Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Freeze Part 1
I'm frozen--not moving, that is--and it's the most powerful position I've ever been in. A few weeks back my brother and sister in law sent out an email telling us that the passports they were supposed to be receiving in a foreign country were not coming through. She's expecting and they need the passports for travelling home to North America. Things are always sticky in these countries and it seems nothing is ever cut and dry. Apparently people can be denied several times before they ever receive proper documents. But then, they sent another email informing us they had heard from someone that their passports were going to come through after all. He said in this email: we did nothing but pray. It was unexplainable because they had not called and tried to get someone to pull some strings, they had not made any move at all--just prayed. That sentence--we did nothing but pray--just wedged itself into my heart and wiggled around until there was enough room for it to take root. I loved it. I thought about it. I mulled over it. Well known for making a few calls and getting things done, this is slightly contrary to my nature. In a similar situation about ten years ago when my husband and I were fast approaching our wedding with a fiancee visa application languishing amidst the red tape of immigration services, I was found on the phone to the president's office. Before all was said and done the president's personal secretary and I were on a first name basis. Ironically, we didn't get that paperwork--not even the president of the United States can help you when God is not fighting the battle. The difference between what happened with my brother and sister-in-law and what happened to my husband and I many years prior is simple--one battle was God's and the other was not. When God has a purpose there is nothing and no one who can thwart, change, alter or effect His intentions. We weren't trying to go against God--we just didn't have His master plan and weren't aware of what He would accomplish. We had prayed for His direction and He faithfully gave it to us through a closed door. What I want to talk about though is that sometimes God calls us to freeze in order to move mightily on our behalf. As a little girl I loved to play freeze tag outside our churchyard after Sunday evening services. The air would be thick like sweet tea and lightning bugs would join in our game dodging our lanky legs and arms as we chased each other down. We'd run from the bigger kids and inevitably they'd tag us. Then, we'd freeze. Only in the frozen moments would we catch our breath for the rest of the game. We couldn't move until someone else freed us from that position--all we could do was breath. And breath we did--we'd been running our little hearts out and we'd suck oxygen in like a thick milk shake until we were ready to run again. At some point, someone would come along and touch us and off we'd run again into the night. That was a childhood game, but in life sometimes the most powerful position we can ever be in is the frozen one. It's there that we catch our breath, gain perspective on what's happening around us and it's in that position that someone else is doing the running while we wait to be freed. This week two major things came up that set my feet to moving--I was ready to deal with both of them right away. Before the phone call that delivered the first news had ended I had a mental list of how I'd alter my day to accomplish the resolution of this situation. But that sentence from my brother-in-law's email came to me, special delivery from the Holy Spirit I'm sure. And I paused. Pray, Sarah. Just pray. Freeze. So, pray I did. Again and again. And then of course I did what any sane girl with four sisters would do--I called one of them. I love the phone a friend feature in life, don't you? Besides, that wasn't doing anything...that was just talking. (I know I still have much to learn) My sister said to me point blank, "Sarah, if it were me, I'd just wait. You don't need to do anything right now. Just wait and pray. Be ready, but wait." Well, when I'm in doing mood see if I call her again. Truly though, I thank God for godly family. Obviously God was speaking to me. I've been tagged and now I'm frozen. Jehoshaphat received a rather shocking bit of news himself during his reign over Judah. Some messengers arrived and informed him that a "huge army is attacking you from the other side of the Dead Sea..." (II Chr. 20:2b) Scripture says "Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he decided to seek the Lord's advice. He decreed that all Judah should observe a fast." (II Chr. 20:3) I love that. Here they are facing an impending attack and he tells them, "Don't eat. We're gonna stop and get advice from God." Hello? What about a Hollywood moment when on a horse reared to the heavens he shouts out, "An army's coming! Ready yourselves! Hide the women and children. Gather the men from your villages. Get your