Over the last few Sundays that I have been with you, we focused on the concept of Spiritual Maturity.  We talked about what it is, how it is measured, (which is by our ability to love others) and I believe most importantly we discussed the idea that Spiritual Maturity doesn’t just fall in your lap.  It’s not just given to you.  Living and loving like Christ challenges us, goes against our human instincts, and just isn’t easy, and doesn’t just automatically happen.  You know, that is an important life principle that so many of us lose sight of, the idea that life, health, and things we want won’t just be given to us in life.  We must make choices to engage God.  If we want something, we have to do something.  Today is a day I have been looking forward to for some time at MRG for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s Mother’s Day so it is a great day to celebrate all our mothers out there.  But, I also knew this Sunday was an open Sunday, where we aren’t in a series and could discuss whatever was on my heart before we move into our Summer Bible Study next week.  So, I prayed about what we would talk about today and wrote down two words, and it became the talk we are in today…DO SOMETHING.

I’m sure you have heard this saying, but I want to share it with you, and I want you to think about the answer and also, think about the audacity of the question.  If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  Well, does it?  What do you think?  Ok, the answer is pretty obvious…it’s “Yes.”  Yes, it makes a sound, we humans can be so self-absorbed that we don’t think anything could happen if we weren’t there!  But, yes, the tree falls with a very loud crash with or without you there to hear it!  As a side note, this is often how our churches are treated.  When we are there, we are into it and want to see our churches vibrant, healthy, and growing, but when we aren’t there we tend to lose sight of it.  The church needs us, we don’t realize our absence affects it, and then we come back wondering where the momentum is that we took with us when we weren’t there.  We are bummed and think the leaders or church must be doing something wrong because we forget the church still “makes a sound” even when we aren’t there!  We have this same mindset in so many areas of life.  Ok, that was fun, let’s explore something similar with another statement like the tree falling in the woods.  If you want to see something change in your personal life.  Spiritually, emotionally, or physically and you aren’t doing anything, can it or will it ever change?  Now think about this with me for a moment, many Christians think, well I’m trying to be a good person so God should and could make things happen for me!  Some think I am doing something, you should have met me 10 years ago!  Some, if they are honest, may think, yeah, I’m wondering what God is up to in my life, but I can’t say I have been doing much of anything to move into what I want for my life.  Many Christians find themselves very frustrated with their faith lives, wondering why Christianity isn’t working for them, while never getting honest with questions like I just asked you.  The reality is that if you want to see something change in your life, you have to DO SOMETHING.  I will give you a couple of examples.  Let’s start here, it’s Mother’s Day, so let’s pick on Mom for a moment.  Mom, if you want to have a strong relationship with your child, and you are sitting at home worried about your relationship with your child, but never engaging your child, will that relationship be what you want it to be?  If you are sitting at home feeling lonely, yet never reaching out to anyone to build community, waiting for something to come to you, nothing will ever happen.  If you have spent years waiting for your husband to read your thoughts and know what he must do to fix things for you, and he hasn’t yet, without doing something, that will continue.  Let’s give our Moms a break and talk to all of us for a moment…individually and as a Spiritual Family are there things you wish to see happen in your life?  Listen to me, if there are things like that in your life and you want to see change, or things happen in your life, you have to DO SOMETHING.

There are many times when I sit with good people who are hurting in life, who want more for their life, but so often, they aren’t willing or just aren’t seeing their need to “DO SOMETHING.”  They get angry with God for the way things are going in life, but in an honest moment will admit they spend no time with God, don’t pray, don’t read their Bibles, and just aren’t living for God but continuing to live for themselves.  That is what makes this Scripture from Hosea so powerful and gut-wrenchingly true.

Hosea 7:14 They do not cry out to me with sincere hearts. Instead, they sit on their couches and wail. NLT  

It’s amazing how mad we get at God when we don’t engage Him with sincere hearts.  We don’t like looking at our choices and taking ownership of how we are living, but it’s very important…this is why Solomon makes challenging statements like this in Proverbs.

