Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). The plan isn’t to stop halfway, get stuck, and stay there the rest of our lives. No… the goal is to press through the hardships, trials, and difficulties.

Webster’s defines “Victory” as overcoming an enemy or success in a struggle. That means that you can’t have victory until you have a struggle. You can’t have success until a problem arises. It takes two things to obtain victory: (1) A problem; and (2) faith to push through. If you have a problem that means you’re halfway there.

There is a day recorded in I Samuel 30 that was probably the worst day David ever experienced. David and his men had been out on an adventure (remember the 400 men of David from the Cave of Adullam). They were returning to their hometown of Ziklag. Often when we’re on a long trip sometimes we just want to go home and sleep in our own bed. Sick of hotel rooms, missing the wife and kids, like anyone else, these guys just wanted to be home.

No doubt, these men were excited to see their families. However, as they arrived closer to Ziklag they noticed clouds of smoke rising up over the horizon. Suddenly, all of their happiness turned to anxiety. They wondered what was going on. They arrived at the city gates only to be met with absolute tragedy. There was nothing left, everything had been pillaged and plundered. When they discovered the facts they realized that their houses had been burned, all of their belongings had been stolen, and worst of all, their families had been kidnapped. Imagine that for a bad day.

Let’s say you come home from work one day and turn down your road. The firemen are just cleaning up the mess. Nothing but smoking ambers remains of your home (maybe some of you may have experienced that). As you look at the remnants you get news that all of your bank accounts are empty; someone has embezzled your life savings. As if that isn’t enough, within a few minutes the police pull up to inform you that terrorists have kidnapped your entire family. That is the picture described in Ziklag. Friends, that is a bad day.

What do you do when you’re at Ziklag? I believe that David knew. And if you’re not at Ziklag presently, one day you will have a Ziklag kind-of-day. What will you do on the worst day of your life? The first thing you do is…

1.) Weep – cleanse your soul.

Always remember, faith does not exempt you from feelings. We are emotional beings, God created us that way for a reason. When disaster strikes, it’s natural to be upset. Peter wept bitterly. Peter had a Ziklag moment when his Lord and best friend was crucified after he denied him three times. Through the anguish he experienced in the depths of his soul he was able to process his guilt. Part of healing includes mourning. It’s okay to cry for a while, but then you have to…

2.) Focus – don’t get bitter.

No matter what happens to you, if you get bitter, it’s going to get a lot worse. We must keep walking in grace. Walking in grace requires receiving and extending forgiveness. If you stop forgiving, the root of bitterness will develop in your heart from the seed of offense. As it grows, it eventually takes over your entire life and leaves you in ruins.

3.) Strengthen Yourself – get a word from God.

I Samuel 30 describes a horrible day for everybody, but it is getting worse for David. David had his house burn down, his possessions stolen, his family kidnapped, and now his men are bitter and looking for someone to blame; he is first on their list as they contemplate stoning him.

At this point David would probably like someone to come along and cheer him up, but it doesn’t happen. However, what does happen makes me so excited that I want to leap out of my shoes! The Bible says in v. 6 that David “Strengthened himself in the Lord His God!” We must learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord when we’re at Ziklag.

Principles to remember in the bad times… (1) Weep – cleanse your soul; (2) Focus – don’t get bitter; (3) Strengthen yourself – get a word from God. On another note: just a short while after this passage David becomes the King of Israel. Why? Because he possessed the qualities of a king, he was anointed to lead, and he was able to express faith in God for all things.

Whatever you’re facing, God is there. He is with you. He walks with us through all of life’s ups and downs. He’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He’s promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Whatever valley you find yourself in, know that God will give your strength to climb to the next mountaintop. Don’t give up at Ziklag; press through. Victory awaits on the other side of the worst day of your life.

(Sources: various sermons by Brian Zahnd)

One More Round

Many years ago there was a great prizefighter by the name of John L. Sullivan. In his day he was the greatest heavyweight champion the world had ever known. There is a story told about one particular fight where Sullivan went up against a guy who was really just a skinny little pip-squeak. The odds of the little guy winning were a 1000 to 1 chance.

In the very first round John L. Sullivan hit the little guy so hard that his entire body shook. In between rounds he went to the corner and the little guy’s trainer asked him “How you doing?” He said, “That first shot I could feel it from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, but I said to myself, if I could just go one more round.”

Then came the next round and John L. Sullivan hit him so hard that both feet came off the canvass; he fell straight to his back. Saved by the bell, they drug him over to his corner and his trainer asked, “Do you want me to throw in the towel?” The little fighter said, “No, let me go one more round.”

He came out for the third round and this time John L. Sullivan hit him so hard that his eyes were almost swollen shut. When he went to his corner they had to cut his enlarged eyelids with razor blades to let the blood out so he could see. The trainer said, “We better throw in the towel.” But that little determined fighter said, “No, just one more round!”

