When Trials Come...And They Will
Jesus’ Work Exceeds Man’s Ways and Man’s Days
How many of you remember Borders Books? They opened their first store in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1971 and pioneered the book megastore business that it dominated for 40 years. This was one of my favorite stores when I was growing up. I loved books, and it was such an adventure to walk into a store with so many. I remember my dad would mentioned in passing that he stopped by Borders over by his office, and wishing I could have gone. It was always a treat. In the early 2000’s, however, Borders began to experience trouble competing with other bookstores. They began asking, “How can we sell more books?” They tried everything to do so. They added music to their inventory, they added cafes, they even added live acoustical music in some stores in an effort to attract customers. Despite this, they watched their share of the book industry steadily decrease. Here was their fundamental problem. They were asking the wrong question. While they were asking, “How do we sell more books?” their competition was asking “What are the various forms a book can take?” While Borders was fixated in upping their sales of paper books, other companies were redefining what a book is. The fact is, Borders was better suited to sell more paper books than anyone, unfortunately they failed to innovate and missed out on the huge sector of ebook sales which has risen astronomically within the last decade. Why? They didn’t know the real need of the consumer. They were limited in their perspective of what a books is – paper, which in turn caused them to pursue a sales plan that failed to innovate. In 2011, hundreds of Borders stores were closed and more than 10,000 employees lost their jobs after the company filed for bankruptcy. The vast tracts of retail space that Borders vacated in cities across the U.S. speak volumes to a gigantic business who failed to innovate because of limited plans and limited perspective. Barnes & Noble has the Nook, at least. Amazon and Kindle clearly destroyed Borders' ability to meet customer needs. Today if you type in the web address to Borders Books, it redirects you to Barnes and Noble.
So why do I tell you this story? Well, we can run our own lives very much like this bookstore. Along the way of life we hit a rough patch. Marriages and family situations deteriorate and fail. Our career goals seem to have changed dramatically or appear to be vanishing. Our health has fallen off to the degree that we begin to feel despair or useless. It could just be that the world that you thought understood at one time has changed so dramatically you feel like you’re out at sea. Right away we begin trying to make sense of the situation and formulating our plans to get out of the situation. The trouble is, we are often quite limited in our own plans. If these plans don’t work we enlist the plans of other limited human beings and nearly despair. We are limited in our plans because we are limited in our perspectives. We like for life is to be lived out according to our own parameters. We like to formulate playing fields that are of exact boundaries, but we soon find out that these self-imposed boundaries are too small to understand all that life will throw at us. As a result, we, like the mega bookstore, are left asking the wrong questions; questions that reflect our narrow perspective on life. And wrong questions will never lead to right answers. You see, man often clings to his own limited plans and his own limited perspectives, thus limiting our faith in power of Jesus’ work. Jesus desires to accomplish works in our life far bigger than our plans and far broader than our perspectives allow.
You’re not the first to face this in life. In our text this morning, we are going to read of a man in a desperate situation. He too is asking the wrong questions. His plan is too narrow, and the people around him have such narrow parameters of their own that they are of no help. This is where Jesus comes in. In our text this morning, Jesus is going to work in such a way to blow up narrow plans and destroy the overly narrow perspectives of a community. As we study this text this morning, my goals is to encourage you to trust in the power of Christ to exceed your limitations.
Lets begin looking at our text. John 5:1-17.
Setting of the passage.
Why did they gather there? 7 (put in when water stirred up)
What was happening when the water was stirred up?
Where is verse 4?
One may ask, “Who stole v. 4 out of my Bible?” However, if you were holding the earliest papyri and manuscript (MSS) in your hands before the fifth century, you would more than likely be asking, “who added these words to my Bible?” First, verse numbers were not assigned until the mid-sixteenth century. These words assigned a verse number; a verse system we still use.
o As simply as I can possibly explain it – In the oldest and best manuscripts, we do not find these words in v. 4. There are thousands of Greek MSS or fragments of MSS and the way we arrive at our amazingly reliable Greek and English versions is that these texts are compared with each other in painstaking and complex ways so that when some MSS have different wording, we can tell with a high degree of certainty which reading reflects the original. We are privileged to be working with the best preserved ancient writing which gives us great certainty. No other ancient work has this level of reliability.
o According to the textual evidence, it appears that somewhere along the way that someone added a note of explanation (v. 7 begs for it). It appears that a later copyist brought these words into the text itself and from that point on other copyists carried on those words to other copies. Although the words in v. 4 have very little textual support, they do give us commentary into the tradition of the Jewish people concerning this pool.
