Summary: Chase the Lion is a 3 part series from Mark Batterson, pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C. The sermon is based off of the book, Chase the Lion. You can download a sermon kit at ChaseTheLion.com/churches
My wife, Lora, and I have a little tradition on Christmas Eve. We watch the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart. Our kids have a tradition too. They watch Inception, the science-fiction thriller written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan. It gets our kids into the Christmas spirit, I guess.
The plot line isn’t easy to unravel, but basically, “extractors” infiltrate the subconscious minds of their targets and extricate information while the targets are in a dream state. In one plot-changing scene, Dominic Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) goes beyond the art of extraction. He attempts the near-impossible task of inception—implanting an idea into a target’s subconscious.
Cobb says to his partner in crime, Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), “We have to plant it deep in his subconscious.”
Arthur asks, “How deep?”
Cobb says, “Three levels down.”
Arthur responds with a question that frames the film: “A dream within a dream within a dream—is that even possible?”
Inception popularized the phrase “a dream within a dream,” but its history traces back to an 1849 poem by Edgar Allan Poe titled “A Dream Within a Dream.” I love the last stanza. It poses a question: “Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?”
I think the answer is yes.
Don’t Play the Odds
This is the second in a three-sermon series on David’s mighty men. In the first sermon, “Run to the Roar,” I talked about Benaiah. In the third sermon, I talk about Eleazar. Here I want to introduce you to Josheb.
Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three: he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter. (2 Samuel 23:8, NIV)
There comes a moment in every dream journey when you’ve got to raise your spear. You’ve got to go big or go home. And what I love about Josheb is that he didn’t back down, even against 800-to-1 odds.
When I read this story, I imagine Instagram—the picture is focused on Josheb’s spear lifted above his head and there are 800 sworn enemies blurred in the background. That’s when most of us run away. But not Josheb.
Those are long odds, but God loves long shots! And to the Infinite, all finites are equal. There is no possible or impossible. There are no degrees of difficulty.
Impossible odds set the stage for God’s greatest miracles.
I know the motto of the Hunger Games: “May the odds be ever in your favor!” Not in God’s kingdom. May the odds be against you! That’s how God gets His glory. He does things we can’t take credit for. Unless God does it, it can’t be done.
Most of us, though, avoid situations where the odds are against us. And when we do, we rob God of the opportunity to do something supernatural.
If Josheb wins a one-on-one match-up, big deal. I don’t think that gets him into the Bible. But when you beat 800-to-1 odds, someone is going to give you a promotion. And that’s what David did. He tapped Josheb as chief of David’s three mightiest warriors.
Here’s my point: Don’t run away from 800-to-1 odds. And to explain how this can actually work, I want to focus on the last two words in 2 Samuel 23:8. This little phrase is pregnant with possibilities, full of hope—“one encounter.” You are one encounter away from an alternate reality.
Here’s what I believe. I believe God is ordering your footsteps. I believe God is preparing God works in advance. I believe God is strategically positioning you in the right place at the right time.
I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe in providence. And because of it, I live with a holy anticipation, a sanctified expectation. Why? Because God is setting us up! You never know when or where or how God is doing to show up and show off His power, His grace, His goodness.
But what I’ve learned along the way is that we’ve got to take the first step of faith.
I gave two definitions of faith in the first sermon in this series:
• Faith is the willingness to look foolish.
• Faith is the process of unlearning our fears.
Let me give you one more this week. Faith is taking the first step before God reveals the second step.
Many of us are waiting for God to make a move, while God is waiting for us to make a move. And that’s where we get stuck.
In 2010, we did a series at National Community Church titled “Miracles.” At the end of one of those messages, I felt led to ask anyone who needed a miracle to come to the altar so we could pray for him or her. I was at our Kingstowne campus, and a woman named Renee Reed made her way to the front. Renee is shy by nature, so it took some effort. She told me about the miracle she was looking for.