This post is all about building our lives upon “the right foundation”. We’ve seen 1 Corinthians 3 (see Building to Last) that the right foundation for our lives is Jesus Christ. That’s not a particularly radical statement for those who have determined to follow Jesus but sometimes the reality is quite different. For many of us there may be any number of unseen foundations that undergird our lives. That is the thing about foundations – they are not readily obvious from the outside! Yet we know that if the foundations are not strong and deep, the building will not enjoy stability. Even more worryingly it may face structural problems down the line. The right foundation to build our lives on is God Himself. Our leadership contribution, sense of worth and other outworking’s of our lives should flow from that, rather than being the source.
One of my favourite characters in the Bible is David and we have an incredible amount of material written about him and by him. In David’s life we have a rich depiction of what it means to experience God over a lifetime. What we see in the life of David is a man who was not perfect (and regularly messed up) but who still continued to walk with His God throughout his lifetime. In this post I want to think briefly about the early part of his life (esp. 1 Samuel 16-30) and the key things which proved foundational for him to walk with God over a lifetime.
1. Knowing God and how He works…
When David bursts onto the scene in 1 Samuel 17 few would question that he knew God personally. Its actually very challenging to see David’s confident understanding of God. In the story of David & Goliath it is amazing to see David’s conviction that the battle is the LORD’s.
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.1 Samuel 17:47
David had grasped that God does not depend on us, but does choose to use us in working out His purposes. David take five stones: not one (presuming victory) and not a hundred (before running off to hide). David was confident but not arrogant and His confidence was rooted in the God who he knew and loved. Where did David find such confidence? We know from the Psalms how David had reflected on God’s creation. We also know how God had delivered him from the paw of the lion and bear (17:37) and how David trusted God to do the same with Goliath. If he believed God to be God, then in his mind no enemy was a match for God Almighty! If we are to build to last then we too will need to know God and have an understanding of how He works.
After defeating Goliath, David is immediately thrown into the limelight and people start singing songs about him; “Saul has slain his thousands, David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 16:7). From this point on however, things begin to go wrong for David and we see this throughout 1 Samuel 18-30. God tests David with one thing after another but in many ways this proved to be the making of David…
2. Dealing with difficult relationships…
The first thing tested is his relationships and his relationship with Saul in particular. In 1 Samuel 18-19 David’s relationship with Saul and Jonathan is in sharp focus. The relationships we form and how we handle those relationships in our life is crucial. It is one of the ways that we experience God most deeply in our lives. The Bible shines the spotlight on these two relationships; one was difficult and one was helpful. We all have these kinds of relationships; how we handle them reveals what’s in our hearts.
David’s relationship with Saul started well but then jealousy kicked in for Saul because of the people’s growing love for David. When Saul compared himself with David, he opened a door that he could never close. Difficult relationships are a way in for Satan and he is looking for a way into our lives. Unhealthy relationships give him such a foothold. Yet what is very interesting is that bitterness destroyed Saul but not David.
A great example of this is in 1 Samuel 26:5-25 when Saul was pursing David. David knew that Saul was camped nearby but rather than run in the opposite direction, he instead creeps into the camp under the cover of darkness. David’s men want to make an end of Saul but David wont let them. Instead he merely takes his spear and jug. There was no way that David was going to lay a hand on God’s anointed! All this then was to demonstrate that he had no intention of harming Saul. He sought reconciliation with even Saul who was trying to kill him. Yes God had told David that he would be King, but he was also able to trust in God’s timing and plan. David’s understanding of God deeply impacted how he approached all his relationships!
3. Bringing it to God through Psalms…
David writes about his relationship with Saul in a number of the Psalms. This was the one place where David felt free to tell God about what he thought about Saul, but it did not go any further. Quite extraordinary!
For example Psalm 52 was written when David heard that Saul had ordered Doeg the Edomite to kill all the priests in Nob (1 Samuel 22:6-23). David brings it all to God; telling Him what he thinks He should do with them. But David is happy to leave it all with God. Later when Abiathar (who was the only person to escape) comes to David, he immediately takes responsibility for what had happened. David had spent at least 10 years on the run, hed had risked his life, his family had had to leave the country and people ended up getting killed. This was no small thing that Saul had done in David’s life. Yet there is something about David’s relationship with God that allows him to be God’s man in his relationships, even with Saul.
Perhaps we don’t see ourselves as much of a writer but if we are to build to last then each of us needs some kind of outlet to bring the difficult things that we face to God in prayer. Maybe it is a place where we go to pray or an activity that we find particularly helpful. When we do we will so often find insight into the mind of God and find fresh perspective.
4. A helpful relationship…
David’s relationship with Jonathan (son of Saul) was very different and the source of much encouragement. 1 Samuel 23 was a low point for David’s life on the run..
And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him to find strength in God.1 Samuel 23:16
When David was struggling with his relationship with Saul he turns to Jonathan. There was love, generosity, freedom to weep together and a deep sense of intimacy. We all need a Jonathan in our life and to be honest the need only becomes deeper as we move through life. During David’s sin with Bathsheba it’s tragic that he had no Jonathan. David felt safe to go to Jonathan, even about his own father. God is huge in this relationship; it’s about their experience of God’s steadfastness and kindness.
If we are to build to last then a huge amount is dependent on our relationships; we need a commitment to invest in the helpful relationships and commitment to work at the difficult relationships also.
5. Finding refuge in God…
David flees to the Philistines to seek refuge from Saul. This proved to be a mistake and it got him into a very tricky situation (nearly having to go into battle with the Philistines). God intervened and sent him back to Ziklag but as he and his army approached on foot, they would surely have seen the devastation from a distance. They found it had been destroyed by fire and their wives and children taken captive by the Amalekites. We could imagine them running the last 5 miles to find out what had happened to their families.
Arriving back marked rock bottom for David and his own men are talking about stoning him. All of a sudden there is a huge tension between David and his men. He can hear what they are saying.
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.1 Samuel 30:6
We are told that David found strength in the Lord his God. Its a significant statement and it marks a turnaround. From that point on he pulls himself together, pulls his men together, wins their confidence and he persuades them to have faith rather than despair. Then he even convinces them to pursue the Amalekites. God comes through for them but it is an incredible demonstration of the strength David found in God. He pushed himself beyond the limits of his own physical endurance, takes his men with him and wins an amazing victory.
Sometimes all of us hit rock bottom but do we know how to find strength in the Lord even when there is no-one like Jonathan around. We don’t have the detail of what exactly happened for David here: what did he do? Where did he go? What did he do with his thoughts? We don’t know but Psalm 31 may be a reflection of this time in David’s life.
1In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 2Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. 3Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 4Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. 5Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.Psalm 31:1-5
Difficult times are so hard and yet they are often the making of us. For David the things that he learned during this period of his life were vital in helping and preparing him to walk with God over a lifetime. We all need a vibrant relationship with the God who made us. David is a great example of this. The tough times will come but we all need to be able to find strength in God and we need people who can help us to do just that.