The two figures stood silent in the tent. The king thought the boy foolish for not wanting his armor.
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
This is an incredible story-within-a-story. As I read this recently I was caught off guard by what the Lord challenged me with. This is a picture of pastoral ministry. Let’s look together as I ask myself again the questions scripture has already asked me.
1) Am I ready to go after the sheep…?
There are many times in ministry where the answer is no. There’s that one family. There’s the complaining mother, the angry father, the crazy aunt, the 15 year old boy who causes trouble in the youth group, and that’s not to mention the emails of gossip and prejudicial mess that are received on a weekly basis. When they falter, or want to leave the church because the episcopal church down the road, “has better music”, our first instinct is not to go after them. It is easy to forget that we as shepherds are called to watch after the sheep, and as Christ commanded and exampled, to go after the 1 instead of being relieved we still have 99. This is war, and the enemy is going to continue to take sheep. We must go after our sheep. It is messy…but then again, this is war.
2) Am I ready to fight the enemy…?
Did you catch what David did? Let me repeat it just in case. He chases the lion down and kills him by grabbing his beard and apparently slapping the beast. Are you kidding? He appears as if he has no fear. However, I do not believe this is due to a lack of belief in the lions power. No, it is because David is ready when the lion comes. As a minister of the gospel, I must be ready each and every day. After all, the Enemy is prowling around seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). How do I prepare? Our brother Peter tells us that as well; we are to be self-controlled and alert. My ability to fight for my people is dependent upon my willingness to submit to the Holy Spirit, and live a life that is becoming more like Christ. Quick lines and catchy phrases will not save your lamb from the lions jaws. Indeed the armor of Saul will not prepare you for the divorced father who starts crying in your office, nor the 16 year old girl who is considering abortion. Only the breastplate of righteousness can prepare me for such a fight. My personal holiness is a must.
Am I ready to give God the Glory…?
Notice that David’s concern in this and the surrounding story is God’s Glory. This is perhaps the most difficult part for me. I’m pretty sure if I killed a lion by grabbing his beard and whopping him upside the head, I would face major temptation to toot my own horn. In ministry this can be deceiving though. We work endlessly, vying for an ear to listen, for someone to have that lightbulb go off. Hours in prayer and study of the Word because we do want to “go after the sheep” and “fight for them”. Yet, we must be willing when the successes come, to praise God and give him the Glory, ALONE. If our success stories in ministry are capped with anything that starts with “I”, then we have missed the point. It’s not about what we changed, or did differently or the program you followed, or the curriculum or idea you came up with. We must be willing to say with David, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” If we do not fight for the captain of the hosts and are not ready to give him glory in the victory, then our fight is both in vain, and full of prideful conceit.
Sometimes I forget that I am also a Soldier.