Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Learning to Be a Lion-Chaser {Part 1}

{by Katrina Rebsch}

It was sometime toward the end of September.  Hepatitis A had made a ruthless sweep through the children’s orphanage where I am currently living and I had fallen prey to its debilitating clutches.  At the same time I became ill, dreams I had surrounding a certain young man in a country far away and the possibility of a future together shattered into pieces.  So there I was in the isolation ward of my own room, feeling sad, lonely for my parents, bored, and just a tiny bit hopeless as I thought about the future. 

In my desperation for something to do, I rummaged through the bottom cupboard of my nightstand just in case there was an interesting book left behind by another volunteer that I had overlooked in my past searches.  A book that might, for a time, provide a cure for my cabin fever.

Bypassing the Spanish grammar books, Pride and Prejudice (already read it three times) and a novel by John Grisham, my eyes lighted upon a slim paperback with the curious title, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day.  For some reason, it had never piqued my interest before.  After all, I had never heard of it nor the author, Mark Batterson.  But this time, with nothing better to do, I decided to at least open the cover and find out what the book was about.

I began reading....and reading...and reading.  Within the first paragraph, I realized I had (providentially) happened upon a literary treasure!  I found the author’s candid, colorful writing style immediately engaging and his content intriguing. In 24 hours flat, I had finished the entire book and was eager to read it again.  It introduced me to a new hero of the Bible I had never heard of, encouraged me to start dreaming again, and taught me what it means to be a lion chaser in the Kingdom of God. 

An obscure passage in the Old Testament forms the basis for the entire book.  In all my years of being a Christian and a student of the Word, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this passage that has now influenced my life so greatly.

“There was also Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel.  He did many heroic deeds which included killing two of Moab’s mightiest warriors.  Another time he chased a lion down into a pit.  Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it.  Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear.  Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it.”  (II Samuel 23:20-21) 

In case you missed the significance of Benaiah’s unusual and incredible feat, here’s author Mark Batterson’s retelling of the account:
“Out of the corner of his eye, Benaiah sees something crawling.  I don’t know how far away the lion is - and their vision is probably obscured by falling snow and frozen breath - but there is a moment when Benaiah and the lion lock eyes.  Pupils dilate.  Muscles tense.  Adrenaline rushes.  
Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message:  Run away!
But not this time!  Almost as improbable as falling up or the second hand on your watch moving counter clockwise, the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase.
Lions can run up to thirty-five miles per hour and leap thirty feet in a single bound.  Benaiah doesn’t stand a chance, but that doesn’t keep him from giving chase.  Then the lion makes one critical misstep.  The ground gives away beneath his five-hundred-pound frame, and he falls down a steep embankment into a snow-laden pit.  
Almost like walking on thin ice, Benaiah measures every step.  He inches up to the edge and peers into the pit.  Menacing yellow eyes stare back. 
Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect: What was I thinking?  This had to be one of those moments for Benaiah.  Who in their right mind chases lions?  But Benaiah now has a moment to collect his thoughts, regain his sanity, and get a grip on reality.  And the reality is this:  Normal people don’t chase lions. 
So Benaiah turns and walks away. 
But Benaiah isn’t walking away.  He’s getting a running start.  [He] runs at the pit and takes a flying leap of faith.
Benaiah and the lion disappear into the recesses of the pit.  A deafening roar echoes in the cavernous pit.  And bloodcurdling battle cry pierces the soul.
Then dead silence.
After a few agonzing moments of suspense, the shadow of a human form appears as Benaiah climbs out of the pit.  The blood from his wounds drips on the freshly fallen snow.  Claw marks crisscross his face and spear arm. But Benaiah wins one of the most improbable victories recorded in the pages of Scripture.” 
Interestingly, the story of Benaiah doesn’t end there.  A few verses later, Scripture records that this brave fellow went on to become one of King David’s top-ranked mighty men and the person in charge of his bodyguard!  Towards the end of his life, Benaiah was even promoted to the position of commander-in-chief over the entire army of Israel under Solomon’s reign!

