One of the benefits of listening to expositional preaching every week is being able to follow the “logical flow” of a biblical book, applying its truths to our lives in a consistent way. But sometimes the truths God gives us can hardly be applied in a week’s time between Sundays. There are simply some truths that the Holy Spirit applies to our lives over a lifetime.
In yesterday’s sermon, “The Disciple’s Biggest Problem” (Mark 9:14-29), we learned about the common enemy of the disciple: unbelief or distrust in Jesus. When we see unbelief in our hearts toward Christ in a specific area, the Bible teaches us that the best course of action we can take is to pray (like the father in the story): “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief” (v 24)!
But I wonder if anyone else, like me, feels like they need to linger a bit over these truths, allowing the Holy Spirit to do a deeper work of conviction and healing in the specific areas of our hearts where ugly unbelief rears its head? If this is you, I wanted to offer a few thoughts to help you fight unbelief today.
In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat and the army of Judah learned that a very big army was about to invade Judah. Jehoshaphat and his army were ill-equipped to do battle against their enemy, numerically speaking – and understandably, were scared. Perhaps your situation has you in a similar place? You are the underdog in a really difficult situation in which you see no way out. As we saw yesterday, it is easy to feel like this is far bigger than God. We need faith.
Jehoshaphat reminds me of the young man’s father in Mark 9. Here’s how this king fought unbelief and held fast to the Lord, and here’s how we fight unbelief when Sunday is over.
1. Keep praying
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah… “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v 4, 20)
At the end of the sermon yesterday, we all stood and asked God to help our unbelief. But today on Monday as we enter back into this “great horde,” we must continue our prayer, asking for faith and confessing our inability to do battle against the horde, or our distrust in Jesus.
Remember, the hand which was pierced for us can readily lift up our countenance as he did the lifeless boy – so let us keep crying out, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”
2. Plead God’s promises
Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel…And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’” (v 7-9)
In his prayer, Jehoshaphat rehearsed God’s promises to Israel, asking Him to do what He had promised to His people. Spurgeon also reminds us: “Think not that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding Him of His promises. He loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls…it is God’s nature to keep His promises; therefore go at once to the throne with, ‘Do as thou hast said’ (2 Samuel 7:25).”
In our continued prayer and petition, let us lay hold of His promises (which are all “yes” and “amen” in Christ!) and pray: Do as you have said, O Lord!
3. Praise Him while we wait
Before he saw any hope of victory, “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. (v18-19)
Praise looks away from ourselves and keeps our gaze fixed on Christ our only hope. Prayer redirects our faith to Him, while praise reinforces our faith in Him. They are the twin pillars that keep us grounded in our most difficult moments.
So while we await His deliverance, let us be found glorifying Him – above all for the mountain of mercies He has bestowed on us from Calvary’s hill. Even if He never gave us one blessing more, His saving grace toward sinners like us will be cause for eternal praise in Heaven. Shall we not begin now?
4. Step aside and watch
Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ (v15, 17)
Remember the disciples? They tried to “do the work of the Spirit in the power of the flesh.” The problem wasn’t that they tried to do the Lord’s work without Him there, but that they tried to do it apart from Him. So much of our own misery comes when we try to make things happen because we don’t see God acting fast enough (or worse, we think we know better!). Remember, this isn’t our battle. We are powerless against it. Stand firm. Hold your position. And watch God work His mighty salvation in His time.
5. Celebrate the wins
After the Lord routed the enemy army, “Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. (v27-28)
The army returned to the temple where they began, still praising, but this time for the victory that the Lord had won for them. This is crucial. So often we see God gain some victory over a trial in our lives, but then just move along to the next thing. One of the best ways to fight unbelief is to go back and recall God’s grace in our lives! When we celebrate God’s victories on our behalf, it strengthens our faith in Him and readies us to turn to Him the moment the next enemy comes at us.
I am praying with you that God would continue to grant us grace for the hours and days ahead to fight unbelief. We need Him at every hour, indeed! Amen.