Steven Furtick - Kept In The Dark
I want to pray one more time before I preach. I want to pray for something specifically. Everyone stand at every location. In your home, stand. In your kitchen, stand. Get out of the bed and stand up in your Tommy Johns if you have to. Put a robe on, robes of righteousness, and stand up. I want to pray (I don't have long to really talk about it, but I want to pray about it) about our offering next Sunday, December 12. This is a tradition. More than it's a tradition, because some traditions are empty… This is not an empty tradition, like a turkey, or something like that, that's going to put you to sleep anyway. This is training.
When we trust God, when we bring him the firstfruits of everything he has given us, which thousands of people will commit to do here between now and the end of the year and set it up online, and all that, and many people giving above and beyond… I already have my offering ready. I got a head start. I started praying about this in October, so I'm ready. We're calling the offering Better. That's the word we associated with the offering. I took it from where he said, "The glory of the latter house will be greater than the glory of the former house". So many people right now are in seasons of rebuilding, but the Lord doesn't just want to rebuild what we had before. He wants to take us to a new place with new priorities and a new perspective.
Now, the key to all this… Do you really trust that he's your provider? Do you really trust that he is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord provides, the Lord sees? When I bring my offering, it's not just, oh, so we can keep paying staff members; oh, so we can keep changing guitar strings on Joey's Les Paul back there; oh, so we can keep buying Goldfish crackers for the kids over in eKidz so they don't freak out while I'm preaching too long. For me, it's training. It's teaching me to trust God. It also does something amazing, because then I get to see the fruit of preaching the gospel all around the world. I want to thank all of you who tithe to this ministry, who give to this ministry. We preach Jesus all over the world, daily. I mean, every hour of every day there's somebody being blessed somewhere by this ministry, and we get to do that together.
So I'm excited, really excited. I'm grown up now, so I'm more excited about giving than receiving. So, we're going to pray for all who are praying and asking God, "God, do you want me to give above and beyond the tithe, begin to tithe, both"? Let me pray, because only God can speak these things to you. Bow your head. Father, I thank you for what you've already done. I don't want to skip that. If you never did anything else for Steven Furtick, for Elevation Church, for the people I'm looking at… You already gave us this many breaths, this many days, this many blessings, this many breakthroughs, this many victories, this many slain giants, this many crumbled walls. You've already done enough to be worthy, because you saved us and you loved us and you came to tabernacle and live in us.
So, it's already enough, but you promise that you're able to do immeasurably more. I declare that over your children today, that their best is not behind them and the Devil is a liar, that the glory of the present house, what you're building right now by your Spirit, in the name of Jesus, will be greater. We give you praise by faith. In Jesus' name. If you believe that, give God a mighty shout of praise. Hallelujah! So, they'll give you the details of how to give that offering. I need everybody participating on the level where God has blessed you. Don't be sneaking out of here. "Well, the church is big. They don't need my money". It's not about the church needing your money; it's about you needing God. So, it will be great.
If you never, ever give, we'll still be here for you. Isn't that cool? The restaurant doesn't tell you that. "Hey, we'll still feed you, man. Just keep on coming. Whatever you want, free refills, as long as you want". They'll kick you out, but this is a ministry that will be here for you. One dude told me he left the church for four years. He said, "I was mad at you". I said, "Mad at me"? I had never met him before. He said, "Yeah. You were preaching some things I didn't want to hear". He said, "I came back because what God said through you was right". It reminded me of the Prodigal Son when he went off in the pigpen, and stuff, and he came to his senses. I didn't tell him that. "You look like you've been in the pigpen, buddy". He said, "When I finally got my mind back right, I knew where I could come back to was Elevation, because I knew I'd be accepted and welcomed and embraced". That's what I like about this church. I love this church. O come, all ye faithful. O come, all ye faithless. O come, all ye heathen. O come, all ye pagans. O come, all ye addicted. O come, all ye pretty. O come, all ye ugly. O come, all ye buff. O come, all ye skinny, scrawny, fat. I don't care. Just come. It'll be amazing. I'm glad you came. I am giving you your Christmas sermon early.
I know how you are, and I know there are shipping delays in the natural, and I know also the closer it gets to Christmas, the less room at the docks you're going to have to hear God's Word, because your life is going to be so busy and crowded. You'll be around all of these people you don't like, cleaning up your house to impress them and don't even like them, buying them stuff, and they don't even wear what you bought them last year. You have noticed. So, I'm going to give you your gift early. I'm going to get out ahead. I got out ahead on all of Holly's gifts this year. I have them all. They're all ready. I bought them early. That's right. Abbey knows everything she's getting. Holly doesn't. That's because I trust Abbey now. I can tell her. Honestly, all of my kids, when they were little, spoiled presents. One time, Elijah came back from SouthPark with me… I took him shopping, and he saw Santa. I know; you think Santa is pagan, but he was 5. Okay?
