For the Win: Ask For the Win

Categories: For the Win

We are kicking off a new series today called For The Win. And how about this? This is the last series that I’ll be preaching in this building. This series is going to carry us through Easter Sunday, which is our last Sunday in our current facility. Our relocation is getting so close. We’re getting so close to the launch of Connect on April 7.

As I started praying about how God wanted us to wrap things up in our current facility, I kept remembering all the victories that the Lord has won throughout our church’s history. I’ve seen Him win many victories in my seven years as pastor of this church, and He won countless victories before I got here.

And then I ran across the words in Psalm 20, and I immediately knew that these would be the verses that I would preach in our last series in this building.

This series is called For The Win. Let me pray for us and we’ll get into Psalm 20.

Before we get into our text today, I want us to ask a question.

Am I afraid to pray?

Now, a lot of us would immediately say, “No way! That’s a dumb question. Or course I’m not afraid to pray.”

Now, if you’re not a Christ-follower…if you’re just here checking out this whole Jesus thing, you might be secretly thinking, “Well, yeah…I guess I am a little afraid. It’s just weird. Talking to a God that I can’t see. A God that I’m not even sure is really there. It’s kind of mystical and strange. I guess it does weird me out a little.”

If that’s you, I’m so glad you’re here checking this out. And I also want you to know this…there are a lot of Christians that feel a lot like you do…they just don’t usually admit it.

For those of us who do follow Jesus, I want you to really think about the question. Am I afraid to pray? And before you say, “No way,” let me rephrase the question.

Would I think you’re afraid to pray if I actually heard how you pray?

See, here’s where a lot of us live. We claim to believe in prayer. We claim to believe that prayer changes things. But if you heard how wimpy, how small, how generic, and how vanilla our prayers really are, you wouldn’t think that we believe in prayer. In fact, you’d think we’re almost afraid to pray for real.

This series is going to challenge that mindset…big time. The name alone should tell you where going. This series is called For The Win.

Here’s a truth about God that is going to make a lot of you uncomfortable. God wants us to experience victory. And as soon as I say that, some people have flares and sirens going off in their minds.

“That’s some kind of wacko prosperity gospel! That’s the health and wealth garbage that a televangelist would preach!”

No…it’s Biblical. I wholeheartedly reject the health and wealth gospel just as much as you do. The whole notion that if you love God, He’ll give you a BMW. You’ll always have good health. Your kids will be honor roll students and all-star athletes. Life will be just be peaches and cream.

That’s the prosperity gospel…and it’s a pile of garbage. As John Piper said, the prosperity gospel “elevates gifts above the Giver.” And if you haven’t rejected that, you need to. It’s trash.

But, God does want to give you and me victory. Not victory as in a nicer car, bigger house, or anything like that. That’s not victory. That’s stuff.

God wants us to experience victory, but a lot of us are afraid to ask for it.

Let’s check out the text that we’ll be using for this series. It’s from Psalm 20, which is one of the Psalms that was written by David.

Starting in verse 6, David wrote, “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!” (Psalm 20:6-9, NIV)

In this Psalm, David is very clear about what he wanted: victory. He wanted a win. A lot of people believe this was written before a big battle, which makes sense when you consider the wording of this Psalm.

But one thing is clear. David was seeking victory. He was going for the win.

And he started where we’re going to start in this series: he asked for the win.

My wife and I have two little boys. And one thing about our boys…they’re not shy about asking for what they want.

For example, they want a dog. Bad. I mean, really bad. Now, I’m not anti-dog. But we don’t have room for the dog I would want. If we got a dog, I want one that could double as a horse. I want a Newfoundland or a Mastiff. Teacups are for drinking and toys are for playing. I don’t a teacup or a toy dog. I want a DOG. I don’t want a dog named Princess. I want a dog named Thor or Hercules. But we don’t have room for that kind of dog.

However, that hasn’t stopped my boys from asking. At least once a week, I still hear, “We need a dog. Can we get a dog? Why can’t we have a dog?”

They know what they want. And they also know that Nicki and I have the power to give them what they want. And they’re not shy about asking us for what they want.

And honestly, they’re wearing me down. Now, if any of you tell my boys that, I’ll deny it. But they’re starting to wear me down. They know what they want. And they ask for what they want.

In reality, that’s a pretty good theology lesson. Some of us have kids that boldly ask for what they want, but we’re pretty timid about asking our Heavenly Father for what we want.

Now, let me get this out of the way right up front. If your prayers always center around what you want, you’ve got a problem.

