Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Got Nothin' (Some Encouragement When You Are Starting Something.)

There should be a hallway somewhere for these guys. A hallway, of some museum, where they could be featured. The Bible calls them “King David’s Mighty Men” in 2 Samuel, chapter 23. And their pictures could line either side of the long room.  Each man would have his own picture, in a sturdy gold frame, with a name plate. And we could walk through that long, extraordinary room, and look at their pictures and be inspired. I’m sure their photos would display stoic faces, defined jaw lines and focused stares. Their eyes would be fierce, showing their unshakeable faith, and their muscles would be ripped. (Yes, yes, like a mix of my husband and Hugh Jackman. We are picturing the same thing…) King David’s mighty men, a list of his most faithful warriors.

And we could walk through this grand room, and when we got to the end maybe there would be an empty frame and it would have a mirror in it, and the point would be made, that we too, could be deemed mighty in faith.

And you and I wouldn’t be alone. I believe this room would draw many people, because don’t we all desire to earn our spot somewhere because of our mighty faith?

And maybe you would visit this room because you are about to start something new, like me. Maybe there is a challenge in front of you, a new season of life, a change, and you are looking for the adrenaline rush that comes with hearing success stories. Perhaps you are sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation, or maybe, life’s water is nearing your neck and if you don’t find some new inspiration you will be taken down.

But maybe, as we walk out of this room of faith giants, maybe doubts starts to creep in.  Perhaps, like me, you start to become keenly aware of your weakness.  You look at your arms and your heart and realize you aren’t anything like those men. Your muscles-and your faith-are miniscule next to those men.

And maybe as our shoulders would start to slump from discouragement, our slowed walk takes us into the next room.  Another room lined with photos.  Maybe the room is unassuming, and the frames are shabby-not-so-chic. You lean in and begin looking at more photos of men.  Maybe these men are a bit gruffer, maybe they aren’t so poised, or put together.

We step back to see what room we wondered into, and the sign about these photographs says, King David’s First Men.

And underneath, in smaller print it says:

The men from 1 Samuel 22, who came to David while he was hiding in caves.

We would use our thumbs to clear the dust off the name plates, they read: The Distressed, The In Debt, The Discontented.

I bet, if this museum really existed, we would laugh under our breath in this moment, that these weak vagrants even got their spot on a wall, and we would head back to the room of real worldchangers.


Maybe we would hesitate, even just briefly. Maybe we would linger in that second room. Perhaps there would be a old comfy chair, and we would sit, and stare at these ragamuffin men. The distressed, the in debt, and the discontent.

And perhaps we would stay there, even though we could be planning our attack on the next season of life, making lists and filling calendars and setting copious amounts of goals to become mighty.

Because imaginably, we would feel like these screwball-hot-mess-rebels, are a bit more our style. And maybe within their faces, we would see some hope.

Maybe I’m more like them, and maybe you are too. I mean,  I’m only impressive like once in a blue moon. I’m weak, moody, prideful, I gripe at my kids, eat chips late at night, gossip unintentionally.

And let’s just say, hypothetically, that you and I set up camp in this room, feeling strangely known in that room, and we opened up our Bibles, I think this is what we would find:

We would see that this is whom God brings to David, to begin his reign, his ministry. Here we find David, not on a throne with a purple robe or in front of a stout army of thousands. No, he is sitting in between a promise from God and the fulfillment of it.  And he’s on the run, hiding in caves from King Saul.

The distressed, the in debt, and the discontent come to him, and he becomes the captain over them.

What a crew! Almost comical, at first. A ragamuffin team, consisting of people with minimal credentials, and a endless need.

The distressed…ever been distressed? The Hebrew of distressed also means under stress, under pressure.  I am the distressed whenever my illusion of control gets rocked. When anxiety won’t let me be, when I live with the dialogue of  “if only…” and “what if?”…When we can’t see the solution to the relationship problem, when our work or class load is more than we carry. When the next steps in life are so unclear that we worry we will be wandering forever.

 The in debt. No worries, I’m not about to go all Dave Ramsey on ya. But how about feeling in debt, or tied down to a fear? Are you a slave to the debt keeper of guilt or shame?  An old enemy? Someone who seems to have this ability to put a heavy burden on our shoulders, and our heart. Some person or some day of our past that yells loud and harsh at us that we must repay and fix whatever we broke or screwed up in the past? We are the in debt when we believe that we have to off-set our wrongs, or make up our wrongs.

And discontent. The ESV says “the bitter in soul.” I believe that’s part of our curse from Eve. We desire what we can’t have. What we have is not enough. If we were honest we would say that our house isn’t big enough, our waist isn’t flat enough, our singleness isn’t fulfilling enough, or our husbands aren’t attentive enough.

But maybe, you and I, sitting in this hypothetical room, maybe after we saw ourselves in these nobodies, maybe we would see the very Gospel next. And I bet it would catch our breath, just a bit, in that moment. 

And then comfort and hope would rush in as we recall that the Gospel begins, not with great people with great faith performing for a great God.  Just like David’s reign, the gospel begins with messy, broken, needy people. And a God who has the grace and the love to turn our weakness into a stage for his power.

Maybe you are poised and ready to begin something new, and you are excited and so thankful to get started on whatever God has for you. But if you and I launch today, bringing our might, we will only be impressive for….let’s say 2 months. If we stride in, even with pure desires, to display great faith and to change our world we will fail.

(I know, I know, I'm so encouraging...)

At some point, probably sooner than we would expect, our brokenness will become apparent. Distress will rule over our excitement, our debts will tie us down from acting in faith, and our discontent hearts will draw lines between us as women.

You and I, we are kind of a ragamuffin team, aren’t we? We are so distressed, so in debt, and so often, discontent.

And this is great news!

Because….when we can see our need, and build our relationships in an attitude of sincerity and transparency, we have set the stage of the cave, for God to show up! When we realize we are sick from sin and injured from the Enemy, we are more willing to come to our doctor, to our King, and to each other. 

Women, for just a moment, don’t focus on this desire to be great and impressive for God! Before we can dream big of what God might have around the corner, we need to examine closely the condition of our heart. We need to see if we have cave-dwelling-David hearts, hearts emptied of everything but need for a God who loves us.

Let’s see where we are in distress? Pause long enough to cease from trying to fix everything, or everyone, and be really honest with our Maker. What are our anxieties, our concerns? Where are we aggressively reaching for control?

There is grace enough for our distress.

Where are we in debt? Is there a sin that just won’t let you be? Is their a load of fear or regret that sits heavy on top of your heart, and you are spinning your wheels trying to pay it off? Just stop. Come to Jesus, even if you are 6 feet or 6 figures under.

There is freedom for us.

And where are we discontent? Let God show you why you crave what you crave. Let him show you the roots of it. Where is there bitterness in your soul? Perhaps is public and you are vocal about it, or perhaps you have tucked it in the dark secret corner of your heart. Perhaps you are carrying an ounce of poisonous bitterness towards God, your family, your church.
Let God show you your hearts’ condition.

There is joy for you.

So as you and I sit here, in this odd room, with David’s not-so-mighty men,  we realize we are in a great spot to start something. With the gospel now front and center, we have an invitation to form an army of women. A company of moms, empty nesters, singles, students. A battalion of women who can lead, teach, host, encourage, organize, pray. We are now a brigade of ladies unified-our absence of pride allowing us to be close together.

And we have the privilege of asking the same question that David asks: From within the cave David says…until I know what God will do for me.”

 “What will God do for us?”

With our self righteousness and our pretenses left at the door, we come together. With our hopes to impress quieted, and our insecurities placed before Christ, we find ourselves in the perfect place to start whatever it is that needs starting, to build what needs building, to continue what needs finishing, and to mend what is broken. We are in the sweet spot to ask:

What will God do for us?!

Now this isn’t a genie in a bottle way of asking God for our every wish, or a list for Santa. This is more of a question of anticipation. We have promises from God, just like David. And so with our power not coming from our own boot-strap-pulling, but from grace-covered-weaknesses , we can now build-our lives, our marriages, our dreams-on the faithfulness of God.

And this is a sure fire method to become great.

To became Christ’s mighty women.

And perhaps you and I are still sitting in those old chairs in the second, less impressive room.  And I bet we are making a scene. There’s probably Kleenex on the floor and our mascara on our cheeks, and our poise a forgotten concept.  I bet you and I are in a beautiful pile of brokenness, seeing how God accepts us as distressed, in debted, discontent women. And we are sniffing running noses and clinging to each other, and it. is. awesome.

Because the great ending I found within these Scriptures, is that the mighty men, quipped for their faithfulness, are some of the same men from within the cave! I found that commentators say that some of the mighty men were the men who helped David on his way to the throne. These ragamuffin men became David’s mightiest men! (I love exclamation points!)

That is the transforming power of God’s grace. We start broken, we stay broken, but we jump into the kingdom work God desires, and somewhere along the way, grace teaches us how to be faithful.

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