2 Kings 20:1-11 – Prayer Teaches Us To Hold Daddy’s Hand

Posted: September 24, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 20:1-11

Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

Have you ever felt like you’ve been what you consider to be completely faithful to God, followed what you believed He had led you to do, but things turned out not to be what you had expected? That is how I had begun to feel about six months ago. I had followed God’s call to full-time ministry. I had worked my tail off going to seminary and had worked long and hard at our church in Lyman, SC as a lay leader in the church there. I had finished my education. Had worked for several years as the co-director of outreach programs and then as the director of finance for the church all while working full-time in my secular job as a corporate controller for a division of an international electronic components manufacturer/distributor. Finally, the opportunity came to go into full-time ministry. I was offered a position as the associate pastor for business services at a large church in northwestern Illinois. It was what I had worked for, dreamed of, prayed about for about seven years.

However, as time progressed, though the relationships with church members that we had built were wonderful and ones we will never forget, the job itself became increasingly more difficult. The unique ways in which this church had built its ways of doing things were foreign to me and difficult to grasp. One the one hand, who could argue with the financial success and the numerical success of the church. It was a church that had significant success in both areas. However, leadership styles and procedural styles were way different than I had experienced in a long, long time. The change from being in the corporate accrual basis of accounting to this church’s cash basis of accounting was a new thing for me. Even at my church in Lyman, we had ran the books on an accrual basis rather than a cash basis. The switch from one method of accounting that I had been a part of in the corporate world for 30 years to the normal non-profit organization cash basis of accounting was a difficult transition. Second, for a decade, I had worked in a situation in previous job where my boss was on the other side of the country from me. Thus, I was pretty much my own day-to-day boss for a decade. Here, I was working in a situation where I had a very hands-on boss who was right there in the same building with me. His hands-on, in the details style was a difficult transition as well. Further, I had expectations that maybe were unrealistic about how I would be used in ministry. I had seen it in my mind that I would not JUST be the church finance guy but rather someone who would be groomed into a more pastoral role.

With all these factors in place, it was a difficult year-and-a-half emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Yet, at the same time, outside of the work environment, we made some lifetime friends there that we are still heavily in contact with even now four months after leaving for my current assignment in Lamar. So, it was completely bittersweet when we left. During the time there in Illinois, it became increasingly difficult for me to see why I left the corporate world and followed the call to full-time ministry and I fell into a spiritual struggle. Things simply did not turn out professionally the way that I wanted them to turn out. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. However, nothing seemed to change. It was the strangest time of my life. We ministered to people in ways that we never had before on a personal level, outside my role as it played out in the workplace. We developed friendships that are now forever friendships. We helped people. We developed lasting friendships because of it. We learned that ministry is not always what your job is. It is what you do as a Christ follower. I will never forget some of the close friends we made there. However, the vocational part of my life there was just a spiritual struggle.

Prayer does change things though. Even if it takes months (and some times years in some instances), it does change things. It changes us to a dependence on God. The struggles spiritually were meant for a reason. The struggles in the job were to introduce me to struggles in ministry. Sometimes, it is the job itself and relationships will be great though. Sometimes, its going to be relationships that are struggles but the job is great. Sometimes both will be struggles. There is always going to be struggle in ministry. But prayer gets you through it. Prayer develops our dependency on the Lord. Prayer takes you from “I can do it” to “Lord, help me to do it!”

The difficulty of the transition to full-time ministry in my first appointment as a full-time pastor was what I thought of this morning when I read about Hezekiah’s illness. He had done everything the right way. He had followed God’s guidance in his life. However, he was suddenly struck with additional adversity, a deathly illness. It was only through earnest and soul-felt and submissive prayer to the Lord that he was able to get through it. That’s the power of true prayer. That was what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 2 Kings 20:1-11. Let’s read it now:

20 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”

2 When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.

4 But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard,[a] this message came to him from the Lord: 5 “Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’”

7 Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered!

8 Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?”

9 Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?[b]”

10 “The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” 11 So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial[c] of Ahaz!

