The Power of Discouragement

I want you to take your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Samuel 27.

1 Samuel 27-31 are really one long story that take us right to the climax of the book of 1 Samuel. It’s an awesome story. I am going to briefly summarize it for you and then we’ll zoom into chapter 27, and give an overview of that chapter, and then zoom in again to a few verses and make an application.

These five chapters are the climax of the book. Things get worse and worse for David and when it’s as black as can be, God makes a way for David to be king in one decisive event.

It reminds me a bit of the American War for independence. If you’ve ever studied the Revolutionary War, it’s basically the story of American forces getting whipped over and over and over again. It just keeps getting worse and worse for General Washington, and then in one final battle, with all of the proverbial cards on the table, we have this decisive victory at Yorktown that brings us a treaty and independence.

That’s what these five chapters are like.

1 Samuel 27 starts with David getting discouraged and joining forces with the Philistines. He again goes to the Philistine king and offers his help as a mercenary. This creates a pickle for him because eventually, the Philistines (who David is working for) go to battle against the Jews (and David has been anointed to be the next king of the jews.)

In chapter 28 the focus switches back to Saul. Saul hears about the incoming invasion by the Philistines. Normally in these circumstances Saul would go to the profit and hear from God. But God has stopped talking to Saul. So Saul goes and finds a witch/physcic and she conjures up the ghost of Samuel and Samuel tells Saul he is going to die in battle against the Philistines.

Then in chapter 29, the camera pans back to David. The Philistine king is very loyal to David but the other Philistine generals are a little weary about David fighting with them against Israel, so David and his men are sent back to Ziklag.

In chapter 30, David and his men get to Ziklag to find that another army, the Amalekites, have come in and stolen all of their stuff and enslaved their wives and children. So David seeks God and then they go after the Amalekites and defeat them in battle, getting their stuff back plus a large amount of spoil.

Finally, in chapter 31, we see the story of how Saul and Jonathan die in the battle against the Philistines, opening up the way for David to be king.

So at the beginning of chapter 27 - it doesn’t look like David could ever be king. It looks like David will be a fugitive forever. Then it’s like, bang, bang, bang, bang. And at the end of this one long climax, David is now in good position to come home and start as the king.

So now that you know where this story is going, let’s take a look at what happens in this first part of it in chapter 27. There are four sections to this story…

Section 1 - David’s decision (1-4)

In the first four verses David gets discouraged and he decides that his best course of action is to go work for the Philistines as a mercenary. So him and his 600 or so soldiers travel to Philistia and meet with King Achish and offer their services.

This is deja vu again, because David already did this much earlier in the story when he first went on the run. Remember he acted like a crazy person. Well now, with his hundreds of followers, it’s quite obvious he isn’t a crazy person. It’s probably pretty likely that Achish had been hearing for years about Saul’s quest to kill David at this point, so Achich felt a bit safer about it.

We are going to look at this section in a minute because this is really where my message to you is going to come from.

Section 2 - David’s request (5-7)

In the second section, which you see in verses 5-7 David makes the wise move of asking King Achish if he and his men can have a small country town to live in to do their work. Probably, David didn’t want to be right under the king’s thumb all the time.

Achich gives David and his men the town of Ziklag, which is a border town with Judah. And David and his men move in their and setup home. David is supposed to be attacking Israel for the Philistines - that is what he was hired to do, but that is not what David does.

In the next section we see…

Section 3 - David’s deceit (8-12)

In verses 8-12 it explains what David actually does. Instead of attacking Israel, he attacks the mutual enemies of the Philistines and Israel - the Amalakites, the Geshurites, and the Gezrites. When David and his men go after these groups, they completely wipe them out, so no one can tell what they are doing.

As far as Achish knows, David and his men are raiding Israel. But David is actually wiping out some of Israel’s enemies.

Things are working out pretty well for David like this, until the first two verses of chapter 28, which is the fourth section of the story…

Section 4 - David's pickle (28:1-2)

Achish decides to mount a full out war with Israel and gets a large army together. He calls David and his men in to take part in this fight. So imagine this pickle, David is supposed to be the next king of Israel, and here he is working for Israel’s biggest enemy and he’s been pretty successful at not attacking Israel here - he’s been pretty sneaky - but now he has to join Achish in a battle against Israel and there is no way to hide it now. He’s between a rock and hard place.

