Steven Furtick - Challenge The Shadow
All right, I want to do something today a little different than I normally do. I'll give you my title and my subject, and then I'm going to sit you down and tell you a story from the Bible that I don't think you've ever heard before. It's what I call a deep cut. Sometimes I like these Bible stories that we haven't heard a million times, like Moses and the Red Sea and David and Goliath. Those are good too. Jesus getting up from the grave… That's the best one, but there are these little stories. There's one little story I've been living in for the last few weeks, and I want to share it with you, but first let me tell you what we're going to talk about today. It's something the Lord told me to tell you, a charge he wants me to give you.
Today I want to teach you how to challenge the shadow. Just give your neighbor that title on your way to your seat. Say, "Challenge the shadow". Put it in the comments if you're online. Challenge the Shadow. This is going to help us today. In 2 Kings, chapter 20, there is a story of a king named Hezekiah. He was the greatest king since David in a time where many of the kings were wicked. He wasn't perfect. No human king is. That's Jesus' job when he comes onto the scene in the book of Matthew, but Hezekiah did pretty good, and God helped him in a great way. He accomplished a lot. He defeated and subdued a lot of enemies.
In 2 Kings, chapter 20, verse 1, just after God has given Hezekiah a great victory, something kind of crazy happens, and I want to tell you about it today. In 2 Kings 20:1, the Scripture records, "In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, 'This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.'" "Thanks a lot, prophet Isaiah. Appreciate that. Can we get another prophet in here? How about Micah? Nahum? Habakkuk? Zephaniah"? But this word from God comes through the prophet: "You're going to die. You won't recover".
Now look at this in verse 2. "Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 'Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.' And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 'Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says…"'" Isaiah is like, "I already told him he's going to die. He has to get his estate planning done".
No, go back and tell Hezekiah, "'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.' Then Isaiah said, 'Prepare a poultice of figs.' They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, 'What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?' Isaiah answered, 'This is the Lord's sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?'"
"You choose". God might be saying to somebody today, "You choose". You might be praying about something and crying about something and wondering about something, and God might be saying to you today, "You choose". "'Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?' 'It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,' said Hezekiah. 'Rather, have it go back ten steps.' Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz". Say "Amen" for a God who can do anything.
One of the things I'm trying to learn in my life is the difference between times where I'm supposed to accept the way it is and face it and the times I'm supposed to reject the way it is and change it by faith. We have a workout room in my house, and all over the walls of that room I have written different quotes over the years. I've lived in this house for 10 years, so there are a lot of little things on the wall. I write things on the wall. Sometimes they're just inside jokes. Sometimes they're little motivational slogans. The name of the room is called the Pound. It's an acronym. It stands for the Place Of Ultimate Natural Development. (I think you made that up. I give Chunks credit where credit is due. He's a genius, and he's a physical therapist.)
One of the things it says on the wall in the Pound is "No challenge, no change". Do you know when I wrote that up there? When Elijah started working out with me. My oldest son turns 18 in just a few weeks. He's in Orlando. Shout-out to Elijah B. Furtick, my workout partner. He has been lifting with me down there in the Pound for three years. He used to get in there and do 10 reps when he could do 15. He'd do 15 when he could do 20. I had to teach him the principle of growth for our muscles is that if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. So I just wrote that up on the thing. I know it's not that deep, but I just wrote it up there. "No challenge, no change".
Now, the funny thing is Elijah's personality is a challenger. They have all of these personality tests, and one of them, Holly says… She studies all of the personality tests. I don't read them. I really don't put a lot of stock in that kind of stuff. I guess I'm a challenger if I'm challenging the validity of a personality test. She says my son is also a challenger. And he is. I'll tell you how much a challenger he is. When we first started bench pressing in the Pound, he said this actual sentence: "I don't think bench really works your chest".
Let me explain something to you, ladies. There is no more time-honored principle among men than that a bench press will grow your chest and become the ultimate expression of your value as a human being. That number is so significant. I was so excited for him the other day. He hit 225 on bench. Do y'all want to see the video? I pulled it right before I came out. He was actually in Florida. This was a few weeks ago. They were out there for a trip. Show them the video. This is my boy. That's so epic. He actually made the beat that went behind that video too, so he's really... I'm so proud of him. I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, you got into college, but you benched 225! That's my boy. You love Jesus, but you benched 225"! It's two plates. It's kind of a big deal. It's kind of a rite of passage for all men.
