Part 6 of 12
Killer Green Bean
You never know what is growing in your refrigerator.
This past week I pulled out some fresh lettuce to make a salad for our supper. Opening up the leaves, I noticed brown droppings all over the inside of almost every leaf. Hurriedly, I pulled the lettuce leaves apart and meticulously began to wash away the brown ‘yuck’ (called frass, by the way) that covered most of the leaves. In the process of my painstaking cleaning operation, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. In hunting for the alien in my lettuce, I came across a green caterpillar. I knew my preschooler would be so excited to observe the caterpillar, so I put it aside while I finished making the salad, totally forgetting about it in the process.
Halfway through our supper, I jumped out of my seat and ran for the counter. The caterpillar was nowhere to be found, so we began an all-out search until we noticed it crawling under my cupboard. I rescued it and placed it on the table, where we managed to corral it long enough to finish our meal.
After supper, my two boys went to town creating a home for KGB (Killer Green Bean) out of a jelly jar. Robert, my sixteen year old, poked holes in the lid and both he and Timmy filled the jar with lettuce and cucumbers. We left the caterpillar overnight, never realizing the potential of our little “pet.”
The next day, Robert excitedly announced that KGB was building some sort of chrysalis. He had climbed up to the top of the jar and had begun to spin a see-through structure around himself, a sort of sticky web to hold his body to the side of the jar. Though it was hard to see what was happening, we watched his little head move back and forth, wriggling and twitching a lot. Looking back, we now know that KGB was using his mouth to weave some silk into a safety structure. After a couple of days, the outside of the caterpillar began to harden and turn brown.
We are currently in the process of watching KGB do nothing, or so it appears from the outside. He is simply hanging out in his ever-hardening chrysalis, waiting to emerge into the world. However, you and I both know that inside that pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly changing.
Caterpillars are short, stubby creatures that have no wings at all. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar undergo a remarkable transformation. They become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will eventually emerge after two or three weeks. This process, called metamorphosis, changes the tissues, limbs and organs of a caterpillar completely by the time the pupa is finished and all of that transformation prepares the butterfly for the final stage in his life cycle.
By Way of Review
If you are just joining this devotional series, you need to know that we are studying trust. Not the oh-I-hope-I-can-hang-on-another-day type of trust, but a trust that is solid and dependent, grounded and firm; in short, a trust that is unwavering. Storms are going to beat against our beliefs. We will need an unwavering, unfaltering, undiminished kind of faith if we are going to faithfully navigate our storms of life.
We are studying the life of King Hezekiah, one of the most godly kings Judah ever experienced. He has been our example of what it usually means to live by faith. I say usually, because Hezekiah had a detrimental run-in with pride a couple of weeks ago and a debilitating attack of fear last week. Both pride and fear undermined his faith and consequently, his trust in God.
Experience is the best teacher, or so I have been told. Even bad choices can be used to build an unwavering trust. Pride taught Hezekiah the pathway to humility and fear instructed this same king in the proper fear: the fear of the Lord. There are times when you and I will walk like giants under our thunderclouds and there will also be times when we shrink and run, totter and fall. Both experiences, negative and positive, are catalysts for us to grow in trust. So far, Hezekiah’s life has taught us five principles of trust:
- A life of trust is built on intimacy, identity, and integrity in the calm before the storm. I sought to prove in the first week that the calm before the storm is the place in which we must build our foundation of trust.
- Trust is the security that comes from resting one’s identity on the Word and the Person of God. Hezekiah stood tall when Israel collapsed because his foundation was built on truth.
- A person who trusts will respond to suffering with worship. Trust in the middle of shattered dreams becomes a healing balm when a person learns to worship despite baffling amounts of suffering.
- Trust always humbly steers toward the focal point of God. When a person loses sight of God as her focus, she will get off track. Pride always steers us awry, but pursuing humility always leads us back into God’s will and purpose for our lives.
- A trusting person fears the Lord rather than giving way to fleshly fear. Last week we discovered that fear undermined Hezekiah’s poor choices. As the storm clouds gathered above his head, distrust began to ignite fear. Hezekiah learned the hard way that God, rather than man, must be his pure object of trust.
Hezekiah learned his lessons. He handled his pride and humbled himself. He managed his fear and learned to draw courage from God. Today, Hezekiah will prove that he is, once again, a man who trusts in God with all of his heart.
The caterpillar is a slow-moving, lumbering, inching creature, who does little more than eat his way through the green leaves of his world. He is easy prey for birds and other larger insects. Hezekiah, like the caterpillar, has lumbered and blundered his way through his tests of faith; sometimes victorious, sometimes not. He has also been easy prey both to the predators of pride and fear.
The caterpillar takes a step-by-step approach to the struggle and hardship that will launch him into flight: eating to conserve energy; finding a place to safely transform; building a net to hold his resting body; and covering himself with a chrysalis. Hezekiah will also meticulously begin his own preparations for the coming Assyrian conflict. We will study these preparations in detail today.
The supernatural transformation of metamorphosis changes the caterpillar into a butterfly. Likewise, the Hezekiah we observe in this specific vignette, will prove that his chrysalis of hardships has changed him. We will see him metamorphosize into a man of unwavering trust, who prepares for war in Christlike fashion, and who will fly above his circumstances like an eagle (Isa. 40:31).
Our text today is quite short, but it is jam-packed with good, practical advice. Please take a moment to read 2 Chronicles 32:2-8, 30, while all the while, preparing your own heart to hear from the Lord through the life of Hezekiah.
After All He Had Done
Before we dive into these six, seemingly insignificant verses regarding Hezekiah’s preparations for war, I want to pause on a very human, yet very pressing, concern. It is the concern of faithfulness. 2 Chronicles 32 opens with these words, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself” (v 1).
When the chronicler speaks of “all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done,” he is reminding us of the three previous chapters dealing with Hezekiah’s reforms. In chapter 29, you will recall that Hezekiah began to reign and in the first month of his ascension to the throne, he opened the doors of the temple and repaired them. He then set to work purifying the temple and motivating his people to consecrate themselves and join in proper worship.
Chapter 30 highlighted Hezekiah’s endeavors at moving his people to celebrate the Passover. Couriers were sent all throughout the land with letters begging Israelites and people of Judah to return to the Lord. Those couriers were often scorned and ridiculed, but they did not stop under Hezekiah’s watchful eye. The Passover was celebrated with great joy. God heard the loud praising, for their prayers reached heaven, his holy dwelling place (30:27). After the Passover, the people were so fueled by the intimacy of the event that they routed the land of idols. It was a good day.
In the next chapter, Hezekiah is described as the careful steward of the temple’s resources. He assigned the priests and Levites to divisions. He contributed from his own possessions for the offerings needed. He invited the people to share in generous giving as well, which they did. He helped prepare storerooms to hold all the contributions to the temple. Chapter 31 ends with these incredible words, “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (31:20-21).
In everything that he did, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. Everything, my friend, did you get that? Hezekiah was not an unenthusiastic worker. He was not a half-baked believer. He was not apathetic, feeble, or tepid about his God; he was on fire to do God’s will.
That is what makes the first sentence in chapter 32 so stark by contrast. He was faithful before God and yet, after all that he had so faithfully done, God allowed him to come under a debilitating attack. What had Hezekiah done to deserve this?
Absolutely nothing, I tell you, because God is not a punishing God. He uses storms to refine our faith and conform us to the image of His Son. But storms have a way of diverting our attention from the hills where God works to the valleys where Satan triumphs. So the cry, “What have I done to deserve this?” contains all the pathos of our misunderstandings when bad things happen to good people.
A Tropical Storm…Inside
After coming home from my Starbucks morning with God this past Saturday, I was not home for more than four hours when the storm clouds began to pile up. This is unusual, you need to know, because Thailand is currently experiencing a drought. We are in the midst of our hot season, where temperatures soar to over 100 degrees daily and we do not see a drop of rain for four to six months. So when the thunder began to rumble and the lightning began to flash, I took my two boys out on the front porch to watch the unusual weather display.
Pretty soon, however, we were dashing around the outside of our house trying to salvage belongings that were catching flight with the wind whistling through our carport. It was not long before hail began to fall along with a myriad of tree branches. I ran upstairs to get some towels to mop up the encroaching water coming in under my back door and noticed the mess in the boys’ bathroom due to a broken window. But that was nothing compared to the chaos in my bedroom.
When I opened the door, my bedroom floor resembled a tropical rainforest. Leaves and dirt were strewn all over the floor, cabinets and carpet. The ceiling had become detached from the walls and rain dripped ominously onto my bed. Two windows had been torn open and rain literally poured onto my bedroom floor. All of my journals and study materials were wet along with many papers that were kiting around the room on gusts of wind. It was as if a tropical storm had brewed inside my formerly restful bedroom.
