We will have one more study on this wonderful key of praise which opens every door and which can set us free from situations that are like prisons.
In our last study we were looking at 2 Chronicles 20. It is one of the finest illustrations, in the entire Bible, on how the spirit of praise can defeat the enemy and deliver you from situations when you are surrounded by problems which you don't know how to handle. Faith always brings praise.
Jesus said, 'If you believe, nothing will be impossible to you.' When you trust in God, you will never be disappointed. Man may disappoint you, but God will never disappoint you. He may take time to answer your prayer, and take time before He solves your problem, and opens the prison door, but He will definitely do it, one day. He doesn't want His children to be bound. He wants His children to be free in their spirits. In their bodies, they may be locked up. Paul was locked up, Peter was locked up; they were even killed. But in your spirit, God always wants you to be like the birds in the air, flying, like the eagles flying in the air, and that comes through the spirit of praise. You know an eagle flapping its wings, and rising up is a picture of a Christian praising God with all his heart.
I want to point out one or two things to you from 2 Chronicles 20 where Jehoshaphat was surrounded by so many enemies that they were far too many for him to handle. God allows us to face situations, where we see that we are absolutely helpless, we are weak. Once, when Jesus spoke about prayer, He pictured the church as a poor, helpless, old widow who was being harassed by some enemy (Lk. 18). Can you picture this in your mind?- A poor, helpless, old widow being harassed by some strong man or men, and she has no man in the house, no husband, no sons and she doesn't know what to do. These men are harassing her, maybe for rent, or turning her out of the house, or not giving her own property back, something like that. She goes to a judge and asks the judge to help her.
Now, what is the picture we have here of the Church? The Church is not a strong muscular 'He-man'. No, Jesus pictured the Church like a helpless widow. Are we like that? Yes we are. God has made the Church weak on earth, so that it will depend on the Lord. You know, in the early days, the Christians were thrown to the lions. Well, they couldn't defend themselves physically against the might of the Roman Empire but, in their spirits, they were free. God allows us to be weak, because it is only when we are weak that we can exercise faith in Him. Otherwise, we tend to depend on our resources. So God allowed so many enemies to come around Jehoshaphat, and we read in 2 Chronicles 20:2, He said, 'Lord we are powerless.' Now, if 1 or 2 enemies had come, he wouldn't have said that, but God allowed so many to come. He told the Lord, 'we are helpless, we just can't handle this.
When you are defeated by sin, overcome by Satan, you say, that is because you are weak. No, my friend, it is not because you are weak, it is because you are strong! You are so strong. That is why you are defeated. If you were weak, you would turn to God and you would experience God's help and you would be an overcomer. Only weak people can praise God. Strong people praise themselves. So we see only a strong person has got strong opinions, he speaks strong stinging words to other people and he is quick to judge other people. Are you like that? Then you are not weak, a weak person is not like that.
Supposing that you go to a hospital and you see a man with tubes in his mouth and nose and he is helpless, hardly able to speak, that is a weak person. You don't see him there criticizing others. No, it is only when he gets healthy and stronger again that he starts blaming others, blaming the doctors and the nurses and his enemies and relatives. He starts speaking stinging words and judging others when he has recovered his strength, but when he is weak, he doesn't' say a thing. He is just lying there, helpless.
What are you like, aren't you strong? It is strong people that are defeated. Because, we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God says, "My strength is made perfect in weak people." That is why God allows us to become weak. When you argue and dispute with people, are you weak or strong? You are strong, and strong people are easy targets for Satan. He always wins the battle with those who argue. That is how he won the battle with Eve. So God allows us to become weak.
That is what we learn in the story of Lazarus. We read that when Jesus got a message that Lazarus was dying, He said, 'We will just wait a little longer and go on to see him later.' Why would He do that? - Because as long as Lazarus was sick, he was still a bit strong. Gradually his strength weakened and weakened until one day he died. When he had become really weak and died God raised him up. What is the lesson from that? That God has to make us weak before he can do His work in us. When Jehoshaphat came to that place and said, 'We are powerless, we don't know what to do, but our eyes are on You; we are expecting You to work on our behalf' (2 Chronicles 20:12), God acted.
