(Adapted from a sermon preached in Florida on the night of the 2012 Presidential elections.) (2Ch 7:14) If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. This verse is often quoted when there is a service to pray for rain. I preached on the verse when I was the Dean of a country Cathedral in Australia which was in the grip of a terrible drought. Let me share the background and encourage you with what God did in His love and mercy.
1). A TOXIC SITUATION. HOW GOD BROUGHT HEALING.
My wife and I and our family had gone to minister in what was normally a very beautiful part of the world. However a toxic situation had arisen. There had been widespread attacks on a conservative minister who had been elected as bishop. He was the right man for the position but some academics in the city had vented their disapproval of the appointment. Not only that but the previous Dean of the Cathedral had moved on suddenly to the surprise of the parish. We arrived in the beginning of a drought. The farmers had no crops. The sheep were dying in the fields. The famous Australian gumtrees were dying being poisoned (we were told) by a small beetle. There was desolation everywhere. I went there to be the new Dean of the Cathedral.
A marvellous thing happened a short time later. The ministers in the city got together to pray. We would meet one morning during the week from 6.30am to 7.30am. We gathered together to pray for one another and for the city. We sat in a circle and put what we called a “hot seat” in the middle of the group. Any minister could sit there and ask the rest of us to pray for whatever need they had personally or for their parish. We would gather round and lay our hands on that person for God’s protection and for blessing on their ministry. We wanted the Lord to be exalted in all the churches.
The drought continued. So we began ecumenical services in which we prayed for rain. The first was in our Cathedral and I preached on this passage from 2 Chron 7:14. At the end of the service we went out into the bright sunshine into a shower of rain. It was a bright blue sky except for a little white cloud immediately over the Cathedral. It was as though God was saying “YES!” to what we were doing.
We worked together to try to win the city for Christ. We invited a Christian motor cycle gang called the God Squad to come and speak to the schools in the city. Dozens were won to Christ. We invited women to come to a mid-week luncheon to hear the evangelist from the God Squad talk to women on what Jesus could do for them and for their families. Seven hundred women came. Dozens of others had to be turned away.
We invited David Watson and his team from York in England to do a mission in the town. We filled the University hall with hundreds of secondary school aged children. Dozens more came to know Christ. Then a very significant thing happened. It was the night of the final public Rally with David Watson and his team. The 1000 seat University Hall was booked out. I was to lead the evening as the Chairman of the Ministers Fraternal. Just as I was about to leave to go to the meeting, I received a phone call to say that a teenage lad whom I knew had been playing squash and had received a direct hit to his eye. The doctors thought that he would almost certainly lose the sight of that eye. They were worried about the other eye as well. As I opened the meeting I told the crowd what had happened and invited them to pray with me for the young lad. So 1000 people (perhaps a majority being Christians) prayed with me. The next Sunday I told the Cathedral congregation what had happened. Then I asked the young lad to stand up and face the congregation. He had nothing wrong with either of his eyes. God had marvellously healed him. Word quickly went around the whole town of his marvellous healing.
The rains came. The drought was broken. It was as though God had baptised the earth with water to refresh the land and had poured out his Spirit on all the churches in the city. Our evening service grew from a handful to sometimes well over 200, mainly young people gathering together to praise God. People were coming to the communion rail after the service and giving their lives to the Lord. Others received wonderful healing.
We joined together from all the denominations in the city in processions of witness in the main street of the city singing God’s praises as we went from one church to another in procession. The desolation had gone. The toxicity disappeared as the Spirit of God began to fall on people and a great sense of spiritual refreshment came on the believers in all the churches. The people of God had become energised by the Holy Spirit of God.
Then it was time to leave that Cathedral to go to the Cathedral in Sydney. Just before we left I was asked to pray for a young woman who hadn’t been able to fall pregnant after 10 years of marriage. IVF treatments hadn’t worked. Humanly speaking there appeared to be no hope she would ever have a child. I met her and her mother in the Cathedral during the woman’s lunch-break. Her mother and I prayed over her. A few months later her mother rang and said, “We’re going to have a baby”. The daughter had conceived naturally within a month of our praying together. It was a great encouragement as we settled into a demanding role in the Cathedral in Sydney.
