Stand Your Ground

This is the rough draft of part 4 of Pastor Steve’s message from the series, '“The Last Arrow” from March 3, 2019. You can also watch the message here. We hope you find this helpful as you pursue your next steps in Christ.

“How many of you remember the game, “King Of The Mountain?”  We played it all of the time as kids. Essentially, there is a hill and the king stands up on top of the hill.  Then, the rest of his friends, their goal is to do whatever it takes to knock him down off of the hill and take his spot.  Your goal is to dethrone the king and be the new king of the hill. Now, when were kids, we did have to establish a few rules do it didn’t turn into absolute pandemonium and so someone didn’t walk home with something broken.  

But I remember how fun this game was.  We played it together as siblings and with the neighbor kids. There was this small hill behind our house at the school. It wasn’t hard to climb.  If you fell, you’d be fine and wouldn’t plummet to your death anywhere. The concrete was far enough away that if you took a tumble, you’re not going to smack anything.  We’d declare who the king was and then attack. Sometimes we’d attack as individuals. We’d come from different angles. When we got smart, we attacked as an army take down the king.  

The point of the game was that if you were king, you had to stand your ground at all costs.  Stand your ground no matter how many neighbor kids came out you. Stand your ground until the forces that be, knock you down and take your spot.  There were no trophies. No awards or ribbons. Just the personal pride that you were able to stand your ground longer than anyone else. Defend your ground and stand strong to the very end.  

That childhood game reminds me of what happens in life.  There are things that are always trying to tear us down. To knock us down.  Sometimes those things are people. Relationships from our past or relationships right now that are unhealthy.  Sometimes the things that try to knock us down are our inner voices. Insecurity. Fear. Regrets. Pride. Sometimes the things that try to knock us down our own brokenness.  Our struggle with lust. Our struggles with hatred. Our struggles with anger.

So, here is my question.  What would it take to live a life where we stand our ground?  What would it take for us to stand for what matters the most? And, this is not in a prideful way that declares I’m King Of The Mountain.  That’s not what Jesus followers are called to be. But it’s a part of our character, that causes us to stand for what matters the most. To stand in the strength of our creator rather than give up.

Today, we are in part four of our series called, “The Last Arrow.”  We are continuing to look at what it means to live a life with no regrets.  How do we live a life that honors God? How do we live a life where we can experience all that God has or us?  Here is the key idea that I want us to wrestle with today:

God is calling you to live a life where you stand your ground rather than give up ground.  

King David in the OT, is one of those men in scripture that was known for standing his ground.  So many times in life, he faced significant odds but stood his ground. He stood his ground against armies.  He stood ground against what was sinful. He stood ground against betrayals. All throughout his life, with God’s strength, we see David standing rather than running away.  Samuel, the prophet of God in David’s time, gives us a picture not only into the life of David but into the lives of some of the men who stood with him. These men stood with him in the challenges of life.  They stood together against great odds. They stood their ground with a deep faith in God. These are some of the men who led, who stood and who influenced David.

There was Josheb, and I’m not even going to try and pronounce his last name.  It says that Josheb fought a group of 800 enemies and killed them all with a single spear.  He stood his ground. Then Samuel talks about Eleazar. He was a man who with David one day went out and faced their greatest enemies, the Philistines.  Eleazar stood his ground, fought and it says the sword froze to his hand. He fought and won with God’s strength and power.

And last but not least, there is one last dude by the name of Shammah.  Again, if you are looking for some creative baby boy names, then maybe Shammah is it?  Here is his story.

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils,   2 Samuel 23:11

What we see is that Shammah is here with the army of Israel on one side and that the Philistine army was on the other side.  The Philistines, if you look into history, were brutal and corrupt and nasty. And they made it a point to constantly attack the people of Israel.  They hated God and they hated the people of God. Both armies are standing basically in a vegetable field and they are ready to fight. Then this happens.   

Israel’s troops fled from them.   2 Samuel 23:11

Shammah’s people high tail it.  The people of God turn around and run.  Now, we don’t know why the army fled? What is it that they saw?  That they sensed? Did they just measure themselves against the army and say, ‘he we are out of here.  Something inside of them, even though they followed God, caused them to flee in fear.

