Publication: Pastoral Letter, September 2009
Dear Friend in Christ:
As I write to you this month, the phrase that strikes me is, “Blow a trumpet in Zion” (Joel 2:1). God is calling us to awaken His people to the severity of the spiritual battle that faces us – a battle for the spiritual, physical, mental, and economic health of multitudes. Millions are in the valley of decision and passivity is not a viable option. The reality of this warfare manifests itself on the personal level as individual Christians struggle with threatening issues.
I find myself seeking God for a breakthrough in the barriers that individuals face and seeking biblical examples that strengthen our faith and guide us to better places. If you are of those who face serious issues, I pray that this letter will be beneficial; if you are not in that place, give this letter to a friend who is. God is calling us to overcome so that we can pursue His purpose.
When someone seeks to encourage me, it helps if they have been in a similar situation. I want to say to you that I have been tested in what I will write here, and will be again. My experience is that our common enemy despises the purpose of God and will plan insidious assaults upon those who serve that purpose. However, my experience is also that God is faithful, powerful, and has given us access to His resources.
Spiritual battles are not theoretical; they hit us in practical ways to cut off our resources and starve our faith. The response to those assaults cannot be passive or theoretical; they involve sacrifices and action. In this letter, I will advocate definite steps and attitudes for our spiritual comfort, based upon Jeremiah 33:3 and other Scriptures.
CALL UNTO ME
In previous letters I have alluded to a verse given to me in 1966 by Dr. John Abernathy, a retired missionary leader in the Shantung revival in China, and Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The verse is Jeremiah 33:3, which says, “Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things that you know not.” In recent days, I have revisited Jeremiah a lot. He lived in most difficult days, but continued to speak the truth to the nations.
The word “call” is a confrontational word. Address loudly, get serious! God is saying, “Get serious with Me, and I will show you something!” Know this, our response to battle is not first of all to the enemy – it is to God. The battle is the Lord’s. Satan’s real controversy is with God; he just takes it out on us by using unwitting pawns against us (sometimes, they are not so unwitting).
Mark 10 describes blind Bartemaeus who called as Jesus passed by, “Son of David have mercy on me!” People warned him to be quiet, but he cried out louder and Jesus responded. Bartemaeus got serious, and so did Jesus; Bartemaeus was healed.
Hebrews 5:7 tells us that Jesus himself prayed with vehement cries and tears and He was heard. Hannah was so desirous of a son that she prayed desperately. Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk, but God heard her. Rachel prayed, “Lord, give me children or I die!” There are many examples of such praying (see Jacob, Genesis 32:30-34).
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” “Whole heart” is a phrase that often occurs in the Holy Word. It is not our volume that touches God, though volume may be appropriate; it is our intensity and total commitment to the issue at hand. Passive praying is not prayer at all, and accomplishes nothing.
Matthew 11:12 says, “The Kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” There is a time to be aggressive toward the God who governs. He is serious about His will and waits to see if we are. The Church in heaven is called “the Church Triumphant”. There is a clue in that designation. The Church on earth is called “the Church Militant”. This is a clue as well. However, much of the Church is clueless regarding militancy.
My pastor, Ken Sumrall, tells a story about a student who prayed so loudly that it disturbed others. Someone told him, “God is not deaf.” He replied, “No, He is not deaf, and He is not nervous either.” Strong prayers do not disturb God; He is touched by our seriousness.
WHEN … THEN
When we pray with our “whole heart”, the Scriptures say, “Then will I hear.” Then indicates that He did not hear before the “then.” But then indicates breakthrough; God hears at that moment. We need a then!
I have had some “thens”. When my pastoral leadership was voted on by my church because of my spiritual experience, I had a “then”. When I discovered that some had banded together to pray against me, I had a “then.” When friends were sued for $ 44 million, and I led the defense team, I had a “then”. When we were investigated by the IRS in a five year audit, I had a “then”. When your breakthrough comes, the results may not yet be obvious, but you can have a “then”. You can know that God has heard you and will act on your behalf … and peace comes. That is a “then” moment!
When my pastor prays, he confronts God with Scriptures – the promises. I take note of that and do the same. Find a promise that comes alive to you and bring it to God with your whole heart!
