Tag Archives: purpose

Authentic :: Jonathan

When I was little I had a BFF. Or so I thought. As it turned out, she wasn’t so much of a BFF as she was a BF whenever it was convenient. And it was convenient when we were 7 and lived close to one another and had similar interests. But she became a cheerleader as soon as middle school hit—she was popular and beautiful and had no interest in me and my nerdy self, unless it was to toss me up in the air in a cheerleading stunt and hope I didn’t break on the way down. It wasn’t a wise choice, but sometimes when we really want to fit in and be like the “cool kids”, we’ll do anything short of throwing ourselves into lava pits. Sometimes though, I think the lava pit would be more forgiving.

Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

As I grew older, I learned what a real BFF looked like. Friendship is a lot like love, it’s patient, kind, giving (see I Corinthians 13, really not just for marriage!)—it’s not selfish and it certainly doesn’t value popularity over people. The most important lesson I have learned about friendship is that friends help you grow. And best friends help you work to improve your flaws rather than simply judging your imperfections. Life is short and hard, and God didn’t intend for us to live it on our own. He means for us to live in relationship with others, which is why Jesus had circles of friends. I mean, look at the trinity itself—we are made in God’s image and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in tandem and in communion. We are meant to do the same. To build something that will far outlast the length of our days here on earth. Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

Losing a Legacy

We remember Jonathan not as a great ruler but as the best friend of David, future King of Israel. Jonathan is friendship, and if we pay attention we can learn to be (and have) great friends too.

In 1 Samuel 14: 49 & 13:1-3 we see Jonathan establishing his legacy as a military leader under his father’s command. The text tells us Saul is a young man (between 30-40 years old) at the time of this raid, so Jonathan must be in his teens, probably no more than 15-18, yet he is already in charge of a military unit.

While it was customary for young men to be a part of the military during their teenage years, in order to be established as a respected leader, they would have to have been born with significant charismatic qualities. Even a prince had to prove himself worthy of such a role among a militant culture. 

Right after this raid, Saul makes a big boo-boo. He gets impatient when waiting for Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, and offers up the burnt sacrifice to the Lord, which sounds great. He’s super religious, right? Well, not exactly. According to God’s law, Saul, a Benjaminite, should have waited for a Levite, Samuel, to offer these burnt sacrifices up. Take a look at Leviticus 1 for more of the law regarding this. Beyond this break of protocol, Saul’s heart was not really in the right place. He offered the sacrifices, not because he believed the Lord was on their side and would provide. Not as a way to thank the Lord for his graciousness and favor. And not even as a way to appease the Lord. No, Saul saw his army scatter and realized they would see him as a weak leader. So he offered these sacrifices as a way to make himself look better and convince the men to continue to follow him

Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

1 Samuel 13:22-14:23 returns to Jonathan, who must have heard the proclamation of Samuel who has just informed Saul his kingdom will not last. As such, his father’s mistakes have cost Jonathan the throne. One day he knew the exact direction his life was headed, and the next moment everything is completely up in the air. 

But that doesn’t stop him. Jonathan has a job to do. They are in the midst of a war and they are severely outnumbered. The army is weaponless. and yet, he confidently asserts that the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (vs. 12b). With only his brave armor bearer as back up (and this armor bearer actually follows him. Definitely seeing some of the charisma) he goes into the Philistine camp and kills some twenty men in an area of about half an acre (v. 14)–totally William Wallacing the whole lot of them. 

Saul sees the apparent chaos caused by God and led by his son, and first tries to hide behind the ark, then rallies the troops and goes into battle. Confidence shaken, we can already see how leadership is transferring out of his hand and into those who have more faith–his son and then later, David. 

Questioning Leadership

1 Samuel 14:24-43  reveals a lot of family dynamics and motivation. Saul pronounces a curse on whoever should break his, rather stupid, oath. Curses have real power and are directly connected to the actions of people. Well, okay, but what is a curse? According to GraceLife Church’s Grow Spirit Life, “A curse is a binding agreement [contract] in the spiritual realm which results from some form of disobedience to God’s word. The EFFECT or FRUIT of that agreement in our lives is called a CURSE. The curse will function like a barrier or limitation” (49). The results of Saul’s impulsive declarations are clear throughout the text, all the way to Jonathan and Saul’s deaths in 1 Samuel 31. Curses are real, but thanks to Jesus and God’s grace, they can be broken. Consider this:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 

Galatians 3:13-14

There are 5 main sources of curse: Generational sin/curses, occult involvement, disobedience, unholy/symbolic things, spoken curses (if you are interested in learning more, I recommend participating in the Grow Spirit Life group led by Pastor Jimmy at GraceLife). So Saul’s pronunciation is no joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly, by anyone in his army. 

