Part 6 of 7
I received a message this past week from my oldest son, David, who is attending Liberty University in Virginia. Here’s the gist of his message: “Well the coronavirus has hit here hard officially. Schools are closing down and going online. I might have no residential classes for the rest of the year. UVA is down. And U Lynchburg is down. NBA and NCAA tournaments (March Madness) are probably cancelled as two teams just dropped out this week. Everyone is freaking out. It’s kinda strange. Also, you can’t buy toilet paper anywhere, it’s not in the stores anymore. People bought it all.”
We here in Asia have been dealing with the fallout of this virus since December 31, when the first case was discovered in Wuhan, China, and was reported to the World Health Organization. Knowing this to be a respiratory virus, we all took careful precautions to wear masks and to clean our hands really well. But as the virus has spread around the world, fear has begun to dominate many decisions.
David’s message came on the heels of President Trump’s address to the nation. “Trump acted after Italy, which has now recorded over 12,000 cases, experienced a record jump in confirmed infections with 2,313 on Wednesday.” One of the decisions Trump made was to ban all airlines carrying passengers from Europe. Notice that the president responded to the panic of the burgeoning cases of COVID-19 with pretty stringent measures, especially as schools and libraries are closing. But the panic comes not only from the possibility of contracting the virus, but also from the plunging economy. Many feel that Trump overstepped his bounds, for now, what is the airline industry to do? Will they need to declare bankruptcy? What will happen on Wall Street? (https://edition.cnn.com/)
The details of the virus are pretty clear. A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates inside the living cells of an organism. It can infect animals, plants, and humans. This particular virus is called SARS-CoV-2, meaning severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Usually viruses are spread through coughing or sneezing, so taking hygienic precautions should help in minimizing contamination. People need to cover their mouth and refrain from touching facial openings. Antibiotics do not help since they are ineffective against viruses. Germs may be picked up from infected surfaces, so it is important to disinfect items of high use.
Though many facts about viruses are known, fear is not necessarily caused by what is known. The unknown facts are what get under people’s skin. You see, experts are not positive about how COVID-19 is spread. It is defying borders and quarantines. At this time, there is no known vaccine and people are dying; in some places, at an alarming rate. It does not help that the WHO Director-General has declared this virus to be a pandemic. Though he did not use this word lightly, since it is a fear-inducing term, he did say this, “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time” (https://www.who.int/).
COVID-19 is a black-ice experience. It has lain dormant until just a few months ago, then it has struck with an insidious vengeance. Nations, economies, businesses, schools – all have been brought to their knees before this virus. And what has been the world’s nemesis-responses? Fear. Isolation. Self-protection. Chaos. Blame. Distrust. And pandemic-like overreacting.
My friend, this is the world’s response to COVID-19. The more important question I have for you is this: How are you reacting to this black-ice disturbance?
By Way Of Review
Today we begin our downward stretch toward the finish line of a B.A.T.T.L.E. plan against the flesh in a devotional series I have entitled Facing Your Nemesis. My nemesis is discouragement, which is fed by my fleshly proclivities to doubt God when I need to trust. Black-ice triggers litter my path and cause me to feel hopeless without ever realizing why. This devotional series, this battle plan, is helping me to recognize when I am being attacked. It is enabling me to separate myself from my typical responses and dig down deep into the negative feelings that may arise. When I do, I am able to weed out the lies laid there by Satan and overlay them with truth.
This battle plan includes six conscious, specific choices, the first of which is to B – Buttress yourself with the love of God. Without God’s love strengthening you, you will not be able to stand firm against any attack of the enemy. Choose love when you feel unloved and you will find a Holy-Spirit peace rising up on the inside of you.
When you know you are resting in love, you must then choose to A – Activate a battle mentality. That black-ice trigger was not accidental; it was a scheme concocted by your enemy, the devil. You need to choose an open-eyed approach to your troubles. Satan is after your faith, seeking to destroy you. Don’t give him the victory by caving to a nemesis-response.
As you become aware of your enemy’s scheme, you must then choose to T – Throw off entanglements. Yes, you have an enemy outside of yourself, but you also have an enemy within. Your flesh is very good at sideswiping you. You must know the things that hinder your race toward Jesus’ face and throw them off…relentlessly and ruthlessly.
Last week, we explored the fourth step, which is to T – Transform your mind. You can put off the old self (Eph. 4:22), but you cannot walk in victory until you renew your mind (Eph. 4:23). There are so many ways to wallpaper your mind with the truths of Scripture so that you can recognize lies when they come, but are you committed to this step? Knowing about the truth and actively engaging the truth are two different things. Most believers talk about studying God’s Word and praying to interface with their Creator, but I daresay, precious few are very committed to the long haul of discipline it takes to connect with the Truth. I pray you sensed my passion last week as I described how the hard work of discipline can eventually lead to absolute bliss in Jesus’ presence. Only in God’s presence does true transformation begin to occur.
This week, I have the privilege of introducing you to Paul’s third step in the transformation process: to put on the new self (Eph. 4:24). In light of our acronym, this step forms your L decision – Live in the truth. It is absolutely imperative to know the truth; there will be no standing firm without it, but, my friend, you are not just learning to know the truth. You are learning to stand firm in black-ice moments. To do that, to ensure victory in your battles, you will need to align your life with the truth you know. Garbage in, garbage out, the saying goes. And the reverse is true in a spiritual sense. Truth in, truth out. You must prepare for the battle by breathing Scripture in, by soaking in its healing properties, but then you must use the truth as your weapon of choice when you face your enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The Unseen Truths
We hosted four young adults around our supper table last evening. Wun is a Thai-Christian, but her family is strongly Buddhist. She indicated last evening that her nuclear and extended family will not allow her to visit them because they know she attends church and goes to the gym, both public places where COVID-19 could be contracted. Wun has attempted to downplay their fear, but they are adamant: she may not travel to see them.
In the conclusion of Wun’s sharing this with us by way of prayer request, she pointed to the crux of the problem in her family’s fears. They know the facts of this virus, but it is the unknowns that are smothering their peace. They do not feel safe in this world for two reasons: all of man’s wisdom is foolishness in the face of such a mighty enemy; and their Buddhist religion does nothing to ensure their safety. If they did die, they have no guarantees about where they will spend eternity. The unseen unknowns are destroying their ability to cope and their fears are compounded by both physical and spiritual consequences.
Atheists, agnostics, believers of cults and world religions, and marginal Christians alike are all responding to COVID-19 like the Buddhists of Thailand. Those who say that God does not exist have no hope that they will be safe as this virus wages its war, because they do not believe in a Higher Power outside of themselves. They live their lives as if they are in control of their own destinies, but as this virus is showing, they really have no control. Those who believe in a god other than Jehovah find themselves in the same boat as atheists, since their gods currently appear impotent. Even marginal Christians who say they believe in God, will struggle because they do not know their God well enough to really entrust their lives to Him. They will constantly hedge their bets internally while pronouncing God’s power externally, but that inward division will drive them to the same fear-filled nemesis-response.
It is only the faith-walking believer who will survive this COVID-19 black-ice trauma with a standing-firm kind of peace. The reason for this is clearly spelled out in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD (Jehovah), have never forsaken those who seek you.” Those who know God’s name will not fear. Those who are intimately familiar with God’s core entities and attributes will stand firm in the knowledge of Who God is and what He does.
I am not afraid of this virus; not because I am particularly courageous or even medically savvy. I am doing what I can to avoid this sickness, but I do know something in my heart that gives me a holy peace in the midst of this turmoil. That “something” is the confidence I have in the unseen truths behind the scenes. You see, I live by a different set of facts, spiritual truths that override what appear to be the physical truths:
- God is sovereign (2 Sam. 7:22), which means that He has complete authority over this virus. He did not go to sleep and lose control. He is sitting on His throne ruling now just as He always has.
- God is omnipotent (Josh. 4:24) and He is more powerful than COVID-19, than presidents and kings, or a stock-market crash. He is even stronger than this virus. He could end this pandemic with one word; He is that powerful.
- God is omniscient (Ps. 139:4). He knew about this virus before it began. He knows what will transpire throughout this world-wide journey and He knows how to stop it. Because He knows all, including my concerns, I can rest in His cognizant care. Even the unknowns of this virus that could take panicky hold on my heart must bow their knees to God’s timely understanding.
- God is omnipresent (Ps 139:8). Even in the midst of this panic, God is with me and I can sense His peace pervading my soul. He will walk with me through the midst of this viral “fire.”
- God is good (Ps. 34:8) and works things for the good of those who love Him. He has a plan for COVID-19, both in the wider stretch of this world and in my personal life. He will turn all of this for good somehow. On this I can depend.
- God is compassionate and gracious (Ps. 103:8). He is not a God who punishes people for the fun of it. He brings things into our lives in order to conform us to the image of His Son. I can know that this virus has been allowed in order to bring about a tender and grace-filled plan of my loving Father.
Honestly, I could go on and on, listing the unseen truths behind this panic-inducing pandemic, but I think you get the idea. You and I do not navigate the troubles of this world like those who are in the world. Instead, we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We live by knowing the truths of the Word of God like the backs of our hands. Those truths are the unseen truths, but that does not make them powerless. The facts of God are the only vaccine when the viruses of this world begin to infect us. They are the healing, restoring, transformative inoculations for the nemesis-responses toward the visibly-seen facts.
Embrace Who You Are
For the last two weeks, we have been seeking to apply Paul’s method of transformation, detailed for us in Ephesians 4:22-24. If you will recall, his first life-changing step was to “put off your old self” (v 22). We fleshed this out in depth when we studied what it means to T – Throw off entanglements (the 4th choice in our battle plan).
Last week we spent a great deal of time discovering what is meant by Paul’s second step, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds” (v 23). I proposed to you that nemesis-renewal began with thought-renewal; you must begin to T – Transform your mind (the 5th battle choice). Truth must be sown into the fabric of your thought-life so that truth will flow out of your heart and mouth in a black-ice experience.
The third step in Paul’s transformative process is succinctly written in verse 24, “and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” I love the way the Passion interprets this verse, “And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! (In other words, live in Him; Live in truth.) For God has recreated you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness.”
There are some facts you must build into your holy thought-renewal process. When you accepted Christ as your Savior, something monumental happened. You were instantly teleported from one kingdom to another. God moved you immediately from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son He loves (Col. 1:13). You have been set free from sin and have become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). You do not have to sin anymore. Jesus died and raised to life to give you power over death and the law of sin. You can win every battle, triumph in every black-ice experience because you already have the victory through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
Do you understand the huge ramifications that flow from these truths? Your whole world is different, along with your outlook, your values, your perspectives, your ability to control your responses; even your very nature. You are a new creation in Christ; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). You have been saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5). Your new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3:10). You are not that old person who sinned all the time; your flesh is no longer in control. You are dead to sin (Rom. 6:2, 10), dead to the law (Rom. 7:4, Gal. 2:19), and dead to the principles of this world (Col. 2:20). Instead of that old, sinful person, you are now a saint. When you occasionally sin, it is only because you temporarily forget who who you really are: forgiven, anointed, Spirit-filled, chosen, adopted, redeemed, predestined, included, sealed, alive, saved, free, child of God (See Ephesians 1 and 2 for more identity statements).
The question is: Do you really believe that all of these statements are true of you? Remember that your core beliefs will be reflected in your nemesis-responses. What you actually think and feel will come spilling out of your life in black-ice situations. You may say that you believe all of the facts about your identity and eternal destination, but you will ascertain very quickly how strong your faith is when Satan pounces from the bushes in an attempt to drag you away. That black-ice moment will flash your belief system in neon lights for all the world to see.