I summoned Robert and we began the arduous task of removing everything from the room. The ceiling continued to creak and groan with the wind as we dashed in and out of the room, salvaging as much as we could between the ominous noises coming from the distended roof line. In the middle of all of that mess, our power went out.
Over the last couple of days, we have had no power and no water, so our family has camped for two nights at a single friend’s apartment. We have cleaned up a lot of the mess inside and outside of our home, but are prepared for quite a long haul without a bedroom. Currently, our bed is in the middle of our preschooler’s floor, while my office is spread out over three other rooms. The ceiling literally hangs in the balance while we wait for more storms to come with bated breath. (Please, God, do not let it rain anymore or else our bedroom ceiling will fall and the rain will come in and begin to leak into our downstairs living room.)
This storm was unexpected. It is the middle of the dry season, for reality’s sake. Why would God allow a storm to come into our lives in the wrong season? During a time of prolonged dryness? In a time of excruciating un-preparedness? On our Easter weekend? During the last few days of vacation before my kids are supposed to head back to school again?
Haven’t we been faithful? Is there something we have done to incur God’s wrath? Doesn’t He love us? Where have we gone wrong? What have we done to deserve this? Why is this happening to us? These are the questions we might begin to ask, because these are always the questions asked of God when storms beat against our faith.
I am quite aware that our storm – although a large one by Thai standards – is on a much smaller scale than Hezekiah’s Assyrian attack. I am not submitting this story by way of comparison, but as an example. I asked the same hard questions of God when the health of my two-week old son began to deteriorate and I reiterated them over and over to the heavens during the next two years of his ordeal. I spoke these words when my life came crashing down in a personal betrayal almost nineteen years ago. I have thought them when I had to sell my house, when I broke my back and when we were asked to move countries yet again. God has allowed huge storms into my life; storms that have goaded my faith to curl up and die, or at the least, to question the inherent goodness of God.
Hezekiah was hit by a tropical storm on the outside: Assyria captured 46 of his Judean towns. The enemies were camped at the capitol’s doorstep, ready to launch an all-out war on the faithful king himself. But of greater import than the visual storm strewn around the Judean countryside was the tropical storm brewing on the inside of Hezekiah’s heart. Last week, we saw how that storm affected him. It paralyzed his faith and caused him to panic, to make foolish decisions and forget his greatest ally, God Himself.
After all he had so faithfully done, a storm struck against Hezekiah’s trust in God. And the very sad result was that Hezekiah forgot to trust His Maker.
When a storm beats against the outside of our lives after all we have so faithfully done, how do we handle the gale-force winds and torrential rains that pummel the inside of our hearts? How do we faithfully navigate the ‘why’s’ and ‘what-ifs’ of the storms that God allows into our lives?
Two In-The-Middle-of-the-Storm Steps of Trust
If you will recall from our very first week in this study, I stated that the lull before the storm was the time to prepare for the crises that hit. That lull is not a time to eat, drink and be merry; instead, it is a time of serious commitment. When the storm beats against our faith, it is too late to begin preparing. At that point, the foundation we have laid will become the impetus for our forward movement into eye-opening, firm-walking, hand-not-shaking, solid trust. Or it will not.
Instead of the manner in which Hezekiah handled his last two storms, you can take two beautiful, God-honoring steps of faith. First, you can rest in the intimacy with God that you aggressively built in the hush before the chaos, and secondly, you can speak truths loudly over your storm.
We sang a song this past Easter Sunday about what we should do when storm clouds begin to pile up on our horizon. It is entitled Because He Lives, written by Matt Maher. Look at some of these words:
I believe in the Son/I believe in the risen One/I believe I overcome/By the power of His blood/Amen, amen/I’m alive, I’m alive/Because He lives/Amen, amen/Let my song join the one that never ends/Because He lives…/I can face tomorrow/Because He lives/Every fear is gone/I know He holds my life my future in His hands…
All of these words express truth. They express a sincere relationship with God. They are fueled by the power of the Word jointly combined with the vocal choice to rebuke the wind and the waves.
What do you believe? Is God bigger than your storm…or not? Are you empowered by the Spirit of the living God…or not? Can you face tomorrow with courage…or not? Because He lives, is your fear all gone…or not? Do you know that He holds your future in His capable hands…or not? If life worth the living because He lives…or not? Is Christ alone your hope…or not? Is He your cornerstone, your solid ground…or not? Is He your comforter, your all in all…or not? Are you going to stand in the love of Christ…or not? Does Jesus command your destiny…or not? Do you believe that nothing can pluck you from His hand…or not? Till He returns or calls you home, will you stand in the power of Christ…or not (thoughts taken from the songs In Christ Alone and Because He Lives)?
Trust flows easily from the proper response to God, not from a response to the circumstances. The storm only reveals what you believe. God will either be your greatest ally and support or He will not. “When What Ifs (and Whys and If Only’s) come into our lives, we must ask ourselves if we’re going to judge God by the circumstances we don’t understand or judge the circumstances in light of the character of God” (Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart, p. 153). When the storm begins to blow and the tempest begins to toss, we can say, “It is well with my soul,” if we know the One who holds our tomorrows.
Hezekiah knew this one true God. Pride and fear had been his most influential teachers, and after he learned their hard lessons, he walked through the rest of his life with a dependent faith and an abiding trust. Through the good times and especially, the bad times, Hezekiah learned the absolute necessity of being prepared for the inevitable storms that would come.
If you are currently being battered by the wind and rain, and there is no time to think, let alone even recall what you have prepared for this moment, remember these two important action steps of faith. First, rest in the intimacy you have already cultivated with God. Live hourly in God’s grace and love. Do not let the fog and rain cloud your view of God, but trust Him to be the God you have always known Him to be.
Secondly, speak truth out over your situation. Breathe in God’s Word like spiritual oxygen. Verbalize the goodness of His character and His ways. Speak out loud the promises that fill His Word and most of all, do not allow yourself to be dragged down into deception and lies. Satan is very good at debilitating your faith by causing distrust between you and God. Do not allow it. Rebuke him and walk in the truths you know.
These two actions will get you through your thunderstorm if you have already done the previous work of preparing for the storm, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Habbakuk’s Tremulous Why Questions
We spent quite a bit of time on Habakkuk a number of weeks ago, but this matter of faithfulness under fire brings his dilemma back to my mind again. He engaged God with a complaint, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong” (Hab. 1:3)? God’s answer to that why question was to give Habakkuk a glimpse of what was coming to judge Israel: the ruthless Babylonian nation. God was going to judge the injustices of His own people with a completely pagan and wicked nation. In short, God was going to bring a typhoon-proportioned storm.
Habbakuk could have wailed, “That’s not fair!” to God. He could have stomped around in bitter anger. He could have imploded his integrity and given in to distrust or sin, but he didn’t. He took a faith-filled action, choosing to appeal to God’s character – His holiness and purity – and asked his God Why: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves” (1:13)?
The storm clouds had begun to gather, but Habakkuk did not move forward into his own plans with pride leading the way. He also did not shrink from the truth by cowering in fear. He did something else, something unexpected and powerfully dependent: he prepared himself for God’s answer. Look closely at what he said, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give (2:1). In other words, he chose to wait until he heard God’s reply to his concerns. In the middle of his frustration with the present circumstances and in light of the horror of the coming storm, he still chose to wait on God.
Oh, dear one, there is a wealth of advice in Habakkuk’s choice. His actions appear to be inaction. They seem weak and unavailing, but they are actually the believing, trusting, faith-filled actions of a man who has learned the art of preparing.
Preparing requires you to be willing to stand at your watch. You must be ready to station yourself quietly on the ramparts watching for the signs of God’s movement. There needs to be an eagerness to look and see what God will say. You must also be inclined to give an answer to God even if He chooses to rebuke you. In short, preparation involves a lot of waiting.
Waiting is not an anxious, nail-biting time of fear. It is not asking, then quickly planning your own answer. Waiting must be done with belief like the psalmist, who laid his requests before God and waited in expectation (Ps. 5:3). Waiting should strengthen the heart and help the waiter to be strong (Ps. 27:14). We are to wait in hope for the Lord because He is our help and shield (Ps. 33:20). Waiting should not involve fretting, because being still before God actually helps us to wait in patience (Ps. 37:7). We are to wait with the confidence that God will answer (Ps. 38:15). This requires a constant leaning on God’s Word and His promises. While we wait, we are to keep His way, obeying His commands and walking in His truths (Ps. 37:34). We are also to ensure that His name and His renown are the desire of our hearts (Isa. 26:8). Speaking out that God is our portion helps us wait for Him without anxiety (Lam. 3:24). All of these forms of waiting, and many more, cause our hearts to rest in His presence in the middle of storms.
