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Call to Action PDF

1 Timothy 6:11-12

 

The last time we were in 1 Timothy we talked about Deep Poison: The Deadly Snare of Lust for Wealth.

·       We war against lust for wealth at the level of desire.

·       Loving money spawns all kinds of evils.

·       Craving money leads away from the gospel into self-inflicted distress.

How this fits into the whole book of Timothy is that the false teachers who Timothy was facing were in their religious business largely for personal gain. They taught a kind of health and wealth religion--a worldly religion that said you needed to follow Christ for the sake of the gain it gives you. Paul was correcting that teaching, saying godliness with contentment, independent of your circumstances, is great gain. To confuse godliness and trying to get gain from your godliness is a terrible error. It is in contrast to 1 Timothy 6:11-12:

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Here's the great contrast: "But as for you"—in contrast to those who teach that godliness (religion) is a means of gain, and those who desire to become wealthy, and by their love and craving for money inflict themselves with distress and destruction. In contrast to all of that, you, as a man of God, rather than a man of this world, you as a man who exercises godly leadership and influence in the relationships you have like the prophets of old, people most need to know from us that we are men and women of God. They need to know that when they interact with us they are interacting with someone who actually knows God. Not long ago I talked with a young friend who had never heard the Gospel explained. In the course of the conversation she made the comment that she knew some folks who claimed to be Christians and who went to church. She didn't know who to ask how to be saved and to explain the Gospel to her, but she knew the people who claimed to be Christians couldn't tell her because of the way they lived. People ought to be able to observe our lifestyle, hear the way we talk, see the way we think and should know that we are the go-to person to find out how to find eternal life, how to find God and be saved from their sin and find eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Paul says to Timothy that these are the things you must do. How is Timothy -- how are we as we seek to influence others for God -- to fight these common pitfalls of humanity created by the poison of money-love as well as other idols of the heart? Is it enough just to know that such a life is wrong? If you memorize enough Bible verses, make sure your kids go to Christian schools all the way through school, is that enough? Is it enough to drift along through the sea of such dangers just as long as you don't give yourself to what is blatantly wrong? Is living the life of godliness with contentment a passive experience? You don't have a lot of drive and that's why you're content. Does being content mean you are passive? Like watching an intense athletic contest from the comfort of an easy chair, is that what the Christian life is like?

Timothy, like many of us here, has enjoyed such blessing and privilege. He was mentored by the apostle Paul, having traveled with Paul and seen miracles with his own eyes. He has seen droves of people turn from paganism to Christ and knows what it is like to suffer for Jesus. Timothy has been sent as an emissary of Paul, charged with reforming the church in Ephesus by combatting the different doctrine some teachers have brought in. Timothy is like the rising star, having been trained by the great apostle Paul. Certainly he's not in any danger. According to Paul in these words, Timothy could not just coast. He could not say I have credentials, I'm safe. I'll coast. He could not say he has reached the point in his life where he is mature enough to have a handle on these things. No. Paul calls Timothy to decisive action. He calls us to that as well. Christianity is never a passive pursuit. It ought to be engaged in aggressively. Look at the verbs here, which is how we will study this: Flee, Pursue, Fight, Take Hold. These are not passive words or words of coasting along. These are words of intensity and effort. These are a call to action.

 

Call to Action

·       Flee Money-Lust

·       Pursue Godly Character

·       Fight for the Gospel

·       Hold onto Your Life in Christ

My prayer is that however weary we are of the battle and whatever difficulties and dangers we face, that God will help us answer His call to action. That we will give ourselves completely to what we are called to do instead of drifting toward destruction as so many do.

 

I. Flee Money-Lust

Paul says to Timothy: “Flee these things.” It is so easy for us to look at the false teachers, the liberals, the worldly man and to stand back and say how foolish he is being pursuing idols in his heart, when all the while we have our own collection of idols that we pursue and treasure. Flee materialism and the other evils it brings with it, along with the kind of false teaching that caters to it. The reality is that in the culture in which we live it is so difficult to escape it. We don't live in a time when you might spend your whole life with just several hundred people, never touching the outside world. We live in a time where the world is ever-present. You can access the best and the worst of the world in a matter of seconds. 

It is far too easy to flirt with the temptation to lust for wealth and a host of other false views of life. It is true in any culture, rich or poor. Look at the culture of Ephesus with ancient beauty still admired today, its temple to Diana where banking and worship of the goddess of the hunt merge. Look at our own American culture with its obsession with having more and more, living beyond our means, its love affair with indulgence of every sort, its addiction to personal opinion, its disdain for biblical truth, and its forgetfulness of God. You know there is no way that if you do not intentionally flee these things that you will be overtaken by them.

Pastor Yearick made this comment last week: "We have smaller families, but larger homes." One out of eleven families now has an additional rented storage unit to hold all their stuff. As Christians we cannot sit and soak in these things. We cannot feed on them, muse on them, be entertained by them, dabble in them, or pursue them. No, we must run, like Joseph tearing away from Potiphar’s wife and running away for the sake of his loyalty to Potiphar and his loyalty to God. Think of the song with the line: "Tear each cursed idol out that dares to rival Thee."

Think of the gateway to the Psalms, Psalm 1: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

What do you meditate on? What do you fill your mind with? What do you pursue and what do you flee from? You can’t run two ways at the same time. Flee like an escaped prisoner from the shackles and prison torture of living for this world, of listening to the lies, of loving what will disintegrate in your hands. Get rid of the stuff that sucks you into such a mindset and lifestyle. Stop spending your time thinking on such things. Quit wasting your life pursuing them. Flee these things.

Instead—

 

II. Pursue Godly Character

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Pursue and keep on pursuing—as a hunter pursues his quarry. What does it take when you hunt, what do men go through to pursue their quarry? There is a whole hunting industry with big catalogs of hunting paraphenalia. What is this all about? This is pursuing, doing with determination, whatever it takes. If we are willing to do all that for a bag of bones, what should we be willing to do for what is eternally valuable? What should we be willing to pursue for the sake of becoming more like Jesus and being a part of restoring the universe to its pristine perfection?

Keep on pursuing--aggressive determined action with a goal in mind. What do we pursue?

