By Dr. Fred Childs
Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.
The irony is that even while David was in the midst of doing God’s will, Saul perceived it to be God’s will to resist him.
We know of course that David was right, but as the story was being lived David did not truly know the rest of the story. It astounds me how the Lord can give you direction but He doesn’t reveal to you every challenge and obstacle in the future of your journey. This story reveals that God spoke four separate times to David as the plot unfolded. Why couldn’t God have just revealed everything to David in the beginning?
Perhaps it is because accomplishing a mission for God is a walk by faith and not by sight. It requires an ongoing relationship with God. As we progress in our efforts to fulfill the will of God we will face numerous challenges that God alone knows the answers to. If He revealed every obstacle and risk to us in the beginning, how many of us would have faith enough to even begin the mission?
When David heard of Saul’s coming he again enquired of the Lord. “Will Saul come to Keilah?” he asked. “Yes, he will come,” God replied. “Will the men of Keilah deliver me into Saul’s hand?” he then asked. The Lord answered, “They will deliver you up.” At this point David and his men made their narrow escape. King Saul then returned home.
After reading the story One wonders why Saul didn’t do his duty as king and deliver the city of Keilah to begin with? Is it because Saul had his eye on destroying a fellow Israelite that he could not spare time and resources to protect and advance his kingdom? David was only doing what his king should have been doing. David answered the call of God, responded to the need, and delivered the city by slaughtering the Philistines. In spite of David’s good deeds the men of Keilah would have turned on him and delivered David and his men over to the hands of Saul.
In the end you really have to wonder why David was treated so unjustly, even though he was obeying the will of God? Why was his sacrifice of love so unappreciated?
My thoughts then went beyond myself and to the many pastors and ministers around the world. How many times have pastors stepped in and fought somebody else’s fight, only to wind up being the brunt of someone’s misguided vengeance? How many times have caring pastor’s spent time away from their families to counsel someone else’s, only to eventually be hurt or blamed for their dilemma? What would be the total number of nights and hours spent by pastors at hospitals, jails, prisons, nursing homes, funeral parlors and countless other places as they ministered to the needs of the people of God? How often have the good deeds of a pastor been forgotten and rewarded only by the wrath of someone who is angered over a trivial matter? How many pastors have heard their good deeds become evil spoken of? How many people have lost out with God in spite of the pastor’s best efforts?
Fortunately there are many more success stories to give thanks for than there are sad ones to remorse over. I realize that I am never alone in my dilemma. There are many other unknown servants out there that are fighting faithfully for the true purposes of God on a daily basis. Some of the very people who will be delivered because of their selfless sacrifices may later turn against them, but they fight anyway because they love those who God loves. As I began to gain insight to this truth, my attention turned from me to my fellow laborers. I realized that I actually hinder the kingdom when I think only of my self, but I can help the kingdom by understanding and praying for my brethren.
David no doubt was very troubled as he departed from the ungrateful people of Keilah. He fled for his life, narrowly escaping the unjust vengeance of King Saul. I’m sure David wondered what the purpose was in the great risks and sacrifices he and his followers had just made. It would have been such a tragedy had the story simply ended here. Fortunately when God is involved there is always . . . the rest of the story.
About six years later Saul and his sons were slain on the field of battle. A few days later the people crowned David as King over Judah. The efforts and risks he expended while saving the city of Keilah were not in vain because Keilah was a part of the kingdom God had promised David.
Over 600 years later, and long after David’s death, a remnant of faithful workers combined efforts, and under the leadership of Nehemiah they rebuilt the walls around the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah 4: 17,18 testifies that the men of Keilah were united in their efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
May every pastor, evangelist and faithful servant of God find strength in the story of David and Keilah. The victory lies in doing the will of God and faithfully serving those who God would use you to bless. In the end and after you have done your best, if things do not seem to have worked out and you feel badly, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Pray for the strength and perseverance of others who face similar injustices, for Romans 8: 28 promises, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Knowing that the end results are in God’s capable hands should bring great comfort and encouragement.
Galatians 6:9-10 encourages our good works. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
The fruit continues to bloom from the seeds planted through David’s sacrifice of love long ago. I hope my pastor friend reads this article. Perhaps he has wondered if any good ever came out of our conversation that day. May this be his answer and an encouragement to our wonderful pastors everywhere.
God blesses everyone who has a heart to love truth and do good things for God’s people. So, be encouraged and never cease giving of yourself to the greatest cause on earth. God sees the things you do as unto Him. You shall have your reward in God’s time and in His way. That is the rest of the story.