Joni Eareckson Tada is one of my faith heroes. Paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident when she was only 17, she has lived 46 years in a wheelchair. Her strength, courage and faith have inspired millions. Yesterday I read an article by her in which she cites 2 Corinthians 4:17, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” She describes ways God has redeemed her suffering, then quotes a friend who rested his hand on her wheelchair one day and told her, “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
What is your wheelchair this morning?
Today’s “fear not” comes from 2 Chronicles 20, where we find the nation of Judah in peril. A vast army had assembled and was on its way to attack them (vs. 1-2). Why has God not defended his people? Making their situation even harder to understand, the Jews were facing enemies the Lord did not allow them to conquer on their way to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 2:1-19). Surely he knew then that these nations would one day conspire to obliterate his people.
What were they to do? Their wise king Jehoshaphat “resolved to inquire of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3). God’s Spirit then fell on his prophet (v. 14), who announced: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s'” (v. 15). He assured them, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (v. 17).
How did the king respond? He assembled the army, but put worship leaders at its head to shout, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever” (v. 21). Imagine sending troops against the Taliban but stationing church choirs to march before them into battle.
What happened? “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another” (vs. 22-23). When the army of Judah arrived at the battlefield, “they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped” (v. 24).
Praise is the key to the power of God. When we respond to suffering by trusting and worshiping the One who “permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves,” we gain a front-row seat as his omnipotence acts for his glory and our good.
Lent is a season for reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. If Joni can praise God in a wheelchair, why can’t we worship him this morning?