God’s Preparation of David for leadership led Him to put David into a multi-year (well over a decade, actually) experience in which he was on-the-run and without a “base” that many of us take for granted: he was a hunted and wanted man by the government, he lacked a physical home and he spent years away from his first wife.
Leaders go through “desert” experiences. God refines His leaders for His own purposes – changing their definition of success, refining their character, weeding out pride and arrogance, building into them the ability to hear His voice and follow Him and so forth. Suffering is a part of leadership and leadership development because leading involves suffering. Leading means that you are sometimes the shock absorber of the dysfunction in the business. Leading means that at time, you live with the anger and gossip of the masses because you cannot fully explain yourself – hence, you live with being misunderstood. Desert experiences teach us these lessons – and they nearly always are taught while we are leading others.
Our text comes from 1 Samuel 19.11 and following:
Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” 12 So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head. 14 When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, “He is ill.” 15 Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, “Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.” 16 But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair. 17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?” Michal told him, “He said to me, ‘Let me get away. Why should I kill you?’ “
18 When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. 19 Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; 20 so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. 21 Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said. 23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?
After the test of the broken vow, God takes David into an extended time of trial, testing and development. He uses current events to push David into the desert. And the first lesson he learns in the desert is that God protects him.
David runs to Samuel’s abode in Ramah. He needs a safe place to “hole up” while he figures out his next steps. Naioth was the location was where Samuel ran a school for prophets – similar to Elijah at Gilgal and Jericho. Naioth is near Ramah – the birthplace for both Saul and Samuel – also Samuel’s permanent residence. So they both go to the school. Samuel was the recognized prophet in their day. They understood that a true prophet spoke God’s message to the people in God’s name and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He called the people to faithfulness in their covenant with God and sometimes predicted future events and he ran a school to teach others about leading God’s people to God’s heart.
Now, Saul sends 3 different groups of men to capture David – the Spirit comes on all three – disabling and disarming them. In the end, Saul goes himself with the same result. God protects David because God’s purposes for David protected him from being killed or harmed at that time. God demonstrated His protection His Way. And we learn that God’s protection does not always include His resolution of the immediate problem. God protects David, but Saul will continue to hunt him for years to come.
It is not unusual for permanent conflict or problems to exist in a leader’s life. Why? Because inherent within leadership is the reality that the most difficult decisions and the most thorny relationships to managed bubble to the top of the organization. Some conflict is managed, not resolved. Some relationships cannot be resolved, they must be managed or ended. A leader must learn to sense the spiritual reality behind the physical reality and act as God would have the leader to act. The leader must learn that God’s call may include managing a difficult situation because there is no other solution.
Leaders often face opposition and unsolvable situations. God often takes leaders through “desert” experiences of intense opposition and/or difficulties to refine and mature them, yet in the midst of this, He protects them for His purposes and glory. God is easily able to strike the balance between allowing suffering into the life of the leader while ensuring that the leader is sustained and protected. During these seasons of extended trial, God leads us to see that leadership is less about what you do and much more about who you are. Character becomes paramount. Courage is forged in the fire of trials. And we learn the value of love, patience, endurance and perseverance in our leadership as we work with the short-comings of those we lead even while we ask God to forgive our own faults and failings.
As a Christian Business owner, you need to expect that God will take you through significant periods of suffering and trial to mature you and complete you in your faith. Such trials may come through a significant business downturn, employees who lie to you and end up costing you millions, competitors who undermine you with customers or other industry partners, vendors upon whom you depend for critical supplies prohibitively raise prices or suddenly go out of business and so forth. But the trials may also be personal: an affair, a divorce, a sudden health problem, a rebellious child and so forth. Know that God is not surprised by any of this. He might be taking you into the desert. Just remember, during this time – which may last months or even years – God will be with you, taking you to new places and asking you to trust Him like never before. As you emerge from your desert experience, you will have a strength, a maturity and a relationship with God that you could not have had without it. So, learn all you can while you’re in the desert. Don’t extend it unnecessarily. And be sure to hang in there – because the best is yet to come!