Apparently there was a local tradition said that an angel sometimes came by to stir the pool’s water, and the first person who made it into the pool after that happened was healed. So people suffering from all different kinds of afflictions would hang out by the pool, hoping that an angel would happen to come by while they were there, and that they could win the competition to get in after bubbles appeared in the pool before anyone else did. But the tradition discouraged people because the water stirred at unpredictable times that seemed arbitrary, and while the people who needed help were all weak, only the strongest among them could manage to be the first in the pool after bubbles appeared in it. Bible scholars believe that the bubbles were caused by a natural spring nearby -- not by angels who showed up at random times -- and any healing that people may have experienced came from the health benefits of bathing in spring water, or very simply that those who were very sick never made it in. Regardless of where we come down on this, let me be clear: How the pool worked is not essential to the story; the fact that Jesus worked is essential to the story.
So returning to our story. We have a man in desperate need, a 38 year need. And as far as he knows, the only option he has is to participate with the others in rushing into the pool when it bubbles. But Jesus comes to this man with a far better plan than his.
I. Jesus desires to do a work that exceeds your limited plans.
A. Jesus is not limited to man’s level of knowledge (v. 6a)
· While everyone else saw a mass of needy people, Jesus knew each need intimately. We can see a bunch of desperate people, but Jesus knows all they reasons and history behind each desperate person. Unlimited knowledge leads to unlimited work in a life.
· This is who Jesus is. He is a person who knows you perfectly – knows everything about you, inside and out, and all you have ever felt or thought or done. He knows your deepest need even better than you know it yourself.
B. Jesus is not limited to man’s level of compassion (6b)
· The all too common reaction to such despair and need is often to pass by on the other side. Even when we do help it is because it could not be avoided. Very rare is it for someone to out of their way looking to help those in need.
· In this case Jesus chose to go to the pool. He didn’t stumble upon it. He knew what he was doing. He chose to find this desperate man the same way he chose to go to Samaria to find the woman at the well, the same way he went to a land of prophet-dishonoring people in Galilee to find an official with a sick son. Jesus’ compassion takes him toward need, not comfort. His compassion takes him toward brokenhearted, needy sinners, not the self-righteous.
· 9 times in the gospels it says that Jesus was moved with compassion or pity. Jesus not only knows you perfectly, but he is easily moved by the misery you feel. As we will see, Christ’s therapies are not always what we want, but it is not because he is heartless, but because he knows and cares about you more than you or anyone else could care for you.
C. Jesus is not limited to man’s level of power
· Not only does Jesus know this man, has great compassion on this man, but has power to help in ways this man never imagined.
· This is my favorite part of the story. Jesus asks, “ Do you want to be healed?” This man is still stuck in his own limited plans. Jesus didn’t ask if the man wanted to get in the water. He offered him healing. This man is stuck asking the wrong questions still. The question is not, “Will this man help me get in the water in hope I might be healed.” The question is, “Who is this man who is offering healing without getting in the water.”
· Jesus helps the man ask the right question through a command: Get up, take up your bed and walk.” Now the man is on the right track. Do I follow my limited plan of bathing in mineral water, or do I exercise faith in this man’s sovereign authority over my health?
· Verse 9 tells us at once the man was healed and he took up his bed and walked! John is exulting in the greatness of Jesus who when he speaks diseased muscles and bones obey. In this one moment Jesus blows up this man’s limited plan by offering this man an opportunity to exercise faith in his limitless power. Jesus was offering so much more than this man even knew to ask! But that is who Jesus is. He is superior in knowledge, compassion, and power and desires to do a work that exceeds your limited plans.
What: Jesus today wants to do a work in your life that exceeds your own limited plans.
Where: Many of you may be at the place of despair in your marriage. Very often these times are met with limited plans. If only my husband would communicate, if only my wife would respect me. Some of you are wearying under the stress of rearing your children. Our limited plans sound like, “if only we could have one week without a big fight. If only when I told her to change her clothes she wouldn’t roll her eyes. Others this morning may be in despair over serious health challenges. You limited plans sound like, “If only I had more energy, or if only I could get the pain reduced. All of these are worthy plans. All of these are serious plans, but in some way each is too limited. Jesus is offering more than a change in our situation. Jesus is offering a more powerful work. A change in your very condition. Jesus wants to do more than have you get along with your spouse, he wants each of you to demonstrate the selfless love of Christ to one another. Jesus wants more than your children to curtail bad behavior, he wants to transform their hearts to be zealous servants of God, and he wants to change you in such a way that you serve as their best example of what that would look like. Jesus wants to do more than ease your pain, but to shape you into a testimony of his sustaining grace so that you may comfort the afflicted. Jesus wants to blow apart our limited plans that often seek change in situation. Jesus wants to work in us toward complete transformation of person. Your marriage, homelife, health, or career may be uncomfortable, and you may rightly desire for the situation to change, but Christ desires far more. He offers a change, a transformation of your very condition.
