Ever have one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong? Ever feel like the world was closing in around you? How about the feeling that every decision you made was the wrong one? Yeah, me too. Coming off our annual youth ministry retreat I felt like we were experiencing some incredible momentum. At camp our leaders and students enjoyed a genuine encounter with God and were now poised to invite and bring their friends to experience the grace of God.
As Wednesday approached we sent out our usual reminders to our students to bring and invite their friends to Live and after a good pre-service meeting and time of prayer service was just a few moments away. As the final minutes ticked by students started to pour into the auditorium… Did I say pour? Oops! I meant to write students began to trickle into the auditorium. At final count we ended up being under our weekly average attendance for that night. I could sense the disappointment in our leaders as they looked across the room. Even some of our students made some comments wondering where their friends were who promised they’d come.
It was at this moment that God brought to my memory a story in the Old Testament that helped me make sense of what I saw. This story also helped me make a conscious decision of what I was going to choose to see in that moment…
In 2 Kings chapter six we find the prophet Elisha messing with the King of Aram. Let’s pick up the story in verse eight of chapter six:
When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.”
But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.”
So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there. The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”
“It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”
“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
That must have been fun for Elisha to know the plans of the enemy don’t you
think? The Arameans think they have a great game plan against the Israelites going and then when they go to execute orders guess who’s there waiting? Elisha was essentially getting advanced copies of the enemy’s battle plans directly from God.
For sports fans, it’s sort of like when New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff would spy on other teams to get their signals and game plans ahead of time. Then, on game day, when an opposing team would call a run play the Patriots would be there waiting. Of course this cost the Patriots draft picks and they incurred significant fines, but it’s a good picture of what Elisha was doing to the Arameans. But I digress…
At any rate the Arameans were understandably furious and set out to destroy God’s anointed one. They found out where he was and set up a sting operation…
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
I have always found this plan by the Arameans to be funny. If they knew that Elisha was hearing the words the King spoke in his bedroom wouldn’t they think he could find out they were coming to get him as well? Anyway, that was their plan.
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
Elisha’s servant is freaking out and I can understand the feeling. When we came back from camp with great momentum I was as surprised as anyone to see so many empty chairs. He felt surrounded because in the natural… well, he was! I can definitely relate to the feeling of the servant, but listen to the response of Elisha:
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”
How was he able to stay so calm in face of certain disaster? Keep reading…
Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
I love this story for so many reasons. I love the drama, I love the unique perspective, I love the fact that God is always for us in all circumstances. Most of all I love the thought that in all circumstances we must choose to see things through the eyes of Faith. I refuse to let one low service attendance or any other bump in road change my belief that God has the best in store for our youth ministry and church.
I am committing myself to seeing things from God’s perspective. I am constantly asking God to allow me to see people, circumstances, and life with His eyes. God is good, He has good plans for us and I choose to see things His way.
I see empty chairs filled, I see broken students made whole, I see lost people as found. God gave His only son for these things become reality and I choose to see that new reality.