In this passage, we see that over an approximately 100-year period of Judah’s history (732-640 BC), Hezekiah was a faithful king. But because we are faithful does not mean that we are excluded from misery or dark times in our lives. Hezekiah had been faithful to the Lord and sought after Him in everything that He did as man and as a king. However, all of these things did not exempt him from life-threatening illness. These are often our times of tested faith. It is those times that we have done everything the Lord has asked of us or called us to do and then we run into difficult times. That’s a true test of faith. We often think that we should be rewarded in this life for having done it all the right way and done exactly what God called us to do without question. It is in these times that we learn the most about the depth of our faith in God. Of course, we all want to be in alignment with God’s will for our lives, but typically we like to think of the results of those steps of alignment to bring us to a mountaintop experience where the sun is shining on our face and a gentle breeze is blowing in our face. And, yes, there will be those times where following God’s will for our lives will bring us to a place of great peace, contentment, joy and just a period of awesomeness in our lives. On the other hand, there will be times where following God’s will for our lives will lead us into storm after storm and a period of complete and utter struggle just to try to see what God is trying to accomplish in us and through us.

The following of God’s call on my life to be a full-time minister led me to my first appointment – as an associate pastor in a large church. My expectation was that it was the culmination of 8 or more years of preparing for that moment. My thought was that it would be smooth sailing. I was doing what God called me to do. It was, in my mind, to be a mountaintop experience. In my mind, it was to be my sweet spot. It was to combine my past history as a corporate accountant with my calling to be a minister of God’s gospel. What could be better, right? The sweet spot! However, the reality was that God was leading me into a storm to test my faithfulness. He was leading me to find that ministry is tough. He was leading me to find that ministry is more than titles. He was leading me to find that prayer really does matter.

So often, particularly us that are men, we think of prayer as an add-on, something that you are just supposed to do as Christians. We pray publicly and we say all the right buzz words that make us sound like a cool Christian in touch with God. So often, we just don’t take prayer seriously. What God led me to find in Illinois was that prayer is about being intimate with God. It’s about being real with God. It’s about being submitted to Him. It’s about learning to trust Him with your very life. There were days during my time in Illinois that I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to make it in ministry or not. Those days where you wake up and wonder what the heck am I doing. It was in this time that I really came to understand the power of prayer. It was in that time that I just learned to trust Him like a kid walking down a dark street holding his daddy’s hand. As a little kid, you hear every peep and sound and think it’s a monster or a wild animal or some evil spirit but you know that you have your daddy’s hand. And THAT’S all that matters. It is by holding God’s hand like a scared little kid and trusting that Daddy God, Abba Father, was going to get me through it – whatever that may look like. Prayer got me to that place.

And it was through prayer that I learned that we did have real ministry there in Illinois. It may not have been fully through the titled job but it was definitely through the relationships with people that we came to have. And that’s the thing that will carry us forward in ministry here at Lamar. Sure, I have the title of pastor. I am the guy that everybody looks to in our church. But the thing that Illinois did for me is that the fact that I am the guy is not really all that important to me. Sure, I am getting to do in the fullest sense what I believe God has called me to do. But, at the same time, Illinois gave me things that will sustain me in ministry. It gave me humility to see that I am not “all that”. It gave me a view on ministry where I am just glad to be ministering and have this awe about what God has given me. That experience in Illinois also gave me the experience to know that ministry is more about the relationships that you build and how you invest in people’s lives than it is about preaching and teaching (although those are important). Getting into people’s lives in a genuine way is half of ministry.

We will have mighty spiritual struggles in life as ministers. You will have mighty struggles in your life regardless of whether you are a minister or not. We all will have struggles even when we are fully aligned with God’s will and we have followed exactly to the letter His calling on our lives. That’s when we learn the sweetest and most eternal lessons about prayer. It is then our faith is tested. It is then that when we think we should be on the mountaintop but rather find ourselves in a valley is when we find that we must draw close to God. We must hold our Abba Father’s hand down the dark alley way and just trust that He knows what He is doing. And, seeing as how He is the Creator of the Universe and is the Eternal Wise Father, we might just better do that – trust Him. How do we do that? Actually have an intimate prayer life with the Father. Real prayer. Not just stock words said in the right order. But real prayer. Real intimacy with the Father.

Amen and Amen.

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