When we first come to Christ, we emerge from darkness and are plunged into a wonderful new light. Whereas we once knew nothing about God, we suddenly find that now we can know him personally.
This initial experience is just the first ray of light in our relationship with him. Solomon wrote: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Prov. 4:18). God’s plan for each of us is that we almost forget the dawn as we move on into the full glory of midday. He wants us to be transformed as we move from one degree of glory to another.
What David came to discover, and what we will learn, is that the journey isn’t necessarily smooth. We don’t always travel on a gentle, even path, ever upward in God. Often the landscape more closely resembles a mountain range, and the trek can be difficult and demanding.
David seemed to burst onto the public scene with an immediate mountain-top experience. Coming from nowhere, he slew Goliath, went out with the armies of Saul and very soon became a national her, a real superstar. He won the hearts of the people of Israel and the singers sang of him, ‘David has slain his ten thousands.’ We wonder how things could have got any brighter for him. In fact they would later become much brighter. God had great purposes for him but his first lesson was that to get to the next peak he had to go down into a valley.
Before David was to excel any further, God led him in an unexpected direction. He endured pressures that he could never have anticipated, yet which God used to develop his character and prepare him for the great task that lay ahead.
David must have found it a great privilege to be promoted into Saul’s army. No longer was he just a boy at home; he was now able to fight the king’s battles, to serve the monarch whom he had always respected. He had an excellent attitude toward Saul. He never opposed, attacked, or brought dishonour to the king. He was, quite simply, a thoroughly devoted and obedient soldier.
Although David didn’t make trouble or seek it out, trouble still seemed to find him. It came, first of all, in the form of opposition. David might well have expected the opposition to come from Israel’s enemies, from the armies that he was seeking to overthrow in the name of God. Instead, it arrived from a totally unexpected source: from Saul himself. Though the king should have been delighted with David’s zeal and faithfulness, he was consumed by bitter envy and jealousy.
Saul is one of the saddest characters in the whole Bible. When Samuel found Saul he wasn’t an arrogant man. He was humble, fair-minded, zealous and courageous in battle. He was also anointed with the Spirit. He seemed an ideal choice for king, but he failed tragically. Knowing that he had been passed over, Saul grew increasingly hostile to David.
By contrast, when God anointed Samuel, the elderly Eli was wise enough to acknowledge that God was at work. Eli had failed God, but he managed to stand back and let Samuel’s ministry emerge. Proud and bitter, Saul, however, could never adopt such a stance. As David continued to be successful, Saul fumed.
Don’t be offended when someone else is successful or when a younger Christian is promoted to a more prominent position than you. Instead, be ready to acknowledge the anointing of God and to respect the person whom God respects. Never speak against the individual whom God is pleased to choose.
Opposition always surfaces when God has raised someone up. Jesus experienced it and so have countless others through the ages. Seeing the power that attended the ministry of Whitefield and Wesley, the established church of their day publicly ridiculed these men for preaching in the open air. C.H. Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, was ridiculed, and William Booth of the Salvation Army was even labelled the Antichrist. The opposition against them might have been justified if they had been heretical. But these men were simply preaching the truth of God and experiencing his blessing.
It’s strange, but it’s a fact that one man’s blessing so often leads to other men’s hostility. David didn’t look for trouble. He remained gracious, warm and loving, but the antagonism still came and in the end he had to flee. So don’t be surprised when others object to you. Don’t look for opposition; just continue to live for God and trust him when you meet hostility. Also, learn the lessons that come from the experience, because in the final analysis you are in God’s hands and he uses all circumstances for your good. ‘The Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son’ (Heb. 12:6).
‘Can you serve your boss and others at work, helping them to succeed and be happy, even when they are promoted and you are overlooked? Can you work to make others look good without envy filling your heart? Can you minister to the needs of those whom God exalts and men honor when you yourself are neglected? Can you pray for the ministry of others to prosper when it would cast yours in the shadows?’
Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 1991, p.122.