Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day…

He bent down on hands and knees to look closely at the tracks in the snow. Having been raised by a father who loved to hunt, Benaiah the son of Jehoida was accustomed to hunting as a boy. He had been timid at first to handle a sling, a sword and finally a spear but, with every hunt Benaiah grew more and more confident. As he matured, he grew strong and would go hunting by himself in the wilderness. As year passed into decade, his culminated experience brought him to the moment he was now accustomed to. Benaiah was no longer hunting birds or boars…he was hunting lions.

“Scripture doesn’t tell us what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he encountered this lion. We don’t know the time of day or Benaiah’s frame of mind. But Scripture does reveal his gut reaction. And it was gutsy. It ranks as one of the most improbable reactions recorded in Scripture. Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message: Run away. Normal people run away from lions. They run as far and as fast as they possibly can. But lion chasers are wired differently. For the vast majority of us, the only lions we’ve ever encountered were stuffed or caged. And few of us have experienced hand-to-hand combat that forced us to fight for our lives. But try to put yourself in Benaiah’s snowshoes.

Out of the corner of his eye, Benaiah sees something crawling. I don’t know how far away the lion is—and their vision is probably obscured by falling snow and frozen breath—but there is a moment when Benaiah and the lion lock eyes. Pupils dilate. Muscles tense. Adrenaline rushes. What a Hollywood moment. Imagine watching it on the movie screen with THX surround sound. Your knuckles turn white as you grip the theater seat. Blood pressure escalates. And the entire audience anticipates what will happen next. Lion encounters tend to script the same way. Man runs away like a scaredy-cat. Lion gives chase. And king of the beasts eats manwich for lunch.

But not this time! Almost as improbable as falling up or the second hand on your watch moving counterclockwise, the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase. The camera films the chase at ground level. Lions can run up to thirty-five miles per hour and leap thirty feet in a single bound. Benaiah doesn’t stand a chance, but that doesn’t keep him from giving chase. Then the lion makes one critical misstep. The ground gives way beneath his five-hundred-pound frame, and he falls down a steep embankment into a snow-laden pit. For what it’s worth, I’m sure the lion landed on his feet. Lions are part of the cat genus, after all.

No one is eating popcorn at this point. Eyes are fixed on the screen. It’s the moment of truth as Benaiah approaches the pit. Almost like walking on thin ice, Benaiah measures every step. He inches up to the edge and peers into the pit. Menacing yellow eyes stare back. The entire audience is thinking the same thing: Don’t even think about it. Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect: What was I thinking? This had to be one of those moments for Benaiah. Who in their right mind chases lions? But Benaiah now has a moment to collect his thoughts, regain his sanity, and get a grip on reality. And the reality is this: Normal people don’t chase lions.

So Benaiah turns around and walks away. The audience breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Benaiah isn’t walking away. He’s getting a running start. There is an audible gasp from the audience as Benaiah runs at the pit and takes a flying leap of faith. The camera pans out.

You see two sets of tracks leading up to the pit’s edge. One set of footprints. One set of paw prints. Benaiah and the lion disappear into the recesses of the pit. The view is obscured to keep it PG-13. And for a few critical moments, the audience is left with just the THX soundtrack. A deafening roar echoes in the cavernous pit. A bloodcurdling battle cry pierces the soul. Then dead silence. Freeze-frame. Everybody in the theater expects to see a lion shake its mane and strut out of the pit. But after a few agonizing moments of suspense, the shadow of a human form appears as Benaiah climbs out of the pit. The blood from his wounds drips on the freshly fallen snow. Claw marks crisscross his face and spear arm. But Benaiah wins one of the most improbable victories recorded in the pages of Scripture.”1

When I was a young man I had to look for a job after leaving college with an injury. I recall looking in all kinds of places and in a strange turn of events I ended up selling waterless cookware door to door along with some pretty bullet proof Chinaware. Now I want you to imagine a guy showing up at your door toting a suitcase. You open your door and there stands a young guy with a suitcase in his left hand and he says, “Hello, My name is….. and I am here to show you the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….SLAM! Yeah, that’s pretty much the way that went.

