Bob Sorge                     Metro Christian Fellowship             Transcript    12/31/00

A few weeks ago  Floyd said, "Would you speak to our fellowship on the testings of God?"
Well, that's my life message and so I said "Certainly." 

Eight and a half years ago I suffered a vocal injury, as a result, my voice is very weak and it hurts to talk.  As a pastor, worship leader, a father, husband, every compartment was turned up side down with one little touch of the finger of God.

This has caused me to wrestle with many issues very deeply and now the message that God has put on my heart has been formed through the crucible, and I would like to share from the overflow from that. . . . I believe the Lord has put a word on my heart from Revelations chapter 2.   and specifically the letter to the church in Smyrna. 

Revelation, chapter 2, verse 8:  "To the angel of the church in Smyrna writes these things, says the First and the Last, who is dead and came to life."  Now it's going to be important for us, as we conclude tonight, to come back to that, the face of Christ that he is giving to these believers, the First and the Last, who is dead and came to life.  He says: I know your works.  I believe the Lord says that: "Metro, I know your works.  I have seen your works done in secret.  I have seen your works done in the power of the Spirit of God.  I know your tribulation." 

This church has known tribulation corporately and has known tribulation individually and personally; the Lord knows it.  And he knows your poverty.  I probably don't have to convince you too hard that we're not an especially rich church.  But it's more than just financially, it's not just that we are financially poor but there is a poverty of spirit that I'm so grateful that I believe the family here owns.  It's a poverty spirit that's unlike the ones who said, "We are rich and have need of nothing."  Our heart is saying, "Lord, we realize we are poor, we are blind, and we are naked and wretched." 

    We feel our weakness.  We feel our helplessness and our powerlessness.  We feel our poverty. That's why we pray night and day.  That's why we cry out to Him because we are so aware of our emptiness and the Lord says, I see that but yet you are rich in the ways that really count. And I know the blasts from  those who say they are Jews but are not and are of the synagogue of Satan.  "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer."
Now that's kind of a strange statement to make. I said, what do you mean Lord? Just the fact that you told him "you're about to suffer" causes me to fear.  What do you mean I'm not--you're telling me that pain is coming my way but I'm not supposed to fear it? 

I remember it was just a matter of months before this [injury] happened to my throat.  A brother comes into my office, I'm a pastor in New York State, a brother comes into my office, he makes an appointment, and he sits down and he says, "The Lord's been talking to me about you" and he says, "The Lord has shown me there's some difficulty headed your way.  You're going to go through a tough time.  The Lord's going to get you through but it's going to be tough." 
Well, I took that word to my eldership and I said, brothers, I want you to test this word with me, and so we tested it and they said, well, how does the word make you feel? 
And I said, well, to be honest with you, it kind of makes me afraid.

So the elders said, prophecy isn't to make you afraid, it's to comfort and edify and since it is making you afraid, don't receive it. I said okay.  So, we didn't receive the word.  So I learned something.  You can judge the prophetic word invalid if you want to, but if it comes from God, you're getting it.  So I said, Lord, okay, if I'm headed for pain, what do you mean "Do not fear"?  And I feel like the Lord has given me this.  When I am perfected in love, when I understand that anything He allows in my life, it's for my good and for my benefit. And perfect love casts out fear because perfected love says, I know anything that you destined for my life, anything you allow, is for the good and so I open my spirit and I say yes to whatever comes from your hand even if it involves suffering, I will not fear what you destined for my life. 

And so the Lord goes on, "Indeed and the devil is about to throw some of you into prison."  Well, again, I'm like, oh, okay Lord, I don't understand.  I've given my life to your sovereign will and I'll take anything from your hand you want to give, but what does the devil have anything to do with it?  I receive from your hand, Lord.  I don't take stuff from the devil.  The Lord says, well, the devil's asked for you.  How many would like to receive that word from Jesus?

