Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Month: October 2022

The No-Option Prayer

2 Chronicles 20.12

Have you ever found yourself trying to solve a problem when you had absolutely no options? You used up all your money, all your credit, and called in all your favors, only to find that it wasn’t enough. You used all your talent, all your tricks, and all your experience, but the problem was still there. Have you ever realized that you’re not smart enough, clever enough, or connected enough to deal with some of life’s problems?

All of us occasionally face the impossible and impassible. There are times when our health or our finances or our friends or our marriages or our jobs are such that our weaknesses, inadequacies, puniness, and foolishness are on full display for the whole world to see. There are times we can’t do anything and don’t know where to start. What then do we do?

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was facing a formidable attack on the city of Jerusalem. By this point in his career, his army was depleted, and his wealth was gone. He had no resources. The enemy wanted to take advantage of this. We’re told in verses 3-4 that “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 the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.” He gathered the nation together to pray for God’s help, and ended his prayer by saying, “…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” (verse 12).

As I’ve gotten older, my daily prayers resemble this prayer. Often, I simply say, “God help me!” Like Jehoshaphat I’m afraid and don’t know what to do, but I know that God does. 

God is sometimes glorified when we take the abilities and resources he’s given us and use them to his glory. But God is also glorified – perhaps even more glorified – when we haven’t got the resources and simply turn it over to him. He’s most glorified when we fully trust in his help. 

So, when you’re surrounded and cut off; when you’re drowning in despair; when you’re fighting temptation and loneliness and isolation; when you’re numb and exhausted; when your friends lose their minds; when your heart is broken and you have no more tears to shed, that’s when you pray like Jehoshaphat did: “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you!”

This story from the reign of Jehoshaphat ends in a good way. His enemies turned on each other and destroyed themselves. The army of Jehoshaphat didn’t have to do anything. God answered the king’s prayer by saying, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (verse 15).

When you have no options, you always have the Lord. My prayer for you is that you turn it over to God, and that he answers you the way he did Jehoshaphat.

Silent Gratitude

G B Stern said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

While thankfulness begins in the heart, it must at some point, proceed to the mouth. The two problems that most often thwart thankfulness are thoughtlessness and silence. Thoughtlessness prevents us from properly reflecting on our abundance and its source. Silence blunts our influence by leaving the impression upon others that we simply don’t care about what we’ve been given.

Of the two problems, thoughtlessness is the most difficult to resolve. Changing your mental habits is always hard, since thoughtlessness requires that we look outward and upward. 

But silence has its own challenges. We must get into a habit of speaking up in the presence of others. We must get past our shyness or embarrassment or reluctance and tell others, “Yes, I’m blessed!”

Hebrews 13.15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Today, tell someone how thankful you are and why.

Pyramids & Success

One of my favorite motivational posters shows a picture of the Egyptian pyramids. The title of the poster is “Motivation”. The caption reads, “You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.” 

The poster is published Despair, Inc., a company that parodies the motivational products you seen at mall kiosks, in offices, and on websites. Their motto is, “Welcome to the cure for hope.” 

This poster makes a worthwhile point. Egypt was among the most powerful ancient empires. They had a stable culture, a strong military, along with resources and vision. Like most ancient empires, they also had abundant slave labor. No wonder they could build pyramids.

Pyramids are still being built in the same way. How often do you see ads by a well-known celebrity for fitness, nutrition, or beauty products ? Morning talk shows routinely feature celebrities who lost 50 pounds and tell us that if we’ll do what they did, we’ll get the same results. 

What they don’t tell us is that their contracts have incentives for losing weight and keeping in shape. They have personal trainers, dieticians, and chefs. They don’t tell us that companies approach them and offer them money to test their products. They don’t tell us about the nanny who watches their kids while they’re sweating in their Olympic-caliber home gym. They don’t tell us that they only work 4 hours a day. 

When I hear celebrities talking about their health and beauty success, I see pyramids. I suspect that their success is less a personal achievement than a corporate endorsement, built upon the backs of others. That approach isn’t helpful to any of us.

I’d rather build small mounds of dirt with my own hands than pyramids on the backs of others. I’d rather know that I did what I could with what I had, even if the results are meager. I don’t say this as an affirmation of stubborn pride. I have no desire to crash and burn while singing, “Let the record show I took the blows and did it my way!”

For Christians, there’s nothing more fundamental than a personal commitment to Jesus of Nazareth. Each of us will be judged by what we did, rather than what we did through corporate sponsors. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that EACH ONE may be recompensed for HIS DEEDS in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5.10). 

To be sure, along the way, the Lord gives strength and guidance. I’m not in this alone. But I’m responsible for my own life, and I can’t take credit for what isn’t mine.

For today, take what you have, do what you can do, and trust the Lord for the rest. It is enough.