In 2 Chronicles 16, we read about King Asa and a crisis for Judah. The king of the northern kingdom of Israel was threatening the south, and Asa needed help. He needed rescue. And even though, in times past, the Lord had done miraculous things to rescue Judah from her enemies, this time Asa sent a payment of tribute to the king of Syria in order to get him to ally with Judah and turn away from Israel.
Asa made a shrewd political move. His actions were exactly what one might expect a king to take. And his actions worked. His actions also led to his downfall.
2 Chronicles 16:7-9, 12 — 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” … 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.
The problem here is that, though Asa was successful, he succeeded in such a way as to refuse to rely on or glorify God in the process. And he clearly did not learn, as he refused to cry out to God for help in a health concern later.
Obviously, we can learn from this that the Lord wants to be glorified. In his people, the Lord desires to be the one upon whom we rely. And when we choose to try to handle everything ourselves and ignore the Lord, we are doing things that dishonor him.
In a word of caution, this passage is not opposing a believer’s consulting physicians for help. The problem is not that Asa involved a doctor. The problem is that Asa did not also involve prayer and the name of the Lord.
But let’s go a step further and think about the modern church in many settings. I wonder how much of what is happening in many church buildings around our land looks a lot like Asa striking a deal with the Syrians. Asa had a need. He had a goal. And he reached out strategically to make things happen. But in that move, he did not rely on the Lord. Asa, in point of fact, made the situation so that God would not receive glory from the victory.
Here is what I wonder, does your church rely on the Lord as it works toward growth? Or, is your church so focused on strategies, programs, and advertising that the Lord is only involved in the opening prayer of your planning meetings? In your services, is the glory of God central, or is trying to look appealing to outsiders your goal? Do you think that political favor in your community will somehow bless your church toward growth?
In truth, the Lord has told us and shown us what the church is to be. We are to love God with all our hearts. We are to pray and preach and sing and participate in ceremonies that the world thinks are odd. We are a people focused deeply on the word of God. We are different from the world. Jesus said that the way that we love each other is what will stand out to the world and mark us as different.
We will not honor the Lord in supposed church growth if our growth is based on compromise with the world and its principles. We do not build a church by force of a personality or through clever strategies to build a brand. We do not grow a church by showing the world that we are just like everybody else out there, we just have the extra benefit of a relationship with Jesus. No, we live differently. WE think differently. We do things that make no sense to the world.
As you see with Asa, God is not at all interested in us gaining little victories, even victories that seem to grow the kingdom, if those victories are not based on his glory. In the church, our victories must be based on prayer, on his word, on faithful worship, and on Christians loving one another. The victories in evangelism that honor God are not based on our cleverness, but on our communication of truth as we honestly speak the gospel and leave the results to God. May we never see churches grow large at the expense of showing that God is the one who does the building. May our strategies, plans, compromises, and personalities never get the glory. May we rely on the Lord and his ways, even when the experts say those ways are outdated. God calls us to be faithful to glorify him, and he will build his church.