"Simon, Simon."  "Indeed," same Greek word "indeed," Satan has asked for you that he might sift you as weak.  The bad news is, I've said yes.  Now, there's a couple of things to understand here.  When the Lord allows the devil to imprison, first, Satan has to ask to touch you.  He can't just walk up to your life and jerk your chain.  Unlike Judas, who had, through a life pattern of ongoing compromise, refusing to deal with the issues in his life, refusing to bring it into the light and say, here is the junk I'm working with, but he covered, covered, covered until eventually, Satan was able to walk up to him and jerk him to his destruction. But Peter with all his foibles, all his weaknesses, all his problems, all the things we can criticize, we can say this about Peter, he was a man of godliness and of uprightness, who had established walls of integrity about his life and Satan couldn't just walk up and jerk his chain.  He had to ASK to touch Peter. And because you are walking in godliness and uprightness, Satan can't just have at you, he has to go through God to get permission to touch you.         
Now when God says yes, he sets the rules. God says this far and no further.  About Job He said, you can touch his stuff but you can't touch him, and then He says you can touch his body but you can't take his life.  God establishes the boundaries and says you can imprison but you can only take it so far.  The Lord gave me a scripture a few days ago Psalm 21 verse 5.  The Lord is your keeper.  Satan might throw you in prison but the Lord is your keeper when you are in prison.  Satan might put you in, but God is the one who is watching over you and He is the one who is going to get you out in His time. 

Once Satan puts you in prison, he can't undo what he has done.  All he can do is steal, kill, and destroy, but he can not resurrect you in that place.  Once He got Job in the crucible and he sees it's starting to backfire, he can't turn around and get out of the thing.  Once he gets Jesus on the cross and he starts to see the thing going wrong, he can't get Jesus off the cross.  Once he puts you in prison, when he sees you cooperating with God's grace and allowing the prison to change you, he can't get you out because he's not your keeper. God's your keeper and He's going to let you out when He wants to get you out. And He says, I'm going to do it in the fullness of My time and My purpose.

Now, it says, the devil is about to throw SOME of you into prison.  I don't like that part.  I said, Lord, it would be real nice if everyone got prison.  Now, I'm talking as a prisoner.  It would be real nice if everyone in the body of Christ would understand the prison, because we don't all get it.  There's some Satan asks for and Jesus says "Oh no.  I'm not going to let you touch that one."  And that's part of the reproach because when you end up in prison and your neighbors look at you like, "Lord, teach me the lesson so I don't end up where they ended up." 

And then, when they don't end up there, they say, "Whew, I must have learned the lesson."  And some of you have known reproach because you have found yourself in prison and others in the body of Christ had no way to interpret.  Some of you moved to Kansas City, because you said, if I have to be in prison, I'll go somewhere where at least somebody else is in prison too.
One of the nice things about prison is that you don't have to wonder about God's will.  Paul is chained between two guards.  He doesn't have to ask the question, "Lord, should I be in Philippi right now?" 

In prison, you have no options. That's the definition of prison.  And so you are where God wants you to be.  He says the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested. The Greek word "tested", "peradzo", is used two ways in the Bible, depending on the context.  One way is to say "tested" in the sense of tempted.  It says Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, peradzo.  It also said that Jesus peradzoed Phillip in John 6:6 when He said to Phillip, how are we going to feed this multitude?  He asked this question in order to peradzo, to test Phillip.  So it is a negative.  Satan will tempt you and God will test you.  The same Greek word. 
So when you are in prison, you discover something.  God has an agenda to test you and Satan has an agenda to tempt you.  Satan's agenda is to get you angry at God, get you bitter, filled with self-pity, or if nothing else, just giving up and saying, I guess I'm a casualty in the war. But God has a purpose to test and refine and purify and change you in the process to turn you into something dangerous in His hand for the end time purposes of God.

Now a principle I've been working with and I feel it's good to share it in the home church first (before I tell go tell the body of Christ so that pastor can straighten me out on this if I'm wrong): The means God uses to punish the disobedient and the means He uses to promote the obedient are identical.  The means are identical. 

