Four Ways to be Easily Conquered (Pt. 4)

3 | Lack Nothing

(Four Ways to Be Easily Conquered, Pt. 4)

Prosperity seems to be an advantage, but in fact, it may be the very thing that keeps us unprepared for attack.

Disproportionately Blessed

It certainly made Laish unprepared for the Danite assault. We are told twice that Laish lacked nothing and was prosperous (Judges 18:7, 10), no surprise because of its ideal location.pampered

The city was situated perfectly at the foot of Mt. Lebanon and the Hermon mountains, whose melting snow provided the majority of the water for the Jordan River. This made Laish uniquely lush and fertile in an otherwise arid region.

Also, they had apparently faced little or no mistreatment since another way to translate the Hebrew phrase for “lacked nothing,” is, “no oppressive authorities taxing them.”

No doubt, this city–like many people–seemed disproportionately blessed.

The Misfortune of the Fortunate

How could such prosperity be a bad thing? I can think of two reasons.

1 | Wealth becomes a target on the wealthy person’s back.

Capture01People who are perceived to be more privileged evoke the envy of others who feel unfairly deprived, making them targets of hostility or theft.
Wealth may have the advantage of providing for greater safety measures–high-tech home and car security systems, insurance on expensive possessions, living in gated communities, etc.–but a disadvantage of wealth is that it makes such measures necessary.

Proverbs 13:8, says, “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but the poor hears no rebuke” (NASB).

The Amplified Bible expounds,

“A rich man can buy his way out of threatened death by paying a ransom, but the poor man does not even have to listen to threats [from the envious].”

Whether wanted or not, prosperity naturally calls attention to a person, making them the object of admiration to some and a more compelling target to others.

Including spiritual foes. If Job was singled out by Satan because he was so fortunate and untouched by hardship, we too may expect to be harassed for our good fortune.

2 | A person who lacks nothing becomes dependent on having everything.

The longer we live in prosperity, the more it becomes our norm. Before long, having everything feels so normal that it feels necessary.

When something is taken away, we panic at the thought of living without it, even if it is something many people easily live without. Maybe even something we ourselves were previously content living without.

This is true for me and cell phones.Capture02

I did’t have a cell phone until I was a junior in college, and I didn’t have a smartphone until four years ago (2011). Before that, I lived actively and even did youth ministry without a phone with internet, GPS, texting, camera, cloud storage, etc.

naked-smart-phone-addiction-dependency-confession-ecards-someecards-300x167Now I shudder to think of having even one of those functions taken away, much less trying to live without any cell phone at all.

The more we have, the more we require to “survive” and the greater our shock when we are forced to go without.

Boot Camp

Misfortune can be good for us, then…so good, in fact, that we should intentionally inflict hardship on ourselves if we hope to overcome difficult challenges that will inevitably befall us.

Our success in battle depends on how we train in boot camp.

In boot camp, if soldiers “lacked nothing,” it would be quite a shock to them in combat when they have to live on very little and they’re under attack.

Training conditions should mimic actual battle conditions so there is familiarity, not shock, when suddenly forced into the discomfort, deprivation and danger of battle!

Soldiers can withstand, even succeed in, the worst battle conditions because they have trained themselves NOT to be dependent on favorable conditions or good treatment to do their jobs.

Maybe the Monks are On to Something

We can do this ourselves with a practice called “fasting.”

Many believe fasting to be an antiquated discipline practiced only by extreme pious nuts in monasteries. It seems outdated and irrelevant for modern disciples, but I believe fasting is needed now more than ever.

If we are not careful, the attitude of entitlement will infect our minds.

It is an epidemic in the American church, if not globally. Many Christians feel entitled to a certain level of comfort, prosperity and protection. When these expectations are not met, when hardship comes, they are easily conquered by discouragement, despair, bitterness toward God, compromise, or maybe even all-out surrender and defection.

Fasting is our way to practice having nothing so we will be prepared for times when we indeed have nothing.

Essentially, fasting is merely voluntarily removing something we have come to depend on for fulfillment other than Jesus.

We can fast from food, of course, or maybe a particular food/type of food (sweets; Starbucks; a “Daniel Fast” of only fruits, nuts, and vegetables; etc.).

Some fast from a certain activity that has, or could, become too important to their happiness.

Couples can agree to fast from sex for a spiritual purpose (I Corinthians 7:5).

Many modern “fasters” have chosen to challenge themselves by abstaining from digital entertainment and/or social media for a time.

A person might even fast from money, determining what income is absolutely mandatory and choosing to give away everything over that for a certain amount of time. This benefits the people, families, churches or organizations they give to and allows the person to practice finding contentment on a tighter budget.

What to fast from is different for each person. To determine what would have the greatest impact for you, evaluate (honestly!) what would be hardest to give up.

Coffee? Netflix? Sex? Facebook? Dating? ESPN? Extra spending money?

Whatever you would be most defensive about giving up if someone suggested it is probably the thing you benefit most to fast from.

I know what it is for me. What is it for you?

Enough Prayer

To paraphrase someone much smarter than me, it is in times when God is all we have that we discover God is all we need.