No challenge, no change. The most significant part of that repetition was the part where he wasn't going to get it, and then he got it. All of that testosterone in the room and the video camera going I'm sure helped him to push through. No challenge, no change. The boy who didn't believe that bench press worked your chest is now benching 225, plate by plate. Sometimes, using just a stupid example from the weight room, our lives can encounter situations where we are making decisions, and we don't even realize we're making the decisions, whether the situation as it is presented to us is all it can ever be or whether there is the potential for us to push through in that moment and see something come to pass that would have seemed impossible from a human perspective.
Challenge the shadow. I thought that was a unique title that God gave me, because in our passage of Scripture today, the king Hezekiah is experiencing the announcement of the end of his life. I don't mean to make light of that or to put it on the level of trying to exercise your body. The fact is there are some listening to me today who have heard a bad report in an area of your life. It may not be the end of your life, but just like the prophet's word came to signal to Hezekiah, "This is the end," there is a parallel in this Scripture. I don't know if you noticed it. When God wanted to give Hezekiah a sign that he was going to heal him (even though at first the prophet said it couldn't happen, but Hezekiah challenged what the prophet said), God gave him the sign of a shadow.
I promise you this is significant. In this day they didn't have Fitbits and Rolexes, so in order to tell what time it was they would have a sundial system. As the sun would come up over the temple, the shadow would go down. The lower the sun got, the later it got in the day… The shadow would go down the steps of the temple as the sun was going up and then back down. The longer the shadow goes down the steps, the later it is. The longer the shadow gets going down the steps… Can you picture it? It signifies that the day is drawing to a close. Just as the shadow in the passage lengthens on the steps to announce that you're running out of time, the prophet Isaiah comes to announce to Hezekiah, "You're running out of time". They had a partnership, and I want to talk about this partnership between the prophet and the king.
It's one thing when your enemy tells you it's over. It's a different thing when your buddy… These guys were tight. They had to be, because when an opposing king would come to fight against Israel, the prophet would come and tell the king what to do to be victorious. So, the king and the prophet, when they were both looking to God… When the king was listening to the prophet and the prophet was listening to God, things went well. That didn't always happen in the nation of Israel. So, they would get invaded and defeated because the king wouldn't heed the word of the prophet. The prophet would say, "Put your idols away," and the king would keep worshiping idols. Or the prophet might say, "You really need to turn to the Lord and not fight this battle but let God fight it," and the king would go into battle anyway, trying to fight his battles in his own strength, and he'd end up dying. But when it was right, the relationship between the prophet and the king was a special thing. Isaiah and Hezekiah had this kind of relationship.
So, while Isaiah is over prophesying, Hezekiah is dying of a sickness that we learn results in boils all over his body. This is a humiliating disease, a painful disease, a progressive disease. In his urgency and desperation, he finally says, "Go get Isaiah. He's my dude". In chapter 19, Isaiah prophesied the defeat of Sennacherib, who was an enemy of Israel, and Sennacherib didn't even get into the camp because Isaiah said, "He's not coming in here. This is God's battle. You are God's king. This is God's nation". When God says the enemy can't get any farther, he doesn't just put up an electric fence, but he puts up a word that becomes a wall, and the enemy cannot touch what God has spoken. This time, Isaiah comes, and Hezekiah says, "Tell me what to do," and Isaiah says, "You're going to die".
It's like that until verse 3. Actually, it's in verse 2 where it begins, where it says Hezekiah did something that I want to know if you would be willing to do today. Verse 2: "Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord". Now, I don't know who this is for, but I really didn't come up here to talk about Hezekiah today. I mean, I did, but that's a history lesson. I didn't come up here to talk about a bench press record today, although I'm glad to be able to brag about my boy. I could be putting up pictures of him. He's in prison. Y'all pray for Elijah to get out. I'm pretty proud that he's bench pressing and he's at YTHX instead. But I didn't come up here today to talk about those things at all.
