We face a number of battles in life. Things are not always easy. We’ve heard preaching on adversity in the Christian’s life. We’ve heard preaching on struggle and disappointment. We know that Christianity doesn’t guarantee an end to all our troubles.
We like to think we’re self-sufficient, don’t we? But the fact is, we can’t do everything alone, sometimes we need God. In fact there are three things that are crucial to living out the will of God; faith, fellowship and fortitude. Those three things will see you through the battles of life and into the kingdom of God.
Today I want to write about faith, fellowship and fortitude from a familiar portion of scripture. 1 Samuel 14:1-6
This story takes place during a battle between Israel and the Philistines. This is when Saul with 600 men is facing a garrison (or fort) of Philistines. He’s hopelessly outnumbered. There is no way he can defeat them with 600 men.
It takes place just after Saul has usurped the role of the priest and offered a burnt offering, thinking that Samuel was going to be late. Samuel showed up on-time and told him that God had torn the kingdom from him, looking for a man after God’s own heart.
Saul is sitting under the Pomegranate tree, he’s waiting for something to happen. He’s waiting on God.
But Jonathan is eager to see God’s deliverance so he gather’s his armor-bearer and they attack the Philistines, just the two of them and they kill twenty Philistines on a half-acre of land and then there’s an earthquake and the Bible says the Philistines just melted away.
Let’s take a look at the things that are happening in this story:
1 Samuel 14:1-3 (NKJV)
14:1 Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the Philistines' garrison that is on the other side." But he did not tell his father. 2 And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men. 3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.
In these three verses we see a contrast in faith. On the one hand we see Jonathan who tells his armor-bearer, “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” “Let’s take an action and see if God will move.” We see this faith more completely in verse 6.
1 Samuel 14:6 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few."
What restrains God? He can save through many or He can save through a few.
Faith is an action word. It doesn’t mean to sit and believe that God will magically do something. Through faith, we take an action. We call it a step of faith, don’t we? So Jonathan decides to actively move on his faith that God will deliver by Jonathan’s actions.
On the other hand we see Saul, who is sitting under the pomegranate tree. He’s got the priest in an ephod. The priest wore the ephod to consult the oracle of God. Saul’s looking to hear from God. Saul is waiting for God to move. But in waiting, what’s he doing? He’s doing nothing. The circumstances aren’t going to change by waiting. Saul isn’t doing anything to activate a move of God. He’s not acting in faith, he’s waiting for magic.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Is that faith? “Okay, I prayed, now I’m going to sit down here and wait for God to wave his magic wand and change my circumstances.” The question here is, “Does waiting around change our circumstances. In your own life, when was the last time that doing nothing improved a bad situation.
There are no more soldiers marching to Saul’s position. The Philistines aren’t going anywhere; they smell an easy victory. Nothing is going to change through Saul’s waiting.
Look at the Bibical definition of faith:
Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith gives substance to what we hope for. It’s the evidence of what we don’t see. In other words faith makes our hopes and dreams real. How do you make it real? By acting in Faith.
Saul is sitting, waiting for God to move and nothing is happening. How many of us have real needs that only God can meet? What are we doing to see those needs met? Jonathan steps out and acts in faith. God moves powerfully in response to his faith. The deliverance of Israel comes from that act of faith. Saul waits for God; Jonathan acts, knowing God will respond. Which one is acting in faith? So, simply said, faith is the catalyst to a move of God. It is vital for a Christian to not only believe but to act in faith to see God move.
But I’m not talking about acting rashly. I’m talking about prayerful, considered acts of faith. Jonathan isn’t rash in his decision to go to the Philistines. First, he enlists the armor-bearer; he asks the question, “Should we do this?” Secondly, he looks for God to be involved; “This will be the sign,” he’s asking God which way should we do this. “What’s your plan for the completion of this thing?” Thirdly, he acts and God’s answer comes out of that action. Once they showed themselves the Philistines responded according to the sign they were looking for from God. This is a pattern for us in decision-making. As Christians we need to act in faith.
1 Samuel 14:6-12 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few." 7 So his armorbearer said to him, "Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart." 8 Then Jonathan said, "Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, 'Wait until we come to you,' then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, 'Come up to us,' then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us." 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, "Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden." 12 Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, "Come up to us, and we will show you something." Jonathan said to his armorbearer, "Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel."
Jonathan wanted to see a move of God. He was looking for the deliverance of Israel. At this time in Israel’s history, The Philistines were dominating them. Israel didn’t have any blacksmiths, they were forced to go down to the Philistines to have farming tools sharpened…so they had no weapons to defend themselves. Look at this:
1 Samuel 13:22-23 (NKJV)
13:22 So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son. 23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.