We have Savior who offers far more than helping you with your plan. He has a divine and better plan backed by his knowledge, compassion, and power. Jesus is not a sympathetic enabler, but a compassionate, powerful healer.
Transition: So far in the story we noted that Jesus has exceeded the plans of individual. But what Jesus does is even bigger. What about all the people around this man? What about the religious people of the day? They too had a box in which Jesus had to fit. They had a very specific perspective, and only within this perspective was Jesus allowed to work. We will see that Jesus exceeds their perspectives as well. Note the second part of verse 9. It is significant. Now the day was the Sabbath.
II. Jesus desires to do a work that exceeds your limited perspectives.
A. Jesus is not limited to man’s ignorance
· Jesus knows what is really happening even when we only have limited information. Jesus did something really big, but his lame man failed to get a name. The lame man didn’t even know a name to tattle on. Again, it is Jesus who finds him. Jesus gives him further insight – See, you are well. Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.
· ON what basis does Jesus ask this man to forsake sin? “See, you are well!. This is the gospel. Jesus heals by his grace. Based on our changed condition, based on the work of Christ, we are then given direction. He doesn’t say stop sinning and you will be well. He says, see that you are well, sin no more. Live in the reality of your new condition! This man knew he was walking, but Jesus expands his knowledge far more!
B. Jesus is not limited to man’s rules
· According to the religious establishment, Jesus violated their law because he was working on the Sabbath, and worse than that, because this man was miraculously healed, Jesus caused him to work because he needed to carry his cot around. The gall!
· Jesus as God created the Sabbath. It is not that Jesus was in violation of God-given Sabbath laws, only the rules of men added to the law.
· Think about what happens when we add little rules to big rules. The fact is, the big rule is really radical and difficult, especially if we follow the spirit of that law. In order to understand the spirit, we break it down in to smaller rules. What usually happens is that these are bite size rules that are achievable, but by the end of the day we end up violating the spirit of the law.
· Sabbath – rather than enjoying God, they created a bunch of externals they could follow.
C. Jesus is not limited to man’s purposes
· Jesus revisits the purpose – for man.
· Evening and morning – no. Rested from creative work, but did not stop altogether. God doesn’t take a day off from his work, nor should we take a day off from seeing God work. We take a day off from those things that might distract our view, not clarify our view of God working.
· Focusing and enjoying and resting God does not preclude us from extending love and grace, and in this case healing. It might be good to remove ourselves from the pursuits that distract us from God, but in no way should we stop doing anything through which the Father is working.
· Their whole purpose was to stay out of trouble. Follow these rules. Maintain this standard. They followed all the little rules, but missed the purpose of the big law – enjoy God by setting a day aside to do so.
Application: The sad scene reveals a community of people so fixated at keeping their own man made rules that even God himself had to stay within the guidelines. They had a limited perspective that God was only as powerful as traditions were protected. The radical work of Jesus didn’t fit within their boundaries so rather than being in awe of the glory of Christ, they hated him and chided him for such miraculous works. The clearest manifestations of Christ’s power were swallowed up in this community’s self-righteousness. It wasn’t religion that limited the power of God. It wasn’t adherence to the Sabbath. It was the self-righteous, self-deceiving idea that somehow the power of God was dependent on their personal performance and their protection of man made traditions. So much so that God himself was not allowed to operate outside of their man-made, restrictions.
What: Jesus desires to do a work that exceeds your limited perspective.
Where: What perspective needs to be exceeded in your life. Is there a box that you have placed God inside? Are their traditions that you hold onto so tightly that when God works outside of that tradition you don’t recognize it. There is nothing wrong with traditions; I have many, but am I more about protecting them than seeing God work?
Perhaps it’s not a tradition, per say, but self-erected borders of comfort. God is welcome to work, so long as he doesn’t mess with my bubble of comfort or understanding. You see, Jesus was welcome to work, so long as he bowed to the human authorities and their rules. When Jesus exceeded these things, they were so uncomfortable they missed the whole point.
What about HPBC? Have we put placed parameters over how God is allowed to work among us? Is God only allowed to work and move so long as our traditions, comforts, and cultural leanings stay in tact. Do some of you limit God to work only within the confines of tradition? Do others limit God to work only within the confines of trend? The work of Christ is bigger than any person, church, or movement. There may be some among us who dismiss the work of God at a church because we deem them to be too conservative or culturally irrelevant. Still others who dismiss God’s work among the people of another church because we deem them to be too casual, too trendy, or in the case of a little country church that they lack cultural excellence.