Do you want that kind of unshakable faith?

Do you want to be able to say, as Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12)?

Then rather than praying for prosperity, pray simply for “enough,” and nothing more.

Proverbs 30:8 is the Enough Prayer:

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.”

May the Lord use both blessing and hardship to train you so you will be successful under any and every type of combat conditions.


Four Ways to be Easily Conquered (Pt. 2)

1 | Be Safe and Secure

(Four Ways to Be Easily Conquered, Pt. 2)

The Key to Crossing a Frozen Pond

Two hikers want to explore the woods on the other side of a frozen lake.walking_on_thin_ice_by_x_ample

One is hesitant to cross the lake, skeptical that the ice will hold their weight. The other is bold and confident they can make it.

Who will make it to the woods on the other side of the lake?

That all depends…on the strength of the ice.

Success and security are not based upon the size and strength of one’s faith but upon the size and strength of the object of one’s faith.

We are only as successful and secure as what we rely on for success and security.

A person with only a little faith in thick ice is more secure than the person with great confidence in thin ice.

Likewise, even small, struggling faith in an enormous God can uproot mountains and sustain us in impossible situations, while bold, wholehearted confidence in anything less, no matter how worthy it seems, cannot ensure our well-being.

Sidonian Safety

The Danite scouts looking for a city to conquer described Laish as “living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure” (Judges 18:7).

This may seem like a deterrent, but in fact, their Sidonian safety and security actually made them more vulnerable.

Avila_wallsSafety and security are, by no means, inherently negative, but, like many of us, Laish’s confidence was in the wrong safeguard.

Their defenses were modeled after Sidon. Sidon was a well-fortified city because it was wealthy. Archaeological findings show that Laish had similar defensive measures: enormous earthen embankments that served as massive walls, gate courtyards, etc.

Hence their peace of mind.

In _____ We Trust

They are not the only ones to put their faith in such safeguards.

Israel asked for a king, feeling more secure following a man into battle than an invisible God (I Samuel 8:19-20).

Leah trusted pregnancies to fix her marriage (Genesis 29:32, 34; 30:20).

Asa refused to seek the Lord’s help with his severe foot disease, instead trusting only his physicians (II Chronicles 16:12).

David observed that many trust in the military power of horses and chariots for their safety (Psalm 20:7).

Proverbs notes that the wealthy imagine their money to be an unscalable wall (Proverbs 18:11).

Proverbs also observes that many trust their own wisdom and ingenuity, that they feel safest doing whatever seems right to them (Proverbs 14:12).

And the trend continues today.

“Everything will be better if we can just get the right politicians in office.”

“This relationship will fix my problems.”

“If I can only get into that hospital, be treated by that doctor, or get that treatment, I could be cured.”

“Our military is keeping this country safe.”

“This is a safe place to live because it has the top police department in our region.”

“I feel safer since I started carrying a firearm.”

“Getting into that college is the key to my successful career.”

“I know my future is secure because I’ve got a solid 401K.”

“I don’t worry much because I can always find a way to work things out for the best.”

For our well-being, we might pray…but we are definitely going to buckle up, lock our cars, get home alarm systems, and demand top-notch police, fire and medical services.

Then we have peace of mind that we are secure.

Indeed, we may be more Sidonian than we think.

Scalable Walls

There is nothing wrong with these safety measures, but they do not make us secure! To place our trust in them implicitly only makes us more easily conquerable.

What happens to our security when:

… jobs we trusted in are lost?4ceac20dee7c2a9c1e6b5409e4ec920f

… our bank accounts dry up?

… people we rely on let us down?

… our own wisdom and ingenuity prove to be wrong, often with serious consequences?

… doctors and treatments turn out to be ineffective?

… disasters strike that cannot be fixed by money, people, our own effort, etc.?

Laish had peace of mind because of their walls, but these walls were eventually scaled by the Danites, and the city fell.

We, too, can be at peace behind the highest walls of finances and resources and safety measures, and yet be totally vulnerable.

The good news is, this means we can stop frantically building these high walls and instead focus on a single thing for our security.

The Strong Tower

Proverbs 18:11, states that wealthy people only imagine their riches to be an unscalable wall. The verse just before it describes a truly unscalable, impenetrable wall:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are saved (Proverbs 18:10).

The Lord does not fail.

To cultivate a relationship with Him is the greatest investment we can make in our success and security.

lighthouse-in-the-storm1One missionary explained, “Security is not found in the absence of danger, but in the presence of Jesus.” (And this is a woman in a country where 60 missionaries are killed every year!)

Better to be in the direst circumstances with only Jesus to hold onto than abundantly wealthy in the safest house in the safest city with incredible insurance and access to the best doctors but no relationship with Christ.

Remember, you are only as successful and secure as what you rely on for success and security.

So the first question to ask yourself to find out how conquerable you are is, “What/whom am I relying on for security?”

