March 23, 2017
"But David thought to himself, 'One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines...'" (1 Samuel 27:1, NIV 2011).
It's been 30 years, but I can still recall his look of disappointment. James was a medical student who had looked up to me when I had surrendered my life to God's call for international healthcare missions. It hadn't worked out. We hadn't lasted. Back after two years in Nigeria, seeking a career like other doctors who had never heard the call, I had let him down. James had envisioned me as a model of sacrifice for the Lord's work. I can still see his face. I was no longer his model for Christian living.
Do you know the term "hunker down?" We less educated Americans use it to mean sit on our heels to get out of sight for protection. That's what David did when he fled to the Philistines. The king of Gath actually gave him a town of his own called Ziklag. David planned to stay awhile. God's business had been a bit too dangerous, a bit too stressful; it took a bit too much out of him to stay in Israel.
In truth, I have spent much of my life running back and forth to Ziklag, and sometimes I have wanted to make my home there.
Sometimes Ziklag looks pretty good to me—sometimes a life dedicated to God becomes more than I bargained for. Sometimes for long stretches of my life, I have let go of God's mission and lived my own.
Sometimes it's just been too uncomfortable to endure the time pressures, the financial demands, the sacrifice of relationships and the just-plain loss of comfort that comes with living a mission-oriented life.
Sometimes I have wandered to Ziklag because I wanted to be self-centered rather than God-centered.
Sometimes God just hasn't come through when I really needed Him, the way I knew He should have come through, so I choose to seek fulfillment in the way the rest of the world finds it. I flee like David and set up a home where people focus on themselves and care for their families without the weight of serving our Creator.
And other times, I have fought the fight with God and watched Him win.
My effort and performance and even desire for God have been inconsistent during the life He has given me.
But He has loved me through it all.
Colton Dixon sings a song I hear frequently on Christian radio, entitled Through It All, which speaks of a merciful love that covers all of my inconsistent living. The chorus goes like this:
I have won and I have lost.
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not.
Life's been a journey-
I've seen joy; I've seen regret.
Oh, and you have been my God through all of it.
The ultimate success of my life rests far more on His love than on my effort. I may run away from the God who loves me and run from the mission He has for my life, but when I return, He is always there to welcome me home. All is grace.
I have won; I have lost. I got it right sometimes and sometimes I did not. Life's been a journey; I've seen joy; I've seen regret-and you have been my God through all of it.