A godly father once told his son, a young pastor, to write down in his Bible the names of ten other young pastors like himself who were attending Bible College. As the years passed one by one, he drew a line through those young pastors who began well but left the ministry.
Why do Christian leaders who love the Lord reach a day when they leave the ministry? What is the main cause? You may be surprised by the answer?
Most would guess that moral failure was the main reason for ministry failure. It is tragic and destructive to the church and kingdom of God, but it is not the sin that takes more of God’s servants out of fruitful ministry.
It was a sin that King David, “A man after God’s own heart,” battled. Many life lessons and warnings have been taught regarding David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba. But this is not the sin that takes more of God’s choice servants out of ministry than any other.
What sin did David and so many of God’s servant’s battle?
It was the sin of discouragement. “And David said in his heart, Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel” (1 Samuel 27:1 NKJV).
Who can explain why one day we are on the mountaintop of victory and praise and the next day are in the dark valley of discouragement? David’s discouragement did not come after a devastating defeat but after God again supernaturally delivered David from the murderous hand of Saul.
Walking in faith or flesh
All of God’s children can have a day of walking in faith followed by a day of walking in the flesh. Consider the contrast of David’s prayers to God. In Psalms 27:1 he boldly declares, “The Lord is my light and salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” (NKJV). Had these been his words on the dark day of discouragement, perhaps he would not have left the will of God for relief from Saul.
Yet, on another day David seems overwhelmed in his emotions in Psalms 13:1-2: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (NKJV).
These often reflect the feelings of Christian leaders as well as they face the daily pressures of balancing ministry needs in their family, church and community. The pressure can be overwhelming at times.
It is not by chance that God lets us see the faith and faults of his beloved servant David. David’s faith can inspire us and his faults can warn us.
In the day of discouragement, why didn’t David remember the past blessings of God — the promise to be king, the defeat of Goliath, the many times that God delivered him from Saul’s hand?
God was preparing David for the throne by many trials of faith including King Saul’s constantly pursuing him. On this day of discouragement, David made a decision to take himself out of the trial of faith. David seemed to solve many of his daily pressures by leaving his problem with Saul behind him.
David was out of the will of God for a year and four months in the wrong place and with the wrong attitude. He was in the flesh and backslidden.
Because God chastens those he loves, He chastened David. God used His chastening rod to bring David to brokenness and repentance. When David humbled his heart before God, confessed his sins, God restored all and more to him. When he came back to Israel, he was a stronger man because he was a weaker man and more dependent on God. God’s correction had helped to mature him. (See 1 Samuel 27-30; Hebrews 12: 3-13)
Every Christian should look into the mirror of God’s Word and see David’s discouragement and say, “There go I but for the grace of God.”
Thousands of pastors, ministers, and lay leaders are leaving the ministry every year because of a secret battle with discouragement.
Lessons from David
What lessons do we learn from David in the day of discouragement?
- Discouragement lives in the old nature, but faith and the Holy Spirit overcomes in our new man.
- It is important to remember past blessings and victories.
- Being daily in the Word will strengthen us for daily trials.
- We need other believers to encourage us.
- Remember the principle of refinement: God first works in us in order to work through us. The long trials of men like David, Abraham and Joseph are to teach us not to run from our problems.
- Remember the principle of timing. (Psalm 31:15) It is dangerous to give God a deadline.
- Remember the principle of dependence: God allows something or someone like Saul who hounds and hunts us to make us depend on God daily.
Truman Herring is pastor of Boca Glades Baptist Church. His latest book, “Responsive Hearts,” is a detailed look at Hebrews 12:3-13 using the life of David to illustrate how God chastens all His children. It is available by calling 561-483-4228, ext. 206.