Faithfully Facing Trials | 1 Samuel 26:1-12, 24-25
Ashton Glod | July 25, 2021
I’m excited to be able to share what I’ve been learning from God’s word this past week with you all. As I was studying the passage, one thing struck me. In my interactions with people throughout my life, for the short 25 years I’ve been living on this earth, I’ve noticed one thing: talk is cheap. No matter how many deep theological conversations you have with someone, you may never really know what they truly believe. It’s only when somebody’s confronted with a crisis that their true beliefs will reveal themselves.
A perfect example of this was a medical missionary by the name of Eleanor Chestnut. This was a woman who dedicated her life to studying medicine and the gospel and going to China to care for the people there. After spending ten years in a small province called Lian Xhou, where she got to know the people, she poured out her heart, she treated their illnesses, she bandaged up their wounds, and she shared the gospel with them, she still faced a harrowing trial, because the missionaries that were part of her group removed a Buddhist monument that was erected on the missionaries’ property. This angered the people, and a mob formed, and soon the mob grew out of control and they stormed the hospital where the missionaries were serving, dragged them out, and they began to kill them.
They took Eleanor to the Buddhist temple nearby and they threw her down the stairs. As she was getting up and they were coming down, she noticed a little Chinese boy with a big gash on his forehead. Instead of thinking of herself, instead of trying to run away, she tore her dress and bandaged up his forehead. Then the mob came and took her.
How could Eleanor have responded to such a life-threatening situation with such immense grace? It was her faith. It was Eleanor’s faith that determined her response to the trial she was facing.
The thing is, we all face trials every day in our day-to-day lives, but I doubt that the trials we go through on a normal, day-to-day basis are anywhere near as serious and traumatic as what Eleanor went through; and yet, we often lack the grace that she displayed on that day, even though she was pushed to the limits.
I want to ask the question, How can we as Christians display that same sort of grace? How can we faithfully face our trials today, every day? I believe an answer can be found in 1 Samuel 26. That’s where our passage will be taking place today, and it’s a passage in which we happen upon King David; King David, the famous one, who killed Goliath in the Valley of Elah, the one who prefigured the coming true King of Israel, Jesus Christ. It’s in this story that we see David demonstrate a faith-based response to an incredibly stressful situation. You see, David is on the run in this story.
Saul has been pursuing him for about four years because David was anointed king of Israel by Samuel, the prophet, and promised the throne by God himself, and Saul, the current king, did not want David to seize the throne from him. He was afraid that David would do that, so he became obsessed with pursuing David and killing him.
After giving David hardly any time to rest, four years of persecution, David is presented with an opportunity in which he might turn the tables on Saul, and it’s David’s response to this opportunity that will teach us three important truths.
1. We All Face Troubling Trials
2. We Must Face Our Trials with a Faith-Based Mindset
3. God Remains Faithful to Us in Our Trials
If you’ll open up your Bibles with me to 1 Samuel 26:1. I’m reading from the ESV. It says,
“Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?’ So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come.”
1. We All Face Troubling Trials
After being chased for four years, here comes Saul again, chasing David. He has another problem on his hands. David is facing trial after trial in his life. One thing I want us to learn about David is that we all face troubling trials. None of us is exempt from hardship in this life; we all face troubling trials. By looking at David that point is made clear, because David was the last person who should have been persecuted by Saul. Even though David was faithful to Saul—all his life, he always obeyed his commands, he never went behind his back, he never tried to plan a coup—Saul didn’t trust him. Even though David was a fierce warrior and he won battle after battle after battle for Israel and the people loved him and he was a man after God’s own heart, David was still betrayed by his countrymen and persecuted by Saul.
What this is showing us is that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter whether you’re rich or poor or righteous or wicked or American or African, European, Asian—doesn’t matter—you will face trials in this life. That is beyond a doubt.
We can just see that by looking at what we would consider the most privileged people in our society. Take actors, for instance.
The great actor Robin Williams was perhaps one of the most iconic actors of our era: immensely talented, beloved by millions of people because he could make them laugh, and he was rich. Yet, that did not make him immune to Parkinson’s disease or clinical depression. He faced harrowing trials through those diseases, and it drove him to the point of committing suicide. If somebody as great and privileged as that faces trials, we definitely will, too.
Instead of hoping that nothing bad happens, what you ought to do is prepare yourself for how to handle the challenges that will inevitably come your way.
2. We Must Face Our Trials with a Faith-Based Mindset
But then the question is, How do we prepare ourselves? How do we prepare for the challenges that will be coming our way? Well, the answer is to develop a faith-based mindset to handle those. David demonstrates this mindset for us in the next passage.
In verse 7 it says, “So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, ‘God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.’ But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?’ And David said, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.’”
Here, we see David acting out of his faithfulness, so we ought to imitate that. We need to face our trials with a faith-based mindset. Let our faith inform our response. We must face trials with a faith-based mindset.
We see that there are three components to that faith-based mindset here in the passage.
