Ulterior Motives

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” – Proverbs 16:2

In yesterday’s devotional we talked about Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This verse is so powerful because it shows us that when we have issues, there is a great chance we have a heart problem. There are so many times in our lives when we are quick to pass the blame for our issues off on some external force, or person, and here the Bible is telling us to look inward and not allow the wrong people access to our lives.

In today’s devotional I want to talk about motives. Or in other words, why do we do what we are doing? Motives are key elements to our decision making and they play a role in keeping us in or getting us out of God’s will for our life. Proverbs 21:2 says, “We can justify our every deed, but God looks at our motives.” (TLB) And Psalm 7:9 says, “End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous. For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.”?

Remember the story of mother who went to ask Jesus for an eternal place for her sons at His right and left hands? (Matthew 20:20-28) First she kneeled and then got around to what she really wanted. “And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But this is not about intentions and motives. Nor is it about the sons of Zebedee and it is not about us. It is all about Jesus. It’s about helping the whole world find and follow Jesus. When His heartbeat and motives become what drives us, there is no limit to what He will do in our lives.

But sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that God does not look at our motives. The fact is, nothing is hidden from God about us. God knows not only our actions, thoughts and words, but He also knows the motives behind them all. Imagine, God knows the raw motives behind everything we do or think. We have no “private” thoughts before God.

Now, this can be scary or freeing, comforting or terrifying, depending on how we understand the gospel. Remember, the gospel changes everything. The gospel says that Jesus came to die for those sinful motives and bring us back into a right relationship with God. The gospel says that through Christ, God has forgiven us of our sinful heart motives. The gospel says that God is working in our heart to change our raw motives and turn them into pure, God-glorifying motives. The gospel is not just to convert us, but to change us daily, from the inside out, from the heart to the hands, every moment of every day.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you question other people’s motives? How often do you question your own motives?
  2. Read 1 Chronicles 28:9: What advice is given to Solomon and to us?
  3. Your heart can’t be trusted. The truth is, if you let it, your heart will direct you down a path that leads to the very spot you most want to avoid. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  4. How do our motives and intentions determine our direction? We typically don’t drift in good directions. What does it take to get where we want to go?
  5. Read 2 Corinthians 10:3–5: The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive, so that it conforms to the will of God. What steps can we take to move in that direction?

Above All Else, Guard Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

As your heart goes, so goes your life.

Ever since you were born your heart has been in the process of being shaped. Family, friends, teachers, media, music, and so many other things have all influenced who you have become. How you respond to circumstances and how you view life, has been greatly impacted by these influences. Whether you realize it or not, you are always being shaped by something. Even now, as you read this devotional, your brain is making a decision on whether it will be influenced by what you are reading.

Enter Solomon. King Solomon possessed the wisdom to govern all Israel. But King Solomon lacked the will to govern his own heart. His many wives introduced many gods to Israel – and influenced the beginnings of compromise that ultimately led to harsh consequences.

It makes you wonder how such an intelligent person could manage to get their lives in such a mess. But as we found out in previous weeks with the life of Abraham and David, they all payed a high price for their obsessions and an unguarded heart.

Scripture tells us to guard our heart, because it is the source of our life. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people. Out of the heart come all our motives, desires and motivations. We are to barricade our heart against anything or anyone else that seek to claim it because our heart belongs to God. Only God can have the permission to lead, guide and instruct our heart. That is why we must safeguard it. We must diligently and consciously protect it from invasions other than God.

It naturally asks the question of what are you allowing to shape it? There are no shortage of people, or things that want to lay claim to our heart. But they can only possess it with our permission. If something or someone has taken hold of it, it is because we have let down our guard and let it or him/her/it in. As Christ followers we must become intentional in guarding our heart from anything that is contrary to scripture. Rather, we must focus on what enables us to be more like Jesus.

