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- The Chosen
(Open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 14)
John Wycliffe lived 200 years before the Protestant Reformation, which ushered in a belief system that moved the church away from Roman Catholicism, and towards a belief in God and the Scriptures as the source of divine revelation.
Wycliffe, and others like him, seized the opportunities provided by God and helped to shape the eventual Protestant Reformation.
The opportunity came when he pastored a church in Luterworth, England. At this time the church in Rome was demanding money from England. It seems that they were struggling through a serious financial downturn.
Wycliffe advised the local officials to tell Parliament not to comply, and it was these sorts of opinions and advice that eventually saw him on trial for heresy.
The Pope issued five “Bulls,” or what is known today as indictments, against Wycliffe. And so Wycliffe took the “bulls by the horns,” so to speak, and told Rome that it was full of bull, (puns intended).
Wycliffe said, “I am ready to defend my convictions even unto death … I have followed the Sacred Scriptures…”
He went on to say that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church were second in authority to the Scriptures.
This didn’t sit well in Rome, but because Wycliffe was so popular in England they put him under house arrest. This presented Wycliffe another divine opportunity, as he was now able to write against Catholic doctrines like Transubstantiation, the Catholic belief that the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus. He also wrote against “indulgences,” or a person’s giving money to the church as a way of buying favor with God.
This was the catalyst that eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, and because of it Wycliffe is called the “Morning Star of the Reformation.”
There’s a saying that came into my realm of thinking back in the early 90’s when I saw the show, “Dead Poets Society.” It’s “Seize the Day,” or in Latin, “Carpe Diem.”
If I were to put a definition on what it means, I would say that it’s to take advantage of each day and the opportunities that present themselves as if it were the last day. It’s to squeeze out of each day all that we can, and all that the day affords us. It means not to waste a single day, because once that day is gone, it can never be retrieved.
For believers in Jesus Christ, it means that each day should be used to its fullest potential for God’s purposes and kingdom. Therefore, we are to seize every day for God, and make every opportunity that presents itself, count.
The choices we make concerning the opportunities God places before us determine which road we travel in this divine adventure God has called us to take.
Basically it means that every one of us has a divine mission in life.
Today’s message centers on King Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his faith journey when he picked a fight with the Philistine army.
God wanted to deliver the Philistines into the hands of Israel. In fact, God delivered the Philistine army on Israel’s front doorstep. It was like God as saying, “Here Israel, these Philistines that have been tormenting you for all these years, well here they are, all wrapped up and ready to be defeated.”
Saul, being King, had the power to act, but chose not to seize the opportunity, but rather to sit under a pomegranate tree and wait it out. He saw an impossible situation since Israel only had two weapons collectively, that is, only he and his son had a sword, and that every Philistine soldier was armed to the teeth. Saul failed to see this as a divine opportunity, and thus failed to seize the day for God.
On the other hand, Jonathan saw it differently. So he slips away from his father and the Israelite army and picks a fight with the Philistines.
Both Saul and Jonathan had the same opportunity, but Saul missed it, while Jonathan walked right into it, seized it, and won a great victory.
Many of us know people like Jonathan. They see an opportunity and flourish in difficult situations. We read their stories, stories like Wycliffe and others, and that’s what we want, but at the same time we don’t want to pay the cost that such faith demands.
Instead, what we end up doing is settling for knock off copies of the original. We go for the Louie Vatont, rather than the Louis Vuitton. We settle for a faith that makes us look good, but it doesn’t do anything for the Kingdom of God.
We experience what I would like to call, “The Pomegranate Effect.” This is where, like Saul, we sit and wait, and then torment ourselves later on, because we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.
Our problem is one of perception. It’s where we think these sorts of opportunities don’t come around for people like us. We think they only happen to the super spiritual. But when we look at the Bible and church history we find ordinary people who step into God’s activity and experience God’s power in a way that can be described as miraculous.
These people had the same opportunity we have; they just engaged and seized the day differently. We think the works of Elijah the prophet are beyond our capability. But what we need to know about Elijah is what God said about him, that he was no different than you and me (James 5:17-18). The only difference was he seized the opportunity and great feats were accomplished.
What I’d like to do in our time together is extract some valuable nuggets of information out of God’ word about what Jonathan did and reveal the dynamics that allowed him to seize God’s divine opportunity.