So, I took him to go sit on Santa's lap. He came back and told Holly, "I'm not allowed to tell you we got you sweatpants from Juicy". Oh man. But I trust Abbey now, so I don't keep her in the dark anymore. Go to Matthew, chapter 2. I told Graham sitting on the front row, "This sermon keeps getting bigger in me the longer we sit here. They need to stop singing so I can preach, because I feel like I'm about to give birth," which is exactly what Mary said in Bethlehem. She wasn't planning to give birth in Bethlehem, but she had to anyway, and that's where we're going to pick up today in Matthew, chapter 2. Are you ready? Ready or not, here comes Jesus. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.' When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him". Because if Herod gets mad, he's going to do crazy stuff to them, because he's this provincial governor. He's not really in charge. He's appointed by the Roman government. Caesar Augustus is really the head man, but he has Herod watching out for all of these Jewish people.
Verse 4 says, "When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah…"'" I love that verse because it comes from Micah 5:2, and it lets me know…O little town of Bethlehem…big things can come from small places. Look at your neighbor and say, "Be nice to me. I'm carrying something big. I know you can't see it right now, but out of me is going to come something that can change the world". Yeah! Let's go. Merry Christmas, y'all. "'…for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.' Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'"
"You know, I want to go worship him too". He wants to kill him. He's threatened by him. "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose [a thousand miles back where they came from in Persia] went ahead of them [five more miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem] until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed". They came a long way to see this. It validated their instinct that something big was happening. "On coming to the house, they saw the child…" The child. It means Jesus is a little bigger now. I know you have that Precious Moments thing on the credenza, but he's not a baby. He's not in a barn at this point. He's in a house. And there weren't three of these guys. The three wise men… They brought three gifts. Gold represents divinity. Frankincense represents priesthood. Myrrh represents Jesus' burial at his death. It's all symbolic. It's also about to finance the trip that Joseph doesn't even know he's going to have to take yet, because God is already working even before you realize it.
"…they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route". Now, let's prepare for our Scripture landing here. "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' he said, 'take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.' So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'" This sermon is called Kept in the Dark. Here we are again with the same familiar cast of Christmas characters.
The challenge of reading the Christmas story, as a pastor, is you just want to skip ahead to the part where he gets up from the grave and skip past all this stuff where he had to run. You also understand that we're watching these characters as they are walking through what we are watching with knowledge of where they end up. That's why it's hard to really grasp the meaning of a Scripture: because we are watching something they're walking through, but we are watching with knowledge what they are walking through. So, you kind of want to pull them aside. You want to be like, "Hey, Joseph, Mary is not lying. It really was the Holy Spirit who got her pregnant. You're not crazy. You're not simpin'. When she told you it was the Lord who came to her, and you kind of wondered was it really the Lord or was it Leroy…" It's kind of like you want to pull him to the side and be like, "Hey, Joseph…" Joseph had it rough. Right? He really never knew. He died not knowing if this was really the Messiah.
I'm sure he saw stuff that made him think, "Okay, okay. This kid is pretty special". I'm sure in the carpenter's shop Jesus would do something every now and then, maybe make a 2x4 pop up and levitate in the shape of a cross, just to give Joseph a little bit of confidence that this was real. But he didn't really know. All he had to go on was the Lord came to him in a dream. Do you believe your dreams? I don't believe my dreams. I'd be in jail. I'd be on so many prescription pills for anxiety if I believed my dreams. He has to hold on to something he saw in his sleep and walk it out in his life. We are watching with the knowledge… "Hey, Joseph, just hang in there, man. Just do the best you can to raise the kid. Show him a few things. You really can't mess this up. He kind of has a little special protection agency. He has a little heavenly secret service around him. Even if you lose him at the temple when he's 12, he'll find his way back. He kind of paves the roads with gold in heaven, so he can find his way through the streets of Jerusalem. It's going to be all right".