In Proverbs, Solomon reveals the outcome of pathways chosen. Many of the verses in Proverbs offers us hope as it looks to the desired end of our lives and challenges us to think backward along its logical course. How do we want our lives to end? In what areas do we really want to succeed at all costs? The path we take today will lead us there. It attempts to provide us some perspective. And when you have that perspective, and when your eyes are fixed on the prize, you will better guard your heart.

Guard your heart with things like prayer, solitude, fasting, scripture memorization, and learning to sharpen your ability to draw closer to God. These will help you guard your heart because you will be spending your energy on Him. Remember, as goes your heart, goes your life.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is it so important to guard your heart? Why is it important that we address any issues at the source rather than downstream?
  2. Read Matthew 22:37-38: What is the first and greatest commandment concerning the heart?
  3. According to Luke 6:45, how does our heart affect our actions?
  4. Read Luke 21:34 and Deuteronomy 11:16: What are at least two dangers of concerning our hearts?
  5. Pray and give God complete access to your heart.

God's Wisdom. Our Relationships.

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” – 1 Kings 11:4

Solomon ruled over a great number of happy people: “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.” Provisions were plentiful. The Israelites were at peace, but also had “40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen” (1 Kings 4:26) if needed.

And of course he had wisdom. My attention is drawn to Psalm 72, a psalm either written by David to (or on behalf of) Solomon, or written by Solomon himself: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Psalm 72:1-4)

But for all of his talents and his wide range of experience, he was no marriage expert. There is no getting around the fact that monogamy was not one of Solomon’s strong points. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. Whoa. There isn’t a consultant or expert that could help you effectively manage that situation. Do you think he knew all of their names? Or remembered all of their birthdays and anniversaries? Or knew whether he spent some quality time with each of them several times each year?

Proverbs offers men much wisdom related to avoiding the trap of immoral relationships with women. However, Solomon’s greatest personal weakness was with women. Solomon knew what was right. Yet, he didn’t follow his own advice concerning women? One reason sometimes noted for Solomon failing to follow his own advice is that there is a difference between having knowledge and applying knowledge. Solomon knew it was wrong to obtain many wives—in fact, it was against the Mosaic Law. “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) God had warned Solomon specifically against marrying foreign women and, in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

The thought of such a wise man ignoring a warning from God seems hard to understand. But throughout scripture, we see a definite pattern of God using ordinary, sinful individuals to teach us lessons about how we are to act. In the past few weeks we have learned great lessons from King David, who was an adulterer and murderer. We learned about Abraham and his half-truths. We would also be well served to model parts of our lives after all of these men, despite the fact that each of them had obvious areas of sin in their lives.

We need to remember that Solomon also wrote the Song Of Solomon. This book is a frank discussion of love between a married couple. While The Song of Solomon’s willingness to discuss the topic of physical love within marriage can make people uncomfortable, it is a testament to the beauty of the marriage relationship in its fullness.

When we read the Song of Solomon, we can pause and conclude that yes, Solomon had a lot of wives and made some mistakes. And yes, there were a lot of consequences for his sinful actions. He wasn’t perfect, but in the relationship described in detail in Song of Solomon, he finally got it right. This is how it is supposed to be. This is what marriage should be.

We too will make mistakes. But we too can get it right if we guard our hearts and trust completely on God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did God allow Solomon to have 1,000 wives and concubines?
  2. Solomon began building the temple with the aim to draw all the pagan peoples of the world to the one true God, but after time he began to draw the Israelites to false, pagan gods. How do you see that happening?
  3. Why is it difficult sometimes to follow our own advice?
  4. Why does the Scripture put such an emphasis on the heart? Humility is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and relationships. Why do you think this is the case?
  5. Pray and ask God for wisdom in all your relationships.

When Small Things Become Big Things

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:7-9.

There are many things in life that initially seem significant. The one thing in your office you didn’t put away. The one task that you didn’t complete. That relationship you didn’t work on. The bill you didn’t pay. The deadline you let pass. No big deal unless you never get past the half-way, the almost, the in-between and the just about to address them. Most big problems start as small, easily addressed items. By not addressing them, you allowed them to grow into big issues.

