1 Samuel 23:1-29 (Part 2) – Knowing the Difference Between a God Calling and An Ego Calling

Posted: March 26, 2018 in Book of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 23:1-29 (Part 2 of 3)
David Hides in the Wilderness

How do you tell the difference between a God calling on your life and a personal, egotistical desire? Sometimes, they look, smell, and feel the same so how do you know? For me, that was a question that plagued me as to my calling into full-time ministry. Was it from God or was it just a personal desire? I am sure that you have an example from your own life. Is it from God or is it just my ego talking?

For me, the question was one of significant importance. Am I going to follow God’s call or my own desire when it comes to full-time ministry. It was not only a question of eternal significance, but it was one of financial significance as well. On the latter significance alone, it was a profound question. Am going to risk considerable financial security for a God-calling or an ego-calling? The answer to that question is that following a God-calling is worth it but if the answer is that I was following an ego-calling is that it would be the most incredibly foolish thing I have ever done. How do we know the difference between the desires of our own heart and a God-calling on our lives?

There are several markers to me of the difference between Holy Spirit guidance and ego guidance. The first thing is that Holy Spirit guidance will never draw you to do something that is inconsistent with Scripture. So, going in the ministry full-time wins on this count but yet it could still be ego-driven so we need to investigate further.

The Holy Spirit will consistently and repetitively give you the same calling whereas your ego will bring something at you out of the blue and then it will flit away with the wind. That’s where I begin to see the God-calling in this. Ever since I became a Christ follower in December 2001, when I accepted Christ as my Savior, this calling has been building and has overcome every excuse I have thrown at the Holy Spirit over the past sixteen years. The calling has been particularly strong since the Summer of 2011 when I had no more excuses or roadblocks to throw up at the Holy Spirit. Prayer to take this burden away could not take it away. The burden did not go away even when I had done everything God had led me to do in preparation (going to seminary at North Greenville University’s graduate school and beginning my doctoral studies) and nothing happened. There was a long period of patience there between going to seminary beginning in the Fall 2011 and my accepting a pastoral position in Winter 2018. Our God callings will be burdens that stand the test of time and even when these calling try our patience and we want to give up on them. There was one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Independence Day, where the President’s team convinces him that a nuclear strike against the city sized alien spacecrafts hovering over the big cities of the world was the best course of action. After testing the theory over Houston, TX, the explosion occurs and the President continues to ask the spotters despite the celebration going on whether or not the target has been destroyed. Finally, the spotters report to the President, “the target remains, sir. The target remains.” That’s the way it is with a God-calling, the target remains regardless of time, troubles or bumps in the road. The calling will remain no matter the passage of time, the occurrence of troubles, or whether there are bumps or delays in the process.

The Holy Spirit’s call on our lives will be one too where you will follow it regardless of whether it makes sense to other people or not. God led Noah to build an ark when there was no evidence otherwise to build one. Remember the movie, Evan Almighty? I can see how the reaction to the original ark builder, Noah, would have been no different than the ridicule that Evan suffered in that movie. If you calling is from God, you will not let ridicule dissuade you from God’s calling. God callings have a positive energy to them. Ego driven callings do not. God callings give us the feeling that we are doing the right thing even if it seems crazy to others. God callings will give us a sense of peace even when it seems like the most odd thing to do in the world.

Divine guidance makes us feel as though that everything we have done in life was in preparation for the moment that we follow God’s calling on our lives. Even if God calls you to a radical change in your life, He gives you peace that your entire previous life was a prelude to this moment in time where you enter into His calling on your life. The Holy Spirit will demonstrate to you how the entirety of your life (even before salvation) will be part of the message that your following God’s calling sends to others and He will demonstrate to you how you will be able to use the history of your life in your calling. Nothing is wasted in God’s calling on our lives. It is all prep work for the moment your follow His calling.