I went to restaurants, homes, churches, civic clubs, and even talked to secretaries at their desks. I would look for young women with engagement rings on their fingers in order to ask them if they had anything in their “hope” Chests except for “Hope”. (yeah, I used that line…not effective!!) This as you may imagine was a tough sell. I mean…TOUGH. Trying to sell something that people could buy at any time much less expensively than for what I could sell it to them. Imagine trying to sell ice in Antarctica. That was kind of like what I was doing. Yes, my manager would tell me I wasn’t selling “waterless cookware” I was selling cooking in half the time! I tried to remember that when over 100 doors would slam in my face.

While that may sound pathetic (and…it was), there was a preparation taking place that I didn’t understand. I was hunting small game. The very act of taking on an absurd job was an indication to God that I was willing to do anything in order to succeed. There is a powerful motivation placed into the heart of every young person, man or woman, that wants to do something meaningful. It is a sense of destiny. We even say to ourselves, “I want to do something to change the world!” Perhaps you know what I am about to say intuitively, but, great opportunities are almost always preceded by small, absurd opportunities that no one is lining up to do. I should have known when I showed up to interview for that job that it maybe wasn’t the greatest opportunity when the receptionist was sitting in an empty office at a small desk near the railroad tracks in my hometown. Not a lot of competition for this job.

Many people think that REAL spiritual learning takes place in church. THAT my friends, is a serious error. This is what has happened to the church. Many Christians have divorced true opportunities for practicing spirituality for a weekly visit to Bedtime Baptist. The majority of our spiritual training takes place outside of the cushy, hug loving, hand lifting Sunday go-to meeting church. I will go as far as to say, Sunday meetings; as important and scriptural as they are, (Pastors who read this, I DO encourage all Christians to attend church so don’t start ragging on me here,) are only a tiny percentage of the training we need in order to be effective for God’s Kingdom here in the earth.


The REAL training we experience takes place in the opportunities that God provides during our week when we must show unconditional love to people who are not so lovely. Being patient when co-workers treat you with contempt, working hard during work hours and not cheating the employer when it would be easy to do so, taking only the thirty minutes or hour for lunch instead of taking an hour and a half. These little “insignificant” events are the training God uses to find those who will be faithful in the small things when He is looking for someone to use in a meaningful way in the lives of others.

If you have ears to hear what I am about to say, God was trying to see if you and I; like Benaiah, would hunt down the insignificant opportunities he has brought across our paths to determine what we were made of. My friends Bob Perry and Bill Bennot began the Nashville House of Prayer in Bill Bennot’s garage almost fifteen years before God allowed Bob to step onto Air Force One to pray over the Presidents plane. Hidden gold is almost always disguised as trivial tasks to check our motivation. Bill and his wife Connie oversee one of the most influential churches in South Africa today. Small game hunters at first turned Lion killers!

The point is, if we are willing to be faithful in small and even might I say, dead end places in order to obey God, God will and can reward that boldness by giving us world changing and life changing assignments. Being successful in God’s economy has nothing to do with your professional delivery of a sales pitch and everything to do with being bold enough to knock on the door. In my case, back in the day of door to door pots and pan sales, I viewed life as a polka. I was a 90 pound weakling and I was dancing with an 800 pound partner. I needed to move fast and stay out of the way! But I WAS willing to dance…and THAT is what God was waiting to see!

In his book “If Only”, Dr. Neal Roese makes a fascinating distinction between two types of regret: regrets of action and regrets of inaction. A regret of action is “wishing you hadn’t done something.” In theological terms, it’s called a sin of commission. A regret of inaction is “wishing you HAD done something.” It’s called a sin of omission”.

In terms of regrets of action, there are quite a few things I truly regret doing in my youth. But in terms of regrets of “inaction”, I have very few. It’s because I disovered even in failure that God uses every single triumph and failure to bring us to the moment of our greatest tests. I highly recommend the book, “Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. It’s old, but it’s message is timeless.

Jesus wants to heal the sick, the brokenhearted and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord through us. He wants to use you in words of knowledge, and wisdom, and yes, even raising the dead. He is watching to see who will do the small game hunting, so that; when the lions need to be chased, there will be thousands of us ready to run toward the pit to slay the lions of our generation. Thank you to my “lion Hunters” of the faith, Connie Bennot and Bill Bennot, Bob Perry, Nick Pappis and Patricia Pappis, Bob Weiner and Rose Russell Weiner, and the dozens of men and women who; without a thought, jumped into the pit with lions and came out victorious.

[1] Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day Mark Batterson © Multnomah Press 1993-2002 All Rights Reserved [2] Ibid