"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...