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Watch 2022 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - What It Means Is Up To Me

Steven Furtick - What It Means Is Up To Me


Steven Furtick - What It Means Is Up To Me
TOPICS: Interpretation

One person was saying on YouTube, "It's not a laughing time. Don't you know what's going on in the world"? I had to restrain myself not to comment back. The joy of the Lord is my strength. If I don't find something to rejoice about, like Paul in that prison cell… "You know, Paul, this is not the time to be rejoicing. This is the time to be repenting". Well, repent means change your mind. That's what he's teaching us how to do in this season. Last week, we talked about Taking Control of Your Mind. We're looking at three questions from Philippians 1 that are so powerful they are pretty much running your emotions whether you know it or not. Like how software runs your phone, or whatever. I don't know how it works, but I do know this.

These three questions… I'll give them to you again. What does it matter? What shall I choose? What does it mean? Those are questions your mind is always answering. How you answer those determines whether or not you live in a state of defeat or freedom. That's not my opinion; that's the teaching Paul gives us in Philippians. I should warn you up front. I had to bring two Bibles to preach this sermon today. Do not be afraid, but I have something to say, and God gave it to me, so I'm confident about it. One is in the New Testament from Philippians, chapter 1, where we were last week, and then I also want to show you something in Genesis 50.

In Philippians 1, we'll just pick up right where we left off last week, where he says, "But what does it matter"? Remember that, how that question can eliminate a lot of the things we pray about if we get the right priorities and how it also can keep us from giving our resources to things we'll regret later? One of the things God has been doing in this season, whether you realize it or not, is helping you redirect your resources. When he eliminates things from your life, in a way, that is a gift…the gift of elimination. One author said that trials tightly focus your life. So, that has been happening, and it was happening for Paul, because he was like, "Well, if I focus on the things I'm uncertain about, I'm going to get in so much confusion I will start to doubt what God is doing through me, but I'm going to choose to write off the things I can control".

Remember, when he said, "What does it matter"? he was talking about the motives of people who were preaching about Jesus for the wrong reasons. That perplexed me, because I thought, "Well, it does matter what people's motives are when they're preaching". Paul said, "Well, it doesn't matter as much". Their motive doesn't matter as much as God's mission. While my mind is constantly fighting the battle of what matters…this matters and that matters…it brings me back to the realization that some things matter more. He's saying what matters more is that in every way, whether from false motives or true (this is going to be really parallel with the Genesis 50 passage), Christ is preached. The important thing, what matters more, what matters most to Paul… Not to us. Other stuff matters more to us no matter what we say.

With our lives sometimes we demonstrate that other stuff matters more, but to Paul it was like the gospel, the good news about Jesus, what he's doing, his kingdom, you know, all of these things we can say. The substance of Paul's faith was that the mission, the purpose of God, mattered more for him than his preference or other people's motives, which he could not control. So he said, "I've chosen to focus. I have chosen to rejoice". Make the choice to rejoice. It rhymes; it must be true. "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…" I'm going to keep doing it. I did it, I am doing it, and I will continue to do it. "I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God's provision [resource] of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me [resistance]…" The Spirit of Jesus Christ…resource, provision. Do you see it? The provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (resource). What has happened to me, prison sentence (resistance). The resource is greater than the resistance.

I need you to know that, child of God. He said, "I know this. I don't know what they're going to do with me. I'm still waiting to find out". In fact, it was so bad for Paul he wasn't like, "I don't know if they're going to keep me on furlough". He was like, "I don't know if they're going to keep me on earth. Festus handed me over to Caesar, so I'm not even in control of this". But he sounds remarkably in command of the condition of his soul, and I want to learn how to do that. "…will turn out for my deliverance". Deliverance is a major theme in the Scripture, all the way from Moses in the exodus to Jesus on the cross to Paul in this prison. Yet it's not so much, for Paul, about God bringing him out; it's about God's Spirit getting in. Inward deliverance. He said, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed…" That's internal. "…but will have sufficient courage…" That's internal. "…so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body…" That's internal. External: can't control. Internal: "I will continue to rejoice". This is the distinction. "…whether by life or by death".

This whether/or construct means I'm okay either way. He's not talking about "I'm okay if I have to park at the front or the back of Target". He's talking about "I'm okay if I go to heaven or if I stay here". I'm not there yet. I want to stay around. But Paul is like, "I'm okay either way". This is the spirit of Paul's faith. It wasn't manipulation; it was acceptance. It was embracing what God is doing in this moment. Not escaping…embracing. So, I'm counting on courage. I'm not counting on circumstances. I'm counting on courage. I'm counting on Christ. "For to me…" These are the only verses I really meant to read, but I got all caught up there in the other ones. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living…" "If they don't cut my head off, if they let me have a few more years… I'm not sure, but if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me".