While Saul does not make a particularly wise decision in bounding his men to an oath not to eat all day before an important battle, Jonathan also makes a mistake. First, he does not communicate well with his father, who is also his commander. This lack of communication leads to his tasting the honey and bring the curse down upon himself and the men. Second, he questions his commander/father’s decisions in verse 29. Although I agree with Jonathan’s assertion and judgment of his father’s decisions, making the comment to his men–who are also under Saul’s authority–shows a lack of wisdom on Jonathan’s part. Where he should be helping to build unity among the men, his comments breed disunity and the discord can be poisonous should it start to spread.

Like most teenagers, Jonathan doesn’t always agree with the decisions his father makes. Interestingly, we don’t see him openly rebel against his father, but we do see him question his father’s choices. There is a time and a place for us to question people who have been placed in authority over our lives. It’s not always wrong to question a leader’s decisions, but we have to be careful in how we go about this process. Talking to others, gossiping and grumbling only brings discord whereas open and honest communication with our leaders can sometimes bring about change. God wants us to stand up for what is right and good, but he wants us to do it the right way, not our own way. 

Building a new Legacy

In 1 Samuel 15 Saul makes his biggest boo-boo of all. God gives him a command: Now go up, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them […] (vs.3). But Saul doesn’t listen; he kept the King alive, he kept some sheep and cattle, and he set up a monument to himself. And, he doesn’t even realize what a major jerkface he is being! 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 spells out the real problem: Saul thought he knew better (and was better) than God. His punishment: God rejects him as king, His spirit left him, and he would live a troubled life from here on out. Furthermore, his legacy would end and be given over to a new dynasty. Unfortunately, that is bad news for Jonathan too, because home slice just officially and irrevocably lost his claim to the throne.

As we continue to read, in 1 Samuel 18: 1-4 Saul’s been rejected by the Lord, which unfortunately means Jonathan has too.  There is some debate about exact ages of these men at this point, but after doing a lot of research, I pitch my tent in the theological camp that suggests David was about 18 when he met Jonathan, who was about 29.

Why? Because of the way Jonathan reacts to this young man who is taking the place he always thought would be his. He saw David slay Goliath, and perhaps it reminds him of a time when he believed he could do the same. Perhaps he remembers the time he pulled a Braveheart on the Philistines and trusted in the Lord. He sees himself in this young David, but even more, he does not see his father with whom he has been at odds since his own youth. He looks at this man anointed by God and became one in spirit with David and loved him as himself (vs. 1). It takes maturity and an awful lot of life experience and faith to allow someone to take your place and to do it with a gracious heart and a thankful spirit. 

Instead of being bitter and resentful, Jonathan chooses to embrace this shift and pour his heart into helping young David be the man God wants him to be. He chooses to listen to God and believe God knows what is best, even if it is a disappointment to himself. 

Unfortunately at this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Jonathan has to pick a side: his father or his friend. And we see that it wasn’t much of a choice. 1 Samuel 19-20 develops the relationship and shows that Jonathan chooses David–he chooses faith and God and life over the death and destruction that now seems to follow and plague his father. 

Jonathan is proof that even the strongest human needs good friends. In David’s case, Jonathan literally saved his life at least twice, but our friends can be lifesavers too if they are operating within the God-given purpose of community. Friends bring accountability and encouragement–both of which help us to function in the purpose God has set for us. In Genesis 2:18 God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, clearly, we are made for community. Yes, this pronunciation was made before God created his helper, Eve, but I think it is applicable to friendship too. Spouses offer one kind of encouragement and accountability, but friends offer another level. Even Jesus had friends. Same-gendered, multi-generational friends offer different kinds of support that help us seek and pursue God’s purpose for our lives. But it works both ways; to have good friends, you must be a good friend and once you find your people, you know. Friendship is active. So, get going. 

Finding your Purpose

Some people are blessed enough to discover their purpose early on. others have a little more searching to do before their purpose becomes clear. Some people think they know their purpose only to discover later they never really had a clue. And for some, their purpose changes throughout their lives. Suddenly. Without warning. Completely transforming their lives.

Some accept their purpose.

Some run from it.

Others fear it.

Regardless, we all have a purpose. 

I was a very morose teenager. You know Eeyore?  We would have been best buddies. As such, I wondered on a pretty regular basis why God spoke to others and not to me? I drew the conclusion, falsely, that he must play favorites.  After all, how did one get chosen to be a favored disciple? There must have been hundreds of Jewish boys in the area when Jesus began his ministry, so what was so special about these 12?  In my mind, they must have done something to earn the favor and pleasure of God. It was the only thing that made sense. None of them were particularly smart (Jesus literally had to pull them aside and explain the allegory in his stories). They had average jobs, at bets–some below average (I mean, come on, no little kid dreams of growing up to be a tax collector, Matthew!) They weren’t a bunch of hot studs who made up the first boy band (at least I don’t recall hordes of women and girls following them and screaming when they flashed a dimpled grin their way).

So God did play favorites.

Um. No.

The more I grow in my faith and the older I get, the clearer it becomes that God is not playing favorites. He chooses those for great purpose whom he knows will choose to listen to his voice (with the exception of maybe Jonah, who chose to go in the opposite direction when he heard the call, but that’s a story for another day).

Those who chose to accept their purpose, those called by God, those who listened and obeyed, they received great favor from God, sure. They also experienced great heartache and did not live lives of peace. They had HARD, blessed, purposeful lives.

So what does this mean for us? For you and me in this life filled with distractions that threaten to snuff out our purpose before we can even fulfill it? I think it means 3 things:

  1. We must be willing
  2. We must be ready
  3. We must be disciplined

___________________________________________________________________________

We must be willing

___________________________________________________________________________

When Jesus called the 12 disciples, he didn’t wait around for them to make pro-con lists.  He didn’t let them go home and ask for permission or discuss it with family, friends and mentors.

He called.

They went.

Mark 1: 18-20 is clear Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired me and followed him.”  (NIV)

Jesus knew who was willing…he singled them out. He called. They went. No questions asked.

___________________________________________________________________________

We must be ready

___________________________________________________________________________

Not everyone is ready when God calls them to a purpose. It’s a sad fact of life. I mentioned Jonah earlier.

Jonah 1:1-3a reads: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. 

God called. He fled.

In Matthew 19:16-22 a wealthy young man sees himself as a successful leader. A good man. He has kept all the commandments and set himself up as a leader in the community. Then he asks Jesus what else he must do. Jesus tells him in verse 21 If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 

Notice this is the same command he gave to his disciples–and they weren’t all poor. Tax collectors, for example, were notoriously wealthy and corrupt. Yet this young man “went away sorrowful” in verse 22; he wasn’t ready.

Fortunately, God can redeem our purpose even when we rebel. Jonah may have spent 3 days as fish food, but his purpose was fulfilled in the end. The young man chose not to give his all for Jesus, but at any point, he could have changed his mind and Jesus would have accepted him on the spot.

We have to be ready when Jesus calls. We have to be ready to go. We have to be ready for our lives to change radically.

We have to be ready.

___________________________________________________________________________

We have to be disciplined

___________________________________________________________________________

Being willing and ready is actually the easy part, believe it or not. Being disciplined. That’s the tough part. To be disciplined you must be trained. You must be controlled.

How?

Just like a soldier must be in shape, we also must be physically trained. We must treat our bodies like the temples they are, putting as many good things in as we can and saying no to as many harmful things as possible. In today’s world with ready access to harmful images and music, and shows–a simple drive to the grocery store to fill up the cart with junk food, or a quick trip the drive thru (#guiltyascharged), is not a disciplined life choice. I’m not saying you need to be ready to run a 5k (but kudos to you if you choose that route), but I am saying that discipline is not always fun, but to fulfill our purposes we must learn what is good for us and what will end us in the belly of a fish for three days (metaphorically speaking, of course). Because once you are swallowed, you have to work your way through a lot of yuck.

BUT

You can make your way through the yuck to the other side of grace with a little bit of discipline.

___________________________________________________________________________

Living in your purpose is not an easy task, but it’s what we are ALL created to do–whether we know specifically what that is or not.

God doesn’t play favorites, but he does show favor to those who are willing, ready and disciplined.

Are you?

More than This Provincial Life

I’ve often found myself making a very similar claim to that of the Disney bookworm–the provincial daughter of a Parisian suburb. Perhaps it stems from growing up in a town you could fold into a paper airplane and send halfway across the country. Perhaps it is my naturally inquisitive nature. Perhaps its the introspection or purposelessness that accompanies life in a small town. Or perhaps it is because deep down we all  long for more than a simple, provincial life.

We want lives that mean something.

We need lives of legacy.

Unfortunately in the mundane of everyday life this innate longing often gets pushed aside…

stamped down…

doused.

So we settle for the provincial, assuming that our life at it’s best is the greatest it will ever be. Ignoring the fact that our full potential is just around the corner.

And we never leave the legacy God created for us.

So how do we pick ourselves out of the feeling of insignificance? This small town proclivities and achieve greatness?

Great question.

