Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer.
Prayers that start in heaven are heard by heaven, which means, listen, if you are experiencing unanswered prayer in your life, the first place that I would start is with the question of how well my prayers are grounded in God's revealed purposes in Scripture. Is your prayer filled with the promises of God? Welcome to another day of good news here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovich. You know, I love when we dig into the ancient narratives from the Old Testament to find these unwavering truths about our unchanging God in the face of overwhelming odds. King Hezekiah led the people of Israel to believe in God, who delivered them from their trouble. Today, Pastor J.D. uses Hezekiah's prayer as an example of how we should pray for deliverance and why the prayers that are heard by heaven are the ones that start in heaven. We are in the book of 2 Kings today and a short teaching series called It's Not About Me.
And if you missed any of our previous messages, you can catch up online at jdgreer.com. Pastor J.D. titled this message, The Power of Prayer and the Problem of Pride. If you have a Bible, you want to take it out now and begin to open it. Last week, we looked at the difference that one person's faith can make for a city, a family, a circle of friends. Hezekiah was a man who stood in the gap between his generation and God. And because of Hezekiah's faith, God works salvation in his generation. And I explain to you that in so doing, Hezekiah gives us a picture of Jesus, who was the ultimate stand in the gap person for us.
And then I explain to you that God intends to use you to be that for somebody else. Your faith, your obedience becomes the vehicle, the means by which God pours out salvation in your community. Why don't we experience more of the work of God in our community? Why don't we see God doing more in our community? Well, the Bible never presents God as being unwilling or uncaring to pour himself out to the people around us. It never presents the world, believe it or not, as too sinful or too cynical. It always goes to the church and says the church is not willing to put itself in that stand in the gap position of faith and generosity and become that vehicle for the people. The Bible always says and looks to the people of God and says this is where the outbreak of revival always begins. I really want you to think about that. For example, if you're a UNC student or a North Carolina Central or an NC State student or a Duke student, your generation of college students has one shot to have an outbreak of the Spirit of God and it has nothing to do with their belief.
It has to do with you. If the Christian community on that campus, whether it's going to be willing to rise up and stand in the gap on behalf of that community and to see it pour out, don't let your college years go by and not experience that. Hezekiah was that man in his generation. So what happened next?
What happened after Hezekiah led them in that great revival? You know those stories of the Where Are They Now stories that come on VH1 about all the 80 stars that we knew and loved so much. I love those shows.
It's kind of like watching a train wreck, I feel like sometimes, but it's just always really interesting. Some of the stars went on to become great directors like Tom Hanks or Robert Redford. Tom Cruise became a Scientologist and a type A weirdo was his legacy. Sometimes what they did was totally random. I remember watching, I wish I could remember who it was, but some famous star of the 80s went on to run a chain of dry cleaning stores. Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid, opened the car wash detailing business with the wax on, wax off.
That's not really true, but you get the point. Arnold Schwarzenegger became, of course, the Guvenator and Nicolas Cage, of course, went on to become the greatest actor of our generation. Where are they now? Where are they now? What happened next? Where were they now after Hezekiah? It's really interesting and it's really instructive for us because how Hezekiah's life turns out after a great start is going to show you and I the potential that our lives can have, both for good and for bad. You're going to see something at the end of this story that if you're not familiar with Hezekiah's story, it's going to blow your mind.
I'm serious. If you are not familiar with the story, you are not going to see this coming. So let's get started. I never told you in the Bible where to turn, did I? Second Kings 19 is where you should turn.
It's right before Second Chronicles, so if you still have your Bible kind of in that place from last week. Second Kings 19 records the story of the greatest battle that never happened. Sennacherib was the wicked king of Assyria, probably had the worst name that I've ever heard. Sennacherib sounds like something to McDonald's, like a Sennacherib or whatever, but that was his name. Assyria, which he ruled, was a really terrible place, a place so bad that according to the VeggieTales, people slapped each other with fishes.
Any parents in the room? Do you track what I'm talking about? Sennacherib had gone on a mini-world conquest and conquered over 46 city-states and kingdoms. In Second Kings 19, he brought about a quarter of a million troops to camp outside of Jerusalem, 250,000 troops to camp outside of Jerusalem. That was a huge army, especially when you consider that the entire population of Jerusalem at that time was about 10,000 people. And the scholars say that the number of soldiers that Hezekiah had was about 2,000. So we're dealing with an army that outnumbers the population, what is that, 25 to 1, and outnumbers Jerusalem's army 125 to 1. Sennacherib sends a smack-talking letter to Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem that said, verse 10, do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.
See, he didn't like the writer's name either, it was so long, so he just refers to himself as the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. Shall you be delivered?
