Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Our Confidence (Sun Stand Still Part 2)

If you missed my last post, I am sharing a bit about what I'm learning from a book by Steven Furtick called "Sun Stand Still". When I think about Joshua's boldness to ask God to make the sun stand still on His people's behalf it more than challenges me.  How many times have I prayed prayers where I don't really expect God to answer?  There have been times when I've felt like praying about a certain thing was the right thing to do, but I didn't really have any confidence that God would actually do something.  Or often, I'll qualify my prayer with "If it's your will, God", when really that's a cop out. All it does is keep me from having to pray with real faith because if it's His will then I don't have to really bother believing what I'm praying for.  FAULTY LOGIC!!  Bill Johnson says "What is vital for us to learn is the role that humanity has in bringing about the activity of the sovereign God into the affairs of man."  Prayers offered in faith change things.  I feel like God is prodding me with Joshua's story.  He was a man totally surrendered to doing what God wanted.  He knew the character of God and what God wanted and so he believed and prayed accordingly for God to move here on the earth. I love what Steven says about this...
The posture of surrender will result in radical steps of faith and a confidence that flows from a heart that's fully devoted to God's plans.  The key is getting a clear and correct view of God, believing that God is actually who He says He is.  And that He can do what He says He can do.  I could write story after story about men and women who asked God for the impossible.  I could cite endless examples of people who dared to believe they were created and saved to do more than settle for the lowest common denominator of faith.  Hebrews 11:33-34 says that these were people "who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies."

But until we have a right picture of God, this is all just a history lesson.  Without an accurate vision of God, we cut ourselves off from the very One who enables us to have audacious faith in the first place.  You see, great men and women of faith don't have some special spiritual DNA that God injected into them.  What makes them unique actually has very little to do with them.  Because when you get right down to it, they are no different from you and me: full of fear, plagued by sin, and riddled with insecurity.  What makes world-changing people unique, audacious and powerful isn't their perfection.  It's their understanding of God's perfect nature and purposes in the world.  This God is someone worth taking risks for.  This God is someone worth praying Sun Stand Still prayers to.  What these men and women of faith believe and experience firsthand about God drives them to settle for nothing less than extraordinary faith. 

Knowing God is great enables you to dream, pray and live beyond your means because you know He is able to respond.  But you must also know that He wants to respond.  Until you believe God is with you and for you, fear and hesitation will characterize your life.  While you may believe God is capable of accomplishing the impossible in and through you, you will not necessarily believe he desires to work through you. 

When Peter gets out of the boat and walks on water to's not until his foot hits the water that his faith is demonstrated.  It's not until he risks failure, embarrassment, and physical harm that the supernatural power of Jesus starts working on his behalf.  Audacious faith is based on who God is, what he's already done, and what he will continue to do.  He is faithful.  It is HE who will prove that He's got what it takes.  The unfailing faithfulness of God - not our capability or performance - is the ground of our journey in audacious faith. God didn't encourage Joshua according to Joshua's faith. He encouraged Joshua according to His own faithfulness and ability...

"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. " - Joshua 1:5 

I think the bottom line is this.  If we really KNOW the character of God and believe that He's out to set all things right and make all things new...that He longs to heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds, to set the captives free, to bring abundant life, to heal our diseases, to give sight to blind eyes, to bring us out of darkness and deepest gloom and break away our chains, to turn our mourning into dancing...if we really KNOW this is the God we love and serve then it changes everything.  It gives us confidence to ask boldly for these things in prayer because we KNOW it is His very nature to do them. 

I don't want to sit by anymore uttering half hearted prayers of "God, if you wouldn't mind...".  I want to approach God boldly and confidently according to WHO HE IS and what He longs to do on this earth.  God is responsible for the outcome of my prayers, not me.  But, I am responsible to believe that I am asking things of God that He desires to answer! 

I think this is especially important as we consider the least of these in our prayers.  Is God a God of death?  NO. He came to abolish death.  Is He a God of disease?  NO. We see Jesus healing every person that came to Him in the New Testament.  Is He a God of hunger?  NO.  He fed the people who were hungry.  Is God a God of slavery?  NO.  He came to set the captives free. 

Again, the magnitude of these issues in our world today can make the boldest person of prayer shy away from asking that they be demolished.  What is God really going to do for the 27 million slaves in the world?  How is God going to address the 160 million orphans in the world?  What is God really going to do for those who are starving?  We know that there will always be darkness until Jesus comes to set things right once and for all, but that does not mean we are to sit idly by twiddling our thumbs waiting for Him to come back. We are to be people of fervent, bold prayer and of equally bold action, who believe that God desires we ask audacious things of Him because He WANTS to answer us.  He desires to transform our world through us if we would just ask. 