Still another danger is to see God working at other churches and run after them assuming that God cannot work in our church in significant ways. We must quit limiting God to particular movements, cultures, or even individual assemblies. If Jesus is working, rejoice in his glorious splendor. We must not engage in being dismissive of Christ’s work just because it is not happening within the boundaries of our perspective. (This is why we pray for other churches.) We are confident God works among all his people, we are confident God can work among us!
Faith to see God work in limitless ways, humility to accept that work that violates our perspectives or boxes.
Arrogance is the refusal to adjust our ministry perspective according to God’s work.
Conclusion: The takeaway from this passage today is to let Jesus do his amazing work among His people. Trust Jesus to exceed your limitations. The limitations of your plans, and the limitations of your perspective. This is scary stuff for some of us. Many you have listened this morning and you do want God to do a work. You want Jesus to bypass the symptoms of your misery and fix your deepest problems. You do, but there is one fear. You and I both know that it means the forfeiture of your own plans and perspectives. You see, Jesus doesn’t desire to play the role of a "ride along" in your life. He is to be your Shepherd. Jesus doesn’t desire to work within a box of your own making. He is creator and His purposes are superior. This morning, will you humble yourself and bring before Jesus your miseries, your confusion, your pain, your sins, and ask Him to exceed whatever plans you’ve concocted or whatever boxes you have built to contain God. Jesus wants to work in you, in us, in this community, but he will not be limited to man’s ways, nor will he be confined to man’s days.
Pastor Chris Barney
Hampton Park Baptist Church
February 16, 2014
Guarding the Treasure of Godly Contentment
1 Timothy 6:3-8
When I read the Scriptures, I begin to understand that my view of wealth and worldly treasure is shaped by my view of Christ and heavenly treasure. My willingness to give of myself for the sake of others, my self-sacrifice, has everything to do with my understanding that Christ gave Himself to save me. My self-sacrifice has to do with my following Jesus and His self-sacrifice. If I really know Jesus and the affections of my heart have moved from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness, and if I really understand the implications of the Gospel, these are features that begin to grow in my life.
When we see Paul address different ones in the congregation, we see how the Gospel comes to bear with people in every situation of life. The last time we were together we looked at the first two verses of chapter six and saw Paul appeal to the slaves in the congregation -- literal slaves who were owned by a master -- to see themselves as free to serve. This is a mindset that the gospel brings. Even in undesirable circumstances we can show a respectful attitude if we have God-centered priorities, to bring glory to Him and to expand the gospel reach others and see them come to Christ -- the priorities of having a family loved because they were believers. If I were a slave in those ancient days and if a believer was my master, as a slave I would not resent that because the gospel changes the perspective. There is a relationship that supersedes any kind of worldly position that I may have. Paul said to teach and urge (parakeleo) people to live this way. Paul moves on to caution them against those who teach a different doctrine.
Guarding the Treasure of Godly Contentment
- The Deviant Danger (I Timothy 6:3)
- The Combative Corruption (I Timothy 6:4-5)
- The True Treasure (I Timothy 6:6-8)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
I. The Deviant Danger (I Timothy 6:3)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
Guarding the Treasure of Godly Contentment, the message title, captures the essence of these verses. There is a connection between guarding the doctrine, the truth of the gospel, and having a contented heart. There is a connection between living out the gospel and not getting sucked into a way of life that is fighting for my rights and fighting to get ahead in the world. There is an entirely different mindset that the gospel brings to bear, and those who are proper teachers of the Word of God, the Truth, ought to be encouraging and cultivating that kind of lifestyle.
Deviation from the Word is where the danger is. Anyone means that the teaching can come from anywhere, inside or out (Acts 20). It doesn't necessarily come from "that other church" or "that other denomination" or "that other family." It can and does come from us. Teaches a different doctrine (instruction) is the way Paul started off his letter with the charge for certain persons not to teach any different doctrine. This seems to be the driving reason for his writing of the entire letter. Timothy was wading into a situation where teachers were teaching something different from what the Scripture teaches.
Teach and urge (parakaleo) these things.
If anyone teaches a different doctrine (instruction). . . .
These things refers to Paul’s instruction on slaves, as well as all that precedes. It all hangs together. What he commands slaves flows from gospel truths the way all gospel duties do. The same is true for his instruction regarding elders, widows, godliness, avoiding doctrines of demons, qualifications for overseers and deacons, men and women in worship, and prayer for all people.These instructions all flow from the gospel teaching. It is connected. The more we realize what sinners we are, the more we realize that Jesus Christ rescued us, and the more we realize that true treasure is not what the world can amass, the more we know how to do the right thing even in tough circumstances. Jesus Christ must loom large as we teach His Word, and that gives us the ability to deal with all the practical things of life. The words of Christ are healthful words. The one who teaches wrong doctrine does not agree (attach himself to, consent, come to) with the sound (healthful) words of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are giving you poison, junk food, rather than that which feeds the soul.
Paul is an apostle of Christ. When he refers to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is not referring just to the "red letters" in your Bible, but what the apostles taught. For Jesus Christ authorized them to teach what He had taught them. Think about what Jesus Christ taught. Think about the practical, healthful effect of the teachings of Jesus Christ on the lives of people. Here are several passages that show what it looks like.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he said, "They will know you are my disciples (learners, followers) by your love for one another." Learners learning from me so that you can teach others. Healthful instruction produces love among people. The gospel is all about people relationships and produces a self-sacrificing good for the love of others.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,ith all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Instead of love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1:5), different teaching produces spiritual injury, sickness, and strife. Proper teaching is teaching that accords with godliness, teaching that creates God-centered worship mindedness; the heart of righteousness—treats God like God. Contrast this with Romans 1, "When they knew God, they glorified him, not as God, neither were they thankful." Love for God as He is produces love for others (the first and second greatest commandments). Beware teaching that is “different” from Scriptures. Beware when health is missing because Christ is absent. Beware the lack of true godliness. Deviant teaching will not produce godliness; it will have an ill effect on people. Health is not when the church is filled and the coffers are full. Health is when people are focused on Christ and reach out to others with love in a self-sacrificing way. Am I approaching my Christianity with a checklist of things I should do? Does that make me godly? It might be an expression of godliness and help you grow in godliness, but God-centeredness is godliness. Where is God in your thoughts?
II. The Combative Corruption (I Timothy 6:4-5)
he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving (morbid) for controversy (speculation, pseudo-intellectual theorizing) and for quarrels about words (word wars), which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions (malicious suspicions as to the honesty of those who contend with them—Hiebert, 111), and constant friction among people who are depraved (corrupted) in mind and deprived (robbed) of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
Ryken, 252: “Heterodoxy will make the church sick. Its champions are jealous, resentful, abusive, irritable, and depraved.”
“He . . . is argumentative. He majors on minors. The more speculative the doctrine, the more tenaciously he debates for it. He not only splits hairs, but he tries to do so with a chainsaw. In the end he robs himself of the truth. This means that part of being a good theologian is knowing when not to fight.”
All these things are the product of different doctrine -- constant friction, rubbing raw, difficulty with relationships. There is a core heart problem imagining that godliness is a means of gain. That's the way the world views religion. A little religion looks good in the "portfolio."
We ought to wage war for King Jesus, but we need to know what Jesus taught and not get caught up in the controversies that don't really matter. If the doctrine is important, it is here. If it is important, it will be in the Bible and run through its pages. Don't let other things become more important to us than true godliness. James tells us regarding the wars and fightings within us, the passions inside (hedonism) come from worldiness, friendship with the world. I want what I want. I want to be happy so I am going to fight this battle. So many of our battles come from these desires that have placed too great a value on things of the world. Self-centeredness and greed are at the root of it all—the essence of the carnal, sinful mindset. What motivates you? What are your relationships like? How do you treat your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you notice needs? Do you encourage them? Do you love them?
III. The True Treasure (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
Contentment is indepdendent from the circumstances. It means you can have a lot of money or a little money and be okay. When you have a lot of money, you will use it appropriately. When you have little, you will not fret.
Here is where Paul’s instruction on slaves fits in. If you think that serving God is about getting ahead financially, then serving God as a slave has no value. The only way to serve God is to get free from your slavery. But if you understand that you don’t possess anything in the ultimate sense—you brought nothing with you when you were born. You will take nothing with you when you die—you aren’t worried about status and possessions. You are just concerned how to glorify God, to advance the gospel, and to show love to others.
Ryken, 256: “Discontent is life’s burglar. It robs every other experience of its God-given joy. Someone who is discontent is always operating at a loss.”
Think about what gain it would be and what riches it would be to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. To be independent of the circumstances, and let the chips fall where they may. If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Food and clothing could today include shelter.
John Kitchen, 264: “A list of ‘essentials’ is closer to nothing than I wish it to be.”
Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you, and say, Where is the LORD? Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Notice Paul does not command us to be content in this verse, but declares that we are—or will be (future passive).
Whatever we thought about all this before, from here on out we look at it in a different way. We have true treasure. We are therefore content.
Ryken illustration, 259:
“The London preacher Dick Lucas tells the story of a man he met who went to church in the most prosperous county in England. Among other things, the minister told him that if he trusted in Jesus, God would give him a Jaguar automobile. The trouble was, the man already owned a Jaguar. So he went to church just down the road, walked up to the minister and said, ‘I went to such-and-such a church and they told me that God wants me to have a Jaguar. But you see, I already have a Jaguar, and my life is still empty and meaningless. Doesn’t Christianity have anything more to offer me than another automobile?’"
