On a few occasions in my life, I was convinced there was no use trying to go on.
I know all about the restraining hand of the Lord. He allows his children to go only so far but no further. In my early days of ministry, he restrained me when I was ready to quit during times of awful discouragement. At times, I felt overwhelmed by all the financial responsibilities. I felt like a failure as a husband and father as well. I would get so low about my overwhelming obligations that I thought my faith would shatter completely.
In those times, I never considered suicide or giving up completely on the Lord, but I was tired of not understanding why my life was filled with so many struggles. Several times, I hopped in my car and drove away, thinking, “That’s it. I’m just going to disappear. God will have to take care of this ministry and my family. I can’t take any more.
One particular time, I was driving south from Dallas on my way to Mexico. Thankfully, God was in the backseat. I heard him ask, “David, where are you going?” Like Jonah, I answered, “I’ve had it, Lord. I’m going to Mexico. Nobody will know me there, and I can witness freely without all these obligations. I love you, and I love my family, but I don’t feel like I’m the man of God I should be.”
The Lord said, “Turn the car around now, David, before you do something stupid.” I kept driving, then I heard him say clearly, “Now, David, turn around now. If you drive another five miles, you’re on your own.” The fear of God hit me, and it shook me up. I have never wanted God to take his Spirit from me. That warning was his loving hand restraining me. How many times have you been on the brink of making a foolish, horrible mistake? Did God’s restraining Spirit come upon you, telling you, “Hold it, stop right there”? Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. He comes to restrain us, to keep us from doing destructive things.
How did God deal with David’s unfaithfulness?
When Samuel anointed David to be Israel’s king, the young man was given a new heart. “...Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13, NKJV). David became godly and wise, full of the fear of the Lord. “And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14). He was a man of prayer, and he praised the Lord as few people ever have, blessing the heart of God with his songs and psalms. Few have been more intimate with the Lord than David. God’s Spirit was on him, and the Lord clearly had plans for him.
Because of this, Saul came after David in wrath, and David had to flee. He stayed on the run, hiding in caves and among rocks, moving from place to place. After a while, David simply got tired of the battle. He must have thought, “If I’m the Lord’s anointed man chosen for this hour, why am I in this deep trouble? Why are so many against me?”
David took 400 of his men and fled to Gath, the hometown of Goliath, the giant he had slain. Talk about an unfaithful act; David hadn’t sought the Lord about making this move. Soon, hostility rose against David in Gath. The people said, “Isn’t this the man the Israelites sing about? Hasn’t he killed thousands of Philistines? He’s the one who killed our giant.”
David was captured and taken to the king. He knew he was trapped and in danger, so he put on an act of insanity. He raved incoherently, scratching the walls with spittle running down his beard. He hoped this act somehow would deliver him from the clutches of the king, yet what a poor testimony it was before all of his men. King Achish looked at David and said, “This man has lost his mind. Get him out of here.”
David acted unfaithfully in his crisis, but God was still faithful; he didn’t write David off. While David was playing the madman, God’s eternal purpose for him went onward. Saul’s kingdom was growing weaker every day, and the Lord’s plan for David was still on schedule.
Perhaps like David, you have gone through some kind of “insane” period in your life.
As you faced utter chaos, you gave up, saying, “I can’t handle this anymore.” You acted according to your flesh, playing the fool, getting ahead of God. You ended up angry at yourself, ashamed and disappointed. You thought, “How could someone as blessed as I am fail God so badly? Surely, he’ll take his blessing from me. I’m of no use to him now.”
You are so wrong. God will not allow some present struggle of yours to upset his calling and plan for you. You may have gotten off track, but God’s plan isn’t. It is moving full speed ahead. I remember a period when I prayed for months over certain overwhelming needs, and yet my prayers went unanswered. On one occasion, I cried a river of tears, and I got up from prayer without any peace at all. I screamed at God, “Lord, I have pleaded and prayed for so long, but you don’t answer. What more do you want from me?”
I walked away heavy-hearted. To my surprise, the very next week I saw one prayer after another answered. I realized that the whole time I had raged at God, thinking he had failed me, he’d been working behind the scenes. He was moving people’s hearts, arranging things, bringing about the plan he had in mind all along. I had to run back to him in repentance, crying like a baby over my unfaithfulness, “I’m sorry, Lord, forgive me. Oh, if I had just held onto faith for one more day.”
I was not faithful in trusting him, but he remained faithful to me. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). No matter what kind of trials you’ve been through this past year, you can know that God will be there for you. He sees your heart and responds to your broken, contrite spirit. His eternal purpose for your life will not be thwarted. He will see it through.
Only one thing can cause the Lord to turn aside from you.
Only the sin of stubborn pride can derail God’s wonderful purpose for you. We see this in the life of Saul. Scripture tells us God’s Spirit was on this man from the very moment Samuel saw him coming down the road. God had called Saul, and he ended up using him. Something awful emerged from Saul quickly, however; it was arrogant pride. Saul would not confess or admit his sin. Instead, he blamed others in order to justify his actions. He was more concerned with keeping up appearances than with what God thought of him.
Pride was the difference between David and Saul. David sinned perhaps more grievously than Saul did. After all, Saul never impregnated a married woman or had her husband killed, as David did. When Nathan pointed out David’s awful acts, David didn’t try to justify himself. Instead, he immediately cried out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
By contrast, when Saul was caught in sin, he grabbed hold of Samuel’s robe and cried, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the Lord your God” (1 Samuel 15:30). Saul was effectively asking Samuel not to make him look bad in front of the people. He was more concerned with what people thought about him than in having grieved the Holy Spirit.
Pride and a haughty, unmovable spirit bring people down, while a broken, contrite spirit captures the heart of the Lord. It doesn’t matter how you’ve failed the almighty God; if you’re like David – if you run to the Lord after you’ve failed to weep out your confession – God will stand with you.
As I wrote this message, I prayed, “Lord, make me a voice for you in these last days. I know I can’t be a voice for you unless you keep changing me. I can’t speak for you unless the things of this world mean nothing to me and I am conformed into the image of Jesus. Please, Lord, change me.” Even as I prayed, I felt so inadequate, so far from what God wants of me. I thought, “I don’t think I’ll ever make it. I’ll never be worthy enough.”
That is when the Lord gave me this very message. He said, “You’re right, David. You will never be holy enough by your own standards and works. Right now, I’m not looking for you to do some great thing for me. Even as you are praying, I am at work, being faithful to you for my eternal purpose. I will see my plan through in your life.”
The Lord is going to do that for every one of us. He uses the weak, foolish things of the world to accomplish his works. We all fail the Lord; no member of Christ’s body is perfect. Every time we are unfaithful to him, however, he remains faithful to us.
Take your eyes off your failures and weaknesses and fix them on his faithfulness. He cannot deny himself. He is utterly faithful to his word, and he will see you through every battle. Amen.