A Resolution For A New Year:  Seek The Lord!                  January 7, 2007

2 Chronicles 14

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

 

This is the first Lord’s Day of a new year.

Today and for the next two Sundays I want to challenge you

   to make a resolution for 2007.

I’m going to challenge you with a passage of Scripture that challenged me.

   It’s three chapters in 2 Chronicles—14, 15, & 16.

   These three chapters are about the reign of one of the kings of Judah—King Asa.

There is a refrain that you will see repeated over and over in this story.

   “Seek the Lord.”

 

That’s the theme of the story of King Asa.

   Seek the Lord, call on Him, rely on Him, have a heart fully committed to Him—

   you will see those phrases repeated over and over in these chapters.

You will also see the consequences, both good and bad,

   when a believer chooses to seek the Lord, and when he chooses not to.

 

You might not know much about King Asa now.

   There are things about him that you will find very encouraging,

   and there are things about him that you will find very troubling.

Going to look at both—the good and the bad.

 

My hope is that these chapters will have same effect on you that they had on me—

   that they will challenge you to make one strong resolution for the new year.

   “I will seek the Lord in 2007.”

I hope that will be your resolution this year.

   And I hope that will be the resolution of all of us as a church body—

   that we will seek the Lord.

 

Before we read the Scripture and begin this three week study,

   let us pray and ask the Holy Spirit to use the Word powerfully

   in our lives and in our church.

 

 

 

 

INTRO:  What has been the big news story in Alabama for past six weeks?

   The search for a head coach for the Alabama football team.

Remember a few weeks ago it was the search for family in Oregon caught in storm.

   And after mother and children found, search for father who had gone for help.

 

While we were on vacation last week I picked up a free newspaper

   published in Asheville, North Carolina—one of those alternative papers.

Back cover was titled “People Seeking People.”

   “This person seeks this person for companionship, romance, walks in rain . . .”

 

We don’t wonder when we hear about people seeking coaches,

   lost travelers, or romantic partners. 

People seeking people—that’s easy to understand.

   But how do you seek the Lord?

 

When Asa came to the throne—his first command to the people of Judah was:

   “Seek the Lord.”

Not just seek God, but seek the Lord, Yahweh, the God of your fathers,

   the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, the God of David.

 

That was a remarkable command because both Asa’s father Abijah

   and his grandfather Rehoboam who were kings of Judah before him

   had turned their backs on the Lord of Israel.

They had followed the foreign gods of the Canaanites

   and the nation had mostly followed them.

Idol worship was everywhere,

   and the worship of the Lord was full of corrupt practices.

 

But Asa did not take his spiritual cue from his father or his grandfather—

   reached clear back to his great-great grandfather King David—

   and gave himself completely to following the true God.

Made it his resolution at the beginning of his reign to seek the Lord—

   and to lead the people of Judah in seeking Him.

 

This chapter covers the first 15 years of Asa’s 41-year reign of Judah.

Want us to look at it and see the lessons that it teaches us about seeking the Lord.

   Want us to take those an apply them to ourselves in this coming year.

Apostle Paul wrote this about the stories in the Old Testament:

   Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us,

   so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures

   we might have hope.

That’s what we will find in the story of Asa—the encouragement of the Scriptures, 

   bringing us hope in Lord.  Hope that as we seek Him this year we will find Him.

 

If our resolution for 2007 is:  I will seek the Lord.

   Then we have to know how to do it. 

   And so the Lord has given us this story as a pattern for us to follow.

In this story three truths stand out.

   The first is this . . .

 


MP#1  Seeking the Lord begins with moral and religious reform.

When Asa came to the throne, the desire of his heart was clear—

   he wanted to seek the Lord and he wanted the people of Judah to seek the Lord.

How did he begin?  What actions did he take?

   “He removed the foreign altars and the high places,

   smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”

 

Let’s delve a little bit deeper.

The gods who were being worshipped at these foreign altars were gods of Canaan.

   Many Israelites had replaced worship of Lord with worship of Baal and Asherah.

What was the distinguishing characteristic of Canaanite religion?

   Sexual immorality.  Fertility religions that glorified and encouraged immorality.

 

If you take time to read the parallel account of Asa’s reign in 1 Kings,

   will see references to the prostitution that went on in Canaanite religion.

But there is actually a reference to it in this passage.

   What were the sacred stones and the Asherah poles?

   They were phallic symbols, glorifying sexual immorality.

Archaeology has uncovered evidence in Canaanite places of worship.

