The Challenge of 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

There are some prerequisites here:

  • We need to be a people who are called by His name
  • We need to humble ourselves
  • We need to pray
  • We need to seek His face
  • We need to turn from our wicked ways

All these steps are necessary, and can only happen in this order. It is so easy to think that we are called by His name. I mean, how many people are out there calling themselves Christians (to whatever extent), saying they believe in God. But it is God “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

Yet even when we are sure of our calling, we need to humble ourselves. Being humble provides us with a set of character traits or attributes which will put us in a position in the world in which we can show the love of God through our good works and sincerity of heart. Secondly, being humble is not an end goal to be achieved, but a starting point to obtain from which all our transformation into Christ-likeness happens. Strangely enough a great book to study humility is James. I did this once, and it was really amazing.

When studying the book of James on the theme of humility my aim was to go through each verse and see if the character of humility was to be found in there. The main two distinctions is what character humility will produce, and what humility will give us. Humility is being patient (James 1:4, James 5:7-8, James 5:11), being self-controlled (James 1:19-20; 3:2), being content (James 4:1-3), being receptive to the Word (James 1:21), being repentant (James 4:8-9), being submissive (James 4:15), and being self-sacrificial (James 5:4-5). Humility will give us glory (James 1:9-10; 4:10), will give us grace (James 4:6), will give us rewards for work (James 1:25), and will give us spiritual healing (James 5:16). For each of the above, we at least need to find the humility to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5; 3:13).

Our humility should (and maybe can only) drive us to our knees, to pray. The reason prayer has such great potential for changing things is God. And the reason prayer is surrounded by such difficult problems is God. If it weren’t for the power of God over natural process and over the human will, there would be no hope in praying for change in the world or in people. And it is that very same power and prerogative of God that creates the problems we stumble over in prayer. This is what Spurgeon said:

“It is our full belief that God has foreknown and predestinated everything that happeneth in heaven above or in the earth beneath, and that the foreknown station of a reed by the river is as fixed as the station of a king, and “the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.” Predestination embraceth the great and the little, and reacheth unto all things; the question is, wherefore pray? Might it not as logically be asked wherefore breathe, eat, move, or do anything? We have an answer which satisfies us, namely, that our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has as much ordained His people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny decrees that I should pray — I pray; destiny decrees that I shall be answered, and the answer comes to me.”

And prayer is hard work! “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). The Greek word used here for “devote yourselves” is “proskartereō” and means to “to be devoted, steadfastly attentive, persevere, constant readiness, be strong”. Wow, to be devoted to prayer means to be constant ready, to be steadfastly attentive. Prayer is hard work. I never considered prayer to be hard work. I mean, do you ever need to take a shower after you’re done praying because you sweat so much of the hard work? I don’t! The other verse is “Epaphras… always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). The Greek word for “laboring earnestly” is “agonizomai” meaning “to contend with adversaries, fight, to endeavour with strenuous zeal”. So it’s not only hard work, it’s a fight.

But not only pray, but also seek His face. The Bible talks about this in a number of verses:

  • Jehoshaphat sought God’s face on the eve of a great battle (2 Chronicles 20:2-4);
  • We are commanded to seek His face (Psalm 24:5-6; 27:7-9; 105:4; Hosea 5:15)
  • We receive justice through it (Proverbs 29:26)
  • Daniel sought His face in his prayer about the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:3)

Turning towards God, seeking His face, means being confronted with His glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ. When we behold the glory of God we see the face of Jesus Christ, and it transforms! God’s life in us is started or brought into existence and our human heart life, love, thoughts and power is replaced by God’s supernatural life, love, thoughts and power. It cannot be that we are beholding the glory of God and are not being transformed. Yes, we have our own willpower, but “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) must have as a result that we turn from our wicked ways…

And the result? God will listen, and respond. Isn’t that amazing!

An Unashamed Workman

The Harvest Is Plentiful
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

This is a familiar verse and is often used in the context of evangelism, and it is good to be reminded of this verse, but sometimes it is also good to approach it from a different angle. We are commanded here by the Lord Jesus to ask Him to send out workers in His harvest field, but what is a worker? If we know what a worker is, then we know what we ask for, right? And since the workers are few, and Jesus wants more of them, it is good to know what a worker is, so that we can become one ourselves.

The Greek word for ‘worker’ is ‘ergatēs’ and occurs 15 times in 14 verses (Matthew 9:37-38; 10:10; 20:1-2; 20:8; Luke 10:2; 10:7; Acts 19:25; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Philippians 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:18; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 5:4). I want to pick out the verse from 2 Timothy 2:15 and dwell on this.

Approved and Not Ashamed
Be diligent [hard-working, eager, constant] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

We should strive to approve ourselves to God and do not be ashamed. If we look at the concepts of approved and ashamed in the Scriptures, then two verses stand out: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12), and “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16). It seems that presenting ourselves approved and not being ashamed are linked to each other through suffering. We don’t glorify God for suffering, but we do glorify Him in suffering, and we glorify Him for what He will accomplish in us and through us with the suffering. Also, it requires faith (taking God at His Word) and walking securely in it. “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Again, we see this concept of suffering. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said this:

Resist. Be more prayerful every time he is more active. He will soon give it up; if he finds that his attacks drive you to Christ. Often has Satan been nothing but a big black dog to drive Christ’s sheep nearer to the Master.

On top of that we have to accurately handle the Word of truth. That takes diligence and humility, and a zeal (enthusiasm) for God. “Now these {Bereans} were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Eagerness means a readiness of mind and heart. Now, the Greek word for accurately is ‘orthotomeō’ and is a compound of ‘orthos’ (straight), which in Hebrews 12:10-14 is used in reference to discipline, and ‘tomos’ (sharper), which in Hebrews 4:12 is used in reference to the Word of God being a sword.

The Unashamed Workman
If we then read 2 Tim. 2:15 in context of that whole section (which is all about the unashamed workman), we can extract 20 things which defines a workman:

  1. Tell false teachers not to wrangle about words (v.14)
  2. Be diligent to present himself a workman (v.15)
  3. Not be ashamed (v.15)
  4. Accurately handle the Scriptures (v.15)
  5. Avoid worldly and empty chatter (v.16)
  6. To abstain from wickedness (v.19)
  7. Be a vessel of honor (v.21)
  8. Be sanctified (v.21)
  9. Be useful to Jesus (v.21)
  10. Be ready for every good work (v.21)
  11. Flee from youthful lusts (v.22)
  12. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (v.22)
  13. Pursue those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (v.22)
  14. Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations (v.23)
  15. Not be quarrelsome (v.24)
  16. Be kind to all (v.24)
  17. Able to teach (v.24)
  18. Patient when wronged (v.24)
  19. Be gentle (v.25)
  20. Be correcting those in opposition (v.25)

What Is a Worker?
It is one who studies and examines the Bible eagerly and in humility, in order to walk in God’s truth and resist the world. It is one who is useful to Jesus for good works, and who is firm in his faith and perseveres under trial and glorifies God through it.

What Does a Worker Do?
First, he prays! To the LORD for more workers (us!): “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Secondly, he goes and harvest for Jesus: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)

Now, let’s get back to our starting verse. We are to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Did you know that the same word for “to send out” (ekballō) is the same word that is used for driving out a demon?! In other words, it takes a lot of power (from God!) to drive us out to work! We need God, so we need prayer!