By Jerry Jones
Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom? Wilt not thou, 0’ God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, 0 God, which didst not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies (Psalm 60:9-12).
I have never been more optimistic about the future of the church. I have never been more thrilled to be part of what God is doing in our world. I believe we are living in the days of the greatest opportunity we have ever known to make a difference in our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am excited about what God is going to do.
In the midst of the greatest sense of optimism that I have ever had, I have never felt more of a need of God in my own life than I have in the past several months. Never before have I felt my own lack of ability or talent. Never before have I felt inadequate to make a difference in this world. I have never sensed in the church a more desperate need to understand how dependent we are on the presence of God. “Except the LORD build the house, the laborers labor in vain.” I do not care how slick we get, how good we can do it, how well we can organize, or how much talent we can display. Unless we have God, we will never survive. We cannot accomplish what God has for us to do without Him. I need Him more tonight than I have ever needed Him before. The church is in a desperate condition. We have more than ever. But never have we been more destitute. We are enjoying more than ever, but feel empty. We need God, now, more than ever before.
We do not need “more or less” organization. We do not need “more or fewer” issues. We do not need “more or fewer” programs, fellowship, talent, or money. I said “more or less” because I am not against any of those things. All of them have their place. Even things that are normally thought of as being negative, like issues, are healthy sometimes. But we do not need those things; we need God. Sure, I would like to have a few millionaires, more money, more fellowship, and more organization in areas where we need it. We do need more pulling together, more patting each other on the back, and more standing with each other. We can have all of those things, but if we do not have God, we are still going to fail. With Him, all things are possible. Therefore, if we have more issues, programs, and fellowship, and if we gain more talent, get more money, build greater buildings, all of those things are okay. But in all of our “getting” and in all of our “doing,” let us be certain that when we go to war, we are not marching alone. We must have the Almighty marching along with us.
I am weary of shining up my armor, getting all the specks of dust and tarnish off, and buckling it on. I march to war, my flag unfurled, snapping in the breeze, my spear sparkling in the sunshine. I am ready in my ranks—organized and prepared, plotted and positioned. I draw my sword to fight, but I am not winning like God designed me to do. In all of my doing and in all of my preparing, organizing, and working, I suddenly discover that I am marching by myself. God refused to march with me.
God does not owe us His presence. He does not have to march with us just because we declare war and go out to battle. It was David who wrote the sixtieth psalm, evidently after a terrible defeat. He was very distressed and disturbed and began to write to God about all the things that he could do and that he could accomplish. He started naming all the countries that were nothing compared to him and his might and all the armies that would have to bow to him. He spoke of Gilead and said, “It’s mine.” Manasseh is mine. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. “Moab is my washpot.”
I think David was saying to God, “Now, I know I can do all of this. But, God, I’ve learned one thing. What I have and what I can do is no guarantee that when I go out to war I am going win. I should have won this battle.” That’s what David was saying, “There is no reason for me to have lost, except for the fact that when I got there I found I had left You back at home. Even with all my might, strength, and ability, I lost. It should not have happened, but it happened because You would not go with us. You let us go by ourselves. You would not march with us. And, God, if You do not do it, it will not get done. If You do not win, there will be no victory. If you are not there, the battle will be lost.”
We have got what it takes. We have the message and the method. And believe it or not, we have the money. We have what it takes, but too many times, we are defeated. Too many times it is a compromising message in town that reaches the masses. Too many times our churches dwindle or doddle. Our neighbors grow and expand. We need Him to march with us!
I wonder if we take God for granted sometimes. Because of the initials that fly on our banner, we think that God has got to be there. Because we’re “one God, Jesus Name, apostolic, tongue talking, holiness folks,” we believe all we have to do is show up and there is going to be victory. We feel like because Mom had it and Grandpa had it, or because it has been preached for a number of years; we think because of who we are and what happened to us in the past that God owes us something. But David found out that God makes up His own mind about when He is going to march and when He isn’t. God has a, way about Him that He does not feel He owes us anything. I know He loves us and we are His children, but God is not going to march with an army that does not have the right things along with it. God does not ally Himself to us because of what happened yesterday. It is what we are today that makes the difference. It is what we have today that really matters with God.