The little fighter was actually praying that the next punch would be the knockout punch. But the next punch didn’t knock him out, and he kept saying to himself, “If I could just go one more round.” It was the longest prizefight in history up to that time in the late 1800s. The little fighter kept going out again and again, round after round. He simply would not give up. He kept saying, “If I could only go one more round!”

That fight exceeded 25 rounds. Over and over again he said, “One More Round!” Bloody and battered he said, “One More Round!” Not able to hardly stand, he said, “One More Round!” His body tattered and beaten, he said, “One More Round!” So exhausted he could hardly walk he kept saying, “One More Round!” And finally, in the last round of the fight, the little fighter came out and hit John L. Sullivan so hard that he knocked him out cold and won the fight.

My friends, today we indeed have a John L. Sullivan in our midst. Make no mistake we are in a fight. Our adversary’s name is Satan. He is the great enemy of the human spirit. Let me encourage you that when he hits you and you feel like you’re beaten, regroup and say to yourself, “ONE MORE ROUND!” Just keep going one more round because God is in your corner and the victory is yours.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatian 6:9). Going one more round when you don’t think you can makes all the difference in the world. Don’t quit… Go one more round.

folly beach

When my wife and I were dating as teenagers, one summer we visited Charleston, SC with her family. While there we decided to go to the beach for a day. Our quest for sand and sun landed us at the beautiful Folly Beach.

As we walked along the shore looking for the perfect spot to lay our towels and get our feet wet we happened upon a rather unique place. There was a small pier that extended about 20 feet into the water; at the end of the pier there was a long stretch of rocks that reached out into the ocean for 30 yards or so.

It was a beautiful place. Watching the seagulls perch on the rocks and seeing the waves crash against the boulders with such force was magnificent. However, what we failed to notice was the warning signs just beyond the pier that read: “No Swimming Near the Rocks – Strong Currents.” So, without question, we laid down our towels and off we went into the water.

It didn’t take but a few minutes to realize that we were up against a powerful force. The flow of water rushing to the shore and the descending back along the rocks created a current that none of us were prepared to contend with. We began swimming with all our might. I’m a strong swimmer, yet found myself quickly fatigued as I worked against this raging body of water. When I finally made it to shore I buckled over in exhaustion and looked around. I quickly noticed Heather’s uncle and some others were standing beside me also exhausted from fighting the strength of the current.

As I began scanning for Heather I realized that she wasn’t there. My heart started pounding. I turned my face back toward the ocean and the rocks. I didn’t see her. Panic set in. As I gazed out into the water, finally I spotted her. She had drifted out beyond the end of the rocks (that’s a long way). She was bobbing up and down and screaming for her life.

Without thought, I immediately dove back into the water and swam to her aid. After attempting to calm her down, I said, “Heather the only way we’re going to get back to shore is to swim to the rocks and climb back to the beach.” That was the plan: to trek across a row of rocks that seemed impossible to navigate. Upon making it to the edge of the last boulder, I climbed up and then reached down to pull her up until she had footing.

I began directing a path while also holding her up with one arm. As we attempted to walk on those boulders the waves would crash against us with such force that we would fall down to our knees. Over and over again we fell, and over and over again the pain was agonizing as the barnacles on the rocks gashed our feet, knees, and elbows. I tried to hold her with one arm and balance with the other. Imagine climbing a mountain in a tropical storm. I kept saying “Come on Heather, don’t quit!”

After what seemed like an eternity, finally we made it to the pier. I carried her on my back as blood ran down our arms and legs. When we jumped down into the blazing hot sand I realized how deep some of my cuts actually were. As the salt and sand entered the slashes on our feet and legs we cried out. However, mixed with the pain was also a sigh of relief because we knew we were safe. I carried Heather on my back to the car, laid her in the backseat, and drove to the closest emergency room.

Folly Beach was a painful, yet meaningful experience. Sometimes life is like a raging sea. There are times in all of our lives when we feel like the waves are crashing against us, the current is more than we can handle, and the sharp jagged edges are wounding us deeply. Sometimes things are so difficult to navigate that it feels like it would be easier to give up than to keep going. Don’t.

No matter how hard it gets… just don’t. Cast your eyes toward the shore. Stand firm on the Rock of our Salvation. Never give up. Keep going. Jesus will lead you safe to shore. It won’t always be easy. In fact, Jesus never said it would be easy, but he did say that it would be worth it.

Ironically, the only way to discover the power to never give up is to give up everything. That’s the paradox of it all. We must surrender everything to God and become completely dependent on Him in order to find the strength to keep going. He alone will provide the strength you need. Always remember, with God, if you do not quit you cannot lose.

One day the violent waves are going to become peaceful. One day the jagged edges will be made smooth. One day the forceful current will flow with peace. One day we will sit on the shore and gaze upon the calm waters with certain assurance that we are safe. Until that day comes keep climbing on the rocks and holding each other up, knowing all the while that your feet are firmly planted in Him.