It was a morning like many others.  If you were to have stood on the edge of the cliff, you could see across the valley.  You could see the fog that was hovering in it, starting to fade away with the breaking of the dawn.  You could hear the fire from the night before starting to fizzle out.  On one side of the valley you could hear a pin drop.  Because everybody had scattered and gone away.  Everybody was on the run, hoping, just hoping, that another raid wasn’t coming their way.  But on the other side….  If you were to have stood and looked across on a clear morning, you would have seen an army.  You would have seen a people rising up, the clanking of newly-founded iron that was ready to be used for battle.  On one side, there was just cowering fear.  On the other side, there was a conviction that if they went to war, there was no way they were going to lose.

It made sense for the Israelites to cower in fear.  For 200 years, the Philistine armies had been decimating theirs. For 200 years, they heard the taunts from the Philistines that their god, Dagon, was more powerful, was more victorious, was bigger, stronger than Yahweh.  On top of it, the way that they worshiped him was to sacrifice babies, kids, by way of fire.  So if you were to stand that morning on one side of the valley with a clear view across, you saw the hints of confidence, of faith, of war, but on YOUR side, there was nothing!  Not a person to be seen.  They had left the edge of the cliff in hopes of finding some sort of solace hiding in a cave.  But it’s on THAT morning that Jonathan, the son of the newly crowned king, Saul, goes to the edge of the cliff, looks down, sees a sharp cliff-face in front of him and one staring back at him the other way.  It’s on THAT morning that he decides that instead of waiting for the battle to come to him, that he’s going to the battle.  It’s on THAT morning that he decides, “This is going to be my decisive moment! This is going to be my turning point.  I’m not just going to let life happen to me, I’m going to live life!”

1 Samuel 14:1-5.  One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.”  But he did not tell his father.  Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron.  The people who were with him were about six hundred men, including Ahijah the Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod.  And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.  Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side.  The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.  The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.   If you’re trying to picture in your mind what the geography might have looked like, this might help you out. {Ryan shows picture.} On one side, the side of Geba, you have the Israelite army.  On the side of Michmash, you have the Philistine army. The Philistines had advanced in their development of weaponry, far beyond anybody else in the region at the time. They’d perfected, for THAT time, the development of iron, which was far stronger than bronze.  Even the Israelite people had to go to the Philistines in order to buy their weapons.  If you’re at war with somebody, how likely are you to be to sell them weapons that they are going to use on YOU??  Unlikely.  Usually you don’t sell to your enemies!  The Philistines didn’t.  They were withholding iron from the Israelites.  The Israelites are cowering in fear.

Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, three words that change the course of his life — LET. US. GO.  Let us go. Let’s step into the gap.  Let’s step into the unknown.  Let’s step into the question marks.  Let’s step into the uncharted territory.  Let’s leave what’s safe, let’s leave what’s comfortable, let’s leave the place that we’ve been and the 600 ill-weaponed soldiers, and let’s step into this place of risk, this place of faith, this place of unknown.   See, it’s one of those defining moments, three defining words — Let us go.  In this series we’re going to be looking at the life of Jonathan, this passage actually, where Jonathan says, “I’m not just going to let life happen to me, I’m going to live the life that’s in front of me.”  Here’s what Jonathan knows, and here’s what you know somewhere deep down inside — Existing is a given.  If you’re taking a breath right now, you are existing. Existing is a given, but living is a choice.  Jonathan, on this morning—this morning that was like any other morning, decides, “I’m no longer willing to just exist, but I want to live, I need to live the life that God has for me.”  My hope is that maybe God would stir something in us this morning as we look at this series called “Stretch,” over the next few weeks, where we ask God to stretch us, to grow us.  Sometimes He invites us to this place of just getting fed up with making it through a day as our goal.  And to say back to God, “God, I long for you to do more.  I long to not just have breath in my lungs, but to have a reason for the breath in my lungs.”

If you were to fast forward to the New Testament, there are two primary words that we translate ‘life.’  One of those is the word ‘bios.’  It’s where we get our word biology.  The other word is the word ‘zoe.’  Bios literally means the physical life that you have.  But the word zoe is the spiritual life.  That’s the life that makes the breath you take worth taking.  The Bible talks about both.  In Acts 17:28, Paul at the Areopagus says:  In him we live (bios) and move and have our being.   John, one of Jesus’s disciples and friend, writing about Jesus after he had died and resurrected and ascended to heaven, says: In him, in Jesus, we life, we zoe, we become real, alive people to the gift that God’s given us in walking his good earth.   In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)   Jesus says in John 10:10 — The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life (zoe) and have it abundantly.  That they may have the kind of life that makes life worth living.  The kind of life that has meaning.  The kind of life that has purpose.  And that they’d have it to the full.

If we were to look through the pages of history, we would see the kind of people who sought this kind of life. This kind of zoe.  Who refused to settle for just breathing, but needed a reason for it and wanted to make something of it.  We could look at 1508, where Michelangelo’s commissioned by the pope to start painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  For four years he paints, on scaffolding, above his head, a beautiful masterpiece. We could look at 1518, where sailors set out for Spain and are the very first group of people to circumnavigate the entire globe.  We could look at Lewis and Clark, in 1804, leaving Missouri and heading to the west, traveling 8,000 miles, up and down, dragging canoes over mountains.  Why?? Because existing is okay and it’s necessary, but zoe, living, that’s what God designed us for.  You look at Thomas Edison in 1878.  He decides he’s going to figure out a way to create a light bulb.  First, he figured out nine thousand ways NOT to create it, then he created it over a year later. In July 20, 1969, people watched in absolute awe as a person took their very first step on the moon—-221,000 miles away from the face of the earth.  Why??  Because we know that existing is necessary, but living is what we’re designed for.  Living is what God has put us on this planet for.  You and I, we all have this choice that’s staring us in the face every single day of our lives — are we going to settle for pure and mere existence?  Or are we going to chase zoe?  Are we going to pursue life?  The life that God has designed us to live.

The pages of Scripture are littered with people who decide, “We’re choosing life,” and others who settle for existence.  Choices, THAT choice, not only charts the path of the narrative of Scripture, but it charts the path of the narrative of history, and {will you look up at me for a second?} it charts the path of your life.  That question, that ONE question—Are we going to choose to just survive or are we going to choose to live?  It was the choice that Jonathan made.  I think if we were to go around this room, we would all say, “Paulson, of course we want to zoe.  We want to really live.  We want that kind of life that’s the light of the human soul.”  But the reality is many of us make decisions on a daily basis that put us further and further away from that type of life. So here’s what I want to do—over the next few weeks, I want to dive into THIS story and I want to ask questions about the life of Jonathan that might help us identify how does he choose this kind of life, and how can we be the type of people who choose it along with him?

Verse 1 — One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go…. Three words that change this interaction forever.  Let us go.  His dad Saul has made a really bad decision, if you go back and read chapter 13.  He’s just decided he’s not going to listen to Samuel the prophet of the Lord.  He didn’t wait for him to offer a sacrifice to God.  He did it himself.  He was told in no uncertain terms, “Your kingdom will not last.”  Saul shrinks back.  Saul decides, “If the Philistines are going to come, let them come.” If they’re going to decimate us, let them decimate us.  He decides that a bad decision should be followed by indecision, and he just waits.  Jonathan goes to his armor-bearer and he makes this decision, this choice, to step into the gap of the unknown.  Let’s step into the gap of risk.  Let’s step into this gap of faith.  You’ll notice, if you read through this passage of Scripture, that in no place does Jonathan suggest “God told me to go.”  He just sees the opportunity and decides he cannot sit back and let it pass.  He chooses to combat inactivity with initiative.  That’s what people who choose life do.  They refuse to just let life come to them.  They’re not people who have the tattoo “Let Go and Let God.”  No one in Scripture has that tattoo!  None of the early followers of Jesus had the perspective just let go and let God.  They were ferocious about seizing the moments and the opportunities that were in front of them and making the most of them.  The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, says it like this:  Look carefully then how you walk, {how you live} not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)   Making the best use—literally in the Greek it’s the idea of buying back or redeeming the time, the kairos.  It’s this idea of opportunity that’s right in front of us.  {Will you look up at me for just a moment?}  As a community of faith, as we start to wrestle with what does it look like to be faithful to God….what does it look like to live as a disciple?  Living as a disciple and living faithful to God is not simply avoiding sin.  It’s embracing opportunity.  It’s taking responsibility and stewardship of the things that are in front of us.  Whether it’s opportunity with how we use our time.  Maybe it’s opportunity with how we use our influence or our resources.  Maybe it’s just opportunity with how we cultivate the soul that God has given us and the world that he’s planted us in. Jonathan Edwards, one of the great early preachers in the church in the Americas, said it like this in his resolutions that he wrote at the age of 20 in his journal:  “I resolve never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”  You wonder how somebody, before the Internet, writes volumes and volumes and volumes of deep theology….that’s how.  I’m not wasting a moment….   I’m buying it back.  I’m redeeming as much of it as I can.