swords! We're going into battle!" None of that. In fact the Bible says, "All the men of Judah were standing before the Lord, along with their infants, wives and children." (II Chr. 20:13) Not only did they not prepare their families for the worst, they actually took the time to gather their families and stand still before the Lord. The most incredible thing we can do as a family in the midst of crisis is get on our knees before God and seek His face. But so often one of us runs to email our friend, another grabs their cell phone to call someone and another gets on google to research a solution. Meanwhile like our rusting landlines, the direct line to God remains unused. How we must grieve His heart to see us darting about in an effort to fight a battle that is not in our hands. When we fight with our man made weapons ignoring the face of God we swing imaginary swords at imaginary enemies because our battle is not against flesh and blood. It's as though God must want to whisper, "Sarah, you missed him. Sarah, that's not your enemy. He's up here. I got him. Sarah, you are fighting against air. Are you tired yet? Lay down your weapons and pray, Sarah. I'll handle it from here." The Israelites were right on the money this time around. They got before God and they prayed a prayer that recounted God's power, acknowledged that He rules over the earth and the heavens, declared His unstoppable strength and in humility they said, "we will cry out to you for help in our distress, so that you will hear and deliver us. We don't know what we should do; we look to you for help." (II Chr. 20:9, 12) I love that they didn't say, "Please, if it's your will deliver us." They were confident that their God would move. And He says to them, "Don't be afraid and don't panic because of this huge army! For the battle is not yours, but God's." I don't think the army was huge to God, but isn't it neat that He acknowledged that to them it was massive. Sometimes the things we face seem so impossible, so insurmountable to our human eyes and yet to God, they are but a vapor. When in God's hands, with a simple flick of his finger or a puff of breath from his lips, they are annhialated, oblitereated, eradicated from our lives. What we need to get is that when the circumstances we face involve in the purposes of God in our lives or the lives of those we love, the battle is not ours. God told the Israelite people, "You will not fight in this battle. Take your positions, stand, and watch the Lord deliver you...don't be afraid and don't panic! Tomorrow march out toward them; the Lord is with you!" (II Chr. 20:17) It was simple. In the end, when the men of Judah arrived on the battle scene, "they saw dead bodies on the ground; there were no survivors!" (II Chr. 20:25) God defeated their enemy before they even arrived. That's the power of God at work accomplishing His purposes for all eternity and He desires to do the very same thing in our lives today. The process was relatively straight forward. The people received bad news of impending battle. They gathered together with their families and fasted and prayed. They acknowledged their dependence on God and His power to act. And then, they stood and watched. God will work in the circumstances of our lives, but we need to get down on our faces before Him and beseech Him to do so. We need to cry out to the God of heaven and earth and declare His strength and ability and claim His power in our lives. We need not panic and begin a frenzy of activity in attempts to resolve situations and shape circumstances to our advantage. I'm not advocating inaction when God calls us to move. God told the Israelites to walk across the Red Sea and they obeyed Him, but what I am saying is that before we run we need to freeze--freeze before our loving and merciful God Almighty and wait for Him to free us to move. God's resolutions are always superior to anything we can accomplish. You know the Bible says it took three entire days for the people to haul off all the plunder--supplies, clothing and valuable items--that they took from the battle they never fought! And when the resolution has come from God, there will be peace. "Jehoshaphat's kingdom enjoyed peace; his God made him secure on every side." (II Chr. 20:30) I'm not promising extreme wealth and perfect harmony from a human standpoint, but I can promise without hesitation that the plunder of a spirit filled with the fruit of a heart committed to God will be more than we can eat in this lifetime. And I know that the peace God will give will be the kind of peace that stands before the armies of our lives and says, "My God is with me and He will give me the victory because this battle is His." So, here I stand, frozen until God chooses to free me. My spirit is in prayer and fasting right now as I expectantly await God's movement. And I know that in this position, I am more powerful than if I were on the phone with the president's secretary and though I don't know the outcome, there is peace on every side. Amen.