No Lions, No Tigers, But Bears… Oh My!!

Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kazbeel, 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.      II Samuel 23:20 (NIV)

I am not Benaiah… I have never killed a bear, though as a child I did kill a porcupine for sticking its quills in the face of my dog. I was defending my dog from further attacks, but I felt really remorseful after having done so. I don’t know if I would have the guts or valor to chase a lion into its pit and kill it. BUT I wonder why Benaiah did this. Was he defending someone or something? Was it retaliation for a vicious act that the lion had committed? Was Benaiah just demonstrating his strength and valor? I hope and believe that somehow it was an act of courage and fighting for a higher cause than just to kill something.

This past year I received a great book, Chasing The Lion by Mark Batterson, and  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It’s a book that I recommend everyone pick up and read. As it spoke about a courage and valor to encounter life with a tenacity, it caused me to reflect on my life. While I have not yet encountered, nor chased, nor killed a lion or a tiger, I have twice in my life had very up close and personal encounters with bears… oh my!! The first encounter was when I was somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age, and in foster care, and was chased by a mama black bear for playing with her two baby bear cubs in the wild. Not my wisest or brightest moment, but definitely a fun (and sometimes horrifying) memory to think back on! However, the second encounter with another black bear is the encounter I want to share about and focus on.

In 2014, while serving at the YMCA of the Rockies as a camp counselor for Deep Camp, in partnership with Kingdom Building Ministries (now known as Forge), some other counselors asked me if I could share my testimony with them. Due to the demand of our schedules, we met up late one night in a lounge in the main building basement, so that I could tell of my story. As we sat there and I was sharing, a petite worker from the camp came walking through the lounge with a full garbage bag in her hands, to take it out to the dumpster behind the building. As she began to open the door to exit, she immediately slammed the door shut without leaving and screamed at the top of her lungs!

The petite worker (weighing 90 pounds soaking wet, by my estimation) slammed the door with such force that the building shook, and screamed so loud that I and the whole group were quite startled. She then looked at us and screamed, “Bear!” Immediately, without thinking, I was on my feet and ran out the door! Sure enough, as I arrived at the dumpster, there stood a huge black bear, about 10 to 15 feet away! Thinking of all the kids at camp, and counselors and workers, I did the only thing my body would let me do in that moment. With courage (and some would say, stupidity) I charged at the black bear! I startled it, as it had startled the worker, and it started off running for the woods! I chased the black bear for about a quarter of a mile, until it entered into the woods, before I returned to check on the worker. Though startled, she was doing well.

While most would not encourage anyone else to do what I did, I think I would. There is a time for running after and running away. Some would say, “Just leave the trash inside and take it out to the dumpster in the morning.” I would say, “Chase the bear!” Too often we opt for safe, comfortable, and easy living. The adrenaline and desire to defend others motivated me immediately to do what was not easy. While I in no way killed the bear, I am certain that I shocked it into not messing with a human too quickly after that.

In life many circumstances seem like lions or bears, and may not seem logical to chase after or attack… so big, so furious, so challenging… that they cause us fear and desire to slam the door, scream, and run away. What might happen if we responded differently to those giants in our life? David encountered Goliath, and ran toward him and not away. In courage he conquered the mammoth man in front of him! Noah faced a crowd of people mocking him as he had to provide a place for lions, tigers, and bears… oh my… and all other animals as well, due to an impending flood. Moses had an attacking military pursuing him and the people of Israel as they were wedged between the Red Sea and a sea of angry men approaching. Elijah faced the 450 prophets of Baal. Peter and Paul faced prison and persecution. There are just way too many stories to tell of all the giants faced by so many biblical heroes, not to mention the plethora of missionaries and servants of God throughout human history! There is one defining characteristic though, that each of these people have had… Courage.

As I serve here in Guatemala, it has not been bears nor lions, but rather scorpion stings, ants, cockroaches, spiders, false accusations, gossip, lack of commitment, health issues, car problems, car accidents, lack of financial support, different languages, lack of friends, deep loneliness, lies of Satan, etc. During that summer of chasing the bear while being in a discipleship training, leadership development time with Forge, God gave me a new name, and this name defines who I am and how I now strive to encounter the lions and bears of life… Courageously Contagious Freedom Fighter! God, and God alone, has made me courageous to chase lions and bears! How about you?! Do you accept and receive God’s gift of courage to get out of the comfortable, logical, and safe ways of life?

There is a world full of darkness and hurt, and only God-given courage will enable us to encounter and change it for God’s glory! I dare you to not buy into the world’s gods of comfort, safety, and entertainment. I dare you to start chasing bears, chasing lions… muster up or ask God for a deeply convicting courage that enables you too to become a giant of the faith for the glory of God!

As it is estimated that more than 150 million children live without family or home around the world, this is the giant I want to slay with God-given courage, the bear I want to chase, and the lion I want to kill! It is possible. We just need more men and women of God to live in the courage of God to combat the situations and problems that leave these children in such need! It is not too big of a problem! It is a matter of us deciding to chase the bear or lion, instead of running away! What will your choice be? Will you become courageous and join in the attack, or will you run away, seeking comfort and safety?! I pray that God will give you the courage to become a world-changer, eternity toucher, child advocate… to join me in a call to be courageously contagious as we fight for freedom, and slay the lion!

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