Q & A with Dr. Charles Stanley

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Dr. Charles F. Stanley

Dr. Charles F. Stanley

Dr. Charles Stanley is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta and the founder of In Touch Ministries. For many years Dr. Stanley has steadfastly focused on accomplishing the work God assigned to him. As a result, Dr. Stanley has reached multitudes with the Good News about God’s love. As a New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Stanley has written more than 50 books. His teachings and writings, especially those about the Holy Spirit have had a tremendous impact on my own personal walk with God.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley, it’s evident by the fruit you bear and the many good works that you and your ministry does, that you’re doing a lot of things ‘right’. Therefore, I’m curious to know how you start your day and I know those who read this interview will also find it of great interest.

Dr. Stanley: A long time ago, I learned that there is no better start to the morning than getting on my knees, opening God’s Word, and committing my day to Him. Many times I will read the following portion of Psalm 119, “I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies. It is time for the LORD to act…Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way…Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let my iniquity have dominion over me” (vv.125-128,133). It reminds me that I belong to the Father, I need Him, He is the One that guides my footsteps, and He keeps my heart clean from sin.

That’s who He is—He wants to lead us, empower us, and show us life at its very best. So it’s very important that we begin our days with Him. When we do, He energizes us physically, directs our thinking, and keeps us from getting distracted. Therefore, I would encourage everyone to start the day with intimate communion with the Father—surrendering their lives to Him hour by hour and minute by minute. And proclaiming they belong to Him completely.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley, I’ve got a feeling you already know what my next question is. But I’ll go ahead and ask you anyway. How do you end your day?

Dr. Stanley: I end my day much like I begin it—on my knees in prayer. There is an immense benefit to reading God’s Word before you go to bed at night, and asking the Father to work His truth into your life as you sleep. You invite Him to work on your subconscious mind—reprogramming your thinking, setting you free from sin, and reminding you of His unfailing presence.

In fact, whenever I face a challenge and sense fear rising up in me, I write my concern on a three by five card, add a promise or principle from God’s Word, and lay it on my night table. Then, right before I go to sleep, I read the card. I do this because the Holy Spirit works through our subconscious minds. He helps us to trust the Father. And so instead of fretting over my troubles, the last thing I think when I go to sleep is, “Lord, I’m trusting You to do just as You said.” And usually I go right to sleep.

Debra Joy: Sir, with all respect I ask you this next question. Would you please explain your reasons for kneeling when you pray?

Dr. Stanley: I have always felt that there is something powerful about kneeling before the throne of grace because it acknowledges who God is as the Sovereign of the universe. I know sometimes people can’t kneel because of physical infirmities or what have you. But being on your knees before God isn’t just a physical stance. It is an attitude of the heart in which you humbly recognize that He is in absolute control of all that concerns you and has good plans for your life. You want to know and obey Him. And you realize that He will always lead you to make the greatest impact and experience the greatest success no matter what you’re facing.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life is one of my personal favorites out of the more than fifty books you have written. In your opinion, how vital is the Holy Spirit to a person living a Christian life?

Dr. Stanley: The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. In fact, there is no way to live the Christian life apart from the power of the Holy Spirit—it’s impossible. We live in fleshly bodies, in a world that’s full of sin, wickedness, and sensuality. We are constantly bombarded by worldly messages that work against the new life we’ve been given in Christ. So how could we possibly live the Christian life on our own? It would be like a bride dressing in her pure, spotless, white wedding gown and going down into a coal mine. There’s no way she could come out clean.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit to guide, enable, and empower us. He constantly lives the life of Jesus in us—reminding us of what He taught, bringing us back to the truth of Scripture, helping us to die to the old self, and glorifying God in our bodies. He is the One who accomplishes things through us. Our responsibility is simply to yield to Him moment-by-moment, day-by-day.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley, I’ve observed that oftentimes Christians as well as pastors are not as comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit as they are when talking about God or Jesus. Do you care to share any comments on this?

Dr. Stanley: I believe some of the reticence on the part of people to talk about the Holy Spirit is because of the excesses of some denominations and Christian groups that put their complete focus on Him. I recall the first time I preached a message about the Holy Spirit at an associational meeting of pastors. When I finished, an elderly pastor walked up to me and said, “Charles, if I had preached about the Holy Spirit like that a few years ago, they would have thrown me out.”

Many pastors have been so focused on avoiding over-emphasis on the Person of the Holy Spirit, that they miss teaching about Him altogether. Because of this, there is a lack of understanding in the church about who the Holy Spirit really is. People are confused about His role in our lives and how we interact with Him. But He is our Teacher, Guide, Helper, Counselor, Advocate, and our guarantee of redemption (Eph. 4:30). He is God’s own Spirit and He is certainly worthy of our attention, praise, and adoration.

Debra Joy: Dr Stanley, what would you say to the person who does not believe in God?

Dr. Stanley: It always breaks my heart when I meet someone who doesn’t realize there is a loving, heavenly Father who has given everything to have a relationship with them. Of course, we have the testimony of creation that God exists. Romans 1:20 tells us, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

But what I will often do is ask what they think about murder or rape because normally people—whether they believe in God or not—acknowledge that these actions are immoral. Then I ask them, “Why do you believe these behaviors are wrong?” Again, they will generally admit that their conscience recognizes these activities as violations of an individual’s personhood. However, when I ask them why most people in societies worldwide are born with the same sense of right and wrong, regardless of culture, they usually cannot pinpoint a reason.