Waiting on God is one way to faithfully navigate the storms of life. But there are more actions we can take to prepare our hearts to hear from God, to rest in intimacy with Him, and to speak truth out over our storm-tossed lives.
In the week prior to Palm Sunday, my devotions centered around the different parables and teachings on the Lord’s return. The disciples asked this question of the Lord, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3)? The Lord’s answer was incredibly long and detailed. Obviously, God wants us to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming.
Some of the signs involve deception (24:4,5, 11), war, famine, and earthquakes (24:6-7). There will be persecution and even death (24:9). Many will turn from their faith (v 10) and the love of most people will grow cold (24:12). There will be an abomination in the temple that will horrify the Jewish nation (24:15-16). Vultures will proliferate, and natural disasters will intensify (24:28-29). But there will be other positive signs like the gospel reaching out, Jesus coming like lightning (v 27), and angels amassing and trumpets blowing (vb 29-31). Jesus spoke a tiny parable about the sign of a fig tree. When its twigs get tender and its leaves begin to shoot out, it is a sign of summer approaching. So it will be with the return of Jesus (vv 32-35).
You may be wondering what the Second Coming has to do with Hezekiah. I realize that these parables are very specific to Christ’s return, but I do not think I am out of line to connect a couple of spiritual dots from these passages to Hezekiah’s brewing storm and consequently, our storms as well. When Christ comes back, it will be the culmination of the Kingdom of Heaven, a great work of God that pulls all of the loose strings of this world’s unanswered questions together. We are to prepare for that greatest work of God.
However, through each and every day runs a thread of the Kingdom of Heaven. Through each hour, there is the potential for God to do a great work, both in us and through us. Yes, with eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11), we are to live and move in Him and have our being (Acts 17:28). Each minute of every day is packed with the potential of God to do a great and mighty, Kingdom-building work.
Because of this truth that God is always working His will and purposes, you and I must not only prepare our hearts for end times, but we must be faithful to engage in heart-preparation every morning. Learning this art of preparation enables us to join God in His Work. Because of the importance of this preparation mentality, I will be drawing out some preparation principles from these parables. These are useful for us to implement on a daily basis, especially in light of the storms that will inevitably come across our paths.
Invest in the best (Mt. 24:36-44)
Because the day and the hour are completely unknown, Jesus tells us that we need to be ready. All the people of Noah’s day were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage in the days before the storm. They were destroyed because of their lack of preparation. Notice that these actions are not sinful or bad; they are simply the common interests of life. However, “they lost the best by living for the good” (Wiersbe, p. 89). It was detrimental to their very lives to be so absorbed in the good things that kept them busy rather than to be preparing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for the return of God.
How do we invest in the best? We can spend a lot of time doing a lot of things for God and never engage in the Kingdom. Jesus’ answer to that unspoken query is this: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…you also must be ready…” (24:42, 44). The best action we take, according to Jesus’s priorities, is to keep watch for His coming and to prepare ourselves to be ready.
Be faithful to God and kind to others (Mt. 24:45-51)
Jesus next told the story of two servants, one was faithful and wise and the other was wicked and unkind. By contrasting these two servants, God was clear about what preparation looks like.
The wise servant was in charge of all the other servants in the household and he gave them their food at the proper time. He was faithful in discharging his duties when the master came back. The unfaithful servant realized that his master was staying away a long time and so he began to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. In other words, he lived like the world and mistreated the people around him.
Being prepared means being faithful to discharge the duties you have been given. It means investing in good relationships and offering exemplary conduct. Being ready does not mean sitting around doing nothing, but it is providing for the household and serving others. To watch means to be engaged in active, laborious, responsible service.
Keep extra oil (Mt. 25:1-13)
The parable of the ten virgins describes five women who were considered wise and five who were foolish. Both groups fell asleep while they were waiting for the bridegroom. When he finally came, they all woke up and began to trim their lamps. However, only five women had brought extra oil and while the foolish virgins went to find oil, the bridegroom came and whisked the wise women off to the wedding party.
There is much speculation about the meaning of the oil. Some say it reflects the Holy Spirit; others say the Word of God. I do not think it matters, since the main point of the whole parable is to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (v 13). In preparing for the Lord’s return or any other work of God, it is important to remember that no one can rely on someone else’s preparation; each one must be prepared herself. Wise people are prepared for any delays that come along. They keep extra oil while they faithfully keep watch for their Bridegroom and whatever He brings for them to do.
Use the opportunities you have been given (Mt. 25:14-30)
The parable of the talents is a very familiar story, but hopefully, you will be afforded a new take on this familiar lesson in light of this theme of preparation. Three servants were given talents of money with the idea that they would invest it all. The master knew his servants and their abilities and tasked them each individually. The first two servants invested their money and produced more. The third servant was afraid and hid the money in the ground.
This parable shows that preparation is not passively waiting but responsibly acting, producing results which the master can see and approve. This story is not endorsing salvation by works, but the idea that each is given the exact job and opportunities God thinks they can handle. The third servant struggled with his perception of the master, which affected how he handled his talent. He substituted security for service and ended up losing even the little he had. Preparation involves being busy about the opportunities you have been given by the Lord.
So to summarize, how do we faithfully navigate the ‘why’s’ and ‘what-ifs’ of the storms that God allows into our lives? Jesus tells us that we must be prepared. This means we are not to get side-tracked by the good things of this life or even ministry, but to focus constantly on keeping watch for God. We need to be faithful to do the last thing God asked us to do; for example, serving others with gentleness and kindness. We can prepare by being open to the Holy Spirit’s working in our life and spending much time in the Word of God, banking the heavenly oil God has given to us. And lastly, we can cultivate the right view of God and out of that perspective, serve faithfully where He has told us to serve.
All of these actions are choices to make when either we are waiting for God to move through His stormy refinement or we are already inundated by current storms. All of these actions, my friend, are faith-moves that flow from a person who has learned the art of preparation.
Preparing For War
I honestly cannot help myself! I cannot help but bring into this preparation topic one of my absolute favorite Bible stories. This story’s protagonist is similar to Hezekiah; he is one of the top three godly kings of Judah. Like Hezekiah, he was a faithful king seeking the God of his father and following His commands (2 Chron. 17:4). He also removed the land of idol worship (2 Chron. 17:3) and attempted to be an example to his people (2 Chron. 19:4-11).
Yet after being faithful to the Lord, Jehoshaphat found himself in grave danger. A vast army made up of three nations marched against him and he knew there was no way he could fight one, let alone all three (2 Chron. 20:1-2). Alarmed, he decided to seek the Lord and pray to God (vv 3-13). In that prayer meeting, God spoke truth through a listening Levite, truth that gave the people of Judah the courage to prepare for war (vv 13-18).
They went into battle in a very unusual manner and while they engaged in worship, God destroyed their enemies. All they had to do when they got to the desert where the war should have taken place, was pick up the plunder that was left behind (vv 19-26). It was a miraculous battle led by a dependent king who had learned the art of preparation.
I will be weaving Jehoshaphat’s story throughout my discourse on Hezekiah, for his acts of preparation widen the horizon for you and me. The physical actions that Hezekiah takes in 2 Chronicles 32 are mirrored in the spiritual realm by Jehoshaphat’s actions in 2 Chronicles 20. His methods of engaging God were specific to his walk with God and will broaden our outlook at we flesh out what it means to prepare our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13). All of this will make more sense to you if you spend a bit of time reading 2 Chronicles 20:1-30).
The Art of Preparation
Contrary to what you may be thinking, surviving the storm already upon you is not the topic of this week’s devotion, despite the foreboding verse that begins our text today. This verse is simply a reminder of what occurred in 701 B.C., or thereabouts, when Hezekiah wrote his panicked message to Sennacherib and paid him off with the silver and gold from the temple. (We dealt with this last week).
I am of the strong opinion that Sennacherib came back a second time, almost thirteen years later. I base this theory on the ‘later’ word used in 2 Chronicles 32:9 as well as the work of archeologists who have found two sets of destroyed remains at the sites of many of the cities mentioned in these chapters. We will study that second attack for the remainder of our devotional series, starting next week.
