July 13, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Kevin Lai, Gracepoint Hsinchu

1 Samuel 14:6-7
How would Jonathan have felt in hearing his armor-bearer’s response?
His young armor-bearer responded, “Do all that you have in mind… Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” Upon hearing this, Jonathan must’ve felt really encouraged and strengthened by his armor-bearer’s response. Despite being outnumbered and overwhelmed, as long as there is one person who stood beside his side, that made all the different. It must be comforting to know that there was someone close who understood his heart and not only that, but was willing to give himself entirely into the endeavor and stick to him. It’s similar to the true partner effect. Even though many people can be in opposition or say/think opposite thing, as long as there is one more person, it gives one the courage to go against the tide.

What do I need to learn from the armor-bearer?

From the armor-bearer, I need to learn what it means to stick to someone, to show them full support, to be with them, encourage them, etc. Here in Taiwan, I need to be that right hand man to Andy/Amy and really encourage and strengthen them. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not be a burden.” All too often, I underestimate the effect I can have on others, and I have the “little o me” mentality, thinking if what I do matters. But as seen from the
armor-bearer’s response, it can really have a positive impact on people around me and strengthen them to continue on in their spiritual walk, in carrying out God’s commands, etc. Little ways I can concretely do this is by saying more words of encouragement to people or sending them an email encouraging them or just letting people know I’m praying for them, etc.

What can I learn from this incident about how to gain courage to face challenges that come my way?
From this incident, I learn to gain courage to face challenges that come my way by turning to God and turning to God’s people. Despite the obstacles, Jonathan didn’t give into his fears but learned to trust in God, through the ups and downs. Jonathan also turned to his close armor bearer and learned to rely on him and draw strength from him. I need to apply that to my life as well. When I get discouraged, I need to turn to other people, my leaders, Joyce, my peers, other staff brothers, etc. for help and encouragement and prayers. It is really hard to live out the Christian life alone, or to continue to trust in God despite all odds. But I really need to just trust in God and cling on to people close to me.  Many times, I just keep my struggles or
thoughts to myself and I get easily discouraged or defeated and begin to feel self-pity. However, from Jonathan’s example, I need to learn to share my thoughts and my heart with people close to me. Especially coming back from ATTR, I see the importance of all the rich relationships I have in the church: with leaders, older brothers, peers, younger brothers, etc. I need to be better in emailing, skyping, and keeping touch with them, and just asking for prayers and help.

Submitted by Lem Maghamil, Gracepoint Davis

1 Samuel 14:1-23

Reflect on the very bleak situation facing the Israelites before Jonathan acts, and what happened after he acted.  What might people have felt regarding God’s power and presence before Jonathan acted?

The situation looked quite bleak as Saul waited under the pomegranate tree.  He had only 600 men and as in past situation I am sure that Saul was counting his men to see if he had a chance against the Philistine army.  Also, I am sure that Phinehas was not at the level of Samuel to inspire the men and affirm God’s blessing upon His people.  Objectively speaking this looked like a mission to their death and the Israelites confidence in God waned.

How is it that just two people ended up turning the situation around so radically?

When the commotion began at the Philistine camp, Saul gathered his army to see who had left and found that it was Jonathan and his armor bearer.  Jonathan and his armor bearer turned the situation around so radically through radical faith.  When the Israelite army sat in fear losing their hope in God, we see these two men acting courageously and in faith.  In v. 6 Jonathan says perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf and this shows that he was not 100% sure that they would make it back alive.  Jonathan then sets up these cues that would help during the battle.  If the Philistines say come up to us then that would be the sign the Lord has given them into our hands.  Anyone knows that fighting an uphill battle is a very poor military strategy especially when there are just two people against a whole army.  Jonathan and his armor bearer were testing God at every step in this battle.   These two men in faith stirred God to action in v.15 to send a panic into the Philistine camp.

What does this show about God, about obstacles, and about how I should interpret bleak situations?

This text teaches me many lessons about God, about obstacles and about how I should interpret bleak situations:

First, in v. 6 Jonathan says nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.  God has every power at his disposal.  He can bring victory in any battle of my life if I obey his command to never fear for He is with me.  God can work through an army of two men as in the case of Jonathan and his armor bearer or an army of 600 as in the case of Saul.  The key issue is do the men have faith that God can save.

Secondly, this text contrasts two responses to obstacles in the person of Saul sitting under the pomegranate tree and Jonathan raiding the Philistine army.  One response to obstacles in life is fear that grips you into passivity and inaction.  The other response is Jonathan who boldly advances in the name of the Lord trusting in God’s power to save.

