Key Figures of the Old Testament

David: Handling a Crisis Successfully

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Mike Sullivan

1 Samuel 30:1-25


People wonder if suffering and crisis will enter their lives; however, the real question is not if it will come, but when. As a result, we need to consider ahead of time how we want to handle suffering when it does come. David models three key things in his own time of crisis: strengthening himself in God, inquiring of God, and giving God the credit. We too can follow this example.


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We're going to look a little known event in the life of King David, the greatest king of Israel. The question we want to consider tonight is. . .How do we handle a CRISIS successfully?

A crisis is when things go wrong. . .

  • common things like conflict with our spouse
  • or something more disruptive like losing our job
  • or maybe as extreme terminal illness or losing a loved on

The thing about CRISES is that they really show what we're made of.

  • People who otherwise handle life well often fail miserably when they run into tough times.
  • Greatest victories and most crushing defeats stem from how well or poorly we handle crises.

What makes crises even tougher, is that we rarely see them coming. . .

e.g. When I was 11, I went to the circus with a friend. We begged his parents to let us go down to ringside before the show started to see the animals up close. While we were down there, a tiger peed on us. He showered us through the bar of his cage from about 10 feet away. We we're stunned and looked at each other in disbelief.

If you would have asked me that morning, “Mike, what kind of trouble might you face in the road ahead today?” I might have worried about being hit by a car when I woke up that morning, or maybe getting in trouble with my parents, but being peed on by a tiger was not on my list!

This is the way it is with a crisis. Most of the time, they are unexpected.

The question isn't IF we're going to face a crisis, but when. And my hope is by looking at the life of King David, by studying how he handled a particular crisis in his life, we learn some things and prepare for the day when we have a crisis of our own.

Turn to 1 Samuel 30

  • This particular episode occurred in David's life prior to his becoming a king.
  • David was running for his life. Saul, the current king of Israel, viewed David as a threat and wanted him killed.
  • During his flight from Saul, David gathered a ragtag band of malcontents together (see 1 Samuel 22:2 - down on their luck, in debt, and discontent) into a formidable band of 600 fighting men. David and these soldiers, along with their wives and children, were living in a city called Ziklag. Everything they owned in life was in Ziklag.
  • They had just returned home from one of their exploits after being away for a long time. This is where the story picks up. . .

1 Samuel 30:1-5 “Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. [The kidnappers weren't being merciful. They were motivated by economics. Ziklag was on the trade route to Egypt, one of the ancient world's hottest slave markets.] And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. [David, of course, could only guess who the raiders were, where they took their families, or what they did with them.] Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep.”

This is the worst possible homecoming imaginable. . .

e.g. One morning I found my daughter Maggie's bed empty. I quickly scanned the room, but didn't see her. I went down stairs and looked through the whole house. Still not there. My first thought was that someone had taken her. If you've ever briefly lost your child in a crowd or in the mall, you know the terrible feeling I'm talking about. I eventually found her curled up under the bedroom window in a bean bag chair to stay cool.

They didn't find their kids curled up anywhere. The town was deserted. Imagine how they felt!

No wonder it says ”they wept until there was no strength in them to weep.” David barely had time to dry his eyes before things went from bad to worse. . .

v. 6a Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.

David lost his family, his home, and his possessions. . . and now. . . to top it all off, his friends are ready to kill him. I think this qualifies as a crisis!

“David, why didn't you leave a force behind to protect our families?”

“Certainly you've offended God somehow and now he's angry at all of us.”

Thoughts like these led them to “speak of stoning him.” They wanted to throw rocks at him until he was dead.

This type of situation would really stretch you. It would reveal what you're really made of, wouldn't it? How would you handle this?

1. In this type of situation, it would be easy to lash out.

If I heard rumbling like David was hearing, in a tough situation like this, I know I'd have a few choice words. . .“I've lost my family just like you have. You don't like my leadership? Fine. Screw you. Go find yourself another leader! How could have I known this was going to happen.”

When our backs are to the wall, this is what a lot of us do, we lash out.

e.g. Some of us are just getting back from family vacations. You know that when they don't go well, it's easy to come under fire. Weather turns bad, couple things go wrong, you start to hear “why are we staying here”, “this is boring”, “I wish I would have stayed home” etc. It's tempting to say, “If you want a fun vacation, then YOU plan it and YOU pay for it and YOU go on it, WITHOUT ME!!!

It feels good to lash out. And when our backs are to the wall, that's what a lot of us do.

When we do handle crises this way, of course, it's devastating. It destroys relationshiPsalm We wish we could take back what we said or did in our outburst of anger.

Instead of solving the crisis, it makes the situation ten times worse.

2. Bury your head in the sand

Getting busy. . .e.g. Cleaning your house before finals week. Alphabetize my books and CD's. Anything but sit down and study for finals.

Avoiding someone we're in conflict with.

Turning to stimulation. Not just drowning our sorrows in a beer, but shutting down mentally and vegging out. We'll watch an info-mercial, the price is right, ANYTHING, but confront the problem we're facing.

But that's not the reaction that David had. Instead, it says. . .“But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (verse 6). This is the first key to handling a crisis successfully that we can learn from David

1. David strengthened himself in the Lord

David, when confronted with this difficult situation, somehow found strength in God. Even in the midst of crisis, he knew how to go to God to get strength, energy and power.

The SITUATION didn't change (his family was still gone) but DAVID did—something happened to him—he was strengthened by God.

I wish I knew how to do this more. Wouldn't this be great?

David did, and it was the key to successfully facing this crisis.

How, exactly, did he ”strengthen himself in the Lord”?

A. David acknowledged his weakness.

You can't have God's strength if you don't think you need his help. Put another way. . .

If you're convinced that YOU can handle the problem alone, you can't draw from his power.

David was acutely aware that by himself, he didn't have the resources to handle his crises successfully. He routinely mentions his needy state in the many of the Psalms, a series of poetic prayers recorded for us in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 109:21-25:

But you, O Sovereign LORD,
deal well with me for your name's sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust.

My knees give way from fasting;
my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.

Help me, O LORD my God;
save me in accordance with your love.

David expresses a sense of desperation, neediness, and weakness (I'm needy.. I'm passing like a shadow. . .my knees are week. . . I'm a bug. . . etc). Not low self esteem. He was a powerful man. But a humble awareness that compared to the resources God has, he is desperately needy.

I wonder if we're aware of how weak we really are? I wonder if we realize how much we NEED God?

Admitting weakness is hard for us because we have it so GOOD in this country. We have mortgage insurance, health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance. We're protected. We're in good hands!

But GOD demands that we admit our creaturelyness, our neediness before him. . .In Revelation 3:17, God challenges self assured Christians at Laodicia. “You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

The truth is, there are crises that we face that we don't have the resources to handle. . .

eg. Gallup Poll: Church attendance jumped 5% after 9-11. Huge number of people. Brief realization that the life we enjoy really is fragile. By November of 2001, attendance was right back to pre 9-11 levels.

Step one to handling a crisis successfully in our lives is admitting our weakness and turning to God for help. The only problem, is that seeing our weakness isn't easy. . .

Some of us may never see the reality of our situation until God allows you to fall into a desperate situation. Sometimes he does this to get our attention our attention. e.g. Watchman Nee's drowning man

We can save God the trouble and ourselves a lot of lost time by starting RIGHT NOW to regularly tell God “I desperately need you.” Until we're ready to do that, we won't experience God's blessing and strength.

Admitting your weakness, by the way, is how you become a Christian. mAccording to the Bible, the ultimate crisis that humans face is the judgment of God. Hebrews 9:27 “. . . it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. . .”

We don't prepare for that day by getting strong, by cleaning up our act, but instead by admitting our weakness. Psalm 51:14:

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me. . . You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

God doesn't want your good works or your resolutions to start going to church. God wants us to admit “I need you.” “I'm weak, I'm not able to live a perfect life, I've hurt people around me. You know it. I know it.”

Becoming a Christian means admitting that to God, admitting our weakness, and asking him to forgive us. God is waiting for us to express our weakness and our need for him. He's willing to accept us as is, right now, right where you sit. This is what it means to become a Christian. I hope some of you will do that today.

Here's another way David strengthened himself in the Lord. . .
B. David spent time with God

Aside from being Israel's greatest king, David is famous for writing psalms or poetic prayers to God. He wrote almost half of the 150 prayers in the book of Psalms.

