1PE 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
In the second book of Samuel, chapter twenty three and verse twenty we discover the name‘Benaiah’. In four short verses we have his whole story- but what a story it is. For the most part we read through it without even pausing. Today I invite you to pause and consider.
2SA 23:20 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. He killed an Egyptian, an impressive man. Now the Egyptianhad a spear in his hand, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and had a name as well as the three mighty men. He was honored among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David appointed him over his guard.
I want us to pause around this theme: ‘Lion-size Opportunities.’
I want to read a portion of this same story from another translation I stumbled upon.
2Sam.23:20-21> 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 snowy 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.
When a person stumbles upon an opportunity that turns out incredibly positive, resulting in great advancement or riches, we tend to say: ‘He or she was in the right place at the right time.’
Consciously or otherwise, we are acknowledging that there are two fundamental components to opportunity. One is timing; the other is place or position- the better word being circumstances.
Fit that assessment on the only three events we know from the life of Benaiah- and answer this question: ‘Would you say that Benaiah was in the right place at the right time?’
In the first event he was outnumbered two to one, and those two were described as Moab‘s mightiest warriors. One translation describes them as “lion-like warriors.”
In the second event- in a pit with a lion on a snowy day- every possible advantage is in the lion’s favour.
In the third event he is seriously out armed- the difference being the difference between a spear and a club (and most translations say ‘staff’). Beyond that, the story implies that this Egyptian warrior was of much greater stature, and that he outclassed Benaiah in terms of training in war.
If you were to stumble upon a brother/sister in those three sets of circumstances would you find yourself saying; “Praise the Lord, you are exactly where you need to be; the right place at just the right time?”
I think we are more apt to say something like this: “What is a good Christian brother like you doing in an unholy mess like this?”
What that indicates is that we cannot imagine there being a God ordained opportunity deliberately wrapped up in such circumstances. Most of that is due to the fact that religion has painted this picture of Christianity as being an undisturbed life free of conflict, free of confrontation, free of challenge, free of radical risks and free of vulnerability. The counsel of this definition of Christianity is- never take risks, never take chances, never come out of your comfort zone, never disturb the status quo, and for goodness sake, whenever you see a lion just pretend you don’t see it- and perhaps it will give you a pass.
What I am suggesting this morning is that when we truly live out of a true and authentic Christian faith, the roar of the lion is unavoidable and guaranteed. The issue is not the roar of the lion- the issue is how you interpret the roar of the lion. And the fact is that true Biblical faith sees one thing in the roar of the lion; it sees the next great door of opportunity into the next great involvement of ministry or kingdom service.
I can tell you exactly where your next great opportunity of expanded ministry or service is. And it is not behind door number three nor door number two. It is behind door number one. What is your number one fear? What is your number one vulnerability? What is your number one weakness and area of temptation? What is your number one Goliath? What is the number one issue in your life around which the lion roars the loudest and the longest and is most intimidating? What is your number one threat?
Find that- and you will have located the number one door of opportunity into the greatest possible kingdom effectiveness of your life.
And guess what? I have New Testament chapter and verse to prove it.
1Co 16:9 For a wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries.
The size of the lion and the loudness of his roar is a prophetic indication of the size of the opportunity for ministry and service just beyond that door. Lion-size opportunities are always identified by lion-size adversaries. We have all heard it said; ‘New level, new devil.’I want to reverse the order and say; ‘New devil, new level- just beyond that door.’
We need to note a few important details. First, Benaiah did not go looking for a lion to fight. He was simply making a journey. And as he journeyed he came upon a lion lying in wait. That is important. As men of faith journey, in whatever direction their faith takes them they will periodically come upon lions lying in wait.
Here is the critical point in this entire story. What happened the spilt second Benaiah became conscious of the lion? The decision he made at that moment determined what life would be beyond that moment. And it’s the same for each of us in this house; when the fear is most acute, when the vulnerability is raw, when the intimidation presses in with its greatest oppression, when the challenge reaches its most unusual demand- the choice we make right there becomes a future-defining decision.
According to ‘natural order’ we all know what is supposed to happen next. Benaiah is supposed to run. The lion is supposed run after him. The lion gives thanks for the groceries and goes to bed with a bad case of heartburn from overeating.
But here’s the twist- there is a place in this experience of faith where our faith transcends the natural order and even reverses that order.
In this story Benaiah runs just like he is supposed to. The lion runs just like he is supposed to. But the order of the running is reversed and instead of the lion chasing Benaiah- it is Benaiah chasing the lion.
This is when the brothers on the sidelines begin to judge Benaiah. They judge his faith as being presumption. They tell him not to go there; don’t play with the devil or you will get burned; don’t set yourself up for the fall; now back off and leave well enough alone.
What happens next is very important- the lion falls into a pit. And again Benaiah has to make a critical choice. All the Monday morning quarterbacks will tell him to not go into that pit. They will tell him to avoid it. They will tell him to leave it where it’s at. They will tell him he got lucky when the lion ran from him, but for goodness sake, don’t push it and don’t tempt fate.
Benaiah buys none of it. A lion has just run away from him. It has now fallen into a pit. And Benaiah has this crazy notion that just maybe God is in this. When all the coaches are seeing a devil setup, Benaiah is seeing a God setup.
He knows that if he walks past this without dealing with it, if he avoids the pit and the confrontation he is settling for temporary relief rather than full victory. He knows that lion will find its way up out of the pit to show up again in his future. And the next time the lion will be a little bigger, a little faster and a little stronger.
There are old lions that just keep showing up in our lives. Those old lions are the thoughts, the imaginations, the fears, the secret lusts and fantasies, the intimidating torments- all the things we have been avoiding. We desperately hope they will just go away without us having to go into a pit and violently and aggressively confronting and engaging them.
Benaiah knows one thing: lions do not just go away; they must be violently engaged and confronted. Benaiah knows that in kingdom making there is a necessary violence.
The Christian faith is not about avoidance; it’s about engagement and confrontation and risks and vulnerability.
I wonder what Benaiah looked like when he came up out of that pit. I can tell you this much, he did not look like the man from glad in a wrinkle-free white suit. I can also tell you that for all those on the sidelines who are into the excellence and religious correctness of external appearance- this guy would not be accepted into the fellowship.
You cannot fight lions in a muddy, slippery, snowy pit and come out looking like the nice little Sunday school boy.
But in keeping with the theme of this message- all of this was but a door into a lion-size opportunity. What was that opportunity?
You have to jump ahead to some point in the future- some point well beyond that snowy day in the pit with a lion.
King David is looking for a man to be his personal body guard. And beyond that he is looking for someone to become the commander of a very specialised unit of soldiers who are charged with the responsibility of protecting the king.
Use your imagination. He is reading a table full of resumes in response to the advertised position. Most of those resumes are filled with references to educational degrees dealing with guarding royalty. And then he picked up this hand written note that said simply: “Killed two of Moab’s mightiest warriors, killed an elite Egyptian commando with his own spear, and on a snowy day chased a lion into a pit and killed it. Thanks for your consideration.” Signed- Benaiah.
What do you think David might have remembered the minute he read the lion story? Way back in the days of his youth- long before he was king- when he was an unknown lad taking care of his father’s few sheep, a lion tried to take one of those sheep. David confronted and killed the lion and regained the sheep. With that, the opening was filled and Benaiah go the job.
We need to know that the opportunity that opened before him just kept on expanding. First, the king’s personal body guard. Then the head of the entire unit assigned to protect the king. But it didn’t end there. He became the commander and chief of the entire army. And it didn’t even end there. This opportunity even crossed generational lines. After the death of David, Benaiah continued serving in the administration of Solomon.
Every speck of that opportunity would have been lost if he had avoided, tip-toed around and had refused to confront, engage and deal with the lion. There is a lion-size opportunity in your future right now, but the only way into it is to risk the vulnerability of exposure to the lion-size opposition and resistance standing between you and that opportunity.
I am begging you to understand that the very confrontation you are dreading to make- the very confrontation you have been avoiding; that very confrontation is the very door into your future opportunity.It is in fact the very door you have been praying for.
The roar of the lion is actually the roar of opportunity. Be careful what you call ‘a bad day’- it may turn out to be the very best day of your ‘future’.