In “Finding Purpose In Your Pain,” Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church reminds us that our struggles don’t have to be the end, but can be an opportunity for growth instead.

You know God is using everything
in your life, don’t you?

This incident is important, and it’s
what I wanted to ask you about today

as we talk about finishing
the year with God’s favor.

It says after building an altar to God in
Bethel and remembering everything God did,

Jacob and his crew moved on from Bethel, the
house of God, the place where God met with him.

“While they were still some distance
from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth

and had great difficulty. And as she was
having great difficulty in childbirth…”

Which I think is a little bit redundant,
because I watched this happen three times.

I think every time there’s a birthing there’s
also a breaking. But that’s just me, as somebody

who started a church, as somebody who’s trying to
bear fruit in every season of my life. But this is

extreme now. This is not just a normal difficulty.
This is actually a matter of life and death.

In the middle of this, the midwife said to
Rachel, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”

Watch this. “As she breathed her
last—for she was dying—she named her son

Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.” This
is going to require a little bit of explanation

to translate Ben-Oni, which means child or son of
my trouble. Ben is the part that means son; Oni is

the part that means trouble, or some translators
put it sorrow. Either way you put it, it’s pain.

As she’s breathing her last
breath, understandably,

she names the child she is birthing
out of the pain she’s experiencing.

Her perspective is “This is costing me my life.”
In a very poetic record, the writer of Genesis

tells us that as she was breathing her last
breath, this baby was breathing its first breath.

We see here the confluence of the origin of
Benjamin, who would actually represent the

kingly tribe of Israel, but he wasn’t called
Benjamin, because his mother named him out of

her pain: Ben-Oni. “But his father named
him Benjamin.” But his father, who just lost

the only woman he really ever loved, who just
lost the thing he worked 14 years to obtain…

In the middle of his loss (watch this, because
this is what God is challenging us to do

right now), he decides to label not
according to what he’s about to bury

but about what was birthed out of what he buried.

Now, many of us (this is not a cotton candy
Christmas message) have had to bury a lot of

things this year. Even as a ministry, we had to
bury every plan we had for opening new campuses,

for the ways we thought we would reach people,
for every Elevation Worship tour we booked in NBA

arenas… For everything we planned this year, there
were funerals we had to have, and you did too.

What inspired me about the text was found not in
the fact that it was his favorite wife he buried.

You know, in that is a sermon,
but what got me about it that

I never saw when I preached it five
years ago… It says, “Over her tomb

Jacob set up a pillar, and to this
day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.”

Back up to verse 19, because I think this
is powerful. “So Rachel died and was buried

on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

I read how Rachel, the woman Jacob loved,
was buried just outside of Bethlehem.

Then I read how Micah said that out of
Bethlehem will be born a ruler who will

dash the princes of men into pieces and whose
kingdom will know no end. Then I read about Mary,

who was highly favored, who gave birth through
a virgin womb to the world’s greatest salvation.

It brought to me this question…Do

we know Bethlehem better by what was
buried there or what was born there?

I want to ask this question about your
Bethlehem. Remember we sing “O little

town of Bethlehem” like it’s cute.
Bethlehem was not where Mary’s OB-GYN

was located. Did you know they weren’t supposed
to be in Bethlehem when Jesus was born?

I know this sounds weird. Jesus picked
a bad time to come into the world.

He picked the worst time to come into the world.

And we think everything has to be just right
for God to do something in our lives. No, no,

no. They were only in Bethlehem because Joseph’s
family was from there, and maybe they still had

some land there. The Bible doesn’t say, but
they had to go back under Caesar Augustus

because there was a census happening, and
everybody had to go back to their hometown.

While they were on the way, just
trying to get their business done,

here comes Jesus. I found out God is a lot like
that. At the worst possible moment, he will give

you the greatest possible opportunity. It’s almost
like this year we’re being presented a question.

Are we going to label this year by
what we buried or by what was born?

I messed up. I should have asked at the
beginning of the sermon “What is Bethlehem?”

I guarantee you none of you would have
said, “The place where Rachel died.”

That’s how Jacob would have remembered it, because
he buried her on the way to Bethlehem, and he

renamed his son. Oh, by the way, he named his son
Benjamin, which doesn’t mean son of my trouble.

It’s a play on words, because Oni
can either mean trouble or wealth.

Instead of naming the child after what he lost in
that moment, he named his son Benjamin. Benjamin

doesn’t mean son of my trouble or son of
my wealth. It means son of my right hand.

The right hand is the hand of blessing.
The right hand is the hand of authority.

So, the word God gave me for you
today is: don’t bury your blessing.

What happens to us is, as we journey
along the way, we lose a lot of things,

and the temptation is for us to identify with
what we lost, and then we start labeling our

lives according to those losses. Well,
that limits us to what we can receive.

But if you can make a decision at this
point in the year to call his name Jesus…

See, Jesus came from Bethlehem. Jesus was
born in the place where Rachel was buried.