Guarding the Treasure of Godly Contentment
- The Deviant Danger (3)
- The Combative Corruption (4-5)
- The True Treasure (6-8)
1. If what is called Biblical teaching does not generate spiritually healthy living, what could be the reasons?
2. What would be some of the ways we express true godliness toward God and toward others?
3. What does ungodliness look like and what is its connection to “different” teaching?
4. How does greed contradict the supreme virtue of true godliness, and why is it so often connected with morbid controversy, quarreling, dissension, slander, malicious suspicion, and constant friction among people?
5. How would true contentment with having merely food and clothing (including shelter) impact our feelings (fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, etc.) about having or not having other things? How could it improve our relationships with other people?
6. How does the instruction Paul gives here regarding the treasure of godly contentment connect with a Christian slave’s duties (or an employee’s duties) to God and others? Treatment of widows and their service to others? Those serving as elders or deacons? Worship and prayer?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
Greenville, South Carolina
February 9, 2014
Shelter in the Shadow
1 Samuel 22:1-5
(Psalm 142, Psalm 57)
I love light. Without light you can't see color. In fact, one theory goes that without light there is no color. I like open spaces and elbow room. I like being outdoors. I don’t like being in the dark—unless I’m trying to sleep. I find darkness depressing, confining. Over the course of life there have been many nights when it would seem like the morning would never come. But I have to confess when I look back over my life, God has used the dark times, the shadow, both to shelter me and to teach me more about Himself. If you’re house-hunting, chances are you aren’t looking for a cave. But if you are caught in a raging storm, a cave might be the very best place. In today's text in 1 Samuel 22 David has found refuge in a cave.
In our last time together we saw that in his running from King Saul and from apparent certain death, David committed sins of desperation and yet in the midst of those sins God continued to show him tokens of His Divine care. We saw David lie to God's servant, we saw him running to the enemy of God's people, pretending to be insane, and yet through all of that God reminded David that He was there for him. It's hard to escape the works religion that is the worldly religion of our forefathers. There are two kinds of religion--works religion and grace religion. When we are under pressure we often revert back to our works religion and think that God will not help us when we play the fool. Yet that's the only kind of people God does help--fools and sinners. That's why Christ died for us.
God shows David through the showbread His provision for his daily needs and that He cares more about real needs than He cares about even proper ceremony. He is reminded of the impossible victory against Goliath when he is supplied with Goliath's sword. Then as he finds himself among the Philistines by his own choice, God grants him protection and then release despite being surrounded by his enemies.
That's where we left off. Let's pick up the story again in 1 Samuel 22.
David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. 3 And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4 And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. 5 Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.
Shelter in the Shadow
- Safety: Divine Refuge (1 Samuel 22:1a)
- Community: Divine Purpose (1 Samuel 22:1b-4)
- Prophecy: Divine Direction (1 Samuel 22:5)
I. Safety: Divine Refuge
Consider first that while a cave may be the last place you would want to be house hunting, it was a good place to hide and David found safety there. It was more than the safety a large dark area would provide. The safety he found was the true safety of Divine refuge.
David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam.
A.W. Pink, 79: “The high favorites of Heaven are sometimes to be located in . . . unexpected places. Joseph in prison, the descendants of Abraham laboring in the brick kilns of Egypt, Daniel in the lions’ den, Jonah in the great fish’s belly, Paul clinging to a spar in the sea.”
If we imagine that serving God means we are always in the palace, we are not reading our Bibles and we're not looking at life the way it really is. The cave of Adullam is roughly 12 miles from Gath in the region of the Valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath. It is described as a long, winding, narrow passage with small chambers on either side. It has a large chamber with natural arches of great height capable of holding thousands of people. From this went out numerous passages roughly four feet high and three feet wide, leading in all directions, occasionally joined by others at right angles, forming a labyrinth yet to be fully explored because of the danger of getting lost.
One reason we hate being in the shadow is that we are afraid we’ll never emerge from it. But there are times a cave is better than a palace. There are times when being alone is safer than being surrounded by enemies.
From time to time God removes all other sources of security so that we come to experience what we know theoretically: Safety is of the Lord. We know from the Scriptures that this is exactly what the Lord brought to David's heart because he wrote two Psalms out of this experience.
Psalm 57:1-2: Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Psalm 142:5: I cry to you, O LORD; I say, You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
David fled to the cave and found the refuge he had been searching for all along--not in the cave, but in God. David may look as if he’s reached the end, huddled for fear in a dark, dank cave. But it’s not the end. It’s the place of a new beginning. It's the beginning of another chapter in the chronicle God is writing for him. David needed time in the cave. He needed it to get his bearings and remember where his refuge really is.
