Faith is Never Safe
Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit An Geadh-Glas or the Wild Goose. A wild goose can’t be tracked or tamed. Unpredictability or a hint of mystery or an element of danger surrounds the wild goose. In a sense, if you take the leading of the Holy Spirit out of life, life is boring. But if you add Him into the equation of your life, you never know who you are going to meet, where you are going to go, what you are doing to do, all bets are off.
Now let me state a personal conviction. I think what is most lacking in the church is not education. Let’s keep learning but we are all educated beyond the level of our obedience. And I don’t think what’s most lacking is resources. Let’s keep giving, but we are the most resourced church in the most resourced country the world has ever known.
You want to know what I think is the most lacking in the Christian church today? Guts. Good old-fashioned guts, to live by faith, to climb the cliff, to engage the enemy. We must realize that we are involved in something that is a matter of life or death and that we are called to live courageously, even dangerously for the cause of Christ. Now, the good news is, I don’t think in most scenarios, our lives are on the line. But passivity is not an option, and I think God is calling us to play offense, and this story inspires me. It tells me that the will of God is not an insurance plan, it is a daring plan.
Jonathan’s plan to rout the Philistines was bold and daring. In 1 Samuel 14:1-15, Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” It is tough to psychoanalyze someone who lived thousands of years ago, but I think it is safe to say that Jonathan did not let his fears dictate his decision. Jonathan’s desire to advance the kingdom, so to speak, was greater than his fear of failure, and his attraction to gain was greater than his aversion to loss. Jonathan was not playing defense. He was playing offense. He courageously climbed the cliffs at Micmash, and picked a fight with the entire Philistine army. This has to be the worst military strategy I’ve ever heard of. If you read the next few verses, you discover that Jonathan’s plan is basically this. Let’s expose ourselves to the enemy in broad daylight and concede the high ground. Then he comes up with a sign. Verse 9; “If the Philistines say to us, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” Ok, I’m sorry but if I’m making up the signs here, I’m doing the exact opposite. If they come down to us, that’ll be our sign. Or better yet, if they fall off the cliff, that’ll be the sign that the Lord is giving them into our hands.
I think more often than not, the will of God will involve a daring decision, a difficult decision, sometimes a dangerous decision. But one daring decision was enough to shift the momentum, create a tipping point. I Samuel 14:23 says: “So the Lord saved Israel that day.” Because one person made one move. One person did one thing that made a difference. Can I suggest that the church needs more daring people with daring plans?
When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? Where did we get that? I think we made a false assumption about the will of God. I think we’ve assumed that it should get easier the longer we follow Christ. I don’t believe that it gets easier, I think spiritual growth prepares us for more dangerous missions, to do more daring things for the cause of Christ, and it shouldn’t get less adventurous, it ought to get more adventurous. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Can I suggest that many Christians seem to operate with the exact opposite modus operandi?
What a study in contrast! I think what Saul didn’t do is just as significant as what Jonathan did do. His son is climbing cliffs engaging the enemy, Saul is sitting under a pomegranate tree on the outskirts of Gibeah. I see him just popping pomegranate seeds into his mouth, maybe a little fan action, chillin’ out on the outskirts of Gibeah. What’s wrong with this picture? The Philistines control the pass at Micmash, and as the leader of the army of Israel, Saul should have been fighting back instead of kicking back. But he is on the sidelines instead of the front lines, and you know what? It is not the only time, he let David fight his battles for him too didn’t he? Saul was head and shoulders taller than anybody else in Israel, Saul should have been the one out on that battlefield fighting the kingdom’s battles, but he was a spectator. I think, instead of playing to win, Saul was playing not to lose and he was content with letting others fight his battles for him.
Too often we spend our entire lives at the foot of that cliff, we just don’t have the guts to climb it, because what if God doesn’t act on our behalf? Well, nothing exciting is going to happen and I wonder if that is why a lot of us are bored with our faith. The bottom line is this – I think there is a little of Saul in each of us. There is part of us that wants God to defeat the enemy while we are on the outskirts of Gibeah under pomegranate trees. If Jonathan hadn’t climbed the cliff, engaged the enemy, picked a fight, the status quo was going to remain. We’ve got to take that little step of faith.
From “The Cage of Fear” by Mark Batterson, National Community Church, Washington, D.C.