The presence and the absence

David is such a memorable and well known figure in the Bible. His victory over Goliath was taught to most of us when we were very little and in Sunday school. Growing up, David was the biggest hero of the Old Testament that I knew about. Prior to his sin with Bathsheba (something I’ll write about soon), David was an incredibly upright and mighty man of God. The Bible refers to David as a man after God’s own heart, which is about as lofty of praise as any man could ever receive. As you read the story of David starting in 1 Samuel chapter 16, you see just how amazing David is. David starts out small in stature, but from his first introduction there’s such a special quality to him. A musician, a soldier, a keeper of the commandments of the Lord, a loyal and loving friend, David is full of great qualities. The Bible tells us several times in 1 Samuel that the spirit of the Lord was with David.

So here’s David, this guy who’s doing everything right and for the right reasons. He’s a man after God’s own heart, deeply committed to doing what is right and good. Pulled into the service of King Saul, David does all things well. He plays music to calm the king when he’s troubled, he fights battles for the king, he does whatever is asked of him. David continues to have success in all his endeavors.

Most of you probably know all of this, but I’m trying to point out just what kind of a person David was here. I think it’s fair to say that he was a better person than most. The presence of the Lord was with him. And yet, David’s life essentially falls apart all around him. King Saul grows jealous of him, tries to kill him, sends him on the run, and constantly chases and harasses him in an effort to kill him. David is forced to live life on the run, barely avoiding his existing enemies while also having to avoid King Saul’s murderous grasp.

As you read chapter after chapter of David on the run you realize that it couldn’t have been an easy life. While David handles it all in a godly manner and conducts his life on the run with honor, it doesn’t change the fact that for a long period of time his life was extremely difficult. You can definitely see in the Psalms he writes that he was often times troubled over his circumstances, yet he brought those troubles to the Lord. While he may have sometimes been troubled, his conduct and his ways continued to honor God.

So what’s my point? Here it is. The presence of God doesn’t equal the absence of trouble. Nowhere does the Bible promise me that having God in my life will keep me free of trials, troubles, and tribulations. In fact, the Bible tells us just the opposite! Here’s what Jesus had to say about it.

Matthew 10:22 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t excuse us from troubles, it pretty much does the opposite. If we’re living with open faith, if we’re making an impact for Jesus in this world, if we’re talking to people about Jesus, we’re almost certain to run face first into trouble. Even if you’re a new believer, or maybe a silent believer who isn’t fully living or proclaiming the faith right now, you’re still going to have troubles. Look at David. This guy was doing everything right. The presence of the Lord was with him, he was living in wisdom and in truth, loyal and loving and right living, and yet his life was nothing but trouble! The king he lovingly served started throwing spears at him for no reason, and David is forced into the wilderness. He knows he has been chosen by God to be the next king of Israel, yet he stays patient, unwilling to come against the current king no matter how hostile or crazy that current king had become towards him. This guy was doing it all right at this time in his life, and yet trouble was practically his middle name.

One of the things I love so much about the Bible is that it tells me things and it also shows me things. Jesus tells me in the New Testament that as one who follows Him and endeavors to serve Him I will be hated and will have troubles. In the Old Testament, the life of David shows me that one who follows God will be hated and will have troubles. And if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that one thing I’ve really been talking a lot about lately is repetition in the Bible. Themes and ideas that get repeated are repeated for a reason. I just feel God telling me MAKE SURE YOU GET THIS when something is repeated in the Bible. And the theme of troubles for believers is most certainly repeated.

Right now there’s someone reading this that’s facing trouble. There’s a temptation to question God in these times, to feel cheated that our love of Him and our life for Him isn’t protecting us from hard times. But if you believe His word, we have to accept that troubles and trials are just part of the deal. This world could bring misery after misery upon you, it just could. You could get cheated, beaten up, lied to, lose your home in a natural disaster, get fired for standing up for Jesus at work. Just like David, you could be doing everything right and still have your life fall to pieces. The presence of God doesn’t equal the absence of trouble.

This doesn’t mean we should fall into despair and give up. Because while we may face troubles on this earth, we’ve got so many incredible promises and truths that get us through them. First is just the love of God, that unwavering, filling, unbelievable love of God. Then there’s the promise that God is our shelter, our stronghold, our protection from the storms. There’s the call to give our troubles to Him, to allow Him to sustain us and not to be overcome with worry and anxiety.

Then there’s that incredible word of Jesus.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5 that blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, blessed are those who are meek, blessed are those who mourn. This world may be full of trouble for you, but take heart, because you serve King Jesus, and King Jesus has overcome the world. There is no problem that baffles Him, no trouble that trips Him up.

So if you are facing troubles in life right now, don’t look down, but look up. Know that God is your protector, that you live with promises that you have ultimate victory in Him. Meet the storms of life head on with a smile and with courage, knowing full well that we serve the one who has already overcome every possible storm we can face. Troubles don’t mean God’s forsaken you, or that He doesn’t hear your prayers, or that He isn’t on your side. Sometimes it means the exact opposite, that you’re making waves for the kingdom of God, that the world is coming against the truth of Jesus that you’re representing. And sometimes it’s just troubles that befall us because life on this world is imperfect. But we serve a perfect God, and this world isn’t our ultimate home. My home is with God in the next life, and I’ll endure whatever comes my way between now and then because I know a day will come soon when I see Him face to face and every trouble will be gone forever, replaced with love and joy.

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, today I thank you for your word.  You don’t sugar coat the truth for us, you give it to us straight.  And the straight truth is that we’re going to face hard times.  But you don’t leave us to fend for ourselves during these hard times.  Thank you for your promises, and thank you for your presence.  When I was in the hospital earlier this year, you were there with me.  As hard as it was, as excruciating as it was, you were with me.  What trouble can ever overwhelm me when I have you by my side?  You’re a dad that never leaves his children.  What a beautiful truth that is, Father God.  You don’t go off to work, you don’t pass away, you don’t make a bad decision and leave your kids fatherless.  You are by our side forever.  Your presence is with me wherever I go, and I’m just so wrapped up in comfort and strength from knowing that and from feeling that.  Lord, I also want to thank you today for tough times.  Thank you that we can learn from them, that we can grow from them.  When my eyes are on you, Jesus, you seem to turn everything to good.  My hospital stay is the best thing that could’ve happened to my health.  It got me on the road to recovery, but it also awakened a strength and endurance in me that I didn’t know I had.  So I thank you that you use the tough times to build us and to strengthen us.  Jesus, right now I pray for anyone who’s facing troubles today.  I ask that you cloak them in your love, that you flood them with the wisdom to handle the situation the right way, and that your will is accomplished at all times.  If your will is for us to face stormy seas, then let us have the wisdom to recognize that and the courage to face the waves with smiles on our faces.  Because you have overcome it all, Lord, and I thank you that we live within your victory.  I pray all of this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Well, it’s another Monday.  I hope it’s treating you guys well and that the week is off to a great start.  I love all of you.  And man, God loves you, too.  If you’re not in a place where you’re feeling God’s love, I just want to encourage you to get in a quiet spot today and reach out to Him in prayer.  You’re going to be amazed at what happens.

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