Proverbs 19:3 People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed? MSG

Well, that’s a little blunt in The Message version. Let’s switch over to the NLT and read it again!

Proverbs 19:3 People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord. NLT

Whether we are talking about your Spiritual Condition, your physical health, your emotional health, finding and experiencing your best life, or making positive changes of any kind in your life, nothing will happen if we aren’t willing to do something.  It’s the same way with the church, if we want to see positive changes and health and growth inside the Spiritual Family, we have to DO SOMETHING.  Now, here is the most challenging thing about doing something!  You might succeed and get everything you want…but that is not guaranteed.  You might win or succeed, but you may fail as well.  This is where many get stuck.  They would love a better life, but they don’t want to risk failing or facing challenges in their lives. They would rather not deal with the hurt and disappointment of it not working out.  They may not want to do something that will take effort or even challenge them in any way.  And yes, if you choose to do nothing you will not fail, and life may feel easier, but you will not succeed either.  You won’t find health and those positive changes you are looking for either!  Living with that mindset is a very safe and defensive way to live, but it doesn’t lead to all that could be in your life.  It reminds me of this great quote from the epic movie, “The Croods.” They are cave people, and the dad is trying to keep everyone alive through fear, by running, and hiding.  And his daughter is bored and looking for more from life and he tells his daughter that is how he kept them alive, and she says this back to him.  “That wasn’t living, that just…not dying!” – Eep.  Listen, if we want to truly live, and remember Jesus came to provide life and life to the fullest to us, if we want to grow, find health, and experience our best lives, we have to do something.  Is there a risk? Sure…but if you don’t do anything, what happens?  Nothing. 

This leads us to the story in Scripture that I want us to explore today.  It’s a story that has been on my heart and minds a lot for our Spiritual Family, both individually and as a community for a few months.  There is so much for us to grab hold of here, and so many great takeaways for life found in this incredible story.  We will find the nation of Israel in a difficult spot, literally on the brink of being wiped off the planet by The Philistines.  They are losing, and losing badly.  So, this is one of the most pivotal moments for the nation of Israel, because they are all but defeated.  Our story is found in 1 Samuel 14, but we get a feel for how rough this situation is in 1 Samuel 13.  This is where we find the first King of Israel, Saul, and his son Jonathan leading the army of Israel against the Philistines, and it starts pretty well.  We see they have 3,000 hand-selected special troops and Jonathan attacked and won a battle at Geba.  But this just seemed to rally the Philistines! This gives us an idea of how dire the situation is!

1 Samuel 13:5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead. NLT

So, the Philistines rally, Jonathan has shaken the bee’s nest with his win at Geba, and now Saul and Jonathan’s special forces are terrified, they see they are completely outnumbered, and many abandon the army and many run and hide in caves, wells, thickets, and holes.  This is not good. By verse 15 of this chapter, we see how few remain.

1 Samuel 13:15 Samuel then left Gilgal and went on his way, but the rest of the troops went with Saul to meet the army. They went up from Gilgal to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. When Saul counted the men who were still with him, he found only 600 were left! NLT

So this isn’t good, we are down to 600 soldiers, to fight 3,000 chariots and 6000 charioteers, along with an army so big it can’t even be counted.  As if that wasn’t enough, we also learn that the nation of Israel is in such bad shape, and controlled so much by the Philistines that they only have 2 swords…TWO!

1 Samuel 13:19 & 22 There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews…22 So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan. NLT

So, this is the situation we find ourselves in, do you see and feel how dire this situation is?  Ok, so, with that said, we move into our story, what some versions call “Jonathan’s Daring Plan.”