Today, however, the chronicler takes a small hiatus between Assyrian attacks to show us Hezekiah’s brilliant moves to prepare for his next storm. As we study Hezekiah’s seven preparatory actions contained in this short text, remember that these are not just the example of a godly man, some king that lived thousands of years ago, so that his actions are useless to you in this present day. They are not just suggestions to cause you to ponder; they may just literally be the lifeline that gets you through your next storm without wavering in distrust.
So what did Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat do in their brief hiatus? How did they handle their short reprieves? What actions did they take to prepare for the coming war? And how can you prepare your heart for your future without sinking into ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys?’ How can you face your future – storm clouds or after-the-torrential-downpour rainbows – with unwavering trust?
P – Procure Godly Counsel
There is much said in the Proverbs about advice. Listen to some of these wise sayings, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Pr. 12:15); “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Pr. 13:10); “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (Pr. 19:20). Clearly, there is such a thing as bad advice and good advice. One leads to foolishness and quarrels; the other one leads to wisdom.
In our second week together, Standing Tall When Others Fall, we studied the bad decision-making process that Jeroboam undertook when he became the king of Israel. Based on his life, I shared an acronym with you to help you stand tall in the midst of your storms. The second point of that acronym was L – Limit open counsel. Remember that Jeroboam asked around and the counsel he received led him to make false gods. He procured counsel, but that advice led ultimately to his downfall. “The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful” (Pr. 12:5), says Solomon, and in Jeroboam’s case – and in many others’ lives – wicked counsel became their undoing.
Take, for instance, the case of Absalom. At one point in his life, he tried to arrest the kingdom from his father, David. He made a run on the city and David fled into the wilderness, not because he could not fight, but because he did not want to endanger innocent city-dwellers. While David was on the run, Absalom brought in David’s counselor, Ahithophel, who had joined Absalom’s insurrection and Husahi, who was sent by David to thwart Ahithophel’s advice.
Absalom asked them what he should do. Ahithophel told Absalom to lay with David’s concubines so that he would become a stench in his father’s eyes. So Absalom followed his advice and lay with the concubines in the sight of all Israel. He procured and followed Ahithophel’s counsel because in those days the advice of Ahithophel was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice (2 Sam. 16:21-23).
David’s former counselor also told Absalom to choose a huge army and go after David that night and attack when he was weary. He said to kill the king and bring all of the king’s men back to Jerusalem with him. The death of one man, David, would ensure the safe return of all those in the army. This plan seemed good to Absalom, but for some reason, he summoned Hushai to get a second opinion. Hushai told him, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place.” He told Absalom to marshal all of the people to go after David and kill the king and all his warriors. No one should be left alive (2 Sam. 17:7ff).
Absalom and all his men thought Hushai’s advice was better than Ahithophel’s counsel, “for the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom” (2 Sam. 17:14). They determined to attack and kill all the people, but Hushai was able to warn the king. When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he put his house in order and hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23). In the end, David was saved and Absalom, along with his plot to take over the kingdom, was destroyed.
When Rehoboam took over the kingdom from his father, Solomon, the people came to him and asked him to be easier on them than his father had been. If he would, they would happily serve him. Rehoboam asked for three days to think about their request. During that time, Rehoboam consulted the elders who had advised his dad. They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants” (1 Kings 12:7).
Rehoboam rejected their advice and consulted the young men that had grown up with him. They told him to say, “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:11). The king brought in his people and spoke harshly to them. He rejected the good advice and followed the bad advice. As a result, Jeroboam and the rest of the Israelites went home. Jeroboam was asked to be king and the nation divided into two.
These are examples of foolish people taking bad advice at great personal and national cost. Great discernment is needed in this uncertain realm. Absalom rejected the advice of a man who was known to be wise and lost the kingdom and his own life. Rehoboam rejected the wise advice of his father’s counselors and sowed the seeds of disunity that grew to divide his kingdom forever.
Obviously, the source of counsel is extremely important. It is imperative that you know the heart of your advisor, to measure the wisdom of her choices, and to see how her own life plays out. Does she seek the Lord and live in His commands? If not, advice should be sought elsewhere.
Yet, Proverbs is full of admonitions to procure godly counsel. It even gives a straight-forward guide when a person is preparing for war, “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance” (Pr. 20:18). What the previous paragraphs show, however, is that the advice you obtain had better be God-led, God-driven, God-ordained counsel. No substitutes for wisdom will do. Preparing for war is a serious matter and must be approached in a seriously-meditative and cautious fashion.
Hezekiah knew the importance of good counsel. “When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff…” (2 Chron. 32:1-2a). He brought in all of his administrative assistants and the leaders of his army. He knew that wisdom was found in the counsel of many. Two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to preparing for war.
Jehoshaphat understood this principle as well. As soon as he was told that an army was coming against him, he resolved to inquire of the Lord (2 Chron. 20:3). He sought godly counsel from the best Counselor ever. Additionally, he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah and all the people came together to seek help from the Lord; from every town they came to procure godly counsel en masse (v 4). During that collaborative prayer meeting, God spoke to a Levite and gave him the word that would set Jehoshaphat’s war preparations into motion (vv 14-17). The counsel to Jehoshaphat came when all the people stood expectantly before God. Before the army went into battle the next morning, Jehoshaphat again consulted the people about what to do (v 21). He was humble enough to know that he did not have all the answers; he needed others to speak into his dire situation. Because he was willing to seek godly advice and follow it, God gave him victory in his battle.
If you are preparing for a work of God in your life, whether it be war or waiting, you need to seek godly counsel. First start with God. Ask Him what direction you should go. Then seek the advice of godly people around you: wise pastors, humble mentors, and godly parents. Take what they say back to the Lord and hold your options before Him. If the advice continues to corroborate, then move in the direction God leads.
Preparing for war – or any storm – should always begin with godly counsel.
R – Renew Your Strength
2 Chronicles 32:5 begins with these words, “Then he (Hezekiah) worked hard…” In all the efforts that Hezekiah undertook, it is easy to see that he is a hard worker, but the NIV translation does not paint a complete picture. To fill in missing brush strokes, we need to look at some other Bible takes: “He set to work resolutely…” (ESV); “He took courage…” (NASB); and my personal favorite, “He strengthened himself…” (NKJV).
We will talk in length about all the actions Hezekiah took to build up his city in preparation for the Assyrian attack he was pretty sure was coming down the pike. Two of those actions include water sources and wall repair and to a man, the people of Judah helped their king. They all worked hard, resolutely. These words ‘hard’ and ‘resolutely’ stand to reason; anyone would work hard to prepare for war.
However, the NIV and ESV do not really do justice to the full meaning of this word. Taking courage, like the NASB says, is far closer to its intent. It means to “be strong, to strengthen, to be courageous, to overpower” (CWSB Dictionary). Hezekiah did not just work hard or resolutely. He infused himself and his people with courage. He strengthened his city and the faith of the people within its walls. He renewed his strength and theirs vicariously.
This phrase automatically brings to my mind another occasion when a man strengthened himself. David and his 400 men had gone to help the Philistines fight a battle, but many of the warriors suspected that David would turn on them in the middle of the war. Achish, the Philistine king, sent them home to their camp in Ziklag. It took David and his men three days to reach their home, but only horror waited there to greet them on their return. While they had been away, the Amalekites had swooped into their fortress, burned their homes and captured their wives and children (1 Sam. 29:1-30:3).
The men were so upset that they wept until they had no strength left to weep. Everyone had lost family and material possessions – even David. Yet David became more distressed when his men began to talk about stoning him. Each of them were bitter in spirit because of the loss of their children (1 Sam. 30:3-6).
But David’s heart was different. Instead of despairing, instead of being paralyzed by fear, instead of becoming bitter, “David found strength in the Lord his God” (30:6c). I love that! What a response to take toward God and others in the middle of a storm. “Far from blaming God for allowing the destruction of the city, David took the reprisal of the Amalekites as one of life’s hazards, in which he could draw on the resources of a faithful covenant Lord” (Tyndale Commentary).
But how? That is my question. What did he do? What methods did he employ? What specifics did he utilize? How did he find strength in God? Unfortunately, we are left wondering about the precise details. Often, God does not give us a guidebook on improving our relationship with Him. We would probably follow the steps – religiously so – and would fall into great pride. Isn’t that the essence of the Pharisees’ belief in the gospels? They had so many rules about God and what He desired that they missed the very heart of intimacy with God.
No, the author of Samuel does not tell us what went down in that desperately private time between God and David. The reason is that you and I were created to seek God in our own fashion, with our own personality, and in the ways as unique as each person. God will meet us like he met David, but in ways that speak deepest to our own personal needs. Intimacy, then, is a uniquely sweet pattern of interaction between God and each of His unique creations. Intimacy is not a method to be taught or an example to be followed; this mentality will drive a person quickly into rote religiosity.
