How to know the will of God in difficult times
Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation, and desperately needed God's counsel to get you out. Or maybe you just need direction from God on a particular issue. Then stay with me as we look at David's life in the old testament and learn how to find out God's will for our lives situations.
David's life had numerous ups and downs. At one time in his life he was constantly fleeing from King Saul who wanted to kill him.
David eventually came to live at Ziklag.There he became the leader of his own little community. However it so happened, when David and his men were away, that the Amalekites came to Ziklag, destroyed the whole place, burning it with fire and took away all the men's wives and children.
It was a time of great distress and bewilderment for David and all the other people. The men were so angry they even considered stoning David to death.
We read this story in 1 Samuel 30:1-8. We will use this story as our main text for this study
"David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.
4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David's two wives had been captured -- Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.
But David found strength in the LORD his God. 7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David enquired of the LORD," Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I over take them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." 1 Samuel 30:1-8 (NIV)
We can learn at least three important things from the above story on how to receive counsel from God in times of need
1.Don't lose heart
When the storms of life strike it is very easy to get discouraged. "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" is normally our first question. There is nothing wrong with questioning what has happened to us; even more when we are in God's will.
David was where he was because of God. It all started with him slaying Goliath. He had good reason to question God.
David was deeply hurt by what had happened. He wept till he had no strength left (1 Samuel 30:4). He must have felt disappointed and even angry with God. Why had God allowed this to happen? Even his own men were now against him
David's first response to the situation was to weep. It was that bad. Nevertheless David knew he had to keep his heart right if he was to hear from God. He did not understand why God had allowed this to happen but he still trusted the Lord. David went on to strengthen himself in the Lord.
He renewed his faith. David reminded himself that God is good and faithful. He dismissed discouragement. He refused to loose heart. He put all offence and bitterness towards God out of the way. This was the key to David's success. We need to do the same when faced with similar situations.
If we are to hear God speak to us we need to make sure we are not annoyed with him. Do you know it is possible to be offended with God ? ( Matt 11:6).
2.Keep your heart clean
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it [spring] the issues of life.Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)
Keeping our hearts with diligence means being careful not to let negative seeds (of hurt, doubt and unbelief) get sown into our hearts. You might not understand God but you can still trust Him with all your heart.
When trouble or hardships strike they normally move us in one of three directions
1. Discourage us temporarily
2. Push us away from God
3. Draw us close to God
Its our hearts that determine which direction we go.
Temporary discouragement is common to all of us as believers. Discouragement only becomes a problem when we allow it to turn into hurt and bitterness towards God or other people.
The men in David's company became "bitter in spirit". (verses 6). Naturally speaking you could not blame them. After all they had just lost their sons and daughters. This was a disaster they could not explain.
The men wanted to stone David. Their actions were a reflection of their hearts. Disappointments and hurt can easily turn into bitterness towards God. Bitterness in the heart is very dangerous. (Hebrews 12:15).
It makes it even harder for us to hear from God If you are so annoyed with God that you stop coming to church, neglect praying and keep pondering over everything God has not done, you are very unlikely to hear God. Some people even go as far as saying I am not going to pray again until God speaks to me.
A more subtle form of bitterness or hurt towards God makes us withdraw from Him inwardly but not outwardly. We remain Christians but have consciously given up any real hope that He will heed our voice. We stop putting any determined effort into seeking His face. We become weary in our hearts.
We need to keep our hearts with all diligence against this happening. David was in the same situation as these men but his heart took him in the opposite direction - closer to God.
David was no doubt discouraged initially, but must have quickly realised that he had no other option apart from getting closer to God.
Drawing close to God in time of hardship is not always easy. We get an insight into how David did it in Psalm 103.
We need to reassure ourselves of the goodness and faithfulness of God before we will be able to hear from him and get counsel for the way out. First work on your heart before looking to God for guidance. This is what David did (verse 6)
3.Hearing from God
We should be aware that there is no use asking God for His counsel if we have already made up our mind on what we want to do. Notice what David did.
He asked the Lord about something that seemed obvious. "shall I pursue this raiding party?" (verse 8) This seemed the obvious thing to do. David, despite the pressure of an angry mob of men, took the time and patience to seek God's face.
We need to lay down our own ambitions and agenda at the cross before we can expect God to give us His counsel. Don't go to God with a plan you want Him to rubber stamp. Be honest. Are you ready to do His will.?
In learning how to find out God's will lets take a few hints from one of David's Psalms
[Of David.] Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)
1. You need to make an effort in getting your innermost being to praise the Lord.Get your heart right with God. Forgive God if you have to. Don't blame your self either. Don't let the past affect your present.
Nor is there any wisdom in going to God with a long list of things He has not done. You will only get more discouraged. You need to put all these things aside and tell your soul and inmost being to praise the Lord.
2. Forget not His benefits. The Lord is good. Never forget that. Keep a record of all the things He has spoken to you in the past. Its also essential that you keep a list of answered prayers. Get a note book to keep these in.
Come to God with a list of things you want Him to do. Remind yourself of His goodness. Remember His promises to you, especially the personal ones
3. God forgives sins. Never think that God is not speaking to you because of your sin. Peter denied Jesus three times (and that was after being warned by Jesus beforehand), he repented and Jesus forgave him. Jesus is still the same today.
He still forgives today (1John 2:1-2) Do not live under condemnation. God is a God of compassion. Remember Jonah.
4. God redeems us. Even where we have got ourselves into trouble because of our own stupid actions He can still turn it around. (Romans 8:28). Simply because you can't think of a way out does not mean God can't. Expect God to redeem you. More importantly, count on Him to lead you.
5. God loves to satisfy our desires.Read Luke 11:5-13 and Luke 18 : 1-8.You will see what Jesus had to teach on asking. When we ask the Lord for guidance He will guide us.
You can study more about David by reading 1 Samuel 16 to 1 King 2. David is also mentioned in Amos 6:5, matt1:1,Matt 22:43-45, Acts 13:22 , Heb. 11:32.