Have you ever faced a battle or challenge in your life that seemed insurmountable? How did that make you feel? I suspect you didn’t list gratitude among your feelings.
Researcher Robert Emmons acknowledges the difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. We can’t easily affect our feelings in the face of depression, economic challenges, or relational conflict. We can, however, choose to be grateful which allows us to gain perspective and maintain resilience in the midst of whatever battle we face.
King Jehoshaphat, in 2 Chronicles 20, received news that the armies of Edom had declared war again Judah and rapidly approached. He felt terrified. The way he moved from fear to thankfulness can serve as a model for us in battle.
6 Ways to be Grateful in Battle:
#1: Admit you are powerless without God
Jehoshaphat ordered everyone to fast with him as they sought the Lord’s help. He admitted, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help” (vs. 12).
In times of plenty, we tend to take things for granted. When we’re faced with a crisis, a good place to start is on our knees. Jehoshaphat acknowledged God’s power and might as the basis for his petition.
#2: Remember God’s past faithfulness
In a moment of clarity, Jehoshaphat remembered how God drove out all the inhabitants of Israel and the promises God made. He remembered that God told them “We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.”
When we tremble in the face of overwhelming battles, we can remember times when God stood with us before. Our memories significantly shape how we face current challenges. As the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said,
“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer
#3: Reframe the battle
God heard Jehoshaphat’s prayers and sent a messenger to encourage all the people. His message said simply, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15).
I find we often become overwhelmed by life’s battles because we feel alone. We think it’s all up to us. God tells Jehoshaphat what we need to hear today, “You’re not alone. I’m with you. I’m sending my angels to battle for you. Watch and see what I’m going to do.”
#4: Believe God’s promises
Jehoshaphat might have responded with unbelief and remained fearful, but he chose to believe God’s promise. Perhaps it was easier because the messenger clearly received a word from God at that moment. How do we respond when we need to believe God’s past promises without the immediate accompaniment of God’s powerful presence?
In saying those words I realize a false belief I might possess. If Jesus left the Holy Spirit as a constant source of God’s presence, don’t I have access to God’s throne all the time? Cannot the Spirit bring to mind God’s truth just when I need it? Do I not believe the Holy Spirit is God himself and that he never leaves me?
Help my unbelief, Lord.
King Jehoshaphat did believe. In fact, he encouraged the people with these words: “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed” (v. 20).
#5: Sing songs of thanksgiving
Belief must be followed by action or it’s worthless. As James told believers, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22 NLT).
King Jehoshaphat boldly called the people to believe God and put their faith in His promise. He demonstrated that faith by appointing singers to lead out the army. Yes, you read that right. Singers. Armed with their voices and instruments, the priests led the armies.
“Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever!”
#6: Thankfulness is the battle plan
As a pastor and worship leader, I’m also thinking, these guys never trained for battle. They spent all their time in the temple singing and playing instruments.
But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps they were better prepared for this moment because they did spend time every day giving thanks to God.
Maybe I would be better prepared for battle if I spent time every single day giving thanks and praising God, regardless of my circumstances. Maybe I need to spend a lot more time preparing to battle with God’s word, the sword of the Spirit.
Now I get it. Thankfulness is THE battleplan for all of life’s battles.
Wondering how the story ends for Jehoshaphat? Go read it for yourself. Prepare to be blown away!
Add a song of thanks to this Spotify list or create your own list of songs to play to prepare yourself for the day of battle.
Lord, I thank you for your past faithfulness and the truth of your word. Help me to believe and to trust that you are with me and that all of life’s battles belong to you. Help me know that you are working even when I can’t see the evidence. Teach me to give you thanks every day, no matter what my circumstances. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.