Sometimes God will not march. Maybe it has never happened in your life, but it has in mine. As a pastor, I have had some brilliant ideas. I had them all figured out. I was sure they would work out. I called in the right people, had a few committees going, allocated a few bucks, printed a few flyers, did a little promotion work, and even had a few kids come in pulling a red wagon to get people’s attention. I had a couple of clowns turn a few somersaults, I tried just about anything. And it flopped, fell flat on its face. It did not work and nothing was accomplished. I got down on my face, cried to God and said, “Lord, I don’t understand.” Maybe not as a preacher, but as a person or saint of God, you have seen those times when you thought you were ready. You thought you could withstand and thought you could win. But you did not win. On the battlefield, the enemy prevailed and you retired in disarray and disillusionment, despair and discouragement. Perhaps you got down on your knees and said, “Why? I do not understand.” Maybe just as a person and a human being, you should have won. You should have accomplished it, but it just did not work. You knew what to do and you knew how to do it, yet when you tried, it just did not work. “God, why?”
I have often wondered why it is that sometimes God will not march. I know it is not because God is flippant, unconcerned, and lackadaisical. I know that is not it. I also know that God is no respecter of persons, smiling on some and frowning on others, accepting some and rejecting others. I know it is not that God is gone on vacation.
Elijah said that about Baal, but that is not true about my God. He is always on the job, ever vigilant, ever watching, ever ready, ever willing to give us the victory. The apostle Paul said something that describes God’s desire for us, “But praise be unto God, who always gives the triumph or the victory in Christ.”
I think I have an insight into why God sometimes refuses to march. I believe first of all, God will not march if we do not march. I find a lot of places in the Bible where God says, “I will work with you. I will fight with you. I will march with you.” But I do not find any place where God says, “I’ll do the marching for you.” Where did we get the idea that we can sit back, fold our arms, cross our legs and say, “Sic ’em God. I will be here when you get back”—We are His hands and we are His feet. The early church had the testimony that God was working with them, bringing about miracles, signs, and wonders. He worked not for them, but He worked with them.
One of the best examples I know in Scripture was the time the enemy had come in against King Jehosophat. He did not know where to go or to whom to turn. He asked the Lord, “When we built this Temple under Solomon, You promised us that when the enemy came in like a flood, You would come against him. Please help us.” There was a prophecy that came forth from the crowd, “Thus saith the Lord, I am going to fight for you. I am going to take care of the battle. I am going to destroy the enemy. Do not be worried. Do not be afraid.” But He did not say, “Stay here and watch Me fight.” God said, “When you go out to battle tomorrow and when you face them on the battlefield, do not worry; I’ll do the fighting.” They never raised the sword. They never had to fight one minute. Before they ever got there, the battle was over. But they still had to go.
It is time to get up and get with the program. God will march with us, but He will not march for us. Even at the Red Sea, when they stood with nowhere to go, wilderness on either side, the sea ahead, and the Egyptians behind them, Moses said, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” Then he prayed and God said, “Tell the people to go forward!” Moses might have responded, “God, there is a sea out there.” God said, “Moses, you worry about the going forward and I will worry about the sea. You march and I will march with you. You go and I will go with you. You sit still and I will not march.”
If it is not happening in your church, then get up and make it happen. If they are not coming to your church, go out there and get them. If there is no prayer in your church, then you start praying. If there is no shouting or worship in your church, you get up and shout and worship God. If you will move, God will move with you. As long as you sit, He will sit. But if one soul, one young person will get up and say, “God, if You will go, I will go,” I promise you, He will go with you. That is why the Bible says we are “fellow laborers together with God.” If we go, He will go with us.
Secondly, I believe that God will not march when we do not do our best. You can be lackadaisical if you want to. Some choirs may not want to practice and singers will not learn new songs. Musicians do not prepare themselves. Why not give God our best? We need to be ashamed of ourselves if we give our bosses the best, our husbands or wives the best. We spend more time manicuring our lawns than we do working for God. We take more pride in the paint job on our house than we do in the kingdom of God. What am I saying? God will not march with us when we will not give our best.
Not long after Israel won the great victory at Jericho, they faced a little city called Al and there they suffered defeat. I am well aware that the primary reason for their defeat was the fact that there was sin in the camp. Achan had taken home forbidden spoils and tried to make them his. But I believe there was a secondary reason that led to their defeat. After they got through with the mighty city of Jericho, the Bible says in Joshua 7 that Joshua sent out some people to survey the little city of Al. This is what they said, “Go up and view the country.” And the men went up and viewed Al. And they returned to Joshua and said unto him, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand go up and smite Al; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.” Thirty-six of them were slain, defeat came to Israel and their forward momentum was blocked. I know they had to purge the sin out of the camp. But also, they were overconfident. They had just whipped Jericho. “But look at us now. We conquered the mightiest city of Canaan. We took Jericho. Look at Al. Oh, that! That’s just a little bitty thing.” That’s just Wednesday night prayer meeting. Why, that’s just a Sunday morning Sunday school class. That’s just Friday evening youth service. Why, that’s no step for a stepper. I can handle that with one hand tied behind my back. Study? Not me. Pray? Oh, not me. I can handle it. I do not need any of that. I can do a slipshod, halfhearted job and it will still be okay. It’s just a few folks anyway.
