- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

The following are excerpts of a sermon given by Mark Batterson at National Community Church recently:

How big is God? That question — how big is God? — may be the most important question you ever ask. Your answer to that question will determine your spiritual future. It is also the difference between scaredy-cats and lion chasers. If your god is smaller than a 500-pound lion, you’ll run away. But if your god is bigger than a 500-pound lion, you might just muster the moral courage to chase lions.

Let’s look at 2 Samuel 23:20-23: “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. These are some of the deeds that made Benaiah almost as famous as the Three. He was more honored than the other members of the Thirty, though he was not one of the Three. And David made him commander of his bodyguard.”

Let me state the obvious: Benaiah was not the odds-on favorite in any of these encounters. He was doubled-teamed by two mighty Moabites. If I’m placing bets on an average-size Israelite with a club or a giant Egyptian with a spear, I’m going to put my money on the sharp pointy thing. And I don’t even know how you begin to calculate the odds of man versus lion. Now zoom out. Most of us don’t like being in pits with lions on snowy days, but those are the stories worth telling. Those are the experiences that make life worth living. So lion chasers don’t try to avoid situations where the odds are against them. Lion chasers know that impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles.

And here’s the rest of the story. Finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day seems to qualify as bad luck or a bad day. But you’ve got to admit: “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks awfully good on your resume if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the king of Israel. What seemed like a bad break turned into a big break, and those impossible odds set the stage for his entire military career. I think there is part of us that wants God to reduce the odds. We like situations where the odds are in our favor. But sometimes God allows the odds to be stacked against you so He can reveal more of His glory.

A few months ago, I was in the Galapagos Islands on a mission trip. I’m not even sure how to say it, but there is nothing like seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. So after returning from the Galapagos, we took our kids to the zoo. And you know what? It wasn’t the same. I’m ruined for zoos. I love zoos. But it’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too controlled. It’s too predictable.

Jesus handpicked a dozen disciples who were totally uncultured, uncivilized and undomesticated. And Jesus didn’t cage people. He unleashed them. In fact, He used a zoological metaphor in Matthew 10:16. He was about to send them on their inaugural mission, and He said, “I am sending you like sheep among wolves.” Imagine a zookeeper putting a bunch of sheep in the wolf cage. Now that is a zoo worth visiting.

Jesus doesn’t put the disciples in a safe cage. He unleashed them. He sends them into the wolf cage. And He says you need to be innocent as doves and shrewd as snakes. The goal of church isn’t to take people out of their natural habitat and domesticate them — make them look and talk and act like Christians. When we pronounce the benediction at the end of the service, we’re releasing people back into the wild. And you go back into your natural habitat as an ambassador of God’s grace. So what lion is God calling you to chase? Here’s a lion chaser’s manifesto:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion.

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