You kind of want to tell him that. He didn't know. "And if you hang in there, every middle-aged man in every little Methodist church in America is going to be pretending to be you and dressing up like you in the month of December one day". You kind of want to tell the magi, because they come so far. They come from Persia. These are not even preachers. They're astrologers. These are not even Jews. They're Gentiles. They are following something they shouldn't even be following to see the will of God, and it still got them there. They had to travel, as I think I mentioned, a long way. How far is a long way? Five miles? Ten miles? Twenty miles? Fifty miles? A hundred miles? How many times did they have to recharge the Tesla to get a thousand miles from Persia with these heavy gifts, estimated to be worth, like, four million dollars? And then it was all worth it.
You kind of want to tell them that, like, "Hey, just so you know, that star has you within five miles…" Sometimes you want to tell somebody, "You are so close. Don't quit right now. You are so close". They were five miles from where Jesus was. So, you kind of want to tell them, because you have the knowledge. "If you go five more miles, you are going to see the Savior of the world". We're reading it with the knowledge of where it ends up. They aren't watching themselves travel a thousand miles; they are walking a thousand miles. Here's the thing that'll keep you humble. Be careful who you judge when they're walking through something that you are only watching from a distance. You've never walked through the age that your mom is before. You've never… Well, you have walked through the age your kids were before, but you never walked through it with Snapchat. I got you. Right? You were like, "I have been a teenager. I've seen it all". You haven't seen anything but TikTok. The passage of time will teach you sometimes that you have to be careful, that when you're watching someone else go through something… It's interesting.
Everybody in the passage is walking through something that they don't know where it ends up, whether it's the magi or even Herod. You kind of want to pull Herod to the side. Right? He's trying to keep Jesus from being the king, and you kind of want to be like, "Don't bother". Like, "Really, man. Save your bullets. You can search all you want to kill Jesus, but you won't succeed". I felt the Holy Ghost. I want to tell the Devil this morning, "You can search all you want, but it won't work. You can come at the child of God with everything you have in your arsenal and keep flying at them in the middle of the night, but I read to the back of the book. You can search all you want, but it won't succeed, for the Lord's purpose will prevail". The Lord's purpose will prevail. I'm going to herald it from the mountaintop today. It won't work, Herod! You can search all of Bethlehem. You can kill every baby. You can lie all you want to, but it won't work because of Jeremiah 1:12. Jeremiah 1:12 is a Christmas Scripture that never got preached on Christmas, but I'm going to give it to you today.
The Lord said to Jeremiah, "You have seen correctly, for I am watching over my word to see that it is fulfilled". You ought to shout about Jeremiah 1:12. He said, "I'm watching to see that my word is fulfilled". This Scripture only made so much sense until Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Now I want you to look at Jeremiah, chapter 1, in the light of Matthew, chapter 2. After Jesus was born… Remember, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but he didn't come from Bethlehem. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". That's John, chapter 1. So, when the Bible says God is watching over his word to fulfill it, it means that no matter how much Herod searched for the baby called Jesus, God was watching over the seed of his Son that would bring forth the harvest of salvation. He's watching over you. Yet you wonder…
If you could tell Herod, "Hey, man. In the end…" Josephus said that in Herod's later years he couldn't stop eating, and there were worms in his intestines. You kind of want to tell him, "Man, stop trying to kill Jesus. This is not the path you want to go down". But you know how it ends. He didn't. You kind of want to tell Joseph, "Have faith, man". Everything in the passage I just read you, from a human perspective, was a problem, but from a heavenly perspective, it was a prophecy. Christmas gives me this perspective that God disguises prophecy as problems. Verse 1 said he was born in Bethlehem. That was not where they had the reservations. It was a problem. It also says, if you notice, they had to escape to Egypt because the king of their region was trying to kill him. That is also a problem. It says later that when Joseph got up to leave for Egypt, he had to go back to Galilee. He couldn't even go to Nazareth where he was from for a little while. He had to wait in Egypt. That's also a problem. But the same things I read in that passage that were problems were designed to fulfill a prophetic word. He watches over his word to fulfill it.
In Micah 5:2 it says he will be born in Bethlehem. Maybe this is why Mary's water broke early: she had to give birth in the place that the prophet spoke. At the same time they are considering, "Where are we going to do this? There's no room in the inn. This is not on our plan…" Look at this. God is not protecting your plan; he's protecting his promise. He's not protecting your preference of how you wanted it to go, how you wanted it to be, who you wanted to stay. He's not protecting any of that. In fact, he's disguising the prophecies… See, we know these are prophecies, but the magi didn't know that. They didn't even quote a single Scripture, and they found Jesus. Isn't that weird? Then the chief priests and the scribes and the teachers of the law know every Scripture, and they don't even see the Savior. The ones who should have seen God first were kept in the dark. I don't like being kept in the dark. Do you?
