After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord…
10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”…
Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”…
And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. – 2 Chronicles 20:1-4,10-12,15b,17a,20-22
Facing insurmountable odds, Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Facing insurmountable odds can come in both a defensive posture, as was the case with Jehoshaphat and offensive odds as in expecting to complete the Great Commission in our lifetime.
If I am to be completely honest, I have faced defensive odds that appeared insurmountable, but I have not seriously believed we could see the Great Commission completed in my lifetime. Maybe I am getting a little long in the tooth to expect it before I die, but I am coming to believe it can be done during the lifetime of my grandchildren who are in their early twenties.
The impetus in the defensive situation is pain. It could be physical pain or emotional pain, but pain that you seemingly can’t bear anymore. You get desperate to find relief. I know many parents are experiencing this kind of pain regarding their children who are not serving the Lord and are caught in varying depths of sin. In some cases, the children are doing permanent damage to themselves that they will live with the rest of their lives.
We all know of people who are in a life and death struggle with diseases of various sorts. If something doesn’t happen to change the trajectory, they will die. While for a Jesus-follower there is hope in death, the hope of the resurrection and the New Heavens and New Earth. For the loved ones left behind, it is painful. The loved one will be missed.
In these situations we are like Jehoshaphat’s, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on the Lord. When we find ourselves in this kind of desperate pain, we should consider fasting along with our prayers of desperation as Jehoshaphat did.
The insurmountable positive odds relate to completing the Great Commission. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 Making disciples of all nations. Nations are ethnos, the Greek word from which we get the word ethnic. It doesn’t refer to geopolitical entities, but people groups. Most every country defined by government and boundaries contains many ethnos. Jesus has commanded us, yup, you and me, to make disciples of every ethnos on earth, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded us. That’s a tall order. But as I have written very briefly, Disciple-Making Movements are making massive progress in the earth as I write. All of these movements recognize that the task is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit and every one of these movements are launched from and carried forward on a torrent of prayer and fasting.
I admit I don’t really understand exactly what the deal is with fasting. But I do know that it is a prayer intensifier. How does it work? I don’t know. There is one dynamic involved that I am sure about. Fasting comes relatively easy when our hunger for God and his power is greater than our hunger for food, good food that God made for us to eat. Fasting is not an ascetic denial of food to be more spiritual; it is an enjoyment of something greater than tacos and guacamole. It is the bread of life. I want more of God. I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit in a greater way. I want to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and in my community. I want to see lost people delivered and set free from sin and all its effects.
I hope my hunger is contagious. I hope you want more of God in Christ than you do of good food, at least on occasion. No, let me be honest, I hope you want more of Jesus than food on a regular basis, like weekly. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send laborers into the harvest field. We still have at least 950 people groups or ethnos who are completely unreached with the gospel. And you have friends and neighbors in your neighborhood who also need to become disciples of Jesus.
Whether your challenge is defensive or offensive, fasting is a prayer intensifier. May I encourage you to make it part of your life in Christ?