Recently, I felt bored and stressed. Nothing extraordinary you might say, but I was bored and stressed in conversation with God. Talking with God; the almighty, the creator of the universe, the all-glorious and all-beautiful one; I was bored and stressed.
To me, one of the most convincing arguments for the reality of an accessible God is His intervention in human consciousness through prayer. Famously, agricultural scientist George Washington Carver (1864-1943) asked God for ‘the mystery of a peanut’, and subsequently derived over 300 different patents from this unassuming beer accompaniment. Prayer is very real. At the centre of my faith is a God who is limitlessly powerful and consistently unpredictable, whose words and ideas are thrilling to the human spirit. To me, spiritual boredom is unacceptable; it is obtuse, unbelieving and even stupid. And yet, there I was.
In the midst of this place of boredom and stress, God spoke to me like He sometimes does, by showing me an image in my mind’s eye. I saw myself like a little child kneeling over something I was holding in my hands and I was clearly frustrated by it, like it was a toy I was trying to fix, and I saw my Father standing over me wanting to help me but He couldn’t seem to get my attention while I was so engrossed in my own task. I realised that the object I was holding in my hands was prayer itself. God was showing me that I was trying to do prayer with my own agenda and my own understanding of what the results should be. My eyes were fixed down when they should have been looking up to my Father. I had missed the vision of heaven. God wanted to talk to me about cities and nations while I was fixated with a comparatively petty prayer list of practical concerns for the following weeks and months.
Much of the Christian Church is in this position. ‘Strategy’, ‘model’ and ‘agenda’ have become Christian buzzwords that make us feel professional, but increasingly seem to betray a heart that is departing from the Lord. We have become very good at ideas, but I’m not sure how much we are truly growing in the heart of God. Jesus said it would be those who ‘abide’ in Him who would bear much fruit. But are our goals His goals, and is our vision His vision? Are they even becoming more united? Too often it seems that the goals of Christian organizations and churches are about increasing ‘web hits’ and ‘likes’ on a facebook page, rather than the transformation of culture by the Word of God; the salvation of souls and renewing of minds. The calling of a Christian was never to be ‘liked’. We are called into fellowship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9)
While we are counting how many likes, shares and comments were achieved on our social media feeds in the last week, and how many heads there were in our Sunday services, 37.5 million babies were aborted globally so far in the past year alone. There are 36 million trafficked in an exploding global slave trade. The number of displaced persons has reached around 60 million. The USA, still the world’s most prominent ‘Christian nation’, ranks among the the top ten ‘most divorced’ nations with a rate of 53% of marriages (the UK is not far behind with 47%, and 6 of the other top ten nations are from western Europe). Over 200 million Christians around the world are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith according to the World Evangelical Alliance, and 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month (Open Doors). Israel, God’s chosen nation through whom He communicated all of the scripture and whom He has restored to their land as promised repeatedly in the Prophets, is reviled and mocked globally and is condemned by the UNHRC more times than all other nations combined including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Libya, Syria etc… etc… According to Psalm 149, God’s people are called to ‘execute judgement’ in the place of prayer and praise. Matthew 18:18 says that we are given authority in prayer to bind everything that disagrees with heaven. In Luke 18:6-8, Jesus promises that God will ‘speedily’ answer those who cry out to Him for justice.
So seriously, there are bigger fish to fry.
When Jesus, the commander of heaven’s armies, met Joshua on the plain of Jericho, He did not come to hear Joshua’s plan to conquer the city. He came to give Joshua His strategy for victory.
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Joshua 5:13-14, NKJV)
Jesus’ strategy was bizarre. He says to Joshua (paraphrase…), ‘I want you to walk round Jericho once every day for six days, then the next day I want you to walk around it 7 times and afterwards get the priests to blow trumpets.’ Jesus’ plan sounds crazy, but obedience in fellowship with Him releases supernatural power to break down the strongholds of the enemy. The walls of Jericho fell down flat.
It is much easier for us to create comfortable human strategies than to walk in fellowship with Jesus, but it is so much more boring and exhausting. If Joshua had been offended by Jesus’ strategy for victory, the alternative would probably have been a very protracted and potentially costly process of siege warfare. God had a miraculous solution available, if Joshua was willing to walk in fellowship with Him. God doesn’t want us to go through the pain of our own plans and strategies! He wants to release miraculous solutions to us in our jobs, relationships and in building His kingdom but these strategies will never come from human intelligence and are often offensive.
In a very similar instruction, but a very different need, in 2 Kings 5 God asked Naaman the Syrian through the prophet Elisha to wash in the Jordan river 7 times for his healing. Naaman became offended at God’s plan. He didn’t want to wash in an Israeli river. He thought that the Syrian rivers should be good enough for him. But that wasn’t what God said, and he wouldn’t have been healed if he had washed in a Syrian river.
God already has a strategy for global revival at which a large proportion of the body of Christ are offended because it involves the nation of Israel, and politics has clouded a lot of vision on the subject. Like Naaman, they do not accept Israel’s strategic place in God’s purposes, even though His Word is absolutely clear. Romans 11:11 states that a core purpose of the gospel coming to the gentiles was in order to provoke Israel to jealousy for their own Messiah. A remarkable statement and an element of God’s global purpose that is completely ignored by large sections of the Body of Christ, and sidelined by others.
There are now endless ‘mission strategies’ available in Christian media. There are new methods of outreach produced on seemingly a daily basis and yet God says He wants to bring ‘life from the dead’ for the whole world (or global revival) through the Israel’s acceptance of their own Messiah (Romans 11:15). God’s response to the cry of His Church for global revival is Isaiah 62:
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7, NKJV)
God is calling out for watchmen who will embrace His purposes for the world, and agree with His agenda and His strategy. He is looking for men and women who will lay down their lives in the place of prayer and allow Him to move through their lives in remarkable and supernatural ways. He longs to find men and women who will embrace His heart for the nations, no matter how offensive it is to them personally. He longs for those who will let His priorities become theirs, so much so that they become the burning cry of their hearts, day and night.
It is a mystery, and it looks like foolishness, but God has chosen to release healing to the world through an Israeli river! God is going to set up His throne in Jerusalem and a river is going to flow out from His throne that will turn bitter waters into sweet. Trees will grow on the banks of that river that will be for the ‘healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2). Israel is not the only element in God’s plan for global revival, but it is a central element in His ultimate divine solution and the Church will witness a supernatural revival in its prayer life and a dramatic increase in fruitfulness when it embraces its role in intercession over Jerusalem and Israel.
As you read this, I pray that a fire might be kindled in your heart to let God draw you into an encounter with the Commander of the heaven’s armies, and that you might find divine strategies for your life and for nations as you walk in fellowship with Him.