A precious sister came to the microphone to pray at one of our recent meetings at Times Square Church. Tearfully, she prayed, "O God, your people are hurting! Lord, all your children are hurting — real bad! Help us — please!" All over the auditorium you could feel the response from the people, as if to say, "Yes! That's me. I'm hurting — badly!" All the way home that night I wept inside. I prayed, "Lord, it's not just your precious sheep out there in the congregation who are hurting. I'm one of your shepherds and at times I hurt too."
There is a theology in the land today that would brand such thinking as negative confessions. I've seen people banged and bruised, biting their lips and confessing positively, "I'm not hurting. I feel just fine." They were lying! They were actually hurting badly. We Christians, including ministers, often hide our true hurts behind a mask — a mask of forced smiles and phony confessions. There is the sense that all Christians are to be always smiling, always happy, always knowing where they are going — always self-fulfilled and satisfied. The truth is, behind the smiles, the praises, and the uplifted hands, there can be a private hell. You can go right home from a meeting, go to your bedroom, and cover your pillow with tears!
So it was with David, a man after God's own heart. "I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears" (Psalm 6:6). This giant killer, this mighty warrior of whom they sang "David hath killed his ten thousands," this poet who wrote so much about trusting God and casting all care upon Him, this same man of God cried out, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed" (Psalm 6:2). David had sinned grievously, confessing, "For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.... I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart" (Psalm 38:4-6,8).
David is expressing exactly what some of you may be going through right now: a feeling of being overwhelmed by sin, like unexpected ocean waves sweeping over your soul. You can't understand why you are swamped again. You cry, "O God! It's too much for me — I can't handle it anymore." You are wounded and you know that you stink inwardly from sin. You know you have been foolish and stupid. You feel the spiritual corruption and are so sick in your mind that it affects your body. Your failure, your lack of victory, has actually made you go "mourning all the day." There is depression and fear. You are "troubled...bowed down...roaring inside...disrupted and disturbed in your soul."
David had a sense that he was suffering from the sins he had committed. He was not saying God was not just in chastising him. All David wanted was to be corrected in love: "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord; for I am weak..." (Psalm 6:1-2). Jeremiah prayed, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. Pour out your fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name..." (Jeremiah 10:24-25). The cry from both David and Jeremiah is this: "Lord, my own foolishness, my own besetting sin, has brought much of my suffering upon me! I know You have a right to correct and chastise me. But please — remember I'm still Your child! Pour out Your wrath on those who don't want You. I have sinned, but I still love You. Correct me in love. Be merciful — Your wrath would bring me to nothing."
There is a wrath of God and a chastening upon obstinate wickedness. But there is a loving chastening upon those who repent and return. If you sit here now feeling God's arrows in your soul, hurting because of past and present sin, if you have a repentant heart and want to turn from your sin, you can call for His chastening love. You will be corrected, but in great mercy and compassion — just as a caring father spanks his child because of love. You will not feel His wrath as do the heathen. But with His rod you will feel His loving, outstretched arms.
Reaching the End of Your Rope
This is spiritual, physical, and mental bankruptcy! There is no more fight, no more resistance left. You are totally drained, empty, dry, and sometimes numb, beyond feeling. It is knowing that without a supernatural infusion of Christ's strength, you simply can't go on. It is an absolute end of the road — the end of the rope — the end of your strength! It's not a matter of giving up on the Lord; it is that you have used up every ounce of human strength you had and nothing but the Lord will help. A vacation won't do it. Rest and relaxation won't help. You need supernatural power and will!
David was there. Have you been there? Are you there now? Are you wondering whether or not you are under God's judgment? Are you knowing the sinfulness of your flesh and feeling unworthy? Are you crying inside like David, "I am weak and my soul is confused. My sins are too complicated to understand. I'm so sick and tired of the guilt and inner groanings of my soul. I cry a river of tears and feel like dying at times..."?
