Jesse Harden church How different it was from what I'm used to. And in a good way. They do a pot luck in the middle of service. And for a lot of those people, that's the best meal they get all week. And I'm always so encouraged when I see people like pastor Jesse who really embody the best part of ministry - being the hands of feet of Jesus, and have avoided the worst parts - the ego and backbiting, and the posturing, and always being focused on upward mobility and being super successful.
I love David in the Bible. And that's not just because I'm named after him. He's amazing because he's a guy who achieves unbelievable highs and experiences unbelievable lows.
A little context: It's difficult to really understand a lot of David's life without understanding Saul. The story of David and the story of Saul in many ways serve as a contrast to each other.
Of course Saul's story is a tragedy. And though we can often paint him out as a villain, I really feel sorry for him. He does some really awful things, especially later in his story when he starts to lose his mind.
People's choice award. But I do feel bad for him. And here's why: He's essentially the people's choice award for King. But he was never God's choice.
At this point in time, Israel has never had a King, but they've got it in their heads that they want to be like the rest of the nations and have a King. God says 'You don't need a King, I'm your King.' And they say 'No, we want a King!' And God says 'Fine, but it's not gonna end well.' And so Saul is the people's choice, and there's no problem with him, except that he wasn't God's choice. So I think the odds of this whole thing going well is approx 0%.
There's one more character you need to know about, and that's Samuel. Samuel is the prophet in Israel, and he's hugely influential. He's essentially the mouthpiece for God. Also, he really loves Saul.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
So you can see that's the fundamental difference between Saul and David. That David is the one God has chosen.
But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” (Which makes sense, if you anoint someone as King while there's still a King currently on the throne, that's not going to end well for you.) The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 16:2)
Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” (1 Samuel 16:3)
Notice that language "For me"
Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” (1 Samuel 16:4)
Samuel is a very powerful man. Samuel showing up is like being called into your bosses office. "What did we do?"
Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. (1 Samuel 16:5)
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab (the oldest son) and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” (1 Samuel 16:6)
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
So Eliab looks like a King. He's tall, he's good looking.
Think about during a presidential election, we'll say something like "He looks presidential."
And this is a huge theme in the Bible that God looks at the heart. And the thing about David, who is far from a perfect man, is the only person in scripture described as being after God's own heart. - He's not perfect, but he has a devotion towards God that is sincere and committed and real.
Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” (1 Samuel 16:8)
Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” (1 Samuel 16:9)
Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” (1 Samuel 16:10)
You have to understand how shocking this is for God to choose the youngest son. We live in a culture that idolizes youthfulness, that's not true at this time in the middle-east. In this culture, the elder is always better. This is a huge part of their culture. So it's amazing to see here that God is stepping into the culture of his people and smashing it to bits. And it shows us something about God and how he will work throughout the rest of the Bible, that he chooses to use the simple, the broken, the weak, the ashamed, and it almost seems he PREFERS to use them.
So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” (1 Samuel 16:11)
So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (1 Samuel 16:12)
I think this is a little funny, because God just got done saying 'Don't worry about the appearance' and then a few verses later the author of Samuel finds it important to point out that David is good looking. I just think that's cool.
David IS a good looking guy. Women love him and he loves women, this does turn out to be a problem later in the story.
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13)
He doesn't say a word about him being King. Here's something I think a lot of people miss about this scene: While it's true that Samuel anoints David with Oil and prays over him, but he doesn't say a word about him being King. - That's God and Samuels little secret. That's really helpful for me, because it answers the question: If David has been named the next King, then why do his brothers still treat him like a little twerp? - This is before the whole David and Goliath encounter and remember how much distain they still had for tiny, shrimpy little David at that point? He was still running errands. Well they didn't KNOW he was going to be King, they just thought Samuel prayed over him essentially.
And this is important for this sermon: I don't think David even knows what he's anointed for. I don't think he knows he's the next King. Just that he's been anointed for SOMETHING. And the spirit of the Lord comes on David, but no one except for Samuel the prophet has any idea what for.
After anointing - Back to field. / Ignored / belittled.
Here's what I really want you to get: After his anointing, David goes back to the field. He goes back to being ignored and belittled.
David is a shepherd that is completely unaware of what God and Samuel have discovered.
When he goes out into the field to write these amazing songs and play his instruments and sing to God, there's nobody else there. Nobody is praising him, complimenting him, celebrating his gifts.
When he writes these songs, he doesn't realize he's writing them and they're going to compiled into the jewish prayer book, what we call the book of psalms that will be recited and sung by billions of people through the centuries. He's not thinking of any of that. He's thinking about sheep and God, that's it.
When he kills a lion and a bear to protect his sheep, he's not doing it to impress people, he's doing it simply because he's trying to do the best he can with where God had placed him.