However, based on David’s profuse journals gathered together in our collection of psalms, I can give a guess as to how David strengthened himself in the Lord: he poured out his feelings in prayer. David’s journals are full of his attempts to find strength in God. Here are just a few examples of what might have been said that day on the outskirts of a burnt-down Ziklag:
- “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer” (Ps. 4:1)
- “Listen to my cry for help, My King and my God, for to you I pray” (Ps. 5:2)
- “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Ps. 9:9-10).
- “I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distresses” (Ps. 25:16-17).
- “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid” (Ps. 35:1-2).
- “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Ps. 39:7)
…and I could go on and on and on. This is the reason I spend so much time in the psalms. David, Asaph and the sons of Korah had been my mentors in finding strength in God. Praise, tears, honesty, hope, cries and promises all mingle together in a great symphony of soul-strength. David eventually became the king of Judah, but honestly, long before that time, he was the king of finding strength in God.
Jehoshaphat, in his preparation for war, fleshes out for us a little more what finding strength in God might look like. He renewed his strength by inquiring of God as soon as he became alarmed (2 Chron. 20:3). He called a fast and people came from all over Judah to seek help from God (v 3). He stood in the temple and prayed an incredible prayer: praising God’s power, thanking God for the land and temple they had been given, complaining about his enemies, and asking for help (vv 5-12).
Preparing for war – or any storm – should always include a concerted effort to find strength in God.
E – Evaluate Your Springs and Streams
One of the first preparations Hezekiah took, in counsel with officials and military staff, was to evaluate the springs and streams that fed the city. They knew Jerusalem was vulnerable because all of their water came from two sources outside of the city: the Gihon Spring in the Kidron valley and the En-Rogel river two miles to the south. So they conversed about the possibility of blocking all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land (2 Chron. 32:3-4).
What they decided to do was absolutely brilliant. They covered the fountain-heads of the springs so that they would not be discovered by their enemies. Then, they began constructing, what would have been in the eighth century, an engineering wonder. They built a huge tunnel underground that carried water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, making the water accessible from inside the city walls.
Two teams of diggers were employed. One group started at the Gihon Spring end and the other began from the Pool of Siloam. Eventually, the teams met in the middle, completing an underground tunnel that ran 1,750 feet in length and almost six feet tall. Even if Sennacherib breached the walls around Jerusalem and managed to capture the Gihon Spring and its streams and tributaries, the people in the city would not go thirsty. Since the tunnel entrance would be concealed, the Assyrians might never find out that water flowed to the other side of the city, safe from Assyrian control.
To state this as succinctly as possible, Hezekiah and his advisors evaluated their water sources. They decided to block up the springs that fed the outer part of the city and they choose to engage in the back-breaking work of building one underground tunnel that fed fresh water to the inhabitants of the city.
As I thought about Hezekiah’s brilliant move to build a main water source inside the city, my mind immediately flipped from the physical actions that he took to the spiritual side of life. You see, your soul gets very thirsty. If you were to look deep inside, you would have to acknowledge that your soul craves love and affection. It longs for significance and meaning, and it desires affirmation and acknowledgement.
Your soul is like a sieve that is constantly draining dry. How you fill up your soul becomes your spring. How you meet a deep need becomes your stream. Your water sources flow very quickly into the alleviation of deep soul-thirst. You do not even have to think about it; water flows downhill quite naturally to the deepest pits and crevasses of a valley (or a life).
So, the questions I have to ask are these, What are your sources of water? How are you quenching your soul-thirst? What springs and streams are you allowing to flow unhindered throughout your life?
Is your spouse your source of affirmation? Do your children enhance your reputation? Do you find the greatest significance coming from your work or your accomplishments or your ministry? Or are the springs in your life more brackish, more polluted? Pornography, soap operas, or romance novels? Workaholism and selfishness? Affairs of the heart and the mind? Drugs, alcohol or even sugar addictions?
Hezekiah’s careful evaluation of his water sources is a poignant reminder to us that what flows into our lives can be used against us in a time of war. In Biblical times, when enemies came to a city to besiege it, one of the first things they would do was to fill up the wells or even alter the course of rivers. This was to rob the city of its most-needed commodity: fresh water.
You can be sure that in a time of impending war, Satan will use your soul-thirsts and sources of fulfillment against you. He will continue to muddy your springs and pollute your streams in an effort to cause your spiritual momentum to die a slow and steady death of thirst.
The alternative is to constantly evaluate your springs and streams. Confess your Jeremiah 2:13 sins, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Assess the sources of your water and how pure and clean they run. Look often into your soul to make sure you are meeting your needs in one, true, freshwater Source. You will either find Gihon Springs outside of your city that will feed your soul, leading to a slow, agonizing spiritual besiegement, or you will quench your thirst in the Spring of Living Water.
You can tell by what pours out of you what you are allowing to flow in. Are you hanging out with mockers and sinners? (Ps. 1:1) Are you delighting in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2)? Are you yielding fruit in season and growing leaves that do not wither and are always green (Ps. 1:3, Jer. 17:8d)? Are you sending out your roots by the stream (Jer. 17:8b). Do you fear when heat comes or worry in drought or do you take the elements in stride (Jer. 17:8cd)? Is justice rolling on like a river in your life, righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:25)? Is the Holy Spirit active in your life (Isa 44:3)? These are just a few of the questions you can ask to surmise the state of your water sources.
Jehoshaphat evaluated his water sources early on in his reign, much like Hezekiah did. For the most part, his heart was devoted to the Lord (2 Chron. 17:3-4). He set his heart on God (v 3). But there was one time he allowed a polluted spring to flow into his life. In an effort to create a political alliance, he allied with Ahab’s family by marriage (2 Chron. 18:1ff). When Ahab was attacked by an enemy, Jehoshaphat almost died in the melee. When he got home, Jehu the seer, rebuked him (2 Chron. 19:1-3). The prophet helped Jehoshaphat clean out his polluted stream, the source of water that fed his need for security.
My friend, if you see a storm on the horizon or are preparing for any kind of war, you will need to evaluate your springs and streams. You will need to block their entrances into your life and you may need to spend a good amount of time and energy building a tunnel that burrows directly into the Spring of Living Water, God Himself. Otherwise, the enemy of your soul will pollute your water sources even further and you will not be able to stand victorious under attack.
P – Protect Some Weak Walls
After Hezekiah had taken care of the water source, he turned to the walls around the city. First, he repaired the broken sections of the wall (2 Chron. 32:5a). The main city wall dated back to 1700 B.C., so in spite of some repairs along the way, it was in pretty bad condition. The old wall protected the heart of the city, but with all of the influx of refugees from Israel, Jerusalem had swelled in size far beyond the regular wall borders. Hezekiah knew he had to construct an additional wall to include the inflow of people.
He built another wall outside the one surrounding the center of the city. “The new construction was massive, a broad belt of stone measuring 23 feet thick and about 27 feet high.” (source: http://stage.warfarehistorynetwork.com/) This wall accommodated the large mass of people flowing down from the north, who had made Jerusalem their home in lieu of Israel being sent into captivity.
The last type of construction involved the Millo, which were the supporting terraces of the city of David (32:5d). This was a series of terraces walls, built on a steep slope, supporting the fill behind it in order to create level areas. Houses were then built on these artificial platforms, which were constructed by narrow staircases. During heavy rainfall, the fill became heavy and increased the pressure on the terrace walls, thus requiring regular maintenance of these walls. When this construction was neglected, the houses would fall down the steep slope and the city would disintegrate (ESV Study Bible Notes).
As Hezekiah began to prepare for war, he knew he had to make sure he had a clear and pure water source, so he focused on what was coming in, what was quenching his thirst. But he also had to put up guards to protect what was already inside; hence, the wall construction. Every wall that showed signs of weakness was repaired and new ones were built to protect the good people inside.
Just like the water source, these walls are a picture of the soul. The broken-down walls stand for the areas of a person’s life that are weakened because they have not been well-maintained. Take this verse for instance, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Pr. 25:28). Because a person does not focus on allowing the Holy Spirit to work in her, she lacks the self-control needed to handle stressors.
Jehoshaphat was a king that excelled in building up the walls of the soul. He reinforced the terraces of integrity by seeking God and following His commands. He did not weaken his spiritual walls by consulting the Baals like other Israelites (2 Chron. 17:3-4).
