There’s a fine line between recklessness and courage. Often the defining factor is whether the mission succeeds. When it does, we get our hero, our courageous trailblazer. When it doesn’t, the action might still be called courageous but the consequences linked to the risk are a hard burden. And sometimes we call such people reckless.
I wondered if Jonathan was reckless or courageous when I read of his attack on the Philistines. Within the context of a war pitted against Jonathan’s side, the Israelites, we read in the Bible of his fearless conquest. “One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armour, “come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.” (1 Samuel 14:1) This verse fails to mention that his father was actually the king.
So Jonathon, all cocksure and brimming with youthful enthusiasm, hiked to the Philistines’ outpost with his armour-bearer bringing up the rear. However fierce a warrior Jonathon was, I couldn’t imagine the two presented a quake-in-your-boots picture. After all, they were dismally outnumbered.
The verse that helped me understand whether Jonathon was acting out of courage or recklessness was this (in his own words): “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” (verse 6).
Jonathon’s faith gave him courage. In that two-sentence statement, he gave credence to the oft-quoted mantra, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
God’s ability is not restricted or enlarged by circumstances. He is not more powerful when the odds are on our side, nor is he weaker when the odds are against us. “By many or by few”, God is mighty to save.
So we go on to read that Jonathon and his armour-bearer killed 20 of the enemy side that day. By themselves. Or rather, two men with God on their side.
The Bible includes many of these kinds of stories. David, the shepherd boy who recklessly or courageously stood up against the brute force of Goliath, and won. Joshua who carried on from Moses in leading the Israelite people. Some of his campaigns would have been considered reckless, but God brought triumph. Gideon was the runt of the litter in his family, and he belonged to the weakest clan in Manesseh. Yet God used him mightily to defeat the Midianites. Was it reckless for such a weakling to step up?
I think these stories are in the Bible for more than historical record. Again and again God reveals how he uses weak people to do great things. Weakness gives room for Him to do his stuff, to use us to achieve greater things than we could ever imagine.
We may think we are not smart enough, not eloquent enough, not strong enough, not bold enough, not wise enough, not ready, not the right person for the job. But if God asks us to step up, he will certainly equip us too.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday April 8, 2013.