(1) The first one is reverence. David displays the reverence which has for God by refusing to kill Saul, solely because Saul was anointed by God as the king of Israel. Although Saul was a crooked, evil king who was pursuing David without just cause and was constantly putting him in danger, David refused to strike him down, because he knew that Saul belonged to God. He was God’s anointed servant and king, and unless God gave him permission to take his life, David had no right to take him, because he belonged to Yahweh.
What this means for us is that the difficulties and dangers that we face in this life do not permit us to violate God’s commands or to act irreverently towards him or take what is his.
Two practical applications of that today: one, no matter how bad of a day you’re having, no matter how rude or horrid somebody has been to you, you do not get to take the Lord’s name in vain. You don’t. God’s name is absolutely holy. He is our God, and he deserves every ounce of honor we can give him. That means we don’t get to use his name in a flippant way as an expletive. God deserves reverence.
Also, when we approach the Sabbath, Sunday worship—today—what is today? It’s the Lord’s Day. So when we approach Sunday, we ought to approach it with the goal of honoring and worshipping God with all we have, and also building up the body of Christ. That’s what it says in 1 Corinthians 12, that we’re given spiritual gifts for the sole purpose of building each other up in love. So, no matter how bad of a week you had at work, no matter what sort of family squabbles you’ve been going through—maybe your kids broke a window with a baseball or something, but we need to approach Sunday with a view towards honoring God and serving others first.
Yes, you will be nourished here; you will be filled up, you will be loved, and that’s good, that’s what we want; but that shouldn’t be your main goal. It’s not going to Sunday thinking about what it can do for you, but what you can give to God and his people.
(2) We can do this with confidence because we have a God who’s worthy of our confidence. That’s the second ingredient to the faith-based mindset: confidence. David lives out of his confidence in Yahweh when he decides to spare Saul’s life.
When Abishai tempts David to kill Saul—he said, “David, we can kill him right now! It’ll take one strike of the spear, and we’re out of here. We’re good. Your persecution will be over.”
David says, “No,” because he’s reverent for God—he knows Saul belongs to God—but also he’s confident that God will deliver him, because he starts listing a bunch of different ways God might save him. He says, “God could strike him down. God could send him into battle and he’ll be killed, or maybe he’ll die of natural causes.” David didn’t know exactly how God was going to save him from this predicament, but he was confident that he would.
That is the mindset that we need to have when we face trials like this. We need to trust that God is going to work things out. How do we trust that? How do we have confidence in God? By acquainting ourselves with the promises he’s made us in Scripture. We need to get to know the God we claim to serve.
In Romans 8:28 he says that he can work all things together for good for those who believe in him. That means the good, the bad, and the ugly; the painful times and the joyful times. God can use those for our good.
With that and all the other promises in Scripture that he makes to us, that will build our confidence in God as we get to know who he is and we focus on his greatness rather than the trying circumstances that we’re going through.
We know that David remembers this amazing moment and his confidence is built from this story, because after he escapes Saul he writes Psalm 20. In Psalm 20:6-7, David says this, “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
(3) If you have confidence in and reverence for God, that is what will enable you to obey him in the midst of your trials, and that is the last ingredient to the faith-based mindset: obedience. It was only when David’s reverence and confidence in God led him to actively spare Saul that completed his faith-based mindset. These things need to culminate in action, or else they are empty. But David shows us that he refused to sin, no matter what he was going through.
That means that we have to actively pursue holiness in the midst of our trials. Going through difficulty does not give us an excuse to resort to sinful measures. We cannot sin to overcome our trials.
What this might look like in day-to-day life is, say you’re struggling financially. That does not give you the right to steal or to be selfish, even. God wants us to be generous, giving as much as we possibly can to him, and trusting in him to take care of us.
Also, if you're lonely, you’re having a hard time building relationships because of the season we’re in with Covit, or it’s just not clicking at work, you may be tempted to resort to gossip or lying in order to make yourself more interesting to people and gain popularity. That’s not an excuse.
Also, we can all relate to days when everything just seems to go wrong. It’s been hard at work, it’s hard at home, it’s hard in school. You get into it with your boss, maybe you fail an exam that was very important at school; and you just want a way to numb the pain. But that does not excuse us to engage in sinful practices that will do that, like alcohol or pornography. We cannot. Instead, we need to pursue holiness and trust that God will save us from those things, that he will make a way to get through it. Even though we don’t know how God’s going to get us through it, we do know how he wants us to live in the midst of our trials. As Christians, we must face our trials with a faith-based mindset. Desperate times do not call for sinful measures.
3. God Remains Faithful to Us in Our Trials
We can do this, we can have a faith-based mindset, because the Person who we’re putting our faith in is faithful. God demonstrates that in the next passage. In verse 12 and 24-25, it says, “So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul's head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.”
Then, after David slips out of the camp, he gets a good distance away from the camp, and he yells, waking up the camp, and begins talking to Saul. This is what he says. He says, “‘Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘Blessed be you, my son David. You will do many great things and will succeed in them.’ So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place.’”