So how did David get there. How did he go from refusing to kill Saul in chapter 26 and showing such faith in God, to working for the enemy of God’s people in chapter 27?

The answer in one word is discouragement.

Let’s read the first four verses of chapter 27 together:

And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: [there is] nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. 2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that [were] with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, [even] David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife. 4 And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.

I want to take this story really quickly and give you four lessons about discouragement.

Galatians 6:9 says:

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

David was on the verge of reaping. He had been sowing the right stuff for decades now and the harvest was just about to come. But right at the midnight hour, David got discouraged. He said in verse 1:

I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: [there is] nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines;

Where is David’s faith? Where is the young man who boldly faced Goliath? Where is the man who wrote so many Psalms about trusting in God?

David got discouraged. The first lesson I see here on discouragement is…

1. Discouragement starts when we take our eyes off of God and put them on our circumstances

So long as David was looking to God, He believed God could do anything. He’d charge a giant with a slingshot. But when David took his eyes off of God and looked around at his circumstances he got weak kneed and discouraged.

This reminds me of the story of Peter walking on water towards Jesus in the midst of the storm. So long as Peter was looking at Jesus, he could do it. But as soon as his eyes went on the waves and storm around him, he fell into the water.

Look, the easiest thing is to look around. It can be so discouraging. Instead we should look up.

David must have thought it was impossible to be king, but with God all things are possible.

A second lesson about discouragement is…

2. Discouragement leads is to forget what God has done.

  • God had delivered David from the bears and lions as a shepherd.
  • God had lifted him from the lowliest of places to the right hand of the king.
  • God had used him to kill a giant.
  • God had brought him through countless battles.
  • God had brought him the king’s daughter in marriage.
  • God had brought him a band of loyal fellow soldiers.
  • God had delivered him time and again from Saul.

And David seems to have forgotten all of that.

Think of all the Psalms David had written about trusting in God. Dozens of them at this point. But he forgot about that because he got discouraged. He got “weary in well doing.”

This reminds me of the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness. They get to the promised land and they see the giants and they think “there is no way, we can’t possibly do that.”

Really?? Remember the plagues? Remember the Red Sea? Remember the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud? Remember the manna? Why can’t you apply God’s faithfulness from yesterday to today? They were discouraged, they stopped looking through eyes of faith and started looking through eyes of sight.

David here does the same thing. We are prone to do it too.

A third lesson about discouragement is…

3. Discouragement leads us where we would never go otherwise.

Imagine if you went to David, right after he killed Goliath and said “David, you are going to work for those guys one day”. What would David say? “No way! not in a million years. Not a chance.”

It wasn’t Saul that drove him to the philistines, it was discouragement, it was taking his eyes off of God.

Peter swore he would never deny Jesus, but in the discouragement of the events around the crucifixion, as his precious Lord was hanging on the cross, Peter denied Christ three times.

Discouragement does funny things to us.

  • There are parents who allow things they never thought they would allow in moments of discouragement.
  • There are preachers who take positions they thought they would never take because they get discouraged.
  • People serve God for years and get discouraged and find themselves out of church and out of God’s will.

One more lesson…

4. Discouragement leads others astray.

Verse 2 says:

And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that [were] with him unto Achish,

David didn’t just go to Philistia, he brought people with him. His discouragement affected the families of all of those men.

When we let ourselves get discouraged and take our eyes off of Christ, it doesn’t just affect us - it affects our children and grandchildren. It affects our spouses and our friends.

It’s a bad deal.

Listen, David went off course here and got discouraged, but God was still able to use David’s mistake. Thankfully, the “All things” in Romans 8:28 includes our mistakes.

But how much better would it have been had David not gone off course here? He might have escaped the pain of chapter 30.

Let me close by reading one more passage:

[Heb 12:1-2 KJV] 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.