  • Righteousness. It is a conformity to God’s standard of right and wrong. You are holding your life up to God's Word and His definition of right and wrong and you are fitting your life to His view of life and to His authority rather than your own. That's why the happy man meditates on God's law day and night. He wants to look at life the way God looks at life, because that's the way it really is.
  • Godliness or a God-entranced way of life. It is looking at all of life as an act of worship. It describes a person who sees no divide between secular and sacred. Everything that is worth doing or thinking about has something to do with his relation to God. There is no false notion that you can put God in a box and pull Him out the next Sunday. That is a pagan view of religion. The living God knows where He reigns in our heart and is with us every point along the way. We need Him in the darkest night. We need to walk with Him. We should pursue godliness as a life goal. It is not age-dependent. Righteousness and godliness is our disposition toward God and His authority and worth.
  • Faith—reliance on Christ, His Word, His Work
  • Love—self-sacrificing, active way of life for God and others. Faith and love drive it all and are the motivating source of all we do.
  • Steadfastness is the endurance under the weight of whatever burdens you bear, carrying on despite the troubles and battles of this life. Life is no cake-walk. We often think if we can get through this phase in our life it will get easy and we will get into the calm. The calm lasts a short time and then we are into another difficulty. This is life. We need to persevere in order to be what we ought to be in this life.
  • Gentleness or strength under control (God’s). You have the power to do something but keep it within its limits. It is like the power of a stallion that harms no one but rather serves their needs because the beast is under his master’s control. If you are full of the Spirit you will be characterized by gentleness. Hiebert, 116: Gentleness “makes no high claims for itself nor strenuously insists upon its own rights.” This is not the person who is always jockeying for his rights. This is a person who keeps his strength under control for a higher purpose--you never quit and you do not harm. Steadfastness (endurance) and meekness are the character traits with which we tackle life with all its challenges.

III. Fight for the Gospel

12 Fight the good fight of the faith.

Fight, literally means agony. Keep on agonizing the good agony. This is not a picture of the battlefield but of the athletic arena, where contestants stretch every nerve and muscle to win the event. Don't you dislike going to a game where the players don't seem to care who wins or loses? Think of what athletes strive for. In the early days they got a wreath to wear on their head. The thrill was the thrill of winning. Paul calls this a good agony. In contrast to mere athletic contests or the many other less important endeavors to which people give themselves, this is the good fight of the faith.

The faith is the body of truth that is essential Christianity, the truths without which you would not have true Christianity, the truths that were under assault in first century Ephesus, which Timothy was sent to restore and to protect against different doctrine. The faith—the gospel—is worth agonizing for. It is worth the training, getting fit, working hard, giving your all to achieve the prize against determined opposition. The prize is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The prize is people who will welcome you into heavenly habitation, it is your enduring and making it through life faithful to the Gospel, it is a new heaven and a new earth, sinlessness, immortality. The prize is seeing your Lord and Savior face to face. Nothing in this world can compare to that. This is a good fight worth dying for. 

What does this look like? Wherever we have agony going on we have opposition. This is why we cannot coast. There is a whole bunch of people preaching a different gospel. There are voices giving wisdom that is from this world. We are called to hold high the Gospel and to defend it against everything else that pretends to rescue man from his condition. It would look like this:

Gospel clarity of lifestyle: The way you think is clearly in line with the Gospel. You forgive others because God forgave you. You do not slander others because Jesus died for them. You care about others and want to build them up. You think in terms of the Gospel. You know you are not in the world to make money, but to make friends for the Gospel. 

Gospel worldview: You protect and are careful about living by a different kind of worldview.

Gospel conversations: You strive to direct conversations toward the Gospel.

Gospel opportunities: You have an eye out for opportunities and seize them.

It is important for us to be meditating enough on Gospel truth to let it shape what we are doing and giving our energy to. We are agonizing for this and want to win, only it is not a game. It is dead earnest and it is what the whole history of the world is about. It is the center-point of eternity. It is what exalts Jesus.

 

IV. Hold onto Your Life in Christ

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Take hold is to get a firm grip. It is not just talking about something for the future. It is a present decisive action: take the gift and make it yours. Different commentators take this different ways, but the idea is to grab hold of this. The eternal life is not just length of life, but quality of life. It is the life of God in the soul of man that all those who are regenerate enjoy. What a treasure you have! Are you actually born again? Do you see signs of God's life in you--a disposition, a love for His Word and His people? Treasure that, hold onto it. Don't throw it away. This is not something you turn your back on.

You are called to this eternal life. This did not start with you, it started with God. This is God’s initiative in your salvation, His gracious call that woke you up to the gospel and brought you to repentance and faith, thus marking out your life’s purpose, quality, and goal and giving you a future. Paul says regarding Timothy, about which you made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses—the public acknowledgement of faith in Jesus Christ.

Most who sit here have said publicly through baptism or officially joining the church, that you rely on Jesus Christ. How many people stop there? Paul says take hold of that. God has called you to this eternal life. Treasure it, hold onto it, get a grip on it, decisively make it your own. Don't leave it unattended for the Devil to steal. How many have made public claim to having life in Christ who for whatever reason relax their grip and turn their back on what they have in Jesus? Were they saved or not? It depends on your theology. The best way to prove you are saved is to keep on repenting, keep on trusting, being a believing one, keep on holding on. Don't let there be any doubt. Keep cultivating God's life in you. This is how you make your calling and election sure according to 2 Peter: You make sure you are growing. You cultivate the garden of your life, you don't just let it lie unattended. It is the only way you know if the seed you have there is for real. We hold tightly what we value most. This treasure is too costly to hold lightly.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: I keep my body under. I bring it into subjection lest after I have preached to others I myself become a castaway. That's been explained as being put on the shelf, but in every other context this is translated as reprobate, disapproved by God. The apostle Paul did not take his salvation lightly. Those who have eternal life do not view it as a small thing. They hold onto it, nurture it, treasure it, they make much of it. This is a call to action for every true believer, for every person who wants to influence others for God. Flee money-lust or any other idol of falsehood, pursue godly character, fight for the Gospel, and hold onto your life in Christ. Never let it go. May God help us to be active in the fight. We know who wins. We know the battle is the Lord's.

 

LifeGroup Questions

1.   What are some ways you have found help you flee from idolatry of heart toward things that take you away from God?

2.   What does pursuing righteousness and godliness look like in your life? Pursuing faith and love? Pursuing gentleness and steadfastness?

3.   What do you think are some reasons we must keep fighting (agonizing) for the faith of the gospel?

4.   Why is it so important to get a firm grip on the eternal life to which God called you and about which you made public confession? Does it surprise you that Paul commands Timothy to do this? Why or why not?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

March 16, 2014

 
Devotion to a Cause PDF

1 Samuel 23:15-29

The last time we studied in 1 Samuel 23, we looked at the topic of Divine Protector in verses 1-14. There was a double meaning there because David was serving as a Divine Protector over God's people; and God was over David and using David. He was the ultimate Divine Protector. We saw that David lived life seeking for clear direction, showing commitment to the will of God. So often we get into the troubles we experience because we are not looking for what God actually wants in our lives. We are self-directed, and we end up with the trouble that brings. David shows hunger for the will of God as he seeks God's direction. Finding that direction from God clarified his courageous solidarity (v 5). His men were fearful of going into battle against the greater force of the Philistines to rescue the town of Keilah, but they chose to follow David into the thick of the fight, an imbalanced kind of fight because it was clear that this was action God wanted them to take. God gave them the victory -- action in the power of God. We saw that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing what God wants you to do in spite of the fear. Then we saw that God also granted, in His divine protection of David, supernatural foresight (vv 6-12). David was dependent upon the omniscience of God. God told him not only what would happen but also what could happen. As we live our lives sometimes we wonder, "If I had made this choice or that choice, would it have turned out differently?" God knows all the possibilities. As God leads us down the path of His will, He leads us down paths of righteousness for His name's sake -- exactly the right path for us. It has its twists and turns, days of sorrow and days of danger, and yet God leads us along with supernatural foresight. You recall that Abiathar, the one who escaped the slaughter of the priest, came with the ephod of the priest, the priestly garment, and through the Urim and the Thummim inquired of the Lord. So this tragic figure, Abiathar, who was left alone after all his house had been slaughtered, became one of David's great allies as he sought the Lord on his behalf. Finally we were left with David enjoying divine daily survival not because of his own wisdom or because he was better than Saul, but because of his security in the care of God. We saw that safety is not the absence of danger, but rather the presence of God.