You saw, "What does it matter?" and now Paul is showing us "What does it mean"? WDIM: What does it mean? He said, "If I am to go on living, this will mean fruitful labor for me". "If I am to go on living, this will mean…" We'll focus there today, but I have to put this with it. He said, "Yet what shall I choose? I do not know"! What does it matter? What does it mean? What shall I choose? Genesis 50:19: "Joseph said to them, 'Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it…'" You have permission to shout. Joseph said, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about…"

When you realize that purpose of God in every situation, it's very powerful. He said, "'You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's house. Joseph lived 110 years". That's too long, Lord. I don't want all that. How many agree that's too long? But look at this. "And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation". "As for you, you meant it for evil…" But Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation. I don't know if this is a title, but this is what I want you to get today, and I want you to say it out loud one more time.

Look at somebody next to you or just type it to nobody in particular and say, "What you do is up to you, but what it means…" You thought I was done. I got you good. What you do is up to you… Joseph looked at his brothers and said, "You meant it for evil". What you do is up to you, but what it means is up to me. What does it mean? It's up to me. One of the hardest things about being a parent is teaching your kids what words mean. They honestly think you're Google when they're little, and then they think you're an idiot when they get bigger. I write these things down, because Levi Lusko taught me something cool. He said, "Put everything your kids say that's kind of cute down in your phone, and then you can read it to them later and they'll like it". So I've been doing that for a few years because Levi told me to. He also told me to try sriracha and wear Common Projects. He's the ultimate salesman. I was like, "Okay, Levi. I'll do it".

It's really cool. I'm glad I did it. I found this note, because I was thinking about how kids ask the best questions, which I think is one of the reasons God wants us to have faith like a child. Not to be childish and immature but to be childlike and to be curious about God, to be curious about what he can do in the world. Kids have no problem with that. We were watching this show, and one of the characters said… Abbey was 4. She's almost 10 now. The only reason I remember it is because of Levi Lusko. One of the characters said, "With this plan we can't fail," and Abbey goes, "What does fail mean"? So then I answered her. "It means you don't succeed". Well, you know what she asked next, right? "What does succeed mean"? Answering that was really tough. I was like, "Well, it means you do what you set out to do," but then I was like, "Well, not really. In God's kingdom, sometimes what you set out to do is the wrong thing, and then you end up realizing that what you set out to do wasn't the right thing and God was trying to lead you into one place, but you thought you were supposed to do this, and then it turned out you were supposed to do that".

I started having an existential crisis watching The Simpsons with my family. (I shouldn't have told you it was The Simpsons and she was 4. Y'all pray for me.) I'm sitting there going… I'm not saying this out loud, but I'm like, "That's so deep. What does succeed mean? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul"? She's asking for a little definition. I'm having this midlife crisis. But it did hit me that you really can't answer the first question, "What is failure?" if you don't answer the second question, "What is success"? Really, you can make a word mean anything you want it to mean. 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". You've been confused about what this season means, haven't you? Some of you have felt like you are in a losing season. You've lost a lot. You really have. This is not some moment for a Dr. Seuss "What it means is up to me. What you do is up to you". This is a theological thing that is from the beginning of Scripture to the end to show you what to do in a losing season. Back to Genesis 50. After Joseph has lost a lot… First, he had to lose his coat, and it was Gucci. That coat was so colorful. Listen to me when I say the coat was the least thing he lost. He lost his sense of connection.

We've talked about context, but now let's talk about connection. What it means is up to me. Now Joseph is going through this series of… I won't even call it unfortunate events, like the book called it. I'm going to say this series of events, from Joseph's standpoint, were disconnected. How could the Bible say in Genesis 37-50 that God was with Joseph when he went through so much? For most of us, to say that we have God's presence means we are in situations that confirm his favor. Usually, what we mean when we say, "God is blessing me" is "Things are going like I wanted them to or better". This is what I was thinking about. For the Bible to say that the Lord was with Joseph doesn't necessarily mean that's how he felt while he was walking through his life. That was written after the fact. It is always a mistake to try to figure out what this season means while I'm still in it.

