TD Jakes - When Everything Falls Apart
It is a misnomer to think that if you walk with God, and serve God, and do his will and work, that you won't have any trouble. The reality is: they that live godly shall suffer persecution. And you don't get to pick when or how or what the suffering is, but it still happens. I'm building my church. My church is exploding. This is some 20 years ago. Everything is amazing. I'm reaching around the world for Jesus. Souls are being saved, and then the bottom dropped out. It started dropping when my mother-in-law died. And it kept dropping when my mother developed Alzheimer's, and she died. And there I was preaching, and ministering, and helping, and even healing. The gifts of healing operating in my life couldn't heal my own mother. And she died.
And just when I thought I couldn't take anymore, my 13 year old daughter walks in the room and tells my wife and I that she's pregnant. My wife collapsed on the floor, and all the air goes out of the room, and suddenly I began to understand that there are times that crush the human soul, that try your emotions, that are not judgment or penalty or God being angry or God hating you, but God developing you, that you don't get everything just because you go to a class or hear a sermon. You have to live these sermons out in your life, both the hearer and the speaker. What gives you the integrity of the message is the things you suffer behind the scenes to have the conviction to be able to declare them, to know that God has been proven in you.
I found myself asking questions that I'd never asked myself. Where is God? Why aren't you moving like you moved in the Bible? Move for me like you moved for Moses and Joshua and Jacob and Israel. Move for me. And I had to seek him, and that's a good thing. I had so search for him. I had to search my heart to understand what level of faith do you have. You don't need to search your heart when everything is going right. You need to search your heart when all hell is breaking loose and trouble is everywhere, and you feel deep down inside like you want to die. And you're asking questions that you dare not utter aloud lest the church judge you. But in your secret, see, in your private path alone with God you're saying, where are you? When are you coming? When is the happy ending?
And I didn't understand that tribulation is a part of training, that crushing and suffering is a part of how God develops us to become what he wants us to be. I didn't understand how to recognize him in trouble. But I kept preaching, and I kept serving and going on. And I didn't realize that I was earning my stripes by my battles. You don't get stripes as a soldier if you don't get in a fight. They don't give them to you for longevity or how many years of seniority. They give you the stripes because of the battles you've endured, and the things you've been through, and the crushing you've gone through, and you find yourself in an emotional quicksand, and you wonder if you can get out. "Will this be the big one that takes me out? Will this be the big one that brings me down to my knees? Will I be able to stand it emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Do I really have what it takes? Or have I been selling wolf tickets", we would say, wolfing. Talking at the big gates saying all this wonderful stuff, and then when it comes down to trial, does it really work in your own life? Not understanding that God is with you in the pain and in the suffering and in the trauma, the childhood trauma.
When the medical report comes back bad, and the business comes back bad, and you lose a loved one or you go through a painful moment in your life, that does not mean that God has abandoned you. We can sometimes feel aimless, and lost, and confused, and uncertain, and still love God. We can feel like God has abandoned us. It's okay. Even Jesus cried out on the cross. "My God! My God, why has thou forsaken me"? And if Jesus had a moment like that, then we can expect to have moments like that.
I found out that the way God rewards you for passing the last test is giving you the next test. That's promotion. Graduation. You killed the lion. Let me see what you do with the bear. You killed the bear? Let me introduce you to Goliath. That the way into your destiny is riddled with bloody battles, and scars, and bruises, and hurts, and pain so that when you get there you will stand there, and you will endure because I have been through something. It was painful. It was tough. It was crushing. And there were no demons to rebuke, and no witches to rebuke, and no Satan to come up against. I was in the hands of the Potter. And he was pressing in on the clay. And to God be the glory even when it hurts. To God be the glory with tears in my eyes. To God be the glory with my heart filled with pain. To God be the glory even when I need him to help me with my unbelief, while I hold on to my belief. To God be the glory for the things he hath done.
I have come to realize that in life there are seeds and there are weeds, and the seeds and the weeds come up at the same time. Like the wheat and the tare, that you can have good moments and bad moments simultaneously to the point that you don't really know how to enjoy the good moments because you feel the bad. And I don't know what it is about the human experience, but our attention seems to be distracted by the pain we go through to the point that we ignore the powerful blessings of God in our life. You'll scroll past all the good comments on the social media and find that one bad comment and focus in on that. I'm a pastor. I'm an author. I'm an evangelist. I've inspired millions of people around the world, but I'm just as susceptible as anybody else to life's suffering. Nobody gets a pass. Nobody gets an exemption. I've discovered that my authentic experience requires that I have more than theology and more than commentary and more than rhetoric and more than analogies and more than artistry, that it has to come from a deeper place, that it has to come from a bleeding place.
Jesus gives the parable about the wheat and the tare, and the most amazing thing about the wheat and the tare is that they both grew up together, simultaneously. And there's not a person in this room that can't see wheat and tare coexisting at the same time. And if you remember the parable, they said let us go in there and remove the tare, and Jesus says leave them alone. The weeds have just as much purpose as the seeds do. Let it all grow up together because Jesus knew there was nothing in the weeds that could kill the seeds. And you have to know there's nothing in the weeds that will kill the seeds even though they're threatening, and even though they're overwhelming. And sometimes the weeds gets so high you can't even see your own garden. You must understand that joy co-exists with suffering, that that is what the anointing is made out of, that it's made out of crushing, and myrrh, and bitterness, and sweetness, and calamus, all mixed together. And if you took away the suffering, you wouldn't be anointed. You have to understand that God knows what he's doing.
