Luke 18-21; Like Muscle Memory

I took a gun safety class a few months back. Something the instructor said came to mind as I read God’s word today. He said that our brains are capable of processing hundreds of bits of information every second. Google suggests that number could be as high as 20,000,000 bits of information every second (thanks Mary Jo). I have no idea how anyone could calculate that. Let’s just say our brains can handle a lot of information all at once.

Sit still for a minute. Take in your surroundings. Make a conscious effort to notice the colors, the sounds, the smells. I’m sitting on my porch. The sky is grey, the wind is rustling the leaves on the tops of trees. I see them moving, and I hear them, too. The house behind me is yellow, with white trim. Next door is a tabby house with a new tan roof. I hear two birds talking to each other in the distance, and I just noticed a squirrel sitting on my fence. I have a window open and I feel a gentle, warm breeze on my face. I could go on.

I happen to be making a conscious effort to notice these things. But science tells me my brain would be taking it all in regardless of whether or not I’m paying attention. Remember, they say our brains are capable of processing hundreds, if not thousands of bits of information every second.

That is, until we are in crisis mode, or are faced with a threat. The gun safety instructor said our brains go from handling hundreds of bits of information at once, to being able to handle… TWO! He said that’s why eye witnesses to a crime or tragedy never see exactly the same thing. That’s why some people freeze instead of using their weapon. And he said that’s why it’s important to develop muscle memory in self defense.

So, what does this have to do with the Gospel of Luke? You might think I’m totally taking a verse out of context, but hang with me for a second. In 21:2-19 Jesus is warning the disciples and believers about the persecution that is coming to them. Then in verse 14 He says this:

But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.

Make up your mind beforehand. Be prepared to defend yourselves.

I know most of us are not being persecuted as such, but I hope we are all being questioned about our faith, to give an answer for the hope we have. When was the last time you were put on the spot in the cafeteria, or around the office water cooler, or while sitting with your neighbor at the local coffee shop, and asked why you don’t support abortion, or don’t drink, or don’t believe the pop-religion theology that’s popular these days? When was the last time you were cornered about your stand on homosexuality, or Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God?

You do realize that, when forced into an uncomfortable situation, your brain almost completely quits working, don’t you? Then what? I know I have often walked away from a confrontation thinking, “Why didn’t I say this…” or “Why on earth did I say that?”

Well, it’s because I wasn’t prepared.

So, how do we prepare for those times when we are suddenly defending ourselves without 100 percent of our brain function? I think memorizing Scripture is right there at the top of our defense. Most of us can spit out John 3:16 without racking our brains. Do you have other verses in your arsenal? I think we need to be so familiar with God’s Word we don’t have to even think about it, it’s just right there on the tip of our tongues.

Do you pray about opportunities to share Jesus before you leave your house each day? That’s a prayer I’m sure God loves answering, and verse 15 says:

For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Doesn’t that give you confidence? Are you in-tuned to God’s voice? He promises He’ll give you the words, and I believe most often it will be in the form of a Bible verse. Have you practiced listening?

Do you even know what you believe about hot topics like homosexuality, abortion, tolerance, legalism, and the like? Have you taken time to look up Scripture that addresses what you believe? Do you practice your defense by asking yourself the hard questions you might be faced with on these topics? Don’t think you’ll be able to define your position for yourself at the moment you are being questioned by someone who has a different view. It’s too late then.

The gun instructor told us how important it was for those who own guns to hold it, aim it, practice the stance and draw, to become so familiar with the weapon it becomes a natural extension of our bodies. Because if faced with a crisis, you won’t be able to think or reason. Your defense should come automatically and most likely will, if the muscle memory is there.

I said I took this verse out of context because Jesus is talking about a persecution. But the Bible tells us in other places to be prepared, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it tell us to put on armor, to fight the good fight, to train like an athlete?

We might not be persecuted for our faith today. But we may be called to defend it anyway. Are you prepared? Have you made up your mind beforehand how you’ll defend what you know to be true according to Scripture? Is the plan of Salvation, the defense of your faith so ingrained in you it’s like muscle memory?

God, help us to be prepared! Then may He give us opportunity to defend His Truth to someone who needs the Savior.

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