Then you would not have liked to have been a disciple of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, because his communication skills were suspect at best. "You could have told me to feed 5,000 men and their wives and children before you were on the third hour of your sermon, Jesus. Why did you wait until now to ask us if we have any food for these people"? We think about everything Jesus taught his disciples, but how about all of the things he didn't tell them? "Hey, go over in that boat to the other side. I'm going to see you there in a little while". He didn't say anything about the storm they would spend the next six hours rowing through. Why would you love somebody and keep them in the dark? I told my staff one time… I said, "Do not play God with information you are waiting to give me until I'm in a good mood, because by the time you're figuring out how to tell me, it's going to get three times worse. I need to turn off the sink or unhook the pipes or burn down the house or whatever I need to do, so tell me now"!
I don't want to be kept in the dark. I used to go on Twitter. This was "BC". It would say on Twitter, "I was at the so-and-so campus today at Elevation, and the video went down in the middle of the sermon". And nobody on my team had told me. I'm calling a meeting. One day I'm like, "Y'all, if the video for the sermon cuts out at the Matthews Campus, you have to tell me. I can't find out on Twitter. I'm going to find out, because I'm trolling the Internet to see all of these problems y'all are trying to hide from me. So tell me"! I've told God before, "You've got to tell me stuff. You can't let me get out here with a slingshot and a bag lunch and put a Goliath in front of me. Tell me there's going to be a giant so I can do some bicep curls and some jujitsu training. Tell me! Don't keep me in the dark. If you love me…" The Bible says, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men".
So why would God, who is the way, the truth, and the life, whose life is the light of men, whose light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5, King James Version)… Why would the God who dwells in ineffable light keep his children in the dark? Why didn't he just tell Joseph…? When he said, "Hey, Mary is pregnant. It's the Holy Spirit…" Why didn't he tell him that before Mary started to show? Why does she have to be six months along before you give me a dream? Don't keep me in the dark. Just tell me. Tell me when I meet somebody, "They are lying through their teeth, and you will not even want to see their name on your phone three months from now". Just tell me, God! I could save a lot of texts back and forth. I could just block them on day one if I had some advance planning, strategic knowledge. Just tell me. "Hey, by the way, you're going to have the baby's birth in Bethlehem, so get a room".
Why do you have to trick me into going to Bethlehem with the census that Caesar called for to get me there so I wasn't even expecting it? Why didn't you tell me, God, before we had multiple kids? No, I'm kidding. I love all of my kids. But I'm saying I could have planned for it. I could have saved for it. I could have gotten ready for it. Maybe I wouldn't have built all of these campuses if I had known about COVID. Maybe God doesn't keep you in the dark all the time because he's cruel; maybe sometimes he keeps you in the dark because he's getting something ready inside of you. Right now, in our house, Holly has a little room right off the kitchen, and the door is shut all the time. It wasn't shut last month. All this stuff that's coming through our house right now, all of these boxes… It's giving me gray hair in my beard how many boxes come into my house this time of year. All of these boxes.
Holly is a wonderful wife. She's always happy to see me, but she's been telling me lately on the other side of the door in that little office where she has all of these Christmas gifts… She says, "Stay out"! I'm like, "Who are you talking to right now? This is not Graham knocking on the door. This is not one of your children. This is your husband". "No, stay out, because I'm getting something ready for you. Stay out right now. I'm not in this room…" Now, you're saying, "That's kind of a silly illustration". Is it? Is Holly not like God? Is she not like your God? Sometimes you say, "God, show me this, and tell me that, and give me your direction for this and that," and does God not sometimes, in his silence, send you the message, "I need you to stay out, because my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts, and as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts"?
Sometimes God, because he has these… See, he has these boxes that have been coming in of something that he ordered before time began. From eternity, he spoke a word, a prophecy, concerning your life. Not just the life of Jesus. No, no. There's a prophecy over your life. The prophet said, "Before you were born, I knew you. When you were in the darkness of your mother's womb, I set you apart, and I kept you in the dark". No eye has seen, and no ear has heard, and it hasn't even entered into your heart what God has prepared for those who love him and trust him enough to follow him even when he keeps you in the dark. Do you trust the one who's behind that door? Do you think he's wrapping up Anthrax in those boxes, trying to hurt you? He said, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I'm a good God". The irony of the passage is everybody was kept in the dark…all of them. "Mary, did you know? No". That's the remix. That's the Steven Furtick remix. Y'all, put that on Spotify for me. No! She didn't know. She hoped. She carried. She didn't know. You don't know. Merry Christmas.
