It is a gorgeous Labour Day weekend here in Prince George and the nieghbor across the street has just pulled out with his speed boat for a day on Ness Lake. (I admit to a bit of envy but have also come to realize that there are lots of complications with his chosen lifestyle. Life isn’t really what it appears to be for anyone of us.) As for me, I am looking forward to a day of reflection, a few chores around the house, and some time to hike or bike with my wife, Carolyn, in the beauty of this late summer season.
In reading about King David from 2 Samuel recently, I have come to realize that his life and circumstances weren’t a whole lot different from my own in many ways. I think we often believe that ‘David had it made in the shade’ so to speak — that miracles were constantly opening up right in front of him because he was God’s ‘golden boy.’ In actual fact, David had many disappointments and battles that challenged his faith daily. I note that he did not come easily to the throne promised to him by the Lord, even after Saul was gone. On the road to royal honour and glory he faced many formidable foes both from within and without. There was, for example, the matter of what to do about Abner, Saul’s military general who maintained loyalty to the family of Saul after his death. In the end, Abner came to give support to David because of his falling-out with Ishbosheth, Saul’s son. But Joab, David’s general, was incensed that David had listened to Abner, so he murdered Abner, something which David found extremely offensive and hard to bear. He called for a time of national mourning which the people appreciated very much.
David, it seemed, had an uncanny sense of waiting, trusting the Lord, and acting at the right time. 2 Samuel 5 is also a wonderful illustration of this approach to his life. He waited more than seven years for the leaders of Israel to come and acknowledge his kingship. That’s a long time! But even then, he had to deal with the Jebusites of Jerusalem as well as some big battles with the Philistines immediately after. How did David know when to wait and when to proceed? How did he distingush between God’s part and his own in seeing success?
It is evident in all of these experiences that David worshipped the Lord, talked often with Him, and listened closely to His instructions. I am impressed by the fact that even though the Lord promised David the throne of Israel, he didn’t hand it to him without his own rigorous exercise of faith. And so it is for us. While it is true that the Lord has given us the promise of ultimate victory in Christ, it doesn’t come to us without the daily exercise of faith in a whole variety of ways. This was also the case for Joshua and the children of Israel when they came to receive the ‘land of God’s promise.’ He did go before them in an amazing way to give them the land, but it was not without real battle waged by faith on their part.
So the answer to the old Calvinist/Arminian debate lies in this biblical mystery of receiving God’s promise and working it out by faith in our daily lives. Paul becomes very specific about this in his letter to the Philippians (2:12, 13 and throughout). In that sense it is important to understand that the Christian life is not a free ride. David always gave credit to the Lord for his victories, but they didn’t come without him being fully engaged in ‘fighting the Lord’s battles.’ In the process, he learned to balance his fears with trust in the Lord.
As I look forward to the fall season of life and ministry, there are many uncertainties about how things are going to unfold in this strange ‘in-between’ time of our lives. As I prepare to proceed, I receive God’s promise of victory and success, but I know I will need to engage myself in the process by worship, communication with God, and the exercise of faith. I know it will be a good year of life and ministry, not because of some stroke of good fortune, but because I am prepared to engage myself fully each day in working with the Lord toward the ultimate victory!