Sun Tzu the author of the best-selling book “The Art of War” has said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” That saying reminds me of the Taliban taking full control of Kabul without firing a single round. I wonder whether they read the book! Today you and I may not be at war with human enemy forces but often we find ourselves at war with enemies such as ill health, fear, grief, and poor finances. Especially at this time in history when the whole world is affected by COVID 19.
Are you overwhelmed by the battles of this season? I have good news for you if you are. We have got a book on the art of war in which God has given us the supreme art of subduing the enemies in life, without raising a finger. That book is the word of God or the Holy Bible. In it are many example strategies but tonight I want us to look at king Jehoshaphat’s strategy recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. What was his strategy?
1. Jehoshaphat believed prayer is a Rapid Response
Now when Jehoshaphat learned a great army has come against him (2 Chronicles 20:1-2), he immediately realized three things.
A. Not even his vast army is a match for the joint forces of the invaders
B. The joint forces of the invaders are no match for God almighty
C. The God Almighty is his ally and will surely come to his rescue
What was Jehoshaphat’s immediate response? He immediately called a nationwide prayer and fast and cried out to God, (2 Chronicles 20:3-11). Prayer was his first strategy.
From a human perspective, Jehoshaphat and the entire nation of Judah were doomed. The enemy had them cornered like a cat cornering a mouse. The mouse however was friends with the Lion and the cat had no idea.
Prayer must be a rapid response no matter how big the crisis may appear to be. It should not be the last resort. This is the first strategy.
Lisa Bevere has said, “Your life will change radically when you stop making prayer your backup plan.” Unfortunately, it’s what prayer is for most of us. It’s plan B but not plan A.
If you want to adopt Jehoshaphat’s strategy you must begin by treating prayer as a rapid response to crisis instead of a last resort regardless of how big the crisis may appear to be. After all, God has promised to reveal remarkable secrets we do not know about things to come when we call upon his name, (Jeremiah 33:3). More on that later but in the meantime let’s consider what happened next.
2. Jehoshaphat prayed sincerely and Transparently
Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah. In the ancient Near East, kings were a proud bunch. They had an image to maintain. Sincerity and transparency were nothing but indicators of a week king. Still, it is precisely what Jehoshaphat did in 2 Chronicles 20:12.
He admitted his worst fears in the presence of the entire nation and prayed in front of everyone about how weak he was. He wasn’t concerned about inspiring confidence in his leadership. His only concern was inspiring faith in God’s ability to deliver his people.
From a human perspective what Jehoshaphat did was political suicide. From God’s perspective, however, it’s the kind of prayer that God honors. The moment Jehoshaphat concluded the prayer God spoke. While “the game was on” for the Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah it was “game over” for the enemy.
Our prayers must be sincere and transparent even if it means possible loss. This is the second strategy.
John Bunyan has said, “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.”
Your prayers need to be sincere and transparent if you want to adopt Jehoshaphat’s strategy. Just like the prayer of the publican in Luke 18:9-14. Insincere prayer (like the prayer the Pharisee prayed) that lacks transparency indicates pride. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, (James 4:6). Just like he gave grace to Jehoshaphat.
3. Jehoshaphat obeyed God in full and in Faith
Three things happened when Jehoshaphat prayed. God gave him assurance, (2 Chronicles 20:14-15). In keeping with Jeremiah 33:3, he revealed valuable intelligence about the enemy’s movements, (2 Chronicles 20:16). Finally, the battle plan and the outcome of the battle, (2 Chronicles 20:17).
Everything looks good except for the battle plan. It sounds ridiculous. God doesn’t want Jehoshaphat and the army to lift a finger, but according to the plan, they must position themselves firmly on the battlefield. God promised them deliverance but why risk yourself? Well, because They had to work in a faith-partnership with God.
Nevertheless, Jehoshaphat’s acts of worship mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20:18-21 indicate that he obeyed God in full and in faith. The rest is history! In 2 Chronicles 20:22-25, the Lord himself set ambushes the joint armies that came to invade Judah. God confused them so much that they turned against their own and destroyed each other until nobody was left. The plunder was so great in quantity it took Jehoshaphat and his army three days to collect them.
