It’s amazing what desperation will cause us to do...
Circumstances that are too big for us to handle will encourage us to stop the rat race and instead, run to God in prayer. Or when the pressure of life becomes too great to endure, we remember to seek comfort from the One who has conquered death - our God who can turn all things around for our good, and make things right again.
In that respect, we can thank God for the pressures and problems we encounter in life. Indeed, it’s far better to have a problem and seek closeness with God, than to have a problem-free life and be distant from God. As King David wrote in Psalm 119:67 and 71:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word...It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”
Remember, it's not God's will for you to suffer affliction (John 10:10). Ultimately, however, it's better for you to be afflicted and become more attached to God, than to have it easy and be out of alignment with God.
The instructions of Deuteronomy 28 are clear: all God’s blessings will come on us and overtake us if we listen to and obey the voice of the Lord our God. That means we must align ourselves with the will of God to be blessed by God.
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Instructions for Alignment
One of the clearest and quickest ways to realign yourself with God is found in the example of 2 Kings 13:14-20, the instructions that the prophet Elisha gave to Jehoash, Israel’s king during a time of national and personal crisis.
Israel was being threatened on every side by enemy armies which wanted to take Israel out, most notably, the army of King Aram. Jehoash was young and new to the throne; he didn't know what to do. Then he gets the worst possible news: the prophet Elisha—Israel’s link to the Lord—was sick on his deathbed. Elisha was also the prophet able to hear the plans of the enemy and give Israel "inside information" to enable their victory in battle. So King Jehoash went to get some final advice from Elisha on how to get Israel into alignment with God to receive His blessing for victory.
“Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried. ‘The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ Elisha said, ‘Get a bow and some arrows,’ and he did so. ‘Take the bow in your hands,’ he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. ‘Open the east window,’ he said, and he opened it. ‘Shoot!’ Elisha said, and he shot. ‘The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!’ Elisha declared. ‘You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.’ Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’ Elisha died and was buried” (2 Kings 13:14-20).
In his affliction, King Jehoash ran to the man of God to get direction from God. In essence, he asked Elisha how to turn those problems pressing Israel on every side into blessings overflowing from every side. And Elisha gave him three instructions, or points of alignment.
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1. Get Ready – Get a Word from God
“Get a bow and some arrows” ... “Take the bow in your hands”
Notice that the first thing King Jehoash did was get ready. He went to the man of God to get a word from God. The same principle applies to us today: first, find a promise from God that counteracts the problem or circumstance that is standing in the way of God’s blessing.
Because there will always be problems.
There will always be tests and trials, adversity and struggle, setbacks, unwanted circumstances and just plain, scary situations in life.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
How do you have the blessing of peace in a world of trouble? You get ready by finding a promise in God's Word, sealed by the blood of Jesus, that countermands the problem sent by the enemy. That’s your bow and arrow. And in the middle of the problem, whether it is lack, fear, grief, or sickness, you take your stand in faith on those promises from God that He is your healer, He is your provider, He is your protector, He is your peace!
Then shoot your arrows by speaking the promises of God aloud! Pray and declare God's truth over every challenging circumstance. When the thought of the problem begins to overwhelm you, shoot a promise out of your mouth toward the enemy!
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2. Aim – Stay Focused on What's Important
“Open the east window.”
Not every window. Just open the east window.
Elisha was saying that Israel’s greatest problem was the enemy approaching from the east. Even though they had enemies converging on them from every direction, Elisha’s instructions were to focus on defeating the greatest enemy.
That tells me it's important to stay focused on the things that matter the most – say, one or two of the most critical issues. Don't try to win every big and little battle, all at the same time. If you don’t focus on specific, God-directed, God-inspired goals, you will not hit any target at all! You’ve got to take aim.
