Chasing Lions

I come from the world of academia. For over twenty years I worked in higher education at colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, secular and Christian, and all except one was nonprofit. My area of expertise is in Student Affairs, and I held professional staff positions ranging from Academic Advisor to Coordinator to Director. I also worked with a variety of students (primarily adult students and graduate students) as well as staff, faculty, and administrators; and I also fulfilled numerous other responsibilities.

Eight years ago I lost a job that sent me into the world of long-term unemployment. While undertaking a major job search, I found that the longer I went without finding another job, the more I needed to find some kind of creative outlet to keep the creative juices flowing, and that is when this blog was created back in July 2010. I was new to blogging back then, and I spent the first several months experimenting with it. I ended up deleting the posts I had written up through April 2011 as there was no common theme linking the individual posts together. However, three months later in July 2011, I fired my blog back up and this time it just took off. I mean it seriously took off and it has been going strong all this time. In fact, I’m close to a mile-marker as I will soon have 500 blog posts published on this blog at some point this year (this is blog post #481).

I have always been an avid reader, mostly of nonfiction. And as my readers know, I quote heavily from other authors, mostly famous authors, past and present, as I’ve never been one to think I needed to “reinvent the wheel” with my own words on a topic that others have expressed far more eloquently (and in many cases with more knowledge and experience) then I could do. I always give credit where credit is due, and the great thing about blog writing is one can instantly “link” to the author and source of the quotes and articles. Had I not been living in the age of the internet, none of this would have been possible.

I mention this bit of personal background as I am aware that there are many different “thoughts” on Christian living outside of the realm of the essentials of the Christian faith (the “essentials” are the core beliefs of Christianity). And I am aware that some of what I post may cause some disagreement. However, my intent has always been to bring up topics as they come to mind, and I often quote others more knowledgeable than myself when writing about them. More than anything, I want the posts to be challenging and/or informative as that comes from my academic background.

With that in mind, yesterday I received a 40% off coupon from LifeWay in my email, so I went looking for a book to use it on. With only one coupon, it was hard to narrow it down to the book I wanted to buy (I had several in mind when I arrived at the store). Mark Batterson‘s latest book, Catch the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small,” (published in September 2016) is one of the books on my list, but I also realized it is sort of a “sequel” to his very first book that was published back in 2006 titled, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars.” While Catch the Lion stands on it’s own without having to read the previous book first, after much thought on which one to spend my coupon on, I decided to go with In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” which has been republished in August 2016 with some additional bonus material.

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, which also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse, Ebenezers Coffeehouse, on Capitol Hill. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and he is also a New York Times bestselling author. The title of the book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” as Batterson states in his opening paragraph in Chapter 1 titled, “Locking Eyes with Your Lion,” comes from 2 Samuel 23:20-21 (NIV):

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

Batterson gives the reader a movie script picture of Benaiah with the lion in the pit that he killed on a snowy day (which I will leave in the book for readers to read). To sum it up, Benaiah does what none of us would do if we came face-to-face with a lion. We’d run . . . . as far away as we could get; but Benaiah didn’t run. Batterson states the following on pp. 16-18:

Right at the outset, let me share one of my core convictions: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go. But there’s the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place.

Can I understate the obvious?

Encountering a lion in the wild is typically a bad thing. A really bad thing! Finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day generally qualifies as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. That combination of circumstances usually spells one thing: death.

I don’t think anyone would have bet on Benaiah winning this fight–probably not even the riskiest of gamblers. He had to be at least a one-hundred-to-one underdog. And the snowy conditions on game day didn’t help his chances.

Scripture doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what happened in that pit. All we know is that when the snow settled, the lion was dead and Benaiah was alive. . . .

Now fast-forward two verses and look at what happened in the next scene.

Second Samuel 23:23 says: “And [King] David put [Benaiah] in charge of his bodyguard.”

I can’t think of too many places I’d rather not be than in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. Can you? Getting stuck in a pit with a lion on a snowy day isn’t on anybody’s wish list. It’s a death wish. But you’ve got to admit something: “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks pretty impressive on your résumé if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the King of Israel! . . .

Most people would have seen the lion as a five-hundred-pound problem, but not Benaiah. For most people, finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day would qualify as bad luck. But can you see how God turned what could have been considered a bad break into a big break? Benaiah was chasing a position in David’s administration.

Here’s the point: God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges, or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp.16-18.)

And that is the basic premise of this book. As Batterson states on pp. 19-20:

There is an old aphorism: “No guts, no glory.” When we don’t have the guts to step out in faith and chase lions, then God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.

Is anybody else tired of reactive Christianity that is more known for what it’s against than what it’s for? We’ve become far too defensive. We’ve become far too passive. Lion chasers are proactive. They know that playing it safe is risky. Lion chasers are always on the lookout for God-ordained opportunities.