This is important especially in a culture like ours where everyone is constantly obsessed with climbing the ladder of success. Where we constantly feel the pressure to be our own promoter. Where we have to constantly be finding ways to promote ourselves and promote our gifts. To find a way to be discovered. To find a way to be noticed. And while God is ultimately going to be make David King, David isn't striving and stressing himself out about how nobody is noticing him.
And what's truly horrifying is that we in the church judge success precisely the same way everybody else in the world does.
"How do you know when something is successful? - It's big."
And there's MORE. More of what? Everything. More money, more fame, more resources. Popularity is how we judge what's best in the world. And we do the exact same thing in the church. If people notice you, if you're popular and influential, then that means you're good or blessed or whatever. If people DON'T notice you, then you're not as good or blessed or whatever. That's not just the way of the world, that's the way of the church.
And that's a big problem.
Think about what Jesus said:
But we've bought into the worlds way of thinking that if people aren't noticing me, that's a curse. Or God's not fair, or it's that guys fault. Because if I'm doing things right, then surely people will notice me.
Scoreboard A lot of us don't realize how much of our life in controlled by the scoreboard. Am I more successful than her? Is he more successful than me? She has 3 times the followers that I have on instagram. Well at least my business is more successful than that guys. There's always going to be someone who does what you do better than you do it. And there's always going to be someone who does what you do worse than you.
And looking at the scoreboard as a way to validate yourself truly is a horrible way to life. That's why Paul tells us over and over in the NT to not compare ourselves to other people.
Some of you are utterly perplexed at the fact that one of your coworkers got promoted and you didn't. You work harder, you're smarter, you're more talented, and you're getting passed by, you must be cursed. Some of you are working at a job and you're just thinking 'God I thought I was anointed to do something great, and here I am sacking groceries, this isn't fair. Some of you are in a family that for whatever reason doesn't respect you the way you deserve to be respected. Or doesn't give you attention the way you deserve to be given attention.
Or maybe even worse: You get a big promotion, or you get popular, and you take that to be the same as God somehow affirming what you're doing. That's just not true.
There's a lot of reasons for this, but even just on the surface: When you look at our culture, do you really think that the things that are the most popular are the best? The internet has skewed our understanding of what success is.
Viral videos. You look at these viral videos. It's like 'Here's one that has 700 million views. It's of a dog walking into a glass door. "Here's one that has 2 billion views." - Yeah its of a man on skis crashing into branch. "Here's one that has 500 million views" and it's the lady in her Chewbacca mask. Yes it's hilarious. - 500 million people laughed for 12 seconds. That's awesome.
When's the last time someone showed you a video on someone visiting someone else in the hospital? When's the last time someone showed you a video of a man sitting with another man who's lonely?
Josh Radnor - actor - wrote an article about I think a failed movie and this is what he said
"Our metric for success it seems to me is off. There are no reliable statistics for hearts opened or wounds healed."
It's fine to have viral videos and all that. That's totally cool. But when it makes ordinary people doing meaningful things, and it makes them feel like they're not doing anything significant, well then we have a problem.
The Kardashians. If you need an example of this here it is: The Kardashians. Someone please explain the Kardashians to me. They're famous mostly for being famous. I have absolutely no ill will, it's just funny, b/c what are they the best at? I don't think anything. But they're some of the most famous people in the world.
Real Housewives Example Number 2: Real Housewives. Millions of viewers watching these ladies that excel at literally nothing but being some of the worst people imaginable.
Dumb examples, point being, just because you're not world famous doesn't mean you're doing something wrong, and so long as your relentlessly pursue the approval and applause of other people, you're always going to be wasting your time.
Never forget that we live in a world that chose Saul but rejected Jesus.
I'm sure you guys have read the quotes about people being smart, but groups, tend to be stupid.
One reason I think God was able to use David was David was free of that ego. He wasn't obsessed with his following. He's not concerned whether or not his music is going to be on the billboard charts.
High-school athletes - drop-dead. Contrast that with these high-school athletes that are literally starting to drop-dead because they and their coaches are beating them up so mercilessly trying to get to the top.
According to a 2005 study, more than half of olympic runners reported that they would be willing to take a magic pill that would guarantee them a gold medal, even if it would kill them within a year.
Think about that.
Seems bizarre but not that bizarre if you think about it. I'm convinced that our real national past-time is seeing how we stack up against other people.
And for whatever reason, I just want to keeping pointing this out: This happens in the church too!
Youth Pastor Lunches Years ago, there used to be these youth pastor lunches, back when I was a youth pastor. And so we would end up sitting and eating a meal with maybe 4 or 5 other youth pastors from around the city. Most of whom I didn't know. There are a LOT of churches in this city. And it's just amazing when you're sitting there with other people from other churches, how you're pretending to be interested in what the other person is saying, but you know what you're really doing? You're sizing them up and trying to decide who's youth group is smaller than yours, and who's youth group is bigger.
We ALL do this.