Solomon was the wisest, richest man in the world. Yet, the bible tells us in 1 Kings 11:4-6: “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.”

Exactly how did the wisest man in the world forget God? I believe there are several answers that apply both to Solomon and to us today. First, Solomon left a little wiggle room in his commitment to God. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:3) Here’s the issue.There’s no such thing as a partial commitment. When you begin with an exception clause, you will never arrive at full devotion and the Home Run Life.

Secondly, assume that you’re an exception to the rule. God commanded: He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. (Deuteronomy 17:17a) Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. (1 Kings 11:1,3) God commanded that he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:17b) The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land …The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. (1 Kings 10:14,27) Do we believe we are the exception to some of the rules as well?

Finally, fail to deal with your predisposed weaknesses. “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” (1 Kings 11:1-2) For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (1 Kings 11:4)

Sin has a way of creeping into our lives. A little activity here and a repeated behavior there can quietly become a habit in no time. Without being aware of it, sin can not only trip us up, but it can derail a person in short order, especially when we’re not paying careful attention.

Discussion Question:

  1. Solomon accumulated unprecedented riches. Look up Deuteronomy 17:15-17 and 28:1-14. Did Solomon go too far? Is extreme wealth a good thing or a bad thing?
  2. As Solomon grew older, he was a rich and established ruler, but he did not apply the wisdom that defined his early career. How can you continue to seek wisdom, even after you have experienced success?
  3. Did you ever let someone or something become more important to you than God? How can you show that God is important to you?
  4. Solomon’s failures began when he married women who served other gods. What advice would you give someone who is considering dating a non-Christian?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you eliminate small problems before they become big problems.

The Value Of Wisdom

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” – Ephesians 1: 16-19

There are many significant moments in Solomon’s life. One of them was when God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” Needless to say that is some offer. And it came from the only One who could really grant it. Of all the things in the whole world he could have asked for, Solomon said: “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” (1 Chronicles 1:8-10)

God was pleased. “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” – 1 Kings 3:10-14

Solomon made a wise choice by asking for wisdom. Wisdom is knowing what is true and right, and having good judgment when making decisions. Solomon knew that he could not rule well without God’s wisdom. Riches and earthly things would not make him a better ruler, just a wealthier one. Only God’s wisdom would make him able to live out God’s plan.

While we may not be Solomon, if we are to live out God’s plan we too must also make good choices. And good choices result when we are connected to God ans when we use the wisdom found in the Bible. The Bible says that if we rely on our own thoughts and feelings, we are foolish, Proverbs 26:12 says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” God is happy to provide us with wisdom. James 1: 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” God gives freely to everyone. He doesn’t find fault.

Solomon was Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, and Steve Jobs all rolled into one. He wrote thousands of songs and proverbs, he wrote books and textbooks to teach other people. People came from all the nations to hear him teach because of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:29-34).

We must remember where that wisdom came from. It came from God! God promised to give Solomon wisdom, and kept His promise. God makes this same promise to us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does this account of Solomon’s wisdom teach us about God’s wisdom?
  2. In what practical areas of your own life do you sense a need for more wisdom? Are you willing to ask God for this? What are some of the real reasons we don’t ask God for wisdom, even when we need it desperately?
  3. Why is it so difficult sometimes to know the best choice to make—and then make it?
  4. If you could talk with someone and receive the best wisdom in the world concerning any question, what question would you ask? When have you, personally, really needed God’s wisdom?
  5. Think about a situation in your life where you wish God would offer you more wisdom. What kinds of questions would you like to ask Him about that situation?