Not only was he concerned about his own personal walls, but he sought to help rebuild others’ retaining walls. In the third year of his reign, he sent five of his officials, along with nine Levites and two priests, to teach all throughout the cities of Judah. They took the Book of the Law of the Lord, and went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people the ways of God (2 Chron. 17:7-9). Later on in his reign, he went out himself trying to turn the people back to the Lord (2 Chron. 19:4).
He appointed judges in each of the fortified cities in Judah. Listen to his preparatory speech to these leaders, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery” (2 Chron. 19:5-7). By bringing these judges back to the fear of the Lord, he sought to build strong walls around their calling.
In the city of Jerusalem, he went a step further and appointed Levites, priests and heads of Israelite families to administer the law of the Lord and to settle disputes. He gave them these orders, “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord. In every case that comes before you from your fellow countrymen who live in the cities – whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or ordinances – you are to warn them not to sin against the Lord; otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this, and you will not sin…Act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well” (2 Chron. 19:8-11).
Based on Jehoshaphat’s construction examples, it is clear that rebuilding broken-down walls requires persistence and intentionality. It will not happen by itself. You can build the walls around your own soul by seeking God whole-heartedly and following His guidance. Knowing God’s Word is an integral fortification in the walls of your life. Consider carefully what you do in life, realizing that you work for God and not for yourself. Let the fear of God be upon you. Judge carefully. Let there be no injustice or partiality in your life. Act with courage and be obedient so that you do not sin.
All of these wall-building techniques, and many more, will prepare you for any storm that may cross your path. Rebuild the broken-down walls around your heart. Build new walls that protect your integrity and be quick to reinforce the good terraces that are supporting healthy intimacy, identity and integrity.
A – Arm Yourself With God’s Weapons
The next practical way Hezekiah prepared for war was to make large numbers of weapons and shields. He knew there was no point in making such a difference in the water supply and in the wall structure if the battle is the army could not defend itself, so he outfitted them with the weapons they needed. He also revamped the army, appointing battle commanders over the people.
While Hezekiah worked in a practical way to prepare for his earthly war, you and I need to realize that once again, spiritual battles require spiritual armor. To fight spiritual battles, we need to have divine weapons and shields to withstand our enemy. The book of Ephesians, and especially chapter six, spends a great amount of text detailing the weapons we fight with as spiritual warriors. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We are to take up the shield of faith in order to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. We are to take the helmet of salvation upon our heads and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:14-18).
What activates all of this armor, however, is prayer (Eph. 6:18-20). Prayer is your most effective weapon when you are preparing for war. Jehoshaphat knew this, for after resolving to inquire of the Lord, after fasting, after bringing everyone together to seek God, this great and godly king began to pray.
And what a prayer it was! He proclaimed God’s power. He reminded God of His previous work of bringing them to the land. He told God about the temple and how, when people called on him from this special place, God had promised He would hear. He told on his enemies to God, calling God out to do something about their audacious oppressors. And he begged God for help (2 Chron. 20:6-12).
I have a plaque that sits on the bookshelf of what is commonly known as my room at my parent’s home. It is a simple plaque with a rose and a short saying that I have reiterated often to myself, “Prayer changes things.” It does, you know. So many times in Scripture, people prayed and the outcome changed. God listens to the prayers of His people and desires to answer their requests. For this reason alone, learning to pray, learning the art of knocking on heaven’s doors, is a must-do for those who are attempting to learn the art of preparation.
I am not calling the Holy Spirit a weapon of war, but I do find it interesting that the Spirit is mentioned in the Ephesians six list (sword of the Spirit) and that He shows up at a critical juncture in Jehoshaphat’s preparation. After he prayed, he and the other people of Judah stood before the Lord in expectation. And then, the Spirit moved. He came upon a Levite standing there in the crowd and gave a great prophetic word to King Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:14-17).
I believe that by wielding spiritual weapons in great humility, living in obedience to God and His Word, and seeking God in prayer, you and I can join with the Holy Spirit in the great work He desires to do. Our willingness to stand and fight with spiritual weapons in spiritual ways gives the Spirit an open door to carry out the Lord’s desires.
There is one more spiritual weapon that is not found in Ephesians six, yet it is a weapon of mighty import and effectivity. It is a weapon that I have had to use often, even this morning as I prepared for a very hard day. It is the spiritual weapon of praise.
As Jehoshaphat prepared to walk out to battle with his army, the chronicler tells us that he consulted with the people and then appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of his holiness. They went out at the head of the army, singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” And there was an amazing response from heaven. As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the enemy. When Jehoshaphat’s army came to the cliff overlooking the enemy army, there were only dead bodies littering the desert floor. All they had to do during that battle was pick up all of the plunder (2 Chron. 20:21-25).
Did you catch that phrase, as they began to sing and praise, the Lord acted? The Lord truly inhabits the praises of His people and works on their behalf when they wield the spiritual weapons of thanksgiving and praise.
In the fall of 2006, our young family arrived in Manila to begin our missionary career. I was surprised that there were so many of my highschool teachers still ministering at Faith Academy all those years later. If I remember correctly, there were thirteen teachers still serving at the school I had attended twenty-plus years before. But a sad moment came in our first year when Kathryn Baughman (name changed) was diagnosed with cancer.
It was a blow to the Faith Academy community, but it was a personal blow to me. You see, her husband had been my ninth grade physical science teacher twenty-one years earlier when I was a young highschool Freshman. In 1997, my husband and I had gone on a short-term mission stint to Faith Academy and I had taught her twin daughters for two years; both of them an absolute musical delight. When we left to return to the States in 1999, their family took in my cat Tiger and gave him a home.
We had a long history. We bridged a generational relationship and we enjoyed sweet fellowship. Her diagnosis spilled over into my life in very tangible ways. Honestly, I felt her cancer-blow keenly.
It was no coincidence that the Lord had brought Jehoshaphat’s story to my attention prior to her jaw-dropping announcement. I had spent a lot of time meditating on its truths and having it work its way into my spiritual marrow. When she made public her trial and her need for prayer, I knew I was to pass on the truths of Jehoshaphat’s fight. Writing up a long letter outlining what God had been teaching me, I ended the letter with a huge charge for her to go into this battle praising God for the splendor of His holiness. I made sure her daughters passed on the letter to their mother and then continued my intercession for her from a non-intrusive distance.
Months later, Kathryn approached me, pulling me aside privately. She slipped a very wrinkled and smudged letter out of the front of her Bible and gave a little smile. “Do you recognize this?” she asked.
I did, of course, but waited for her to elaborate.
“I have read this letter over and over,” she said. “When I have felt myself sink into despair, I have forced myself to get this letter out, to remind me that the battle is the Lord’s and all I have to do is wait upon Him. When I have been discouraged, I have taken that as a sign that I must choose to praise instead. In all of this, the Lord and I have grown a lot closer.”
I was humbled that the Lord had used my small lesson on praise to make such an impact on Kathryn’s faith-walk right through the center of her cancer-storm. Whether praise made the difference in her health or not, I know it made a difference in her spiritual growth. And to give you the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey was known to have said, Kathryn is cancer-free today.
Dear storm-walker, if you are preparing for a storm of some kind, do not try to fight the good fight with human weapons. Instead, arm yourself with God’s weapons. Wear the armor of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. Wield the weapons of God’s Word, prayer, the companionship of the Holy Spirit and praise. And stand firm in all of it. You never know what your praise may accomplish in the heavenly realms.
R – Rest In God’s Greatness
After Hezekiah had taken all the practical steps he could to prepare for his coming storm, he took one last action step that proved he had done battle with his fear. He assembled all of his newly-appointed military officers and the people of Judah in the square at the city gate. When he had them all together, he rallied the people and spoke encouragingly to them (2 Chron. 32:6).
The Hebrew words for “he encouraged them” are more literally “he spoke to their heart” (Expositor’s Commentary). Because he had known great fear in his recent past and had reacted out of that heart-felt fear, he understood the panic that infiltrated their minds. He did not just give them platitudes to soothe their troubled brows; no, he spoke to the permeating terror that stifled their faith and flooded their hearts. Like David, he helped them to find their strength in God.
He had learned his lesson the hard way that he could not trust in human help. Chariots and horses had not come through for him when Sennacherib captured forty-six of his fortified towns. Even all the military precautions he had just completed were no substitute for divine power and strength. Physical resources are incredibly important in that they give real assistance to immediate needs, but they are not a substitute for relying on God. He wanted his people to know that he had done his best to take care of the water situation, to fortify the walls of the city and to provide weapons and armor, but ultimately, the battle was the Lord’s.
