David lamented, ‘One day I’ll die at the hands of Saul.’ Clearly, the temptation to despair was very real for him. He was away from Israel, his homeland, and he thought, ‘I’ll be killed. It’s inevitable.’ He nearly gave up. But then he voiced that beautiful Psalm: ‘I would have fainted if I had not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’
Many good people have nearly despaired and have cried out in desperation to God. Elijah prayed, ‘Take my life from me.’ Others, like Moses and Jeremiah, almost reached the place of suicide. Perhaps you’ve been overwhelmed by similar dark thoughts and have cried out, ‘Oh, God, I can’t bear this!’ But somehow God has given you the strength to go on.
Sometimes the pruning is hard. Maybe your fiancé broke off your engagement or you’ve lost your job. Perhaps a loved one died suddenly. Maybe you had a disabling accident or discovered a close friend has cancer. In situations like these, we are tempted to despair. David nearly did. ‘Why have you rejected me?’ he asked God. ‘Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ But he refused the temptation to give in to hopelessness. ‘Put your hope in God,’ he urged his soul, ‘for I will yet praise him, my Savour and my God.’
The temptation to leave
It’s tragic when a gifted individual begins a ministry, goes through difficulties and then becomes tempted to throw the whole thing overboard.
The disciples discovered that Jesus’ words were not always easy to take. On one occasion, they grumbled to one another, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Jesus, aware of the offence that he’d caused them and conscious that many of his disciples were walking away, turned to the twelve and asked, ‘Are you leaving as well?’
The temptation to leave must have been very strong. Jesus’ teaching was offensive to many, and all around people were deserting him. The disciples must have wondered ‘Are we really going to influence the world? When is this kingdom really going to break out? Sometimes I don’t understand Jesus at all. It’s so hard and now he’s giving us a chance to opt out.’
But they turned down his offer. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Peter replied. ‘You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:28, 29). Although puzzled and shaken, the disciples came right back to the foundations of their faith: this man is the Son of God. In the light of such a tremendous fact, where else is there to go?
David had been tempted to forsake Israel and join the Philistines. But he knew his roots were in the historical family of God. So although he had to live apart from God’s people for a while, he never yielded to the temptation to finally dismiss them. Indeed, he expressed the most amazing love for Saul and the Israelites, even when they rejected him.
The dispirited ‘no-hopers’ who first joined David steadily became more committed to him. As he loved them and trained them into a powerful fighting force, he must have thought of Saul and his ineffective army and been tempted to think, ‘We’re the troops that God is going to use now. A plague on Saul and his men! I’ll form a new independent army. God isn’t with them. He’s with us.’
David didn’t leave his roots, though he longed to be back where he really belonged. God ultimately hadn’t called him to lead a small exclusive army but to head up the whole nation. Similarly, today God doesn’t want to move on just a small sect of believers, but to restore and revive the whole church on earth.
‘The faith of Christ offers no buttons to push for quick service. The new order must wait the Lord’s own time, and that is too much for the man in a hurry. He just gives up and becomes interested in something else.’