How God will punish one is the exact same means he'll use to promote another.  For example, sickness and disease and in Uzziah's case, it's a punishment, in Job's case, it's used to promote Job.  Infirmity and handicap: Nebuchadnezzar loses his mind.  It's a discipline of God. Zechariah, Jacob.  Jacob, his hip is put out of place and it's intended by God to promote him into a higher place with God. With prison, the prison was used in Zedekiah's case to punish Zedekiah for his disobedience, but it was used to promote Joseph for his obedience.  How many know that God imprisoned Joseph, not for what he did wrong, but for what he did right. 

And if you look at the letter to the church in Smyrna, it's one of only two letters where God has no rebuke for this church.  It's kind of ironic.  The church that God has no rebuke for is the church that ends up in prison.  "I'm pleased with you and so Satan's going to throw you in prison."   

David and Bathsheba lose their child, punishment punishment of God, but Naomi and Hannah, they lose their children and that's the process of God to bring them to a higher place.  Now, here's the problem that this presents. When you find yourself in the School of the Spirit and God is using one of his various tools in your life, probably somebody in the body of Christ is going to mis-diagnose what's happening in your life.  As in Job's three friends.  What we do is, we look at the means God uses and we go into automatic rewind.  Oh yeah, that's what God does to judge the disobedient.  You must have done something wrong.  You better repent and God will get you straightened out.  When in fact, we need to hear from God to know what's happening in a person's life. 

You can't look at the means God's using and determine if it's punishment or promotion.  You've got to hear from God. Which is why Jesus said, "As I hear, I judge."  Job's friends judged based on what they SAW rather than what they HEARD.  If you haven't heard from God on someone's situation, you are probably going to mis-diagnose what's happening in their life and give them wrong counsel. 

I have word for you: If you haven't heard from God for someone's life, shut up.
Now, in prison, everyone's heart fails.  Everybody's heart fails in prison.  I don't care if you're John the Baptist, your heart fails when you get in prison.  You thought you were tough, you thought you were made of something, wait till God puts you in prison.  Everybody bottoms out in prison. I don't care how strong you are.  Even Joseph failed in prison.  The scripture says that God had mercy on Joseph.  It wasn't because of his performance, it was because of God's mercy.  Everyone fails in prison.  Now, I have a personal perspective on the testings of God that I will share with you and you can do with it what you want . . . I've heard so many people say this, God tests us so we can pass.  That is not what I preach.

I preach God tests us so we fail.  That's encouraging.  The fact is, God will design the tests so that you fail because he knows in advance you will fail.  How many know when Jesus tested Phillip, how are we going to get bread for this multitude, he knew that Phillip was going to flunk the test. The answer is simple, Phillip.  Just say, multiply the loaves and the fish and feed the five thousand.  It's easy.  Phillip flunked the test.  How many think you would have flunked the test too? How many think you are flunking the test all the time? 

I used to think, boy, it would be nice to be one of the disciples, following Jesus around doing miracles, healing people, all the stuff that's happening.  I want you to know it was no picnic being one of the twelve because Jesus was on a nonstop mission to chop the disciples off at the knees.  Every time they turned around they were getting another whack.  Phillip said, Lord, show us the Father and it suffices us.  I said, that's beautiful -- make a wall plaque of that.  That's poetry.
Jesus says, have I been with you this long and you don't even know me yet?  Every time they turned around, "oh, you of little faith, how long do I have to put up with you?"  James and John said, Lord, we're going to exert our faith here.  We're going to call down fire from heaven.  He says, you don't even know what spirit you're of.  Finally, they said, we're not asking any more questions. 