This is when I tell them that our consciences are evident of God’s presence. He programs our consciences with that sense of right and wrong to help us know we need Him. When we ignore our consciences—when we do what we know is immoral or wicked—we become aware of our sinfulness and realize there is a standard that we’ve violated. Everyone experiences guilt, regret, and feelings of worthlessness. These are all indications of our need to have our sins forgiven and to be restored in our relationship with our heavenly Father. And, of course, there is only one way to do that, which is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary.

Debra Joy: How about to the person who doesn’t believe in “hell”? Is there anything you’d like to say to that person?

Dr. Stanley: Many people who say they don’t believe in a real or literal hell use the argument that God is love and that mentions of hell in Scripture are merely figurative. It is true that the Father loves us so much that He provided salvation for us through faith in Christ. But the Lord is also just and holy, and many times people do not realize how serious and deadly sin truly is. Habakkuk 1:13 tells us, the Lord’s “eyes are too pure to…look on wickedness.” Sin separates us from His righteous presence. That is why it required the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus death on the cross—to pay our sin debt in full. But if a person does not believe in the truth of Scripture or the gift of salvation He’s given us, it doesn’t matter whether he or she believes in hell or not—they’re going there. They are separated from God’s presence forever—the very definition of hell.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley, how do you handle people who revile or persecute you?

Dr. Stanley: Whenever I’ve had to face conflict throughout my life, I’ve found that fighting my battles on my knees is the most powerful thing I can do. Instead of confronting my antagonists or trying to defend myself against them, I’ve trusted God to vindicate me. This is because people are not our enemies—sin is. And only the Father knows what is really fueling people’s opposition towards us. We cannot possibly judge their motives or know what it is that has triggered the feelings of hostility in them, but God does. So when we trust and obey Him in times of adversity, not only does He help us be victorious in them, but He will also redeem those who oppose us. I can say from personal experience that He has proven Himself absolutely faithful every time, regardless of how difficult the battle or how seemingly insurmountable the conflict.

Debra Joy: I’m sure there must have been times…especially in the early years of your ministry when you might have felt like giving up. Yet you didn’t. Year after year, you’ve continually moved forward. Dr. Stanley, has there indeed been a time when you felt like throwing in the towel? If so, how did you continue moving forward in what God assigned you to do?

Dr. Stanley: There have been several times I’ve thought about giving up—when I neither knew how to proceed or even if God really wanted me to continue on in ministry. I remember a particularly difficult season during my senior year at the University of Richmond. It was finals week and I had received a fifty on one exam and a seventy-five on another. Everything was going wrong. It almost felt as if God had completely walked out on me.

So I prayed, “Father, I’ve got to be absolutely sure about Your will for me. I’ve prayed, asked, pleaded, begged, and fasted. I’ve done everything I know to do. God, please show me what to do.” As He always does, the Father answered my prayers and confirmed that I was to persevere on His path for my life. He enabled me to keep moving forward.

We should never give up on God because He never gives up on us. But we cannot endure in the Christian life if we’re not walking in an intimate relationship with Him. He energizes and equips us for the work, and keeps us going when difficulties arise.

Debra Joy: Dr. Stanley I have one final question. What would you say to the person who says, “I’ve failed God.”?

Dr. Stanley: That is the very reason some people don’t put their faith in Christ. They feel as if they have to somehow earn their salvation or be good enough to deserve a relationship with God. In that case, I would say, we all fail God, we all sin, and none of us can earn our salvation. That is exactly the reason Jesus died on the cross—to forgive our sins and restore our relationship to the Father. It is never something we can merit or achieve on our own. We must accept it as His gift to us by faith. And Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But at times, believers will feel this way. Perhaps they were never taught their salvation is secure. Or maybe they have tapes in their minds—persistent messages from people in their past who have berated them, put them down, and made them feel worthless. Regardless of the cause of their feelings of failure, they don’t realize their true identity as a child of the living God.

The truth is, every person must have a sense of belonging, worthiness, and competency to be emotionally whole. This is because through belonging we feel acceptance; through worthiness we feel loved; through competence we feel secure. But only the Father can fully meet these three essential needs. Unless a person is willing to allow God to heal them, their injuries will follow them all their life. They must choose to move past the negative messages others have communicated to them and spend time with Him—learning how He sees them.

So to those who feel like failures I would say: Your needs can only fully be met through a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Your heavenly Father wants you to feel loved, accepted, and eternally secure in Him. No matter how you’ve been treated, what others thought you were worth, or who rejected you—God still loves you. So love Him, spend time with Him, and believe what He says about you. He wants to heal the wounds of the past and give you an unshakeable foundation for life. And if you will surrender fully to Him, He will use you in ways you would never have dreamed.

Check out Dr. Stanley’s Bible studies, 30 Life Principles and Article Archive, all available for free by visiting his website at www.intouch.org.

Originally published in Debra Joy’s column; Have I Got a Story to Share with You! August 2012

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