August 19, 2014.
“And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly.You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
(I Samuel 13:13-14)
This was the statement given to King Saul, first king over the children of Israel, appointed by God, after he had transgressed the command of the Lord in regards to offering sacrifice. But Saul is not the focus of our study today, but the man that was appointed after him, a man who is referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” If you are familiar with this story, then you know that I am taking about David, that ruddy, emotional boy who would grow to lead the mighty nation of Israel right up to her golden age. David was indeed connected to the Almighty in a way that I think most of us lack to day. The Holy Spirit moved though him in many different ways, guiding him into the prophecy of the Psalms and wisdom to guide the people. David truly seemed to be a man after God’s own heart in both his attitude and actions as there are many examples where we can find David following so closely to God even the people around him are surprised. King David is a great figure in Jewish history for many a good reason.
But if you know the story of David, you also know that he had made some major mistakes. He was not always the glorious King that led Israel to victory, or the spiritual sage that poor wisdom from above on all who would hear. No, David was most definitely a man just like us, with all our imperfections and downfalls. David went through times of power and riches and times of fear and loss. He was almost as against God at times as he was with God. David displayed a wonderful faith, but that faith was not static. It was a journey.
Faith, for all of us, is a journey. We often think of faith as that one time belief in Jesus as the Son of God. We confess his name and are baptized in to his death and raised a new creature in Christ. That’s faith, right? Well, yes, in some sense of the word, but faith doesn’t end there. It is a process, a journey. It will have ups and downs, times of pure flight and times of devastation. Faith is not some intangible concept that makes us spiritual. It is real, it is tangible, and it can be dirty. There may be those who tell you just to believe in Jesus and everything will be alright, life will be easy and you will never worry about anything again. This is not true, and I do not for a second want to ask you to step into something through deception. The fact of the matter is, faith is hard work. Love is hard work. Diligence is hard work. And we are not always going to be at a high, static level of faith. Though this should be the goal (or more accurately an every growing faith), it is to our benefit to remember that this will not always be possible.
Let’s go back to David, the man after God’s own heart. Certainly the Lord was with him, as he as a young man soothed the evil spirits that were tormenting Saul with his music and took on a bear and a lion to protect his own heard of sheep. David as a young man took on Goliath, the giant Philistine champion, and won though the power of God. In what we know of his early life, he was on fire for God. Then you continue to read and you see the slow progression of sin that starts to creep into his life as he sits on the throne. It starts out with even seemingly innocent events like not going out to war when the rest of the kings went out and ends in a highly involved cover up of adultery that leads to murder. God sends Nathan the prophet to David to tell him of his sin, and David repents in tears, writing Psalm 51 in full emotion and repentance. But the consequences remain, though the Lord takes away David’s sin. Eventually, after hardships and complications that arise, at the end of David’s life he seems to be back on track and is able to make sure his son Solomon receives the throne after him, where he would govern Israel during their golden age as the wisest man to ever live.
What’s the point of this case study? To show that everyone, even very godly men, have ups and downs during their walk of faith. We all are going to go through times of elation and times of failure. And that’s okay, so long as our eyes are fixed upward. What was the difference between David and Saul? They both sinned, but only one was rejected as king. The difference was repentance. When David was confronted about his sin, he truly repented. Saul, on the other hand, said he repented but then went on to just transgress once again. Saul started off as a godly man, but he didn’t hold to his faith. David held on tight, though the road was bumpy. That’s the difference. That’s still the difference today. I have a few pieces of wisdom for any who embark on this journey of faith.
When you are high, don’t get too comfortable. Yes, it is great to be on fire for God, and I would encourage you to make the best use of your experience as possible. Go out and do great things for Christ! But don’t get the impression that you are doing this well simply because you have avoided those main sins that you always seem to struggle with. That is very good, and keep at that, but if you get this impression, when you fail, you will fall hard. Christ died for our sins, wiping them clean. It is not the avoidance of sin that makes us productive for Christ, but the fruits that we bear though the Spirit. We are God’s workmanship, not his defense. God doesn’t need defense. He created the universe and all that is in it, wether you believe he did or not. So, when you’re on fire for God, great. But be careful not to attribute that to things you have done.
When you hit a low point in your faith, hang in there. We have all been there. John puts it this way: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) We are a fallen race who deals with sin on a daily basis. Our job is to not give up. Remember the difference between Saul and David? David got up after he sinned. He tried again. Saul did not. He continued down the path. Don’t give up. Hang on. You can make it through. John continues: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) God is right there, just waiting to catch you when you fall, not waiting to zap you when you sin, contrary to popular belief. Don’t believe me? Read the words of Christ in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Hold on with all your might. Take that first step back. The Father is waiting.
Our salvation is not dependent on the actions we do or the mistakes that we make, but rather how we react to those actions and sins. We can either get back up and try again, accepting the free gift of grace that continuously cleanses us of our sins (I John 1:7), or we can stay down and wallow in the mire of willful sin, where there remains no longer a sacrifice for our sin (Hebrews 10:26-27). The choice is ours. Don’t take my word for it, read it in the word of God.
Wherever you are at in your faithful journey, I want to encourage you to carry on. If you are at a high point, keep on shining. If you are at a low point, keep on trying. Whatever you do, don’t give up. We are not victims, but conquerors. Remember that, in all that you do. You can make it. I can make it. We all can make it through the power of him who is abundant in love, grace and mercy. To his name be glory and honor forever, Amen.
Suggested Daily Reading: II Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51, I John 1.
The Lord help you through on your journey.