What posture do you take amid difficult times? We have a choice; we either believe in God’s plan in tough times or we don’t.
August 31, 2023
Speakers: Greg Sanders and Gary Peters
Belinda and I just got back from a sabbatical. What an incredible gift and privilege to be able to push pause. We had a great time.
I felt like the Lord gave me quite a bit of stuff to talk about, but before we do, I believe we needed to push pause. How many agree with me that Jesus healed people? This is a good room for that.
He taught us that His disciples would be able to heal in Mark 24. It’s probably one of the most quoted scriptures in Vintage’s history. We’ve built this house around the idea and a truth that the scriptures say very clearly, which is that these signs will accompany or follow those who believe. One of the things stated there is they lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
There’s also a whole part about picking up snakes. I’m not sure what that’s about. But we’re going to try to avoid that one.
While I was out, we lost a member of this house. Some of you might know Jason Benjamin and his story for the last three years or so when Jason received a diagnosis of cancer.
We went through some ups and downs. One of the ups, I remember standing on the other side of the North Wing, before we even finished this space, and everything had gone into remission. We’d been praying and praying and praying, and he showed me a piece of paper, and all the markers were reversed.
I wept because I was so overcome with joy for that change. My heart has been so committed since before we even started this church to see this region broken open through the supernatural, to see healing released, to contend and believe for a geographic location where cancer can’t dwell.
I know that’s a ridiculously audacious idea. But we either believe that the signs follow those who believe, or we don’t.
We lost Jason, and if I’m being totally honest, it kind of wrecked me. Have you ever gone through something where the instant response is, then what’s the point? Why do we do this?
Why don’t we pray if it doesn’t work?
We lost Belinda’s dad when I was 22. She was 21 and he was 54. We lost him to prostate cancer.
For us, it instantly put us back in that moment, and there is lots of doubt, fear, frustration, and if I’m honest, anger.
I went to the Lord and said, “I heard you say ‘I want to heal him.’ I don’t understand it. I feel like You’ve hung me out to dry as a leader.”
If you’re going to have a real encounter with Jesus, you’ve got to be willing to say all the hard stuff. Here’s my favorite thing about Him. He’s not afraid of it. He’s so kind. He’s so gracious. He’s not afraid of our honesty. He’s not afraid of our tough stuff.
The Lord took me on a bit of a journey through Scripture. I want to share some of that with us today because I think our goal at this time is to bring some answers to how we move forward in the face of what feels like unanswered prayers. How do we move forward when the answer isn’t what we want? How do we as a family process that so we don’t lose our passion to believe for the impossible?
We had the memorial here yesterday, and Pastor Gary did a phenomenal job. By the way, do you see why I adore this guy? It’s rare to find people in the Kingdom who have walked with Jesus for multiple decades and are as passionate about Him now as they were then. It’s infectious.
He’s brought such a pastoral grace to this house that wasn’t here before. It had leader grace, but it didn’t have pastor grace. I’m incredibly grateful.
I thought the memorial was just phenomenal in its ability to create a safe place to process. I asked him if he would share maybe some of the points for us. Then I want to share some stuff out a second Samuel.
I walked into a hospital room about 16 months ago, right after an oncologist had come and delivered the news that Jason’s cancer had come back, and it was not good. I asked him then, how do you want us to pray? How do you want us to stand with you?
That began my journey of several times a week making contact with him and the family, primarily with him at the beginning. I was so vested in this as a pastor but I also became his friend.
At the memorial yesterday, I said that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it doesn’t bring forth any fruit. This, what we’re going to talk about today, is the fruit of that.
Death’s an enemy. It’s going to be the last thing put under His feet. The grave’s already taken care of. None of us understand death because we haven’t died to live to tell about it. Very simply, it’s the unknown.
Usually, when somebody passes and I’ve been asked to do the memorial, I get an idea of where I’m going. I struggled with this because I didn’t want him to go — so desperately didn’t want him to go.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve met very few, if any, with the faith that he had to hold on to to believe God. It’s not that he was afraid of death. It’s graduation for the believer. Jason finished his race. I believe he did that well. I believe he heard from his Savior, “Well done, enter into your eternal reward.” What an incredible statement.
Jason told me many times in the last few months, “I’ve been working on myself. I have stuff that Jesus and I are working on.” The family told me the same thing. I don’t believe it was just because of the mortality he was facing. It’s because that was his character and his nature.
