Today might be a no hug Sunday. That’s a Mountain Ridge Church inside joke. Do you know what a no hug Sunday means? When we talk about God’s grace or talk about God’s love for us, people normally are very grateful and respond with a huge hug on their way home. Today we talk about how we respond to the leaders in our lives, even the ones you didn’t vote for. See what I mean, probably a no hug Sunday. And yes, every Sunday these days are no hug Sundays because of Covid-19.
I wanted to pick up where Sam left off last week. What did Sam bring out in his talk last week? Remember he talked about seeing his kids graduate and watching his kids play sports? What does he see in those moments? The whole story. He not only sees today but he also sees when they were super young and every day up to today.
When he talked about David becoming king, what did Sam bring out? The whole story. What we all know is that David became king. What we may not know about are the twenty-two years it took for David to become king. If we don’t know the whole story, what might we conclude? We see David as King and we might say to ourselves, ‘It must be nice for David. God loved David, He became king, he’s lucky. If I were lucky like David, if God made me king, I would be a great person, too.’ What we struggle to fully understand are the ordinary and challenging twenty-two years David had to walk through before becoming king.
Those years prepared David. In fact, last week Sam shared the Psalms David wrote in those years. If you go back and reread them, they open your eyes to the struggle David walked through. Those Psalms are filled with David reaching out to God to rescue him. Those years where key in shaping David to be a king fully devoted to God. And this is what I want you to see. The moment David sat on that throne, David was larger than life. The country would have followed him anywhere. Women cheered him. Men wanted to follow him. Warriors wanted to die for him. Why? David had integrity and character like no other.
I want to read that key moment for you.
Representatives of all the tribes of Israel now came to David at Hebron and gave him their pledge of loyalty. “We are your blood brothers,” they said. “And even when Saul was our king you were our real leader. The Lord has said that you should be the shepherd and leader of his people.” LB 2 Samuel 5:1-2
Did you hear that? ‘…you were our real leader.’ Everyone knew that David had integrity and character. Everyone knew God was with David. They wanted him to be king. They wanted to follow him. Nobody ordered them to say that. No one demanded them or threatened them. How did David earn that respect? What did David have that King Saul didn’t have? How did David live for twenty-two years that inspired people to follow him and be willing to give up their lives for him?
That is what I want to talk about today.
Let’s read about who David was.
I need to share something with you that you need to know about this story. The prophet Samuel, eight chapters earlier had already anointed David to be the next king. God blessed David through the prophet Samuel and confirmed that God was with David. David knows that he will be king. And what is David dealing with? King Saul was coming after David to kill him. And in a remarkable twist, King Saul is in the same cave as David. That is not a coincidence. Doesn’t this moment seem like a God moment? Isn’t obvious that God has placed King Saul into David’s hands to kill him? All the signs seem obvious; David, kill King Saul.
Let’s keep reading to see what happens. Next verse.
5 Later, David felt sorry that he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “May the Lord keep me from doing a thing like that again to my master. He is the Lord’s anointed king. So I promise that I will never lay my hand on him. The Lord has anointed him.” 7 David said that to correct his men. He wanted them to know that they should never suggest harming the king. He didn’t allow them to attack Saul. So Saul left the cave and went on his way. NIV 1 Samuel 24:5-7
Let’s talk about this. The people you work with, what would they have done? Would they have grabbed the sword? Your friends, what would they have done? You, what would you have done?
David did something remarkable. He understood that his earthly leader, yes – the one trying to kill him, was placed in leadership by God. David understood, to rebel against Saul would be the same as rebelling against God. And because David understood that God made Saul King, He placed his trust in God and refused to kill Saul. David did not take control and kill Saul for his own selfish benefit. David did not want to put himself on the throne, he wanted God to put him on the throne. David placed his life into God’s hands. That trust in God, that respect for God’s delegated authority, is the reason David sat on that throne and everyone wanted to follow him. That trust in God is what David had that King Saul did not have.
Stop and think about this, who lives like this? Who has the chance to legitimately remove a leader, someone who is their enemy, and doesn’t? People who trust in God do. People with integrity do. People who understand leadership and authority. People who understand, God placed my leader into my life, even if I don’t like them. The moment David did this, it showed how much trust David had in God. The moment David did this, David proved to God that God could trust David.
Think about a leader in your life who you struggle with. You just don’t see eye to eye. They rub you the wrong way. Maybe they have disappointed you. Maybe it’s someone at work or your boss. Maybe the person you didn’t vote for. Maybe it’s a teacher, or coach, someone who you thought was unfair to your kid. Maybe it’s your parents or the police or the school principal. Here is my question. If you had a legitimate reason and the ability to remove that leader, would you do it?
As you read this story, doesn’t it make you want to scream a little? Aren’t you right now thinking about how this story probably doesn’t apply to you? Why is this? Because there is something deep inside us that says, take control. That’s why right now you are thinking about the leader who was wrong and why you were right. I know, it’s in me, too.
Now surely, this is an Old Testament story that has no relevance today – right? This doesn’t apply to our work site, our elected leaders [the ones we voted for and those we didn’t], our teachers, coaches, parents or police or the principal at school. Today is different – right?
Let’s read what Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.
1a Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. NLT Romans 13:1-7
Let’s read it again the way the Jewish Romans understood it. Christians in Rome, obey Nero. God is the one who put him there. Yes, Nero, the one who killed his step-brother, killed his mom, killed his married mistress and killed his step sister. That Nero. Yes, the one who burned Rome and blamed the Christians. That guy. Obey him. God placed him there.
1b All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. NLT Romans 13:1-7
Quick time out. How do you think the Jewish Christians enjoyed reading Paul’s letter? They hated Rome. There was a group of Jewish zealots who wanted to start a rebellion. Roman rule over the Jewish people wasn’t a democracy. The Jewish people had no voice.
Quick questions for you. How do you react to this? Does it inspire you or does it really rub you the wrong way? Have you ever thought that the leaders in your life, the ones you like and the ones you don’t, have been placed there by God? In your mind, walk through the leaders in your life. Which leader really rubs you the wrong way? What do you think about what Paul wrote?
Remember, I said this is a no hug Sunday!
3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. 4 The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. 5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience.
6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due. NLT Romans 13:1-7
Did you hear that? ‘The authorities do not frighten people doing right.’ Does that make sense to you? Didn’t the Romans frighten everyone under their rule and terrify the Christians? Wasn’t Nero the worst Roman Emperor? Paul is simply saying, if you are a Christ follower, a Christian, you should be above board. You should be the best citizen. Honest. Kind. And the one praying for your leaders.
What do you do with this? How should we react to this? Let me give you 5 general principles.
General Principle 1: God has ordained and delegated His authority to those in leadership. Federal. State. Local. Civil. School. Work. Church. Family. Sports coaches and clubs. Etc. To have the integrity David had, we must understand God’s authority. To live out scripture, we must live with a clear conscience. That implies that we must accept that God may be working out His purposes through leaders we don’t like.
General Principle 2: He ordained and delegated His authority to keep order and peace in our lives. This should lead us to a great deal of prayer. Prayer that God would lead our leaders to the decisions God wants. If God placed your leader in your life, you should be praying intensely to God about your leader. That’s what David understood.
General Principle 3: How you respond to leadership is how you respond to God. If we trust God, we follow His delegated authority. If we don’t trust God, we rebel, kick, get on facebook, gossip and secretly be critical and divisive. We get all the angry parents together. David trusted God.
General Principle 4: As disciples of Jesus, the kingdom of God comes first and these verses in Romans explain how we fit into our culture. We, however, are in God’s kingdom and exist to build and advance the kingdom of God first. As a disciple of Christ, I have been asked by Christ to be a great citizen.
Paul, the one who was executed under Nero’s reign, was saying, “Be more concerned about the advancement of God’s kingdom.”
Our primary focus should be on the Church. On the mission of God. On God’s presence in our community. On how we can engage our friends and bring them into the love and grace of God.
As we walk through the general principles, is there something burning inside you? You are thinking, but what if my boss or teacher is clearly wrong? Don’t you want to know, when can I rebel? Are you telling me that I have to do everything my government tells me to do even if they try to take my freedom? Am I supposed to be a doormat while everything is falling to pieces?
That brings us to General Principle 5: Short of being asked to sin, we obey our leadership. I want to read for you when Peter stood up the Jewish leaders.
27 Then they brought the apostles in before the council. 28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” the high priest demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Jesus, and you intend to blame us for his death!”
29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by crucifying him. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to God so their sins would be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” 33 At this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. NLT Acts 5:27-33
Short of being asked to sin, we obey our leaders. And there is where you need to figure out what that means for us personally. We obey our leaders and live with a clear conscience. We must pray through when our leaders are asking us to go against what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
Let’s close with this. Two warnings and a take away.
If you are in a situation of abuse or harm, you don’t stay in that situation. You get out and make changes for your safety. You report it to the authorities.
If you are in a situation of fraud or something like that, you don’t stay in that situation. You get out and report it to the authorities.
Let’s go back to the moment David sat on that throne. David was the real leader. Everyone wanted to follow him. How did he do it? How did someone have so much authority? He had integrity. He trusted God so much, he treated his leader like God placed him there.
Here is our take away. Treat your leaders as if God placed them there because God placed them there.