TD Jakes - Quality Control
So I was building my church, the church of my dreams, the church beyond my dreams, the church that I never thought I would ever get to build, the church that was valued out at millions and millions of dollars that I didn't have, but I had the faith to believe that God did, and it was growing up, and it was happening, and I was seeing it right before my eyes, and it was like bein' at the Red Sea when Moses stretched forth his rod, and the bills parted, and the contractors got paid, and the building was erected, and it was standing there, and the only bad thing about it amidst all of the pews and the colors and the picking out of the architect's designs, and going through proofs and looking at materials and concepts, the only bad thing about it is, while the church was going up, my mother was going down, and you have to have taken care of somebody with Alzheimer's to know that they go away in layers.
It's not like a car wreck, and they go all at once. It's not like a heart attack, and you find them, and they're gone. No, no, no, no. She died a little bit every day. And every day, they were bringin' me reports about what materials came in, and the pews are gonna come in on Saturday, and the carpet is coming in, and at the same time, the doctor was saying, "She's getting worse," and she had lost the ability to remember to swallow and holding food in her mouth. And I would come home from preaching and ministering, and have to stick my finger in her mouth and remove her food, and take care of her. And all kinds of articles were being written about the smart church and what was going on, and they were talking about what was going right, and they never saw what was going wrong. They saw the wine, and I saw the crushing. I really saw the crushing.
You see, my mother was not just my mother. She was my best friend. She was my secret keeper and my confidant, and I knew everything about her, and she knew everything about me, and losing her was like losing me in pieces because we were almost the same person. Even through Alzheimer's, we could still continue to communicate, and when she lost her ability to speak English and started speaking Gibberish when I would walk into the room, she'd look at me and say, "Hi, baby," and I watched her fade away until she died in my arms, and I held her until her body got cold, and it was painful, and it was tough... And I still had to teach a Bible class, and I still had to run revival, and I still had to preach on Sunday morning, and I still had to conduct business, and I still had to negotiate the affairs of the church, and I was writing a book by her bedside while she was in the hospital. I was writing while she was dying, in the room with her, right by her side.
You can't let go of one thing for the other. You have to do both simultaneously. Life doesn't stop for you to hurt. It doesn't stop turning because you lost a loved one. It doesn't stop because you don't feel good, and it won't give you a leave of absence so that you can get away from everything and shut it all down. It's still happening. The bills are still coming. The problems are still coming. I'm talking about crushing, people. I'm talking about pain. I'm talking about suffering. I'm talking about where the rubber meets the road. I'm not talkin' about church. I'm not talkin' about religion. I'm talkin' about life. Jesus didn't say, "I come that you might have church". He said, "I come that you might have life," and sometimes we are great at having church, but we're havin' a terrible time havin' life. We know how to clap, we know how to sing, we know how to shout, but do we know how to live? And God won't just be a church experience. He's gonna get in your life experience to validate your church experience.
So I asked myself, "What does this mean? How would I get through this? Can I get through this? I have never had to get through this before". I have never lived a day that she wasn't in it, I have never been abandoned like that in my life, and even though I was 40, for the first time in my life, I was an orphan, a preaching orphan, a teaching orphan, a traveling, book-writing orphan, and "Though he slay me, yet shall I trust him". You see, in order to develop real quality, it takes time, and it takes pain, and it takes endurance, and it takes grief, and it takes trouble, and it takes turmoil, and it takes destruction and demolition. Demolition is a messy thing. If you get ready to remodel your house, expect to have some mess, and when God gets ready to recycle you, he does it through the things you suffer and the things you endure.
In the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus identifies who he is, and he says, "I am the Vine, and ye are the branches. And every branch in me that bear fruit, I purge it, that it might bring forth more fruit". That's the sentence that gets me, because it would seem like, to me, that, if the branch was doin' good, you would leave it alone, but he says, "Every branch in me that beareth fruit, I cut it back. I cut it back not because I'm a serial killer, not because I'm out to destroy the bush, not because I hate grapes, not because I don't want it to win, but I cut it back so that it might bring forth more fruit". So we don't go through these crushings because we are not his, and we don't go through these crushings because he doesn't love us, and we don't go through these crushings because we're not fruitful. He cuts us because we are fruitful because, as fruitful as we are, he knows the potential of what is yet down inside of us, and he knows how to get you to that potential, and he stops you from being safe, and he stops you from being satisfied. You have to give up safety if you're gonna walk with God. You have to trust him that he is the farmer, that he knows what he's doin', and when he says that "I am the vine, and ye are the branches," he says, "My father is the husbandman, and the husbandman is the farmer. He's the vintner. He's the one that controls the process. He knows exactly where to cut to make you more fruitful".
When I was a little boy, I went out in the yard. I'm tryin' to do like my mother who pruned the rose bushes. I decided I would help her out and go prune the rose bushes, and when she came home from work, I had almost killed the bush. I had almost killed the bush. I was a bad little boy. You can tell. Can't you imagine? Just shrink me down to about eight years old, and you got trouble on your hands. I was a bad little boy. I tore the bush apart, and she was furious with me, and I said, "Why are you furious with me when I'm only doin' what you did"? She said, "No, You're not doing what I did, because I know where to cut". See, the vintner knows where to cut. It's not the cut alone. You can't just cut it anywhere, he knows where to cut, and he knows when to cut, and he knows how to cut to bring you to the place that you can be more fruitful because, ultimately, he wants you to have enough fruit that we can become wine, that we can enter into that state of being that lasts for years and years, and hundreds of years as wine, but if I've remained a grape, I will go bad.
