“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
— 1 Samuel 30:6
Sometimes in life, things can take a different turn overnight. We might face a challenge or multiple crises at the same time. Particularly during this Covid-19 pandemic and the other challenges that have been multiplied by it, everything looks messy and unpredictable.
When we look at ourselves and around us, it might seem that there is nothing to hold on to since everything has gone upside-down overnight. Familiar feelings of hopelessness and helplessness return, and unending thoughts cloud our mind day and night. Perhaps we even have the urge to quit or give up everything.
This is how the people felt in 1 Samuel 30. But there was someone who chose differently, a young man and a leader called David (1 Samuel 30:6). David chose not to give up, but instead to look up. Let us look at the situation in which David and his men found themselves (1 Samuel 30:1-31).
First, David and his 600 men and their families were chased away from King Saul into the territories of Palestine. They lived there in a small town called Ziklag. In other words, they were political refugees who had suffered geographical displacement (1 Samuel 27:1-6). That must have been a very tough situation to face.
Second, Achish, who was the King of Palestine — and Saul, the King of the Israelites, were planning for war. David and his men were planning to fight their own king and people — the nation of Israel. This would have been incredibly challenging for any leader with a good conscience who loves his nation and people. (1 Samuel 28:1-2)
Third, David and his men were rejected by King Achish from going to war with them against Israel. Their integrity and loyalty were being questioned. It would have been hard to swallow their pride, even though it saved them from fighting their people. (1 Samuel 29:1-11)
Fourth, while David and his men were away, the Amalekites waged war against Ziklag, and burned the town with fire, destroying everything. They also took captive their wives and children, plundered their possessions, and ran away. In their absence, everything was taken from them (1 Samuel 30:1-2). The breakdown of a marriage, or a loss of family members can be devastating.
Fifth, David and his 600 men arrived at Ziklag after three days and discovered that everything was gone. Everyone wept bitterly for their wives, children, and all of their losses. They wept until they had no strength left to weep — they experienced an enormous loss and deep grief (1 Samuel 30:3-5). Prolonged severe grief and acute pain can be devastating.
Sixth, David’s 600 soldiers were planning to stone him because of their losses. It had become a blame game, and it was mutiny against their leader. It is a scary situation and also a painful experience when your family members or friends turn against you. For David, it surely seemed like everything was spinning out of control and turning upside-down. (1 Samuel 30:6)
When David found himself in the above circumstances, he did not give up. Instead, he looked up to God (1 Samuel 20:3; 30:6-8). Only then did he find strength in the Lord his God — emotional strength (a feeling of stability); mental strength (the ability to think right), physical strength (the power to do the right things), and spiritual strength (accurate spiritual discernment of God’s will for his life). See Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 5:15-17.
As John Maxwell has said,
“Life is ten percent what happens to me, and ninety percent how I react to it.”
And with this strength from God, David was able to do the following things:
First, he inquired of the Lord in prayers — in other words, he looked up. (1 Samuel 30:7)
Second, he was able to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. (1 Samuel 30:8)
Third, he was able to rebuild his soldiers’ morale and confidence, so that they could march in pursuit of their enemies. (1 Samuel 30:9-10)
Fourth, David discovered God’s provision on the journey as he led his army to their enemies’ camp. (1 Samuel 30:11-16)
Fifth, he and his 400 soldiers were able to strategically attack and defeat their massive but disorganised enemies. (1 Samuel 30:17)
Sixth, David and his soldiers recovered all their wives, children, and even their possessions. (1 Samuel 30:18-19)
Seventh, David and his soldiers were able to plunder the spoils from their enemies and distribute them among their friends. (1 Samuel 30:20-31)
What the enemy meant it for evil, God turned around for good and transformed into numerous blessings, as He promises in Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28.
The secret from David’s experiences is this: don’t give up — look up! When you encounter the storms of life, and challenges like personal health, loss of family, relational crises, financial troubles, job losses, leadership challenges, or more global issues like pandemics and riots, look up! Sometimes situations will become darker and more chaotic before they become brighter and and more orderly again. (Psalm 30:5)
David’s life is such a great example for us. In the following chapter (1 Samuel 31), David became the king-in-waiting of Israel after the death of King Saul. History clearly showed just how God mightily used David after he passed through the refining fires we have just looked at. God made David a channel of blessing — not least of which was the Messiah himself. (Acts 13:22, 36)
They were many men and women in the Bible who refused not to give up, but who chose to look up. To name just a few, there was Hannah, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, Paul — and all of those listed in Hebrews 11. You and I are not the first people to face the fire — and this means that we can follow their footsteps and learn from their example. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
Once I was going through a hard time, and many thoughts were running through my mind. As I was taking a walk alone, I came across a parked van with these words written on the side of the van in big, red letters: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”
It blew my mind — and I changed the direction in which I was walking. Once, Winston Churchill said,
“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Dear friends, as the Word of God promises us in the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
— Hebrews 4:14-16
The message, then, is this: do not give up, but look up!
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