David and Staying the Course

In recent articles about King David’s Journey to the throne I have addressed:

  • The goals of men’s ministry,
  • Conflict that are likely in starting men’s ministry,
  • A realistic viewpoint of the men gathered, and
  • The key lessons to teach the men in the ministry.

Today I want to addressing the need for leadership to continually walk in a trusting relationship with the Lord and give at least one hint to make that possible.

The first time you ever placed your faith in Christ it might have been easy or tough depending on your personality.  Since that time you have probably learned to place turn your trust over to Him and His capable hands, over and over again.  It becomes easier with each step, but what is much harder, for me at least, is not taking it back from Him again.

For David there was a couple of really good opportunities to move himself into the throne on his own schedule instead of with God’s timing.  You see twice he was in a position, where he could have killed Saul. (1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26) In both instances his men were pushing him to take that opportunity.  They believed the opportunity was given to david by the Lord. He might have even lost some of their respect by refusing to slay Saul when the opportunity was right in front of him.

David in both cases stated that he would not raise his hand against God’s anointed. He viewed the opportunity to kill Saul as a test rather than God’s plan to move him into power. From the perspective of history, we know that David interpreted the situation correctly.

David, remember, did not have the luxury of the historical viewpoint, so how exactly did he know that God’s will was not to do what seemed obvious to so many others. The answer must be in David’s personal relationship with God or in His ideology about God’s will.  Or more likely the combination of these things.

As you lead men be sure to be strong in your own personal walk with God. If you are not strong in the Lord, you will be bounced from opinion to opinion by the men you lead. Men will often be happy to tell you what God’s will for you is. It gets harder to hear from God as the men get louder, so it falls on you to know God well enough to recognize His leading even among the other voices.

Another tool David seemingly used though, was to anchor himself to God with certain principles. In this case, David believed that Saul had been anointed by God, was therefore under God’s care, and God had a multitude of ways to remove Saul from this earth, in His own timing. So the offshoot of all this is that David did not have to take a part in removing Saul, he just needed to keep trusting God to be God.

My point for today is to stay strong in the Lord, both in your individual relationship and your knowledge of how He works. These steps will not just protect you, but will protect the ministry as well.


David’s Key Issues

In previous notes we have discussed the goals for men’s ministry, conflict within men’s ministry and most recently group building.  This article will explore some of the possible central teachings for men.

When you study the early period of David’s group you will see certain patterns emerging. There are three key issues that catch my attention among this rough group of men that became David’s core group. These same three points would be good starting points for teaching in your men’s ministry.

First, they needed to learn to submit to the Lord, specifically in a salvation relationship.  David led under God’s leadership, but if these men did not also respect the Lord they could undo whatever David’s submission to God and leadership of the group accomplished. Around the church if there is not agreement on this most fundamental issue then all other progress is meaningless.

Second, they took responsibility for their families. You can see frequent mention that each man had his family with him, a surprising fact for a roaming group of guerrilla soldiers.  The beginning points of leading a responsible life is taking care of your family. The erosion of the family has become a societal norm, but that is exactly the reason we must not ignore it with our men.

Third, they accepted David as their leader. Perhaps the most common struggle in the church is wrestling with who is in charge, who gets to make what decisions and how individuals stake out their territory. If a man does not respect his leaders, trouble will follow, and both of the previous goals will be stopped in their tracks. Yet it is in the nature of men to wrestle with these points at any point that they do not see them clearly delineated.  Some men will go challenge leadership even when it is openly visible.

In conclusion, the main lesson I want you to get out of this article is that teaching must be intentional and goal oriented.  Your first three goals or topics may be to:

  • Give them a relationship with Jesus.
  • Help them to lead their families.
  • Require them to be under the authority of Jesus in the church, as expressed through the church leadership.

David’s Core Group

In previous notes we discussed the need for Men’s ministry to move from spiritual training to practical activity and the strong likelihood for conflict within men’s ministry, especially at the start.  This article will talk about the gathering of men after the ministry is up and running.

In 1 Samuel 22:1-2 you see David begin to attract men to his side.

1So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. 2Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.

They came largely from two sources.  Those who were running from Saul, having their lives endangered by their association with David and those who were in some form of trouble.

These two groups are rather similar to those attracted to churches today.

Some of the people who come arrive because they have history with Christianity and are seeking to continue this pattern of life.  This might be good history or bad history.  Sometimes church members are moving from a church that made them mad. They show up at the new church with a chip already on their shoulder, and because of that history will want to shape the church in response to their past hurts.

This is similar to David’s older brothers who had once accused him of being a glory hound, and likely still held negative feelings toward him.  Undoubtedly, they were frustrated that their families were in danger because of their relationship with David. These brothers might have had a hard time accepting David’s leadership.

The second category of people who show up at church are those who have distresses, debts and discontents that drove them to change their life. You can look at these people as bringing a lot of problems with them or bringing a bunch of potential with them.  I strongly suggest you keep both in sight.

Comfortable church members may try to push out these unpolished new converts, but when they do so they are revealing their own ungodliness. The habits, language and patterns of these new believers may have a negative influence on the whole group. Nevertheless, God delights in growing His work with the least likely of people.

