Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We'd like to think that our Christian leaders always walk on the mountaintop and never have times far from the Lord, but it's not so. Like David, they fail. Today, we see David come out of a deep spiritual ditch. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. We're in a series on growing through conflict, a journey through the life of King David. Pastor Lutzer, have you ever had the kind of doubts David had?
Dave, I'm going to answer that question in just a moment, but first of all, I have a word to everyone who is listening. It is okay to doubt, as long as your doubts are honest doubts. Jesus made this statement regarding John the Baptist. He said, there is none greater of woman than John the Baptist. Do you realize when Jesus said that, John the Baptist was in prison doubting whether Jesus was the Messiah. Have I had the same kind of doubts?
Yes. There are times when I just cannot put together the promises of God and reality. God is able to handle our doubts. Oftentimes, we've wanted to pray like the man in the New Testament, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
Yes, I've been there, but I keep on believing no matter what. I've written a book entitled Growing Through Conflict, Lessons from the Life of David. I believe that this resource will be of great blessing to you, and for a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And of course, at the end of this message, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. But you and I look at this and we say, David, how could this be? Anointed of the Lord, king, in waiting, the one who gave us so many of the Psalms. David, what are you doing with that wild look in your face, with that disheveled appearance and with the spit running onto your beard? David, why are you scrolling on those walls? Surely a man of God, surely a man of God should not be doing this.
Listen to me carefully. David lost his integrity, and when he lost his integrity, he lost his dignity. He lost his dignity. Wasn't it Sir Walter Scott who said, oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Well, after this, David goes into the cave of Adullam, and many people have somewhat facetiously suggested that the cave of Adullam reminds them of some independent churches. You'll notice it says in verse 2, and everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, everyone who was discontented gathered to him, and he became captain over them. Now there were about 400 men with him.
Thankfully, by the way, this is not true of Moody Church and most churches. It's just that there are some times when there are those who are discontented who gather elsewhere, and David then stayed there in the stronghold of Eingedi in the cave of Adullam, and there he was. I want you to know that when he was acting out and when he was having this experience, David wrote three Psalms.
He wrote three Psalms. Psalm 34, which we shall look at in a moment, Psalm 52, when he received the terrible news that Elhimelech, who had helped him, and 85, a total of 85, priests were wiped out by Saul. Remember I told you Doeg was there waiting in the wings, and he overheard this conversation between David and the priest? And later on, Saul becomes angry, and he says, nobody's on my side.
Where is everybody when I need them? Why don't people cooperate with me in my attempt to destroy David? And he went on and on. And Doeg, who was a politician who cared not for truth or integrity, Doeg told Saul what he overheard, and Saul becomes angry. This is chapter 22, verse 17. And the king said to the guards who were attending him, turn around and put the priests of the Lord to death, because their hand also is with David and because they knew that he was fleeing, and they did not reveal it to me. But the servants of the king were not willing to put forth their hands to attack the priests of the Lord. And the king said to Doeg, the one who had squealed on David, turn around and attack the priests.
And that day he killed 85 men. And now notice David's grief. Abiathar is the only one who escapes and comes and tells David while David is in the cave. Verse 21, Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord, and David said to Abiathar, I knew that on that day when Doeg the Edomite was there that he would surely tell Saul, I have brought about the death of every person in your father's household. David of course did not do the killing, but he felt a sense of responsibility because of what had happened. David in panic. We've painted the picture for you. Doing all the wrong things.
Turning all the wrong directions. But now let us look very briefly at David in prayer, David in prayer. Turn to Psalm 34. It's very important for you to keep tab of the Psalms that were written in context. I mentioned Psalm 52, Psalm 142, which was written when David was in the cave. And you'll notice in Psalm 34, it says in the superscription of the Psalm, the Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed. I want you to notice that a person who loves God is crying to God even when he is going through times of distress, even when he's doing some things wrong. He still desires the approval of God. He's still crying up to God. And I believe that this is the prayer that David prayed after he left and he went to the cave of Adullam.
Once he was there in the cave, and he began to reflect upon what he had done, and he knew he had done wrong. Notice David begins by saying, I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord.
The humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. We've used this Psalm often in worship and probably have forgotten its context. Verse 8, O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his saints, for to those who fear him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. Let's skip to verse 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all of his bones, not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of his servants, and none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Praise God. David's back where he belongs.
He's back in fellowship with God. I want you to know today that the human heart has only so much capacity. It can be filled with 10% fear and 90% faith. It can be filled with 90% faith and 10% fear, but it has only 100%.
It cannot be filled 100% with fear and 100% with faith. And the more faith, the more we look to God, the more we call upon him, the more we bless him at all times and let his praise be in our mouth, the way in which we give him thanks, there will be less fear and less fear as we begin to focus upon God. And David is saying, do not fear.
