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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - The Day the Sun Stood Still

Craig Smith - The Day the Sun Stood Still

Craig Smith - The Day the Sun Stood Still
TOPICS: Wait... What?, God's Promises, Faith, Courage

One of the things my Bible says is that we can know our God is great, and that he is in control because he’s always working in the midst of everything. And so in fact, we found in the Book of Romans, it says that God is working in the midst of all things, bringing good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And we know one of the things that God has been doing in the midst of this pandemic, he’s been allowing us to reach a whole lot of people who would not otherwise have been able to reach and we are so looking forward to being able to meet some of you in person for the first time when we reopen August 29th and 30th here at the Littleton campus. But in the meantime, we really wanna continue reaching people that we wouldn’t otherwise reach.

And so, it might be that you’re watching this right now and you’re by yourself, I encourage you to do something beyond mission with Jesus, right? Now, take this moment, and your online hosts will make it easy, they’ll give you a link you can share, but why don’t you text somebody and say, “Hey, I’m watching the service. I think it’s gonna be really powerful. Why don’t you join me?” Or maybe there’s somebody in the house with you that isn’t watching, and you can invite them to be part of it. Just invite somebody else to join you right now for this message because I really believe that God has a powerful word for all of us. And for some of the people that he has a powerful word for, they’re not tuned in yet, but you could be part of helping them be here and to listen to this message right now. So, why don’t you go ahead and do that?

I have been trying to figure out what to do to wrap up this series, this “Wait… What?” series where we take a look at some of those parts of the Bible that even as believers, sometimes when we’re read along, we’re like, “Whoa. Wait… What? Did that really happen? How am I supposed to think about that?” And I got so many great options… As I was preparing for this message, one of things that I did was I just kind of went on a couple different forums and I said, “Hey, what are your favorite ‘Wait… What?’ moments from the Bible?”

And there was one story in particular that came up every single time I asked that question, every single time. And it’s interesting that it’s in the same book that our friend Scott Rideout was preaching from over the last couple of weeks from the Book of Joshua, so I thought, maybe that’s a divinely super intended direction, right? So, we’re gonna be in the Book of Joshua today for another one of those “Wait… What?” moments. Why don’t you go ahead and turn with me to Joshua chapter 10. And let me set the story up just a little bit. We need to go back. There’s one important thing that you need to know before we get into the story. And that is here is kind of a quick sketch of the history of all these things.

Scott did some of this over the last couple of weeks and did a great job looking at the Israelites as they attempted to capture the city of Jericho. The reason they were capturing the city of Jericho was because they were taking possession of the Promised Land. So, Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for a very, very long time. God had come through the person of Moses and done all kinds of miracles, parted the Red Sea, the Israelites escaped. And now, they got into the edge of the Promised Land. And they’re in the process of taking possession of the Promised Land. And by the way, just kind of as a bonus truth, I think it’s important to understand, sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. See, the Promised Land wasn’t uninhabited. It wasn’t just a vast wasteland with nobody in it. There were other peoples. There were enemies of God’s people that were in there. And the Israelites had to fight against those enemies to take possession of the Promised Land, okay?

And sometimes that’s just the way it works. Sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying something I was told as a kid, which is that the Lord helps those who help themselves. That’s not what I’m saying, okay? I’m not saying that taking hold of God’s promises depends upon us. But sometimes God requires us to take steps forward in faith before we get to those promises that he’s laid in front of us. It reminds me a little bit when my kids were little and they were…I mean really super little and they were just beginning to learn to walk. They would get to that stage where they were just standing on their feet and we’d hold them and then maybe they’d stand up at the edge of the couch. But to get them to take their first steps, what Coletta and I had to do is we would stay just a couple of steps away from them, and we’d hold out something that we knew they wanted, right?

