I don’t know where I picked up this little phrase: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. It might’ve been on a coffee mug. Perhaps it was something my grandma Smith said in her quiet, wise way. Maybe it was a quirky line in a long-forgotten song. I’m not sure, but I do know that over the years, that trite little phrase has been just the stabilizing mental note I’ve needed in difficult situations. Hey! Wait! It was on a bumper sticker. That’s where I first saw it: Don’t let where you are right now keep you from where you’re going. That’s mildly embarrassing to admit, but it just goes to show that God can inspire us in thousands of profound and sometimes profoundly silly ways. Anyway, the spiritual epiphany I got out of that phrase boils down to an admonishment to keep walking in the will of God even when the way forward seems perilous and the problems appear insurmountable.
Know You’re Not Alone
If you’re feeling like every effort you make to progress forward in the will of God is met with roadblock after roadblock, you’re not alone. Do the promises of God feel desperately far away? Then you’re the person I’m talking to right now. Overwhelmingly people feel as if they will never get where they want to go. Not just that, but they feel as if they can’t get where God called them to go. There are long seasons filled with potholes, debris, and manmade roadblocks littering the paths of life. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re just trying to be faithful to God, but you feel stuck. These are dangerous seasons of life because we become especially prone to bitterness, discouragement, backsliding, compromise, and bad decision-making. Life isn’t fair. It just isn’t. And regardless of your level of anointing and favor with God, you will endure these seemingly (heavy emphasis on seemingly) endless seasons of isolation and obstruction. Let me say this clearly, your most significant danger in those seasons is you. It isn’t your enemies, your circumstances, or even your frenemies. It’s you.
Lessons from David’s Mistakes
Recently while I was complaining to the Lord in prayer (something I do more often than I care to admit), an often-overlooked season in the life of David came to mind. David was in an awkward position because he was already anointed to be the next king of Israel. He had earned great fame and recognition by killing Goliath, but King Saul was insanely (possibly even demonically) jealous of David. It must have been a confusing time because David went from being everyone’s favorite to the most wanted fugitive in Israel. Adding to the confusion, Saul would try to kill David, and then he would beg David’s forgiveness and ask him to come back home. So, almost overnight, David went from palace life to hiding in caves with his band of six hundred warriors.
David Began With Good Intentions
Interestingly, we know early on that David was trying his best to make righteous decisions despite the injustices. Twice he had the opportunity to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-24, 1 Samuel 24:22-26), but David refused to harm God’s anointed. Most of us would probably have found a way around that godly conviction, but David remained firm in his resolve to do what was most pleasing to the Lord. If you can forgive a little reading into the text, it seems that David kept hoping Saul would genuinely repent and put an end to the madness. But as we know, Saul’s madness was only beginning, and his ending would be tragic.
David Overwhelmed With Worry
We don’t know for sure how long this season lasted for David. But most scholars agree David ran from King Saul for at least eight to ten years. That’s a long season of being stuck, discouraged, and depressed. Long enough to start questioning God’s anointing. Certainly, long enough to doubt that God is going to keep His promises. I don’t know what the tipping point was for David, but somehow, he let the frustration with where he was in that moment take over his decision-making. Instead of remembering where he was going, David became overwhelmed by where he was. Because he focused on the problems instead of the promise, David made a terrible decision:
1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me anymore in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. 2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David… (1 Samuel 27:1-3).
A Classic Mistake
David made a classic mistake. He joined the enemy out of desperation. Rather than trusting God to protect him, he fled to the enemy’s camp for safety. A close reading of chapter twenty-seven reveals that David tried to balance his unholy alliance with Achish. Rather than invading Israelite provinces, David and his men attacked pagan cities, but David would lie and tell Achish they had pillaged Israelites. He thought he could play both sides by tricking Achish. Like David, many Christians have tried to balance worldliness and godliness simultaneously, but the outcome is always more compromise and more pain. Unholy alliances, no matter how convenient or superficially necessary, always demand that we abandon more and more core convictions, eventually draining us of all righteousness. Think about it! God anointed David to be a Philistine killer, but now he lived among them and depended on them for safety.
The Necessity of Spiritual Guidance
I think it’s relevant and necessary to pause here and remind you that no church hurt justifies joining the enemy’s camp. Sometimes wicked Sauls take advantage of God’s people and force Davids to go on the run. I have been there. I’ve seen it many times. Decisions during these seasons should be made carefully and prayerfully. Going back to the biblical text, Samuel died during this season. So, David lost his spiritual mentor. His pastor’s voice was silenced, and now his first big decision without spiritual guidance was horrible. The spiritual key here is that good spiritual guidance is something worth seeking. Samuel might be dead, and Saul might seem unbeatable, but there’s a Nathan out there somewhere. Always seek good godly spiritual advice in seasons of despair. But let me warn you, the devil will try to convince you there aren’t any holy prophets left to find. Ignore that lie and move on.
The Consequence of Compromise
David lived with the Philistines for a year and four months. And things went pretty good until they didn’t. Predictably, King Achish asked David to do the unthinkable:
1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men. 2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever (1 Samuel 28:1-2).
Now David’s alliance with the Philistines required that he participate in active warfare against the people of God. Astonishingly, David agreed to do it. Don’t let the immensity of that pass you by; David was on the verge of battling the very people God had anointed him to rule. See how easy it is to let fear and discouragement send us in the opposite direction of what God has planned for our lives? Thankfully, God is merciful, and He often saves us from ourselves. David would have participated in that battle if not for several Philistine generals who objected to him being with them in action. God was protecting David in more ways than one because while David and his men were preparing to fight with the Philistines, the Amalekites raided his village and burned it to the ground. They took all their wives, children, and valuables. When David and his little army returned home, it seemed as if they had lost everything they had ever loved. David’s loyal band of warriors even considered stoning him to death in their anger and frustration. It was a hopeless situation set in motion by poor leadership on David’s part.
The Reason for the Season
At this point in David’s life, it didn’t seem possible he would ever be a man after God’s own heart or the most highly esteemed ruler in Israel’s long, storied history. But David did something he should have done before he allied with Achish:
…David encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6).
I believe this is the moment David finally became a man after God’s own heart. Rather than passing the blame or shifting responsibility, David sought after the Lord for strength. David took a moment with God to recalibrate himself before making any decisions. And then he called for spiritual authority to help bring clarity before making any decisions about how to proceed:
7 And David said to Abiathar, the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 8 And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (1 Samuel 30:7-8).
Everything shifted in David’s life when he learned to call on the Lord rather than search his own flawed heart in times of trouble. You’ve probably heard it preached a thousand times how David went to the enemy’s camp and recovered everything the enemy had stolen. It makes for great preaching. But the larger lesson is that God saved David from himself. David should never have taken his family to Philistine territory. By doing so, he positioned his family and followers for pain. God allowed everything to be taken away from David to help him remember where he was going in the first place. David had to go through those awful seasons so he could write with assurance, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… (Psalm 23:4)”.
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