He says in verse 9, fear the Lord, you his saints, for to those who fear him, there is no want. I think that what David is trying to tell us is that when I truly feared God, I did not have to fear. I did not have to tell lies. I did not have to depend upon the sword of Goliath. And I most assuredly did not have to feign madness. What I'd like to do now is to give you some lessons that we can learn from David's experience, his experience of panic and his experience of prayer.
Listen carefully now. Number one, even anointed people can fail. Even anointed people can fail if they panic rather than pray. Jesus said men ought always to pray and not to faint. And he did imply, I think, that if we do not pray, we will faint. We will do wrong things.
And even people who are anointed by God like David can, at a moment of weakness, turn away from the Lord and do very, very despicable kinds of things. I want you to know today that there is no victory that you experienced last week. There is no victory that you experienced yesterday that will help you with today's problems and that will help you be successful and victorious today. Today, you and I can fail miserably. Fail miserably can be done.
The history of the church is littered with people who failed, even when they were praying sometimes because they were not praying sincerely. About a week or two ago, I heard of a young woman who visited her boyfriend in one of these co-ed dormitories that people live in nowadays that are universities. What a nation we have become. But she was a Christian lady and she was supposedly dating a Christian boy and she thought that if she visited them there, all would be well. And she knew that he was pressuring her sexually. But after all, what do you do? We are friends.
This is an opportunity. And she went there and then she said these remarkable words. She said, we prayed together and then we committed immorality together. It's possible.
Why? When you're in Philistine territory, when you're there in Gath, when you're there in the place of temptation, when you subject yourself, sin always has movement to it. David tells a lie, believes a lie, lives a lie, and you and I will do the same thing no matter how small our sin begins.
It always increases, it always snowballs, it always becomes sharper her, it always becomes more intense and more tempting. Even anointed people can fail miserably if we panic rather than pray. Secondly, sinning always increases a problem, it does not diminish it.
Sin increases a problem, it does not diminish it. You say, well what should David have done? Now I know I'm going to be very realistic and idealistic here, and some of you may disagree, but I think David should have walked in, told the priest, I'm running from Saul, I'm alone, will you give me some bread? Just tell the truth and let God take responsibility for all the pieces, all of the responsibilities that God had upon his shoulder taking care of David anyway.
Just punt the ball to the Almighty. Just tell the truth. You know, years ago I used to teach ethics and morality at Moody Bible Institute and we used to talk about tight places and the students used to always ask me this question, let's suppose that somebody holds a gun to you and you are holding Christians in your house and you're hiding them, and they want to kill those Christians and now a gun is being held to your head. Would you tell the truth or would you lie? How do you like that for a tough situation?
And I used to always tell the students, well number one, I've never had a gun pointed to my head, although having lived in Chicago for as long as I should have, that actually should have happened last July, statistically. But then secondly, I say this, there are other options, you could choose not to say anything, but let's suppose that you actually did tell the truth. Let's just suppose that you said, well, yeah, I am hiding some Christians here and in order to save my life I want to tell you what you do is you go up the stairs and then you go into the closet and the closet to your right has four people, but if you come out of the hallway and then go into the other room, the closet has another three. Now let me ask you this question, what would God in heaven be doing at that moment? Would he be saying, oh, I can't believe it, I can't believe this, I intended to have my servants live longer and now look at that, Lutzer went ahead and told the truth, now what am I going to do?
I want to be very clear about this. We never put God in a difficult situation when we tell the truth. Just tell the truth and then you punt the ball to God and let him take care of the consequences.
Some of you need to go to your employers tomorrow because you have been dishonest, you have been dishonest, just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may and be right with God no matter what. God hates lying, he really does. And sin always increases a problem, it never diminishes it, never diminishes it. You lie once, worst possible thing that can ever happen to you is that you get by with it because then you lie again.
You develop confidence in your ability to be deceitful. Number one, even anointed people can panic, excuse me, they can fail if they panic rather than pray. Number two, sin always increases a problem, it never diminishes it. And then thirdly, where failure abounds, grace abounds much more, where failure abounds, grace abounds much more. There in the cave of a dullum, David cried to God, David cried to God. He was cleansed and he was forgiven. And later on as David was going along, he came out of the cave and he went to Ein Gedi, Ein Gedi I should say, where there are all kinds of springs and where he was able to be refreshed.
Because God doesn't always leave us in the cave, he may lead us there, but we are not left in the cave. But that God will surprise us with some refreshment and some encouragement, and that happened to David too. But I want you to know that because David sinned this once and went into Philistine territory, this is not the last time that he did it.
