Monday, September 12, 2016

1 Samuel 18 - Serving Difficult Leaders

Have you ever found yourself doing a job for someone who had no appreciation for your contribution?  Has a boss expressed personal disdain for you making service difficult?   If so, you can identify with David in his service to King Saul. 

Saul became jealous of David after he killed Goliath the Philistine. David had become the nation's hero and it was clear God's favor and His spirit was upon David. Saul knew his reign was over but refused to relinquish authority under Samuel. He became paranoid about who would take his power from him and evil spirits plagued him. It was difficult for David to soothe Saul with the harp when he was seen as no threat; now David was seen by the king as an enemy. 

Note two traits David exhibited in his service to God under Saul's leadership:

1.  He did not become swayed by praise. As he returns to the palace with Saul, the women sing a tune giving credit to Saul for slaying thousands and to David for slaying tens of thousands, (1 Samuel 18:7). David did not let this praise go to his head. David had already been anointed King by Samuel, but he was content to wait for God's timing to assume his position as King. David knew that God's praise was more important than the people's. David simply continued to serve to the best of his ability. 

2.  David did not let Saul's hostility defeat him. David did not depend upon kind words or affirmations for his service.  God would reward him in due time if he conducted himself well. He didn't storm out of the kings palace and go his way. He continued in faithful service even as his work was despised by the King. What a difficult place to be, yet sometimes God may even call us to serve in difficult circumstances so that He may receive greater glory. 

Notice that God sends several special blessings in David's life. He is promoted (verse 5) and he has the companionship and deep affection of both Jonathan and Michal, Saul's son and daughter. Having good friends to support you as you face difficulty is a true blessing from God. Jonathan feels one in spirit with David not just brotherly love but a common service to God. So strong was the bond between them that they forged a covenant between them to watch over one another. Friendships like this are rare and should be treasured. 

While Saul did not work to David's best interest, David did not use this as an excuse to return animosity or to avoid the King. He continued to serve Saul with all his might and trusted the Lord for his protection. 

If you have been called to a place of difficult service, guard your mind that you do not become discouraged but commit yourself to serve the Lord well wherever he has placed you. Our reward is from the Lord and not from men. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

1 Samuel 17 - David or His Brothers

This is a familiar story from scripture that we have heard since our youth. The story of how David defeats Goliath. As I read through the story anew, I see there are applications for our faith and our stewardship that we can apply if we dare take the challenge. 

David is very busy running between his father's house caring for the flocks and Saul's palace soothing his tormented soul with the harp playing. His brothers join the Israelite army poised to defend against the threat of the Philistines. One of the characteristics of the nation Israel was that they were far too content to live peaceably among their enemies. They didn't attempt to confront generally unless they had a leader who was led by the spirit and emboldened by God to defeat surrounding enemies. 

In this case, the battle comes to Israel and the armies are assembled to play defense against a stronger force than themselves. Saul no longer had the advice of Samuel available to him and God's spirit had left him. Saul definitely was facing a losing battle. His men knew it too because as Goliath taunted, the three oldest brothers of David backed away in fear.  This did not look good. No human way possible to get out of this battle alive. 

David was told by his father to take provisions for his brothers to the front line and return word of their welfare to his father. David being a young boy would not be seen as a threat and would be granted access to the front. David overhears the taunts and is stirred in his heart. How could the men of Israel allow such offense, why would they not stand against such vulgarity?  David's brothers attempt to discourage him and even display a bit of disdain at David's arrogance that he would go up before Goliath as Israel's champion. 

David displays great faith and courage to confront the enemy who was clearly stronger, more experienced and better equipped than David. David didn't just abandon his skill and reason, but he applied them in faith depending on God to deliver both him and the nation from the threat of the enemy Philistines. David had been prepared for this battle by his prior experience with defending the flocks. Now the army stood in the place of sheep and David would be their shepherd. 

David give his purpose for going against Goliath. It isn't to secure their way of life or to win a victory to bolster his sense of self. His purpose is clear in verse 47, "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."  God would receive the glory and it would bolster the faith of his own people and would stand as a lesson to those who opposed God and his people. No one would have to wonder about the reality of Gods existence or the power He had to overcome any threat. 

When David wins the victory against Goliath, the army is encouraged that God is on their side and they pursue the wnemy with great vigor and defeat them thoroughly. 

As I read this story, I see that we have a choice as we face overwhelming circumstances in our own lives. We can choose to be like David and use our thinking, our skill and our faith to confront the enemy head on and win a great victory for God. With our focus on the only one who can save against the trials we face hear and deliver us from our own sin and the sinful state we live in, we can do more than any human effort can accomplish. If God is for us, who can stand against us?  

Alternatively, we can be like David's brothers and the rest of the army, living in fear because of the great threat to their security and never turning to God for their help. We Christians belong to God, but often when confronted with a trial,  we act as if we are defeated already; knowing our own strength is insufficient. If we only engage in the battles we can win in our own strength, we never are elevated to see God's hand at work. We never can say that the battle is the Lord's because we never give it to Him. 

David did encourage the army to step out in faith because of the victory that God gave over Goliath. As a David in this world, we encourage other believers to trust in God even more than they have. But we must not give into the doubts about God's loving care for us. 

In our financial lives we live out our faith in God as out provider. Do you have an overwhelming debt or expenses way beyond your ability to overcome?  Turn to God for the battle is the Lord's and He is more than able to supply your needs. Don't turn off your intellect and skill however. God may use that even in giving you deliverance. Our skills have been developed by God through the past trials we have faced. Now is the moment hat God may show the world that He is very real and more than able to overcome any challenge. 

If you have in the past been timid in your faith like the Israelite army, take courage from the example of David and move in faith, bringing your trial to the Lord. Pray for his help and then act in the next right thing to do. 

This story gives us a reminder of the great God we serve and should strengthen us as we face conflict and trials. I hope you will take the challenge to stand for God in a world that has disdain and even hatred for God. We are his people and we are not forgotten. Our Lord reminds us that He I'll never leave us or forsake us. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

1 Samuel 16 - King or Servant

Saul has been deposed by God and is no longer God's chosen. Yet, he clings to his title even though the Spirit of God has left him and an evil spirit torments him. So strong is the power of the world over our souls. Even Samuel fears for his life if Saul knows of a new king being appointed. 

David is consecrated as King of Israel, yet does not boldly take the position from Saul, but joins his palace as a servant to soothe Saul when the evil spirits torment. 
David might have questioned God's plan. Did God really appoint him King?  How would this take place given that the former King still lives and claims authority?  

God ordered David's steps to place him in service to the King even as He he was ordering David's reign over Israel. Young David had a first hand view of Saul's operations to learn the good and the bad; the strengths and weaknesses.   He was planted inside Saul's domain to serve the one he had already deposed. When Jesus came here to earth, he was God made flesh, our King and our Lord, yet he took upon himself the form of a servant and humbled himself even unto death for our redemption. David is a living prototype of Jesus for the people of his day, demonstrating that greatness comes in humble service where God has placed you. 

When God orders our own careers, He doesn't remove all barriers to our success, but He may choose to place us right in the midst of the barriers so that we can learn and grow from them. It may have seemed odd to David that he would be placed into servitude even as he was appointed King, but God was there in the midst writing David's story; and so He is with us. Day by day, God writes the story of our lives keeping us in His care as we navigate the mire of life. 

One thing we can rest in is this. God has said, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"  (Jer 29:11).   This message from God was given to His people years after David while they were in captivity. Yet God had not forgotten them as He had not forgotten David. And so it is for us that if we are of Christ, we are chosen out of this world to serve a Master the world cannot understand. He works through our obstacles to demonstrate His faithfulness so that the world around might see and believe and so that we might grow stronger in our own faith. 

Have you been commissioned by God to some purpose?  Know that God has ordered today just for you - to increase your skill and wisdom and to grow your faith in the one who provides everything we need for service. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.