January 15, 2015

The battle is not yours but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Have you been keeping up with Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell’s freeclimb up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite? Well, they made it!

The pair reached the 3,000-foot high summit yesterday after 19 days of scaling the vertical rock face in a single expedition using only hands and feet to pull themselves up—a first. I watched them on TV the other day—the picture showed one of them sitting in a tent hanging off the mountain (yikes!), their bloodied fingers, and a short fall, stopped only by the rope they used only for safety, not for ascending.

In an article in the New York Times earlier in the week, Jorgeson talked about the most difficult part, called Pitch 15. It’s a sideways traverse, and he fell 10 times in a week attempting to get through it. He rested his fingers and allowed the skin to heal for two days, studying footage of each of his failures, and discovered each fall had to do with a single foot placement. So last Sunday, he tried again, and succeeded, while a crowd in the meadow below cheered in the twilight. “I’ll always remember that battle,” he said.

All of us have battles, albeit probably not as visible as this Yosemite ascent was, but important and noteworthy to us. We fall, we fail, we get beat up physically and emotionally. Maybe Jorgeson will recall his climb with a kind of pleasure, but many of us would rather not remember our battles, possibly because they didn’t end as well as his did, but left us with deep scars and unpleasant memories. We might even be afraid of what’s coming next.

God understands fear. He knows pain. He identifies with struggle. How? Because not only did He create us and knows us inside and out (Psalm 139:1-16), He sent Himself in the flesh, in the person of Jesus, to be one of us (John 1:14, Romans 1:3, Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:7, Hebrews 4:16, 2 John 7).

God recognizes that even the godliest among us experience distress and anxiety when faced with overwhelming odds. In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat encountered a huge enemy army coming against his kingdom, and was scared (v. 3). His first move, though, wasn’t to draw all his military men together and plan strategy. He began by “turn[ing] his attention to the Lord, and proclaim[ing] a fast throughout all Judah” (v. 3). Then he gathered the people together to pray, to “cry out to [God] in our distress [knowing] You will hear and deliver us…For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (vv. 4, 9, 12).

And God graciously answered His people, as He always does. As Jehoshaphat acknowledged, “Power and might are in Your hand” (vs. 6), God reminded them that the battle wasn’t theirs but His: “[P]ut your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed” (vv. 15, 20). And the enemy was routed.

We live in a world full of trouble, within and without. Jesus wasn’t saying anything new in John 16:33— when He admitted life wouldn’t always be a bed of roses for anybody, even for those who believed in Him as Savior. Not every conflict will have a happy ending: the apostle Paul pleaded for relief from his burden, but God told him “My grace is enough to get you through it” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Many early disciples met gruesome deaths (see Hebrews chapter 11, for instance)—and still suffer in parts of the world today. But we can all cling to God’s promise that He is greater than anything we come against. He fights for us and brings us through, no matter what. And in the end, when we reach the summit, He’ll welcome us home, where we’ll struggle no more.

The strife is o’er, the battle done;

The victory of life is won;

The song of triumph has begun:




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