So what’s the point?  Why draw attention to this obscure little adventure story tucked away in the pages of II Samuel?  How does it affect you and me?  I mean, chances are, we aren’t exactly going to be encountering any lions in our backyard to chase.

Or are we?

In his book, Mark Batterson makes the case that God is looking for more lion chasers: people of faith who are always on the lookout to seize God-ordained opportunities by the mane (even if at first those opportunities look like five-hundred-pound problems waiting to eat them for lunch); people of courage who will dream God-sized dreams and then chase them, no matter how risky or how impossible the odds; people of humility who are willing to look foolish for the cause of Christ, knowing that, in the end, God will be glorified, His purposes accomplished, and rewards received in eternity.

First and foremost, lion chasers seek God (Hebrews 11:6).  As they come to know Him personally and intimately, they learn that He is infinitely great and worthy to be obeyed, trusted, and glorified.  They rest in God’s sovereignty of being the One who has prepared in advance good works (and maybe even heroic deeds) for them to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10).  Rooted in this firm sense of destiny, they don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do or from embracing the dreams God has given them to live

I don’t know that Benaiah necessarily set his sights on becoming one of David’s mighty men or the head soldier in his personal body-guard.  Perhaps so.  As a military leader, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if he did dream of climbing the ranks to commander-in-chief!  What we do know, is that his willingness to courageously take the opportunities God gave him, even in very difficult situations, prepared the way for future victories, a brilliant military career, and the honor of having his story recorded forever in the pages of Scripture.
"Seeing and seizing opportunities is an overlooked and under-appreciated dimension of spiritual maturity.” Batterson points out.  "But there is a catch.  The aphorism is wrong.  Opportunity doesn’t knock.  Opportunity roars!  Most of us want our opportunities nicely packaged and presented to us as a gift we simply have to unwrap.  We want our lions stuffed or caged or cooked medium well and served on a silver platter.  But opportunities typically present themselves at the most inopportune times in the most inopportune place.
The two Moabites didn’t schedule an appointment with Benaiah’s assistant.  The Egyptian didn’t knock on the door.  He knocked down the door.  And the lion didn’t roll over and play dead.  Here is the great irony about opportunities.  They usually come disguised as insurmountable problems.  They look like five-hundred-pound lions that want to eat your for lunch.
To the average person, the circumstances presented to Benaiah were problems to run away from, not opportunities to be seized.  [But] Benaiah didn’t see a five-hundred-pound problem.  He saw a lion skin hanging in his tent."
Batterson goes on to say, 
“Lion chasers are the kind of people who rise to the occasion.  Lion chasers are the kind of people who refuse to be intimidated by Moabites or Philistines.  Lion chasers play to win.  They fight for what they believe in.  They don’t live life sitting back on their heels.  They live life on the tip of their toes waiting to see what God is going to do next.” 
“What sets lion-chasers apart isn’t the outcome.  It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams.  Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do.  Lion chasers know God is bigger and more powerful than any problem they face in this world.  They thrive in the toughest circumstances because they know that impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles.”
I think it was this point that really stuck out to me.  God loves impossible odds.

Think about it for a minute.  We see in the accounts of Gideon, David and Goliath, the Battle of Jericho, the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, and the feeding of the five thousand (just to name a few out of a hundred) that God loves doing the impossible, and in fact, commanded it on several occasions!  Why?  Because then He gets to be the Hero!  He gets to be the One who receives the accolades and the praise.  And in the process, our faith in Him is strengthened, prompting us to trust Him for more impossibilities.  
It honestly doesn’t matter how many Moabites you’re facing. Batterson states.  It doesn’t matter how tall the Egyptian giant is.  And the size of the lion isn’t really the issue.  The issue is this:  How big is your God? 
As I finished my second read-through of this book, more slowly this time in order to better digest the content, the wheels in my heart and mind began turning.  Slowly at first, then faster and faster as passions were defined and new dreams awakened that had lain buried for a long time under the guise of the impossible.  Excitement surged through my being and hope for the future was restored!  Suddenly, I wanted to be a lion chaser in the Kingdom of God!  To dream big, take risks as God leads, and trust Him for the impossible. 


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