I suspect that you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would tell you that being afraid and powerless is a good thing, and yet that is exactly what I want to suggest to you with this post. I observe as a general principle that the God of the Bible is in the habit of helping those whose predicament is dire and whose personal resources are inadequate to meet the challenges before them.
It’s possible that your Sunday School teacher taught you that “God helps those who help themselves”, but that’s not something you’ll find in the Bible. What you’ll find instead is a God who helps the helpless.
We see this principle in play with the example of King Jehoshaphat, who was on the brink of war with three nations who wanted to push Judah into extinction. When Jehoshaphat learned of this threat, the author of 2Chronicles records that “Jehoshaphat was afraid” (2Chr. 20:3).
Is it not true that the thing most likely to drive us to our knees in prayer is fear?
When the waters of life are calm, when the tasks of life appear manageable, we will likely admit that our motivation to call upon the Lord is diminished. But when the storm clouds gather, when the obstacles before us appear insurmountable, people of faith are irresistibly drawn to God in prayer.
This was the response of the king of Judah: “Jehoshaphat was afraid and (so) he turned his attention to seek the Lord; and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah” (2Chr. 20:4).
There is much we can unpack from Jehoshaphat’s prayer, and for that you can listen to the audio message posted at the bottom of this article. But for me, what stands out is Jehoshaphat’s posture before God. The godly, wealthy, and influential King of Judah confesses to the Lord, “We are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do” (2Chr. 20:12).
On the surface, this example of a nervous king confessing powerlessness is not all that inspiring. And then we read on and see that the Lord answers Jehoshaphat’s prayer and decisively delivers him and the people of Judah from their enemies.
I am left with no other conclusion but to say that Jehoshaphat’s posture of weakness is the key to his ultimate success.
Jehoshaphat’s predicament couldn’t have been more dire. He couldn’t have been more needy. Overmatched. Afraid. Powerless. Unsure of what to do. But Jehoshaphat has the humility and the wisdom to call out to the One who is never overmatched and always knows what to do.
Admittedly, our adversity is of an altogether different nature. For some, our faith in God’s goodness is rattled by the threat of a deadly disease or a nagging physical ailment. For others, our faith is challenged when a relationship with a loved one is strained or severed. And still others, perhaps many of us, find that our faith wanes as we allow Christian priorities to be squeezed out by worldly temptations and career-building ambition.
As I consider the myriad of enemies to the Christian faith, I conclude, as Jehoshaphat did, that I am powerless against them.
But the good news is that God stands ready to help. As He says through the Psalmist, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; (and) I will deliver you, and you will honour Me” (Ps. 50:15).
This was Jehoshaphat’s experience, but it can also be your experience. Call upon the Lord, and find your strength in Him.
“Jehoshaphat: Passion For Power”, based on 2Chronicles 20:1-13, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on Sunday, June 12, 2011.