There are times in our lives when our most deeply help values and beliefs are tested with fire. I suppose this is a refining process… or even a pruning process. Either way, there is pain, heartache, and difficulty. Yet, ideally, what (or “who”) comes out the other side is closer to God and the likeness of Christ. Without going into detail, this has been true in my life as of late. Over the last few months I have had to lean on (better… “cling to”) three pillars of my life and faith. I suppose that God has been testing me to see if what I’ve been teaching for lo these many years is what I really believe in my heart. I believe I can say that I have grown in my understanding of and gratitude for these three anchors of Hope. The experience of such dependence on them has revealed to me that God continues to be who he has always been… One infinitely worthy of my trust… and your trust too. And so, with that in mind, I thought that I should share this old devotion in hopes that it might be an encouragement to others as well. I pray that it will be so.
Sitting at the feet of Ken Boa and Jerry Bridges over the last two-plus decades has influenced and deepened my understanding and conviction regarding three great and powerful pillars or anchors of Hope. That’s not intended to be a throw away line that Bible teachers are supposed to say. I believe with all of my heart that embracing these key truths is the only way that I am able to trust in God, regardless of the circumstances. They are…
I believe those three affirmations with all of my heart. This is no mere intellectual acknowledgement. These three truths are in my bloodstream. Thus, because I so deeply believe that these things are true, I know that I can always trust God. The God that is described in those three statements is the awesome God of holy Scripture… the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Surely that is the God that King Solomon had in mind when he wrote these words:
Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
He goes on to say two verses later that we are not to be wise in our eyes. But that’s exactly what we do when we suppose even for a second that we know better than God. It’s laughable to think that we know what our best interest is in any situation, no matter how trivial. Among our many deficiencies, we have not been given an omniscient mind that knows all possible scenarios and outcomes of those scenarios. It seems that such knowledge would be essential in knowing how to discern what the very best plan for our life would be.
It really is sheer arrogance to lean on our own understanding. Think about the words “lean” or “depend.” They carry with them the notion of putting one’s weight on or against something that will help provide stability. Would you really prefer to put all of your weight against something that is so weak, fragile, and incapable of bracing you? Wouldn’t you rather put all of your weight and more against an immovable, utterly dependable, trustworthy Rock? That’s the God of holy Scripture.
And yet, how often do we turn to our own wisdom and understanding? At least, that’s all too often true of me.
I’ve had something of a roller-coaster ride of emotions as I’ve read God’s Word over the last few days. I’ve been reading about good King Asa in 2 Chronicles. Because good kings are so few and far between in the Old Testament, I’ve been celebrating his faithfulness to God. Notice what we read about him in the following verses…
2 Chronicles 14:2 – Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.
2 Chronicles 14:5 – He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him.
2 Chronicles 15:1-2 – The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded.  He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
2 Chronicles 15:8 – When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.
2 Chronicles 15:16-17 – King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.  Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.
Verse 17b sums it up all so nicely. I couldn’t help but cheer as I read those verses, asking God to make my heart just as fully committed to him all of my life. But then…
But then, if you don’t already know the story, the rug gets suddenly yanked out from underneath you. For in 2 Chronicles 16:1-6 we learn that King Asa, who had placed his trust in the Lord, now put his trust in his own wisdom and ingenuity. To make matters worse, his plan seemed to work. He must have thought that all was well. Yet we learn of the consequences of his plan when we read these words in verses 7-9:
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.  Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.  For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
These words of Hanani could have served as an impetus for repentance. The opportunity was there for Asa to see the foolishness of his ways and to get back on track with God. He could have admitted his rebellion and turned back toward God. He would have been no different than any of us who have wandered off the good path from time to time as we sought our own way according to our wisdom. Our loving and merciful God is always there at the ready to offer pardon and renewal. I’m astounded at how patient God is with me in my own life.
But Asa went a different way. He chose to respond in anger to his reprimand. He “shot the messenger” rather than taking heed to the message (v. 10). Thus, we read these sad words in verses 12-13…
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.  Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers.
Sad indeed… even tragic.
I have a great desire to run the race of faith and faithfulness to its completion and finish well. Don’t you? But that journey is a lifetime pursuit. We must persevere. No matter how greatly God has blessed us we must never presume upon his grace. We must not assume that God owes us any good thing. We must beware of taking our lives into our own hands and depending on our own wisdom and understanding to see our way through, even when (perhaps “especially when”) things seem to be going so well. And let me add, it’s during those exceedingly tough times in life that you discover who or what you’ve really been placing your trust in all along.
Instead, a lifetime of humility before God is called for. Hosea reminds us in 14:9…
Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.
Zephaniah calls us to seek humility.
Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
I want to finish well. Whether my last day on earth is today or 50 years from now, I want to finish well. I want to hear those words that every follower of Jesus Christ should desire to hear:
Matthew 25:21 – “…’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Therefore, between today and “that day” I must trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways I must acknowledge him and he will make my paths straight.
(One important caveat: It would be the height of folly to think that I have ever embraced, held on to, or trusted in God in my own strength. My experience is not one of being good or righteous enough to pull this off. Instead, it’s the story of God filling me with his Spirit and saturating me in his grace. It’s only God’s love and power that has enabled me to persevere during this agonizing and arduous journey.)
Thanks be to God,