Maybe we’ve measured spiritual maturity the wrong way. Maybe following Christ isn’t supposed to be as safe or as civilized as we’ve been led to believe. Maybe Christ is more dangerous and uncivilized than our Sunday-school flannelgraphs portrayed. Maybe God is raising up a generation of lion chasers. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp.19-20.)

The book is filled with stories of “lion chasers” like a Georgetown lawyer who put his law practice on hold to shoot a documentary film about human trafficking in Uganda; and a tenured professor who gave up his chair to pursue a dot-com dream. There’s the man in an executive-level position at Microsoft with a six-figure salary and million-dollar stock options who gave it all up to plant a church; and a political neophyte who decided to run for Congress. Also, there’s a woman church member who lead a mission trip to Ethiopia despite her many fears, just to name a few of the many stories in this book. As Batterson states regarding these folks and others on page 20:

The lion chasers you’ll meet in this book are ordinary people. They put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else. Most of them were scared to death when they bought the plane ticket or handed in their resignation. Weighing the pros and cons caused some ulcers along the way. And at times it felt like they were the ones cornered by the lion in the snowy pit.

I wish I could tell you that every lion chase ends with a lion skin hanging on the wall, but it doesn’t. The dot-com dreamer is successful beyond his wildest dreams, but the guy with the political aspirations lost the election. However, both of them are lion chasers in my book. What sets lion chasers apart isn’t the outcome. It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams. Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” p. 20.)

Now let’s go back to the story about Benaiah (page 21):

Benaiah went on to have a brilliant military career. In fact, he climbed all the way up the chain of command to chief of Israel’s army. But it all started with what many would consider being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His genealogy of success can be traced all the way back to a life-or-death encounter with a man-eating lion. It was fight of flight. Benaiah was faced with a choice that would determine his destiny: run away or give chase.

Not much has changed in the past three thousand years. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” p. 21.)

One more quote from Chapter 5 titled, “Guaranteed Uncertainty,” and then you’ll have to get the book to read the rest! Regarding the story of Benaiah, Batterson states (pp. 83-86):

It is so easy to read about an incident that occurred three thousand years ago and fail to appreciate the element of surprise, because we know how the story ends. We read the story and think the outcome was inevitable. Psychologists call it “hindsight bias.” It is an exaggerated feeling of having been able to predict an event before it actually happened. We play the role of Monday-morning quarterback when we read Scripture. But to really appreciate the faith of Benaiah, you’ve got to feel what he felt before he killed the lion. . . .

There are a thousand variables, and they all add up to one thing: an uncertain outcome. It could have gone either way. Heads or tails.

I’m sure Benaiah had a sense of destiny. But that sense of destiny was coupled with a degree of uncertainty. Benaiah didn’t know if he’d win or lose, live or die. But he knew that God was with him.

Benaiah could have run away from the lion. And running away would have reduced uncertainty and increased security. But lion chasers are counterintuitive. They aren’t afraid of venturing off the map into terra incognita. The unknown doesn’t scare them. It beckons them like a long-lost love or childhood dream. In a sense, security scares lion chasers more than uncertainty. . . .

I know that different people have different callings. I know different people have different personalities. But I also know that embracing uncertainty is one dimension of faith. And regardless of your vocational calling or relationship status, you have to do something counterintuitive if you want to reach your God-given potential and fulfill your God-given destiny. Sometimes you have to run away from security and chase uncertainty.

Isn’t that what Jonathan did when he left the safety of the Israelite camp and climbed a cliff? The military stalemate was driving him crazy, so he decided to pick a fight with the Philistines. I love his modus operandi: “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf” (I Samuel 14:6).

Isn’t that what Abraham did when he left his family and his country to pursue the promise of God? In a day and age when the average person never traveled outside a thirty-mile radius of their birthplace, Abraham embraced uncertainty and ventured into terra incognita. “He went without knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

Isn’t that what Noah did when he built the Ark? Noah was a laughingstock for 120 years, but he embraced the uncertainty of a divine weather forecast. “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded  him” (Genesis 6:22).

Lion chasers challenge the status quo. They climb cliffs, move to foreign countries, and build boats in the desert. Lion chasers are often considered crazy, but they are able to do these things because they aren’t afraid of uncertainty. They don’t need to know what is coming next because they know that God knows. They don’t need explanations for every disappointment because they know God has a plan. Lion chasers refuse to settle down because they want to experience every divine twist and turn that God has in store for them. (Quote source: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,” pp. 83-86.)

So how’s that for some encouragement if you are in need of it today? I’m glad I got this book first as it will make his latest offering (which is a continuation of In the Pit written ten years later) titled, Catch the Lion,” all the more enjoyable and meaningful, too. And who doesn’t like to read about inspiring people and their stories and the God who leads them onward!

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus that I quoted in my last blog post found in Mark 11:22-24“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Whether we are facing lions or mountains, there’s our answer. Have faith in God (and in His timing, too). . . .

And whatever we ask for . . .

Believing we have receive it . . .

It will be ours . . . . 

YouTube Video: “Feel It” by TobyMac ft. Mr. Talkbox:

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