Paul says, "This will mean fruitful labor to me". I'm looking forward to the future with expectation, but while I'm in it, I'm having to choose to see it that way. How do you interpret the losing season of your life? We assume, "Well, this went wrong, so God must be punishing me". The thing is you know some secrets about yourself, some things you're not doing exactly right, some things that would make you not a candidate for God's mercy and grace. Because we kind of live on an ego system of achievement, to earn it, to get it in our own strength, we kind of go, "Well, God must be punishing me". But I saw something. I saw two things. One was in John and one was in Genesis, and then I'll bring it back to Philippians. I'm going to do this backward. Go to the second verse of John 15 first, where Jesus says… I don't know if you've heard this before, but he says, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful".

Now I'm going to ask you something. Who is he? If you don't know the answer to that, you will misinterpret the pain in your life every time. Look at it again. "He prunes". Who is he? We love to give credit to the Devil. I'm really glad for the context of verse 1, because the context of verse 1 lets me know the motive of the one who is performing the task in verse 2. If you always think it's the Devil attacking you, "Everything bad is the Devil attacking me," you will miss the opportunity to bear fruit. I love verse 1. Jesus said, "I am the true vine…" "I'm the one you have to stay connected to. I'm the one who's in control. I'm the one who gives you sap. I'm the one who gives you life. I'm the one who gives you strength. I'm the one who gives you the ability to grow". "…and my Father…"

Abbey said, "What does fail mean"? She figured she needed to get that definition from her father. I hear God saying, "Ask me about your life. Ask me what it means". Here's what I know. Even if life is cutting on me, God is holding the scissors. Even if a virus wrecked my plans, God is in charge of my life. He is kurios, Lord, in control, in charge, on the throne, my Father. You know what? I don't have a lot of answers, I don't have a lot of wisdom, I don't have a lot of knowledge, but I have a Father. Are you ready for this? If I have a Father, that means fruit. This means fruit. This means he is bringing something out of this situation that is beyond my ability to predict or perform. I don't even know who God loves so much that he wanted me to say this whole message to you. The proof is in the pruning. "Oh, I'm hurting right now. That must mean God is not with me. Oh, my kids are acting up. That must mean I'm a bad parent".

Do you see what we do? "That must mean…" "They didn't call me. They must not love me". No. Maybe they have a headache. We interpret these things all the time. We interpret our seasons. We interpret silence. I know I've told y'all this story about our honeymoon before. Not the whole story…this one part. I took Holly on a cruise, and it was a Princess cruise. I'm not doing an endorsement here, but to me, it was about the best I could do. When we were on the second day of the cruise and she was so quiet, I got angry. I was like, "This cruise isn't good enough for you"? She was like, "No. When I get happy and relaxed, I get quiet". I'm the exact opposite. When I get relaxed and happy, I'm jumping on the bed. When I get happy, I'm annoying. I'm obnoxious. I'm ridiculous. I drive everybody in the family to want to go camping without me in the backyard when I get relaxed.

See, how I interpret silence comes from how I understand myself. When the kids were really little, when they were quiet, let me tell you what that did not mean. That did not mean they were praying. That did not mean they were napping. I learned with little kids that quiet means chaos. I had to learn about God, that just because I don't hear him saying much doesn't mean he isn't doing much. So, how do you interpret silence? I told Holly, "Are you too stuck up for this? This cruise isn't good"? I wasn't mean like that, but that's what I was thinking. This is the first time I've ever told her I was thinking all that, right here in this holy moment with you. Do you see this question? "What does it matter"? That's a big one. But what does it mean? You're always putting meaning on things. You don't even know you're doing it.

If you're in a good state of mind, you're like, "Oh, a bird showed up on my door, and that made me think of Matthew 6: 'Consider the sparrows.'" If you're in a bad state of mind, the same bird can show up. "I heard birds mean death in some cultures". You're putting meaning on things. I know that's kind of an extreme one or it's dumb, or whatever, but the other day when Jett and I went to eat barbecue… Jett's father LaShawn was a part of our church. April, Jett, and LaShawn moved here to be a part of the church, and we lost him last year. It has been just over a year. We were talking about some of these things. Jett is a musician, and his dad was a great songwriter and a great producer. He wrote for Brandy. When I heard them talking about "The Boy Is Mine…" That was LaShawn's song on the Billboards last night, and he did get a Grammy. But we lost him so suddenly, and it was horrible. Jett was showing me how he's still writing songs, and I was sitting there thinking, "Oh man. That's LaShawn who's still living in Jett, and he's going to be even better than Shiz ever was".

