One of my favorite expressions is, “There are no surprises in heaven.”
If you could spend time around me, you would know that I regularly remind myself of this when I have a need to place pressures and unexpected circumstances in their proper perspective. Like most of us, I tend to underestimate my own gifts and abilities. God has highly gifted each of us. We have a reservoir of God-given and God-supported capacity for handling the challenges and opportunities of the ministry He entrusted to us. However, we often fail to recognize our own potential. We neglect to look back on our past successes when they can offer us assurance that we are well able. David did just this when confronting his giant. 1 Samuel 17:34-36, He said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”
Now that is a winner’s attitude! David knew that with God’s help, he had the abilities necessary to win the battle before and he would now win this battle. Our attitudes and the ways we approach our giants is in our control, not in the control of what opposes us. In Verse 37 David declares, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David understood he could recall his experiences, remembering the faithfulness of God. In those times, when he faced seemingly impossible odds, God
enabled him to do what did not seem possible. When I think back on the difficult issues of my life and ministry, I find many instances when the grace and faithfulness of God gave me the ability to do what I should not have been able to do.
As you face your inevitable giants, you must look to the God-given abilities inherent within your own salvation. Christianity is a “can-do relationship.” The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:13, when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You can too! You serve the same God. You are a “can-do” Christian!
I have been thinking about the difficulties of pastoring in today’s complex society. Every pastor faces tough issues and decisions that accompany the call to pastoral service. It seems to me that having correct situational awareness and accurate discernment is vital for success. This kind of awareness and discernment is a combination of naturally endowed and supernaturally sourced wisdom. It is also a function of experience. I have found it can only be acquired through experience and practice. There seem to be no shortcuts to it. It takes work to be correct (at least most of the time). Success in ministry, then, requires a combination of these naturally and supernaturally endowed elements, along with a good dose of hard-nosed perseverance.
I will be sharing my thoughts on the elements of pastoral situational awareness and discernment with you in four brief essays. Each will deal with one of the vital understandings we need as leaders to make it through the challenges we all face. I will glean these thoughts from looking at King David’s life. He certainly dealt with many unexpected challenges to both his life and his leadership. I hope these thoughts will be helpful. I invite your comments.
First Thought: David Understood His Challenge
If anything characterizes leadership, it is its unexpected challenges. These can be either threats to our well-being or doors of opportunity to our lives, leadership and ministries. In many cases, the threats and opportunities are one in the same. Such was the case when David encountered Goliath. I am sure you know the story, from 1 Samuel, Chapter 17. When David looked into the valley, he saw what everyone else saw – a serious threat, a foreboding challenge. Goliath was giant of a man. He was menacing to behold. How could David manage and overcome such an intimidating, menacing threat? David’s situational awareness and discernment would influence him to either consider himself a victim… or a potential victor! He needed what others there seemed to lack – a correct understanding of the nature of his problem. His brothers and all the others saw the giant as an impossible obstacle. They accepted the inevitability of their defeat, should they confront him. They awarded Goliath his victory before the fight ever began. How often are we tempted to think that way?
Goliath was certainly an enormous threat. He was fully capable of killing whoever chose to come against him. This was a fact. It could not be denied. David, however, had an understanding based on his correct discernment of the moment, and his correct discernment of who He would walk into that valley with. He would not be alone. God would go with him. Yes, David recognized the reality of his challenge was not to be ignored. However, he also discerned that, with God as his Partner, he could find a way to turn this great obstacle standing before him into a giant stepping-stone to success. He knew that with God, all things were possible. The giant could… and the giant would fall!
You can have the same attitude as David, and get the same results with the giants in your life. One thing is sure, God is faithful and He will make a way. Take this attitude with you into the battle and use all He has put within you. Let Him order your thinking and He will order your steps, all the way to good success.