Divine guidance makes us uncomfortable doing anything else other than following our his calling on our lives. If the call remains and won’t go away and it wakes you up at night. If it won’t go away and you will be uncomfortable doing anything else other than following God’s calling on your life, it is for real. Ego driven desires can be easily forgotten and will disappear like vapor. But a God calling on your life is a burden that you cannot get rid of. It is a burden that must be fulfilled. It is a burden that makes you uncomfortable doing anything else – even if that anything else has all the trappings of comfort in life.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I thought of Saul. He was a man who constantly mislabeled his personal egotistical desires as the will of God. He was an ego-driven man who was trying to hold on to his crown even though God said it was over. He would be like a president who spins the truth to suit his own desires and needs. He was labeling his own desires as the will of God and getting people to buy into that. That idea of discerning the difference between egotistical desires and God-callings came to mind as I read this passage with an eye to examining Saul’s motives this morning. Let’s read the passage now together for a second of three reads:

Chapter 23
1 One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah stealing grain from the threshing floors. 2 David asked the Lord, “Should I go and attack them?”

“Yes, go and save Keilah,” the Lord told him.

3 But David’s men said, “We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!”

4 So David asked the Lord again, and again the Lord replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.”

5 So David and his men went to Keilah. They slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah. 6 Now when Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought the ephod with him.

7 Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. “Good!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!” 8 So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men.

9 But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the Lord what he should do. 10 Then David prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him?[a] And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”

And the Lord said, “He will come.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.”

13 So David and his men—about 600 of them now—left Keilah and began roaming the countryside. Word soon reached Saul that David had escaped, so he didn’t go to Keilah after all. 14 David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.

15 One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. 16 Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” 18 So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the Lord. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh.

19 But now the men of Ziph went to Saul in Gibeah and betrayed David to him. “We know where David is hiding,” they said. “He is in the strongholds of Horesh on the hill of Hakilah, which is in the southern part of Jeshimon. 20 Come down whenever you’re ready, O king, and we will catch him and hand him over to you!”

21 “The Lord bless you,” Saul said. “At last someone is concerned about me! 22 Go and check again to be sure of where he is staying and who has seen him there, for I know that he is very crafty. 23 Discover his hiding places, and come back when you are sure. Then I’ll go with you. And if he is in the area at all, I’ll track him down, even if I have to search every hiding place in Judah!” 24 So the men of Ziph returned home ahead of Saul.

Meanwhile, David and his men had moved into the wilderness of Maon in the Arabah Valley south of Jeshimon. 25 When David heard that Saul and his men were searching for him, he went even farther into the wilderness to the great rock, and he remained there in the wilderness of Maon. But Saul kept after him in the wilderness.

26 Saul and David were now on opposite sides of a mountain. Just as Saul and his men began to close in on David and his men, 27 an urgent message reached Saul that the Philistines were raiding Israel again. 28 So Saul quit chasing David and returned to fight the Philistines. Ever since that time, the place where David was camped has been called the Rock of Escape.[b] 29 [c]David then went to live in the strongholds of En-gedi.

In this chapter/passage, we see that when Saul heard that David was trapped in a walled city, he thought that God was putting David at his mercy. Saul wanted to kill David so badly that he would have interpreted any sign as God’s approval to move ahead with his plan. Had Saul known better, he would have known what God wanted and would not have misread the situation as God’s approval for murder.

We must understand that not every opportunity is sent from God. We may want something so much that we assume any opportunity to obtain it is of divine origin. As we see from Saul’s case, this may not be true. An opportunity to do something against God’s will never be from God because He will never tempt us to do evil things. We must examine our motives. We must make sure that we are following God’s will and not just our own desires.

I am happy to report that my calling is one that met all those tests above. It really doesn’t make sense for me to be in full-time ministry. I am not a career pastor. I don’t have the long resume of lifelong service to God. I am though a man that loves the Lord and will follow where He leads even if seems incredibly stupid and foolish to others. I have had a peace about this step in my life as I built my ark and waited for the waters to come. I trust that the Lord will take care of Elena and me. I have peace. I also have a burden to give my talents to Him on a full-time basis and nothing has changed that since the calling came. All of it feels right even when it seemed foolish to pack up and move to Illinois. All of it seems right now as I am learning something completely new for the first time in a decade in a new position. There is a peace about building the ark even when the waters are small and just beginning to cover the earth. There is a peace that the waters will float the boat. God has seen us this far. He will take us the rest of the way.

Amen and Amen.

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