In “You Never Really Know,” Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church reveals how God often works through the unexpected – and that some surprises are worth waiting for.
God is constantly keeping us guessing,
isn’t he? Do you like surprises?
You may have had a different answer
if I had asked you six months ago,
“Do you like surprises?” But now we’re like, “You
know what? No. I’m good on surprises until 2032.”
You’re going to be surprised about some things
when you get to heaven. One thing you’re going
to be surprised about maybe is who your neighbor
is in heaven next door in the condominium.
You might be surprised who has a
bigger house than you in heaven.
Who God really used on earth will
not always be whose name we knew.
Even on earth, Jesus was full of surprises. I like
that the disciples were surprised, because it lets
me know that it’s okay that sometimes I get caught
off guard. I thought God was going to do this,
and then he does that. I thought my life was going
to look like this, and then it looks like that.
I thought this person was always going to be my
friend, but I didn’t know they were going to stab
me in the back and go take what I tried to give
them and do something else with it. But that’s
okay, because his disciples were surprised too.
God is constantly keeping us guessing. I almost
wish I could read John, chapter 4, again for
the first time, because now I know how it ends.
It would have been cool if I could have wiped your
memory. Don’t you wish you could see Shawshank
Redemption again for the first time? Wouldn’t it
be amazing just to see Andy Dufresne crawl through
the sewer, to hear Morgan Freeman narrate the
life of Tim Robbins again for the first time? It’s
still good, but I kind of wish I could see it…
Because I didn’t see that coming the first time.
Have you ever been watching a movie and you
thought you knew exactly where it was going to go,
but then out of nowhere…? I remember
the first time I saw A Beautiful Mind.
It messed with my mind. I did not see that coming.
Have you ever been going through your life,
going through your day, just minding your own
business, like the disciples trying to go get
a burger, and all of a sudden, God disrupts your
expectation of how your day was supposed to go?
And sometimes God doesn’t even
let you know it’s him doing it.
Now, every disruption is not recognized as divine,
because the disciples had no idea what he wanted.
They still thought he wanted Chick-fil-A.
Closed on Sundays. They didn’t know he was
doing something much bigger than a #1. He was
doing something much bigger than a drive-through.
Don’t you know that God has scripted a much bigger
arc for your life than how you feel this week?
See, we never know. Any given day, we wake up and
we never expect. It’s never the things you expect
that set your life in a different direction.
Have you noticed this? It’s never the things
you expect. When you came to that lunch and you
sang me that song, you never knew we’d be writing
songs for Elevation Worship. You were just coming
to the lunch. You were just a new staff member.
It’s the little things. But you came to the lunch,
and you were one of the first 12
in there. I said, “Who are you?”
“What do you do?”
“Sing me a song.”
And you had a song. But you didn’t know when
you woke up that morning. You never know. That’s
why we have to continue to approach each day
like it is the day the Lord has made, because
you never know.
That woman didn’t know she was about to meet her
Maker. She didn’t know she was about to meet a man
who could not only tell her everything she
had done but could show her what was within
her that others did not see. Plot twist. You came
to get water, but you’re about to meet the well.
Plot twist. You accidentally
clicked on this YouTube channel,
but you’re about to get a word from God.
It never ceases to amaze me the way God kind of
sets things up. Just about when you think… I mean,
it’s noon. It’s the hottest part of
the day. There’s nobody around. Nobody
is expecting it. Jesus isn’t supposed to
even be talking to this woman as a rabbi,
and just when she expected it the least, she
received the greatest revelation of her life.
Now, for me, on Father’s Day… My dad was crazy in
a good way and a bad way, and my relationship with
my dad was really, really great and it was really
complicated. When he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou
Gehrig’s disease) and he realized he would die
but we didn’t have an exact time frame for it,
some really bizarre events
transpired in our house.
I don’t like to talk about all of it, because
it’s not completely my story to share.
But even within my mom’s decision to forgive
him for some things he did during that period,
there was a little while… I was just reflecting on
this for Father’s Day, because Graham and I were
throwing the baseball, and I connected all of that
to when I was 12 and my dad throwing the baseball,
but then also I connected it to when I was
32 and we weren’t even on speaking terms.
One Father’s Day I hadn’t spoken to him in months,
and every time we would speak, it would get into a
shouting match. I don’t think I had the wisdom
to know how to relate to him through his pain.
And he was being a jerk. I’m going to put that on
the record. He’s in heaven now. He made it in. But
he was being a jerk, and I was probably a little
immature as well. It put us in a weird spot.
Do you remember where we were coming from?
Was it Florida? We were coming on Father’s
Day. I asked you to drive, and I made the list.
I said, “I’m going to write a list of 32 things
I remember from my dad that are good, and
let’s take it by his house.” And we stopped
by. I won’t tell the full story now. Many of
you have heard me tell it before, how I kind
of shoved the list at him with a bad attitude.
“Happy Father’s Day!” And it opened a door.
Really through my mom’s grace and compassion and
forgiveness, I was able to be a part of his life
like he was a part of mine as a boy in the very
last days. But what I wanted to tell you about…
And I don’t know who this is for. I didn’t want to
preach a message just for fathers, but on Father’s
Day, it got me thinking about the plot twists
of our lives and how important it is that we be
attuned to what the Holy Spirit is
doing in us, because we never know.
I was preaching in 2013 on a
series called The Expectation Gap.