In order to win the most important battles, you must be okay with losing less important ones:
- You may have to lose the battle of career promotion, to win the battle of great parenting
- You may need to lose the battle of winning arguments, to win the battle of a loving spouse
- You may need to lose the battle of pleasing people, to win the battle of pleasing God
You can’t fight a million battles at the same time – open the east window! That’s where you need to put your energy. That’s where you must give your time, your attention, and your focus. Don’t get distracted by petty things; after you get ready, focus your aim where God directs. You don't have time to worry about the small stuff. Press for the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
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3. Fire – Take God-directed, Persistent Action
“’Shoot!’ Elisha said, and he shot. ‘The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!’”
There are two significant spiritual truths in this third point for getting into alignment with God's will, promises and blessings.
1. Shoot Through the Right Sight
On every bow, and weapon which fires some kind of projectile, there is an instrument known as the "sight," which is used to help define and hit a desired target.
King Jehoash had not even fought the army of Aram, yet Elisha pronounced victory from the beginning. This highlights God's pattern of declaring the end from the beginning, and His expectation that we do the same for our battles.
Remember to look through the right "sight," the sight of victory in order to define and hit your desired target. It's God's way! In fact, David did it to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:46); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did it to King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:17); Joshua and Caleb did it to the Children of Israel (Numbers 13:30) and Jesus did it to Jairus (Matthew 9:24). When you look through the right "sight," you look at what God can do and what God has promised!
Then remember to fire!
- It’s not intention that brings God's blessing, it’s intention coupled with God-directed action that brings blessing.
- It’s not prayer that brings God's blessing, it's prayer coupled with God-directed action that brings blessing.
- It’s not faith that brings God's blessing, it’s faith coupled with a corresponding God-directed action that brings blessing.
Faith without works is dead. So get ready...yes! Aim...yes! And for goodness’s sake...fire! Put some action to your aim!
2. Shoot with Steadfastness
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Do you know what steadfastness is? It’s persistence. Keep firing, don’t stop taking action, don’t stop doing what God said until you see that what God said has come to pass. Look again at what the prophet Elisha said to King Jehoash:
“Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’”
At first glance it appears King Jehoash did what the man of God had instructed. Elisha said, Strike the ground, and Jehoash did! So why did Elisha get angry with the king, and why did the king's action result in a short-circuit of his blessing? Why did his action reduce the initial blessing from "you will completely wipe out Aram" to "you will only defeat him three times"?
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I Didn’t Say Stop!
Notice the man of God said get, he said take, he said open, he said shoot, and he said strike... but he never said stop!
- He did not say take action for a season, and then stop.
- He did not say try for a season, and then stop.
- He did not say shoot for a season, and then stop.
He said, strike the ground. Strike, strike, strike, strike, strike...keep striking!
Shoot and keep shooting. Pray and keep praying. Stand and keep standing. Believe and keep believing. Forgive and keep forgiving. Be steadfast in doing what God has asked you to do!
Shoot when it’s easy, and keep shooting when it’s difficult. Shoot in the up seasons and shoot in the down seasons. Don’t start and then fizzle out, or stop when it gets hard or seems pointless. Don’t stop when the enemy appears defeated. Don’t let your guard down. Keep your guard up and keep shooting. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but victory and blessing is to the steadfast. Keep shooting.
Give It Everything You've Got
But why did Elisha get angry and say “you should have struck the ground five or six times?” Many scholars believe it’s likely that's the number of arrows King Jehoash had been holding in his hand and Elijah predicted the outcome of his future battles based on the man’s current effort. If the king wouldn’t put effort into the battle when it was easy, he certainly wouldn’t put effort into it when it was challenging!
So, what do you have in your hand to help get you into alignment with God?
What's in your power to do for God? Fire!
What gifts and talents has He given to you? Fire!
What financial and social resources? Fire!
What wisdom...what influence...what promises? Fire, fire, fire!
Throw everything you've got at what God has assigned for you to do in life. You will automatically align yourself under an open heaven and begin to receive the blessings of God! Ready...aim...fire! And don't leave any arrows in the quiver!
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Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Finding Christ in Crisis: Lessons We Learned From Covid. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.