Last week I poured over pictures from my childhood looking for the picture of our dog, Ginger, and me on my bed – and in case you weren’t here, well, here it is again.
Just too cute.
But as I was going through old pictures there were several that I looked at and thought to myself, what was I thinking? Did I really think that plaid bell bottoms looked good?
Absolutely, in fact they were my favorite pants. And what about that bandana I wore around my thigh? Thankfully there aren’t any pictures of me like this, but I did it because Chachi on Happy Days wore one. What was he thinking?
Now obviously styles change and what made sense 20, ok 40, years ago doesn’t make sense today, but we have learned from our mistakes and we have changed along with the styles. I no longer wear a bandana around my thigh. Aren’t you glad? Looking back on poor style choices is humorous, but what is not funny is when we make decisions today without taking into consideration what we have learned from the past. What’s not funny is making a decision today only to ask ourselves tomorrow, what was I thinking? We need to learn from the past how to make wise decisions for today. We need to learn from our past experiences how to make better choices, and we need to remember those things we have learned about God to live faithfully into the future. And we need to learn some new truths about God to shape our decision making in the future.
For the next few weeks we will either learn some new truths about God, or remember some things we have forgotten, so that either way we can make good and faithful decisions moving forward. We are going to focus and reflect on five fundamental characteristics about God that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds and hearts so that we never get to that place where we look back on a bad choice and have to ask ourselves, what was I thinking.
These five truths also push back on how the world often thinks about God. The world often thinks about God in these terms:
Weak – Distant – Harsh – Corrupt – Silent.
But the reality is that God is
Powerful – Present – Loving – Holy – Active.
During this entire series we are going to learn lessons from King Asa, who was the great grandson of King David, and the King of Judah. To set the stage for you, Israel was one nation under King David, and his son Solomon, but when Solomon died, there was a growing division among the 12 tribes. In time, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin pledged their loyalty to Solomon’s son, while the other 10 tribes broke away. So the nation of Israel divided into the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. Asa was the King of Judah and when he took the throne he was faithful and obedient to God. 2 Chronicles 14:2, 8-10
So Asa had an army of 580,000 men. These were strong and courageous men who were ready to fight. By no means was Asa helpless, he had a huge army, but he soon found himself powerless against a much larger army. Asa had 580,000 men, but the enemy was double the size and they didn’t have shields, they had chariots. Asa was not helpless, but he was powerless to win a battle against this stronger army, and this is often where we find ourselves in life.
I am not helpless, but I am powerless!
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were not helpless, but you were powerless? Powerless to change a situation, or find a quick victory? Several years ago I was hiking in the smoky mountains on a beautiful day. I was going for what I thought would be a short hike, just 4-6 miles, but when I got to the 6 mile mark I realized I had misread the map and was nowhere close to being near the end. I had no choice but to keep going, in the hot sun.
I soon was out of water and beginning to feel pretty lousy. I was powerless to get myself water. I was powerless to get myself to the car quickly. I was powerless, but I wasn’t helpless, I could walk, so I kept going. I walked from one rock to another, and then would sit down. I told myself that I could walk to the next big tree and then stop to rest. I have never hit the wall hiking like I did that day. I was sick. I was exhausted, and I considered laying down in the woods to sleep through the night, and hen hike out the next day. I was powerless to change my situation, but I wasn’t helpless, so I just kept going. Literally one step after another until just before dark I could finally see my car where I knew that I had some water.
We often find ourselves powerless in life’s situations. We are powerless to change the circumstances in our children’s lives. My niece struggled after college to find a meaningful job, and I was powerless to help. My nephew struggled with migraines that meant he could not be a pilot, which had been his life’s ambition, and I was powerless to change his situation.
We are often powerless over our health, and powerless in our jobs. We are powerless in the political circumstances of world, and powerless to change people’s hearts and minds. We are powerless, and yet we are not helpless. Asa was powerless against his enemy, but he was not helpless, and he shows us exactly what we can and need to do in times like this. 2 Chronicles 14:11-13.
Asa was powerless to change his circumstances so he called on the one who was powerful. Asa prayed to God because he knew that God was more powerful than he could possibly imagine and in his present situation, he needed God’s power. And God’s power was there in a dramatic way. God not only drove back the enemy, but the men of Judah were able to plunder the Cushites and return home with more wealth than they could have ever gained on their own.
