By Ivan Colon, Member, Triadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, Clarksville, Maryland. Ivan was 16 years old when he preached this sermon.
Summary: He doesn’t want us to be wimps or hermits so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good. While God wants decisive people who act and respond immediately, He also wants people who walk with Him and stand in His presence long enough to know His will. He wants people who respond to action while firmly standing in the center of His will.
When 15-year-old Christopher Searsy was shot on a city street in Chicago, just a few blocks from Ravenwood Hospital, his friends carried him to within 35 feet of the hospital emergency room door. Christopher was too weak to be moved any farther so his friends ran into the hospital to get a doctor, or a nurse, or a paramedic. But none of the hospital personnel would leave the hospital to go to the end of the driveway to help Christopher. They quoted a hospital policy that said that no hospital employee was to leave the hospital premises during working hours to care for someone on the street. Finally, some kind and helpful soul dragged Christopher to the hospital door, but it was too late. Christopher Searsy died an hour later. Instances like this make you want to shout, Don’t just stand there; do something!
Indeed, doing something is very important to save a life, a situation, or a reputation. But God has designed a plan for success that guarantees that whatever we do in response to situations will be in accordance to His will. God’s method, however, is strange at times. His method says to us, Don’t just do something, stand there!
Standing in the presence of God or standing in the center of His will is much more important than rushing in with no real preparation for what lies ahead. The Bible is full of stories that illustrate this point and I would like to give you three examples of how God reminded his people before a crisis, during a crisis, and after a crisis, to stand and wait on the Lord.
Before a crisis: Jehoshaphat, King of Judah (2 Chn 20)
Jehoshaphat was a good king like Asa, his father. Asa had led the people to tear down the altars of foreign gods and had begun to build fortified cities all around the kingdom of Judah. He also increased the size of his army to 300,000 men (ch 14). After Asa died, Jehoshaphat continued the reforms. He finished fortifying the border towns. He began Jewish cultural centers in every village. He increased the army to 1,060,000 men. He was prepared for anything. Even though Jehoshaphat was well prepared with fortified cities and a huge army, he chose to:
- Call all the people to fast and come to Jerusalem for prayer.
- Pray publicly to God and let the people know that God is in charge.
- Set his and everyone else’s eyes on God for the answer.
- Listen to God’s prophet and believe what he said.
- Show up at the battlefield, realizing that the battle is not ours, but God’s.
- Form a choir to go out in front of the army, proclaiming victory.
Jehoshaphat’s partnering with God resulted in victory. Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah are a perfect example of how we stand in the center of God’s will before the crisis hits. Don’t just do something, stand there!
During a crisis: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3)
No one really knows where Daniel was, but his three friends were caught in a bind when commanded to bow down to the image nine stories tall and nine feet wide. The penalty was severe. They would be thrown into a fiery furnace. They could have pretended to bow down--maybe knelt to tie their sandal laces or done a couple of push-ups as part of a spontaneous need for exercise. They could have sneaked out of the crowd and hidden. They could have done something. Instead they faced the king with their convictions and their faith in their God: O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you on this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Dan 3: 16, 17).
The upshot of the story is that they were thrown into the fire, only to discover that God was already there, waiting for them. They stood with God in the fire and were saved. During the crisis they didn’t take matters into their own hands. They didn’t just do something. They stood there!
After a crisis: Elijah (I Kings 17-19)
Here is an example of a man of God trying to do something on his own. After years of drought, Jehovah and Baal are in competition. Who will bring the rain? Of course, Jehovah wins, the rain pours in torrents, and hearts are turned from idolatry to the true God. You’d think that after such an awesome illustration of God’s power, everyone would accept Him and live happily ever after.
But all is not over. Jezebel is at the sidelines. She hears the news and sends her messenger to Elijah saying: May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them [Baal’s prophets] (19:2). Here’s when Elijah loses his cool. He decides to do something; he decides to take care of things by himself. Elijah had just finished running in front of the King’s chariot all the way from Mt Carmel to Jezreel (20 km). But hearing Jezebel’s threat, he panics, he forgets God’s watch-care over the past few years of drought, and he begins to run again, this time to Beersheba, about 150 km south. From there, he goes on another day’s journey into the desert. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t have a strategy, he didn’t have a clue about what he was doing, but he was doing something. Finally, in exhaustion, Elijah lays down under a broom tree. He is heartsick. He feels alone. He wants to die. God sends an angel to feed him. He sleeps. Energized, he travels another 40 days and 40 nights to Mt Horeb. God follows Elijah into a lonely cave, calling out, What are you doing here, Elijah? Elijah is at a loss for words. The victory at Mt Carmel that seemed so sweet is now bitter. All that running he did, without a clue. So God speaks again, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. And Elijah finally responds by not doing something, but by standing in the presence of God. Elijah sees a powerful wind that tears the mountain, but the Lord isn’t there. He sees an earthquake that shakes the mountain, but the Lord isn’t there. He sees a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then comes a gentle whisper, God was in the whisper saying, You are not alone. Don’t just do something, stand there!
These are stories about God’s servants reminding us that we often act on impulse, relying on our own strength. Standing still doesn’t always make sense to us. It may not even seem practical. We live in a world of instant answers. We go to Infoseek, Alta Vista, Yahoo, and Web Crawler for instant answers. And when we don’t get answers instantly, we bang on our computer screen, vowing to get a better, faster one.
This doesn’t mean God wants us to just sit around doing nothing, being undecided. He doesn’t want us to be wimps or hermits so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good. While God wants decisive people who act and respond immediately, He also wants people who walk with Him and stand in His presence long enough to know His will. He wants people who respond to action while firmly standing in the center of His will. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Ps 46:10, 11).
As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings--Christ’s Object Lessons, p 333. Jehoshaphat learned the lesson early. When confronted with a big challenge, even though he had great resources, Jehoshaphat chose to use his greatest weapon, his relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced it in the heat of the moment. Their greatest weapon was the presence of God Himself. Elijah temporarily lost his bearings after the great victory when he felt all alone in the face of Jezebel’s wrath. But the still small voice brought him comfort and promise of an eternity with God. The next time you need to do something, make sure you firmly stand in God’s presence first. Then whatever you do will be right and it will be on time.