1 Samuel 14:1 One day Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to where the Philistines have their outpost.” But Jonathan did not tell his father what he was doing. 2 Meanwhile, Saul and his 600 men were camped on the outskirts of Gibeah, around the pomegranate tree at Migron. NLT

In these first two verses, we see two very different mindsets here.  Yes, the situation doesn’t look good.  The Philistines are powerful, and the situation looks bleak.  They are surrounded and the Philistines have taken over the pass that they would need to break through to get to the Philistine Army if they wanted to, what are Saul and the other 597 men doing?  They are now camped out, a bit stuck at the moment, they have settled in under a fruit tree.  They are safe and are just kind of there.  This is easy to do, and it can be a bit contagious in life, can’t it?  It’s easy to settle in a place and get comfortable.  They are safe.  They have food and a nice place to rest.  And hey, they aren’t being killed by the Philistines at the moment, but everything is just kind of stagnant.  They are settling in, but not Jonathan.

1 Samuel 14:3 No one realized that Jonathan had left the Israelite camp. 4 To reach the Philistine outpost, Jonathan had to go down between two rocky cliffs that were called Bozez and Seneh. 5 The cliff on the north was in front of Micmash, and the one on the south was in front of Geba. 6 “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” 7 “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.”8 “All right then,” Jonathan told him. “We will cross over and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.”11 When the Philistines saw them coming, they shouted, “Look! The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes!” 12 Then the men from the outpost shouted to Jonathan, “Come on up here, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” “Come on, climb right behind me,” Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “for the Lord will help us defeat them!” 13 So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. 14 They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre. 15 Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified. NLT

Ok, so there is so much going on here, but I want to point out a couple of things to you.  First, there was nothing easy, and safe about what Jonathan decided to do.  The Philistines had the high ground, the numbers, and the weapons.  The plan is to let them see us…which is not the best plan.  Not only that but the Scriptures tell us they had to cover rocky terrain and climb using their hands and feet to get there.  And this leads to a point we must make if we are to do something.

We must choose to do hard things that challenge us.  

Can I ask you a question?  Do we humans want to do hard things that challenge us?  More often than not human nature is to find the easiest and safest way to do something, isn’t it?  How many people truly embrace challenges and risks?  Most of us would rather find the easiest way to do things, wouldn’t we?  This is happening a lot in culture today!  Why work hard?  Why risk?  Why do the hard thing?  If you think about it, every instinct in human nature is about survival, and protecting yourself, so our instincts often pull us away from risk, danger, and challenges.  But this is how so many get stuck, wondering where their best life is, while never doing anything.   Because so often the health we seek, the better life we desire, the physical fitness we wish we had, the friendships that aren’t there…even the relationship with God we want is not going to be found camping out under a fruit tree like Saul, hoping things go well, it will be found as we get out there and climb the mountain, and do the hard thing.  The problem is for most of us, we aren’t willing to make the climb, do the work, or challenge ourselves in any way.  We would just rather play it safe and stay under the fruit tree with Saul.

I found a fascinating study done on anxiety and depression that I wanted to share with you today.  In a study done by Duke University, they found that there is a literal area of your brain that atrophies and stops functioning if you do not challenge yourself.  They found that people who take the easy path to things, stay safe and comfortable, and are unwilling to do things and take risks are more likely to fall into depression and anxiety than those who continue to challenge themselves in life.  Duke’s researchers concluded that mentally challenging yourself curbs anxiety and depression.  They found that those challenges stimulate your brain regions that deal with abstract reasoning and cognitive flexibility and by challenging and stimulating your brain you curb anxiety and depression in your brain!  Now what is interesting is we wouldn’t think that risk or challenges would help with depression or anxiety, we think we should take all pressure off, and do the easiest things possible to find health, but that isn’t true…and if you think about it…that is never true in life.  If you want to build muscle what do you do?  Lift weights and work out, you don’t rest the muscles more!  If you want to find emotional and spiritual health and growth in your life you have to face down things and grow…and even with our mental health…it isn’t taking all the pressure off our lives and not engaging, research and science show the opposite…the less you do the more you will struggle and we must see this!  We must be willing to do something if we want to see something happen!  And often what we do won’t be easy.  We must be willing to engage and embrace challenges and hard things to experience our best lives possible rather than sit under a fruit tree and hope, sometimes we must do something.  There are some other things we can learn from Jonathan’s daring plan…

Sometimes we must do something even if we don’t know what the next steps will be.  