   At the very beginning Asa said, This must be dealt with.

 

What does all of this mean for believers today?

   The very same thing it meant for them in Asa’s time.

You cannot begin to seek the Lord unless willing to deal with immorality in life.

   Sex is a gift from God.

   It’s a powerful force for good when enjoyed within the boundary

   He has established—the boundary of marriage.

But sexual immorality of every kind is an enslaving idol

   that will keep you from seeking Christ.

 

Is this the only sin that needs to be dealt with if going to seek Him?  Of course not.

   But as this passage and many others in the Bible make clear—

   this is a particularly damaging sin that derails many believers.

And if you refuse to face it, or treat lightly—will get nowhere in seeking the Lord.

   When Christians get serious about seeking Lord, at beginning start to deal with it.

 

I’ve said enough, but just one more thing:

   If you want to seek the Lord in 2007, and immorality has a grip on you,

   going to need an Asa in life to help smash it.  Find trustworthy Christian. 

That was the first half of Asa’s moral and religious reforms—Canaanite idols.

But there was something else—

   “He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah.”

What where the high places? 

   They were rival places for worshipping the Lord, that Lord had not sanctioned. 

 

God has always given his people instructions on where he wants them to worship. 

   When came into promised land—He was quite specific—Jerusalem the place.

But it was very inconvenient to go all the way to Jerusalem for feasts.

   People liked convenience.  It fit their lifestyle better.

So they said—we can worship God just as well here, in our town.

   We don’t need to go all the way up to Jerusalem, just up to our high place. 

   We’re worshipping the Lord just fine here.  Let’s not be legalistic.

Over time almost every town in Judah had these high places.

   They played a very detrimental role in spiritual life of the Old Testament church.

   Spread a spirit of convenience toward worship that empted it of power.

 

At the very beginning Asa said: 

   If going to seek the Lord, have to worship Him where He has commanded.

   Have to deal with rival places of worship and attitude of convenience.

 

It’s no different today.  Believers have the same struggle.

We like convenience in worship.  We don’t like it to cramp our lifestyle.

   We are prone to say—I can worship God just as well here, at my high place.

   Whether that’s in bed or at ball field or the lake.

   Whenever it is convenient.  Whenever it doesn’t cut into my schedule.

 

But throughout the history of the church both Old and New Testament eras—

   when God’s people resolve to seek Lord in a fresh way—always begins with

   a reform of their worship.  It’s not about convenience, its about seeking the Lord. 

Lord called the Old Testament saints to seek him and worship him in Jerusalem,

   in this New Testament era he has called you to seek him and worship him

   on the Lord’s Day in the particular congregation of which you are a member.

 

Moral and religious reform for the sake of pride or checking the box meaningless. 

   The heart of the Christian faith is knowing God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

But when your resolution and desire is to seek Lord,

   some things will change, some things must change. 

 

MP#2  Seeking the Lord must continue during peace and prosperity. 

After Asa began to seek the Lord and reform the moral and religious life of Judah,

   God gave him 15 years of peace and prosperity.

   “No one was a war with him during those years for the Lord gave him rest.”

15 years of unbroken peace in the Middle East—that’s amazing.

 

How did Asa spend those years of peace and prosperity?

   He continued to seek the Lord.

But I want you to see what his seeking the Lord looked like during that time.

   It expressed itself in building things—particularly in building defenses.

 

   He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace.  "Let us build up these towns," he said to Judah, "and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars.  The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side." So they built and prospered.

 

Not only did he build fortifications, he built his army.

   From Judah he equipped and trained 300,000 spearmen,

   from tribe of Benjamin 280,000 archers.

 

Politically this is very difficult to do. 

   During long periods of peace when no enemy is threatening,

   military spending and training always goes down. 

It takes an exceptional leader to prepare for war during times of peace.

  

But there was more going on here than politics.

   The Kingdom of Judah was the focal point of God’s redemptive work.

   This was spiritual building as much as it was military building.

And this is the lesson—Seeking the Lord in times of peace and prosperity

   takes the form of building your spiritual defenses.

 

There is no clearer place this is expressed than the Armor of God passage, Eph. 6.

   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that

   you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 

What is putting on the armor of God but another way of describing seeking Lord.

   Taking all the promises of Christ, promises of the Gospel—

   and studying, claiming, and applying to your life.

 

Then Paul says:

 

   Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes,

   you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

You put on the armor, practice putting it on, get use to using it—

   during times of peace and prosperity—before the evil day comes.