If the only time my boys talked to me was when they wanted something, that would tell me a lot about the relationship that we have. If that’s the only time they talked to me, they wouldn’t see me as their dad. They would just see me as Santa Claus.

If the only time you pray is when you want something, you’ve got some work to do. You need to spend some time just praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s already given you. He’s not your cosmic Santa Claus. He’s not a vending machine that’s ready to spit out a blessing every time you put in a spiritual quarter.

However, there is a flip side to this coin. Some of us have a really hard time asking God for what we want at all. Or, if we do ask, it’s so timid and so generic and so vague that we really didn’t ask for anything.

For example, if you pray, “God, please bless me and my family,” what does that mean? It’s so generic. It’s so vague. It’s not bad…it’s just a pretty ambiguous, timid prayer.

How would you know if God answered that prayer? At what point would you say, “There’s the answer to my prayer!” At what point would you immediately stop and thank God for answering your prayer.

It’s really hard to give specific praise and thanks when you can’t even recognize if a prayer has been answered or not. And you can’t recognize if a prayer has been answered if the prayer was so vague and unspecific.

But here’s the biggest problem. Ambiguous prayers lead to ambiguous faith.

Praying vague, unspecific prayers leads to a faith that is timid and tentative and wavering. If you’re afraid to pray boldly and specifically, then that really reveals what you believe about God.

It reveals that you’re not sure if God will answer. Or you’re not sure that God can answer. Or you’re not sure if God cares enough about you to answer.

So we pray, “God, bless me” type prayers. We flower our prayers up with so much religious lingo…we keep things so general and vague…and here’s what that does. It lets God off the hook. No matter what happens, you can find a way to claim that your prayer was answered.

Can I tell you something? God doesn’t need you to defend Him. He doesn’t need you let Him off the hook. He doesn’t need you to explain things for Him. He doesn’t need you to give Him an out. He’s more than capable of handling things on His own.

With that in mind, let’s go back and look at how David prayed in Psalm 20. Look at what he said in verse 6. “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.” (Psalm 20:6, NIV)

Look at how he starts. David said, “Now this I…” What’s that next word? Know. “Now this I KNOW: The Lord gives victory to his anointed.”

“The anointed” referred to the king. David was the king of Israel. So David is saying, “This I know: God will give me victory.”

“That’s so brash. That’s so cocky and conceited. How could someone say I KNOW God is going to do something?”

Well, David did. And God referred to David as a man after His own heart. So apparently, God isn’t put off by this kind of boldness.

Check out this verse from the New Testament. This is in the book of Hebrews. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)

How are we supposed to approach God’s throne? With confidence. With assurance. With boldness.

“Well, who do you think you are being that bold and brash with God?”

You missed something in this verse. The Hebrews writer said, “Let us approach God’s throne of GRACE with confidence.”

Who are you to ask God for anything? Who am I to ask God for anything? We are so unworthy to approach Him. In fact, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we couldn’t approach Him at all.

But the cross of Christ changed everything. When Jesus died for our sin, He paid the price for it. It wiped the slate clean. It’s as if our sin never even happened. And because of His death and His resurrection, the wall between God and us has been torn down.

Now, based on the grace we find at the cross, we can approach God. And because His death really is enough to cover all our sin, we can approach God with confidence.

If you’ve got to tiptoe into God’s presence, then you need to get a bigger view of Jesus. You need a more complete view of the cross. You need a much higher view of grace.

His forgiveness is so far-reaching…His grace is so complete…that you can not just approach His throne. You can come with confidence. And you can pray with boldness.

Look at how David prayed at the end of Psalm 20. “Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!” (Psalm 20:9, NIV)

It’s bold. “Answer us when we call!”

And it’s specific. “Lord, give victory to the King!”

Whatever battle David was facing, he prayed very boldly and very specifically for victory. It wasn’t, “Lord, bless us.” Or, “Lord, be with us.”

By the way, do you realize that you never need to pray, “God, be with me.” He already promised in the Bible that He will never leave you. You’re asking for something you already have.

Now, I pray all the time, “Lord, I know you are with me. Make me keenly aware of your presence.” But I have really tried to stop praying, “Be with me,” because He already promised that He is.

David’s prayer wasn’t anything that generic or vague. He prayed specifically for what he wanted: victory. It was something that was tangible. It was measurable. And it would be easy to recognize whether his prayer was answered or not.

Are you afraid to pray that specifically? Because, well, what if God doesn’t answer? Then I’ll have to try to explain why. But if I leave it in general terms, then I’ve given God an out. Then I won’t make Him look bad.

