A Discouraged Heart

  • A Discouraged Heart
  • Psalm 19
  • Brian Brownlow
  • March 15, 2020
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3-15-20 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Good morning! I’m excited to be here this morning, continuing our series examining the life of David. We are not so much examining David’s life as his heart. The intro video that’s played before the sermon each week reminds us that David was a man of many talents: warrior, musician, shepherd, statesman. He was a national hero – a man of great courage. And yet, that video closes each week with an important reminder that it was David’s heart that God valued. Talented and accomplished people come and go, but God values those who have his heart.


Last week we looked at David’s famous encounter with Goliath. Even people who never stepped foot in a Christian church know the story of David and Goliath. It’s a symbol – a metaphor – that crosses cultures and religions. The story of David and Goliath symbolizes the underdog triumphing against all odds. But as Lyndol showed us last week, that’s not the point of the story. God didn’t put it in the Bible to encourage the underdog. It can certainly serve that purpose – I understand that. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the main thing. The story of David’s battle with Goliath has to do with his heart. David, a man after God’s own heart, displays the boldness of God’s heart when an enemy – a giant enemy – defies and mocks God Himself.


Boldness is just one of the characteristics of God’s heart. During this series, we are looking at several other characteristics, and that’s where I pick up today. But before I go on, I want to say that being “a man after God’s own heart” did not make David perfect. I mentioned earlier that David was a warrior, musician, shepherd, statesman, but I would add one more. He was also a fool. I am going to leave that right there. You have to come back next week to hear more about that. I mention it today because it is important for us not to put David on a pedestal and, more importantly, separate his experiences from ours. Yes, he lived in a very different time and culture than we do. I also want to acknowledge that about half of you may have a hard time relating to the term, a man after God’s own heart. Each of us is created in the image of God, and thus, each of us has God’s heart. What made David special was that, despite being severely flawed, he recognized his need for God. He embraced faith in God with an awareness of his own limitations. That’s something all of us can do. It is called faith.


David was not exempt from disappointment and sorrow. You would think a man after God’s own heart would have it easy. Sounds like he’s the favorite son, so God would make things easier on him. That’s not the case. God’s only Son, Jesus, was not exempt from sorrow, and David certainly wasn’t either.


Our passage today gives us a glimpse into a time of great discouragement for David. You see, after his amazing victory over Goliath, it seemed as if David had the world on a string. An entire nation was celebrating him. He was successful at everything he put his hand to. The King, Saul, had given David his daughter in marriage, and everything was going his way. As a matter of fact, everything was going just a bit too well for David. When Saul saw how successful David was and how the people loved him, he became jealous. So jealous that he plotted to have David killed. When he was unsuccessful, David went into hiding. During part of the time that he was on the run, David even lived in a cave. He went from being a public darling to being public enemy number one. He became a fugitive and an outcast living in fear of his life. To make matters worse, he couldn’t figure out what he had done wrong.


As you can imagine, during this time, David became very discouraged. In this place of despair, loneliness, and confusion he wrote several Psalms of Lament. These psalms speak of his frustration – and sometimes anger – toward God. One of those Psalms of Lament is found in Psalms 13.


For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?  3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.     5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the LORD’S praise, for he has been good to me.   Psalm 13:1-6 NIV


From what we know of the context, it is clear that David is in a terrible place. It is quite possible that he is literally in a cave. Emotionally and spiritually, he’s in a cave of sorts as well. Crying out to God and asking the question, “how long?” expresses his feeling that he has been abandoned, and it feels like God is never going to bring relief. The question, “how long?” is repeated four times. David had to be confused. There was a time when he returned from battle and the crowds lined the streets shouting his name. “Saul has killed his thousands; David his ten-thousands.” You see, in some ways, David had done his job too well. Saul put him in charge of the army, and, with God’s favor resting on him, David had met with amazing success. When the people begin to give David all the credit, Saul’s jealousy and insecurity quickly soured their relationship. This is where we find David, hiding in a cave with just his thoughts.


Have you ever been in a cave like that? Perhaps you’ve never literally sat in a dark damp cave, but most of us have been in a cave of discouragement and despair. I would imagine you can relate to the way David was feeling. When we are in a cave like that, our imagination starts to run wild. Our mind constantly rehearses the worst possible outcomes. Have you ever noticed that the worse things get, the more we start believing they’re going to get even worse?


Anybody heard of the coronavirus? It is kind of an obscure thing right now, so you might not have heard much about it. Actually, if you haven’t heard of the coronavirus you’ve probably been in a cave. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it is a serious issue. Certainly, it’s wise to be extra diligent about washing hands, especially before eating and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. However, to hear some people tell it, this is an epidemic of immense portions that has the potential to wipe out half the world’s population. The coronavirus is certainly not good news, but human beings have a unique ability to take bad news and make it even worse.


You’ve heard the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? It is common to take old sayings and attribute them to the Bible. Actually, this old saying is in the Bible. It is in the book of Proverbs. I might suggest that an idle mind is also one of Satan’s favorite hangouts. He loves to interject the worst possible scenario. That is where David is now. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” David is wrestling with his thoughts, and he is losing the battle. More precisely, the enemy is winning the battle.


Many of us have wrestled with our thoughts and wondered, “How long will my enemy triumph over us?” Most of the time, we don’t realize that our mind is the battleground. The damp, dark cave we retreated into is our mind. This is important. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you’re just making all this up. Just get over it. Start thinking happy thoughts. No, this battle is very real, and our enemy is formidable. Our mind is not the problem, and it is certainly not the enemy. We are not crazy. We have an enemy who is feeding us lies, and instead of fighting those lies with the truth, we retreat into the cave, that is our mind, and rehearse those lies over and over again.


