Acknowledging Failure, Accepting Grace, & Saying Yes

fallen-fragility-russell-stylesI struggle so much with the story of David we read in 2Samuel 11:1-15. It hurts my heart to see a strong leader who was loved by God, do something so contrary to God’s work. It’s horrific, it’s immoral, and it’s unfair. And knowing this story of David, I can’t help but have a bad taste in my mouth when reading other stories of his life. In many ways, this is one of those stories we’d rather not talk about. So lets talk about it…

If we look back at David’s life, he seems to have always had God’s favour:

We first meet him as a young shepherd who is anointed by the prophet Samuel and told that he will one day be king of Israel. Then somehow David becomes the the Saul’s, the previous King’s, go to music guy, playing his harp and lyre whenever requested. That relationship allows David to then become King Saul’s armour bearer, and through what seems to be one of the stupid mistakes an armour bearer could make, David decides to fight the un-defeatable Philistines and the giant Goliath. And by some stroke of luck, or act of God, or both, he defeats them. Because of this, David is made commander over Israel’s armies and is wildly successful. King Saul becomes worried of David’s increasing popularity and tries to have him killed. But, through David’s relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan, no harm comes to him. David runs off to the wilderness for a while and Saul and Jonathan are eventually killed in another battle with the Philistines. And after mourning, David returns to Israel and is anointed King. David then wins a ton of battles, including one in Jerusalem, which allowed him to bring the ark of the covenant to where the holy temple would eventually be built by his son Solomon.

And that brings us to our story today. If there was anyone who was unmistakably blessed by God, it was David. It seemed for most of his life, stuff just happened for him. And sure he worked hard and lost many irreplaceable things. But, opportunities seemed to just fall in his lap. He was favoured by God.

And now we come to our story this morning. David is an incredibly successful king, loved by many, and feared by more. He seems to do everything right. He is on top of the world, with no one to answer to except for God.

But, then there’s this incident. This incident, where David catches a glimpse of a woman bathing in the courtyard below his window. And he has a choice: respectfully look away or see where this chance happening may lead… And we watch as the beloved King David descends deeper and deeper in to his temptations. He has sex with the innocent married woman he saw bathing. Which because of David’s authority, could not a have been anything except for non-consensual. He gets her pregnant, which would have been a pretty good time to face up to his mistake and ask for forgiveness. But, he has a reputation to protect. So he tries to cover things up. And when that doesn’t work and it seems like the woman’s husband may find out, David put him on the front lines of battle, where he is guaranteed to be killed.

This is one of the most messed up things I have ever read in the Bible. It sickens me. We call David the man after God’s own heart. But, how is this God’s heart? How can a man who is blessed by God and given leadership over God’s people commit such a disgusting act with little regard for anyone but himself?

You know, sometimes when things going well and we feel like we’re in control, we’ll make decisions that are blatantly wrong, and we find reasons to justify them. There’s this weird kind of illusion of invincibility that creeps into our subconscious when things are going well and we feel like we’re in control. To fall into this lie is to be reminded of the fragility of our humanity.

Many of us have made bad judgements and terrible choices. Whether they’re of greater or lesser sin than David’s is inconsequential and immeasurable. And sometimes it’s only in making these mistakes and poor judgments that we can be jolted back into reality. And as much as I hate this story of David, I need it. I cling to it because it reminds me that, if God can use someone as messed up as David to build His Kingdom. He can use me. If God can use someone as screwed up as David to build His Kingdom. He can use you.

The road isn’t easy and there are real consequences when we mess up. But, there is also forgiveness. And we’ll read more about the end of David’s story and his consequences and forgiveness next week. To quote one of my favourite authors, Scott Evans,

“The Bible is filled with stories of God using the unlikely, the unfit and the unworthy to build His Kingdom. He has a habit of calling failures and fools. This is wonderful news for me because I am a loser. And it is wonderful news for you too because … well … you know why.” – Scott Evans, Failing From The Front

It’s stories like this that remind me that God can use anyone. He could choose to use the leaders who seem to do everything right; the ones that seem to have it all together, which if we really paid attention, they don’t. Or God can us people like you and me. The unfit and the unworthy to build His kingdom.

This is what the Paul speaks about in our Epistle this morning. He recaps the entirety of his brutal past with God, Christianity, and Christians. And then he finishes by saying:

“I was the least important of all of God’s people, yet God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news.” Ephesians 3:8-9

It’s these stories of redemption that make God’s love infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine. And it is actions like what we will participate in today that bear witness to our past, and inspire us to face the future in courage. Because if God can use me. He can use anyone.

And we find this in baptism. As we will experience later in our service today,  there is something incredible on about a person making a public declaration in front of their community, committing to living out their life in the love of Christ. But, what I find more moving than this commitment is the acknowledgement that we are the most under deserving of grace; the least important of God’s people. Yet, we say yes!

And in love, as a community, as a family, we make a commitment to the candidate. Acknowledging their imperfection, but also their sincerity. We commit to uphold, to support, to encourage, and to challenge that person as they set out on their journey.

So how do we do it? As a community, in support and love for each other:

I. We Pray for strength.
Not physical strength or even mental strength. But we pray for a strengthening deep within. We pray for an inner power that steadies and strengthens every aspect of one’s life.

II. We Pray for Love
We pray for Christ to dwell in the hearts of those in our community as we become “rooted and grounded in love” Love is not a free-form emotion that waxes and wanes, comes and goes, ebbs and flows. Neither is it a feeling that we conjure up and tailor to our own disposition. Love is groundedness, a rootedness, resulting from the occupancy of Christ within our hearts.

III. We Pray for Fullness
We pray for even just the slightest understanding of the incomprehensible width, length, height, depth, and love that surpasses knowledge. We pray to be overwhelmed with the mystery and the wonder of the Holy Spirit.

These are what Paul reminds the Ephesians are the essentials in walking with Christ:

“I pray that God’s Spirit will make you become strong followers and that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. Stand firm and be deeply rooted in his love. I pray that you and all of God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine.” – Ephesians 3:14-21

Scripture passages referenced: 2Samuel 11:1-15, Ephesians 3:14-21

Read more of “Failing From the Front” by Scott Evans —

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