I came up here to use it as a lesson today that whether it's the worst news of your life or whether it's a setback you're facing and you're trying to decide, "Is this just how it is or is there something God would say that would change it?" there is an opportunity for you by faith in this moment, should you choose to receive it and should you choose to enter into it, to take the situation as it has been presented to you and bring it before the Lord for further consideration.
A lot of us are stuck in what we call acceptance, but it has become apathy. Sometimes you just have to accept the way it is, but sometimes you will feel something in your heart that will say, "Wait a minute". "The prophet said I have to die, but even the prophet has a boss". I don't know if you've ever been on a customer service call and realized you were talking to somebody who was an employee but not the owner. Maybe in that frustration you said something like this: "I'd like to speak to your supervisor".
So, imagine this. You're Hezekiah, and you're dying. You're a husband, and you're hurting. You've turned to people, and you've turned to a therapist, and you've turned to a bottle, and you've come to a doctor, and you've run to a well, and that well ran dry, but I feel somebody turning their face to the wall today and saying, "God, it's me, the one you chose, the one you called, the one you raised, and I need you right now. Can I speak to a supervisor"? He prayed. He prayed about it, and he cried about it. Now, here's where we have to get into the imagery of the text. This is so good. So, the prophet comes to announce, "It's over. The best thing you can do is just go ahead and accept the fact that it's over". That is sometimes exactly right.
I remember when a certain thing was happening in my life, and a friend of mine advised me, "You have to have a funeral for your expectations," because I was trying to get somebody else to change, and I can't change anybody else. Certain things we have to accept. I have to accept (and it's a very hard thing for me) my height. All potential of my NBA career has faded into the shadows of the sundial of Ahaz along with Hezekiah's health. Now, you have to understand about this passage. This passage doesn't give us a picture of somebody who turned his face to the wall in perfect faith, for the Bible says he began to ask God to remember all that he had done. Not all that God had done. Hezekiah said, "Remember, Lord, how I have walked with you faithfully in wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes". Then the next part is important because it says he wept bitterly.
Now, mark this down. You can weep bitterly and still pray faithfully. You can weep bitterly and still wait expectantly. You can accept what it is but still believe that it can be something greater. I'm looking at some people today who have accepted some things in your life as all they can ever be. When you accept the announcement of the shadow, you neglect the presence of the source. Let's talk about the biblical image of a shadow. It is mentioned in the Bible literally, like the shelter or the shadow Jonah sat under. It is mentioned metaphorically many times in a positive sense. One of my favorite Scriptures says, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty".
You know that verse. I love that verse. It lets me know God has me covered. It means protection. It means his presence is my protection. Write that down and go back to it this week when you get in trouble. His presence is my protection. Anywhere I go, God is with me. Anywhere I walk, God went there before me. If he got there before me, then I am protected and sheltered in the shadow of the Most High. I will abide under his shadow, and I will not fear the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that flies by night. That's the shadow. Perhaps one of the most famous biblical images of the shadow comes through David who said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley…" This is a different kind of shadow. He said, "I walk sometimes through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil".
That's an amazing verse to me, because it lets me know that what David was going through in that moment felt like death, but it wasn't death; it was the valley of the shadow of death. Sometimes what you're going through feels like the end. It is a valley. But one thing you have to remember about a valley is the only way there can be a valley is that there is a mountain on either side of it. That is the very essence of a valley. So, the thing you're going through right now in your life, while the Enemy would love to use it as evidence that God has left you, is actually the evidence that God has something ahead of you. In the meantime, we must believe God in the shadows to be who he told us he was in the light. This image of the shadow shows up in psychology as well.
If you remember from your freshman psych class, you'll remember they talked about the shadow self, the parts of your character you would just as soon disown, not deal with, not acknowledge. Depending on which psychological theory you adhere to, some people would say, "No, you really have to bring out that shadow self and deal with it in many different ways, because if you take the embarrassing, shameful parts of you and don't deal with them, they will eventually get stronger and overpower you and show up in ways you don't want them to". That's why I'm really glad for the cross of Jesus Christ. He showed me on his cross what to do with my shadow.