Chuck Swindoll, 78: “The conversion of a soul is the miracle of the moment, but the making of a saint is the task of a lifetime.”
And from p. 80, “Where do you turn when the bottom drops out of your life or when you face and issue that's embarrassing or perhaps even scandalous. You just discovered your son is a practicing homosexual. Where do you go? Your mate is talking separation or divorce. Your daughter has run away for the fourth time and this time you're afraid she's pregnant. How about if you lost your job and it's your fault or financially you've blown it? Where do you go when your parent is an alcoholic or you find out your wife is having an affair? Where do you turn when you flunk your entrance exam or mess up an interview? Who do you turn to when you're tossed into jail because you broke the law? You need a listener, someone who understands. You need a cave. In that cave you need to find God.”
It is so difficult for us to let loose of our other ways of dealing with our problems that sometimes God has to strip away all those other ways and leave us so helpless that we have no choice but to turn to Him. That is exactly what David needed. He needed to find safety in Divine refuge.
II. Community: Divine Purpose
The second thing David needed is community. In this community that comes to him he will see Divine purpose. God supplied David not only with His own presence in his loneliness, but also with a sense of His Divine purpose by bringing to him a community. Listen to where David is:
Psalm 142:4 Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. 7 Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.
Ultimately no one but God can fill our loneliness even when we're in a crowd. God knows we also need community and God has a way of teaching us about Himself through people who know Him. That's what David needed. That's why God created marriage and the family. That's why God founded the Church, that we would understand that our survival is not just individual, but that God supplies you in the cave times with community. Sometimes we hurt so much we don't want community. But God brings it to us nonetheless.
Family: And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. Bethlehem is not far away—about 3 hours. The last time we saw anyone from David’s family, his oldest brother Eliab was chiding him, accusing him of false motives for coming to the battle. I'm not sure what Eliab thought when David walked from the battle field swinging Goliath’s head at his side. But now they come to him—evidently in danger themselves because of Saul’s jealous rage toward anyone sympathetic to David. Real crisis brings clarity, causing us to put petty jealousies aside for what’s really important, to pull together. And people grow. He needed his family.
Those with similar experiences:
2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
Distress—hardship, pressure—internal feelings or outward oppression that an enemy force brings to bear
Bitter in soul—emotional response to heart-crushing barrenness, oppression, exploitation, grief, broken dreams, impending death
Evidently much of their trouble resulted from the oppressive, irrational, unpredictable behavior of King Saul. The whole country groaned under his God-rejecting, God-forsaken leadership, his fits of rage, his obsessive jealousy. These people gathered to David, the prime object of Saul’s hatred. Four hundred men—possibly not quite the rejects one might think, given the caliber of men who would have been disillusioned with and persecuted by Saul. These may be men of faith and of great capacity. We are told David became a commander over them. Here he is sitting in a cave and commanding more men than he ever has before. God brought them to him. He had led men into battle before and he would rule in the future. This was part of that preparation. These 400 would grow to 600. From them would come the future mighty men of David, his captains, and in time members of his national cabinet when he finally ruled as king. They might look like rejects now, but they were God's chosen ones to serve alongside the king after God's own heart. Throughout human history God's people have often suffered this way. If you are looking at the movers and shakers, you might not find God's people there.
Hebrews 11:37-38:They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. . . . They were part of the great cloud of witnesses who testified of God’s reliability through their faith in Him. God will come through for you. Even today as God calls out a people for his name, He calls out a rag-tag bunch. He calls out those that the world might consider to be losers and makes them part of His everlasting kingdom.
1 Cor. 1:26-29: For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
As you track through the life of David, remember the cave. Remember that it looked like the end of it all. He had nobody. Remember that when he was at a point of desperation, God started to teach him about God's supply, God's refuge, God's purpose for him and He brought together a people also in distress. He started to build a kingdom that one day would rule the entire nation. God is doing that now. He is calling out a people who confess they are bankrupt in their spirit, who mourn for their sin. People who realize if God does not rescue them they have no hope at all. He's gathering those people together to make them part of the everlasting kingdom of Christ and He will reign forever and you will rule with them because of His power. That's exactly what He was doing with David. It was a small story in the big story. The battle is the Lord's.
3 And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4 And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.
Mizpeh refers to a watchtower or mountain height from which you might be able to see. It is like a vantage point to see “what God will do for me.” Why would David go to the King of Moab? Remember David has a connection with Moab. His great-grandmother is Ruth the Moabitess, famous for her loyal love to her mother-in-law Naomi, even more famous for God’s loyal love to her through Boaz who married her as the kinsman-redeemer and made her an ancestor not only of David but also of Christ. Over a century before the distress of David’s current situation, God turned hopeless grief of Naomi into an amazingly good outcome and laid the groundwork for what David’s family would need during his fugitive years.
