You Go Girl

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The Bible has been accused of being a sexist book that regards women as nothing more than the property of men. I will grant that most of the stories in Scripture feature men, but just read the Good Book and you will discover enough inspiring stories about a few good women of impact to see that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t look at the outward appearance or the genetic makeup of an individual, he looks at their heart. God uses people—men and women—who have a large faith capacity and a willingness to be stretched.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 7:24

Ephraim had a daughter named Sheerah. She built the towns of Lower and Upper Beth-horon and Uzzen-sheerah,

Reading through the first 8 chapters of 1 Chronicles is like reading from the phone book. If you are not careful, you can zone out. Honestly, you won’t miss much—can I say that about the Bible without getting struck by lighting?—name after name that meant something to them back then, but have very little value to us today.

Except that within these mind-numbing lists there is the occasional interruption of something very interesting, surprisingly inspiring, and quite intriguing. In fact, the little bit of information you get leaves you longing for more. And if you had allowed yourself to sleepwalk your way through these names, you could have missed one of these gems.

I have to confess, as many times as I have read the Bible, I don’t remember the story of Sheerah. Apparently I have been guilty of habitual sleepwalking when it comes to 1 Chronciles 7. But I was awake today, and what an interesting story Sheerah’s is. I wish I knew more about her.

She was born to Ephraim after two of his sons were killed trying to steal livestock, the text tells us. Her father had been in mourning for these two sons—how old they were we don’t know, why they were stealing we don’t know—all we know is that they were dead and their father was distraught. And the Lord had comforted his grieving heart by blessing him with another son and this daughter, Sheerah.

What is perhaps most interesting is that her story gets space in the record that is normally dominated by male figures. In that culture, at that time, women weren’t prominently featured and even a passing mention would have been rare. So when a women does make the front page, hold the press—this is big news. Sheerah must have been quite a gal!

And Sheerah was! She built three towns. How she got people, probably men, to follow her leadership will remain a mystery, but she did. She obviously had great leadership skills, personal charisma, a fearless personality, and the favor of the Lord. And she knew how to use it. And for all of time, and perhaps even in eternity, her story has been memorialized in the Word of God.

The Bible has been accused of being a sexist book that regards women as nothing more than the property of men. I will grant that most of the stories in Scripture feature men, but just read the Good Book and you will discover enough inspiring stories about a few good women of impact to see that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t look at the outward appearance or the genetic makeup of an individual, he looks at their heart.

God uses people—men and women—who have a large faith capacity and a willingness to be stretched.

So let’s hear it for Sheerah! You go girl!

Going Deeper With God: The Lord looks at the heart and not the outward appearance. What about you? If you are like me, you need the Lord to teach you to see people as he does. Which means there is probably someone he will put on your radar who needs your encouragement. Make sure you do just that—encourage that person today!

You Will Pass The Baton Someday—So Do It Well!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

When a man or woman of God dies, or departs, nothing of God dies or departs—it carries on. When the work of a great and godly person is finished, we need to realize that the beginning of another great man or woman will start—and hopefully carry on in even greater power and with even greater impact because of how their predecessor set them up. Instead of ending, God desires ministries to transition; to enter new phases of development and effectiveness. That’s God’s way, and Christians would do well to learn that truth. Ministers, moms and dads, and leaders of all kinds would do well to adopt the certainty of baton passing as one of their chief aims in life, and when the time comes, to passing that baton well.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 2:9-14

When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” Elijah replied, “You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.” As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress. Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

As from the beginning of our experience with Elijah in 1 Kings 17, to now at the end of his life, the ministry of this prophet of fire has cast an impressive spiritual shadow over Israel. We have been with him through a variety of dramatic experiences, particularly in 1 Kings 18-19. We have been with him on the heights of Mt. Carmel, both literally and spiritually, to the depths of his despair beneath the broom tree in its aftermath. We have stood with him when he courageously confronted evil King Ahab then fled in fear when the king’s wicked wife, Jezebel, threatened to end his life in the same manner he had ended her false prophets’ lives. We sat with him in the silence of the Cherith Brook and saw the miraculous provision of God as ravens fed him breakfast, lunch and dinner, then felt his despair and disappointment with God when the Almighty dried up the very brook he had given him. We have seen him call down fire from heaven on sacrifices and soldiers, yet we have seen him depend on a widow just to stay alive.

