DESPERATE TIMES AND DESPERATE MEASURES - PASTOR KIEFER ANABLE

 I was standing at a memorial service the other day for a dear friend’s grandmother that has recently passed. As I was hearing about this seemingly amazing woman that I never had the fortune of meeting, my mind began to run. The thought of life and death is not to be taken flippantly and at the same time not to be avoided. It appears to me that in our culture today that there is more uncertainty about death, and consequently more uncertainty about life. Death is a scary thing when you don’t know what you have lived for. 

            We have had a rough go of it as of late in our culture. Nothing has ever been perfect, and tragedies including egregious crimes have taken place throughout the history of the world, but it has seemed lately that these instances just keep seeming to pile up. From hurricanes, to earthquakes. From bitter verbal sparring to violent acts of evil. It just. Keeps. Amplifying. And at the same time becoming more difficult to watch, but I can’t stop watching. How could I ignore everything that is going on around me? Around us? Just because we may have a difficult time facing the realities of our day, doesn’t mean that they stop being reality. Tragedies happen. People make evil decisions. But tragedies and someone else’s evil decisions aren’t in our control.

            You know what I find interesting? It’s when difficult things happen and they are used as talking points in an attempt to prove an ideology. Actually, it’s not interesting; it’s appalling. It grieves me. And the reason it grieves me is because it’s an indication that we keep overlooking the greater issue. When you go to the doctor (or at least a good one), that physician doesn’t just treat you for a cough if you’re sick. A good doctor is going to attempt to diagnose and treat the actual root or underlying condition. It should be clear now more than ever that there is something wrong with the human condition, and it’s not just everyone else’s condition, it’s yours and it’s mine.

            When there is sickness, there needs to be healing. Where do we go to get healed? How do we fix the problem? Can we fix it? As Christians, the easy answer is no, but Jesus can. If we’re believers, we recognize Jesus alone is the answer. He gave His life as a ransom for many and through Him - what He accomplished through His death and resurrection - we can experience full healing in every area:  spirit, soul, body, relationally, in our broken world, cities, towns, streets and families. But as the church not only do we need to know, to fully embrace and believe He is the answer, we also need to live out that answer through action. Certainly, He is our head; but we are His body, His hands, feet, and mouthpiece on earth today. We are not a mere extension of Him, we are His very representation on this earth. Desperate times call for desperate measures and there is no question that we are in some desperate times not just as a nation, but as the church.

            As I read the Gospels, there are several stories that stick out to me. Men lowering their paralyzed friend through a roof to get to Jesus in Mark 2, the woman who anointed Jesus with her tears in Luke 7, the two blind men crying out for mercy in Matthew 20, the nobleman in John 4 who met Jesus in Cana, whose son was dying in Capernaum, but believed the word (“Go your way; your son lives) and the boy was made well that very hour. These are only a few examples of the many that are presented in the Gospels that show people in dire need at the point of desperation for Jesus. It is passages like these that convict me so deeply. These people heard about Jesus and how He was a miracle worker and how He treated people with real love and how He taught with truth and conviction, so they reasoned if they could just get to Jesus, He would answer their need. One woman even believed if she could just touch the hem of His robe that He could heal her, and He did. As I meditate on these examples of faith I realize more and more how desperately I need to be desperate for Him, for all He is, because it is His love and His power that can change any circumstance, indeed every circumstance.

            Taking into account what I know about revivals of the past, I observe they all share a common characteristic. Believers in Jesus saw the sorry state of their culture and becoming increasingly desperate for God to move, they prayed with fervency. As believers today we are in no less a dire state of need. We need to uphold and champion  the moral and ethical standards spelled out in Scripture while interacting with a culture that doesn’t seem to want much to do with God and frequently blatantly mocks and scorns Him and all His values. We need also to be the spiritual hospital workers for those in need of healing. Unless we act as agents of revival that God is wanting to move through to change the state of our culture, nothing will change. We have to get hungrier and more desperate for God to start a revival in us that would lead to radical revival in the world around us. The answer to the question of healing is Jesus, but the conduit He wants (has chosen?) to use is His church, a church that is so hungry and desperate for the revival that He wants to bring, that it will do whatever it takes in prayer, intercession and fasting to see it come to pass.

          Now the question is what does this mean for each of us? What is our part? As an individual believer, what is each of us to do? The steps are simple to understand, but not easy to follow because they require a consistent sacrifice of convenience and taking them will rarely, if ever, be comfortable. In other words, the costs are high. There has to be a deep desire to see God move however He wants to despite what other people might say about us or even do to us. There has to be a willingness to sacrifice pleasures that can easily consume us such as media and entertainment in order to spend more time with Him in prayer and in His Word in order to know Him more, to hear His heart. There has to be a bold determination to step out and take risks of faith so that we can position Him to move supernaturally. There has to be an understanding and knowledge of His scriptures that is firm, grounded in truth and growing. And finally, there has to be a reverence and love for Him above all—everyone and everything--else, and a love for other people that goes deeper than their opinions or approval of us. All of these underlie the foundation for revival to be built upon, but there is even more to it than these.

            Revival requires the coming together of God’s people in unity submitted to and under His vision. It takes creative ideas and the application of those ideas. It takes believers invading the marketplace, institutions of education and politics instead of fleeing them. We have to reclaim influence in every stratum of society because the times are desperate. Life is fleeting, death is imminent and we don’t have time to waste. Revival is a necessity, but a critical question is what are you and I going to do about it? We have to ask ourselves whether we are willing to evaluate with honesty if what we are currently living for matches what He has called us in the Scriptures to live out? At the end of the day, when we come to the end of our lives, will we be able to say that we were confident that what we lived for advanced God’s kingdom and in some measure let His will be done in earth as it is in heaven?