2 Chronicles 19-23
If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.” Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome. In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is. It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game. Why? We get scared. We’re thinking about our next move. We get caught up in the emotion. Or it might simply get lost in the lights.
“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 1 Chronicles 20:9,11b
In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place. Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God. Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all. You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life. Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds. Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:
To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.
There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now. Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss. Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God. In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).
To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.
One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it. Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground. Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances. He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people. He didn’t do any of this. He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday). Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road. He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.
To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.
One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment. What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist. Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle. He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition. When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others. We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice. Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.
To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.
The lights can be blinding. The hecklers can be loud. The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God. When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord. Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22). It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out. The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds. Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.
“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan