Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lions and Giants and Bears--Oh My!

This past week, my church’s youth group attended a missions-oriented Christian summer camp called PASSPORT.  The week’s theme, creatively based on the Wizard of Oz, was “Follow the Road.”  Tied into the lessons learned by Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, PASSPORT’s curriculum focused on choices we make and experiences of God while we’re on the road of life.  From the flying monkeys in our games to the emerald costumes we wore at our evening masquerade, everything was designed to give spiritual meaning to the quest made by the twister rider from Kansas, and to the journey of our lives as well.
            When I think of Dorothy and her friends skipping down the Yellow Brick Road, I’m reminded of their fearful chant, “Lions and tigers and bears—oh my!”  Venturing into the haunted forest, they were gripped by the fear of what might lie before them.  So might you be fearful of what lies down the road in your life.  Uncertainties bring anxiety as you move from one phase of life to the next.  Surprises lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on unsuspecting travelers.
            In 1 Samuel 17, David’s pathway was much like Dorothy’s—exciting yet fearful.  Like the simple farm girl who became a heroine, David’s journey from shepherd to hero was fraught with both peril and potential.  The wicked witch may have had her magic, but she never made an army tremble like the giant Goliath did.  When David first saw that monster of a man, every member of the Israelite army, including King Saul, shook in fear of the brute.  Shaking his fist and his weapons heavenward he defied the armies of God.  He challenged any Israelite soldier who was brave enough to fight him in a winner-take-all single combat, but nobody was willing to step onto the battlefield.
            David couldn’t believe that everyone in the army was unwilling—so he offered to fight the giant himself.  His older brothers laughed at him, and even the king seemed incredulous. 

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,  I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”  And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you (1 Samuel 17.34-37 ESV)!”

            David believed that he was on the road to greater things—note that he said he used to keep sheep for his father.  He had already decided that today was the day of God’s glory, his own victory, and a journey that would change his life.  When Saul challenged David’s ability to fight the giant, David cited the experience previous experience fighting lions and bears.  Certainly if he could defeat these beasts, he could also slay a giant!  He knew that the power he needed was already inside him, because God was preparing him for something great.
            At PASSPORT camp this week, our students learned the same thing.  They learned that God has a destination in mind for them, and that the road that they’re on is one where God will show them great things.  Like characters in Oz, they learned that the power they need for the journey is in them, because God is with them.  The mission group I worked with was doing indoor and outdoor painting at the Boys and Girls Club.  They braved dangers like ladders and spiders and bees (oh my!) in order to show Christ’s love to the underprivileged children of Danville, Virginia.  At their tender age, what these teenage missionaries probably don’t realize is that God is preparing them for even greater things.  Events like this may be just the lions and bears that they need to get them ready for giants down the road.
            Are you feeling challenged lately?  Do lions and bears seem to threaten?  God has already given you the power you need to stand against them, because the Lord is with you.  And who knows—maybe these challenges are training for some greater task down the road!  Rather than fearfully facing the road before you, you can follow the road with confidence, knowing that whatever your journey brings, the God who calls you will equip you to do His work.  Like David and Dorothy, you can travel the road and become your own kind of hero—because God is the silent traveler on the road with you.


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