“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I remember a day when I became so frustrated at my partner that I retaliated and raised my voice in anger. I was fuming with rage. I felt misunderstood, treated unfairly, and I felt I needed to protect myself in the situation because I had been badly hurt before. Self-preservation was my driving motive.
I reasoned with myself that all this was right. I had to fight. I was tired of all the past hurt and I was not going to allow it into my life again. But God said something to me when my rage eventually subsided, He said, “You will continue to lose your battles in relationships when you fight for yourself”.
God spoke to me in the second book of Chronicles, the twentieth chapter. In this passage, the story of King Jehoshaphat is told. He was ruler over the nation of Judah. One day, word came to the king that two great nations had declared war against his land and would ambush them. Alarmed at this frightening news, what surprised me was the king’s response to the impending crisis; the king and his army overcame one of their biggest battles ever… without fighting.
I learnt four important truths that I need to remember when I am confronted by a battle in my personal life:
1: The kings initial response
The king’s initial response shocked me. He did not go into his natural fight-or-flight state, rather he enquired of the Lord on how best he was to deal with this crisis. The King recognized this as a spiritual attack. Furthermore, he declared a fast in the land for all the people under his rulership.
Reading this made me feel so misguided. In my conflicts, I have often immediately resorted to handling big matters by aggressively expressing myself and trying to have my ideas heard. I rely on my previous experience and not on the wisdom of God.
Past hurt motivates me to view all my battles as personal attacks, especially from other people. God’s wisdom however, teaches me to perceive situations in a better light.
2: Jehoshaphat was not alone
Jehoshaphat was not alone in his dedication to God at this time. We are told that all the Judeans under his power came together in prayer. This stood out to me. When we are under attack in our relationships, as families, as colleagues or even churches, we need to firstly acknowledge that we are all under threat and that we are all responsible for coming together in prayer to overcome the problem.
This is a challenging one for me, I believe it takes humility for friends and families to pray together before a war instead of confronting one another and becoming enemies. This divisive strategy is aimed at ensuring that we lose all our battles and end up broken and shattered. As we pray together we are able to overcome the battle together.
3: The king gave honor to God
In the fifth verse the king begins to pray. We see him adoring God, proclaiming and witnessing of how deep and mighty God is to Him. Not only does he adore and praise the mighty God, he recalls how God had given their nation victory in previous battles. I love this so much. This is the type of prayer that puts the situation into God’s perspective.
When we realize the might of God in contrast to the small nations and attacks we face, we are already on the path to overcoming. When we are driven by an ideology that empowers us we can face our battles with confidence. Reflect on how big God is in relation to your situation and you will not have room to doubt whether you will ever overcome.
4: God fought for them
Finally, in verse 17, God commands his children to take up their positions without fear, promising that He would fight for them. Jehoshaphat’s army arrived on the mountain of battle and all they did was focus on God, their commander. The Bible tells us the army sang songs of praise and declared God’s might.
It was as they were occupied with the activity of communing with God, that God set ambushes against those who tried to destroy them. Jehoshaphat’s army completely defeated the Moabite army and conquered as God had promised. The whole nation was kept safe. All this without having to lift up a single sword.
The Bible goes on to tell us that the land of Judah was filled with peace following the great battle.
I see this peace growing in my life with each new day as I let go of trying to control every situation and let God fight for me. I don’t have to shout, I don’t have to become defensive and forceful with the people I love. As I seek God He gives me the wisdom to deal with my issues in a life-giving and restorative way.
For you and I to start overcoming our battles we need to stop fighting these battles for ourselves. Our Leader, Jesus Christ, has already overcome on our behalf. How reassuring it is to live by this truth.
“…But I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly”