King David: A Heart Like God’s: Big Problems Make Big People
I Samuel 21:1-3, 8-9
I wish to read for you these verses from 1 Samuel chapter 21. This is the Word of God.
“David went to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him and asked, ‘Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?’
“David answered Ahimelech the priest, ‘The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, “No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions. As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.” Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever you can find.’
“David then asked Ahimelech, ‘Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon because the king’s business was urgent.’ The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath, the Philistine whom you killed in the Valley of Elah is here. It is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it. There is no sword here but that one.’
“David said, ‘There is none like it. Give it to me.’”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
My guess is that many of you know that old campfire song, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile.” But I wonder if you know that the man who wrote that song died by committing suicide. You see, when it came to facing the troubles in his life, it wasn’t enough just to smile, smile, smile. There’s a great hymn we sing, “This is my Father’s world. I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees of skies and seas. His hands the wonders wrought.” But I wonder if you know that the man who wrote that hymn also died of suicide. When it came to dealing with the tough, depressing, discouraging times in his life, it wasn’t enough to simply feast his eyes on the created world and remember that it was the Heavenly Father who created it all.
And so here’s the issue. Many of us, yes, many of us just do not know how to deal with the discouraging, disappointing, depressing, defeating times that inevitably come our way in life. We do not know how to make use out of abuse. We do not know how to find profit in our problems. And so that is the issue I wish to address today. And I wish to address it from the perspective of the experience of David, which we see here in 1 Samuel chapter 21. At this point in his life, David was facing an enormous problem. His life was in danger. The man he believed to be his good friend, King Saul, in fact, turned out to be his most bitter enemy. King Saul declared that David was a traitor to the crown. And so he put a price on David’s head.
It became necessary then for David, quite literally, to run for his life. In his haste to escape, he did not take the time to secure provisions, weapons, and food and supplies. And so as he took flight, he wound up in the city of Nob. And there, sensing his need, he encountered an old priest, a man whose name was Ahimelech. Now, David understood that if Ahimelech actually knew what David was doing, that he was running away from King Saul, if Ahimelech had known that, well, David knew that Ahimelech would simply have turned him over to the authorities. And so David resorted to trickery. David said to Ahimelech that he was actually going about the king’s business. And then he said to Ahimelech, “Have you any food? Have you a sword?” And Ahimelech responded, “I have only the sword of Goliath, the Philistine whom you killed. It is tucked away in hiding. If you want to have it, you can have it.” And David immediately said, “There is none like it. Give me the sword.”
Now, from that little handful of words from David, I want to try to draw three principles which I believe may well help us as we have to face the discouraging, the disappointing, the depressing, the defeating moments that come our way in life.
First principle: We can always find some profit in any problem.
We can always find some profit in any problem. We see that so clearly in this experience of David. When David asked Ahimelech for the sword of Goliath, he said to him, “Give me that sword.” Listen. He was taking an object which originally was meant to do him harm, and he was turning it into an object which might be of help to him. In other words, David was turning a negative into a positive. He was finding a profit in a problem.
That’s a great principle to have as we move through life, turning negatives into positives. I want to suggest to you today that any problem we happen to encounter in life is actually like a sword. It has two ends. One end is the blade. It’s sharp. It cuts. It wounds. It hurts. It kills. But the other end is the grip, the handle, the hilt. That is the positive end of the sword. And so whenever we encounter any difficult or discouraging time in life, we need to reach out and grip that problem by the positive end and use it. Instead of being something to hurt us, it can become something that can help us. To underscore the point, let me point you to Michelangelo and the great masterpiece he created, the statue of David. That statue, ask you know, stands in the City of Florence in Italy. But I wonder if you know the full story behind that statue.
It seems that fifty years before Michelangelo carved the statue of David, the citizens of Florence banded together and commissioned an unknown sculptor to carve a statue of David. Furthermore, the citizens of Florence acquired an enormous block of very fine Carrara marble, very, very valuable. And they gave that to this unknown sculptor to use to create a statue of David. Well, this sculptor didn’t do anything with that great block of marble except ruin it. He hammered it. He hacked at it. He chiseled at it, and he created nothing of beauty out of it. Finally, he gave up and quit. For fifty years, that enormous block of marble stood in the City of Florence untouched. The citizens of Florence jokingly referred to it as, “Our ugly giant.” And then, in 1501, the citizens of Florence once again banded together and commissioned this time an artist named Michelangelo to carve a statue of David.
That great block of marble was marred and scarred beyond redemption, or so everyone thought. But Michelangelo said, “Give me the sword.” He took that great block of marble and turned a negative into a positive. After two years of arduous labor, he managed to create one of his greatest masterpieces, the statue of David. If you go around to the back side of the statue, David’s spine has a slight crook in it. That is Michelangelo’s attempt to accommodate one of those hideous scars left by the previous sculptor. Michelangelo said, “Give me the sword.” He took a negative and turned it into a positive. That’s the way you can always find profit in any problem.
Now, understand me, please. I am not giving you here some cheap little pep talk, no. What I’m talking about is absolutely basic to the Christian experience, and it was basic to the experience of Jesus Christ. I could point to any number of instances, but let me point to one, the most perfect example of all, Calvary. There, Jesus took the monstrous negative of the cross and transformed it into the glorious positive of redeeming the world’s people. The great good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that you and I can do the same thing. What David did with the sword, what Michelangelo did with the stone, what Jesus did with the cross, you and I can do with any problem or difficulty that comes our way in life. We can find ways to turn the negatives into positives. We can find ways to gain profit from our problems.
Second principle. The tougher the problem we face, the tougher we become in facing it.
The tougher the problem we face, the tougher we become in facing it. Once again, the experience of David illustrates the point. David said to Ahimelech, “Have you a sword?” Ahimelech said, “I have only the sword of Goliath.” David said, “There is none like it. Give me that sword.” When David said, “There is none like it,” he was acknowledging the size of that sword. The Bible tells us that the weapons Goliath used were immense in size. And so you see, David was thinking to himself, “If I can learn how to handle a sword that large, then every other weapon will seem as nothing when compared to it.” David understood that the greater the challenge we face, the greater the benefit we derive from facing it. The tougher the problem we face, the tougher we become in facing it.
Once again, look at Michelangelo. Michelangelo is regarded, without question, as being the greatest artist who ever lived. So many times in the course of his life, he was asked to explain his enormous skill. Always, his answer was the same. He said, “For all of my adult life, I have worked with the hardest material, stone. And I have worked with the hardest form of art, sculpture.” He was exactly right. Sculpture is the hardest, toughest, most difficult form of art. You see, in most other forms of art, you add something to what you are doing. It sculpture, you take something away from what you are doing. If you are adding something to what you are doing, if you make a mistake, you simply have to remove it. But if you are taking something away from what you are doing, if you make a mistake, you cannot put it back.
That is why sculpture is the most difficult of all the art forms. And so Michelangelo was saying, “Because I have worked so long with that which is hard and difficult, I am able to create that which is beautiful.” That’s the way life is. That’s the way life really works. The tougher the task we face, the more capable, confident, and powerful we become in dealing with it. I like to put it this way. Big problems can make big people. That’s worth remembering when we encounter those problems and difficulties that come our way in life.
Third principle. What we use, we do not lose.
What we use, we do not lose. Once again, we see it in David. David was always ready to use anything that happened to be available to him. We see it in this story. He approaches Ahimelech, “Have you any food? Have you a weapon?” He is ready to take anything that Ahimelech could offer him and use it to his own blessing and benefit and hopefully, God willing, to the blessing of others. That’s true of David all the way through his life if you go back and look at it carefully. He was forever being open and willing to use anything, any opportunity, that God set before him, to use it in a way that would ultimately, in most cases, bring glory to the God he loved.
What we use in life, we do not lose. Let me ask you once more to consider Michelangelo. The great master artist of the ages, when he would engage in executing the art form of sculpture, would take a chisel and strike it with a hammer. And every time the hammer struck the chisel, he knew he would be knocking away a piece of the stone that could not be replaced. So therefore, every blow with the hammer carried a terrible risk. And yet here’s what I want you to grasp. Like no other artist before or since, Michelangelo actually used a three-bladed chisel so that with every blow of the hammer, he made three separate cuts. Where did he get the courage to cut like that?
He said it himself, his words, “The gift I have is a gift from God. And I believe that I’m called to use that gift that God has given me.” He understood that if he used that gift that God had given him, that gift would then be nurtured and nourished and polished and refined and developed to the Nth degree. And he wound up becoming the greatest master artist of the ages. That was the secret of his genius. And that’s a great principle to remember. What we use in life, we do not lose. Let me put it to you this way. Under God, we cannot hoard the capacities, the gifts, and the abilities that God has given us, no. We must use them and use them for the glory of the God who planted them in us.
I could say, for example, “I’m not going to use my muscles anymore so that I will have my muscles ready at some point in the future when I need them.” The problem is, if I use my muscles, then when I need them later on, I will have no muscles to use. That’s the principle that operates in life. What we use in life, we do not lose. Back in the 1950s, William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. At his acceptance speech, which many regard as being one of the greatest speeches ever delivered, William Faulkner, among other things, said this, listen, “Man shall not only endure. He shall prevail. For he is immortal, not because he alone among the creatures has an inexhaustible voice but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice, and endurance.”
Now, I would never presume to understand all that Faulkner meant when he said that. But I can tell you what it means to me. It means that God made us, that God redeemed us, that God directs us through this life and even beyond, that God calls us to use every gift and ability that he’s given us as we make our way through life. It means that we are called to build our lives upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ. For then, not only shall we endure in the midst of any problems or difficulties that may come our way, but by His power, we shall prevail. The words of the hymn are so true, “His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the ‘whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my help and stay.”
Well, there they are. We can always find profit in every problem. The tougher the problem we face, the tougher we become in facing it. And what we use in life, we do not lose. Let me say it to you as plainly and simply as I know how. Commit your life to Jesus Christ and employ in your everyday experience those principles drawn from the words of David. And I promise you, instead of the agony of defeat, you will know the thrill of victory, victory in Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the Glory.
Amen and amen.