Here is a good place to pause and focus our thoughts for a few moments.  Isn't’ it interesting how often we do the same thing? How many times have we backed down in life because we saw something in our life that was very formidable and we thought, “Ah, I don’t measure up?  I can’t. I’m not as good as them. I’m not as successful. I’m not as spiritual. Therefore I’m out.” And we turn and walk away or maybe run.

A couple of times during this basketball season, we stayed after Christian’s JV games for the varsity game.  And there are some big guys on their varsity teams and they play against some big guys. You hear them calling out the starting lineup.  Starting at guard, at 6’ 2”. Starting at forward at 6’6”. Starting at center 6’8” or 7’0”. Yeah, not joking. And I’m thinking, those are some tall dudes.  So, more than once this season in pregame warmups, I walked by those guys to see just how tall they were. To see how I measured up with their height. On my best day with some thicker soled shoes, I can hit 6’ 0”.  These guys towered above me as high school students.

I couldn’t compare.  I didn’t measure up. And you may laugh at me, but we do the same thing in life so many times throughout the week.  We measure ourselves against others. We measure our family against their beautiful family on social media. We measure our work hours that we put in against what hours they put in.  We measure what community we live in as a retiree compared to other communities. We measure our spiritual growth and maturity against theirs. We don’t talk like them or pray like them.  We measure ourselves and many times find ourselves too short in some area of our lives. In turn, we do exactly what this army did. Instead of standing to fight in God’s strength, we run.  We walk away. We don’t stand our ground at all.

So, here is the question for us to think through.  How do I stand my ground in life?  One, Embrace what God wants for your life rather than what others want.  We have talked about this a lot in previous series and it’s a pillar in this one.  We have to get to a point where we honor God first. We have to listen to his voice first.  We have to be defined by him rather than others. I believe this is a lifelong journey for most of us, but its a game changer.   We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are not called to live our lives in comparison to how tall all of the other players are.    Rather we are called to live our lives with God as our standard. When we don’t, you know hat happens? We tend to run away from whatever we face just like the army of Israel did right here.  

Back to our question.  How do I stand my ground?  Two, Embrace what is challenging and resist what is easy.    

But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field.   2 Samuel 23:12

Clearly, the easier thing to do is what his army did.  Run. Hide. “ I mean, come on guys. At least we can live for another day.”  And who would have blamed him. After all, everyone else was running. Shammah, just do what is easy and live to fight another day.  Yet, Shammah embraces the challenge and chooses to stand his ground.

But what happened in this moment that caused him to stand?  Again, we don’t have all of the details. Maybe he was tired of seeing his people running.  Maybe he was tired of the Philistines and their injustice. Maybe he so believed that no matter the result, including his capture or death, that it didn’t matter.  Maybe it’s because as part of David’s inner circle, this wasn’t new territory. There were plenty of other times in life where they stood against all odds. There were other moments where they resisted what was easier.    

We aren’t giving the chain of events that lead to this moment.  We weren’t given a peek into what his inner thoughts were. All we know is that he said this, “I’m going to stand for God and stand for what was right.  I’m going to embrace the challenge and resist what is easy. This takes us all the way back to week one of this series. Part of the reason why we often have regrets is that we choose what is easy of what is challenging.  Here is a good question to think about. Do I choose steps of faith more or give into my fears more?    

He (Shammah) defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.   2 Samuel 23:12

Shammah stood and he fought.  He defended that spot. He defended his people.  He defended his God. And we don’t know what the Philistines through at him.  Did they taunt him? Did they send out their best warrior first? Did they send out a trifecta of elite soldiers?  Did they surround him and pounce? We don’t know. But what we do know is that he stood his ground and the Philistine army was defeated because of the willingness of one man.  Shammah didn’t win on his own. It wasn’t solely his victory. Let’s not miss this. Because he stood in faith, God stood and did his part. God gave Shammah the strength physically, emotionally and spiritually to defeat an army.  

There is this key scene in the movie The Patriot where Mel Gibson sees his men retreating with the American flag.  As they start to pass him, he makes a decision. Take a look at what he does.

Man, that moment is inspirational isn’t it?  Doesn’t it move you to know what men and women have done for centuries to fight for freedom?  To embrace the challenge. Do you know why it is moving? It’s because there is something in us, given to us by our Creator, that wants to live the same way.  There is something inside of us that wants to run into the battle and win rather than run away in fear. To win in our marriages when it’s hard. To when in the area of fighting my own anger.  To win when God prompts me to do something or say something.

But how?  Let’s get back to that key question.  How do I stand my ground?  Last, Embrace steps of faith and resist steps of fear.  I truly believe that we end up right where we are standing because we made a choice.  We chose to take steps of faith or we chose to take steps of fear. Where you are standing right now in life is related to your decisions. Choices.  Our steps. The question is are those steps of fear or steps of faith.

One of my favorite stories in the NT deals with this tension.  It’s inspired and challenged me for years. Jesus sent the disciples off on the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.  He told them he would catch up with them later but he needed to go off and pray. While Jesus is praying the disciples hit a storm and start freaking out.  Guess what Jesus does? Jesus sets out to find them. Jesus doesn’t get an Uber. He doesn’t walk along the shore to get to them. Jesus takes a short cut.  He walks on the water to them Wow! We learned this in school The shortest distance between two places is a straight line. Well, Jesus shows us this is true.  He walks on the water.

As he arrives to help them, they freak out.  They see him. They think he’s a ghost. It’s already bad that they are fearful of the storm now some ghost shows up to mess with them.  But as the ghost gets closer, they realize that it’s Jesus in the flesh. Jesus says, ‘chill it’s me.” That’s my version of what he said.  He says, ‘Have courage. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” That had to be hard to wrap their mind around. Then, Peter, he speaks up.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  29 “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29

Peter takes a step of faith and does what is unthinkable.  He walks on the water. Peter ends up in a place where he has never been before. And it’s because he stepped out of that boat with faith.  But things change quickly.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Matt. 14:30-31

All of a sudden, Peter takes his eyes off of Christ and starts looking at the storm.  He takes a step away from faith and a step into fear. It causes him to sink. Jesus rescues him and then challenges him.  “Peter, let me give you a lesson on life. It all boils down to our steps. It’s our steps of faith and our steps of fear that drive us.  

What is amazing about that story is a couple of things.  One, we always throw Peter under the bus because he sank.  And yes, we can learn from this. But, let’s remember this.  He is the only one who got out of the boat. The rest of the disciples continue to sit in the boat.  They continued to be afraid. He is the only one who stood for something. I would rather be a boat jumper than a boat sitter any day.  God always honors faith.

Two, did you notice how quickly he moved from faith to fear?  They were just separated by mere moments. He’s walking on water and then he’s sinking in the same water.  It reminds me that there is a fine line between faith and fear. There is a fine line between following God and focusing on how we can’t do it.  He reminds us how easy it is to shift our eyes from Christ to our problems. How easy it is to focus on the impossibilities.

“We are standing right where we are because of our steps of faith or our steps of fear.”

Where you are right now is because of your steps.  Now on one level, that is exciting because some of us have taken some steps of faith.  I’m glad I did that. I’m glad I stood up. But, it’s equally overwhelming because we’ve all taken steps of fear.  In all reality, we aren’t much different than Peter. Again that should excite us because he experienced something phenomenal in is life.  It should also freak us out a bit because he failed. We are where we are because of our steps. We will end up somewhere because of our decisions of fear or faith.  

Chart//So, I was thinking, how do we know when we are walking in faith or in fear?  What does it look like? In some cases its very obvious. But how can we grow in wisdom in this to take better steps.  Here is what resonated with me and I hope helps. “Faith leads us forward but fear pulls us backwards.”  What does that mean?  So, again, with the way my mind works, I sat down and created a diagram.  I wanted you to see visually this tension. I wanted you to see what it takes to stand up on the water like Peter or sit in the boat like the disciples.  I want you to see what it takes to stand in a field like Shammah or run for the hills like the rest of his army. Here is what I came up with;

Faith leads me forward while fear drags me back.  Faith leads me to live out God’s principles while fear pulls me away from God’s principles.  Faith causes me to risk it while faith causes me to play it safe. Faith leads me to serve others while fear pulls me to think of myself.  Faith leads me to security in Christ while fear pulls me into my own personal security. Faith in Christ leads me to know that I’m new in Christ.  Fear pulls me back and reminds me of my past. Faith leads me to believe I can do all things through Christ. Fear pulls me to believe I can’t do anything even in Christ.  Faith leads me to the future while fear pulls me back to my failures.

