In 1980, a woman hopped on a subway during the Boston Marathon. No big deal, except for one small detail. She was supposed to be running the marathon! Later, witnesses saw her jump into the race less than a mile from the finish line. She finished well ahead of all the other female runners, and oddly, she wasn’t winded or even sweating much. For a brief time she looked like the winner.
In a conflict long ago, a people who were losing a battle found a more honorable way to win. When messengers told King Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom,” he was terrified (2 Chron. 20:2-3). But instead of turning to typical military tactics, Jehoshaphat turned to God. He acknowledged God’s supremacy and admitted his own fear and confusion. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). Then the king chose singers to lead the army into battle. Instead of a war cry, they sang of God’s love (v. 21). The result was startling. Their enemies turned on each other (vv. 22-24). In the end, “The kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side” (v. 30).
Life can ambush us with overwhelming challenges. Yet our fear and uncertainties give us the opportunity to turn to our all-powerful God. He specializes in the unconventional.
It began as a distant, foreboding hum, then grew into an ominous, earth-rattling din. Soon hundreds of tanks and thousands of enemy infantrymen swarmed into view of the badly outnumbered soldiers in Finland. Assessing the murderous wave, an anonymous Finn lent some perspective. Courageously, he wondered aloud about the enemy: “Where will we find room to bury them all?”
Some 2,600 years before Finland showed such pluck in that World War II battle, an anxious Judean citizenry reacted quite differently to their own overwhelming situation. The Assyrian armies had trapped the people of Jerusalem inside its walls, where they faced the hopeless prospect of a starvation-inducing siege. Hezekiah nearly panicked. But then he prayed, “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth” (Isa. 37:16).
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord answered with strong words for Assyria’s King Sennacherib. “Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!” (v. 23). Then God comforted Jerusalem. “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” (v. 35). The Lord defeated Sennacherib and destroyed the Assyrian army (vv. 36-38).
No matter what dangers loom on your horizon today, the God of Hezekiah and Isaiah still reigns. He longs to hear from each of us and show Himself powerful.
At the age of 59 my friend Bob Boardman wrote, “If the 70 years of a normal life span were squeezed into a single 24-hour day, it would now be 8:30 in the evening in my life. . . . Time is slipping by so rapidly.”
The difficulty in admitting that our time on earth is limited inspired the creation of “Tikker”—a wristwatch that tells you what time it is, calculates your estimated normal life span, and displays a running countdown of your remaining time. It is advertised as the watch “that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count.”
In Psalm 39, David grappled with the brevity of his life, saying, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” (v. 4). He described his life span as no longer than the width of his hand, as only a moment to God, and merely a breath (v. 5). David concluded, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (v. 7).
The clock is ticking. Now is the time to seek God’s power to help us become the people He wants us to be. Finding hope in our eternal God gives meaning for our lives today.
Life is hard for the villagers who live on a hilly terrain in the Yunnan Province of China. Their main source of food is corn and rice. But in May 2012 a severe drought hit the region and the crops withered. Everyone was worried, and many superstitious practices were carried out as the people attempted to end the drought. When nothing worked, people started blaming the five Christians in the village for offending the spirits of the ancestors.
These five believers gathered to pray. Before long, the sky darkened and thunder was heard. A heavy downpour started and lasted the whole afternoon and night. The crops were saved! While most of the villagers did not believe God sent the rain, others did and desired to find out more about Him and Jesus.
In 1 Kings 17 and 18 we read of a severe drought in Israel. But in this case, we are told, it was a result of God’s judgment on His people (17:1). They had begun to worship Baal, the god of the Canaanites, believing that this deity could send the rain for their crops. Then God, through His prophet Elijah, showed that He is the one true God who determines when rain falls.
Our all-powerful God desires to hear our prayers and answer our pleas. And though we do not always understand His timing or His purposes, God always responds with His best for our lives.
Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s initial response was “How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v. 16). Gideon’s obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).
Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names, but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg. 7:5-23).
Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.
We are among seven billion people who coexist on a tiny planet that resides in a small section of a rather insignificant solar system. Our earth, in reality, is just one miniscule blue dot among millions of celestial bodies that God created. On the gigantic canvas that is our universe, our beautiful, majestic Earth appears as a tiny speck of dust.
That could make us feel extremely unimportant and inconsequential. However, God’s Word suggests that just the opposite is true. Our great God, who “measured the waters in the hollow of His hand” (Isa. 40:12), has singled out each person on this planet as supremely important, for we are made in His image.
For instance, He has created everything for us to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). Also, for all who have trusted Jesus as Savior, God has given purpose (Eph. 2:10). And then there’s this: Despite the vastness of this world, God cares specifically about each of us. Psalm 139 says He knows what we are going to say and what we are thinking. We can’t escape His presence, and He planned our earthly existence before we were born.
We don’t need to feel unimportant when the God of the universe is that interested in us!
On August 4, 1991, the MTS Oceanos cruise ship ran into a terrible storm off the coast of South Africa. When the ship began to sink, the captain decided to abandon ship and left with his officers, failing to notify those onboard of any problem. Passenger Moss Hills, a British musician, noticed that something was wrong and sent out a Mayday signal to the South African coast guard. Then, taking matters into their own hands, Moss, his wife Tracy, and other entertainers on board helped organize the evacuation of all passengers by assisting them as they were lifted into helicopters.
Imagine standing at the bottom of a mountain, elbow-to-elbow with everyone in your community. Thunder and lightning flash; you hear an earsplitting trumpet blast. Amid flames, God descends on the mountaintop. The summit is enveloped in smoke; the entire mountain begins to shake, and so do you (Ex. 19:16-20).
When I was in elementary school my friend Kent and I would often spend time looking at the night sky with a pair of German-made binoculars. We marveled at the stars in the sky and the mountains on the moon. All throughout the evening we took turns saying, “Hand me the binocs!”