And in every place, under every circumstance, God has proven himself faithful, consistent, and encour-aging to Elijah. Now, appropriately, the end of his life and ministry will be just as dramatic as the rest of it was as God will again prove himself faithful to his prophet. Elijah will be taken up to heaven in a blaze of glory, something most prophets and preachers dream of but never experience. That glorious swan song belongs to one, and one alone. Elijah.

Now as we have come to know Elijah, we have also found him to be a bit temperamental. He is testy, he is fearsome most of the time, and he is radically devoted to speaking the word of the Lord to people, prophets, priests and potentates. But what we have never found him to be is warm and fuzzy. Prophets of his cut of cloth never are—and probably they shouldn’t be, given what they are called to carry out.

Yet at the end of his life, we get a glimpse at Elijah’s softer side, spending his final days on earth, knowing the Lord is bringing his chapter to a dramatic close, caring for the school of protégés he is leaving behind. (2 Kings 2:5-9) But not only is the prophet caring for his young men, he is caring for the work that God gave him to do. He wants to pass it on in the best way possible. He wants it to live on, stronger than before. He knows the work of God is not done, not by far, so he sets up his successors in the best way possible.

You see, when a man or woman of God dies or departs, nothing of God dies or departs—it carries on. When the work of a great and godly person is finished, we need to realize that the beginning of another great man or woman will start—and hopefully carry on in even greater power and with even greater impact because of how their predecessor set them up. Instead of ending, God desires ministries to transition; to enter new phases of development and effectiveness. That’s God’s way, and Christians would do well to embrace that truth. Ministers, moms and dads, and leaders of all kinds would do a God-honoring thing to adopt the certainty of baton passing as one of their chief aims in life, and when the time comes, to pass that baton well.

Now what is true in the realm of spiritual leadership is true in the realm of all leadership—parenting, mentoring, business ownership, etc. The truth is, we will all pass the baton someday, and it will likely come sooner than we were expecting. So think through how you will pass it so that those who follow in your shoes can take a double portion of your leadership.

A double portion—now that is a mysterious request Elisha asks of his mentor, Elijah. What was that all about? In reality, Elisha was asking to be the heir of Elijah’s ministry. Literally, that phrase referred to the designation as rightful heir. It is the same phrase that is used in Deuteronomy 27:17 when Moses instructs that a father must “acknowledge the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has.”

But notice how Elijah responded to the request: “You have asked a difficult thing, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.” What is Elijah saying? In effect, he is saying, “I cannot grant you that, only God can. But if God permits you to see his power and his presence when I am taken, it will be a sign that he has granted your request.”

Obviously, Elijah thought Elisha was special and would make a great successor, but he knew that only God could choose the heir to his ministry. Likewise, when new leaders are chosen to replace a pastor, a chairman of the board, a teacher, or a boss, we need to be careful to allow God to designate that person. While we need to do the best baton pass we can, remember that it is God’s role to chose who takes the role, and it will then be up to that new leader to run worthy of what you have passed on, and worthy of their new calling before God.

Yes, you will pass the baton. The time for that will get here sooner than you can imagine. So start anticipating it now, then do your best when the time comes for whomever takes it from you, the race will be theirs to win or lose.

Going Deeper With God: What are you doing to prepare someone to take your spot—as a mom or dad, a business owner, the leader of a ministry, or in whatever arena over which God has given you influence? Give that some thought today, and revisit it regularly. When the times comes, I hope you will do it well.

