Embracing Proactive Christianity
by LESLIE LUDY
He was only there to deliver bread and cheese. But when David arrived at the battlefield that day, he saw two things he couldn’t ignore: a massive, mocking giant … and God’s people cowering in fear. He was just a young shepherd boy, disregarded by his older brothers. He hadn’t even been invited to the battle. Yet out of all the Israelites staring up at Goliath that day, David was the only one who saw the situation according to Heaven’s reality. He knew that sprinting toward the danger — not running away from it — would honor God and showcase His mighty power.
From a logical, human standpoint, it made more sense to do what the rest of the Israelite army was doing — to hide, retreat, back away, and self-protect. Goliath towered over every man there. He had been trained as a fierce and undefeatable warrior since childhood. But David didn’t see an intimidating giant; he saw only the unstoppable power of his God. He knew he didn’t need Saul’s armor, sophisticated weapons, or special training to conquer this boastful enemy of Israel. He only needed unshakable confidence in his victorious King.
One of the most extraordinary moments in the story is when Goliath challenged David to come toward him, telling him in no uncertain terms that he planned to kill him violently:
Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!
1 Samuel 17:44
And in the face of these thundering threats, David didn’t hesitate, he didn’t waver, and he didn’t ease cautiously into the battle. Instead, the Bible says that he, “hurried and ran … to meet the Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:48). This phrase literally means: to sprint with liquid ferocity.
In other words, David ran as fast as he could to meet his greatest threat head-on. And because he sprinted straight toward the danger with liquid ferocity, Goliath never even knew what hit him — and God’s mighty Name was glorified through the audacity of a simple shepherd boy.
. . .
Throughout Scripture we see that some of the greatest demonstrations of God’s power happen when His people audaciously sprint toward the battle instead of retreating in fear.
Daniel knew that King Darius had signed a decree that could not be altered, ordering the death of any person who prayed to anyone else other than himself. But instead of praying to God secretly, Daniel did the opposite:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Just like David, Daniel sprinted toward the battle. God’s mighty power was demonstrated through Daniel’s unflinching audacity, the mouths of hungry lions were stopped, and the entire kingdom was introduced to the one true God:
I [King Darius] make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God…
Esther knew that to enter the presence of the king uninvited and appeal to him on behalf of her people could quite possibly cost her life. But instead of hiding in a corner of self-protection, she chose to face the danger boldly:
…I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!
Because of Esther’s willingness to go straight into the greatest danger, the entire nation of Israel was miraculously saved and its enemies were hanged on their own gallows.
And then there is Jesus — the most awe-inspiring example of sprinting toward the battle that this world has ever seen. He could have prayed to His Father and received more than twelve legions of angels to protect Him from the unspeakable horrors of the Cross. (See Matthew 26:53.) But instead He went boldly forward, knowing what was going to happen but saying a wholehearted yes to the cup of suffering that His Father had set before Him. (See John 18:11.) He sprinted toward the battle with each and every faltering step on that road to Calvary. The result? The enemy’s power was shattered and Jesus won the greatest victory of all time:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
He made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15 (NIV)
These are not merely meant to be inspiring stories we listen to, but a heavenly pattern by which we live. As God’s children, we are not called to live in isolation and self-protection. We are called to proactively proclaim truth and build His Kingdom, whatever the cost. We are called to sprint toward the battle, not retreat from it. As Jesus said:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
And as Paul reminds us:
[You become] … children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…
Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.
Philippians 1:28a (NLT)
For most of us, it is extremely counterintuitive to go toward danger instead of away from it. But throughout history, God’s Kingdom has advanced when His people were proactive instead of reactive in living out their faith. Proactive Christianity seeks opportunities to boldly proclaim Christ, while reactive Christianity stays silent in order to self-protect. As our world is quickly growing more and more hostile toward truth, each of us must decide which kind of Christian we are going to be.
Standing Boldly for Jesus
One of my favorite books, If I Perish, tells the inspiring true story of a young Korean woman named Ahn Ei Sook (also called Esther Ahn Kim) who courageously stood for her faith when the Japanese military took over her country, during the Second World War. I was deeply moved as I read how she refused to bow at the shrine of the Japanese sun god, knowing it would likely mean imprisonment and maybe even death. Her stand that day was an amazing example of standing boldly for Jesus when nearly everyone around her was crumbling in fear.
But later in the story, Ahn made another decision that completely baffled me. After living as a fugitive for months and narrowly escaping capture by the Japanese, she was finally given the opportunity to find refuge by coming under the protection of an elderly Japanese general who was also a believer. He asked her to become his adopted daughter and offered to help her attend seminary and to protect her from persecution.
It was a wonderful and rare opportunity, but she knew God was calling her to something else — something far more dangerous. She and another Christian friend felt compelled to present a spiritual warning to the Japanese government leaders who were oppressing believers across Korea. She knew it would likely cost her life, but she had already counted the cost.
