Every Crutch Gone
When God takes everything away–Lessons from the life of David,
Why would God send Joseph into slavery by the hand of his brothers, be falsely accused of rape, be sent to prison and forgotten for years? Why would God deny Moses all the riches, power and prestige of Egypt? Why would God allow Gomer to repeatedly be unfaithful to her devoted and loyal husband Hosea? Why does God take things away–not bad things, but good things? Why does He remove things that don’t hurt us? Why does He take those things away we need to lean on–what I call crutches, things in life we lean on instead of Christ?
A few of you here today have lost jobs, lost spouses, lost children and friends. Some of you have lost your home, car, and your wealth. Others have lost your health, your emotional stability, and all the things of this life that once brought you joy. A variety have lost precious items–a piece of jewelry, a photo album, a special picture, a collection, a fun hobby, even a pastime. Some of you have lost good positions, spiritual leaders and have even lost your self-respect.
Why would God take those away? Why would He remove those good things? Why would He take away those people, things and securities that help us live for Him? Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children? Why do you sometimes suffer so badly and hurt so unjustly while you are seeking to live obediently in all things? When the pain gets so intense, do you question God’s love, wonder about His wisdom to do what is best, and doubt about His absolute, sovereign control? When you want to give up, when you cry over the pain, when everything you’re relying upon to help is taken away . . .
Ecclesiastes 7:14, “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider–God has made the one as well as the other.” Isaiah 45:7, “The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High, that both good and ill go forth?” Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
There are times when God takes everything dependable away. There are times when life gets difficult and there is no one to turn to for help. God literally removes everything, even good things you might rely upon. How does this happen? David, in the book of 1 Samuel, is the perfect example. Three thousand years ago, there was this man named David, who became a hero in his own country. He killed a giant every fierce warrior had run from. He loved God. He had intimate friends. He had been selected as the next king of Israel.
But now David is on the run, because a powerful man is trying to kill him–not because David has sinned or has done anything wrong, and not because David deserves to be punished. But because the king of the land is jealous of him, and God’s plan is to use this season of testing to grow David. And in the midst of all this unfair treatment, God will take all of David’s crutches away. God will remove everything that might compete with David’s relationship with the Lord.
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Samuel chapter 18, and follow along in your outline. Life is really going well for David. In Chapter 18 alone, there are four references to David’s success. There are three assertions that Yahweh is with David. There are six uses of the verb love with David as the object–everyone in Israel loves David, except for Saul. God is blessing this young man after God’s own heart. David has already been anointed as the next king. David has ministered to Saul in his palace with his music. David has killed the giant Goliath in battle, giving Israel a great victory.
And now, look at 1 Samuel 18:5, 14, 15 and 30. Verse 5, “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” Verses 14 and 15, “And David was prospering in all his ways for the Lord was with him. 15When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him.” Verse 30, “Then the commanders of the Philistines went out to battle, and it happened as often as they went out, that David, behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul. So his name was highly esteemed.”
Everything in life is going David’s way. Everything David touches turns out great! He wins his battles, he leads well, he prospers, he is wise and is highly esteemed. But everything changes in chapter 19. David is running and hiding–not because he deserves it, but because God has allowed it. God is going to take everything away, not sin–but one-by-one God will remove the best things, trustworthy things. Even things we lean on to please God and live for Him. Yet the Lord will take them all away. David will quickly lose five crutches from his life, one right after another. The first crutch is found in 1 Samuel 19:8 to 10 . . .
#1 The Crutch of a Good POSITION
In 18:5, Saul appointed David as his chief general, but now look at how Saul responds to David in 19:8, “When there was war again, David went out and fought with the Philistines, and defeated them with great slaughter, so that they fled before him. 9Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing the harp with his hand. 10And Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.”
In a moment of jealousy, with a single toss of a spear, God uses Saul to remove a crutch from David’s life. One moment David is the head military man, and the next David is fired and running for his life. One moment David is prospering in all he does, then after a swish of the spear, he has nothing. This has happened to you–your parents took your favorite game away. Your employer asks, “Can I see you?” and next thing you know, you have no job. One moment you’re the key player on your team, then one late tackle, an injury and now you are off the team.