It is imperative that before a black-ice trauma crosses your path, you have already fortified yourself with the truths of Scripture. It is essential that you have done the work of renewing your mind (Eph. 4:23), but I have to warn you that you may still lose your battle if you do not take Paul’s next step. Renewing your mind is critical to a victorious battle stance, but you may still fall prey to the enemy without the next compulsory choice to actually put on the truth.
L – Live In The Truth
I think that the Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson is one of the weirdest, but most profound, children’s stories ever created. For those of you who missed this fable of youngster’s literature, let me fill you in.
There was an emperor who loved clothes so much that he spent all of his money on being well-dressed. Instead of saying, “The king is in council,” people of the court would always say, “The king is in his dressing room.” This emperor was vain and easily influenced.
One day two swindlers came to the town pretending to be weavers. They said they had a magnificent material of incredible colors, but it also was a magical material, for it turned invisible on anyone who was unfit for his job. The emperor thought this would be a great idea, for if his people were clothed in this material, he would know who was fit and who was unfit. He immediately ordered a lot of clothes to be made.
The weavers set up their looms and pretended to weave. All the finest silks and threads that they demanded went into their sacks, while nothing went on their looms. The emperor did not want anyone to think he was unfit, so he sent his minister to check on the weavers’ progress. The poor old man could see nothing, but he was not going to speak those words in front of anyone, lest he be considered unfit for his job.
Other gentlemen were sent to find out the progress, with the same results. Eventually, the emperor went himself with his whole retinue. He could not see anything, of course, but he could not speak out that truth, lest he be considered unfit as a king. As it turned out, he ended up wearing the invisible clothes in a public procession down the main street of the city.
One little child finally spoke up, “But he hasn’t got anything on?” The father tried to shush his child, but other people took up the refrain. Pretty soon, the whole town began to murmur, “He hasn’t got anything on.” The emperor shivered in embarrassment, for he suspected that they were right, but he was too proud to admit he had been duped.
Now, before you react to the absurdity of this little tale, you may need to take a brief minute to look in your own mirror. You are to be dressed like a queen, in robes that your Emperor has personally woven for you. They are the finest clothes possible, filled with truth-threads and heavenly colors so rich. There is no substitute for your Christ-bought clothes of identity.
But there is a swindler weaver in your vicinity. He waltzes into your life, promising you an incredible, new wardrobe full of the latest colors and materials. He hooks you with the lie that you are unfit if you do not wear what he offers. You buy the lie. You don the clothes of this world. Even though you know in your heart that you are walking shamefully, exposed by your choices, you continue to process throughout the town of your life improperly dressed for every occasion. Wise people can see that you are grossly underdressed for your life, but because of pride (or fear or some other hindrance), you refuse to put off the old clothes, renew your mind so that you know what clothes are real, and put on the choice clothes of your King.
My friend, you will not stand firm in any of your battles just knowing about Christ’s clothing options. Realizing the wealth of your heavenly wardrobe does you no good if you continually choose the shameful clothing the swindling weaver offers you. Knowing the truth will not help you stand in the truth if you continue to wear the dismal outfits of lies. God’s clothing must be put on to effectively cover you throughout the processions of your life.
All this talk of clothing comes from the meaning of that phrase ‘put on.’ Endyo is the Greek word meaning “to invest with clothing, array, clothe, endue, to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe oneself” (ESV Strong’s). This is a verb (an aorist one, I learned) implying a decisive act. “Two things are required for the positive formation of the Christian character, the continuous and progressive renewal of our highest faculty, and the decisive acceptance of ‘the new man’” (Wescott, quoted in Tyndale New Testament Commentary). You must renew your mind, for sure, but you must also live in the applied newness of that same mind.
My friend, God has already bought you a lavish new wardrobe, filled with new-self clothes, but those expensively-bought garments do you no good if you refuse to act on their good merits. You can fill your mind all day with the truths of the Word of God, but in the end, if you never put on the new self, you are being duped. You are exactly like that insecure Emperor walking shakily through the black-ice experiences of his life, dressed in nothing but the swindler’s clothes. You must make the choice to put on the clothes of truth – and keep putting them on – or you will stand naked and ashamed on your day of battle. It is imperative, sweet one, that you choose to L – Live in the truth.
The Mind-Will Connection
Faith is an important aspect of a Christian’s life. I might even say, one of the most important aspects. Without faith, there is no salvation (Eph. 2:8), no sonship (Gal. 3:26), no righteous living (Rom. 3:21), no intimacy with God (Eph. 3:12), no indwelling of Christ (Eph. 3:17), no spiritual resurrection (Col. 2:12), no shield of God’s power (1 Pet. 1:5), and no pleasing God (Heb. 11:6). Faith is an integral part of our walk with God.
But where does faith come from? Romans 10:17 gives us this answer, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” In other words, the Word of Christ must be preached. When that is heard, faith can be born. As the Passion states so beautifully, “Faith, then, is birthed in a heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance of the Anointed One.” So the sequence of birthed faith looks something like this:
The Word of God —–> Hearing the message —–> Faith
Romans 10:17 takes care of the first important decision of your Christian walk: salvation. But I am fairly certain you desire to move beyond salvation to sanctification, from reformation to transformation. Hearing God’s Word is how faith is born and cultivated, but there are two other steps that need to happen if freedom and transformation are going to be found. Those two other steps are found in John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Believed Him —–> Hold to teaching —–> Know truth —–> Freedom
Faith and belief are the same entity, so that explains the process of how the Jews came to believe God. They heard the words of Christ. But Jesus said that the next step in the process of transformation is to hold to His teachings. Other translations say, “if you abide in my word” (ESV, NKJV), “if you continue in my word” (HCSB, NASB), “if you continue to obey my teaching (NCV), “if you remain faithful to my teachings (NLT), “if you stick with this, living out what I tell you” (MSG), and “when you continue to embrace all that I teach” (Passion).
Notice that belief alone is not transformative. You must have deeds as well. Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (Jms. 2:17, 26). “You believe that there is one God,” James says. “Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (Jms. 2:19). Abraham married his faith and his actions when he put his son, Isaac, on an altar. He believed God would make true on His promise, and he put his faith into practice by sacrificing his son to God’s will. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness; not because he was such a faith-warrior, but because he simply obeyed (Jms. 2:20-24).
James simply backs up Jesus’ point in John 8:32. Belief will not lead to freedom (or to transformation, joy or victory, to name a few of God’s other blessings). Only the continual living-out of what is believed will lead to the godly outcome that is desired. Simply put, you must do what you know is true.Then, and only then, will you be able to stand firm.
Wise and Foolish Builders (Mt. 7:24-27)
To further clarify this point about action, I want to explore two more passages of Scripture. This first passage is very familiar. A wise man built his house on a rock. When the storms came, the house did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But the foolish man chose to build his house on the sand. The rains came down and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash.
The foundation to which Jesus is referring is the Word of God. His truths must be the bedrock infrastructure of anything that you build. Trying to construct on anything but God’s Word is similar to building on shifting sand. This truth is well-known to most people who understand the message of this parable.
But if you know this little story well, you will also realize that I left out a portion of this passage. Jesus’ parable begins with these words, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v 24). Conversely, “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (v 27).
Wisdom, if you recall from last week, flows from the truths of God, which are to be your foundation of rock. But you cannot be wise if you neglect the ‘doing,’ because that is how wisdom is formed. Wisdom is the practical application of spiritual truths. How do you apply a truth if you do not use it in real life? How do you become wise if you do not put God’s truths into practice? Honestly, you can’t, and that was Jesus’ whole point. This builder was only considered to be wise because he heard the words of Christ and he put them into practice. Otherwise, he would have been called a fool. Foolishness, then, is hearing God’s words and choosing not to integrate them into a black-ice experience.
Hearing and Doing (James 1:22-25)
I believe this set of Scriptures will also be very familiar to you. But there is an explosive nugget of truth buried in these short verses that could revolutionize your life as it did mine a number of years ago. Let’s find that truth.
To give a bit of background, James was writing about listening and doing. He gave the exhortation, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” and then the reason, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (vv 19-20). The truth is clear: anger is unrighteous; so James gave some examples about how to wisely handle anger. He echoed Paul’s words in Ephesians, that you are to get rid of filth and evil that clings to you and “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (v 21b).
The Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12). It is powerful and specific, so yes, it can save you. But James knew that the Word was impotent in your personal life without the application. In other words, the Word will not save you if you do not do what it says (v 22b). Just listening to the Word of God without doing can actually lead to deceit, James said (v 22a). You think you know the truth and consequently, believe that you are firmly planted, and that is the illusion. For when the swindler comes along and bangs on the door of your house, you will not stand, because you have forgotten to connect your hearing-ability to your doing-ability.
Notice James’ metaphor describing the deceit of merely listening. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (vv 23-24). I have heard this verse a lot, probably to the point of ho-hum boredom. Actually, I’ve quoted it a lot to my kids, but in all of this hearing and quoting, I knew there was something missing in my interpretation of this passage. What kind of person looks in a mirror and forgets what he looks like? As a girl, this doesn’t even compute.
I usually confined this metaphor to the illogical pile – you know, the one where I will have to ask God when I get to heaven to really get it- until I studied this verse one day in the ESV version. Listen to this, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (vv 23-24).
There is a word in the ESV translation that is not in my NIV Bible, the word ‘natural.’ When I looked up this word in my concordance, I was blown away. Our English word for ‘natural’ is the word genesis in the Greek language. It means “nativity, nature, generation, source, origin, nativity” (ESV Strong’s). It is a word that describes lineage, ancestry, or progeny. It speaks of birth and all that follows origin.
Do you understand what this means? Do you get what James is saying?
When you became a Christian, you were born again. Your salvation signified a nativity for you. It changed your lineage, your ancestry, and your progeny. The nature of your new self comes from your new Father. He is the source of your newness, of everything that is different about you. You have been genesis-born and reborn. The metamorphosis that occurred at salvation is what is meant by that phrase, “natural face.”
The mirror is the Word of God (v 23). When you look into that mirror, you encounter your genesis man. You see the truths of who you are in Christ. You read them. You sing them. You memorize them. You meditate on them. They are your new life’s manual, the code-book of your genesis-genes. But if you only hear them (read, sing, memorize, meditate on them) and do not put them on as your new nature, you are like a person who looks at his natural, new-identity face and walks away unchanged. You literally forget what you looked like a moment ago when you heard the truths that came out of your Bible-mirror. James says that this whole sad saga is an act of deception; you are literally deceiving yourself (v 22b), for knowing about who you are does you no good if you do not live out the truths of who you are. Satan actually has you right where he wants you, in the no-man’s land of complacent self-deception.
Deceit, of course, is the bad news, but James gave us the good news as well. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (v 25). The message in this verse is very clear. You must look intently into the Word of God. Not nonchalantly. Not flippantly. Not for five minutes here and ten minutes there. No, the word ‘intently’ signifies looking closely, keenly, fixedly, searchingly, steadily, and watchfully. You must give precious energy and time to the digging out of the treasures of who you are in Christ. But that’s not all…
You must continue to do this. Day-in. Day-out. Through easy days and tumultuous times. In the middle of black-ice experiences and on the firm ground of a battle already won. There is no time for complacency. You must either be looking intently at the Word or engaging in it continually. Those are your two options if you want to be blessed with victory over your nemesis.
Precious child of God, listen to me carefully. Everything we have learned so far is a mute point if you do not engage this particular choice. When a black-ice trauma sends your car spinning, you must buttress yourself in love. You must activate a battle mentality. You must throw off entanglements. You must work to transform your mind, but none of these choices will do you any good if you refuse to stand in the truth. It is all deception, otherwise. You are deceiving yourself if you believe that you will know victory and freedom without the engagement of truth.
There has to be a mind-will connection between what you study and what you do. You have got to live the truth as well as learn it. Jesus even went so far as to say that discipleship is based on holding to His teachings (Jn. 8:31b). In other words, true disciples of Jesus live out the truths of the words of Jesus.
This may be a hard word, my friend, but Jesus followed that difficult truth with a beautiful blessing. When you walk out the truths of your genesis-nature, when you act like the disciple you say you are, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32). I’ve diagrammed this for you below:
Freedom hinges on knowing truth. And you cannot possibly truly, genuinely, absolutely, accurately know the truth if you are not intimately engaged in living it out on the roads of your life. There is hope in this thought though, for if you do look intently in the Word and you do what it says continually, truth will come much easier for you over time. You will know it. It will be familiar ground and what will follow is freedom, joy, victory, and abundance. Black-ice experiences will not always move you to a nemesis-response of the flesh. If you apply the truths of these devotionals to your life over and over, you will stand firm in more and more of your black-ice experiences. Eventually, you will look back and realize that you have been gaining the victories that God intends for you.
The key to all of this, in case you need it reiterated once again, is to connect the truth of the Word to the mind and live it out in your life. The mind-will connection leads to life-long transformation.
Hearing And Not Doing
It is my goal to finish this devotional on a strong, practical-for-godly-living note, but before I do, there is an urgency in me to speak a difficult, and probably quite long, word. It pains me to say this, but the truth of the matter is, most of you who read this devotional will not follow through on this step of mind-will integration. You will have many reasons for your inability to hold to Christ’s teachings, and you will use those reasons to give up hope, to give in to your feelings of failure, to give way to Satan’s lies, and consequently, remain captive to your nemesis-response.
Though Scripture is clear about the power of God to fulfill His purpose in you (Ps. 138:8), you struggle to comprehend such a miracle. Though Christ died and rose again to give you the victory over your nemesis (1 Cor. 15:57), you feel unable to appropriate His gift. Though the same power that raised Christ from the dead now lives on the inside of you by way of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11, Eph. 1:19-20), you do not believe it or act from that position of strength. Somehow, somewhere in your theology, you have convinced yourself that you are incapable of freedom, ineligible for joy, and incompetent to attain victory. You feel, as many believers do, that you are the one and only exception to God’s promise of abundant life (Jn. 10:10b).
The truth is: you are not, my friend!
If these cannot, will not, am not statements (feelings/lies) are ringing true in your spirit, you can know without a doubt that you are currently being deceived by Satan! I am truly burdened for you. Even now, my heart is aching as I pound these computer keys, for I know the real truths about your destiny.
You are not dead in your ability to stand firm in Christ. Instead, you have been made alive because of God’s great love for you. His rich mercy reached down to save you from the lies that Satan uses to obscure your heavenly inheritance. He took your hand and raised you up with Christ; you have been literally transferred from despair to hope. It is already done. You just have to accept it and appropriate it. If all this wasn’t enough, He has seated you, dear one, with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Because of His lavish, rich mercy, He chose to make you His beloved daughter. You are His masterpiece, a work in progress being chiseled and crafted by the Master of Perfection. You are His poetry, a re-created person that will fulfill His destiny for you. You have been created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do (paraphrase of Eph. 2:4-10 – NIV, Passion).
You are not an accident, a blunder, a mishap, a last-minute thought. No, you have been chosen, even before the foundations of the world came to be (Eph. 1:4).
You are not abandoned, forgotten, discarded or ignored. Instead, He is watching you, and watching that His Word is fulfilled in you (Jer. 1:12).
You are not helpless, powerless, inadequate or incapable of victory. Rather, you are rooted in the Vine, built on Him as a foundation, strengthened in your faith, and capable of overflowing with thankfulness (Col. 2:6-7).
This minute, this very important, crucial, lie-detecting, truth-integrating minute, you need to remember that you are being held in the palm of His right hand (Ps. 73:23). You have no need of fear, for He is with you. He will strengthen you and help you; He will uphold you with His righteous right hand. You do not need to fear; He will help you. He will keep you and will make you a light to open other eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness (Isa (41:10, 13; 42:6-7).
Precious child of God, these are the truths you need to move from your Bible, to your head, and out through your mouth, hands, and feet. Your focused choice to hold to God’s teachings is crucial in your black-ice paralysis. Your single-mindedness is imperative because your choice matters to God and it matters to your future walk with God.
There is an incredible danger in giving up this fight. You may think your choice to lie down on the job will not affect anyone. It is your own life that is at risk, no one else’s. That’s the lie Satan whispers to you when he senses your feelings of doubt, but it is not true. For one man, one abdicated mind-will connection was all it took to sideswipe his whole life. That man was David and his well-known story is my attempt to remind you of the risks you take when you separate doing from hearing.
You may be very familiar with the account of David and his sin with Bathsheba, but I am not going to focus on the sin aspect of this story. I am going to go back, way back, before David’s nemesis-responses of adultery and murder, back to the less well-known, but crucial mind-will disconnection that propelled David into his pit of deceit.
My friend, if you are hovering between two opinions – whether to quit or to engage truth – take heed! Hear the warnings that come out of David’s story; hear them and apply them. Do not allow Satan to make you into a David-Bathsheba statistic. Learn from David’s mistakes so that you can walk in the truth toward freedom and victory.
David’s Early Years
Please bear with me for a bit as I explore some behind-the-scenes qualities that defined David in his early years. As I spent some time researching his younger life, I was surprised by my findings. David exhibited many fine qualities, even as a teenager, but the attributes that are listed by the author are placed in the text with precision. Each and every quality foreshadows both David’s walk with God and the requirements needed to fulfill his future destiny. You may be encouraged to know that I believe the same holds true for you.
He was a skillful shepherd
Saul had already blown it as the ruler of Israel, so Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to procure another king that God had again chosen. He showed up at Jesse’s house and perused all seven of the older sons. None of them passed God’s test, so Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have” (1 Sam. 16:11a)?
Jesse announced that there was still another son, the youngest, but that he was out tending the sheep (v11b). The ESV uses the word ‘keeping,’ as in ‘keeping the sheep.’ This means to “feed, to tend; to be a shepherd. It means in general to care for, to protect, to graze, to feed flocks and herds” (CWSB Dictionary). David was brought in from watching over the sheep and in that moment, his destiny took an abrupt turn. God told Samuel to anoint him as king and he did so, in the presence of all his older brothers (v 13).
Later, after David had begun to serve Saul, he still went back and forth to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem (17:15). But when Jesse asked David to take food to his older brothers at the battle site, he left the flock with a shepherd and set out to obey his father (17:20). The turn of events that day were mind-blowing. Armed only with a story of protecting his flock from a lion and a bear and with his sling, David strode forward to protect God’s name (17:34-37). David literally went from obscurity to fame in seconds when he killed the giant, Goliath. In that moment, God began to redeem the countless hours David had spent feeding, caring for, protecting, and keeping the sheep by moving him into a leadership position of shepherding His people.
Through some bad press, Saul went from loving David to hating him and David was forced to run for his life. He suffered a narrow escape in the Philistine camp and fled to the cave of Adullam. Scripture gives an ironic twist to David’s first human flock, “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him” (22:2). I’m reminded of a tiny phrase Saul’s servant spoke about David, “He speaks well and is a fine-looking man…” (16:18 italics mine). Jesse’s youngest son, who was forgotten in Samuel’s original lineup at the anointing service, was not forgotten by God. Instead, he was endowed by God with speaking, protecting, guarding, leadership gifts, which he practiced first on a bunch of smelly sheep and second, on some distressed and troubled human sheep.
This band of malcontents became an organized fighting machine under the shepherding leadership of David. They protected Keilah from the Philistines (23:1-6). They listened to David and spared Saul’s life; not once, but twice (24:1-22; 26:1-25). They went to arms for David when Nabal foolishly refused hospitality (24:1-13). They banned together with him to live in enemy territory and live on a very dangerous fine line between capitulation and annihilation 27:1-12). David fought for and protected his men when the Amalekites kidnapped their wives and children.
David was a born leader with skills shaped on the hills around Bethlehem and further molded by troubled men who needed protection. “God chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Ps. 78:70-72).
He was a brave warrior
David’s music career gained Saul’s interest before his bravery came to the forefront. When an evil spirit came upon Saul, his servants suggested he hire someone who could play the harp to soothe him. Saul agreed to this suggestion and one of his servants recommended David, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD Is with him” (1 Sam. 16:18).
This high praise came from a servant and occurred even before David faced Goliath. How would he know that David was a brave man and a warrior? As far as we know from Scripture, David hung out in the fields with sheep, but David himself makes a reference later to his bravery in the fields. “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it” (17:34-35). Saul decided to take a chance on David and made him his soothing musician and his armor-bearer (17:21-23).
Later, when Goliath threatened to undo Israel’s courage, David walked into the battle with the continuation of his lion and bear story, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:34-37).
On the merits of that story, Saul handed his entire army’s welfare into the keeping of the young shepherd boy. David strode forward to meet the giant and felled him with one stone, then killed him with his own sword (17:37-51). That brave act solidified David’s warrior status and Saul rewarded him with a high rank in the army (18:5). Because Saul was jealous and afraid of him, he sent him away and gave him command over a thousand men (18:13), but still, all Israel and Judah loved him because he led them in their campaigns (18:15).
Saul tried to have David killed off by giving him more and more impossible tasks, one of them being that he needed to annihilate a hundred Philistines and hand their foreskins off to Saul as a bridal price for his daughter (18:25). So David did what he asked and much more. He killed off two hundred men and brought their foreskins to Saul in order to earn Michal’s hand in marriage (18:27).
Chapter 18 ends with these words which are a subtle foreshadowing of later events, “The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well-known” (18:30). Notice these phrases: “continued to go out to battle”, “as often as they did…success”, and “well-known.” This important verbiage foreshadows a fateful day in David’s life when black-ice began to careen David’s life out of control. One terrible nemesis-response blew everything apart, but it began with the gradual decline of fighting battles often, acrewing success and continuing to make a name for himself as a warrior. Take note of this, for we will come back to this later.
In the time before David became king, he continued to grow in this area of battle-courage. We already mentioned that four hundred discontented and distressed men began to gather around him (22:2), but that number grew to over 600 (23:13). He led those men in a battle to save Keilah (23:1-6) and they followed him to attack Nabal’s household for his foolish responses (25:1-35).
After running from Saul and sparing his life twice, David finally sought refuge among the Philistines (27:1-5). He and his men and their families lived in Ziklag a year and four months (27:6-7) and they fought against Judah’s enemies, although King Achish thought he was fighting his own people (27:8-12). Before a huge war against Israel, the Philistines soldiers did not trust David and his men, so King Achish sent him home (29:1-11). When they returned to Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had kidnapped their families. David and his band of angry men went after the Amalekites and “fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day” (30:17), nearly destroying them and recovering their families and belongings intact.
