I’d like to start with something a little funny. The joy of the Lord is our strength, right? I saw this joke on a road sign at a local business today. It said “Corduroy pillow case making head lines.”
Anyway, how many of you like to go on Roller Coaster Rides. You know, I’m not a real fan of roller coasters but I do like the Cork Screw. Any of you ever ride it?
I like it because. . . it lasts about 45 seconds and about the time time I feel my stomach up into my throat and I’m about ready to blow chunks, the ride’s over and I get off and say “Wow, that wasn’t too bad” and I get back on and ride it again and again and again.
The Ride of Life is Like a Roller Coaster
You know, Roller Coasters are a lot like the Ride of Life. It has its “ups” and it has its “downs”, and it has its twists & it has its turns. And we can choose to SCREAM every time we hit a bump, or . . . we can choose to put our hands up and enjoy the ride. It is a choice.
David’s life was much like a Roller Coaster. He was on top of the world one moment and then he was being tracked down like a dog and living in caves. He rises up and he’s anointed king of Israel but then he commits adultery and has a man killed and on and on goes the roller coaster ride for David.
As we all know, David ended up killing the giant man, Goliath. 1 Sam 18:7 says “As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” David became a hero in Israel because of what he had done.
Running for His Life
David must have been on cloud nine at this point. However, quickly after he kills Goliath, David loses it all. King Saul becomes jealous and angry of him. So much, that Saul wants to kill him and the hunt for David is on and he’s running for his life.
David has another mountain top experience later when he was anointed King of Israel. But right after that, he ends up back in the valley after he loses his wife, his job, his home, his best friend, his family and the respect of others. How was he going to choose during this roller coaster ride that he was on?
While David is running from Saul for his life, hiding in caves, a bunch of distressed, broken, discontented men gather around him. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for David to have all these men looking to him to be their leader?
1 Samuel 22:2 states: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.”
David did eventually rise to the occasion. A number of these men became David’s mighty men and they ended up winning many battles for the nation of Israel.
But how? The reason they became mighty men was because David led them to find their strength not in themselves. . . but in the Lord.
Life and Death - Blessings and Curses
Deuteronomy 30:19, tells us "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”
In the verses before verse 19, God encourages the Israelites to obey Him, His Word and His Commandments for their safety and protection. In verse 19, he says their choice to obey them will lead to life and blessings. But, if they choose not to obey them, it will lead to death and curses. The same was true with David and the same is true with us.
Now when this verse talks about life and death, it doesn’t mean just a physical life or death. It can also mean a relational, emotional, economical, or spiritual life or death too.
For example, if I chose to eat lots of junk foods, drink lots of pop and sit around all day playing video games, would that lead to life or death for me physically? Right, death! Blessings or curses? Right, curses!
It could lead to the curse of diabetes, heart disease or possibly a physical death. But, if I followed the Daniel Diet of eating veggies, fruits, lean meats, and staying active and working out regularly, that would lead to life and blessing for me physically, right?
If I chose to ignore my wife and my children and do my own thing and abuse them with my words and actions? Would that bring life or death to my family relationally? Right, death! Blessings or curses? Right, curses.
But if I choose to follow the advice from Ephesians 5 for husbands and fathers and spend time with my wife and kids and love them unconditionally and bless them with my words and actions, that would lead to life and blessings with them relationally, right?
The same is true if I wasted my money on buying things that I don’t need, would it lead to an financial life or death? Blessing or curses? Right death and curses!
But, if I follow Proverbs 21:20 and invest my money and budget it wisely, it would give me to financial life and blessing, right?
If I chose not to go to church, read my bible, pray, and put what I’ve learned at church into practice, would my actions lead to a spiritual life or death? Blessings or curses? Right, spiritual death and curses!
But, if I chose to follow God’s word and do those things, that would lead to life and blessings for me spiritually, right? OK, I think you’re getting the point!
So, what this verse is saying in Deuteronomy 30:19 is that we can either choose life by obeying God’s Word and His commands for our own good and be blessed - OR - we can choose death by ignoring them and doing things our own way and be cursed.
David eventually chose life and blessings by following God’s commands, not perfectly, but the Bible says he was a man after God’s own heart.
A Life/Death, Blessings/Curses Story
I want to share a story that will hopefully help illustrate this point of choosing life or death, blessings or curses.
I was a wood shop teacher at a local high school for a number of years. I always gave my students rules and guidelines on how to use the tools and equipment for their safety and protection, much like how God gives us His word and commands for our safety and protection too.
One day a student was using the jointer. Now the jointer is a machine with big blades used to put a smooth surface on a rough board.
One of the rules that I had for the jointer for the student’s safety and protection was to use a push stick when jointing thin flat boards to protect their fingers from the blades.
Well, one day this student CHOSE not to follow the rules and guidelines. He CHOSE to do things his own way. He decided to use his fingers instead of a push stick. I think you can guess the rest of the story.
I Can’t Feel My Fingers
I found him lying on the floor screaming “I can’t feel my fingers, I can’t feel my fingers”. That’s because he was right, because he didn’t have one. He’d cut his middle finger off at the first digit.
He was rushed to the hospital and the next day, he was back in school with a huge bandaid wrapped around his hand about the size of a basketball. He was so proud of his missing digit. We affectionately nicknamed him Stubby.
What I’m getting at is just like I gave my wood shop students rules and guidelines for their safety and protection, God gives us His word and commandments for our safety and protection too!
Life & Blessings or Death & Curses is a Choice
But, we have a choice. We can either choose like Deuteronomy 30:19 says to obey them to have life and blessing OR we can choose to ignore them and suffer the consequences of death and curses. It is our choice!
In the Bible, there are a number of Psalms that are of David crying out to God while running for his life from King Saul. Two of them are Psalm 34 and Psalm 142.
Some bible scholars believe that David wrote psalm Psalm 142 before Psalm 34 because David went from crying out to God for help in Psalm 142 to praising His name and encouraging others to find their strength in the Lord in Psalm 34. Psalm 34 shows that David chose to point his men to the Lord.
In Psalm 34:17-18, David says “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.”
Brokenhearted and Crushed in Spirit
I’d like to share one of the worst times of my life when I was brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.
My story starts when I was 17 years old and had just graduated from high school. It was summertime and was looking forward to going to college in the fall. I had a bright exciting future ahead of me.
Now, my younger brother Larry and I, we were pumped! NO MORE SCHOOL for the summer!!– it was a time to “celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music, celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music”. . . forget it, I guess I’m not here to sing and dance.
Anyway, Silver Lake - with its beautiful beaches, incredible sand dunes but, most importantly, girls. . . that was our destination. We were going camping. We packed the tent, loaded the car. It was time to par-tay!!!
Even though our intent was to go camping and have some fun, the thought of meeting girls actually was a scary proposition for me.
I wasn’t always the confident class leader, honor student, or athlete, that my classmates, teachers, or coaches thought of me. No! Secretly, I was quite shy and self-conscious… always worried about what other people thought of me -- whether they liked me or not.
Time to Let Go & Have Some Fun
But hey, it was time to let go and have some fun. Now my brother and I decided to go cruising one evening. I was the driver and Larry was the navigator.
We hadn’t driven far from camp and was about to make a left hand turn when out of the corner of my eye, I spied a car full of beautiful, beautiful. . . babes.
I’d no more put on my “Hey, I’m cool” face, when CRRRASH, tires screeching, metal crushing, glass breaking. My car jolted to an abrupt stop!
Oh no!! What just happened? I can’t believe it you guys. My worst nightmare just came true. I hit a motorcyclist!
I swear, I never saw him coming!! In an instant, my life took a drastic detour.
It was surreal as I watched the motorcyclist bound off the hood of my car, fly through the air and onto the pavement. I jumped from the car, and raced to the cyclist.
Lord, Please Let Him be Alive
“Lord, PLEASE let him be alive.” I found him on the pavement in a pool of blood. He was breathing, but I was frantic. “Quick! Someone Call 911!”
It seemed like an eternity before the police and ambulance arrived. Though in reality, it had only been a matter of minutes. Time. . . seemed to stand still.
I stood there in shock as the paramedics stabilized the motorcyclist, placed him on a gurney, loaded him into the ambulance, and then sped away with sirens blaring and lights flashing.
I barely remember sitting in the police cruiser as the police questioned me about the accident and all that had happened. With everyone watching me through the windows, I felt like a criminal. I was a basket case; I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone or afraid in my life.
Making that Dreaded Phone Call
Of course, I had to make that dreaded phone call. You know the one. The call to tell my parents about what had happened and that the car was totaled.
There was no concern like “Randy are you alright” or “It’ll be ok”. Instead, they were stunned into stone cold silence. What’s that all about!
Listen, I’d just graduated from high school. I’m going to college in the fall. I had a bright exciting future ahead of me. But in that brief moment of impact, (fist in hand) my life took an unexpected u-turn.
The next few weeks, I was a real zombie. Part of the walking dead. I felt numb - zoned out. The rest of the summer was a blur.
I kept replaying the events of that evening in my mind. "How did I not see him?" "How could I be so easily distracted?" "How could I be so irresponsible?"
The more I replayed the scenes in my mind, the deeper and deeper I fell into a pit of depression. I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to see anyone.
Of course, the news of my accident spread throughout the community. When I did venture out, people would ask, "Randy, what happened?" I would have to tell the stupid story over and over and over again and I would feel like a stupid loser over and over and over again.
Remember, Psalm 34:17-18, says “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.” This verse was so true for David and true for me.
God Uses Time to Heal & Give Perspective
Listen, fortunately God used time as a way of healing me and giving me perspective. As time went on, I'd run into people who had also gone through some tough trials and tribulations, but survived. Some of their stories were even worse than mine. By listening to them, I was able to see that life would eventually get better for me.
I realized that I didn't drive into the motorcyclist on purpose. It was an accident and a terrible one at that. I also realized everyone makes mistakes, some big, some small.
I was at a crossroads. Do I choose to beat myself up for the rest of my life for what I had done - OR - do I choose to forgive myself and learn to grow from it?
I chose to forgive myself and to learn and grow from it - and perhaps help others who are struggling with trials that they are going through. And that’s why I’m writing this post about David’s struggles.
So, what does the bible say about how we choose when we’re going through a trial like what I experienced through the motorcycle accident or what David was going through?
James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Now this verse doesn’t mean “Wow! This is great. I just hit a motorcyclist, sent him to the hospital, totaled my car, got ticketed for reckless driving and am being sued for $100,000.”
Same with David. He’s not thinking “I am so glad I killed Goliath and now King Saul is jealous of me and he’s now hunting me down like a dog and I’m running for my life. According to this verse, it says we should consider it pure joy when facing trials of many kinds. Yipee!!!”
That isn’t what the verse means. That’s ridiculous. This is what God is saying through the verse. “I want to show you something through this mess that you’re going through. It will test your faith, but over time, it will strengthen you, mature you and complete you, if you hang in their and learn and grow from it. That’s where the joy comes from.”
In School & In Life. . .
In school, your teacher teaches you lessons and then gives you a test. In life, God gives you a test that teaches you a lesson like he did with David and myself.
God wants to use the trials in our lives to help shape us into becoming better people just like God used David’s trials to make him a better leader.
By the way, if some of you are wondering about the motorcyclist, he survived with just a broken leg. Thank You Jesus!!
So what about you? Are you going through a trial or made a mistake and now you’ve choose to beat yourself up over it day after day. Or are you going to choose to forgive yourself and learn to grow from it? It is a choice?
When going through a trial, are you going to choose to get bitter or are you going to choose to get better? Are you going to choose to beat yourself up and ask Jesus “Why me?” or are you going to choose to forgive yourself and ask Jesus “What can I learn from this to help make me a better person?” That’s what David did.
Look at the Detroit Lions?
Look at Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. He said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.
Look at Abraham Lincoln. He was born into poverty, failed at business twice, lost 8 elections, and had a nervous breakdown. Yet, he become one of the greatest presidents of all time.
Look at the Detroit Lions. OK forget it, that’s a bad example. Or maybe not. We’ll see what this year brings.
Trials are Like Manure
What I’m getting at is trials are a lot like manure. “Say what? Trials are a lot like manure?” Yah! Manure stinks right? But when you put manure on plants, it helps make them grow, right?
The same is true with our trials. When going through a trial like I did or David did, it stinks right? But, according to the Bible, it says that God wants to use them to help grow us, strengthen us, and mature us and that’s where the joy can be found.
The same was true with David. David chose to take 4 steps in order for major change to take place in David’s life and attitude.
Step No. 1: David hurt enough to admit his need.
We see David crying out to God. He didn’t pretend that he wasn’t in pain. He was lost, abandoned and broken, and he was man enough to admit his pain and his need.
Is there something that you are holding onto? We challenge you to admit your need to the Lord and confide in a close friend or in your small groups. Transformation only happens when we let go of our pride and become honest and vulnerable.
Step No. 2: David was honest enough to cry out for help.
When we admit our need we also need to be honest enough to cry for help. God honors vulnerability.
Step No. 3: He was humble enough to learn from God.
Step No. 4: He found his refuge in God.
Let’s Pray. . .
Dear Lord, Psalm 34:17-18, says “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.”
Lord, we are crying out to you to hear our prayers and to save those who are brokenhearted and save those who are feeling crushed.
Help us to see how important our choices are. Your word says our choice to obey You and Your word can be the difference between life or death, between blessings or curses. Help us to see that our choices not only affect ourselves but also our family and friends.
Lord, help us to also realize that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we will face trials in our lives like David did. When we do face a trial, help us to remember James 1:2-4 and not ask Jesus, “Why me?” but ask Jesus, “What can I learn from this to become a better MAN, husband or father?” David did and became a man after God’s own heart.
Lord, help us to ask for forgiveness if we’ve hurt anyone and to be sure to forgive ourselves. Help us not to let our trials define us as a loser or disqualify us from doing anything important. You tell us in Matthew 19:26 that you use “all things for good.” And that even means our trials and our mistakes.
Lord, help us to take the inspiration that we heard today and apply it to our lives so that it Transforms us into being more like you so we can face our giants with confidence.
We pray all these things in the name that’s above all other names. In the name of Jesus, we pray. And everyone said,