There is nothing I ever have to be ashamed of in his presence. He already knows it, he already paid for it, and he nailed it to his cross. So I never have to be ashamed. I will never have to stay away from God because, "Oh, he might see who I really am". I would never have to go, "Well, I could pray about it, and I would pray about it, but I can't pray about it because I have these things in my life". The things in your life are the things you need to pray about. So, you drag it out of the shadows and into his presence. Quick tip. Next time you're in church and we're singing and you're like, "Man, I can't sing 'I trust in God' because I'm doubting," sing "I trust in God" even louder, because what singing that will do… I'll tell you what I do. If you drag it out of the shadows, it'll take that doubt out of the shadows, and the Devil is like, "Oh no. No. No! Please don't bring it into the light".
If you bring your doubt into the light, your doubt will disappear in the presence of a God whose name is greater than anything you can name, any disease you can name, any disorder you can name, anything a doctor can diagnose you with. I know a PhD. I know a perfectly holy deity. I know a great God who can raise you up. Hezekiah said, "I don't want to have a conversation with you about this. I've got to pray about this one. I've got to turn my attention to a higher authority. I've got to get my focus off of what was spoken". Even though the prophet wasn't wrong. Y'all, it's hard enough not to believe the Enemy when he tells you you're going to die.
What would you do if it was Isaiah? It is not the lies the Enemy tells us that keep us in defeat. It is the things that get whispered to us that we secretly believe are true, but sometimes God will call you to accept it. My dad died of ALS, and no amount of prayer reversed it. As a matter of fact, every time we die, it's just a matter of when. It's not like Hezekiah lived to be 3,093. He died, but he didn't die here because God had more for him to do. Sometimes you let things die too soon in your life. Sometimes you let dreams die too soon in your life. Sometimes you let relationships die too soon in your life because of what you won't work through, because of what you won't pray through, because of what you won't face.
God sent me today to give you this message that some of the stuff you have been allowing in your life… I'm not saying that if you have sickness, it's a lack of faith. That's not my belief system. I don't believe you can support that from the Bible or from life. I am saying that sometimes what you accept as the consequence of a hardship is actually the opposite of what God intends to give you through the hardship. Sometimes you go through the breaking, but you don't get the benefit. Sometimes you go through the problem, but you don't access in that problem the power you could have if you learned what I want to teach you today. What I want to teach you today is no matter what has been spoken over you or inside of you, if it does not align with the assignment God has placed on your life… The moment you decide to focus your faith and drag it out of the shadows and into the light, things change. Things change. They really do.
People still do get married in their 40s. They really do. People still do live after experiencing the worst tragedy. Things change. People who formerly were so depressed they couldn't even get out of bed go on to found companies. They really do. People who get fired from jobs for being incompetent later get celebrated for being innovative once they find their fit. Things change. They really do. Things change. People who once struggled with sin to the point that they identified themselves as a recovering alcoholic become mentors for other recovering alcoholics. Things change. They really do. Families where nobody ever went to college, families where nobody ever really got out of high school go on to produce some of the greatest leaders you've ever seen. Things change. They really do.
I don't know who this is for because it's not in my notes, but the Holy Ghost got ahold of me to tell you, "Things change. They really do". I'm not preaching fairy tale. I'm not preaching sweet tarts. I'm not preaching pop-up promise, get a blessing. I'm preaching that when you turn your face to the wall and turn your attention to the heavens and walk away out of the shadows of what has been there is a light. God said, "Let there be light," and there was. I reckon whatever he speaks still works. So if he says, "Let there be joy," get ready to get happy. If he says, "Let there be peace," get ready to see the storm start to be still. High-five three people and say, "Things change. They really do". You're standing next to a living witness that things change. You're standing next to an exhibit A that things change.
You're standing next to somebody who one time thought, "I'm not going to make it". But hey, Isaiah, turn around, get back, because God said, "You're overruled. The shadow can't have you yet". Hey, Isaiah, get back here. God said I can live! Hey, Isaiah, I'm not saying you were wrong. I'm not saying God changed his mind. I'm just saying I've set my faith and I will not die. I should warn you as I preach this that I'm preaching to you what I have walked through. You say, "Pastor, we didn't hear that you had boils on your body". No, no, I'm not talking about boils on my body. I'm talking about beliefs I carried. O God. I mean, these beliefs were painful. They were progressive. There were times that I believed things about myself that I was beyond love. There were times I believed things about myself that I was beyond help. There were times I believed things about my thought patterns that they were just genetic and they couldn't be changed. There were times I believed things about my potential that I wasn't the one for the job, even though God had called me to it.
