Here’s my inspiring punch-difficult-assignments-in-the-throat story for 2017:
“Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’ And his armour-bearer said to him, ‘Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.'” 1 Samuel 14:6, 7 (ESV)
When it comes to the parts in the Bible that inspire courage, this one goes to the top! Let me summarize the setup to this scene in three sentences: Saul was a fearful leader so his army dwindled down from 4,000 to 600 men. Instead of facing the Philistines on the day of battle, Saul took his team and hid in a cave. Saul’s son, Jonathan, shows more nerve as a leader than his father.
In short, Saul gets owned by his fear and Jonathan steps up.
GET OUT OF YOUR CAVE THIS YEAR.
A lot of you’ll love Jonathan because he’s not the kind of guy who sits in a cave day after day letting his enemy grow stronger. He doesn’t focus on the size of the problem because he’s laser focused on the purposes of God. Because to Jonathan the calling his people had was bigger than the problem his people had.
So one day after being tired of the cave life Jonathan looked at his sidekick and said, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” It’s time. Let’s roll. Undock my ship. Jonathan had a holy initiative, a holy unction. This is different from human ambition. Saul was ambitious in the wrong way and it led to fear. Not with Jonathan. He wasn’t seeking status or power or a name for himself. Later we see that although he’s the legal heir to the throne, he’s okay with his best friend David becoming king. (Are you ok when your friends surpass you?)
Jonathan wasn’t petty about these things. He simply knew that his people had a calling and they couldn’t fulfill it by hiding in a cave.
BE DECISIVE THIS YEAR.
People with holy unction live with divine conviction in their soul and action in their step. They know too much is at risk when living in indecision.
Jonathan’s words come let us go may seem simple, but it came as a result of him weighing the consequences of staying or going. Imagine him restlessly, but thoughtfully pacing back and forth in the cave. He looks at Saul sitting on a rock and then looks down the front of the cave and sees light. They’re in the same cave, but Jonathan has a different mindset. He isn’t thinking success vs. failure. He’s thinking obedience vs. disobedience…destiny lived out or destiny denied.
In vs. 6, Jonathan gives his theology for decision making, “It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”
Jonathan knows they’re outnumbered. He’s not naive to the facts. There aren’t any guarantees. He’s not 100% sure of the outcome. But the phrase It may be that the Lord will work for us is key to understanding his courage. This phrase isn’t a lack of faith or a Hail Mary or him crossing his fingers. It may be that the Lord will work shows us that Jonathan thought through Saul’s decision to hide and concludes this: I still say we go. I still say we do it. I still think God’s going to show up.
This isn’t him being arrogant or naive. He isn’t saying, “I got what it takes. I’m better than my dad.” Nothing like that. His courage is humble. His courage is reliant on a relationship and not a result. It may be is the posture of a person who is completely 100% surrendered to the purposes of God. So if things don’t work out, I’m content because I obeyed. If things do work out, I’m content because I obeyed. Because obedience is tied to relationship and not results.
God isn’t Boss, He’s Father.
Jonathan is saying, “I know we have to go…because if we stay any longer in this cave…we might not see God move.”
If you ever need a sure thing before you do what God calls you to do, you aren’t looking for a relationship with God, you’re looking for a crystal ball. Christianity doesn’t provide crystal balls. More than a sure thing, Christianity points to a sure Person. If God’s calling you to do something this year in your job or in your relationship or in your ministry – don’t use the lack of certainty as an excuse not to respond.
Take action quickly based on what you already know.
FIND YOUR ARMOUR-BEARER THIS YEAR.
I love the armour-bearer’s response to Jonathan in vs. 7, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”
My native inner-city Detroit paraphrase of this would be, “Word. I got yo back dawg.” That last phrase, “I am with you heart and soul” literally translates to, “I am with you as your own heart.” We share the same heart. Your decision resonates with me. Your courage resonates with me!
Do you have anyone like that?
The armour-bearer doesn’t have a sword so his odds are worse than Jonathan’s. But Jonathan’s conviction summoned something inside of him and it resounded in his heart. “I am SO down for this!” It was like he was waiting for someone to strike a chord that would wake up the warrior inside of him.
He had been waiting for his leader to lead.
And I’ve made an observation about life that: Most people don’t own up to their God-given assignment until they’re around people of Biblical courage. As long as you’re around fearful, half-hearted, distracted people, you’ll be okay wasting assignments. But when you’re around biblically courageous people, you come alive to your purpose. I know that sound.
When you give a Jonathan-like response to an assignment this year, you’ll see other people wake up to their destiny.
CLIMB YOUR MOUNTAIN THIS YEAR.
The ending of this scene is pretty remarkable because it gives us the bigger picture of what’s actually happening. The Philistine garrison taunts Jonathan and his armour-bearer basically saying, “We’re gonna teach you a lesson!” That was the fiendish invitation Jonathan was looking for. So they climbed the side of the mountain as the Philistines literally and metaphorically looked down on them. And then in what seemed to be a blur twenty Philistines were struck dead. The onlookers thought it was an ambush causing a huge panic at the Philistine headquarters. And it was as if Jonathan’s little act of courage was saying to God, “Now! Your turn!” because an earthquake struck that very moment sending the Philistine’s fear-level through the roof. The fear that Saul felt towards the Philistines was now felt by the Philistines towards God. Jonathan was right, nothing can hinder the Lord from saving…by many or by few. And this proves a point that Biblical courage cooperates with God.
So climb your mountain this year and let God work.
SUMMON OTHERS TO THEIR MISSION THIS YEAR.
Now the Philistines aren’t destroyed. They survive and continue to resist Israel until the Babylonians take them out. But the point of Jonathan’s courage isn’t the defeat of the Philistines. Only twenty of the tens of thousands of the Philistine soldiers died in this skirmish. The point of Jonathan’s courage is found in vs. 22, “Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle.”
Those who were hiding in fear came out of their hiding. Jonathan’s courage to cooperate with God summoned courage from others. Courage releases other people from their fear. They come out of hiding. It summons those who fear failure to re-enlist in the mission. Jonathan didn’t defeat an enemy that day, he simply reminded Israel that they still had a mission.
Your acts of courage this year will summon others to their mission.
CHOOSE THE CROSS THIS YEAR.
The New Testament details the life of another humble leader who wrestled with God just to obey and courageously climb a mountain to face an impossible enemy. Jonathan’s life is a shadow and a picture of Jesus. When Jesus climbed up Mt. Golgotha, he knew the enemy of death was waiting for him at the top. And like Jonathan, Jesus wasn’t preoccupied with his own death because he knew the destiny of God’s people were at stake. So when he was crucified on the cross, theologically it meant that he died for the Sauls of the world. For you and me. And he died to turn Sauls into Jonathans. More accurately he died to turn the Philistines of the world into little Christs – Christians.
When Jesus overcame death by resurrection he gave us a courageous life and with that a new purpose, a new mission, and a new destiny. In Christ we’re given a new identity. No longer a Saul. No longer a Philistine. Now an armour-bearer of the Saviour Himself.
So actually, I’m choosing that as my inspiring punch-difficult-assignments-in-the-throat story for 2017.