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Hearts Fully Committed

So there I was last Monday – sitting in my office – in the privacy of my own basement – minding my own business… At the time, I was reading through 2 Chronicles chapter 16 when all of a sudden – without any warning – a verse jumped out of the Bible and smacked me!

Now I don’t know if that’s every happened to you – you know, when you’re just reading your Bible and you run across this verse that just seems to jump off the pages and grab your attention?

Well, that’s what happened to me this last Monday. I was reading through 2 Chronicles chapter 16 – and I came across this verse… And it wasn’t a new verse – it’s not like I hadn’t read it before. In fact, several years ago I had even preached right from this very chapter that I had been reading. But for some reason, on this day, this one verse grabbed my attention and it totally struck me in a new way.

And so this morning, I want to share that verse with you. Now, I don’t know if it’ll strike you in the same way or not – I’ll leave that to the Holy Spirit – He’s the One who does the smacking anyway… But I’ll share the verse with you and then explain a little bit of the thought process that I had as I thought about that verse and how it applied to me.

Now because this verse is in 2 Chronicles, which is a book of history, I should probably give you at least a little bit of the background to what’s going on in this chapter.

At this point, the year is likely about 877 BC – which is about 50 years after the Kingdom of Israel split in two. You’ll recall that after King Solomon died, the nation of Israel fractured into two separate nations. The northern part kept the name Israel and the southern part took on the name Judah.

Well, 2 Chronicles 16 focuses on the the King of Judah – who was at this time, a guy named Asa.

Now for the most part, Asa was a good King. As you read through all the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, the Bible often gives a summary of their lives – whether they lead the people to follow God or not. And Asa had a pretty good summary. In 2 Chronicles 14:2, it says…

Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God. 3 He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. 4 He commanded the people of Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. 

2 Chronicles 14:2-4

So Asa seemed to be a pretty solid guy. In fact, if we were to keep reading in 2 Chronicles chapter 14, we’d read about the time that Asa got attacked by a huge army of 1 million Ethiopians – but Asa trusted in God and God was with him and gave him victory over his enemies. Then following that battle, in chapter 15, we’d see how Asa then called all the people together and they made a huge sacrifice to thank and to praise God for what He had done in saving them from the Ethiopians – and on that day, all the people made a covenant with God (or as Greg would put it – a super-charged promise) – that they would all serve God with all their hearts all the days of their lives. Let me read that part for you… It’s really good! In 2 Chronicles 15:11 it says…

11 On that day they sacrificed to the Lord 700 cattle and 7,000 sheep and goats from the plunder they had taken in the battle. 12 Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. 13 They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman. 14 They shouted out their oath of loyalty to the Lord with trumpets blaring and rams’ horns sounding. 15 All in Judah were happy about this covenant, for they had entered into it with all their heart. They earnestly sought after God, and they found him. And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side. 2 Chronicles 15:11-15

What a fantastic testimony! I love that part where it says “They earnestly sought after God, and they found him.” What an encouragement to us – that if we earnestly seek after God – we too will find him.

But that brings us up to chapter 16 now. As chapter 16 begins, it is now 25 years later. After 25 years of peace and rest from all their enemies – God allows King Baasha, the King of Israel, to invade Judah. Let me read what happens.

In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from entering or leaving King Asa’s territory in Judah.

2 Asa responded by removing the silver and gold from the treasuries of the Temple of the Lord and the royal palace. He sent it to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus, along with this message:

3 “Let there be a treaty between you and me like the one between your father and my father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel so that he will leave me alone.”

2 Chronicles 16:1-3

So basically, what King Asa is doing here is buying an ally. He gathers up as much gold and silver as he can find from the temple and his palace, and he sends them to this other neighboring king – King Ben-hahad of Aram. The idea was that King Ben-hadad would break his treaty with King Baasha and would attack him. Then King Baasha would be too busy fighting Ben-Hadad to continue his invasion of Judah and he would then leave King Asa alone. 

And that all seems like a pretty logical plan, right? But notice how God was completely left out of the picture. There was no mention of Asa praying to God or asking God for guidance or help. Asa seems to have missed that part all together.

And this seems to be quite a contrast to that earlier time that Asa found himself in trouble – back 25 years ago when that army of one million Ethiopians came to attack his country. His actions at that time were very different. Let me jump back to chapter 14 again because at that time Asa prayed to God and said … And I quote…

“O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone.” 2 Chronicles 14:11

That’s what he said 25 years ago when he was faced with an army of one million Ethiopians. He trusted in God alone. But now, when this King Baasha invades – where’s his prayer to God? Where does he say “We trust in God alone”? He didn’t say that this time. This time, he puts his trust – not in God – but in this King Ben-Hadad of Aram.

I’m not really sure what happened during those 25 years, but it certainly seems now that Asa doesn’t have that same dependance & reliance on God that He once did. Something has changed in Asa’s relationship with God.

Well, let’s read on to see how this all turns out…

4 Ben-hadad agreed to King Asa’s request and sent the commanders of his army to attack the towns of Israel. They conquered the towns of Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all the store cities in Naphtali. 5 As soon as Baasha of Israel heard what was happening, he abandoned his project of fortifying Ramah and stopped all work on it. 6 Then King Asa called out all the men of Judah to carry away the building stones and timbers that Baasha had been using to fortify Ramah. Asa used these materials to fortify the towns of Geba and Mizpah.

2 Chronicles 16:4-6

Huh. Well, it certainly seems that for Asa, the story seemed to end pretty well. Not only was he rescued from King Baasha’s invasion – but he ended up with a whole lot of free building materials that he then used to fortify some of his cities! Trusting in King Ben-hadad seemed to have paid off. Alls well that ends well, right?

Well, not exactly. Even though Asa was rescued and the story seemed to end well, Asa had made a critical error. We read in verse 7…

7 At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the Lord your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. 8 Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the Lord, and he handed them over to you.

And then this is the verse that jumped out and smacked me…

9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.”

2 Chronicles 16:7-9

Because King Asa had trusting in King Ben-hadad, rather than in God, he missed the opportunity to be strengthened by the power of God to do something amazing! God had been eager to help him out – it says God was searching the whole earth to find someone to strengthen – but Asa missed that opportunity because his heart was divided. His trust wasn’t fully in God alone.

And again, I don’t know how this verse strikes you, but as I read through this story and came to that verse, it just hit me in a new way – The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 

God is on the hunt! He is out there looking for people to strengthen. He’s looking for people to fill with courage – looking for people empower – looking for opportunities to show us how good and how awesome He is!

But how often do we miss those opportunities because we trust in other kings or other things!?

You know, after reading the first part of Asa’s life – how he trusted in the Lord in the face of those 1,000,000 Ethiopians and then how he and all the people made this huge commitment that they would seek the Lord with all their hearts all the days of their lives – you would think that if God were to find anyone who’s heart was fully committed to him – Asa would be the guy!

And perhaps at one time he was, but that didn’t seem to be the case anymore. Instead of turning to God for help this time, Asa turned to King Ben-hadad – and in doing so, robbed himself of the strength that God was ready and eager to give him!

And I think that’s what I found so convicting. I know I’ve said this before, but I think so often we imagine God to be so reluctant. Reluctant to forgive – reluctant to answer our prayers – reluctant to provide for us – reluctant to get us out of the trouble we so often find ourselves in. We imagine God being so weary of us always calling out to him for help…. But that’s so far from the truth!

God is not reluctant! God is not weary of helping us. 

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

God is looking for opportunities – he’s on the hunt for people who’s hearts are fully committed to him. 

God is eager to be our strength – eager to be our rescuer – eager to be our provider. He loves doing good for those who’s hearts are fully committed to Him. Psalm 37:4 says…

4 Delight yourself in the Lord,

    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

    trust in him, and he will act.

Psalm 37:4-5 ESV

God loves to act on our behalf. God loves to give us the desires of our hearts. God is looking for people to whom He can show his faithfulness. God’s looking for people to whom He can show Himself to be strong. He wants to come through for you. He wants to strengthen you.

But notice the requirement: those whose hearts are fully committed to him. That’s who He’s looking for. He’s not looking to strengthen people who put their trust in other kings or other things. He’s looking to strengthen people who’s hearts are fully committed to him.

Sadly, Asa didn’t fit that criteria anymore. Something had changed in his heart over those 25 years since he made that covenant to seek God with all his heart and his soul. For some reason, he no longer put his trust in God alone. In fact, the Bible includes a sad commentary at the end of Asa’s life of just how far Asa drifted from being fully committed to God.

“In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13 So he died in the forty-first year of his reign.” 2 Chronicles 16:12-13

What a sad ending to a life that started out so good! 25 years ago he trusted in God alone to defeat an army of one million – but now, he didn’t even turn to God for help for his foot disease.

He had forgotten that the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

And if that could happen to a guy like Asa – a guy who was once so committed to God – I think we need to be very careful as that could very easily happen to any one of us. 

More and more I’ve come to realize (and I think this story confirms it all over again) that being a Christian isn’t simply about saying the sinner’s prayer at some point in your life. It’s not about that one-time when you made a commitment that you were going to follow God with all your heart and soul. Because no matter how earnest you were at the time – as we’ve seen from Asa – that commitment doesn’t automatically continue for your whole life. We need to be continually renewing that commitment to seek God with all our heart.

You probably know from your own experience how quick we are to drift from God. How quickly we trust in other things. How quickly we ignore what God has said and go our own way.

That sinful nature of ours is continually pulling us away from God – encouraging us to do our own thing – to be our own god… It is a constant battle for us to remain fully committed to God.

So this week, I was really challenged to look at my own life. Do I have a heart that is fully committed to God?

Am I the kind of guy today that God is looking for to strengthen and to encourage and to build up – because I am fully committed to Him? And it doesn’t matter if I once was – but am I today? 

Or have I drift from that commitment that I once had? Am I missing opportunities to experience God’s strength because my heart is divided – because it’s not fully committed to God? Am I missing out on God’s goodness because I put my trust in other kings and other things?

I don’t want to be the Asa that died from a foot disease because he neglected to trust in God.

I want to be the Asa that faced 1,000,000 Ethiopians and boldly stated “I trust in God alone.”

So how do we make sure that we remain that Asa? How do we make sure that we don’t drift from trusting in God alone? How can we make sure that we always have that heart that is fully committed to God?

As I was preparing this message this week, I had a catchy little phrase come to mind that I think sums up the application part of this message. Here’s the phrase:

To be fully committed is to be daily submitted.

If we want to be people who’s hearts are fully committed to God – then we need to be people who daily submit every aspect of our lives to him.

It’s kinda like marriage. Being fully committed to your husband or wife doesn’t just happen because there was that one day when you exchanged your wedding vows and said “I love you until death do us part.” That’s a great day, but it can’t stop there. No, being fully committed to your husband or wife means that everyday, you work hard at putting your spouse before yourself. You think of what they need and what they want before you think about what you need and what you want.

To be fully committed is to be daily submitted.

It’s the same principle in our relationship with God. Every day, we need to come before God and submit our will to his. We need to submit our desires and our goals and our plans to his desires, his goals, and his plans.

We read through the Easter story last Sunday – and we read the part about how Jesus prayed in the garden on the night before he was crucified. And what did Jesus say?

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39b

I am sure that wasn’t the first time that Jesus had prayed that kind of prayer. I would expect that Jesus prayed that prayer daily… I want your will do be done, Father – not mine. We see this throughout his life… In John 6:38 Jesus says….

38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

John 6:38

And in another place – in John 4:34 Jesus says…

34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. John 4:34

Jesus was the perfect example for us of how to have a heart that is fully committed to God – and that is by having a will that is daily submitted to God.

We don’t become fully committed by make all these big promises to God about how we’re going to change and how things will be different this time and how we’re going to follow him for the rest of our lives. Being fully committed is not about the promises we make to God. It’s about actually submitting our lives to him. It’s about us being obedient in the little things that He asks us to do. It’s about waking up each morning an inviting God to take the lead – and then obediently following – even through the hard stuff.

To be fully committed is to be daily submitted.

To go back to our story of Asa, I don’t know what all happened in those 25 years between these two defining moments in Asa’s life – between trusting in God alone and trusting in King Ben-hadad…. But I just can’t imagine that had Asa daily put God’s will, God’s desires, God’s plan – ahead of his own, that his commitment to God would have ever drifted as far as it did.

This morning, I don’t know where you find yourself in regards to your commitment to God. Maybe you’re like Asa in his early years – you’re facing that invading army of one million Ethiopians – (hopefully not literally, but maybe figuratively). Maybe it’s a huge health issue – maybe it’s crushing financial burden, maybe it’s a relationship that’s falling apart… whatever it is – but the obstacle seems huge and you have no idea how you’re ever going get through it!

Let me encourage you – the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him! God’s been looking for someone just like you – in a situation just like yours – so that He can come in and strengthen you and get you through it. His only requirement is that you have a heart fully committed to him. Trust Him! Don’t miss this opportunity for God to do something amazing in your life!

Or maybe you’re somewhere in those 25 in-between years – and life’s been going pretty good. You’ve had peace and rest from your enemies for quite a while now. Of course, life’s not perfect, but right now, it seems to be pretty free from the major problems… That’s fantastic and awesome – but be careful. In these comfortable times of life, don’t allow yourself to drift from that commitment you once made to God. Be sure that you are daily submitting your will, your desires, your goals, and your plans to God.

To be fully committed is to be daily submitted.

Or maybe you even find yourself like Asa in his later years. Maybe things have drifted so far that you and God hardly ever speak anymore. It’s like you’ve totally forgotten the relationship that you once had. 

Or maybe, you’ve never had that relationship in the first place. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard that there is a God in the heavens who loves you like crazy and who is searching the whole earth for people just like you. 

The truth is, God knows everything about you – and He still loves you like crazy! He wants to be your rescuer… He wants to be your provider… He wants to show you just how good and how strong and how awesome He is…

I would encourage you to seek the Lord. As we read at the very beginning – if you earnestly seek the Lord, you will find Him. God isn’t trying to stay hidden… He’s just waiting for you to turn to Him… with a heart fully committed to him – so that He can strengthen you and encourage you and to lift you up.

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him!

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