Now, the thing about believing a thing that isn't true is that you don't know it isn't true, because once you know it isn't true, you don't believe it anymore, so you don't know it isn't true while you're believing it. The moment you know it's not true you stop believing it. That's why I love this passage. The Devil didn't tell Hezekiah, "You're going to die". The prophet did. This is where we have to get more sensitive to the Holy Spirit than we are to our senses. Even if the sickness doesn't go away in your life, through your suffering God is going to be glorified more than you could ask or imagine. I know that doesn't really give the same kind of relief it does when Isaiah tells them to get some figs and rub that… What did they call it? The poultice.
Did you see that word in verse 7? I thought that was a crazy word. "Then Isaiah said, 'Prepare a poultice of figs.'" I had to look that one up. It's an ointment. A poultice is an ointment. That I thought was powerful too, because for the healing we need in our lives, it's not just the prayers; it's the poultice. It wasn't just he said, "You're going to live" and he waved a wand. There was a process involved in that. So, I wonder sometimes if we are taught that it's all about what we do, and then other times we're taught it's not about what we do. Somewhere in this message today God wants you to hear that you have to choose to challenge the shadow or the shadow will swallow you. Think about it. Go with me.
Can you go with me back in history just a few hundred years? Go back and see that shadow stretching down the steps, and see the prophet's word coming to announce, "It's over for you, Hezekiah". I wonder if you have felt that shadow stretching over an area of your life lately. Has God brought me to your life today to give you a prophetic word for that situation that you think can't change? Even if the situation doesn't change, the way you see it must. That is the first step: not that the situation would change but that the way you see it would change. God gave me this one time too. He said, "Everything you're praying about today as a burden you were thanking me for as a blessing before it got heavy". Everything in my life that I was praying about as a burden… "O God, this is so hard, this is so heavy" …was something God gave me that I asked him for. It was just growing bigger. Everything has to start with how you see it.
That's what a prophet does. He's a seer. Isaiah had the ability to see hundreds of years into the future where he prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ. So, how does Hezekiah and his tears and his prayers stop a prophet as powerful as Isaiah in his tracks? Isaiah is walking back. He's all the way to the middle court. He's like, "Well, God, I really didn't want to tell him that, but…" And he can't take another step because something arrests him. Now, he doesn't know what it is yet. All he knows is "I told Hezekiah he was going to die. I turned my back. I went back to go home, and something stopped me". What he didn't know was at the moment that Hezekiah's tears were hitting the pillow, his feet got heavy, and he couldn't take another step.
"What are you saying, Pastor Steven? Are you saying that if I cry enough, God will change my situation, or that if I just pray this prayer? Can we pray that prayer from Hezekiah and get it back and get it restored? Can I pray this prayer from Hezekiah and get everything that was in my life that was missing put back together again"? I do not believe it was the formula of his prayer that brought healing. I believe it was the change of his focus. I believe that when he wept bitterly and prayed fervently… When he chose to rehearse truth through tears… Everybody say, "Truth through tears". That is a valuable confession. It is one thing to quote truth when you have evidence that absolutely supports that truth, but truth through tears is a completely different level of trust in God. That kind of trust in God will say to the shadow, "Hey, you say it's over. God says it's a new beginning".
I believe that's what happens in our lives when we really make the shift into faith. God shows us that what we've called an ending is a beginning. Do you believe that? If you don't, you're not a Christian, because that's all the resurrection was: a redefinition of what men call endings. I know you've been worried about it. I know you've been burdened by it, bothered by it, broken by it. That is not the question. The question isn't…Will you cry? It's…What will you confess as you do? I think there are times in all of our lives when the shadow comes to announce it's over, but the shadow is not the source. Will you challenge the shadow? Imagine this. They rub this ointment all over Hezekiah's body, and he says, "Okay. I need a sign that this is going to work". You have to get in this image. It's so cool.
