Life’s Roller Coaster


Today is the first Sunday after Memorial Day so it is really the first Sunday of summer. And that means vacation for many people – and that means for some people – perhaps a trip to an amusement park? Anyone planning on going to Worlds of Fun this summer?

When I was a youth pastor in Omaha I organized a trip every year to Worlds of Fun. How many have been there? Ride the Mamba? You love rollercoasters – put your hands up you weirdo’s!

Here’s a video of a rollercoaster in Six Flags in New Jersey – and it’s called Kingda Ka. And it is 456 feet tall – that’s just a little short of the Woodman tower in Omaha. You go 0 to 128 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds. Here’s the video!

How many of you are ready to jump on that thing? Sicko’s! How many of you – your stomach hurts from just watching it? Some of you closed your eyes – I saw. You couldn’t even take the video.

I understand – listen – these kinds of rollercoasters – they can be fun. And even if you can’t stand it – you only have to stand it for 30 seconds. And then it’s over.

Let me ask you this question – has your life ever resembled a roller coaster ride? Ever have ups and downs? Unfortunately it is a normal part of life – that our life is rather seasonal. Maybe I should say it’s fortune that our life is seasonal – maybe you happen to be in a valley in your life right now and things are looking bleak.

But sometimes – sometimes life is the rollercoaster. And you know what – it’s startling how quickly life can go from a peak to a valley. Sometimes it happens as quickly as that ride. You start the day feeling good about life – you finish the day in the dumps.

I talked to a guy recently who does not attend Journey – but he said that recently he walked into his job review looking forward to the review – he had accomplished a great deal since the last one and even anticipated a raise – and he sat down and his boss said, we have decided to go in a different direction in the future and that future doesn’t include you. Please turn in your key and credit card and clean out your office by lunchtime.

Life can deal you a cruel hand sometimes. It is filled with peaks and valleys.

Now the reason I bring this up is because today we are in our fourth week studying the life of David. Last week was a peak moment for David. He killed the Giant Goliath! And we are going to see him end up today in a valley – in a very low point – the lowest point to his life up to this point.

So if you have a bible with you turn to 1 Samuel and we are going to race through four chapters today. In 1 Samuel 17 David kills Goliath. Chapter 18 begins with things getting even better for David. It begins with David making a new best friend – who happens to be King Saul’s son – Jonathon.

David become part of Saul’s court – Saul was the first king of Israel – and David becomes his personal aide – in a sense. Now remember the interesting twist in this plot is that the prophet Samuel had secretly come to David to anoint him the next king of Israel – something David knew but Saul of which Saul was unaware.

So David is watching all of this play out – he goes from shepherd to the kings personal servant. And in verse 5 it tells us that David succeeded and prospered in every mission Saul gave to David to accomplish. Saul gave David a high rank in the military which pleased the military – they were happy to have such a capable leader.

David becomes a national celebrity. David was really trending! So much so that women start writing songs about him. Remember he is ruddy, after all – whatever ruddy means. He was all ruddy! And the women start singing songs about him – and this is the beginning of David’s trouble.

Because the song goes something like this – Saul is cool – he has conquered thousands. David is awesome – he has conquered tens of Thousands. Saul was cool – but David? Ten times better!

Uh oh. Saul is a very proud man. He was voted ruddiest man in Israel in 1020bc. But now – David is crowned the ruddiest man and Saul is not pleased. As a matter of fact verse 8 says he is very jealous and angry. It takes eight verses for David to go from the mountaintop of national hero – to suddenly having his life in real jeopardy. T

So Saul stealthily decides to try to have David killed in battle – which ironically is the exact same tactic David would use one day in his future to rid himself of someone he wanted dead. But here Saul is the one who sends David into ever more dangerous situations in an effort to get him killed in battle – that will put an end to the songs – except David keeps winning making him even more popular.

Finally in Chapter 19 Saul resorts to a simple declaration to kill David. And the chase is on. So David is now running for his life. And in spite of the efforts of his best friend Jonathon – Saul is bent on the murder of David.

The roller coaster -from the pinnacle of national celebrity – David is now a fugitive on the run for his life. There aren’t many places David can run to in Israel – it would be like George Clooney trying to hide out in America – everyone knows the guy. So David tries a very interesting trick.

He decides he will hide out instead in a Philistine City. In 1 Samuel 21 David tries to blend into Gath – one of the largest Philistine cities, and the hometown of Goliath. I mean, that is a gutsy move. Especially considering that the only sword David was able to secure before fleeing Israel was Goliath’s sword.

David is hiding in Goliath’s hometown, trying to keep Goliath’s sword under wraps, I’m sure, trying to blend in – but it’s a no-go for David. Soon he is recognized by some of the kings servants who say – in essence “Hey isn’t this David? Mr. Bigshot – “The king of the land” – isn’t this the famous David? The guy who killed our champion Goliath?”

Soon David finds his cover is blown and he is standing before of the King of Gath, whose title was Abimilech, and whose name was Achish.

Big big trouble – right? David is alone in an enemy city. He will not be able to fight his way out of this trouble. Achish will do one of two things – he will kill David to win the applause of his hometown – or he will surrender him to Saul in an effort to win a favor from his nemesis.