For a season, your kids loved everything you said, and now they question everything you say. You used to date lots of handsome dudes, and now for no apparent reason, they have disappeared. Here is the hard part, there is nothing wrong with a good position, a high-paying job, or having influence—unless you depend too much on those things. Unless you trust things and not Christ. Unless you rely on that and not your Savior.
Jesus warns about leaning on those type of crutches. He says in Matthew 6:19 to 21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth. But lay for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Then verses 25 and 33, “Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor for your body as to what you shall put on . . . 33But seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”
There is a danger in leaning on riches and position. There is a danger in gaining your security from things. The Lord warns in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” And if God takes these things away, it is because they are robbing you of something better.
Psalm 119:67 to 68, 71, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. 71It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” For David, it was for him to deepen in his dependence upon the Lord, to not get distracted with success, to value those things in life that really matter. But his position was not the only crutch David lost.
#2 The Crutch of His MATE
In chapter 18:14 to 16, David was prospering in all he did–therefore Saul dreaded David, but all of Israel loved him. Previously, Saul had promised a daughter to the warrior who defeated Goliath, so Saul offers his oldest daughter, Merab to David. But now Saul offers this daughter to David with a different motive. Saul doesn’t offer her as a reward of thanks, but as a way to get rid of David. Saul thinks to himself, “I’ll give him my daughter so I won’t have to kill David, but now the Philistines will want to kill David since he’ll be related to the king of Israel.” But in true humility David says, “Who am I that I should be the king’s son-in-law?” So that plan fails.
Then look at what happens in 18:20 to 21, “Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David.” When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him. 21And Saul thought, ‘I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ Therefore Saul said to David, ‘For a second time you may be my son-in-law today.’ “
This time, the daughter Michal genuinely loves David–so Saul thinks, “Hey–my goal is still achieved. If married to her, the Philistines will want to kill David.” Saul even fuels the fire by telling poor David the dowry to marry her consists of a hundred dead Philistines. And the text also seems to indicate more than the fact that Michal was related to the king–there is something Saul knows about Michal that makes her a snare to David. Best short answer wins a gift card–what was it that made Michal a snare to David? So David and Michal get married and she ends up helping her father Saul hate David all the more.
Read 19:11 to 17. Michal helps Saul justify his hatred for David, since she lies to Saul, telling him she had to let David escape–David threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him get away. “Then Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, in order to put him to death in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be put to death.’ 12So Michal let David down through a window, and he went out and fled and escaped. 13And Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with clothes. 14When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ [In our day, we would put a vaporizer on in the room and answer the door with a thermometer in our hand–but Saul is not buying it.] 15Then Saul sent messengers to see David, saying, ‘Bring him up to me on his bed, that I may put him to death.’ I will kill him in his bed. 16When the messengers entered, behold, the household idol was on the bed with the quilt of goats’ hair at its head. 17So Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ And Michal said to Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go! Why should I put you to death?” ‘ “
Michal lies to her dad, saying, “I had to let him go because he threatened to kill me. He’s such a brute.” She turns the focus off herself and on to David. How would you react, if the man you hated now threatens to kill your daughter? He’s dead! Saul now feels justified in hunting down and killing David. But in the process, David just lost his mate. God removed Michal from David for a season. David is on the run and now has no partner, no spouse, no helpmeet. God took a second crutch away from David–his spouse.
Every widow and widower listening knows what that’s like. They know the hurt, sometimes regret, often guilt, and always loneliness that comes from losing one’s life partner. Yet your compassionate Father has purpose. When you lose a parent, a favorite teacher, or a friend–if those closest turn against you, there’ll be a branding iron of hurt, but in Christ there is purpose.
Why did the brothers consider killing, then selling Joe into a life of slavery? Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, [you were evil–you did evil, you were sinning badly] but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” God has reasons for removing a crutch of someone close. Possibly you were depending upon them too much. Feasibly they were worshiped more than God. Maybe they carried your spiritual life–we don’t always know. Yet in spite of a hurt that leaves a permanent scar, as a genuine believer, that loss will result in God’s glory and your good. Where does David go? Verses 12 and 18, he shot out the window and ran to find his spiritual leader.