Isaiah goes, "All right. You want a sign? I'll give you a sign, because you don't really believe it yet. So, the shadow is going to move so God can show you that you have more time. Shall it go forward 10 steps or shall it go back 10 steps"? Now, let's work this out really quickly. The sun comes up over the temple. The shadow goes down the steps. That is the natural pattern of things. Hezekiah said, "If the shadow keeps going down the steps, that's what's supposed to happen. How will I know that God can do it if it goes exactly how it's supposed to"? Maybe this is why certain things in our lives don't go exactly how they're supposed to. How would you know it was God if it just went how it's supposed to? If people just recognized you like they were supposed to, how would you know it is God who promotes you? If everybody supported you and endorsed you who was supposed to support and endorse you… How would I know it was God if the shadow just did what shadows do?
I have another one for you. If it happened when you wanted it to, you would have thought it was you. So God said, "I've got to do something really quick. I've got to make the shadow stretch out so that you get in a position where you won't say, 'Oh, I was really smart. Oh, I was really clever. Oh, I was really faithful.'" Notice while Hezekiah was talking about his faithfulness, Isaiah kept walking. But when he cried a tear and said, "God, if you don't do it, it will not get done," Isaiah said, "Whoa, that's faith. Whoa, that's trust. Whoa, that's somebody who has come to the end of themselves. That's somebody who has seen the shadow but will still come back to the source".
What are you all looking at? He loves good preaching. Do you see people stand up at a football game? This is better than a football game. This is the church of the living God. They think it's crazy when we get excited about the Word of God. I see people get excited about somebody in some mesh shorts running up and down some hardwood floors, bouncing a ball into a hoop. I think I can get excited when the word of the Lord comes to me and starts telling me, "This shadow is not going to consume you". Yes, Lord. Why are you scared to praise God? Why are you scared to give him glory? Why are you quiet when you come in here? You'd better get radical about this thing. Time is running out, baby. You can't afford to sit there and wait for a feeling. This is more than a feeling. This is the word of almighty God! If you don't cry out, the rocks will. If you don't cry out, Isaiah keeps walking.
Somebody release the sound of worship that will stop the prophet in his tracks and say, "Get back here. I will live"! Glory! High-five somebody and say, "I'm back"! Now watch the shadow. Verse 11. Isaiah said, "Okay. You need a sign? The shadow is going to stop going forward, and it's going to do something that will always prove the presence of God". Get ready to shout over this. You're going to love this. Verse 11 says he made the shadow go back up the steps. Again, for everybody who's looking at something right now that looks like it's over, watch what God did for Hezekiah when Hezekiah called on him. He made the shadow go back up the steps. I thought, "God, this doesn't make sense. Shadows don't climb stairs". Exactly. Not until you challenge them.
See, as long as we just let it be whatever way it is and go, "Okay. Well, that's just how it is" or "That's just how I am" and we never challenge the shadow by coming back to the source, it's just going to keep going down, down, down. Have you been depressed? Have you been discouraged? Have you given up on your dream that God put inside of you? Is the shadow going down the steps in your life? Challenge it. Whatever that looks like for you, God will reveal it by his Spirit. I hear God saying, "Challenge that". I wish I had a flag like they have on football so I could throw the challenge flag on some situations in your life, some stuff you're complaining about. Stop complaining about stuff you can change. All right. Let's do it. Let's get practical. Holly loves it when I get practical. She's very literal. I'm very figurative. I am a songwriter. She is a teacher. She taught school while I was learning to write songs.
So, I'm like, "Challenge the shadow," and she's like, "Hallelujah. How"? How many of y'all need some help with "Hallelujah. How"? Like, "I feel you. I believe you. Okay. What are you saying, 'The shadow came back'? What does that mean? Does that mean you want me to go out to the graveyard, and I've had a family member who has been dead, and pray for the person to get up from the dead and stuff like that"? No, I've never done that in my life. That's not the kind of faith I have. But I do have this kind of faith, and this is a practical faith. It is the ability for me to see that sometimes in my life when I am complaining that I don't have something, it is a product of the way I see something. So, challenging the shadow could be as simple as this. Raise your hand if in the last week (I would have you close your eyes just for privacy's sake, but we're going to do it looking all around) you have said, "I do not have enough time".
