Battling Discouragement

Series: David, a man after God's heart


We have now been studying, for a while, the life of David and we continue, this afternoon, by looking at I Samuel 18-21. There is a lot of material, there, and we don’t have time to read it all; but you may want to read it all, at home. This afternoon, we will only read excerpts, from this big section, which really go together. But before I begin, I would like for you to think about this question. Have you ever had a time, in life, when everything was going very, very well? Have you had a time in life when you had one success after another? When you had so many successes, you literally forgot what it was like to fail? If so, you probably were on top of the world, for a while. Then, suddenly, you fell, from way up there, with a failure in your life! Because, you see, failure, sooner or later, does come. And when it comes, you find yourself, now, way down at the bottom, asking yourself, “Why or how has this happened to me?”

My brother’s father-in-law, not too long ago, was teaching R.O.T.C., in a Lubbock Texas university. And, on day, as he was going into his office, with his daughter, he opened the door of his department and found his immediate supervisor lying down on the floor. This man was a colonel and he, obviously, had just had a heart attack. So his daughter and he started to administer C.P.R. to this man. They called the ambulance; but, soon, they had to give up because he was, obviously, gone. And this man left behind a beautiful wife and two beautiful children; one was 16 and the other one was 13. And if you think about their life before this happened, you begin to realize they had everything going for them. Sure, they had their struggles, like every family; but still, he had a good job and she had a good job. They made good money and possessed great toys. They had been blessed with two kids and enjoyed life – on top of the world. But then, suddenly, something happened and now the family went from being on top, to being on the bottom. And to this day, they still struggle with it. They ask questions like, “Why or how has this happened to us!” Well, if you can, kind of, identify with what I am saying, this afternoon, you need to hear the story we are going to look into in a second. And you need to pay great attention because the Bible is going to talk to you, this afternoon, in a very special way, from the life of David.

See, if you look, first of all, in Chapter 18, you find that David is on top. He has killed Goliath, in Chapter 17, and is now a leader in the army of Saul. Everything he does turns to victory. In every battle, he is successful because God is with him, continually blessing him. In fact, we don’t read, a single time in scripture, that David ever failed. Everything is going very, very well in his life. Look at verse 16, then Chapter 18, verse 7, “….” But now, Saul is becoming jealous. And he decides that he wants to kill David. At first, it’s a quiet intention. No one knows what the king is after; but then, you move to Chapter 19 and you find this matter is becoming public. In the first few verses, in fact, you find Jonathan going to his father, Saul, and saying, “Father, please, will you stop this pursuit of David?” Look at Chapter 19, verses 4-5, “….” And the Bible tells that Saul honored the request of Jonathan and that he pledged to let him live. And so, David is brought back to the palace and all goes well. But, in verse 9, Saul sends David out on another battle. And just like all the times before, David is a tremendous success. And this old jealousy begins to burn, again, in the heart of Saul. And his evil spirit overcomes him. David has to take his stringed instrument and play for the king. As he has always done, he tries his best, notice, to be faithful and loyal to the master he serves. But this time, the music doesn’t help! Saul’s evil spirit still controls him and he picks up his spear and tries to pin David to the wall! He misses; but David understands that he has to get out of there. And he runs away from the palace. But Saul is so jealous and so angry that he won’t let it go. He sends his soldiers after him so that he might be brought back and killed.

Well, David has escaped to his house. And there, he hides, beside his wife, Mical. And, of course, you know that her father is Saul. And so, suddenly, she is forced to make a decision between her father and her husband. But if you look at I Samuel 18:20, it says, “….” So she loved David very much and she was not about to lose him. So, in Chapter 19, verse 11, she says to him, “You’ve got to run for your life!” And look what she does in verses 12-13, “…” And by now, the soldiers are knocking and they say, “We want David. The King has asked for him!” But she says, in verse 14, “….”. And the soldiers aren’t going to argue with the king’s daughter! They take her, at her word, and they go back to Saul and say, “Saul, David is in bed, in your daughter’s house, and he can’t get up. He’s sick!” But Saul says, “You go back and you bring him, bed and all, because I am going to kill him!” So they return and, then, they discover what she has done. But by this time, David is gone! And he goes over to a place named Ramah. And he finds his old friend, Samuel. Now you know that, by now, Samuel is very, very old; but, still, he does what he can for the young man. A few times, thanks to him, David escapes Saul’s attempt to murder him. But it comes to a point, where, David doesn’t feel safe there, anymore, and he runs to Nojoth. And, in Chapter 20, verse 1, we are told, he finds there, his good friend, Jonathan. And here is what he said. “…” And you can feel how David is now discouraged and distressed! You can even feel the fear that creeps into his life, for if you look, in verse 3, he goes on and says, “…” He thinks he is just about to die. But Jonathan says, “No, David, this is not going to happen to you. I’ll go to my father and I’ll plead with him and, maybe, he’ll take you back, a second time.” And so, they built a plan! Jonathan, who is a wise, young man, like David, decides that, first, David should hide. Then he says to him in verses 20-22, “…” And so Jonathan leaves and goes to his father and begins to plead on David’s behalf. But Saul is angry and still filled with jealousy. He still seems to be insane because of the way he reacts to his own son. Verses 30-33 say, “….”

So now, Jonathan goes back to the hunting place. He takes the bow and three arrows and shoots. Can you imagine how David must be feeling? Have you ever thought of that? What David wants, more than anything in this world, is to go back, to hold his wife, to be in his home, to spend a good evening with his friends, his brothers and his family. He wants peace, more than anything, and a normal life. But it can’t be as it used to be! And he sees, now, Jonathan, with his bow and arrows. And Jonathan pulls and lets the arrow fly and he is listening, intently, for the words of Jonathan. And Jonathan says, “Look, the arrows have gone beyond!” And you can almost feel the heart of David sinking! And a moment later, as Jonathan is alone, without his servant, David comes. And the scripture says that they wrapped their arms around each other. And verse 41 says, “….” And I know why David cried the most. Not only is he going to depart from his good friend and his wife; but also now, he knows that he is really only a step away from death. And he has to leave, even his own country. And in verse 43, we read, “…” And by this time, David is even more distressed, more discouraged. Fear has filled every inch of his life. And when you look at Chapter 21, you see this must now be the most embarrassing chapter of the life of David.

He goes over to Nob and finds a priest, whose name is Ahimelech. And the priest sees him coming and gets a little afraid because, by this time, David’s reputation is so great. He is known as a mighty hero in the land! And I suspect, at this point, he looks a little unkept. And Ahimelech begins, by saying, “Why are you alone?” In I Samuel 21:1, it says, “…” And David responds in verses 2-3, “…” Do you see what David has just done? Discouraged and afraid, now, he is lying. He looks at the priest and says, “I am on a mission for Saul! This is lie #1. “Saul told me not to tell anyone about my mission.” This is lie #2. “As far as my men, they will meet me over there.” This is lie #3. After a little while, he leaves this priest. And Saul is still searching for him.

But now, in verse 10, he goes to a place called Gath. Do you remember Gath? Well, that’s where Goliath used to live. And David has killed their champion. But now, he is going that way and the king is Achish. And the servants, of the king, see David coming! And they are afraid because, in their eyes, David is a hero. They’ve never had anyone, giving them as much misery, as David. Sampson came pretty close; but I doubt that he was as consistent as David. And so, now, the Philistines see David coming and they say, “Here comes the King of Israel.” (That’s how they viewed him!) This was the one about whom they sing, “Saul slew his 1,000 and David, his 10,000.” And now, they prepare to receive David; but when they meet him, it’s a great surprise because David comes before them, and the scripture says, he pretends to be insane. And he begins to make marks on the doors and to foam at the mouth. He lets saliva out on his beard. And the king, Achish, looks at him and says in verse 15 of Chapter 21, “….” David has lost his dignity. What’s happened to this champion, the one who was on top? He’s become so discouraged, so distressed and so afraid, in life, that here he is, acting as a crazy man, telling all sorts of lies. But he escapes Achish and, in Chapter22, verses 1-2, we find that he runs to a cave, where he is found by his father and brothers, who have heard the story. And verse 2 says, “…” Folks, here is the turning point. Because this is the time when David starts to climb again.

Now we’ll stop there, this afternoon, but I want you to think about the story up to this point where he has gone to the cave of Adullem. And there are some important lessons that fit, directly, into our lives, this afternoon.

I. All people get discouraged and then they do crazy things.

The first lesson is one kind to all to us. In fact, it’s just a reminder that everyone can get, and does get, discouraged in living! I don’t care how big you are. David was at the top! No one, in God’s entire kingdom, was greater than David, in the story we have just read. Yet, even those who are strong, and even those who are at the top, sometimes, find themselves so burdened, in life, that they get discouraged and distressed and they find themselves on the bottom. David is the clear example, in scripture, of a man at the top who falls to the bottom, in discouragement and fear. And you look, in that story, and you see, again, the old lesson of how dangerous it is to be discouraged! For how many times have we said, when people become discouraged and distressed, in life, they do things that they would, ordinarily, never do! David is not a liar. And David is not a crazy man. And yet, he is acting like both because he got so discouraged, in life!

