If you’ve ever read through the books of Kings or Chronicles, then you know it’s the stories of the Kings of Israel. A lot of it is this king did what was right in God’s eyes or this king did not do what was right. One of the Kings who did what was right was Hezekiah. He cleaned out the Temple, purified it and began to have the people live God’s way again. A few verses later, an undefeated army started besieging towns, then turned their eyes to Jerusalem. Instead of panicking, he prepared for war and made things difficult for the opposing army. That’s when they sent a message to Hezekiah and Israel to try to win psychologically.
The message said things like, “Why would you have confidence when I’m the one attacking? Don’t you know I’m undefeated? Your king is lying to you giving you false hope. The gods of other nations couldn’t stop me, your God can’t either. Give up now. Why delay the inevitable?” Hezekiah countered to his people in 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 by saying, “Be determined and confident, and don’t be afraid of the Assyrian emperor or of the army he is leading. We have more power on our side than he has on his. He has human power, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (GNT). God fought for Israel and sent that army home in shame.
I tell you that story because many times our enemy comes against us psychologically telling us we’re not good enough, God doesn’t love us, it’s easier to just quit, we will never find happiness, we’re all alone, etc. He tells us enough so that he can change how we feel about God and affect our behaviors, but those are lies. Greater is He that is in you. He can and will fight off our enemy when we call on Him and are determined to trust Him no matter what everything appears to look like. Put God’s Word in your mind. Know who you are in Christ and you will be able to win the victory.
The above picture was drawn by my friend Becky Woods. You can purchase prints of it here.
In 2 Chronicles 14, the Ethiopians brought a million man army up against Israel. King Asa only had about half of that. He didn’t wait for the Battle to come to them either. He rallied his troops and went out to meet the Ethiopian army. After he got to the battlefield, he prayed, “O GOD, you aren’t impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help: Help us, O GOD; we have come out to meet this huge army because we trust in you and who you are. Don’t let mere mortals stand against you!” (MSG) The next verse says that the Lord defeated the Ethiopian army right in front of Asa.
As I read this story, I was reminded that many times when we look at the battles we face, we are outnumbered, outgunned, and often surrounded with seemingly no way out. I’m sure Asa’s scouts told him how big the Ethiopian army was, but he still showed up for battle. Half of any your victory is simply showing up for the battle. When everything inside screams run, we’ve got to show up or we’ll miss seeing what God can and will do. If we want to be victorious, we can’t run from our problems. We’ve got to face them head on.
The other thing I was reminded of is that our battles are not our own. Asa fully trusted God to bring the victory. He didn’t look at the battlefield through his eyes. He saw it through God’s eyes. When he prayed, he already saw the victory because he trusted in what God would do. You and I need to change the lenses that we look at things through. Victory isn’t brought about by our might or our power, but by God’s Spirit. You shouldn’t be intimidated by how big your problems are. They should be intimidated by how big our God is. Show up, pray and watch God fight for you.
Photo by Chuanchai Pundej on Unsplash
One of the places I find myself at odds with mainstream Christianity in America (and maybe you too) is how we treat non-believers. In today’s culture, Christians are under attack for our faith. There is a war for the heart of this nation that we find ourselves in. The problem is that the enemy uses people and groups to attack us, and we fight back with these groups of people. We’ve forgotten that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and rulers of the unseen world. We never once read where Jesus attacked the people who were attacking Him. Instead, He loved them and fought against their spiritual darkness by bringing light.
We as Christians have been called to be salt and light. Who needs those? People who are living in the dark and need God’s flavors sprinkled in their life. How can we bring light when we are constantly attacking the person? How can we show them how to taste and see that the Lord is good when we consider them our foes? We’ve can’t afford to be distracted by the enemy and fall into the trap of attacking others. We are to be known for our love rather than our disdain. How can we show God’s love when we are meeting hate with hate?
In Colossians 4:5, Paul urges us, “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have” (GNT). His message was to the Christians there to remind them of the roots of their faith. I believe we too need that reminder. We need to pray for wisdom in how we show God’s love to those who are against our faith, and that we do it in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Our mission hasn’t changed. If we want to turn this world upside down again, it’s going to come from God’s love through us not from our human attempts to force change.
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I was in high school during the Gulf War. I remember getting to see the first videos of the war starting. Our initial tactic was called Shock and Awe. It was a way to use overwhelming force and incredible uses of power to dominate the enemy, to destroy their will to fight and to change their perception of what the battlefield was. This tactic works very well especially when combined with the element of surprise. It’s no wonder our spiritual enemy uses this tactic against us. How many times have you been hit out of the blue with continuous bad news?
The enemy of our soul hopes to paralyze us using shock and awe tactics, that’s why we always need to be prepared so we can respond the way Job did when Shock and Awe was used against him. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor God has given us to withstand these attacks. Verse 13 says, “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet” (MSG).