Are you the exception? Have the gods of the other nations delivered them? Then he sent out messengers among the people to say, do not let Hezekiah fool you. Don't let him pull this whole God's going to deliver you stuff, because all the other 46 nations that I conquered, they prayed to their God too, and look what happened to them.
46 and 0, you're going to be number 47. Verse 14, Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and he read it. Watch this, I love this. And he went up into the house of the Lord, and he spread it out before the Lord.
You read it. And then he said, verse 17, God, it's true, Sennacherib has destroyed all these nations, and they're gods, but that's because they were not really gods at all. They were just the work of men's hands. But you, you, O Lord our God, save us from His hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, you were God alone. Well, God heard that prayer, and God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell Hezekiah, verse 32, thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city.
He won't even shoot an arrow at it. By the way that he came, he shall return, for I will defend this city to save it for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. Verse 35, that night, the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians, while Israel was sleeping without a single casualty on their side.
And Sennacherib's record just dropped to 46 and one, with this one being a total shutout. And when people arose early in the next morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisrock, his God, his son struck him down with the sword. So things did not turn out well for old snacks. Now, that would have been my nickname that I would have given myself. You History Channel nerds will find this interesting.
I know you're out there. Archaeologists have uncovered Sennacherib's palace in Nineveh, and they found a wall where Sennacherib had inscribed all of his victories, all these conquests. And so when they find this wall, you see all these 46 nations that I'm referring to, and it gives details about each conquest and what he took from them. When it comes to Jerusalem, all it says is that he had Hezekiah trapped like a bird in a cage.
Strangely, though, it never really says anything that happened after that because he didn't go to all the details of all the conquests the way he did other things, which of course perfectly corroborates with the story the way it's written here. In a book called What If, military historian William McNeil called this the most important battle that never happened. Had Sennacherib been victorious, he said, and McNeil, by the way, not writing as a Christian, just writing as a historian, he said, if Sennacherib had been victorious, Judah would have been destroyed and there would have been no continuing nation, which means no Israel for Jesus to have been born into, therefore no church. Human history, he said, would have been fundamentally altered.
And I would add, you and I would not be sitting here today. McNeil called it the most faithful might have been in all of recorded history. And what makes it so remarkable to me, he says, was that there was no natural reason for the people to defy Sennacherib. Jerusalem was nothing in military terms. Cities much bigger and much more powerful than Jerusalem had just surrendered on the spot to Sennacherib to try and escape total annihilation. McNeil says this, and I quote, the inhabitants of the small, weak, and fragile kingdom of Judah had the audacity to believe that their God was the only true God whose power extended over all the earth. He said, for me, pondering how a small company of prophets and priests and a king in Jerusalem inspired so many to believe and how their views about their God came to prevail so widely in our day defies historical imagination. Never before or since has so much depended on so few believing so holy in their one true God and in such bold defiance of common sense. That is exactly what the kings of Israel were supposed to do for the people of Israel.
They were supposed to believe God in the face of impossible odds and lead their people to victory. And that is exactly what you are supposed to do as a person who stands in the gap for the community that God has sent you to reach. And so doing this, Hezekiah gives you a picture of prayer done right. I'll give you four quick things. These are things that describe prayer from people who stand in the gap.
All right, here they are. Number one, Hezekiah prioritized God's glory in his purposes, in his prayer. He prioritized God's glory and his purposes. In his prayer, he puts God's glory and purposes foremost.
Verse 19, show these people, both the Israelites and the attacking Assyrians, show them that you are God alone. Hezekiah knew that was God's purpose. Scripture told him it was God's purpose. And when he discovered, listen, the purposes of God, and he prayed the purposes of God back to God, he saw an outpouring of the power of God, because that's how prayer works. It's like I told you last week, effective prayer is discerning what God wants and then asking him for it. Many of you don't ever stop to listen to what God wants or discover what God wants.
You just kind of rush to what it is that you want. But if you want to effectively pray, we say prayers that start in heaven are heard by heaven, which means, listen, if you are experiencing unanswered prayer in your life, the first place that I would start is with the question of how well my prayers are grounded in God's revealed purposes in Scripture. Is your prayer filled with the promises of God? You say, well, where do I learn the promises of God? There are 3000 of them in your Bible, 3000. They are on every page, which means you just need to open your Bible, get on your knees, find the promises of God, and begin to pray the promises of God back to God. Because effective prayer begins when you take the purposes of God that have been revealed, you pray them back to God, and then you receive the power of God. There's more teaching on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer in just a moment. But before we return, let me tell you about our latest resource available for our Summit Life supporters. We want to help you prepare your heart for Christmas, so we're excited to offer a 25-day devotional for Advent this year that you can actually pick up and reuse year after year. It's called He Is Here, and it offers devotionals that cover much more than the birth story of Jesus.