Today we continue our study with verse 15:

David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home. Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart's desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king's hand.” And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.” And they arose and went to Ziph (about 22 miles south of Jerusalem) ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon (about five miles south of Ziph), in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi (western shore of the Dead Sea).

 

There are four speakers in this passage: Jonathan, the Ziphites, Saul, and the messenger.

·         Jonathan—Strengthened David’s hand in God; He said “Do not fear . . . .”  He made a covenant with him.

·         Ziphites—Betrayed David to Saul

·         Saul—Blesses David’s enemies in name of LORD

·         Messenger— Brings word that the Philistines are attacking (Divine providence stops Saul’s pursuit of David)

 

While this passage is about the protection of David and how God did that, I also see a portrayal of a devotion to a cause. What people talk about and what they do reveals what they really are, what they care about, and what they love. Here we see four different persons and their devotion to a cause. It is what rescues the passage from being just another day of trouble and fear to a picture of how God is looking out for His own.

 

Devotion to a Cause

  • Jonathan: Devotion to the Godly (15-18)
  • Ziphites: Devotion to a Worldly King (19-20)
  • Saul: Devotion to Self (21-24)
  • God (via an unnamed messenger): Devotion to His Anointed (25-29)

I. Jonathan: Devotion to the Godly (1 Samuel 23:15-18)

From the very first point where we see Jonathan to this last time that we see him, we see that Jonathan is devoted to the godly. He rose, according to verse 16, and went to David. 

And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord.

From the beginning, Jonathan and David became close friends because they both had a heart for God and looked at life in terms of His glory and purpose. They were willing to risk their own lives and reputations for the sake of it. Those with a heart for God gravitate to others with the same focus. Before David and Jonathan ever met, their hearts were united because they had hearts after God. They loved God. Those who love God find great comfort and great unity with others who love God. We saw this displayed from the beginning of their friendship right after the victory over Goliath. We see it here at what will be the last time the Bible records their being together. How does Jonathan exit the Biblical narrative? How would God have us remember Jonathan? If He were writing an inscription on his tombstone, what would it be? What is he doing the last time we see him? He is strengthening David’s hand in the Lord. That is the essence of Jonathan’s life.

That's what makes him the hero he is. That’s what made him so valuable a friend, so significant in God’s redemptive plan. That’s a life worth living, worth remembering. He strengthened David's hand in the Lord, and in so doing he accomplished his mission.

What a privilege to have such a role in the life of one of the greatest servants of the Lord in Biblical history! David was the one through whom Messiah, the Savior of the world, would come. Jonathan has a significant role in David's life and that gives him a significant role in the history that leads to Jesus. Anyone made in the image of God is worth giving yourself to. Anyone whose life has been purchased with the blood of Christ, who is a brother or sister in Christ, is one who is worth giving your life to strengthen the lives of those who belong to Jesus. What a privilege to serve the joint-heirs of the King of kings!

If you boiled your life down to its essence, what would it be? Strengthening the hand of your brothers and sisters in the Lord? If you are a believer, your purpose is to strengthen the hand of those who belong to Jesus. When we look at Ephesians in the New Testament, what do we find we are to do? The whole body is equipped to serve one another in love, to use whatever gifts and opportunities we have to build up one another in love (Ephesians 4:16). That's why we are together. That's why we exist as a body of believers. We have our role, just as the parts of our bodies work together for the common good. Jonathan understood that. And we need to understand that our life, short or long, is to be lived this way. It is a tremendous privilege to serve the joint heirs of the King of kings. In church you sit beside some of them. They are not a fog bank, nameless, faceless group of people. They have names and faces. When you look into the face of another believer. When you look at a believer, you look into the face of someone made in the image of God, whom Jesus knew before the foundation of the earth, whose name is written in the Lamb's book of life, who Jesus died for, whom Jesus gave His life and Spirit to. If you boiled down your life to its essence, what would it be? If today were the day you exited this planet, and the essence of your life were written by the pen of God, what would it say? Would it say that you strengthened the hand of your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Would God write in the word of His chronicles, this one furthered the cause of Christ, this one played his role in redemption history?  

How did Jonathan strengthen David’s hand? With the simple admonition: “Do not fear.” Why would he say that to David? David was a warrior but when you look at David's life, it seems that David has everything to fear. He was running for his life. King Saul had commanded a national manhunt for him. It would be like the President of the United States saying to you, "You are dead, and I am going to have everyone in law enforcement at all levels looking for you. You don't have a chance!" That was David's plight. He appeared to have everything to fear, but Jonathan explained to David why he should have no fear: "My father Saul will not find you. You will be king over Israel." How did he know this? God had promised it. God had anointed David for this purpose. God will achieve what He has appointed. Then Jonathan adds: “and I shall be next to you.” He does not know that he will die before David. But he does know that he is committed to David and David’s kingdom. He also knows that his loyalty to David as King is what so angers his father Saul. Saul knows God has chosen David and that his own son has gladly aligned himself with God’s will. David enjoys the blessing Saul once enjoyed, but when he refused God’s directives, he lost God’s blessing. Now all he has is poison jealousy for the one who replaced him.

Applying this to us, how would others characterize you? If they see how you live, how you spend your money, if they hear you talk and see how you spend your time and who you spend it with, how would they characterize you?  What is most important to you? Are you one who strengthens their hand in the Lord or do you weaken them in their effort to serve God? Are you known as one who is covenant loyal to them as they seek to fulfill God’s purposes for them or one who violates covenant loyal love in the thick of battle or when the personal sacrifice is too great or when it crosses your own plans? How do you spend your money? How do you spend your time? 

We might ask what is the dominant character and activity of our church family as a group? Are we those who strengthen others in their service of Christ? Who point needy people to Jesus? Who are committed to the King? Jonathan chose devotion to a cause, devotion to the godly.

