Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gleanings from a Sunday Teaching

What a blessing it is to be a part of the body of Christ, and Sundays when we gather together with brothers and sisters in the Lord are such wonderful and encouraging times . . . it truly is a family meeting together with a one another love for each other and for our God and Savior. When one member rejoices, the others rejoice; when one member suffers, the others suffer as well; when one weeps, the others weep with them; when one has a need, the others seek to support and meet that need.

I hadn’t realized how fully this could be realized in a church family until the past year or so when each of the families in our group went through significant trials and hardships. How beautiful it was to see how these trying times allowed for such growth in the Lord and growth in our relationships with one another. It also provided much opportunity for encouraging one another and building up one another in Christ.

In light of all that had taken place in everyone’s lives over the past months, one of the men was led to share a bit of encouragement to everyone the Sunday before last. The teaching that he prepared was so uplifting and so thought-provoking, and my pen flew across the paper in my notebook as I tried to keep up with taking notes. Afterwards, the thought came to mind that what was shared might also be good to share here as well. There is no way that I can type up what was taught as clearly as how it was presented on Sunday, but I thought I would attempt to, at least in part, share some of what was taught . . .

We began by looking at a number of verses that speak of how our hearts should be when we are going through trials, and then also what the Lord’s relationship with us is as we walk through these trials. Just the verses themselves spoke so much to my heart . . . .

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Our trials can be reasons of great joy for us . . . simply look at what good fruit they can bring forth!

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Selah. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8)

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

How beautiful, and how encouraging these verses are . . . the Lord daily bears our burden, He is our God of salvation, He is a God of deliverances, He is a refuge for us, He is our sustainer, and He will never allow those who are His to be shaken. What precious, precious promises.

This type of trust and rest in Him can come through the simple knowledge that God is God. We don’t always see what He is doing “behind the scenes” so to speak; we have no way of knowing what wondrous fruit He may be working in our lives through the trying and difficult circumstances that we may be going through. Nor what fruit they may bear in the lives of those who are watching.

After talking about this for a bit, we turned to 2 Chronicles and read through chapter 20 piece by piece. I had not thought of this chapter quite in this light before, and it was wonderful to see it ‘opened up’ as we dug deeper into the word of God. And how well this account applied to the verses that we had just read through!

Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).’ Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all of the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-4)

Can you imagine being the nation of Judah and then finding out that all of these mighty nations were joining together to come and attack you? What would your response be? To immediately begin planning how to defend yourself and what your plan of attack would be? I think that would be more of how I would respond. 

But what was Jehoshaphat’s response? Yes, fear did come into his heart, but his immediate response was that he “turned his attention to seek the LORD.” And not only that, but he led the nation of Judah to seek help from the Lord as well. What a beautiful testimony this is of Jehoshaphat’s close relationship with the Lord and also of his great faith in Him.

The chapter continues with sharing . . . .

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, ‘ O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? 

"They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 'Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.' 

"Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. O Our God, will You not judge them? 

"For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us: nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.’ All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their infants, their wives and their children.” (2 Chronicles 20:5-13)

Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord and in that prayer, He acknowledged who God was and His power, presented the circumstances that the nation, Judah, was in, and beseeched the Lord for wisdom and direction. And where were Judah’s eyes throughout this time? Were their eyes on their problems and the impending attack upon their nation? No, but their eyes were on the Lord. What a declaration of faith this is.

In the passage above, great humility is also seen in that they recognized that they themselves were powerless; that they did not know what to do. Instead of trying to fix the problem on their own, to fight in their own might and strength, they turned to the One who is all-knowing and who is all-powerful, to the one true Savior. The God whom they knew could deliver them . . . and it was He whom they sought with all humility and trust.

The answer to the prayer of Jehoshaphat’s is found in the verses that follow it . . .

Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph; and he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, 

" 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you.’ 

"Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-19)

So many things are presented in this passage! A couple of points that were brought up by the one who was teaching were

-We are to not fear or dismay in the trials that we are faced with 
-We cannot fight our own battles in our own strength 
-We must humble ourselves before the Lord 
-Judah was told to: not fear . . . stand still . . . see the salvation of the Lord 
-The Lord cares for His children; our ‘battles’ are important to Him. As children rely on their earthly father, so must we rely and depend unquestioningly in our heavenly father. For would He not have our best interests at heart? (This reminds me of the verses in the gospels that speak of the Father giving good gifts to His children that are so much greater than what even an earthly father would give.) 
-If Judah had looked specifically at the ‘facts’ of the matter and had responded with their minds, then fear and dismay could easily come in. But instead, they looked to the Lord and had faith and trust in Him.

What follows next is an amazing act of the Lord to protect and preserve His people . . . to indeed, fight their battle for them . . . .

They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.’ When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ 

"When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they were corpses on the ground and no one had escaped . . . So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God gave him rest on all sides.” (2 Chronicles 20:20-24, 30)

Judah trusted in the Lord, they sang and praised Him for who He is, for His lovingkindness that is everlasting . . . and the Lord brought deliverance to them.

What a stirring account all of this is in 2 Chronicles 20, and when faced with our own trials and tribulations, may our hearts respond with the same immediate heartfelt earnestness that Jehoshaphat displayed. Turning our attention to seek the Lord, praying for His wisdom and deliverance, trusting Him, and keeping our eyes on Him to see what He would have us do.

After finishing reading through the account, we looked at a couple more verses to bring together all that had been shared so far . . .

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

No matter what the circumstances are, if we are His children, we can know that God will work these trials and hardships for our good . . . someway, somehow.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

The Lord loved us so very much to give His own Son to meet our greatest need . . . the need of a Savior. If He loved us so much when we were “yet sinners”, how much more so now when we are His blood-bought children! As this verse shows, and as it was shared on Sunday, if the Lord could do so much for us to meet our greatest need, how much more to meet our much smaller daily needs and trials.

And my God will supply all your needs according to the riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, if we seek the Lord and for His wisdom and guidance, He will be to us a well-spring of wisdom, strength, peace, joy, comfort, and victory. It may not be a physical victory that can be seen as in Jehoshaphat’s and Judah’s case (in fact, most times it isn’t), but spiritual victory will most certainly be had. And as this verse shows, the Lord will supply our needs according to the riches in glory in our blessed Savior and Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Praise and thank the Lord for all of the many blessings that He so freely pours out upon us!

-Posted by Sarah