Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Thoughts I Shared with Staff Yesterday

2 Samuel 23:20-21, “There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two of Moab’s mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it.

It’s easy to read verses like this in the comfortable confines of your home or office and totally miss the monumental acts of courage displayed by Benaiah. Have you ever heard of someone chasing a lion? Scripture doesn’t tell us what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he encountered this lion. But Scripture does reveal his gut reaction. And it was gutsy. It ranks as one of the most improbable reactions recorded in Scripture. Normal people run away from lions. Benaiah chased the lion.

I am convinced that God is in the business of strategically placing us in the right place at the right time for the right reasons. But here’s the kicker – the right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time, and the right reason often seems like the wrong reason – at least to us.

2 Samuel 23:23, “David put Benaiah in charge of his bodyguard.” Benaiah wasn’t just chasing a lion; he was chasing the opportunity to be put into a position in King David’s administration. Here’s the point: God is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity.

As I look back on my own life, I recognize this simple truth: The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me has wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all. When I was in college the safe option for me was to get a job in computers making very good money, instead I went to Duke. It was one of the most dangerous decisions I had made to that point in my life in following God’s will to go into ministry. In my first appointment out of seminary I challenged my churches to chase after the biggest lion they ever saw in their lives and they did for a while, but then they noticed the high walls in the pit, the snow falling all around them, and the size of the teeth of the lion – so they ran back to safety.

I think my biggest fear as a follower of Jesus is to seek safety. There is a hymn that says something like “safe and secure from all alarms.” I don’t want that. Yes, I want to be in the arms of Jesus, but desperately holding on because I can’t do it myself. I want my drive to be out where God does His best work to be stronger in me than my desire to please people and seek safety. It’s not my job to make people happy; it’s my job to be obedient and to get the people of Charter Oak Church on to God’s agenda for their lives – that will mean chasing after lions.

There is a pattern repeated throughout Scripture: Sometimes God won’t intervene until something is humanly impossible. God loves impossible odds. Let me tell you something – God wants and deserves full credit. Too often our prayers revolve around asking God to reduce the odds in our lives. We want everything in our favor. But maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions.

I don’t want us as a staff to go into the summer months and press cruise control. I don’t want my handicap on the golf course to get better. I don’t want to improve my tan. I want to be a part of something this summer that is humanly impossible. I want each of you to have the odds stacked against you so that you can experience a miracle of divine proportion. I want you to live and pray prayers that are outside of our comprehension.

2 Kings 6:4-7, Can you have the mindset that would believe an ax would float? Are you ready to pray this kind of prayer?

If you work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God, there is no telling what God will do here, as the odds are stacked against us, as we are driven to our knees in desperation, and we get out into the open water where God does his best work. I want this to be a monumental summer at Charter Oak Church!