Good Advice for Great Leadership

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

This is the essence of the kind of leadership that God blesses: If you will position yourself to be a servant of the people, the people you serve will always serve you. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t grasp the brilliance of God’s logic. Humanistic thinking leads them to see the people as their servants, and once they attain power, their overriding effort is to retain it—on the backs of the people. Ultimately, that philosophy of leadership always fails—either in a shortened shelf life of that leader’s administration, or in the negative consequences of future administrations. Rare is the leader who understands that his or her divine mandate is public servant. When a leader truly understands that at an organic level, there you have the making of a leader for the ages.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 12:6-11

Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?” The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisors. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

What a contrast we find in this account between really good and really bad advice. Especially if you are a leader, or aspire to leadership, you ought to listen up on this one! What you will get here in just a few lines is better than anything you will get through years of education in the world’s best business schools—and a lot cheaper.

The story revolves around the transition of leadership from King Solomon to his son, Rehoboam. We don’t know for sure, but we can surmise that growing up in the luxurious living of his father’s kingdom had led to a sense of entitlement. His sense of reality was askew from all Solomon’s well-known kingly excesses—all the women and all the wealth. As the new king, Rehoboam wanted what his father had amassed, and them some, without doing any of the hard work to get it. But his father had gained much of his wealth on the backs of the Israelites; the people had paid heavy taxes, endured the conscription of their sons for the king’s army and the confiscation of their property for royal use. And now that Israel had reached an unprecedented level of security and success, the people rightly asked for a little relief from governmental demands as administrations changed hands.

When the request for relief was presented to the new king, he wisely asked for advice, first from his father’s experienced counselors, then from his untested friends. But he unwisely rejected the former and heeded the latter. In essence, his posses of spoiled friends advised him to double down on the demands his father had made of the people, and it turned out to be a mistake of epic proportions. Of course, the spiritual forces for a national rebellion had been seeded during Solomon’s backsliding, but Rehoboam didn’t help himself by following the bad advice of his tin-eared buddies. As a result, the nation split apart—the north broke from the south, and Israel never again existed as a unified nation.

So what is the leadership lesson we learn from Rehoboam? It comes from the rejected advice of the older counselors: “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” (1 Kings 12:7). Don’t miss that—it is the essence of leadership that God blesses:

If you will position yourself to be a servant of the people, the people you serve will always serve you.

Unfortunately, most leaders don’t grasp the brilliance of God’s logic. Humanistic thinking leads them to see the people as their servants, and once they attain power, the overriding effort of their administration is to retain it—on the backs of the people. Ultimately, that philosophy of leadership always fails—either in a shortened shelf-life of that leader’s tenure, or in the negative consequences of future administrations. Rare is the leader who understands that his or her divine mandate is public servant. When a leader truly understands that at an organic level, there you have the making of a leader for the ages.

Are you a leader, or do you aspire to leadership? Serve your people, and your people will always serve you.

Going Deeper With God: Memorize the words of Jesus found in Mark 10:42-45, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Man Up!

ThanksLivingThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Gender is under assault in our culture: manhood is emasculated, femininity ridiculed or clownishly sexualized, and childhood obliterated. Christians need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female, and by giving our children the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood in loving, protecting, nurturing, stable homes where God’s Word is honored.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 2:1-4

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”

Most of the commentaries you read on 1 Kings 2:2 skip over the line, “act like a man.” There are likely many reasons for ignoring it, but in the modern era where great energy is expended and demands are made to neutralize gender difference, my guess is one of those reasons is that pastors and theologians want to avoid any hint of political incorrectness.

But if God is unchanging—which I believe, and the Word of God is true—which I believe, and if scripture speaks with relevance, sensitivity, grace and fairness to every age and culture, including ours—which I believe, then what about this line? Did God through King David just tell the king-elect, Solomon, to “man up”? Yes he did! The Apostle Paul said similarly in 1 Corinthians 16:13,

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.

