Suck it up, Buttercup

Feelings are good. They can let us know when things are okay or bad or scary or wonderful. Some would have us believe that we should be ruled entirely by our feelings. We should always feel safe. We should never feel threatened. We always have a right to feel whatever we want to feel and express those feelings however we choose. And how is that working out for us?

Even King David, upon learning of the death of his son Absalom, had a moment when he let his feelings overtake him. He retreated to his safe space. And you know what that earned him? A big, fat lecture from the leader of his military.

The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son, Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab when into the house of the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from you youth till now.”

2 Samuel 19:4-7 (NIV)

Ouch! Who would be brave enough to tell a king to get off his butt, wipe the tears off his face, and congratulate the army that killed his son? From David’s perspective of intense grief, one may say that Joab was overly harsh with his king. What right did he have to say what he did in the manner he said it? Was David not allowed to mourn for his son?

Had David chosen to put his feelings first and wallow in his grief, it would have cost him the kingdom that had just been saved. Instead of closing the door on Joab, David heeded his commander’s advice.

So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

2 Samuel 19:8 (NIV)

We are all entitled to our feelings, but our feelings are not entitled to rule us unless we allow them to. God gave us feelings. He gave us the ability to rejoice and to grieve. He made us to be glad as well as sad. But He also gave us dominion. To be ruled by our feelings is to look solely on our inward selves. To give in to every feeling with the unction to express every little emotion that comes upon us is to become utterly selfish.

Was David selfish in wanting to grieve for his son? No. But in his grief, he stole the joy of victory from his men. They thought they had done well in restoring the kingdom to its rightful ruler. But instead of a pat on the back, all they saw was David’s back as he turned to mourn the death of his enemy.

While we should welcome feelings and emotions, we cannot be entirely ruled by them. Sometimes how we feel must take a back seat to what we must do. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do what is best for the greater good rather than our own good.

Take a page out of David’s book, literally. He learned to channel his feelings and emotions, pouring them out to God in the pages we now know as the Psalms. There, the shepherd boy who became a king, let it all out. He figured out how to handle his emotions while balancing them with the responsibilities of ruling God’s chosen people. He learned humility above all.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

Read: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38 

Just a few

While Saul sat in hiding, his son Jonathan, was out trying to find a way to defeat Israel’s enemy. Without questioning his own motives, the young man place his trust entirely in God. Without care for his own being, Jonathan pushed ahead and trusted that God would lead him to save Israel.

Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by a few.

1 Samuel 14:6b (NIV)

If it is God’s will to accomplish something, all He needs is one willing and obedient person to turn the enemy’s camp into confusion. While Saul sat indecisive, Jonathan followed God’s guidance—which lead Israel to victory.

God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance.

Matthew Henry

The will of God in the hands of just a few is far greater than swords in the hands of many. When our confidence is in God, nothing should be able to stop us from pursuing His will and achieving victory in His name.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Like Jonathan, we can put our confidence in our God who knows the ending from the beginning and everything in between. He has ordered our steps, all we need do is take them as prescribed.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 14:1-24

Nothing more, nothing less

Gideon, for all his faults, had a few redeeming qualities. While he was not the leader Israel expected for their army, thanks to his obedience, Israel’s army of 300 routed the Midianites. That same army chased Zebah and Zalmunna, two kings of Midian, and killed them. Though Gideon was instrumental in leading his own family astray, there was some wisdom yet in the man.

But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

Judges 8:23 (NIV)

Some rules were bent or broken, but in this situation, Gideon stood firm. At the very least, he understood that his victory in battle was due only to the fact that the hand of the Lord was on him. His place was to lead the army where God told him to. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is important that we learn to keep to the purpose God had set out for us. Where would Gideon have ended up had he chosen to go against God’s orders and take the entire army of thirty-two thousand men into battle. Would they have been victorious? Maybe. Would they have given all the glory to God? Probably not.

It is only in the will of God that we will find our greatest success—not necessarily according to worldly standards, but certainly heavenly ones. And in that success, it is important to give glory and honour where it is due. To the one who calls us. To the one who makes mighty warriors of the least likely.

Read: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

Mighty warrior

If you have to go into a fight, who are you taking with you? Who is going to lead you and your army into battle? You’re going to pick the biggest, strongest, meanest guy you can find. The guy who inspires (or terrifies) people to follow him. He’s the guy who can flip your car. He’s the guy who simply whistles and everyone falls into line behind him. That’s the guy you’re taking into a fight with you.

Israel has a big fight ahead of them. God needs to pick the guy who will lead them. Gideon was that man.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:12 (NIV)

This guy must be something special if an angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. Gideon must be big and strong and well-able to lead an army.