Something they were really excited about. And because of that, they would take that first faltering step forward. And of course, we were right there ready to pick them up if they fell down, okay? They weren’t on their own. But to get that thing we were holding out, they had to take those steps forward. And that’s what I’m talking about, okay? Sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises, and that’s what the Israelites are doing, okay? They’re fighting, but they’re not fighting alone. God is with them. And God is with them every step of the way. And he’s ready to catch them when they fall, okay? God is in this, but he’s requiring them to take their steps forward.

Now, in the process of doing this, they’re winning all of these battles and they’re getting kind of a reputation. People in the Promised Land are beginning to go, “What’s up with these people? How are they so powerful? They’re not even that, like, big a tribe? How on earth are they winning all of these battles?” They were seeing that something supernatural was happening. And there was one particular group, and you can read about this in Joshua 9, we’re not gonna read the whole story today. There’s just one part I wanna keep in your mind because it’ll make a difference as we look at the rest of Joshua 10. There was one city, in particular, the city of Gibeon, that saw what was happening. And they went, “Man, we got to do something.”

And so, they decided basically to trick the Israelites into an alliance, to trick them into a treaty, okay? And so, they sent some emissaries, they sent some ambassadors to go to Joshua and to say, “Hey, basically, hey, we’re from a very far away city. We’re nowhere near here, right? We’re so, so far away. But we’ve heard about your reputation. We’ve heard about what the Lord did for you. And so, we would love for you to enter into a treaty with us. It’s probably not gonna cost you anything, you probably never have to do anything about it because we’re so far away.” And of course, the Israelites were like, “How do we know you’re far away? How do we know you’re not from some city real near us?”

And the Gibeons said…the Gibeonites, I guess, had sort of thought about that and so they had sent their emissaries with really old clothing, worn down sandals, old cracking wineskins, and moldy bread. And so, when the Israelites said, “How do we know you’re not from around here?” The Gibeonite emissaries, they pulled…they said, “Look at my sandals, they’re all worn out, right?” And they said, “Look, our wineskins are all cracked. These were new when we started. And look at this bread. It’s all moldy and gross. But that was brand new, it was fresh baked right out of the oven when we left. That proves how far we’ve come to be here with you. And so, we’re clearly coming from a really, really far distance.”

And then there’s an interesting statement in Joshua chapter 9, verse 14 that is gonna be really important for our story today. It says this, Joshua 9:14 says, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” So they tasted the moldy bread, they looked at the wineskins and their sandals and they went, “Oh, okay, yeah, you must have come from a long way away.” So, they sampled their provision, but they did not inquire of the Lord. What that means is they didn’t pray. They didn’t ask the Lord whether or not this was a good treaty to enter into, whether or not this was a good alliance to be part of. They didn’t pray. They didn’t ask the Lord. And because of that, they entered into an alliance, they agreed to come to the aid of the Gibeonites if necessary. And that’s gonna be very important for our story today. But they were tricked into it. But they were tricked into it because they did not inquire of the Lord.

And I think this is an important thing for all of us to recognize, listen to me, a very important principle, never commit to anything without inquiring of the Lord. Never commit to anything without inquiring of the Lord. In other words, you need to pray before you enter into any kind of commitment, big and small, pray about it. And then you need to spend some time listening, okay? And I think that means a couple of things. It means listening in prayer. I mean, that’s an important part of prayer, actually. We pray and we go, God, I need guidance. I need wisdom. And so, if you wanna speak to me right now, I’m gonna just sit here quietly before You and I’m gonna listen. We need to do that.

We also need to listen to the Lord by inquiring of other people who have consistently been sources of wisdom and good advice to us, because God often speaks to his people. And so, before we commit to anything, we need to listen to the Lord by seeking wise counsel and seeing what other people have to suggest about it. We need to do that before we commit to anything. I think about that right now, a lot of you are making some really big decisions in life right now, right? Maybe you’re thinking about asking somebody to marry you, or you’re thinking about making a move, or you’re thinking about making a job change, or maybe the fall’s coming up and you’re a parent and you’re trying to figure out, what am I gonna do with my kids as far as school is concerned? Am I gonna commit to homeschooling them, continuing throughout this fall, maybe all of next spring?

