Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Soulprint Week #3 - The Crags of the Wild Goats

Below is the message I shared with Good Shepherd on Sunday.  It is the third in a six week series based on the life of David and the book Soulprint.  
The focus of this week's message really has been resonating with me, and sticking with me: simply, that in our search for purpose, meaning and fulfillment in life, in our journey to live into the call that God has placed on our lives nothing is more important than our integrity.  It is our integrity that opens the door of our lives for God to work most fully in and through them.  God Bless.

 1 Samuel 24 (NIV)
1 [a]After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.”2 So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said[b] to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way. 8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.  14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”  16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”  22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Today we continue our series based on the book ‘Soulprint’, working towards understanding who God has uniquely made us to be who we are and searching for the unique call and destiny that God has placed on our lives.  A quick review of the last two weeks. 
First, we are who we are on purpose, for a purpose.  The secondly, to be ourselves we need a Holy Confidence in a God that is Holy, that loves us and that has planned nothing but the best for us.  This Holy confidence is trusting and leaning on God.
Moving forward in that Holy confidence, we first look back.  We Look back at where we have been in our lives can help us see the way that God has always been working in, around and through all of our lives.   We Keep mementos, reminders or ‘life symbols’ of the times that God has been especially present and active in our lives.  We carry these life symbols to help us remember that ‘the ultimate objective of every circumstance is to cultivate the character of Christ in us.
You would need many, many words to even begin to fully describe the character of Christ, but a good place to start might be with the word integrity.  Integrity is, as Batterson puts it, what the latter we climb up through our lives leans against.  Without integrity – he says – you cannot fulfill your destiny, because your integrity is your destiny.  Integrity is so important because it correctly highlights what is important. 
Batterson continues:
The goal is not accomplishing the dream god has given to you.  The dream is a secondary issue.  The primary issue is who you become in the process.  We fixate on what and when and where.  God’s primary concern is always who.  And He won’t get you where He wants you to go until you become who He wants you to be. 
Having integrity doesn’t just matter after you have been given a dream or destiny from God.   It is how that dream or destiny becomes clear.  It is only when we stop living for selfish purposes that the pressure comes off of us, we rely on the dream giver and destiny fulfiller, that our destiny can come into focus.
Before David could fulfill his destiny, he had to pass a supreme test of his integrity.  That test comes in the ‘crags of the wild goats.  A lot has happened in David’s life since we saw him last week defeating Goliath.  David’s favor with God and popularity with the people of Israel have grown substantially since God allowed him to defeat Goliath.   Every job or mission that David goes on for king Saul is an epic success.  But as David is being blessed by God and showing the power of his anointing by God – remember He has already been anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel. – The anointing and the Spirit of God has left Saul.  The Lord’s anointing has gone from Saul because he lost his intergrity.
This is illustrated clearly in three ways.  First, that Saul stopped making alters to remember what God had done for him and the people of Israel and began making alters to himself.  Second, he became overwhelmed with jealousy against David – the song the people sang ‘Saul has killed his hundreds, but David has killed thousands’ didn’t help.  Finally, he broke his promise to his son (David’s best friend) and his daughter (now David’s wife) not to try and harm or kill him
So because of this David, along with a few handfuls of his most loyal men are on the run from Saul.  They are on the run for their lives.  And so it is that they are hiding in a cave amidst the crags of the wild goats. 
Can you imagine the scene: David and his men are hiding, silently in the cave and as they are hiding there – Saul enters into the very cave they are hiding in.  And, of course this is where the story takes a little turn for the strange (and funny), because Saul isn’t in the cave looking for David.  Instead he is there to, well, relieve himself.   David has so much time while Saul is – doing his business – that he is able to sneak up and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe.
But David’s men see this a chance to do much more and urge him to take this ‘golden opportunity’ to kill Saul – as certainly Saul would have done if the roles were reversed.  But David, knowing that it is wrong (and illegal) to kill the anointed King of Israel – even if you have been anointed to be the next king.   So David, repented in front of his men for even cutting off the piece of Saul’s robe and ordered them not to harm him.
David passed the test of integrity because he knew an opportunity isn’t really an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity for it.  If you get something by compromising your integrity you are likely to have to keep compromising it to keep it – whatever it is.  The end never justifies the means from God’s prospective – remember, for God it is about who we are becoming not so much what we accomplish