The kind Japanese general presented her with an easier way. “It isn’t necessary that you die to serve the Lord,” he told her, “…with your faith and ability to impress others, you will be able to do much for God.” But her response was surprising. “You think that I am a living person,” she told him, “but I am already dead. The moment I stood up for this task, I, Ahn Ei Sook, [died].”
A few days later, Ahn sprinted toward the battle. She and her friend walked boldly into a gathering of high-ranking Japanese government leaders and delivered the warning God had placed upon their hearts. The leaders were infuriated. Ahn was promptly arrested and spent six years on the brink of death, tortured in Japanese prisons. At one point, she was given the opportunity to be transferred to a more comfortable prison, with better food and more freedom. But she deliberately chose to suffer in the worst prison amid horrific conditions in order to support and strengthen her fellow Christians who were also suffering for their faith.
Reading about Ahn’s startling decisions deeply challenged and convicted me. To stand up for your faith when you are forced to make that choice is impressive in itself. But after having escaped imprisonment, to deliberately choose to go back into the place of greatest danger is astounding. To purposely choose the worst conditions in order to share in the sufferings of others is truly incredible! God powerfully worked through this courageous young woman’s life to transform both believers and unbelievers in ways that would never have been possible if she had chosen to stay where she would be comfortable and sheltered.
How many of us would be willing to make a similar choice?
It’s easy to believe that if we were ever faced with extreme circumstances such as those of David, Daniel, Esther, and Ahn Ei Sook, we would choose to sprint toward the battle just as these brave men and women did. But I have come to realize that if I’m not willing to live out proactive Christianity on a daily basis, I will not be ready to do so in bigger situations.
It is just as important to sprint toward the battle in our small day-to-day decisions as it is in the large and life-changing moments. In fact, gaining victory in the mini-battles is how we prepare for the epic ones, just as David prepared for his battle with Goliath by gallantly protecting a few helpless sheep from a hungry bear and lion. (See 1 Samuel 17:37.)
So are you ready to start sprinting? Here are three ways to come off the starting block.
1. Don’t Delay Obedience
Prayerfully consider what battles God is asking you to sprint toward today, right now, in your current circumstances.
- Maybe it’s going to someone you wronged, swallowing your pride, and making things right. Don’t procrastinate any longer — sprint toward the battle. His amazing grace will flow into your life as you choose to humble yourself and obey Him, even if it is difficult. (See 1 Peter 5:5.)
- Maybe it’s choosing to wrestle tirelessly in prayer for a financial, relational, or physical need. Don’t waffle or hesitate, but go boldly into the throne room of grace — sprint toward the battle. Like Jacob wrestling with God, spiritual breakthroughs will come when you doggedly refuse to let go of His promises.
- Maybe it’s aggressively fighting for the salvation or restoration of a soul God has placed in your life, perhaps in your own family. Don’t give up believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things for the sake of that precious soul — sprint toward the battle. (See 1 Corinthians 13:7.) Remember, God has placed that burden on your heart for a reason, and He cares more about that person than you ever could — so decide right now that you will not give up.
- Maybe it’s conquering strongholds in your life such as fear or unforgiveness through the enabling power of God. Don’t subside into acceptance or apathy — sprint toward the battle. As Catherine Booth says, “Rise up in the strength of God and resolve to conquer!” As you consistently and proactively replace lies with God’s truth you will be set free — and not just free, but free indeed! (See John 8:36.)
- Maybe it’s joyfully embracing a challenging circumstance and trusting that God will gloriously triumph through it. Don’t allow complaining or self-pity to take over but instead proactively choose to rejoice in all things — sprint toward the battle. When you choose to rejoice in difficulty you will begin to see miracles because God promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and put their trust in Him. (See Romans 8:28.)
- Maybe it’s boldly standing for your faith among unbelieving friends or family members. Don’t hide behind a veil of social approval and political correctness — sprint toward the battle. Don’t worry about your own lack of eloquence or confidence, it is only God who can change hearts. Simply offer yourself as a vessel in His hands, and He will give you His words to speak as you depend fully upon Him. (See Luke 12:11–12.)
No matter what battles God is asking you to sprint toward today, remember that He has already made provision for everything you need to obey Him. Just as David found the five smooth stones at exactly the right moment, so we will find everything we need to do exactly what God has called us to do, if we simply ask and receive.
2. Go After Souls
It is easy to wonder how we can possibly be proactive in our Christianity amid a culture so given to darkness and sin. When we see the dangerous direction our society is headed, it can be almost paralyzing. Even if we want to take a bold stand for truth — how exactly are we supposed to do it? I love what Catherine Booth says about aggressively going after the souls that God has placed in our lives:
There is one soul that you have more influence with than any other person on earth — some soul, or souls. Are you doing all you can for their salvation? Your relatives, friends, acquaintances are to be rescued … from the depths of sin, degradation, and woe … Let them see the tears in your eyes; or, if you cannot weep, let them hear the tears in your voice, and let them realize that you feel their danger, and are in distress for them. God will give His Holy Spirit, and they will be saved.