These Psalms give us insight into what David's relationship with God was like. His Psalms are like love letters: he rejoices, he weeps, he gets angry, he's thankful. He pours his heart out to God. It's obvious that he spent a lot of time interacting with the Lord. That's part of why God calls him “A man after my own heart” in 1 Samuel 13:13.

So when we read 6 that “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” it's referring, in part, to David's tendency to talk his crises over with God. When times were tough, David routinely turned to God in prayer to get strength and guidance.

Many of us aren't handling crises well (I'm no exception). And we're not handling them well because we are not taking the time to get before God in prayer on a regular basis.

“If I wished to humble anyone, I should question him about his prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self confessions.” British clergyman C.J. Vaughan in Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders, p. 85.

Once in a while, I'll tell God that I've been feeling bad. It's usually a pretty quick prayer and that's about it. This must seem absurd to God!

e.g. Imagine me walking by my wife in the hall and saying “I've been depressed lately” and then walking on without another word. We do the same thing when we toss up a cursory prayer to God of frustration instead of really making time to get before him to hash things out.

“In the western world. . . many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers.” D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 37.

David wasn't like this. He came in to see God, took his coat off, sat down on the couch, and visited with him. He told him what he was going through and listened to hear God's perspective on his crisis. I've had some times when I've been aware of my weakness, stopped everything, and gotten before Him.

e.g. One quarter when I was an undergrad at OSU, I was overwhelmed by school. Intimidated by the prospect of teaching several home churches at a weekend retreat. Out of synch with my roommates. Felt like everything I was doing was failing or had tremendous potential for failure. So I went down to our basement, told God about it. He directed me to a passage. . .“I will not withhold my compassion from you.” It was what I needed to hear. I felt God's presence right there. He was willing to give me the strength I needed to get through the weekend.

God wants to come to us, lift us up and encourage us. BUT WE HAVE GOT TO GET BEFORE HIM to experience this.

I hope you'll develop a STRATEGY to ensure you're going to have contentful, in-depth, interaction with God on a regular basis,

e.g. A while ago, I was deeply struck by a teaching Lee Campbell gave on loving God. “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind is right up there with loving your neighbor as yourself.” How could I say I was loving God if I wasn't having regular, focused interaction with him? I realized I'd been neglecting my prayer life for too long. So I came up with a plan. . .

I started getting up early to pray. . . The problem was, my kids would get up too. So I wasn't able to pray.

So I stayed in bed, and tried to sit quietly and pray. . . but I kept falling back asleep. So I wasn't able to pray.

So I got a board, a wooden board. I wedged it between my be and the wall and I stayed awake. I was able to pray.

We need to get a plan, and we need to WORK at that plan, until we are regularly getting contentful time with God in prayer (15-minute walk at work or late night).

Some of you are sitting here thinking, “look, this sounds great, drawing strength from God and all.” But you're going to walk out of here and forget about this, because you don't see the urgency of what I'm saying. You're not really facing a crisis right now and you don't see one the horizon.

Ask God to help you see your weakness to learn to get before him consistently. If you don't, when a future crisis comes (and it will) out of HABIT you'll handle it in your own power. It likely won't go well. Why do that when God is offering his support and power?

The time to prepare for future crises in your life is NOW.

Let's read on and see what happened to David, his men, and their kidnapped families. . .

1 Samuel 30:7 “Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, ”Please bring me the ephod.” [an ephod is priestly vestment, clothing that Jewish priests wore] So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. And David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them, and you shall surely rescue all.”

Here's another key to handling a crisis successfully. It says
2. David inquired of the Lord

When we're in desperate spot like this, our default mode is to assess this situation, mull it over, and take what we feel is appropriate action.

e.g. After I was peed on by the tiger, my friend and I had to decide what to do. We were covered with tiger pee, but we really wanted to see the circus. So we weighed out the options and persuaded his parents to let us stay for the show. Of course they made us sit by ourselves, away from them, but it was the best way we knew to handle the situation.

A lot of us are very capable people, we've accomplished a lot, and when something goes wrong we just ”handle it.” We often skip the crucial step of asking God what he would do.

The Bible warns us. . . ”There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25

We should be suspicious of our OWN solutions to the crises we face. Before we try to fix a problem we're in, we need to. . .

Study what the word says. How does the Bible advise us to “handle it.”

Ask God, like David did, to guide us through his spirit and maybe through the advice of mature Christians. . . “Give me insight into what to do.”