Peter says, "John, he likes you best.  You ask him."  How many have noticed Jesus was especially tough on Peter?  Lord, why Peter? Why--the guy walked on water.  How about a little affirmation here.  "Okay, Peter, good job.  You know, half way, not bad."  The only thing Jesus has to say to the guy is, oh, ye of little faith.  I'm like, Lord, I've never walked on water, at least he walked on water. But Jesus was committed to chopping Peter down to size.  He comes to the end of the thing and he says, "You're all going to flunk.  Every last one of you."  Peter raises his hand.  "I understand you saying that about all these other losers but not me.  I will never flunk.  I will be true to the death."  Jesus says, Peter not only are you going flunk, you're going to flunk three times.  By the time Jesus is finished with Peter, he is a blubbering mess on the ground. 
I said, Lord, why did you do that to Peter?  And then the Lord gave this to me.  He said, "If I hadn't totally broken Peter of his self-confidence, the day of Pentecost would have turned him into a monster."  Can you imagine the success of Pentecost without the breaking of the trial? 
Peter would have said, I need to get me some business cards.  Gold leaf embossed. "Revival crusades with the Apostle Peter." Subtitle: Three thousand saved at my first sermon.

Imagine Peter's head if Jesus hadn't absolutely emptied him of himself. But the Lord says, Peter, I've got something in store for you that's greater than anything you realize, but to get you ready for that, I've got to absolutely empty you of yourself so that when I use you for my purposes, you will have an ownership inside of you that it has nothing to do with who you are, your giftings and strength or talents, it has only to do with the fact that my grace is flowing through your life at this time.

The Lord goes on to say, "and you will have tribulation, ten days."  Now, I like that. You know, it kind of sounds short, but yet it's kind of long enough that when you are in prison, it feels like forever.  But it's not forever.  It's got a time limit on it.  The Lord says, it's only going to be for ten days.  Now, it needs to be long enough to finish it's work.  You see, if you're not in prison long enough, you can short change what God intended to do. 

Floyd and I were talking about this. In my estimation, one of the prime examples in the Bible of this truth is Hezekiah, who God strategically put into a crucible of physical affliction to rework and change him.  But he cries out to God, oh God, deliver me. And God says, okay. He heals him and gets him out of prison, and my interpretation, too fast.  What could have been something to rework his heart and stretch him into a new dimension in God was truncated because he cried
out for deliverance and God gave it to him sooner than it should have happened.  And Pastor Floyd preached on this a few weeks back that when it came down to the test--and Hezekiah is tested after the crucible--sometimes when God tests you, you don't know you're being tested.  And he sends the envoys from Babylon and withdraws from Hezekiah to test him.  Hezekiah flunks the test and the judgment comes and the Prophet Isaiah says your children will be eunuchs in the courts of Babylon.

Now, we don't have time for the whole story, but if you go back, when the issue was Hezekiah's city, when his city of Jerusalem was being invaded, Hezekiah cried out to God. When his health was impacted, Hezekiah cried out to God. When God said, "Your children will be eunuchs in the courts of Babylon," here's what Hezekiah said: "The Word of the Lord which you have spoken is good."  For he said, "At least there will be peace and truth in my days." A constricted heart that I believe God was wanting to enlarge and break loose, but it didn't happened because the prison was too short.  Now, I hope that can encourage somebody because when you're in that prison, you're constantly saying, "How long, Lord?"  But God knows how long it takes to fulfill his purpose in your life.

Now, I have been looking at that ten unit figure here in Revelation 2:10.  The number ten is interesting.  Those who do numerology, they say that the number ten is the number of government. Because the nation of Israel was divided governmentally in tens, hundreds, and thousands.  And as the number of government, it's interesting to me that Joseph's prison, by some standards, was approximately ten years in length.  Now, you can debate that if you want but I think there's a good case to be made for a ten year period of Joseph in prison.  Also, a good case can be made that David was running for his life for ten years from King Saul. So, in Joseph's life and in David's life, the ten year period has to do with preparing them for governmental leadership in the body of Christ. There's something about this ten day period that I believe is pointing to a preparation of God to take you through the crucible/prison to prepare you for dimensions of governmental leadership--oversight in the body of Christ-- providing compassion leadership through brokenness because of the shaping of God in the prison season. 