So, part of our growth in faith comes down to these kinds of questions.  What steps of faith is God calling you to?  What causes you to fear?  Where in life is God challenging you to stand your ground?  Knowing them is a starting point.  Surrounding yourself with people that know them and can help you, that’s a great next step.  Being a part of an environment like this helps you walk through the moments of faith and fear.  Those questions are in your notes and we are going to dig deeper into them in groups.

I remember on of the times in my life when I was 22 years old and I had to choose between faith and fear.  I had to choose my steps very, very carefully. I was a children’s pastor in a church and the pastor that I served with after a year and a half into retired.  That meant everything was going to change. I may not be there. We might have to move on. When leaders change often times in the church world and in the corporate world, they clean house and start over.  So, there was a constant tension of both fear and faith that played out over months.

A couple of months into the process, it looked like the associate pastor was the primary person that would take the next step to be the Lead Pastor.  Cool. I can live with that. We had started to build a relationship. I was getting a vibe for how he worked. He was wanting to lead the church in a fresh direction.  The more that things changed and headed in that direction, the more I sense from God, ‘Steve, this is the step I want you to take. Don’t leave. Don’t entertain job offer.  Your step of faith at this moment is to say put. Don’t fear. Trust me.”

So, Keisa and I internally planned on staying.  We didn’t tell anyone. We trusted God. The process continued and you know what some Christians said to us in the church.  Let’s just say it was stupid! They said, “hey, we like you and we want you to stay but we don’t like the associate guy. You stand with us and we will take care of you.”  In other words, you stand with us and stand against him. We got your back if you ride this with us.

Now as a 22-year-old leader, I thinking, “This doesn’t seem right.  This is part of the reason why I didn’t want to be a pastor. It’s wrong and divisive.  It was one of those moments in my life where I though to God, “love you but I can stand some of your people.”  We felt in our hearts God whisper to us. “Stand your ground. Stay right where you are. Don’t play games. Trust me.”  We just didn’t believe God would honor a decision that was based on divisiveness or game playing. Weeks later the associate pastor is elected to be the senior pastor by a huge margin.  Months later, those game players, were gone. They left because they didn’t get their way. I’m sorry to say that happens in church but the church still is God’ hope for the world. I believe that with all of my heart.  

We stood our ground and God honored that step of faith.  We were warmly welcomed onto the team. We were asked to be a part of something new to refocus that church on reaching the lost.  My working with that pastor became more than a job, it became a deep seeded friendship. And we were there for 10 years. And here is the cool part.  For us, that stand with our pastor. That stand of faith has had implications for years. That stand gave us the opportunity to grow. That stand gave us the chance to lead.  That stand caused me to go on my first missions experience. That stand gave me the courage to face other challenges in life. I believe that stand help cement a trusting friendship that I’ve had for years.  I believe that stand even is helping us today as a church. That church and that pastor that are an advocate for our church. That pray for us and support us. They give us and me personally great counsel. I believe it has a direct connection to taking that stand over 25 years and many since.  I believe it’s directly related to letting faith lead us rather than fear pulling us.

And I believe God is wanting to do that in our lives today.  I believe that for your life. I believe that for this church.  And here is the kicker. If you are sitting here thinking, “oh man, my life has been more steps of fear than faith.  Look at what I did. Look at what I have. Look at where I failed. What hope do you I have?

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  23 Great is his faithfulness;  his mercies are new each morning.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)  

That’s good news.  That means no matter what is in your past.  No matter what fear has guided you. There is hope.  God loves you deeply. God’s plan for you is alive. God looks at you with new kindness and new mercy each morning.  So, start a new path. A new plan. Stand up in the fields with faith. Stand for what is right. Stand up like Shammah and face what is ahead.  Stand your ground and watch God move deeply in your life.

Let’s pray.”