I'm thinking all this in between eating my barbecue, and I'm telling Jett, "Hey, God's hand is on you," this, that, and the other. He goes, "Pastor! Pastor"! He's very respectful, and he's interrupting me. I'm like, "This is weird. He never would do that". He goes, "Do you hear that"? It was the song on the TV in the barbecue joint that his dad had put on his album ("I can't wait…") that he sampled… We didn't even have to say anything. We knew Shiz wanted to eat barbecue with us. I said, "Jett, do you think…"? He goes, "Yeah". That's all we had to say. When you're looking for loss, you'll find it. When you're looking for the love of God, even in the worst loss of your life… "Every branch in me… I have a Father who prunes". "What you do, Lord, is up to you. I can't control".

That's where I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and Paul did too. Philippians 3:21. Look it up. It says he's able to bring everything under his control. The phrase is in the book. But I don't think that means what we think it means. We think that means things in our lives come with meaning. No, they don't. One time I taught a session to the campus pastors called BYOM (Bring Your Own Meaning). The thing I keep confessing over my life… Because you can really misunderstand things. I keep saying, "This means more". Even when something is going away, the proof of his love is in the pruning. "Every branch that bears fruit…" Paul said, "If I go on living, this means more fruitful labor". Are you looking for his love or are you looking for the losses? Whichever one you look for, you'll find a meaning to back it up. In a lot of pictures, I like to do the "I love you" sign when I take the picture.

Y'all should see my Instagram account, the trolls that come on there. "Why are you making Illuminati signals or Devil signals?" or something like that. It's the ESL for "I love you". That's what it means. But they said I was making Devil rock concert hands. I guess when you don't use the thumb, or something, that's the Devil. I didn't know. I thought it meant "Rock on". I thought it meant Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Megadeth. I didn't know that's what it meant. Isn't it crazy how I mean love, and they're on there saying, "Why are you putting the Devil on your picture"? What does it mean? Has God been trying to show you his love? Even in the things like, "Oh, well, I'm not that great at this, so I guess God…" No. Maybe that means God wants to use you a different way. I told somebody… When Elijah turned 13, I said, "He's having some trouble," and this and that. It was a bumpy spot. I said, "That must mean I'm a bad dad. That must mean I'm doing it wrong".

The person saying back to me was older. They said, "It means he's 13". Do you see what I'm saying? "You're misinterpreting the season. He's supposed to…" They said, "If he didn't start making you mad, you would never let him leave the house. He has to make you mad a little while, and then you'll love him again, and then he'll make you mad again. It means he's 13". It means you're growing. Paul said, "It means God wanted to do something in this prison". See how we bring meaning? We bring the meaning. We make it mean what we want to make it mean. "You meant it for evil, but God…" How many believe we can spend an hour talking about "But God"? Your life is not controlled by the intention of your enemy, and your life is not limited to the scope of your circumstances. Somebody say, "I've got a Father. I've got faith". Apokaradokia. "And I eagerly expect…"

Let me tell you something. Paul had such a great faith he had to make up a word out of other Greek words to explain his expectation. Somebody say, "I can't explain it, but I've got it". Paul said, "I have peace in this prison. I know I shouldn't. I can't explain it, but I've got it". You can't make me panic. You can't make me hate. You can't make me bitter. [0:47:00] What you do is up to you, but what it means is up to me. It's not even up to God what it means. He has left that responsibility to you. That's why Joseph was able to see rejection as direction. I hope you caught that. Listen to me. Joseph said, "You meant…but God meant…" So, what the Enemy meant for evil… Now I hear him saying that all things work together for the good of those who love. When love is your lens, you see God in everything. "He must love me so much".

One lady with a special needs child said, "I figured God loved that child so much he gave me the compliment of having the opportunity to raise that child". I thought, "She made it mean that". She could have said, "Well, God is punishing me". She could have said, "Why me"? I thought that was beautiful. I really did. What it means… He said, "If I die, I'll go be with Christ". For Paul, death didn't mean the end. What it means is up to me. That's why I told y'all from John 12 that before the seed multiplies… Remember verse 24? Before the seed multiplies it dies. From the perspective of Jesus… Remember, when he's dying on the cross he says, "It is finished". His enemies thought that meant it had failed. I hear the Spirit of God saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. It doesn't mean what you think it means".