It was a few days ago that I stumbled upon this one.  I never realized before, but Zechariah was mute, not for nine months but for ten months.  First, he was struck mute.  Then he had to finish his days of service. Then he went home and impregnated impregnated his wife.  Then you have a nine month pregnancy. And it's on the eighth day, when John the Baptist is being dedicated, that Zechariah's mouth is loosed. So string it together, it was ten months of muteness, not nine. 
So now He's got my attention.  God, what are you doing in Zechariah?  For me, it's kind of personal, the whole muteness thing.  What are you doing with Zechariah?  I used to think that the issue was that God was saying to Zechariah, "Bad! You didn't believe my word! You're going to a prison of muteness for ten months."  I used to see it as punishment. 

But it was just the other day that the Lord helped me to see it in a new way.  I'm now putting Zechariah in the category of promotion, and let me explain why.  Here's what I think God is saying to Zechariah:  "Zechariah, I come to you in answer to your prayers.  You have been crying out for a son for decades.  I come to you to answer your prayer, deliver a word to your spirit. But you've had so many years of disappointment and grief and heartache.  You've had so much hope deferred, making your heart sick, that there are layers of calcified hardness around your heart.  I know you love me; I know you're godly.  I know you're blameless.  That's why I'm coming to you. But when I bring the word to you, you're so hardened through the years of heartbreak that you're not able to make the leap to my ways and my word. So let me help you.  I've got a dimension of fatherhood for you, greater than anything you've dreamed of.  You were asking for a son. Sir, I'm not just giving you a son, I'm giving a prophet. But I'm not just giving a prophet, I'm giving you John the Baptist. And what I've got for you, sir, I've got to get you up to speed fast.  I'm going to put you in my accelerated program.  To prison you go.!  I'm going to turn the heat up in your life"
Because when you're stuck in a prison of physical infirmity, I understand implicitly, there's an acceleration, there's a heat and fire that gets turned up in your life and God will do more in three years of prison in your life than 15 years without the prison. 

Means God Uses        Punishment              Promotion
Sickness/disease        Miriam, Uzziah, Herod   Job, Hezekiah
Infirmity/handicap      Nabal, Samson,       Zecharias, Jacob
Prison          Zedekiah, Samson   Joseph, Paul
Exile/captivity            Judah's exile in Babylon David, John
Wilderness/         Cain, Jonah      Moses, Jesus
isolation      John the Baptist
Bereavement     David & Bathsheba        Job, Naomi, Anna
Material/             Jehoram          Job, Naomi
financial loss              (Syrian siege, 2 Kings)
Barrenness        Michal, Abimelech's house    Hannah, Elizabeth

God says, "Zechariah, I'm going to get you up to speed with my heart and my purpose."  He puts him in prison ten months, and you look at the Zechariah that emerges from the prison after ten months.  He doesn't even resemble the Zechariah the angel came to the first time, questioning and doubting. This guy, when his tongue is loosed, the first thing out of his mouth is high praise to God.  He starts prophesying over his son and declaring by faith the purposes of God in the earth.  The man is radically transformed!  I'll tell you what happened to him.  God said, "I'm going to catch you up to speed.  I love you enough to undo the years of calcification around You're multi-talented, you can do almost anything. I'm going to have to put you someplace where your gifts are useless.  I'm going to put you in prison."

And when you are in prison, I don't care how talented, how gifted, how anointed you are, when you are in prison, giftings mean nothing.  You're in prison.  And now Joseph, what are you going to do?  "Oh, my God.  What am I going to do?  I'm stuck."  The Lord says, "You're going to have to put down roots in me deeper than you ever have.  You're not going to find what you need by leaning on your strength, you're going to have to find a river in me."  your heart.  I'm going to soften you up and break you out because I've got a purpose. I'm going to resurrect you into a dimension of fatherhood."