That's the message I'm getting from this passage. "We saw his star. We came to worship him. Where is he"? They didn't know. The ones who should have known didn't know because of their knowledge that kept them from knowing what they were supposed to know. They knew the Bible too well to believe it. God said, "I'm going to lead the pagans to a place the priests wouldn't even go". "Oh my god! Do you mean what I think I know about God could keep me from seeing him for who he really is"? Yes! "You mean I don't know God in all of his fullness"? No! He's omniscient. You're not. I'm not even "some-niscient". I'm "no-niscient". I don't know nothin'. I don't even know grammar. Can't you tell? See, now you're kind of in the Christmas story, because you're like the magi. You don't know. You don't know where this is going. You came to Charlotte for a job, and then they fired you eight months in.
What if the problem is the costume for a prophecy? "God, why did you keep me in the dark? Why didn't you tell me that relationship would fail"? Maybe he wanted the relationship to surface some stuff in you that he could work on so your relationship with him could get better. If he had told you how it would end, you wouldn't have taken the first step. Now I know why God didn't call a committee meeting before Christmas. "Okay. Shepherds, angels…" Like he's running a Christmas pageant or something like that. "All right. Come on, magi. Here's how it works. Joseph, here's what's going to happen. Mary is going to come up". We read it… We're so smug. Honestly, if I can be real, I spent all of my 30s hating Christmas as a pastor, because people come in, and it's like they don't even really want to hear a sermon, especially when it comes to Christmas, and people are coming in because they're supposed to. You can't say much to somebody who's there because they feel like they're doing God a favor to come to church.
People have to have need that they're aware of to really receive from God. That's why I pushed my Christmas message early to avoid the shipping delays so you could get this word. God is watching over his word. We are watching what they are walking through. We know where they end up. They don't. That takes faith. I mean, if you know the whole Twenty-third Psalm… "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me". You know it ends with the wolves getting driven off by the staff, but if you're right in the middle of the valley, you think it's your new mailing address. "Oh, I guess this is just how it is". The shadow of death? That's an allusion to Galilee where Jesus ended up being raised. That's what Isaiah prophesied. He said, "Those of you in Zebulun and Naphtali…"
Galilee was so scrawny to the Jewish people… When Solomon was paying off his debts and he had to give Hiram, the king of Tyre, something, he gave him 20 cities in Galilee. He just wrote them over. "Here, you can have this". It was the northern part of the kingdom, the part they didn't want, the part where a lot of the Canaanites still lived, because it was still overrun by enemies. "Oh, you can have Galilee". The king of Tyre got it and said, "What did you give me, my brother? You can have this back". That's where Jesus did his ministry: in the land of those dwelling in darkness. Galilee, where Jesus based his ministry… Please don't think this is a geography lesson. This is a prophetic word for you. The place that was associated with darkness is where Jesus did the most. It was known as the land of shadow and death. The thing is you don't know which it is when you're walking through it.
"Is this going to kill me or is this just a shadow"? God doesn't tell you. Do you ever wish God would give you an age you're going to die at so you can know how much to save and how much to enjoy? I would spend it all if God told me I had until 43. I wouldn't leave the kids a dime. I probably wouldn't come preach again either, honestly, if I only had until 43. I might do one more message, you know, and put it out there and see if you want to see it. I don't know, but I'd spend all the money. And God knows that. If God told me when I was going to die or if God told you when… Did you notice what the angel told Joseph? "Go to Egypt. Herod is trying to kill your kid, but I'm going to keep him in the dark. I'm not going to let him find him. He can search all he wants to kill Jesus, but I am watching over my word to fulfill it. So, no weapon formed against the Word of God that is in your arms will prosper".
Before I forget, let me tell you this. God said to tell you that he is keeping your kids. God said to tell you that as they walk through the darkness of the valley of this cultural shadow of death, the hand of the Lord is upon your children. I want you to shout if you receive this prophecy by faith. Herod can look all he wants, but he won't kill mine. He won't get yours. The blood is on my house! The blood is on my life! Y'all, settle down. Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. All is not bright. That's pretty to sing. It's a nice image. It helps the Christmas tree light manufacturers sell a lot of merchandise, but all is not bright. I was so distracted by the star in Matthew 2 and how bright it had to be to lead them a thousand miles, because I like the bright stuff. Don't you?