And that's by design. Most of the stories come from the Old Testament, and that's because what we celebrate at Christmas, God coming to Earth, had been God's plan all along. These stories are meant to show you how all of scripture was building toward the coming of Jesus, the King. In each story, we see God interact with someone from the Bible. Meeting God changed everything for these people, and it can change everything for us, too.
So reserve your copy today by calling 866-335-5220, or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Now let's rejoin our teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Jesus said something that confuses a lot of people. He said that if we had faith like a mustard seed, we would move mountains.
And people are like, well, let's be honest here for a minute. People are like, well, I've done a lot of praying, and I've never seen a mountain move. I feel like most of my prayers weren't even about mountains.
They were about little ant hills, and they still didn't move, which then makes you ask, right? My faith must not be even as big as a mustard seed. There must be something wrong with my faith. Or you think this, and you don't ever say this in a small group, but you're like, oh, well, maybe this prayer thing doesn't really work. Or maybe God doesn't even exist.
Maybe that's the problem. Faith as a mustard seed. Let me tell you something about faith.
This is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture, what I'm about to say right now. Faith, according to the Bible, is never just a positive emotion you work up toward God. Faith is not a hopeful optimism.
It's not a presumptuous optimism that God will give you what you want if you just believe it hard enough. According to the Bible, faith, listen to this, must be a response to what God has revealed. So if you do not know what God has revealed, there is no way possible for you to have faith. It is not just a general optimism you have about God and life. Faith is a direct response to revelation.
Where there is no perception of revelation, there can be no faith. And how does God reveal himself? He reveals himself primarily through his word and secondarily through his spirit. And in those things, he shows us what mountains he wants to move, and then you ask him for him to move those mountains, and that's exactly what he does. So you remember in the model prayer that Jesus gave, the first thing he told us to say before we gave a single request to God was, your kingdom come, your will be done.
I'm going to learn what your will is from your Bible and then from your spirit, and then I'm going to ask you to move the mountains that you want to move, and then I'm going to see them move. That's why I tell you, get on your knees, open your Bible, don't read your way through scripture, pray your way through scripture, because scripture is not a textbook full of facts that God wants you to learn. It's a book full of promises that he wants you to believe and thereby enter into not only the relationship with God he has for you, but the power of God he wants you to live with.
So I will say it to you again, if you are experiencing unanswered prayers in your life, the first place that I would look is whether my prayers are grounded in God's revealed purposes in scripture, whether I am listening to God as I pray, because the prayers that are heard by heaven are the ones that start in heaven. Number two, Hezekiah was confident that God's victory would come. He knew God would establish his kingdom no matter how bad the odds, quarter million soldiers camped outside his walls, letter demanding his surrender in his hands.
He's in the temple with it spread out before God so God can read it because he knew that when God gets involved, it doesn't matter if it's a quarter million or if it's 250 million, it's all the same to the creator of the universe. Number three, he knew prayer was the means by which God's victory would come. So he knew the victory would come, but he knew that prayer was the means by which it would come. His confidence in God did not lead him to do nothing, to sit around and say, oh, well, you know, it's all in God's hands and it's going to happen however God wants it to have.
No, his belief in God's sovereignty moved him to pray. We know that prayer is the means by which God has sovereignly appointed to get his work done. So our confidence in God to get the victory does not lead us to complacency. Our confidence in God's victory compels us to pray. Now, there's a handful of you that really have a problem with this, not all of you, but the handful of you, because you just ask questions like, well, if God knows everything and you know, we've got God's will already enacted on the earth, what difference is it going to make about pray or not? So, you know, what, if I pray this, isn't God going to do it in any way? I've explained to you like this, God's sovereignty is what gives you the courage to pray. I know he's going to get the victory, but I also know he's appointed prayer as the means to that victory. And the analogy I always use with you, I've probably given it to you a dozen times, but it goes like this. I always compare it to eating, right?
Remember, here's how we do this. Does God know the day that you're going to die? Yes, he does. Has God appointed the day that you're going to die? Yes, he has. Psalm 139 tells you he has. Can anything you do change that day? Can anything you do change God's mind about when you're going to die?
Nope. What do you eat? You eat to live. What happens if you don't eat?
Then you die. If you don't eat and then you die, would that be the day that God had preordained for you to die? And our answer to that is, quit asking stupid questions and just eat. Because eating is the preordained way that God has set for living. Prayer is the preordained way that God has set to get his work done on earth. So when we pray, we are enacting the victory that God wants to bring on earth. And what God does is he moves his people to pray. When we pray, we move the arm that moves the world.
When we pray, God begins to work. This story is a very special place in my heart because when I was a missionary in Southeast Asia, there was a situation where four of my friends from the United States had gone on a little mission trip in the area where I was passing out Bibles. Bibles that were written in the local dialect and the people had never seen a Bible in their local dialect. Me and my roommate had smuggled in every single one of these Bibles. We brought them in.