Either way – it appears that David is as good as dead – but instead David turns to a desperate ruse. He decides to act like he has gone completely insane. I mean, how else would you explain why David would move to Goliath’s hometown carrying Goliath’s sword – the reality is that it really does sound insane.

But David kicks up the act a few notches by acting like a madman – which included foaming at the mouth – saliva drooling over his beard – scratching a clawing at the doors with his fingernails –

Wow – how talk about a valley. He went from being the most celebrated man in Israel, to being a fugitive, having to behave like an absolute madman in an effort to escape death. Incredibly it works. David is brought before Achish – scratching clawing and drooling all over himself – and Achish looks at his advisors and simply asks – in a great Old Testament one liner – are we so short of madmen in our city that we are importing them now? Aren’t I surrounded by enough crazy? Why is this guy standing before me – and they let him go.

David soon finds himself on the run again and this time he heads to the desert – and he ends up hiding in a cave in Adullam. This is a picture of some caves in En Gedi – to give us an idea of what it might have been like for David – hiding out in cave – all alone.

Consider how great has been David’s fall. Quietly promised a kingship. The most popular man in Israel – now hiding in a cave – wiping the saliva out of his beard.

Now one of the most beautiful things about David is this – many times when we read narratives like this in the Bible we don’t get a chance to know exactly what is going on inside the mind of the person we are reading about. We don’t often know how they are thinking.

But with David that is different. Because David was a poet. He was a musician. And he wrote songs at various stages in his life that would eventually become what we call Psalms.

We often say that the Psalms give voice to our feelings – they are wonderful ways to express our faith at various points along the spiritual journey. And the coolest thing about this story is that while David was hiding in the cave – all alone – during the lowest point in his life – he writes one of the most beautiful and powerful of all the Psalms.

And so in your bible – turn now to Psalm 34. And we are going to read about exactly what David was thinking about as he sat in that cave alone at a low valley in his life.

Maybe you are in a valley today? Maybe you are feeling low. You aren’t in a cave – but if you could find one to hide out in for a while to escape – that sounds good to you today? You are in a valley – what would David say to you? How would David encourage you today?

Notice the preamble – Of David – when he pretended to be insane before Abimilech – who drove him away to the cave. David – you are in the lowest point in your life up to this moment – what do you have to tell us?

1. I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

What do you do when you find yourself in a cave? You look up – now normally that wouldn’t help too much – but we need to look up above the ceiling – we need to look to God and worship him with all we’ve got.

Right now, David is reaching through time – and he is extending an invitation to you and me- he is reaching out his hand to any and all who are feeling helpless today. Is that a word you would use to describe yourself? Not many would. Most of us would fight off that label – but there are times when you just feel like there is nothing you could do to change the situation you are currently in – and that’s when you have to admit that you feel helpless.

There is nothing anyone can do to change this situation. It just stinks. But here is David’s invitation to you if you are feeling helpless today. And the invitation is – let’s together, exalt the name of the Lord. Let’s spend time praising God’s mighty name.

He’d say – feeling down? Lift up your eyes. Feeling helpless? From where does our help come? Lift up our eyes – lift up the name of the Lord. Praise him. Glorify him.

See David was the apple in the eye of a fickle populace – he saw first hand how vain it is to look anywhere else but to God for help. Do not put your trust in princes – in mortal men who cannot save – when their spirit departs they return to the ground on that very day their plans come to nothing – but blessed is the one who puts their hope is the Lord his God – the maker of heaven and earth – the sea and everything in them – the Lord who remains faithful forever.

There are 150 Psalms in the Bible the word Praise shows up 188 times. All over the pages of these hymns come the invitation to praise God.

Now remember – we might have expected these words from David the days after defeating the Giant, right? I will boast in the Lord – let us exalt his name – but this is one of the things that makes David the kind of man that God says – that’s my kind of man.

IN the midst of the valley – he extends an invitation to all who are feeling low – come on now – together – let’s praise the Lord. At all times. At all times!

Why? Why should we praise the Lord in the valley’s of life? I’m going to cherry pick Psalm 34 to point out three reasons to praise the Lord in the valley.

First – Praise God because of who he is…
8. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

What is your view of God? What picture comes to mind when you think of God? No person – no civilization, ever rose above their view of God. The civilization that sees God as angry, petty, hateful – will undoubtedly become what they view their God to be like.

If you think of God as distant, or uncaring, or uninvolved – your faith will never be a strong one. Why would it be? Your faith can only be as strong as your view of God. Our faith is often weak because our view of God is weak. This is why David brings us back to our view of God.

And David reminds us that above all else – God is good. God is good. Even when things appear to be falling apart around us – we are forced to admit that we live our life with blinders on our perception of what is happening. We cannot understand what God is doing – we must only fall back on a strong, unshakeable foundation of the goodness of God.

It’s very important that we know God is good. God is kindhearted. Gracious. Good natured. Benevolent.

If God is good he is all the way good. He hates no one. He is not partially kind. Partially good – he is altogther good all the time.

