Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

People learn much more by doing than just by sitting in a classroom debating a topic. It is one thing to be told that you have what it takes and it is another thing altogether to discover that you actually do because you accomplished something with your life.

Knowledge must be obtained by going beyond just what you read in a book. There comes a day when we all must venture beyond the classroom and take it out to the streets of the real world.

To say that you really learned something, I believe that it must go beyond the intellect and be proved by passing a physical test of some sort. It means practically triumphing over the challenge via experience. You have gained a few battle scars because you personally and fully engaged in an adventure that demanded you apply the instruction you claimed to have assimilated into your life.

Real Christianity is not a spectator sport. Faith doesn’t take place in the sanctuary as much as it needs to infiltrate the society that you are a member. Believing must be entered into wholeheartedly, body, soul and spirit.

You might say that it is one-part instruction and nine parts engaging. It is willingly giving God room in your life to move in the ways that He has promised. If you have never laid down your limited control so that God can take you into a situation that if He doesn’t come through, the whole venture will fall apart, what are you waiting for?

Faith without action is just religious talk. You can say that you are a believer but if you have never actually taken a step forward into God’s great wide open, you probably never trusted and obeyed.

Real reliance upon Heaven is what the Biblical story of David and Goliath is all about. The Old Testament tale informs us rather blatantly that the armies of Israel have drawn up against the armies of the Philistines, but not a single shot has been fired from any bow. There is more cowardice than courage in the Hebrew front lines.

The reason, of course, is the dreaded Philistine, Goliath. He is a mercenary of tremendous size and strength, and is renowned for his reputation and skill in combat. He’s killed many men bare-handed, and no one is rushing to be next.

Enter David, who is barely a teen himself, when he goes into the camp and sees with his own eyes what is really going on. He hears Goliath just cursing God and being crudely profane about the Lord that David loves. Without much fanfare, David offers to fight Goliath because nobody should be mocking Jehovah like that.

This part is where it becomes all too familiar. King Saul, who at this point only has a ceremonial connection to God, does what most of us would do and he tries to tell David that the kid is out of his mind.

King Saul says, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and Goliath has been a force to be reckoned with for years” (1 Sam. 17:33 NIV).

Many would call this sound and sane advice, but the problem is that when God calls someone to do something heroic, the last thing they need is discouragement and negativity from the peanut gallery.

David doesn’t let the negative steal his thunder and he accentuates the positive call that he has received from his God. David owns a supernatural confidence because he has already seen the Hand of the Lord come through for him as he shepherded his sheep and protected them from the attacks of lions and bears.

When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, David didn’t just roll over and count his losses. David went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.

David had a viable history of seeing how God helped him kill both the lion and the bear; so, this uncircumcised Philistine shouldn’t be much more trouble.

David boldly shares, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam 34–37 NIV).

David learned lessons here that would carry him the rest of his life. It is not a cocky arrogance. It is the resume of faith. David knows that God has been with him. David intends to charge Goliath, take his best shot, and trust that God will do the rest.

This kind “knowing the Lord” only comes through participating in the plan of God. David realized that what he was about to do was dangerous, but that didn’t mean God wasn’t in it.

We live in a day now where there is too much protection and I believe an unhealthy prevention keeping children from any experience where they might get hurt. How will they ever learn that bumps and bruises are a normal part of the journey?

Climbing trees is a rite of passage even if it means falling. Ski retreats, hiking trips, whitewater rafting, overseas mission trips were only a few of the activities that as a pastor for the last 37 years, I have taken many teens and adults upon.  All of it involves some real potential risks and dangers but the spiritual fruit reaped because of the involvement far outweighed the playing-it-so-safe-that-you-never-leave-the-safety-of-your-own-backyard-approach.  

Christians must not be content to stay inside and merely watch. Some people are more inherently fearful than others; some are made fearful by overprotective caregivers.

Either way, it is a great disservice to let an individual becomes so sheltered that because everything is potentially dangerous, the disciples of today end up doing absolutely nothing. Living lives mean risks are involved, and the older we get, those risks may increase dramatically.

But if God is calling me at 60 to follow Him into the Amazon jungle, I’d be safer there in the center of His will than I would ever be hunkered down at home. And the same goes for you.

A man’s heart is crushed when he has no one to accompany him into the adventures his soul craves, no one to show him how to shoot a free throw or hit a curve ball or jump his bike or rock climb or use a power tool.

A woman’s heart is broken when she has no father to fight for her, and tell her that she is a beauty and a delight and a gift from God that can do anything to which she sets her mind. Much of the anger we see in our youth today comes from this lack of experience, because they are ready and fired up to be involved but have no outlet, no place to go and no one willing to lead them out into the great wide open.

Enough with the video games. It’s time to get out and breathe the fresh air and expend a little blood, sweat and tears.

Today’s church is in deep spiritual trouble if no one steps up and gets passionate about leading others to follow Jesus out the front door and into the scary world so that Jesus can make a difference through us. Christianity will never be a picnic in the park but it is still God’s call upon all His children to go into all the world and live the gospel.

We’ve been in the classroom long enough. It’s time to practice what we preach. It’s time to put those notes to good use. It’s time to do what Jesus said we could do with Him, if we would only give the Lord a chance to keep His promises to us.

 ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.