Maybe it’s a new permanent thing. We’re just gonna be a homeschooling family. Or maybe my school is opening, but I’m just not sure if I should send my kids back to it. Should I commit to it? Should I not commit to it? Don’t commit to anything before you’ve inquired of the Lord. Pray, listen in prayer, but also get wise counsel from people around you because God often speaks to his people. But it’s so important that we do that because otherwise, we find ourselves making commitments that we really shouldn’t be involved in and that’s really what happened to Israel. Joshua and the Israelites, they entered into this alliance because they did not inquire of the Lord. It was a bad idea, and yet that’s gonna come back to haunt them.

Now, Joshua 10:1 says this, “Now, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had taken Ai,” that’s a city, “and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and to its king as he had done to Jericho and its king,” and Scott Rideout preached on this over the last couple of weeks. And that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. He and his people were very much alarmed at this because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities. It was larger than Ai, so it was an even bigger city than the Israelites had already conquered. And so, they were afraid that if its men joined with Joshua, everybody else would have all kinds of problems, and that all of its men were good fighters. So, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, appealed to Hoham, king of Hebron, Piram, king of Jarmuth, Japhia, king of Lachish, and Debir, king of Eglon.

And I’m just gonna pause for a second there. You might be feeling like that is a lot of names. That’s a lot of names of individuals, a lot of names of cities. And if you’re with us a few weeks ago, we talked about an important Bible hack when it comes to getting out of these stories everything that God intended us. And one of those Bible hacks was details matter, okay? Paper is really valuable, okay? So, nobody wasted space. In those days, paper was really valuable. So nobody would waste space, writing things that weren’t necessary to communicate the point of the story.

So, why is it important that we know all of these names of individual cities? And I think what’s happening is this, I think that Joshua is reminding us that he’s recounting history, okay? He’s giving historical names and historical cities so that everybody remembers this, right? You’re telling us a history lesson. That’s gonna be really important in a moment because really, what’s about to happen is so incredible, so almost unbelievable that you’re gonna be tempted to read it and go, “That couldn’t have happened. That has to be a myth. That has to be a work of fiction. Maybe it has to be like…I don’t know, maybe it’s a parable or something like that. That couldn’t really be history, could it?” And Joshua was giving us all this historical information to remind us that he is in fact recounting history. That’s gonna be really important, I think.

So the king, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, he said, verse 4, “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” because it has made peace with Joshua. And the Israelites we got to take these people out before they really joined forces with our enemies. And then the five kings of the Amorites: the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, that’s repetition, you need to pay attention to repetition, again, Joshua is reminding us this is history. These are real people, real places. This is not a made-up story. They joined forces and they moved up with all their troops and they took positions against Gibeon and attacked it. And the Gibeonites sent word to Joshua in the camp of Gilgal. They said, “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us. Help us because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

And let’s just acknowledge right now that Joshua had all kinds of good reasons for not going to their defense, right? He had all kinds of good reasons for saying no. First off, right, they’re not part of his family. They’re not Israelites, okay? So, they’re not family. There’s no family ties there. Second, right, the power arrayed against him at this moment is substantial. These five kings represent a tremendous armed force. The chances of Joshua winning, certainly the chances of Joshua winning on his own are basically as my coach used to say in high school, slim to none and slim just went home, okay? This is not a battle he’s likely to win. And then third, he got tricked into this alliance in the first place, right? They deceived him. And so, Joshua has every reason to say no to this request for assistance, but it’s not what Joshua does.

Verse 7 says, “And so Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army including all the best fighting man.” He marched up with his entire army. He didn’t just take a few. It wasn’t a token effort. It’s not like he’s gonna get a few people in and go, “Well, we didn’t think there were so many. Sorry, we tried,” and then they’re out of there. No, that’s not what’s gonna happen. He took his entire army including all of his best fighting men, that’s emphasized, right? In other words, Joshua is committing everything necessary to this even though from an earthly perspective, very low chance of him necessarily winning this battle.