Letting Go

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove. I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.“ – Psalms 55:4-8

Psalm 55 gives us a different perspective of King David. We see a man terrorized by his enemies and concerned about what is happening in his life. His first reaction to his current circumstances seems to be to turn and run away. This seems a little out of character for the man who killed Goliath and fought with lions and bears. But is it? We can identify with David. Most of us have had successes. Some have had large successes. But in spite of what we may have accomplished, there are times when the pressure mounts and every fiber of our being wants to head for the exit. While David probably at least considered making an exit, stage right, he chose instead to offer an earnest prayer for relief. He chooses to fervently seek God.

We can feel his yearning for God in the first verse, “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!.” He is asking God to “lend His ear.” David is pouring out his heart to God and he’s pleading for Him to listen.

The Psalm continues and David expresses great pain. He is hurting deeply, but in the midst of his pain he is crying out to God in bold and fervent prayer. Verses 16 and 17 show us exactly how he prayed, “But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” David is confronting God and boldly proclaiming his need.

While everything inside him said, “run!” he chose to stay and seek God. My guess is he was probably on his knees in tears and shouting his prayers to his Father in heaven. And, when we feel like running away, we need to do the same thing. We all face a common desire sometimes to run away. We all deal with disappointments in life. We want to get away from hassles, from frustrations, we are weary of arguments, and bickering, and sometimes it seems like it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

Do why does David hang in there?The answer is in verses 22 and 23, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.”

David rested and trusted completely in God’s promises and knew that the Lord would uphold the believer in their life struggles. David knew that when he called upon God, He would listen, and He would give us what we need to get through the struggle, no matter what was happening in his life.

So when we want to run away, run to God, and let give life’s struggles to Him. Learn to let go.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Psalm 55: What feelings are described in Psalm 55? Describe the image of God that you find in this passage.
  2. What were David’s complaints before God? In other words, with what problem or difficulty was he dealing?
  3. How often does David say he prays? How often do you pray?
  4. We often have a negative response to our “negative” feelings. What thoughts do you typically have in response to your feelings of anger, depression or fear? How does it affect you to know that God is near to you when you are in pain? Have you ever wanted to just leave your problems and fly away?  Share what you learned at a time when you stayed despite the desire to leave.
  5. Responding to God: Be honest before God with your own feelings today. Perhaps you are in a good place, as were our psalmists who wrote the psalms of confidence; or you may be in a difficult spot and feel much as David did as expressed in Psalm 55.

A Psalm Of David

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is one of the best known texts in the Bible. It is rich with the image of the shepherd and what a shepherd does. Comforting, soothing words that we need to hear in our journey through life. It is also extremely powerful in its simplicity. By using the word shepherd to describe God, David was introducing one of the most personal and wide-ranging terms found in the Psalms and perhaps in the Old Testament about God. David often used terms like fortress, deliverer, shield, and rock to refer to God; but here he used a word-picture of one who lives with his flock and is everything to it.

Psalm 23 starts with, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (v. 1). In other words, I have everything I need in Jesus. Where my own desires for acceptance or my pride lead to a heart left in shambles, He restores my soul, establishing a new foundation of righteousness and hope. When I am worried about the future, I now know the ending, regardless of circumstance.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v. 4). When anxiety and worry start to consume my life, Jesus is with me, lifting my chin so my eyes rest on Him rather than my problems. His presence means that He is in control, and I am under His care.

Psalm 23 concludes with this promise: “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6). We can find find our rest in Jesus today and in an uncertain future. His love and our identity in Him will overwhelm our fears.

David was the son of a shepherd, had been a shepherd himself, and would even become known as the Shepherd King. David knew this title was applied to the person who was ultimately, on a very personal level, responsible for the care and well being of the flock. David was saying because the Lord is my Shepherd, He satisfies my needs, and I do not lack any good thing. That is the very place our Savior wants to bring us to, so that we are dependent on Him and Him alone. In real terms, we can’t make it without a shepherd, so we must allow the Shepherd to rule our lives.