Now if you use a modern thought-for-thought translation of the Bible, like the NIV or the NLT, which I think are wonderful options for reading God’s Word, they leave out the phrase, “act like a man.” As an aside, that is why it is not a bad idea when you study a passage to compare translations, like the ESV or the HCSB, which are excellent word-for-word translations (see https://www.biblegateway.com as an excellent online option for side-by-side Bible translations). But the point I want to make is that in the Greek text, the word for man is there—it is andridzomahee, which most definitely refers to masculinity.

So does the Bible recognize gender differences? Yes—God made us male and female, and we are to celebrate God’s design. No matter what a our crazy culture insists on today (believe me, it will be different tomorrow, and worse!), God’s Word is unchanging, perfect in all its way, and will lead us to “prosper in all you do and wherever you go,” as David said to Solomon. God has built in to humanity differences that are existential. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with me while my little grandsons are at my home. Boys are very different, intrinsically, from the little girls my wife and I brought into this world.

But does the Bible promote male superiority? Not a chance. You will never find that in scripture, including here, and if you do, you are fundamentally misreading God’s Word—and that misreading is a grievous error. It just so happens that in the two instances I’ve quoted where men are told to “act like a man,” the conversations happen to be with men. If the speakers were talking to women, they would say, “now act like a woman.” Similarly in scripture, sometimes people that are being childish are called out for “acting like a child” or “acting like an infant.” Nothing more is meant to be read into the author’s words. Simply put, men are called to biblical manliness in the sense that they are to courageously and confidently pursue the mission that God has assigned them. That is what it means to “man up.”

So what were David and Paul saying to the male listeners standing before them at that moment? Simply this: the walk of faith to which you are called is not for the feint of heart, so be courageous; put on your big boy pants and do the right thing. If you do, God will bless you. If you don’t, you are going to get run over. If you won’t, then get out of the way.

We are at a time in our culture where maleness is being emasculated, femininity is either put down or clownishly sexualized and childhood is being obliterated. As Christians, we need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female and then giving us the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood through the process of childhood in loving, protecting, nurturing homes that honor God’s Word. We will be going against the grain if we live out this orthodoxy, but it will be the only way to save our kids and our culture. And it will take from us, male and female, what both David and Paul called forth:

Now man up!

Yes, man up, and put mature courage on display before a watching world!

Going Deeper With God: The best witness to God’s design in a culture that has “exchanged the glory of God” for caricatures of the divine design (Romans 1:23) is to display through your daily life God’s ideal for human beings. Today, with God’s help, being living proof of an all-wise Creator.

How To Be A Success

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you are going to be a success before God, most importantly, and before man, what will be the key to that worthy achievement? Simply this: an attitude that is deeply and organically humble, a heart that is quickly and fully responsive, and a will that is entirely and lovingly submitted to God’s purposes.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 5:10 & 12

David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him…And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

After some twenty years since he was first anointed by the prophet Samuel to be Israel’s king, David is finally sitting firmly on the throne with the entire nation united under his leadership. And the nation is about to enter its golden era. Interesting, and quite instructively, if you were to compare this chapter to the ascension of Saul as King over Israel in 1 Samuel, you would notice quite a different approach these two kings took—and with drastically different outcomes. Here are several significant contrasts between David and Saul:

  1. David covenanted before the Lord to be a shepherd of his people. 2 Samuel 5:3 says, “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.” This stands in stark contrast to Saul, who often gave in to the pressures of the people, and at times, was led by them rather than the Lord. 1 Samuel 15:24 points out, “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”
  2. David inquired of the Lord for direction. 2 Samuel 5:19 says, “so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” On the other hand, Saul would sometimes go his own way first then ask the Lord what he thought after the fact, as is painfully pictured in 1 Samuel 13 and 15.
  3. David obeyed God’s direction. 2 Samuel 5: 25 tells us, “So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.” Saul’s leadership, on the other hand, was unfortunately characterized by disobedience: “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.” (1 Samuel 13:13)
  4. David gave God credit for his victories: “So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.” (2 Samuel 5:20) Sadly, Saul was addicted to his own glory: “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor.” (1 Samuel 15:12)

Not only were the leadership styles of these two kings diametrically different, so were the results of their respective reigns. David became greater because God was with him but Saul’s kingdom was taken away because God had left him. Both men started out their careers with a promise from God that he would be with them and bless their efforts. But one ended in success while the other ended in failure.

