The Initiative

An important part of how to live a godly life is taking the first step.

Douglas Poole
Jan 20, 2019    31m
In this sermon Pastor Douglas Poole teaches us that an important part of how to live a godly life is having the courage to take the first step toward your God given dreams. He uses the courageous story of Jonathan, found in First Samuel chapters thirteen and fourteen, taking on a garrison from the Philistine army with just one sword and a armor bearer. To show us that anything is possible with God on your side, but you have to have the faith to take that first step. Video recorded at Clearwater, Florida.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Douglas Poole: 00:00 It was about a decade or so ago that my wife Jackie and I were returning from Africa, working with our partners at Springs of Hope Kenya. And she was meeting with a group of people to talk about the trip, and it really is a give and take trip. You go and you give, and you're working with these children, and you're investing in them and doing projects. But then it's a take trip too, because I mean these kids will fill your heart with so much love you think, you know, your heart's going to burst. Wow, it's amazing, and then you get to go on safari, and how awesome is that? You know, to see the big five, and all the animals in there. So Jackie's talking about this, and when she finished, a gal said, oh, I would love to go with you. Because Jackie takes teams from our church. And Jackie said, I would love for you to go along. And Jackie said, I'm going next year, why don't you go? So next year came along and the gal said, it's just not a good time financially. And I said, I understand that because you know, it's a pricey trip. And the next year came along and Jackie said, you know, are you interested? I am, but it's just not a good time for me to leave my kids right now. I don't want to go into it, but it's not a good time to leave my kids. Jackie said, okay, that's okay, I understand. So then the next year, do you see a pattern developing here? And then the next year comes along, Jackie says do you want to go? And there was some terrorism activity in Nairobi, and so I just don't feel safe about going, so I'm going to take a pass again this year. The next year came along, and there was some Ebola in West Africa, and she said, eww, I'm not going, there is Ebola in Africa. Which is kind of like saying, there was a case of Ebola in Seattle, so I'm not going to vacation in Miami, Florida. That's about what it's like saying. And so, you know, year after year. And so I just said, Jackie. I said, honey, you realize she's never going to go? That's because she's not taking any initiative to go. And Jackie said, well, it's okay for her to dream right? I said, Oh yes, but wouldn't be better to live your dream, than to just dream about certain things.

Douglas Poole: 02:08 And friends, this happens to us so many times, that we've experienced this ourselves. That we have these really good dreams for our lives of this person we're going to become, of this relationship that we're going to have, of the good that we're going to do in this world, the beauty that we're going to create. We have these wonderful dreams, but have you ever noticed when you have a beautiful dream, so many times it feels like, but it's never the right time. Right? I'm waiting for the circumstances to kind of come together, because they kind of seem to be lining up against me right now. Or the obstacles, and the problems right now, they're just huge, they seem insurmountable. Or my resources are so remarkably small. And so we wait with these dreams, and then days become weeks, and weeks become months, and months become years, and years become decades. Until finally one day it's kind of like we look back over our lives, and what we see when we look over our lives are all these adventures we never took. We see all these relationships never built. We see this person we never became. We see all this good that got left undone. And when we look at our lives in that moment friends, let me tell you, it's a painful, painful moment when you realize woulda, coulda, shoulda. What could be today, but it's not today, because I never acted on my dreams.

Douglas Poole: 03:32 Well welcome to part three of a series we're doing here called Wide Awake. And what we're saying in this series, you know it's okay to dream when you sleep, but it's not okay to sleep through your dreams. And many of us are living lives where we're sleeping through our dreams. And so week one we said, wake up, wake up, wake up, God has a life for you, God as a future for you, but you've got to wake up and go after it. And last week we were talking about, you know, once you decide to live a life that is wide awake, then how do you go about then deciding what you're going to do with your life.

Douglas Poole: 04:04 And today we're going to talk about this thing called initiative. Because so often what separates people who simply have great dreams, and those who live their dreams, is this thing called initiative. And so today we're going to look at what does it mean to take initiative, and why is it so important for all of us? And so I'm going to invite you to return to a moment in scripture, a moment in the life of a warrior prince, and his name is Jonathan. We started looking at his story last weekend, and so I'm going to reread a part of that story for you, and then read a little bit more on him. I'm going to read you kind of a long passage of scripture, and it's detailed, but every nuance is important. It's filled with a lot of names of some places and some people, and the names just don't roll off the tongue really easy. And you're probably not going to remember, you know, when you leave here, the names of these places and these people. And you're going to like wonder why does the prophet go into so much detail? Right? Couldn't just skim some of this, are they paying him by the word to write this? But it's really important, and the reason he gives us all the names of the people, all the names of places, is because he wants his readers to know, this really happened. In a real place, in a real time with real people, you can go to those places and see they're there. You can go to these names of these people. At that time, you can go to these people, and you can ask them. These things happened, this is history, and it's verifiable history. So he goes into a lot of detail. Alright, maybe I went into too much detail, about his detail, I see your stares.

Douglas Poole: 05:53 So let's go into this, First Samuel, beginning in chapter thirteen, beginning in verse 16. And if you don't have your bible, we'll put it on the screens for you. Here's the account. Saul, who is the King of Israel. Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash. Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah. (That would make a great name for a TV host wouldn't it, or something like that? Anyway.) in the vicinity of Shual, another toward Beth Horon, and the third toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboyim facing the wilderness. (I told you, detailed, right?) Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. The price... (Just in case you're wondering.) was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening plow shears and mattocks, and a third of a shekel[h] for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads. (Again, the detail, this is what it cost, so verse 22.) So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them. Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash. One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, 3 among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother (I told you, listen to these names.) Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left. On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba. Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre."

Douglas Poole: 09:43 All right, let's unpack this moment here together. Have you ever felt like you had a wonderful dream, I mean a great dream to do something that wasn't just going to benefit you, it's going to help others? But then you felt like the deck was stacked against you because you didn't have the resources to pull this thing off, and you were faced with obstacles and challenges that just seemed ridiculous in their size. I mean, this was exactly Jonathan's situation. His dream is setting his people free from the tyranny of the Philistines, it's wonderful and it's beautiful, but the deck is stacked against him. The philistines have confiscated all the weapons, all of Israel, only King Saul and Jonathan have a sword that's it. And then Israel, two swords for their whole army, and then the Philistines have taken all the blacksmiths out of the country and deported them. So the only sort of weapons the Israelis have is plow shears, and axes, mattocks, and sickles farm implements. So they took the blacksmiths out, so they didn't want anybody turning these farm implements into weapons. So if you wanted them sharpened, you had to go down to the Philistine, pay some sheckles, and get your things sharpened. And then to make matters worse, as if it can't get much worse, the leader of your country King Saul, brave King Saul is scared spitless. He's nowhere near the front line, he's as deep in the country as he can get, under a pomegranate tree. The details, under a pomegranate tree. And what's interesting is the guy with one sword, is hiding in the middle of 600 men who don't have any weapons. That gives you a confidence, right, in your leader.

Douglas Poole: 11:49 How's that for a dream crusher? I want to set my people free, it's beautiful dream. Are you kidding me? We have an army with no weapons, and no courage, which is even worse. And we have no ability to turn these into weapons. Have you ever had that moment where you feel like God has inspired you to do something, and it almost feels like it's so huge, it's a crazy idea, right? It's crazy. But you come to church and you sing, When Oceans Rise, like, yeah, faith is rising in me as the oceans are rising, I'm going to go do this. And so you walk out of here like, yes, and then you get slapped in the face with reality. Wait a minute, I don't have any resource to pull this off, and I don't know anybody. Wait, I don't have that kind of talent, and that ability. Oh Man, that's the last time I get all emotional in one of these songs that we sing here on, you know? That's what happened.

Douglas Poole: 12:56 So King Saul, King Saul says to his men, let's face reality, okay, you crazy dreamers. Here's the reality, we have two swords, that's it. They have the high ground, they're armored, they have every advantage there could be in this. We're out outmanned, outgunned, out of luck, and so they're under a pomegranate tree in Migron. But they're waiting. Like, what are you waiting for? We're waiting till we get weapons. Like when's that going to happen Saul? Like anytime soon do you suppose? We're waiting for more men, we're waiting until the circumstances are right, we're waiting and hoping the Philistines get tired of bullying us and they just go home. But we're not just waiting, we're praying. We got a good prayer meeting last night, it was awesome, you should've been there. Woo Man, we were praying down heaven, but we're waiting for the Lord. We're waiting. We're waiting. Ever notice how waiting doesn't seem to change a whole lot for us? That when you wait for the perfect moment, with a perfect circumstances, on the perfect day, it never comes. Or as you're waiting, things don't just suddenly get better, it seems to exacerbate the problem, and the problem gets worse. Ever notice how when you're waiting and you're waiting, looking for guarantees. That the longer you look for guarantees, the more uncertain you become. So Saul is waiting. You want to know the real reason? He's waiting for the same reason you and I wait, fear. Just good old fashioned fear. The guy with the sword is surrounded by 600 men under a pomegranate tree. I don't know how you get 600 hundred men under a pomegranate tree, six hundred men around a pomegranate tree. Fear, he's afraid. What if? What if God doesn't come through? What if this goes bad? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? It's the same reason you and I wait when we have these dreams, these hope things, aspirations for a better future, but we're fearful because we don't think we have the right resources, we're fearful because we don't think we have what it take because the circumstances aren't right. It's fear.

Douglas Poole: 15:22 Friends, if Jonathan had waited for everything to fall into place before he initiated, you understanding never would have gone, right? He never would have gone. Sometimes our need for security becomes the greatest deterrent to stepping into the life that God has for us. God's got a life for us, but it always takes faith, and it takes courage to step into it. And so we don't want to step into it, because we're looking for security, we're looking for guarantees. We want to know how it's going to turn out, before we step in, and so we searched for security.

Douglas Poole: 15:56 I love Jonathan's reasoning here. It is so simple, but so profound. Look at his reasoning. Verse number six, "Jonathan said to his young armor bearer." Remember I said every nuance is important in the language here? It goes into detail, he's not just an armor bearer, he's a young armor bearer with no weapon. Which means the guys probably not shaving yet. Okay? He's a kid with the armor bearer. And so when Jonathan's going to step into war, he doesn't have Rambo, is not Rambo who has his back? I mean that would be different if he had Rambo, right? It's like, yeah, let's go get them, I've got Rambo.

Douglas Poole: 16:39 He doesn't have Rambo, he has Randy, and Randy's not even shaving yet. So it's a young armor bearer. So Jonathan says to Randy, the young armor bearer, "Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf." Don't you just love that? Perhaps, perhaps, if I'm Randy the armor bearer, I'm thinking perhaps, perhaps? Listen, prince baby, like you're a really cool guy, and you just cast an amazing vision on that thing. But why don't you go pray a little more. And when you've got certainty God's coming through, it's going to work out, we're all right. I'll learn to shave in a couple of years, but when that happens and we've got certainty, let's go. No, perhaps, perhaps the Lord will work on our behalf. So it continues, it says, "Come, let's go to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows, perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." I just love Jonathan's confidence in God. You see, Jonathan understood, and we need to wrap our minds around this, that not everything in life is guaranteed friends. We want certainty, we want absolutes, we want guarantees, but not everything in life is guaranteed. So there are some things you can know, and there are some things you will not know. But there is one thing Jonathan did know, that's nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or my few. Like what more do we need to know, what more certainty do we have to have on this? He's convinced God is powerful enough to get the job done. It doesn't matter if there's two Philistines up there in that garrison, or 2000, the Lord is able to save whether by many or by few.

Douglas Poole: 18:47 So he says, let's just go pick a fight, and maybe God will help us. See friends, Jonathan knew that when you wake up, and you begin to really pursue the dream God has put in your heart, you have to accept the reality there are many things over which you have no control. You don't have control, and if you wait until you think you have everything you need, you will never start. You can only take responsibility over that which you have control over, and you start with what you have. Jonathan had control over only one thing, a sword. One sword, and his own spirit, and his own spirit. How many times have we concluded we are powerless to make a change, or make a difference, in this world because we don't have the resources. Do you realize how huge the problem is? What can I do? I'm on one person, what can I do about it? Isn't that what we tell ourselves? I mean, look at the condition of our country, it is just such a mess. I don't think anybody could do anything about it, so I'm just going to let it go. And so we look, and we say, it's just too huge, too much, I'm one, nothing can be really done about this.

Douglas Poole: 20:08 But I love the vision, the courage, and the initiative of Jonathan. He has what? One sword. But he has something more, he's got courage too, right? He's got this resolute confidence in God doesn't he? And so I love what he says to Randy, to the armor bearer. He says, I've got an idea, let's go pick a fight, you and me, okay? We're going to walk up to the Philistine outpost, and we're going to step out and let them see us, that there's only two. Not a good military strategy, right? And then I'll pick a fight. I'll say, hey, you uncircumcised fellows, like that'll start a fight. You uncircumcised follows, you want some of this? And when they say, yeah, he says, here's the plan. Now I've got a sword, so I'll go ahead of you. If I'm Randy, I'm thinking darn right you're going ahead of me, I'm following you on this one. And said, here's my plan, I'll run at the first guy that breaks, okay? And I'll drop them as fast as I can, I promise as fast as I can. When he falls, you pick up his sword, we'll have just doubled our arsenal in one little battle there, think about that. And he says, then you and I, we're going to race towards the next two, okay? I'll drop one, you drop one and then we'll pick up their swords, and we just doubled our arsenal again. This is amazing, this plan, alright? And then we're going to work our way up the hill, man by man, we're going to engage them until we take the whole garrison out. Are you in? He was in, and he went. Meanwhile, where is Saul? Way away from the frontline under a pomegranate tree, holding a sword, surrounded by 600 men so he feels safe. Both men had swords, didn't they? They had the exact same resources. Do you understand that? But the difference is what they had inside of themselves. Jonathan had some courage, had this confidence in God, that this is all he needs. One Sword, it's all we need.

Douglas Poole: 22:48 You know the number of times I've heard stories of people who have visions, and who have dreams. And one person takes this little bit that they have, and they begin pursuing the dream of who God has called them to be, and what God has called them to do, and they built these beautiful things. Meanwhile, other people who've had those same meager little resources never get started, because they don't think they have enough to get started. Then they'll look back on their life, the person they never became, the adventures they never took, but they had the same resources, the same things available to them. At the same time, the difference is the initiative. Saul's got a sword himself, he's under a pomegranate tree waiting. Jonathan takes the one sword. And Saul's dreaming of the day. there's freedom, dreaming of the day there's freedom. Jonathan's living the dream, living the dream. Jonathan knew that God would give them victory in battle, but God was not going to fight for them while they watched.

Douglas Poole: 23:55 You see, when God puts a dream in your heart, God's not just going to sit by and watch, but neither is God going to invite you to just sit by and watch. God's going to invite you to step in, as you step in, God steps in. When you take the initiative, God provides along the way, but you've got to take the initiative. We wish it were different, we wish it were God give me everything now, then we'll go. God says, no, I'll give you what you need for this moment, and then I'll give you what you need for the next moment. So many times friends, we are waiting and waiting and waiting. We say, God, give me a sign, God. Provide a sign from God. And maybe God is just waiting on us. You start where you are, you start with what you have, but you have to start. You have to start, with just what you have.

