In the troubles that we face, whether as individual Christians, churches, or as a troubled nation, there is often a spiritual root or source to the affliction – in other words, a something behind the actual something we are battling.
That was the powerful message preached by Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, at Fusion Conference 2017, presented by Heart-Cry for Revival. AFA is a co-sponsor of the prayer event, and I am in attendance with several other staff members. The heartbeat of those here is revival in our spiritually sick nation. (See my first blog about Fusion here.)
If the name Sherwood Baptist sounds vaguely familiar, the names of these movies should jog your memory: Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous. That’s right, Sherwood Baptist was the church behind Sherwood Pictures’ powerful Christian movies.
What some fans of the flicks might not know is how important prayer was to those film endeavors. Catt said every stage of production was bathed in prayer – they sought the Lord about whether they should make another movie; they prayed about the subject; and they spend time praying before writing the script, casting actors, shooting the film, and editing.
Catt believes that sort of desperate reliance on God is missing in the church in America, and the result is that we are living in a spiritual famine. Many Christians are living troubled lives, but what is behind it all? How do we deal with those giants?
“We do not walk in believing faith or overcoming power,” he said, because we are dying in a famine.
His text for the message was 2 Samuel 21:1-3. “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’”
- The prayer
The famine in Israel went on for three years, and its persistence caused David to consider the possibility that there was a spiritual cause. So he sought the Lord, as Catt said, because “the presence of the Lord brings revelation.”
The humble man and woman will ask God to show them the why of their condition. Sometimes, Catt said, you must go back to the root of the problem before you can ever move forward.
Too many Christians ignore the possibility that the Lord is trying to get their attention in order to deal with something in their lives that is displeasing to Him. We tend to try to solve the affliction with earthly strategies. We are prone to asking our friends, “What do you think I should do?” Or we simply ignore the struggle and assume it will go away.
David found out that there was a spiritual matter behind the earthly trouble. God pointed to a grave injustice committed by Saul against the Gibeonites; for this sin, the Lord was disciplining the land.
- The plan
Sometimes, of course, Christians suffer because of the wickedness of others. This would be true, say, of the Coptic Christians in Egypt or believers in Africa, suffering at the hands of Islamic radicals.
However, it is also true that God chastens His people for their sins, and it is incumbent upon us to seek the presence of the Lord as David did. For Christians in 2017, that means prayerfully searching the Scriptures and asking God to reveal the things in our lives that are displeasing to Him.
Once that has been done, of course, obedience is the next step. “What was revealed in the presence of God demanded a plan” to deal with the issue, Catt said. “If you don’t admit failure, you’ll never get out of it.”
In David’s case, it was the Gibeonite issue. What is it in our lives? “God will tell you the problem in your life and then tell you to fix it,” Catt said. If we won’t do that, if we refuse to deal with the “something” behind our famine, then, he added, “we have an obedience problem.”
- The plea
Once David found out why the famine had struck the land, he immediately moved to deal with the root issue. Catt noted that David spoke to the Gibeonites and basically said, “What will it take to make this right?”
Making things right is a prerequisite in the New Testament too. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matt. 5:23-24).
Unfortunately for the church in America, Catt said we have so little true repentance that we are living in a spiritual famine and are dying – and are oblivious to our peril.
“We’ve lived in famine so long we think it’s normal,” he said.
We need men and women like David in this hour, people who will recognize the danger and pursue God in prayer for an answer. However, too few are willing. “The church has too many voices but no prophet to call us to repentance,” Catt said.
As spiritual darkness grows all around us, far too many Christians are asleep. We are growing weaker due to prayerlessness, while a great delusion blinds us to our plight. What is that delusion? We believe that we can live worldly lives and then, should the need arise, we can someday – in the future – get right with the Lord and arise to do battle.
“Like Samson,” Catt said, “we are asleep in the lap of comfort, but believe we can simply get up and fight. But you can’t sleep in the lap of Delilah and get up to wield the sword of the Lord.”