When I think of how tender and compassionate God was toward me during the time I went home to bury my mother, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by His goodness and mercy. At a time when I most needed comfort, He was right there beside me, holding me, whispering in my ear, “Don’t worry, Nicky. Your mother is with me.” I found greater shelter and solace in the arms of God than I could have ever found on earth.
In my hour of need, I crawled into the heart of Christ, and He embraced me, as He has always done during dark and lonely moments. This is the relationship I have with Jesus. It is how He lets me know how much He cares for me—how He cares for all those who depend on Him. For those who love Him and accept Him as the Brother.
It reminds me of when my children were very small. There were times when they were playing on the carpet and they would hurt their finger on a toy. They’d start to cry, and I would go over to see what had happened. I’d bend down and extend my arms and say, “Come see Daddy. Let me kiss the hurt.”
They would immediately crawl toward me and let me lift them onto my lap. And then I would hold them, kiss them, and comfort them. “Don’t worry,” I’d whisper softly into their ear. “Daddy is here. Everything will be all right.”
That’s the kind of relationship He wants each of us to have with Him. That’s the kind of God we serve. His compassion runs deep and wide and knows no limits. His love is as real and vibrant as the morning mist or the evening sky. “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge,” David wrote. “Be my rock of refuge, to which I always go. . . . From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you” (Psalm 71:1, 3, 6).
David understood that without God’s mercy and compassion, his life would not be worth living. He didn’t just serve the God of the universe; he had a real relationship with a loving and gracious Father. That’s what set him apart from other kings and Jews of the day. That’s what endeared him to God so powerfully.
And that’s how God wants all of His children to see Him.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
David listened to God’s word from the prophet Nathan and he repented and obeyed. As a result, he spent the rest of his life growing in his knowledge of God. The Lord brought great peace into David’s life, and eventually all his enemies were silenced.
Yet the clearest evidence of God’s restoration in David’s life is his own testimony. Read what David wrote in his dying days:
The reason that David will forever be known as “a man after God’s own heart” is because he quickly and genuinely repented of his sins. Proverbs tells us:
If you are being probed by God’s Word—if His Spirit isn’t letting you sit comfortably in your sin—then you are being shown mercy. It is the deep love of God at work, wooing you out of death and into life.
Will you respond to Him as David did? If so, you’ll know true restoration and reconciliation. And God will restore everything the enemy has stolen.
It’s true that King David paid severe consequences for his sin; in fact, he prophesied judgment upon himself. He told the prophet Nathan that the rich man who stole the poor man’s lamb should restore it fourfold (see 2 Samuel 12:5-6). And that’s just what happened in David’s life: The baby that Bathsheba birthed died within days. And three of David’s other sons—Ammon, Absalom and Adonijah—all had tragic, untimely deaths. So, David did pay for his sin with four of his own lambs.
Yet the Bible clearly shows that whenever we return to the Lord in genuine, heartfelt repentance, God responds by bringing absolute reconciliation and restoration. We do not have to end up like Saul, descending into madness and terror. Nor do we have to “fade away” from life, biding our time in quiet shame until the Lord takes us home. On the contrary, the prophet Joel assures us that God steps in immediately when we return to him: “Rend your heart . . . and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:13).
Amazingly, God then gives us this incredible promise: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten. . . . And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:25–26). The Lord promises to restore all.
Understand, when this prophecy was given, God had already pronounced judgment on Israel. But the people repented, and God said, “Now I’m going to do wonderful things for you. I’m going to restore everything the devil has stolen.”
Beloved, God’s tender mercy allows even the worst sinner to say, “I’m not a drug addict. I’m not an alcoholic. I’m not an adulterer. I am a child of the living God, with all the rights of heaven in my soul. I no longer live under condemnation, because my past is fully behind me. And I don’t have to pay for any past sins, because Jesus paid the price for me. What’s more, He said He’ll restore everything to me.”
If there had been no prophet like Nathan—no piercing, prophetic word—David could have ended up like Saul: spiritually dead, with no Holy Ghost guidance, having lost all intimacy with God.
As David listened to Nathan’s loving but searing word, he remembered the time a previous king had been warned by a prophet. David had heard all about the prophet Samuel’s warning to King Saul. And he had heard about Saul’s halfhearted response, confessing, “I have sinned.” (I don’t believe Saul cried from his soul, as David did, “I have sinned against the Lord!”)
David saw firsthand the ruinous changes that befell Saul. The once godly, Spirit-led king continually rejected the Spirit’s reproving words, delivered by a holy prophet. Soon Saul began to walk in self-will, bitterness and rebellion. Finally, the Holy Ghost departed from him: “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23). “The Lord . . . departed from Saul” (18:12) and Saul ended up turning to a witch for guidance. He confessed to her, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do” (1 Samuel 28:15).
David remembered all the madness, ugliness and terror surrounding this man who had shut out God’s word. Suddenly, the truth pierced his own heart: “God is no respecter of persons. I have sinned, as Saul did. And now here’s another prophet, in another time, giving me a word from God, as Samuel gave to Saul. Oh, Lord, I’ve sinned against you! Please don’t take your Holy Spirit from me, as you did from Saul.”
David wrote, “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight. . . . Purge me. . . . Create in me a clean heart. . . . Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:3-4, 7, 10-11).
I believe one of God’s greatest gifts of mercy to His Church is His faithful ministers who lovingly reprove us of our sins. I know that as a loving shepherd, I must be careful of my tone, but I can’t apologize for preaching convicting truth. What happens to the Church when pastors no longer point people to their iniquities? Consider where King David would have ended up if he had not had Nathan to show him his wickedness (see 2 Samuel 12).
You have to understand, Nathan had seen David fly off the handle often so he was well aware that the powerful king could have slain him at any time.
Nathan could have said, “I’ll just be a friend to David. I’ll pray for him and be there when he needs me but I have to trust the Holy Spirit to convict him.” What would have happened then?
I believe that without Nathan’s convicting word, David would have fallen under the worst judgment known to humankind—the judgment of having God turn you over to your sin, to stop all of the Holy Spirit’s dealings in your life. Yet, that’s exactly what is happening to many Christians today. They choose to listen only to soft, flesh-assuring preaching. Where there is no convicting word, there can be no godly sorrow over sin. Where there is no godly sorrow for sin, there can be no repentance. And where there is no repentance, there is only hardness of heart.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner. . . . For godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:9–10). Paul said his outcry against the Corinthians’ sin produced a godly sorrow in them that led to repentance. In turn, that produced in them a hatred for sin, a holy fear of God, and a desire to live upright. Yet this never would have happened if he had not preached a sharp, piercing, convicting word.
The reason Paul spoke so strongly to the Corinthians was, “That our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you” (7:12). In other words: “I wasn’t trying to unnerve you or condemn you. I exposed your sin so that you would see how much I love and care for you. When the Holy Ghost knocks on your heart, sometimes it sounds like harsh pounding. But it’s actually God showing you His tender love.”