 

II. Ziphites: Devotion to a Worldly King (1 Samuel 23:19-20)

Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart's desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king's hand.”

The Ziphites lived in David’s home territory of Judah, but their heart was aligned with whomever was currently in power, no matter how corrupt or unjust he was. It’s the "get-ahead" mentality that values power and wealth and worldly success more than righteousness. They were willing to sacrifice the life of the man after God’s own heart for the payoff of favor from the wicked king who hated David because he has rejected God.

We recoil at such corruption, but it is the way of the world and of our own hearts, too. Our hearts are inclined that way just as water runs downhill.  If we love worldly advantage more than we love God and more than we love His people, we will betray Him and we will harm Him. It’s not just wrong to live this way, it’s stupid. It’s trading what lasts forever for the brief advantage of a vapor of time. Saul's days were numbered, but David's side is rising, and they are hitching themselves to the anchor. Look at what God promises His servants!—an inheritance you can never lose, eternal life, new heaven, new earth, sinlessness, immortality, the splendor of an everlasting kingdom characterized by supreme joy. Why would I subject myself to petty temporal kingdoms, full of injustice and strife, for a few dollars more? Insanity! 

I John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

If anyone loves the world, the Father is not in Him! This is an absolute statement - 100 percent. The first problem of loving the world is that it makes you the enemy of God. But there is a second problem that John addresses. That's the stupidity of it -- for all that is in the world is passing away. If you want to remain forever and be steadfast in the Spirit and stay on the path of absolute joy and perfection, forget loving the world. The world is a sinking ship. The world will one day be ancient history, and all that unsatisfied desire that pulsed in us and made us grasp for things which were poison will be gone, too, but the one who abides in God lives forever. Thank God that Jesus died for wicked people and for fools who see the folly of their ways and trust in the forever King.

 

III. Saul: Devotion to Self (I Samuel 23:21-24)

And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.”

Saul is again giving testimony of his devotion to self. Who needs compassion/pity here? The persecutor or the persecuted, the hate-filled murderer who slaughters priests, their wives, and innocent children and pursues the man after God's own heart or the victim? Saul has the blasphemous audacity to pronounce the blessing of the LORD on his partners in crime. As if God is in league with such villainy. He brags about what he will do: “I will come; I will search him out among the thousands of Judah.” 

Saul lives a delusional existence. In his realm of fiction the universe revolves around him. He does not serve God. God serves him. Good is evil, and evil is good. He is the victim of good people. And the covenant God, Yahweh, is on his side as he seeks to destroy Yahweh’s anointed servant. Saul is all about his own plans, his own lust for destroying David to advance himself and set his agenda. He has no use for God’s plans, no value for God’s will, no passion for God’s glory. Such is the existence of those who live for self. Life is all about them. God exists for their benefit. People exist for their benefit. The essence of sin is self-devotion. Saul will kill for the sake of his own advancement, all the while claiming God is on his side. You find it disgusting. When we look at Saul, he reminds us of someone. He reminds us of usWhat are you living for? For whom? Are you still trapped in the dungeon of self, estranged from God, toxic to others? If your devotion to a cause is all about you, this is your life.

 

IV. God: Devotion to His Anointed (I Samuel 23:25-29)

As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape.And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi.

But there is a fourth player, and that player is God. He is not named, and he does not speak audibly here. We see God though working in His devotion to His annointed. He has commanded Samuel to annoint David as King. He has given David His Spirit and has protected him all along the way. David has made his mistakes and has sinned, but God has had His hand on him. We are told at the end of verse 26 that Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them when a messenger came to Saul saying "Hurry and come" for the Philistines had made a raid against the land. So Saul returned from pursuing David and went against the Philistines. 

What an unlikely rescue just as Saul is about to pounce. The Philistines, the age-old enemies of Israel, become the instrument by which the Lord of history pulls Saul away and saves the annointed. The messenger is not the rescuer. He is just reporting what the true Rescuer has done. God has everything at His disposal to save His people -- an unnamed messenger, the Philistine army, sun, moon, stars, times and seasons. That's not amazing; that is something we know. If God is the sustainer of the universe, He is all-powerful and all-wise. But what is most amazing is the way He uses these things for the sake of His anointed one David. David is the link to the coming Messiah. The Messiah is the promised Savior of sinners who will trust in Him. God drives history, but history is about His loving rescue of rebel sinners who can’t possibly save themselves. This is not just a small event about a messenger who brings a report that the Philistines are doing a raid. That report not only saves David, but that report has to do with David's role in redemption history through whom Christ will someday come and who will save His people. God will fulfill His gospel promises, and there is no kingdom on earth that will stop Him.

Jonathan is devoted to God and the godly, the Ziphites to worldly advantage, Saul to himself no matter who else dies, but God is devoted to His people, those who are connected by faith to the ultimate Anointed One, Christ Jesus, the Savior-King, the One who crushes the serpent’s head by bearing our sin, suffering God’s wrath, dying our death, rising from the dead to give us eternal life. We are accepted in the Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He calls us to cast our care upon Him, because He cares for us. Literally, it matters to Him concerning us. This is astonishing! If you are in Christ, God is devoted to you! He is looking out for you. He moves heaven and earth for you. He has sent His Son to die for you. He has broken the power of death for you! "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) He sent His son to die for you. He has broken the power of sin and death for you. That's why we sing out...

"Amazing love, how can it be!

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!"


The incredible thing is not that David escaped. That was almost expected. The incredible thing is that God loves David this way. God loves David this way because He loves us this way. God has broken thorugh our sin, our foolishness, and our rebellion by giving us Jesus and calling us to find safety in Him alone. 
Because of what Jesus Christ His Son has done—humbling Himself to die on the cross, God the Father “has highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.”

Romans 8: "He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?"

What gives us hope in this world is not just the Jonathans, our brothers and sisters in Christ who are devoted to the godly. What gives us hope against worldly kings and those devoted to self is that there is a God in Heaven who is devoted to us because of His amazing love. Devotion to a cause -- this is what all of human history is about. The question is where do you fit in?

 

LifeGroup Questions

 

     1.   What are ways you have found effectively strengthen people in the Lord (either what others have done for you or what you have done for others)?

2.   Jonathan strengthened David by telling him not to fear. How does fear undermine strength, and judging from Jonathan’s encouragement what helps combat fear?

3.   What would you say is the worldview of the Ziphites and what have you found helps you avoid their error?

4.   Saul’s self-centered approach to life may have seemed too common to be significant at first, but what do you learn from how his life developed? What helps you avoid a self-centered approach to life?

