Trials and Blessings


Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 27:1-12
Rev. Dr. Kwangho Song

Main Points:
I. Believers in trials
II. Believing household in trials
III. Blessings in trials

Which life would be a better one – with trials or without trials? Which one would you choose if you have a choice? I believe everyone would like to choose a life without trials, temptations or afflictions. Neither facing nor being in a trial is pleasant. If possible, everyone would love to remain calm instead, and enjoy peace in the Lord.

And enjoying God’s peace was what David in this 27th chapter of 1 Samuel wanted the most. He desperately sought it. And you know why. It is because of Saul and his obsessive pursuit of David’s life. Twice David had barely escaped from Saul and twice Saul had promised David that he would no longer harm him. But the trust on Saul barely left in David’s heart is dried up now. In addition, the residents of Ziph who were of the tribe of Judah, as was David, haven’t stopped from showing their enmity toward David, one of their own clan. David needs peace which would allow him to close his eyes at night and open them in the morning, without waking up during the night in fear of death. David desires peace that would allow him to work and enjoy the harvest of his sweat along with his families and friends. Yet, such peace seems to be unattainable and he is in a deep trouble.

In a couple of chapters earlier, in ch. 25, however, David and all those who were with him were relatively peaceful. They had guarded Nabal’s shepherds and flock in the wilderness; soon, David had an altercation with Nabal. Not too long after Nabal’s death, David even married to Abigail, Nabal’s widow. But, suddenly, a time of difficulty has come and David is in a great trouble.

That is how any trial comes to anyone, not just to David. One day, all seem to go well and peaceful, then, suddenly an ordeal appears. Truth is that trials come to every believer and there’s no exception. Moreover, various kinds of troubles come and they never cease from coming while we live on earth. So, when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial, spiritual trouble, worry or anxiety, what should we know and consider? On what should we fix our spiritual eyes? We find our gracious Lord’s answer to these questions through the life of David recorded in this chapter.

So, we begin thinking about Christians in trials as we examine David’s life recorded in our text passage. The most noticeable point is that, as I’ve already mentioned, temptations and trials come suddenly. If one was aware of its estimated time of arrival and its nature, he would’ve easily avoided it, and we wouldn’t call that a trial. But that’s not the case – troubles in believer’s heart and soul never come with an early warning. There’s no hi-tech radar or satellite sensor available for such a warning. So, no one can be fully prepared for any trial. We must, therefore, expect that trials will meet us suddenly as we turn a corner in our life’s walk.

David in the beginning of ch. 27 suddenly says to himself, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to [a foreign land].” Had he known its approach, he would’ve said, ‘I knew that this would come! Good for me that I’ve already arranged a way out.’ But that’s not what we hear from him – he says, ‘Now I shall perish one day if I don’t do something now!’ Every believer faces a trial in the same manner. So, you and I should be ready for any trial – I mean, ready for not how to tackle each trial, but how to face each one. When we have a trouble, we should, instead of being surprised and shocked, say to ourselves, ‘Aha, it’s here finally; now, I must face it, depending on my gracious God.’

Having said, let me point this out to you; although a trial comes suddenly at an unexpected time and manner, every trial arises from the person who goes under its affliction. In other words, each of us cause our own troubles. My trouble doesn’t come from any other person or thing but from me and my own sin.

David’s case in our text passage explains this well. He is in a great trial – his life is under threat. ‘I’ll die soon if I don’t escape,’ he concludes. But, is this hardship because of anyone else than David himself? No, it’s not Saul; rather, David brings this affliction upon himself disbelieving and doubting God. I’m referring to God’s promise made to David which is found in 1 Sam. 16:13 and elaborated more fully in 2 Sam. 7:13-16. God has sent His prophet, Samuel, and anointed him as Israel’s king. Yet, David is saying here to himself, ‘I’ll surely die if I don’t escape this land.’ Do you see the source of his trial and affliction of his heart and soul? His unbelief and doubting God’s faithfulness is the source of his trouble! In a word, every trial – whether physical or spiritual – is anything but confusion risen in our mind and soul. Confused with an illness or with anxious mind, we think, ‘Is this God’s plan? Or what is this?’ This confusion is the trial we face.

Jas. 1, our first reading for this morning, especially v. 14 is clear about this, saying, “each person is tempted when he is lured [or ‘drawn away’ ] and enticed by his own desire.” David’s own ‘desire,’ which is different from God’s desire, enticed him or confused him to conclude and say, ‘I’m going to die unless ….’ Likewise, all afflictions we face are caused by our own ‘desire’ which differs from God’s desire for us, so, our mind is confused. As an illustration, consider that a Christian has a deadly cancer and his doctor has just notified him that he has only a few days left for him. Yes, a trial comes suddenly and meets us in ambush. More than that, affliction arises and comes from each one’s sinful desire that is contrary to God’s desire. If this Christian cancer patient understands God’s goodness toward His own dear children like him and trusts his Lord fully, his soul would surely find peace and joy, even though his heart – I mean, physical heart – would rush madly because of the shock of the words he had heard. But, if he doubts God’s goodness toward His children whom He purchased with the blood of His only Son, Jesus, if that Christian cancer patient denounces his trust in God he has worshipped, his heart, body and soul would immediately fall headlong into a dreadful affliction.

In this way, every trial comes suddenly and out of one’s own desire in sin, all trials aim only one purpose. That is, to teach us to know more about God and depend more and fully on Him in our life. This is our great hope and joy with various kinds of trials in life. Through trials, we become stronger in our faith and lighter in our walk with the Lord. We’ll come back to this point in a minute.

We should consider our next point briefly because it is so important for us all. That is, what happens to a believing family/household in trials.

