Halfway Leaders Become Evil Leaders

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:2).

Notice the contradictions in Amaziah’s life and leadership: 

obeyed God’s law (v. 4)
🚫disobeyed God’s law (v. 14)

trusted that God would give success to the army of Judah (v. 5)
🚫supplemented his army with mercenaries from Israel (v. 6)

listened to the prophet God sent to him (vv. 7-10)
🚫ignored the prophet God sent to him (vv. 15-16)

trusted God (vv. 9-10)
🚫turned to idols (v. 14)

Sadly, the “not wholeheartedly” leader usually ends up just like other leaders that God calls “evil” (vv. 22-24, 27). 

Bottom line: there is no such thing as a halfway leader in God’s eyes. There is only following God or rebelling against God—all leaders must choose one or the other.

A mark of a godly leader is one who consistently chooses to follow God wholeheartedly.

This is part 55 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Finishing Well Is Better

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The land was at peace… (2 Chronicles 14:6).

King Asa started out so well. The beginning of his reign could best be described by the word “peace”:

  • The land was at peace 
  • No one was at war with him 
  • The Lord gave him rest 
  • “[God] has given us rest on every side”  
  • The Lord his God was with him

When Cush attempted to attack the nation of Judah, Asa called on God: “Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. … Do not let mere mortals prevail against You” (14:11). God gave Asa a great victory over Cush, and other God-fearing people from Israel began flocking to Judah “when they saw that the Lord his God was with [Asa]” (15:9). 

This peace lasted for 35 years!

And then came one poor decision from which Asa never recovered. 

The king of Israel began to make preparations for war against Judah. Instead of calling on God as he did when Cush was preparing to attack, Asa reverted to political maneuvering. He sent a bribe to a rival nation, enticing them to attack Israel. 

The prophet Hanani told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war” (16:9). 

From “the land was at peace” to “from now on you will be at war” came about because Asa…

  • …trusted his own ingenuity instead of relying on God 
  • …calculated his odds instead of calling on his God 
  • …forgot about God’s past provision 
  • …refused to confess his sin and repent from it, even when the prophet called him out
  • …utterly abandoned his God (16:2-12) 

Starting well is good, but finishing well is far better! 

A mark of a godless leader is one who refuses to confess and repent from his sin. 

Asa’s refusal to admit his sin resulted in the end of his life being spent afflicted with disease and his country being surrounded and oppressed by enemies. 

This is part 54 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

King And Commoner

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… (Ezra 1:1). 

Ezra begins as 2 Chronicles ends: with the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. 

The Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, who were then defeated by the Medes, who were themselves defeated by the Persians under Cyrus II. This was a powerful man who claimed “all the kingdoms of the earth” as his possession. (v. 2). 

Yet this conquering king who was called Cyrus the Great had his heart directed by God. 

Among the Israelite exiles that returned to Jerusalem were princes, priests, Levites, servants, and common people of every stripe. These exiles were rulers of nothing. 

Yet these people also had their hearts moved by God (v. 5)—42,360 of them, to be precise. 

The same God who moved the heart of the most powerful king on earth also moved the hearts of common people. God had a plan to fulfill and He knew exactly which hearts to move at the precise time to bring about His purpose. God is sovereignly in control. All of history—including all the people in history—is His story. 

The king is not too powerful and the common citizen is not too small to be used by God. 

Let me make that statement more personal: All of the “great” people on earth today are not too powerful to be used by God, nor are you too small to be used by Him. 

Will you say “yes” when He moves your heart to action?

It’s Not About Me

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… (2 Chronicles 32:1). 

After three very long chapters outlining Hezekiah’s faithfulness to obey God and restore worship in the temple, how would you expect this sentence to be completed: 

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… 

  • …God gave Hezekiah abundant blessings”? 
  • …Hezekiah never had any problems”?
  • …all of Hezekiah’s enemies were afraid of him”? 

Actually, the full sentence says, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” 

What?! That doesn’t seem fair! 

Shouldn’t it be something like, “If I do these good things then God will do good things for me”? Or even, “If bad guys do bad things then God will do bad things to them”? 

