I Samuel 20: My Life
“Got a call from an old friend, we’d used to be real close. Said he couldn’t go on the American way. Closed the shop, sold the house. Bought a ticket to the west coast. Now he gives them as stand up routine in LA. I don’t need you to worry for me, cause I’m alright. I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home. I don’t care what you say anymore- this is my life. I never said you had to give me a second chance. I never said I was the victim of circumstance. I still belong. Don’t get me wrong. And you can still speak your mind. But not on my time.” (My Life by Billy Joel.) He was a prolific songwriter, piano playing singer. He played for a while in Memphis in a club on Overton Square. Many believe this is where he wrote Piano Man. Billy Joel’s mother and father were Jewish. His mother was from England and his father escaped from Nazi Germany where he was trained as a classical pianist. He started teaching Billy when he was six years old. But when classically trained Billy was 15 years old, he heard the Beatles and his music took a different direction. I can imagine this song being written in resistance to his parent’s encouraging him to come home. But the title: “My Life”, has significant meaning to us Christians individually. And it can also be the plea of our old nature, the flesh which wants to control our lives and our decisions. You get those calls from your old friend, the flesh, you used to be real close. Let me start this lesson by turning to some verses in Colossians 3. Actually my search began looking in my library for my copy of “The Saving Life of Christ” by Major Ian Thomas, one of my favorite books. I could not find it but came upon a copy of one my other favorite books which contains a chapter on Ian Thomas. A book entitled: They Found the Secret. I was reminded of the passage which set his life aright and back on course.
Colossians 3 tells us these truths: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, and sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth. FOR YOU DIED, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, WHO IS YOUR LIFE APPEARS, then you will also appear with Him in glory.” For me to live is Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. If when were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more than being just reconciled, we SHALL BE SAVED BY HIS LIFE. The saving life of Christ. As believers we possess the saving life of Christ in us. He is my life.
Have you made the mistake we all have made? Having begun in the Spirit are you now trying to finish in the flesh? Am I trying to live my life for Him on behalf of Him in my own strength? What He wants is to live His life through me. Hudson Taylor found the secret. He called it the exchanged life. Andrew Murray found the secret. He called it the Abiding Life. Jesus told us He came to give us His life, the Abundant Life. He wants to be MY LIFE.
I must stop telling Him I’m alright. I am not all right. I am all wrong.
So what happens when we try to live our lives for Christ in our own strength? We become weary and heavy laden. Fearful. We become perplexed. We are finding ourselves in despair. We feel crushed with a weight we cannot bear. Listen to Ian Thomas’s despair at his lack of accomplishment: “Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am convinced that I am converted. I have tried to the uttermost to serve you and have failed to the uttermost. (He had not seen one person converted with his preaching and teaching in seven years.) His desire was to be a missionary. Ian Thomas concluded: “I am finished. I am not going to be a missionary. It is useless to continue like this.” That night he went to a meeting. When the leader read these words from Colossians 3, everything fell into place. He heard, “When Christ who is my life.” Out of his utter despair from seven weary years of failure, the Lord spoke to him. He said it was if Christ spoke to him and said, “For seven years, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.” The following Sunday, Ian was to speak to a class of 90 boys. He remembers saying to the Lord on the way to speak. “Yesterday Lord, I was going to speak to these boys, but now You are! Guess what happened? At the end of his teaching, Ian Thomas invited any who would want to accept Jesus as Savior to come forward. 30 boys came forward that day! I submit to you those seven years had not been wasted. They were seven years of preparation which involved tearing down those things which had to be torn down in order to build what God had planned for Ian.
This is the truth he learned which we must learn. Jesus is telling us, which we must realize. It is not a new method or a new technique. Jesus is telling us – it is My Life, being what I am, doing the inevitable. This is what you must realize, you cannot have MY life for your program. You can only have MY life for MY program. Major Thomas who had wanted to become a doctor and a medical missionary, became an evangelist, writer and teacher and started the Torchbearers Bible Schools. (Read I Thess. 5: 24; Phil.2: 13 and John 15- you can do nothing apart from Me.