So that when that day comes, you will stand.

 

Let me apply this to some specifics.

Are your children little? 

   Do they still like to sit with you and listen to you read stories?

You are in a time of peace and prosperity.  Seek the Lord and build.

   Read them Bible stories.  Pour the history of redemption into little skulls.

   Don’t squander this time of peace and prosperity.

   There may come an evil day with your children when it will be hard to build.

 

Is your marriage at peace right now?  Enjoy each other’s company?

   It’s a prosperous time.  Seek the Lord and build.

   Set aside a time—even if it is just one time a week to be alone and pray together.

There may be an evil day when it will be hard to pray. 

 

Is this a time of financial peace and prosperity for you?

   Now is the time to seek the Lord and build—

   build biblical habits of cheerful giving,

   and biblical habits of frugality, and attitudes of contentment about money.

Because there may be an evil day when it will be hard to give cheerfully,

   and be content with what you have.

 

Time of peace and prosperity are given to us from the Lord so

   that we will use the peace of the times to seek him even more.


MP#3  Seeking the Lord is tested in trouble and uncertainty.

After 15 years war finally came to King Asa.

   And it was not a little threat—vast army of Cushites, Ethiopians, from the south.

Hebrew says literally a thousand thousands—a million men.

   How did Asa respond?

   How did his years of seeking the Lord stand up to the test?

 

Before we answer that question, let’s make it more personal.

What will 2007 hold for you? 

   You don’t know.  It may be a year of peace and prosperity.  Year for building.

It may be a year of trouble and uncertainty.

   Vast problems may come against you.

   Financial problems, family problems, health problems.

How will you respond? 

 

Now let’s look at Asa.  He did two things when this trouble came.

1.  He made use of all of the resources God had given him.

He deployed his troops.

   He had an army he had spent 15 years building—moved into battle position.

In times of trouble and uncertainty part of seeking God means

   putting to use all the resources that the Lord has given you—

   gladly and boldly—just as Asa deployed his troops.

 

If the resources God has given you are your mind, know-how, expertise—use them.

   If the resource is medical care, pursue it.

   If it’s money, spend it. 

   If the help of friends, ask them for it.

God works through means—

   and there is nothing holy about being reluctant to use them.

   Never right to become so distraught or gloomy that you do nothing.

 

2.  Asa put all his trust in the sovereign power of his God.

He deployed his army, but did not rely on his army, he relied on the Lord.

   Expressed that in this amazing prayer in verse 11.

   Let’s look at it again.

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, "LORD, there is no one like you to help the

   powerless against the mighty.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your

   name we have come against this vast army.  O LORD, you are our God; do not let man

   prevail against you.”

A remarkable prayer.  Not a prayer of desperation.  A prayer of confidence.

Asa totally identified his cause and his victory,

   with God’s cause and God’s victory. 

He said:  Lord, our cause is Your cause and Your cause is our cause.

   Asa knew that the outcome was guaranteed to be

   for God’s glory and his good—because those are one and the same.

And there would be a victory and then the spoils. 

 

How do you pray when crises come into your life?

Do you pray in sheer desperation?  When all else has failed, turn to Lord.

   God, I’ve tried everything else, things look bad, oh God please help me.

Or are you able to pray—Lord, I’ve used all the resources you’ve given me—

   I know there is no one like you—you help the powerless—relying on You.

Your cause is my cause, my cause is your cause.

   Work this out for your glory and my good.

   And then watch him work.

 

Never forget story Dr. Tim Keller told about two women in his church—

   struck down by the same evils right around the same time—

   marital meltdowns and then physical illness.  Visited both in hospital.

One woman was saying—I’m in incredible pain, but the Lord is with me.

   I know He will carry me through this no matter how it ends.

The other woman fell to pieces.

 

Why?  Both were Christians. 

   Because during the peaceful years before the crisis one had sought the Lord

   diligently—prepared for war in times of peace, other had not.

And so she was only able to pray in desperation, not in confidence.

 

Which one are you?  If you are the second woman.  Have good news.

   Jesus answers the desperate prayers of his people, even if you have not

   been seeking Him for a long time. 

But that’s not what he wants for you. 

   He has Given you his precious promises.

   Given you his Holy Spirit, so that you can know him—

   and stand firm in the days of trouble. 

Jesus worth seeking.  He wants you to seek Him.

   Make that your resolution for 2007 so that when the evil day comes—

   you will stand firm, confident in his sovereign power.

CONC: