Assessment, Attitude, and Action Philippians 4:10-13 Judges 20:15-17
What an interestingly obscure account from the OT book of Judges. A little blurb about a special “elite” fighting force of left-handed soldiers!
Of course, the whole story (which I suggest you go back and read) is one of civil war, murder and death... lots and lots of death. But the story would still be a story of civil war, murder and death had this little detail - this little tidbit - about the “left-handed” soldiers been left out! The exclusion of the detail wouldn’t change the story, so the detail itself must be important.
The literal translation, of the phrase “left-handed”, in Hebrew, is “wounded in the right hand.” So, in other words, we’re not being told these soldiers are left-handed for the sake of being told they were left-handed. Their “left-handedness” was out-of-the-ordinary. They weren’t born left-handed. These were men who had fought in previous battles and found themselves injured in the right hand. Their right hand no longer functioned properly for battle... so... they were forced to develop and utilize their left hand!
And that’s what makes this little tidbit of information important.
Because it reminds us of a truth contained in God’s Word. And that truth is: God can take any weakness, any hindrance, any lack-of-ability - and develop it into a strength! God can take any life... regardless to how badly damaged, and make it whole... and abundant... and fruitful.
Have you ever tried to function without using your primary hand? Of course, if you’re left-handed it seems the whole world is designed for right-handed people... door knobs, can openers... the instrumentation panels in our cars (at least American cars)!
It’s almost impossible to carry-out the SIMPLEST of task without the use of our primary hand... isn’t it? But regardless, this little scripture lesson tells us that these men could hit a hair with slingshot... and not miss!
Which, of course, tells us something very important about these soldiers... because it tells us they were SO committed to their task (their calling; their charge) of being a soldier - that they completely rerouted - retooled - relearned... their abilities as to concentrate NOT on their weakness - their wounded right hand - but on their strength... their left-hand!
Can you imagine how much work... effort... commitment it must have taken? How determined these men must have been? How much personal assessment and good ole’ fashioned “soul searching” – and attitude adjustment - and perseverance it must have taken for these men to make such a change in their lives?
You know... ASSESSMENT of our abilities is something we all have to do, every day! If we have a heart condition, we have to assess our condition with a Doctor, and decide what course of treatment we need take. If we have diabetes we have to assess what we eat... how we take care of ourselves... and the list goes on-and-on! We all have to assess what we can and cannot do!
*David (in 1 Samuel 17), as in the shepherd boy David, was forced to assess his weakness... If you remember the story... David couldn’t wear Saul’s armor... it was too big... too heavy... so he assessed the situation and concentrated on his strength... a slingshot! He was deadly proficient with the thing!
*The Prodigal Son, in Luke 15... made an assessment of his living conditions - he was longing to eat pig slop - and when he came to his senses... when he assessed the situation... he decided to go home!
*These “left-handed” soldiers made an assessment... they focused on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t do!
Maybe we can relate to these “left-handed” soldiers more readily than we think!
Have you ever had some gifting, some grace... some talent or ability, that you lost? Maybe you could sing like an angel when you were younger... but something happened... your voice changed... and you can’t sing anymore! Does that mean you have to give up on music? NO, of course not!
Maybe you could play football when you were younger... but your running days are over. Does that mean football’s no longer important to you? Just because your seat changed from the sideline to stands doesn’t me you can’t make a contribution!
You know: maybe you can’t sing in the choir... or maybe you can’t stand up in church and preach, or read scripture... maybe you can’t teach adult Sunday school or cut the church grass. But that doesn’t mean our usefulness is gone... nor does it mean that God doesn’t have a purpose for our giftings and graces that we do possess!
“Well, Jerry, you just don’t understand! I can’t do anything!” How many of you’ve used a telephone this past week? How many have read some email? Or walked to the mailbox? All of us... and we can use such simple things to share our love and concern; and Jesus' love and concern with others.
And the simple fact of the matter is... none of us are the people we were yesterday, and tomorrow we’ll be different from today. Our situations change... our abilities... our strengths and weaknesses change.
Which is only to say: life requires us to assess our situation and determine what we CAN do for the Kingdom of God in the NOW. The whole of eternity is expressed in this moment... because this moment is the only moment we have! We’re not guaranteed another! The only moment we have to serve God is this moment.
Of course, if we’re breathing, we have purpose... we have something to contribute... even if it means learning something new - or doing something different.
And our ATTITUDE goes a long way in determining how we assess our situation in life!
How do you see life? Are you a glass half empty kind of person... or to see the glass as half full!
Of course, our circumstances so often cause us to see things negatively! Sometimes life itself gives us a negative outlook. BUT when our attitude is bolstered by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Good News of the Gospel of Christ... we can see beyond our circumstances... beyond our situation in life.
God’s goodness and grace is what gives us the ability to see with God’s eyes - with our spiritual eyes - in order for us to see beyond our circumstances. God blesses us with the spiritual senses - like touch and sight and taste and smell. It’s why we sing “He Touched Me!” or “I’ve Just Seen Jesus!” and “I can Hear my Savior Calling.” God’s Word speaks of the “sweet aroma” of sacrifice and praise!
The fact of the matter is: if you and I can only view life through the physical side of our humanity... and if we can’t awaken ourselves to the Spirit of Christ working within... then we’ll honestly miss out on so many of the wonderful blessings and hope and peace that God wants us to know and enjoy!
It’s the full and abundant life of Christ... Christ living in and thru us... that brings us hope in times of confusion and peace in tribulation! It’s the spiritual assurance that Christ is with us that enables us to have a positive outlook - even when life’s at its worst!
The way you and I, as followers of Jesus Christ, assess our circumstances... and the attitude we have during trying times says a lot about who and Whose we are... but nothing... and I mean nothing... speaks louder than our ACTIONS.
These “Left-Handed Soldiers” took that negative weakness in their life... and developed it into a positive strength! They took the place in their life where they were weakest... and with proper assessment and attitude... they allowed God to turn that weakness into a strength.
What are our weaknesses... what’s our attitude concerning our weaknesses!
Oh... Jerry... we’re just so small... we couldn’t possibly make a difference... let alone make the world different!
And besides that our congregation’s getting older... we’re just not able to reach out and engage our community... after all that’s the preacher’s job...
You know... if we make enough excuses (for long enough) we’ll actually start believing they're true!
But positive attitude gives way to positive actions...
In 1995... Miss America was Heather Whitestone, a former Miss Alabama... she was beautiful and talented... but she was also deaf! Heather underwent 6 years of intensive therapy in order to speak her last name! But she wanted to dance... which was a problem, because, being deaf, she couldn’t hear the music! So she assessed her situation, and set her attitude towards learning how to count the beats (or the rhythm) of the music... and she danced! Her weakness didn’t and couldn’t stop her from achieving her hopes and dreams because she based her hope and faith on one of the greatest verses of scripture I know... Philippians 4:13... “I can do all things thru Christ who gives me strength!” (Say that with me!)
Assessment... Attitude... Action...
What’s standing in our way... what’s blocking our ability to positively... effectively... serve Christ?
Nothing... except us... “I can do all things thru Christ who gives me strength!”
This is the Word of God for the People of God...
Thanks be to God... Amen.