In general, the people who show up ready to change their life are easier to deal with than those who show up wanting to change the church. But you are responsible to work with both groups. A good, obvious rule of thumb is: God has given you the people you have and He expects you to work with them.

David Starting Conflicts

I have already discussed the two introductions we have to David in 1 Samuel 16 and 17.  You can look back to learn more about the balance needed in Men’s ministry between spiritual life and practical accomplishment.

In the following chapters we can continue to learn something about men’s ministry from a careful study of David’s life.  While David at this point knew he had been anointed by Samuel to be king, he may not have understood that moving through some serious difficulties and blessings was also necessary preparation for being a leader of men.

One of the toughest aspects of leadership is who do you work with and trust?  Current leadership may need to be replaced. Friendships can be the greatest catalyst to strengthen a ministry, but perhaps just as often they lead to its greatest challenges. A leader must be ready to train up other leaders, and most likely will be accused of favoring their friends in the process.

So what happened next to David?  First he is favored by Saul and given every advantage and opportunity. Then when he is successful Saul becomes jealous and contentious toward him.  Apparently Saul was not the right person to trust.

Saul even offered to marry his eldest daughter, Merab to David as a reward for his accomplishment.  But in the middle of these accolades, Saul also tried to kill David with a spear while he played his harp to comfort the king.

Another daughter was successfully offered to David, Michal. This arrangement did nothing to reconcile David and Saul, and Michal in many ways was a hindrance to him instead of a blessing.

However, on the positive side David did find a helpful friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son. Perhaps it was natural these two men had a strong friendship because they were both valiant warriors who had led Israel to miraculous victories.  Jonathan, more than Saul, should have seen David as a competitor for the future throne. But instead of fighting him he proved his loyalty over and over again.

So what do we learn from men’s ministry in these episodes of David’s life?

  • Expect some conflict when starting a ministry. If not right at the start, then when things begin to happen. Even successes can give rise to surprisingly hostile attacks from people you thought were on your side.
  • Men’s ministry will always include bumping up against the ego of men. Although an angry man’s ego may want to start a fire, a leader who models humbleness will act as a fire extinguisher.
  • Look for the quality of character in people more than their ability, position, or accolades. When you find the person with the right heart train them in leadership. The right ministry team will make all the difference in the world.

So when forming a men’s ministry you will need to endure some conflict.  It is in the nature of men for these conflicts to arise, and they can be surprisingly severe. But if you are serious about reaching men do not back down, but press ahead calmly and humbly.

David as a Men’s Leader

Have you ever noticed that David is introduced twice in the Bible?

The first time we meet David is in 1 Samuel 16 when Samuel is instructed to anoint a new king because Saul has been rejected.  After being anointed, David is almost immediately summoned to the royal court.  The court was looking for a musician who could comfort Saul when tormented by an evil spirit. In this passage David was described as a man of valor, a warrior, and even was made Saul’s armor bearer, but his primary role was as a musician.

The second time we meet David is in 1 Samuel 17 when Goliath is paralyzing the armies of Israel with fear. David is described in this later passage as a youth. In this passage Saul doesn’t seem to be aware of who David is, as evidenced by his asking for details of the young man after he slays Goliath. Of course, you already know who won in this confrontation.

The reason for the two introductions may be as simple as the two passages are recorded out of order. First as a young man David slayed Goliath then later Saul looked for a man who was a musician and happily it was the same David.

But I tend to believe there are no accidents in Scripture.  Perhaps instead we are given the two sides of David’s life separately to help us better understand who he was and why he was such a capable leader of men.

First there is David the musician, who writes praise songs for God, whom he knows well. If this first introduction is given first because of its importance, then the lesson is that relationship with God is of primary importance.  There are several lessons we can learn from David that might be important to men today.

  • David was boldly expressive in worship. David was accustomed to not just having his faith, but joyfully expressing it in song. When given opportunity to help others with worship he was willing.
  • David was comfortable being alone with God. This likely included both speaking to God and hearing from God. Looking at his psalms, you can see that David respected God’s presence and expected God’s answers.
  • David was obedient and willing to serve. When called to assist Saul in whatever way he was called upon to do so. There seemed to be no ego holding back his humble service.
  • David respected God’s calling and anointing, both as it applied to his own life and to the lives of others. Since he was already anointed as the next king, we might have expected him to take the throne by force, but instead he waited on God’s timing and leading.

The second side of David’s life is a leader and warrior as portrayed by slaying Goliath.  There are some noteworthy aspects of this side of David.

  • David was willing to speak out and act, even when everyone else would not. He used his courage to move forward and to move others forward.
  • David was aware of himself, his capabilities and limitations. He was able to quickly recount his past victories, but refused to fight as a king in the king’s armor.
  • David heard and made intentional decisions in regard to opposition. His brothers did their best to chase him off, but David refused to be dissuaded from his course.
  • David sought to understand the entire picture of risk and reward. He spoke to several people seeking to know what the king would do for the man who slayed Goliath.

A good men’s ministry has to address both aspects of manhood we find in David’s life.  First and foremost we need to hold one another accountable in our daily relationship.  But in so doing there has to be some practical application of our men’s faith in kingdom building. There will need to be some purpose, goal, battle, or accomplishment beyond just personal knowledge and disciplines.

David had both sides of this tricky balance, and becomes a great leader of men over the next many chapters.