Good Morning Brothers…
I’ve got to admit, I like my couch. There are times when I really miss it. When I’ve been away from home for an extended time, I miss my wife and kids, I miss my normal routine…but I positively miss my couch. I’ve had that couch for a long time. Sure, there are some tears here and there, a few stains from food and drink, and a collection of dust bunnies underneath…but the memories are strong. I’ve watched a lot of hockey and football games on that couch, I’ve talked with my wife about some wide and varied topics on that couch, I’ve cuddled up my kids and introduced them to various different “tickle monsters” on that couch…but I can’t help but think that my couch is holding me back. There are many moments when climbing in the high country, when my wind leaves me and my legs are burning…that I wish to be sitting on my couch. When the twisting turning game trail runs on without end and I can’t see a destination of any kind in front of me…that I wish to be sitting on my couch. When I’m cold and wet, tired beyond reason, and the hunt has just started…an image of my couch conjures itself into my brain. My couch has become an oasis for comfort, relaxation, and idleness. When hunting the high country or the thick forest, comfort, relaxation, and idleness are not adjectives used to describe the experience. When I am laying out the gear needed to ‘pack in’ to the wilderness….my couch has never made the list.
Why do I long for comfort, relaxation, and idleness? Should a man who enjoys the back country, playing contact sports, and engaging in theological and political confrontations, long for these things? I mean…I also long for the things which define us as men…mighty men…men of God.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I really want that…I mean, I really want to be strong and courageous. The Hebrew words for “be strong and courageous” are “chazak and amats”…or “chazak amats”. Used together they take on a deeper meaning. They are really intended to describe a continual attitude and not a short burst of courage. Their definitions in English contain words like strengthened, courageous, determined, hardened, proved strong and established. I would sum up all of these into the word…”GRIT”. They also carry the connotation of “receiving”…meaning these attributes are “received” from God.
Philippians 3:12-16 says, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”
The “it” that Paul is talking about is righteousness. Paul doesn’t assume he is righteous, Paul is explaining the perspective needed to ultimately acquire righteousness. If righteousness is our goal, we must forget the past…look forward to the future…and march on in pursuit of the goal…with an attitude attained by adopting the standard…the standard of Christ. I know I know…you have all heard this before…live like Christ, emulate Christ…but wait, there is something under the surface here. We are called to serve and live for Christ with “amats”.
OK…how is that different?
- The difference comes in the attitude. The difference comes in the spirit of it. The difference comes with the lack of fear.
- Following Christ with a humble heart is appropriate when the humbleness is pointed toward Him…not the world.
- We should fear God…we should never fear the world.
- Our pose toward Christ should be one of reverence with bowed head and bent knee…our pose toward the world should be one of a stiff upper lip and a straightened back.
It is serving Christ with “gusto”…it is evangelizing with “urgency”…it is ministering with “conviction”…it is leading “courageously”…it is a shirt sleeves rolled up, hands dirty mentality. It is having the “amats” to do what needs to be done without reservation, without pause, and without fanfare. It is the Spirit of God.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, His disciples were waiting for something to happen. They were waiting because Jesus told them too…on the Day of Pentecost…when the rushing winds arrived…they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter, an everyday fisherman, stood before the men of Judea and preached…and the Spirit went to work. Acts captures the scene in Chapter 2 verses 37-38, ” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s a fisherman telling the multitudes to repent and be baptized. We think of Peter completely different because we see his works from a historical perspective, the people of the 1st century see Peter as an ‘out of work’ fisherman. This is the same guy who denied Christ when pressured and also wrote two foundational books of theology and eschatology. Peter’s life mirrors ours in many ways. Peter was famous for bone-headed comments and bad decisions, in other words, Peter had a couch. But once God was finished preparing Peter…he had “AMATS”.