Douglas Poole: 24:48 I understand there's a couple of football games on today, right? Yeah for the NFL we've got the champion for the AFC and the NFC for both of these leagues. Interesting little trivia fact you can share with people today as you watch the game, okay? Here it is, no team has ever won a Super Bowl on the strength of the huddle. It's what happens after ready, set, hike, when they initiate and they take action, and that's how it's won. Saul looked at his sword, and then he looked at the thousands of Philistines, and he was paralyzed by fear and did nothing. Jonathan looked at his sword, and the thousands of Philistines, and he was mobilized by faith and he defeated the whole garrison.

Douglas Poole: 25:48 So let me ask you friend, what dream has God put in your heart? Who is it he's calling you to be? What is it is calling you to do, what beauty? If you wait till you think you have everything you need, you will wait until you die. And you will look back one day over your life at the good that was left undone, the beauty that was never created, because you kept waiting and waiting. You know where to begin to take the initiative, you know who God is, so embrace life's uncertainties. What's in your hand? He put a sword in the hands of Jonathan. What has God put in your hands? And it may seem like so little in the face of odds that seems so almost overwhelming. But all you need is what he's put in your hands, and the courage in your heart, and a little faith in your soul, and to move forward, you just need to get started. Because Jonathan became a warrior for God, God became a warrior for Jonathan. Jonathan took the initiative, and he stepped up, and he stepped out. He showed himself to the Philistines, that was his first step. What's your first step? What's your first step that you need to take?

Douglas Poole: 27:16 Alright, let me wrap this up with this. Would you mind pulling out your smartphone phone, if you got one with you? Keep it on silent, but pull it out, would you please? And if you've got like a calendar app on it, go to that, okay? Alright, got it? And so on your calendar app now, would you turn it ahead to January 2020. Just slide that thing, get there to 2020. Alright, God has put a dream in your heart of who you are to be, and what you're supposed to do, what to create beauty. One year from now, we're in January 2020, what do you want said about you? I'm still waiting for God to provide the resource. I'm still waiting for the right time for things to be able to come together. I'm still waiting for a little more clarity and certainty. What do you want said about you one year from now, January 2020? Because January 2020 is going to come with, or without, your permission. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months turn into years. What do you want said about you, 2020? Alright now scroll back to today, would you? What step do you need to take today? What step do you need to take today? What step, for this to become a reality, by January 2020? What's that next step? It may take some courage, it may take some confidence in God, it may not seem like much, but you understand how Jonathan took over the whole garrison, right? One battle at a time. That's how he did it, he just broke it down. There's 20 of them, I don't want to fight 20 at once, I'll take you one at a time, one at a time. All he had was one sword, then he had two swords, and he had three, then he was opening a flea market. Used swords, barely used swords on sale, it's a beauty. But look what he started with. What's in your hands? You've just got to start, it'll take the courage and the faith, to walk with the Lord. To walk forward to the life that he's calling you too. So what's your step today? What's your step?

Douglas Poole: 30:10 All right, let's stand together, and we're going to close this in prayer. Father, thank you that I'm standing in the presence of not just some dreamers, but some doers. And there's this beauty you want to create in this world, these things you want to be done, captives to be set free. But these things don't happen unless you're children are willing to let you speak into their dreams, and then to have the courage to live that dream. So father, whatever it is you're speaking into us in this room, I pray that a year from now, when we stand back in this room will have stories like Jonathan. We'll have stories to tell of battles that have been fought, and victories that have been won, beauty that has been created, the person we have become. I pray, Lord God, we would move from waiting and waiting and waiting, that we'd stop keeping you waiting, and we'd step into the life you're calling us into. So Father, January 2020, beautiful stories. And everybody agreed said, Amen. God bless you Cypress.

Recorded in Clearwater, Florida.
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Cypress Meadows
2180 North McMullen Booth Road
Clearwater, Florida 33759
(727) 725-4570