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Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible Paperback – September 21, 2010
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, named by Outreach magazine as one of the top 10 fastest growing churches in the nation. In four years, Elevation has grown to more than 6,000 people in regular attendance in three locations. Steven holds a degree in communication from North Greenville University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Holly, have two young sons—Elijah and Graham—and make their home in the Charlotte area.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Welcome to Audacious Faith
Pastor Michael proudly showed me the place where his church was putting in new toilets. I was still adjusting to the smell, trying to pass it off like it didn’t faze me. Like I walked down urine soaked dirt roads every day.
“These toilets would not be very nice by the standards of your country,” Michael explained. “I know that. But here in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, so many children are sick because the food they eat is cooked right next to the hole in the ground where they go to the bathroom. So our church is building the nicest toilets we can here…for the children.”
I had a hard time concentrating as he went on laying out his plans. Because as soon as he said the word “children,” my gaze drifted to a cluster of kids playing some variation of Capture the Flag on the trash heap behind the church. The church was really just a shed. And instead of a flag, the kids appeared to be competing for an orange peel. It was weird how content these kids seemed playing with just a peel—more content, it appeared to me, than a lot of kids back home seem playing with a Wii. And this garbage heap here on the edge of Pastor Michael’s church property looked like the neighborhood hot spot. How, I wondered, would parents of elementary-school kids at my church react if they were asked to drop their children off at a playground like this one?
Pastor Michael’s church members obviously weren’t worried about it. They had been under the shed worshiping loudly for about an hour, and I realized they thought nothing of the fact that there was a small goat eating breakfast on top of the trash heap right next to where their kids were tossing around the orange peel. A scrawny, hungry, scary-looking goat.
Michael must have noticed that I was taking in the scene. “This is a Muslim hill,” he continued, yanking my attention back to our conversation. “I am used to facing a lot of opposition. A lot of people do not want me here. Especially the witch doctor who tried to destroy our church by threatening our members. But when we prayed for God to make fire fall down from heaven, and his house burned down that same week, he left us alone.”
I shot him a questioning look.
“Do not worry,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “He was not home at the time.”
For the rest of the tour, I could barely keep up with Pastor Michael. He was moving fast and talking even faster. I felt clumsy and white trying to dodge the mud puddles while he led me down alleys through the slum. This was his village, he said. With every step, he detailed how he wanted to transform it for Christ. A school on this lot. A doctor’s office on that lot.
“For the children,” he kept saying…
Tonia could act like a total diva if she wanted to. She’s pretty, well paid, locally famous, and uber-talented. So people in our community are noticeably shocked when they show up to help serve breakfast at a homeless shelter and see Tonia in the kitchen making scrambled eggs.
It happened the other day. She was volunteering with an outreach group from our church when somebody asked me, “Isn’t that the lady from the news?”
“Yeah, that’s Tonia. She’s awesome.”
“What’s she doing here?”
“Huh. Wow. That’s impressive.”
Actually, I would describe the way Tonia does her life as a few notches above impressive. I’d characterize it as audacious.
Strictly according to her job title, she is a news anchor—a multiple-award-winning one at that. But news anchor doesn’t begin to capture the essence of who Tonia is. She’s a community service superhero who has designed her life around leveraging her on-camera talent to make an off-camera impact. She’s better at it than anyone else I’ve ever met. Charlotte is filled with teen moms, homeless families, and shut-ins who have been touched by Tonia’s passion to serve. And she’s relentless about recruiting others to serve with her.
In her latest project, she set out to convince thousands to join her for an initiative called Love Week. She was asking them to commit to giving five thousand hours of service to the city. In a single week. It had never been done before.
I can’t say I was surprised when I heard that Love Week added up to more than ten thousand service hours. That’s just how Tonia rolls. When she gets a vision, it usually sounds a little out there. People try to explain to her that it’s never been done before. And I think she likes it that way. If it’s necessary, and it’s never been done, she seems to assume that’s because God intends for her to do it.