In all that he did from the time that God plucked him from the fields and placed him on the throne, David proved himself to be a “brave man” and “warrior” (16:18). His courage in the face of battle did not abate despite the black-iced changes of his varying battlefields. He fought for Saul as equally as he fought for the safety of his men in enemy territory (Gath). He fought for God’s name (Goliath) with the same determination that he fought for justice and fairness (Nabal). Over and over, he proved himself to be a man who would fight God’s battles God’s ways.
He was a gifted musician
Before David was “discovered” to be a battle-hardy warrior, he was first known as a man who could play the harp well. Nothing is mentioned in Scripture about this secret skill, but I am sure that his sheep were well-versed in this soothing ability, for that is where David had to have practiced. His musical debut came when Saul began to be tormented by an evil spirit (16:14). One of Saul’s servants told him that a “son of Jesse” knew how to play the harp (16:18), so Saul sent for David. David agreed to the arrangement and so, when Saul was feeling oppressed, David would take his harp and play. Scripture tells us that “relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (16:23).
Even after David had killed Goliath, he continued to play for Saul (18:10). I imagine he played more frequently at that time, because Saul was overcome with jealousy and fear on top of the oppression he already experienced (18:9, 12). One day David was playing as usual and Saul hurled his spear at him, trying to kill him (18:10-11), but David was able to get away. Even after that incident, David continued to play for Saul, but Saul again tried to pin him to the wall with his spear (19:9-10). David escaped again, but that is the last time he is recorded as serenading Saul in his evil-spirit induced black-ice moments.
A while later, however, we discover that David was not just a harp player, but a gifted composer. Many of the 75 psalms attributed to him were written in the time period as he ran for his life from Saul, who was trying to kill him. The titles of a number of psalms give us a brief glimpse into this song-writer, warrior-shepherd as he continued to lead his men in their timely escapes from Saul:
- Psalm 59: A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him (1 Sam. 29:11-18).
- Psalm 56: A miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-11). Psalm 34: Of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left (1 Sam. 21:10-15).
- Psalm 52: A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Abimelech” (1 Sam. 22:6-23).
- Psalm 54: A maskil of David, when the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, “Is not David hiding among us” (1 Sam. 22:19-29).
- Psalm 63: When he was in the desert of Judah (possibly 1 Sam. 22-26).
- Psalm 142: A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer (1 Sam. 22 or 24).
- Psalm 57: A miktam of David, when he had fled from Saul into the cave (1 Sam. 24).
As a musician and composer, I am fully aware of the unbridled power of a good melody coupled with Spirit-inspired words. Most of my own songs have burst forth from my soul either in the thick of a black-ice experience or in the aftermath of a hard-fought battle. They were my expression of heartfelt prayer or desperate cry. It is no surprise to me, then, that many of the most dearly-loved Davidic psalms were written from the very center of these tough places as well. I believe that this man, who was such an incredible leader and a courageous warrior, jump-started his courage through this medium of music. While he plucked the strings of his harp, he plucked the heartstrings of his heavenly Father as well. And the gift that was lent to him through this mode of worshipful dependence was the Spirit-induced courage of God Himself.
He had a godly heart
There is an obscure verse in Acts 13 that tells us what God thought about David. “God…testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22). I don’t know about you, but if God would speak these same words about me, my heart would probably explode from the honor of it all. Imagine what God was saying here…This man’s heart is so beautiful to me. I can ask him to do the hardest tasks and he does not even ask any questions. He does not waver through unbelief or doubt. He does not consult his cabinet or his wisest counselors. He simply obeys. This man’s heart is like mine in every way.
We all know that David sinned on a number of occasions, so how could God say this about him? What was so special about David’s heart that God would liken it to His own? This answer I must know, because if I am to hear a “well done” when I get to heaven, the characteristics that made David attractive to God must be a part of my soul’s repertoire as well.
First, we see that David’s heart was humble. There is not a time that David was seen to express resentment at having to tend sheep all the time (16:11). Even when he was forgotten by his father in the bid for kingship, he did not retaliate or carry a grudge (16:6-13). When it looked like his fortune may be changing, he did not complain that he was simply playing the harp for a spirit-sick king. Not one word of frustration crossed his lips (16:18-23). He simply served, willing to please the king whenever he could.
As the Goliath story unfolded, David spoke of himself as Saul’s servant over and over (17:32, 34, 36, 58). He was not cocky, but humbly confident. As the ladies danced and sang over his triumph, he did not puff up with pride (18:7), but quietly and efficiently went about doing his army duties in the same faithful manner. When the king needed him to play his harp, it did not matter to David that he was a war hero; he continued to serve, “as he usually did” (18:10). When Saul tried to kill him, David did not retaliate. He simply “eluded” him (18:11) and kept doing the tasks he had been given (18:12ff). Whatever he was given to do, David did it with his whole heart, as serving the Lord, not men (Eph. 6:7).
David also had an obedient heart. He obeyed his father, serving out in that pasture day after day. You would think that after he had been anointed king, something in his circumstances would have changed, but it didn’t. Saul asked Jesse to bring him in from the fields to serve him (16:19). This tells me that David was faithfully fulfilling his father’s expectations still, even after he had been anointed for a more prestigious destiny.
David respectfully obeyed his king, coming when bidden and fulfilling the daily services he was given. Nowhere in the Samuel Scriptures is David seen disobeying orders, both in his music-playing duties and under his general’s command. Even after David ran away from home to preserve his life, he was obedient to the prophet’s words. Gad said, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah” (22)5). David obeyed his wise advice and went to the forest of Hereth.
I will talk about this aspect a bit more in a minute, but for now, it is important to realize that David also obeyed the word of God. Whenever David went into battle, “he inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him.” Over and over again this happened (see 23:1-3, 23:4-6, 23:9-12). David habitually asked God for guidance and obeyed the guidance he received.
David not only had a humble and an obedient heart, but he also had a merciful heart. While on the run, David took the time to save the residents of Keilah from the looting Philistines (23:1-6). He showed them an extreme goodwill, despite the fact that they later tried to turn him over to Saul (23:7-13). Twice David spared Saul’s life (24:1-21; 26:1-25), even though his men would have killed the king. He was even conscience-stricken for having cut off a portion of Saul’s robe (24:4-5) because he did not want to lift a hand up against him as the anointed of God (24:5-7).
David graciously cared for Nabal’s flocks and shepherds. He protected the men while they were out in the fields (25:14-15). And later, when Abigail came to appeal to his better sense, he abdicated revenge in place of mercy (25:32-35). I am continually amazed at David’s benevolent attitude toward King Saul, for when he heard of Saul’s death, he mourned and wept and fasted at his demise (2 Sam. 1:11-12) and killed the Amalekite messenger to avenge Saul’s death (1:15-16).
David was also a man of righteous heart. Samuel was tasked with anointing a new king, though he knew not which son of Jesse would be chosen. Eliab, the eldest, was his first choice, but God said, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:6-7). As it turned out, the heart God had chosen belonged to a young ruddy man, with a fine appearance and handsome features…and much more (16:12). God saw a young adult who was a nobody in the eyes of men, but a righteous man in the eyes of God. “Rise,” the Lord said, “and anoint him; he is the one” (16:12b). David was chosen because he was righteous and for this right-placed heart, he was anointed to be the next king of Israel.
King Saul, while in pursuit of David, was the one who verbalized this truth about David’s righteousness. The first time David spared his life when he could have killed him in a cave, Saul spoke these amazing words, “Is that your voice, David my son? You are more righteous than I…You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me…” (24:17-18). David’s heart was right before God. He did not need to take matters into his own hands; he checked his vengeance at the Lord’s doorstep (24:10-15 and Rom. 12:17-19).
Lastly for our purposes today, David had a trusting heart. Out of the blue one day, David was anointed king, but he did not take that throne for many years. How did he get through being relegated to the sheep pen again? How did he manage playing the harp for a deranged king? How did he handle being hunted down like a common criminal for months, if not years? How did he choose to leave vengeance in God’s hands despite the price on his head? My friend, there is only one way David could have waited on the Lord through all of these trials: he trusted deeply in his God.
The first visible sign of David’s trust was during the conflict with Goliath. Saul tried to dissuade David from going to an early death, but David’s words are a legendary trust-monument: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (17:37). Later, when David approached the giant, being taunted the whole while, he spoke with trusting confidence, “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands” (17:46-47).
Amidst the running and dodging, David learned to trust his God even more. When Keilah was experiencing oppression by the Philistines, David asked the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The Lord answered, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah” (23:1-2). David’s band of discontents were afraid and they tried to convince him to back down, so David decided to check with the Lord again. God answered, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand” (23:4). David obeyed and sure enough, the people of Keilah were saved and David inflicted heavy losses on the Philistine army.
Saul heard about David’s new home at Keilah and decided to pounce. He marshaled all his forces to go to Keilah to besiege David and his men. David did not react out of his nemesis-responses. Instead, he asked the priest to bring the ephod to him and he prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord…tell your servant.” The Lord said, “He will.” David pushed for God’s guidance and asked again, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” Again, the answer from the Lord was affirmative, so David and his men left Keilah to roam the wilderness once again (23:7-13).
One last scenario in chapter 30 demonstrates this great man’s trusting heart. At a later point, David and his men had moved into Ziklag in the middle of Philistine country. They had been sent back from a battle only to find that the Amalekites had attacked Ziklag and taken their families captive. “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (30:4). The men were so bitter at their black-ice experience that they began to talk amongst themselves about stoning David. Instead of reacting out of his pain and feelings of betrayal, David stood before the Lord. Scripture says that he “found strength in the Lord his God” (30:6). I love that! And out of that strength, David once again inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I over take them?” The Lord said, “Pursue them…You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue” (30:8). David trusted God enough to follow His words implicitly and as a result, he gained back his men’s trust and all of their families and possessions.
He had an intimate relationship with God
When Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the presence of his brothers, there was a change in David’s relationship with the Lord. “From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (16:15). David may have been a shepherd leader, a brave warrior, a great musician, and a man of great godliness, but nothing distinguished him quite like this powerful statement, “the Spirit came upon David.” That power carried him through a conflict with a giant that he should never have been able to win (17:32-51). That power enabled him to successfully do whatever Saul sent him to do (18:5). That power gave David the ability to elude Saul’s spear of death on two separate occasions (18:11). And that power strengthened him and his men to kill 200 Philistines in order to fulfill Saul’s bridal price (18:27).
Saul, as the reigning king, recognized David’s distinguishing relationship with God. Actually, it caused him to fear, because he could tell that the Lord was with David but had left him” (18:12). Everything Saul gave him to do, David accomplished with great success, because the Lord was with him (18:14). Even after David married his daughter, Michal, who loved David very much, Saul grew more and more afraid of him. Because the Lord accompanied David, Saul’s fear moved him to irrationality, even the insanity of being his enemy (18:28-29). Saul could sense the palpable presence of God on David.
The scenarios where David spoke to God like a friend really minister to me: asking God whether he should attack the Philistines (23:2); then, asking again, to be sure (23:4); asking God whether the citizens of Keilah would give him over to Saul or not (23:9-12); and all the while, obeying whatever instructions God gave him. It is in these confident, intimate exchanges that the depth of David’s relationship with God is revealed. He enjoyed such a communion with God that he simply asked and expected God to answer. I don’t know about you, but I want this kind of sweet intimacy.
