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Nov25WedWhen obstacles and opportunities cross your path, will you run away, or stand and fight? November 25, 2015 by Colonel Lindsay Rowe
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits … He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion (2 Samuel 23:20).
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While my wife and I were territorial leaders of the Tanzania Territory, we visited several corps made up of members of a tribe called the Maasai. Their history is that of a warrior tribe and to this day you will find young men dressed in warrior apparel, sporting traditional weapons and serving as security guards in major cities such as Dar es Salaam. In fact, most of the guards on the compound where we lived and worked were from this tribe. They are very skillful hunters and defenders.
Maasai tribal initiation rites for young men include isolation from the village, circumcision and a variety of ceremonies and exercises as proof of manhood. I have heard, but not been able to confirm, stories about young men being required to chase lions into their den as part of the initiation rites. What I can confirm is that Maasai warriors often face lions with nothing more than their traditional weapons as they hunt lions that have attacked their herd. The herd is considered to be a gift from God and proof of God's presence on earth. It is their responsibility to care for and defend it with their lives.
Try to put yourself in the sandals of one of these young warriors charged with facing a lion to defend the herd, or as proof of manhood. In the face of such imminent danger, our bodies react in a variety of ways that doctors explain as a way of getting ready for one of two responses: fight or flight. What's really interesting is that the same thing is happening to the lion in your path. So the stage is set for confrontation, because neither the lion nor the warrior will back down. Lions can weigh more than 180 kilograms, run up to 80 kilometres per hour and leap 9 metres in a single bound. You would think that the young warrior doesn't stand a chance, but he has trained well.
We sometimes sing the chorus, “Just where he needs me, my Lord has placed me.” It is a reminder that God is still in the business of placing us just where he needs us to serve him effectively. It has been my experience that he sometimes uses territorial or international headquarters to identify just where that may be. A phone call from the Chief of the Staff to say, “The General has decided” has identified “just where he needs me” on several occasions.
An encounter with a lion is a reminder to us as Christians that God sometimes places us in challenging circumstances. Sometimes the right place seems like the wrong place and the right time seems like the wrong time, especially if it puts you in the path of a lion.
In a Pit with a Lion
In his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, pastor and author Mark Batterson unpacks the brief story of Benaiah found in 2 Samuel 23. Scripture tells us that Benaiah was a valiant fighter who performed great exploits, including going down in a pit on a snowy day and killing a lion (see 2 Samuel 23:20). And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
Being in a pit with a lion may not be high on your bucket list. But what a credential for your resumé if you plan to be a bodyguard! I suspect that while David may have glanced at a few other applications, having someone who could kill a lion is the kind of person you want as a bodyguard.
I doubt that any of us will end up in a pit with a lion ... or have to fight one to defend our herd, like the Maasai warrior. Yet there is a sense in which we encounter lions in our path almost every day
As I look back over my life, I realize now that the greatest opportunities were also the scariest lions. Part of me wanted to play it safe, especially after we left Jamaica in 1990. My wife, Lynette, had a serious breakdown there after living in a rough area of Kingston for four years. We had decided—never again. But we've learned that taking no risks is perhaps the greatest risk of all. We've been on a great adventure with God and I am so grateful we said yes each time the phone rang and we were asked to go somewhere for God and the Army. We have lived in four countries outside of Canada: Jamaica, Bermuda, South Africa and Tanzania, and have served as corps officers, training college officers, divisional leaders and territorial leaders.
Our Handbook of Doctrine tells us there are two types of sin: sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission form a long list of “don'ts.” We often reduce holiness to a list of things we should take away from our lives. It certainly does have an element of subtraction to it. But I think God is more concerned about our sins of omission—those things we could have and should have done but have left undone. It is holiness by multiplication rather than subtraction. Being good is more than not being bad. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. We must do more than simply run away from wrong. We are called to stand up for what is right, and, sometimes, that means chasing lions. Lion chasers are not so paralyzed by fear that they are unable to do what God has called them to do. They don't shy away from risk or refuse God's calling.
Spiritual maturity is a process that gives us an ever-increasing ability to see and to seize God-ordained opportunities as they cross our path.
Run Away or Give Chase?
What are you going to do when the lion of opportunity crosses your path? Unlike an African lion, the lion of opportunity has no tail. You either grab it by the mane, or it passes you by and becomes a lost opportunity.
According to Scripture, Benaiah went on to have a brilliant military career. In fact, he climbed all the way to the top and became commander-in-chief of Israel's army (see I Chronicles 27:5-6). His son became a counsellor to the king (verses 33-34). But it all started with what could have been considered being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His success can be traced all the way back to a life-or-death encounter with a man-eating lion. It was fight or flight. Benaiah was faced with a choice that would determine his destiny: run away or give chase.
I doubt that any of us will end up in a pit with a lion, like Benaiah, or have to fight one to defend our herd, like the Maasai warrior. Yet there is a sense in which we encounter lions in our path almost every day. I can identify the lions I have faced and the pits I have been called to jump into, and I imagine you can, too. Maybe God's given you a calling that scares you so much you just want to run away.
We are called to stand up for what is right, and, sometimes, that means chasing lions
I'm sure Benaiah could have listed a million reasons why he should take flight rather than enter the fight, but he didn't. From a human perspective, the odds were obviously stacked against him, but that wasn't enough to make him run away. Lion chasers know that God is bigger and more powerful than any obstacle they may be called to confront. They know that when the odds are against them, God's grace is greater and his power will be revealed through our weakness. When the battle is over, the glory will be God's. I'm sure Benaiah was praising God as he emerged from the pit on that snowy day.
Many years ago, J.B. Philips wrote a book called Your God is too Small. He points out that we create big problems for ourselves when we have little understanding of who God is. Like the 10 spies who gave a poor report after their return from the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13), our enemies seem much bigger than us because we fail to include God. When you paint a mental picture of the lion in your path, don't forget to put God in the same frame.
It is their view of God that makes the difference between lion chasers and cowards. Spiritual cowards are filled with fear because their God is too small. Lion chasers know that their God is bigger and stronger than any lion that could come their way. “ 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' ” declares the Lord. “ 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts' ” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nothing is bigger than God, therefore nothing is too difficult for him to handle.
How big is your God? Is he big enough to do anything, or have you set limits on what he can do? Lion chasers choose to push fear aside, put their trust in God and stare down the lions in their path.
Benaiah could not have proven his ability to lead Israel's army without the adverse conditions he had to face and conquer. What lion is God calling you to chase? A bad habit, a sacrificial calling, discouragement, despair?
I believe God created us to chase lions, not to run away and cower when they obstruct our path.
Colonel Lindsay Rowe is the corps officer at Oshawa Temple in Ontario.