God never hired you to be His image consultant. He doesn’t need you to leave Him an out. He’s not afraid of you painting Him into a corner.

Just the opposite. God is grieved when we don’t have enough confidence in Him to pray boldly and specifically for our needs and our desires and our dreams.

In his book called The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson wrote, “God is not offended by your big dreams and bold prayers. He is offended by anything less.”

Where have you been less than audacious in your prayers? Where have you stopped short of asking big? Where have you been timid instead of bold?

Have you prayed for COMPLETE healing? Have you prayed for a relationship to be TOTALLY restored? Have you prayed for God to provide THE job you need? Have you prayed for God to come through in a specific, clear, unmistakable way?

David wasn’t afraid to pray like that. And we shouldn’t be afraid to pray like that, either.

Here’s why. Ambiguous prayers lead to ambiguous faith. But audacious prayers lead to audacious faith.

Ultimately, how you view prayer is how you view your faith. If you pray small, ambiguous prayers, you’ll have a small, ambiguous faith. But if you pray bold, audacious prayers, you’ll have a bold audacious faith.

And if you don’t want to believe me, then listen to what Jesus Himself said. But before we read these verses, I’ll go ahead and tell you that a lot of people have tried to explain them away. A whole lot of people would like to rip these verses right out of the Bible. But they can’t. Not only are in the Bible, but they were spoken by Jesus.

In Matthew 21, Matthew wrote, “Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”

[Don’t you love the fact that Jesus got grumpy when He was hungry? It really shows the human side of Jesus. He was God and He was man, both at the same time. And as a man, Jesus was hungry. And when the tree didn’t have what He wanted, He got a little grouchy. I love that. Now, look at what happened.]

Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

[I think we’d all agree that’s a pretty good question. They’ve never seen anything like this before, so the logical question is, “Jesus, how did you do that?” But His answer has given people fits for over 2,000 years.]

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:18-22, NIV)

That is bold. That is audacious. And that makes a lot of Christians very, very uncomfortable. I have commentaries on the shelves in my office that try to explain these verses away. And you get the feeling that the authors of those commentaries would just rip these words out of the Bible if they could.

This kind of audacity makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. But David was comfortable praying this audaciously. More importantly, Jesus encouraged this kind of audacity.

But this brings up the inevitable question…what about my prayer that God didn’t answer? Jesus said I would receive whatever I ask for in prayer, but I didn’t receive this.

First of all, look at the conditions that Jesus laid down. “If you have faith and do not doubt…” That’s a high standard. A very high standard.

Does that mean that doubt can effectively short-circuit our prayers? Absolutely. Jesus said so Himself.

“But I did have faith. I didn’t doubt. I truly believed God would come through, but He didn’t.”

There is one more piece of the puzzle that has to fit…the will of God. If we pray for something that is outside of God’s will, then no amount of faith will make it happen. Eradicating all doubt won’t change anything. God is sovereign. Ultimately, God’s will is going to prevail.

But don’t let that take anything away from the audacity of what Jesus said. If you are praying within the will of God, and if you are praying in faith and without doubt, God will answer that prayer. And the bolder, the better.

It’s hard to get more audacious that praying for a mountain to be thrown into the sea, but that’s the example Jesus used to illustrate the bold, audacious prayers that He craves from His people.

Audacious prayers lead to audacious faith. And audacious faith persuades God to audacious action. That’s how mountains get thrown into the sea.

In other words, if you want to see God perform a miracle, you’ve got to be bold enough to pray for a miracle.

And there are countless reasons why we don’t do that.

Maybe asking for something miraculous just doesn’t fit our modern, Western mindset. It’s too mystical. It’s too supernatural.

Or maybe we’ve asked for miracles in the past, but they haven’t happened. And when Jesus says you’ll receive whatever you ask for in prayer, you just shrug because your experience teaches you otherwise. Your life and your faith are pulling you in two different directions.

Let me give you an example that I’m living out right now. Our church is right on the brink of our relocation. On April 7, we’ll launch as Connect Christian Church at the Holiday Inn. But honestly, this isn’t the move that I saw our church making. Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago, a door seemed to open up for our church to relocate. And it’s not the facility that our church went and prayed around a couple of years ago. This was a different place.

And let me tell you, it was going to be awesome. The location was amazing. The price was going to work. And the people we were talking with seemed extremely interested in our church coming to their facility. In other words, every door was open. Every arrow was pointing in one direction. Every light was green. This was it. I was sure of it.

