Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Armor Bearers

This past Sunday, my pastor preached from 1 Samuel 14, the story of Jonathan rising up to defeat the Philistine army. In a quiet moment, he sneaks over to the enemy camp and takes with him, of course, his armor-bearer, the man designated to protect the King's son. So the two young men sneak off and approach the enemy camp, planning how the Lord will speak to them regarding their quest.

If they tell us to come up, Jonathan tells his trusted friend, then we will because that will be the sign that the Lord is giving them to us. And that's precisely what the Philistines say - come on up, and we'll teach you a lesson!

Jonathan turns to his armor bearer, and I love what he says next: Follow me up to the military post because the Lord has handed the troops over to Israel. (v. 12)

Did you catch that? He says, "Follow me."

This is the man who is supposed to protect him that he's talking to. Jonathan carried a sword, a weapon of offense, but it wouldn't be any good if arrows started to fly. His armor bearer carried his shield, the very thing you want in front of you when approaching enemy camp. But Jonathan tells the man to follow him - to come along behind him, where the armor does no good. 

Isn't that strange? We are a people who would rather have others go before. We spend our time convincing others that whatever we're about to undertake is a good idea, then push them along so that they lead the way. Then we can walk safely into wherever it is we have decided to go. We say that God has given us this opportunity or that God has blessed us or that God has called us, but most of us still send the defense in first. In case, you know, any of this goes wrong.

Not Jonathan. He walked in bold, leading the way. He said that he believed his God, and he took the Lord at His word. They have been handed over. God has blessed this. He didn't need protection from a promise gone awry. Promise is promise. If God said it, it must be true. So up he went, his armor bearer behind.

Which raises questions about the guy with the shield. It wasn't a good battle plan for him, either. Armed with armor, he was a man on the defensive but if the guy with the sword goes, all the armor in the world may not be enough. And it wasn't he who had been speaking to the Lord about this whole thing; he'd only heard from Jonathan and took his friend at his word. That's some trust right there.

I'm thinking about the things I want to do in my life, particularly about the things I have been called to do. For many, many years, I have believed in the word of the Lord spoken over me but not enough to go first. I have labored to get this world to understand what's happening and to blaze the trail for me. But not any longer. I'm not sure whether this coming year will be defined by faith, but this season certainly is. I am stepping out, going first, and going after the things that God has called me to. Unafraid because I have heard His voice and I'm taking Him at His word.

But I am thankful for armor bearers in my life. I'm thankful for the people who stand around me with shields, ready to guard me from the spears of this world. I'm thankful that they are willing to follow, that they will go where I go, and I am even more thankful that when it's time for me to lead, by faith, that they are willing to stand behind, even when it doesn't make much sense to do so.

I want to surround myself with these people. People who are willing to go first but who by no means insist upon it. People who are committed to going where I go, to walking with me, to taking the lead when necessary but knowing how to follow. People who will follow when there's no logical reason for them to do so except that I've said I am going and they have agreed to go with me.

Where is it that God has called you to go? Are you willing to go first, to take God at His word and lead the way? Are you willing to put your defense behind you, knowing you won't need it where God's promise stands firm? Is your sword and His word enough for you to go? And who is going with you?

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