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judges 6:15 (NIV)

So… Gideon isn’t a big, strong leader. He’s the runt of the litter.

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judges 6:16 (NIV)

Many of us disqualify ourselves from our calling saying that we’re not enough. We’re not big enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re not smart enough. We don’t have what it takes. But that’s the point.

Not only did God pick the least consequential person from the weakest clan, he took an army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred and won the battle. God isn’t nearly as interested in brains and brawn as He is in obedience. He is not looking for greatness, but humility.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48 (NIV)

When God takes the least and leads them into victory, there is no doubt as to whom it belongs. If we were capable of accomplishing the will of God on our own, He would never receive the glory. But because He calls the weak and the wounded, His glory shines through. No one is disqualified from the call.

Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior on his own. It was because God was with him that he became a mighty warrior. Maybe you’re not called to lead an army into battle, but God has called you to do something great. Don’t count yourself out because of what you can or can’t do, but rather count on God because of what He can do.

Read: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

Hurry hard!

Read: Numbers 32-33, Mark 10:1-31

Up here, in the Great White North, we like curling. Not our hair. The sport. If you’re not familiar with it, here is a brief explanation. If you’re from a land of indoor or summer sports, curling is the winter version of shuffleboard or bocce ball. One addition is brooms. Yes, brooms. A large, and very heavy, polished stone is pushed down a sheet of ice. A sweeper (or two) then sweep a little (or a lot) depending on how the rock was thrown. More importantly from clearing any debris from the ice, the friction, and subsequent heat created by sweeping can actually change the speed and direction of the stone as it glides down the rink. A common command for more vigorous sweeping is, “Hurry hard!”

While I’m quite certain that curling did not exist in ancient Canaan, I am certain that God intended for His people to do a quick and clean sweep of the land ahead of them.

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.

Numbers 33:51-52 (NIV)

You see, in order to fully possess the Promised Land and maintain said possession, Israel was commanded to sweep it clean. The quality of their sweep held the potential to change the direction of an entire nation of people. Like curling without sweeping isn’t really curling, possessing the Promised Land in any other manner than the one prescribed by God isn’t really possessing.

The same goes for our lives. When we give our lives over to God, He wants everything. Everything, everything. Even those little things that we say aren’t harming anyone. He wants us to do a clean sweep so that our lives can change direction.

And, He doesn’t want us to do it a little bit at a time. We need to hurry. Hard. Notice that God’s command said, “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.” God knew that if they waited to get rid of the pagan filth of the Canaanites, they would never get rid of it all—which is exactly what happened.

We cannot expect a different outcome than the Israelites. If God’s chosen people, those He had cut a covenant with, would not be spared just because of who they were, what makes us think we’d be any different? If we, like Israel, refuse to rid our lives of all sin, we cannot expect all of the victory, either.

But we don’t have to do it alone.

Mark 10-27.jpg

Jesus didn’t just throw out this statement as though God were a great magician, able to conjure up anything we wish. He was talking about salvation, being able to leave our old lives behind to walk on the new path before us.

Even though they gained their Promised Land, Israel didn’t fully succeed in the plan God had for them. They got lazy and complacent once they reached their final stop. Perhaps all they needed was a skip hollering from the other end of the rink. Like ripping off a bandage, the faster you accomplish the task, the better. It may hurt more in the moment, but it will only last a moment.

So when it’s time for you to sweep something out of your life, don’t wait. Hurry. Hurry hard.

That was easy

Our world gets more complicated by the hour. Whether it’s in science or computing, arts or politics, few things are truly simple anymore. And, the more complicated something is, the more reward and respect a person can get for accomplishing it. We seek out the complicated. We make easy things more complicated—even to our own detriment.

When we, as Christians, present the Gospel as anything but simple, we do not help our cause. If we argue that the way to Christ is wrought with long, arduous tasks and much emotional distress, we do not help the Kingdom. There is nothing more simple in this world than salvation through Christ and the victory that it brings.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult. For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:3-5 (NLT)

Salvation is easy. Repentance is easy. Victory is easy. Obedience is easy. All of these things are simple not because of what we are or can do, but because of who God is and what He’s already done. And if we trust Jesus with one thing, we can trust him with everything.

John tells us that the battle is not won because we Christians fight hard and strong. It is won because we simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we let go of all our methods to obtain victory, we can settle on the truth that it is not a difficult or complicated process. God didn’t make it that way on purpose. He wants salvation and victory to be available and accessible to everything. We have to trust Christ for the victory. We have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s it.

It’s not difficult. It’s easy.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 7-8, 1 John 5