5.   Why do you think we sometimes struggle with the idea that God would actually be devoted to us? What truths help you think biblically about this area so that you avoid the lie that everything revolves around you and the opposite lie that you don’t matter to God?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

March 16, 2014

 

 
Deep Poison: The Deadly Snare of Lust for Wealth PDF

1 Timothy 6:9-10

 

The last time we studied together in 1 Timothy 6, we talked about guarding the treasure of godly contentment. One of the prominent characteristics of false teachers is their covetousness, their being in religion for gain -- what they can gather for themselves. Those who are truly Christ's and teaching true doctrine are not in it for the money, not in it for wealth and health, but rather are in it to serve Jesus. They find contentment independent of the circumstances along with the godliness that is God-centric where God is in all their thinking. They live life as an act of worship.

 

In guarding godly contentment, there is the deviant danger (v 3), the combative corruption (vv 4-5) and the true treasure (vv 6-8). Paul goes through a contrast to that kind of true treasure with verse 9.

 

But ("but" is the contrast word) those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pangs.

 

We find three great truths in this text:

  • We war against lust for wealth at the level of desire.
  • Loving money spawns all kinds of evils.
  • Craving money leads away from the gospel into self-inflicted distress.

I. We war against lust for wealth at the level of desire. (1 Timothy 6:9)

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

 

So often we fail in our battle against temptation because we are trying to fight it at the level of deed or word rather than at the level of desire itself, training our desires to be fixed on God alone. So we war against the lust for wealth at the level of desire. We see that in verse 9.

Second, in the beginning of verse 10 we see that loving money spawns all kinds of evils. As we look at the subject of the sentence, loving money doesn't seem like that big a deal. It is so pervasive we would almost consider it the American way. It is not new, however, to the modern world or unique to America. It was obviously a problem in Paul's day. Loving money spawns all kinds of evil.

 

Third, craving money leads away from the gospel into self-inflicted distress. I trust these three truths are going to prove really valuable to us as we fight one of the common idols of our times and one of the reasons so many professing believers are ship-wrecked. I've entitled our message Deep Poison -- deep because we are battling at the level of desire, not just what we think, but what we want on the inside. Deep Poison: The Deadly Snare of Lust for Wealth.

 

First consider with me that we war against the lust for wealth at the level of desire. We see right away that those who desire to be rich fall into temptation. The English word "desire" is seen twice. One of the things they fall into is harmful desires, actually a different word. The desire to be rich has the idea of making it your purpose, your will, to be rich. You are setting your mind on it and making your goal in life to be wealthy. It is one thing to be a businessman, to mind the store, and to be financially responsible, but it is another thing to make it your purpose and your will to be rich. It is a goal that is not worthy of the believer. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation. This is present tense which speaks of what is always true or what normally happens. It is one of those rules of life. If you make it your purpose to be rich, if you have listened to one of those late-night guys, or if you have listened to the voices that fill radio and television and you believe somehow that the measure of your success in life is being rich, you will fall. If you set your mind to it, just understand this: you will fall. You are embarking on a course that leads to falling. It is like saying, "If I take the path over Niagara Falls, if I just walk right off the edge, I will fall." It will happen every time. It is like the law of gravity. If I make it my purpose to be rich, I will fall into temptation. What looks like it would be a blessing will actually present me with temptations, trials and tests that I otherwise would not face. There is, for instance, the temptation to trust in riches.

Proverbs 11:28: Whoever trusts in his riches will fall.

Psalm 52:7: See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction.

As David gave praise to the Lord, he thought of Doeg the Edomite and his willingness to slaughter 85 priests to the Lord and their families. He was looking at a man, who like Saul, was living for what he could gain in this world. He saw it to his advantage with the king to carry out this slaughter of the innocent. He said, "See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction." Think about the irony of that. Doeg the Edomite and Saul the King sought refuge, sought safety, in what would destroy them. The same is true with those who seek to find their security, their happiness, in being wealthy. There is a temptation to neglect what is eternal and spiritual to gain wealth in ways that are wrong. Everybody seems to have his price. If you didn't attach some kind of wealth gain to it, there are lots of things that people would never even care to do. If you never make becoming wealthy your goal, you will avoid many temptations. It doesn't stop with temptations. The text goes on. Those temptations lead to greater dangers. They fall from temptations into a snare. What's a snare? You have probably seen pictures of snares. You may have used a snare to catch squirrels that are eating your pecans in the backyard. They may be used for a trap for a bird. A snare is more than the temptation. The temptation is like the bait. The snare is the actual trap that catches the animal, that encloses the animal, that even kills the animal. And, third, they fall into many senseless and harmful desires -- injurious, irrational things that cause harm to you. Desires -- in this case he uses a different word meaning strong desires. It is like pouring gasoline on the fire. You start with just this purpose, but if you make it your purpose you will fall into temptation, you will fall into a snare, you will fan into flame the desire for wealth for now it possesses you. Certainly you have had this experience. It is almost like the temptation to immorality. As you give yourself to it, you start to be intoxicated by it. As you draw close to it, the flame of it gets into you and starts to heat up your desires until they are hard to control. But it goes further. These harmful desires actually plunge people to ruin and destruction. They drag them to the bottom so that they drown. It is like documentaries showing crocodiles. They don't just kill you by biting you. They grab you with those huge jaws. Then they deep dive, dragging the victim down to the bottom so they drown. That's just like these harmful desires. What may look so innocent, what may look like goal-setting, destroyed the person.

 

Around them is ruin and destruction. The two terms may seem to be synonyms, but in the Bible destruction is more often used for something that is eternal. Satan is called Polyon, the destroyer. Those that put faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16) will not perish but have everlasting life. Sometimes it is translated perdition. What we are talking about is not just getting getting out of the will of God and all it will take is sometime later to raise your hand, walk an aisle, or make a decision and you are safe. No, here you have given yourself to something that will draw you into a snare, drag you to the bottom, and ruin you not just for now but for eternity. There are people burning in hell right now who made their choice. It all began when they made their choice to choose wealth instead of God. Right now we are in the window of opportunity to make a choice, a time when we make a decision when we decide what we will worship and what we will live for. You are more important than your possessions. You are not defined by what you have. What you have won't make you more important, will not make you happier, and will not do anything intrinsically for you to change what your heart needs. Haven't you found this to be so? You ask for a particular birthday or Christmas gift, or you save up for something special. You anticipate it and can't wait until you have it! Then you have it, and it is on to the next thing because suddenly what you have doesn't seem so grand anymore. You might be thankful for it, but after a while it is just another "thing." Eventually it goes to the attic, but it doesn't make you happier or change things. God tells us that from the beginning.

 

John Kitchen, 267: “In the rush for wealth and the pipedream of accumulated goods one loses something far more valuable, something which he can never recover. The pursuit of riches is a baited hook, a concealed trap, and a sinking ship. The longing to get rich is dangerous for the temptations it makes us vulnerable to, the snares it lays for us, and the destruction it assures us. Solomon was right, ‘A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 28:20).

 

Learn from our text that we must carry on this war against covetousness, the lust for wealth. We must battle it on the level of desire. We must consider what lays us open to that desire. Don't set your heart on riches. 

