Not Your Sword or Bow:

A Reflection on God’s Providence based on Joshua 24:1-13

You know that scene in The Lion King where young Simba and Nala are cornered by the hyenas in the elephant graveyard? They’re pinned on all sides! Simba tries to scare off his enemies with a roar but it’s just not enough. Simba decides to give it another go, but this time – it’s different. What seems to come out of his mouth is truly awesome and mighty – deep and powerful. The hyenas tremble! This was not the sound of a young cub, this was the roar of a Lion King. We soon come to realize that it was not Simba’s roar at all – it was his father Mufasa who had come to their aid at just the right time.

I love how surprised Simba was at that powerful sound. It was clear that something – someone – else was at work! The other day I was at Mass before work and I heard a reading about Joshua speaking to all the Tribes of Israel at the end of his life. In one mighty sermon, Joshua detailed all the ways that God came through for them over the years. How it was not because of their own strength and might that they found victory, but only because of God the Father’s intervention.

Part of it goes like this: “Thus says the Lord… ‘It was not your sword or your bow. I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant…”

It was not your sword or bow. I love that. God is speaking truth to His people about His provision for them. It’s like He’s saying: All that has happened, all the guidance through the desert, all the deliverance, the manna, the water from a rock… your food and your homes… all of it I have provided. Even your success; all your enemies have fallen, not because of your strength and strategy – but mine. You have victory because I gave it to you.

When I hear God’s wake up call to His people, I’m surprisingly not offended. Instead, I just feel safe; guarded. You know? I’m glad I can depend so much on God. As a youth minister, I often try to find the “silver bullet” that will make every middle school teen quickly fall in love with Jesus. That’s a tall task and yet, day after day when I walk into the office I feel the weight and pressure – the burden- of finding a perfect solution or strategy.

It’s scripture passages like this one from Joshua that remind me I’m not ever really going to be effective at this whole call to make missionary disciples due to my own cunning or creativity. My roar just isn’t enough. God does all the real heavy lifting. He’s leading and guarding me just as much as He guards and leads the teens I “shepherd.” He’s the real Good Shepherd.

So what in the world am I supposed to do as a youth minister? This is a question I’ve been wrestling with for a while now and the best I can do is: nothing… with my own sword or bow. I hear Jesus asking me to just let Him do it. Perhaps God is calling me to just focus on being shepherded by Him today – in my job, in my marriage, in my interior life. Perhaps the role of the youth minister is just one more caring disciple who lives in proximity to teens. I just need to believe that God will do the shepherding through me whenever He wants. All that matters is that I let God do with me whatever the heck He wants; then real ministry will happen on His terms, and not my own.

At the end of the day, I want to hear Jesus tell me and my Core Team of adult volunteers, all our parents, our parishioners, and even (perhaps especially) our pastors… “It was not your sword or bow”… it was me and my love, my providence, and my plan.

This story was written by Tim Jara, Coordinator of Middle School Ministry, and published in the December issue of the St. Francis Grapevine.