Did you pick up on that with Jonathan and his armor bearer?  There are two things we must highlight here…first is a word Jonathan uses in verse 6.  “PERHAPS!”

1 Samuel 14:6 “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” NLT

So, this is the plan…Jonathan’s daring plan…it’s coming down to a “PERHAPS!”  Well, this is such an important lesson for us because so many times in life we get stuck and aren’t willing to move forward until we have every little detail worked out.  We can’t get started without knowing how it will all go, and Jonathan is helping us see something here.  Sometimes it takes doing something, it takes getting started and some movement to see what will happen next.  Have you ever heard a young couple say, we will have kids when we know we can afford it?  LOL, that day isn’t happening, there is no math to make you feel comfortable or like you can afford a kid.  You know, if you are lonely today, and aren’t willing to open up and reach out to people without knowing exactly how they will respond…you realize you won’t know until you try.  There are some variables in life, and we don’t always know exactly what will happen ahead of time, yes, planning is good, so often we get stuck from doing anything, or keep ourselves from doing anything because we don’t know what will unfold…and in life, we just won’t always know exactly what will happen next.  The story continues and we see they don’t know what the next step will be, there are variables in this plan, and their movement and plan are unfolding as they do something.

1 Samuel 14:7 “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.”8 “All right then,” Jonathan told him. “We will cross over and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are or we’ll kill you,’ then we will stop and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up and fight,’ then we will go up. That will be the Lord’s sign that he will help us defeat them.” NLT

Sometimes we just have to do something and see what unfolds.  This is faith, isn’t it?  Taking steps out into the unknown, without knowing exactly what will happen next.  It takes getting out from underneath the safety and provision of that fruit tree with Saul and making something happen.  And something sure happened on this day!

1 Samuel 14:16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction. 17 “Call the roll and find out who’s missing,” Saul ordered. And when they checked, they found that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone.18 Then Saul shouted to Ahijah, “Bring the ephod here!” For at that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod in front of the Israelites. 19 But while Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp grew louder and louder. So Saul said to the priest, “Never mind; let’s get going!” 20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle continued to rage even beyond Beth-aven. NLT

So, one last point that needs to be made here today and that is the momentum and influence we can have on the people around us.

What you do or don’t is contagious.

What did we see with Saul and the 597 men who stuck it out with him, they got stagnant, and camped under a tree…and what do we see when Jonathan decides to do something?  He inspired the entire army to get up and do something too!  Even the Hebrews who switched teams and ran and hid came back and joined in and a nation was saved on that day!  Did you ever think about how your choices, decisions, and mindset may influence those around you?  Do you see how you could inspire by rising and doing something?  Do you see how you can deflate if you don’t?  What you do or don’t do is contagious.

So let me ask you this.  What would have happened if Jonathan didn’t do something?  The answer is nothing.  Nothing would have happened, and quite frankly the nation of Israel could have been wiped out.

So, I want you to take a moment and look at your life today.  Are there areas of your life that you aren’t happy with?  Are there areas of your life that you would like to see improve?  How is your spiritual health and relationship with God?  How is your mental and emotional health these days?  How is your physical health?  How are your relationships with others?  As you look at your family, are there things that you wish were happening that aren’t happening?  How about with your career, your plans, or your finances?  What is it?  How about with your Spiritual Family as you look around? Are there things you want to see happen that aren’t happening?  We can learn so much from Jonathan’s daring plan here today, that applies to every aspect of our lives.  If we want to see something happen, we have to do something.  That means choosing to get up and do something.  That means understanding that it won’t always be easy and often means stepping into challenging, hard things.  That means that we do something even if we don’t know what the next step may be, but if we want something in life, we have to do something, and when we do we can inspire others to do something too…do you want your best life?

It won’t just fall in your lap, we have to do something!