This is the seventh lesson in our series, The Disciplines of Life. We have studied: Solitude; Discipleship; Dependability & Determination; Discernment, Decision & Duty; and Declining Days, Deformity, & Disability thus far.
There are many disciplines that should be evident in the life of the Christian. In this lesson we want to look at the Disciplines of Danger, Daring, and Darkness. As we have been emphasizing in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “Training that corrects molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).
Danger (Neh. 6:1-19)
Life is full of dangers: physical, social and spiritual. Nehemiah’s experience is illustrative of the discipline of danger. As we read the 6th chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we see described the dangers he faced in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
First, there was the Danger of Intrigue (vv. 1-4). The enemy sent word to Nehemiah that they would like to meet with him. Nehemiah could only speculate as to the purpose of the meeting, but the text says that “they were planning to harm me” and therefore sent word to them, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” They repeated the request four more times.
Second, there was the Danger of Innuendo (vv. 6-9). They sought to ascribe to him false motives. They said, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, a king is in Judah!” Nehemiah’s response was that they were inventing these things in their own minds.
Third, there was the Danger of Intimidation (vv. 10-14). Shemaiah told Nehemiah that, ““Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” Nehemiah replied to him, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” Nehemiah realized that God had not spoken to him at all, but rather that Shemaiah had been hired by Tobiah and Sanballat, hoping to intimidate him and make him sin so that they could accuse and discredit him.
Finally, there was the Danger of Insinuation (vv. 17, 19). The text says, “During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah…. They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.” The servant of God may be assaulted by letters sent by others in an attempt to destroy his reputation. Sticking to his duty, in the midst of such a barrage of letters, may very well be the deepest of trials for this servant of God.
The application for us as Christians today is that we may be tempted to turn from our tasks to address the dangers of intrigue, innuendo, intimidation, or insinuation but our safety is in doing our duty (2:3), putting our trust in God (6:9), standing steadfast and immovable (6:11), and serving in silence. The result for us will be as it was with Nehemiah, “…the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God” (6:15-16). “Danger feared is folly, danger faced is freedom” (Erdman, p.23)
Daring (Joshua 1:6-7)
Joshua illustrates wonderfully the Discipline of Daring. Scripture tells us that after the death of Moses the Lord spoke to Joshua, his assistant and told him “the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:2-5)
There is no indication in Scripture that Joshua hesitated at all, but rather he promptly began giving instructions to his officers, “Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Joshua 1:10-11)
It certainly would not have been unreasonable to expect that he would have exercised the Discipline of Deliberation – “To be sure, there is the discipline of deliberation, wherein one ponders the pathway he should take and restudies the resources he will need for any given enterprise; but there is also the discipline of daring, wherein one decided to do his duty despite every difficult and danger” (Erdman, p.25).
But to deliberate and delay unduly, when God is for us and leading us, is foolish. “Daring can mean the difference between defeat by default and the delight of duty well done” (Ibid). And so God urged him on, ““Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do” (Joshua 1:6-7).
We need that same exhortation today, “Be Strong & Very Courageous!” There are giants as there were then. Joshua had seen them (Num. 13) but he did not concur with the majority report (Num. 13:33; 14:8-9).
Consider these insightful comments by Erdman
- “Daring sees God, not the giants, the Savior, not the cities walled up to heaven; the promises, not the impossibilities; the authority of God, not the Anakim” (Erdman, p.26). Their minority report said “Let’s go up at once and possess it … (Num. 13:33).
- “Daring often stands alone or in a hopeless minority; and learns therein one of the primary lessons of patience that lead to triumph; dread not the majority that outvotes you nor the mob that would stone you” (Num. 14:10)(Erdman, p.27). Often “…our real foes are not the fierce sons of Anak, but rather are the furtive Achans within our own camp” (Joshua 7) (Erdman, p. 27).
