Christians tend to withdraw from church, ministry, and relationships when trials flood over the dykes of happiness that guard their hearts. They fly to their basements of isolation, believing distance from God and from others will help them float atop the waves of adversity. But instead of safety, they find ruin.
In 1 Samuel 23:1-5, David’s troops advocate for such a withdrawal. They are being hunted by the vengeful King Saul who commands an army intent upon their murder. While they hide in the mountains, news reaches David that the men of Keilah face an existential threat.
The Philistines have begun to move against the city of Keilah at the conclusion of the harvest season. The Philistines intend to steal the newly processed crops, leaving the people of Keilah with no food, no income, and no means of remedying their situation. The raid threatens financial ruin and even death. When David heard of the imminent attack, he asks God if he should rush to the aid of Keilah? God tells David to “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah (1 Sam 23:2).” Though God says yes, David’s men say no for they are “afraid.” They feared that saving others from the sword would expose them to the sword.
David’s men like so many Christians today believe that trials excuse them from coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Many believers think hardships such as new medical problem, a death in the family, or a financial crisis absolve them from their Christian responsibilities. They fear that singing in the choir will exhaust them because their new illness threatens to lower their energy level. They worry that volunteering to work in the kid’s ministry will be too much because they are still grieving the death of a loved one. They stop tithing because they fear living on one income will be hard. In short, they assume that their trials excuse their fear and sanction their withdrawal from ministry.
Yet when David goes back to the Lord to make sure he heard God correctly, God reaffirms his message, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” Why does God still send David? Why does tell the hunted and the abused to go help other people with their problems? God sends David and his men on a mission because God knows that evil circumstances have a divine purpose. Cancer, the death of a loved one, and the shrinking checking account down are not signs of God’s neglect. They are not mistakes. B.P. Power reminds us that,
The good God, who has sent you your sickness, is the one who has ordained that nothing shall be useless. God has made you and put you in your present position; and he meant you to be useful in it, of importance in it too.
God’s reigns over both the good times and the bad; and, the bad times have a purpose. God tells to rejoice in our trials, our sickness, and our hardships “knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Suffering crashes over the walls of our happiness because God wants us to be fully satisfied in him. Illness, grief, and hardships exist to strengthen and enrich the faith of the Christian. When their hearts are covered with the murky flood waters of suffering, Christians should seek to live out their faith with earnest and zeal. Instead of withdrawing in fear, they should go liberate the men of Keilah. They should serve in the choir, help with the kids, and visit the depressed.
Some will counter the above plea, talking of how their presence in choir will discourage the body of Christ. They fear that other believers will look at their sickness, their tears, and their poverty and conclude that God is weak, uncaring, and unloving. Paul says suffering servants have the opposite effect upon the church. The hurting who suffer inspire the spread of the gospel. Paul writes in Philippians 1:12-13:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
The command to love God and to love others can be accomplished by both the blessed and the hurting. Christians should go liberate their Keilah.
Despite the evidence, hurting Christians may doubt God’s promise of victory. They fear that obedience to God will end poorly. Such fear flows naturally into the heart of the believer, because Adam fathered them all. P.B. Power warns,
As soon as Adam fell, he become suspicious of God; and all his posterity have inherited this suspicion from him…Now here is an evil, plain and well defined, against which we must fight. We must not be always be suspecting God. If he says one thing to us, we must not think he means another. We must not suppose that he is doubleminded in any of his ways.
Christians should not be doubleminded about their God. Their loving God who calls them to serve and to do hard things will give them the power to achieve victory. The Philistines will be destroyed and the men of Keilah will be saved. Obedience to God always results in victory.
My bride, April and I, have witnesses this reality over and over again in our lives. We have come to end of day exhausted by parenting, marriage, and church issues. If we had our way, we would go pull the covers over our head and be done with life for the next few hours, but we have had to press on because someone is scheduled for dinner or a ministry at church is about to begin. Every time we have pressed on, we have experienced amazing blessing and victory. The people and ministries that threatened to drain our souls enflamed our souls. The people of God reminded us of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and power. And the issues that seemed to define the day as a waste only moments before become small and insignificant by the power of God’s grace. Those who fight on in faith never lose.
When the next wave of suffering hits your hurt, will you go to Keilah?