Resting on Laurels
I have a friend who’s father used to always admonish “Don’t rest on your laurels”. In high school she was athletic, good looking, and well-liked enough to be homecoming queen. The Cambridge Dictionary says of this phrase: “To be satisfied with your achievements and not to make an effort to do anything else: Just because you've got your degree doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. Satisfied and complacent.”
Clearly, my friend’s dad understood that these early graces of life could thwart her future potential. As an adult, she’s of the kindest people I know- and heeding her father’s advice has served her well.
Our Heavenly Father wishes the same for us. Our life requires a daily walk with Jesus, a theme we see over and over again in Scripture. Take up your cross daily. (Luke 9:23) His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). The Israelites were given Manna daily as nourishment, but were commanded not to keep it overnight. Those who ignored those directions found the manna infested with maggots and a foul smell. (Exodus 16)
My current favorite Biblical character (yeah, it changes) is Jehosophat, and he offers us an example of how tempting it can be to rest on our laurels for awhile, missing an opportunity to finish strong. Jehosphat was good king. Actually- a GREAT king. (2 Chronicles 17-20) He kicked off his rule of Judah with a Godly bang- chapter 17 says God was with Jehosphat because he did not worship the idols of Baal. He sought God, and obeyed His commands. Verse 6 describes Jehosophat as “deeply committed to the ways of the Lord”. As a result of his faith, God established control of Jeroboam of the kingdom of Israel, he became wealthy, and God caused a fear to fall on the surrounding nations so that no one would declare war on them.
My fascination with Jehosophat began New Year's morning of 2020 with 2 Chronicles: “But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
But wait- weren’t the other nations avoiding war with Judah as God’s blessing?
Let’s dig back into 2 Chronicles. Time passed. Have you ever been in a situation where everything was just so good? Family is good. Church is good. Work is good. And... we get comfortable. Complacent. We slack off in seeking God with our decisions. We stop denying ourself, not choosing to take up our cross daily. We stop nourishing our soul on God’s daily manna of Biblical instruction. We stop seeking the mercies of God that can be renewed every single morning. WE REST ON OUR LAURELS.
That’s seems to be what happened here with Jehosophat.
Jehosophat makes an alliance via his son’s marriage to King Ahab’s daughter. Ahab was a wicked king of Israel- heavily involved in Baal worship.
Ahab convinces Jehoshaphat to go to war. It appears this would have been Jehosophat’s first time in a war situation, it was against the consult of Gods prophet, and he was foolish enough to allow Ahab to convince him to stay royally robed while Ahab was disguised. Jehosophat nearly lost his life when he was discovered and targeted by Armenian chariots. In what could have become his final moments, he cried out and the Lord spared him when the soldiers discovering he was not Ahab, their intended target.
So what happened next? Jehosophat goes home. He is reprimanded for helping he wicked and helping those who hate Lord. He is told of the Lord's anger with his actions.
And now it gets interesting. Scripture says: “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, but he went out among the people, traveling from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, encouraging the people to return to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
So here is this king living with great excess, respect, and protection- but instead of staying in his comfy Jerusalem palace all day he hits the road: missionary style. He traveled from Beersheba to Ephraim telling people to turn to God. And it goes further, there is a humility here. This guy is king- the ultimate authority, but he does something this nation hasn’t seen in a long time. He appoints judges to help him rule the people in a Godly manner, just like before the people rebelled by demanding God give them a king many years ago.
But actions have consequences. Remember how God had placed a fear on the surrounding nations so Judah would live in safety? The veil of protection seems to be lifted, because in chapter 20 we find the surrounding nations banding together to attack Judah. Jehosophat turns to God for help. I’d like to read a bit here from 2 Chronicles:
“As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph. He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout. Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.”
Jehosophat got it right here. He showed true repentance, and made some serious changes. And when the threat of war hit, he and the nation of Judah worshipped God and He won their battle for them.
But unfortunately once again- good times tempt us to rest on those laurels.
In 2 Chronicles 20:25 we read that “Some time later King Jehosophat of Israel made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who was very wicked.” Together they built a fleet of trading ships, and the chapter closes with a the warning of a prophet “”Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy your work” SO the ships met with disaster and were never put to sea.
This spiritual walk with God is a daily thing. There is no point at which it’s ok to just hit cruise control and live off of what we already know or accomplished. May you be encouraged to seek God today. And again tomorrow. Hitting repeat until we have finished the race and may hear our Creator say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
Blessings to you, Kathy
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