But when Joshua went back against Ai, there was a different attitude. The Bible says that this time, “Joshua arose, and all the people of war.” He did not leave anybody at home. He divided his forces and put some in ambush and some to forward attack. The number in ambush alone was thirty thousand men. All of a sudden it was not little Ai any more. It was a great enemy that required their best. Yes, they won, and we will win when we learn that God is worthy of our best. We should never take it lightly. This is worth the best we’ve got.
You ought to walk into church even if there are only three people as if you are walking into a general conference of thirty thousand. You ought to worship God with everything you have. If you are a Sunday school teacher, then you ought to study and show yourself approved. If you have a sermonette in youth service, you ought to give it your best. Only when we give our best will God join us in our march to victory.
Thirdly, God will not march when our motives are wrong. In Philippians, Paul spoke of preachers who preach Christ from selfish ambition and contention. Paul said, “That’s okay. Leave them alone. At least Christ is being preached.” But never did he imply that God is going to march with those preachers, that they are going to grow and be blessed. I am not saying that miracle growth is a sign of the blessings of God. We ought to have learned by now that that is not true. If you want to enjoy the blessings of God on your own desires, or because of carnal ambition, or because you have a “me first” attitude, then God is not going to march with you. If you are trying to impress someone with your spirituality, if you sing not to bring honor and glory to God, but to impress people with your talents, don’t expect God to march with you. If you do anything in the church, not from a humble spirit of wanting to do it for God, but from a spirit of wanting to be recognized, idolized, and lifted up, your motives are all wrong. God will not march with those who are filled with the ambition to build themselves a kingdom and make for themselves a name.
There is a world dying lost without God. Our motives ought to be purified through the blood of Calvary’s suffering. We ought to see One who could have had everything, but became of no reputation because there was a world dying lost without God. Guard your motives. Guard your desires. Get the spirit that was in Christ that was willing to suffer, that was willing to deny Himself, that was willing to give what He had without desire of recompense that He might reach this world.
Finally, God will not march with those who forget who really matters. In the days of Eli, Israel went out to battle against the Philistines and met defeat on the first day. Four thousand men were slain. They went back home and said, “I know what we forgot. Go down and get the ark of God and let’s get God in our midst.” They got the ark and there was a great shout in the camp. Fear fell on the Philistines, for they said, “Their God has entered their camp. Their God will be marching with them tomorrow.” The next day they went out to battle against the Philistines carrying the ark of the Lord, the presence of God. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, carried it into battle. That day, thirty thousand Israelites were slain, including the sons of Eli, the army was routed from the battlefield, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. Eli received the news as he sat on a fence and fell backward, breaking his neck. Why? Because they forgot what they really needed. Not the external only, but the genuine presence of God.
It is not the way we worship, it is Who we worship. It is not our holiness. It is His holiness. It is not our singing, our preaching, or our praying. It is our God. I am not preaching against those things. The ark was the symbol of God’s presence. Thank God for buildings like this with carpet on the floor and padded pews. Thank God for family life centers, youth programs, seniors’ ministries. Thank God for all those things. But the trappings of religion are not the presence of God. The external things that we do are not surety that God is marching with us. We must realize that what we have got to have is the genuine presence of God, not Pentecostal form and Pentecostal fashion. Yes, we clap our hands. Yes, we shout and dance in the aisles. Yes, we sing Pentecostal fire is falling; yes, we preach like Pentecostal preachers. Yes, we dress, look, and act right. But by all means, with all of that, let’s be sure that when we march, those things are not all we have marching with us. It’s not those things, but it’s God that makes the difference. We are not the greatest builders in the world. There are people whose holiness would put us to shame. There are buildings greater, preachers who are greater, attitudes greater, but hear me well: It is the presence of God that makes us what we are. It is the truth of this message because it is God’s Word that makes us anything. When we go to war, if we don’t take Him we are certain to lose. Our talent, our skill won’t do it, but our God will.
The above article “When God Refused to March” is written by Jerry Jones. This article was excerpted from chapter fifteen in Jones’s book Amnon Had a Friend.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.