When you thought it was over, you thought it was lights out. You thought you were dead, it was hopeless.  Un-uh.  "I'm going to come and resurrect and put some new life inside of you." But to get you there, to prison you go.  "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life."  I believe this is pointing to the resurrection life that God intends to bring to those that are incarcerated in the prison.  It's interesting to me, of the seven letters, this is the one letter that talks about the crown.  That through this ten-day incarceration, ten months, ten years, God says, "I'm preparing you for the crown of governmental authority, for the crown of spiritual fatherhood.  I'm doing a work in you to get you up to speed."

This is why God sent Joseph into slavery and  put him in Potiphar's house. There in Potiphar's house, faithfully cultivating his gifts, doing the stuff, keeping his heart pure before God.  God says,  "Good job, son.  You're saying no to Potiphar's wife, you're cultivating your gifts, you're faithful. Promotion time -- to prison you go!"  Now he's in prison.  "God, what did I do to get here?"  The lights go out.  He doesn't understand.  He keeps his heart faithful and pure before God.  God says, "Joseph, if you come after me, if you'll press into me, I've got something for you that is higher than anything you've ever known before. But you've gotten so accustomed to relying on your talent and your gifts and your abilities and your strengths, you're good at this and this and this.  And Joseph starts going, 'Oh, my God!", and he starts putting roots down deeper in God than he ever had to before. The Lord says, "Come on, you just keep on putting those roots down." And finally the day came when Joseph found the river in God. It's the river that's called, "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord."  And when you find the river, God wants to launch you into a dimension that your giftings and abilities will never uncover.

As long as you are strong in your giftings and abilities, you will never find the river.
So God says, "I'm going to cut off your strength.  I'm going to stick you in prison; put a desperation in your spirit.  You're going to have to come after me like you've never had to in all your life. And you're going to find a river in me that will enable you to step into a new dimensional. Because I'm calling you, Joseph, not just to be a feeder of a household but I'm calling you to be a feeder of nations."

And Joseph became a pastor to the nations because he loved God through the prison. And God resurrected him, the one who said, He is the First, he is the Last; he died but now he's risen.  He is the one with resurrection life, who looks at your life, and even when you are dead He says, "It's not dead."  Because with God, dead's not dead.  He's the one, the Eternal One who died.  What?  But then he rose again.  And I don't care how impossible your prison looks, I don't care how dead you feel, I don't care if they put you in a tomb, roll a rock over your tomb to pronounce you dead. Dead is not dead with God! Because he says, "If you're faithful until death, I will give you the crown of life." And he is going to resurrect you in his time and bring you forth into the purpose for which he has destined your life.

I'd like to share very quickly some of the postures of my heart as I wait on God. 
Here's what faithfulness means to me.  First, I fulfill every assignment that he sends my way.  Now, when you're in prison, you can't do much, but what you can do, you do. 
Secondly, I actively depart from iniquity. 2 Timothy 2:19, because in the prison, stuff is going to come up in your heart you never saw before. And if you will deal with it and depart from it, you will buy gold in the the fire, and become a vessel unto noble purposes.

Thirdly, I renew my hope daily in the Word
This is my life source.  I live in this Word.  I eat it, I sleep it, I drink it, and I am sustained by his Word coming into me.  "You're in my plan.  This thing is on target, I am with you, I have a purpose.  It's okay, it's going to work out." His Word continually feeds my spirit.
Then I fasten my love upon Him. I say, "Lord, I love you." Even with all the circumstances, all the stuff that's swirling around my head, all the emotions; I say I love you.  The Lord gave me Psalm 91:14, "Because He has set his love upon me, therefore I will deliver him." And so I will love him until death, even if he kills me.  I'll still love him, because dead isn't dead with God. 
Then I guard my purity.  Because it's only the pure in heart who see God.
And then I maintain the Lord as my only deliverer.  I have said, "God, you are the only source.  You are my only salvation.  If you don't heal me, I'm not healed.  If you don't save me, I'm not saved. Because you alone, you put me in the prison.  You'll get me out."  And so I wait on God faithfully.  Waiting for him to resurrect my life.