Asa was able to call on God because while he had not seen this kind of power in his own life, he had heard the stories of God’s power from his great grandfather, King David. Asa was familiar with the words of Psalm 20:6-9.
Asa called, and God answered, and now Asa knew personally that God was powerful, but over time Asa forgot this. Let’s fast forward 35 years, 35 peaceful years where God had watched over and cared for Asa and the people of Judah. In the 36th year, Asa once again faced a strong enemy. 2 Chronicles 16:1.
Remember Judah and Israel are divided right now, so Baasha king of Israel was an enemy of Judah, and they have a stronger army than Asa. But instead of asking God for help, this is what Asa does. 2 Chronicles 16:2-4a
Asa doesn’t pray, he plans and plots and pays another king to help him overcome his enemy. Asa paid to form an alliance with another nation to get help and support instead of praying to God, and this is where we want to stand up and shout, Asa, what were you thinking? When you prayed, God was powerful and drove out your enemy, but now you don’t pray, you don’t seek God’s help, you don’t listen to your great grandfather David who said you should not trust in horses and chariots, but instead you pay to form an alliance with the super power of your day? What were you thinking?
Actually, someone does confront Asa with this very message.
2 Chronicles 16:7-9. The prophet asks Asa, what were you thinking? You knew God to be a God of power, you trusted God to help you when you were powerless, and yet here you don’t pray for God’s power but pay for the power of this world – a power which will let you down. What were you thinking? In time the worldly power does let Asa down and he spent the rest of his life leading the people during times of war.
When Asa relied on God’s power,
God blessed Asa – Asa missed the hardship.
But when Asa relied on human power,
Asa missed the blessing – Asa experienced hardship.
All because he forgot that God is more powerful than anything we can imagine.
We are all vulnerable to forgetting that God is more powerful than we can imagine, and we can easily forget that God wants to help us if we will just pray. Prayer should not be our last resort, it should be our first line of defense when we are feeling powerless. Whether it is the economy, our finances, our children, our marriage, our work, or our world, when we feel powerless we shouldn’t figure out how to plot and plan and pay our way into the future, we should pray because prayer opens the door to God’s power.
When we pray, we tap into the power of God and when we have God’s power, at least these 2 things happen.
#1 – We can live without fear. When Asa trusted God he was able to move forward with courage because he knew God was greater than his enemy. Prayer helps us focus on that game changer – God is greater than the storm. God is more powerful than we can imagine, so what have we to fear?
#2 – We can live large. When we tap into God’s power it doesn’t mean that everything will work out the way we want it to, that’s not what it means to live large. What I mean is that we can live large in faith. We live large when we are living for God’s kingdom, finding the fullness of life through the Spirit of God that dwells within us, finding meaning and purpose when we help others, and make a difference in this world. When we pray and allow God’s power to flow into our lives – we start living powerful lives that bring God’s kingdom into our lives and into our world.
Asa knew all of this, he had experienced it as a young man, but he forgot it as he got older. He allowed other ideas to enter his mind, he allowed other priorities to enter his heart. Over time, Asa trusted in himself and in what he could see around him, instead of in the power of God. At the end of his life, when Asa reflected on this moment I’m sure he said, what was I thinking?
We can learn from Asa how to protect ourselves from this mistake if we will take this truth with us today and tap into every day.
God is always more powerful than what we think, and if we will turn to God in prayer, and ask God for help, we will tap into God’s power.
What Was I Thinking? God IS Powerful!
1. Read the full story of King Asa that forms the foundation of this series. 2 Chronicles 14-16.
2. When have you felt powerless? In these situations, were you truly helpless, or simply powerless to change your situation? What is the difference between being helpless and powerless?
3. When we are powerless, King Asa teaches us to pray. Where do you need God’s power to be known in your life today? Pray for God’s help.
4. Use the words of King David to help form your prayers.
5. Tapping into God’s power helps us live without fear.
- What fear do you need God’s power to help you overcome?
- What would you do today if you had no fear?
6. Tapping into God’s power helps us live large.
- What one thing would you like to do in order to faithfully serve God?
- What one step can you take this week to share this vision, or make it happen?
- Where do you see others “living large” in our church, community, and world?
- How can you join them in the adventure?
7. In every situation you find yourself in this week, pray.
- Give thanks for the success, victories, and blessings.
- Ask for help in the failures, defeats, and sufferings.