The Word of God truly is a beautiful and amazing tool at our fingertips if we are willing to learn it and apply it. This past week as I studied and taught through 1 Samuel 21-23 the focus of the week was, how do we live as men and women after God’s own heart when we are under unrelenting stress. Some Christians will claim that if you have enough faith you won’t be stressed… and well I am here to tell you that is a load of crock. If David, a young man who had enough faith to stand before Goliath with just a sling and a stone, lived under unrelenting stress… then why on earth would I expect to go through this life stress free? No, instead of denying the reality of stress let us rather acknowledge it so that we can gain the knowledge to persevere and overcome.
There are many things in our day that can cause us to be stressed and the reality is, stress effects our health: Stress Effects. Sometimes stress is put on us by others and by circumstances out of our control. We have not caused it or asked for it. However sometimes stress is a result of dealing with our own choices and the consequences that come with them. When we follow the life of David through the Scriptures we see him walk through all these various causes of stress.
In 1 Samuel 21-23 the focus is on stress that is not of our making, so today, that’s what this post will be focusing on.
A little background: In 1 Samuel 15 King Saul disobeys God for the last time that the Lord is going to allow him to remain king. In this chapter the Lord tells King Saul through the prophet Samuel that his kingdom will be ripped from his hands. Then in 1 Samuel 16 the Lord sends the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel. David was the youngest son of his father and was out with the sheep playing his harp for the Lord. This anointing was not something he was seeking, it was placed upon him by God.
The Lord then orchestrates events so that David ends up in King Saul’s presence playing his harp for him in order to calm his disobedient selfish self down, and David does so with great honor and respect. He would go back and forth between playing for Saul and tending sheep for his father. Then in 1 Samuel 17 Goliath shows up and David slays the giant and becomes quite popular with the ladies and everyone else in Israel.
This leads to King Saul becoming pretty darn jealous of this young handsome harp playing warrior. He becomes so jealous that in 1 Samuel 18 he actually tries to spear David to the wall TWICE while David is playing the harp for him. Then he sends David out as a soldier hoping he will get killed in battle, but David just succeeds. King Saul gives his daughter to David to be his wife, in the hopes that she will be a distraction when he is in battle, but that doesn’t work either. King Saul, now David’s father-in-law, grows even more jealous of this young man, to the point that David has to run for his life. I would say this is a stressful situation. Now the question is, how does David handle it?
In 1 Samuel 21 David flees for his life and he stops to visit with Ahimelech the priest in order to inquire of the Lord and get some food and a sword. While there, one of Saul’s servants sees him, but at this time no one but Jonathan (Saul’s son) knows that David has fled. David with his bread and sword now heads into Philistine territory hoping to hide from Saul. He was, however, unaware of his popularity in the land and is quickly seized and taken before the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-14).
Stress #1: I’ve done nothing wrong and yet those that I call family and have faithfully served want to kill me. I have just decided to leave and run for my life and just when I think I am safe I am now captured by enemies of my people. I mean this is a Hatfield and McCoy’s moment. This is an, I grew up a Hindu and my family disowned me because I became a Christian and I had to leave and now I just got kidnapped by ISIS moment. Hello! MAJOR stress!
What does David do?
He takes it to the Lord: Psalm 56
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
3 When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
As David cries out to the Lord in his fear and recalls who his God is and commands himself not to be afraid even in the midst of his fear the Lord gives him an idea of deliverance. David acts like a madman before the king of Gath and the king sends him out of his presence (1 Samuel 21:15) and then David praises the Lord. We are privileged to his praise in Psalm 34.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Oh beloved, read through Psalm 34, all of it. As you read pay attention to the word ALL. David praised the Lord for his deliverance from the king of Gath, but as he did he recalled ALL that the Lord had delivered him from. He went back to the lion, the bear, Goliath, Saul’s spear, and the countless times on the battlefield. The Lord gave David this Psalm to remember all that He had done so that he could remember all that He could do because the stresses in David’s life were not over, there were many more to come.
