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‘Do you qualify as a mighty man?’ asks Kelley


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The D-Day invasion was one of the most strategically orchestrated attacks in military history, but once the Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, nothing was as they had planned. And as the troops made their way up the beach, German soldiers fired away from their fortified bunkers, making advance almost impossible and survival difficult.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley says we as Christians face the same manner of unexpected obstacles and spiritual attacks in our lives, and the one thing we must do in order to maintain our spiritual vitality is the one thing that made the D-Day invasion a success.
“The invasion turned on this one thing: the Allied troops understood what the objective was and they simply kept heading for that objective whatever the obstacles were, while the Germans sat in their bunkers waiting for Hitler to wake up and tell them what to do,” he said. “Will you keep heading for the objective you know is in your father’s heart, whatever the obstacles might be?”
Kelley addressed a largely new student body of future ministers in a Sept. 7, convocation chapel service. Reading from I Chronicles 11, Kelley recounted the story of David’s “mighty men,” who, in the midst of a war with the Philistines, broke through enemy lines to get the king a drink of water after overhearing him say he was thirsty.
“In this story, I think we see a capsule of what it takes to be a true mighty man or mighty woman of God,” Kelley said.
These men and women are first people of action. Just as Simon Peter longed to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration, Kelley said many Christians want to camp out in the blissful experience of God. Jesus, however, understood that this experience is not where the action took place.
“God never intended our spiritual passion to simply warm our heart and give us an ecstatic experience of his presence. God always intends the fire of spiritual passion to stir us to action for his kingdom,” Kelley said. “What did Jesus say? ‘Let’s go back down the mountain. There are people who need our help and ministry.”
God’s mighty men and women are also people of courage. Kelley recounted his early days of ministry in New Orleans’ infamous French Quarter. He wrestled with starting a street witnessing ministry and said he put it off for a month, actually writing down the starting day. When the day came, he said he gave God a million reasons why he shouldn’t go out that day, finally deciding he wasn’t “prayed up enough.” His prayer yielded an unexpected but firm response from God.
“It was as if the Lord walked into the room and said, ‘You can pray all you want. I’m not going to listen anymore.’ God nailed me to the wall with the realization that my struggle was not over a lack of knowledge; it was not over a lack of love for Jesus. My struggle was over a lack of nerve.”
Kelley added it is this lack of nerve, especially during the challenging times of our lives, that severely hinders our spiritual vitality, and separates us from our walk with Christ.
“Christ doesn’t stop at rest stops; he doesn’t get diverted along the side of the road; and whenever you and I hesitate in our following, the line of separation between us and Jesus gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “If we’re going to follow him, we must stay close to him straight into those challenging situations.”
Mighty men and women are not only pro-active and courageous, Kelley said they are also devoted. While Christians may garner the nerve to step out into the vast field of souls before them, he said they must have the devotion to do so even if it means they won’t come back. Kelley used the example of the Apostle Paul, who had one of his first encounters with Christians and who subsequently persecuted the church at the stoning of Stephen. Kelley said God’s work in Saul began on that day, and asked the group of present and future ministers if they would be willing to be used in the same way.
“In every army there are casualties,” he said. “Are you willing to be a casualty if that’s what it takes for the Kingdom of God to be advanced? Are you willing for God to use you in the way he used Stephen for another Paul to be led to Christ?”
“Not every story will have a happy ending,” he added, “but every story will have a glorious ending.”
Kelley said the mighty men and women of God are, finally, people of intimacy: near enough to know his will.
“David’s mighty men were close enough to him to hear his remark,” Kelley said. “He said it just loud enough to be heard by the little group of people standing close to him. We, too, must know God well enough to know what he wants us to do.”
God’s army of men and women today are fully equipped, Kelley said — more fully equipped than any other Christian workers before them. The challenge for them is simple.
“We have a gospel that is able to change the life of any man and any woman,” he said. “We have resources and opportunities that the early church never could have imagined, but the question today is, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ Will there be a new corps of mighty men and women to serve in God’s army?”