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When the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optic nerve and into the visual cortex, the brain sends the body a simple but urgent message: run away! That’s what normal people do, but not lion chasers. Rather than seeing a five-hundred-pound problem, they see an opportunity for God to show up and show His power.
Chase the Lion is more than a catch phrase; it’s a radically different approach to life. It’s only when we stop fearing failure that we can fully seize opportunity by the mane. With grit and gusto, New York Times best-selling author Mark Batterson delivers a bold message to everyone with a big dream.
This is a wake-up call to stop living as if the purpose of life was to simply arrive safely at death. Our dreams should scare us. They should be so big that without God they would be impossible to achieve. Quit running away from what you’re afraid of.
Chase the lion!
Change the world!
What is your five-hundred-pound dream?
In this highly anticipated sequel to his best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson invites lion chasers everywhere to chase dreams so impossible that victory demands we face our fears, defy the odds, and hold tight to God.
These are the kind of dreams that will make you a bigger person and the world a better place.
Based upon 2 Samuel 23, Chase the Lion tells the true story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah who chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day—and then killed it. For most people, that situation wouldn’t just be a problem…it would be the last problem they ever faced. For Benaiah, it was an opportunity to step into his destiny. After defeating the lion, he landed his dream job as King David’s bodyguard and eventually became commander-in-chief of Israel’s army under King Solomon.
Written in a way that both challenges and encourages, this revolutionary book will help unleash the faith and courage you need to identify, chase, and catch the five-hundred-pound dreams in your life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
On a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it.
2 Samuel 23 : 20, nlt
When the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optic nerve and into the visual cortex, the brain relays an urgent message to the body: run! That’s what normal people do, but normal is overrated. Lion chasers don’t run away; lion chasers run to the roar. They don’t see a five-hundred- pound problem; they seize opportunity by the mane. They don’t take flight; they fight to the death for their dreams.
Buried in the second book of Samuel, the twenty-third chapter and the twentieth verse, is one of the most counterintuitive acts of courage in all of Scripture. It’s just 1 of 31,102 verses in the Bible, but it’s my personal favorite. It’s little more than a biblical byline, but it’s become the storyline of my life. My life motto is encapsulated in its message—chase the lion.
There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it.
Napoleon Bonaparte made a distinction between two kinds of courage—regular courage and two-o’clock-in-the-morning courage. “The rarest attribute among Generals,” said the Little Corporal, “is two o’clock- in-the-morning courage.”
Chasing a lion into a pit on a snowy day takes two-o’clock-in-the- morning courage. But that one act of courage completely changed the tra- jectory of Benaiah’s life. The same is true of you. You are one idea, one risk, one decision away from a totally different life. Of course, it’ll probably be the toughest decision you ever make, the scariest risk you ever take. But if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.
Scripture doesn’t explain what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he crossed paths with the lion. We don’t know the time of day or his frame of mind. But it does reveal his gut reaction, and it was gutsy.
Put yourself in Benaiah’s sandals.
Your vision is obscured by falling snow and frozen breath. Out of the corner of your eye, you detect movement. Pupils dilate. Muscles flex. Adren- aline rushes. It’s a prowling lion stalking its prey—you.
In the wild, man versus lion scripts the same way every time. Man runs; lion chases; king of the beasts eats manwich for lunch. But Benaiah flips the script. That’s what courage does! I don’t know if it was the look in his eye or the spear in his hand, but the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase.
A fully grown lion can run thirty-six 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. He can’t keep pace, but he can track paw prints in the freshly fallen snow. He comes to the place where the ground has given way beneath the lion’s five-hundred-pound frame. Benaiah peers into the pit. Yellow cat eyes glare back.
It’s a made-for-Hollywood moment. Imagine it on the silver screen.
Benaiah walks away from the pit while moviegoers breathe a sigh of relief. But Benaiah isn’t walking away; he’s getting a running start. The audience gasps as Benaiah turns around and takes a flying leap of faith, disappearing into the darkness. A deafening roar echoes off the walls of the cavernous pit, followed by a bloodcurdling battle cry.
Then silence, dead silence.
No one is eating popcorn at this point.
Everyone expects the lion to strut out, shaking its mane. But no. A human form reaches up and climbs out of the pit. Drops of blood color the snow crimson. Claw marks crisscross Benaiah’s spear arm. But against all odds, the valiant warrior from Kabzeel earns an epic victory.
Closing credits roll.
Then, if I’m producing the film, there is a postcredit scene like in the Marvel superhero movies—Benaiah’s cage fight with a giant Egyptian.
Chase the Lion
If you find yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day, you’ve got a problem. Probably the last problem you’ll ever have! But you’ve got to admit, “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks awfully impressive on your résumé, es- pecially if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the king of Israel.
Benaiah not only landed his dream job as King David’s bodyguard, but his life exceeded his wildest dreams. Benaiah climbed the military chain of command all the way to the top, becoming commander in chief of Israel’s army. The lion chaser became the most powerful person in the kingdom of Israel, save the king. But the genealogy of his dream traces back to a fight- or-flight moment. One decision determined his destiny. And not much has changed in the three millennia since then. You can run away from what you are afraid of, but you’ll be running the rest of your life. It’s time to face your fears, take a flying leap of faith, and chase the lion!
In every dream journey there comes a moment when you have to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. You have to go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.
You have to go big or go home.
You have to take the road less traveled or settle for status quo.
You have to bite the bullet or turn your back on your dreams.
I have a theory: your favorite scripture will become the script of your life. I take my cues from 2 Samuel 23:20. That script underscores who I want to be, what I want out of life, and what I believe about God. Chase the lion is more than a nice catch phrase; it’s the metanarrative of my life.
Most of us spend our lives running away from the things we’re afraid of. We forfeit our dreams on the altar of fear. Or we chase after the wrong things. We’re so busy climbing the ladder of success that we fail to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.
At the end of our lives, our greatest regrets will be the God-ordained opportunities we left on the table, the God-given passions we didn’t pursue, and the God-sized dreams we didn’t go after because we let fear dictate our decisions.
No Guts, No Glory
Most people believe God is real, but few people actually live like it. The re- sult is a widening gap between their theology and their reality. They allow their circumstances to get between them and God instead of letting God get between them and their circumstances. Lion chasers measure every- thing against almighty God, including five-hundred-pound lions. That’s the difference between being a scaredy-cat and a lion chaser.
When everything is said and done, God isn’t going to say, “Well said,” “Well thought,” or “Well planned.” There is one measuring stick: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Faithfulness is not holding down the fort.
Faithfulness is chasing five-hundred-pound lions.
There is a brand of religiosity that seems satisfied with breaking even— don’t do this, don’t do that, and you’ ll be okay. The problem with that is this: you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right. Breaking even is breaking bad. God has called us to play offense with our lives. Those who simply run away from what’s wrong will never amount to more than half Christians. The only way to tap your God-given potential, to fulfill your God-ordained destiny is to chase five-hundred-pound lions.
God’s dream for your life is so much bigger, so much better than break- ing even. If you focus on not making mistakes, you won’t make a difference. You don’t overcome sin by focusing on not sinning. You need a dream that is bigger and better than the temptations you’re trying to overcome. You need a dream that doesn’t allow you to become spiritually sidetracked, a dream that demands your utmost for His highest.
There is an old aphorism: No guts, no glory. When we lack the guts to go after five-hundred-pound lions, we rob God of the glory He deserves. By definition, a God-sized dream will be beyond your ability, beyond your re- sources. Unless God does it, it can’t be done! And that is precisely how God gets the glory. He does things we can’t do so we can’t take credit for them. God honors big dreams because big dreams honor God.
Destiny is not a mystery. Destiny is a decision—a difficult decision, a daring decision, a counterintuitive decision. You fulfill your destiny one op- portunity at a time. Of course, those opportunities often come disguised as five-hundred-pound problems. Landing in a pit with a lion on a snowy day qualifies as a bad day, a bad break. But Benaiah didn’t see it as bad luck; he saw it as his big break.
If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll always find one.
If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’ll always find one.
Lion chasers have an eye for opportunity. There are amazing opportunities all around us all the time, but you have to see them to seize them. Then you need two-o’clock-in-the-morning courage to chase them.
The Genesis of a Dream
When I was nineteen years old, I heard a sermon that would change the trajectory of my life. Sam Farina preached about a man named Benaiah, who chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day. I had never heard the story, and I could barely believe it was in the Bible. But a thought fired across my syn- apses: If I ever write a book, I’ d like to write a book about that verse. That was the genesis of a dream titled In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.
It would take sixteen years for that dream to become reality, and I al- most gave up on it a time or two. On October 16, 2006, In a Pit released with very little fanfare. In fact, it almost didn’t see its second printing. But In a Pit beat the odds and inspired a generation of lion chasers to go after their dreams. Ten years later In a Pit has a sequel: Chase the Lion.
I’m often asked which of my books is my favorite. You might as well ask me which one of my children is my favorite! I love them all, but there is something unique about seeing your firstborn book on a bookshelf for the first time. In a Pit isn’t my best-selling book, but if the measuring stick is life-altering decisions directly resulting from reading it, it might get the grand prize. It’s been a game changer for lots of lion chasers, and I’ll share some of their dream journeys in Chase the Lion. Their dreams are as different as they are, but each one has chased a lion in his or her own unique way. I hope their five-hundred-pound dreams inspire you as much as they have me.
In the prequel to this book, I focused exclusively on King David’s body- guard, Benaiah. Chase the Lion is the rest of the story. Like Washington’s inner circle or Lincoln’s team of rivals, David’s thirty-seven mighty men rank as a most remarkable band of brothers. They were insanely coura- geous, fiercely loyal. Their exploits would be unbelievable if they weren’t recorded in Scripture. And without them, David’s dream of becoming king would have died a fugitive’s death.
Our destiny is more intricately interwoven with others than any of us realize. The goal of Chase the Lion isn’t simply to help you discover your dream. The best way to discover your dream is to help other people accom- plish theirs! That’s what the mighty men did, and in so doing, their lives surpassed their wildest dreams.
That’s my prayer for you.
May you discover your God-sized dream in the pages of this book, and may you have the courage to chase it. But your greatest legacy isn’t your dream; it’s the dreams you inspire in others! You aren’t just a dreamer; you are a dreamcatcher.
As you begin this dream journey, don’t go it alone. Dreamers love com- pany! Chase the lion with a friend, a spouse, a mentor. Form a pride, just as lions do. Together you can accomplish far more than the sum total of your shared dreams. The God who is able to do immeasurably more than all you can ask will accomplish something way beyond what you can imagine,7 just as He did for David and his mighty men.
And remember, if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.
Table of Contents
1 Chase the Lion 1
On a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it.-2 Samuel 23:20, NLT
2 A Dream Within a Dream 7
These are the names of David's mighty warriors.-2 Samuel 23:8
3 The Ripple Effect 19
In one encounter-2 Samuel 23:8
4 The Door to the Future 29
He raised his spear against eight hundred men.-2 Samuel 23:8
5 The Game of Inches 39
He was with David when they taunted the Philistines.-2 Samuel 23:9
6 The Decisive Moment 53
But Eleazar stood his ground.-2 Samuel 23:10
7 Frozen 65
Till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword-2 Samuel 23:10
8 Field of Dreams 77
There was a field full of lentils.-2 Samuel 23:11
9 On This Spot 89
At the cave of Adullam-2 Samuel 23:13
10 The Lion's Den 99
Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?-2 Samuel 23:17
11 Fight Club 107
A valiant fighter from Kabzeel-2 Samuel 23:20
12 Rim to the Roar 119
He chased a lion.-2 Samuel 23:20, NLT
13 Snowy Day 129
On a snowy day-2 Samuel 23:20
14 Five-Pound Dream 139
He snatched the spear-2 Samuel 23:21
15 Double Destiny 147
He too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.-2 Samuel 23:22
16 Chain Reaction 155
And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.-2 Samuel 23:23
17 The Rabbit Room 165
Among the Thirty-2 Samuel23:24
18 Counter narratives 173
Benaiah the Pirathonite-2 Samuel 23:30
19 The Thirteenth Virtue 181
Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah-2 Samuel 23:37
20 A Hundred Years from Now 189
There were thirty-seven in all.-2 Samuel 23:39
Discussion Questions 202
Questions and Answers with Mark Batterson
1. You write that "most of us spend most of our lives running away from the things we're afraid of." How can we overcome our fear?
The key to overcoming the fear of failure is not successit's failure in small enough doses that you build up immunity! You've got to face your fears by doing what you're afraid of. You make it a way of life by seeking out situations that scare you to life. That's what it means to run to the roar.
2. Tell us the amazing story of how your new "miracle theater" church on Capitol Hill began. What happened 49 years ago to birth this dream?
In 1960, an evangelist named R. W. Schambach was holding a revival in Washington, D.C. As he walked by a movie theater at 535 Eighth Street SE, he felt prompted to pray that God would shut down the theater and turn it into a church. Two years later it became the People's Church. And 49-years later it would become National Community Church. Everything goes does in and through our Capitol Hill campus is a prayer within a prayer, a dream within a dream, a miracle within a miracle.
The irony is that we've converted that campus back not a movie theaterwe show movies during off-church hours! One of our core convictions is that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. After all, Jesus didn't just hang out in the synagogue. He hung out at wells. That's why we own and operated a coffeehouse. It's why we own and operate a movie theater. We get to control what goes on the screen, and it's a great way for the church and community to cross paths.
3. How can someone discern if an idea or dream they receive is worth chasing?
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you're going to get out of a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, you'd better make sure that Jesus said, "Come." But if Jesus says, "Come," you'd better not stay in the boat. The challenge, of course, is discerning when to do what. Either way, the key is discerning the voice of God. If He says, "Stay," then stay. If He says, "Come," then come. How do you discern the voice of God? It starts with the Word of God. If you want to get a word from God, get into the Word of God.
I'd rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history!
4. You say "if God called you, you aren't really doubting yourself. You're doubting God." Please expand on this.
First of all, God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called. So let's quit making excuses. If you're looking for an excuse, you'll always find one! But that's true of opportunity, too! If God has called you to do something, it's not your reputation that is at stake. It's God's reputation. Faith is risking your reputation to establish God's reputation.
5. In your book you encourage readers to go after a dream so big that is destined to fail unless there is divine intervention. Could you share an example of this from your own life and how the inception of the dream came about?
We had no business going into the coffeehouse business 10 years ago, but I knew the dream for Ebenezers Coffeehouse was from God. I also believed God would bless it, especially since every penny of profit would go to kingdom causes. We had very little experience, but Ebenezers has been voted the #1 coffeehouse in DC several times by several different publications. We've now had more than a million customers and given away more than $1 million, but it started with a crazy idealet's turn a crackhouse into a coffeehouse.
By definition, a God-sized dream is beyond your ability and beyond your resources. And that's the beauty of a dream that is bigger than you areit forces you to pray like it depends on God because it does!
6. You say "We start dying the day we stop dreaming." What would you say to those who don't have a dream or maybe they have seen their dream die and don't see any hope of it being resurrected?
If you don't have a dream, get around someone who does! One of the best ways to discover your own dream is to help someone else accomplish theirs!
If you have a dream that has died, don't give up on it. Most of my dreams have had to go through a death and resurrection. I've had the joy of pastoring NCC for 20 years now, but it's not my first rodeo. My first attempt at church planting failed, and I'm grateful it did. I learned some tough lessons, but I wouldn't trade that failure for anything. If our church plant in Chicago had not died, I don't think I would have made it to Washington, DC.
7. You say that "too often the church complains about culture instead of creating it." Why do you think this is so? How can someone stir more innovation and creativity in their life?
I live by Michelangelo's motto: criticize by creating. We should be more known for what we're for than what we're against. Let's write better books, start better businesses, draft better legislation, produce better films. How? With the help of the Holy Spirit.
Quit complaining about what's wrong and do something about it. And don't let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can!