At some point in our lives, we will all face questions or challenges that are bigger than we are and that can leave us with a sense of hopelessness and/or lack of direction. It may be news of life threatening disease, the loss of a loved one, a change of careers, a hurtful relationship, or just a time where we have to be still and wait for the Lord to move or to give us direction—whatever the case, we are overwhelmed and do not know where to go or what to do.
I think of a boat captain who has lost his ship in the storm and finds himself all alone in a dingy, out in the middle of the vast raging sea. For years he has navigated these waters and has faced and overcome many storms and challenges, but this time, the storm was so severe, so large and so overwhelming, he now faces what he has never faced before. His ship, his men, his ability to navigate, and all that is familiar to him is now gone. He used all his skills, experience and education and did all he knew to do. He fought the storm to the point of exhaustion, but despite his efforts the ship went down along with all that was in it. Now, without divine intervention and guidance, he will be overcome by the challenges, the fear and the uncertainty he now faces.
Without his ship, what will he do? Behind the wheel of the ship, he knew where he was and what he had to do, but now that the ship is gone, he finds himself unable to help himself or anyone else and he is totally dependent on God for deliverance and hope for a future.
This illustration reminds me of the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. If you remember, Judah was about to be attacked by a huge, consuming army comprised of the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. When King Jehoshaphat heard that the fierce armies were just outside the city and would soon be attacking and destroying his nation, he called all the people together to fast and pray. After thanking God for His faithfulness throughout Israel’s history, Jehoshaphat cried out to God: “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.”
What a powerful prayer and testimony. Jehoshaphat was facing an enemy like none he had ever faced. He knew that the situation was hopeless if God did not work a miracle, but instead of running away or just surrendering to the enemy, Jehoshaphat called out to the miracle working God who had always met their needs in the past and Who he knew could be trusted even now.
In answer to his prayer, God told a man named Jahaziel to tell King Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah these words: “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. … You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” When Jehoshaphat and the people heard the word of God, they fell on their faces and worshiped Him.
The next day, Jehoshaphat and his men put on their armor and got dressed for battle. The Bible says that as they worshiped and marched to take their positions to face their enemies in battle, the Lord himself set up ambushes against the enemy and destroyed them. Those he did not destroy, he caused to turn on one another until they completely annihilated one another. When Jehoshaphat and his men reached the battlefield, they found only dead bodies—no one had escaped. The plunder of the enemy was so great, that it took Jehoshaphat and his men three days to collect it!
The battle was the Lord’s, but Jehoshaphat and his men still had to trust the Lord. They remembered His faithfulness in the past and they trusted Him to be faithful even now when they faced their greatest enemy yet, and this faith led them to worship Him. They still had to put on their armor and they still had to have the courage to march out and to face the enemy, but it was God who delivered them, who defeated their enemies, and gave them the plunder.
Facing an enemy greater than they had never faced before, they could have just run away, but their homeland and way of life would have been conquered and they would have eventually been overrun and destroyed. They could have just surrendered, and would have faced the same fate plus slavery. Or, they could have tried to face the enemy in their own strength and in their own wisdom, which would have resulted in a very short battle where all of Judah would have been destroyed and all of history would have been changed.
Thankfully, King Jehoshaphat saw his own limitations, remembered God’s faithfulness and promises, and chose to put all his faith and trust in Him even now as he led his people out to face their greatest enemy ever.
When we face enemies, circumstances or fears that are greater than our ability to handle, when we don’t know what to do, we need only to remember that there is a God who loves us, who has gone before us, and who will deliver us if we put our faith in and follow Him. We still have to put on our spiritual armor and we still have to go out and face the enemy, but the battle is Lord’s and He is faithful. Stand firm, look to Jesus and praise God for His faithfulness and salvation!