God sits up there looking at our lives, wishing we could hear him say, "That doesn't mean what you think it means". Even if you just go through this one letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, which Holly organized a beautiful Bible study, and I hope many of our eGroups… I heard there are tens of thousands of people enjoying it. If you'll just notice some of the things he says to the Philippian church… See, this church meant a lot to him because he founded it in the midst of persecution, and anything you birth in the midst of great pain means more to you. He called them partners in the gospel, and he loved them like that. So, when he told them that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord… I just wonder, when we say, "Jesus is Lord," if Paul hears us kind of quoting that in a cultural way, eight pounds, six ounce Jesus, and he's like, "When I say Jesus Christ is Lord…"

That was a costly confession when Paul wrote it. It was saying, "Caesar isn't lord". He was rejecting the empire to embrace the kingdom. When we say, "Jesus is Lord," for a lot of us that means "I grew up Baptist," but for Paul, Lord was his favorite thing to call Jesus. Kurios. He loved that title: Lord. It meant to him, "I do what he says". For a lot of us, when we call on the Lord, it's to get him to do what we say. That's why when Paul says, "Whether I live or die, that's up to God. He's Lord…" That's not what it means. It doesn't mean what you think it means. "Jesus is Lord". That means I trust him with what I can't control. Or here's another one. I know you know this one, because I mentioned it earlier. "Rejoice in the Lord". We think that means sing. I asked five people to get ready for this sermon. I asked, "What comes to your mind when you hear rejoice"? They said, "Clap. Sing. Shout".

Well, Paul is not shaking a tambourine in his imprisonment. When Paul is talking about rejoice, he's talking about the remembrance of the reason he was called. For Paul, rejoicing is far more than just an external expression; it's an internal decision. "Rejoice. And again I say, rejoice," he says in Philippians 4. But here's the best one, where I bet Paul… I bet when he hears us quote this one, he's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. That doesn't mean what you think it means". This is Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Paul is like, "That does not mean that you can play in the NBA. You are 5'6" and uncoordinated". Do you know how many people tried out for American Idol because they thought Philippians 4:13 meant something it didn't mean? You see them on the audition tapes. It's terrible. Paul is not talking about doing something beyond your God-given capacity. He's talking about living with contentment. So that's context. I want to talk about context. Success requires context. So does failure.

Sometimes, if you can see it in the right context, you can see that what you called a failure, what you called a waste, what you called a setback, was really the grace of God. I've got it! So, it doesn't mean what you think it means. What does it mean? It doesn't mean what you think it means. Church doesn't mean building, worship doesn't mean the slow songs, and success doesn't mean EGOT. Paul said, "I've got a reason to rejoice". This dude was used to accomplishing so much. This dude was used to being on top, and he's still saying, "I will choose". What shall I choose? Now, I thought I was going to do three weeks on this, because I thought, "There are three questions. What does it matter? Priorities. What does it mean? Interpretation. What shall I choose? Decision. But then the Lord showed me, "Dummy…" He didn't call me that. I just talk to myself mean sometimes. The Lord said, "My son, my beloved, those two go together". "What does it mean?" depends on what you choose.

Philippians 1:22: "If I am to go on living in the body…" That's up to you, Lord. "…this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose"? That all goes together. It's really one question. He's praying, "All right, Lord. What you do is up to you". I feel like he'd probably even say that to his jailer. "What you do is up to you, but what it means is up to me". See, they would chain a prisoner to a guard. Paul said, "You can chain me to you if you want to, but all that means to me is I have a captive audience to preach to". I hear God saying, "I'm not chained to it; it's chained to me". What you do is up to you, but what it means is up to me. It's up to me what it means. Paul said, "It means fruitful labor. I am choosing to work with God". Labor. Work. "I am going to work with God, not against God". I hear the Lord saying, "Work with me. Do not fight against what I am bringing into your life. Work with me. Cooperate with the grace I have given you in this season of your life".
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