But this wasn’t about Hezekiah. It wasn’t even about Sennacherib. It was about God’s glory. 

Jonah had delivered God’s message of judgment on Nineveh and the people had repented. But then they had begun to backslide from that. God was mercifully giving them another chance to repent. Sennacherib felt he was invincible and didn’t need to turn to Yahweh. So God had to demonstrate “with [Sennacherib] is only the arm of flesh” (vv. 8, 10-19). 

God’s judgment fell, Sennacherib was assassinated, Judah was delivered, and God was glorified (vv. 21-23). 

It is shortsighted of me to say, “But God, I did everything faithfully so this bad thing shouldn’t be happening to me.” 

It’s not about me! It never has been. It’s all about God’s glory. 

Yes, Hezekiah reaped the benefit of Sennacherib’s defeat, but it wasn’t because God was “paying Hezekiah back” for the good he had done. God was still being glorified when “many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”

Sennacherib was defeated and Hezekiah was saved for the same reason: God was glorified in doing so! 

Whenever you walk through a dark time, you too might be tempted to say, “God, this isn’t fair!” But remember, it’s not about you—it’s about God being glorified. Perhaps God gains greater glory and you gain greater rewards by Him delivering you through an enemy’s attack, not delivering you from the attack. Whatever God is doing, He is doing it for His glory. 

Sola Deo gloria!

Obvious Consequences

I think these correlations are pretty visible in the life of King Jehoshaphat. See if you can spot them too. 

Jehoshaphat “followed [God’s] commands” and “the Lord established the kingdom under his control.” 

Jehoshaphat sent Levites out to teach the people God’s law and “the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the land surrounding Judah.” 

Jehoshaphat cried out to God while being pursued by enemies, “and the Lord helped him.” 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel—marrying Ahab’s daughter and going to war with Israel—and he was told, “the wrath of the Lord is on you.” 

“Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord” when the enemy was poised to attack and God gave him assurance of victory. 

Jehoshaphat appointed worshipers to lead the army and “the Lord set ambushes” to defeat the enemy, causing His fear to once again fall on the surrounding nations. 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel again and their joint sailing venture ended in shipwreck. 

[check out the biblical texts for all of the above examples by clicking here] 

It seems to me that the blessings of following God and doing things His way, and the consequences of ignoring His commands, are so plainly visible. There really is no excuse for my ignorance on this.

The question is: Will I do things God’s way and enjoy His blessings, or will I continue to try to do things my way and risk God’s wrath?

True Prosperity

…and so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). 

When I look up “prosper” in the dictionary, the first entry says, “to be successful or fortunate, especially in financial respects.” This isn’t even close to the Old Testament Hebrew word for prosper! 

God makes prosper a dependence on Him. Mammon makes prosper a dependence on self. 

The Hebrew word tsalach means: 

  • to overcome obstacles (like crossing a river) 
  • to be empowered by the Spirit of God to overcome an enemy (like Samson did) 
  • to flourish like a plant growing to full harvest 
  • to have favor with man so that good can be done for others (Nehemiah 1:11) 
  • to finish well (2 Chronicles 7:11) 
  • to be poured out; to be a conduit of God’s blessings to others 

Prosperity God’s way is being blessed to be a blessing to others.

Prosperity is never for me, only from God through me. 

Prosperity from God helps me overcome obstacles for others, defeat enemies for others, bring in a good harvest for others, have earthly favor that will benefit others, finish well for the sake of others. 

I’ll say it again: True prosperity ISN’T for me, it’s only from God through me! 

Hezekiah showed how God’s prosperity came through him to benefit others: 

  • he did “what was good and right and faithful before the Lord” 
  • he lived “in obedience to the law and the commands” 
  • “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly” 

In light of this definition, I have no problem praying, “God, make me prosperous. As I seek You and work wholeheartedly, flow through me to bless others!

Humility Is A Daily Choice

…As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. … But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall… (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16). 

Success makes me more vulnerable to pride. Success can distract from the very One who gave me success. I am in danger of losing God’s blessings in the very moment I am enjoying God’s blessings. 