Then, everything fell apart with one email. Out of the blue one day, I got an email from the top guy at this facility. And all the email said was, “After further consideration, we have determined that we cannot accommodate your request. Sorry.”

It was a gut punch that put me on the floor. Everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…said that this was not a good move, this was a God move. And in one email, it was gone.

I’ll be honest…I spent a lot of time beating on God’s chest over this one. But here’s what I’ve learned about that. If you’re beating on God’s chest, at least you’re in God’s lap.

I had prayed for this. I was sure of this. I had faith. I did not doubt. I could pray right along with David and say, “This is what I KNOW.” I was that sure. And then the rug was jerked right out from under me and I had no idea why.

Now, a few years later, I know exactly why. We weren’t ready. Our church simply wasn’t ready. For a myriad of reasons that I won’t get into right now, we just weren’t ready for a move of this magnitude. I thought it would be a blessing, but a blessing that you’re not ready to receive can be a lot more like a curse. That’s what this would have been.

But today, three weeks away from the launch of Connect in Eastgate, I can tell you we’re ready now. What I interpreted as God saying, “No,” was really God saying, “Not yet.”

My prayers have been answered, but they were answered on God’s time, not mine. And they are being answered in a bigger, more audacious way than I could have anticipated a few years ago.

God had our best interest in mind. When we see a pixel, God sees the whole picture. And that entire experience has done one thing…it has caused me to pray even bolder. With more confidence. With more audacity.

And now, if I run into opposition, I’ll keep on praying. The more opposition you face, the harder you pray. And the harder you pray, the more miracles God will do.

If audacious prayers lead to audacious faith, and audacious faith persuades God to audacious action, then it’s clear what we have to do. Start praying confidently. Boldly. Audaciously.

We need to pray with a swagger. We need to pray with arrogance. Not arrogance in who we are, but arrogance in who God is. We are arrogant that our God can do anything our God chooses to do. We are arrogant that nothing is impossible with our God. And we are invited into His presence based on the blood of His Son, Jesus. We’re not going to take that for granted and we’re not going to squander that opportunity.

Instead, we’re going to pray specifically. Boldly. Audaciously. If we run into opposition, we’ll pray through it. If the answer seems to be no, we’re going to trust that God sees more of the picture than we do and we’re going to keep right on praying. In fact, the only thing we’re not going to do is give up.

We have a God who would rather die for us than give up on us. If He will go to those lengths to not give up on us, then we aren’t going to give up on Him.

This has huge implications for you in your personal life. This has huge implications for the life of your family. And this has huge implications in the life of our church.

We’re three weeks out from a bold, audacious move for our church. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to commit the next three weeks to praying over everything about this move. We’re going to pray specifically. Boldly. Audaciously.

When you leave today, you’re going to get a prayer guide for this week. This prayer guide will also be available on my blog if online stuff works better for you.

For the next three weeks, we’re going to pray everyday for our move. Actually, we built in a little grace for everyone. We have prayers listed for 6 of the 7 days each week, just in case you get a day behind.

You’ll get a new prayer guide each of the next three Sundays. The prayer guide has a specific prayer for each day, and a specific Scripture to guide your prayer for that day. And we’re asking every single person in our church to do this. If you have kids, pray these prayers with your kids. If you’re married, pray with your spouse. If you’re on your way to work, turn off the radio and use your commute to pray for our church.

The prayers for each day are geared to be entry-level. If you’re not really sure how to pray, just start be reading the words on the sheet. Just ask God for the things the guide lists for that particular day. And if your prayer is kind of awkward and mechanical, that’s okay. God isn’t worried about how pretty your prayer is. He just wants to hear from you. And He wants you to hear from Him.

This move is bold. It’s audacious. That’s precisely the reason that some people have criticized and condemned it. But we also believe that is precisely the reason that God will honor it. Because this move can’t succeed without Him. If we do this on our own power, it is doomed to fail. We need God to come through in a miraculous way, so that’s exactly what we’re praying for. That’s exactly what we’re believing Him for.

Let’s go back to where we started today. In Psalm 20, David wrote, “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.” (Psalm 20:6, NIV)

In David’s time, the anointed was the king of Israel. Today, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He is the anointed one. He has secured our ultimate victory by saving us from all eternity.

That’s why we say all the time that it’s all about Jesus. And it’s all about connecting more people to Jesus. And because that’s our mission, we can take an audacious step of faith. And we can do it knowing that Jesus is going to bring us the victory.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor