Monday, May 21, 2012

When You Don't Know What To Do


An amazing story is given to us in 2 Chronicles 20:1-25. Although I have only listed a small portion here, I suggest you read the entire passage:

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, and he said, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. “Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? “They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us. “Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. “O our God, will You not judge them? For 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.”

As we have read this, I want to ask you three simple questions today:

  • Have you ever felt like you had your back against the wall?
  • Have you ever felt as if you were in a position and you didn’t know what to do?
  • Have you ever felt like “why even bother? I can’t get out of this miss anyway; I might as well go ahead and quit trying!”

Then first of all, let me share with you that you are not alone in your feelings. Others have been there with you.

Second, let me tell you that you can make it through this place you’re in.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s look at life and at this passage. We certainly live in uncertain times; yet, we take pride in being problem solvers. In fact, most of us have been taught that you are to pull yourself up by our own bootstraps. But our problems surrounding us are increasing exponentially. We have faced severe winters, mild winters. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, companies failing, jobs being stopped, etc.

Consider for just a moment the changes that we have seen in the past century, especially transportation: from feet, to horse-drawn cart, to cars, to planes, and even more. Then look at the increase we have faced in knowledge in last decade. We are told by many leading scientists that there has been more new knowledge gained in the past century than in all time since creation. And further, there has been more new knowledge to arise in the past decade than in all of the 20th century. For instance, did you know that the life of an electronic keyboard musical instrument is currently only about six months? After that period, the keyboard is considered obsolete. And depending upon whom you read, the lifetime of a computer is 12 months or 18 months. After that period, it, too, is considered obsolete. That is how fast our technology is changing.

And change is not just global, but it is personal. While corporations are downsizing, jobs are being cut back to keep up with the economy. We are trying to raise kids to avoid temptations and failure. Terrorism has captured our world (not just the one overseas.)

It IS true, Jesus remains the same … but nothing else does (Hebrews 13:8).

The bottom line is. Facing all of these difficulties, and we simply DO NOT KNOW what to do…

So … "What should you do when you don't know what to do."

A survey recently was given to Pastors across the land. It asked: “What do you feel most Christians need to hear in this day and time?” The overwhelming response was “How do/can you trust Christ when life gets confusing?” To that question, we need to understand that Jesus gives us a firm foundation.

2 Chronicles lets us know that times like these are nothing new. You see, Judah’s King Jehoshaphat was in a position where he could not protect his nation from foreign invasion. In the past, he had relied on political alliances. But God, through the prophets, had rebuked him for that very thing (2 Chronicles 19:2).

So this time, instead, Jehoshaphat turned to the Lord.

Today, we, too face similar problems and choices.

And we are basically left with five primary responses to these problems and choices:

1) We can ignore the problem. We can say, "When I wake up this will all be gone." But in truth, we know this only postpones and escalates the coming crisis. Neglect is a strategy of self-preservation, but it bears fruit in self-destruction.

2) We can minimize the problem. We can say, "It can't be all that bad." Saying such as this gives clear indication that we may have missed the signs of a real crisis. In other words, thinking a problem to be small doesn't make it so, and in fact, we actually end up making ourselves more vulnerable when we minimize the threat or exaggerate our resources. Instead, a realistic appraisal is essential to a successful outcome.

3) We can do again what we always do. We can turn to our traditional, habitual, normal ways of solving problems. We can use strategies such as hard work, common sense, expert advice, people of influence, or money. And we can double the number of hours we work, the number of dollars we spend, and the number of books we read. But somehow, things don't change, and they may even get worse. Leadership guru, John Maxwell once said, "The classic definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things, hoping for different results. That will make you crazy."

So, when we come to the end of our rope, it's time to take God's hand … not go searching for more rope. Failure to recognize this can and at some point, will lead to catastrophe. Consider the fate of the Pony Express. It was one of the most successful, creative communication links to connect the East and West Coasts of the the 1800s. Riding night and day, riders could carry information from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in just two weeks. It was an amazing accomplishment. But the pony express soon went out of business. What used to take two weeks by horse and rider could be done in an instant with electricity and wires. The old way was no longer useful. More and faster horses wouldn't help the pony express survive. They'd been overtaken by a new technology. And I have to ask the question, what is overtaking our “once-useful” way of accomplishing things?

4) Or we can panic, or give in to “the sky is falling!” syndrome. This is where the one who minimizes underestimates the danger and puts his or herself at risk, the overanxious person exaggerates the situation and loses all perspective. In the story of Chicken Little, the panic of Chicken Little infected all the other animals. "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" shouted Chicken Little. And all the listening audience became "sitting ducks" for Foxy Loxy, as Chicken Little led the panicked animals right to his den. Here is a great truth for us:

Fear and anxiety are often greater enemies than the real enemies we face.

5) Finally, we can admit that we DON’T KNOW what to do but we DO KNOW the One who does. In doing this, we make the choice to proceed by faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, faith is neither wishful thinking nor blind optimism; instead, faith is the exercise of hope rooted in our knowledge of God and our understanding of life in this fallen world. And even when we don't know what to do, we do know where to turn.

In and of itself, turning to the Lord has the immediate effect of calming the heart and putting things back into perspective.

So… when you don't know what to do, admit it!

In fact, the first step of faith is recognizing you don't know what to do! Jehoshaphat, the great king of Judah, did not hide his concern, confusion, and fear (2 Chronicles 20:5); He openly admitted, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12).

If Jehoshaphat had hidden his confusion, he would have put his people in great danger.

I understand it's not easy to admit we need help’ however, pride can keep us silent when we are barely hanging on. And the need to appear self-sufficient blinds us to our need, and blocks us from tapping into that power outside ourselves. But honesty, on the other hand, opens the way to success.

What was it that gave Jehoshaphat the courage to be so vulnerable? Perhaps he recalled the rebuke and promise that had been given to his father, Asa. King Asa had also been chastised for seeking help from others rather than from God. His foolish reliance on human resources diverted him from the vast and eternal might of God. As the prophet spoke against Asa, he reminded him of God's eagerness to come to his people's aid (2 Chronicles 16:9). For those who believe in God and His promises, this promise is custom-fit for victory in any crisis!

Then Jehoshaphat shoed us the second step of his faith (and success): Prayer! And Jehoshaphat invited the people to join him in prayer and fasting. Incredible power arises from people coming together before the Lord. Even if the situation doesn't immediately change, genuine prayer changes us. It changes our perspective, reminding us of the most important things in life. It awakens faith, hope, and courage in our hearts.

And spiritual support is important. We as the people of God must pray for each other. We are not in this alone, but together (2 Chronicles 20:4).

And then we receive God's direction for our particular situation. After praying, Jehoshaphat and this people received God's Word for the situation from the prophet Jahaziel. He assured them that God had heard their prayer and would fight on their behalf (2 Chronicles 20:14).

We also find our hearts strengthened by reading God's Word. We may not have a particular prophet, but we have God's promises. Ara Parseghian, former Notre Dame football coach, faced a battle in which even all his expertise and prestige weren’t enough to help him. Three of his four grandchildren were diagnosed with the fatal Niemann-Pick Type C disease. It strikes children between ages 5 and 10, preventing them from properly metabolizing cholesterol. The substance accumulates within the cells of the liver, spleen, and brain, damaging the nervous system. The body deteriorates, and the child dies 5 to 10 years after developing the disease. Science does not have a cure.

What do you do? That is the question Parseghian was faced with. The family fought back by recruiting scientists to search for a cure, but a hopeful prognosis is never certain.

"Maybe this is supposed to be," Parseghian said.

"The Lord looks down and says, 'Maybe you can't cure every disease, but I can lead you in a direction to cure this one'"

What a witness to the encouragement of God's Word from a family facing a life and death situation. (Jim Massie, The Miamian: Spring, 1995)

So where does this leave all of us?

1) We should learn how to receive strength and direction by embracing the great promises of God's Word. When Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah took God at His Word, God took on their enemies. In one of the most fascinating battles in history, Judah's enemies destroyed themselves while Judah's choirs sang and the people watched! What a joy it is to watch the Lord do battle!

2) We should learn how to respond as Jehoshaphat did. We can choose to believe Christ will make a way for us through the maze. So embrace the great promises of God's Word. Pursue support relationships with other believers. Look for the joys that refresh your spirit. Remove unnecessary confusion from your life. Accept the Lord's grace and forgiveness. Discover how Jesus identifies with your struggles. And place your hope in the God of surprising outcomes.

And finally, perhaps one, some, or all of these five actions steps will help:

A) Fill your days with "I believe" statements.

B) Face confusion with confidence from God's Word.

C) Unleash the power of prayer partners.

D) Energize your faith by tracking daily joys.

E). Find at least three ways to unclutter your life.

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