But we all know those kairos moments are hard to capture, aren’t they?  Time has this way of moving!  Have you noticed this?  It’s impossible to stop it.  That’s the hard part of stepping into a kairos moment.  We need to be ready for the opportunities that come our way, because once they’re gone, sometimes they’re gone.  The hard part is we’d love to stop time.  We all know that we can’t.   Every once in a while, after Aaron is done rendering our video of our sermon, he’ll send me a still picture of me preaching.  It’s always a reminder that it’s impossible to stop time and you look pretty dumb when you try.  {Ryan shows a few slides.}  It’s hard to stop time, isn’t it? It’s impossible to stop time, which is the difficult part of seizing the moments in front of us and taking initiative. We wish we could hit STOP, PAUSE, or TIMEOUT; now let’s figure out what to do.  We can’t do that, we just need to be ready.  A lot of us, get stuck in these moments, don’t we?  U2, a number of years ago, wrote a song called Stuck in a Moment.   Here’s what the chorus of the song is:  “You’ve got to get yourself together. You’ve got stuck in a moment, and now you can’t get out of it.  Don’t say that later will be better.  Now you’re stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it.”

Isn’t it true that while we can’t stop time, we get stuck in it sometimes?  Maybe it’s a decision we made in the past and we just keep revisiting it, and it prevents us from moving forward.  Or maybe it’s this fear of failure that prohibits us from stepping into the kairos, the opportunities, that God brings our way.  There’s a lot of ways we get stuck in the moment.  Maybe it’s vision.  We just don’t have a vision for how God might be calling to leave one side of the mountain, to walk down into the valley, and to climb up the other side.  Maybe we just don’t have any clue how we could step into zoe instead of just settling only for bios.  Here’s the deal—when we fail to choose, we choose to fail.  You may have heard that before.  When we fail to choose, when we fail to step into the moment, we are choosing to say, “God, I don’t believe that you can work in this situation, and I don’t believe that you can use my life for anything great.”  When we fail to choose, we choose to fail.  So here’s my question—Is there a conversation that you’re just waiting to come to you that you know you need to have? Is there a decision that you need to make, that’s just been staring at you that’s on the horizon and that you know…..inactivity vs. initiative.  The Spirit of God is saying to you, “You’ve got to step into that moment.” What is it?  How might He be calling you?

Here’s what Jonathan does.  He chooses initiative over inactivity.  Here’s the next thing he does.  If you read through the story, and I’d encourage you to do so, Jonathan has a lot of people putting information into his life. He’s got his father who’s just been anointed and crowned as king, who’s made a bad decision and is cowering in fear.  He’s as far away from the battle as he can possibly be.  His response to doing something wrong is to do nothing at all.  Let’s just sit back, wait, and see what happens.  He’s surrounded by a number of people—they’re priests in the nation of Israel, but if you go back and start at the beginning of First Samuel, what you’ll figure out is that they’re priests that have been cast off by God, because they were unfaithful.  So the input he’s getting in his life is from this cohort of priests who are identified by one person who’s listed in the midst of this. His name is Ichabod, which literally means the glory has departed.  It’s left.  That’s who Saul is.  Certainly Saul puts her arm around his son Jonathan and feeds him information.  He also has the clanging cymbals of the war that is waiting for him with the Philistines’ iron batting up against itself.  He’s got that.

It’s interesting that when we read this we see that Jonathan leaves the camp.  He not only leaves the camp physically, but he leaves the input of Saul.  He leaves the covering of Saul.  He leaves the information of Saul to go and to chart his own course.  Here’s what he says (v. 6-7):  Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.  It may be that the Lord will work for us…  {Notice, Jonathan doesn’t have a command from God.  He doesn’t have a promise from God.  He just knows God. He knows God’s able.  He doesn’t know if God will come through for him in the way that he hopes, he just knows that nothing’s going to hinder Him.  He can do whatever He wants.  If He wants to save me, well then, great.  If not….well, bummer.  That’s where Jonathan’s at.} …for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”  And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart.  Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”  Here’s what Jonathan does.  He not only choose initiative, he chooses his input.  He chooses what information he takes in and what information he builds the foundation of his life upon. {Slide: Choose to filter the input you receive.}