We must obey God in full faith. No matter how risky the situation might be. This is the third strategy.
You don’t order a foot soldier to draw battle plans. Not unless you are willing to suffer an epic defeat. It’s the Generals who plan the assault. It’s the foot soldiers who execute the assault as planned. Unfortunately, we are not like that sometimes. We want God to be our foot soldier and us to be the Generals.
God is telling you “Back off my son, back off my daughter. The battle belongs to me. I got this!” I told you at the beginning of my message, God has given us the supreme art of subduing the enemies in life without raising a finger. How are you supposed to do that if you want to engage the enemy yourself?
Remember, we are in a faith partnership with God. You must honor that partnership if you want to adopt Jehoshaphat’s strategy. Someone said without God man cannot and without man God will not. Therefore, we are to obey God in full because without obedience faith is dead, (James 2:17). It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or risky God’s plan may appear to be.
4. Jehoshaphat acknowledged the interests of God
In 2 Chronicles 20:26 Jehoshaphat and his men assembled in the valley of Berakah where they celebrated the Lord in praise and worship. In 2 Chronicles 20:27-28 after returning to Jerusalem also he went to the temple of the Lord and people with harps, lyres, and trumpets followed him in. He magnified God’s name in worship both before and after the battle.
He could have used this historical victory to magnify himself as the king of Judah which he did not. He rather used it to magnify the King of the universe. He believed if the battle belongs to God so does the victory. In all of these, he acknowledged the interests of God by glorifying him.
God in return acknowledged Jehoshaphat’s interests and Jehoshaphat lived, reigned, and died in peace. Nobody dared to invade Judah as long as he lived, (2 Chronicles 20:29-30). The enemies of Judah knew he had the favor of the almighty God. Although Jehoshaphat died in 849 BC. 2,869 years later we still remember him.
We must always acknowledge the interests of God by glorifying him in everything we do. This is the fourth and final strategy.
In the year 2012 Barrack Obama quoted from the gospel of Luke chapter 12 verse 48 to justify the decision to raise taxes saying, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” [source: Business Insider]
Blasphemy! You might yell from your pews, but we are often guilty of stealing God’s glory to ourselves. How do you know when you are guilty? There are many ways but would be common occurrences are manipulating God’s word to push forth your personal agenda and justify your otherwise unacceptable behavior in addition to using God-given provisions and providence in life to exalt yourself among people.
If you want to adopt Jehoshaphat’s strategy everything you do must acknowledge the interests of God which is his glory. The word of God urges us to do whatever we do for his glory, (1 Corinthians 10:31). God often tests us in matters of his glory. He doesn’t hammer us when we fail the test but tests us again and again until we get it right.
Even as I am nearing the conclusion of this message, I want to elaborate on the final strategy, “Acknowledging God’s Interests”. All the other three strategies we considered are temporary. Prayer whether sincere or not is not going to help us in hell and it’s not needed in heaven. Neither obedience nor faith can help us in hell. They are not needed in heaven either. Those strategies have no eternal value. They have no use beyond death.
Acknowledging God’s interests on the other hand has an eternal value because it determines where we shall spend eternity. Whether in hell or heaven. Therefore, we must decide right now whether we want to acknowledge God’s eternal interests or our temporary interests. If you acknowledge his interests in this life, he acknowledges your interests not only in this life but also in the life to come.
Think about the Christians that have died because of COVID 19 despite praying for recovery. From man’s perspective, it may seem as if God doesn’t care about his children. Yet his word says in Romans 8:35-39, that not even death can separate us from the love of God (let alone the COVID 19 pandemic).
Unfortunately, we are wired in such a way we are incapable of acknowledging God’s interests over our interests. That is why he sent his only son Jesus Christ to die on a cross. So that everyone who believes in Jesus will be able to break free from their selfish interests and look forward to acknowledging God’s interests. Will you trust Jesus to set you free today?
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