Jesus – God with skin on – was the kindest person who ever lived. He was. True, Jesus didn’t mince words with people – especially people who stood between others and God. He was very truthful – but not hateful. We might have a difficult time with this – our society certainly has a hard time with this – but Jesus was actually able to disagree, correct and even rebuke kindly and in love.

One of the first things we ask ourselves in the valley is – What have I done to deserve this? And usually it’s more like, which of these things have I done to deserve this – which one finally ticked God off.

But we must set aside this notion that bad things happen to people God has had enough of!
We have such a difficult time realizing that very often pain is eventually helpful, useful, and necessary to the ultimate good.

Pain is important sometimes even if we can’t understand it. But God in His goodness will allow it. It doesn’t mean you are a worm.

I have always been uncomfortable with the song by Isaac Watts that says – alas and did my savior bleed for such a worm as I. You aren’t a worm. Jesus didn’t die out of some sacred duty to worms that he can barely stand.

You are created by Jesus in the image of God. You are created with great worth and dignity. You and I don’t deserve the goodness of God, but just because we aren’t worthy doesn’t make us worthless.

And I suppose that if there’s a mistake – it’s better to err on the side that we see ourselves as small dirty objects – than to err as looking at ourselves as awesome and deserving of the grace of God. But either side is in fact an error.

A.W. Tozer writes this in his book, The Attributes of God, in the chapter on God’s goodness…

“God is not pleased by your being miserable. He will make you miserable if you won’t obey, but if you are surrendered and obedient, the goodness of God makes it so that He wants to please you.”

“Did you ever stop to think that God is going to be as pleased to have you with Him in heaven as you are to be there? The goodness and mercy of God, the loving kindness of the Lord – it’s wonderful! “ Tozer – Attribute of God – p 56

Are you feeling low? Worship the Lord. Take a moment to remind your soul that God is good. He loves us – not because of a technicality of the cross – he really genuinely loves you. His goodness knows no limits. And even in the valley – he is good.

If you are in a valley today can I encourage you to get away for some time and do some worshipping? I have a playlist on my i-tunes – called Worship for Phil. It’s my go-to worship playlist when I know my soul needs a tune-up. Do you have something like that? Who do you listen to? Maybe we should put a post on our facebook page – what artists minister to your soul?

Maybe it would be worth the time to find something that helps you worship put some earbuds in and take a walk – or a drive – someplace to clear your head and just glorify God – worship him.

In the valley – worship the Lord. Lift him up. Praise his name. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Secondly – Glorify the Lord because of where God is…
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Where was David? Hiding in a cave, brokenhearted. Where was God? Close beside him.

Do you know the last words of Jesus? The last recorded words before Jesus ascended into heaven? I am with you always. Hebrews 13:5 – Never will I leave you – never will I abandon you.

Wonder why the bible makes such strong claims that those who seek God will find him? Because God is already close. He is already nearby.

God is sensitive to the slightest movement of the heart toward Him. He is especially tuned in though to two kinds of hearts.

The heart that is ready to move toward him in faith to believe. It’s as if God has a monitor on that heart and as soon as that heart calls out to Him he is ready to respond. It’s why Jeremiah can write in Jeremiah 29:13 that the person who seeks him and searches for Him with all their heart will find him. It’s why Jesus can say – seek and you will find – God is especially sensitive to the heart that cries out to him to believe.

Even the atheist – who cries out to Whom it may concern: “God if there is a God – save my soul – if I have a soul. God hears that prayer and responds without fail. And when the heart reaches out to God AS God – he always responds.”

And the second heart that God is especially sensitive towards is the heart that is broken. He is close to the brokenhearted. 2 Corinthians 7:6 describes God as one who comforts the downhearted. The brokenhearted who reaches out to God – can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is already there.

The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Now admittedly – there are times when it feels like God has abandoned us. I mean there are plenty of Psalms – even some of Davids psalms where the writer feels like God has exited stage right. And this is why worship is important.

Worship can help our souls press the reset button on feelings out of control. Worship reminds our feelings of the goodness of God. It instructs our soul to remember the closeness of God.

So glorify God. Worship Him. Praise him. Even in the cave – especially in the cave. Are you in the cave? In a valley? You are not alone. no you aren’t. The promise of scripture is God is close to the brokenhearted – it’s what He does.

3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Because of what God is like – he is Good.
Because of where God is – close.
Because of what God does – he rescues.

God rescues those who are crushed in spirit. If one were to just peruse this psalm – how many times can David write this to us? It’s ike he is flipping through a thesaurus in the cave –
He answered me – 4
He delivered me – verse 4
He hears me – 6
He saves me – 6
he delivers me – 7
He hears me – 17
He delivers me – 17
He saves me – 18
He delivers – 19
He redeems me – 22

Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing 10
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;

It might not mean being delivered from the circumstances – but it might mean having a soul – a spirit – a heart that is able to say – with God all things are possible. It is possible to worship him in the valley – in the cave – at my low point. It is possible to have peace – and joy, it is not only possible but promised.

David extends an invitation – let us glorify the Lord together. Here in low point. Here in the cave. He is still good. He is still close. And he still rescues.


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