“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:28
After listing off all the physical challenges, dangers, and persecutions Paul faced he ends by saying besides all that he faced daily the pressure he felt from his concern for the well being of the church. For some reason we think once we become Christians that there is no more pressure or hard times that will come upon our lives. We can even view pressure as ungodly. Nature shows us that under pressure coal is formed into a diamond. I believe it is when we are under pressure that God does some of his most amazing, supernatural work in our lives!
There are many pressures we face as disciples of Jesus Christ. As the semester comes to a close at the University of Florida and Santa Fe college, students face the pressure of exceling in their final exams and passing their classes. Financial pressure can hit us if we have lost a job or have unexpected expenses. Our bodies age and we face the pressure of deteriorating health. These are normal pressures that everyone must face on earth whether righteous or wicked (Matthew 5:45). Yet as a disciple of Jesus there is even more added pressure as Paul wrote about above. We have the pressure of concern for our brothers and sisters who may be weak spiritually (2 Corinthians 11:28-29). There is also the burden to evangelize the world in this generation commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Right now there is also the added financial pressure of our25x Special Missions Contribution on June 14th. This pressure is felt because if we do not hit our missions goal we may have to take some of our interns off staff. Added to that are the needed funds to contribute to our new church plantings that our brothers and sisters are depending on in Moscow Russia, Stockholm Sweden, Manila Philippines, and Sacramento California. Have I overwhelmed you yet? Do you feel the pressure?
A study of Isaiah 36 and 37 teaches us how to deal with pressure in a godly way and tap into God’s power! In one of the most high pressured situations in all of scripture Northern Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians (720BC) and Judah remained. During the reign of King Hezekiah, King of Judah, Sennacherib by the early 700’s BC would now gain access over the fortified cities of Judah (Isaiah 36:1). Imagine being the remnant/survivors left of God’s people in Judah with King Hezekiah, and outside the walls of Jerusalem is all Assyrian territory! Jerusalem was the only city left to conquer! Talk about a high pressure situation! What would your response be? If you send your army out to fight, you will lose. Sennacherib offered to make an agreement with them which would go against God’s commands (Isaiah 36:16-17). During high pressured situations this is what the enemy does to God’s people. How many people usually go to drugs, alcohol, or sex as a way of escaping the pressure they face? God sometimes puts us in situations where the only option we have is to turn to God. The Assyrian commander speaking for Sennacherib continues to try and put doubt into all the people of Judah by telling them trusting in God won’t do a thing by using the examples of the other nations they had conquered (Isaiah 36:18-20). Eventually the officials get the word to Hezekiah and we are going to study his response to see how to invoke God’s power in our high pressured situation.
1. Go to God (Isaiah 37:14-20)
Immediately after receiving the news of Assyria’s plan in the form of a letter, he takes the letter to the temple of God and spreads it out before the Lord. We learn a couple of insights into invoking God’s power from the prayer of Hezekiah.
First, posture and position are important in prayer. Hezekiah took time to go to the temple and Â Â Â Â Â Â Â even humbly spread out the letter before God as he prayed. Jesus often went to quiet places where he could be undistracted and pour out his heart to God. Make sure to get away to a place you can pour out your situation to God. (Isaiah 37:14)
Secondly, Hezekiah praised God while remembering his mighty works of the past. Praise and thanksgiving bring us into God’s presence (Psalm 100). It helps remind us of how powerful God is. You can’t praise that which you don’t know. If a husband was to have trouble thinking of things to praise his wife about it is simply because of distance in their relationship or he does not know his wife well enough. The same is true with God, the more we are in his word learning about him, the more we will have to praise him about. (Isaiah 37:16)
Thirdly, praying specifically about the situation. Hezekiah asked God to listen to Sennacherib’s ridicule. This was a prayer not of religious babbling, but one that was focused and pointed (Matthew 6:7).Â Are your prayers specific? College students, what if you took your study guides out and laid them out before God as Hezekiah did? Praised him and got specific about asking his help to retain the study material.
Fourthly, prayer should be honest. Faith is not blind but faces the facts of the situation while being persuaded of God’s power (Romans 4:18-21). Hezekiah is honest with God that Assyria is a powerful nation that has defeated others. For example, with Special Missions Contribution, maybe you have not saved any money yet or even thought about it. Be honest with God and tell him your specific situation. God desires us to walk in the light and not hide our shortcomings (1 John 1:5-10). (Isaiah 37:18-19).
Finally, motivation is key in prayer. Hezekiah didn’t seek deliverance out of selfish motives but so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, LORD, are the only God. World evangelism was the center of this amazing prayer. He wanted all nations to know God! Do you pray “help me pass this test so I can get my degree” or “help me pass this test God so students will see my example and want to become disciples of Jesus”?
Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Bible promises a peace that is supernatural, surpassing all human understanding. This peace will guard the heart (emotions) and the mind (thoughts) for those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m reminded of the walls around Jerusalem that protected the city from invaders. A supernatural wall around our emotions and thoughts is formed when we pray a “Hezekiah” type prayer that Paul describes above. Take time this week to bring your situation to God with petition and thanksgiving for everything he has already given us. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.
2. God sends his angels (Isaiah 37:31-38)
So maybe you are wondering at this point how God responded to Hezekiah’s prayer. The passage above demonstrates the power of one man deciding to go to God with his pressure. God sends his angel to kill the 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. When God’s people get up the next morning they see all the dead bodies! They didn’t do anything to deserve this, didn’t do anything to cause it, the only thing that happened is one spiritual leader (Hezekiah) chose to pray to his God. Sennacherib had broken camp and returned to Assyria and was killed by his sons. Do you believe God will send his angels in prayer? Though we may never face as intense of a situation as the residents of Jerusalem we have our daily pressures that we face. Look at how God sent his angels in the following situations:
1 Kings 19:1-9â€“ Elijah after killing 850 false prophets and calling down fire from heaven at Mt. Carmel is now fearful for his life since Jezebel seeks to kill him. He now is having suicidal thoughts and wants to sleep until death. Many times when faced with anxiety or pressure we feel fatigued and want to sleep. God sends his angel to strengthen Elijah with some food so he can go to the mountain of God.
Daniel 10:16-19â€“ Daniel is overwhelmed by the vision God gave him. God uses an angel to strengthen Daniel. Many times we get overwhelmed by what God is calling us to do (move on a mission team, financial sacrifice for missions, commitment to the body, etc.). Remain faithful to his vision and God will strengthen you with his angels.
Matthew 4:11â€“ After the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Satan, angels accompany him. When Satan attacks you God sends angels to accompany you as you use the word of God to fend off his flaming arrows. These angels are sent because we are in a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Luke 22:39-46â€“ In the most intense high pressured moment Jesus faced he is praying. He surrenders to God’s will instead of his own and God sends an angel to strengthen Jesus. On the other hand the disciples facing similar pressure chose to sleep instead of pray and thus eventually fell away from Christ during the passion. God sends his angels when we are totally surrendered to him.
If God used an angel to take out 185,000 men can’t he strengthen you in your time of need? Can’t he take out the demons that face you? Hebrews 1:14 and Psalm 34:7 show us that angels are ministering servants who protect those who fear God. They are also constantly prompting us to share our faith with non-believers (Acts 8:36). You may have in fact encountered one physically yourself (Hebrews 13:2)! Regardless if you see them or not, we can trust God’s word that he will send his angels.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11
Feeling the pressure? Don’t worry, do as Jesus said and simply go to God (Matthew 6:25-34). Pray a “Hezekiah prayer” and then trust that God is sending help. To God be the glory.