Now there are three categories of believers in the world. Pay attention to what I am saying and see which category you belong to! First - those who have a tremendous confidence in themselves. They are very strong, they know the Bible, they pray and fast, they are capable, and they have a lot of confidence in themselves; in their own abilities. Or, it maybe that they don't pray, they don't fast but they are strong in themselves, they have powerful personalities. Such believers can never do any eternal work for God. There is a second category of believers and they are those who have no confidence in themselves and no confidence in God either. They may say they have no strength, they are weak, they are helpless, they are sinners, they are good for nothing, but at the same time they also don't believe that God will ever do anything with them or through them, because they feel God cannot do much. Such believers are also useless to God. Now, here is the third category of believers, the ones those are really useful to God - those who have no confidence in themselves but total confidence in God. Those who say like Jehoshaphat, 'We have no strength, we have no wisdom, but we trust You, Lord. We don't know how to handle this situation but we trust You to handle it.'
Remember this: just to say, we are weak doesn't solve the problem. You must also trust God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. To merely confess that we are rotten, good for nothing and foolish is not humility; that is just unbelief. Jesus never confessed that type of thing. Jesus was the humblest person to walk down the earth.
It is when they finally said, 'Lord, we trust you,' we read that a prophet got up there and God sent His message through him saying, 'Don't be afraid, the battle is not yours, but God's. You don't have to fight in this battle; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf" (2 Chr. 20:15, 17). Stand still and see what God is going to do for you: to whom does God speak such words today? To those who say, 'Lord, we are weak, but we are trusting in You.' They will never ever be disappointed or put to shame. You know that there is a wonderful promise in Romans 9:33, ".... He who believes in the Lord will never be disappointed." What a wonderful verse! So they went out, and we read in 2 Chronicles 20, that they began to praise the Lord and the enemy was thoroughly defeated.
Now we see another example of this in the book of Jonah. You know the story of Jonah, don't you? He was disobeying God and running away from God. He got onto a ship to go in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to go. God stopped him by getting those people to throw him out of that ship. As soon as he was thrown out of the ship, there was a big fish that swallowed him up. We read that in Jonah 1:17, " The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and he was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights." What did he do during those three days and three nights, we are not told. Perhaps, he was struggling to get out of that fish's stomach, because it says in Chapter 2:1, 'Then after three days and three nights, he began to pray.'
Now very often that is how we are too. When we get into a problem, maybe in some type of fish's belly, we have got ourselves locked up in. In the beginning, we don't pray. We try to get out in some way or the other, sometimes for many days or weeks. And when everything fails, we start to pray and that is what Jonah also did. For three days and three nights, he did nothing. He tried but every time he tried to get out of the whale's mouth, he just slipped back in. And then he began to pray. Like I said before, God waits till we come to the end of ourselves. The same lesson is here.
Then Jonah prayed and he prayed and he prayed and he prayed and still nothing happened. That is another thing we see. Finally, we see, in verse 9, that he began to thank the Lord. He said, ''With the voice of thanksgiving, I will sacrifice to you" and then we read in verse 10 that the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out in the dry land. When did the Lord command the fish to do that? - When Jonah began to praise the Lord. This is the fulfilment of Psalm of 50:23: ''He that offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving makes a way, by which I can show him My deliverance," the same thing is mentioned here in Jonah 2:9.
Look at another final example in Acts 16. There we read of the Apostles Paul and Silas, being locked up in the jail. What did they do in the jail? Instead of sleeping and instead of complaining and grumbling, they began to praise the Lord. In Acts 16:25-26, we read, "And as they were praising the Lord, the Lord opened the prison doors." Again a fulfilment of that promise!
My dear friends, the key to every fish's mouth is in God's hands; to every prison door, to every situation you are in. If you praise Him and stop complaining, He can open every door. There is no door that the Lord cannot open. Miracles happen when you begin to praise God in faith.