Humility has to be an ongoing choice. That choice becomes harder as the successes become bigger or more frequent. But choosing pride in “my accomplishments” will undo all the previous successes. 

The only way to keep these blessings is two words: IF ONLY. If only I will continue to remain humble before God and obedient to Him. 

Uzziah, sadly, didn’t make that choice. His pride in God’s success led to his downfall. 

His son Jotham learned this lesson. Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (27:6). 

I like the KJV of this verse that says, “Jotham grew powerful because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” 

Jotham was keenly aware that everything he did was seen by God. He was determined that everything he did would be pleasing in God’s sight. The word “before” in verse 6 means “in front” of or even “before the face.” Jotham didn’t live as though he might face God at the end of his life, but as though he was facing God at every moment of his life. 

Notice two phrases in this sentence—grew powerful and walked steadfastly. They are directly tied to each other: Jotham became powerful only because he was determined to live righteously and humbly in God’s sight. The more powerful he became, the more he increased his commitment to live humbly before God’s face. 

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, BUT unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord (v. 2). 

Jotham humbly prepared his ways before the Lord, and when God made him powerful Jotham re-committed to stay humble. Great choice! 

I’ll say it again: The only way to keep God’s blessings on my initial humble choice is to continue to choose humility at every moment of success. 

Only One Thing Limits Prayer

“…the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, Lord by God, give attention to Your servant’s prayer…” (2 Chronicles 6:18, 19). 

It’s amazing to think that the Limitless God of the Universe condescends to listen to frail human prayers! 

The key is my humility to approach God. Not as one afraid to approach, but as one who is humbly confident that He wants me to come to Him (see Matthew 6:8). 

Solomon repeatedly asked God to “hear” and respond (vv. 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33, 35, 39). And God says, “I have heard you and I will continue to hear and respond” (7:12, 14)! 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

If God wants to hear from me, why do I try to handle things on my own?! 

My prayers are only limited by my pride that keeps me from coming to God in prayer.

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

Links & Quotes

link quote

“To fulfill God’s destiny for your life, you likely don’t have to do more; you have to do less. … Enjoy the Christmas season. Wrap the presents. Prepare your home in a festive way. Make memories with your family. But don’t let this Christmas pass without spending some time at Jesus’ feet. Long after everything else fades from this Christmas, worshiping Jesus is all that will truly last.” —Rick Warren

“Holidays in America have come to be regarded as entitlements. They’re all about us, seasons of diversion, distraction, self-indulgence, and time off work. Even the great religious celebrations of the national calendar—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—are regarded by most Americans as opportunities to get some good bargains and enjoy a little time for relaxation, not for spiritual reflection and renewal, but just for doing whatever we want. Sort of like the way most Christians observe the Lord’s Day.” —T.M. Moore

As we are celebrating the First Advent, J. Warner Wallace asks a great question: Why didn’t the Apostle Paul mention the virgin conception?

“I am convinced many Christians today are troubled for the same reason Asa was [2 Chronicles 16:1-9]. They have war in their souls because they have traded faith for self-reliance. But the fact is, there is no way a follower of Jesus can have faith in any other source and not be troubled.” —David Wilkerson

“People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel—the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little centered rejoicing.” —John Piper

“Whether one makes the observation light-heartedly or in all seriousness, one must observe that, when the male body unites for procreation with the female, the pleasure that goes along with it is understood to be in accordance with nature, but that when male joins with male, or female with female, it is outside the bounds of nature. This outrage was first done by people whose desire for pleasure was without self-control.” —Plato. This agrees with what the Bible says in Romans 1:26-27.

Lenny Esposito has some good advice for students to defend their Christian faith in the classroom.

Seth Godin has some insight on whining—“Before starting, a question: Will it help? Like holding a grudge, or like panicking, whining rarely helps. If anything, any of the three make it far less likely that you’ll make progress solving the problem that has presented itself. And, like knuckle cracking, it’s best enjoyed alone.”

[VIDEO] Bobby Conway asks Lenny Esposito how to handle the claim “The Bible has contradictions in it”—

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