Fruitless or Fruitful Pursuits
Read: 2 Chronicles 14-16
Last spring as I stood in line preparing to pay for my purchases, I discovered that my wallet wasn't in my purse. Surely it had fallen out on to the floor in the car. Not the case. Okay then I reasoned, I must have left it at home. I would search when I got to the house. And search I did. I looked in places where I thought it might be and in places that I was certain it wasn't. Then both me and my husband did it all over again and again. Where in the world was it? The search had proven to be fruitless, but I didn't want to give up on the wallet's being found. Perhaps someone found it and would call or mail it? I contacted the places where we had been with no good results. I still had hope. Someone would surely notice it in a place we had overlooked or I would find it after crawling once again all around and under everything in the house. I simply hadn't discovered its hiding place. Yet, in the end I had to admit defeat. All my efforts bore no fruit. All our efforts were for naught.
In 2 Chronicles 14-16, we have the privilege of reading about several of King Asa's pursuits that unfolded during his reign as Judah's king. As is true in our own lives, some of his exploits were fruitful in God's eyes, and some were not. What's interesting about fruitfulness as God defines it is that the outcome of an event doesn't measure it fruitfulness. God cares more about the way we go about a pursuit than its outcome. How differently it is with the way the world speaks of success where often the end justifies the means. Let's briefly look at a few examples to remind ourselves of what God counts as praise worthy compared to what is the prevailing attitude of the world.
A fruitful pursuit, 2 Chronicles 14.
What must have it been like for King Asa when he and his people realized that an army who numbered 1,000,000 men was coming after them? How could he have victory over such a large fighting force? What strategy would yield a good outcome for him and his people? We know the answer to the question concerning how Asa might be victorious from 2 Chronicles 14:11. He admitted that he as well as his fighting men, though well trained, were helpless. He threw himself into God's care, understanding that God was well able to give them victory. He admitted that they needed to rely on God alone. His heart was humble. God partners with someone like this, James 4:6. Such a different strategy than relying on our own means and cleverness to make a pursuit fruitful.
On-going fruitfulness, 2 Chronicles 15:1-4.
As the victorious men of Judah were returning from battle, one of the Lord's prophets gave them the secret to continued fruitfulness. Victory in their pursuits would not be attained from their strength or ability. Instead, they would have God's kind of success as they stayed close to Him. This promise came with a warning. If the king and his people abandoned the Lord, He would also abandon them. They had the choice concerning whether or not they would live victoriously, and they chose, at this time to enter into a covenant, promising to honor and serve the Lord, 2 Chronicles 15:12-15.
A fruitless pursuit, 2 Chronicles 16.
Things had been going so well for Asa. His pursuits were fruitful as he relied upon his God, but in year 36 of his reign, it happened. The enemy was not nearly as large as the Cushite army that had come against him and his people earlier in his reign. This time opposition came from Baasha the ruler of Israel's Northern Kingdom. Surely, we would think that Asa would once again declare his dependence upon Almighty God. Instead, he bought the assistance of Ben-Hadad the King of Aram. Asa took silver and gold that had been stored in both the temple and palace treasuries and made a treaty with Ben-Hadad. It worked too. Baasha was defeated. Asa's people had victory, but their pursuit was not a fruitful one as God defined fruitfulness. In 2 Chronicles 16:7-10, we learn about God's point of view. Asa hadn't remembered God's graciousness and power that had resulted in victory for him; therefore, Asa would miss an opportunity to defeat Aram and there would be wars throughout the remainder of his reign. What was Asa's reaction to God's Word? Rather than humbling himself so that his life would once again honor God, Asa put God's prophet Hanani into stocks and even oppressed his own people. Though Asa's desired outcome had been realized, his pursuit had been a fruitless one. In 2 Chronicles 16:9 we are reminded that God's secret for lives that are filled with fruitful pursuits is not hard to understand. He is simply looking for hearts that are committed to Him. When Asa's life was centered around honoring God with righteous living and when He relied on the Lord, God gave him fruitful endeavors.
However, when he didn't humble himself, his fruitfulness was limited.
We see a similar picture in John 15:1-5. There we are reminded that Jesus is the True and Only Vine. We are the branches. In order to bear God's fruit, we must remain close to Him, relying on Him for our strength and remembering that all that is accomplished comes from Him. No pursuits done through the power of the Spirit will be fruitless, regardless of the world's evaluation of them.
A Reminder for Today from Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: ‘It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit’, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”