Later on in a more shocking story, we'll discover that David actually joined a Philistine army and fought against Israel. Why? Because as I mentioned, when you begin to tolerate sin, sin will always take you further than you intended to go, keep you longer than you intended to stay, and make you pay more than you intended to pay.
It's always that way. And once you begin a series of backslidings, it is easy to backslide in the very area again where you backslid once. But I urge you today, I urge you today to come clean with God. Those of you who are in the fringes of the church, those of you who feel distant, those of you who once knew the warmth of the Father's love, but all kinds of things accumulated, when you have been in the city of Gath, you've been in Gath, come back home, come back home, come to God. He is willing to forgive us. He is willing to cleanse us, to cleanse us. The Apostle Paul says, I have a conscience void of offense before men and before God.
And that should be our desire too. And then when we are willing to come to Christ, he forgives us. And some of you need to do that as believers.
You need to come home to the Father's warmth and love. And then there are others of you who perhaps do not know the Father at all. You've never received Christ. And of course David lived before Jesus Christ came. But even when David prayed, he was forgiven because Christ would come, because upon Christ was put our iniquities and it is because he died for sinners that we can believe and we can trust and we can be saved and you can be saved.
Remember Stuart Hamblin? He was a singer who had a great deal of sin in his life and heart and he was converted in a Billy Graham crusade way back in 1949 when Billy rose to fame in Los Angeles. But I'll never forget years ago, and this was many years ago, hearing Stuart Hamblin sing, It is no secret what God can do. What he's done for others, he'll do for you. With arms wide open, he will pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do. God restored David back to fellowship. He can restore you back to fellowship.
Deal with whatever is on your conscience, the thing that keeps hindering you from full freedom and joy in Christ, and just take care of it and let God take care of the consequences. Let's pray together. Our Father, we want to thank you today for your word and we thank you for even the negative lessons of David, the things that he teaches us. We thank you that he was human, but we also thank you that where failure abounds, your grace abounds. We thank you that he came back to the Lord and could write such a lovely psalm, such a lovely prayer.
Father, there are people today who could write some very beautiful music and some very beautiful poetry. If only they'd come back to the Lord and to know once again your warmth and your joy in their hearts. Bring them to that, oh Father. And for those of us who know you and love you, we pray that we might always walk in integrity. Help us not to lose our integrity nor our dignity. And we ask today that your people shall be encouraged and lifted up because of your grace. In Jesus' name, amen. Yes, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. It is no secret what God can do. What he's done for others, he'll do for you.
Stuart Hamblin was right. I've written a book entitled Growing Through Conflict, Lessons from the Life of David. I wrote this book because as you look at the life of David, there are so many lessons that he can teach us.
Lessons about failure, lessons about grace, lessons about unanswered prayer and doubt. I believe that this resource will be of tremendous blessing to you. And then the other advantage is, after having read it, you can share it with someone else. We're making it available to you for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Even as I speak to you, my heart is filled with joy. Because of the ministry of running to win and people just like you, thousands upon thousands of people are hearing the gospel every single day. So I want to thank you in advance for your generosity, for blessing us with your prayers, and I want to encourage you to continue to think about this ministry even as you also think about many others that are ministering. But if you want a copy of the book, Growing Through Conflict, here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Accountants and executives are familiar with what-if analysis, making projections based on various variables. One listener is concerned about a possibility that might occur in the life to come. He asks, Did not God create Adam and Eve with the intent that they would live eternally, but then they messed it up? What if we get to heaven and somebody sins?
Do we have to start all over again? Very good question. I'm glad that God has given us human minds that try to probe all of these things.
Couple of comments. First of all, yes, I do think that if Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, they'd have lived forever. Because, you see, death came as the result of sin, so they'd have lived forever in paradise.
What that would have looked like, I have no idea. Whether or not they would have had children, apparently they might have, and those children would live forever. But we can hardly even get our minds around that. The fact is they did sin, and then they were barred from returning to paradise. But with regard to your second question, if when we get to heaven and somebody sins, what happens then? I don't believe that anyone is going to sin in heaven. For starters, we're going to have a new nature, and that new nature will want to worship God.
It will not have any sinful desires. Furthermore, it seems clear that the angels that did not sin were prevented from sinning because of a divine decree. You know, the apostle Paul speaks of the elect angels. And we are the elect. And because we are elect, God will preserve us forever.
So I don't think that you have to fear any sin in heaven. But thanks for writing, and God bless you. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer.
If you'd like to hear one of your questions answered, you can. Just go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Erwin Lutzer concluding Conflict with Doubt, the fourth message in a series on growing through conflict, a study in the life of King David. Next time, we'll go even deeper into David's life and see the King in his time of conflict within the soul. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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