What was the difference? David approached his role as king with an attitude that was deeply humble, a heart that was fully responsive, and a will that was entirely submitted to God’s purposes. Saul, well he was sitting on his own throne, if you know what I mean.

That was the difference between success and failure—and what a difference that was.

Going Deeper With God: How are you doing in those vital areas: Humility of the spirit, responsiveness of the heart and submissiveness of the will? Maybe it’s time for a spiritual check up in those areas.

How To Get Promoted—God’s Way

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In your desire to advance professionally, just remember that God’s promotions come in God’s time and in God’s way—you don’t need to help him out by trying to hurry them along. Furthermore, it is never wise to build yourself up by putting others down—to showcase your strengths by exposing the weaknesses of others is not God’s way. Likewise, remember that when God destines you to be a leader, be a patient and genuine follower under present leadership—even if it is flawed. If God has put a desire for leadership in your heart, you can be sure that he has also planted the right moves inside you that will take you all the way to the top.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 3:36

All the people took note [of the way David transitioned royal power from King Saul] and they were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them.

In the ways and means of God’s kingdom, there is a right way and a wrong way to assume power. David’s rise to kingship is a textbook case of the right way—he was a man who made all the right moves on his way to the top.

The old king, Saul, was dead, and now nothing stood in the way of David’s ascendency to the throne of Israel. He was the rightful king of God’s people since the Lord, through the prophet Samuel, has called and anointed David as leader. Furthermore, in all of those difficult years in which King Saul had tried to eliminate the upstart shepherd boy, God had been training David how to “king it”, and now, at long last, he was throne-ready.

You will notice in these opening chapters of 2 Samuel, however, that even though King Saul, the last obstacle standing in the way of David’s prophetic rise to power, was now dead, still David did not seize the opportunity to thrust himself upon Israel as its new leader. Rather, he waited for a Divine opening of those doors critical to his assumption of the throne. Likewise, David demonstrated an uncanny leadership savvy in this delicate political situation by refusing to be opportunistic. You will see particularly in 2 Samuel 1 how David’s response to the news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathon distinguished the king-in-waiting as a different kind of leader than King Saul had been:

In reading this account, one can’t help but be moved by David’s authentic grief at the news of Saul’s death. (2 Samuel 1:11-12) Rather than rejoicing that their tormentor was dead, David and his men tore their clothes, mourned and fasted until evening. David empathized with a grieving nation at this time of loss—the loss of a king, a prince and an army. At this moment, David was not the king-to-be; he was first and foremost an Israelite who personally felt this national tragedy. He had lost a king and a father-in-law, and he had lost a brother-in-law in Prince Jonathan who happened also to be the closest friend he had ever known—and it hurt deeply. Furthermore, regardless of Saul’s ungodly and ineffective leadership, David still viewed Saul as the Lord’s anointed, and since “the anointed” had been killed in battle, that alone was reason for grief.

Furthermore, David distanced himself from a power-grabbing promotion to kingship. (2 Samuel 1:13-16) Instead of proclaiming himself to be the new king, he pulled away from the suggestion proffered in the presentation of the dead King Saul’s crown that it was now rightfully his. Indeed, in passing a death sentence on the Amalekite who had delivered the news and offered the crown to him, David still spoke of Saul as “the Lord’s anointed.” (2 Samuel 1:14,16)

Chapter one ends with a classy move on David’s part: He immortalized King Saul in song. (2 Samuel 1:17-27) In a heartfelt outpouring of David’s heart, this lament paid tribute to Saul and Jonathan as a source of pride, strength and inspiration to Israel.