When somebody goes through something painful, it usually brings up the past that’s been painful. There was an incredible betrayal in his life that I never heard of. The family had to tell me because he worked through that process.
When he faced another incredibly difficult time, he wasn’t living in what he wasn’t healed from, even though it wasn’t cancer, but he wasn’t taken care of from the past.
Church, there is healing for you, no matter what you’ve gone through. Especially betrayal. I’d rather have somebody stab me in the heart than betray me—especially people you love and pour your life into.
I knew he was on the right path. Jason would not be troubled by how he arrived in heaven.
I always say my mom died of a nasty disease. But when she got there, she didn’t care.
The second thing I thought of is we need to be free to mourn, but we need to mourn in hope.
Bill Johnson, who pastors Bethel, had a similar journey. His wife had cancer and was in remission. Then the cancer came back and ended up taking her life.
This is a large church, world-renowned, that has seen bonafide, documented miracles. Yet the pastor who’s prayed for people to have these bonafide miracles, his wife dies of cancer.
He says, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be — not may be — shall be comforted. First Thessalonians four says, we do not grieve or mourn as those who don’t have hope. The hope is the anticipated joy of good.
We need to mourn. We need to grieve. I love that Pastor Greg can be honest and say his initial reaction was anger. Mine was not anger. It was just incredible, incredible sadness and questioning.
I want to see a miracle that takes place in this house where people cannot say it was any other thing but God. That’s what I believe for.
I love the raw emotion of Jeremiah in Lamentations. Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet, and in Lamentations three, he is lamenting. He is mourning the loss of what happened. His entire nation was taken into captivity. He says, I remember my misery. I remember my homelessness and my wandering. The wormwood and the bitterness.
He says, I remember them. Does anybody else remember things like that? Of course we do. He says, my soul, my mind, my will, and my emotion certainly remembers them. It is bent over with that grief.
But I love verse 21. “Yet, I call to mind, therefore I have hope.” See, there’s that “yet” in our life.
He says, “The Lord’s acts of mercy do not end. Because of the Lord’s great faithful love, we are not consumed, for his compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”
We sang it when we started. The great hymn of Martin Luther. “Great is your faithfulness, oh Lord, my God. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I wake in passionate hope, anticipation of joy, that the Lord is good to those who wait to the person who seeks.”
In cases like this of prayers answered in a different way than we anticipated, it’s not someone who didn’t do something right. It’s not that we as pastors didn’t stand with the right prayer or the right position towards God, or there’s sin in the camp, or the family did something wrong, or Jason did something wrong. It’s strictly the sovereignty of God.
The Lord spoke something so clear to me this week. He said, Gary, everybody talks about the sovereignty of God until I moved sovereignly. We can say we believe in the sovereignty of God, which means He’s Lord. He gets to do what he wants. He doesn’t have to ask my permission.
When He acts that way, why are we shocked? Death is a mystery. It’s unknown. Again, I refer to Bill Johnson. He and his wife were married for about 50 years. Three days after his wife passed, he stood up on a Sunday and delivered a message that I’ve heard very few deliver. Go to YouTube and watch it.
He says these quotes. “There are things in life that can only be found by walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” I added this: Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there’s comfort available to us. There are aspects of the presence of God that will only be experienced in the dark night of the soul.
He said, “We want answers, but answers won’t answer us. If God said, ‘In my sovereignty, I’ve wanted to do this or allowed this,’ does that answer anybody’s question? No. He said, ‘Only the presence of God answers our questions.'”
Then he said that to experience the peace that surpasses comprehension or understanding, we have to relinquish our understanding.
Lastly, the most incredible thing through that whole teaching — this has driven the point home, and I will never forget it. Only in this life do we have the opportunity to praise God in our pain.
What a statement. Because when we see Him, we’re going to be praising Him forever. But there’s no more pain, no more sorrow. If you’ve gone through something, whether it’s a death or incredible pain, to be able to worship God in the midst of that pain is a gift that we get to present. A gift, and we don’t like it. I know the Benjamin family doesn’t like it right now. But it’s a gift.
My goal in all this was to help us process correctly. Because I don’t want this event to erode our understanding of who we’ve been called to be: a house that is to function in the miraculous.
I’m still believing for this to be a cancer-free zone. I’m still believing for this to be a place of supernatural healing. I’m still believing for the more the Lord to be found when we gather.
I sat with the Lord and just needed some answers. The Lord took me to Second Samuel, chapter 12. I want to take us there.
