Bowed But Not Beaten

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A minister was making a wooden trellis to support a climbing vine. As he was pounding away, he noticed that a little boy was watching him. The youngster didn’t say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the lad would leave. But he didn’t. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, “Well, son, trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?” “No,” he replied. “I’m just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”

That boy was watching to see how the preacher would respond to pain. How he would deal with pain. How he would handle hurt. The World is a lot like that little boy. It watches how we (as children of God) act when faced with suffering, injustice, and unfairness. The world expects to see anger, resentment, bitterness, and rage. But that’s not what the world WANTS to see. The world wants to see people who can face difficulties in life with grace and inner strength and thus give them hope for their own struggles.
Too often we fail – I fail – to live up to the potential that God has placed within us to meet those challenges. And yet God understands.

I. That’s why He’s given us the example of David.

Psalm 56 is a portrait of David as a victim: he’s been attacked, slandered, conspired against, and yet this Psalm is a psalm of praise and glorification. It’s a reaffirmation of God’s faithfulness.

Where was David? Verse one of this Psalm says he’d been seized by Philistines. This refers back to the incident that’s recorded in I Samuel 21. David’s life has been one of continuous change up to this point. He started his life as shepherd guarding his family’s sheep, then was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel, then faced and killed the Giant Goliath and ended up being the hero of the people because of his successes at war. They begin singing a song of how Saul has killed his 1000’s but David has killed his 10,000’s. But his popularity with his nation created a jealousy within King Saul that resulted in several attempts being made on his life. Finally, on the run from Saul, young David has sought food and weapons (the sword of Goliath) at the Tabernacle and has run for shelter to the Philistine city of Gath… the one place he doubts Saul could follow.

NOW READ I Samuel 21:10-22:1

II. What happened when David reached Gath?

Two things he hadn’t counted on.
1. Being recognized (vs 11). Goliath had been from Gath, and David now had that Giant’s sword in his possession.
2. And that his reputation would precede him. The Philistines knew the song that had once praised his prowess.

David has jumped out of the frying pan (of Saul’s wrath) into the fire (of the revenge of Goliath’s people). The place of refuge was now his prison. Now he sits alone, imprisoned within his circumstances… without hope… and facing a real danger of execution.

I can sense the seeds of anger in Psalm 56. Revue verses 1,2,5,6. David recites his peril and within his words you can hear an echo of what we might say: “It’s not fair. It’s not right. I don’t deserve this!”

Randy Becton was a man who had arrived. But his world became shattered in 1970 when he learned that his mother had breast cancer. “My mother was only 50 years old. She was a beautiful, extremely active, healthy woman. She was the hub of our family.

My father, my older brother, my 2 younger brothers, and I depended on her intellectual, emotional, and spiritual strength. She was the organizing spirit behind every aspect of our family. We thought of her as indispensable and indestructible. We were wrong.

Mother was to have immediate surgery followed by extensive radiation treatments over the next few months. I flew to Washington D.C. to be with her for the surgery. As she lay in the recovery room, I sat in the hospital’s medical library reading detailed articles about this ugly new reality called breast cancer.

That period of study and though is seared in my memory. I felt personally violated, assaulted, invaded by this strange thing called cancer. I resented it. I became incredibly angry. ’She doesn’t deserve this,’ I thought. ’It just isn’t fair!’ I thought about the events of her life. ’She’s had so many discouragements, God. It’s wrong for you to let this happen to her.’”

Confronted by individuals or illness, circumstances can bring us to our knees.

III. As Christians, what we need to see: though we may be imprisoned we don’t have to be beaten

The key is to be found in how David responds to his situation. What does he do? He sings. He creates a new song. He worships. Just like Paul and Silas in prison in the book of Acts.

Audrey my middle daughter later developed cancer and wrote her process of dealing with pain:
“I seemed to be dying physically day by day and I wasn’t doing much better in the emotional and spiritual battle. I struggled to live and at the same time struggled to keep my faith. My friend, Glenn Owen, observed about this conflict: ’Faith does not always come from quiet contemplation or meditation. It is sometimes born among the raging of questions with no answers.’

Pat Harrell, himself a cancer patient, referred to this period of faith-searching as ’religion born in a cry.’ That’s exactly what it was for me. I was sick. I was scared. I was worried.

Time has mercifully erased the terror of those days, but perhaps you’ll understand the intensity of my thoughts through the following prayers written during those times: (and here he shares his song like prayers)
The pain now goes beyond what is bearable… without you
The weariness and fear are more than I can conquer… without you
My eyesight is like a flickering candle, and it’s dark… without you
I confess: I’m scared to death… without you
I have no more resources of faith… without you
So help me, God to take one step at a time… with you.
You are my only hope! God, I’m frightened about
the uncertainty of my life. It seems to be burning out.
The statistics are against me. The advance of the disease is to far. All
I know to do is confess that you are not limited by statistics. You take
the hopeless and renew their hope. You are the living God. How I
yearn to be one of your healed children.

When Life is darkest, we NEED to WORSHIP. We need to seek God out.

IV. What can be the results of David’s kind of worship?

1. David experienced no fear. Psalm 56:10-13
“In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise— in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

Helen Keller, who is a classic example of handling life’s problems, said, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I found myself, my work, and my God.”

2. David received the encouragement.

When Christians are discouraged, what book of the Bible do they turn to? Psalms. Why, because God placed that book in our Bible to be the source of encouragement it often is to His people.

3. We can lead others to salvation (I Cor. 14:24 and 25) “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

In other words, when we worship in the way we ought to, unbelievers are struck by the power of our God and the weakness of their own lives. They begin to want the type of God we have. Worship, when it’s done right, brings others to the Christ that has helped us.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey was a black jazz musician from Atlanta. In the 20’s he gained a certain amount of notoriety as the composer of jazz tunes with suggestive lyrics, but he gave all that up in 1926 to concentrate exclusively on spiritual music. “Peace in the Valley” is one of his best known songs, but there is a story behind his most famous song that deserves to be told.

In 1932, the times were hard for Dorsey. Just trying to survive the depression years as a working musician meant tough sledding. On top of that, this music was not accepted by many people. Some said it was too worldly – the devil’s music, they called it. Many years later could laugh about it. He said, “I got kicked out of some of the best churches in the land.” But the real kick in the teeth came one night in St. Louis when he received a telegram informing him that his pregnant wife had died suddenly.

Dorsey was so filled with grief that his faith was shaken to the roots, but instead of wallowing in self pity, he turned to the discipline he knew best – music. In the midst of agony he wrote the following lyrics:
Precious Lord, Take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Thru the storm, thru the night, Lead me on to the Light;
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.

If you live long enough, you will experience heartache, disappointment, and sheer helplessness. The Lord is our most precious resource in these hours of trauma. “The Lord, is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9). Tom Dorsey understood that. His song was originally written as a way of coping with his personal pain, but even today it continues to bless thousands of others when they pass thru times of hardship.

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