The Day The Sun Stood Still
I want to share with you one of the most exciting stories in all of Scripture.
Joshua and his mighty men of valor were camped at a place called Gilgal and they received word from Gibeon that the enemies of God, the Amorites, were attacking Gibeon in full strength. The message read, “Please come and help us and bring all the troops you can. So Joshua and his men knelt down to pray. God answered their prayer by saying “Go, and I will deliver the Amorites into your hand and you will win a great victory.” That was all Joshua and his men needed to hear.
Immediately, they set out on a forced march which lasted all through the night. The next morning, in a surprise attack, they gained the upper hand over the Amorites. As the battle wore on through the day, Joshua suddenly realized that if they had a few more hours in the day they could eliminate the Amorites as a threat forever. So Joshua stood in the midst of the battlefield and prayed a passionate prayer, “Sun, stand still in Gibeon! Moon, hold thy place in the valley of Aijalon.” The prayer was answered. The sun stopped its descent. The moon stopped its rising. The daylight was extended. (So far as I can tell, this is the first use of daylight savings time in history!) Needless to say, Joshua and his men were renewed by the spectacle of this miracle and they went on to win a great victory for the forces of God. The Scriptures say, “There has never been a day like it before or since the day the sun stood still at Gibeon.
Now, lest you in your twentieth century sophistication, be too quick to dismiss this story as foolish fancy, let me remind you that research has brought to light reports from Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu sources of a long day in ancient history. Not only that, but some astronomers have come to the conclusion that one full day is missing in our astronomical calculations. What’s more, two of them, Pickering of Harvard and Totten of Yale, have traced this missing date back to the time of Joshua. So you be the judge; as for me, I take what the Bible says to be absolutely true, including this story of the day the sun stood still. Today, then, I want to lift three great truths from that story and burn them into your consciousness.
Here’s the first truth: Extraordinary opportunities demand extraordinary responses.
Joshua and his men prayed before they ever went into the battle and it was promised to them at that time that ultimately they would be victorious. That victory was assured, but there was still a battle to be fought a long tough, costly battle. Yet when they got into the midst of the conflict, they saw an opportunity they never dreamed they would have. So what did they do? They made haste to claim it by asking the sun and moon to stand still.
The Church is the army of God today, and we must never forget how our Lord, Jesus Christ, loves the Church, how He loves this Church. Paul said, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her.” Jesus loves the Church. Sometimes you hear people say, “Christ, yes, but the Church, no.” They’re for Jesus but they have no sympathy for the Church. That’s an utterly inconsistent position. You cannot be for Jesus and against the Church. Jesus said, “The gates of hell will not be able to stand against My Church.” Jesus said, “I will build my Church.” Therefore, the victory of the Church is promised in Scripture. That victory is assured. Nothing can stop it. However, in gaining that ultimate victory, there are still some tough battles to be fought.
For more than 111 years, this Church has been fighting the battle for Jesus Christ at the Heart of this City. I think here of a couple that were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. One fellow walked up to the husband and he said, “Fifty years is a mighty long time to spend with one woman.” The husband immediately replied, “It would have been a lot longer without her.” Well, when you think of the history of Orlando, it would have been a lot longer and a lot harder and a lot uglier had it not been for this Church.
Now the call to arms is heard again. Not for the final victory; that’s still off ahead somewhere. It is promised but it is not ours yet. In the meantime, there are still battles to be fought for the Lord. We must remember that the forces of evil have not surrendered. There are still more than half the people of this city who are unchurched. The human needs which oppress and destroy so many lives have not gone away. The lonely, the poor and the suffering are still on our doorstep. The seemingly intractable problems of our world still beg for the solutions offered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are living in the midst of extraordinary times with extraordinary opportunities. Times like these demand extraordinary responses. I know there are those who are concerned about having a stewardship campaign in the midst of economic chaos and stock market woes. I for one am not worried. In fact, I love what Ben McKinney, our Administrator, said. He said, “If you think your stocks are no good, just bring them on down to the Church. You can write off the loss and we’ll take them off your hands.” There’s a message tucked away in that. Namely, that we as Christians build our lives and our security on something infinitely greater than the stock market. Don’t you realize that that is why in bad economic times, giving to the Church actually increases?
You see, it’s alright sometimes for the sun to rise and set and the moon to wax and wane. Those are normal circumstances, normal times. But there are other times when we are called upon to change circumstances, to say, “Sun, stand still” and “Moon, hold fast in the Valley of Aijalon.” This is such a time. The ultimate victory is assured. But there are still extraordinary battles to be fought and you and I are called to the fight by Jesus Christ. Remember, therefore, extraordinary opportunities demand extraordinary responses.
Now here’s the second truth: When we feel that we are at the end of our resources, actually our resources are barely tapped.
Have you ever considered the fact that our strength always seems to equal the length of what we are called to offer. For example, when we awake in the morning, we feel refreshed. By the time we regularly go to bed, we are tired and ready for sleep. In other words, the energy seems to match the number of hours we are going to use it. A couple of hours before your bedtime, you are still vigorous but if you are up a couple of hours after your regular bedtime, you are yawning and nodding. But have you also noticed that if you go to bed at the normal time and during the night, the phone rings; someone you love is in trouble and calling you, you spring out of bed and your energy is renewed. You may go on for hours meeting some emergency situation and you’ll never once think about sleep.