Because the enemy attacks us this way, the first piece of armor God gives us is the Belt of Truth. We need to know the truth of who we are in Christ so we aren’t paralyzed by fear. Next is the Breastplate of Righteousness that covers our heart. We have to protect our heart because it gives us the will to fight. We are then given foot ware to remind us to keep moving. We can’t stay still in this battle. Our Shield Of Faith helps protect us from all the things the enemy throws at us by trusting in God. The Helmet of Salvation ensures we have a sound mind. The Sword of the Spirit puts us on the offensive using God’s Word. Finally, we can’t forget to pray. It keeps our focus on God, gives us to will to fight and keeps the battlefield in perspective. Using these, you can withstand the enemy’s Shock and Awe.
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Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
When reading the story of David and Goliath recently, I noticed something I had read over. I Samuel 17:3 says, “So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them” (NLT). I had never picked up that there was a valley between the two sides. Then verse 40 says, “He (David) picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” David had to go into the valley to win the victory.
You won’t win victory standing where you are. You are going to have to make the first move. For 40 days, the Israelites were paralyzed by fear. Each day Goliath invited them to fight him, but they stayed put. When David heard Goliath’s taunts, he didn’t get fearful, he got a righteous anger. He knew that this was a spiritual battle that had to be handled in the physical as well. To win the spiritual battle, he’d have to enter the valley and trust God.
Fast forward 14 generations, Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle that required Him to enter a valley as well. John 18:1 says, “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.” The battle He was fighting was to have the courage to do what God wanted while facing the fear of dying a torturous death on a cross. He could have stayed where He was, but He entered the valley to pray that God’s will be done.
Both David and Jesus recognized that the battle was the Lord’s. They both knew who was fighting on their behalf. That gave them the courage to walk into what seemed like certain death in order to obtain the victory. You and I have to have the same tenacity in prayer and desire to go into the valley if we are going to win our spiritual battles. We are going to have to let go of fear and embrace what God wants to do, enter the valley in front of us, and fight on our knees for victory.
At church, we’ve been singing Michael W. Smith’s song “This is How I Fight My Battles”. It’s a simple song, but it’s powerful. One of the lines says, “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” As we sing that song, it reminds me of when Elisha’s servant walked outside one morning and saw they were surrounded by an army. He called for Elisha who came outside and said, “Don’t worry about it. There’s more with us than there are with them. Lord, open his eyes to see.” (2 Kings 6:17)
I also think of times in my life where I’ve been surrounded by turmoil, heartbreak and relentless attacks. Even when that period seemed like it would never end, God would surround me with people who would pray for me, encourage me and help me to stay in the battle. When all seemed lost, God never left me. He surrounded me with His presence and His people when the enemy had surrounded me and tried to take me out.
As you read through the Psalms, David felt that way too. He was chased and trapped in caves by King Saul and the army of Israel at times. Other times it was foreign armies hunting him down trying to take him out. He even writes of family and friends who talk behind his back and want to destroy him. Through it all, he cried out to God because he understood that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord lifts up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). God surrounds us in our greatest moments of despair.
Psalm 31:21 says, “Praise the Lord! How wonderfully he showed his love for me when I was surrounded and attacked!” (GNT) It’s not time to give up when you are surrounded- it’s time to look up! There are more with you than there are against you. God shows a His great love for us in the moments where we need it most. We have to learn to take our eyes off of the enemy that is surrounding us and look to God who is surrounding them. You are not alone in your fight. You are surrounded by the Lord Of Hosts and the armies of Heaven.
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Yeas ago, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. About once a month or so, I would take a train to the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut. That part of Egypt is pretty radicalized and is unsafe for Americans to travel to. I would always have to buy my tickets in advance so they would know I was coming and could be prepared. On my first trip, I didn’t understand what was really happening, but I noticed two guys in my section of the train that stood out.
Their clothes weren’t thin, worn out or dirty. They also had a bulge at their right hip. Everyone in that section felt their presence. I was a little uncomfortable so I switched cars. They followed me. I made sure they were aware that I knew they were there, but it didn’t phase them. It turns out that they were secret police who were there to protect me. When we arrived, they ushered me off the train and guarded me until the local police arrived and escorted me to my destination.
It’s not every day that you and I get to experience having body guards, but you’ve probably seen someone who had them. Those guards make their presence known, and intimidate anyone thinking of messing with that person. I believe God does that for us. When we live in His presence, He walks beside us guarding us against spiritual attacks. Does that mean we won’t be attacked? No. It means He’s there to fight for us so we won’t be moved.
In Psalm 16:8, the writer puts it this way, “I am always aware of the Lord ‘s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me” (GNT). Knowing we have God near us should give us the courage to do the things He’s called us too. Many times we feel insecure or unsure about doing those things. It’s time we become aware of God’s presence in our lives and become bold as lions. You may come under attack, but when God is with you, you will remain unshaken.
Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash