READ – 2 Chronicles 15:1-5
Asa’s story is meant to be read as a story of courage. The hinge of the story is in v. 7-8. A prophet comes to Asa and says, “But you, take courage!... as soon as he heard these words – he took courage.” What resulted from this call to courage and Asa’s resulting acts of courage was a massive renewal in Judah. The turning point in the story is courage. That’s how courage is often presented in the story of Scripture. It’s the thing that leads to a turning point of renewed faith and renewed faithfulness in calling and mission. Courage is that thing we need (that gift from God) to get unstuck and overcome the spiritual inertia in our lives.
SUMMARY: God calls for us and provides us with courage to lead us to turning points of renewal, commitment and mission.
The need for courage - Asa’s story highlights two times in our lives when courage is especially needed:
1) Times of Comfort – The unexpected feature of this story is that Asa and Judah were in the middle of a time of great prosperity and comfort when the prophet showed up calling for courage. In all the other places when courage is called for in Scripture, it’s to prepare a person/people for a great challenge. (Examples: Moses to the second generation in Deuteronomy, Moses to Joshua as he takes over his leadership, David to Solomon in building the temple, Hezekiah to the people of Judah surrounded by the powerful Assyrian army.) What’s the challenge here? It’s the challenge of comfort. Courage is needed to face the challenge of comfort – which comes in the form of spiritual complacency and drift.
2) Times of Trouble – In 15:3-6, the prophet speaks of times of distress, brokenness and trouble. Most scholars think he is referring to the times of the Judges. Azariah seems to be saying to a comfortable people, “Trouble will come – brokenness and distress is a part of your story.” Azariah’s words are meant to instill courage as he reminds the people that trouble is often where we seek for and find God and trouble is where we learn to seek Him – not what we can get from him. We can take courage because God is present and at work in any trouble we face.
THE SOURCE OF COURAGE
If courage is called for in times of comfort and trouble (all the time!), the natural question is – where do we get courage? The answer from the story of Asa is courage doesn’t come from looking to what’s within you, it comes from looking at who is with you. But there’s a tension here. Verse 2 says, “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, he will forsake you.” The truth is that cycle of verses 3-6 play out in every person’s story – God always fulfills his part in verse 2, but we break ours. We try to do life without him, we seek other things instead of him, we forsake him. This happened in Asa’s life (see Chapter 16) and in Judah’s story. What will end the cycle?
The Answer is not our courage - it’s the courage of Jesus that ends the cycle. He fulfills the conditions of v2 for us so we get the blessing of courage.
· Jesus, the One who was with God the Father from all eternity, left his place of comfort to be with us. He courageously left behind comfort to enter into our broken world to be with us.
· Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He sought out sinners and broken people, entering into the messiness of our sinful world to find the lost.
· In his greatest act of courage, the One who always enjoyed the love and favor of the Father, who would never forsake Him, was forsaken for us. On the cross, He cried out, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” He became forsaken for those who forsake God, so we would never be.
The source of our unshakeable courage is the courageous seeking & suffering love of God for us in Jesus. Because He is with us, we can re-write 15:2 in this way: The Lord is with us even when we try to live without Him, He seeks us when we are lost and finds us, He was forsaken, so we will never be forsaken. When we believe this – we can have unshakeable courage to do whatever God calls us to do.
THE MARKS OF COURAGE
Chapter 15:8-15 show us the marks of gospel courage – what it looks like when we believe God is with us and will never forsake us. Here are 3 ways gospel courage leads to renewal in our lives:
1. Gospel courage empowers us to put away our idols (v8) – When we have the courageous love of Jesus, the idols we substitute for God for security and comfort become “detestable.” What can compare to Jesus’ love for us and the Father’s all-powerful presence and care?
2. Gospel courage is contagious – Asa needed to hear the call to courage from Azariah. The people needed to hear the call to courage from Asa. What resulted was a massive gathering of covenant renewal. We need people to speak gospel courage to us in our comfort and in our trouble.
3. Gospel courage leads to wholehearted commitment – Joy and rest were poured out on the people when they sought God with their “whole desire.” Because Jesus gave everything for us to free me from the death we deserve; He deserves all our commitment and love.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. It was said that conviction (something is right or true) PLUS calling (God is calling me to act in this situation or context) isn’t enough for us to overcome our inertia. We also need courage. Do you agree? How have you or are you experiencing this in your life?
3. Why is courage needed in times of comfort? How do you think our comfortable lives in OC are spiritually challenging? What role can courage play in freeing us from the idol/lethargy of comfort?
4. We are used to hearing calls of courage pointing us to look within to summon inner strength and resolve – how is the biblical call for courage different? What difference does this make?
5. How does the courage of Jesus become for us the source of our courage to follow Him? What difference does it make that we can “rewrite verse 2” in the places where we need courage the most? Apply this to specific places in your life where you need courage.
6. Which of the 3 marks of courage do you most want more of/need more of in your life? What would it look like to trust that God’s presence and power are sufficient for you to take steps of obedience in this area?