Stress #2: I’m thankful that the Lord has delivered me and protected me thus far, but I am alone and I am afraid. I need some Jesus with skin on. God, is there anyone out there on our side that will help me and walk through this pain, this time, this trial with me?
When David escapes the Philistines he hides in a cave in Adullam. We see the emotional roller coaster that David is on during this time through the words of Psalm 142.
We see him go from praising the Lord in Psalm 34 to once again crying out to God for help as he is alone and hiding in cave and fearing for his life. So guess what the Lord does… He sends his family to him and he begins building him an army (1 Samuel 22:1-2, 1 Chronicles 12:8-18). When we need Jesus with skin on, when we need the fellowship and friendship of other believers, the Lord has a way of sending them to us.
Stress #3: I simply did what I believed to be the right thing and now innocent people have been hurt and it’s my fault. Someone took my words and my actions and twisted them and used them to hurt someone else. My actions, whatever they were, have caused even the death of someone else.
Do you remember that servant of Saul that saw David talking with the priest? Well this little tattle tail hears Saul offering land and vineyards to anyone who will turn in David. You see Saul’s soldiers love David and they are not to quick to offer up any knowledge of his whereabouts, but this servant, Doeg the Edomite, he is more than willing. He tells Saul about the meeting with the priest and Saul calls not just that priest, but all in the town, to him for questioning. Then he wants them killed. None of Saul’s soldiers will move, but Doeg kills eighty-five of them. One escapes to tell David what has happened.
22 Then David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have brought about the death of every person in your father’s household. 23 Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life, for you are safe with me.” (1 Samuel 22:20-23)
Can you even imagine?
What does David do? Does he fall apart under the weight of the guilt? No he doesn’t. Once again he takes it to the Lord. We see this in Psalm 52.
I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.
9 I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.
Lovingkindness is a covenant term. David recalls that He serves a good God. He serves a sovereign God. He may not understand why God allowed this to happen. He might feel that evil is winning, but he knows that somehow God is going to make it right. He has to choose to trust Him. He has to choose to wait one His name. He has to choose to remember that the Lord is good. The Lord acts in love always. The Lord is kind in all His ways. The Lord will not allow the wicked to prosper.
Stress #4: I did everything in my power to help them. I protected them. I cared for them. I fought for them. I have never in any way hurt them or been a burden to them, and yet they betray me. When I need their help they leave me stranded and do not help me. They even have gone so far as to purposely cause me pain.
While David and his men are hiding from Saul a band of Philistines attacks the area he is in. David asks the Lord if he should help the people and fight the Philistines and the Lord tells him yes. So David and his men defeat the Philistines and deliver the people of Keilah from their hands. The people of Keilah repay him by telling Saul they know where he is so David flees to Ziph and well the people of Ziph do the same thing. (1 Samuel 23).
So what does David do? He leans into the Lord. Through Psalm 54 we see how David cried out to the Lord.
People have a way of using their tongues to try and bring destruction, but as David has also says in Psalm 27:3,
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.
David begins crying out to the Lord in Psalm 54 as Saul and his army are closing in on him, and the Lord sends in the Philistines as a diversion. Saul’s army has to retract their attack on David and go and defend the nation of Israel from this Philistine army and David and his men flee to a new hiding place from Saul. Once again the Lord proves Psalm 34 and delivers David.
Yes, there is this thought that passes through christian circles claiming that if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and are living righteously and keeping His Word then your life will be stress free… but through the life of David we see that is simply not true, nope, not so much. We live in a fallen world with fallen people that is filled with spiritual forces of darkness that hate the Light. How on earth would we think that in the midst of this we could ever be completely stress free?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
When we cry, “Dear God, I’m stressed!” Let us do as David did and lean into the Lord we cry to. He will sustain us if we will just trust Him. Beloved there is nothing that we will walk through that is new and the Lord has recorded through the lives of His people how we can make it day by day through whatever this life might throw at us. We can remain to be women and men after God’s own heart even while living under unrelenting stress, if we will keep ourselves humble under His hand knowing who our God is and remembering that He is for us, not against us, and He is with us,.. ALWAYS.