During these summer Sundays, sermons at our church are taken from the book of First Samuel. You don’t need to read far to discover the “dangers” of following God. Christians of earlier centuries—and Christians living today in what are sometimes referred to as “secure” countries (those parts of the world where the cost of following Christ is high) seem to have taken it for granted that commitment to Christ is an all-or-nothing life. Quite literally a life-or-death decision. They would not find it unusual to hear of a kind of Jacks Valley experience where emotional and spiritual “heat, rain, mud, humiliation and exhaustion” are the norm.
In our well intended, and even biblically accurate, sharing of the Good News, I fear we sometimes neglect the call to arms that is inherent in following Jesus. But…and it’s really a big BUT!…if we desire to be a transformed people, those who intentionally and consistently seek to be disciples of the Savior, we will submit ourselves to the training program outlined for us in scripture and in the lives of those who’ve gone before.
What does it mean to “train” ourselves to regularly practice silence and solitude? What if we were to set our minds (and perhaps our clocks!) to once an hour turn our thoughts toward God? What if we asked the Holy Spirit to highlight a word or phrase in our morning time in the Bible, then wrote it down to glance at throughout the day? What if we seriously asked God to burn into our hearts a desire a be a part of His plan to heal a hurting world?
Most of the cadets who successfully complete the Jacks Valley Encampment and return to the academy will be on their way to and through the coming four years. They will occasionally fail miserably—perhaps in the classroom, perhaps in relationships—but they will have learned to trust their leaders to get them through the successful completion of the course.
And what’s the connection between all this and the stories recorded in First Samuel? The glaring failure of King Saul who is the epitome of an undisciplined life and the long tale of a shepherd boy who chose the “heat, rain, mud, humiliation and exhaustion” to follow his God.