On top of these achingly endearing times of communion, God protected David; He took care of his young anointed friend. After the fiasco at Keilah, he and his men kept moving around the desert. Scripture says that Saul searched for David day after day, but “God did not give David into his hands” (23:14). Later, when Saul honed in on David’s location and was close to capturing him, a mysterious messenger appeared to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land” (23:26-27). Saul was forced to break off his pursuit of David in order to fight the attackers. Coincidence? I think not, my friend. God was clearly watching over his anointed child.
After Samuel died, David moved into the desert of Maon. He lived near a wealthy landowner in Carmel named Nabal, who was surly and mean. David sent some servants to ask for some food during the sheep shearing time, but Nabal responded with stingy anger. When David received the nasty return message, he put on his sword and called his men to arms. It was only by the quick-thinking actions of Nabal’s wife, Abigail, that Nabal and his household were saved from certain death.
I find it interesting in David’s response to Abigail’s generosity that he says these words, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak” (25:33-34 italics mine). David knew his God well enough that he recognized God’s hand at work behind Abigail’s generous actions. It was God that had kept him from harming Abigail and her family. Ultimately, his God was in control and was looking out for his servant.
The fact that David was concerned for God’s reputation is another proof of his intimate relationship with God. From the time of David’s first engagement with an enemy, he had God’s interests at heart. While standing at the battle lines, Goliath began to “defy Israel” (17:25), but David clearly saw Goliath’s arrogance as a disgraceful defiance against the “living God” (17:26, 36). Even David’s older brother did not understand the passion that burned in David’s heart on God’s behalf (17:28), but that did not stop David. He strode confidently toward Goliath with these words bursting forth from his heart, “I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel (17:46-47).
The intimacy God and David shared meant that God’s agendas naturally became David’s agendas. It was important for David to defend the name of God. It was imperative in David’s mind that all people knew who God was. It was also crucial, even in the prelude to an unbeatable fight, that David told Goliath, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD”s and he will give all of you into our hands” (17:47). God’s reputation, God’s fame, God’s power, and God’s ability to save – all of these agendas meshed into one burning passion: all must know this God as David knew him.
Because David was concerned about the divine agenda, he was also concerned about heavenly timing. His knowledge of God’s greatness birthed in him a great reverence for God’s anointed. Twice David had the opportunity to kill King Saul, who had become to him like an enemy: trying to spear him; conniving against him; deceiving him; murdering those who helped him; and hunting him down like an animal. But twice David chose the higher ground. He mercifully confronted Saul out of his reverence for God’s timing and purpose, “Some urged me to kill you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed (24:10)…The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed (26:23). Because of his awe for God, he chose mercy instead of revenge. He chose to view Saul’s life as “precious” (26:21) because that is how God saw him as well.
Another sign of David’s intimate relationship with God was his dependence upon Him. I’ve already spoken about David’s disciplined reactions to stress: he always took his needs to God. He asked and received because he trusted God. But nothing stands out to me more clearly in this trust-department as his attitude about justice. Both times, when he could have murdered King Saul, he chose not to. Yes, it was because of God’s value of Saul’s life (anointed, precious), but there was something deeper going on.
Listen to these words, “May the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you…May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand (24:12, 15)…As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble (26:24). David did not take revenge. He did not try to take matters into his own hands. He simply trusted, knowing that God had also anointed him, but he also rested in his promise-keeping God. He allowed God’s word to stand firm in his heart, even to the point of depending upon God for ultimate justice.
I don’t have time to study through all the Psalms of David, but if you read the prayers and songs that he wrote to God, you will know from experience the depth of the intimacy he shared with God. Almost more than any other quality David demonstrated, he was a man of worship. As I close out this section, let me leave you with some intimate glimpses into the relationship of a man after God’s own heart, who sought the Lord in his black-ice moments:
- When he fled from Absalom: “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Ps. 3:3).
- When he pretended to be insane: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
- When Doeg betrayed him: “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Ps. 52:8).
- When the Ziphites betrayed him: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Ps. 54:4).
- When the Philistines seized him: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me?” (Ps. 56: 3-4)
- Hiding from Saul in a cave: “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps. 57:2).
- When Saul sent men to spy on his house: “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God” (Ps. 59:9).
- In the desert of Judea: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is not water” (Ps. 63:1).
- In a cave on the run from Saul: “When my spirit grows faint within me; it is you who know my way” (Ps. 142:3).
I have spent a lot of time building a framework for David’s early years and there is a purpose, which will be clearer in just a few moments. For now, let me recap these last few pages into a brief summary of David’s heart, that heart that God chose to anoint as his second king.
David’s Early Kingly Years
The road to kingship was a hard one for this man of God. If you read the early chapters of 2 Samuel, you will see that there was no relief for David as he began the next movement in his life. Life had been hard running from Saul, but it was almost as hard when his enemy was removed.
First, Saul was killed in a terrible battle with the Philistines, along with David’s dear friend, Jonathan. David did not gloat; he mourned deeply. Though it appeared that God’s prophetic anointing was about to come true, that David’s enemy and blockade to his predetermined destiny was removed, David did not run ahead of God. He did not take matters into his own hands. Instead, he paused, out of his reverential fear for God, to mourn the life of Israel’s first king. The throne sat open and empty and according to God, David was the one to fill it, but his was a heart of mercy. So, for a time, he chose to lament God’s original agenda gone wrong because of one man’s pathway of sin.
Then, after a time, David engaged the Lord as he normally did. As was usual, he sought God for his next move:
It is so sweet to me to see the comfortable camaraderie between David and God. Again, David asked for guidance, and God specifically answered. As a result, David was recognized as Judah’s rightful king and he reigned over Judah from Hebron for 7 ½ years (2 Sam. 2:11, 5:5).
But, despite God’s clear guidance, David’s march to the throne of Israel was bathed in blood. There was war between the houses of David and Saul. Abner made Ish-Bosheth, son of Saul, the king over much of Israel for two years (2:10). There were many skirmishes between Israel and Judah, all of which David and his men won (2:2:12-17; 2: 18-32; 3:1). Additionally, there was great deception in Ish-Bosheth’s ranks, internal issues that seemed irredeemable. Abner slept with Saul’s concubine, which caused distrust in Ish-Bosheth’s heart (3:6-11), so Abner began making a deal with David (3:12-21) and switched alliances. Joab, David’s general, did not trust Abner and murdered him (3:22-38) and David, once again, mourned for this needless death. Ish-Bosheth heard of Abner’s death and began to lose hope and the trust of his people (4:1).
Saul’s son (unnamed) had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. They took matters into their own hands in this midst of this political vacuum and killed Ish-Bosheth in his bed. They took his head to David, hoping for accolades, but David was incensed and ordered them to be killed (4:1-12). Then the tribes of Israel came to David and reminded him of God’s words, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler’ (5:2). David took this as a sign that God was moving him toward the throne and he submitted to Israel’s wishes. They anointed him king that day (5:3-4). He made the decision to move forward and so he marched to Jerusalem, conquered the city, dwelt in that fortress, and chose to rename it the City of David (5:6-7).
There are several references to David’s relationship with God during the early years of kingship. After David took up residence in the palace of Jerusalem, “he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him” (5:10). “David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (5:12).
Incidentally, it was immediately on the heels of this amazing statement about God’s establishment that the author wants us to know that David also took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem (5:13). Is this a coincidence? I think not. When Solomon took on seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, 1 Kings says that “his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God…” (1 Kings 11:4). I do not think it is too much to speculate that all of David’s wives did a number on his whole-hearted devotion to God. That is why I believe the author mentioned David’s acquisition of concubines and wives directly after the sentence about David’s surety of God’s establishment. Despite his knowledge about God’s direction, David knew that what he was doing was not a good choice.
The asking of God for guidance did continue for a time while David was ensconced in Jerusalem. The Philistines heard that David had been anointed king and so they went to war against him. David asked God if he should attack and God told him to go ahead, for He would give him the victory. David went out to battle and defeated them, but they were a persistent bunch and regrouped. David again asked the Lord and this time, God gave him some different instructions, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army” (5:23-24). David followed God’s instructions to the letter and soundly beat the Philistine army.
However, there was a time David did not ask the Lord for guidance and a good man was killed. David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, but he began the process without consulting the Lord or the priests. Uzzah grabbed the ark at one point because the oxen stumbled and the Lord put Uzzah to death. David was angry, but also afraid of the Lord, and he left the ark in the home of Obed-Edom.
2 Samuel does not give the full story, but the author of 1 Chronicles tells us that David did some research and found out that no one but the Levites were to carry the ark. He discovered that the priests were to consecrate themselves before they brought the ark to the city. David indicated that he was in the wrong, “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way” (1 Chron. 15:13). After David remedied the process, the Lord allowed the ark to arrive safely in Jerusalem, but I think it is important to note that this was the first time in David’s history that he did not ask God for guidance, but it was not the last.
David longed to build a temple for the Lord, and the prophet, Nathan, thought it would be a good idea. God had to get Nathan’s attention and tell him that David was not his first choice for this task. God did give Nathan a huge promise to tell David that his throne would be established forever (7:1-17). When David was told of this promise, he responded with humility (7:18-21), worship and reverence (7:22), and a clearcut praise time involving God’s reputation and honor (7:25-26). David did not mention his deep desire to provide a temple for God at this time, but when he talked to Solomon later, he gave him the reason why God would not allow him to undertake this task, “But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight” (1 Chron. 22:8). Interestingly enough, David could not build a temple for his God because of his mighty warrior status.
One of David’s greatest kingly contributions was his ability to fight battles. In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines, the Moabites, the king of Zobah, the Arameans, the Edomites, the Ammonites (twice) and the Amalekites (8:1-14). The Lord gave David victory wherever he went (8:6, 14) and made him famous when he struck down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt (8:13). David was known to be a good ruler, “doing what was just and right for all his people” (8:15).
Chapter 9 of 2 Samuel is a beautiful example of David’s merciful heart. David found that Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, was still living and he moved him into the palace along with his son, Mica. He promised that Mephibosheth would never want for anything, that he could eat at the king’s table the rest of his life. Despite all of David’s fame and power, he never forgot his promise to Jonathan to care for his descendants. It did not matter that Jonathan’s father was his enemy; he chose mercy over judgment.
The last chapter before “The Oops” in David’s life details yet another battle, the war against the Ammonites (ch. 10). It all began because David was trying to be nice to Hanun, whose father had died. He sent a delegation to express his sympathy, but all the nobles in Hanun’s court convinced him that David’s men were spies. Instead of receiving them nobly, Hanun seized David’s men, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments in the middle of their buttocks, and sent them away (10:4).
When the king heard about these shameful acts, he told his men to stay in Jericho till their beard grew back. He was kind and merciful to his men, but not so much to the Ammonites. They realized that they had “become a stench in David’s nostrils,” so they hired 37,000 men from three sources to prepare for war (10:6). David heard about the Ammonites’ tactical move and sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men (10:7). The short of the story is that David and his army won over the Ammonites – and the Arameans who were hired – (10:8-19) and the rest should have been history, but it wasn’t, my friend, and that is what we are going to explore in a minute.
For now, let me summarize the first years of David’s kingship over Judah and Israel. He shepherded Israel skillfully as he had learned to shepherd his sheep and band of 600 men in his pre-king years. He was a brave warrior; in fact, this was his basic job description most of those early years. He was a gifted musician, although we do see less songs in the Psalter that came from this period of time. He had a godly heart. He was still obedient to God, merciful to some, righteous in his outlook, and mostly obedient to what God said. And I think he still enjoyed an intimate relationship with God: he was Holy-Spirit empowered; God was with him and gave him success; they still shared some intimate communion, though this seemed drastically reduced; he still showed reverence for Saul’s family line, and there were still elements of worship like when David brought the ark to Jerusalem and when he prayed to God.
But, I also think a few changes began to occur in the years after he took the throne in Jerusalem. These subtle changes – compromises, if you will – began to erode David’s integrity, intimacy, and identity. And those compromises led to David’s nemesis-response in his black-ice sideswipe.
David’s Black-Ice Compromises
I have spent an inordinate amount of time fleshing out David’s early pre-king years for one purpose: I wanted you to see what made David’s heart so exemplary. That in-depth look should have thrown up some red flags as we sped through David’s early years on the throne. There were subtle differences in his devotion, especially after he settled into the role of king in Jerusalem. Something shifted in the depth of David’s intimacy with God and I believe it came about in the form of subtle compromises. He did not stand firm. He did not throw off entanglements and they worked to hinder his race enough to almost derail him completely. Certainly, the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba oppressed him the rest of his life. And to think, they all could have been avoided if he had just stood firm in truth.
Compromise 1 – Wives
I do not pretend to understand the cultural take on wives and concubines in the Old Testament especially. I know the patriarch, Abraham himself, took Hagar on as a concubine. Even Jacob had two wives and two concubines and nowhere in Old Testament history does God rebuke them for their choices. However, the law of Moses listed a sixth commandment that was pretty clear in the post-patriarch time, “You shall not commit adultery.” Having more than one wife automatically breaks this clear command from God.
Now, I will tell you that David began this compromise early on in his life. His first wife was Michal, Saul’s daughter, but he had to leave her behind when he ran for his life from her father. Sometime while he was running around the wilderness, he also married Ahinoam, but this may have been because Saul gave Michal to another man in David’s absence (1 Sam. 25:43-44). But the compromise began in earnest when David added Abigail to his family (26:39). During the time when David was living among the Philistines, he still had only two wives (27:3) and they were both taken captive (30:5) and recovered (30:18) when the Amalekites attacked Ziklag.
After Saul’s death, David waited an appropriate time before he began to march toward the throne. After a conversation with the Lord, God told David to move into Hebron, which he did with both of his wives (2 Sam. 2:2). There were months, maybe even years, of war between the houses of David and Saul, meaning that the struggle for political power was pretty fierce. Abner made Ish-Bosheth king over Israel for two years, but it was an uneasy partnership. Abner was defeated by Joab at a mock battle, which turned deadly (2:12-17). Then Joab’s brother chased Abner as he was running away. Abner warned Asahel, who did not stop pursuing him, so he killed him in cold blood (2:18-23). Joab and his other brother, Abishai, pursued Abner but stopped the battle when Abner spoke some hard words to them (2:24-28).
Eventually, however, Ish-Bosheth angered Abner and he decided to switch sides. David agreed to this, but he told Abner that to defect, he needed to bring Michal, his former wife, to him. Michal was married to another man at this time, but Abner did not care; she was literally “taken away from her husband,” who followed behind her weeping all the way (3:6-16). So, David added Michal back into his list of wives at that time. Eventually, Joab murdered Abner in a sneaky act of revenge for Abner’s senseless killing of his younger brother (3:22-30) and in the end, Ish-Bosheth himself was murdered (4:1-12). All in all, this was a bloody way for David to ascend the throne at Jerusalem. Notice, however, that David then had three wives.
All the tribes of Israel convinced David to become king over Israel and Judah and God’s prophecy about his destiny finally came true (5:1-5). After David conquered the city of Jerusalem, made some improvements, and engaged in some political way-making, David took one other significant action. “After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem” (5:13). There must have been quite a few, since they are not named; only the children – eleven of them, in fact – are named (5:14-15).
The reason that I am pounding out some of this history is because I believe David knew better. If he was following Levitical law – and there is no reason not to think so, since David was obedient to God – he would have had to obey an important stipulation given by God to Moses. It is found in Deuteronomy 17: “When he (a king) takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left” (17:18-20).
When David was set up as king, he was required by the Mosaic law to write out a copy of the law. If he did that, he would know many of the requirements God expected him to follow, including some specifics for kings. “The king…must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself…He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver or gold” (Deut. 17:16, 17 italics mine). Did you see the command about wives? David had three wives before he became king, but when he took the throne at Jerusalem, he took more wives and he also took concubines. That word “took” is very telling. It speaks of a heart that has compromised enough that it will grab what it desires. In modern-day language, we would call this covetousness at the least and lust at its worst.
On the fateful day when David “saw” a woman bathing and “sent someone” to find out about her (2 Sam. 11:2, 3), you need to see that lust was already in play and had been for a number of compromised years. When David sent messengers to “get” Bathsheba and then “slept” with her (11:4), it was a very short step to “have her brought to his house” and make her his wife (11:27). I propose to you that David had struggled with lust for a while and the move to the palace exacerbated a compromise long untended.
Compromise 2 – Dependence
David’s early years were rife with dependent, trusting statements. He asked the Lord which direction to take at every turn and in every battle. The author of Samuel goes to great lengths to prove David’s reliant heart, but again, something happened after David became king. In the 7½ years that David was king over Hebron, there is no mention of God’s guidance at all. After David was crowned king of all Israel, there is only one mention of David’s dependence on the battlefield (see 5:17-25).
In addition, David went ahead of the Lord on a number of occasions. He desired to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, but never consulted the Lord on how it should be done. Consequently, Uzzah died a senseless death for touching the ark. Scripture says that David was angry at the Lord’s response and that he was afraid of God (6:8-9). These words have never been used in conjunction with David’s actions to date. Anger and fear of God?
The fact was that David should have asked the Lord for His prescribed way of carrying the ark, or at least consulted the Levitical priests. David did neither until disaster struck. Then, he backtracked and did some research, which led him to the right conclusion, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever” (1 Chron. 15:2). When David had the ark carried under God’s prescribed instructions, there was joy and great celebration because of his eventual trust in God’s ways.
In chapter 17, David desired to build a house for God. Nathan, the prophet, agreed until God told him differently. God spoke to Nathan and told him to share His perspective with David, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in…” (17:4). Why was the man after God’s own heart completely unaware of God’s heart? Why was a prophet needed to speak to David when David had always enjoyed such close communion with God? I submit to you that something changed when David moved into the palace. Because he was not trusting God for day-to-day survival, his dependence-quotient shrank. He did not need God so much in his palatial life and consequently, he began to make some poor decisions. Might it be that his heart had compromised his dependence so much that he did not ask or hear God very much anymore?
Compromise 3 – Humility
I believe pride (or lack of humility) was the underlying problem beneath David’s lack of dependence and his disregard for God’s boundaries on wives. There is a statement in chapter 5 that throws up red flags for me. This chapter outlines the triumph over Jerusalem. David then took up residence in the fortress and Scripture says that he called it the “City of David” (5:9a). There might be nothing too compromising about that, but it awakens some questions in my heart.
After he named the city after himself, David built up the area around the city, from the supporting terraces inward. Here is the flag-raising phrase, “And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him” (5:10). This phrase stands out to me because of another biblical king: King Uzziah. After Uzziah became powerful, “his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chron. 26:16).
There is nothing in Scripture that states outright that David became proud, but when I see David taking wives and concubines against Mosaic law, I see a man who thinks that the law does not apply to him as the king. When I read about David not knowing his Bible enough to know that the Levites are to be the only ones to carry the ark, I see a man who thinks he is above the law. When David is never seen asking the Lord how to engage in battles or speaking to the Lord on his own after he is enthroned, I recognize a man who is puffed up with pride. The psalmist spoke the truth that reveals David’s compromised heart, “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him” (Ps. 10:4-5).
Compromise 4 – Responsibility
The chapter detailing David’s plunge into adultery and murder begins with a very telling verse. Listen to these words: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem” (11:1).
Hopefully, you will recall that one of David’s primary qualities was that he was a brave warrior. From the first time that he burst upon Israel’s front page news, he did so by killing a famous giant. Ever after, he has been incredibly successful in battle, triumphing in the power of the Lord. Yet the opening verses of chapter 11 state a very serious issue at play in David’s heart: he abdicated his duty as king and his responsibility to his nation to fight for them.
When the subject of kingship first came up, the prophet, Samuel, was appalled. He tried to talk the Israelites out of it, but they wanted a king like all the other nations. They refused to listen to Samuel’s argument against a king for these reasons, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:19-20). The expectation for a king from the very beginning was that he would lead his army into victory on behalf of his nation.
The refrain, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” (18:7) characterized the people’s expectations of David’s rule. He was a mighty warrior. He had proved that over and over. Leading the army into battle was David’s main kingly duty, yet on the cusp of a terrible life-changing decision, David chose to compromise his battle-responsibilities. In the spring when all the other kings were at war, David chose not to engage the Ammonites at all. He sent his general out with his entire army, but he remained behind in the luxury of his palace. David should have been on the battlefield, not in his comfortable bedroom (Bob Deffenbaugh, https://bible.org/).
A second way we know that David was compromising his responsibilities as a warrior king was that in a time of war, a soldier was not to indulge in the normal comforts of life (including sexual relations with a woman). When David had first fled from Saul, he went to the priest at Nob to obtain food. The priest said these words, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here – provided the men have kept themselves from women.” David answered, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual, whenever I set out. The men’s things (or bodies) are holy even on missions that are not holy” (1 Sam. 21:4-5). “David’s words to Ahimelech reflect his awareness of the fact that men who are at war don’t ‘make love’” (Deffenbaugh).
But at that fateful moment in time, when David abdicated his normal soldier duties, everything about being a soldier seemed to fly out of the window. He saw a woman, lusted in his heart for her, had her brought to the palace, and had sex with her. Nothing about this scenario is right, but there is a greater tragedy than just the sin. For some reason, David seemed lost. He didn’t seem to know who he was anymore. He had been a soldier who was pure in battle. He had been a warrior who won great victories. He had been a man of integrity, but at that current moment, what was he? I’ll tell you what he was. He was a compromising king who should have been on the battlefield, but abdicated his responsibility for war and for purity in a time of war.
I’m sure Uriah’s words to him would have stung. After sleeping with Uriah’s wife and finding out that she was pregnant, David tried to get Uriah to go home and sleep with Bathsheba. Uriah’s answer shows his integrity, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As sure as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Sam. 11:11). Uriah knew that purity must be maintained on a holy mission of war for God. David seems to have compromised the purity of his mission along the path to the palace throne.
The siege of Rabbah was long and drawn-out. If I am interpreting Scripture correctly, the affair with Bathsheba – along with her whole pregnancy, the murder of Uriah, the marriage to Bathsheba, the rebuke from Nathan, and the death of Bathsheba’s child – all occurred during the siege against the Ammonites (see 2 Sam. 11:1-12:23). David was off compromising his morals while Joab, the general, besieged Rabbah in David’s place and Joab did not take too kindly to it. During the siege, he sent messengers to King David with a rather sharp admonishment, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me” (2 Sam. 12:27-28). A third way we know that David was compromising his duties as king was because his own general rebuked him.
This reproach reminded King David of his main obligation during the springtime season: he was to be at the head of his army. David owned his compromises as duly noted by the prophet, Nathan, repented before God, and got back on track. He mustered his entire army, went to Rabbah, besieged it, and captured it (2 Sam. 12:29). After he had taken the crown from the Ammonite king, plundered the city, consigned all the people to labor, he returned to Jerusalem. But this victory must have been very hollow for David. His slide into horrific sin was a culmination of terrible compromises; not the least of which was that he abdicated his main kingly duty of fighting for his people.