Raise your hand. I don't have enough time, but Warren Buffett did. I don't have enough time, but Jesus only lived to be 33 and saved the world. "Yeah, but that's different. It was Jesus". Yeah, it's different. Jesus didn't even have a car, and he still did it. Jesus couldn't even get an airplane, and he did it. And you don't have time. No, we just compress so much stress into a shorter time span that we have no ability to prioritize. Sometimes challenging the shadow is this mentality you have when you wake up any given day and go, "I'm not going to be able to get it all done". No, not with everything you do that nobody told you to do. You do not have enough time to do your job and Bob's job and God's job. As long as you keep running around with the S on your chest that you think stands for savior but really stands for stressed, the shadow goes down the steps.
So you end each day going, "I don't have enough time". I need to check your Netflix queue to see if God really accidentally skipped some time he was supposed to give you. Challenge the shadow. Do you see what I mean? It sounds so big, like, "Wow! We're reading this passage about this king who was about to die, and God said, 'I'm going to give him 15 more years.'" Sometimes it's not about 15 years; it's about 15 minutes. I learned if I take 15 minutes and seek God first in my day, the whole day gets longer. It's almost like the shadow goes up the steps if I seek him first, but if I'm not focused, then I'm going to end the day with not enough time, I'm going to start the day with not enough sleep, and the shadow will swallow me. How about this one while we're at it? I feel like I need to put on some rubber gloves when I go this deep. This is crazy stuff right here.
This is a big one for a lot of us. It's the idea that "It's too late for me now". How about that one? Anybody? He said, "That's real". No, it's a shadow. It feels real. It feels real especially in this day and time, because they are trying to wheel us to the nursing home when we're 45. Am I right? Abbey said the other day, "Mom, if you die, can you write down to the boys and let them know I'll take care of your closet"? She is killing my wife in the prime of her life. I mean, I'm still buying Holly clothes and jewelry, and Abbey is already claiming it, because she's right on the doorstep of death. That's funny until it's not. I remember a guy told me one time, "Songwriting is a young man's game". He was 40.
In a sense he's right, because most people who write pop songs and all different kinds of music write it when they're in their 20s or even younger than that. He had kind of resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't going to write any more good songs. He went on to write a few good ones, but I bet you somewhere in him dealing with that… Because he was saying that out of his own fear. He was over 40. I bet somewhere in his fear of that he had to turn his face to the wall and ask God, "Is that really true"? Normally, yeah, people do their best work early, but this is not the NBA. Why have we let our culture turn into this "Once you're over 30, you're worthless"?
The Devil is a liar. Y'all, here's how much I don't believe that. I won't even let them put my sermons online that I preached when I was 30, because I did not know anything when I was 30. And I'll probably take this one down when I'm 60, because I intend to keep living, and I intend to keep learning, and I intend to keep contradicting myself as long as it takes to grow. So, if God shows me something different… The shadow can roll back. I can admit my ignorance and go, "I didn't know that then. I'm growing now". Why have we given ourselves no grace to grow? Why do we define what can come next by what has already been? Is that not a step? Wasn't every mistake you made up to this point in your life a step toward wisdom? So, watch this if you can receive it. Everything you thought was a step down, from God's vantage point, was a step up. That's what it means when God makes the shadow go backward. But you have to challenge it. You have to get in the face of your failure and say, "Oh, guess what you are, failure. You are a foundation".
I saw something online the other day. It said, "You're not starting over; you're starting from experience". How about that, young people? All my 43-year-old senior citizens, make some noise with me. "I'm going to praise him with no teeth in my mouth". It's so crazy how quickly we give up on what might have been the greatest season of our life. I declare your grandkids need you to grow into it. If for nobody else, do it for what's coming after you. A girl who worked for me turned 30. I said, "Congratulations". She said, "Oh, no. Please don't speak of it". I said, "Speak of what"? She said, "I can't stand to think about it, turning 30".
Imagine that. Imagine that the Enemy is so good at getting us to die that we just stay stupid. We won't learn. We won't challenge anything. We won't challenge a prejudice. We won't challenge a preconceived notion of ourselves. We won't challenge an insecurity. We won't challenge a hobby. We won't challenge an interest. We just live in it. Hezekiah called the prophet back with his tears. I reckon you can rebuke the Enemy off of your life with yours. It changed my life when I realized that the "God said, 'Let there be light'" verse also points to the fact that the God who said, "Let there be light" also controls the shadows. The author of truth is the controller of time. I just speak this message today from my heart to yours that sometimes you need to stand in the shadows and speak to the source. Isaiah said, "I can make it keep going down, which is what it naturally does, or if you really want to see what God spoke come to pass, here's what's going to happen. What was supposed to stay down is going to go back up".