To the untrained eye, a pastor standing in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, and a news anchor scrambling eggs in Charlotte, North Carolina, don’t have much in common. The challenges they face are as different as the hemispheres where they live. But I see them as twins: They share the same spiritual DNA. They’re driven by the same passion. They accomplish ridiculously amazing things for God’s glory. Their faith seems to be turbocharged from some source that the average Christian never quite taps into.
It’s hard to define exactly what sets Michael and Tonia apart from other people who claim to believe the same things they believe but lead, by contrast, mediocre lives. Most believers I’ve met actually do want to find the source of Michael’s and Tonia’s high octane faith—and they want it desperately. They just don’t know where to look for it.
Sun Stand Still is all about discovering that kind of faith. I call it audacious faith. By the time you finish this book, the same faith that pulses in Michael’s and Tonia’s everyday life will be pumping through your veins too. You’ll understand that God has much more in mind for your existence on this earth than merely surviving. What you consider possible for your life will expand beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. And the way you approach God and experience him every day will change too. Radically. Suddenly. Irreversibly.
But first, some honest disclosure.
A THEOLOGY OF AUDACITY
This book is not a Snuggie.
The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien.
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: insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny thatmay 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.
You could think of this book as a one-volume theology of audacity. You probably don’t have one of those yet, but it’s essential. In fact, if you ever encounter a theology that doesn’t directly connect the greatness of God with your potential to do great things on his behalf, it’s not biblical theology. File it under Heresy.
I’ll take that further: if you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life.
And further still: if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.
Audacious faith is the raw material that authentic Christianityis made of. It’s the stuff that triggers ordinarily level-headed people like you and me to start living with unusual boldness. When you live this way, your eyes will be opened to see your day-to-day life in vivid color. Your spiritual growth will accelerate at a supernatural pace.
If you’re like most Christians, audacity is not a word you use to describe your faith. Audacity, my dictionary says, makes regular people behave with “boldness or daring, especially with confident disregard for personal comfort [or] conventional thought.” And, if you think about it, confident disregard for the status quo is the essence of the gospel. It describes the radical path Christ’s life took on earth. It goes to the heart of what it means to live by faith.
Of course, every believer in Jesus has a measure of faith—it’s the prerequisite to salvation. But after that, if we’re honest, we think of faith primarily in terms of a spiritual thought or a comfortable feeling.We hope it’s enough to get us to heaven when we die. But in the meantime, it’s barely enough to keep us praying, giving, and going to the eleven o’clock service.
Let me ask you: does the brand of faith you live by produce the kinds of results in your life that you read about in the biblical stories of men and women of faith?
Chances are, not even close.
For most of us, this disparity is hard to live with. The chasm we see between our mundane spiritual experiences and the overcoming faith we read about in the accounts of biblical heroes is downright discouraging. It can create a heavy weight of condemnation and a sense of failure in our hearts. We can begin to feel like maybe our faith isn’t the real thing. Some believers I’ve known have gotten so tired of faking faith that they have just given up altogether.
POSTTRAUMATIC FAITH DISORDER
I’ll admit that faith is a sore subject for millions. It’s been abused, mishandled, distorted, and ultimately disfigured. Sometimes it seems like there’s a custom-tailored faith for everyone:
If the Galatians 2:20 kind of faith—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”—is too clunky for you, trade it in. Exchange it for an easier, no-money-down model.
If trusting in the miracle-working power of Jesus is too out there for your modern mind, play it safe. Don’t ever ask God to provide for you supernaturally. Don’t dare to ask for physical healing or anything else that would put God on the spot. Because what if he doesn’t come through?
A lot of Christians I know stagger through life in a daze. Suffering from posttraumatic faith disorder, they hunker down in the basement, open a can of Beanie Weenees, and wait for the end of the world.
Am I reading your mail? If so, you’re probably stuck in spiritual survival mode. You’ve settled for spiritual mediocrity. You’re not trying to be a hypocrite. It’s just that so far the faith thing hasn’t, well, worked for you.
But we can’t let abuses and misunderstandings hold us back. God has no plan B. The Bible throws down the gauntlet in Hebrews 11:6:
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
It doesn’t get any plainer than that. Faith isn’t just a Get Out of Hell Free card. It’s the most vital building block of your relationship with God. And it’s the only real foundation worth establishing your life on.