Thirdly, according to the text I see that I should view bleak situations as opportunities to experience God’s faithfulness and deliverance.  My first instinct when I experience a bleak situation is dread and I begin asking why me God?  I can recount a number of times in my spiritual journey when I faced a very difficult decision or experience.  It felt like a small group going against a whole army.  I was facing very difficult odds and the problem I was facing was overwhelming.  I was afraid of failure, afraid of what people would think of me, afraid of making the wrong decision.  However, looking back on those “bleak situations” I can see how those were the exact times I experienced God’s guidance and provision and I was able to experience faith.  In one of our messages I remember hearing that faith does not grow when everything goes well in our lives.  How do we develop faith?  It’s when things aren’t going well and yet we take a step of obedience to God.  The bleak situations in my life were a test not only of God’s faithfulness but my own willingness to respond in faith.

What do I need to learn from Jonathan?

The one thing I admire about Jonathan is that he didn’t start off with 100% faith.  He wasn’t sure how things would turn out at the Philistine camp.  He took whatever faith he had and took steps of obedience and that first step led to a cascade of steps that led him to walk in courage and bold confidence.  He started concretely applying his faith in God and God responded by giving him more.  God was stirred to action and stirred to provide for Jonathan and his armor bearer because these two courageous men were concerned about His honor.  God is a sucker for people with faith.  We see it in the lives of Abram and the prophets.  God is willing to act powerfully to help those who are responding in obedience and faith to His commands.  This is personal for me today because we have been discussing and planning for fall ’11 outreach in Davis.  The ministry has grown and changed even in the past 2 years I have been gone.  Karen and I will be with A2F which is relatively small new group that is called to reach the UCD campus.  I don’t want to respond in fear and hesitation but rather I want to take the faith I have and act in obedience to reach this campus.  I am challenged by P. Manny’s outreach workshop that reminded me that I should never give up and never give in.  I need to take the concrete steps with the faith I have today so that I can stretch and grow in confidence that God can bring the victory whether by many or few.

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Submitted by Lauren Kwon, Gracepoint Berkeley

1 Samuel 14:1-23

Reflect on the very bleak situation facing the Israelites before Jonathan acts, and what happened after he acted.  What might people have felt regarding God’s power and presence before Jonathan acted?

In 1 Samuel 13, the Israelites were grossly outnumbered and quaking with fear. On the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear. Some of the men had fled and morale was very low. By all human calculations, the Israelites were in a dire situation. The people might have felt that God had left them, especially given God’s rejection of Saul for his disobedience. And even if God were with them, perhaps God was not powerful enough to act on their behalf against their enemies the Philistines. This is evidenced by the fact that Ahijah who was wearing an ephod seem to be a non-factor even though as priest he could have called on the Lord for help.

How is it that just two people ended up turning the situation around so radically? It’s amazing that just two people ended up turning the situation around. It all started when Jonathan challenged the status quo – who are these uncircumcised fellows to oppose the Lord! “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” Jonathan brought God into the picture. This is such a contrast to his father Saul’s response in chapter 13 when he felt compelled because his men were scattering, Samuel had not arrived, and he feared the Philistines. Even though there were only two people, because Jonathan factored in God’s presence with them and that God could not be hindered, the equation completely changed. Jonathan saw that the odds were stacked against the Philistines.

By testing to see how the Philistines would respond when Jonathan and his armor bearer showed themselves, Jonathan was asking God for a sign. And based on the sign God gave him, Jonathan confidently declared the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel. And Jonathan took immediate action to attack the Philistines. The situation turned so radically because Jonathan sought God and when God responded Jonathan acted in faith and obedience. He did not focus on the situation at hand, but rather on how God was leading him.

What does this show about God, about obstacles, and about how I should interpret bleak situations? What do I need to learn from Jonathan?
God wants to bring about his will in our lives. God wants to save people from sin, he wants to set us free from bondage to strongholds, he wants to lead our church. But God is waiting for us to seek after his heart, to call on him, trust and obey his commands. When Jonathan trusted God and attacked the Philistines, God sent a panic attack against the whole Philistine army, and the Lord rescued Israel that day. God is ready to move forward in faster and amazing ways. He wants to use each one of us and our church to reach out to all the college campuses with the message of the gospel. But he chooses to work through the trust and obedience of people who are after his heart. As we have been discussing the book, “Satan and his kingdom” I realize Satan wants me to look at my obstacles, failures and sins, to project a bleak outcome, to tremble in fear at my lack of resources, to lose sight of God, to become paralyzed and disobey God. Again I am reminded that when I encounter obstacles or stubborn sin issues in my own life, or in the lives of people I’m ministering to, I need to challenge the status quo by the fact that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few”. I need to look at the wealth of resources that God’s given me – God’s presence, his calling, his power to save, his people. And I need to obey by persevering in difficult situations, doing the hard work of repentance and forming godly habits, obeying God’s commands and trusting God with future outcomes, whatever they may be.
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