One of the best ways to sprint toward the battle of this age is to go after the lost souls around us. It is heartbreaking to think how often we allow social pressure to keep us silent while our friends, co-workers, and family members remain ensnared by sin and lies.
Ask God for the courage to speak boldly into the lives of those He has placed around you. Ask Him to give you His heart for their lost state. When they sense your genuine love, care, concern, and passion for their soul, they cannot help but pay attention to your words.
Set the stage with fervent prayer, and ask God to show you when, how, and what to speak. Then simply yield yourself to Him as a willing vessel, and trust His Spirit to do a powerful work in their lives.
If you find yourself wondering what kind of difference witnessing to just a few souls can possibly make, consider this scenario that my husband Eric presented in his message “The Gospel Challenge”:
“If 200 of us covenanted together to seriously alter the course of history and reestablish the ancient strength of the Almighty in this dying world, and we were all willing to each individually seek the unction to prayerfully and actively seek one soul a month over these next seven years — and we were to disciple these new believers in the unction of the Spirit-empowered life to go and do the same — what might the Church of Jesus Christ look like at the close of these next seven years?
Year One — 2,400 new believers
Year Two — 28,800 new believers
Year Three — 345,600 new believers
Year Four — 4,147,200 new believers
Year Five — 49,766,400 new believers (entire country of Canada is only 36 million)
Year Six — 597,196,800 new believers (U.S. 319 million + Canada 36 million + Mexico 122 million + Central America 42 million + Caribbean 39 million)
Year Seven — 7.16 billion new believers (the population of the world is 7.13 billion)”
It is shocking to realize that a group of only 200 believers could have that kind of impact for the Kingdom of God simply by becoming serious about winning souls for Christ. Instead of cowering in a corner to protect ourselves from the rapidly increasing darkness of our age, God calls us to go and shine His light to this lost and dying world.
So what are we waiting for?
Every morning, I encourage you to ask the question: What soul has He called me to reach today? If every true Christian in this country began seriously asking that question each day, just imagine how dramatically and quickly change would come.
If you feel weak and inadequate for this task, be encouraged by this powerful reminder from Catherine Booth:
Will you be encouraged, my sister? Never mind trembling. I trembled. Never mind your heart beating. Mine beat nearly through. Never mind how weak you are … He loves to use the weak things, that the excellency may be seen to be of God. [If] your neighbors were sick of some devastating plague, and you could go and help them, would you not do it? Would you say, “I am a woman, I cannot go?” Oh, you would say, “Let me go, like Miss Nightingale did to the sick and wounded soldiers. Let me go.” And these are not the bodies, but the souls. They are dying. They are going to an eternal death. Will you not rise up?
3. Lay Down Your Life
When Darlene Deibler, a missionary to New Guinea, was eight years old, she prayed this prayer during the close of a church service: “Lord, I’d go anywhere for You, no matter what it cost.“ Years later, when she was suffering intensely on the mission field she was reminded of that prayer. And she told God again that she still meant it, in spite of all the difficulty and heartache. This was the reason she was able to triumphantly endure the horrors of a prisoner of war camp, torture at the hands of her enemies, and the devastating loss of her husband. She had already given up her life and said a wholehearted “Yes, Lord” — no matter the cost.
In order to sprint toward the battle, we also must count the cost ahead of time. Sprinting toward the battle for the sake of our King might lead to pain, hardship, persecution, and even death. And if we are clinging to our lives, we will hesitate at the very moment God calls us to spring into action. In Acts 20, Paul expresses the necessary soul condition of any true spiritual athlete:
…chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy…
Paul did not count his own life dear to himself because he had something infinitely more precious — an intimate relationship with the King of all kings and a calling to proclaim His glorious Gospel to the world. If we are going to finish our own race with joy, we must follow Paul’s example and place Jesus Christ and Him crucified over everything else we hold dear, including our own lives.
If you do not yet feel ready to place your life on the altar for the sake of Jesus Christ, ask Him to make you ready. It is a work of grace that only He can do within us, and it is a prayer He delights to answer.
. . .
Dear sisters, the time is short. Eternity is on the horizon. Everyday, the world grows darker and sin gains a stronger hold. Now is not the time to cower, hesitate, waffle, or subside into silence. Now is the time to proclaim God’s truth from the rooftops, to shine His light in the midst of darkness, and to sprint toward every battle with liquid ferocity. Yes, this is the opposite of what the culture and the enemy are telling us to do. But when we say yes to this calling, we will have all the strength of Heaven on our side.
When we choose deliberately to obey [God], then He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all His almighty power.