I like the bright spots. I like when I can see. I like when God gives me light. "Let there be light". I love when God says, "Let there be light" and shows me something clearly. I loved Saturday morning when God gave me this message. I loved this morning when he gave me even more. I'm not going to love it when I have to think about all the stuff I didn't get to. I didn't love Thursday. Thursday, I was groping around in the dark. "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? I'm sorry, Lord. Whatever I did, I won't do it again. Just give me a message. I don't even feel like the Bible is in English right now. O God". I don't like that. I try to give you what God gives me and regift it. Now I'm coming to a point in my life where I try to give you what I would give to my own kids, and that's deeper than giving you a lesson from the Bible. So it pushes me to go deeper, but deeper means darker.
You need to look low for God, not always up here in the clouds somewhere on some inspirational feeling. He said, "You're going to find the child on the ground in little old Bethlehem". "O little town of Bethlehem" wasn't a compliment; it was an insult. From that place… Wherever you feel the most insecure, wherever you feel the most insulted, wherever it is the darkest, wherever is your Galilee…that's where God's glory is the greatest. Elijah told me the other day during our workout, "I'm sorry my energy is low. I slept horrible last night. I messed up and listened to this music that got me in this dark mood, and then I couldn't get it out of my head. I'm lying there, and I'm sitting there. I can't sleep. Then I tried to look at my phone, because that's what I normally do, but that made it worse". He asked me something. He said, "Do you ever have nights like that, Dad"? The guy in me who wants to be so admired and respected wanted to say, "Of course not, son. I don't count sheep; I talk to the Shepherd".
You know what? I don't think you should keep your kids all the way in the dark about what you struggle with. You don't need to tell them everything. Please don't tell them everything. That's going to build up a therapy bill that will be bigger than their college fund, but I am saying there are moments where I realize, "You know, he already sees me preaching". He's 16. I said, "Nights like that? I've had months like that. No, I haven't had nights like that; I've had a year like that". Not this year. That's when the Lord took me back to my passage. I thought the passage was about the star. I had a message going. It was pretty good too. I don't know why the Lord won't tell me the right message the first time. Why does he keep me in the dark? I'm studying about the star, like how it's God's GPS system. That's what I was going to tell you. "God is your GPS. Merry Christmas".
Look at Matthew 2:14. It said that after they saw the star and bowed down and worshiped him, an angel came, and he took the child and his mother during the night. That's what I realized. God does a lot of things at night that he can't do during the day. They left for Egypt. They would stay for a year. It wasn't their plan. They weren't packed for it. Are you exactly where you planned to be right now? If so, I want to worship you, Jesus. I want to give you gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. They left during the night. You have to follow at night sometimes. Are you following God in the night right now? What I mean is you can't really see what's two steps ahead, and you keep bumping into stuff that makes you want to cuss. You can't even hardly find the bathroom at night. You don't really know. You're just like Joseph. You're just like Mary. You're just like the magi. You're even just like Herod. There was only one in the passage who knew where this was headed, and he couldn't even walk yet. Nobody else knew.
So, I tell my sons about, my daughter about, my church about nights like that. I don't want to just tell them about the God of 9:30 on Sunday morning. It has too much makeup on. Then they won't realize God when he has to show up at 4:00 a.m. I want to pastor a church and to be a person who has 4:00 a.m. faith during the night. I want my kids to see me do great things for God and write great songs for God and preach great messages and make good decisions and love their mom and be a memory-making dad and give them all of these wonderful experiences, but I want them to know that I had some nights where I didn't know. I didn't know if the church would keep going, especially when it was a baby. I would walk out every week not knowing if anybody would be out there. I hate when God prompts me to tell you stuff that's embarrassing to me. I'd rather keep you in the dark.
I would rather roll out on the stage, "Hey, praise the Lord, everybody! God is your GPS, and he's going to reroute you! Am I right"? But the Lord said to tell you the things you doubt about, I doubt about. Do you hear me, son? I've had nights like that. I've had nights where I wished I could throw up, but I couldn't, because it wasn't physical what was making me sick. There's no sickness like night sickness. I've never had morning sickness like Holly did, but let me tell you something. He's not just the God of 9:30 Sunday morning. He led Joseph to Egypt at night. So, if you ever see me do anything great, boy, it's not because I always walked in the light; it's because I was kept in the dark. Everybody who God ever used… He didn't use them because they always had so much light, so much knowledge, so much goodness. You see all this other stuff. Everybody is posing on Instagram, and they have all of these lights that are so flattering and all of these filters, but the God of 4:00 a.m., the God who got up from the grave in the physical body of a man named Jesus…
In John 20:1 it says, "While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb". He didn't get up when the light came out. Easter didn't start with a sunrise. It started in the dark. So, if you are in the dark today and you don't know and you can't feel… "My God, why have you forsaken me? How does this end? Why does it hurt? When does it stop? When can I leave"? I need you to know he's watching you and keeping you and holding you and with you in the fourth watch of the night. Yes, there's a star that guides you. Yes, there's a light that guides you. Yes, there are blessings that attend you. Yes, there is favor you can feel, and you will experience all of those things, but sometimes he's going to tell you things in the night and lead you through things in the night, and what he does at night you will be shouting about in the day.