Don’t you see it? That’s the
same place David came from:

Bethlehem. That little boy with the
little rock who took down a big giant…

That’s why Micah said, “Out of you,
Bethlehem, will come the salvation

of the world.” The salvation of the world
came out of a small, impossible place.

That’s why I called it the year of the
Lord’s favor: because God said it was.

But God said, the Father
said… She named him Ben-Oni.

Your facts are trying to name your life right now.

Favor over facts. Let me break
this down. Rachel had a baby.

She died giving birth to him. Mary had a
baby, and she never even had the experience

of sexual intercourse. God saw potential in
Mary that was greater than her experience.

In Luke, chapter 1, when the Bible says
the angel called her highly favored…

On a 1 to 10 scale, I want you to know you’re
a level 10 favored by your Father in heaven.

I like to believe things my eyes can’t
see right now. That’s why I need one of

those machines like that cardiologist had.
Because you’re looking at me like, “Nuh-uh.

I don’t feel very highly favored. I don’t feel
pregnant. I feel fat, but I don’t feel pregnant.”

Let me tell you something
right now. Out of Bethlehem

came Jacob’s greatest pain. Out of
Bethlehem came God’s greatest purpose.

So, what are you going to get out of it?

This is not only a year for us to decide
what we’re going to give to this ministry.

Yeah, we’re giving an offering this weekend, and
God is going to use that to take the gospel all

over the world, and it’s a privilege to do
it. But what are you going to get out of it?

He said, “Out of Bethlehem will come for
me a great king.” Mary had to believe that.

I think this is the tension. I think this
is why we struggle to believe it. I think

this is what blocks us from believing that
the favor of God is on our lives and that

the purpose of God is working in our lives.
How many struggle to believe that sometimes?

Mary experienced favor and fear. Favor over
fear. Then look at verse 34. “How will this be,

since I am a virgin?” As I
read that verse, I realized

we don’t give birth to Christ
in the same way Mary did.

This has only happened once. So, if your
girl tries to pull this Bible verse on you,

you probably shouldn’t marry her,
because this is just a one-time thing.

But Christ is being birthed in all of us, and so
is his purpose, and so is the fruit of the Spirit.

When Mary said, “Since I am a virgin,”
I realized all we have to do to really

understand the power of choosing favor over fear,
favor over facts, is to put whatever limits us

right there where she said “a
virgin.” “Since I am an addict.

Since I am divorced. Since I am an orphan.

Since I am…” You know, little things we get caught
up on, like how much money we have in the bank.

They call that our net worth.
It’s not really your worth,

but since they call it that, you start
to believe that. “Since I am broke.”

Then you put an event and make it
an identity. “Since I am a failure.”

That’s what happens when you focus too much
on what you buried to see what is being born.

I was telling my oldest the other
day… I said, “Isn’t it interesting

how she’s limited to her experience but
God speaks according to her potential?”

If we experienced this year so much pain, so
much fear, so much loss, so much uncertainty,

so many times where we bumped our head right
up against the thing we thought wasn’t going

to happen, and it did happen, or we thought
it was going to happen… When we bump our heads

one too many times into disappointment, we
begin to call our lives whatever we buried.

“Oh, Bethlehem. That’s the
place where…” “Oh, 2020.”

Y’all, 2020 got a bad rap,

because all we can focus on right now is what
we buried this year, but we don’t yet know

what is going to be born from what we buried.
There might be a better job on the other side

of this for you. Do you hear me? There might
be more peace on the other side of this,

so God shut down some systems and some
things to get you focused on your Father.

I love Jacob. Jacob is like, “God changed
my name, and I’m going to change the name of

this thing that was born in pain, but it was
born on purpose.” Don’t bury your blessing.

You shove it down, and you force it down. You
got disappointed, so now you just buried that.

The problem is you are burying
the blessing along with it.

He said, “Son of my right hand.” I’m naming
my season according to what God is bringing

out of it. So, I want to say about 2020,
not only did I have to bury a lot, but I

got a lot out of it. I learned some
things about myself that I didn’t like.

Then I had to confront them. And guess
what happened when I confronted them.

God gave me grace for them, and he showed
me that he loves me even through all that.

Even some of the stuff I don’t like…
That’s what he wants to use. I got a

lot out of it. I know that sounds funny
to say that, because we did lose a lot.

Maybe you lost more than me. I’m not saying
this in some pretty little preacher way,

prancing up here in the pulpit, talking
about these little things preachers say.

But if you have faith to know that what is
being born is greater than what you’re burying,

then say it right now. “I got a lot out
of it.” “Hey, 2020, I appreciate you.

You gave me my sight back. You
taught me how to seek the kingdom.

You taught me how to walk by
faith. I got a lot out of it.

Bethlehem isn’t the place where I buried Rachel;
it’s the place where my Savior was born.”