Although men tend to feel as if they can save themselves, there are times when it’s very clear that we cannot. These times often come when you’re facing overwhelming pressures with your wife or kids, your job, or your finances. So what is a man to do?
Let’s consider a man who went before you and I: King Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was once under attack by three armies. Do you ever feel like you’re being attacked from all sides? You may be tempted to give in and surrender or to muster every human resource you can find. Neither of these reactions, however, is pleasing to God. Instead, God desires to use these situations to remind you that you are sustained not by your own cleverness but by his power. You are delivered not by your ability but by his mercy.
King Jehoshaphat understood this truth. His reaction to the threatening armies was to call everyone in Judah to fast. Instead of merely calling his people to military exercises and preparation, King Jehoshaphat called them to spiritual exercises. Instead of fattening their bodies, he called them to nourish their souls. Instead of looking to their own defenses, he called them to trust in God’s protection.
Because we must have food to live, physical hunger is one of the most powerful drives of life. When you fast, however, you begin to realize that all the food in the world can never satisfy the hunger of your soul. Only God himself can satisfy this longing.
Even men who don’t want to be like their fathers often turn out to be amazingly similar in their behaviors and personalities. Through the power of God and hard personal choices, however, it’s possible to break out of an ongoing spiral of sin and dysfunction.
Take Josiah, for example. Josiah was a young king who chose to stand against a virtual tidal wave of disobedience fostered by his grandfather Manasseh and his father, Amon. Breaking from this downward spiral was particularly difficult since Josiah had little knowledge to guide his actions. The Scriptures containing God’s laws had been lost for years. But when the high priest discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple, young Josiah immediately initiated spiritual renewal for himself and his people.
As a result, Josiah was able to break the cycle of sin that had captured Israel in its whirl. Josiah was not a perfect man but he was a true champion of spiritual renewal. He was committed to God and had the courage to pursue both personal and national renewal.
Josiah made the difficult choices necessary in order to ‘cut loose’ from the sins of the past and to build a new life for himself and the people of Judah. Are you like Josiah? Do you need to make a break from the past in order to build a new life for yourself? I hope you’ll seek the same powerful God who renewed Josiah.
When you experience unfairness in life, the examples of the prophet Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will give you encouragement and direction. Despite their lives of obedience, Daniel and his friends weren’t protected from God’s judgment on their nation, Judah. Innocence doesn’t automatically protect you from tragedy. But you do have the assurance that God is concerned about what you’re doing, and He will honor your faithfulness and obedience.
Daniel and his friends sought to live according to God’s plan, but they found that others opposed their efforts. This led initially to great danger, but ultimately a great victory. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to walk through a fiery furnace because they obeyed God. Only the ropes that bound them were burned by the fire.
Then when he was 80 years old, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he was faithful to God, but he walked out unscathed. God used these trials to bring blessings to his servants and glory to himself. As you seek to be obedient to God, he may lead you into some difficult situations. But more often than not God uses such trails to strengthen your character and bless you.
If Daniel and his friends hadn’t believed that God was sovereign, they might have decided that compromise was better than risking their lives. But then they wouldn’t have experienced the glorious victories God gave them. What an affirmation of God’s faithfulness!