But here’s what we see. We see that Joshua is committed to keeping his promises regardless of the price, okay? Joshua is committed to keeping his promises regardless of the price. He might have been tricked into this alliance, but he gave his word. And I love this about Joshua. It reminds me of a quote, I don’t know who said it, originally. I’ve seen it in a couple of different settings, but I love this. It says, “People with good intentions make promises. People with good character keep them.” I love that. And Joshua is a man of good character. He’s committed everything he has to to keep his promise, even though from an earthly perspective, there’s no way he’s going to win this battle.

Now, it’s interesting, verse 8 says this, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them. I have given them into your hands, not one of them will be able to withstand you.'” And I love that promise. It’s such an interesting thing. This is an alliance. This is a treaty. This is a vow. This is a pledge. But Joshua should never have been involved and he screwed up. He didn’t pray, okay? He didn’t inquire of the Lord. And yet in spite of that, God is honoring him for keeping his promise. And I think that’s a very, very powerful thing. It says to me that God is willing to put his power into the equation to help us keep our promises, even when they’re promises we probably shouldn’t have made in the first place.

It tells me something about how much God cares about keeping promises, which is not really that surprising to me, not surprising that God cares a lot about keeping promises because the Scripture says that God is incapable of not keeping his own promises. It’s part of his character. It’s his nature. It’s what we call an attribute. It’s one of those characteristics that actually makes God God. He is faithful. He’s incapable of not keeping his promises. And so, it stands to reason that those of us who have been made in or as his image, need to pay attention to our promises in the same way and that God pays attention to the promises that we make as well. God puts all of his power into the equation so that Joshua can keep the promise, even though it’s a promise he shouldn’t have made in the first place.

And then, now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about promises to do sinful things, okay? Maybe you’ve made a promise to be involved in something that you know you shouldn’t be involved in and honestly, it’s a bad thing to be involved in, it’s sin. I’m not talking about those kinds of things, right? So, maybe I’ll just do something crazy. Some of you are out there right now and you’re like, well, I made a promise that I made with these guys and that we’d murder this guy, okay? If you made that promise, feel free to break it. That’s not what we’re talking about, okay? Not promises to do sinful things but promises that might have been pretty foolish in the first place, God’s still willing to put his power into that equation because our promises and keeping them is really, really important to God.

Now, it says this, “After an all-night match in Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.” So, not only did he bring everybody, but they marched through the night so they could get there as quickly as possible. “And the Lord threw them into confusion before Israel. So, Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth-Horon, and they cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”

And understand that what we’re being given here is a very clear picture that the battle was won by the Lord. It wasn’t won by the Israelites. They were fighting to take possession of the promise, okay? They were doing their thing. They were taking their steps forward in faith, they were working hard at it. But at the end of the day, the battle belonged to the Lord. It wasn’t their great strategy. It wasn’t their great strength. The Lord threw them into the confusion, the Lord rained down hailstones upon them, and more of them died from the hailstones than from the swords of the Israelites. So the victory is the Lord’s. The battle belongs to the Lord. That’s so important. “Now, on the day that the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel…” And this is sort of like a zinger. It’s coming after the fact. I mean, I think we’re meant to understand that Joshua actually prayed this at the beginning of the battle, okay?

But we’re only finding out about it now because this is sort of the focus point. This is where the author really wants to make sure that we zero in and so he’s kind of set it apart. He probably set it at the beginning of the battle, but he’s telling about this now so we can focus on it. He says, “On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel,” check out this prayer, “‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you moon, over the valley of Aijalon.’ And so, the sun stood still. And the moon stopped until the nation avenged itself on its enemies as it is written in the Book of Jashar.” The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

Wait… What? The sun stopped moving, the moon held its place in the sky. Really? I mean that’s a pretty big claim, right? It’s interesting to me…probably the most interesting thing about this is actually that he mentions the moon too. The sun and the moon both stood still because of course in the ancient world, they believed that the sun and the moon moved, right? They didn’t believe the earth rotated, they didn’t know that. And so, they thought that the sun’s movement and the earth’s…or and the moon’s movement were the result of the sun and the earth moving and they assumed that they moved independently of each other, right, because they didn’t progress at exactly the same rate and those kinds of things. So, they thought they moved independently.

