With his 85th birthday just months away, Dr. Charles F. Stanley said the greatest lesson he's ever learned is to trust God.
Stanley was the keynote speaker at National Religious Broadcasters’ fourth annual First Amendment Lunch in Washington, D.C. NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson also spoke, providing an update on NRB’s work in the nation’s capital.
"Don't try to figure Him out. Just trust Him and watch Him work," Stanley told about 100 NRB leaders and friends meeting on Capitol Hill, May 4, as Americans observed the National Day of Prayer.
Stanley, Founder & President of In Touch Ministries, shared stories from his life that demonstrated how God works.
"God is faithful to direct us in any situation/circumstance if we listen to Him," Stanley said. "Talking to God, listening to Him, and trusting Him about everything is what life's all about."
A 'Tremendous Habit'
Starting with what he said was one of his favorite verses about Jesus, Stanley read Mark 1:35, which records how Jesus went to a solitary place very early in the morning to pray. He then recalled how, as a child, he had to wake up early in the morning to deliver newspapers. Because he was afraid of the dark, he would pray each morning.
"God was working in my life to build a tremendous habit - to get up early in the morning and to talk to God," Stanley said.
"Whatever drives us to our knees to pray and ask God's direction and help, that's good," he added.
A Difficult Time
Moving forward, Stanley recalled his initial years at First Baptist Church Atlanta, where he serves today as Senior Pastor.
Six months after joining the church staff as an associate pastor, Stanley began to clash with the handful of men who ran the church, and for 18 months, they did their best to get rid of him. Even after he became the pastor of the church, they were still there.
But it was during that difficult time that Stanley says he learned one of the greatest lessons.
Though his prayer to God was for the men to leave, in asking God for His direction, Stanley was told to "see everything you hear, everything they do to you, everything they require of you as coming from Me, not them."
"That will keep you from being bitter, resentful, hostile, angry, or becoming a real problem," Stanley recalled being told.
"Oftentimes you learn what God wants you to learn has nothing to do with what you're talking to Him about," he said.
An Easter Message
Building on that, Stanley recalled the time when he was without a sermon - and even an outline for a sermon - until the night before Easter Sunday. In praying for a message that night, Stanley was told something completely different: to never ask for money on the air, but to trust God and let Him decide how far and wide the ministry goes.
Though he wrestled with that initially, he submitted to God and was inspired to share this: "Sometimes we get caught up with one thing when God has something entirely different to say."
After sharing one more story about how his church acquired a piece of property from someone who initially refused to sell, Stanley encouraged guests to think about God's role in their own lives.
"Ask yourself the question: 'What is it that I'm trying to do that maybe God wants to do? Or am I going in a direction that is just absolutely naturally normal, but it isn't God's direction? Am I asking for something that God doesn't want because He's got something better?'" Stanley posed.
"He takes great delight in disappointing us with what we ask in order to give us something far better than what we could imagine," he continued.
"Be alert to the voice and the movement of God," Stanley concluded. "If you will trust Him and obey Him, you will always come out better - not sometimes ... all the time. That's who He is."
A New Mood
Following Stanley's message, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson shared about events earlier in the day, including President Donald Trump's signing of an executive order on religious freedom, a meeting he had with staff members from the National Security Council, and the passing of a measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"I do see the Lord working, not in the way that I thought, but I see the Lord working in this city and in this country right now in a new way," he said. "There is a new spirit, there is a new mood when it comes to religious liberty and the First Amendment."
Johnson noted how that morning he attended a White House Rose Garden ceremony for the National Day of Prayer that featured music from Steven Curtis Chapman and prayers prayed in Jesus' name.
"All the presidents since Lincoln have acknowledged the Day of Prayer, at least with a memo, but this was a Rose Garden ceremony with scores of reporters there," Johnson said.
Johnson praised President Trump for the executive order he signed at the ceremony and for the address that he gave, which Johnson encouraged guests to read.
"It's stronger than the order. You need to read that speech. It's very encouraging," he said.
And while Johnson acknowledged that there is a debate over whether preachers should get involved in politics and endorse candidates, he stressed that it's a debate for the church to have.
"It's not the government's decision. It is a church decision," he said.
"What I want to celebrate today is a definite change in tone, change in direction," he said. "It's moving in the right direction. The right people are there and making the case."
Going further, Johnson talked about the meeting he had the same day with National Security Council staff about religious liberty worldwide. During the meeting, Johnson talked about persecuted Christians, noting specific examples of concern.
"We're working. NRB is standing for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press," said Johnson, noting also how he made the case in the meeting for the appointment of a U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom who answers directly to the Secretary of State.
"This is what NRB is doing, not just domestically, but internationally," he said.
"We are uniquely positioned," Johnson added, after noting how the first three points of the First Amendment directly relate to members of the association.
"This is our moment. This is our hour. I truly believe that," he continued. " We've seen a change of course here in Washington, D.C. And it's encouraging."
Still, as he noted from the onset of his report, Johnson emphasized how spiritual activity trumps political activity.
"Only the Church, only God, only the Holy Spirit can do for America what America so desperately needs," he said. "The White House can't deliver that, Paul Ryan can't deliver that, the Supreme Court can't even deliver that. Only God can do that.
"He will use His Church, He will use His people, He will use prayer, the Holy Spirit," Johnson said before concluding in prayer.
By NRB Staff
Published: May 8, 2017