…never looking up to see where they came from. Some people are like that – but others are led through their blessings to realize the love of their heavenly Father.
A great quote from Christian author Charles Allen -reminding us that the goodness of God is the motive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. Blessings which we simply take for granted.
A couple of years ago I was reminded by an African preacher, who was over here fundraising, that we are spoilt for choice. I was deeply moved as I listened to him speak with almost child-like faith, sharing with the congregation his excitement about what was on the menu – in McDonald’s of all places!
The abundance overwhelmed him. Especially when it came to choosing drinks, that in the end all he could say was, "I’ll just have water!" It then blew him completely away when he was asked if he wanted still or sparkling water? "Ahh you people have so much!"
It’s good to hear this sort of thing. It reminds us – "snuffling pigs" – to look up doesn’t it? God’s daily blessings are too many to count, or even to mention! They come to us in every conceivable way. S24 The prophet Malachi paints a lovely picture of the Lord opening the windows of heaven and POURING out great blessings. Psalm 1 reminds us we are blessed when we walk with the Lord: “We are like trees planted along the riverbank, never withering, but always prospering” (v.3).
However, this is not a guarantee of health, wealth and happiness: for the odds are often against us in life. Although salvation is our greatest blessing, life in this world still is not perfect. We fight against illness; we have marital/relationship problems; sometimes we struggle financially.
S25(B) What do we do when life is coming down hard on us, when we’re worried or afraid, when we’re in distress and when our relationship with God is at an all time low? Some of you, I know, have recently dealt with difficult situations. Some of you are in the middle of a crisis right now, others may fear that one is coming.
What do we do when we’re worried or afraid? Well we usually turn to someone we can trust. Husband, wife, partner, GP – or your Minister! I’d like to think, that whatever it is, you could trust me! But when there are no answers, it’s often beyond our ability to understand how our problems can be solved. The answer lies, I believe, in the Word of God.
S26 King Jehoshaphat was afraid; and rightly so. The kingdom of Judah faced invasion from a vast army; the odds were certainly against him as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were no match for the combined forces that were moving against them.
[C] To give you some idea of how desperate the situation was think about Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and 150 soldiers defending the supply station of Rourke’s Drift against 4,000 angry Zulus, remembering that the army approaching Jehoshaphat was even mightier! He was in trouble. [C] Yet in his fear he seeks nobody else – except the Lord for guidance.
Now, I’m not saying that you mustn’t go to your doctor if you’re ill. What I’m suggesting is that difficulties can lead us back to God, and if we trust Him, then there’s no need to fear – simply because of who God is. Let me remind what Jehoshaphat prays: S27 “O Lord God of our ancestors, you rule in heaven over all the nations of the world. You are powerful and mighty, and no-one can oppose you.”
He worships God. It’s a good lesson for us as it shows what a real relationship with our heavenly Father is about: showing our commitment to Him, especially in times of difficulty when our prayers are not answered in the way we want, or the way we demand them to be.
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed for God to rescue him.
Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but no ships appeared. He managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me!" he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.
It’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. The faith journey’s often a bumpy road. However, our greatest blessings come when we prove ourselves faithful to God. Just look at these blessings the powerful God of history, who has already accomplished great things, promises us:- S28
· A grace that can never be limited.
· A hope that can never be disappointed.
· A joy that can never be diminished.
· A peace that can never be disturbed.
· An inheritance that can never be lost.
Jehoshaphat’s faith, despite this huge army coming his way, remained anchored in God. The message coming from this chapter is simply: Don’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives and His blessings come to us in every conceivable way.
When we in darkness walk, nor feel the heavenly flame, then is the time to trust our God, and call upon his name. We sing a song of pilgrimage…
S29-32HYMN 541 – How blest are they, O Lord
S33(B) An old Celtic blessing says: Bless to me, O Lord, each thing my eye sees; each sound my ear hears; each odour that goes to my nostrils; each taste that goes to my lips…
It’s perhaps hard to see how God can bless us through smells. However, someone once asked a new mother where the blessing was in changing nappies! To which she replied: “The blessing is in knowing that the baby’s still working properly!”
Blessings come in unusual ways and often in the mundane and ordinary, but perhaps more importantly in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.
Some of you here today may be as frightened as Jehoshaphat was. Remember though the Holy Spirit is not called the Comforter for nothing! As the enemy bore down upon Judah “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Ja-ha-ziel” a prophet who gave words of such hope and assurance that he is able to proclaim: “The battle is not yours, but God’s. Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand firm.”
What this says to me is that in our struggles put your trust in the greatest prophet – the Lord Jesus Christ. Show solid faith and courage so that you can be an example and a blessing to others. Divine strength works through our fears and weaknesses.
Jehoshaphat did not have military might, but he was on God’s side. And the conclusion is that Judah wins an amazing victory without one solider even raising a sword! S34 Although they took up their positions they did not need to fight. Their enemies destroyed each other and Judah sang its way to victory: "Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever!"
Victory isn’t the end of the story either. The spoils of war were. It took three days in the Valley of Blessing to gather the plunder – the people’s reward for trusting God who opened the windows of heaven for his chosen ones.
What are our circumstances? When we face problems how do we view them? We might panic because we’re afraid. That’s fine. At the start Jehoshaphat’s in despair, brought to his knees, but at the end he’s jumping for joy, as he sees, God’s sovereign purpose, with the words Jesus later used that: S35 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.5:3).
We’ve all had painful times and there will be hard times in the future, but prosperity, in the Bible, is really about the spiritual richness of our lives, which grows through adversity.
God blesses those who realise their need for him; those who rely on His past, present and future blessings; those who refuse to give fear and worry any place and who turn to Him in prayer, humility and trust. Once we learn that God has already fought the battle and won the victory, we can enjoy greater peace and prosperity and live our lives as more than conquerors in Christ!
Every day is a gift from God how we live it is a gift to Him.
This is our lesson for today. Let’s reflect in silence…