So, it’s interesting that they note that the sun stopped, but also that the moon stopped because the only way to really explain that both of those things stopped is that the earth stopped rotating. And if the earth stopped rotating, we would expect the sun and the moon to both kind of lock in place for a period of time. So, in the modern world, what happens there is exactly what we would expect to happen since we know that the earth is actually rotating. But they didn’t know that. So, it’s interesting to me that the moon is involved in this. And that, to me suggests that there’s more going on here than just a myth or a parable. Now, it’s still a crazy miracle, right? It’s the kind of miracle that even Christians can sometimes read and go like, “Did that really happen? I mean, is there any way to know that that happened?”

And what’s interesting is that I think that a miracle like that is particularly hard to believe because if that actually happened, we should expect that other people talked about it, right? Because that’s not like well, the Red Sea parted and the Israelites went through, and then they got to the other side, and the Egyptians got killed by the waves crashing in. You wouldn’t expect the Egyptians to talk about that, only the Israelites would. So, just that fact that nobody else talks about the Red Sea parting doesn’t mean that it’s not a real thing. But if the sun stopped and the moon stopped, that the earth stopped rotating, that affected everybody in the planet and you kind of expect some other people to be talking about that, right? Here’s what’s so fascinating. There are other people who talk about it. There’s a Babylonian story about a day that lasted twice as long. There’s a Persian story about a day that lasted twice as long.

My daughter actually…I was talking about the story at dinner the other day, and my youngest daughter said, “Wait, I didn’t even know that was in the Bible.” I said, “Yeah, I mean, it says the sun stood still. And basically, it was a day that was twice as long.” And she’s like, “I was just in class this past semester and they were talking about the fact that the Incans and the Aztecs actually both have records of a day that lasted twice as long.” And I’m like, “I know.” She said it before I said it, “That’s awesome.” She found that out in school, a secular school even. So, so interesting to me. The Egyptians don’t have anything that survived that talks about this but there’s a Greek historian named Herodotus, who actually writes in one of his history books about being shown Egyptian records from the temple that talk about a day that lasted twice as long as it should have. So, it’s not just here, okay?

We have other stories outside the Bible that talk about this day. And even the Bible mentions the Book of Jashar, that this is mentioned in the Book of Jashar. And you might be going, “What exactly is that?” We don’t know. We don’t know. We know that it was a history book. And we know that the audience who was reading Joshua originally probably would have been familiar with it. It’s mentioned at least one other time in the Bible, maybe a third time possibly. We don’t know much about it, but apparently, it was a history book. And the writer of Joshua was saying, hey, I’m not only the one…the only one telling you this, you’ve also read about this in the Book of Jashar because he recognizes…I know this sounds insane. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m not the only one telling you this really happened. Remember, I’m writing history to you, okay? So, so interesting.

But you know what, at the end of the day, even if we prove that it happened conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt… And some of you, the evidence I presented, that’s all you need. And some of you are like, I really want a little bit more than that. I can’t give you more than that. But even if I could, even if at the end of the day, I was able to prove to you conclusively that this happened, we still have a really important question, which is, why? Why did God do this incredible miracle on this particular day? Why is this story given to us in the Bible? What’s this all about? And as I have prayed through and as I’ve thought through and wrestled with this story, there’s three things that I believe that God wants us to take away from it. And I believe that one of these is exactly what you need to hear right now, as you’re listening to this message. One of these three truths is there just for you.