Now, I don't know what brought you down in your life, and I can't know what's bringing you down in your soul, but the promise of God is not just limited to some obscure Old Testament king. As a matter of fact, this whole story isn't really a story; it's a shadow. The prophet said, "In three days you will rise". I read my Bible some. I seem to remember another thing about three days and rising. Do you remember anything in that Bible about three days and rising? Do you remember in John, chapter 2, where Jesus came through the temple, and he was like, "This is all out of order"? I feel God going through somebody's temple today and clearing out everything that doesn't belong and wiping out every shadow that has tried to eliminate your purpose and your peace. Those gathered that day said, "What will be…"?
Look at this in John 2:18. You're going to love this verse. They asked, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do this"? Verse 19 is all the answer I need. "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it…'" Are y'all ready? There's about to be a resurrection. "Destroy this temple. Take away my good name". Jesus said, "Hang me up on a cross. Call me the King of the Jews as you mock me with a crown of thorns. Plunge a Roman spear into my side". "You can destroy it, but if you do, you should know I will raise it again in three days". That's why he died: to challenge the shadow. That's why he rose: to challenge the shadow. That's why he ascended to the right hand of God: to let you know that even the grave and even the keys of death and hell are in his hands.
Why would I die in the shadows when I know the source? He is the source of my strength. He is the strength of my life. Hey, Hezekiah, you shall not die! You shall live! Out of the shadows into the light. Out of the past into the promise. You shall live! The one who controls the sun and spoke it into its place can certainly bring the shadows back. The one who sees you in that pit can certainly pull you out. The one who gave you your unique composition as a child of God can certainly bring you into your purpose no matter how much time has passed. Even Isaiah had to turn around when Hezekiah cried. Even the prophet had to turn around and say, "There is a better word". Even God waits for your faith. No challenge, no change. If the shadow just went down the steps and it was easy, you wouldn't know he was God. You are in this moment in this season of your life not only because life is hard (that's one reason), not only because bad things happen (that's another reason), but because God is using this as a sign.
I pictured all week that shadow coming back up the steps. I thought, what would that be like to watch something that looked like it was over, and all of a sudden, step-by-step… Come on. Get your feet moving. Onward, Christian soldiers. Step-by-step. "Wait a minute. Shadows don't walk up steps". They do when God speaks. "Stones don't roll from full graves". They do when Jesus speaks. "Sins can't be forgiven. The past can't be undone. The record can't be erased". It can when the blood speaks. I need everybody who's believing for a better word to stop the prophet in his tracks right now and begin to praise God. When you praise him, the shadow falls back. When you praise him, the chains fall off. When you praise him, the darkness starts to scatter and disseminate and disappear. I declare it's coming back! It's coming back to you now.
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. It's coming back right now. It's coming back with every step. It's coming back with every praise. It's coming back with every breath. It's coming back with every fear. Come back! Get back here, Isaiah, and speak the word that they may live! I don't know what you're suffering from, but I see you stepping through it. I don't know what your valley is, but I know the mountain on the other side called Calvary. He's not done with you! You have 15 more years. He is the Lord who healeth thee. Walk in it! Turn around and walk in it! Turn around and flow in it! Turn around and trust it! This is your sign. This is your signal. This is your step. This is your word. Let there be light. Let there be laughter.
You have more time. This is the day the Lord has made! I will rejoice. Come on up! He's turning around. Isaiah is turning around. He's turning around. Somebody say, "It's turning around. It's turning around". Hug three people and tell them, "It's turning around. It's turning around". Come on. Move a little bit. It's turning around. God said it's turnaround time. What are you going to do with the days you have left? What are you going to do with the wisdom you have now? What are you going to do with the breakthrough he made? What are you going to do with your open door? It's time. It's time to find out why you're still alive. It's time to praise him while you still have breath. Before the sun goes down, I'm going to give him another hallelujah. Praise him, church of the living God!