If you read the genealogies in the New Testament you find that both Ruth and David are vital links in the chain of events leading toward the redemption Christ would bring. We serve the Lord of history. We have no way of knowing all the ways God has woven our little day into the fabric of the past and or of the future so that His purposes for His people prevail. He will not fail in His saving purpose. He will not forsake His people. His steadfast love endures forever.
David’s family entered into danger because of their significance in redemption history. His family will survive for the same reason. The distressed, financially pressed, and bitter of soul because of Saul’s outrages are the raw recruits who will one day be the prime warriors and statesmen of the nation. And the Moabites, with a largely pagan history, nonetheless have ancestral connection with God’s chosen king by virtue of the providence and loyal love of God. All the families of the earth will be blessed through the offspring of Abraham. Our community during days in the shadow of persecution and distress is a people tied to the plans and purposes of God. Plans that were made before the foundation of the earth: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a treasured people. Heirs of an everlasting kingdom through the everlasting Savior-King Jesus Christ.
That reality changes everything during days of difficulty. God has a purpose for His people. His people is a community of faith; they belong to another time and place; they are brothers and sisters of a heavenly Father—from every nation, kindred, and tongue, God is calling out a people for His name. They help one another through the tough times. They are known by their love for one another.
There is a time to be alone in our sorrow and distress. A time to seek God's face and seek the comfort only He can give. But that is not all we need. We need community because in them we see the hand of God at work. Both alone and together—our hope is in God alone.
III. Prophecy: Divine Direction
5 Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.
Going back into the land of Judah seems like the last place David would find safety—even if you’re hiding in the woods. But David’s safety is in God alone. His clear direction is far better than guessing where you will be safe because God knows everything.
Psalm 23: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. God takes care of you and supplies your need even in the presence of enemies. Your safety is not in whether or not you have enemies, your safety is that God is your ally and your Savior.
The prophet Gad (likely from Samuel’s school of prophets) will be alongside David all his life. He is called “David’s seer” in 1 Chronicles 21:9. David is a man of the Word. He values instruction from God. That is a great gift. What a gift to receive God’s Word on a matter! When God speaks, there is no longer any debate about what to do or wondering about what is truth. We often worry so much about what He has not yet revealed to us that we neglect what He has. That is what makes the great difference between David and Saul. It is what makes Saul so pathetic. He did not want God’s Word. So God took it from him.
“Saul was a man on his own, shut up to his own wits, a man without direction from God. He had no light in his misery. . . Desperation is no fun, but desperation and silence are unbearable. Being in the slimy pit (Psalm 40:2) is not quite so bad if one can hear the Shepherd’s voice.” (Davis, 81)
Would you rather be in the pit and have the voice and direction of God or be on the mountaintop in the sun and have silence in heaven?
2 Peter 1:19: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
But for God’s prophetic word, we would not have enough to go on. We would have little more than wishes that things will get better with no idea how. Ours is a revealed religion. It is not concocted by man. We count Him reliable who gives us truth and instructs us in the way we should go, even when the world, the flesh, and the devil shout that we are going the wrong way.
It does us well to consider in what ways we are making the Word from God the meditation of your heart, the command center of our decisions. This whole experience created praise in David’s heart.
Psalm 57:7-11: My heart is steadfast, O God,my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre!I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,your faithfulness to the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
You can't read this story or track through David's life without stepping back and saying, "What an amazing God!" This isn't just about David. It is about us and our need of a Savior and about a God who takes a broken creation and is loving and powerful enough to rescue it. This is huge and it is for everybody. It began in a cave. David found shelter in the shadow. He found the safety of Divine refuge. He found community where he learned Divine purpose. He was given prophecy to receive Divine direction. The man after God's own heart needed that and so do we.
1. What are the kinds of things that can make us feel safe, and why do they fall short of the security we have in God alone?
2. What “cave” experiences has God used for good in your life so far?
3. In what ways has God used others—community—to help you through a difficult stretch of life? What do you think are some reasons He uses people this way in your life, instead of just doing everything by direct act?
4. As you consider the 400 “rag-tag” group of people who gathered to David in light of 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, what is it that is the most important reality regarding any person you know—including yourself? How does that affect your view of their future and yours?
5. In what ways do you seek Divine direction in your life, and how have you experienced God’s clear guidance in the past?
6. How could David praise God the way he does in Psalm 142 and 57 when he was going through such a stressful time? How can you do so?
Pastor Drew Conley
Hampton Park Baptist Church
February 9, 2014