My friend, as David’s example demonstrates so clearly, there is no compromise that will leave any part of your heart unaffected. Compromise will bleed into every aspect of your life. In short, one compromise will affect all of your attitudes, choices, and consequences.
Compromise 5 – Lethargy
I have saved this compromise for last, but only because of its sequence in David’s story. After the king stayed home from the battle, abdicating his battle duties, the author of 2 Samuel outlines a very unusual sequence of events. “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace…” (2 Sam. 11:2).
What, I ask you, is David doing in bed early in the evening? Why is he just getting out of bed at night? Has he been lounging all day? He certainly hasn’t been catching up on work. And notice that the extent of his duties include a casual evening stroll around his roof; a stroll, mind you, that includes idle eyes as well as hands. He really has nothing better to do than to saunter passively around on the roof of his palace, checking out his neighbors’ rooftops?
I have watched my children engage in summer vacations for many years. The first couple of weeks of their breaks, they seem to do okay. They have some plans, they get together with friends, there are some projects to get done, but after that, they do not know what to do with themselves. They keep weird bedtime hours. They walk around the house with nothing to do. They are more feisty and irritable because their lives are out of sync. This is why I have often implemented a pretty strict summer schedule. They have to read and exercise, be creative and help around the house. Maintaining a semblance of structure keeps my boys’ minds from that horrible “B” word: boredom.
I’ve heard a saying before that seems to ring true in the face of lethargy, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Whether David was disillusioned with his life, or sick of fighting enemies, or whether he wanted to sleep in a little later one day, we don’t know why he was hanging out on the palace roof at sundown in his pajamas. What we do know is that he was very bored. We can see it in his passive battle stance, in his enervated purity, in his languid humility, and in his listless daily rhythms.
We can see it because all of us have been there at one time or another. Compromise is like that. It robs us of the focus and energy necessary to do our daily duties with contentment. It sinks deep into our passion and drains it bone-dry. Compromise begets lethargy and lethargy morphs into idleness. Idle hands become the devil’s workshop and pretty soon, adultery, deceit, and murder are not too far around the corner.
David’s black-ice experience involved a beautiful woman bathing on a nearby rooftop. His nemesis-response was lust. If David had engaged his nemesis by buttressing himself in love, activating a warrior mentality, throwing off some entanglements, transforming his mind, and living in the truth of what he knew, there would have been no adultery, lying, or murder. But David did not face his nemesis in a godly fashion and he certainly did not stand firm.
By the time he needed to really do battle with lust, his walk with God had been riddled through and through with compromise and complacency. That black-ice moment had been a long time in coming, but when it hit, it was sudden and devastating. David was so weakened by compromise at that point that he hardly had the strength to stand firm at all. His decline from hearing and doing was steady, but sure. When he moved into Jerusalem as a triumphant king and away from the wilderness of running for his life, pride began to derail his humble stance. His godly heart became hardened by his lack of vigilance in heeding truth.
This, then, is the crux of the matter that I wanted to point out to you. I have taken twenty pages to text to show you that living in truth is the key to victory over your nemesis and engaging in compromise along the way will make it impossible for you to stand firm. Satan is a roaring lion, but he’s also patient. He will wait and watch and build a scheme against you unless you are diligent in your listening-doing faith.
The rest of David’s reign was difficult; mostly, because of all the ramifications that followed this one hardened-heart sin. He paid for that bored, lethargic, compromising nighttime stroll dearly over and over and over again. But I do want to leave you with some good news. After David repented of his sin (see Ps. 51), circumstances did not get better for him, but his relationship with God was rekindled. He did suffer through the lonely wasteland of compromise and sin, but the lessons that he learned there never left his heart hardened again. He ended his life with the sweetness of intimacy that he had enjoyed for many years. His head laid to rest on the same godly breast that had sustained his five enduring man-after-God’s-own-heart qualities.
David’s Kingly End
The “last words of David” (23:1-7) tell me so much about David’s heart, this heart that God said was so much like His. I love the intimacy sprinkled throughout these verses, intimacy that came from a lifetime well-lived in the presence of God. Notice what was, and what wasn’t, important to David in the end.
There is nothing in these verses that speak about how good a ruler he was. He did not toot his own horn or tell about his ability to lead. He made one reference to his kingship and it was a personal word from the Lord, “When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth” (23:3b-4). David acknowledged the fact that a skillful shepherd of people must rule in righteousness. He had learned this lesson the hard way.
I find it fascinating that there is not one mention of his wartime feats at the end of his life. David spoke not one word about any battle, any engagement, any battle technique or resounding victory at all. Not one word. The very thing that seemed to epitomize David’s entire kingship was not important to David in the end. Even though the fact that he was a man of war (God’s words) kept him from building God’s temple, David knew a secret: his identity was not in what he did, but in Whose he was.
I would have thought his battle feats would have made it to his final spoken breaths and not this musical category, but I was wrong. David settled his identity in his worship. He called himself “Israel’s singer of songs” (23:1c). Another translation says, “Israel’s beloved singer.” After all the wars he had won, after all the people he had conquered, after all the success and fame he had garnered, this truth that he was a beloved worshiper was paramount. David wanted you to know that doing for God will fade away to nothing, but being with God will promote you to greater heights.
David’s heart was humble at the end. He acknowledged that God had “exalted” him and “anointed” him (v 1). There was nothing he had ever done to earn God’s favor, although he was very grateful. His heart was also righteous. He reiterated that his rule over Israel had stemmed from the fear of God (v 3c). He had a trusting heart. He trusted God to keep His promise of an “everlasting covenant” (v 5ab). He also depended on God for bringing to fruition his salvation and granting him his desires (v 5cd). Lastly, he humbly submitted justice into God’s hands, realizing that evil men will get their due (vv 6-7).
Of the five qualities we have studied in David’s life, this last quality of intimacy with God shines the brightest of all. His identity rested in this intimacy. He knew he was “exalted by the Most High.” He knew that he was a “man anointed by the God of Jacob” (v 1). And he knew these truths in his heart because the Holy Spirit told him so (v 2). God spoke to Him and guided him in his rule and David obeyed (v 3-4).
He ended his life with a confident expression of trust, “Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?” (v 5). Not only that, but David laid all of his unspoken requests at God’s feet, “Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?” (v 5).
I could preach an entire sermon about first-place priorities out of these seven verses. They drip with an identity fashioned by God Most High. They ring out an intimate passion to know God and be known by Him. And they concisely state the factors of integrity: worship (v 1); righteousness (v 3); fear of God (v 3); surrender (v 5); and trust (v 5). David began his life with these qualities on his important to-do list and he ended them with them written in his memoirs. Except for the time when David compromised his relationship with God for a lesser pleasure in a number of black-ice moments, David lived a life of incredible intimacy, identity, and integrity. He was a man after God’s own heart, willing to do whatever God asked him to do.
My friend, David was the kind of person who joined hearing with doing and consequently, enjoyed the pleasure of God close at hand.
My question to you today is: Are you?
Hold To The Battle-Plan Teaching
I took a rather long, but passionately felt, bird-walk in order to show you the dangers of not holding to God’s battle plan. Compromise is a relatively easy word to accomplish, but a very difficult word to combat. You may lose your battle, like David did, routed by compromise alone. Not throwing off this fleshly hindrance could derail you for the rest of your life.
So how do you finish strong? How do you keep your heart soft before God? What is the formula, if there is one, to standing firm in every black-ice experience?
The answers to all these questions can be distilled into one simple thought. You finish strong, stay heart-soft, and stand firm by L – Living in the truth. Precious child of God, you have a new nature, “created to be like God – truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:24, NLT). All you have to do is put it on. As you “embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with Him, you will be transformed. For God has recreated you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (4:24- Passion).
This is the profoundly simple truth of Christ-like living, the freedom-inducing power of the Gospel. Yet, you and I both know that this truth is anything but simple to live out on a daily basis. Many unbelievers are gripped by fleshly addictions. The witness of Christ is enervated by unsightly hindrances. And the glory due God that is supposed to flow from a Spirit-filled life is practically extinguished by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Friends, you and I must hear the clarion call of Paul to put off our flesh, be made new in our minds, and put on the new self (Eph. 4:22-24). We cannot ignore such a great salvation. We must pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Heb. 2:1, 3). In order to be tasty salt at the banquets of this earth, in order to be a blazing light in the darkness of this world (Mt. 5:13-14), we must not compromise our beliefs. We must stand firm in our battles and we must face our nemesis by living in truth.
Once again, here is the spectrum of the battle displayed linearly before you…
How much of this battle have you even thought of, let alone dealt with? How badly do you want to take down the strongholds in your life? Do you really desire to face your nemesis and win? Then, you must put on the new self by:
This last A-word is new this week. It is not enough to discover the lies that riddle your beliefs; those lies must be taken captive to Christ. They must be aligned with biblical truth.
In another letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spoke to the subject of the weapons of this world as being useless against spiritual forces. He indicated that the weapons we have to fight with have divine power to demolish strongholds. The key was to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4-5a). That means that you must become so adept at discerning lies that every thought is passed through a filter of truth. Then, you must “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b).
Every thought, my friend. Do you know what this command entails? Every attitude that grumbles against the lordship of Christ. Every hurt that generates bitterness. Every mindset of selfishness; every me-centered grab for power. Every contemplation of pride. Every depreciating rumination that denigrates the body God has given us. Every discouraging word that flows out of the heart. Every unspoken judgement that rains down contempt on another person. Every hopeless conclusion that is drawn from a black-ice circumstance. Every rationalization that is a result of a sin-hardened heart. Every perspective that breaks you off from God’s plumbline truth. Every ‘why’ that has ever been thrown in God’s face and every logic that overrides faith.
Every one of these arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against God’s kingdom, dear child of God, is a thought that must be taken captive. Every one! This is the hard work of a simple Gospel. This is the painful race that requires such diligent self-control. This is the awesome sacrifice of a God-honoring attention to detail. This is the nature of a spiritual battle; this is the nature of standing firm.
But it is not an impossible task, though it seems very difficult. For all we have to do is stand in truth. When you make this choice to override your natural tendencies by aligning yourself with truth, standing is a simple task. Look at all that happens when you choose truth over lies. You can:
- Stand on the heights (2 Sam. 22:33; Ps. 18:33).
- Stand on level ground (Ps. 26:12).
- Stand on the rock, which is a firm place (Ps. 40:2).
- Stand in awe of God’s laws (Ps. 119:120).
- Stand in awe of God (Ecc. 5:7).
- Stand in awe of God’s deeds (Hab. 3:1).
- Stand in the gap of your God-given wall (Ezek. 22:10).
- Stand on our feet in obedience to God (Acts 14:10; 26:16).
- Stand in the grace of God (Rom. 5:2; 1 Pet. 5:12).
- Stand upon the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1).
- Stand in faith. (1 Cor. 16:13; Isa. 7:9).
- Stand in Christ (2 Cor. 1:21).
- Stand in freedom (Gal. 5:1).
- Stand in the Lord (Phil. 4:1; Eph. 6:1).
- And stand in all the will of God (Col. 4:12).
All of these battle stances, and more, are activated naturally by your choice to simply stand in truth. Your choices to make yourself aware of your triggers, assess your nemesis, access your feelings, attend to your fleshly hindrances, analyze the lies, and align yourself with truth are the core ingredients of standing firm.
