In October of 2018, I was in Malaysia with my husband speaking at a conference. I was on an extended fast and out of the blue woke up with a churning, volcanic feeling of rebellion inside me. I hadn’t had any interaction with anyone to trigger me—no conversation or disagreement with my husband, I hadn’t read anything, seen anything, heard anything. I immediately went out to walk along the beach and asked the Lord what was going on with me. There was only silence in return.
After a time, I decided I would speak first: “Lord, I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I want you more than anything.” Then something deep inside me broke. It wasn’t a toothpick-sized break or a pencil-sized break, but a telephone pole-sized break! I just kept repeating over and over, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Years worth of pride, hurt, pain, and offense had been festering inside me. That morning it was broken by my declaration that I wanted Jesus more than anything. He brought my pride and rebellion to my attention to be named, repented of, and renounced for me to be free. As we all know, sometimes it takes a while for sin to surface because we have justified its presence in our life. We haven’t done this intentionally, of course, but the suppressed sin is there nonetheless.
Breakthrough came that day as I declared my intention for only Jesus. He started the process, but I had to acknowledge it and repent. Ongoing freedom remains as I continually surrender to him when rebellion and pride raise their ugly heads. I must choose to let go, when my reaction is to fight, defend, rationalize, or prove myself.Ongoing freedom remains as I continually surrender to him when rebellion and pride raise their ugly heads. I must choose to let go, when my reaction is to fight, defend, rationalize, or prove myself. Click To Tweet
As a society, we are now in a battle our nation and world has never before faced with the spread of the COVID-19. Anxiety, fear, and death are rampant in these uncertain times, but now is the time for us as the church to rise up and contend for breakthrough like never before.
Breakthrough is revealed in the presence of the Lord.
Oftentimes we think that breakthrough comes with a vast army of activists ready and willing to take up arms, storm the gates, and physically fight. Activists often think that they are the kind of people who get things done. It certainly makes a person feel better to have something to do, a plan, a course of action, a purpose. Jesus said, “If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Mt 18:19-20) Jesus was clear that he wanted and expected us to work together. He sent out the disciples two by two (Mark 6:7) and appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two (Luke 10:1) to do the work of the kingdom. He commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19) and for leaders to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Eph 4:11-12) The people of God are to be salt and light in the world. (Mt 5:13-16)
God is certainly not against working together to advance his kingdom. But when I look at the life of Jesus, I see that before he taught his disciples how to minister together, he first modeled before them the importance of going to the Father alone—by themselves, for themselves.
Jesus loved his Father and missed his Father. He made the time in the midst of everything to go away to be with the Father. Jesus had a lot on his plate. People coming at him from every direction, wanting something from him, needing something from Him, but he did what was necessary to continue to cultivate intimacy with the Father. Sometimes he got up early while it was still dark. At other times he stayed up all night to have a quiet space. Whatever it took, Jesus did it to be with the Father.
In the kingdom of God, breakthrough comes by going ALONE into the closet, shutting the door, and praying to the Father, who you cannot see. (Mt 6:6) It goes against everything we’ve ever thought or been taught about warfare, because in a battle, no one goes alone. You stay together, work together, and particularly watch the back of your battle buddy.In the kingdom of God, there is a different way of doing things. Click To Tweet
In the kingdom of God, there is a different way of doing things. Jesus is our battle buddy. He ever lives to intercede for us (Heb 7:25), and when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groans (Rom 8:26). The breakthrough we need is revealed in the presence of the Lord, with Jesus on one side possibly interceding as he did while on earth, offering up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death (Heb 5:7), and the Holy Spirit on the other side groaning when we have run out of words. In this vulnerable place with our God, we experience breakthrough. The word may come in a word, phrase, picture, vision, Scripture, song, or impression, but it will come because he is a speaking God.
Breakthrough is sealed by the strategy of God.
When we figure out what the Lord is saying to us, we then must determine what we do with his words. What is the Lord’s strategy for this situation? Breakthrough is sealed by the strategy of God, but unless we draw near to hear from him, we can easily miss the way he wants to do something. We go into the closet to get away from the noise, the distractions, the opinions all around us. There are plenty of people to draw from with a simple search on Google or YouTube. Suggestions or words of wisdom abound from ‘successful’ people we admire. But there is one specific solution for our situation that has been perfectly crafted because of who we are and where we are.
There is a now word strategy straight from the heart of God for us that surpasses anything another person could offer. God’s strategy for you has been intentionally chosen for this exact time and mission. It is good and wise to glean from others, but our specific orders for each situation come only from him. He never does the same thing twice, so we become comfortable with ambiguity as we live in the present to fulfill today’s plan in the precise way he gave it. Yes, breakthrough is sealed by the strategy of God.
Breakthrough is activated by our obedience.