This is why you have to hold on. This is why you can't give up. This is why you have to get help. This is why you have to work through it. This is why you can't accept defeat. This is why Herod is searching for you, but he couldn't find you yet. He couldn't kill you yet. What he couldn't kill is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He leads me not just with a star… Y'all don't want to go yet, do you? Y'all have enough battles at home. Just stay with me for a minute. Get under this blessing for a minute. The night is coming when no man can work. Let us work the works of him who sent us. He's watching over me! Yes, he is! Because I have something in common with Mary and Joseph. I'm carrying Jesus. I have Jesus on the inside of me. Everything God spoke to Joseph that confirmed his word he did at night. In a dream, take Mary home. In a dream, go to Egypt. In a dream, go back to Nazareth. Everything God did in Joseph's life he did at night.
What is he doing on the night watch for you right now? What is he doing? I'm telling you, we're going to be shouting about it tomorrow, but right now it's night. I always feel like coming out here to preach is a little bit like a detective novel. I'm trying to find "Who are you"? Who are you that God gave me this word for that he just stirred me up until, like I told Graham, I feel like I'm about to give birth? Who are you? What are you carrying? What does Herod know about you that has him trying to track you down and kill you? Why has the attack been so strong? If you were not carrying Jesus, if you were not sent for a purpose, if there was not a prophecy over your life, you wouldn't be feeling any pain. The pain is a labor pang. You're about to bring something forth.
It made me think that this is not the only Joseph. There's another Joseph who had to go to Egypt. Do y'all know the other Joseph? Do y'all know OT Joseph, Old Testament Joseph? Put it in the chat. "I know Joseph. I know what you're talking about. You're not talking about Joseph who married Mary. You're talking about Joseph who was promised that God would raise him up to feed his whole family and save his whole nation in a time of famine". That Joseph, who saw the stars and saw the grain, but God didn't show him everything he would go through. God kept him in the dark. He didn't tell him, "Your brothers are going to betray you, the very ones you're going to have to feed". You're going through something right now, and you didn't see this coming. He didn't see himself pushed into a cistern. He didn't see himself sold into slavery. He didn't see himself rotting away in a prison while he was forgotten by the cupbearer and the baker. But do you know what Joseph told me to tell you?
"God kept me in the dark. He was with me. He kept me. He held me steady. He held me down. He held me level. He kept me sane. He preserved my mind. He walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil". He's with me! That's how I'm here. He kept me! Everybody God kept, give him praise right here! He kept me in the dark. He kept me from killing myself. He kept me from walking away. He kept me from giving up my dream. He kept me from turning my back on my faith. I'm not here because I always walked in the light. I'm here because he kept me in the dark. That's how I got here. He kept me in the dark. He didn't tell me everything. That's how he got me here. He told me, "One thing at a time". That's how he's going to speak to you. "One thing at a time". "Give us this day our daily bread". He kept me in the dark.
If God told you everything, you'd start spazzing out. We'd have to call the ambulance to your campus. I used to pray, and I still pray, "God, give me light," but this is a Christmas prayer: "God, keep me in the dark. When I doubt you, don't let me deny you". One man from the 1920s said, "Don't forget in the darkness what you learned in the light". He got up at night. Joseph went to Egypt. You're following God right now to a strange place. I know you are. He spoke to me about you. He said to tell you, "I'm keeping you in the dark". You have to turn it over. You have to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. What's he saying? He will keep you in the dark. Do you remember when God's people came out of Egypt in the Old Testament? The Bible says they had to leave, and the firstborn of all of Egypt was struck down, so committed was God to the freedom of his people.
God is committed to your freedom. God is committed to his children. He is watching over his word to perform it in your life, in this moment. At night, he neither sleeps nor slumbers. One time, I heard a fellow say, "Well, if God never sleeps nor slumbers, then I'm going to get some rest, because one of us should". Look at this. The first Joseph who went to Egypt in the Bible was Joseph who went to preserve the nation of Israel, and watch what it says in Exodus 12:40. This is the word I want to leave you with today. "Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years". Y'all, I don't care who you are. That's a long night. That's a long time to wonder "Where are you, God"? It has been 81 generations since the birth of Christ that we live in, and I think we have completely messed up the message of Christmas in those 81 generations, because we only associate God with the light. He is the light. There's no darkness in him.