The information we accept will always determine the decisions we make.  When I first got here almost five years ago, I was on fire.  I was lit up.  I was stepping out of a healthy church and a vibrant ministry and I was just so excited about what God was going to do in the life of South Fellowship Church.  We’ve seen him do a great thing, make no mistake about it.  But over the last five years, I’ve gotten beat up a little bit, my family’s been through some difficult things, our church has been through some really difficult things.  Somewhere along the way, I started listening to the voices that said to me, “You can’t think that big anymore.  You can’t dream that big anymore.”  We’ll sort of be this mid-size, small church and God might do something great through that, but you can’t have those dreams that are out on the horizon that are bigger than what you see in front of you. And I’m here today to stand before you and repent.  And to say, “I’m convinced that the God who’s for us is greater than the enemy who’s against us.”  I’m convinced that God has a future for this church that will transform this community and city.  I’m praying for it, you guys.  I’m praying that a move of God would start here that would change not only Littleton, Centennial, and Denver, but, by His grace, would extend to the ends of the earth.  I’m passionate about our God who draws people who are far from Him to himself.  I’m raising my hand, and I’m asking you to do the same.  To say will You use this body to do that, Jesus, please.  That’s my turn (from last week).  That’s my turn!  I’m turning from small-minded thinking back into the conviction that our God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we could ask or think or dream or imagine.  That’s my God!

I love that Jonathan….his faith is like sort of faith.  I think it’s a biblical profile of what faith actually looks like. Maybe God will do this.  He’s like God’s in our corner, we’re confident of that.  And God’s got one arm around him—probably a teenaged boy who’s carrying one of two swords that the entire nation owns!  Saul has one. Jonathan has one.  His armor-bearer looks at him and goes, “Well, if you want to go, that’s sort of my job.  I go where you go, so if you’re going, I’m with you.”  I love that Jonathan’s decision point, not only comes about because of his faith in God, but it comes about because of the arm of his armor-bearer around him saying, “I’m going with you.”  I’m stepping in with you.  I think a lot of us are either one person away, or we ARE the person that somebody else is longing for.  To put our arm around somebody and say, “You can do this.  You can leave this bad relationship.”  You can step into this new season, this new job.  I’m with you.  You can choose to forgive and release the weight that’s on you.  I’m with you, heart and soul.  Please don’t underestimate how significant your support may be in somebody chasing after who God has called them to be.  When we change our input, it changes our impact.  It’s the reason God’s called us to do this thing called faith together!  That we’re not just on an island.  We are in this heart and soul with one another and that’s a really, really good thing.

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison…   You can read about this in chapter 13.  Thirty thousand chariots.  Six thousand horsemen. Numerous as the sand on the sea were their infantry foot soldiers.  Somehow Jonathan SEES it, but he sees something else also.  He understands sure, there’s an enemy and sure, they’re powerful, but my God’s in my corner.  My God is for me.  Here’s what he does.  He not only chooses initiative and he chooses input, but he chooses how he interprets his circumstances. {Slide: Choose how you interpret your circumstances.}  I think this is a word for somebody in here today.  There’s something that you’re looking at and you’re only seeing it one way.  There are multiple ways to see every single situation you’re in.  Did you know that?  You may get the phone call—-bad news from the doctor.  There’s more than one way to see that situation.  I’m not saying you ignore reality, I’m just saying that resurrection and death are both happening at the same time in the story of Jesus coming out of the grave.  So there’s two ways to look at every situation.  In fact…..{Ryan shows an optical illusion of a woman’s face/saxophone player.  He asks people to raise their hand if they see the woman, the saxophone player, or both.}  There’s two ways to look at that picture.  There’s two ways to look at your life. There’s probably multiple ways.  Look at the way the Apostle Paul says it in 1 Cor. 16:8-9 — But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. Wait, Paul, which one is it?  Is it effective ministry or is it massive opposition?  And the answer is…..YES!  It’s the answer in your life too.  It’s the answer in my life too.  That opportunity often looks like opposition.  In fact, it’s typically brilliantly disguised as a challenge we do not think we are capable of facing.  Of a mountain we do not think we are capable of climbing.

So Jonathan takes all of the facts that are coming at them—-yes, they have two swords.  Yes, his father, the king, is cowering in fear.  Yes, the Philistines continue to send raid upon raid upon raid.  BUT….if God wants to do something, NOTHING can tie his hands!  The question becomes what narrative do we make of the things that happen in our life.  There’s a lot of stories we start to tell ourselves.  You may have noticed this about you. Usually, we have one central tape that we play.  For some people it’s a narrative of scarcity—-Well, we could do that if we had this.  For some people it’s a narrative of failure—-I know that the next thing on the horizon is just going to happen.  It’s a defeatist type of narrative—-We tried this before and it didn’t work out.  For some people, the narrative that they play over and over in their mind is a narrative of fear—-We would leave that side of the valley, if it weren’t for the huge giants on the other side.  And that’s the tape that plays over and over.  Some people have this fatalistic tape that plays.  It says—-It doesn’t really matter.  My life is insignificant and who cares what decisions I make.  If God didn’t care what decisions you make, he wouldn’t have given you the capacity to make decisions.

