Happy weird week between Thanksgiving and December 1st! Maybe you’ve been more productive than I have, but I’ve treated it like the calm before the storm. I didn’t even do Cyber-Monday shopping like I normally do, opting instead to grab my dog and go play outside. Pretty sure I was trying to stay far, far away from the overflowing laundry after a great time with family last week.
But taking time to reset was good. I’ve needed to prepare mentally and spiritually for Christmas and to allow God to remind me not to lose sight of Him in the midst of the busyness. I’ve gotten the biggest soul boost from Him this week from the most un-Christmasy Bible passage you could imagine.
Contained in 1 Chronicles 11-12 is one of those long lists of names that’s easy to skip over and thus miss the cool details tucked into it. The two chapters describe King David’s army of mighty warriors. They were a far cry from the motley crew who joined him in his early days. As the young man God appointed to become Israel’s next king, David was forced to flee for his life from the murderous King Saul. First Samuel 22:2 describes the initial four hundred who joined him at his wilderness stronghold like this: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander.” How would you like to manage THAT team?
However, over the years God developed David’s men and brought other skilled, valiant warriors into the ranks to help him fight against Israel’s enemies and establish his kingdom. According to 1 Chronicles 11:11, they “gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised” (NIV) or as the Message version puts it, they were “the ones who linked arms with him” to get the job done.
So why does that matter to us as we head into December? If you’re like me, the holly jolly month can be hugely distracting with its emphasis on getting the right gifts, creating perfect events, and closing out business and personal goals. We can start feeling a lot like that rag-tag band that first followed David: distressed, in debt, and discontented! We forget that as Christ-followers we’re valiant warriors who’ve been called to link arms with our King as He accomplishes His purposes.
Yep, you heard me: You and I are warriors on a mission to extend Christ’s “peace on earth, goodwill to all people” (Luke 2:14), and that hasn’t changed just because our Christmas to-do list will soon be longer than that two-chapter’s worth of names.
So let me give you three characteristics I discovered from David’s warriors that I hope will encourage us both to finish 2018 strongly:
1. Warriors distinguish themselves by their bravery and daring on behalf of their king. The 1 Chronicles passage describes several exploits of the mighty men, but those feats of derring-do had meaning because they were done in service to their king. You and I may not be called to kill three hundred enemies with a spear or climb down into a pit to take out a lion like some of David’s big, scary, special-forces dudes, but we are called to something. Being brave and courageous means we step out and do what Christ has called us to do, even if it’s hard or thankless or doesn’t look at all like another friend’s calling. THAT makes us mighty warriors on God’s honor roll. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That means that if God prompts you to push back against the culture of busyness and spend time loving on your own sweet family, you do it. If He nudges you to give someone a few bucks and a reminder that they aren’t alone, you do it. Be brave in trusting Him for your needs. Be daring in loving other people.
2. Warriors know the lay of the land but also see beyond the here and now. One particular group of soldiers was commended because they “understood the times and what Israel should do” (11:32). They were wise and used their practical understanding to benefit the whole kingdom. Another warrior was moved by the spirit of God to affirm David as king and remind him and everyone else that God was the one calling the shots (11:18). We, too, need to cultivate spiritual sensitivity and an understanding of the times as we interact with family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends heading into Christmas. My challenge to myself may be one you want to try, too: I’m spending a few moments each morning praying specifically for two or three people as the Holy Spirit puts them on my mind, jotting down the prayers in my journal and where it makes sense, reaching out to them. Did a friend lose a loved one in the past year? The holidays can be brutal, and knowing that you remember her loss will be a blessing. Is a co-worker far from his family and not sure how to “do” Christmas this year? Perhaps he’d like to have dinner and attend Christmas Eve services with your family. People are lonely, lost, and searching for answers. We have an opportunity to reach them with kindness and love.
3. Warriors resolve to stand firm on the battle line. Several times David’s men are commended for their expertise with weapons and their fighting ability, but I love how those from the Zebulon tribe are described: 50,000 “experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty” (11:33). They had devoted hearts. They knew the objective and refused to be distracted or diverted from their purpose. This would have been especially important in battle formation where victory hinges on holding a position and refusing to be pushed back by the enemy. Where are you likely to be “pushed back” this season? Two big areas for so many of us are perfectionism that tries to block us from extending grace to ourselves or others and anxiety that creeps in to rob us of joy. We can draw up some battle plans even now to stand firm through the power of God’s word. Fellow warriors, let’s remember from Ephesians 6:13 that “having put on the full armor of God…we will be able to stand our ground” and from Philippians 4:19 that “God shall meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” We can remind each other that we’ve linked arms with the Prince of Peace Himself and that His “peace that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds” as we bring every concern to Him in prayer (Phil 4:7). That’s how we battle back.
Finally, I can’t help but notice that for all the individual successes of David’s warriors, the true victory was in their combined strength to support their leader and roll out God’s plans for the kingdom. It’s easy to become isolated when things get busy–even in the midst of Christmas parties and events, we can feel alone in a crowd. Let’s resolve to seek out a few of our fellow warriors in the days to come and build each other up. That will go a long way in making Christmas merry and bright.
Photo by Dieter de Vroomen on Unsplash