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)