#3 The Crutch of his SPIRITUAL leader
Read with me chapter 19:18 and 19, “Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth. 19And it was told Saul, saying, ‘Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.’ “ Verse 20, Saul sent messengers to take David, but they were stopped by the Spirit of God. Verse 21, Saul sent messengers two more times, both times stopped by the Spirit of God. And then in verse 22, Saul came himself, and Saul was stopped by the Spirit of God.
Samuel the prophet couldn’t stop Saul or his soldiers, but the Spirit of God moved in and through them spoke God’s Word to proclaim that God alone can save. The Spirit shut them down. A lesson for David to who is in control–and a lesson to Saul to stop fighting the Lord. Pay attention to where David went in verse 18, “Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.”
Then look at what happens in 20:1a, “Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah.” There is no safe place–David is on the run again. Not even Samuel, God’s true prophet, the man of God could protect David. God removed that crutch. God even removed the safety of a godly spiritual leader. God took away the prophet–the man who was uniquely set apart by God in the Old Testament to speak God’s Word. The one uniquely chosen by God, like the New Testament apostles to write the Word of God.
Yet in practice, the same thing can happen to us. We too, in the age of the church, can become too dependent upon spiritual leaders and spiritual leaders can encourage that dependency. My friends, when a leader becomes the one you turn to for all your answers, when all the decisions are made by one guy, when the church is known as Pastor Freddy’s church . . . when Freddy visits everyone, performs all the marriages, officiates all the funerals, and preaches all the sermons–Freddy is cultivating over-dependence on himself. And that is a dangerous place to belong.
Instead of a focus on Christ and a dependence upon the Spirit of God by the Word of God, you are dangerously dependent upon one flawed man. Do not plug your umbilical cord into a church like that. God designed His body to be led by a plurality of leaders who each function according to their giftedness. Together, those leaders seek the one will of their head–Christ. Christ wants His body to be equipped so that the members of the church do the work of ministry. The Spirit gifts each true member so they serve each other and function in shepherding, discipleship and one another-ing relationships, so the focus is never on one man, but on the great God who is manifested when we do what He called us to do.
Spiritual leaders are under-shepherds, examples, models, preachers, teachers and leaders–but they are not to function like the Savior, because they are not. Samuel could not save David–only God could. The plea of the New Testament is to follow Christ–to grow increasingly dependent upon the Spirit by the Word of God. Leaders can help you in that pursuit, but they were never meant to replace our first love, Christ. David was reminded that spiritual leaders do not supersede the Spirit. A fourth crutch removed from David was . . .
#4 The Crutch of your closest FRIEND
We already know who that is? Jonathan. Read chapter 20:1 to 3, “Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, ‘What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?’ 2And he said to him, ‘Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!’ 3Yet David vowed again, saying, ‘Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, “Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.” But truly as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and death.’ “
David is breaking down. His emotional security is gone. He feels as though death follows him. He’s lost perspective. That’s what happens when all your crutches are taken away. Maybe your dad or grandpa was in Viet Nam–they experienced this. They didn’t know who to trust. Whose orders to obey? They felt unsupported at home. There was no one to turn to. Friends would die, go home, be transferred. Life broke down. David broke down.
But before you look down on David, remember this giant killer, gifted musician and songwriter was not perfect. God loved him and still loves him, even while He is taking all his crutches away. And God will make him into a great king and even more–a godly man, His man.
In chapter 20:4 to 41, David and Jonathan develop a plan to determine whether David could return to Saul. Was it safe to return to those crutches? Was this all temporary, or will it continue? Jonathan is willing to do anything. Read verse 4, “Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’ ” Then look at verses 16 and 17, “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord require it at the hands of David’s enemies.’ 17And Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”
But what we find is, Saul gets so angry he tries to kill his own son, the heir-apparent Jonathon–because he wants to kill David. Yet Jonathan supports David. Look at verses 30 to 34, “Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? 31For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die.’ 32But Jonathan answered Saul his father and said to him, ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ 33Then Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him down; so Jonathan knew this father had decided to put David to death. 34Then Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did not eat food on the second day of the new moon, for he was grieved over David because his father had dishonored him.”