 

II. Loving money spawns all kinds of evils. (1 Timothy 6:9b)

For the love of money (silver love) is a root of all kinds of evils.

 

A root is below the surface, but its product shows up above the ground. Notice that it is not having money that is the root of these evils. It is loving it, whether you have it or not. There are many people destroyed by the love of money who are poor. This is not just for those you think are wealthy. It is whether or not you love it that is the issue. Loving money spawns all kinds of evil.

 

Loving money is the opposite of godliness. It is the opposite of treating God as God. You can't be entranced with money and be entranced with God at the same time. Jesus taught us this in Matthew 6. You cannot love God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? He was talking to people who were not sure they had enough to eat, drink or wear. He was talking about basic necessities. He led this statement off with, "You cannot love God and money." One of the first things that happens to us when we love money instead of God is that we worry. We trust money instead of God. We fret because money can't do what God can do. God never runs out of money. Everything we need, God has. Our security, safety and future are not built on money, so it makes no sense to love it. Yet, loving money is common even among very religious, disciplined people.

 

In Luke 16:14 the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” The world thinks you are important, smarter, more secure, happier if you have money. The world loves money instead of God. The Pharisees got along well with worldly people. They were among the worldliest people on the earth at that time. They had a man-made religion and they did not really love God. Worldliness is the opposite of godliness. It is taking the world's systems of things and letting that be the benchmark as to whether you are successful. That is exactly where the Pharisees were. This is why you can have a very conservative Christian religion and be worldly to the hilt. It depends on where your heart is, what you love, what your ambition is. These men were worldly, living to gain status among men. Christ says God knows your heart. What is exalted among men is like idol worship in the sight of God. In the Old Testament they called the idols abomination, loathsome replacements for God. This is where the hearts of these Pharisees were. What seems like a small problem is actually a huge problem that divorces our hearts from hearts. It separated these men from God enough that when He probed their hearts they wanted to kill Him. They hated Him. Yet they would keep their "religion."

 

Think about the kinds of evils that the Scripture says loving money spawns:

Ahab—murdered Naboth for his vineyard (Ahab was a King who had lots of money, vineyards, and "stuff." Obviously that was not enough.)

Gehazi—lied to new believer Naaman in order to gain some of his wealth, then lied to Elisha about his deed

Judas—stole from the disciples savings; betrayed Christ; killed himself

Ananias and Sapphira—lied to the Holy Spirit about what they had given and not given to the Lord

Demas—forsook Paul and the ministry because he loved this present world

 

This is why the apostle John says: Whoever loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For the sake of wealth, how many have sold their souls only to lose everything? What will a man give in exchange for his soul? Everything will be burned up. The moment you breathe your last, you cease to enjoy your "stuff." You'll give up eternity for stuff? That's the definition of insanity. Money is not your savior. Jesus is. Though he was rich, for our sakes, he became poor that we might be rich in him.

All the wealth in the world cannot free you from death. Jesus can. All the wealth in the world cannot free you from God’s wrath. Jesus can. All the wealth in the world cannot free your conscience from guilt. Jesus can. All the wealth in the world cannot give you an eternal inheritance that can never be taken away. Our Lord can. All the wealth in the world cannot buy you sinlessness, immortality, residence in a new heaven and new earth, your name on the registry of heaven called the Lamb’s book of life. Only the Lamb, Jesus, can. In the new Jerusalem, they pave the streets with the gold that men hoard here as valuable.

 

III. Craving money leads away from the gospel into self-inflicted distress. (1 Timothy 6:10)

 It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pangs.

 

A craving is a stretching out, a reaching out, a striving after, like trying to reach for something beyond your reach and falling headlong to your death. Those who have reached for this have wandered from the faith. It is not like aimlessly being lost, but like being intentionally led astray. Behind this wandering off is someone deceiving you and drawing you off to your destruction. They have wandered from "the faith"—the body of truth or set of doctrines that make up Christianity. Sometimes we sum it up as "The Gospel or the Good News." We are talking to the whole redemption presentation--from Creation to Christ. Those who have craved money have been led astray from the Gospel itself, what is true, reliable, and saving and have pierced themselves through with many pangs. Think about fences with points on the top. They have impaled themselves as with a spike. It is self-inflicted. By their choice to reach for the money they have impaled themselves with many pangs—griefs, mental distress.

 

Lot chose to pitch his tent toward Sodom because of the financial advantage it could be. Consider what he lost: his peace (vexed his spirit day after day); his wife; his daughters; everything he had hoped to gain was burned up. He was not the first or the last to lose his happiness, his family, and everything he once had just for the sake of gaining a little bit more. What makes this such a tragedy is that Lot was already wealthy when he parted from Abraham. Why did he do it? For the prospect of a little bit more.

The fact is, we have the food we need, we have clothing and shelter. Will you reach for more? At what cost? The more you have the more likely you are to be greedy and the less likely you are to be generous. Those who have much and give much are rare, but a great blessing.

 

Jesus said in Luke 17:32-33:  “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

He is talking about the day the Son of Man—Christ Jesus—is revealed from heaven in judgment. It will be like the day fire rained down on Sodom. People were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building—all destroyed. Lot’s wife was among them, though she was warned and could see the fire of God falling.

 

You and I have been warned. There are some sitting here that will suffer God’s judgment because they could not bring themselves to pursue godliness instead of wealth.

What would your plans look like for this week, this month, if serving God were your chief concern instead of making more money?

What would your life look like if you answered God's call as in Matthew 6:33-34: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things wil be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

What would you give?

Whom would you help?

What would you do with your time, your energy, your focus in life?

What difference would you make in the lives of other people?

What peace and blessing would you enjoy?

There is much to be gained if we can free ourselves from the deep poison, the deadly snare of lust for wealth. We must fight this battle at the level of desire because loving money spawns all kinds of evils and craving it leads away from the gospel into self-inflicted distress. Let Christ be the one who occupies the throne of your heart and Christ alone.

 

LifeGroup Questions

 

1.     What have you found inflames your desire for money and what have you found puts out the fire?

2.     How does what you trust and what you love reveal your where your hope of salvation is and the nature of the salvation you desire?

3.     What sins and sorrows have you seen money-love produce in a person’s life?

4.     How does Lot’s experience warn you as a believer of the dangers of craving more wealth?

5.     If you were reaching for God’s kingdom and righteousness first, what would you give, whom would you help, how would you spend your time and energy this week/month/year/lifetime?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

March 9, 2014

 
Divine Protector PDF

1 Samuel 23:1-14

 

We long for that day when we are finally home, and that is where we will find the ultimate kind of safety that the human heart longs for. Usually our sense of security has a lot to do with whether we are dealing with matters we have dealt with before, whether life is fairly stable, our job is secure, things are in line and going according to plan. When life is that way we feel pretty good and we can manage. The problem is that life is rarely that way and when it is, it is usually just for a short time. The reality is that life is full of change. The kids grow up, move out and start their own family. When you succeed in one level of course work you move on to the next, and eventually it gets harder and harder until you decide you are done with it. Careers are the same way. At first, the water seems fine, but just when you think you have a grip on it, changes come along, new skills are required and you find yourself feeling insecure again.