“For everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven.” (Eccl 3) The purpose driven life. There is a season of preparation. Brokenness is a requirement for maximum usefulness. Brokenness comes from tearing down idols and casting down strongholds.
David, the shepherd boy had run toward the giant Goliath, confident the Lord would provide him victory. In today’s lesson, David runs away from King Saul. He hides from him. Jonathan, his best friend and son of King Saul, wants to persuade David his father would never kill him. He says I would know it if this were so. They are both confused. They are both in despair, afraid and in the dark. They are leaning to their own understanding.
What we have seen in the life of David is a season of learning to lean on the Spirit of God. He understood it was not his prowess and skill set which delivered him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. It was the Lord who delivered him. This was a season of learning in which he developed the gifts the Lord had given him. The purpose of these experiences were faith building experiences which enabled him to face the giant, Goliath. “When Christ who is your life appears (makes Himself known, reveals truth to you) then you will also appear with Him in glory.” Imagine the marquee- Now Appearing the Lord Jesus with Tim Fortner. The marquee does not say, now appearing Tim Fortner with the Lord Jesus. His appearance is the Glory. This is the light which shines within me is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. When I do His Good Works which He has ordained for me to perform, created and enabled me to do, then the light of His Life in me will shine and the glory is credited to Him. When I take credit for the good work- I put the light under a basket not on a lampstand.
Now when we become skilled and successful doing the Lord’s work we can become overconfident. Joshua must have thought I am some kind of military genius and a devastating defeat comes along like Ai and Joshua realizes he has assumed power which was not his.
God anointed David to be His king. God gave Joseph a dream. By studying their lives we see how God prepares us in the ongoing process of seasons and times and the purpose for which they occur. God is preparing you for what He has anointed you to do, to accomplish the dream, the desire, He has placed in your heart.
THE PROCESS OF BUILDING UP
How does God build up? This is where the lesson becomes difficult. In Ecclesiastes 3- we are given a list of things which are opposites. Yet they are part of the necessary process of sanctification- which is being set apart. Guess what precedes the process of building up? Tearing down. There is a time, a season of tearing down which is part of the process of building up. Now tearing down is hard work. Not fun. Scary. But it has a very important, necessary purpose. God must deal with our old sinful nature. The self-life. The selfish life. It is the life we refer to as “my life.” “I don’t care what you say any more- this is my life.” Ever say that to God? We must focus on the outcome, not the process.
Joseph and David. Two very talented young men. Joseph had a dream. David was anointed. Joseph shares his ‘I have a dream speech’ and his brothers hate him all the more. He is seventeen years old. David is probably about the same age when he faced Goliath. He had previously been anointed by Samuel as God’s choice as King of Israel. Joseph is sold into slavery and ends up in Egypt with Potiphar, captain of the palace guard as his master. David has been attacked by King Saul and from this day forward will be on the run the next 10 years. Joseph will be accused of sexual assault and be sent to prison. He will come out of prison to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. And David will become king of Israel. Both at age 30. But the process leading up to that was painful.
David was anointed, which means set apart unto God. Told he was God’s choice for king of Israel.
Joseph had a dream and this dream became the desire of his heart. In this book, “They found the Secret”. We find these common denominators:
1. A desire to be all for Christ which accompanies us at salvation and the beginning of working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
2. Then comes a sense of failure and falling short.
3. Then comes the Lord and a definite meeting with Him.
4. What follows is complete surrender.
5. We then begin to walk by faith and not by sight. We appropriate by faith the Resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus Christ through abiding in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Do you notice David is fearful? He is afraid. He is overwhelmed.
