Certainty In Uncertain Times

… Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf … The God we serve is able to save us from the furnace…but even if God does not save us… (1 Samuel 14:6 and Daniel 3:17-18).

We often remember and even hold in high regard those leaders who rise up in times of crisis or uncertainty. But I think we might be shocked if we knew exactly how scared these seemingly unflappable leaders actually were! 

The Philistines really had the Israelites on the ropes. Israel’s army was slowing melting away, as soldiers one by one were deserting and heading home. The Philistines had captured all of the sword-makers, so that there were only two swords left—one for King Saul and one for his son Jonathan. 

And to make matters even more desperate, the Philistines occupied all the strategic high ground, so that even if the Israelites were going to attempt an attack, they would have to scale the cliffs in order to do so.

For Jonathan, this situation was unbearable. So he said to his armor-bearer (keep in mind that this armor-bearer didn’t really have any armor to bear!), “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” And then he adds this line that probably didn’t instill too much confidence in anyone, “Perhaps the Lord will give us victory.” 

Perhaps?!

Many years later, when the nation of Israel was in exile in Babylon, three Jewish young men found themselves in a literal hot spot. King Nebuchadnezzar had built an enormous statue of himself and commanded that everyone bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been promoted into leadership positions in the capital city of Susa, so there was no hiding in the outreaches of the countryside for them. Their disobedience to the king’s command would make them stand out to everyone. The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his edict would be thrown into a fiery furnace. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God-fearing men and knew that they could not worship any other god except Yahweh. When the king confronted their disobedience, they also responded with words that didn’t sound very confident, “God can save us, but we’re not sure if He will save us. But even if He doesn’t, we’re not going to bend our knee.” 

If?!

“Perhaps” and “if” don’t sound like very confident words, do they? 

And yet these godly leaders were totally certain in their uncertain times. They weren’t certain of the outcome, but they were certain of God’s ability to bring the ultimate victory. Even in dark times of crisis, godly leaders are certain that God is greater than their uncertain circumstances. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who has a certain confidence in God even in an uncertain crisis.

Jonathan, and Shadrach, and Meshach, and Abednego would all tell us, “Whether God was going to give us victory in the moment of crisis or not, we will remain in God’s presence! We will not compromise. We will not give in to fear. We will not disobey God. We will continue to cling to Him—rescue or not—knowing that He will be glorified in whatever way He chooses to respond.” 

These young men teach an invaluable lesson for all of us even today: Trust God no matter how uncertain the times are. 

This is part 45 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

On Living In A [COVID-19] Age

In 1948, World War II had come to a close and the nuclear age had dawned. The Cold War was beginning to ratchet up and the fear of nuclear annihilation was gripping people’s hearts. 

In this environment, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled On Living In An Atomic Age. I have changed the word “atomic” for “COVID-19,” and I think you will see the relevance. 

In one way we think a great deal too much of the COVID-19 virus. “How are we to live in a COVID-19 age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the COVID-19 virus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the COVID-19 virus, let that virus when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

For Christians, I would urge you to think in ways in which I am certain C.S. Lewis would agree: 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) 

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12)

11 Quotes From “Peace In The Face Of Cancer”

This book is a MUST READ for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, or is a caregiver to someone with cancer. Lynn Eib’s Peace In The Face Of Cancer will give you insight and encouragement for your journey. Check out my book review by clicking here, and then enjoy a few quotes below.

“We always want people to give us the benefit of the doubt or cut us some slack, but we have to admit, it’s not always easy to do the same for others—especially when our world as been rocked by something as life-threatening as cancer. Our emotions are fragile, our bodies are hurting, and our spirits can be wounded easily. … Nevertheless, if we want to find peace in the face of cancer, sometimes we will have to hear people’s hearts and ignore their words (and perhaps their actions, too).”

“There is a much more reliable source of truth and good news no matter what you’re facing. I guarantee it has the kinds of hopeful words you will want to reverberate through your brain. That source is the Word of God. (For example: Psalm 119:28; Proverbs 1:33)

“God designed us to need each other and to be able to offer one another our talents, our gifts, our insights, and our special brand of encouragement. Please don’t let those differences become a wedge in your relationships. One of the primary ways satan discourages families and friends facing cancer is to get us at odds with one another. Don’t let that deceiver win.”

“Be a friend. Be a shoulder. Be a hugger. Be an asset. Please just be there and God will be there.

If you do this you will be the giver of the greatest gift a suffering friend needs—presence without fixing; love without an agenda.”

“The most loving thing you may do for your loved one today is to be good to yourself. … Do something to lift your spirits so afterward you can once again lift someone else’s.”

“Please don’t surrender to cancer. Even if it ultimately takes your life or your loved one’s life, you never have to become submissive to it. Cancer is not in charge. Those errant cells are not calling the shots. This disease is not in control. God is.”

“Quit searching for life’s Ctrl+Z button and stop pretending you could be in charge of it all. Go ahead and give up the control stick and declare with the psalmist, ‘My future is in Your hands’ (Psalm 31:15). Trust the only One who is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. He will lead you into all your tomorrows.”

“No matter what havoc cancer wreaks on your body, it does not have the final say. Those who have everlasting life never lose their battle with cancer because if God doesn’t take the cancer out of them on earth, He takes them out of the cancer and home to Heaven.” 

“Don’t fix your eyes on what is seen. Don’t fix them on pathology reports or CT scans or bloodwork or insurance bills or cancer statistics or anything else you can see. No matter what this life brings, fix your eyes on what is unseen.”

“Your purpose in life never changes. It is the same whether you or your loved one has a lot of cancer, a little cancer, or even no cancer. Your purpose in life—and mine—is to know God and love Him more, and to help others know God and love Him more.” 

I will be sharing more content from this phenomenal book soon. Stay tuned…

UnZone

UnZone

We kicked off our Bigger Than Me series last night talking about one of my favorite Bible stories where Jonathan and his armor-bearer pick a fight with the Philistines.

What I love about this story is the contrast between Jonathan and his father Saul. King Saul was enjoying life as the king, hanging out with his friends, sitting under a pomegranate tree, far away from his enemies. Life was good for Saul, life was familiar and risk-free. Saul was living in his comfort zone.

But the comfort zone is a lousy place to stay. In the comfort zone you only tell stories, but never live an adventure. In the comfort zone you only hear about what God has done for others. But Jonathan wasn’t willing to stay in this comfort zone.

Jonathan stepped out into The UnZone. He went into unfamiliar territory, with an unusual battle strategy, and uncertain results. Jonathan said, “Perhaps God will help us.” But he didn’t stop there. Jonathan quickly added, “I don’t know how, but I know God can come through.”

After Jonathan stepped out of his comfort zone into The UnZone, God not only gave him a victory, but encouraged the entire Israelite army. This never would have happened if Jonathan had stayed in his comfort zone.

In The UnZone you don’t just tell stories, you live adventures.

In The UnZone you don’t just hear about God’s power, you experience it firsthand.

I challenged our youth group last night to step out of their comfort zones and into The UnZone. How cool it was to see all of the uncomfortable, unfamiliar, uncertain, unusual things they wrote down on their UnZone cards and tacked up on our bulletin board. I’m looking forward to seeing our bulletin board covered with these cards over the next few weeks.

What about you? What comfort zone is God calling you out of? What UnZone do you need to step into? The Apostle Paul said, “When I am weak then I am strong.” In other words, “When I step into my UnZone, I step into God’s Strength Zone.”

The UnZone is a great place to live, so step out today.

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