Joseph told his brothers about his dream. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for my good. He allowed you to betray me for my good. I am stronger because of your weakness. I am stronger because of your wickedness. I am stronger because of your strife. You taught me that I didn't need you to be able to stand. You taught me that you can't vote on my favor. You taught me that my glory is not in my coat of many colors. And so I thank you for hurting me. And I thank you for crushing me. And I thank you for crushing my heart because, you know what? I am broken in all the right places. All the right places. Like a key that unlocks a door, I'm broken just right to unlock my next dimension of grace".
And you can only have that kind of faith, that kind of knowing, that kind of reality when you agree with the apostle Paul in Romans 8: 28 when he says that all things, not just the good things, but all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord, who are the called according to his purpose. It's working for your good, but it doesn't feel good. It's working for your good when tears are running down your face. It's working for your good when you're up at 3 o'clock in the morning and you have to believe that it's working for your good. You have to understand that a bread maker always kneads the dough, and kneading it is what makes it rise. Pressing it down is what makes it go up.
Putting it up under pressure is the reality that proves that I am called according to his purpose and not my comfort. I am called according to his purpose and not your opinion. I am called according to his purpose and not my convenience, that God didn't come in my life to secure my convenience, that he comes into our lives and often his will is disruptive, and when it is disruptive, sometimes it feels destructive. And you wonder why God, are you killing me? When in fact God is preparing you for something bigger than yourself, and greater than yourself, and stronger than yourself. And it may be years before your questions are answered, and you begin to understand why you had to go through what you had to go through to get to where you had to get. And in the meantime, that's where faith operates. Faith stands in the gap between you understanding and you experiencing. You hold on with all your might, and you is believe him in the storm, in the hurricane, and the tsunamis of life. And some on board and some broken pieces made it safely to the other side. The ship doesn't have to stay intact for you to arrive alive.
I must be transparent with you because you saw the television and you saw the preaching and you saw the church's growth and you saw the crusades and the conferences, but you never saw behind the scenes. It's like going to the restaurant where all the table cloths are white and the candles are lit and everything is beautiful, but you didn't see the kitchen. Behind every major moment in my life, there were periods of stress that I thought would kill me. To be honest with you, I enjoyed my accomplishments more in retrospect than I did in real-time because while people were seeing the outside, I was dealing with the kitchen while you were eating in the restaurant. I was dealing with the employee that didn't show up and the one who ran off with the money and the person who quit, the person who betrayed me, the person who sold me out for 30 pieces of silver. And yet I had to walk out on the stage and remain the same. And so do you. You have to walk out, and you have to work, "Welcome to J. C. Penney". You have to do what you have to do. You cannot allow how you feel to dictate how you respond.
When you begin to understand you, you begin to understand your greatest successes are riddled with periods of stress. They go together. And if the enemy could, he would break you with the stress, but endure the stress because it means success is on the other side. Jesus said that he despised the shame of the cross, the humiliation, the pain, the degradation, the destruction, but he looked beyond it and said, but for the joy that was set before him he endured the shame of the cross. And you have to begin to realize that these crushing moments are a sign that God is about to do something amazing in your life. You have to understand that the greater, the more intense the labor pain, the closer the baby is to coming. And you can't have the baby without the pain. But no mother once a baby is born focuses on the pain. She focuses on what comes out of it. And I am telling you success and stress cannot exist without each other no more than babies can come without labor. No more than than clouds can come without rain. Combined they help us to reach our full potential, to bring us into our destiny and into our purpose.
The path to progress takes wild detours and breakdowns and unplanned stops and oil leaks and running out of gas and trouble everywhere and a fender bender, and crisis, and pulled over to the side of the road, but that's part of the trip. We feel the anxiety. We feel afraid. We feel loss. We feel, we feel, we feel. But we can not go by how we feel. We must go by what we know. We must go by what we believe, and we believe that God is with us even though we can't see him. And sometimes he doesn't hold our hand like we want to feel him holding our hand, but we have to know that he is there. Is there more to our suffering than what we can see? Absolutely. The very emblem our faith is a suffering Savior. We don't wear crowns around our neck to depict our faith. We don't have a throne around our neck as an emblem of our faith. The emblem of the Christian faith is a bloody Savior stretched wide and hung high on a cross, an old rugged cross. That's a big clue.
When Jesus says follow me, take up your cross and follow me, he's not joking. That somewhere sooner or later you're going to go through something that crushes you, and he knows exactly where to hit you to get the oil out of you. He knows exactly what it takes. You knows a specially designed tool just for you. Something that wouldn't bother anybody else, but he knows exactly what it takes to bring you to the point that you begin to secrete the glory and anointing of God. He knows how to do it. This is crushing. This is pain with a purpose. This is understanding that God has a future for you, and this is how you begin to understand that he is the master vintner, that as the vintner he controls the pressure to accomplish what he wants done, that he is sovereign, that he is absolute, that he is reigning, that he is in full control. And the only way you can withstand the crushing is to trust the hand that does it.
It's not that you like the pain. It's not that you're even sure you're going to survive. Until you know that God loves you too much to kill you in the process, you can't praise him in the process. But we praise him in the process because of the hand that is applying the pressure is not an enemy that's gone wild in my life, but a God that monitors how much I can bear. And skillfully with the skill and the artistry of a surgeon, his precision is so absolute that he knows exactly where to cut and exactly where to push to get what he wants to get out of your life. And he is a master. He is master vintner. He is master at turning water into wine. It is no accident that the first miracle in the Bible is Jesus turned the dismal waters of cana into the blissful delightful wine of celebration. And that's what he's going to do with you.