I still remember holding my seat as a young boy as I watched the fighter jets blazing across the desert sky. Even though I wasn’t seeing the flights firsthand, as a boy who loved planes, seeing a film that followed the Air Force’s most rigorous training exercises, Operation Red Flag, was riveting. All of the Air Force’s top fighter, stealth, and recon jets gather several times a year in the Nevada desert to go through some of the most intense flight training operations possible. They assign different divisions to two sides, Blue Flag (friendly) or Red Flag (hostile) and they engage in mock battles to sharpen their skills. In this particular scene, a pilot was dropped into a hostile zone and the chase was on. The enemy was combing the area feverishly to capture him before his own team could sneak behind their lines and rescue him. He had been handed the assignment just a few hours earlier and you could see his surprise when he was handed the task. What he had anticipated to be a routine training run had suddenly turned into a frantic fugitive chase scene.
But you don’t have to be in an elite military division to get a tough, unexpected assignment. Ananias got a disconcerting message from God in Acts 9, when God told him to meet with Saul, the infamous persecutor. “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:10-16)
After Saul heard Ananias’ blessing and received his sight, he didn’t hesitate to take on this new mission from God. He definitely knew that a challenging road lay ahead. He himself had been hunting the Christians intently and he knew that his superiors wouldn’t hesitate to give him the same treatment. But took on this new mission willingly because he realized his role as God’s instrument. “Vessel” in scripture can mean specifically a container, but in a larger sense it also means a tool in the hand of a craftsman. It’s an instrument that is set aside for definite purpose. And once we realize our role as vessels, we can meet new challenges with a sense of eager anticipation because we’re tuned in to the opportunity rather than the challenge. We can see an upcoming hardship (such as a pandemic) as a new opportunity for greater trust, creativity, and growth. Let’s think like vessels for the glory of our Heavenly King!
“Exercise Red Flag.” Wikipedia. 1 May 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020. Online.