Now we can learn a great deal from David’s approach to promotion in these chapters that would serve us well in our own journey toward advancement in life. For one thing, David shows us that God’s promotions come in God’s time and in God’s way—and we don’t need to help God out by trying to hurry them along. Furthermore, we learn from David that it is never wise to build ourselves up by putting others down—to showcase our strengths by exposing the weaknesses of others is not God’s way. And finally, when God destines you to be a leader, be a patient and genuine follower under present leadership—even if it is flawed.

If God has put a desire for leadership in your heart, you can be sure that he has also planted the right moves inside you that will take you all the way to the top. So as God brings the opportunities and opens the doors before you, be sure you are making all the right moves!

Going Deeper With God: There are three indispensable requirements if God is calling you to a leadership role: One, patience, two, patience, and three, more patience. Your assignment today is to practice patience. The good news is, since it is a fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will be there to help you.

Courage!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

It is precisely out of the darkest of times when someone steps forward to attempt the heroic that the courage of one lifts the hearts of the many. Courage! Every age, including this one, needs men and women of courage who will be sold out to certain convictions that drive them to act, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives, but because it is the right thing to do. That is courage, and in itself, it is victory.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 11:11-13

But when the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their mighty warriors traveled through the night to Beth-shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies. Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.

Courage! Nelson Mandela, a man of remarkable courage himself, wrote, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Perhaps Mandela was describing the brave warriors of Jabesh-gilead.

We don’t know their names. We don’t know anything about them really. But the one thing we do know is what will cause them to admired as men for the ages: they were courageous. Risking all that they possessed—their homes, their families, their very lives—to invade the much larger and more powerful Philistine territory, they put their sacred honor on the line to honor God. They mustered the courage to rescue the abused bodies of King Saul and his sons, marching through the night straight into the enemy-occupied city of Beth-shan and through whatever resistance the Philistine guard may have mounted. Once they had retrieved them, they gave King Saul, Jonathan and the other brothers a proper burial. Moreover, they secured a moral victory in an otherwise dark time for the nation of Israel.

There is not much to cheer in 1 Samuel 31, just this courageous act. Israel is at a low ebb, and the prospects for brighter days is exceedingly dim. There has been no coronation of David as Israel’s new king yet—in fact, that is several years off. Furthermore, at this point, as far as anyone might know, David has sided with the Philistines. This is a dark time indeed for God’s people. But that is what makes what the warriors of Jabesh-gilead did so much more spectacular. It is precisely out of the darkest of times when someone steps forward to attempt the heroic that the courage of one lifts the hearts of the many.

Courage! Every age, including this one, needs men and women of courage. I want to be one, how about you? But where does it come from? Like the men of Jabesh-Gilead, it arise from three intertwined sources:

  1. Principle: They were sold out to certain convictions that drove them to act. N.D. Wilson wrote, “Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.” It was the right thing to do, so they did it.
  2. Compassion: They cared deeply for what had been done to the people of Israel; they cared out of deep loyalty the royal family, and they cared deeply about the reputation of God. As Lao Tzu said, “From caring comes courage.”
  3. Anger: They were mad. They were morally offended. Their sense of godly pride had been challenged, and they had to respond. Much of the sacrifice to achieve a worthy cause comes from righteous indignation, and the men of Jabesh-gilead were that, fighting mad. Eric Hoffer rightly observed, “Anger is the prelude to courage.”

Courage! To paraphrase from Cicero, people of faith must be people of courage—unassailable principle, deep concern, and righteous indignation. May that be true of you and me.

Going Deeper With God: What is causing you to shrink back in fear? In the face of fear, step forth and do what is right. That is called courage, and not many people exhibit it.