Read 1 Samuel 14:1-15
Look again at verse six
“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.’” (1 Samuel 14:6 NKJV)
The phrase, “It may be,” goes against most everything we’ve been taught about how God works. Basically Jonathan says, “Let’s to over and pick a fight. Maybe God will help.”
But “maybe” is actually the first step in seizing God’s opportunities.
1. Know We Don’t Know Everything
Perfect knowledge belongs to God, not us.
God says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For 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 NKJV)
This is one thing that those who seize the day have, they don’t know for sure. They live in a dimension of divine uncertainty, but it doesn’t paralyze them in the process.
Most of us live paralyzed lives because we continue to wait until we know God’s will for sure, when in fact we know what God’s will is, and our prayers are not so much to ascertain God’s will as it is to try to change it over to our will.
This was my story when I was asked to start teaching a morning service for Hallelujah Christian Fellowship. I told them I’d pray about it. Now there’s nothing wrong and everything right about praying, but in this instance it was sin, as pointed out by the pastor, because I knew it was God’s opportunity for me, I was just hesitant and afraid.
When king Saul saw what lay before him, he saw the opportunity as a glass half empty, or better yet, completely empty. He saw that Israel only had two weapons against the entire Philistine arsenal.
Jonathan, on the other hand, saw the opportunity as a glass half full, or better yet, filled to overflowing. From his perspective he had half Israel’s weapons, and God didn’t need an entire army.
Again, look at what Jonathan said.
“Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6 NKJV)
At this point it might be helpful to look at one more character in this story, Jonathan’s armor bearer. Here’s a guy who carries the armor, so when the battle begins he’s supposed to give the armor to his master and fend for himself, and so you might say that it was the armor bearer who had even greater faith than Jonathan.
If I were the armor bearer I’d probably tell Jonathan, “Bro, I love you, you know I do. I’m your main man, but I think you’ve got your wires crossed on this one.”
We need to be careful not to fully buy into the line that says that when God closes a door He always opens a window. That’s not the story here. Jonathan said, “May be.” God didn’t open a window telling Jonathan to pick a fight with the Philistines. Instead Jonathan moved forward, not knowing, but what he did know was his God.
Further, the safest place is not always in the center of God’s will, but it is the best place. You see, when we’re in the center of God’s will that’s when we’re going to experience greater trials and problems. Jesus even said so. He said, that if the world hated him, then it’s going to hate us as well. (John 15:18)
When we follow Jesus and His calling upon our lives, then we’re going to experience these sorts of problems. When we step out by faith and seize the opportunities then we will have tribulations.
Consider what the Apostle Paul went through as he operated in the center of God’s will.
“Are they ministers of Christ? … I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– besides the other things, what comes upon me daily.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV)
Why was Paul constantly in danger? Was it because these were dangerous places and dangerous people? Inherently every place and people group is dangerous. But what made these places and groups so dangerous was the fact that Paul himself was dangerous. What made him dangerous? Paul believed in God and moved forward, not knowing what lay ahead, but moving forward anyway.
Taking the gospel message into the world is the center of God’s will. It’s known as the Great Commission.
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV).
Can you imagine what the church can accomplish if we moved forward in God’s revealed will? Can you imagine how dangerous this church would be? That is why we need to get connected with God, with one another, and with our mission to make a difference for Christ in our community and beyond.
Taking the gospel out to the people is the whole essence of discipleship, that is, to make disciples by teaching them everything Jesus commanded. We’re not going to know it all, but we will be a dangerous force to be reckoned with as we go forward with God’s word.
2. Be Willing To Risk Everything
Jonathan was willing to risk death, because he knew the God in whom he served. Jonathan was able to deliver Israel, because he knew that it’s the Lord who does the delivering.
Look again at what Jonathan said in verse eight.
“Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them.” (1 Samuel 14:8 NKJV)
This is a really bad battle strategy, and isn’t based on human intellect, because the last thing you want to show yourself to the enemy. Basically it’s saying, “Here I am, take your best shot.” Either God was revealing the worst military strategy ever, or there’s a lesson to be learned.
Notice Jonathan was willing to risk death, which means that he had to place his life in God’s hands. To take this journey of faith, we have to trust God and make ourselves vulnerable. It’s only when we stop hiding who we are, and in whom we believe, that God can use us in a mighty way to seize the day for Him.
