An Exercise in FaithApril 25, 2012 - 2:52 pm
“He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you’.” — 2 Chronicles 15:2
Asa had a great start. The third king of Judah, he did what was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 14:2). His shining moment came when he was the underdog in a battle against Zerah the Cushite, with his million men and his three hundred chariots.
Asa did what any good God-fearing King would do. He prayed: “ . . . LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, LORD our God, for we rely on you” (2 Chronicles 14:11). And in expressing his total reliance on God, he indeed merited miraculous salvation.
That’s when Azariah the prophet relayed this message to him: “The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Azariah explained to Asa that if he continued to rely on God, then he would continue to be victorious over any enemies that came his way. But if he strayed from the Lord, then surely, God would abandon him in kind. Asa was encouraged by these words, but later seemed to forget them.
After more than a decade of peace, Asa found himself confronted by the threat of war once again. This time it was his own brethren – the northern kingdom of Israel – who provoked him. Asa reacted very differently than he did when facing battle with the Cushites.
Instead of another heartfelt prayer, Asa relied solely on the help of men. He made an alliance with the King of Aram, and together they were able to defeat the Israelites. Asa was victorious but he was also chastised by the prophet Hanani for not having proper faith. Indeed, Asa was to pay a heavy price for his faithlessness.
A few years later Asa developed a disease in his feet – a disease that ultimately spread and claimed his life. Jewish tradition teaches that because Asa did not rely on God when he faced battle, it was as though he had no feet. He had no faith, and so he had nothing on which to stand. Since he did not make use of his spiritual feet, his physical feet were taken away.
The story of Asa is a tragic one. It reminds us that faith is something that needs to be cultivated throughout our lives. When we are young, it can be easier to believe in God and His providence. Then life happens, and it can get harder. Sometimes it’s because of our success that we forget God, and sometimes it’s because of our defeats that we cause our faith to falter.
Having faith is not like running a sprint; it’s a marathon. We need to exercise our faith right up to the finish line.