I hear the Spirit of the Lord saying ‘occupy’.
I’ve had this phrase written on a sticky note for a few weeks, awaiting clarification before I released it. I’m learning not to race to release everything God whispers. “Owning is one thing, occupying is quite different.”
Allow me to unpack this idea. A few years back, my husband and I owned multiple residential properties. We lived in one and rented the other out. Everyone knows that owning a house and living there are separate experiences. While owners have ultimate financial responsibility and legal rights, ownership alone does not display their authority to neighbors or criminals.
In the Detroit neighborhood I grew up, the kids on my street would cut across the front grass of the corner house on our way to the park. Why stay on the sidewalk to turn the corner when a diagonal path was shorter? The old man who lived was not interested that we learned in math class the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. Hmph.
One day during a raucous game of chase (I’m chasing you for no reason other than it’s fun), I cut across the lot at the corner of Oakfield Street and went flying. Airborne, I skidded face down through the grass. What the heck just happened? Seems old dude set up a tripwire! As the homeowner, he communicated his authority regarding what actions were and were not allowed on his property.
This man (may he rest in peace) perfectly exemplifies ownership authority in the place of prayer. He could have complained about those kids trampling his lawn and wearing a path across it. He could have tolerated it. But because it mattered to him, because he invested time and energy into his property’s appearance, he asserted his authority and took action to prevent it.
Many Christians don’t sustain in prayer for their city, state, or nation because they don’t feel any responsibility for their region. If you live with a sense of responsibility, you live differently. If you don’t take ownership for your city, campus, workplace, or the people in it, you’ll disengage when something happens to threaten them. We disengage not because we are evil, but because we haven’t taken responsibility for our cities. “People sustain in the place of prayer for things they feel responsible for.” -Banning Liebscher
The widow of Second Kings 4 cried out to the prophet Elisha to intervene out of responsibility for her sons who were at risk of being taken by a creditor due to her late husband’s debt. Her cry for help models how our pleas to heaven should sound as we lift our voices heavenward on behalf of those around us being taken captive. Exerting spiritual ownership is demonstrated every time we fast or pray individually or corporately for our nation, state, or family.
Consider this: Does holding the Title Deed to a property without living there give you enough power to stop kids from trespassing on your grass? Technically it may, but absentee owners aren’t present to see what goes on day-to-day in a neighborhood. It wasn’t until Bill and I moved into and slept at our Suntree, Florida condo that had previously been used as a rental that we learned the annoying habits of the upstairs tenant. Occupying (as in establishing residence) provided a different experience than visiting our unit as a landlord.
I heard Jesus’ instruction to His Church in this post-COVID19 decade “to occupy until He comes.” To occupy for a Christian implies abiding in the vine (John 15) and abiding under His shadow (Psalm 91). It implies watchfulness (Rev 15:16 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame”), knowing who should be on your street and who should not. It means you’re responsible (there’s that word again) for managing the property until the Master returns.
Luke 19 relates Jesus parable of the Ten Minas. The key verses are Luke 19:12-13: “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
Why do we assume that Jesus’s message to us has changed due to the passage of time? Haven’t we learned that we are to keep working at whatever He told us until He gives a new or different directive? To occupy is to engage in Kingdom business until He returns, not disengage in escapism biding our time. Hold your ground, soldiers, lest it fall into enemy control. Jesus told this parable of Luke 19 because His disciples supposed that His Kingdom would appear immediately. Jesus was clarifying that His Kingdom was not immediate and how they should act until He returns to establish it.
Think of what happens in war.
Military occupation is provisional control over a certain territory by another ruling power not under the formal sovereignty of that entity. The territory is known as the occupied territory and the ruling power the occupant. Enemy occupation occurred during WWII when German forces set up camp and controlled various European cities. If Christians are to occupy as Jesus intended, we are to set up camp, embed ourselves among the locals, and take spiritual control of that territory. The Hague Convention of 1907 established the customary laws of occupation, meaning there are guidelines. As Christ-followers we are not a belligerent power or a hostile army. Nevertheless, we can glean insight into what occupation means by examining military occupation.
Christian occupation means establishing by force a government against an enemy or rebels within its own territory. We occupy in both the natural and spiritual realms, so taking ownership is a prerequisite to enforcement. First, we take responsibility for what happens on our watch (our work shift), next we respond to rebels by exerting our spiritual God-given authority in the place of prayer by repenting of sin committed there. Thirdly, we incorporate fasting, application of the blood of Jesus, and declaring God’s Word with Spirit-led prophetic decrees that include opening doors in the spirit and locking specific demonic forces out. Our motivation is always love for Jesus. We sustain in the place of prayer by keeping oil in our lamp and stoking the fires of passion in our hearts to keep our fire ever burning on the altar. To a Christian, prayer is a violent engagement of spiritual warfare (the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force). Remember, we are His battle axes and weapons of war: with our prayers, God breaks in pieces demonic kingdoms (Jeremiah 51:20) for He has trained our hands for war. We are trained in the use of travail and tears as one method of warfare.
Occupying in prayer means we make our presence known to the enemy. Picture yourself standing on your front porch holding a loaded shotgun, only your ammo is the blood of Christ and the Word of God.
This is not the time for the Church to retreat or disengage! We are not those who shrink back in fear! Greater is He who is within us than He who is in the world. As regents, our Commander-in-Chief Jesus has ordered us to occupy earth until He comes back. We must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour we don’t expect (Matthew 24:44 ESV).
Now, do you see how “Owning is one thing, occupying is quite different?”
Let the fiery voice of Billy Graham stir your passion to occupy till Jesus comes. I’ll see you on the battlefield, soldier. Carry on.
Christian author and inspirational speaker of truth that makes the darkness tremble. Author of two non-fiction books.