The whole time in that city in the country reminded me that the Lord is the Lord of this universe. No matter how great may be the toxicity in people’s lives, or in cities or in politics, God can still do His thing if people are willing to be used by Him. IF they humble themselves, and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways
2). GOD WILL BE PRAISED FOR HIS MERCY AND GRACE
I don’t have time to tell you of the amazing things God did in the Healing service in the Cathedral in Sydney during our 18 years there. I repeat WHAT GOD DID! We witnessed what He was doing, as His word was preached. Let me jump right ahead to 4 years after my retirement from the Healing Ministry in Sydney. I was invited to preach at the 50th Anniversary of the Wednesday night Healing Service. I shared some of the great things God had done in answer to prayer at the service during 50 years. It was a reminder to many present who had come to the service over the years with broken hearts, broken limbs, broken marriages, broken relationships, shattered dreams and God had healed them. I made the point in the sermon that the Healing ministry was God’s ministry. He is the Healer. Then I said these words, “The Healing Ministry is not about Jim Glennon (my predecessor and founder of the ministry). It’s not about Jim Holbeck. It’s not about young Chris.” (the new Leader). I pointed to the heavens and said, “It’s all about Him!”
And then it happened. Spontaneous combustion. Volcanic eruption. People jumped to their feet shouting out “Alleluia” or “Praise the Lord” or “Thanks be to God”. Many other expressions of praise and thanksgiving filled the Cathedral. Others stood and silently stretched out their hands to heaven. It went on for over a minute and it ceased as quickly as it had begun. I had never seen anything like it in almost 30 years of Cathedral ministry or 42 years in ministry. It was a spontaneous outburst of praise to God. It was as though God had baptised us with an outpouring of joy and love and His healing grace. I was still standing there in a pulpit waiting for the noise to die down, my hand still pointing to the heavens.
No human could have orchestrated such an outburst of praise. It was as though the hearts of the people overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to God for all he had done for them personally over the years. Many of us felt that we were standing on holy ground in the Cathedral that night in the presence of the Risen Lord. When a Bishop came forward to pronounce the blessing, he said, “That is the most fun I have ever had in this Cathedral.” It was a moment of glory. It reminded me of the passage in Luke 19 where there had been a spontaneous outburst of praise when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered in verse 40, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” The stones didn’t need to cry out that night in the Cathedral. The people were released to cry out in their adoration and praise and thanksgiving to God. We returned home praising God that He had been honoured and glorified by His people on that special night in the Cathedral.
Just a little over a week later one of our family members was touched by the Lord and brought into the kingdom of God. In God he trusted. “In God we trust” was the cry from the people in the country Cathedral as they humbled themselves to pray for rain and for God’s blessing on the city. “In God we trust” was the cry of the people in that 50th Anniversary service in the Cathedral in Sydney as they rose as one person to praise God for their healing over 50 years.
HOW ABOUT TODAY? (The night of the USA elections)
The USA motto is “In God we trust”. Florida’s motto is “In God we trust”. Tomorrow about half of the people in America will be sad. The other half will be joyful. One of those men Mr Obama or Mr Romney will become the most powerful human in the universe. But he won’t be able to transform human hearts. He won’t be able by himself to reverse the slide towards secularism or a turning away from God. He will either help or hinder what God wants to do in His world. But no matter how we voted, we will be on the victory side tomorrow as believers. Our God reigns in His universe.
The risen Christ stands among us tonight as the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, the only ruler of princes. He it is who holds the whole universe in His hands. He it is who accomplishes His will through (or sometimes in spite of) the politicians we elect. He is the God who can transform toxic situations and who can transform and heal you and me. It depends on whether we do our part in what He wants to do. He encourages us in His word, (2Ch 7:14) if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. In response to His challenge to us we can offer Him all we are to be used in his purposes and can receive from Him the healing we need to do His will. Would you pray with me a simple one sentence prayer so that you and I as individuals can be healed to become part of what God wants to do in His world. “Lord Jesus, I invite you to do in me and through me what you wish. To Your glory. AMEN”.
Blog No.097. Jim Holbeck. Posted in Florida. Sunday 11th November 2012