Finish Strong

I am continuing my study through Kings and Chronicles, and as I had the opportunity to share this past week with a group of Athens middle schoolers, there is treasure in these pages. There are many books in the Bible that many of us can miss the preciousness in because we are not willing to wade and sift through what we find to be mundane and monotonous or simply just plain difficult to read. However, if we will just choose to slow down and take in the entirety of Scripture and fumble through the hard to pronounce names and lists of genealogies and strange measurements and so on, our God has much to teach us.

This past week I was in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14 – 16. In these chapters I read of the reign of Asa King of Judah. Asa followed his father Abijam after a short three year reign. The nation of Israel had been split into two nations (Israel and Judah) for around twenty years when Asa became King of Judah. Idolatry was full throttle in both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. However, when Asa became king he sought to see that changed.

When Asa became King the Scriptures tell us that, “Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God.” (2 Chronicles 14:2). He entered his reign calling the people of Judah back to the law and commands of God. He called the people to enter back into the covenant of God to seek Him with all their heart and all their soul. The people followed him back to God and the people rejoiced with this return to the LORD. Asa even dethroned the Queen Mother because of her idolatry.  Asa began well.

His obedience to the LORD brought peace back to the land. However ten years in to his reign, Ethiopia attempted to attack. As the attack loomed before him, Asa completely outnumbered, turned to the Lord.

Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

The Lord was faithful to defend his people and defeat their enemy (2 Chronicles 14:12-15) and the land lived in peace for twenty-five more years. After living in the blessing of peace for twenty-five years the northern kingdom of Israel rises up and attempts to attack the southern kingdom of Judah once again. Now Asa has another opportunity to see the faithful deliverance of his God, but here enters the problem.

So far Asa has done well. So far Asa has put his trust in the Lord. He began well, but as he spent twenty-five years in the ease of God’s peace… Asa forgot God. Asa forgot all that God had done and could do and he went to the King of Aram for help. He even pulled treasuries out of the LORD’s house in order to pay him for his aid.

God allowed the aid to work this time, but then He sent a prophet to Asa.

“Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9)

Here. Right. Here. Here is Asa’s opportunity to recognize his sin. Here is Asa’s opportunity to recognize his mistake. Here is his opportunity to fall on his face before his faithful God and cry out to Him in repentance and seek forgiveness and restoration. Here is the opportunity, but sadly Asa fails to take it.

Asa grows angry and throws the prophet who delivered the message into prison. Asa isn’t recorded ever turning to false gods, but he is recorded as choosing to turn to man to help him in times of need instead of God and finally dying in his forty-first year to reign (2 Chronicles 16:12). He only lives five more years after choosing to stop seeking the Lord.

Asa didn’t finish strong.

He could have, but he didn’t. God had promised him that he would be with him. God had showed him that he would be with him. He even knew that God could forgive him and continue to use him. He knew God’s track record, yet for some reason he stopped seeking the Lord. What about you?

What enemy are you facing? What trial have you entered into? What circumstances have entered your life that are making you feel that God has already abandoned you? Who are you trusting in?

Precious one, if you have put your hope in man you will find yourself disappointed. Choose to trust God. Go back to His promises. Review His track record through the Word. Look back on all His faithful provisions in the lives of those recorded in the Scriptures and look back on all the ways He has faithfully provided for you. Then, most importantly, look forward to the promise and be reminded of the sacrifice that was made that you might take hold of that promise. “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chronicles 15:7).

When life gets hard and people and situations and circumstances blind-side you and the enemy whispers in your ear that it’s okay to quit, that it’s okay to stop caring, it’s okay to stop trying; don’t listen. When the enemy tries to get you to follow your flesh and define everyone by the choices of a few, don’t listen. When it’s hard to keep standing, to keep smiling, to keep hoping, allow the Holy Spirit within to call truth to your mind.

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)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As our daughter’s youth minister shared with her graduating class this past Sunday morning, don’t allow the ups and downs of the journey to distract you from the destination. Jesus Christ is the destination. Standing before Him, holy and blameless without spot or blemish is our goal. Gaining the winning crown of life that we can present to Him in thankfulness for His endurance is our prize.

Everything that enters our life is an opportunity to prepare us for what lies ahead. So when life seems to sucker punch you in the gut and you find yourself either face down in the dirt or throwing up your walls of protection, don’t turn away from God. Turn to Him. Ask Him how what just entered your life can make you more like Jesus and further the gospel. Then allow Him to take it and in His faithful and capable hands produce that perfect result. In due time, precious one, the harvest will come. No matter what, finish strong.