After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord made Bathsheba’s baby deathly ill. If you don’t know the backstory, David’s the king of Israel at this time. David has an inappropriate relationship with another man’s wife. To cover it, he has the man killed. She gets pregnant.
Nathan, the prophet, comes to him and says, what you did was wrong. It’s sin. The Lord strikes the baby ill. “David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and he lay down all night on the bare ground. The leaders of the nation pleaded with him to get up and eat with them. But he refused. Then on the seventh day, the baby died. David’s advisors were afraid to tell him. He was so broken up about the baby being sick, they said, ‘What will he do to himself when we tell him the child is dead?’ But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. ‘Is the baby dead?’ He asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself put on lotions, changed his clothes, and went to the tabernacle and worshipped the Lord.”
I saw something last gathering I’d never seen in that. They were afraid of what he would do to himself. It’s a really important thing for us to understand. If we don’t process grief properly, it hurts us.
There are some things that I think we did right. In this passage, David shows a posture of believing in the midst of difficulty. In the face of a child being sick, that difficulty, he prayed fervently. I watched us do that as a family. I would say, as a leader of this house, I’m proud of the way we stood together.
I’m proud that our prayers are always driven by two things. One is the circumstances we see. Secondly, the fact that He has told us to believe for healing and to pray.
We pray and tackle the impossible because it’s what He told us to do. Call those things that aren’t as though they are.
When you encounter sickness, ask the question, if we’re supposed to only allow on earth what’s in Heaven, then where do we stand on sickness? We stand against it. We pray for healing. That is our posture. I’ve watched us as a family do it, and I’m proud of it.
In the face of difficulty, David was honest about his emotions. I want this to be an understood reality. We don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to act like we love what’s going on. We don’t have to act like we’re not afraid.
We can never let our fear keep us from praying. Because when we do that, we worship our fear. The part that I am interested in is what David did after the answer came. He chose a very intentional response to what seemed like an unanswered prayer.
In the face of his petition not getting answered as he desired, David refused the torment of needing to understand. He stood up, he washed himself, he put on lotions, and he changed his clothes.
What he did was he accepted the lack of an answer as the answer. I love that quote: “You can’t get the peace that passes understanding until you give up your right to understand.” We’re not going to understand everything the Lord does.
I’m positive David hated the answer he got. I don’t believe there’s anything inside of him that was like, okay, cool. It was his child he was praying for.
But the next thing David did is the one that I want to invite us into because I think it’s the most important. He immediately put himself back into the environment of the supernatural.
You cannot miss it in this text. The first movement we see is he goes back to worship. He goes back to the Tabernacle and worships the Lord.
Why is that so important? Because worship is fueled by His worth. When we worship, we’re focusing on Him instead of our difficulties. Worship elevates His character over our circumstances.
Lastly, worship reminds us of who He is. When we worship, it releases new faith to believe again. Worship protects our hearts from the deception of doubting His nature. There’s an incredibly dangerous thing that the enemy would love to release into this house — that we doubt the goodness of God, that we doubt the character of God.
After our last gathering, one of the guys came up to me and said, I thought of a verse while you were talking. “I’m confident in this. Within my lifetime, I will see the goodness of God and the land of the living.”
I want to remind us to be confident. We have been invited by our King to keep contending, to keep praying, to keep believing, and to never give up on our pursuit.
I think the thing that’s most important in this process for me is the worship component. For us to process through this as a house in a healthy way, we’ve got to step into worship with a fresh abandon.
Sometimes, in our culture, worship becomes a time pocket and we sort of go through the motions. Worship was never about a band. It was never about the right songs. Some songs I like better than others. But worship’s never about the circumstance. It’s about the one we’re worshiping.
There’s something that you and I can do today to help put a line in the sand and say, you know what? We will never let go of our belief of who He is. That’s to pour ourselves in, to elevate His name, and to put his character above this whole situation.
The second thing we can do is to have the courage to go after the miraculous again. If you’re here and your faith has been wrecked, or you’re having a hard time believing, I want you to stand. If you’re here and you need a miracle because you’re facing something, I want you to stand. We want to get around you and get back on the bicycle and go, nope, here we go, Lord, we’re doing this again. We’re not going to let anything stop us from believing what the Lord can do. If that’s you, stand up right now.
All around this room. If you need a miracle of any kind — I don’t care if it’s healing or finance or if your heart is broken. Come on.
I want groups around these people. Find out what they need prayer for and get after it with very bold, audacious prayers that are full of faith and courage.
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