The Lord says, “Call and I will show you great and mighty things you know not.” As with Jericho, the walls facing you may be thick and tall, but God showed Israel how to have a breakthrough. Jericho’s walls fell down from the inside out. You may face walls, but God knows the secret strategy to victory. In Israel’s case, He sent spies into Jericho to talk to a “temple prostitute”. What she told the spies changed everything. Who would have thought that that she was the key? But God knew.
It really doesn’t matter if your barriers are physical, mental, or financial; the answer is first spiritual, then strategic. The amazing truth is that we have access to God the omniscient Father – our Father(Ephesians 2:18; 3:12). Through Him, we have access to His resources. When we repent and become obedient to Him, He is able to save to the uttermost. He says, “When your enemy comes one way, he will flee seven ways” (Deuteronomy 28:7).
Again, He says, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a sword and stand against Him” (Isaiah 59:19). Once we see into heaven with God, we can see beyond the walls that the enemy is on the run. Everything looks different when sitting next to the Father in Christ.
Great and mighty things are not the result of formulas and doctrine – though I believe in sound doctrine. The doctrine of repentance is not repentance. The doctrine of faith is not faith. The doctrine of healing is not healing. The doctrine of prosperity is not prosperity. Miracles are not doctrines – they are acts of God! The purpose of prayer is to move God to act; when He does, that is when great and mighty things happen. Extraordinary prayer yields extraordinary results!
Divine intrusion into a devilish situation brings wonderful results, righteousness, joy, and peace.
Sixteen times David says, “I cried unto the Lord.” He didn’t say, “I prayed,” he said, “I cried.” In Psalm 18, David vividly describes his horrible plight. Then he describes his cry to God, and God heard him. He had a “then”! After that, David describes what God did…among other things “the earth shook.” When God moves against an enemy, pray for that enemy; it won’t be pretty! (For more on that, read Psalm 18.)
“Things we know not” includes a variety of meanings. It may obviously be the great and mighty things that result from serious prayer – miracles and wonders. I believe that a breakthrough will take us to a much better place than we are now (see Psalm 18:19-30; Psalm 23: 5-6). Once we break through the walls, we can enter a larger area of spiritual spoils, provision, and divine activity(Isaiah 45:3). I believe a breakthrough will bring the Church corporately and followers of Jesus personally to a good place of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
But “things that we know not” may include something else – we may come to a place where the Holy Spirit reveals the enemy’s secrets and God’s strategies that will lead to the breakthrough. Now we feel the pressure, the arrows of the enemy; but God can show us the sources and the secrets to which we have been blind.
In 2 Kings 6, we are given the story of Elisha and the Syrian King. The king of Israel had been warned by Elisha and had escaped defeat because of the “Divine intelligence” Elisha was receiving. The Syrian king planned, therefore, to capture Elisha, and surrounded the city with his army where Elisha lived.
Elisha’s servant became very afraid, “Alas, my master, what shall we do?” “Do not fear,” Elisha replied, “Those who are with us are more than with them.” Elisha prayed again, “Open his eyes that he may see.” The Lord opened his servant’s eyes to see that the mountain was full of God’s army and chariots of fire.
Elisha prayed again and God struck the entire Syrian army with blindness and Elisha personally led them away to another city in Samaria. The final outcome was peace. Once an enemy realizes that it is in a battle with heaven’s forces, their attitude changes.
When we are blind it is one kind of battle; when they become blind, it is quite another kind of battle. But remember, we don’t open or close eyes; God does. Waiting on God in serious prayer gives God the opportunity to show us whose battle it is, what is beyond the walls and how to breakthrough. Those are things that we know not, but must know in order to breakthrough. Carnal aggression only aborts our victory (see Joshua 7).
Each battle is different; that is why we need the Holy Spirit and sensitivity to Him. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God (Psalm 37; Proverbs 29:8, Romans 12:19; James 1:20). Carnal wrath blinds us, but humility before God opens our eyes to the hole in the enemy’s armor.
I pray that God will give you a breakthrough as you seek Him with all your heart. Pray the same for us here at CSM, so that the purpose of God in us shall go forward. Please also remember us in your giving during September and throughout the days ahead. We are already preparing for our annual CSM Gatlinburg Conference, April 14-16, 2010 … major announcements are coming soon! Be watching online at www.csmpublishing.org for more information.
Scripture Reference: Joel, Jeremiah, Mark, Hebrews, Genesis, Matthew, Ephesians, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Psalms, 2 Kings, Joshua, Romans, Proverbs, James