I love the turn-around in Hezekiah’s faith from last week’s fear-filled episode to this week’s opportunity to face the impending war with faith. Listen to the words he spoke over his people. They were like the very breath of heaven to that fearful, yet expectant crowd. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles…” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).
Hezekiah’s quality of faith was marked by the extent to which his attitude was focused on his God (Tyndale Commentary). In focusing on his great God, what truths did he reiterate to his heart and to his people’s hearts? His answer to the power of fear was spoken out in four staccato statements of truth:
As you might realize, these are not new truths. Moses spoke these words almost verbatim when he charged Joshua in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:7-8).
Joshua then turned these words around to encourage his own people before they crossed the Jordan river, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
As David was handing the leadership mantle to his son, he spoke the same encouragement, “do not be afraid or discouraged” (1 Chron. 22:13c). Again later, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished” (1 Chron. 28:20).
What strikes me in Hezekiah’s new boldness is that it is actually borrowed. He did not encourage them with his own words. He had not personal speech writer. No, he borrowed them from people who had walked through similar storms. He appealed to God’s greatness in past history and in the Scriptures he knew. He even quoted Elisha, who at one point was surrounded by an enemy and whose servant was gut-wrenchingly terrified. “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha said. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And he prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes to see the hills full of the fiery horses and chariots of heaven (2 Kings 6:16-17).
Borrowed faith is just as good as personally-conjured-up faith. Otherwise, why would God even give us His Word? Why would Jesus’ example be laid out for us; not once, but four times? Our spiritual eyes are opened when we take note of the truths in God’s Word and overlay our own sagging belief system with the stalwart support of God’s greatness. Borrowed or not, faith is still faith, and there is something intensely encouraging about the fact that the same truths have upheld the faith of another staggering believer.
Actually, I believe God is honored when we borrow faith from His Word. It shows that we are listening, that we are paying close attention to what we hear. The closer we listen, the more understanding we will be given, Mark tells us. We will receive even more as we live out on the strength of what we have read and heard and adopted. (See Mark 4:24-25 in the NLT.)
Hezekiah was confident because he was “utterly convinced about the supremacy of his God in every situation” (Tyndale Commentary). He did not allow guilt to block his confidence. He refused to give way to the accusing voice of the enemy saying that he was a loser and how could he lead anyway? Years before Jesus’s death ever opened access to God’s throne room, Hezekiah lived the gospel truth. He approached the throne room with confidence, so that he could receive mercy and find grace to help him in his time of need (Heb. 4:16).
In Jehoshaphat’s situation, as he was standing before the Lord waiting expectantly for an answer, he was given one. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, a Levite, and he spoke words that glorified God’s greatness. They should sound a bit familiar, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (2 Chron. 2:15b-17).
Jehoshaphat was struck by the greatness of God in that moment. His response to these simple words was to bow down with his face to the ground along with every man and woman who fell flat down in worship. Then some of the singing Levites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with very loud voices (2 Chron. 20:18-19).
The greatness of God is visible to those who will take the time to keep their eyes on Him, even when preparing for a stormy war.
E – Establish Yourself In Truth
After Hezekiah spent time passing on historical and borrowed faith to his people, his incredible foresight and preparation is reflected in the people’s response, “And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said” (2 Chron. 32:8c). What does it mean to gain confidence? At the least, Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people (NLT). Morale surged because Hezekiah put steel in their spines (MSG). The people were strengthened by his words (NKJV), but more than that, the NASB translated this beautifully, “And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah.”
To rely on something means “to depend on it with full trust and confidence; to place faith or confidence in” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). There are quite a number of objects on which I would rely. I rely on chairs to hold me up when I need to rest my legs a bit. I rely on brakes to stop the forward motion of the speeding weapon we call a car. I rely on houses to keep me dry and airplanes to get me from point A to B. To move around anywhere in this world, I have to place my trust and confidence in many objects.
However, every one of these objects have let me down at one point or another. I once sat on a chair that crashed under my weight. (I was in second grade at the time and to my embarrassment went down backwards, hitting my head and exposing my undergarments to my classmates.) My car’s brakes were very worn and one time, I almost did not get stopped in time. My rented house here in Thailand has not kept me very dry; we have had a leaky roof almost from the get-go. And one time, while traveling from the Sentani Airport to Ujungpandang, Malaysia, one engine on my Garuda airbus stopped working. I knew this because instead of striking out across the water, we hugged the coastline. The stewardess nervously answered my questions and told me to keep my seatbelt tightly fastened. You can bet I did, though the thought did occur to me that if we went down, a seat belt would keep me about as safe as a pancake under the wheel of a semi trailer.
We are also supposed to be able to rely on people around us. We have parents who are to watch over and care for us. In an office, co-workers should be willing to give and take to provide a good work environment. Everyone needs good friends that encourage and sharpen us. Bosses are to be good leaders eliciting fair work from their employees.
But you and I both know that people can often be very unreliable. Parents sometimes abandon their children. Co-workers can stab you in the back to get their own promotion. Friends change. Even bosses can act very unjust. The psalmist, in talking about the Israelites, called them disloyal and faithfulness, as unreliable as a faulty bow (Ps. 78:57) and he may not be too far off in describing the faithless nature of many people.
Clearly, objects as well as people can be untrustworthy. So, what do we trust? On what or whom do we rely?
Isaiah tells us that if we feel like we are walking in the dark, if we do not have light, we are to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God (Isa. 50:10). Paul echoes his sentiments, realizing that his storm was put in his life so he would not rely on himself, but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:9). Relying on God is obviously a sure bet, but there is more. We can also rely on God’s love, John tells us, because God is love (1 Jn. 4:16). We can trust in His deliverance (Ps. 78:22) and we can rely fully on God’s word (Ps. 119:42).
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). His Name, His Father, His love, His deliverance and His Word – these are your sure bets. All else is sinking sand, my friend; sinking sand.
All the people of Judah knew this to be true. Hezekiah had spoken out words of truth over their lives. Those words were familiar because they were the words of God, words that could be relied on unequivocally. So they released their fears to God, entrusting their lives into His care, because He was the only One who was totally reliable.
Jehoshaphat infused faith into his people in the same way as Hezekiah. He and his army left for the Desert of Tekoa early in the morning the day after they received God’s prophetic truth. As they were going out, Jehoshaphat spoke these words over them, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chron. 20:20).
What was the king’s aim in this encouragement? He wanted to remind his people to rely on God and His words. He pursued a faith-connection between heaven and the hearts of heaven’s people. He infused belief into their hearts so that they would be established in truth. And the result? His people relied on the Lord their God and marched into battle singing the praises of God.
As you prepare for the storms that will come – war or typhoons, demotion or even betrayal – know the truth about God found in His Word. Then stand on it, rely on it like you have no other solid foundation. Jesus Himself did not entrust Himself to people, for He knew what was in man (Jn. 2:24-25- ESV), so if Jesus did not ultimately trust anyone but His Father, let His example guide you to follow in His footsteps. He is the precious cornerstone for your sure foundation. If you trust in Him, you will never be dismayed (Isa. 28:16)
My friend, do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, for He is in control of your storm. Trust in Jesus, for He is preparing a place for you, safe from all storms (Jn. 14:1-3).
I am currently writing these closing thoughts sitting in my favorite corner of Starbucks with Earl Grey tea and my Bible as my only companions. As I reflect back on this week, I am stunned at how my personal life has paralleled the truths of this passage in 2 Chronicles. Never could I have foreseen what God had in store for me as I began to pull my initial thoughts together last Saturday on this topic of preparing for war.
A lot has happened this week. A huge windstorm literally swept through my house, destroying my bedroom ceiling, breaking windows, and smashing trees in my front yard. I have combated the lack of power, the lack of water, the lack of good sleep as I am currently sleeping on my preschooler’s floor, the lack of security due to a downed ceiling, the lack of personal workspace as my office is spread throughout three rooms, and the lack of knowing the future, since all the repairs for the house are resting on our landlord’s timing.
While this physical storm has taken a toll, I have also been confronted on other fronts as well. We have experienced personal familial stress due to the power and water outages, causing us to throw ourselves on the mercy of a kind friend’s hospitality. We have had some mission stress due to some important meetings. We have managed cultural stress due to typical third-world limitations and the typical Asian fatalism, especially visible in crisis moments. There has been extra ministry stress as others are struggling through the aftermath of this storm as well. All in all, I have had to engage in emotional warfare, physical warfare, psychological warfare, and spiritual warfare.
Actually, come to think of it, this week has been really hard!