Here we see an explicit affirmation that God remains faithful in our trials. Even though we may not see him, we may not hear him, God remains faithful in our trials. Verse 12 makes this abundantly clear, because it says that God’s the reason the soldiers didn’t wake up. A deep sleep had fallen on the soldiers because God made that happen. That’s the only way David and Abishai could have slipped past 3,000 soldiers to the heart of the camp, where they were all lying around Saul, and they were able to steal his spear, which was Saul’s symbol of his power and his ferocity. He carried it with him wherever he went because he was so unstable and ready to strike. They also took his jar of water, which was the symbol of his life-giving resources in the dry desert.
When Saul woke up, it was clear to both David and Saul that God’s favor was on David, rendering Saul’s attempts to kill him futile. His power and his life were taken into David’s hands.
Because of this, God demonstrated his faithfulness to David, because in the context of this whole story—before this, remember, David’s been anointed king, right? He’s promised to rule Israel, but he can’t do that if he’s killed by Saul. So if God’s going to keep his promise, if God’s going to be faithful to David, he needs to keep him alive and safe from Saul. So God proves his faithfulness here in the story by rescuing David from Saul’s hands. David knows it and Saul knows it. That’s why David says, “Deliver me out of all tribulation, Lord,” and Saul says, “You will do many things and succeed in them.” Saul agrees.
God is a faithful God. He shows himself to be faithful all throughout the Bible! Just look at the Old Testament, especially in Exodus and Numbers. I mean, Israel is the most ungrateful, rebellious nation possible! God is saving them with miracle after miracle, and yet they still fall into idolatry, they still turn their backs on him; they still choose to sin. And God doesn’t give up on them. He sticks with them.
Then, the faithfulness of God is personified and magnified in the person of Jesus Christ, God made man, came down to earth, where he lived the perfect life that we couldn’t, and paid the price for our sins that we committed against God, so that he could justly forgive us. God doesn’t get more faithful than that. His faithfulness is dependent on his own character, not ours. Jesus shows us that his faithfulness never ends, because he was faithful to love us and to die for us, and then, even after he rose again from the dead, he continues to pray for us to the Father, as it says in the book of Romans. God is always faithful, and we need to live in light of that faithfulness in order to live the Christian life.
Now, living in light of faithfulness to live the Christian life, you can kind of think of it like skydiving. For those of you who know how skydiving works, you put on the parachute, climb in the plane, go up to the sky. Then you have to open the door and you have to jump, and then pull the cord so that it breaks your fall and you can land safely.
But, if you don’t trust that the parachute will be faithful to do what it was designed to do—to break your fall so that you don’t plummet to your immediate death—you’re not going to be skydiving that day!
Trust in the parachute’s faithfulness precludes skydiving, just as trust in God precludes the Christian life. You will not entrust yourself to God, you will not give up things you hold dear when you come into trials, if you don’t trust God. You will not be able to live the Christian life. So we need to cultivate a trust in God’s faithfulness by remembering how he’s been faithful to us in the past.
That’s a key thing, remembering how he’s been faithful to us in the past. Look at where you’ve been to where you are now. Think about all of the things God has brought you through. Think about all of the little circumstances, the little ordinary things in life, that just lined up, so much so that it couldn’t be just a coincidence.
When I think about my life, for example, just thinking only about financial provision . . . Sarah, my wife, and I both went to Moody Bible Institute, and we graduated with great degrees with zero debt. Then we got married, moved to Dallas, where I wanted to go to seminary, and I got a wonderful scholarship. Still no debt.
Then Judah was born, but we had to have an emergency C-section, so that jacked up the hospital bill. But then we found out that they had a scholarship there as well. We filled it out—hospital bill paid for completely.
Then, as Sarah was no longer able to work because she’s taking care of Judah, and I’m a full-time student, we’re running out of money! Then God leads us to Redeemer, and we have been provided for here in more ways than I can say—so much so that we even had the chance to buy a house! God has just always been faithful.
Make sure that you take time, at least every once in a while, to write down what prayers of yours have been answered. It doesn’t matter if it’s not in a big, flashy, miraculous way; just, what prayers have been answered? What coincidences have occurred (even though they’re not really coincidences)?
If we remember the undying faithfulness of our Lord, we will be able to face our trials with a faith-based mindset, and if we face our trials with a faith-based mindset, we will be able to bring honor and glory to him, no matter what we go through. But this is all dependent upon our trust in God’s faithfulness. If we don’t trust him, we will slip into disbelief and inevitable sin. So remember God’s faithfulness by looking to what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, unto death, and then even after death, as he continues to pour out his grace on us every day, giving us every breath that we breathe that we don’t deserve to breathe. So let’s look to Jesus.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you so much for this opportunity to share your word. It’s a blessing, and Lord, I pray that you would be with the people here today, that you would demonstrate your faithfulness to them in the midst of whatever trials they’re going through. There are probably more than I can count, there are probably more than I can stomach, but I pray, Lord, that they do see that you are greater than them. I pray that they understand that Jesus went through just as terrible trials as they’re going through, so you understand. Please bless us and help us never to forget your faithfulness so we can bring you glory. In your name, Jesus Christ, amen.