Little Things

Every speaker will tell you they long for a captivating illustration that will drive home the point they want to make.  We labor finding the right word picture to help people understand and “feel” the point we want to make.  Jesus was a master at illustrating truth.  He told stories all the time to help people think and to help them “see” what He was trying to communicate.

In Romans 15:4 we read, “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The benefit of studying the Old Testament narratives; like those of David’s life; is that the story serves as the illustration we long for.  Old Testament stories illustrate Biblical truth.

In our study of the life of David we are trying to learn what it means to live with the heart of God.  Since David is called, “a man after God’s own heart” we hope to learn what this involves by studying his life.

Last week we recounted the story of the first King, Saul, and his loss of God’s favor due to his disobedience to the Lord.  Shortly after Samuel announced that Saul had lost God’s blessing Samuel was sent to anoint the new King, David.  At this time David was a relatively young man . . . probably in his teens.

David was anointed the new King of Israel in a private ceremony most likely with just David’s family around. The problem, of course, is that there is no opening for the job of King in Israel.  The current King was in good health and had no intention of stepping aside.

The Demise of Saul

After David was anointed we are told “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”  In conjunction with this we also read, “but the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”  The passage raises a haunting question: Is God in the business of afflicting people with evil spirits?

James declares,

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.(Jas 1:13-15)

So, is this a contradiction?  Does this prove the Bible is not the inspired Word of God?  Not at all.  Biblical writers (especially in the Old Testament) often refer to events with God’s ultimate sovereignty in mind.  In other words, since God is in complete control, and nothing happens outside of His control, we can say that all things ultimately (in one sense) come from Him.  So, even though an evil spirit may be sent by the Devil or invited into our lives by our own actions, ultimately God permits this to happen so in that sense you could say the evil spirit came from the Lord.

At the end of David’s life there is another such event.  In 2 Samuel 24 we are told that God led David to take a census of the fighting men (an act which brought judgment from God).  I 1 Chronicles 21 the same story is recounted and we are told Satan incited David to take a census of the troops. 1 Chronicles identifies the primary cause of David’s act (Satan), the historian who wrote the history in 1 & 2 Samuel focuses on the secondary or ultimate cause (God . . . who permitted it to happen).

So, Saul was afflicted with an evil spirit. Matthew Henry hits the target when he wrote,

Those that drive the good Spirit away do of course become prey to the evil spirit. If God and his grace do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us.

When anyone turns away from the Lord they create a spiritual vacuum that makes them vulnerable to the influence of evil. Saul became susceptible to deep fits of depression (and we’ll see later, fits of anger). It was Saul’s attendants (who are probably most affected by Saul’s moodiness) who suggest that what Saul needs is a musician to help his troubled soul. Saul agreed that it was worth a try and asked for the résumés of possible candidates.  This is where David enters our story.

Don’t miss the fingerprints of God in this story!  God used this circumstance to bring David into the home of the King he was to replace; it was God’s internship program! God uses the circumstances of our lives to accomplish His purposes.  If we pay attention and wait on the Lord, the Lord will guide us to where He wants us and when He wants us to be there. Our circumstance may seem like a simple thing at the time, but that simple thing may be opening a door to something we can’t yet imagine.

The Character of David

David was recruited as the King’s personal singer because one of the servants knew of David and gave him a glowing recommendation. Listen to the résumé of David as presented by the servant.

“I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” (18)

From this we notice something about David’s reputation, his music and his example for us.

His Reputation (v. 18) The first thing we are told about David is that he was a talented musician; he was a skilled harpist.  The harp of David’s day had anywhere from three to twelve strings and was either plucked or stroked with something like a pick.  So the harps of David’s day could be played similar to the harps of today or somewhat like a guitar.  The harp was often made of silver or ivory.

The Psalms are filled with compositions written by David.  Apparently David made good use of all the time out in the wilderness watching the sheep.  He used this time to refine his musical ability.

Second, David is called a brave man and a warrior. It is likely that this servant had heard about how David had battled wild animals to protect his sheep.  In 1 Samuel 17 David told the King,

When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear. (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

Third, we are told David spoke well and was a fine-looking man.  In most speech classes it is emphasized that a person who can speak well has an advantage in life.  The person who can communicate will draw others to them.  David was one of those people.

The fourth statement is the most revealing, “the Lord is with Him”. When David was anointed we are told, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (16:13)  David’s experience with the Holy Spirit was close to that which we now have with God’s Spirit who lives inside of everyone who believes.  We would say David had a unique anointing.  People recognized God at work in him.

Here’s an application question for us: if someone was presenting a resume about you, what would it say?  Even if the resume listed glowing abilities would it state that the Lord was with you?  Is God unmistakably reflected in your life? Do you have a good and godly reputation with those outside of the church?

His music (v. 23) Whenever Saul became depressed he sent for David.  When David played his music Saul felt better.  We don’t know whether David sang as he played or whether he simply played.  It is likely that some of the Psalms were actually songs that David sang to Saul. David celebrated God in his music. It is likely that initially David came to Saul for short periods of time but then he was taken on full-time.

