Title: Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible
Author: Steven Furtick
Publisher: Multnohmah (2010)
I wasn’t sure what to think of Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still when I first received it.
I’d heard a bit about Furtick, the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of it had to do with numbers —Elevation has a congregation in the thousands, and its founding pastor has only just turned 30.
But I didn’t really know what he was all about. I didn’t know what he stands for and what he’s passionate about.
The back cover copy of the book didn’t make things any clearer. As I cracked it open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be completely ridiculous, or if it would be a lot more helpful than I anticipated.
By the time I finished the book, I had great deal more clarity regarding those questions. Furtick is deeply passionate about seeing Christians live in the fullness of their faith, and this book is his attempt to guide readers through the process of doing so.
Sun Stand Still is a call to what Furtick calls “audacious faith”—to live and pray like the God we worship and serve is actually capable of the impossible (because He is).
Furtick takes his inspiration from Joshua 10:1-15; there Joshua commands the sun to stand still so the Israelites can finish off their enemies, and God causes the sun to stand still. He wants readers to have God-sized visions; plans and prayers that are absolutely terrifyingly impossible to accomplish if God is not at work in them and through them.
In this sense, the book is right at home with Francis Chan’s bestseller,Crazy Love. That is, there’s this strong desire to see Christians living fully in their faith. To not try to live your best life now, but actually do big things for God’s glory.
That’s something that I greatly appreciate and resonate with, particularly in my own life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in getting by or sidetracked pursuing comforts in life that I might be at risk of missing an opportunity that God is giving me to take a big, bold step of faith. None of us should be content with actions that, as Ecclesiastes 1:17 says, are merely grasping or striving after the wind. A great deal of effort exuded for very little payoff.
If that’s all there was to the Christian life, what’ the point, right?
Where much of the book struggles is, in my estimation, with the language Furtick employs. It ranges the full spectrum, from soundly biblical to full-on self-help cheese. It’s very obvious that Furtick is trying to pump up readers to get excited about praying big prayers and having big visions, but sometimes it’s a little much.
Particularly goofy are phrases like “activating your audacious faith.” I get what he’s talking about, but this sounds a bit too at home in a self-help guru’s work, not a gospel preacher. Additionally, the language of “audacious faith” might in itself be confusing. As I read the book, I wondered if even speaking in terms of “active obedience” might be more helpful?
Thirdly, there are times when I find the tone of the book to be simply arrogant, particularly as he speaks of timid and stupid prayers (see pages 149-153). He writes that prayers beginning, “If it be thy will” are a cop-out (because we don’t expect God will do what we request) and timid prayers are a waste of time. There are two points of contention here:
First, Jesus prayed for His Father’s will to be done. That actually encapsulates how He taught us to pray (see the Lord’s Prayer). Additionally, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus prayed for the cup to be removed from Him (an audacious prayer if there ever was one), he concluded, “nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.”
There is a humility that comes from this kind of prayer; it recognizes that God’s plans are better and His goals are bigger than mine. So it’s probably unwise to declare such prayers a cop-out.
Secondly, regarding “timid prayers” what if that’s all you have? Sometimes you’re so weary, so exhausted, so burdened, all you can do is just weep, and there might not be much to your prayer at all. My concern here is that in an effort to drive readers to pray boldly, Furtick may cause some readers undue harm due to, again, in my estimation, a poor choice of words.
Perhaps the chapter I most appreciated was “When the Sun Goes Down,” looking at what happens when, despite all our boldness in prayer, God says no. What if He doesn’t remove the cancer? What if He doesn’t restore the marriage? What if your wayward children never come back to the faith?
These are not the subjects we particularly want to deal with, but I’m glad that Furtick does address them (even if it’s only in one chapter). Here he reminds readers that sometimes God says no, that he “lets the sun go down so that He can be our only light” (p. 148). When God says no to our prayers—even our good prayers—it’s for our good, ultimately. It’s to drive us deeper into Him.
In all honesty, I would have loved to see Furtick devote more time to this side of the “sun stand still prayer” because whether we like it or not, this is actually the norm. God’s primary concern in relation to us is that we’re moving deeper and deeper into our relationship with Him—and that most often comes through what the Bible describes as pruning. He cuts away all that hinders our growth in Him, even the good things. Because they’re not always the best things for us.
Overall, what was the impact of reading Sun Stand Still? This is not a book you can read and not really do anything with. Steven Furtick’s call to live boldly for God’s glory is challenging, and it’s one that has spurred me to examine my own prayer life and begin to pray far more boldly than I have in months. While it’s far from perfect, Sun Stand Still has a great deal to offer readers.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.