However, look at what the Bible says to the people. This is thousands of years before Jesus, and watch how the prophetic word aligns, how God is watching over his word to perform it. Next verse: "At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord's divisions left Egypt. Because the Lord kept vigil that night…" That night. Do you know the one I'm talking about? The one where the anxiety was beating. The breakers were pounding. You know the one I'm talking about, where all of the memories came flooding back. You know the one I'm talking about…all of the regrets. That 4:00 a.m. devil you fought that was searching to kill you, like Herod was searching, like Pharaoh wanted to kill the Israelites, like he wanted to strike them down, but he couldn't. Watch why. "Because the Lord kept vigil that night…" This is what the Scripture says: "…to bring them out of Egypt, on this night…" Follow me. Receive this word. He said, "On this night…" "Because the Lord kept vigil that night, I want you on this night to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come".
Aren't you glad Joseph followed in the dark so we could have Jesus in our hearts and our lives? What are you carrying? What is the important thing on the other side of this night? That night, the night they left Egypt with the blood on their door so the angel of death passed over their houses… That night, God stayed up and watched. So he said, "You keep it". If you were kept in the dark, then don't you get in the dark and lose your faith. Don't you let this knock you off the solid rock you've been standing on. Don't you let this snatch your prophecy. This is bigger than you. Do you hear me? This is bigger than how you feel right now. This is for generations to come. That's why you have to make it through the night. That's why I had to make it through the night: so I could tell my 16-year-old, so he can tell his 16-year-old, "I've had nights like that, but no matter how dark the night got, God never stopped watching. God never stopped keeping. God never stopped working. God never stopped sustaining". "There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night".
God is a good shepherd. He watches his flock at night. He doesn't only like you in the light of day. He watches you in the grimy place. He's a grimy God. He'll roll up his sleeves and come down, born of a virgin, dressed like a man, to set his people free. He never stopped watching me! He never stopped watching. Give God worship if he never took his eye off you! It's great to have promises that God made you in the light, but the promises God makes in the light have to be kept in the dark. That's where you need Jesus. That's where you need light. I think, no matter how long the light is, the day is going to be greater. I do. God never… Do you remember when he came out walking to the disciples on the water? It was the fourth watch of the night. It said Jesus came walking to them in the storm on the water, but what I love about it is, before he walked out to them, he never stopped watching them. He saw them the whole time they were in the storm.
God is watching over his word. Whether it's Herod, whether it's depression, whether it's your dumb decisions, they are not stronger than the prophecy. Until Christ is brought forth, God is watching… O God, I thank you that you're watching over my house. I thank you that you're watching over my gift. I thank you that you're watching over my spirit. I thank you that you're watching over my broken heart so that nothing seeps in that would keep me from seeing you. God, I thank you that you are watching over these men and women. I thank you that no storm they are in reduces your visibility, for you have an all-seeing eye. You are the all-knowing God. You are the living Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". That same Word that came forth through 42 generations and past 80 generations to come to us today. We have our eyes on you now.
Watch God. Keep your focus even in the dark. Watch God. Watch his Word. Meditate on it. In your bed remember it. Play it in your heart. Watch God. Watch God bring you out. Watch God do a miracle. Watch God give you a testimony. Watch God turn it around. Watch God use this very thing. Watch God. Stop watching the news for five minutes and watch God. God doesn't watch the news. He is good news! He is glad tidings! He brings great joy! He watches over his flock by night. Give him praise if you receive this word.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for joining us and being a part of Elevation Church today. We trust that God spoke to you right where you are. In this year-end season, if you'd like to begin partnering with us financially, head over to elevationchurch.org. There you'll find all of the options and opportunities available for you to give. If you haven't begun tithing or placing God first in the area of your finances, we'd encourage you to start there. If you already do that, and do that consistently, we'd encourage you to ask God how you can go above and beyond in this season and give toward the year-end offering.
We always love to see how God works in and through you right where you are, so if you're a part of one of our local campuses, make sure you select that campus as part of your offering. If you're a part of our online community, or our eFam, make sure you just select "online". We always love seeing how God works in and through you as you continue to open up your life, open up your hands, and offer God all that you are. We're excited for you, blessed that you're a part of what God is doing right here, and can't wait to see how he moves in and through your life as you continue to place him first.