We frequently look at people and say, “I don’t know how to explain their action; they’ve just gone crazy!” Have you ever done that? You look at a husband and a father and, from your perspective; everything has been good in his life. And suddenly, you hear the story of how he has run off and how he has left his wife and children. The only explanation is, “He’s gone crazy!” Or you’ve heard the story about a young person, and from your perspective, for a long time, that’s been a good, young man or it’s been a good, young lady. They’ve been in the front row, week after week, in our services. But suddenly, you hear a story and you think, “She’s gone crazy!”

But, against our loose terminology, this afternoon, I’d like to say this. I don’t believe , or I should say, it seldom happens, that people go crazy quickly! Usually, it takes a long time for a husband, a wife, a young person, your friend or a brother in Christ to get to that point. It starts with them being a little discouraged; then they get a little more discouraged and a little more and a little more. And then, they are so low that they begin to do the things that they, ordinarily, would never do! And it can happen to anyone! And so, the first lesson, from the life of David, this afternoon, says all people get discouraged and it’s so dangerous because people do, in these times, what seems, to us, to be crazy things.

So what do we do about it? Or, maybe I should ask, what do you do about this when you are discouraged? What do you do when you get filled with fear, in life? Well, there are two remaining lessons, in the story, which give us an answer.

II. In the face of discouragement, people can help.

The first thing David did, was turn to people. That’s the first thing he did. He went to other people. That was #1. He went to his wife and his wife did all she could do to help him. Eccl 4:9-10 says, “…” He ran to his priest, to Samuel, and he explained the story. And Samuel did all he could do to encourage. Then, #3, he went to his good friend, Jonathan. And Jonathan did all he could to help his friend, who was discouraged and afraid. And finally, he ends up in a cave and his father and his brothers come and 400 men, who were of the same mind, came. When David was in a low point, in life, he turned to his friends and his friends did all they could do. When David was discouraged, he turned to people!

But there is a side lesson to that. When people, who are discouraged, turn to us, we need to do all we can do. When your husband is so low and so discouraged and so overwhelmed, with fears, he doesn’t know where he is going to go, the wife needs to do all she can do to encourage. When the son, or the daughter, have gone down as far as they can go, in life, and they come to their mom and dad, their mom and dad need to make sure they do all they can do! And when your brother comes to you, or when your sister comes to you, so low they don’t know whether they can continue, or not, you need, like those people in the life of David, to do all you can do.

III. In the face of discouragement, turn to God.

But, the third lesson is the most important. While you turn to people and while they help, the best they can, they will never, probably, be able to do it all. I’ve seen that David’s wife did everything she knew how to do and it was not enough. And I’ve watched Samuel, apparently, do everything he knew how to do, and it still was not enough. And I’ve watched Jonathan go to his father, even at the risk of his own life, and do all he could; but it was not enough! I don’t think people, alone, can lift you out of your discouragement, distress and fears, in life. If they could, you wouldn’t need your God! And that’s the last lesson.

Because, while people can’t do it all, God can! And, if there is one thing that David learned from Chapter 19 through Chapter 21, it is the fact that he needs God! Now I know he knew God! And I know, in his mind, that when he fought Goliath, God was the winner. And when he would go out and fight all these battles and win, he knew God was giving him the victory. He understood he needed God, in the good times! But he began to realize that he needed God, in the difficult times, even more! How do I know that? Well, read Psalms, Chapter 34, 57, 59 and 142. I don’t have time to read them, this afternoon, but maybe, before you go to bed tonight, you will have time to do it and to get some encouragement from it!

See, the Psalms, we are told, were written, during the time, we described, this afternoon. Here are some of the things that he says, in those psalms. He says, “Listen to me, oh God, for I am in desperate need! Listen to me, oh God, for you are my refuge! Rescue me from those who are pursuing me!” Don’t you know, he was talking about Saul?

He said, “Oh my God, oh my strength, you are my fortress and my rock!” You see what he says as he is becoming discouraged, distressed and filled with fear? He is saying, “God, I need you more, now, than I ever needed you!” And I am sure he was aware that he needed God, now, more than in the time he fought Goliath because overcoming that distress, discouragement and fear was a more difficult battle for David than winning over Goliath.


Well, I hope that you’ve heard the lesson, this afternoon, because I guarantee you that every person, in this room, will find himself, or herself, in the depth of discouragement, before very long! And when you get discouraged, funny things begin to happen! Fears bombard your life and you begin to say things you, ordinarily, wouldn’t say, perhaps you even start lying and doing things you ought not to do. But when you begin to become discouraged, in the next few days, you will turn to people and you will let them help you!

And, all of you, if someone comes in need of help, you do all you can to be the right kind of encourager. But, most of all, this afternoon, learn the lesson - that you need God. And turn to Him, continually, and beg for help. And so, those are the lessons for today.

So today, maybe you are discouraged and you want to turn to your family and to God for prayers. Do that. Turn to the mighty God, who saved David, and he will save you also. Come down, while we stand and while we sing!