Jesus Christ says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) If you are a Christian, Jesus Christ is your Shepherd and He cares for you and will never let you go.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why do you think Psalm 23 become the most famous of all the Psalms? What is it that makes this Psalm so enduring?
  2. David did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ who said: “I am the good shepherd.” Read John 10:7-30 and list what other insights you received into the shepherding of his people. How are these relevant for your life?
  3. David talked about how God leads us through dark valleys. What are some dark valleys you walked through? How did God demonstrate His faithfulness to you? How did that time in your life affect and shape you into who you are today?
  4. What does “fear no evil” mean for you? How is this possible? Do you find it easy or difficult?
  5. What does it mean to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever?” Is that something to experience here on earth, or just in heaven?

The Giant That Felled David

“If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride…Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you think of the life of David, one of two events probably come to your mind. You either remember the time young David slew Goliath; or you remember when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Both events were monumental moments in the life of David. In the first, David demonstrated his humility. In the second, David revealed his humanity. When David met a giant named Goliath, we are privileged to witness his greatest victory. When David met Bathsheba, we are forced to watch his greatest defeat.

Up until this moment, David had never lost a battle. But then he was soundly defeated by a giant far more powerful than Goliath could have ever hoped to have been. It wasn’t the giant of health problems, death, financial crisis, relationships, or any other problem or trial that you would list as the greatest troubles in your life today. This giant resides in the heart. This giant is pride.

When we look at David and his life we will see what happens when pride rules. As we have noted before, David had great men of honor and ability following him and one of them was Uriah the Hittite. He had a beautiful wife named Bathsheba. Uriah had only this one wife and David on the other hand had many wives. He was king and could choose whomever he wanted. Yet, because of his pride he desired something that was not lawful for him to have. He saw this woman as something that he had not conquered. He wasn’t thinking of the trouble it would cause him and his nation, he simply did what came natural to him. He saw an opportunity and he took it. Uriah was in battle fighting for his king and his country, David committed adultery with her and thought the matter was closed. In time, however, she sent word to him that she was with child and David went into full pride mode.

David then made a decision to ultimately cover up his sins and he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a sealed note. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:15

A widow was made by the intentional decision of a man filled with his pride. Judgment came to David and even more people died because of this tragic event. Was it worth it? Of course the answer is NO. When David was confronted, we see him come to a place of genuine repentance and sorrow. David quickly understood the situation and asked God for forgiveness.  His life had changed when he encountered God’s judgment first and then God’s grace.

There is just one way to be free from pride and it’s destructive ways. Humility crushes the wall of pride in our lives. There is nothing more deadly than pride and the only cure is humility and brokenness. As Christians, we must do whatever it takes to see pride rooted out of our life. We do that by getting down on our knees, pray, and believe that God is bigger than our struggles, our needs and wants. The worst is that it keeps us from God. It keeps us from repentance because pride makes excuses for sin rather than owning up and confessing. That is our barrier. Pride keeps us from triumphing over sin.There is only One that has the power to remove, and cancel sin. The only way to draw close to him is through a humble spirit. “Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Discussion Question:

  1. What are some of the destructive elements of pride?
  2. In your own words describe how pride brings someone low and humility brings someone up.
  3. What are some good areas of pride?
  4. Does our emphasis on ourselves reduce our emphasis on God?
  5. Being open and honest, have you ever gone through a season when you struggled with pride? How did it affect your relationships with others? With God? How did God address that issue in your life?
  6. Pray and ask God to help you in any area of pride.

David and Goliath

“And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” – 1 Samuel 17: 2-11

This is one of my favorite Bible stories. It is a climactic combat, winner takes all competition where the hero is the underdog. It pits the big guy against the little guy. The little guy triumphs and goes on to even greater glory. What’s there not to like about this story.

The Philistines have entered into Israelite territory looking to increase their territory and also to place the Israelites in subjection to themselves. The Philistines are feeling pretty confident about their chances. And the reason for their confidence lies in a champion that has risen, quite literally, among them. His name is Goliath, a name that has ever since then always been associated with someone who is tall and large in stature. With Goliath as their champion, the Philistines believe they will win the battle.