If you're going to have the audacity to ask God for something, you'd better be ready to act.  Audacious prayer must be tethered to practical obedience or else it's not faith.  It's just wishful thinking and positive mental energy.  No wonder so many of our prayers aren't answered.  We pray for a miracle but fail to make a move.

God, may we be people who pray and LIVE audaciously.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sun Stand Still (Part 1)

"The tragedy of our time is that we've taken what was meant to be ordinary and made it exceptional.  We've declared audacity off limits." - Furtick

I picked up a book at the bookstore a few months ago sort of accidentally.  I went to get another book, but they didn't have it and somehow I ended up with "Sun Stand Still" by Steven Furtick in my hand at the checkout counter. That might be one of the happiest accidents of my life.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the story tucked away in Joshua 10.  For those of you who aren't or are a little rusty like I was, here's the gist as Steven writes it:

"From every angle this story showcases the kind of audacity we're after.  And it all hinges on a preposterous prayer.  As the chapter opens, we read that five opposing Amorite armies were planning to attack. Having decided to strike first, Joshua led his entire army toward the Amorites on an all-night march.  Sometime during that march, God spoke to Joshua.  He told him 'Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand.  Not one of them will be able to withstand you.'

At dawn, the Israelites unleashed a surprise attack, and right from the beginning the battle went well.  When the enemy lines broke, and the Amorites started to flee into the valley, Joshua's men chased them down.  And God got personally involved.  'As they fled before Israel,' the account reads, 'the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky.'  Then, as the sun sank toward the horizon, Joshua faced a decision.  The victory wasn't complete, and once it got dark, the rest of the Amorites would slip away.  But Joshua was determined to fight on.  Perhaps he realized that if he didn't destroy the enemy now, Israel's conquest of Canaan would grind to a halt.  Maybe he knew that anything less than total victory would conceal God's presence and glory.  Besides, he remembered God's promise in the night.  

Most of us would have called it a day.  I've done all I can do.  I've exhausted every option.  I've given it all I've got.  But Joshua wasn't most people.  He refused to go out like that. That wasn't the way it was supposed to end.  This was where his audacious faith began.  Joshua sized up the situation, summoned all his available courage, and delivered one of the most gloriously unorthodox prayers in the entire Bible:

" O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." (verse 12)

Joshua had the audacity to ask God to make the sun stop in the sky.  To freeze time on behalf of His people.  According to scripture, God gave Joshua exactly what he ordered.  Just when the Amorites were hanging on for the cover of darkness, darkness never came.  Just when they thought the curtains were about to drop on their day from hell, God came out for an encore.  

"The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.  There has never been a day like before or since...surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!" (verses 13-14)

The skeptic in me has all kinds of questions: Did God actually stop the earth on its axis?  I don't know the answer to how He did it.  I choose to believe that the same God who intervened to bring his Son back to life intervened on this day in history to help His people.  He chose to answer Joshua's outrageous prayer.  Maybe instead of trying to figure out the technical answers, we should be asking a more relevant question: could it be that God intends for us to have the same kind of audacious faith - the kind of faith that dares to believe God for the impossible - as a normal way of life??"

I love that last question. It gets to the heart of the matter for me. Throughout scripture I don't see people of God praying wimpy "Dear God, if you could, please would you...". I see them praying prayers where seas parted, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, teenagers took out giants with pebbles. What I see in scripture is that these so called "radical, audacious" prayers were not the exception, they were the norm. Every time someone prayed something bold, crazy things happened!  God answered.

As I look at the way that I pray and live out my faith I must ask myself "What have I reduced God to and more importantly, why??" These things have been stirring in my heart for a few months now and I want to take the time to process them here.  But to prevent this from becoming the world's longest blog post I'm going to break it up into a few. :)

As we look at the broken world around us, the magnitude of the problems and issues can seem huge and impenetrable.  But here's the deal.  God didn't just put us here to survive...He put us here to transform the world around us.  And that transformation occurs as we come to trust and believe in the very nature of who God is,which then compels us to walk in deeper faith, praying audacious prayers and EXPECTING God to show up and do what He says He will do, just as He did for Joshua.  Joshua was nothing special. He just knew who God was and prayed accordingly.

Are we even praying boldy and audaciously?  Do we expect that if we pray and believe for the audacious that God will answer? What keeps us from praying the types of prayers that Joshua and many others like him prayed?   Are we afraid He won't come through? Do we fear looking stupid?

More to come...