Music has always played an important part in the lives of people. Throughout the Bible we see times when the nation and individuals danced and sang before the Lord.  We all know the effect music can have.  The right musical score in a movie or television show touches our emotions in a deep manner (even when we are not aware of it). A television theme song can bring us into a room with expectation or lead us to change the channel.  Listening to the radio or hearing a song on a CD has the power to change our day because the mixture of music with lyrics is a powerful combination (either for good or evil).  The lyrics of a song can turn our heart toward the Lord and can open us to the Spirit’s strength.  In the time of Saul they didn’t have CD’s, ipods, or radio stations. They did however, have David.  Music continues to be a powerful tool today.  I encourage you to use music to enrich your walk with God.

His example.  The best lesson for our life from David is the way he lived his life. Put yourself in David’s shoes.  Suppose you were the President-elect.  You know that you are soon to be the most powerful person in the country.  Now suppose the sitting President invited you to come to the White House to sing him a few songs and perform a little concert? Most of us would be offended.  It would seem like something that was beneath your position as the President-elect.  You would consider yourself to be on an equal footing with the President, not his entertainment!  David however was not offended.  He was called to play music and that is just what he did.

Author and speaker Beth Moore writes,

“What should you do when God has called you but you don’t know what to do next? Here’s a good principle: Keep studying god’s Word and listening to His voice; but while you’re listening, take care of your responsibilities He has given you.”

After David was anointed to be the next King he went back to his work as a Shepherd.  David believed that since God had called him to serve . . . God also would control the timing and nature of that service.  Meanwhile David continued to be faithful in his everyday duties. He continued to be faithful in the little things of life in the confidence that God was working in and through him. It is a great lesson for all of us.

Life Lessons

If you jump over to the New Testament, in Matthew 25 Jesus told a story about a master who gave his servants varying amounts of money (talents).  He entrusted the money to them with the understanding that they were to manage this money for the Master.

The first two men took that money and invested it so that it increased in value.  The third man buried his money because he was afraid of taking any risk.  When the owner returned, he commended the first two men who had brought a good return for the owner.  Notice what the Master says to these men, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (21,23)  The man who did nothing with what he was given was rebuked and what he had was taken away from him.

This leads us to a simple but important principle: Our faithfulness in the little things will determine how faithful we will be with bigger things.

There is a story about a huge bank where one of the employees was up for a significant promotion.  He lost that promotion one day in the bank’s cafeteria when the President of the bank saw the man hide two pats of butter under his bread so he wouldn’t have to pay for them.  The President of the bank concluded that any man who was dishonest about butter, could not be trusted with bigger things.

Little things are important.  It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote,

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.”

The same is true in the spiritual realm.  God looks at the everyday things of our lives to determine our faithfulness. It is interesting that Matthew follows the parable of the talents with the parable of the Sheep and the goats.  In this parable Jesus commended those who stood Him because they gave him a cup of water, gave him clothes, and visited him in prison.  The confused people didn’t remember meeting Jesus and asked, “When did we do such things?”  Jesus answered, “you did this when you did it for the least of my brothers.”

A person’s true heart is revealed not by what they do on the stage, but what they do in the shadows. It’s not about our performance, it’s about our heart.  It’s not about doing big things for God, it is about doing the everyday things for the Lord.  True faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is not a one-time experience that gets you into Heaven.  True faith impacts how you live every moment of your life.

So let’s get really practical. Faithfulness starts by

  • Working hard even in a job where you feel underpaid and underappreciated
  • Seeking excellence in our schoolwork rather than settling for “getting by”
  • Driving responsibly and considerately
  • Doing what you can to help the poor
  • Taking care of the things you have been given
  • Showing respect and dignity over those who may be under your authority or below you in “rank”
  • Caring for the environment
  • Taking care of yourself physically
  • Cleaning up after yourself out of respect for others
  • Fulfilling commitments you agree to fulfill (even though it costs you)
  • Sharing your faith as you have opportunity
  • Being honest about who you are and telling the truth even in simple things
  • Treating animals with kindness
  • Singing with enthusiasm and feeling in worship; as to the Lord
  • Submitting truthful expense reports and tax statements
  • Admitting when you do something wrong
  • Doing your chores with a joyful attitude
  • Surfing the Internet in a God-honoring way

The list could be almost endless. The point is clear: we show faithfulness to the Lord when we honor Him in the day to day activities of our lives. Paul gave us the simple principle for life,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The person with the heart of God sees every task as an opportunity to demonstrate love and faithfulness to the Lord.  We honor the Lord when we do things to the best of our ability.

So here is our challenge: instead of looking for great things that you can do for God, start doing daily things in a great way. Serve the Lord by emptying the dishwasher (even though it is not “your job”, making a special meal (even though no one appreciates your efforts); showing consideration and tenderness to your spouse, by visiting someone who is homebound (even though there are other things you could do), by going out of your way to talk to welcome a visitor or encourage someone pushed to the sidelines. Serve God by doing your job enthusiastically.

Every time you are faced with a job you would rather not do, choose to do the job as an act of love to the Lord.  Recognize that everything we do or don’t do says something about our love for God.  If we will choose to honor God in the simple and mundane things of life we will find a new song in our heart.  We will find that our lives become a melody that will transform those around us.  We will   We will be used by God in ways that we never imagined.  To prove the point, take a good look at what God did in and through David.