It was a cold and rainy day—the kind where rain boots are the only sufficient footwear and a Starbucks cup is an indispensable accessory. So with my rain boots on my feet and a latte in my hand, I headed to my car. It was one of the rare days I decided to listen to the radio while driving. My iPod is usually plugged in but this day was different. It was Christmas break, freezing cold in Florida, and raining in January. It was a classic winter day; so far from the norm that it was fitting to listen to the radio for a change.
While I was backing out of my spot, I paused and strained my ear toward the absurd clip of a message littered with vocalized pauses that I was hearing on Christian radio.
James MacDonald—pastor, author, and radio speaker—was in the middle of telling his audience to look at God’s resume to prove his character. He suggested taking a minute to “interview God” to see how he was worthy of the task set before him.
My ears started to bleed. I punched the radio button to stop it and I reversed and sped away, as though driving away could put physical distance between myself and the ridiculous scrap I just heard.
Fast forward to a few days later when I dared to have the radio on again while driving. When I turned it on (this time to a different Christian station) I interrupted Mandisa’s “Overcomer.” It has a catchy tune but I was listening to the words. She sings:
“You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when he reminds you
That you’re an overcomer”
I listened longer.
“Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Ooh, You’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to his promises
He wants you to know
You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ’til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now”
My ears started to bleed. I punched the radio button to stop it and I sped away. Never once have I heard God tell me I am an overcomer, even when I’ve hit the proverbially bottom and ground. Jesus says we will have trouble in the world but we must take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Both of these radio experiences, though several months ago now, reinforced to me how certainly we need a firm foundation. We need a foundation that is firm on God’s word and a foundation that is firm on God’s character. God is not to be interviewed as though we can determine if he is right for the job of creating and sustaining us. Neither is he a coach in the corner of the ring telling us to stay in until the bell rings.
When we do not speak well about things of the Lord, we look and sound stupid. Intentionally looking and sounding stupid does not honor or bring glory to our Creator. Sure the tunes are catchy and people feel like you’re “speaking their language” and we become relevant in all ways, but that is not what Christ has called us to.
A powerful example of responding the way the Lord would have us is in Acts 6 and 7. Stephen was chosen to serve and the Jews began to malign him for his ministry. Stephen delivers a magnificent narrative about the work God did in history. He starts with Abraham in Mesopotamia, then travels into Egypt and out again, then builds a house for God on earth even though the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, and finally he comes to the Righteous One: Jesus, who was betrayed and murdered. After hearing this defense the Jews are more incensed. But Stephen ” gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
Stephen did not need to interview God. He did not tell of God’s faithfulness to buoy his emotions in his last moments of life. The Jews threatened Stephen in the worst worldly way. Stephen did not overcome the opposition. He declared the truth of God’s word. He did not gaze into heaven because he was an overcomer.
He gazed into heaven because his hope was sure: he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Jesus overcame the enemies when he took Stephen in a moment of sleep. This is a firm foundation: knowing Jesus stands at the right hand of God. He is equally able to take you or sustain you.