by Nathan Stanford

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)– “You may be called to stand up to say, ‘What you’re doing is wrong.’ You may be called to lose friends. Well, have you done it?”

Preaching from 1 Sam. 14.1-15, Truett-McConnell College’s Vice President of Student Services, Chris Eppling, told students how his faith guided the decisions and choices that affected the rest of his life.

In a Sept. 20 chapel sermon, Eppling said he left a full scholarship at Liberty University, where he was surrounded by the comfort of friends and family, to attend a different college. This decision, however, led to meeting someone who would change his life forever.

Eppling met a young woman. “Her name was Ginger. It still is,” he said.

Retelling how they met, Eppling noted that, after a while, he and Ginger realized that God had brought the two together for a greater purpose: marriage.

Eppling didn’t fully realize this, however, until after he had made the faith-based decision to attend Southeastern Seminary. It was here that he would also meet another influential person, Emir Caner. Students know him as Dr. Caner, the president of Truett-McConnell College.

Reflecting on these decisions and not knowing where they would lead, Eppling said, “Despite the fact that faith entails uncertainty, a faith that pleases God will move us to action to do what He has called us to do.”

Eppling said that Jonathan and his armor-bearer represent “the classic story of what it means to walk and live by faith.”

This passage recounts the Israelites victory against their oppressors, the Philistines, in spite of being outmatched and outnumbered.

For scriptural support, Eppling quoted from Heb. 11.6, saying, “It doesn’t say without faith, it is highly improbable to please God. It doesn’t say without faith it is unlikely to please God, or without faith it is really, really hard to please God. No. It says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God.'”

Eppling told students if we don’t get this part right, we won’t be successful at anything we try to do for God. “So the first thing we learn from Jonathan, is that if you are going to live by faith, you have to do something.”

“The fact is, sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is something,” Eppling said, noting that Jonathan knew if he stayed where he was, it would not have pleased God. He had to do something.

Eppling said that God has called Truett-McConnell students to do something for God, but that God would “not do great things in you and through you, unless you do something.”

Eppling encouraged students not to spend all their time trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. He said, “Do what you know, until you know what to do.”

This was exactly what Jonathan’s armor bearer did. He didn’t question what he had to do, because he knew that his job was to be with Jonathan, no matter what.

Eppling advised the students to pray that God sends someone like Jonathan’s armor bearer to be in their lives who will love them enough “to give them what they need, maybe not what they want.”

“The second thing Jonathan teaches us is that you have to learn to live in the realm of the ‘perhaps’,” Eppling said. “Jonathan didn’t know if God was going to work on his behalf or not, but he went anyway.”

“Do you see what that says about Jonathan?” Eppling asked. “Jonathan is saying, ‘I know this is what God wants me to do and you know what, I may die, but I’m going anyway.'”

Eppling emphasized from verses 9-10 that Jonathan stepped out on faith, not fact. “It wasn’t until after he stepped out, that he knew which way he was to go.”

“You may be called to stand up in your dorm room, in your class, on your team, or with your friends,” Eppling said. “You may be called to stand up to say, ‘What you’re doing is wrong’. You may be called to lose friends,” he challenged. “Well, have you done it?”

“The fact of the matter is this: Living in the realm of the ‘perhaps’ is really a matter of love,” Eppling said.

Eppling’s favorite VBS song as a kid was “Jesus loves me.” To him that was good news because it meant that no matter what he did wrong, Jesus still loved him.

“Yes, Jesus loves you,” Eppling said, “But, have you ever gotten to a point where you love him unconditionally?”

Eppling cited Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who understood this point very well on the day they decided to go into the furnace. They loved God enough to know it was more about being faithful than if they lived or died.

Eppling wanted to know if students would be willing to step out on faith into the realm of “perhaps.”

“Too many of us say, ‘I’m gonna wait until God show’s me what to do’, but God doesn’t generally work that way,” Eppling said. “God’s will is more of a lifestyle. God’s told you how you need to live. Question is, are you gonna do that?”

Eppling believed the hub of this whole story was found in the last sentence of verse 6 which states, ‘The Lord is not restrained, to save by many or by few.'”

“You know what that statement is?” he asked, “That statement is theology. Your theology is the basis for your life of faith and your life of faith will reveal your theology.”

Eppling emphasized that if you don’t practice what you preach, then maybe you don’t really believe in what you are preaching.

“We come to a Baptist college, but we live like God hasn’t made any difference in our lives,” he said. “You have to know who God is. This whole first passage that Jonathan laid out was predicated on the idea that God doesn’t need an army; God doesn’t need a lot of people doing great things. All he needs is a few people to be obedient, and he will change the world.”

“Finally,” Eppling said, “we need to learn to live the blessings of God.” He then reminded students how difficult it was to make that decision to leave Liberty University. “It was hard to say no to those certain things, and yes to uncertainty,” he said.

“But, think of the blessings I would have missed,” Eppling said, mentioning his wife, three children, and his service at Truett-McConnell College.

Referring to Jonathan and his armor bearer, Eppling challenged students, saying, “The world changed that day because two guys said, ‘We are doing what God called us to do.’ The question I have for you is this: Will the ground shake because of you? Or will it stay the same?”

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