The narrative that Jonathan chooses is the narrative of faith.  It’s this narrative of well, maybe God….and nothing can hinder God.  The truth of the matter is, friends, is that faith is not just a decision we make, faith is a narrative that we live.  That my God is able, that my God is possible, that my God is good, that my God is active, that my God is for me, and that He’s part of this story of the lives that we’re living.  He’s not distant out there somewhere.  Here’s the other thing that the narrative of faith always sinks their feet into—-God does not reveal a problem to us for us to pass it on to somebody else.  He doesn’t show us something so we can say, “Hey, you should take care of that!”  He invites us into what he’s doing so that we can be a part of it.  If there’s a challenge staring you in the face, there’s an opportunity waiting to be embraced.  There is!  The question is: Will we step into it?  If we read through the Scriptures, this has always been a part of God’s redemptive plan— that salvation comes by His grace, by His choice, by His goodness, THROUGH His people.  You are both the object and the subject.  You are both the carrier and the message that our God is good and that he is gracious. That’s the story we live in.  The question we have to wrestle with is are we going to settle for just breathing (bios), or will we step into zoe (life)?  The choices that we make are being determined by the people that we’re becoming.

If you hear a message like this, your initial thought should be, “Well, did Jesus live like this?”  Did Jesus take initiative?  Well, he left heaven, clothed himself in humanity, stepped into a broken world to live a perfect life, died an atoning death, raised to offer you and I new life.  No one was forcing him to do it.  He took the initiative of the Father’s plan to step into His broken creation to bring wholeness and bring redemption.  Did he take initiative?  Absolutely!  Did he choose his inputs?  Throughout the course of his life, you look at people telling Jesus to do something different and he’d say, “That’s a really great idea, however, I need to obey the voice of my Father.  I’m walking with Him.  I am His child.”  He chose his inputs very carefully.  How did he interpret his circumstances?  Well, for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame.  He said, “Listen, this is my goal, this is where I’m moving.  I understand the cross is terrible, I understand the cross is horrible, but I’m chasing a deeper and more abiding joy.”  Friends, because our God, Jesus, gave His life, you can step into newness of life.  Living is a choice, zoe is a choice, that Jesus freed us to make by giving his life for us.  {Slide: Living is a choice Jesus freed us to make by giving his own life.}  You’re secure in Him.  You’re loved in Him.  You’re holy in Him.  And now, He releases us to live in Him the life He died to give us!  It’s zoe life, not just bios life.  Existing is a given, but living is a choice.  Living is a choice you never regret making.  I guarantee you, Jonathan never sat around the fire, as he grew to be older and older, and said, “You know that time we hiked down that valley, and rock climbed up the other side, and attacked the Philistines…, that was a terrible call, wasn’t it?”  No, Jonathan never told that story.  But I bet he did say, “You remember that moment where everything changed?  That moment where we chose not just to let life come to us?  That moment where we decided to live?  That was the moment that charted a new course, a new life, that went beyond just breathing, but a reason for breathing!”  I pray that we would be the type of community that is defined by zoe, by life.  I pray that you’ll choose to live.  Let’s pray.

Before you go rushing out of here this morning, I just want to give you a moment and if you’ll invite me in, I just want to poke around in your soul a little bit.  Is there a person that comes to your mind that you need to have a conversation with?  Maybe it’s been something you’ve been avoiding for a while.  Forgiveness that needs to be offered or maybe accepted?  Maybe it’s a hard conversation—speaking the truth in love kind of situation.  Maybe there’s a decision on your horizon that you’ve been avoiding making or that you’re just too scared to step into this place you know God’s calling you to step into.  Maybe you hear a different voice in the back of your head this morning.  A different voice in your heart.  A God who reminds you He’s for you and He’s powerful and He’s good.  Jesus, this morning, we would ask that in our hearts, in our souls, you would do something that we can’t do on our own.  Would you stir life in us?   As we choose to follow you, as we choose to give our lives to you in light of the fact that you’ve given your life for us, would you invite us into the life that’s really truly life? Father, would you stir in us this week ways that we can take initiative rather than just being inactive?  Ways that we need to listen to a different truth.  And ways that we need to see our circumstances a little bit differently. Would you give us the eyes of faith this week, we pray?  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.