Honestly, I stink at it, because it STARTS with WHO is in control. If I don’t want to stay in my ‘provincial life’ it all comes down to three things. I must…

  1. Step down
  2. Step back
  3. Step up

Yeah, I know. That’s so easy, right? Wrong. It’s easy in theory, harder in practice!

  1. Step down: In order for God to steer me out of my comfort zone, I have to actually hand over control to God. For a control freak like myself, this is not easy. It’s a DAILY struggle. Just when I think I’m good and God has the reigns, I see a bump, scream and grab for them again. In case you were wondering–wrestling with God over steering mechanisms is exhausting. And fruitless. Unless the right person is in control, you’ll never get ANYWHERE. At least you won’t get far, and definitely not out of the province that is so unfulfilling. Since I stole the title of this from my favorite Disney film, I’ll use an example from the film. Belle wanted more, but until she actually let go of her old life, she wasn’t able to embrace her new one. You have to step down for God to step up.
  2. Step back: If you thought getting out of the control seat was hard, wait till you recognize you must also step back. When you look at a Monet painting up close all you see is a blur of color. Meaningless. Ridiculous even. Then you step back. Suddenly those colors become beautiful flowers. Meaningful. To understand our purpose and legacy we have to step back and look at our lives and those who surround us from a different perspective. When we shift the way we look at things and we step back, God is able to open your eyes and mind to the beauty of the mundane. And even help you create meaning from something you believed purposeless or even dead. He’s a master artist–sometimes we just need to step back and the picture becomes clear.
  3. Step up: This sounds counter-intuitive. We just stepped down, why would we step up again? Here’s the thing. ‘Up’ doesn’t mean that we take control back. We’re not getting back on the pedestal. Instead, we are stepping up and recognizing the responsibility we have to follow God into our own legacy. We give Him control, we change our perspective and then we act. Action always needs to come LAST though, because if we act on our own accord we become like Sarah, taking the reigns into our hands and created bigger problems than we solved. Abraham was promised a son, so Sarah–feeling old and purposeless–gave her husband a new wife and birthed a whole nation set up in opposition to the nation God promised her. Sibling rivalry at its finest. Sarah’s heart was in the right place, but she did it backward. She tried to step up first, and that never works.

Step down, step back, and step up.

God never said life would be easy, but he did promise us lives that would be meaningful. There is more than this provincial life. But you have to step down, step back, and step up if you want to reach your full potential.

Fight for It: My journey through Psalms (60-64)

Each of us has a purpose here in this crazy fallen world, but that doesn’t make it our right. We have to fight for it; fight for the right to live purposefully for Jesus. Not once, not even just weekly, but day by day.

Personally I fight an internal battle for whether or not I’m going to engage with the world or bolt, emotionally withdrawing into myself. To be completely honest with you, this post is an excellent example. I began writing it a couple of weeks ago. Then stopped. I thought about returning to it, but then something else would come up and I put it off again. The truth is, I had time to write it. Plenty of time. I just didn’t want to because I was stressed and looking for an escape (Netflix binges–yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is my Achilles heel and I indulge with excuses of ‘but I don’t watch much TV…but what is much? And so I have turned off the TV and tuned back into my purpose driven life).

Here’s the thing about God. he knows our innermost thoughts. He knows what we really need even if we are too busy running and hiding to see it ourselves.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will never be shaken (62:2)img_page_1_58440c09ebd42

The psalmist declares this and then repeats it verbatim in verse 4. I may not read a lot of poetry, but I know that when a poet repeats himself like this it is not unintentional. It is purposeful and emphatically pointing to the fact that he probably DOES feel pretty shaken.

Boy can I relate. I feel shaken any time I decide that investing in the world is just too hard.

Or when an unexpected bill shows up in the mail after I carefully balanced my budget.

Or when I pass someone on the streets looking broken and instead of compassion, my first response is contempt.

So here’s the thing about this poet. He feels shaken. Life took a turn he wasn’t expecting. His enemies are closing in. BUT he doesn’t speak fear and doubt over himself. Rather, he speaks truth. Honestly. Emphatically. Crying out to the Lord and reassuring himself that God, he will never forsake us.

That doesn’t make it easy. Actually, in many ways we have to remind ourselves that we can’t be complacent. We can’t assume that everything will be given to us on a silver platter. We have to fight for the right to live purposefully for Jesus (62:1).

And then accept what He offers.

-Shelter in his wings.

-Protection from the enemy

-Rest in Him.

Because no matter what we are fighting:

God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down (64:7)

The lies the enemy loves to tell, to spread and to embed in our minds (62:4) will be turned against him and he will be brought to ruin (64:8).

God has given each of us a purpose and the tools to fight and make his love, his being, and our purpose a true reality in this world.