How do we remain faithful till the end? I have read a couple of accounts in the news recently of folks who have abandoned their faith. They were both prominent in evangelical Christian circles and there was no outward warning of their coming fall. And yet it happened. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:12 where Paul warns us that “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!“
How common is it to look back on a life lived serving God; a life that was active in serving in the kingdom, and then realize that the fervor of earlier years has cooled. You have taken your eyes off of the prize and begin to look at the world around you. It may be that trouble is overwhelming you. Or it may be that the desire for earthly things is growing. It may just be that you have become comfortable with your life, position and no longer are hungry for the things of God.
Whatever the cause, it has happened to many people over the years. And it is something to guard against. As Paul would say “don’t become overly confident, believing it will never happen to you.”
2 Chronicles starts with an account of the reign of Solomon, the son of David. And then it recounts a history of the kings of Judah. The Chronicler seems particularly interested in the king’s relationship to God and how that impacts his reign and the life of the country. A few of the kings pass the test. Some fail miserably. While most fall somewhere in the middle.
In 2 Chronicles chapters 14 to 16 is recorded the story of King Asa. Asa was the third king of Judah and started out well. He did everything right. But towards the end he fell short. His reign is a lesson in the importance of remaining faithful till the end. And the consequences of failing to do so.
The Faithful Years
Asa reigned as king of Judah for 41 years (1 Kings 15:10), one of the longer reigns. And for the first 35 years he passed the Chronicler’s test with flying colors. 1 Chronicles 14:2 sums up this period by saying that “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.“ What an epitaph to have on your gravestone.
Asa tore down the altars to foreign gods and removed the high places where they were worshiped. And he commanded the people of Judah to seek the Lord and obey his laws. Throughout chapters 14 and 15 you find his zeal for the Lord being expressed. And it was not just a personal zeal. He involved the whole nation. During these years there was revival in the land. He had intentions to stay faithful till the end.
In 2 Chronicles 14:8-15 it records one of the highlights of Asa’s reign. A massive army attacks Judah. Asa responds by praying to God for help and God strikes down the Cushite army. And Asa returns with the plunder. This is followed by a word from one of the prophets who encourages Asa to remain faithful till the end. And he takes the prophets message to heart. He redoubles his efforts to bring about reform in Judah. And the land has peace. At least until the 36th year of his reign.
Falling Short in the End
But in the 36th year of Asa’s reign things seemed to fall apart. The King of Israel attacks and Asa responds by paying the king of Aram, modern Syria, to break off relationships with Israel and to attack them. The ploy is successful and Asa is victorious over his enemy.
But a prophet comes to Asa and confronts him over his lack of faith. He points out the earlier attack by the Cushites and how God had delivered Judah. And then tells him he has done a foolish thing by making an alliance with the Aramian king rather than depend on God as he had before. The result would be war for the rest of his reign.
Unfortunately Asa did not repent. Rather he became angry, threw the prophet in prison, and began to mistreat some of his people. A few years later his feet became diseased. But Asa refused to seek the Lord’s help even here.
What happened to Asa? There is no way to know his heart and mind. But it is apparent that Asa had forgotten what God had done for him in the past. It would appear that over the years his heart and zeal for the Lord had cooled. And he had begun to trust in his own strength and wisdom in tackling his problems. Just like so many of us today. Our faith waivers and we fail to remain faithful till the end.
A Lesson for Today
So why did Asa turn away from his earlier faith? What happened to him?
The Scripture does not say, so we can only speculate. But there are a number of possible reasons. Reasons that are just as applicable to us today as they were in Asa’s day.
It could be that over the years Asa’s advisors changed. Those he trusted to help him make decisions earlier in his reign may have died, retired, or left their place of influence. And those who replaced them were not as focused on trusting God. This happened with king Joash. So long as the priest Jehoiada was alive and advising him, Joash did well (2 Ch. 24:2). But when Jehoiada died and new advisors took over, Joash turned away from the Lord (2 Ch. 24:17-18). It is important to be careful who we allow to have influence in our lives.
It could be that the long period of peace and prosperity that Asa had enjoyed after the invasion of the Cushite army had lulled him into forgetfulness. Rather than remembering what God had done for him in the past, he may have felt that it was up to him to resolve the problem. While as people we may enjoy peace and prosperity, it is not always beneficial for us. Challenging times can keep us more focused on the only one who can provide real help.
It could also be that Asa’s pride had grown over the years. Or prosperity had led him to trust in his riches. Or that his eyes had been attracted to worldly things. In the end, it is impossible to know what caused Asa’s fall from faith. But his story should be a warning to us to not grow weary or complacent in our service to God. Regardless the circumstan ces you find ourselves in, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).”
Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. 2 Chronicles 14:2-4 NIV