We can’t abandon the life-changing promise of full-frontal faith because some have dealt with the topic recklessly and unbiblically. It would be a shame for us to let bad experiences or past disappointments keep us bound, poor, and blind to what God wants to do in our lives.
We’ve got to find a better way.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY
You’re about to discover what happens when you dare to believe God for the impossible, ask God for the impossible—then act in audacious faith for his glory.
You’re about to discover that faith is not a drug to sedate you through a life you hate; it’s a force to transport you to another realm of reality.
There is a better way—a higher calling to fulfillment and significance that God deeply desires for your job, your marriage, your parenting, your finances, and your impact on this world.
That kind of life may be a long way off from where you live and breathe right now. And it may take a little convincing before you believe this kind of life is even an option for you.
Maybe it will help if I introduce you to a man who experienced firsthand what happens when you live with audacity, believing God for the impossible. You’re already a lot more like him than you think.
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Furtick’s book opens strong. The begining of the book is filled with highlighter-worthy quotes that will leave you pondering them long after you’ve moved on to the next chapter. There is no shortage of bulletin board one liners here. Two of my favorite ones were:
“….if you ever encounter a theology that doesn’t directly connect the greatness of God with your potential to do great things on his behalf, it’s not biblical theology. File it under Heresy.”
“if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.”
These are powerful and profound statements and Furtick excels at this, not just in this book but also while he’s preaching. It’s one of the things that make him so exciting and engaging to listen to. My issue with the book is that it seems to me that Furtick had a really great idea and point, but didn’t really have enough material to fill an entire book. This would have made a great Sunday morning sermon (and probably did). It would have made a great little set of worksheets for a small group bible study (and probably did). But I can’t help but feel like it falls short as a book. There is too much unnecessary “filler” material and repeating of points to get the book long enough to call it a book. Where in the beginning I was soaking up every line and enjoying the encouragement and fresh perspective, through the middle I found myself reading just to finish the book.
Another area that I think Furtick excels at in his speaking but might have fallen a little short in this book is in his way of using his language choices to relate to people. The book opens with Furtick talking about how amazed he is that Elevation church held a worship service in the same arena where he had seen the band U2 play a couple of years before. Later on he makes some cultural references to things (such as Nintendo’s WII video game system). Even in the write up blurb for the book on the Amazon home page, two statements he makes about the book are: “This book is not a Snuggie”. “The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien”. And while all of those references make perfect sense to me and anyone else reading the book today, I just wonder if it will affect the potential longevity of the book as far as potential future readers are concerned. I recently read a book by the late D.L Moody. The book was written before 1900, and yet it was as fresh and powerful for me as it was for people the day it was published. I just have to wonder if Furtick’s choice of examples, phrases, and word choices will hinder future generations from being able to connect with it.
I think some of the book is excellent. I think more of the book is pretty good. But unfortunately I think a lot of the book is just ok and kinda rambles on. I still love listening to Furtick and I would read him again, and while I think there were some excellent points made in the book, I think overall this one is just OK. I give it three out of five.
At its core, Steven Furtick passionately implores us to living a life of audacious faith, knowing God is as BIG as He is. And yes, He really can do the miraculous like stop the sun going down for 24 hours.
He provides some good examples, both Biblical and from his own experience, of how living a life of audacious faith is really the only life to live.
The book is full of great one-liners and soundbites, such as:
- "...extraordinary moves of God begin with ordinary acts of obedience."
- "If there is no limit to what God can do, then there is also no limit to what we can dream or pray or accomplish in His service."
- "Prayer is the arena where our faith meets God's abilities."
- "Audacious prayer must be tethered to practical obedience."
The real takeaways for me from reading this book were:
1. God wants us to rely on Him
2. Prayer should be specific and audacious
3. But we've got to push (or march as Joshua did) forward as we pray. Prayer by itself can be just hopeful expectation. Faith is demonstrable, it's a verb. It acts as if it's already done. This in particular struck home with me as I can too often sit back and wait for God to act, when He wants me to be an active participant too.
It's easy to read and is full of real passion and desire for all of us to experience all of God in our lives.