Disclaimer: Don't think - big = bad. Hopefully I don't need to give this disclaimer: But I don't think everything that's big is bad and to be cool you have to stay small, I don't think that either, but I do think there is this tendency that can make us really unhappy with the life God sets out for us to live.
Just because you're faithful and you work hard, doesn't mean you're going to be hugely rich and famous. I'm sorry.
NBA / President If you work hard enough, you can get to the NBA. Well maybe, but also maybe not. Not all of our kids are going to grow up and become the president of the United States. There's just not that many slots available. And I think what I want to say is that if you think the only way to live a rich and fulfilled life is to be wildly successful in other peoples eyes, that pressure will kill you.
Can I tell you something really crazy? Often times people get what they've always wanted and they don't really like it.
Cynthia Heimel Quote
Cynthia Heimel - author who writes for Cosmopolitan and The Village Voice and all kinds of stuff. - Well she knows lots of celebrities and she worked with a lot of struggling artists, so she knows lots of celebrities before and after they became famous.
She has this awesome quote about celebrities that I love:
I pity celebrities, no I really do—Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbra Streisand, were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself.
You see Sylvester, Bruce, and Barbra wanted fame. They worked, they pushed, and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose.
Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.”
She’s right. Not about God, but about how sometimes the thing we think we want is the thing that ends up killing us. Very few of us reach elite status, but those of us who do, are horrified. You look at the elite in any culture and they’re usually very unhappy people. You can give someone a billion dollars and paparazzi everywhere you turn, and it just makes people miserable.
Amy Winehouse Documentary I recently watched the documentary on Amy Winehouse. Who was this incredible vocal talent who was at the absolute top of the charts. But was just deeply unhappy and end up dying of alcohol poisoning at age 27. And you watch this documentary and this footage of her as a younger girl who just sang but wasn’t famous yet and you just think ‘Oh my gosh, she was 1000 times happier being a regular person.' Her demons didn’t show up until she got what she most wanted. And that’s not an uncommon story.
And so it's not that God doesn't want to bless you. It's that he DOES want to bless you. But he knows you well enough to know that cheap fulfillment won't sustain you.
I'm trying to contrast that with David here who's not obsessed with being the best anything, he's just doing what God put before him to do. I truly believe that's why God chose him.
Personal story - Ministry
Copying / Lunch Story / Bible School
Me - I started preaching when I was 19. Lunch awhile ago - my friend - David you could be one of those guys who goes around and speaks at all the youth camps. - Your content is the best, but you'd just need to deliver it with a little more STYLE.
You're going to feel the pressure to come tell me you like my style, thank you. I know I've got style, I've got my own style. It's just not traveling youth guy style. And you know what, I love that about me. I know that now. But back in the day, man, I used to study how and when people would say 'Come on somebody' 'Can someone give Jesus some praise in this house tonight?!' Again, perfectly good armor, just doesn't fit me.
Really funny - In bible college - I got nearly straight A's EXCEPT for the preaching course. About the only bad grade I ever got was in preaching. Some of you - well that explains everything. Point being, we all feel this pull that being unseen is somehow a curse.
Jesse Harden ≠ particularly famous / rich. To go back to Jesse Harden, not particularly famous, not rolling in the bucks. But one of the most 'successful' people I've ever known. Did he do something wrong and that's why he's not super famous? Is he doing something wrong that his name isn't a household name like Kim Kardashian? Of course not.
The world rejected Jesus. He wasn't popular enough. And they killed him, alone and ashamed.
This is of course the famous scene of David and Goliath. - Everyone is scared to fight Goliath. Look at what David says to the king.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, (1 Samuel 17:34)
I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. (1 Samuel 17:35)
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:36)
How did David became this fearless man who could kill Goliath? By fighting a lion, and then fighting a bear, in obscurity, when no one is looking. But God is using that time to form David. David's not sitting around wallowing - "Why would God let me fight a bear?! This is so unfair!"
Your private battles are what prepare you for your public battles.
But so long as what you want it just a nice comfortable life where you never have to sweat, and bleed, and struggle, then you'll never be ready for what God has next.
You wanna know something I've learned? There's always the next fight. "You wrestled with the Lion, now get ready for the bear." "You wrestled with the bear, now get ready for the giant." But it's the previous battles that you've fought and survived that give you to courage to for your next fight.
(Prepare - Communion)
Figure out what it means to be faithful in the things God has put before you right here, right now. & leave promotion up to God.
Question: What does it mean right here, right now to be faithful in what God has called me to do?
Don't think too hard about whether or not someone is noticing you. Don't think too hard if you're getting applause.
Here's some really great news: No matter what you're facing, you're not facing it alone. God's not mad.
As pass - Here I am. What would you have me to do?
Prayer - Pray for my friends - some of them who feel left alone in the field, they feel like they have gifts, and things haven't worked out the way they thought they were going to. Some of us who feel like we're facing lions and bears and it can feel so lonely. And we wonder where you are, and we wonder what you're up to.