You can see what a desperate time this was for them. They’re facing a force that greatly outnumbers them. They have no weapons. The Philistines will totally dominate any kind of battle, then they’ll “own” Israel. This is a desperate moment.
Jonathan isn’t looking out for his own self-interest here he’s looking for the deliverance of all of Israel. He knows that deliverance is only possible through supernatural means. Only God can do this, for Israel it’s impossible. They only have about six hundred men; only Jonathan and Saul have weapons. Jonathan is ready to act but he knows he can’t act on his own so he enlists the armor-bearer.
Jonathan and Saul are under huge pressure, here. But look at how each reacts:
Saul waits to see what God will do; he doesn’t look to any of the others. He’s trying to deal with all on his own. Remember in Chapter 13 he offered the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel to come. He moved to solve a problem on his own and in his own strength. They’d been sitting there for a while…The people were frightened, they were hiding, they were leaving. Saul didn’t want to wait for Samuel because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hold his force together so he orders the animal to be brought for the burnt offering.
1 Samuel 13:9-12 (NKJV)
13:9 So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, 'The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.' Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering."
So he acted alone and look at the outcome:
1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NKJV)
13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."
The Lord would have established his kingdom forever, but because he acted alone he lost it all. In Chapter 16 Samuel anoints David to be king of Israel, while Saul and his heir are still alive.
But now look at how Jonathan reacted. He went to the armor-bearer; he wasn’t intending to act on his own. He went to a brother; someone with whom he is of one accord. He acted in fellowship with another man whose strength was as strong as his own. In Christian terms, they acted in fellowship.
We aren’t alone. Christianity was never intended to be a solo pursuit. We are intended to be together and strive together. Last week in, “Are You Spiritually Fat?” I wrote about striving together. That’s God’s will that we will be in fellowship with each other. That’s why in Hebrews Chapter 10 it says this:
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)
10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
That verse is talking about fellowship; we need each other.
We can see that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were of the same mind. The armor-bearer tells Jonathan, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.” He’s merely saying, I’m with you. I believe with you. I’m of one accord with you.
Before I came to Taiwan, I pastored a church in Riverside, California. There was a family member of one of the Riverside church members that became very sick. He had made tea of a plant that was a dangerous and powerful drug and he ended up in the hospital. This woman in our church is there to pray for him, she’s witnessing to him and his wife. Afterward the wife turns to her thanking her and says this: “My heart is with you.” Do you know what that is? It’s fellowship.
This is what the armor-bearer said to Jonathan. “Do it, my heart’s with you.” Look at what was accomplished:” 1) they defeated the garrison of the Philistines and 2) God moved powerfully and brought about the deliverance of Israel. In acting together we can overcome, in acting alone we’re doomed.
According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionaries, Fortitude can be defined as strength of mind that enables one to meet danger or bear pain or adversity with courage
Jonathan’s faith carried with it fortitude. It took courage in this instance to act in faith. Two men facing a whole garrison, that’s courageous. That’s fortitude. The odds were against them and they acted courageously, anyway.
How often do we face things in life that require courage? We make decisions that will affect our families. We make decisions in business that are a risk . We make decisions that will completely change or lives, forever. That takes fortitude…and faith.
That’s what happened in 1 Samuel 14. Jonathan acted in faith, fellowship and fortitude and God gave Israel a great victory. I want you to notice that Jonathan wasn’t acting selfishly here. He was acting for all of Israel. But I also want you to know that God will meet your individual needs as well, when those needs further God’s will for your life.
Faith, fellowship and fortitude: These three things are vital to the Christian experience. God is expecting that we will be of one accord and strive together for victory. We need each other.
One of the problems I’ve seen over and over is people making decisions on their own, without God, and without counsel. There was a couple in Riverside that decided that they would move to Mexico to pursue a career. The man told me, “There’s more opportunity in Mexico.” Seven percent of the population of Mexico has immigrated to the US, legally and illegally looking for the opportunity to feed their families.
But this couple, like Saul made the decision to go on their own, without God and actually ignoring counsel. God even spoke to them through a sermon, I preached the day before they left and I didn’t even know they had made this decision at the time. They lost everything, eventually came back and now they’re gloriously saved, living for Jesus and blessed.
But look at the lesson; they acted more like Saul than Jonathan. God puts churches together because we all have gifts that benefit each other. It’s like marriage; Brenda has strengths, talents and abilities I don’t have. I have strengths, talents and abilities she doesn’t have, but together we make a good team. The same is true in the church. We can benefit from our association together. Striving and fighting together makes us much stronger than fighting alone. If we act together in faith, fellowship and fortitude, God will bring about a victory in our church…and in our individual lives.