Be the Change

Lion Chasers create, rather than criticize. They work just as hard at producing good as they do denouncing evil. They are part of the solution. Lion Chasers bring about change by being the change.

You can listen to Sunday’s sermon, Be the Change, here

As the races for the Presidential Nominees continue to carry on, there is a common theme that keeps coming up in the campaign slogans and the continual rhetoric. “It’s time for a change,” they say. Of course, it depends on who you’re talking to as to what type of change this country needs. Some say the change we need is to go further to the right of the political spectrum. Others, of course, say we need to go further to the left. And then there are those who don’t really say what type of change they’ll bring. They just say that we need change and that they’re the right candidate for the job. Every election year, ‘change’ becomes the hot buzzword.

And I agree with them. We need change. Real change, however, won’t come just from political activism, but through a change in the hearts and minds of people. It’s through the transforming power of God working in people’s lives. The only real, lasting change comes through the movement of God. And for some reason, God has decided to use us, His followers, as agents of change.

We’re in the middle of a series called Chase the Lion. It’s based on a relatively unknown story in the Old Testament about how a man named Benaiah came at a crossroads in his life. And at that crossroads was a lion. The odds are pretty much stacked against you if you ever decide to wrestle a lion. Lions are quicker, stronger, larger, have more teeth and sharper claws than any of us. But Benaiah saw the lion as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. And when the lion fell into at pit on that snowy day, Benaiah chased after it and eventually killed it with his own hands. In the face of insurmountable odds, Benaiah emerged victorious. And that’s an example for us today. We’re probably never going to come face-to-face with a lion – and that’s probably a good thing. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of the tiger that escaped the San Francisco Zoo back in December. Large cats like that are dangerous creatures, and I doubt any of us are equipped to actually take on a large cat like that. Benaiah was, after all, trained to be a warrior. And that’s what we talked about last week. As we continue seeking to follow Christ, we will encounter lions. It is inevitable. There will be challenges and obstacles in our lives that seem impossible to conquer. But God has called us to be Lion Chasers. And He has also called us to chase the lions He has shaped us to be. Remember – we need to be ourselves when chasing lions, because God has gifted each one of us with a unique combination of talents, gifts, and past experiences. And so the figurative lion that you’re called to chase might not be the same lion that I encounter and am prepared to chase. But all of us have the opportunity to be Lion Chasers. All of us have the opportunity to bring about change in the world around us.

Lion chasers see the problems around them and instead of sitting on the sidelines and complaining about how bad things have gotten, they get involved and try to bring about change themselves.

“Lion chasers don’t retreat. They attack. Lion chasers aren’t reactors. They’re creators. Lion chasers refuse to live lives in defensive posture. They are looking for ways to make a difference.” (Mark BattersonIn a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, p. 121)

There’s a story in the Old Testament about a group of Lion Chasers. They found themselves in a difficult situation – do I go with the flow, or do I do what I know God has called me to do? This is a Lion that many of us face…probably on a daily basis. And how we respond to this Lion is one way we can become agents of change. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Daniel 1. Daniel’s approximately in the middle of your Bible. It’s at the end of what is commonly referred to as the ‘major prophets.’ It’s not that these guys had more important messages than the ‘minor’ prophets – it’s just that the recordings of their prophecies and messages have led to larger books. Daniel is found after Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel; and before Hosea, Joel, and Amos. If you don’t have your Bible, you’re welcome to use the one in front of you. Daniel 1 is found on page 761 in that Bible.

In 586 BC, the Babylonian army came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, taking the nation of Judah captive. One of the common practices of a conquering nation of the time was to take the elite people – the religious and political leaders, the wealthy, and those with any kind of power – and haul them off to the capital city. It was a way to force the common people to rely on their occupiers for survival, and it was also a way to take advantage of the captives’ abilities. And that’s what Babylon did. They took the wisest men and the most beautiful women and shipped them off to the city of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to show them the advantages of becoming part of his kingdom.

Read Daniel 1:3-20

Instead of huddling in their homes and complaining about how pagan their world had become, they became active in their newfound roles. They could have held their own pity parties, pointing fingers at the culture around them and waxing nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ in Jerusalem. The odds were stacked against them, and they knew it. The Babylonian culture was set up in such a way that the captives who were brought in from conquered lands were incorporated into the landscape. They were shown the advantages of Babylonian culture, language, education, and religion, with the purpose of the captives becoming incorporated into the Babylonian landscape.

Daniel and the three young men learned all they could about their new culture so they could do their work with excellence. But as they were learning how to navigate within their newfound surroundings, they also remained faithful to following the One True God and obeying His commands. The culture here isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s through the culture that these young men were able to stand in the gap and make an impact on the people around them. They encountered the lion before them – a society that was in spiritual darkness. And instead of cursing the darkness, they chose to do their best within that darkness, living their lives as beacons of light in a darkened world. They could have tried to blend in while criticizing the culture under their breath. They could have run away from the lion, but they chose to chase the lion instead. They could have just tried to go with the flow and not rock the boat. Instead, they chose to be the change.