I should probably pull that one back out,
because that’s where we’re living right now:
the gap between what you expect and
what you experience. Listen to this.
It’s the craziest story maybe that I’ve ever
experienced. I preached the 9:30 at Elevation
Blakeney. I usually preach the 11:30, and we
were about to go on our family vacation for June.
Something told me, instead of preaching
the 11:30, to run the sermon back.
I don’t go with every idea I have and call it
the Holy Spirit. I’d be in prison if I did that,
because sometimes I think some really
crazy thoughts, and some days I’d never
get out of bed if I just went with what
I felt. So I’m not one of those guys,
but I just felt it. It was like, “You
need to just play the thing back.”
Again, I’m arguing with God. Like, “You’re
not supposed to go through Samaria, Jesus.
We don’t do that.” I’m like,
“Well, God, I’m going on a vacation
for a few weeks. I’m about to get a
break. I don’t need a break at 11:30.
So I’ll just preach that, and then I’ll get
a break.” But something told me to leave.
As I was leaving, something told me
to stop by and see my dad and my mom.
When I walked in, my dad was so surprised. In
fact, he was completely confused. His disease had
progressed to the point where he had very little
movement, and my mom was doing everything for him,
and hospice was involved, but his mind was still
very sharp. He had his iPad out, and he was
about to watch the 11:30 worship
experience of Elevation Church.
Just as on the iPad I was coming
onstage, I was walking into his house.
He couldn’t move his head around too much, but
he looked back at the iPad and looked at me and
looked at the iPad, and he said, “How are you…?
You’re here but you’re there but you’re here.
Who’s preaching if you’re here?” I said,
“Dad, I just decided to come over and see
you. They’re going to run back the 9:30, and
I’m going to watch myself preach with you.”
One of the things he had asked me for when
we were not speaking to one another… Just
before we stopped speaking to one another,
he had asked me if I could show him how much
he meant to me by canceling something that was
important to show him that he was more important.
I thought, “Well, that’s childish.
Of course I care for you. I mean,
look at all I try to do for you. I’m a good
son,” and this and that. He wasn’t having it.
When I walked in, I realized, “This
is that moment for me to be with him.”
I sat on the edge of the bed, and he watched the
sermon. It’s really awkward watching yourself
preach. It’s painful. I don’t like to do it, but I
did it. When I finished and walked off the stage…
I promise you I’m going to go
back to John 4 in a minute.
When I walked off the stage, my dad said,
“Preacher man gone, out the back door. Time
for Hubatka.” Because Larry Hubatka would come
out and do the close. I’d go this way, and Larry
Hubatka would go that way. I hugged him and I
said, “I love you. I’ll see you when we get back
from vacation.” And my mom called me at 1:00
a.m. and said, “Your dad only has hours to live.
He’s not speaking. You need to get here quickly.”
We got there in the middle of the
night, and we sang his favorite hymns.
And then I ran out of hymns, and I started
singing CCR, and then I ran out of classic
rock songs. We sang and we sat with him, and I
was with him when he breathed his last breath.
I told you that because you never know.
You must go through some area. This
woman who’s just coming to get water
finds out that while she’s trying to
fill her jar, God is trying to fill her.
She becomes the first evangelist to the Samaritans
in the time of the ministry of Jesus. Plot twist.
But that’s not really what I wanted
to preach to you about today.
What really got my attention
for Father’s Day was in verse 5.
Verse 5 says, “So he came to a
town in Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of ground Jacob had given
to his son Joseph.” Near the plot.
See, when I read that verse, I realized, “This
is generational.” I mean, of all of the sermons I
have heard preached about this woman who had
five husbands and she’s living with the sixth and
she’s loose and she’s thirsty… I realized
that this did not start with her.
I realized the conflict between the Samaritans
and the Jews did not start in John, chapter 4.
Even the phrase… It said, “Near the plot
of ground…” Why would John, who only had
21 chapters to tell us who Jesus was…his glory,
full of grace and truth… He only has so much
room, and he stops to tell us that it happened…
I mean, I know about the woman. I know
about her past. I know about her history.
I know that Jesus taught her “They that worship
the Father must worship in spirit and truth.”
I know it’s not about whether you worship on this
mountain or that mountain. I’ve read all of that.
But I never took the time to realize it was near
the plot of ground Jacob had given his son Joseph.
It took me all the way back to remember that
he called a man named Abram out of Ur of the
Chaldeans. Abram was too old to have children.
Plot twist. “You’re about to have a baby.”
His wife’s womb was as good as dead. Plot
twist. God can bring forth a fruitful situation
from a barren womb. Then there’s the
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It wasn’t even supposed to be the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. It was supposed to be the God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Esau, but plot twist. Just
about the time you think you know what God is
going to do… I love this story, because Jacob
got blessed out of order. Some of you are in a
season of your life where you have told yourself
the story is never going to be any different.
You are like this woman who came out
to the well in the heat of the day
to avoid the attention and the accusations
and the condemnation of other people. They
have made up their minds about
you, and they have limited you,
and they have put you in a box. They’ve said,
“Oh, you’re just this. Oh, you’re just that.”
But the barrier-breaking God who stepped
through 41 generations, the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, not Esau… Esau
was supposed to get the blessing,
but God has a way of putting his right hand
instead of his left hand. The right hand is
the hand of blessing. The right hand is the
hand of authority. It’s called a plot twist.