As we look at David's life, it is one of constant change. Just the fact that he is a man after God's own heart and anointed to be the next king does not mean he is immune from the changes, difficulties and dangers. The last time we were together we looked at 1 Samuel 22:

Refuge from the Destroyer

·       Lies Against the Godly (1 Samuel 22:6-15)

·       Murder of the Innocent (1 Samuel 22:16-19)

·       Refuge for the Remnant (1 Samuel 22:20-23)

 

We want to pick up the story as we move into 1 Samuel 23: 1-14:

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. Davidknew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

None of us have exactly the same purpose to fulfill in God’s redemptive history as David had. We might feel that this is an entertaining story but has little to do with us. But every born-again believer has his or her purpose in the history of God. Like every part of a human body has its function, every believer has his or her function under the hedge of Christ. God directs each one of our histories with His sovereign hand every bit as much as He directed the history of David. Not one of us lives or dies to himself. We benefit or harm others in proportion to our sensitivity to God’s will for each of us. He is our almighty Protector, and we in turn protect the well-being of others. There is the connection we have in part with David of old. The same God he served is the God we serve. His Savior is our Savior. His protection, our protection. His purpose in the general sense is our purpose for he was tied to redemption history, the hero of which is Jesus Christ, our Lord. I want to talk to you this morning about:

 

Divine Protector

·       Clear Direction: Commitment to the Will of God (1 Samuel 23:1-4)

·       Courageous Solidarity: Action in the Power of God (1 Samuel 23:5)

·       Supernatural Foresight: Dependence on the Omniscience of God (1 Samuel 23:6-12)

·       Daily Survival: Security in the Care of God (1 Samuel 23:13-14)

 

I. Clear Direction: Commitment to the Will of God (1 Samuel 23:1-2)

This whole account is focused on God's direction in David's life. He is a refugee, he is running for his life, he needs the direction of God and behind that we see a commitment to the will of God. There are many people God never shows His will because they have no desire to follow His will. Their heart is not desiring the will of God. They don't want to know what God wants them to do--they already have their plans. They just want to know whether God is going to help them get their plans done. David approaches it entirely differently. He is seeking the Lord's will and clear direction.

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

Keilah is 17-18 miles southwest of Jerusalem. It is in a mountainous region, but with a fertile plain that descends down to the coast of the Dead Sea where you find wilderness and rocky valleys. It is a perfect place to hide out. We are told that the Philistines are robbing the threshing floors. It is right at the last stage of being able to use the wheat. The planting, cultivating, and harvesting are done. The wheat is being threshed to divide the kernel from the husk so that it is suitable for grinding into flour for making bread, the main source of daily food. To rob the threshing floor was to take food out of the mouths of families that had worked an entire growing season to provide for their own. It is a devastating way to bring a community to its knees, abusing them at a point when they most need that food. It was abusive and a great injustice. No truly godly person could remain unmoved by their plight, certainly not one who felt some connection as a fellow Israelite.

David could not stand by idly. But neither should he act without counsel from God. You look around in your church, community, country, and world and there is much to be done to alleviate human suffering, injustice and abuse. But to attempt to fix the problems without divine counsel can turn even a good cause into a harmful disaster. Many start off with good intentions but lose their connection with God’s direction and blessing. When that happens, they can do more harm than good. Perhaps they had it at the beginning, but then they lose it. Human history is full of such tragedies, whether attempted on large scale or in an individual life. You look at countries, founded on the precepts of God, with Scripture written on their buildings, but long forgotten or even banned from the public square. Denominations who came into being because of the power of the Holy Spirit and commitment to the Word of God, who long ago had Ichabod written by God across the doorways--the glory is departed. Ivy league schools were begun out of revival to train people for the ministry with a mindset founded on Scriptural truth, but have departed from the truth and have lost the blessing of God. Churches often rise and fall with the generation that began them. Families that begin well and yet are diverted on a path of seeming good, but that takes them away from the paths of God. Children, reared in Christian homes, who know Bible verses by heart, but don't let those verses guide their lives and never bow the knee to ask God what He wants with their life. Individuals who have departed from the God that they were taught years ago. The story of the human race is a story of human beings who have lost their connection with God. Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had clear instruction from God, but instead they chose to listen to the tempter, Satan. This is the way the world makes its decisions. A believer has to make his decisions in a different way. A believer has to inquire of the Lord. It is essentially a worldly mindset to attempt even good things without seeking God’s will. Yet how many churches and church leaders make their plans without bathing them in prayer? Our commitment to God has to be greater than our commitment to getting things done. All that needs to be done is what He wants done. We need to do it in His power and with His blessing.

James talks about it when he talks about worldliness in James 4:13-17:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

As we seek the Lord in prayer and He shows us the way to go, then we take action. Proverbs 3:5-7 are familiar verses:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

If as a people we are seeking the Lord and He gives us direction, then we can plunge forward knowing that whatever the risk, if we do the will of God, whatever we suffer is according to the will of God. How often churches don't pray regarding God's will. Or when they do and God shows them the way, they get part way in and the battle gets hot and they become cowards and start infighting about why they did that in the first place. Before we do anything it should be because we bathed it in prayer and when God shows us, we do it. Second guessing is sin when God has shown you what to do. 

As the following verses show, David inquired of the LORD in the manner of theocratic Israel—through the ephod with its high priest’s breastplate of the Urim and Thummim, as described in Exodus 28. We don't know exactly how God showed His will, but it was a way that people could find answers from God at that time.

What would inquiring of the LORD look like today? Let me give you some key questions to ask whenever you are seeking the will of God:

  • What Scriptures directly apply to your situation? Does the Bible address this in any way? The better you know it, the more you see that it does address a huge number of issues that will give you insight into the decision you must make.
  • What general Scriptural principles must you keep in mind?
  • Are you praying for God to lead you?
  • When you pray, is your heart open to however God wants to answer, or are you demanding He prosper what you’ve already decided to do? The first prayer ought to be: God, what do you want me to do? James says we have not because we ask not. There are things God wants to do for you and through you that He wants you to ask for. Sometimes we ask and receive not because we ask to spend it on our passions. In other words, we are still wanting our way. 
  • What people would the Scripture indicate you should talk to before you make the final decision? The Scripture does talk about matters you should take to other people.
  • What godly counselors could shed light on your options?