Let’s take one more look at the lies David is being told, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” God doesn’t forget us. The Lord has not hidden his face from David, and He doesn’t hide from us. Sometimes our circumstances are so desperate that we have a hard time seeing Him. We think that He has forgotten us because we cannot see any hope in our present circumstances. God is right there in that cave with David, and He will be with you even when your circumstances resemble a deep dark cave.


Let’s keep going. After David cries out to the Lord in confusion and anger, he cries out with a request in verse 3. The same God who has seemingly turned His face away is the one David says to “look on me and answer… Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death.” David knows that his only hope is in God. He knows that this is one battle he cannot win with his sword, his spear, or the skill of his armies. David has reached the point of desperation. Discouragement is turning into despair. It’s in the place of despair where we begin to visualize defeat. We begin to entertain the idea that we are going to lose this battle. David is considering death. The mighty warrior who has conquered great armies is stuck in a cave thinking about nothing but defeat.


If idle hands and idle minds are the devil’s workshop, a discouraged and desperate heart is his feasting table. Ephesians 6 tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms. That is the enemy that David speaks of when he says in verse 4, “my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” David’s enemy – his foes – here are not the Philistines on a battlefield. David’s enemy is not Saul or the men that he has sent out to kill David. Those are definitely challenges in David’s life. Every one of us have challenges, and often those challenges come in the form of people. Sometimes they’re hurting and deceived people themselves. Sometimes they don’t even know what they are doing. Jesus would hang on the cross and cry out saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There are difficult people that we are going to have to deal with. I’m not here to defend the people in your life who may have caused you pain and hurt, and been a part of you being in a cave. What I am saying to you is your victory will not come from defeating them. Part of David’s story involves the defeat of a human enemy. Killing Goliath was a part of his destiny. Goliath was an enemy of the kingdom of God, and that had to be dealt with. But David’s greatest battle was right here in this cave. There would be other battles like this later in his life. Those would be the battles that would prove him to truly be “A Man after God’s Own Heart.” In that cave, David was facing an enemy far more dangerous than Goliath. It was an enemy who wanted to steal his heart and his faith.


Just like with Goliath, David did not shrink back to worry and stew. He fought back. He didn’t stay in that cave – that pit, if you will. “A Man after God’s Own Heart” rose up and fought with the greatest weapon he had. Look at verse 5, “but I trust in your unfailing love to me: my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”


Talk about doing an about-face. In the midst of his discouragement and despair, David praised God. I’m sure he was still confused. I’m sure he still didn’t know what was going on or why he had to go through this, but his faith broke through his circumstances, his discouragement, and his despair. Even when it looked like there was nothing to give praise for, he praised God anyway. Praise is a death blow to the enemy. David killed his enemy Goliath with a smooth stone and a sling. He destroyed the works of the enemy with praise coming from his lips.


The enemy loves desperation. I said it was his feasting table. He knows when we get to the place of desperation, we are right on the cusp of going over the ledge, and he wants nothing more than to push us over the ledge. Strangely enough, it is sometimes the place of our greatest victory. God doesn’t want us there; He doesn’t push us to the ledge, but He is always there. As our faith grows and we become wiser, we end up on the ledge less and less, but God never leaves us. He’s there to reach out and pull us back from that ledge.


When the enemy attacks you with discouragement and despair, when you reach the place of desperation, you have a decision to make. Will you retreat into the dark, damp cave that is your thoughts and listen to the lies of an enemy who wants to destroy you? Or will you believe that God never leaves you and He never forsakes you? God never said this life would be easy. He never said that you would not face challenges. He does promise never to leave you. Will you praise Him in faith – even in the cave? Will you rise up and fight?


Last week we talked about David having a bold heart. The story dealt with his battle with Goliath. When faced with an enemy of God, David rose up with a bold heart and fought with faith. He did not rely on his own strength. Goliath was right when he mocked David and said, “You’re just a child I’ll crush you.” That’s exactly what should have happened. Apart from God, that’s exactly what would’ve happened to David. The story in 1 Samuel chapter 17 is not encouragement for the underdog. That story does not teach us that we can do anything we want to if we just believe in ourselves. David could not defeat Goliath. David did not defeat Goliath. A boy after God’s own heart rose up in faith, and the impossible happened. With God, the impossible happens.


Like David, when we face the enemy of God who comes armed with a powerful weapon of lies, the question is: will we shrink back in a cave and become a victim, or will we rise up with a bold heart and fight him with the truth.


When my kids were playing sports, I tried to teach them that it doesn’t take courage to trash talk – everybody trash talks. Sometimes, a player trash talks because they don’t have any courage, and they are trying to work some up. There is an exception. When you face the spiritual enemy, you can do some serious trash talking. You visualize that enemy, see him in your mind’s eye. He is working on your mind, so use your mind and your faith to combat him. Look straight at him and say, “You’re a liar, and you have no control over me, you’ Son of the Pit.’” I’m not telling you to cuss out the devil. I’m telling you to fight him with the truth. You see him and call him for what he is. A lying ‘Son of the Pit.’ It’s a pit you don’t want to be in, and it’s a pit that you were not created for. When you find yourself in that place because of your circumstances – as real as they are – take hold of the very real truth that you have a Savior who can defeat any giant – physical or spiritual. When you find yourself with a discouraged heart like David, remind yourself that you were created with a bold heart. Rise up, take that spiritual enemy who is lying to you and grab him by the shirt and say, “Get away from me, you Son of the Pit.”