Here’s the three truths that I think we’re supposed to take away from this story. I’ll give you all three of them and then we’ll kind of break them down by truth. Okay, the first truth is this, our promises are a priority to God, okay, that’s the first one. Our promises are a priority to God. God cares a lot about our promises. Second truth is this. Our prayers are powerful. Our prayers are powerful. Third truth, our peace comes from knowing God fights for us. Our peace comes from knowing that God fights for us. One of those truths is for you. Maybe if you’re sitting next to somebody, maybe just look at him right now and just tell him I think number two is for me, or I think number three is for me. Number one is for me. But just tell somebody near you, who is it or which of these promises is it that is there for you, that you’re listening to this message because you need to hear that truth?

Let me break them down a little bit more if you’re not quite sure which one applies to you. The first promise, our first truth is this, our promises are a priority to God, okay? As I said, God cares a great deal about our promises and he’s willing to put his power into the equation so that we can keep our promises. It’s interesting when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, he gave them this statement, this is Numbers chapter 30, verse 1, “Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord commands. When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word, but he must do everything he said.'” Joshua would have known that command. He would have heard it from Moses, his mentor, okay? God clearly takes keeping our promises very, very seriously. And what we see in this story is a confirmation of how seriously God takes our promises and how willing he is to go to bat for us to enable us to keep those promises.

And I think for some of you, that’s what you need to hear right now because, honestly, you’re struggling in this very moment with the temptation to give up on a vow that you’ve made, to give up on a promise that you’ve made, I think specifically of marriages right now that might be struggling. When this whole thing started, when this pandemic began, I kind of jokingly said to somebody, “I think two things we can be sure of will come out of the pandemic, this quarantine, number one, some babies, number two, some divorces.” That’s not a joking matter. God hates divorce. It’s not His intention for us. But unfortunately, I’m not gonna call it a prophecy, I was just kind of joking, but unfortunately, it’s coming true. I’m hearing about rising divorce rates and people filing for divorces in record numbers as this quarantine drags on. And maybe you’re in that place. And maybe you’ve made a vow to your husband or your wife and you’re in this place where honestly, you’re just so worn out from struggling with that relationship, you’re so tired, you’re, in a moment of weakness, you’re thinking about committing… Well, we got kids in the audience so let’s keep it as PG as possible.

You’re thinking about doing with somebody what you should only be doing with your husband or your wife. You’re thinking about breaking your vow and that…or you’re thinking about filing for a divorce? Because you’re just worn out, you’re just wrung out and you just feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you need to hear this word from the Lord. You might be at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of God’s, okay? God is willing to put all of his power into the equation between the husband and the wife. He’s willing to put all of his power into that relationship to enable you to keep those vows that you made when you said, “Until death do us part,” okay? God will do that for you. Maybe you’re at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of his. His power is available to you, but you’ve got to call upon him to bring that into it.

We have this incredible ministry here at Mission Hills called Re-Engage. Re-Engage is an unbelievable ministry. It’s saved so many marriages already. And what they do in that ministry is they teach you how to bring all of God’s power to bear upon your relationship with your husband or your wife. And if you’re struggling right now, the host is gonna put up a link so that you can get connected to that ministry and you can learn how to invite God’s power into your marriage so that you can keep that promise that you made to each other. So maybe that’s the word of the Lord for you today, that God puts a priority on our promises. Our promises are a priority to God. Or maybe it’s this, our prayers are powerful. Our prayers are powerful.

Did you know why God did this? Do you know why God did this crazy, incredible thing? Well, he says it very explicitly. This is Joshua chapter 10, verse 14, “There’s never been a day like it before or since a day when the Lord listened to a human being.” The Lord listened to a human being. The Lord listened to this prayer and the Lord did something inconceivable because Joshua prayed. And I gotta be honest, I don’t know how on earth Joshua had the courage to pray that particular prayer. I would always dial it back, right? Lord, if you’d make the sun and the moon stand still, or if you don’t want to do that, maybe you could just like, you know, I don’t know, just make it seem longer, or do something…I don’t know, just be in this, do something, right? I don’t have that, necessarily, that kind of boldness. I love his boldness. I love it. It’s so powerful. But the point is God did this because he prayed. And I’m not gonna promise you that every time you pray God’s gonna make this…the earth stands still or the sun and the moon stand still. I’m not gonna promise that. That would be chaos, right? But I will promise you this, I promise you that you will miss out on pretty much 100% of the miracles that you don’t pray for.

