Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground give or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”
In some ways we are operating in the dark here. It’s not like we don’t have the guidelines for life spelled out clearly in Scripture, though the prophetic stuff sure messes some people up. Our grasp of what is necessary is skewed by what we consider to be reality or truth.
When Louis Pasteur experimented with raw meat in an effort to determine whether flies and gnats spontaneously generated from it or not, his conclusion bucked hundreds of years of tradition. If I remember my history correctly, he was derided by some as a charlatan and others objected on the basis of tradition. Fast forward only a hundred years and no one believed the “tried and true” anymore because science had advanced beyond that simple experiment into discovering germs and other organisms so small that one had to use a microscope to see them.
So this means literally hundreds of years of practice were blown out of the water because of one man’s doubt about the accepted reality. It means that much of what we believe about life might be so far off as to be night to day concerning what is really there. It means Galileo died because ignorant people were more powerful than those with truth. It means that subjective truth isn’t always accurate or even true. It means we need to be more cautious about what we praise and what we criticize. It means we need to question more things and doubt more so that we can actually enter into the realm of truth.
We can laugh or put Jehoash down for his failure and boast that we wouldn’t fail Elisha but the reality is our beliefs about any situation affects how we react to it. I have no idea how I would respond to such a request outside the specific circumstances the king found himself in. With my understanding of the story now I know the best choice because of Elisha’s reaction, but without hindsight to guide me I would be just as lost as to what needed to be done as this king.
Still, this doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the situation and move to correct my attitude in the future. Jehoash failed to push through with all his might in a situation that didn’t demand much of him, yet cost him when it mattered. This revealed his heart and attitude to be lacking in either strength of purpose or simple chutzpah. Whatever the case, he failed because he just didn’t see the point.
I don’t get how to follow God all the time. There are situations where I have absolutely no idea how to proceed. There come circumstances where I think I know what God wants and it turns out I’m assuming in my human nature completely outside His thinking. I get lost at times with His will because I want miracles over sweat, success over opposition and a sense of well-being over the feeling of being on the outside.
The conundrum, of course, is that we are always on the outside if we follow Jesus. To operate within the bounds of spiritual minded wisdom, we have to think completely outside our own box. Yet His operation procedures aren’t really outside our parameters since we live by faith no matter what we do. Think about it: When we get in the car and turn the key, we expect it to start by faith in the system and people who designed it—and probably personal experience. In reality we have no idea how the wear and tear on the vehicle affects it and thus our faith might be misplaced at some point in time. When Paul tells us God works all things to the good of those who love Him, then life explodes with terrible stuff outside our control, we are told to hold on in faith, which is not easy, given our broken trust bone.
Do you see what I’m driving at? The choice to have faith in God can’t be based on whether the “car” starts when we expect it to or not, for it will let us down at some point. Our faith must be placed in something higher, more substantial and considerably more stable than a machine given over to entropy. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then something must adjust in our thinking for us to live that way and trust this is true. If we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, then our job is to submit to His mind so that we can thrive in the world not merely exist.
Jesus promised His disciples a full life, then, through Paul, expanded that promise of supply beyond what we can think or ask. To live in the now as if life were full we have to reshape our thinking or it becomes impossible. The full life cannot be had just by asking for it, we have to be open to the all things and possibilities or it’s just words. Also, what advantage is there in belonging to Jesus if we live like slaves, act like victims, look at the world through jaundiced eyes and demonstrate a hate or loathing for all things created outside of heaven? What makes anyone in the world who doesn’t know much about Jesus except that He died for our sins and (as Christians claim) rose again want this life we claim is so much better…if we’re clearly miserable?
Without some selling point none of us will ever buy a product. It must meet our needs or it rots by the wayside. The same is true for the gospel.
Where does grace enter into this scenario for us post Christ’s resurrection?
Well, here’s the kicker: to my knowledge there are still no “do-overs” offered in Christian theology or anywhere in the NT. So where does that leave us with the lesson above?
Though we don’t get repeats or a chance to retry something specific, the overall outcome of the situation might still be salvaged if we change our attitude and methods. Granted there are some things we will never change but that isn’t always the problem we’re facing overall. It’s how we live, think, and breathe that matter here not our successes or failures. No one lives in the highs constantly nor do we wallow in the lows without choosing to because normal, humdrum, mundane life usually takes over at some point. If we have a job, we still go there everyday we’re scheduled. If we have dishes to wash, we still have to wash them. The realities of life never leave us and it’s in between the highs and lows everybody lives more consistently.
The troubling thing about human nature, however, isn’t our existence but our expectations. One of the defining characteristics of an addict in my experience is their insatiable expectation that they either deserve or should be able to sustain the high at all times. The fail point for this expectation comes from the plateau or leveling out at a certain state of mind or body. In other words, if we use pot twice a day, for example, that will come to feel “normal” for both our body and mind so that we plateau at that physical state which then becomes our norm. To feel any different from our norm we have to do something more. This continued desire for the high will eventually lead to overdosing and death because it’s not sustainable for the body to remain in a drugged state over long periods of time.
The same can be said of our spiritual being. A constant euphoria (or desire for such) from revival or praise will become normal to us and our expectations of God will beg for something new to happen so that we can experience the spiritual “high”. Unfortunately, God didn’t make us for the spiritual high as a constant state of being, which disappoints the spiritual partiers because they believe this is what being spiritual means. The reality of God’s creation fails to register with them at all. Normal existence was designed by Him to result in a daily routine, while the highs of taste, touch, orgasm, color, or smell, are all there to be experienced in doses of joy not as an unvarying condition. Otherwise, the high loses its effect and we lose the fun.
Here’s where mercy, grace and forgiveness enter in.
Grace covers our inability to make the grade. So if we don’t know what to do with the “arrows” God hands us to strike the ground with, it isn’t the end of the story. Our growth is the point of mercy, grace and the cross. To grow period means to fail somewhere in the journey, because failure is a part of learning how to walk both in the physical and spiritual realms. Birds don’t fly the moment they leave the egg. Neither can we expect to grasp the spiritual truths in one fell swoop. It’s ludicrous and dangerous to preach or contemplate any other reality than the one God demonstrated in the disciples and Scripture in general.
Grace presents an offer to strike the “arrows” again. Oh, may be not in the same way, but certainly in a similar or, often times, greater situation than before. We will fail because we’re sinners saved by grace, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. So when our personal Armenians threaten attack, we might fail and wet ourselves. Yet that is not the end of our journey in Christ; this is not the defining moment in our history. We die to self daily and live to Christ eternally.