King Asa of Judah
A man of faith goes deeper
When someone says “revival”, what comes to your mind? Dead churches made alive? Empty chapels suddenly buzzing with religious fervor? Paul the Persecutor turned Paul the Apostle? If the word “revival” calls only these thoughts to mind, it might not be the best word for the phenomenon it is meant to describe. According to this meaning, revival is only for the utterly lost, for those who would otherwise never darken the door of a church. But how about the word “renewal” instead? This paints a different picture: a faithful congregation baptized with new fire, a righteous (if not fully developed) body animated with refreshing zeal, a covenant renewed with a deeper commitment. By a simple replacement of terms, the phenomenon we usually call “revival” is given a more inclusive meaning when we use the label “renewal” instead. This special outpouring of God’s Spirit is not reserved only for lost souls who have encountered God for the first time. Even believers who know God, “who have tasted the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4), can drink deeper of his love.
"The blessings of God do not plateau for those who ascend to a certain height of spiritual maturity."
Here is another way to say it: The blessings of God do not plateau for those who ascend to a certain height of spiritual maturity. The summit of God’s grace cannot be surmounted even by the most experienced of Christian climbers. If we are to strive for the fullness of God in times of spiritual prosperity, with as much passion as in times of spiritual decline, we must spare no effort in always growing in “all things that pertain to life and godliness…for if these qualities are [ours] and are increasing, they keep [us] from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3, 8). As Pastor Josh said a few weeks ago in his first sermon on the book of Acts, God eagerly grants the requests of those who ask for more of his presence than they have ever experienced before. This is true even when the people of God seem to be enjoying a period of increase, such as we are enjoying now.
As the prayer directors at Banner Church, my wife Kellie and I have had the privilege of noticing the spiritual health of our church in several areas of ministry. We lead pre-service prayer every Sunday at 9 AM, and there we have observed Banner’s consistent devotion to pray for all the ministries that serve before, during, and after service. As members of the altar team, too, we celebrate the many times God has led people to receive prayer for transformation in their hearts and bodies. But, most of all as prayer leaders, we thank God for this: that every Monday night, for the last three weeks, members of the Banner family have come together to agree in worship and in intercessory prayer for our community. A praying church is a growing church. If this is an apt description of Banner—and I believe it is—then we ought to be humbled and grateful to God for this blessing.
But just because God has given us a measure of spiritual maturity to this point does not mean we should rest content with only so much going forward. There is always room for more of God’s presence and power, and there is no short supply in God’s storehouse. “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance” (Matthew 13:12). In fact, to reject the offer of more would be an insult to the one who makes the offer. If a world-famous chef were to offer you a second portion of his signature dish, you would never think of declining for fear of slighting the generosity of such a notable individual. The same with God, only it is not a satisfied stomach that is your reward, but a satisfied soul.
We see this willingness to spare no effort in seeking more of God even during a time of spiritual prosperity in the story of Asa, King of Judah. Asa was one of the few righteous kings in the history of God’s chosen people. Early in his reign, he instituted religious reforms that compelled Judah to put away their idols and “to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:4). The result was that the “kingdom had rest under him” for years (2 Chronicles 14:5). And when war did eventually come to Asa’s kingdom, Judah routed their enemies and carried away their plunder. This was a time of near-unmatched prosperity for God’s people. There was seemingly little more to be done or gained from God. He had given them peace on every side, and treasure to boot. Why not rest content?
But in the very next chapter of the story, we read of the prophet Azariah who urged Asa not to become slack in his work for continual reform: “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you…Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:2, 7). Immediately, Asa turned to his work and eliminated what remained of pagan idolatry in Judah. This was a second wave of repentance, a more extensive and comprehensive reform, to the extent that those who refused to seek the Lord were put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. No expense was spared, no stone unturned, no religious compromise tolerated. Under King Asa’s courageous leadership, Judah became the precursor and embodiment of the Apostle Peter’s appeal to “make every effort” to grow in godliness (2 Peter 1:5).
A commitment to seek after a full experience of God, rather than to rest content with the experience of God we have known so far, marks the distinction between congregations that bear great fruit for the kingdom of God and those that just get by with church as usual. It’s the difference between the one who runs the race to win it and the one who runs aimlessly, as if there is no prize to win (1 Cor. 9). In the Christian race, there is no trial run; across the finish line, there is great reward. But it is only for those who run with the zeal to claim it.
What reward did Judah receive as a result of their commitment to complete spiritual renewal? Scripture tells us the pay-off of their striving: “They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns. And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around” (2 Chronicles 15:14-15).
Stories like this from the Old Testament were written for our instruction, that we might learn the spiritual lessons we find in them and apply them to our own lives. So, I encourage you, take note of King Asa’s faith. Consider his trust in God to give Judah more of his presence and power than all that anyone could ever ask or think. Even if you are a faithful Christian, do not doubt that there is more to be had of God than what you have experienced so far. Seek God with your whole heart, not just most of it. You will surely find him, and he will give complete rest to your heart.
- Chandler Nick
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