Jonathan and David meet up again after this in verses 41 to 42, “When the lad was gone, David arose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David more. [And now in verse 42, Jonathan will depart from David never to see him again.]42And Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying “The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” ‘ Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.”
What happens when you lose the closest friend you have on Earth? What happens when they go away? The only choice is to turn to your closest friend of all–He’s the only one who can help. Jesus Christ is that friend that is closer than a brother. Jesus is the one friend who will never forsake you. He will never let you down. You can depend upon Him forever.
But David is at the bottom, and sadly didn’t turn to his God. He goes on the run again to the priests of Nob. Read 1 Samuel 21:1, “Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David, and said to him, ‘Why are you alone and no one with you?’ “ There is fear and uncertainty surrounding David. Many know Saul wants him dead. Others wonder why David is still alive. They all wonder what authority he has. So what does David do? He lies. Verse 21:2, “And David said to Ahimelech the priest, ‘The king has commissioned me with a matter, and has said to me, “Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.” ‘ “ This leads David to lose a fifth and final crutch.
#5 The Crutch of His SELF-RESPECT
Read 1 Samuel 21:10 to 13, “Then David arose and fled that day from Saul, and went to Achish king of Gath. [The enemy–this is a Philistine king. What is David thinking? He’s not thinking.] 11But the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands”?’ 12And David took these words to heart, and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. [“Oh no–what I am doing here?”] 13So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard.”
David loses his self-respect–acting like a drooling madman. David runs to Gath! Do you remember who was from Gath? Goliath, the giant–the one David killed. Seems a little conspicuous, doesn’t it? He might even be carrying Goliath’s sword with him. David wasn’t thinking–he was running on emotions. But when your crutches are being taken away, you begin to see what you are really like. It is sad, but there is even some comedy in the midst of this tragedy in verses 14 and 15–Corona Olympics, film yourself as a madman or -woman.
Verse 14, “Then Achish said to his servants, ‘Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? 15Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house? I have enough madmen in my kingdom, I don’t need another one.’ “ Now there is despair, anger, fear, and disorientation. David has lost it. God has taken away everything He gave David, and it affects David. The little shepherd boy who had nothing and was content, then gained everything and now has nothing again.
God is showing David who to depend upon. God is showing David where it all came from. God is showing David who can be trusted. God is warning David of the dangers of success. And God did it by taking all his crutches away. Can you identify? When it happens, it brings new meaning to Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Christ is the one in charge and Christ is the one to run to when your life becomes unstable.
For some listening who need Christ, you need to see yourself as the vile sinner that you are and accept you will never survive God’s perfect judgment. You are headed for torment in Hell forever unless you see Christ as God who became a man, lived a perfect life, then took your place on the cross, dying for your sins, then rising from the dead to prove it was all true. Your sin must fall on Christ on the cross, and His righteousness must cover you in order for you to be forgiven. And when Christ gives salvation, it transforms you into a new person who wants to obey the Bible and follow Christ.
For others listening who know Christ, stop running and start repenting. Stop whining and start worshiping. Stop tweeting and start trusting. When God takes away, it is because He is trying to give you something better—Himself. Don’t turn to crutches, turn to Christ. Come to Him who is comfort, whose burden is light, who will hold you up, who loves you like His own Son. He commands you to cast your anxiety upon Him. He knows what is best and is doing what is best for you.
When He takes things away, this is your opportunity to love the world less and love Him more. When He takes people away, this is your opportunity to grow more intimate in relationship with Him. When He takes health away, this is your opportunity to depend upon Him with a greater heart zeal than ever. No matter what crutch is taken, it is a greater opportunity for us to learn to walk in reliance upon Him.
Each person in the house give something up this week that sometimes functions as a crutch–TV, food, exercise, games, etc–and like a fast, fill that time with Bible reading, Christian book reading and/or prayer. Tell everyone in the family the one pseudo-crutch you will give up this week.
Each person, to your family or friends, confess your three biggest crutches and how you might depend less on them and more on Christ.
Each person recall one or two of your greatest past hurts and describe to friends or family how those events or people actually helped you to grow closer to Christ.