I just got home from our Vertical Winter Retreat (for 7th-12th grade students) a few days ago. While on the trip I tried to stick with my “21 Day Fix” eating plan (mentioned in the previous post), but after a day of snow boarding I was ravenously hungry. Honestly, there wasn’t many heathy options at the ski lodge. So . . . I decided to go off my eating plan a “little.” I ordered 2 cheese burgers, chicken strips and some fries and — to at least exercise a modicum of discipline — a DIET Pepsi! (Smile.) The next morning, I coarse corrected back on to the “Fix” and pretty much stayed on it for the rest of the trip.
When I got home I saw one of my friends who is doing the eating plan with me, the first words out of my mouth to him were a description of my dismal decent into an embarrassing cheeseburger-chicken-finger-frenzy. His wife, who was standing right next to him listening, exclaimed, “Now that’s accountability!”
The truth is that I am much stronger with accountability! Yes, I fell face-first into a major fast-food fail, but usually I wouldn’t have course correct the very next day. I would have tried to start again a few days later, probably after the retreat had ended. Just knowing that I had a friend who was pushing through this same discipline with me, helped me to get back on track. Accountability is strength. The choice to never journey alone, is the best decision we could ever make. Having people who have your back — makes what would be impossible alone — possible.
In I Samuel 13, we find an amazing story of friends committed to covering each other’s back. This account is about two friends who successfully overcame a massive, oppressive enemy, even against all odds. During this time, the Philistines were oppressing the Israelite people. The Israelites were being forced to pay tribute (heavy taxes) and denied the right to own or bear arms to defend themselves. The Philistines wanted to make sure Israel could not break free from their military enslavement. The situation had gotten so bad that, “there wasn’t a sword or spear to be found anywhere in Israel — except for Saul [the king] and his son Jonathan; they were both well-armed” (I Samuel 13:22).
During this time of Israelite oppression, it looked impossible for things to turn around. The Philistines had “rallied their forces to fight Israel: three companies of chariots, six companies of cavalry, and so many infantry they looked like sand on the seashore” (I Samuel 13:5). “When the Israelites saw that they were way outnumbered and in deep trouble, they ran for cover, hiding in caves and pits, ravines and brambles and cisterns — wherever. They retreated across the Jordan River, refugees fleeing to the country of Gad and Gilead” (I Samuel 13:6-7). To make things worse, other Israelites who had actually “defected to the Philistine camp,” were now fighting against their own brothers (I Samuel 14: 22).
Only 600 men remained in Saul’s army — all of them “scared to death” — and hiding from the Philistines (I Samuel 13:7). It was definitely a dark hour for the Israelites. But when all seemed lost, Jonathan decided to fight. Jonathan, Saul’s son, said to his armor bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the Philistine garrison patrol on the other side of the pass” (1 Samuel 14:1).
When the odds were stacked against Jonathan, he asked for help, first, from God and, second, from someone who he knew would cover his back. Check out what happened:
“No one there knew that Jonathan had gone off. The pass that Jonathan was planning to cross over to the Philistine garrison was flanked on either side by sharp rock outcroppings, cliffs named Bozez and Seneh. The cliff to the north faced Micmash; the cliff to the south faced Geba (Gibeah). Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it.” His armor bearer said, “Go ahead. Do what you think best. I’m with you all the way.” Jonathan said, “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll cross over the pass and let the men see we’re there. If they say, ‘Halt! Don’t move until we check you out,’ we’ll stay put and not go up. But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ we’ll go right up — and we’ll know God has given them to us. That will be our sign.” So they did it, the two of them. They stepped into the open where they could be seen by the Philistine garrison. The Philistines shouted out, “Look at that! The Hebrews are crawling out of their holes!” Then they yelled down to Jonathan and his armor bearer, “Come on up here! We’ve got a thing or two to show you!” Jonathan shouted to his armor bearer, “Up! Follow me! God has turned them over to Israel!” Jonathan scrambled up on all fours, his armor bearer right on his heels. When the Philistines came running up to them, he knocked them flat, his armor bearer right behind finishing them off, bashing their heads in with stones. In this first bloody encounter, Jonathan and his armor bearer killed about twenty men. That set off a terrific upheaval in both camp and field, the soldiers in the garrison and the raiding squad badly shaken up, the ground itself shuddering — panic like you’ve never seen before!” (I Samuel 14:3-15).
It’s amazing what can be done when two people decide to rely on God and each other! Jonathan and his armor bearer trusted in the Lord, covered each other’s backs and emerged victorious. In fact, God used this act of bravery to cause so much confusion in the Philistine army, that Israel was able to overthrow their captors.
“[After hearing what Jonathan and his armor bearer had done,] Saul immediately called his army together and they went straight to the battle. When they got there they found total confusion — Philistines swinging their swords wildly, killing each other. Hebrews who had earlier defected to the Philistine camp came back. They now wanted to be with Israel under Saul and Jonathan. Not only that, but when all the Israelites who had been hiding out in the backwoods of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were running for their lives, they came out and joined the chase. God saved Israel! What a day!” (I Samuel 14:20-23).
It seems nothing is impossible for two people who follow God. Jonathan and his armor bearer trusted in the Lord, covered each other’s backs and emerged victorious! This principle is true for everyone who would find himself or herself in a battle too big for them to overcome. Our enemy Satan would love to trap us in any addiction that would keep us from getting close to God. If you are trapped in the clutches of an addictive sin, than all is not lost! It may seem your enemies are more than the “sand on the seashore”— but do not fear — for nothing is impossible for two (or more) people if they rely on God (I Samuel 13:5). As Matthew 18:19 says, “I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you” (Matthew 18:19 NLV).
Leviticus 26:8 points to the exponential power amassed when people trust God together, “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand . . . .” Jesus knew the power of friends working together toward a common goal, that’s why he sent the disciples out in pairs of two to share the Gospel. The disciples came back and reported to Jesus, “even the demons obey us when we use your name” (Luke 10:17 NLT). The disciples were powerful together! Every Batman needs a Robin and every Frodo, a Bilbo Baggins. If we are going to overcome our Enemy and accomplish all that God has planned for us, we must fight together! It’s amazing what a small group of people can ward off when they cover each other’s backs!
Grow: (3 minute exercise)
Your mission is to find a Jonathan with whom to fight. Find a friend who you can open up to about your struggles or temptations. (Sometimes just sharing your battles can set you totally free.) Now I want to challenge you to pray about who this person (or persons) should be. Whoever you share your struggles with must be someone you trust and someone who can keep your struggles confidential. Your challenge is to find one or two people with whom you can fight. Open up to that person(s) and let them open up to you. (Of course, it would be good to open up to your pastors about issues you are dealing with, but I would also recommend finding a peer you can be open with too.) Take a few minutes to pray and ask God whom that person or persons should be. I have included a prayer below. You can use it as a guide if you would like:
Dear Heavenly Father, I love you and want to live wholeheartedly for you. You’ve told us that there is strength in numbers. Please bring me a friend with whom I can fight alongside. Please bring a trustworthy person I can share my heart with and help me to be a trustworthy person as well. Would you show me who that person is? I want to live for you and would love someone to cover my back as I cover theirs. Thank you so much, in Jesus name, amen.
Write down any friends that come to mind:
Make a commitment to talk to these people this week. A week from today, what will the date be? Write it down in the blank below and make it a goal to talk to them before then.
Today’s date: ________________ Goal date (one week from today): ________________
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