In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
Throwback Thursday is a 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.
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There’s a worship song out that says, “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” I love that song because it’s a great reminder of the power of praise. It also reminds me of a time when I was in high school and I came under a spiritual attack that presented itself in a very physical way. A guy I knew attacked me in my home. One of my parent’s friends was there at the house and walked in at just the right moment. She told me to go collect myself. I went to the bathroom and began to praise because I recognized what was happening. When I came out, I was ready for battle, but God had already delivered me from the situation.
The story was similar in 2 Chronicles 20. A massive army came out against Israel. They prayed and fasted Seeking God’s help. They still had to go to battle, but they understood that the battle belonged to the Lord. On the way, the king consulted the people and they decided to send singers out in front of the army who were worshiping God. Verse 22 says that the moment they began to praise, the other army started fight among themselves and killed each other until no one was left. It took Israel 3 full days to gather the plunder left behind by the army. The Israelites were so grateful to God for the victory, they named the place “The Valley of Blessing”.
Verse 26 says, “On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing, which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today” (NLT). If you’re in a valley facing defeat, spend time praising God. Not only does it invite His presence into your situation, it gets your focus on Him rather than your problem. Praise is a powerful weapon that we must learn to use in our darkest moments. People all throughout the Bible used it (Joshua at Jericho, Paul and Silas in prison, etc), we should be too. You may not feel like praising God in your current situation, but that’s precisely when you need to. There’s power in praise.
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One of the things I love about sports is the struggle. In each game, the teams are trying to build up momentum to score and keep things moving in their favor. You can almost always see when something happens that either takes momentum away from a team or gives it to a team. The fight is not just about winning. It’s about getting momentum to keep winning. There are some teams, despite not having much momentum, that somehow will their way to victory against the odds. There’s something in them that won’t let them quit and they push through to win. Those are the games you walk away from wondering how they did it.
In life, all of us face battles. All of us go through struggles. Inside each one of us there is a constant battle between our flesh and our spirit. There’s the struggle between doing what’s right and what we want to do. There are also battles with addiction that many of us go through. In each case, we’re looking for momentum and victory. If we’re honest, there are days where we know we want to win, but we just don’t have the strength to push through. Momentum often feels like it’s against us and it’s easier to just give in. On those days, we have to learn to psych ourselves up, put our rally cap on and find a way to push through.
Psalm 44:5 says, “Through your glorious name and your awesome power we can push through to any victory and defeat every enemy” (TPT). We have victory in the name of Jesus, but you and I still have to show up and fight. David didn’t defeat Goliath because he picked up five stones and stood on the battlefield. He won it because he ran towards his enemy and slung the stone. You and I must face our giants head on and attack them through the name of Jesus. Victory is possible. You can defeat your adversary, but you have to fight. God is for you and has given you the weapons and armor you need to win. You’ve got to put them on, use them and push through in the name of Jesus and you will find victory.
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In high school I had a coach that was tough. He would spend an hour and a half of a two hour practice conditioning our team. We would run laps outside and sprints inside. When we would beg for water, he’d say, “You can’t stop a game to get water.” After we would practice our plays for about 30 minutes, we’d finish practice with more running. Before you left, you had to make 100 free throws. He would tell us, “We may not be the best team on the floor, but we will be the best conditioned team.” I can tell you he was right. We ran the other teams out of the gym because they would get tired. When we held the state championship trophy, it was all worth it.
God, like that coach, is always looking ahead in our lives, seeing what we can’t see. He knows what it will take to condition us now so that we will endure the things that are coming. Preparing and conditioning are never easy, nor are they fun, but they build in us the endurance to push through where others fail. They get us in shape spiritually for the spiritual battles that we will face. At times during conditioning we can feel like giving up or want to start questioning why we aren’t spending more time practicing the things God is going to use us for. I’ve learned that if the enemy succeeds in destroying our witness, he can keep us from giving the message. We must be able to endure the pressure first.
I love the way The Passion Translation words Psalm 23:4. It says, “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have!” God’s path rarely goes where we think it should. Many times it goes into dark places of testing and conditioning because God wants to build your trust in Him before the enemy attacks. What you learn in the valley will sustain you in the battle. Preparation and conditioning are necessary to make you more than a conqueror. The greater God’s plan is for your life, the greater your preparation and conditioning will be.
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Fear. Worry. Addiction. Self destructive thoughts and patterns. Depression. Insurmountable odds. Our past. These are things that many of us battle on a daily basis. They are mentally and physically taxing. It’s hard to sleep when these battles loom over us because they’re all we think about. The idea of getting free of them rarely enters our mind anymore because we’ve given up hope of overcoming them. They are powerful and make us feel powerless against them. We yield to them because we know it’s useless. So we live under their cloud in a defeated life without hope of winning victory over them.
If you struggle with these things, you’re not alone. Millions of people live just like that believing they’re the only ones going through it because the enemy of your soul has lied to you. He knows if he wins these battles, he can sideline you for a lifetime. But God has not given you a spirit of fear, nor has He abandoned you. He has given you the strength and the tools to break every chain and every stronghold that tries to hold you down and keep you from the life He created you to live. Remember that our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty through God (2 Cor 10:4)!
Psalm 18:35 puts it this way, “You empower me for victory with your wrap-around presence. Your power within makes me strong to subdue, and by stooping down in gentleness you strengthened me and made me great!” (TPT) Yes, you were made to be great and victorious through God. When we spend time in His presence through prayer, reading His Word and in praise and worship, He envelops us with the power we need to overcome. You don’t have to be a prisoner to these other things because you’ve been empowered for victory.
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When someone has one thing go wrong after another, I’ll usually ask them, “Have you considered that these may be spiritual attacks that are showing up in the physical?” I’ve learned that spiritual warfare has a way of presenting itself as a physical attack. If we are only fighting in the physical, we will never get the result we need. It’s like washing your car without putting gas in it and expecting it to run because it’s clean. You can’t just take care of the outside. Fighting a spiritual battle in the physical alone is just like that. If you’re going to win, you’re going to have to put some gas in the tank.
We all know the story of David and Goliath. This is a perfect example of a spiritual battle that showed up in the physical. Saul and his men were just looking at the physical side of the battle and were terrified. They were outgunned. David immediately recognized it was spiritual and wanted to fight. In 1 Samuel 17:32 David told Saul, “Your Majesty, no one should be afraid of this Philistine! I will go and fight him” (GNT). Saul tried to put his armor on David, but physical armor is pointless in a spiritual battle.
When David stepped onto the battlefield, he said, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies, which you have defied.” How did he win? He fought spiritually through the name above all names, he spent time worshiping before the battle and he spent time in prayer. God gave David the victory to show that He is able to save His people physically and spiritually. We have to be willing to stand on the physical battlefield with spiritual authority and fight with the spiritual weapons we’ve been given.
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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.
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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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