I would like to close with just one more person in the Bible to illustrate this truth tonight. 
A sister in the Bible, that all she wanted was to have a husband and have kids, and become a grandma, and get old with her husband.  She's married for seven years, she has no children, and God comes along and snuffs out her husband's life. And Anna is thrown into emotional devastation. 

"God, why have you done this to me?  All I ever wanted was to get married, have kids, be a grandma, get old with my husband.  Lord, you have taken every dream of my life, every hope I have ever held dear, and you have snuffed it out.  God, why have you done this to me?" 
And God put Anna in a prison of barrenness. Now she is like, "Oh, God, what is going on?  What are you doing?"  And she has a choice: Will you partner with Satan's agenda who wants to tempt you to get angry at God, who wants to tempt you to get a bad attitude and get filled with self-pity.  "God's not doing right by you. His promises don't work for you.  You've been doing everything right and look where it's getting you."

Anna heard all the tempting voices but she purposed in her heart, "No, I'm going to get into the face of God and I'm going to seek God like I never have. God, I don't see your faithfulness, but I'm coming after you because I declare that you are a faithful God. And Lord, I don't see your goodness in my life, but I'm going to press into you because I declare, You are a good God--and I'm going to chase you until I see your goodness. And I declare you are a merciful God, and even though I don't see your mercy in my life, I'm going to come after you until I see your mercy in my life."

And Anna took the fire of her depression and her anxiety and her heart wrenching, and she says, "I'm going to come after you like I never have." And she starts seeking God, in the face of God, coming after the Lord. The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, the months turned into years.  And then the voice came.  "Yes, Lord.  Fasting.  Okay.  Night and day, okay.  All right."  She starts turning the furnace on high, fasting and praying, night and day, curled up in the corner.  The people are looking at her, "Look at the poor thing."  'Yeah, you know she lost her husband a few years back. And what a waste of a life."  In a corner there. "I don't know, it's really sad to look at her." But there's Anna, giving herself, ministering to the Lord. 

The months turn into years and the voice comes again:  "Messiah."  "My GodMessiah?!  What is this?  I've never given birth to a baby before, but I think this is what it feels like."  Yeah, you are giving birth, sweetheart, you're an intercessor. 

I don't think it's pushing it too far to suggest that Anna prayed in the Messiah.  That through her intercession, in the fullness of time, she held the answer to her prayers, the one that she had given birth to in the spirit. And God took this little woman, who could have become angry, filled with self-pity, could have been a casualty on the side of the road, but who took that flame and directed it into a passionate pursuit of God. And in time God began to unfold purpose to her, and told her, "I put you in prison for a higher purpose. Anna, you feel barren and cut off. But if you will enter into what I've got for you, I've got a dimension of fruitfulness for you that surpasses anything you have ever dreamed of."

And the day came when that mama of prayer held in her hand the one she gave birth to, in the kingdom of God, through her intercessions. And now we turn our calendars on the prayer ministry of a woman that could have become a casualty in the war, but decided she wasn't going to give up until God unfolded PURPOSE to her. And the millennia turn on the prayer ministry of this little woman we call Anna.

Is it accidental that we stand on the precipice of another millennium tonight.  Is it possible that God has been preparing other Annas and other Josephs and other Zechariahs who have not understood, God, what you are doing?  Why have you shut down my fruitfulness?  Why have you incarcerated me?  Why the barrenness?  Why have you stripped me of all my hopes and dreams?  Is it possible that as you press into his face and seek him with all your heart that he's going to unfold another kind of purpose for you that is fuller and richer than anything you have ever dreamed of? Because He has a dimension of spiritual fatherhood that exceeds everything you ever hoped for. But He says, "I've got to strip away the layers that have calloused your heart, to break you loose in the spirit, to pull you into the kind of spiritual fatherhood that I destined for your life."  He says, "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."  God bless you.

Fellowship of His Sufferings