Thursday, 28 August 2014

Success is the Greatest Temptation

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 11:1
David was a man after God’s own heart even though he didn’t do everything perfectly. In those days, kings were forced to wage war when the seasons and weather allowed. This scripture says that it was time for kings to go forth to battle. David was king so he should have been leading his troops in battle. But David had become so prosperous that he didn’t need to go; he had generals under him who could lead the troops for him. So David stayed home and got away from what God called him to do.
When David was running for his life from Saul and it looked like he could die at any moment, he sought God with his whole heart. After he became king, he subdued his enemies, extended the borders of the nation of Israel, and prospered greatly. God blessed him and he was more successful than any other king before him. But he stopped seeking after God wholeheartedly.

The awesome truth we need to understand here is that the greatest temptation we face in life is success. Hardship is not the worst situation in our lives. Even someone with a minimal commitment to the Lord will seek Him when the pressure is on. Failure and disaster typically drive us into the arms of God. Success is different; it makes us feel like we can make it all on our own. When everything is going good and the pressure is off, or when we don’t have to seek God because it looks like everything is going our way, the contents of our heart will be revealed. Success, not failure, is the true test of character. The question is: Are you going to seek God as strongly during the good times as you do when you are struggling?

The majority of people seek the Lord more when they are in trouble. When everything is fine, they forget all about God—they don’t seek Him, they don’t pray, and they don’t study the Word. This is what makes them more vulnerable after a victory than they are during life’s struggles. When things are good, people tend to forget their need for God; this leads to trouble.

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

2 Samuel 11:2-5
David was bored. He was sleeping all day, staying up all night, and not doing the things God called him to do as king. If he had been out fighting his battles, this temptation would never have come. David was bored hanging around the palace and ended up getting into trouble. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and she conceived a child. To cover up their adultery, David plotted the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, who was one of the mighty men off fighting the wars David himself should have been fighting. After Uriah was dead, David took Bathsheba as his wife (2 Samuel 11:6-27).

David got himself into a pretty bad situation, which shows how even a person who has a heart for God can get way off track. The lesson for us is that when things are going well, we should seek God even more than we have been. The moment we achieve our dreams is the time we are most vulnerable to an attack. After a victory, we need to be more dependent on God than we have ever been in our lives.

The Bible says, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27). Boy, that’s putting it mildly. God was ticked off! The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to expose what David had done. Nathan went to David and told him a story about a rich man who stole his poor neighbor’s only lamb, killed it, and used it to feed a guest. David said, “Any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!” After David made his pronouncement, Nathan said “You are that man,” and gave a prophecy that the child conceived by Bathsheba in adultery would die (2 Samuel 12:1-14).

I’m reading between the lines here, but I believe the reason Nathan presented the prophecy in parable form is that God was letting David prescribe his own judgment. Scripture says that God will show mercy to those who have shown mercy to others, but to those who haven’t shown mercy, God will have no mercy (see James 2:13 and 2 Samuel 22:26). David knew this principle because he had written about it himself. If David had been merciful, I believe he would have received mercy in return. But because he showed no mercy to the man in this parable, David passed sentence on himself and received no mercy. As a result, the child died and there was turmoil in his household.
After the death of his baby, it says that David comforted Bathsheba and they conceived another son whom they called Solomon. The Lord loved the child and sent the prophet Nathan to announce that his name was Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25), which in Hebrew means “beloved of the Lord.” God anointed Solomon to be David’s replacement as king of Israel (1 Kings 1:17; 1 Chronicles 28:5), and he became so prosperous that he didn’t even take any account of the silver in his kingdom (1 Kings 10:21).

God never wanted David and Bathsheba to have a relationship. But after it was done, they repented. Then God took the child born to them and blessed him. The Bible says that Solomon was the richest man who will ever live—not just the richest man of his day (2 Chronicles 1:12). It says there will never be another man who approaches the wisdom and the riches of Solomon. God knows how to work things out for good!

All of this came to a person who was totally outside of God’s original plan and purpose. Saul was God’s original choice; David was second best. Then David blew it! His relationship with Bathsheba was never God’s will. Yet, after they repented, God blessed their marriage. Bathsheba is the virtuous woman whom Solomon wrote about in the book of Proverbs, and Solomon was greatly blessed by God.

Maybe you think you have blown it because of bad decisions you have made in the past, but you can’t blow it any more than David did. Yet, God took the mess David made of his life and worked it together for good—to the extent that we remember David as a great man. He certainly had faults and problems, but overall, David was used by God in a mighty way. We still sing about “the sure mercies of David,” and recognize him as the “sweet psalmist of Israel.”

God did all of this with a person who wasn’t His original choice. Even when this man messed up, God worked things out for good. Four or five hundred years after David died, God was still blessing the nation of Israel. He wouldn’t take His mercies away from them for the sake of His servant David. God made an everlasting covenant with David, resulting in blessings to his descendants even when they weren’t serving God. And all of this came through someone who missed it big-time.

I hope this encourages you. You may have made some less than perfect choices, but it is pointless to spend your time regretting the past. People have come to me and said, “I’m not sure I married the right person.” It doesn’t do you any good to go there now; you’re married, and just like David and Bathsheba, you are committed. It would be wrong to walk away or try to reverse your life and go back. You are where you are because of the choices you have made. The thing to do is humble yourself, seek God, and realize that God can take where you are right now and work everything together for good.

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