Our goal as Christians is to become more and more like Christ, to be continually cultivating the mind and character of Christ within us.  Christ, who had unmatched and unquestioned integrity – but who’s life ended on one of the world’s most prominent and painful signs of failure – the cross.
David – just like Jesus – must have been tempted to take the easy way out – to compromise his integrity and his call from God.  It must have been incredibly tempting to take a short cut to the throne that God had anointed him for.  But if David had given in and killed Saul by stabbing him in the back, while he was relieving himself, he would have always been looking over his own shoulder.
That is what happens when you compromise your integrity. Instead of being able to focus all of your energy on looking ahead, you waste energy looking back, covering us where you have been.  Not killing Saul in the cave is a defining moment for David – maybe even more so than killing Goliath.  And, if you think about it, it may have been harder not to kill Saul than it was to kill Goliath.  Killing Goliath was an act of power – but not killing Saul was an act of willpower.  Willpower might be the purest or truest form of power we can have.
In the New Testament, in the original language, there is a distinction between made between two types of power.  Dunamis – the origin of our English word, Dynamite – is the ability to do things beyond your natural ability.  Exousia is the ability to not do things you have the ability to do.  There is no clearer example of this second type of power than the cross.  Scripture is explicitly clear on this point – in John 10 – Jesus says 4 different times that he is willingly laying down his life, using the word we translate as ‘authority’: I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. That authority is that second kind of power, the willpower to not to that which you could do.
Ultimately it is not the power of what Jesus did that mattered most – his ability to heal, turn water into wine and multiply food for the hungry – but what he could have done and chose not to do.  Jesus could have, at any point right up until he ‘gave up his Spirit’ – that in itself phrased as an act of willpower – made the choice to abandon his suffering, call on the legions of angels and he would have been saved.   In the end the only thing really keeping Jesus on the cross was not a mighty empire, not scheming religious authorities, but the willpower of Jesus – the choice to love us enough to die for us.
Jesus knew the truth that you can’t fulfill your God given destiny with integrity and willpower.  God doesn’t ‘need us’ to do things on our own or take matters ‘into our own hands’.  God asks us to prove we are willing and able to wait on God’s timing and God’s plan.  God wants us to show that we have the integrity to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
Two final points.  The first one is about who you want advocating with you.  In Soul print one of the points made is that when you compromise your conscience or integrity it is your own reputation at risk, but obeying God and living within the ‘guardrails of a conscience that is fine-tuned to the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture, then it is God’s reputation that is at risk.’
And what that means is this: who do you want to rely on in the end – yourself or God.  Who do you want to Advocate for you, yourself or God?
When we submit our lives to God’s authority by living with integrity, then we come under the umbrella of God’s authority.  That ‘umbrella’ shelters us, provides us with a supernatural coving and it also takes all the pressure to succeed or achieve off of us. 
The second point I want to leave you with is the idea of control.  Batterson says that ‘we waste far too much emotional energy allowing others to control us in unhealthy and unholy ways.  How?  By treating them the way they treat us.  David showed integrity by refusing to go to Saul’s level.  He let God, not those around him, be the guide for his behavior
With the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can control ourselves.  Don’t lie because others lie.  Don’t gossip because they gossip.  Don’t cheat because they cheat.  Don’t get negative because they get negative.  Don’t downgrade your integrity to the level of the people around you. 
The lesson from David – and from so many others in the Bible (Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego among others) is that if you want to fulfill your destiny, don’t compromise your integrity.  And remember that it is often the little compromises that lead to major problems.
Integrity won’t stop us from difficult times – from facing giants, from the fiery furnace, from facing anger and jealousy from those around you.  But integrity – the choice to do what is right, even when no one is looking – will allow us to lean on God and rest under the umbrella of God’s protection. 
Integrity will also convict those around you and invite them into relationship with God.  Integrity stopped David from grabbing the crown of Israel by stabbing Saul in the back – but that integrity is why God eventually placed him on the throne.
Our integrity  - while not allowing us to cut corners or take short cuts – will never hinder the pursuit of our dreams and destinies.   Instead, without integrity, we will simply never get to the place or become the people God intends for us.

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