The Book of James says this, James chapter 4, verse 2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” You don’t pray for the miracle, don’t be surprised when you don’t experience it. It says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Some of you then will go on, “Well, wait a minute, I pray. I asked God for the big, crazy, bold miracles. And sometimes he says no.” Listen, God always hears your prayers, but sometimes he does say no. And if you’re wondering why that is, maybe you’re struggling with a prayer right now, let me give you three things. We could spend all day on this.

I wanna give you three things real quick, three reasons why sometimes God says no to something that we pray for. The first one is just this, a prayer might not be answered because it is selfish. We might be praying for something that’s truly just all about us and our pleasure. In fact, interesting enough here in the Book of James, James 4, verse 3, after he said, “You don’t have because you didn’t ask God,” he said this, he says, “When you ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Okay, God doesn’t answer selfish prayers. He will not feed our selfishness. That’s a fire he cannot afford to stoke, okay? It’s a fire that we cannot afford to have God stoke. So, sometimes God says no because our prayers are selfish. Second, a prayer might not be answered because we lack trust. We lack faith.

Also in the Book of James, he says this, this is James 1: 6, “But when you ask you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind, that person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” We’ve spent a lot of time on this, this is often mistaught. Let me be really clear here. When I say that sometimes a prayer is unanswered because it’s not asked or it’s not uttered in trust, what I mean is trust that God is good, okay? I don’t mean that you lack faith that God will do that particular thing. No, that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we have to trust in God. And when we’re kind of half-hearted like, “Well, God, I’m asking for this, but I’m also thinking maybe I’ll go over here and do this. Maybe I could get this done over here in this way.” We’re not trusting in God. He says, “You’re double minds.” Don’t be surprised when those prayers aren’t answered. Okay. And then third, a prayer might not be answered because God has something better planned. That’s my favorite one.

Sometimes God says no to what I’ve asked him because he’s got something much better planned. Listen to me, you’ve gotta believe that when… The disciples saw Jesus arrested, right? When they saw the guards come and take him away, falsely accusing him of things, when he was on trial, and liars were coming forward and making up all kinds of crazy stories, you’ve gotta believe the disciples were praying like crazy that God would move, that God would release Jesus, that the truth would be known, and he’d be set free. They had to be praying that. They were praying that hard. But God didn’t set Jesus free. He didn’t answer their prayer. Why not? He had something so much better planned.

So, Jesus had to have people lie to get him arrested. He had to have people lie to get him ultimately convicted because he was an innocent man. That was the plan all along, that God would send his Son who would live a perfect life. He’d be a completely innocent man. They’d have to make up things about him. But he didn’t bring the truth out in that moment in that trial because Jesus needed to die. That was the better plan. Jesus is an innocent man. He died on the cross, not because of his own sin, but to pay for ours. Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He died on the cross to pay for my sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Another fact of history we got to come to grips with. He rose from the dead and he offers us forgiveness for every wrong we’ve ever done by trusting in what he did for us on the cross. That was the much better thing God had planned.

And if God had answered the prayers of his people, when they were going God, “Let the truth be known. Let Jesus be released. Let us go back to ministry as normal,” we would have missed out on something so infinitely much better, eternal life with God that’s available to us by faith in Jesus. Sometimes, listen to me, it’s hard, but sometimes, God says no because he’s got something better planned. But prayer is powerful. And understand when I say prayer is powerful, it’s not the prayer that’s powerful. Prayer is powerful because God is powerful. Prayer is powerful because that’s how we invite God with all of his power into our circumstances. That’s why prayer is powerful. Maybe that’s what you need to hear today. Or maybe it’s that third truth, that our peace comes from knowing that God fights for us.

