It’s easy to think our whole world has gone haywire and turned its back on God. On our weakest days, we think there is absolutely nothing we can do about the decline. And then … God, who knows our hearts, drops bits of encouragement in front of us to help us remember that we are not alone.
God spoke the words that brought creation into existence and already knows exactly how the story ends. We can take comfort knowing that throughout history God’s faithful people have been blessed by Him in ways that benefitted them most. Sometimes they needed the blessings of power and protection. But, at other times they needed to be blessed with opportunities to exercise and strengthen their faith (aka struggles). We enjoy the power and protection, but it’s not always easy to recognize struggles as opportunities to receive great blessings. Yet, with EVERY blessing, the Holy Spirit reminds us that our victory has already been won.
Last week, I chose to sit in the balcony of our church. What I saw made me smile. Amidst a rapidly changing culture sat hundreds of hungry people seeking God. Many of them were young people who listened attentively to what was being said and done. I could’t help but be reminded of one particular king who felt overwhelmed by the odds against him until God taught him how to overcome.
After Judah’s King Jehoshaphat set his heart on seeking God, Judah’s peace was threatened by three separate armies. These armies united into a vast multitude with Judah’s destruction as their goal. As the throng of warriors moved closer and closer toward Judah, the king became afraid.
Jehoshaphat’s fear moved him to order everyone in Judah to begin fasting and praying. His own prayer included this confession: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12b)
Instructions came through the Spirit of the Lord to Jahaziel. Jahaziel listened, and relayed what he had heard to King Jehoshaphat and all the people, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. TAKE UP YOUR POSITIONS; STAND FIRM AND SEE THE DELIVERANCE THE LORD WILL GIVE YOU, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b-17 NIV, emphasis mine)
Jehoshaphat exhorted the people to believe in the Lord and His prophets, and they would succeed. Their obedient trust allowed them to passionately sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21b) In response, God turned the individual enemy armies against one another until they were defeated.
The battles we face are not with flesh and blood. They are not with churches with a different name above the door. They are not with church leaders doing their best to speak the truth from God’s word in a relevant way. They are not even with unbelievers, scoffers, or troublemakers. Our battle is with Satan and his army of demons who have united against us. They form a vast army, and they consistently come against us in great numbers. But, we know what to do! We have the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead living in us, so we focus our eyes on Jesus. We fast and pray. We sing our praises passionately, and we march out into the world unified in love. God WILL hear our prayers, accept our praise, and honor our obedient trust. He WILL respond! God WILL fight for us, and for our children and grandchildren. When others see our faith, we will give unbelievers a fighting chance for victory.
I couldn’t have been happier to see the response my grandson got when he recently posted about his faith through social media. He writes very well, and has his own website that follows Auburn sports. Many players and coaches follow his War Eagle Daily account on Instagram. Recently, an opposing team’s fan posted a derogatory comment concerning SEC Media Days saying, “Well, Coach Hugh Freeze is set to speak at Media Days today. You should expect to hear a lot about his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He then followed that with two “eye-roll” emojis. Coach Freeze actually replied back, “I certainly am very thankful for Him and His grace and mercy!! He sustains me daily. Hope you know Him also. Have a great day.”
While I was impressed with the coach’s response, I was especially inspired to see that our 16-year-old grandson took the time and found the courage to voice his own faith. He didn’t condemn or wag his finger. He simply stood up for the honor of another brother and for our God. If this sounds like me bragging about my grandson, then you’d be right, because I need to know that there are those coming behind us who make the main thing the main thing. I think you do too. I sometimes need other brothers and sisters to stand up for my honor. Besides that, I need all the encouragement I can get in knowing how to respond to those who don’t think like I do.
Here is our young man’s gracious response, “As some of you know, while I remain anonymous, I feel very strongly about my faith. I pray that if you’re not already a follower of Christ, you will come to know Him. He will give you unexplainable peace and an undeniable joy. Jesus loves you and He died for you! We all fall short and are not worthy of His grace, but Jesus offers us eternity in Heaven with Him, if we simply believe in Him and live for Him. One of my favorite things about Hugh Freeze, is despite his past, he has accepted Jesus and repented of those things. His past does not define him. No one’s past defines them. If you have any questions about Christianity, don’t hesitate to reach out!”
This post was shared on Instagram 250 times and was “liked” by 2,839 people. It’s encouraging to know that we are not alone. Together, we can take up our position, stand firm, and watch the Lord’s hand at work. With God on our side, we can embolden others with words similar to those of the Old Testament prophet Elisha, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) When it comes to the care of His faithful followers, God’s hand always tips the scales in our favor!