“Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible” by Steven Furtick
On the front end, I feel it’s only fair to admit that when I first received this book, I was not a big fan of Steven Furtick. In my admittedly limited experience with the young megachurch pastor, I had found him to be brash, over-the-top, and borderline arrogant… not exactly qualities I look for in a preacher. Of course, I have generally found that it hasn’t been an issue with what he has said so much as how he has said it (this video is a good example).
Since my problems with Furtick have been primarily about his methods rather than his message, I was interested to see how he came across in his first book. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, and hoped this new medium would help me to understand what he’s really about.
The premise of the book is that most Christians fail to live life to the fullest, and never take advantage of the awesome power that is available to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and access to the Father through prayer. Furtick’s main Scriptural text for the book is Joshua 10, where Joshua commands the sun to stand still. His assertion is that God wants to answer “Sun Stand Still” prayers for all his children, and stands ready to do so if only we will come boldly before the throne and ask God for the impossible. There are positives and negatives in the way the book works this out.
First, the bad: Unfortunately, much of Furtick’s bravado comes through in his writing, leading passages of this book to be almost maddeningly unreadable. From his overuse of the word “audacious” to his exhortation that people stop praying stupid, timid prayers, I found my eyes rolling several times. Also, at points this book sounded very much like the self-help pseudo-spiritual nonsense of prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen (whom Furtick has defended on multiple occasions). If I hadn’t been provided a free copy of the book for review purposes, I probably would not have continued.
Thankfully, I’m glad I did, because it turns out there is also a lot of good in this book. Once I got over my bias against Furtick’s writing style, I began to realize that there is some theological depth here where it is lacking in the type of guys who usually write books like this. Just because many books and sermons about praying for God’s miraculous intervention make claims beyond what Scripture supports doesn’t mean that the basic idea isn’t biblically sound. After all, we do worship a God who is capable of stopping the sun and “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Personally, I do have a tendency to pray safe, timid prayers rather than trust God to supply all my needs.
Where this book is at its best is in a chapter a little past the halfway mark called “When the Sun Goes Down”. It was here I felt the book hit a turning point, and I actually quite enjoyed the rest of it. In this chapter, Furtick balances out the “pray with bold expectation” sentiment with the reality that “sometimes — a lot of times, honestly — it goes the other way. Sometimes the sun doesn’t stand still. Sometimes the sun goes down… sometimes the sun keeps sinking down, down, down, and no amount of hoping, fasting, or right living seems to stop it.” This is where the prosperity theologians go badly wrong. Many times, our prayers are not answered (or the answer is no), no matter how fervently we trust in God. It can really shake one’s faith. What do we do then?
Furtick’s answer is right on: keep trusting God, and look for ways to glorify Him through your setback. The rest of the book includes many practical suggestions for improving one’s prayer life. These suggestions are good ones, and were personally challenging. Readers are directed to “reconcile your dreams with God’s desires”, using God’s Word as a measuring stick for whether our prayers are according to God’s will. We are also to “push while you pray”, meaning that often the answers to our prayer often require taking action even while praying that God would act.
As Furtick points out, there is a process between the promise and the payoff, and it is often during this process that God is seen and felt most powerfully. The type of prayers which require a miracle are frequently accompanied by uncertainty, anxiety, change, and sacrifice, but these are the very things that form our character and deepen our walk with the Lord.
My final analysis? While I still don’t like Furtick’s style, I recognize that there is plenty of room in God’s Kingdom for different methods. I still question some of his teaching, but finished this book encouraged that there is much more to Steven Furtick than I had previously given him credit for. I would not recommend this book for those whose discernment I do not trust, but there is much to be gleaned here. I look forward to seeing what comes of Furtick’s ministry, as he is still only 30, and has many years of preaching and (hopefully) growing ahead of him.
If this sounds like a book you’d like to check out, you can buy it here. Below is the video trailer for this book:
Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing a free review copy of this book. I was not obligated to write a positive review.