To handle a crisis successfully, it is critical that we do this.

Now, possessing God's strength, and understanding God's will, David was ready to act. He and his men decided to pursue the bandits who burned down their town.

1 Samuel 30:9 “So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those left behind remained. But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred (men) who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor, remained behind.”

Show on a map. They had just finished traveling from Aphek to Ziklag—a 50-mile trip as the crow flies. Now, after the emotional trauma of finding their homes destroyed, they headed into the desert, in full battle gear, looking for the people who destroyed their town. It's no surprise that 200 of David's men couldn't keep up.

With the help of a drifter, they eventually did find the bandits. They killed the kidnappers, rescued their own women and children, and took back all their possessions.

“But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back.” (verse 19).

No one is killed or hurt. You can only imagine how they felt when they embraced their loved ones again. Nothing is missing. What started out as a tragedy ended in rejoicing!

Let's pick up the close of the story, when David returns with the rescued families. There's one more BUMP in the road and one more lesson about how to handle crises successfully.

David came to the two hundred men who were too exhausted to follow David, who had also been left at the brook Besor, and they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him, then David approached the people and greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless men among those who went with David answered and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away and depart.” [Those cowards stayed behind, they weren't even willing to rescue their families. WE continued the pursuit. WE killed the kidnappers. WE recovered our families and possessions. Why should THEY get a share of the spoils? Give them their wives and children and get them out of here!!!]

Then David said, “You must not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us.”

David goes on to say. . .

“And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” And so it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.

The men who had the strength to pursue the bandits took full credit for the success of the daring rescue. Show text: “the spoil that WE have recovered.” They completely forgot that God had helped them get their families back.

David could have joined them in taking credit for what happened. Maybe, if he took credit, his men would trust him again and not try to kill him. But David corrects them and says, the stuff you want to hoard isn't yours. Show text: “what the LORD has given us, who has kept us and delivered into our hand the band that came against us.”

The difference in their attitude towards this crisis is very simple. . . “WE did it.” vs. “God did it.”

David gives credit to God. He insists that the spoil be shared equally, recognizing that GOD give them victory, GOD gave them their families back, GOD gave them strength in their crisis. GOD, not his MEN, made the happy outcome possible. In Psalm 20: 7, David reflects a similar attitude. . .

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Third principle we can draw about handling crises successfully is. . .

3. Give credit to God

God has brought some of you through some very difficult crises. Person after person could share this. We need to remember that God delivered us, fix that in our mind and thank him for it. If we don't, it becomes easy to forget how desperate the situation was and think, like David's men, “I took care of it myself.”

e.g. Last year, in the 26 week of her pregnancy, my wife's doctor informed her that our baby was very sick. Later that same week we lost what would have been our first son. Obviously a painful time for us. Not ever getting to know him. Wondering what he would have been like. Wanting to help him live and helplessly watching him die.

When I reflect back on the experience, I can honestly say we handled that crisis and the people it involved with grace and dignity.

It wasn't because of us. It was our prayers and the prayers of dozens of our friends, and God's willingness to supply his strength to those who ask for it.

I don't want to ever forget how good God was through this time. He strengthened us. We sensed His support. And He sustaining us in the weeks and months that followed.

When we emerge from a dark time, and we know it was God who brought us through, we need to honor God and give him credit or we'll quickly forget.

e.g. God had Israel do this when he led them across the Jordan river. He made them pile 12 stones in the riverbed as a memorial.

e.g. We do this to remember special times in our lives. When we poured new concrete sidewalks 2 years ago, we had our daughters leave their hand prints to remember that time in their lives.

When we take time to give God credit for helping us, we're doing the same thing. It buries a marker in our mind and helps us remember what he has done. David freely does this all through the Psalms. . .

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3.

Every time a crisis comes our way and we turn to God for strength and see him work, we have a renewed opportunity to praise him and give him the credit for getting us through.

So, David handled this crisis successfully. Not because he got his family back, but because he..

  1. DREW STRENGTH FROM GOD (admitting his need and spending time with him)
  2. INQUIRED OF GOD, “what would you have me do?”
  3. GAVE CREDIT TO GOD for sustaining him in his time of crisis

Hopefully, when the next crisis that comes our way, we'll be better prepared to handle it successfully.