Breakthrough is also activated by our obedience. It’s when we come out of the secret place with clear directives that the breakthrough begins as we obey what he gave us. It’s one thing to hear from God, but then we must come out and act. It’s okay if it’s never been done the way you were directed; God is the one who came up with the plan, so he will guide you through all the details to fulfill it. “And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Mt 6:6) Our reward is his presence with us to do what he asked in the secret place. If he wants something done a certain way, he is going to remove every obstacle, provide every resource, and sustain us to accomplish that purpose. We simply say “yes” to him and move in that direction. The breakthrough comes as we move in obedience.We are in difficult days during this pandemic. We look to the right and to the left, wanting someone to tell us what to do to navigate this uncertain time, but our God is with us and for us and on our side! Click To Tweet
We are in difficult days during this pandemic. We look to the right and to the left, wanting someone to tell us what to do to navigate this uncertain time, but our God is with us and for us and on our side! The only way is through, so go into the closet, shut the door, pray to your Father who you cannot see, and let him show you the way through. He has positioned us all to be home at this time. Now go one step further and go into the closet, shut the door, and allow him to reveal himself to you as you need. Your strategy will be different from mine and everyone else’s, but heed his directives and obey. Your breakthrough will come.
Here are practical suggestions for both individuals and groups to pursue breakthrough with the Lord:
Make Solitary Room for the Lord
- Find a quiet place to focus on the Lord. A comfortable chair in your living room, kitchen table, home office, the garage, attic, basement, bedroom, or yes, even your closet will work.
- Set aside eight to twelve minutes. This is something you want to work into your routine, start with a shorter time for consistency. You can always add time, but if you try to set aside thirty minutes to one hour and get interrupted, you will find yourself giving up and saying it doesn’t work for you. It will take practice for you to develop the skill of listening to the Lord. Set a timer in the other room, take a journal and a pad of paper to write down things that come to mind that interrupt your train of thought (i.e. take the clothes out of the washer, mow the lawn, change the sheets, call the bank, etc.). Write those things on the pad and return to focusing on the Lord. Don’t be annoyed when the timer goes off before you really connected with God. It will take time for you to learn to more quiet yourself quickly.
- Simply be still and listen. No praying, singing, asking, or reading. Simply listen. When the timer goes off in the other room, write down in your journal what you saw, heard, sensed, or felt from the Lord. The “voice” of God occurs in many forms. A word or phrase may come to mind. You may see a picture or even a short vision like watching a YouTube video. A Scripture verse or reference may pop into your head. A phrase from a song may keep repeating in your mind. You may feel a wave of peace or love come over you like someone covered you with a warm blanket. God ‘speaks’ in various ways, so it may take time for you to figure out what He sounds like. Write down what you received and ask the Lord to continue to make plain to you what he is saying.
(Prior to my walk on the beach, I had been practicing these stillness moments for months but only receiving a nugget now and then, which I wrote about in my journal. I couldn’t tell what God was up to, so I just kept showing up and waiting for the next piece. Every day with the Lord is not an extravagant revelation; rather, it is a simple act of devotion to him that I want him more than anything else. For as long as it may take, I will position myself daily before God to be with God. I’m not coming for revelation. I’m coming for God. I’m coming for greater intimacy with him. It’s in the stillness that what’s really there gets exposed. It may not always be pretty, but the awareness of its presence [unforgiveness, bitterness, rebellion, fear, selfishness] is exposed, which offers me the opportunity to give that to the Lord and allow him to remove that obstacle and give me more of himself.)
- These times of listening do not replace Bible reading and prayer. They are in addition to it. The Bible is the primary place we hear from the Lord, but we can also hear other ways, which will not contradict the written word. We read in Psalm 46:10 to be still and know that he is God. The Hebrew word for “know” in this verse is the word yada, which means “intimately experience.” Sometimes Christians can be afraid of experience, but in a love relationship, experience is essential to the knowledge that we are loved.
- Keep making room for these times of listening for the Lord, and over time you will become comfortable with greater periods of silence and stillness. You will cultivate a listening ear to know what the Lord sounds like to you. Once you know his voice, you become more willing to receive His strategy for your situation. The pressure is not on you to figure things out alone. He will give you all that you need for each day. Hearing is part one; obeying is part two.
Hearing God Together
- Sometimes it helps to listen to God with others. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and wait in silence together. After three to four minutes, simply ask people what they saw, heard, sensed, or felt from the Lord.
- Start by asking if anyone saw anything. As people share what they saw (either a word, phrase, picture or vision), they will usually sense meaning that goes with it. The explanation often encourages others to share what they “heard” as well. It is not uncommon for people to say, “Oh, that happens to me all the time. I didn’t know that counted.”
- Then ask if anyone heard anything. Ask if a song or Scripture came to mind. Give time for people to share what they heard. Sometimes people just hear a repeating phrase.
- Continue by asking if anyone sensed anything. This is often by way of an impression. People may describe it as, “I had an impression that God wants us to know ____________(fill in the blank). Often these impressions are reminders of simple truths we already know about how God feels about us.
- Move on by asking if anyone felt anything. Often people answer by naming words such as, “I felt love, peace, joy, hope, compassion.”
- Go one step further and ask if there is anyone who has not yet spoken, who after hearing everyone else would like to tell the group what they received. Often a few quieter people dare to share at this point.
- Remind the group that the only way to get better at hearing together is to practice. It is usually helpful to have a group discussion about how each person ‘heard’ the Lord.
- Encourage them to go home and practice this alone in their sacred space, writing down in their journal what they received, and to come back next week to listen again together.