That is how the army of the Israelites saw it too. Goliath has had the desired effect on the army of Israel. Israel has allowed themselves to be intimidated by this Goliath. And no wonder. Look at the details we are given about Goliath. He stands over nine feet tall. This guy is two feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal. This guy would not even have to jump in order to put a basketball into the basket. All he would have to do is reach up and slam it home. He is no skinny giant either. He is strong. He has to be strong. Look at the armor that he wears. The coat of armor that he wears to protect his chest and back weighs 125 pounds. The point of the spear that he threw weighed 15 pounds all by itself. So, judging from the description that you have of this guy, this is not a guy that most people would want to battle with to the death. No wonder no one in the army of Israel was willing to step forward and say, “I will take this guy up on his offer and fight him.” He was huge and intimidating. And the Philistines used him well to gain the psychological advantage.

The rest of the story is found in 1 Samuel 17: 41-51:And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand. When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it.

Remember what the Bible says, “Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Greater is He, meaning Jesus, who is in me; than he, meaning Satan, who is in the world. That is who we have to fight with us and for us. That’s who David had at his side and why he won the battle.

Discussion Question:

  1. Are you afraid of anything? What is required to get rid of fears? Do previous encounters make us stronger and less afraid in the future?
  2. Why was David so confident that he could defeat Goliath?
  3. Is being the underdog a disadvantage? Are disadvantages really advantages when God is involved?
  4. Are there challenges you faced in the past that prepared you for more important challenges later? Can you trace a gradual strengthening of your faith?
  5. Pray and ask God for the courage to face up to your fears.

Without Fail

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your wordsand blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” – Psalm 51: 1-6

Wouldn’t it be great if we could meet David? It would be an extraordinary experience for sure. If we only had a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor. Even a few minutes with him would be great. Why? Because he killed Goliath. He killed lions and bears. He was a man after God’s own heart. He fled when he was the rightful king. He showed grace to Saul. He loved his son Absalom when Absalom wanted him dead. And finally, out of his lineage came our Savior, Jesus Christ. David was a biblical rock star.

But as with the case with so many larger than life figures in the Bible, David also had some items in the negative side of the ledger. He committed murder and adultery. In fact, David had struggle after struggle. Many of those struggles were his own fault. He sinned greatly, like many of the people we cherish in Scripture. Yet, he discovered that God is gracious beyond what he deserved.

Throughout the Bible, God used people in spite of, and after their greatest of failures. Simon Peter preached his greatest message and had his greatest ministry after he denied the Lord. Samson sinned against God, yet he slew more Philistines in the end of his life than he had during his entire ministry. Abraham lied, yet he was used by God. There are many others that we could add to this short list. But these are sufficient to show that the Lord can take those who have failed in the past and that He can still use them for His glory today, and into the future.

Paul was on his way to Damascus to find Christians to arrest and to take them to their deaths. He was filled with hatred and wanted nothing more than to completely destroy anyone or anything connected with the name of Jesus Christ. Yet, in spite of all this, the Lord was able to change this man and to use him for the glory of God.

God can do the same thing in your life and mine. He can take us, with all the baggage that we carry, and He can use us for His glory. We all bring certain liabilities to the table. Some have the tendency to stray from the truth like Abraham. Others are filled with pride like David. God is able to take us exactly where we are, change what needs to be changed and then use us to further His kingdom.

Despite David’s sin, he was always a man after God’s own heart. People would always judge him for his actions, but God always loved him for who he was. And he loves us for who we are and in spite of our failures or shortcomings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Everyone has shortcomings, failures in life. The question is do these failures or shortcomings keep us from being used by God?
  2. What prevents us from being used by God?
  3. Why as Christians do we continue to make mistakes and why do we struggle to confess our failures?
  4. Sometimes we live in our own little stories of life rather than God’s story. What does this mean and how does this hinder us from being part of what God is doing in the lives of others.
  5. Pray and ask God to help you use your gifts to further His kingdom.