Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!
2 Chronicles 20:15,17
Relate: A few years ago I posted a quote from Will Rogers on my Facebook wall. “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” I didn’t think much of it a the time, but the quote popped back into my mind immediately while I was reading today’s scripture. I know, I know. I should be reading my Bible long before checking my Facebook wall. My priorities are all skewed today. Shame on me. I’m caught.
Anyways… at first Will Roger’s quote seems to run counter to what this prophet is saying. He is telling us to “don’t just sit there, get moving” but the prophet is telling Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah to “stand still and watch.” Which is it? Obviously, Will Rogers doesn’t nearly hold the weight of scripture so let me put it another way. Is not this contradiction little more than the seeming paradox of Paul saying it is by faith alone and James saying faith without works is dead?
React: The way through this seeming paradox can be most succinctly found through another quote, this one by the missionary William Carey. “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” All too often, we are doing one or the other, but not both simultaneously. There are some people who work and work and work for God. They are teaching Sunday School, on the church board, and actively witnessing to their neighbors and coworkers. I am not knocking these things. They are all great, and we should all be doing them. But these are all within the easy ability of most of us. The miraculous is not required. It is all works, and very good works, but there is little stretching of faith. Others are praying really, really big prayers. They are truly, honestly believing for God to move in amazing ways. But they have taken the “stand still and watch” aspect of this command out of its context.
When Jehoshaphat was commanded to “stand still and watch,” it was couched within other commands that required a lot more than just “standing still.” They were first ordered to take their positions, then march out against the enemy. In other words, they were commanded to put themselves in a position that if God didn’t come through, they would all die. It is like the people of Israel marching around Jericho and then blowing their trumpets in full expectation of God knocking down the walls. If he didn’t come through, they would all look like fools. In my own personal life, it was like buying a ticket to return to Turkey after being kicked out of the country this past February. Even after landing and getting pulled out of passport control and sent to an office, I was partially expecting to be sent on a plane back to the States. I should have been. I was stepping out in faith knowing that I would end up looking like a fool and wasting a lot of money I couldn’t afford to waste if God didn’t come through. Jehoshaphat putting the singers out front was a very stupid thing if God didn’t come through. Israel marching around the city and then shouting would look really foolish if God didn’t come through. Most miracles only happen when there is no other option. Most of us never see the miraculous because we never allow ourselves to get in such a position. When was the last time you stepped out in faith and put yourself in a position where there was no other option but to “stand still and watch?”
All too often I’ve got it backward. I am more than willing to step out in faith once I have seen the miraculous. But almost always, the miracle we are hoping and praying for is waiting on our step of faith. Give me the courage to line up and march fully knowing that I will be slaughtered if You do not step in. Give me the faith to step out in obedience even before I see how You “made a way.” I do not want a normal, easily controlled life. Help me to live a life far bigger and way beyond my own talents and abilities. Give me the faith to step out for you even if that seems like I am walking off a cliff.
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