“God is raising up a generation of Lion Chasers that don’t just run away from evil. God is raising up a generation of Lion Chasers that have the courage to compete for the kingdom.” (Batterson, p. 120)

William Wilberforce was a member of the British Parliament in the 18th century. He believed the trade of human slaves was a disgrace and honor to his country and to all of humanity. He could have waited for someone else to take on this horrific practice, but he chose not to wait around. His efforts were quite unpopular in privileged circles, and he sacrificed a life of power and privilege in order to pursue what he knew was right. In 1806, after 20 years of tireless effort, Wilberforce finally won the argument, and slave trading became illegal in all British colonies. If you ever have the chance to watch the movie Amazing Grace, it does a fine job of chronicling Mr. Wilberforce’s efforts. He chased the lion. He was the change.

In 1955, a young Baptist minister stood in front of a group of protesters and said, “As you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.” And with those words, he became a leader in what has become known as the civil rights movement. He also spoke another famous speech several years later. I have a dream.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the struggle for equality, longing for the day when “All of God’s children: black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!’” Instead of sitting around, waiting for someone else to correct what he knew to be wrong, Dr. King chased the lion. He was the change. And he was murdered because of it.

In 1972, Milton Bates saw the images flash across his TV screen. A typhoon had caused unspeakable devastation in the nation of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world. “Somebody needs to help these people,” he said to himself. He began to realize that he didn’t need to wait for ‘somebody.’ He needed to help these people. And International Disaster Emergency Services, IDES, was born. And thousands of people have been impacted by this ministry. It seemed impossible. But he chased the lion. He was the change.

These are individual people who chose to chase the lion, rather than run away. They saw the need, and instead of saying, “Someone should do something about this,” they chose to do something about it themselves. They chased the lions in their lives. They were the change.

Chasing the lion by being the change is not always easy. It took William Wilberforce over 20 years to accomplish his mission of abolishing slavery in England. Many of his colleagues said he was committing political suicide.

And ministering to those who have lost everything in natural disasters surely takes its toll on you. It requires a sacrificial lifestyle, and quite a bit of compassion and heartache. Milton Bates could have stayed in his comfortable surroundings at home and just watched people TV. But he chose to chase the lion.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was imprisoned and faced many death threats. Of course, as we know, chasing the lion eventually cost Dr. King his life.

It also nearly cost the three young men in Babylon their lives, too.

Read Daniel 3:1-12

The easy answer would have been to merely go with the flow and do what everyone else was doing. They could have bowed down to the image of Nebuchanezzar and merely kept their fingers crossed. They could have bowed down and prayed, “God, you know our hearts. We really aren’t worshiping this idol made by human hands. We really are worshiping You when we’re bowing down here.” They could have done that and then gone home and criticized what the king had forced them to do. They could have done that – but they would have been running away from the lion. They were at a crossroads similar to Benaiah. They could do what every self-preserving instinct was urging them to do and just bow down…just this once. Or they could stand up for their convictions, knowing their lives would be put on the line. They could choose to chase the lion and be the change. They chose to chase the lion. And on paper, the odds were stacked against them.

Read Daniel 3:13-27

And at the end of this story, the king of Babylon comes to a deeper understanding of the One True God. Through the courage of three young men, an entire nation was impacted. Through the willingness of three young men to chase the lion God had allowed to come before them, a kingdom was shown the power of the Almighty God. Listen to what Nebuchadnezzar says in his decree to the Babylonian people, declaring the goodness of the Lord: “No other god can save in this way.”

The only way these young men would have made an impact on the Babylonians was through their involvement in the culture. They didn’t isolate themselves and run away whenever trouble came. They were active in their community.

And that’s an example for us today. Yes, things are bad. The world is scarred by the stain of sin that impacts all of creation. We have two choices. We can sit around and complain about how the world is going to hell while the world literally goes to hell, or we can stand up and do something about it. And I say it’s time for us to do something about it.

Do you see a need in the community? Don’t just sit there. Do something about it. Is there something that’s concerning you about the direction you see the world is heading? Don’t just criticize. Create. In his book, Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World, the late Bob Briner argues that we’ve gotten pretty good at laying out the truth in clear, articulate forms. We’ve gotten pretty good at criticizing what we see around us. What we need to do now is begin to offer Christian alternatives. We need to work just as hard at producing good as we do at denouncing evil. We need to be just as intentional about creating as we are about criticizing. We need to be the change, instead of sitting around waiting and hoping for change. We need to stop pointing out the problems from the sidelines and become an active part of the solution. That’s the call of the Lion Chaser.

What does that mean for you? Well, I don’t know. It might mean that you stay where you are and be the best you can be at your profession. It might mean a career change. It might even mean relocation. I recently heard of a couple that is in their 50s that just moved from Washington, DC to Missouri so they could help a new church work get established there. No job. No family there. Just an understanding that God was calling them there. They had a choice. They could sit back and say someone else should do that, or they could get up and chase the lion all the way to Missouri.

It could mean getting more involved in the political process. While I don’t believe government is the answer to the issues we face, I do believe it can help. So, maybe the lion you’re chasing will lead you down the road of government service.

It could mean getting more involved in a ministry that is already active. There are ministries to homeless, or women in crisis situations. There’s opportunities to mentor boys and girls. There are countless opportunities for us to begin to be the change in the community around us. Sometimes you’ve just got to dig a little bit to find them. And if you can’t find an opportunity to minister to the needs that you see, then maybe it’s time to create your own opportunities. We can’t sit around and wait for other people to come in and fix the problems we see. We certainly can’t sit around and wait for government to change the direction of our culture. The only way people’s direction is going to change is through a changing of people’s hearts and minds. And the only way that is going to happen is through us. We’ve got to start chasing lions. It’s time to be the change.

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