“There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets!” According to Solomon (Proverbs 26:13) that is the cry of a slothful person, one who is looking for reasons not to do what needs to be done. That was 3,000 years ago, but some folks are claiming the lion is still ranging the streets–and it’s not only the slothful making the claim. Too many people seem to be expecting to find hungry lions in some pretty unexpected places, and find their ministries thwarted because they are afraid to venture out.
Not all of the lions in the streets are imaginary. But some are!
The lions in the streets today go by some pretty fanciful names. Among them are “Intimidation,” “Disillusionment,” “Discouragement,” “Frustration,” “Lack of Vision,” “Satisfaction with the Status Quo” and, yes, one named “Slothfulness.” One is even called “the DC.” That’s the one that gets in the way of accomplishing some of our greatest visions for our corps and communities: “The DC will never buy this.” “The DC is opposed to anything new…” “The DC doesn’t like people who rock the boat!” Another well-known lion is called the “Program Planning Council,” or “PPC” for short. “There’s no use proposing anything new–by the time the PPC gets done with it, we won’t need it any more!” “The PPC is so picky, it just isn’t worth the grief!”
How do we sort out the real lions from the imaginary? I suspect it requires a special spiritual gift, the gift of discernment. We need to be able to recognize our own negative feelings, the “lions” that keep us from performing at the standard God has set for us. After all, real or imaginary, the lions in the streets are getting in the way of our accomplishing God’s purposes.
Deal with them.
First, recognize that some lions on the pathway to successful ministry are real–and some are not! Peter reminds us in I Peter 5:8 that we are to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Learn to separate the real lions from the imaginary. A good way to begin: look at goals. Are the overall goals of the “lion” the same as yours, or are they in opposition? Take, for example, those two famous lions we love to blame, “the DC” and “PPC.” Believe it or not, their great desire is to advance the cause of Christ, not to find ways to defeat proposals for innovative ministry. Only thing is, these so-called lions are saddled with the task of making sure that your proposal is as good as you think it is–that the kinks are worked out so it won’t backfire–all those legal, financial, practical and programmatic issues that the real enemy would like to see blow up in your face.
Because, let’s face it–there are real lions out there who prey on those who would advance God’s cause. And real lions have real teeth and claws. Not everyone wants us to succeed in carrying out God’s work in our own community. It will take careful, solid groundwork to move forward when the lions are ranging the streets–when there are those in the community who adamantly oppose the ministry, or those who would take advantage of your plans to increase their own profitability, to the detriment of the ministry.
A bit of advice: Forget the imaginary lions–forget thinking of the teams at DHQ and THQ as the enemy, and team with them to accomplish your mission. Work with them; anticipate their questions and possible stumbling blocks to mission accomplishment; identify the potential pitfalls, and have your answers ready. Saturate your projects with prayer. Seek the wisdom of God and the wisdom of those around you–your advisory board, your corps council. After all, to accomplish God’s purposes, we must be certain that God is involved. If you are convinced that your proposed plans are of value, re-evaluate them to identify what difficulties others may have seen that you missed. Don’t give up on what you are convinced is of God until God himself shows you that he has something better in mind.
God is a doer. And he doesn’t let imaginary lions stand in the way.
And the enemy hates that! That real lion, the one who stalks the streets looking for weaknesses that he can take advantage of–he hates it when God’s people work together with God for the good of the Kingdom, because that’s when he really has to work up a sweat trying to defeat us. And you better believe he’ll do it! That’s one dangerous lion we’re facing!
But Daniel faced a whole pride of hungry lions, real lions, with teeth and claws and terrifying roars and the desire to tear him apart–and he came out of the lion’s den without a scratch, because God intervened.
And God intervenes still. The imaginary lions of emotion and misunderstanding He disperses with the light of his reason; the real lions, the lions the enemy sends to oppose the ministry God would accomplish through us, the real lions may rage and snarl and threaten, but when all is said and done, they will be helpless–because God will intervene to accomplish his purposes.