Saturday, July 21, 2012
STRONG AND COURAGEOUS
"Be strong and courageous! Don't be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him." (2 Chronicles 32:7 HCSB)
It has never been easy to be a Christian. It will never be. The call to follow Christ is a command to deny self and die to sin and the world. Jesus carried His cross and now beckons us to follow Him by bearing ours.
It requires that we stand strong in faith, courageous in conviction. There are those foes which we will hit head on as we travel the Calvary Road. There is the external enemy--the world and its values which scorn the cross. The Christian life is so contrary to the world that it scandalizes scoffing, sinful humanity. There is also an internal enemy--the flesh and its self-centered desires which are poles apart from the sacrifice we are summoned to offer. Our sinful nature is repulsed by the idea. Then, we face an infernal enemy--the Devil and his hatred of the cross and its power. His dark kingdom is not threatened by an apathetic, impotent, vacillating church, but rises in fury against any man or woman of God who dares to invade his territory.
Following Christ requires that we be strong and courageous.
The Scriptural principles taught in 2 Chronicles 32 illustrate this truth and challenge us to do that very thing. Hezekiah's response to the assault of the enemy is a model in courage.
Being strong and courageous demands FORTIFICATION (v.1-5)
"After these faithful deeds, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he planned war on Jerusalem, so he consulted with his officials and his warriors about stopping up the waters of the springs that were outside the city, and they helped him. Many people gathered and stopped up all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land; they said, 'Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?' Then Hezekiah strengthened his position by rebuilding the entire broken-down wall and heightening the towers and the other outside wall. He repaired the supporting terraces of the city of David, and made an abundance of weapons and shields. (2 Chronicles 32:1-5 HCSB)
The victory would not be won by Hezekiah's efforts apart from the power of God, but neither would God bring the victory apart from Hezekiah's work. Hezekiah couldn't do enough, but he did what he could.
Triumphant Christians don't win by their strength--we are no match for our foe's overwhelming force. But, neither are we to be passive. The victory is attained by faith, yet faith is fortified as we exercise it. Look at the balance here:
"Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:10-18 HCSB)
Being strong and courageous requires EXHORTATION (v.6-8)
"He set military commanders over the people and gathered the people in the square of the city gate. Then he encouraged them, saying, 'Be strong and courageous! Don't be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have Yahweh our God to help us and to fight our battles.' So the people relied on the words of King Hezekiah of Judah." (2 Chronicles 32:6-8 HCSB)
Fear is a powerful weapon in Satan's arsenal. The deck always seems stacked against us. It can be discouraging. The king understood this and so delivered a word of exhortation to rally the troops. The soldier's morale is crucial to winning warfare.
If I accomplish nothing else in this devotional message, I want to encourage you. Stand tall! Stay true! Our God is infinitely greater than Satan! Not just barely, but immeasurably mighty. We are on the winning side--and it isn't even a close call! Don't allow the Devil to convince you otherwise. That is his way to cheat you out of the victory Christ has already won for you!
The forces of evil certainly try it. Discouraging words are directed toward God's people in our text. This is why being strong and courageous necessitates DETERMINATION (v.9-19)
"After this, while Sennacherib king of Assyria with all his armed forces besieged Lachish, he sent his servants to Jerusalem against King Hezekiah of Judah and against all those of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, 'This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: "What are you relying on that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? Isn't Hezekiah misleading you to give you over to death by famine and thirst when he says, 'Yahweh our God will deliver us from the power of the king of Assyria'? Didn't Hezekiah himself remove His high places and His altars and say to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You must worship before one altar, and you must burn incense on it'?
"Don't you know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands? Have any of the national gods of the lands been able to deliver their land from my power? Who among all the gods of these nations that my predecessors completely destroyed was able to deliver his people from my power, that your God should be able to do the same for you? So now, don't let Hezekiah deceive you, and don't let him mislead you like this. Don't believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my power or the power of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my power!''
His servants said more against the Lord God and against His servant Hezekiah. He also wrote letters to mock Yahweh, the God of Israel, saying against Him:
Just like the national gods of the lands that did not deliver their people from my power, so Hezekiah's god will not deliver His people from my power.
Then they called out loudly in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them in order that he might capture the city. They spoke against the God of Jerusalem like they had spoken against the gods of the peoples of the earth, which were made by human hands." (2 Chronicles 32:9-19 HCSB)
The enemy won't shut up. He uses intimidation--and very effectively.
We can feel so alone. Thoughts plague our mind:
"You are wasting your time."
"What difference does it make?"
"You are such a failure."
The powers of hell mock us.
We must be more determined than those who seek to whip us.
Being strong and courageous requires INTERCESSION (v.20-21)
"King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven, and the Lord sent an angel who annihilated every brave warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned in disgrace to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children struck him down with the sword." (2 Chronicles 32:20, 21 HCSB)
The king and the prophet joined forces in fervent prayer. God responded by sending one angel, who had no difficulty in one evening slaughtering 185,000 elite Assyrian troops, sending Sennacherib slinking back to Nineveh with his tail tucked between his legs. He had dared to defy the Living God, and in a brief span of time was assassinated by his own sons as he worshipped in a pagan temple. The Lord showed him who was boss.
God has given us a precious prayer promise: "Again, I assure you: if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19 HCSB) As Isaiah and Hezekiah tapped into God's power through prayer, so may we. He who kneels longest, stands strongest. God has ordained that we clothe ourselves in power in the prayer closet. When the disciples united their voices in crying out to God, they were transformed from sniveling cowards to courageous witnesses.
Being strong and courageous brings RECOGNITION (v.22-23)
"So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the power of King Sennacherib of Assyria and from the power of all others. He gave them rest on every side. Many were bringing an offering to the Lord to Jerusalem and valuable gifts to King Hezekiah of Judah, and he was exalted in the eyes of all the nations after that." (2 Chronicles 32:22, 23 HCSB)
The strong and courageous stand of Hezekiah was recognized by others. The nations surrounding Judah did not dare attack after the beating the Assyrians were handed. He gained respect from them as it was evident the hand of God was upon him.
Isn't it time, we stopped merely talking a good fight and actually took it to the enemy with strength and courage? I know our opposition is immense and powerful from a human perspective, but from heaven's perspective, "there are more with us than with him." (v.7b) God is on our side. That is enough. What part of "Almighty" don't you understand?