To encourage you to make Christ your one hope of security, read these lyrics from Edward Mote (1797-1874), and then watch the video of Hillsong’s rendition of it, titled “Cornerstone.”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3 Claims About God That Must Be True to Trust Him

Is God worthy of our absolute trust? That depends on these three things…

A New Word for Trust

The cannibals in the New Hebrides may not have had a word in their language for “believing” or “putting one’s trust in” someone, but that didn’t stop missionary Dr. John G. Paton from translating the gospel of John into their native tongue. Leaning back in his chair with his feet raised from the floor, he asked a companion from that tribe, “What am I doing?” The word the native used to describe “putting his full weight on” the chair became the term Paton used for trusting in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever puts their full weight on Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

(Read this for more about this great man’s legacy.)

The Three Legs

But is God worthy of our full weight? Can we confidently lean into Him and lift our feet, trusting Him absolutely to sustain us?

That depends. There are three claims about God that must be true if He is to be the One upon which we fully rely.

(Note: These assume the reader already believes in the existence of God. The questions to determine His reliability, then, are not about His existence but about His character.)

1 | “God is consistently good.”

In Jeremiah 29:11, God claims that His motives are to give us hope and a prosperous future, not to harm us. But when hardship comes, we may wonder if there is a limit to God’s goodness or faithfulness.

What we believe about His goodness matters a great deal, just as it does in marriage.

WifeOnPhoneIf I told you my wife has been acting strangely–secret phone calls, unidentified credit card charges, lying about her whereabouts, responding vaguely or with irritation when questioned about it–you might suspect she is having an affair. But because years of deep, intimate relationship with her have proven her goodness and loyalty to me, I would interpret the suspicious evidence differently. Instead of an affair, I would conclude there is a surprise party in my future.

Those who do not know her see evidence of unfaithfulness. Because I know her well, I see evidence that she is doing something good for me.

Likewise, when the evidence about God seems incriminating, some will assume He is no longer good or faithful, while others will trust that He is working on something for our benefit.

2 | “God is infallibly wise.”

There is more to trustworthy character than just having good intentions. God must not only want what’s best for us, He must always know, without fail, what truly is best.

Paul boasts of God’s superior wisdom:

“Where is the wise person? … The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:20, 25).

OneWayWrongWayIt is a bold claim, to say the least, because we think we are pretty smart, and sometimes we downright disagree with God. I confess to arguing with Him on multiple occasions:

… “I know You think this is good for me, but what I really need is _____!”
… “You don’t know him/her like I do!”
… “You don’t know how hard this is!”
… “I know You want such-and-such, but You have no idea what a disaster that would be!”

Inevitably, God’s will and methods will, in many cases, run counter to our own wisdom and instincts. After all, He is the God who:
… takes the long, winding way in the desert instead of the more direct path to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:17-14:4);
… trims down an army that’s already outnumbered 4 to 1 until only 300 remain, outnumbered 450 to 1 (Judges 6);
… says a patient man is mightier than a warrior (Proverbs 16:32);
… says it’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35);
… and teaches that greatness is achieved by climbing down the ladder of success to be servant of all (Mark 10:42-45).

No wonder many are reluctant lift their feet and lean fully into God’s plan!

David, on the other hand, had tested God’s strange ways and concluded,

“As for God, His way is perfect. The LORD’S word is flawless” (II Samuel 22:31).

He was convinced that even the most foolish plan of God will have better results than the wisest of man’s.

3 | “God is limitlessly powerful.”

Lastly, we must ask, “Even if God wants what’s best for me and knows what that is, is He able to make that happen?”

WeakVsStrongMy wife has observed that my prayers tend to “play it safe,” giving God an “out” in case He chooses not to heal this person, provide a job for that person, etc. My intention is to have a “Not my will, but Thine” attitude rather than presuming to tell God what to do.

But my wife has struck a nerve. I, and many like me, may say that nothing is beyond God’s power but pray like the situation is.

The power of God working through people has cured diseases, humbled hardened sinners, removed obstacles as impassable as a sea, turned a single meal into a feast for thousands, routed armies, made dead people alive again, and much, much more.

And yet, many doubt that God’s power is enough for their situation, as though it is harder than any God has faced.

Ironically, if God is limitlessly powerful, His power may still be limited. In Matthew 9, Jesus asked two blind men if they believed He had the power to reverse what was, in their day, an irreversible condition. They claimed this faith, but Jesus responded, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” Fortunately, they were healed because their faith had no limits.

What about you? Could there be limits to God’s power in your life because it is being done to you according to your limited faith?

Missing Legs

It is difficult to balance on a two-legged stool. All three legs are needed to feel secure in resting our full weight on it.

The same is true for God. When I doubt His goodness, wisdom or power, I find myself reluctant to entrust myself to Him.

So when you doubt–and we all do from time to time–which leg is typically missing? Assurance that God’s motives toward you are good? Confidence that His strange ways are perfect? Absolute certainty that your situation is not beyond His power?

I pray that, as you come to know God more intimately, He will prove over time that He is always loving, flawlessly wise, and infinitely, sufficiently powerful.

An Open Discussion

I would LOVE for this to be a discussion! Please leave a comment to share which leg you struggle with most and/or what helps you know God intimately enough to overcome certain doubts.