Jonathan moved out where he could be seen. We also need to move from our closet Christian experiences, and out into the open where everyone can see us and know we’re believers in Jesus Christ.
One of the main reasons many believers don’t share their faith is because when they do they can on longer live a secret Christian life, that is, a life that is seen at church but nowhere else.
If we want to seize the opportunities then we got to let others see us and hear our story, and then let God take it from there.
Further, knowing that God can save with many or with few, Jonathan picks the harder of the two options. If they come down then he’ll know it isn’t right. Personally, if I’m going to pick a fight I want the advantage. Let them climb down; I’ll cut off their legs before they get to the bottom.
People don’t fight as well without legs
But no, Jonathan said, “Let’s go up to where they have the advantage.” That’s having our trust and faith in God. It’s the type of faith that knows the God in whom we serve, and if He says, “Go,” we go.
It may have been that Jonathan was remembering Joshua when Israel moved into and possessed the Promised Land over 500 years earlier, the very land that Jonathan and Israel were trying to regain after years of servitude to the Philistines.
It says that when Joshua was old he told Israel to be encouraged and possess the rest of the land promised by God.
In Joshua 23:9, he said, “For the Lord has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day.”
And then Joshua tells them in verse 10 that anyone who is on God’s side, fulfilling God’s promises and word, can put to flight thousands of those who stand against them.
“One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you.” (Joshua 23:10 NKJV)
We need to be a people who are not afraid, knowing that it is the Lord who fights for us. Moses brings this out to a very panicked Israel as Pharaoh and the Egyptian army had trapped them at the edge of the Red Sea.
Moses said, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13-14 NLT)
Can you imagine the church being like this? A church who stands firm on God and His word knowing that we can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives us the strength (Philippians 4:13). We would truly be a formable force.
The next lesson we learn about how we can seize the day for the Lord from our passage is…
3. Go Until God Says Stop
“Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor bearer, and said, ‘Come up to us, and we will show you something.’ Jonathan said to his armor bearer, ‘Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel.’” (1 Samuel 14:12 NKJV)
That was all that Jonathan needed to hear. When he heard them say come, he went, because God never said, “Stop.” All he knew is that God can deliver with many or with few, and so Jonathan moved forward.
What has God called for us to do? Has He said go, but just as important, did He say to stop?
When Paul wanted to go to Macedonia, God stopped him, not once but several times, even though the Great Commission is God’s revealed will. However, when the time was right God said go and moved Paul into Macedonia where he planted many churches, and today we’re the beneficiaries as Paul wrote letters to these churches, letters that we read today in the Bible, like first and second Corinthians, first and second Thessalonians, and Philippians.
The reason many of us don’t move forward, however, is because of all the labels we associate with those who do. We call them missionaries and evangelists, not realizing that all Christians are called to be missionary and evangelistic.
God has commissioned, called, and empowered all of us to go forth, and when we do then we will see God move in great power.
Finally the last dynamic is…
4. Take The Initiative
It’s one thing to know about the light, it’s quite another thing to follow it. It’s one thing to know what path to take, it’s quite another thing to take it.
We need to act. Jonathan did more than say, “Let’s go,” he went. He took the initiative and moved, climbing the cliff and engaging the enemy.
Now, Jonathan didn’t have to go. He was under no obligation to go. It was his father’s responsibility. He could have sat around like the rest of them sipping pomegranate juice. But instead he moved forward and picked a fight.
“And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him.” (1 Samuel 14:13a NKJV)
And here’s the point. It wasn’t a maybe with God. God acted upon the action taken by Jonathan, as Jonathan moved forward in God’s will. What the Bible tells us is that the Philistines fell before him, and then the earth began to tremble, and there was a great earthquake, and the Philistines ran.
Our divine destinies are before us, not behind us. God’s opportunities are all around. But we have a choice. We can ignore them and hope God sends somebody else, or we can move forward in what God has revealed to us, and see Him do the miraculous in us and through us.
Those who never see God work are usually the ones who content themselves with sitting under the pomegranate tree, sipping pomegranate juice waiting for what God has already revealed.
However, if we follow God’s word and will, then we’ll experience the presence and power of God in ways we have only dreamed of.
Will we choose to seize the day and the opportunities, or be content to let them slip away?
Let’s be a people and a church that seizes the day; seizes the divine opportunities God has set before us. And when we do, we’ll be a dangerous people for the kingdom of God.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study