A Life like David’s

By Luke Shawhan

Within the next 15 years, the children at this school will be adults—many will have graduated high school; some, college. There will be new marriages, new families, and some will be sending their own  children off to school. When we think about our children as adults, our minds list the different attributes we hope they have: faith and trust in Christ, humility, hard work, holiness. To my mind comes God’s word describing King David—“a man after my heart who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).  When I look at the boys in our school, my hope for them is simple: to be men after God’s heart. When I see the girls (and my own daughter), I hope they marry men like David and are women after God’s heart. But, one question nags at me: although I desire for our students to have a heart like David’s, am I willing for them to have a life like David’s? What if, in order for God to develop a heart for Him, He calls some of our students to endure and experience persecution by  someone they love, to have promises from God long-delayed in their fulfillment, or to have their own children walk away from God? I would like to look at three aspects of David’s life in order to understand how God develops a person with a heart like David’s. First, David was a man who took action when action was needed. Second, God consistently applied pressure to David’s life. Third, David experienced the depths of his own sin and the deeper depths of God’s mercy.

Hearts after God need the opportunity to act. A seed cannot grow without the presence of soil, sunshine, and water. Faith is similar. It cannot sprout without deeds. David’s life demonstrated this truth. Whenever someone needed to spearhead an endeavor, David was the first in line. Goliath taunted the people of Israel with slavery and the king of Israel stood idly by; David picked up a sling and placed his faith in God. While on the run from Saul, Scripture says, “Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, everyone who was bitter in soul gathered to [David]” (1 Samuel 22).  At the end of his life,  David had a son too young and inexperienced to accomplish the great task set before him. Therefore, David organized all of the supplies and workmen for the construction of the temple. Scripture records David’s words, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will  therefore make preparation for it” (1 Chron. 22:5).  Scripture’s picture of David is of a man who sees a need and then acts to resolve it. Some of his actions were certainly missteps (fleeing to Gath the second time in 1 Samuel 27), but men with hearts like David must have opportunities to lead like David. Our children need these opportunities—the opportunities need to be difficult and they need to have real consequences. These occasions are the soil in which the faith of our children will grow.

However, there are times it seems that the moments to lead are more  onerous than exciting, more oppressive than joyous. But, when God prunes faith, His timing is not ours. David consistently took action when necessary, and God consistently applied pressure to David’s life. Once one difficult aspect of David’s life is told, another comes to the forefront. Take, for example, the    slaying of Goliath. David became a hero of Israel, but by the next chapter, Saul was hurling spears at Him. Why? God had placed a tormenting spirit upon Saul; and David was in the crosshairs.  David did not do anything to earn or deserve this mistreatment, but God placed David in these circumstances to grow David’s trust. Another example of God applying pressure to David’s life was his anointing as king. Samuel anointed David when he was a teenager, but David did not become king until he was thirty. God gave David ten to fifteen years of struggle—running away to Gath twice, avoiding a murderer, having two opportunities to indulge the desire for revenge, and praying on a mountain to escape the capture of Saul. God’s pressure increased as faith in Him increased. Compare this to physical   training. Once one is able to bench press two hundred pounds, it is senseless to press forty-five pounds ten times and call it a workout. Workouts without sweat will not increase strength, and circumstances without   uncertainty will not expand faith. If we want our children to have a heart like David’s, they need to sweat. But, the difference between physical training and God’s training must be noted. In exercise, the goal is to lift more, run faster, or increase conditioning. In God’s kingdom, the goal is not ability, but dependence upon Him.

Finally, David realized the grace of God in a manner unfathomable. In the middle of the perspiration induced by God’s pressure, David made tragic mistakes. When returning the ark of the covenant to Israel from the land of the Philistines, the Israelites improperly transported the ark. They placed it on an oxen-led cart,  instead of carrying it with poles. David led the procession with “celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals” (2 Samuel 6:5). Yet, on the journey, the oxen stumbled. One man, Uzzah, touched the ark to prevent it from falling. But man cannot touch the holiness of God, and Uzzah was struck dead for his error. David should have known how to transport the ark, and his   failure led to the death of one of his men. Later in his life, David failed to execute judgment upon his son   Amnon for the rape of Tamar (David’s daughter). This failure led to Tamar’s brother, Absalom, crying out at the gates of Jerusalem for justice (2 Samuel 15). Absalom soon staged a coup and started a civil war. 20,000 people died. At the root of the war was David’s inability to execute Amnon for sexual sin, a sin with which David was familiar. Finally, 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 record David’s ill-advised census: an action that brought the wrath of God upon Israel. 70,000 dead. Personally, I have trouble comprehending the number of deaths due to David’s mistakes and sins: over 90,000–a number greater than half the population size of  Springfield! I would have trouble getting up in the morning if my sin caused the death of one man, but 90,000? But, to have a heart like David’s, our children need mistakes like David’s; for without these mistakes, how could David understand the grace and mercy of God? How could David develop a love for God without experiencing redemption after such grievous sin? How can our children know God as a fortress for the weary if they never become weary? How can they know bottomless grace if they have never been at the bottom? David’s sins forced him to see the depth of his depravity, but they were also an opportunity for God to display His glory. After David repented for his census, David purchased land that would soon become the site of Solomon’s temple: the Lord’s dwelling place. The temple itself was a memorial to the grace of God after great wrongdoing.

None of this is to say that the only way to become a faithful follower of Christ is to live a life exactly like David’s. Many persons in Scripture endured seemingly less and still walked with God. But, if we want our children to follow hard after God, then, at the least, we must be willing for them to experience the hardships of their sin, sweat-inducing circumstances, and opportunities for action. Again, they will be adults in 15 years, or less. Their trials are not far away. This is a hard reality; but, we also have hope. Christ himself took on the hardship of sin for all mankind, experienced pressure that brought blood-sweat, and took action to save His creation from the ravages of sin. All so we could have a heart after God. Therefore, do I want for my child to have a life like David’s? If it is what she needs to have a heart after God’s, then there is no doubt. Absolutely.

Luke Shawhan teaches 7th –10th grade classes at GCA and has been at the school since 2012.