However, this devotional series, whether written from my kitchen table or on my bed in Timmy’s room, has been my steadfast thread of exhortation. I have been sitting in the Word and the Lord has ministered to my needs through the exact principles I am sharing with you. It also helps that I have majored on the principles of finding strength in my God, both before the storm and in the middle of it, while it rages around me.
In the process of this earthly chaos, something wonderful happened. Killer Green Bean (KGB as Robert calls him), our accidental caterpillar pet who had cocooned himself in our jelly jar, worked his way out of his chrysalis. As it turns out, KGB is a moth, not a butterfly, just in case you were wondering. When Tony arrived home from ministering at the foundation, we took KGB outside and opened the jelly jar lid. Timmy was quite bereft until Tony told him, “He will die in the jar if we do not let him go free.”
Timmy decided that freedom was important for KGB to experience and within seconds, KGB took flight. During this whole process, we noticed the storm clouds gathering once more. Tony’s comment as KGB began to flit around was, “I hope he survives the storm.”
Those words have sat heavily on me this week. Did we coddle a caterpillar only to have its transformed body be killed by its first storm? You see, I do not just want to survive my storms; I want to thrive in them. I want to take flight when the storm clouds gather. Like KGB, I desire that the winds having the potential to kill and destroy, actually be the ironic catalyst that lifts me above the storm.
I want to be like Jesus who slept soundly with his head on a pillow, cushioned by the intimacy, identity, and integrity He enjoyed with the Father. While the waves tossed His boat and water poured over the sides so that it was nearly swamped, Jesus slept peacefully, restfully, trustfully, in the arms of His Father. Instead of being afraid, He rebuked the waves and wind with authority and divine power (Read Mark 4:35-41). This is how Jesus handled His storm and because He prepared well, you and I can survive our storms in the same way.
So, my precious storm-watcher, how can you take flight before and during your storm? How can you prepare for the inevitable wars and spiritual battles that will come? Three random thoughts come to my mind:
Train Your Mind
Physical training is important before a competition. The body must be able to handle the rigors of the fight, but many games are won in the mind. One discouraged mind can lead to a discouraged team, causing almost inevitable defeat. It is imperative that you prepare your mind for action in the lull before a storm (1 Pet. 1:13a). Wars will arise. Storm clouds will gather. What are you doing to prepare your mind for action?
The prophet Joel knew war was coming. Wrap your mind around the truths he called out to prepare his people for the coming storm, “Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, “I am strong!” Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there. Bring down your warriors, O Lord” (Joel 3:9-11).
That warrior is you, my friend. Physical training alone will not help you win the battle; you must have a warrior mindset. You must know Satan’s tactics and have a counter-strategy. You must know how to find your strength in God. You have to arm yourself with God’s weapons. Dear one, prepare your mind for action.
One way I prepare my mind is to set it on Scripture. For what it is worth, here are two sets of verses I am reiterating to myself often these days, in preparation for what may be coming.
- “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you” (Isa. 35;3-4).
- “O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, ‘Your God is coming.’ Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his sword with him as he comes. He will tend his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isa. 40:9-11).
Staying your mind on truth will help you soar on wings like eagles (Isa. 40:31). One of the biggest truths in preparing for war is the truth Hezekiah declared that God helps us fight our battles (2 Chron. 32:8). And what a Helper He is:
“The Lord is a warrior; the LORD is his name” (Ex. 15:3). “The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies (Isa. 42:13). “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten” (Jer. 20:11).
Preparation for any coming conflict is not easy, but it is essential. Train your mind to think in warrior mode. Storms will gather, whether you are ready or not, so why not be ready? God is ready to fight at your side as you depend fully on Him with your body, soul, strength…and your ready mind.
Live in a Godly Manner
So much text has already gone into fleshing out this thought, so I will just touch on it for emphasis. The godly children are the ones the Lord has set apart for Himself. They are the ones who cry out to Him and are heard (Ps. 4:3, 32:6, 34:17, 19). Sin will block the Lord’s action on your behalf. Yes, He still cares deeply for you, no matter who you are or what you do, but in regard to victory, righteous, godly living is a must.
The Lord watches over the righteous (Ps. 1:5-6). He blesses those who follow Him closely, surrounding them with His favor like a shield (Ps. 5:12). He saves them and is their stronghold in times of trouble (Ps. 37:39). James caps off his thought-provoking letter with the thought that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (Jms. 5:16). Notice the caveat for answered prayer: a righteous lifestyle.
You and I are to be self-controlled (1 Pet. 1:13b). We are to prepare the way for the Lord, to make straight paths for Him (Lk. 3:4). We are not to meander aimlessly down side trails or to drink from dirty cisterns along the way. We are to evaluate our springs and streams constantly, making sure that the influences we allow to flow through our lives are clear and pure, not streams that pollute our soul and reverence for God. We are to protect our weak walls, building them up brick by brick with the construction of the Word.
I love the story of the sinful woman, who, despite others’ criticism and obvious contempt, chose to prepare her Lord for burial (Mt. 26:12). She lavished her love on her Lord, pouring out her expensive perfume upon His head and wiping His feet with her tears. Her life had not been godly. She is called a sinful woman, after all (Lk. 7:37-38). But then she met Jesus. She wrapped her life in the chrysalis of new-found purity, new-found virginity, new-found intimacy, identity, and integrity. And the metamorphosis that occurred in her life rushed out of her in worship as she prepared the Lord for His coming war.
Of all the people who heard that Jesus was going to die, she was the only one who seemed to understand what was going to happen. She knew Jesus was the Son of God, for her many sins had been forgiven. Because she lived in this truth, she loved much (Lk. 7:47). Because she walked in her new-found godliness, she worshiped her Lord with lavish passion.
Dear one, godliness is not perfection. It is simply the bringing of what is sinful to the only One who can make it white as snow. We all, like that sinful-but-blessed woman, are recipients of unfathomable grace. Part of preparing for war means preparing our hearts for service so that we can grow in the knowledge of God’s grace and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-14). That woman, with the expensive-but-broken alabaster jar, broke it open because of her knowledge of God. She became spiritually mature and worshiped the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. She gave all she had to the Lord and her godliness was proclaimed as the root of the gospel message forever after (Mt. 25:13).
Obviously, a clear spring, repaired, strong walls, and a ministry of eternal gratitude are vital to surviving a siege of the enemy. Dear one, make godliness one of your highest life goals. It may mean the difference between standing tall or falling in the middle of your storm.
Set Your Hope on Eternity
This world is not our home. The battles that ensue, the storm clouds that gather over your head, are in themselves a preparatory device of God. He is refining you, strengthening your trust in Him, and giving you an opportunity to exercise the faith wings that have developed in the chrysalis before the storm. Part of preparing for war is to live with an eternity mindset.
Christ is coming back. Can anybody give me a hallelujah? This world, with all of its pain and sorrow, is not our destination; it is merely our waiting-station. You can be strong as you ready yourself for the skirmishes of earth because you have a heavenly home. Jesus promised you that He is also working to prepare, both for war and for you, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn. 14:2-3).
The war will come first and what a horrible war it will be! But afterwards, my friend, the “Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isa. 25:6). He is preparing a table for you in the presence of your enemies. He is working to anoint your head with oil and to cause your cup to overflow (Ps. 23:5). You can prepare for your wars by setting your “hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:13c).
Lover of God, your storm is probably coming. What will you do in this preparatory time? I suggest that you procure some godly counsel and learn to renew your strength in God. Take the time to evaluate your springs and protect your weakened walls. Learn how to arm yourself with God’s divine weapons and then rest, my friend; rest in God’s amazing greatness. Over all of these actions, put on the truths of Principle #6: Trust continually engages in the art of preparing the mind and heart for action. There is a fine art to the methodology of preparation and my friend, preparation is the action to take when you stand before the Lord with nothing to offer but your expectant eyes and submissive heart. Preparation is what you do when you do not know what else to do (2 Chron. 20:12).
Before the storm and even in the middle of its tempest, your God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No one is His equal. No one is comparable. So lift your eyes to the heavens and recall who created all of it. He brings out the starry host one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
So if this kind of God is your God, never believe the lie of Satan that your way is hidden from the Lord, that your cause is disregarded by God. He knows the way you travel. He knows what you are going through. Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not ever get tired; He does not know the meaning of weariness. His understanding is unfathomable. He gives strength to the weary; that might be you today, my friend. He increases the power of the weak. Everyone you know and rely on will grow tired and weary, will stumble and fall, but “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (These two paragraphs are loose paraphrases of Isa. 40: 21-31.)
Take flight, precious metamorphosed butterfly, even in the midst of preparing for your storm. You do not need to only survive your coming storm. No, my friend, you have the preparatory mind to thrive.