Had David come to depend on his skills? His abilities to control the situation and solve the problem? I know how to develop a lesson. How to teach it for I have done it well over a thousand times. Ian Thomas said to the Lord those many years ago- “Well now Lord, you are going to speak to the boys’ class today, isn’t it wonderful. Yesterday I was going to do it but You are going to now!”
It matters not what age you are, David and Joseph were only boys, seventeen years old. Moses was 80 when he was challenged. Abraham was 75 and Job was 70. They all ended well. The outcome was exactly what God planned, but the process was very painful at times.
How do you make decisions? How do you live your life? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge he and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3) Jesse Ventura was a Navy Seal, a man of great physical strength and intelligence. As a professional wrestler, he was known as “The Body.” Later he was a popular host of a radio talk show and author. He became the governor of Minnesota and was later a college professor. At the height of his popularity, success and accomplishment he was asked in an interview what he thought of Christianity. He replied, “Christianity is a crutch for the weak.” Does this statement offend you? I am sure Jesse did not mean it as a compliment. But the truth is – we all lean on something. Jesus says lean on me.
David is a man after God’s own heart, but like many good men, he sometimes leans to his own understanding and has developed some crutches other than the Lord he uses when fearful situations arise.
Now you may not be facing a life and death situation, but there is something hanging over you which you cannot seem to get out from under. You are asking God for wisdom, but in the meanwhile you keep taking actions on your own, leaning to your own understanding. You may even realize you are doing this, but cannot seem to break free. You hide sometimes from the problem or the person or the situation. Hiding is something we do in fearful situations. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And remember, we have an old Adamic nature.
David, like all of us, makes mistakes. He faces grave danger and leans to his own understanding. He wrestles with problems the same way we do as he is both angry and afraid, worried and anxious. And David is saddened as God takes away from him those things he loves and depends upon. God wants David as He wants us also to depend on Him and Him alone.
Remember how God trained David? David was trained in isolation- alone with God as he tended his sheep. Here is where his confidence was built. Confidence to go up against the giant, Goliath, a formidable foe, seemingly impossible to defeat. David said the Lord delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear, and He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. Where has that confidence in the Lord gone?
Psalm 37 is written when David is old, for he states he has been young and now he is old. (Vs 25) Age teaches us things only age and experience can teach. Experience can be a brutal teacher sometimes. Failure is inevitable. Wrong decisions are sure to occur. We will fail and usually when we do, it was something when we look back to determine what happened, to analyze the problem from the perspective of hindsight, we see what happened. We leaned to our own understanding. And as a result God allowed us to suffer loss- which after it was over we realized- God wanted us to know He alone is our source. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. David looked back and this is what he saw: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, (and we all will fall) he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37: 24
Are you wrestling with the Lord over a long- standing problem like Jacob was the night before he was to meet his brother, Esau? The one who wrestled him is believed by many to be the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus. For Jacob was holding on to him for dear life. This pre-incarnate God-Man dislocated Jacob’s hip. Jacob said I will not let go until you bless me. He asked Jacob what was his name and Jacob replied, “Jacob”. “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. Are you struggling with God? Wrestling with Him over a problem?
What is interesting is Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life and leaned on his staff, which became his crutch.
What are you leaning on? Are you leaning on the everlasting arms of the Good Shepherd? Or are you leaning on your own understanding? Wrestling with God at night? Waking up tired and fearful? Downcast? Why are so downcast my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
We are about to witness through the truth of God’s word in the amazing story of David. David is going to become poor. He is going to hounded by his enemy for years and years, day and night. He is going to share with us his journey as he pours out his heart in the Psalms, as we hear the desperation: “as the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. “
David will become poor. Hungry and thirsty, Weary and heavy laden. This is when the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus invites us to “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11
Are you worn out with fear, worry and anxiety? Do you feel the tension in your shoulders? You are carrying the burden by yourself, you cannot manage. The Lord has brought you to this point to teach you about resting in Him. Are you fighting for victory? JESUS IS MY VICTORY BECAUSE JESUS IS MY LIFE!