The Word of God is full of accounts of great men of God who came to the end of their rope, having lost all strength. I preach a message entitled "The Making of a Man of God" which discusses three things Jesus faced in the garden: a cup of pain, an hour of confusion, and a night of isolation. All true men and women of God have gone through this. [One minister who heard this message told me, "That's gloom! I don't believe that! This walk is all victory — no sorrow — no tears — just all joy!" Sadly the past few years, he has had to endure it all!]
David confessed, "I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: free among the dead..." (Psalm 88:4-5). Psalm 22 is the cry of Jesus from the cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me.... O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not.... I am poured out like water...my heart is like wax.... My strength is dried up like a potsherd.... But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me" (Psalm 22:1-2,14-15, 19). David freely confessed it was his sin that weakened him and brought him to the end of his rope: "For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity... (Psalm 31:10). But then he cries out to God "...forsake me not when my strength faileth" (Psalm 71:9).
Perhaps your present suffering has been self-inflicted. How many wives suffer now because they married men God warned them not to marry? Now they are abused and living in hell! How many children are breaking the hearts of their parents, bringing them to the end of their rope? Yet it is because of past years of sin and neglect and compromise. So many despair from AIDS and other diseases because of past sins. But it is now time to move on from what caused your trouble and to move into brokenness, repentance, and faith. It is time to receive a new infusion of Holy Ghost strength. You don't need a preacher to diagnose you — you know you have arrived at your lowest point. You know why and you know you have come to the end of your strength! It's time to be renewed — time to be refreshed — time to have your spiritual strength overflow within you!
If your heart has godly sorrow and you love Him, you may be down, but He won't let you go out! This same David, when walking by faith in repentance, said this: "For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.... For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me" (Psalm 18:28-36, 39).
God promises strength to His anointed: "Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever" (Psalm 28:6-9). If you will cry out, He will pour His strength into you: "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.... Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me" (Psalm 138:3, 7).
When Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered
I want to show you the deep agony of a very holy man of history. See if you can figure out who is speaking: "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.... He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.... When I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.... My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord" (Lamentations 3:1-18). Is it possible for a righteous man to speak such words? Who was this man who gave up hope, who said God has shut out his prayers? It is no less than the holy prophet Jeremiah. "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through" (Lamentations 3:44). But it is also you and me at some crisis in our lives, when it seems God has shut the heavens, that our prayers are lost. Do you cry with Jeremiah, "I am the one who has seen trouble — I'm in a situation I can't seem to get out of"?
If you do not believe in Holy Ghost timing, you will never understand why prayers seem to be delayed. Every promise of God will rise up to test you — unless you rest in the Lord's timing! It is written of Joseph, who lay helplessly in prison: "Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him" (Psalm 105:19). This verse on Holy Ghost timing is sandwiched between these two statements: 1) "Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron" (verse 18) and 2) "The king sent and loosed him...and let him go free" (verse 20). His trial of waiting broke his heart. Listen to Joseph's pathetic plea to the cupbearer, after Joseph revealed to him that he would be restored and released from prison: "But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house.... I [have] done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon" (Genesis 40:14-15).
There are those who would ask where Joseph's faith was. He was so close to God, he could interpret dreams and mysteries. God spoke to him. He was holy and in close communion with God. So why didn't he just rest and pray and trust in God to get him out? Why such a pitiful plea: "Talk to Pharaoh — help get me out of this living hell"? He was being tried by the Word! You can read it, pray it, preach it. But until it's tested in you, it will not produce life. Some of you are being severely tried by the Word right now. You've seen God answer many prayers, but right now you are looking at a long-standing unanswered prayer. Your crying, your shouting, your uplifted hands, your travail — all seem to go unheard with no evidence of an answer anywhere. Some are seeing what appeared to be a miracle just slip away into reverse!