Yes, sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. But we don’t fight alone. We don’t fight in our own strength. The victory is always the Lord’s. We’re just taking those faltering baby steps forward with the Lord there to catch us every step of the way, as we move forward in faith into everything that he has promised for us. Maybe you just need to hear that right now. Maybe you’re in the fight of your life. Maybe right now you’re struggling because you’re just worn out. Maybe you feel like you’ve been fighting and yet you haven’t seen the results you’re looking for. You’re just not quite there yet. And you’re beginning to stumble and you’re beginning to just grow so weary. And you need to hear this truth.

Real peace comes from knowing that our God fights for us. My friend Danny has this great song and I thought of it as we began to plan for this message series. It’s called “Fight For Me.” And I asked if he’d play it and maybe we could even figure out how to sing it together a little bit. It’s an incredible reminder of this reality that God will fight for you. And if you are at the end of your rope right now, you’re not at the end of his. And if you’re worn out, he’s not. And whatever you’re struggling with, you are not struggling with alone. He is with us and he’s fighting for us.

Sometimes I feel surrounded
Dark spirit’s in the air
Waiting to destroy me
More than I can bear
Aware of desperation
Nowhere left to run
Look into the heavens
Feeling so undone
Fight for me, yeah,
And I will remain still
Fight for me, yeah,
And I will remain still

Wherever you are right now, whatever it is that you’re struggling through right now, just understand you’re not alone. The God of infinite power, a God for whom it is absolutely nothing to make the earth stop its rotating and start it back up again. He’s not worn out by that. He’s not exhausted by that. He doesn’t need a nap after that. His power is infinite, and it is at your disposal. He’s there to help you keep your promises. He’s there to give you the strength to continue fighting the good fight. Maybe right now you just desperately need to invite him to bring his power into your circumstances. And maybe as Danny said, “You just need to be still and let him fight for you.” Would you pray with me?

God, on behalf of your people right now, scattered around the world, engaged together in the Spirit in this moment, we come before You knowing that our power is insufficient. Our strength is utterly insignificant compared to yours. And that we will move forward in faith. You show us what those faltering steps look like and we commit to you, we will take those steps forward, we will trust in you and we will fight for possession of your promises. But we know Lord, that only, only when you fight for us, can we ever hope to win. Only when you fight for us, can we ever hope to actually break into that moment where we grab hold of all that you promised us. So, on behalf of all my brothers and sisters around the world right now, we just lay our burdens before you. We lay the scary situations that we’re struggling with before you. Those places where we’re just feeling wrung out, worn down, weak, and weary, in this moment, Lord, we simply put them at your feet. And we step back and we say, God, come into my circumstances, and fight for me.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, I also want to invite you right now to join in the fight with the Lord for those around the world who don’t yet know him. If you’re a follower of Jesus right now, in this moment, would you begin praying for all those people that are watching, people that are listening, they don’t know God, they don’t have a relationship with God through faith, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Would you join right now? Would you pray for those who are watching that don’t have that relationship? And if that’s you, if you’re listening to this, and you don’t have that relationship, maybe you spent your whole life fighting and you’re just worn out from all of that and you don’t understand why life’s so hard. Life is so hard because it was never meant to be lived apart from God’s power.

But our sin separates us from God. And we’ve all sinned. I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned. And there’s a consequence to that sin. It’s a separation from God for all of eternity. But God loves you so much he sent his own Son to live that perfect life we talked about, to die in the cross for your sins, for my sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he defeated the power of sin, the power of death. And you can have a relationship with a God who loves you that much right here, right now. If you’re ready to commit your life to trust, to faith in Jesus, to following Jesus, here’s what you do, you’re just gonna have a conversation right now in your heart, you’re gonna say this to Jesus:

I’ve done wrong. I have sinned. And I’m sorry. Thank you for dying to pay for my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and that you’re offering me forgiveness. But Jesus, I’m done fighting you. It’s time to be still before you. Jesus, come into my life. I commit my life to yours. I’m gonna follow you, Jesus, for now and forever. Amen.

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