Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review - Sun Stand Still

I'm a fan of Pastor Steven Furtick, and was very excited to get an advance review copy of his new book "Sun Stand Still" from the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Pastor Steven is the lead pastor and founder of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC (6000 strong and growing). He's a very talented young man, a passionate and biblical preacher, and someone who demonstrates audacious faith.

The full title of the book is "Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible." This comes from a passage in the Old Testament describing a highly unusual event. Joshua prayed and God caused the sun to stand still for a full extra day (!)  The theme of the book can be summed up in two words: audacious faith. In his own words...
"This book is not a Snuggie. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential."
I found this book to be simultaneously very easy to read, and very hard to read. It was inspiring, but at times discouraging. It was easy to read because Furtick writes heart-to-heart, in plain terms. It was hard because it's so darn challenging! He succeeds at encouraging the reader to consider a faith and a life far beyond what we can do in our own strength, and for this he is to be commended.

The difficult part for me, and perhaps for several other readers, is that much of what he talks about assumes the reader has a clear dream or vision from God, a definite purpose that perhaps seems too big to tackle. He says "Before you can pray a Sun Stand Still prayer, asking God to do the impossible you've got to set your sights on the specific impossible thing God wants you to trust him for in your life... When I use the word 'vision' I mean a "clear sense of purpose regarding what God wants to do through your life." Some people would refer to it as a calling or life mission."  Therein lies the trouble. For myself, and for many friends I talk to, there is but a faint sense of a calling or "life purpose." It's a huge great big fog cloud for many believers. I don't really have trouble believing God can and wants to do great things, and wants to act powerfully in my life, but have much less understanding about what it is He wants to do through me :)

In any case, there were a number of powerful insights I took away from the book.
- The key to being a disciple is being completely available to Jesus, i.e. unconditional obedience.
- Whatever you're good at, that's your calling. Wherever and wherever it may lead you, is holy ground.
- Every member of the body of Christ is a link in the life-change process of other people
- Furtick also hates the phrases "just a volunteer" and "full-time Christian ministry"
- The scope and impact of your vision will be determined by who you believe God is.

Probably the biggest takeaway on the nature of trying hard and/versus trusting fully in God was described in the story of Joshua in noting that in addition to this audacious prayer, he staged an all-night forced march of his army. That's a grueling task! And it led to this insight by Furtick:

If you're going to pray for God to make the sun stand still, you'd better be ready to march all night!

In other words, it calls both for giving it absolutely all we've got, but also trusting in God to do things absolutely beyond our ability in our own strength. If you've got a dream but are lacking the faith to see it come to pass, or if you just find yourself too stuck in comfort and safe prayers, this is definitely a book worth checking out.

Sun Stand Still releases TODAY, Sept. 21, 2010, and is available now at Amazon and other retailers.

(Disclaimer per FTC guidelines: as with other books I receive from publishers, the review copy is free but I'm completely free to post whatever honest opinion I have about the book, good or bad. I always call 'em like I see 'em!)

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