So it is the only fruit that is raised to die. It is raised to be crushed. It is meant to be stepped on. It is meant to be bruised. If grapes could scream, they would cry out from the pain of becoming wine, but if they can endure the pain of the crushing and trust the vintner, who is God, our Father, to take me through this process, my latter days will be greater than my former days, and finally, I'll be more valuable, and I'll be worth more, and I may get shipped abroad, and I may be served to kings and princes and set before great men only because I've been crushed. I may be served at the finest tables. I may be used in the greatest restaurants only because I endured the crushing.
Jesus connects us to the Father by helping us to understand what his role is in our life, so that we won't misunderstand the knife, so that we will understand that the knife is in the right hand, that sometimes, when God approaches you, he approaches you, and he looks like a slayer because he's coming with something that hurts. And you have to trust his character when you don't understand his methods. You have to understand his acts by believing in his ways, because the husbandman is our Father. He cuts us in all the right places, and we can do nothing without him. We can be nothing without him. We cannot reach the height, and the hope, and the purpose of our calling without him, because only the manufacturer knows how fast the car will go.
He has built it and designed it to accomplish more than the foot that's got its pressure on the pedal. He has designed the car to exceed the pace that you may be willing to drive. And so, if you wanna know how fast it can go, you have to talk to the manufacturer because he designed it with enough horsepower to do more things that you may even be capable of doing, and God pushes us out of our comfort zone by crushing us. Jesus became human so that he could understand what it was like to be human. He experienced our trials, our temptations, our heartaches, our pain, so that he would be an example for us. He is the fruition of God's word. He proves himself in us. He walks it out right in front of us to show us that it can be done. He allows himself to be beaten right in front of us, and we got to see him be beaten, and we got to see him be ridiculed and laughed at, and be popular and then unpopular, and loved and then hated, so that we would understand that all of this is part of becoming wine.
My wife is a neat freak. She wants everything in place. I think the house is clean even when she says it's not, and she'll be complainin' about stuff that I think is no big deal, because she likes everything nice and neat. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a messy person... well, maybe a little bit, but, hee-hee-hee, I like it nice even though I'm messy. I like it nice and neat. I like life nice and neat and packaged and beautiful and smelling good, and that's not how it happens. Any winemaker will tell you that makin' wine is a dirty business. It's a messy business. It's a business that leaves stains in your clothes, and scratches in your skin, that making wine happens in dirty places, not nice, neat, comfortable, la-z boy chair, laid-back, remote-control places. That's not how you become wine.
We have a God who works in dirty places. From the very first time we meet him in the book of Genesis, we see him stooping down, playing in the dirt. This is the first indication that God is not afraid to work in dirty places. Over and over again, we get the metaphor of him being a farmer, of seed, of seedtime and harvest, of sowing and reaping to let you know that God works in the dirt. And then, when you pray to stay out of the dirt, you're praying to stay away from God because he stoops down to the dirt, and he makes you in the dirt, and he shapes you in the dirt, and he forms you in the dirt, and he matures you in the dirt, and he stabilizes you in the dirt like any winedresser would. If a winedresser is not willing to get dirty, he'll never have the grapes, and if you don't have the grapes, you won't have the wine, because the wine means that you've got to step on it, and you gotta crush it, and your feet are stained with the pressure, until both the winemaker and the grape have experienced the same stain.
And "He was wounded for our transgressions, and he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed". Jesus became human so that he could be stained with the stain that we experience, so that when we cry out to him, he can be touched by the feeling of our infirmity. He wanted to know what that was like. God had never slept, not one night, until he came in the form of Jesus. He didn't know what "tired" felt like. He didn't know what sleep felt like. He didn't know what fear felt like. He didn't know what stress felt like, and he came so he could answer his own question, "Adam, where art thou"? And so he came walking down from time, from eternity into time, so that he could have a human experience so that we could have a conversation.
He is the seed of Abraham, and God knows how to develop that seed. He knew how to take it through 42 generations, and you're tryin' to get there in 42 days. And Jesus came through 42 generations, and you think you're late, and you think you're behind, and you think you're off schedule, and you think you missed your mark? Jesus came through 42 generations to be the seed of Abraham. He grew and matured. He started as a baby, and most people don't wanna start small. The Lord of glory, the King of glory, the great I am, the Mighty One, the Holy One, the consolation of Israel came in a form of a baby, he came small. He came smaller than the mother he would redeem. He came smaller than the people that he would deliver. And it is no accident that he was born in a manger, because he was a lamb. Where else would a lamb be born? And he teaches us as he grows and as he develops.
The opportunity to grow happens in your life, in your home, in your heart, in your your spirit. And you are being planted, but you feel like you're being buried. Have you ever noticed that there is no difference in the motion between planting and burying? When you plant a seed, it feels buried, but it was planted to rise again. The vintner understands that he is not a mortician, and even though he takes a seed, and digs a hole, and puts a seed down in the hole and covers it up with dirt, he's not a mortician. He's planted it and not buried it, and most of us think we are being buried when, in fact, we are only being planted. And when you are planted, that means you're gonna get up again, and when you are planted, that means you're gonna come forth again, and when you are planted, that means that this is not how the story ends. This is not the end. Don't run from it, don't hide from it, don't duck from it, don't dodge from it, don't run, trying to get away from it, because you are not being buried. You are being planted, and to God be the glory for the things he has done even when it hurts. That's crushing.