August 8, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 36:20 (NRSV)
Who among all the gods of these countries have saved their countries out of my hand, that the LORD should save Jerusalem out of my hand?
Centuries ago, the faith of God’s people was challenged by the logical taunts of the Assyrians. Though the challenges we face today are quite different in content, they are similar in effect. How can we remain faithful to God when tough challenges threaten to dismantle our faith?
Have you ever found your faith challenged in a way that seems logical? Has someone ever put down your faith with arguments that cannot be easily dismissed?
Something like this happened to God’s people centuries ago around 700 B.C. While King Hezekiah reigned over Judah, the Assyrians, who had recently overthrown the northern kingdom of Israel, threatened to do the same to the southern kingdom. King Sennacherib of Assyria sent representatives to threaten the leaders of Judah. With taunts and insults, these representatives threatened terrible things for Judah unless Hezekiah surrendered.
One of their arguments for surrender seems perfectly logical on the surface. “Who among all the gods of these countries have saved their countries out of my hand?” (Isaiah 36:20). Answer: None of those gods. Assyria’s domination had been undeterred. None of the national gods could stop Assyria. Hence the representatives asked, “[How could it be that] the LORD should save Jerusalem out of my hand?” (36:20). It’s not hard to imagine how unsettling that question would have been for the leaders of Judah. It seemed obvious that no local god had the power to stop the Assyrians. So what did that suggest about the Lord?
Often our faith asks us to believe or to do that which contradicts conventional wisdom. For example, logically, it makes little sense to love our enemies, to think that we’ll flourish by serving others, or to give up our lives with the hope that we’ll save them. These days, critics can mock our faith much as the Assyrians did when goading Hezekiah.
So, I wonder, what enables us to remain faithful when our faith is severely challenged? What will help us to trust in the Lord even when the Lord’s ways are puzzling or contrary to popular beliefs? In next Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion we’ll examine one answer to that question. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
When do you find your faith challenged?
Are there times when you struggle to do that which you know is right because it seems so unconventional?
Have you ever been teased because of your faith? How did you respond?
What helps you to remain faithful when your faith is so out of sync with the culture?
Talk with a wise friend or your small group about the things you find most challenging to your faith these days.
Gracious God, though our context is so very different from that of Judah and Hezekiah, we are still hearing the same sort of challenges to our faith: “Why do you pray for healing when the people you pray for don’t get well? Why do you forgive those who wrong you rather than get even? Why believe in God when the world is so full of suffering?” And on and on.
Help us, Lord, to be people of truth, people who don’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore challenges to our faith. Yet may we also see the full truth, not just the problems. Give us clarity of thought and confidence of faith. Help us to trust you when we are challenged by our neighbors, so that they might come to know you and worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.
Banner image by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Worship and Work (Isaiah 1ff.).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.