In case this entire devotional feels like implausible theories, I want to make it practical for you. I want to give you a functional look at a real-life example, one that occurred in my early years of teaching. During the rest of our time together today, we will be working through this black-ice experience in the hopes that it will distill all that I have said so far into manageable bites. I want to give you hope that you can stand firm in all of your black-ice experiences. I will chart my black-ice experience and my subsequent thinking for you in a chart form first, then conclude with some pragmatic analysis.
Be Aware of Black-Ice Triggers
As a young 22-year-old, first-year teacher, I was hired to teach music in a huge middle school in the West Shore School District. I taught six classes of general music a day, which amounted to over 600 students a year. Additionally, I taught 6th grade and 7th/8th grade chorus with two auditioned music groups that met after school. During my first year, the building was not completed, so I had to run to all of the different schools where my students were housed in cafeterias and libraries. All in all, I was a very busy young woman.
The year I was hired followed a year of tremendous unrest between the teachers and the administration. What I didn’t know was that there had been many strikes in the previous years and my starting salary was so high because the administration was hoping to entice more young blood. I was hired into a very tense scholastic setting. This tension coupled with a very heavy teaching load, made my first years incredibly difficult to manage.
When I became aware of all the political tension, I made a choice not to join the union. It did not seem in keeping with biblical principles and quite frankly, I wanted to work. If the teachers had gone on strike during my years in that public school, I would have made quite a lot of enemies. Gratefully, the Lord was watching out for me. (Bear with me as I give some of this back-ground information. It is needed to more clearly explain my black-ice experience.)
When I finally got into the new school, completed just weeks before my Christmas concert, I was astonished at the numbers I had in chorus: 120 in my 6th grade choir; and 150 in my 7th/8th grade choir. Getting those kids to be quiet was a little like herding stampeding cattle in a tornado. After just one day, I knew I was going to have to be a drill sergeant just to teach my class. I dug out a whistle and ran those chorus classes like an army boot camp. There was no talking. There was no laughing. There was no fooling around. Gradually, I gained the respect of my classes and they began to work hard for me.
There was one problem that caused me great consternation: the time between bells. The students had to be on the risers and seated quietly when the bell rang for class to start. However, there was a 2-3 minute period where chaos reigned supreme. I could not control those couple of minutes as kids were leaving and coming and I knew one day that something bad would happen and I would be liable. I begged my principal for an aide to help, but I was refused repeatedly.
One day as kids were exiting and entering, a young boy walked up to me with his hand just dripping blood. I gasped and asked what had happened. He told me quietly that he had been stabbed with a pencil. I grabbed one of my more reliable kids and had her escort Ethan to the nurse’s office so that his bloody hand could be attended to. When the bell rang, I played my piano and my students rose quietly to their feet. I grilled them, trying to find out what had happened, but no one would tell me the truth.
Assess Your Nemesis
At that moment, with kids scared to nark on the culprit and one child badly hurt on my watch, I wanted to quit my job. I wanted to run away as far as I could from that black-ice experience. Almost nothing I told myself filled me with the desire to stay in that position under such awful teaching conditions. My nemesis was the overwhelming desire to escape my black-ice trigger.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
I had to acknowledge my feelings. With very good reason, I felt angry, hurt, and very fearful. Other emotions lay dormant under these umbrella-like feelings, but those are the main emotions I remember vying for first-place importance.
Attend To Fleshly Hindrances
As I began to acknowledge what I was feeling in those awful moments, all kinds of thoughts flooded my mind. The reasons driving those emotions came to the surface very quickly. All I had to do was sit down later and write out what was really bothering me, what enabled those emotions to paralyze me. You can see what I came up with when I began dissecting my inner world.
I was angry. A child had been hurt on my watch and I was responsible for him. My principal had ignored my pleas for help and I arrogantly yelled at him in my mind, “I told you so. I warned you that this would happen, but you would not listen.” I was angry at God for giving me such a hard first job. My friends from college had small classrooms; some even taught in Christian schools. Why had God led me to a public sector? I was angry at myself, too. Why couldn’t I be more assertive? Other people have no problem being heard. It’s just me. What is wrong with me?
Another emotion that rose to the surface was hurt. I felt ignored as a first-year teacher. I felt overlooked, unimportant, and unheard by my principal and I felt unloved by God. Why was it so hard to get the help I needed? Why wasn’t God looking out for me? Why couldn’t I have gotten a job where I was doing more than crowd control? Didn’t God love me? Wasn’t I important to the district or to my administrator?
The last emotion I felt was fear. As I ruminated on my situation, I was convinced that my principal was going to fire me. He hadn’t backed me up the entire school year so far. What hope did I have that he would stand behind me in this accident? Many kids had already threatened to sue me and because I was not a part of the union, I knew I was a sitting duck if a threat was followed by action. My flesh wanted to hide the incident, to keep it in the dark, but I knew it was going to come out. Kids talk. Teachers talk. And I knew my principal would hear of the incident before the day was done.
As I laid out the reasons for my shaky emotions, I immediately began to see some fleshly hindrances that were keeping me from standing firm. There was an inward division in my soul between my calling and the black-ice that seemed to belie my calling. I recognized an arrogant attitude toward my principal that I needed to deal with. There was unforgiveness in my heart toward my administration as well as a healthy amount of fear. I had some bad attitudes to contend with as well as a neglectful principal and a terrible black-ice situation. I was feeling quite a bit of pain inside due to my roiling emotions. All of these hindrances needed to be addressed: some confessed as sin; some analyzed for lies; and others released to the Lord.
Analyze the Lies
When I was able to think through the reasons for my emotions and extract quite a few fleshly hindrances, I quickly recognized the lies that drove those feelings:
- This is all my fault
- My principal is a jerk.
- I do not hear God’s voice as He guides me in my life. Otherwise, this awful job would be going better.
- I am a failure.
- I am insignificant. This means I am easy to ignore. I am unseen and unimportant. I am worthless in the scheme of this school and in the scheme of life.
- God doesn’t really love me.
- I’m going to lose my job or get sued.
- I can hide this from my principal’s detection.
Now, I did not have to hear Satan’s voice whispering all these lies in my ear. They were already ensconced in my soul, encased there by former black-ice moments I had ignored. All Satan had to do was arrange a troublesome situation, one in which all my hurts and fears came roaring back to envelop me.
Align Yourself With Truth
When I encounter a black-ice trigger, negativity shoots out of me like the geyser, Old Faithful. I do not have to think twice; discouragement just wells up in my mind and spurts out of my mouth. I knew at that time that I needed to deal with the lies shaking my life, so I began to seek God’s perspective on my black-ice trigger. I needed to engage this quickly, since I had less than a day before a meeting with my principal was scheduled. I took all of those lies and began to overlay them with truth. Some truths were logical when I overrode my negativity with my moral foundation. Other lies needed Scripture to break their power over me.
- This is all my fault. Actually, none of this was my fault. I had tried to get help, but it was ignored. What happened was entirely an accident. This is no surprise to God and He can work even this for my good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
- My principal is a jerk. My principal is an unbeliever and flies by the seat of his pants. He does not have Christ to lead and guide him. And he is very busy. I’m sure there are many priorities sitting on his desk right now. That is why my desire for an aid is so far down the list. I need to respond with humility, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
- I do not hear God’s voice as He guides me in my life. Otherwise, this awful job would be going better. Actually, this job opportunity was a miracle God worked on my behalf. I have always known that this was the job He wanted for me. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Just because this job is hard does not mean that I am in the wrong place, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
- I am a failure. I am a work in progress. “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6 personalized).
- I am insignificant. This means I am easy to ignore. I am unseen and unimportant. I am worthless in the scheme of this school and in the scheme of life. “I am God’s poetry, a recreated person that will fulfill the destiny he has given me, for I am joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before I was born, God planned in advance my destiny and the good works I would to to fulfill it!” (Eph. 2:10 – Passion personalized).
- God doesn’t really love me. Actually, God loves me enough to kill His Son to bring me into relationship with Him. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jer. 31:3).
- I’m going to lose my job or get sued. Only God knows the future. I cannot live in ‘what-ifs.’ “You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” (Ps. 139:3-4).
- I can hide this from my principal’s detection. For the sake of Ethan and the other kids’ safety, I need to tell the truth. I am trying to hide for fear of punishment, but I need to act out of God’s perfect love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18).
This is a step we will spend much more time on next week, but for our purposes today, I want to show you what I had to do in this situation. I needed to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around my waist (Eph 6:14a). I needed to deal with my fleshly tendencies by confessing them as sin to God. I needed to stand in the righteousness of sin forgiven (breastplate of righteousness – 6:14b). I needed to remember that I was a minister of reconciliation, that my feet walked the hallways of a place that desperately needed the gospel of Christ (shoes fitted with peace – 6:15a). I needed to take my shield of faith (6:16a) so I could extinguish all the lies flying around my soul. I needed to remember who I was in Christ by putting on my helmet of salvation (6:17) and I needed to speak the truth of the Word of God (6:17b).
In addition to all of this, I needed to pray (6:18) for God to work in my heart and in the heart of my principal. I needed to seek His perspective on the situation and pray for Him to be glorified in my stance and witness. I needed to pray that I would have an opportunity to share the hope that was in my heart.
More than anything, I needed to worship God for giving me the strength to stand firm. I knew how important it was for me to thank God that Ethan was not hurt more and that this incident could be a catalyst for change. I needed to glorify God for what He had been doing in my ministry at that public school and thank Him for what He would bring out of this mess.
The Rest of the Story…
In case you are wondering how this black-ice trauma was resolved, let me tell you the rest of the story. I did have a meeting with the principal by the end of the day. Because I had engaged my inner world and all the swirling mess inside, because I had overlaid the lies with truth and confessed the attitudes in my heart that were sinful, and because I chose to apply the truth to my life, I had an excellent encounter with a hard man.
I calmly laid out the incident that had occurred, reminding him of the times I had asked for an aid for such an accident as this. I gave him all the facts, including the time, the circumstances, and the nurse’s testimony. I was gentle and humble and other-centered and this worked a small miracle in my choir class. Mr. Gargiulo responded to the facts with concern. He realized his mistake, but because I did not harp on it, he was able to admit that he was wrong. He told me that by the next week, he would have an aid in the classroom for every choir class.
My witness stayed intact. My concern for the kids and Mr. Gargiulo’s time was evident. My desire to work in partnership with the administration was a wall-leveler. By the following week, I had an aid in every class period and this trend continued the rest of my years at Crossroads Middle School.
This was a black-ice trauma that glorified God and grew my faith, but I want you to know that this experience was not an isolated event. Over the years, I have endured many such black-ice moments. Some have been handled poorly and thanks to God, some have been handled faithfully. I’m sure if we sat down together, you could tell me stories just like this. My personal goal is to engage my nemesis this well every time. I want to be Spirit-filled so that I do not have to work so hard at standing firm. I know this is your prayer as well, so let’s end with a tiny review:
- This week, become aware of your black-ice triggers.
- Assess your fleshly nemesis.
- Acknowledge those shaky feelings.
- Attend to your fleshly hindrances.
- Analyze the lies behind your feelings and…
- Align yourself with the truth.
Right now, you are sitting in a black-ice experience: black-COVID-10-Ice. Why don’t you try to see how it is affecting you and whether it is overpowering your faith or not. Engaging this trigger might be the very thing that enables you to share your faith with an unbelieving neighbor. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this devotional enabled you to usher someone into the kingdom of God? I will pray to this glorious end.