Let me tell you what it is going to take to overcome in these last days. We must stand on every promise, believe every promise, and pray in faith, effectually, fervently, without doubt — then wait and rest, trusting the Lord to do what is right, in His time and His way. Few Christians today wait with patience for God to work in His time. The more it is delayed, the angrier some get. Some finally give up, thinking God doesn't answer. Can you say with Habakkuk, "...I must wait quietly for the day of distress.... Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength...and makes me walk on my high places..." (Habakkuk 3:16-19, NAS)?
Don't think Jeremiah continued in despair! Like David, he came out into a glorious place of hope and victory. He remembered that his God was full of compassion and tender mercies: "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.... For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies" (Lamentations 3:21-26,31-32).
David, in the same Psalm we began with, said "...For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer" (Psalm 6:8-9). He has bottled every tear, received every cry, listened attentively to every prayer. You can rest assured that if you must go through a hot furnace of affliction, He will be right there with you. God has a purpose for everything He allows — and for every difficult trial, He gives special grace.
When You Do Right and Things Still Go Wrong
In all of God's Word, David is a type, an example of a man who has a heart for God, a type of one who did right (except for the sin of Bathsheba and Uriah!). "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15:5). From the day Samuel poured oil over him, anointing him king over Israel "...the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward..." (1 Samuel 16:13). It is said, "Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him.... David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.... And Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David..." (1 Samuel 18:12,14,28).
So what does David get for all this goodness? Trouble on all sides! But remember — God is still with him. "And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.... And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin: but he slipped away..." (1 Samuel 19:1,10). David fled in fear of Saul "...and went to Achish the king of Gath.... and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard" (1 Samuel 21:10-13).
Think back to when this same godly man stood fearlessly before the Giant Goliath. Think of the crowds cheering, "David has slain his ten thousands." Now he shrinks in fear — his best friend has been alienated from him — he is so gripped by fear he pretends to be mad to save his skin! He ends up hiding out in the cave Adullam with four hundred discontented has-beens gathered to him. After being chased by Saul's army, hiding out, running, David said "...I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines..." (1 Samuel 27:1). David was now torn by many fears. He must have thought back to the day of his anointing as a big mistake. Was David thinking: "Lord, You can't be with me — I can't be Your anointed one — everything is going wrong! It's no use. I will have to go over to the enemy. Evidently God is mad at me"? Have you ever said, "There is nothing left for me but to escape"?
But God had not forsaken David — not for a moment. For we know "the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." So it is with you and me. The day God's Spirit brought us to Jesus and anointed us, He came to stay, to abide. In your trial, in your discomfort — He is your comforter! Things seem to be going wrong, but for you who trust, God has everything under control.
Why did things go wrong for David? Because he was in the school of the Holy Ghost! God was producing character — and only trouble can bring it forth. There were to be no more Sauls, undisciplined and untrained by a lack of trials. Saul started out right, but soon wilted because he was never tested. God now sought a man He could trust, a man with whom He could build an enduring house. There was never a moment the Holy Spirit was not with David. God could have sent angels — He could have spoken the Word — He could have sent a heavenly host to keep David out of all those troubles. Instead, He permitted it all, so that David would come to the end of himself and throw himself completely on the Lord. We would have had none of those great Psalms of trust and faith had David not been tested. And if he had not been tested, the Psalms would have been just dead theology!
Some of you are at Ziglag with David — or you are headed there! In 1 Samuel, Chapter 30, the story is told of how the Amalekites had overtaken God's people, devastating lives and property. David was in great distress, as his own people spoke of stoning him, blaming him for the disaster. "But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). As he turned to the Lord (verse 8), he was assured that all that was lost would be restored to him. In verse 19, we see the final outcome: "...David recovered all."
Thank God David got back his family and his goods, but there was so much more that was restored to him. Most important was that he regained his confidence in God, his assurance that God was still with him. The power of his anointing was renewed, along with a new hatred for the enemy. On that day David got his diploma! He had learned to inquire of the Lord and to encourage himself in the Lord. From that day on, he grew stronger and stronger — and prevailed.