I know there has been pruning. I know they meant it for evil, but what the Enemy means for evil… This can't just be a cliché, people. We can't just make it something that we say just to feel better and to escape our agony for a few minutes when a preacher is preaching. You have to walk around your life this week looking for fruit. "God, show me what you're doing. Show me what it means, God". I almost stopped at verse 20, but something told me to keep reading. After Joseph said, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good," in verse 21, it says something that would be insignificant, but it has great significance in this context. "'Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.' Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. So Joseph remained in Egypt [and] lived 110 years".

Here's verse 23. If this is your word, I want you to grab it and squeeze it and live on it all this week, every single time you're walking around looking at circumstances in your life, wondering, "Well, why did they leave me, and why is this happening, and why is that happening, and why is it raining, and why is it sunny"? Watch what it said. "Joseph saw Ephraim's children…and their children". I know that doesn't mean much to you, but it meant a lot to Joseph, because he was in Egypt suffering as a prisoner. He said something in Genesis 41 before his brothers ever came and showed up, before he forgave them, before he provided for them, and before he saw the purpose God was accomplishing in Genesis 50:20. A lot of you are there right now. The ability to see what God is doing and to realize that all things work together is to do what Joseph did.

Look at Genesis 41:50. "Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On". Now look at this verse. "Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. 'For,' he said, 'God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.'" Do you know what Manasseh means? Forget. Yet he didn't forget. When his brothers came to him a few chapters later, he was weeping, he was hurting. He didn't forget that they put him in a pit. It wasn't gone from his memory. So I thought, "Well, how could he name his son 'Forget'"? Even the fact that he mentions it means he hadn't really forgotten it. God didn't call me to forget what I've been through. Some things you never forget. But here was the thing in verse 52. "The name of the second he called Ephraim…" That's the one we just read about that he saw: Ephraim. "For God has made me fruitful…" Manasseh means forget. Ephraim means fruitful. "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction". Fruitful in my failure.

What does failure mean? It's only over if you quit. In fact, Ephraim doesn't just mean fruitful. It means twice fruitful. Then I realized it wasn't Joseph forgetting what he had been through. It was that God gave him so much fruit that what he went through was worth it. I know it has been a pruning season, but those he loves he prunes. "God must really love me. Look at all he helped me overcome. God must really have a great plan for me". You say the Enemy's attack is the proof that God has left you. I say the Enemy's attack is the proof of how much God has put inside me. What does it matter? What does it mean? What shall I choose? Lift your hands with your palms facing up like you're receiving from your Father.

Not only are you my Father; you're my Lord. I believe that. Sometimes I rebel, and sometimes I like to be my own god, but like Joseph said, "Am I in the place of God"? I thank you that any tree that stays planted by living water will yield fruit in season, and I declare that over the lives of those you've called me to lead. You've given Holly and me the wonderful privilege to be the pastors of Elevation Church. When we started, that was just one group of people meeting, and now it's a ministry that spans the globe, and there's so much fruit in it. We never imagined that hundreds of thousands, or whatever number it is, of people would be so impacted, never imagined that people would wake up in the middle of the night to watch and to stream just to get the Word. We just never imagined. We never imagined we'd have to close our buildings for a little while, but all through this season, Lord, I've seen you bringing forth fruit.

Lord, when I heard we would have to not meet for a little while, I thought we couldn't minister. Now I realize that it really meant you wanted to do more ministry, that there were people who never would have heard the gospel, never would have heard this word if you hadn't shut it down. What has been true of this ministry over these last few months… I just want to speak it over the lives of each teenager, everybody who's walking through a pruning losing season in their marriage or their business or it has been emotionally weird, or whatever, to know that I have a Father, to know that what you choose to allow in our lives, that's what makes you Lord, but how we choose to use it, as your children, is what moves us forward. Now, God, I declare more fruit over their lives. If it's a season of cutting back, if it's a season that seems like a setback, if it's a season that seems silent, I thank you that you're up to something right now upstairs. I thank you that just because you're quiet doesn't mean you're not close.

So, Lord, would you do it? Would you make them fruitful in that frustrating place? Bring forth fruit. Only you can do that. We plant our lives in the soil of your purpose, and what you do is up to you. You are in control. But what it means is up to me. The Lord says, "I set before you life and death this day. Choose life". In Jesus' name. All of you who received this word with a glad heart, put your hands together and give God the praise. If he's still God in the pruning, give him the praise. Paul said, "He's still God in this prison". He's still God in this pain. Give him the praise! Come on, open your mouth! Open your mouth, Riverwalk! Open your mouth, Ballantyne! Open your mouth and give him the praise! The fruit of lips that confess his name. That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Give glory to the Father! You've got a Father!

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