That’s what happened to Joshua and his troops. They had been in a forced march all night. They had attacked the enemy. They had fought them all day under the blazing heat of the middle eastern sun. By the time late afternoon arrived, it must have been hard for them to put one foot in front of the other. At that point, Joshua prayed for the sun and the moon to stand still, and by the power of God they did. Joshua’s army was so thrilled by the miracle that new strength came surging into them and they did what they thought they could never do.
We might call this “the spiritual law of the second wind.” When we think we are at the end of our resources, when we think we’ve done all that we can do, we are actually at the place where we can begin to use resources we didn’t know we had. Do you remember the “Gossamer Albatross”? It was not a book or a film but an airplane. In 1979, a man named Bryan Allen sought to fly that plane across the English Channel, a distance of 22 miles. The total weight of the Gossamer Albatross was 55 lbs. It had no engine. It was propelled by the pilot pumping on bicycle pedals. When Bryan Allen took off in that tiny airplane, he was traveling at a speed of 11 miles per hour. At times he was no more than a foot or two above the surface of the water. As he furiously pumped those pedals he began to perspire profusely. He quickly consumed all the water he had brought along. Two-thirds of the way across he felt that he couldn’t go any further. He signaled to the rescue boat to move into position to save him, but then he reached down inside and found a second wind and he kept on pedaling. He then began to suffer severe muscle cramping. In spite of that, he kept on pedaling and he found that the cramps went away. When he reached the coastline of France, he was so weary that he couldn’t focus his eyes. But then he summoned yet one more great effort and new strength surged, and he landed safely. When he was asked afterward what was the greatest discovery he made, he said, “I never knew I had such inner resources and strength.”
That’s “the law of the second wind.” When we think we’re at the end of things, we actually have many of our resources yet untapped. In other words, we are too quick to think of our minimums as our maximums. I say this quite sincerely and without being judgmental. None of us is doing the best we can at anything. I care not who we are or what we are doing in our lives, we are not producing at the absolute top level in anything we are doing. There is always a second wind, and a third wind, and a fourth wind. We have resources built into us by God which we haven’t begun to discover. The reason we don’t know about them is that we don’t test them often enough. That’s what I’m calling us to do today. Never believe that we are at the end of our resources. Never accept the statement that we are doing all we can do. Move instead into those untapped resources God is waiting to use in ways beyond our imagining.
Then here’s the third truth. What ordinary people cannot do, the people of God can do.
As Christians we are not to be weaklings. We are moving in the strength of God and therefore, what we do ought to be quite incredible to the world. What the world does, it does on the basis of its endurance and its skill. What we do, we do on the basis of what God enables us to do and there is no limit to that. It’s the Church of Jesus Christ that changes darkness into light. It’s the children of God who can say, “Sun, stand still” and it stands, “Moon, stop,” and it stops.” The world can’t say that. But those who move in the power of God can say it.
I think here of Bill Hinson, pastor of the largest Methodist Church in the world. He began his ministry in a little town of Fleming, Georgia. He was in seminary in Atlanta at the time and he would go down on the weekends to preach at the Methodist Church in Fleming. He tells of a little boy in Fleming who heard him preach the second sermon he ever preached. The little boy was on the front row. He couldn’t sit still. He wormed and he squirmed, he wrote in the hymn book. He would lie down and then he would get up. Bill Hinson says that he was thinking about child abuse during the sermon. When the sermon was over, this little fellow from the front pew ran up to him and said, “Guess what? You’re going to have dinner with us.” And so, Bill Hinson had dinner with this little boy and his family. And then he headed back to the Seminary. About two weeks later, he received an envelope in the mail. Inside he found 57¢ in small change and a letter from that little boy which said, “Dear Brother Bill, I am sending you my egg money to help you go to school so that you can learn to be a better preacher.” Bill Hinson thought that was a funny story. He called the boy’s father and he said that while he appreciated the boy’s thoughtfulness, he was going to send the money back. The boy’s father said, “You can’t do that. He’s never taken better care of those chickens in his life and he’s sending you every penny of his profit and he’s going to keep on doing that, and if you send it back, you’ll break his heart.” Well, sure enough, week after week, month after month, year after year, the egg money kept coming from that little boy and the amount grew larger and larger. It was no longer amusing to Bill Hinson. Instead, it changed his life. He found himself often on his knees, praying, “Help me to be worthy of that little boy’s sacrifice.”
It’s true, what ordinary people cannot do the children of God can do and when we do, things and people change.
Once upon a time Joshua stood in the midst of a battlefield and prayed, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon. Moon, hold fast over the valley of Aijalon.” And by the power of God they did. The victory belonged to the Lord. The Bible says: “There has never been a day like it, before or since.” Today I ask you, knowing that the Church will win finally and forever, are we ready to make an extraordinary response to an extraordinary opportunity? Knowing that we have given many of our resources to the work of the Lord, are we ready now to claim God’s second wind and do what we never dreamed we could ever do? Knowing that the challenge is so great and that we are the children of God, are we ready to make the kind of sacrifice that saves? If we are, then somewhere down the future, people will look back in the history of this church to this day—and they will say: “There has never been a day like it, before or since.”