David’s trouble affects all members of his community – 600 men and their families in addition to David’s own family. Being greatly distressed, David leads all of them away from the land God has given to Israel of which David and his people are members. That’s not all, he is leaving the land of Judah in which God commanded him to stay. If you remember, in 1 Sam. 22:5, a prophet of God came to David and delivered the Lord’s message to him that he should stay in the land of Judah. To where does he lead them all? To Gath, a city of the Philistines, Israel’s enemy. And this brings all people under his responsibility into a great jeopardy. The jeopardy of being exposed to idol worship, the jeopardy of being forced to accept idolatry and join the idolaters, even worse, the jeopardy of forgetting and forsaking God!

David is not the only one who did this; Abraham did the same as he left the land God had led him to, and went down to Egypt, then, later on again to another place called Negeb. In both cases, Sarah was in great trouble and so would’ve been the whole nation Israel, if God Almighty hadn’t intervened. Isaac, Jacob and all others who are named on the so-called ‘Hall of Faith’ in Heb. 11 did the same and God graciously intervened in their lives.

So, if a believer is in a trial, struggling with anything in his life as a result of his partial – not full – dependence on God, all in his/her household are eventually led to have the ill-effects of that trouble. This is the same for church, a household of God. For this reason, God commands us to pray for one another, build each other up in the Lord, loving as the Lord loves us.

So, when any of us is in affliction, that person should consider others in his/her family as well as all church members. Meanwhile, all household members, and church members, altogether pray for the one in trial and share his heaviness as much as possible for a quick recovery and full restoration in faith.

This leads us back to the point we left earlier, that is, the one purpose of all trials. At the same time, this is our last point for today and I’d like to subtitle this point as ‘Blessings in trials.’ Yes, the only purpose of all and every trial is to bless God’s people.

Let’s take David’s case for a better understanding of this point. David in his unbelief brought everyone to Gath, a Philistine city. Strangely, Achish, king of Gath, showed David and his people a favour and they could stay at Gath. What an unbelievable, exciting blessing this is! if you remember, David had killed Goliath the giant who came out of this very city of Gath. Yet, David is allowed to live there!

Then, somehow, he and his people are sent to a smaller city, Ziklag, on the southern border between Israel and Philistia. It wasn’t David’s intention. No, he didn’t ask for any specific place; he simply asked Achish, king of Gath, for a place for his people, and Ziklag was given to him. This is God’s sheer blessing upon David which is the purpose of the trial he is in. Let me count a few blessings with Ziklag. Here, at Ziklag, David and his people are geologically separated from all other Philistines, so, relatively free from the danger of compromising their faith in the Lord God of Israel. Then, they go out, make raids against those people named as the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. They destroy all residents of the cities they raid. This might sound cruel and inappropriate, but if you remember God’s old command for Israel to annihilate all inhabitants of Canaan, and if you understand that command’s spiritual meaning, you’d see David’s faithfulness toward God’s command as well as his accomplishment – although a partial – of Israel’s God-given mandate.

Isn’t it amazing? David left the promised land in disbelief and doubt – he was in a serious trial – and moved to a land of idolaters, God-haters. But, that became an opportunity to be more faithful to God. Not only that, but also to be more useful for God’s kingdom through carrying out the Lord’s will. This is the sole purpose of every and all trials that come to us as to David! Jas. 1:2-3 is spot on, explaining this in these words, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If you are in a great trouble – whether in body or in heart – ‘count that all joy’ because God is bringing His blessings upon you through it! ‘You’ll lack nothing in the end,’ says Jas. 1:2, in both body and heart and soul!

Imagine how joyful David and his people might’ve been when they arrived Ziklag, when they raided the enemies of Israel, fulfilling God’s righteous command. This voice seems to ring theirs ears and hearts as ours too: ‘Count it all joy, My dear children, when you meet trials of various kinds, for I’ll complete you, lacking in nothing!’

I’d like to add a few more blessings God brought to David at Ziklag as a good explanation of what He means with ‘lacking in nothing.’ Firstly, Ziklag which used to belong to the Philistines has become Israel’s land from this moment and on. God gave David not just a place but all inhabitants of that city together. Secondly, while David was in Ziklag, God sent to him a great horde of good men who would become important generals and officers in David’s kingdom. 1 Chron. 12 begins with these words, “Now these are the men who came to David at Ziklag …. And they were among the mighty men who helped [David] in war.” And in the following six verses (vs. 2-7), total of 23 generals and officers are named! These 23 warriors are named there in 1 Chron. 12 as the first group, followed by the list of another group who joined David in the wilderness. What a blessing this is! David’s kingship was founded while he had been in exile in the wilderness, and almost fully set while he resided in this small Philistine city, Ziklag, for over a year and a couple of months. He lacked nothing in this city, Ziklag, the place of his trial.

God allows trials and tribulations to come to His children. Through them, our gracious Father makes us steadfast to the point of perfection and completion, lacking in nothing! So, we should praise and thank God when we face a fresh trial, shouldn’t we?

My dear brothers and sisters for whom Jesus bled and died, we’re not perfect; we doubt God’s faithfulness, just like David did and often more than he did, so we fall and backslide in our faith. We struggle with sins and we suffer greatly from various kinds of diseases and anxiety. But let us remember one thing only, that in this dark tunnel of trial, we have a great and perfect Helper who upholds us in His might and caring hands, and our eyes are lifted up to behold the end of the tunnel. We’ll eventually walk out of it by His grace, and find uncountable blessings of God!

So, what will you say to your troubles and afflictions and worries for today? Glory to God in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit! Amen! ***

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