- “There is the Jordan, as well as the giants to hinder us as it did Joshua. The giants may represent spiritual and psychological foes that face us when we would follow God, the Jordan may well represent physical factors that render fortuitous or even foolish any thought of following Him further … There are physical factors that make impossible our obedience to the know will of God…. God had told Joshua to go over this Jordan just as it was. There is a very fine line of differentiation between fanaticism of self-will and the faith of obedience to God’s will; and happy the heart that learns that difference” (Erdman, pp. 28-29).
- “While caution considers and deliberation delays, daring obeys the explicit command of the Lord…. This is a discipline of daring: to be strong when the seeming impossibility stares one in the face; to be very courageous when obedience commands that we put our feet on the brim of certain disaster” (Erdman, pp. 29-30)
- “A life of sight calculates, considers, cautions, and cringes. Whereas a life of faith follows God implicitly” (2Cor. 1:9-10; 4:8) (Erdman, p. 30).
- “To walk by faith is to face an unending succession of giants, Jordans, and Jerichos and to dare to conquer each one in turn” (Erdman, p. 30).
When we are considering how we should move forward, we must recognize the God’s methods may not be ours. In fact, usually they are not. Consider the methods God chose at Jericho (Josh. 6:16, 20), at Ai (Josh. 8:18, 26) and centuries later with King Jehoshaphat (2nd Chron. 20:22).
“This is the discipline of daring; to discern one’s duty, to do God’s bidding, to delight in His presence, to depend upon His promise, to discover His power as we obey His word, ‘Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do … that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest …’ (Josh. 1:7-9)” (Erdman, p. 31).
Darkness (Isa 50:10)
Finally let’s consider the Discipline of Darkness. To illustrate this discipline, we will look at the statement found in Isaiah 50: 10, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.” The child of God has benefit of wisdom from God’s word, and therefore need not walk in darkness. This truth is confirmed in many New Testament passages, including Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:17; Rom. 12:1-2; Acts 23:11.
But we are also told that the trial of our faith is inevitable (1Pet. 1:7). “This trial of faith provides the discipline of darkness for God’s child, that he may learn to trust his Father in the shadows as well as in the sunshine” (Erdman, p. 34)
Consider several Bible Examples. First consider Joseph. Childhood dreams taught him he would be preeminent among his brothers but his pathway led through hatred, envy, & rejection. His experience in Potiphar’s house was very much a journey through darkness as was his experience in prison. But Joseph was faithful to the mission God called him and God blessed him (Gen. 50:20).
Secondly, consider the example of Jeremiah. He was misunderstood by others, but assured by God (Jer. 15:11, 20). He went deeper into distress and difficulty. But God again assured him (Jer. 39:17, 18).
Third, consider John the Baptist. He was a burning and shining light (Jn. 5:35). But the hatred of the Herodians led him to the dungeon and death.
Finally, consider Job. There was none like him in all the earth (Job 1:1-8; 2:3). Suddenly he was plunged into dismay, desolation, disease, and despair. Have you ever thought about the “dark night of the soul” reflected in Job’s statements in Job 3:23; 6:8-9; 9:30-31; and 13:24-25?
“The darkness brings to us haunting shadows that insinuate ‘God has forgotten to be gracious,’ ‘God concerns not himself with you,’ ‘God’s will would not bring you into the shadow,’ ‘God has forsaken you because you have disobeyed Him,’ and a thousand similar subtle snares of Satan. On the contrary, the discipline of darkness can show us the wonderful truth of Isa. 50:10 …Our temptation is to give up all hope in the dark or else to kindle a fire of our own (Isa. 50:11) which will prove to be loss and sorrow. Rather we find heart and mind are stayed upon the Lord, that, ‘unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous’ (Psa. 112:4)” (Erdman, p. 37)
Danger, Daring, and Darkness. Those are disciplines that we may very well be called upon to engage in our lives as Christians. Are you prepared to face what life throws at you? If you “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on your God” you should be! If not, make it right today!
Thanks for reading dear friend.
(Source: The Disciplines of Life, V. Raymond Edmond, pp. 17-38)