II. Courageous Solidarity: Action in the Power of God (1 Samuel 23:3-5)

But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

Note that these men were afraid. This was not going to be an easy campaign. Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing the right thing in spite of your fear. You overcome fear by knowing what God wants you to do and experiencing His power to do it. There was no escaping danger—even in Judah. Safety is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God. Unless the Lord comes back, every one of us is scheduled for a date with death. There is no place you can go to escape danger. It is safer to take risks according to the will of God than to disobey God in order to avoid risk.

Safety is with the Lord. They won a great victory not because of themselves, but because the Lord gave the Philistines into their hand. We are too quick to credit ourselves for our victories, and too slow to believe victory is even possible if we cannot achieve it in our own strength and wisdom. The reality is, the history of the church, both universal and local, is a history punctuated by the interventions of God and the miracles only God can do. How are rebels by birth and by choice ever going to yield to King Jesus? Only by a miracle of the Spirit. Safety is of the Lord, not in our own power.

“Did we in our own strength confide, the battle we’d be losing.” Luther, A Mighty Fortress

If the battles you are fighting can be won only by human strength, are you really fighting the battles of the Lord? If a church is thinking only in terms of what man can do, is the church even thinking like a church? If this is only a human organization, we could just call it a club. But if it is the church of the Living God, full of the Spirit of God, on a mission Christ has given to us, let us yield to the Almighty God who does miracles through His people and saves them, not because of themselves, but in spite of themselves because of Jesus Christ.

King Saul made his own countrymen his enemies and attacked them with jealous spite—driving his godly son-in-law David away, dishonoring his son Jonathan, slaughtering the priests of the Lord and all their families (save Abiathar). His murderous abuse demonstrates how unfit he is to rule, and he is unfit to rule because he is far from God.

On the other hand, the future king leads his band of men, now 600 strong, to rescue his countrymen from their Philistine enemies. He has the heart of a king because he is the man after God’s own heart. God is not only saving the villagers of Keilah. He is training men who will save a nation as key members of its rebirth under David’s leadership. God is forging their solidarity, their character, and skill on the anvil of danger. He is uniting their hearts to David through the camaraderie of war. People that just want safety by reducing the risk will never know this kind of solidarity.

David leads them into danger not only for the sake of their countrymen, but by the explicit command of God. There is no substitute for the confidence of knowing the battle is the Lord’s. Such people are invincible. You could be one of them. Let me ask you:

  • What are you will to die for, to live for?
  • Do you love God more than your fear risk?
  • Do you love your neighbor more than you are committed to preserving yourself?
  • What generates solidarity in your heart with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  • Has Christ not made explicitly clear what our mission is? And what our obligations are to one another? (One Another Covenant)
  • Is your sense of loyalty and commitment tied to His express will or to lesser concerns?

III. Supernatural Foresight: Dependence on the Omniscience of God (1 Samuel 23:6-12)

David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.”

God not only knows what will happen, He knows what could happen. When God leads you He is leading you down the best path. Every religion in the world has its own way. God has provided One Way. It is the only way anyone is ever pronounced not guilty before God. Other religions say you must try to be good. What about the times you were not good? Nobody but Jesus can say you are without sin. If there is a way of salvation it has to be the way He has provided. That comes down to the daily decision of our lives. We do not know what will happen. We can make our plans, but God directs our steps. He will never leave us or forsake us. We may not know what the next day will bring, but we know God will be there with us. And He has revealed much about the future—where human history is heading, the sure reward of His servants, the certain doom of those who refuse to trust the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God declares the end from the beginning so that we might place full confidence in Him and follow Him fully.

One troubling thing in this passage is that David might have said that he saved these men of Keilah and they turned against him. David understood the men of Keilah were not the key to David’s survival. He had gone to Keilah for safety, but that was not his ultimate safety. Safety is of the Lord. Don’t waste your life nursing the wounds of fickle friends. Just find out what God wants you to do and do it. Safety is from Him. He is our Divine Protector.

 

IV. Daily Survival: Security in the Care of God (1 Samuel 23:13-14)

13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

God gave the Philistines into David’s hand, but would not give David into Saul’s. History is always His Story. See the presumption of Saul in verse 7: Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.”

Saul is an earthbound man, completely out of touch with reality. God has removed the kingdom from him and has given it to David. God has thwarted every effort Saul has made to destroy David. Yet Saul imagines it is God that has given David into his hand. Saul long ago rejected God’s will. He has no idea what God is really doing. He just imagines God is helping him corner David.

How many live out this same fantasy day after day. They refuse to submit to God. They have no time to wait on Him. They are too busy trying to placate people, pursue personal advantage, keep up the appearance of success. They are obsessed with their own plans. They show hatred for God’s servants. They flout God’s written law. And they still imagine that God is sanctioning their unholy plans. He is their personal genie subject to their will. It is a delusional religion, even if for a time it enjoys the throne in this world. How much better to be on the run, hiding in the rocks and caves of the wilderness with the LORD’s anointed, the man after God’s own heart, than to be in the court of Saul, fantasizing that God is with you.

It is an even greater blessing to attach yourself to the purposes of the LORD’s ultimate Anointed One, Christ Jesus. Jesus said to us: “I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age.” Saul was pursuing David all the days. Jesus is with us all the days. He said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” We know His commitment to us. Jesus Christ endured the cross, counting the shame as small, for the joy set before Him. The coronation day is coming. All things will be made subject to the universal, everlasting King. No matter who tries to destroy Him and his followers, they will fail and they will fall. God the Father laughs in derision at the folly of those great ones of the earth who imagine they will cast off His rule and destroy His people. It is delusional.

If you are in Christ, you are safe. Safe in this life and safe in the next. You are safe in Christ alone—safe from angels and principalities, safe from death, from wrath, from Satan’s hatred and accusations. That's why we say, "Have you been saved? Do you have salvation?" People who are in Jesus are safe. Safety is of the Lord. David is safe. It is Saul who is not. He is rushing toward destruction because he has chosen to follow his own way. 

Which company are you in? The band of Saul, who for now thinks he reigns with God's blessing, but is delusional because he seeks his own way? Or with the company of the Anointed King who will one day rule an everlasting kingdom, who will put down every enemy, including death itself, though now He is persecuted and those that are in Him are mistreated by the world? 

Divine Protector

·       Clear Direction: Commitment to the Will of God (1-4)

·       Courageous Solidarity: Action in the Power of God (5)

·       Supernatural Foresight: Dependence on the Omniscience of God (6-12)

·       Daily Survival: Security in the Care of God (13-14)

Is this Divine Protector yours?

 

LifeGroup Questions

1.   What is your usual approach to seeking God’s will? What have you found most helpful? What have you found interferes?

2.   What kinds of risk have you found worth taking for the sake of Christ and others? What made taking the risk worth it?

3.   How do we know we have God’s power available to us to fulfill God’s will? How do we access such enabling?

4.   Saul wiped out a town, David saved one. How does this contrast reveal the essential difference between the ungodly and the godly? What kinds of attitudes and behaviors would fall under each category?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC  29609

March 9, 2014

 
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