This team was going to go give them out on day four. There was a flash mob that kind of descended on them of 2,500 people who were trying to kill these guys. They were shooting out and the police pulled them into the police station. They burned their cars, torched their cars to the ground. It was this big nasty mess that the U.S. Embassy had to get involved with.
Well, the Islamic police there wanted to figure out who was behind these Bibles getting printed in their language. They started to do this investigation. They put me and my roommate under house arrest. They didn't have any connection that they were going to make yet, but they figured if they looked hard enough, they'd find one. They put us under house arrest. Every afternoon, I would get the newspaper and I would read. It was a big deal in this area. I would read the state of where this investigation was.
I remember reading the phrase that said, we have discovered the Southeast Asian contact that they used to bring these Bibles in. It was a friend of mine. I read that and I thought, that's it because my number is all over his phone record. There is no chance they're going to arrest him. They're going to arrest me. He might stay in jail for life. I might get kicked out of the country. I don't know what's going to happen. I went down to see him.
I met him at 3 a.m. in the morning at a hotel. We met, we wept, we prayed, we spread this out before God and said, God, we don't know what to do. This guy's life's in front of him. He's going to spend it in prison.
The work that we've established here in Southeast Asia, it might stop. God, what are you going to do? And my friend said, they have my name. I know they have my name.
I've seen, they've been investigating me. He said, it's all, we thought that afternoon he was going to prison. We waited a day. By the way, I found out that during that same time, this church, before I pastored, it was called Homestead Heights Baptist Church, found out what was going on.
And one Sunday morning, they pretty much canceled their sermon part and they just got on their face and they prayed. So we waited a day for somebody to get arrested. We waited two days. We waited a week.
We waited three months and not the first thing ever happened. And the only way that I can explain what happened is to say that God did with them the same thing he pretty much did to Sennacherib, which he's got a big army around him. And he said, that's far enough.
Why don't you just go home and why don't you forget about it? When you pray, God begins to work. Here is the question I would have for you. What do you need to spread out before God? Maybe it's bills that you feel like are impossible to pay. Maybe it's goals that God has put in your heart, not selfish ambitions or dreams, but things you believe the spirit of God has put in your heart to do. Maybe it's a bad report like Hezekiah got. Maybe it's a letter that just came home from the principal about one of your kids and you just got to spread it out before God. You ever feel like Hezekiah here? You ever feel like some impossible army assails what you know to be God's purpose for you? You know, I think we experience that feeling in general sometimes as the people of God. Our world tells us, you know, you cannot possibly maintain Christian confession in this age or in the age to come. In the age of reason, it's just, you're just going to get, I mean, you might believe that your kids aren't going to believe, and their kids definitely aren't going to believe. The church is declining in Western society, and it's going to continue to. And if you take the Bible's teaching on things like sexuality seriously, you're going to be on the wrong side of history. And Hollywood says it, and the college professors, a lot of them will say it, and the secular media will say it, and it feels overwhelming.
When you feel like that, think of Hezekiah and the size of the army in front of him, and realize that God can do more while you sleep than we can do in 10,000 lifetimes. And by the way, realize that that feeling like we're on the brink of being crushed, that's not new for the church in this day. And in 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian went on a rampage and tried to stamp out the church. He sent out an order to get every copy of the Bible in the Roman Empire and to burn them all. He fed whole families of Christians to the lions.
Just 10 years later, the new emperor of Rome, a guy named Constantine, became a Christian himself and began to establish Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Do you have things that you believe God is working in your life and your family? Then you need to get on your face and open your Bible, and you need to pray those promises back to God so that God can enact the power of those promises in your life. You're listening to Summit Life and a message called The Power of Prayer and the Problem of Pride from Pastor J.D.
Greer. If you missed any part of today's message, you can hear it again online at jdegreer.com. And as we head into the holidays, we'd love to send you a 25-day devotional guide specifically for the Advent season called He Is Here. Each day, you can expect three elements, a short reading from Scripture, many times a story from the Old Testament, an accompanying devotional for that day, and an application of prayer, reflection, or meditation.
We're praying that this guide would help you anticipate the King this Christmas so that you would not only understand, but also feel the thrill of hope that accompanies the name of Manuel, God with us. So make sure that you request this devotional book when you give today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
Or go online to jdegreer.com. Or if it's easier, you can mail your donation to us. Our address is J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O.
Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 27709. While you're on the website, you'll want to subscribe to Pastor J.D. 's daily email devotional to help you enjoy the truth of God's grace throughout the week. Sign up online at jdegreer.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow as Pastor J.D.
teaches us how to leverage our successes, health, and resources for God's mission. See you Thursday for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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