Today, we are wrapping up our sermon series, Messy Grace; inspired by the small group study, Address the Mess. And what we’ve been saying is that we’ve all been in, are in, or are only one decision away from a mess.
Sometimes it's messy because you created the mess and sometimes you inherited the mess and sometimes you just looked up and suddenly there was a mess all around you. You have no idea where it came from but this is just the way life is . . . It’s messy.
But have you ever made a mess messier? In trying to clean up the mess, the mess got worse.
Here's the reason we make messes messier . . . every mess, comes with some bad options; Borrow more, destroy the evidence, hide, make up a story, send another text and make it sound like the first text really wasn't meant for them.
There are always some bad options that come with every mess. And these bad options essentially just make the mess messier. So, to talk about how to avoid making a mess messier, I want to tell you a story from the Old Testament. It's the story of David before he becomes the king.
One day the prophet Samuel showed up at David’s home and told his dad, "God has asked me to anoint one of your sons as king." And it turned out it was David, the youngest son; the shepherd boy.
But the problem was Israel already had a king. So now, they had two kings. They had the grown-up adult king, King Saul, and they had the little shepherd boy, David, who went back to tending his sheep.
Well, as time went by, David made himself known in the community. One day, he went and visited his brothers who were serving in the army, and he saw a giant warrior named Goliath, whom the entire army was afraid to fight and he thought to himself, "There's not much difference between that giant and a bear, and a lion that I've killed."
So, David went down to the battle field with a couple of rocks and sling and he killed Goliath and when David killed Goliath, he became an overnight sensation and everybody was talking about David.
As time passed, he began to lead the army in their campaigns and he was successful in everything he did. And because he led, people began to perceive David as the leader of the army and perhaps the leader of the nation, and perhaps it's true, "This is our next king."
Well, King Saul realizes he has a problem on his hands, and he comes up with a way to try to control David to keep things from getting any worse. He decides he's going to marry one of his daughters off to David. Because if he can make David his son-in-law, perhaps he'll be able to control him that way.
He goes to David and says, "David, I would love for you to marry into my family, and I'll be your father-in-law." And David says, "Oh, King Saul, what an honor, but I'm a lowly shepherd boy from a family that's not very important. I'm not worthy of the honor to marry one of your daughters."
Well, word of this gets out and next thing you know, it's David the humble and people love him even more and he gets more, and more, popular. At the same time, Saul becomes more, and more, jealous.
Later, one of Saul's other daughters fell in love with David and this time the feeling was mutual. So, he thought, I'll try this again and he goes to David and says, "Would you like to marry this daughter?"
David says, "Yes, I'll marry your daughter."
And Saul says, "Well, the bride price for my daughter is 100 dead Philistines.”
He’s thinking it's perfect a perfect plan because there's no way in the world he’s going to kill 100 Philistines. If anything, David will probably get killed and then I won’t have to deal with him any longer.
But David and his men went out and they killed 200 Philistines.
This made things even worse for Saul. In fact, Samuel tells us, "When Saul realized the Lord was with David, and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became more afraid of David, and he remained his enemy for the rest of his days."
David has a big mess on his hands . . . and it's not his fault. He didn't ask to be king. The whole Goliath thing and leading the troops in their campaigns, and killing 200 Philistines, he was just serving his country. But no matter what he does, the mess gets worse, and worse, and worse.
And finally, things escalate to where one afternoon, Saul completely loses it. And he picks up a spear and he tries to murder David in the palace.
But David leaves the palace, runs for his life, and heads out into the desert as a fugitive. And from that point on, Saul had it in for David because as long as David was alive, he was a threat to the king and to the dynasty.
When David goes out into the wilderness, he gathers around him all of Saul's enemies; there was a lot of people who didn’t like Saul. And this is when the story gets interesting.
Pause for exercise.
One day, Saul is returning from a battle with the Philistines and someone says, "Saul, we have spotted David and his men and we think we've got him cornered near a spring just above the Dead Sea."
So, Saul took 3,000 able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David who at this point had found out that Saul was coming and he and his closest men were hiding out in a cave.
And as they are traveling, Saul has to go to the bathroom. This is the only reference to someone going to the bathroom in all of scripture.
He stops, gets off his mule, makes his way up a trail, goes into a cave, and while he goes into the cave to use the bathroom, all his army sits out there and waits patiently.
What Saul doesn’t know is that David and his men are hiding in that very cave. What the odds of that?
The men with David get excited because they’ve spent years running from this guy so they say, “Are you kidding me, this is the day we’ve been waiting for. This is the day that you’ve been telling us about, when God would make you king. Look, God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Let’s take him out and we can emerge from this cave as triumphant warriors and you’ll be our king.”
David gets caught up in the emotion and he says, "I'll just do unto him as he intends to do unto me. No one would blame me. No one would say that I'd done something unjust. It's an act of self-defense".
Now, pause the story for just a minute. I want talk to you about something, then we're gonna come back to the story. At the root of most messes is a breakdown in virtue and integrity.
In other words, if you ignore virtue, if you ignore integrity, you will eventually make a mess.
It's just a matter of time. It is cause and effect. You ignore virtue and integrity in a relationship, your finances, your profession, academics, eventually you're going to make a mess. And you don't clean up a failure of virtue with another failure in virtue.
Two wrongs don't make a right and two messes don't make an un-mess.
As we said at the beginning, every mess comes with some bad options and those bad options always involve a failure of virtue and integrity. And they are the options we are tempted to reach for because it looks like I can quickly turn this thing around.
You do not clean up a mess that was created with a failure of virtue by adding another failure in virtue, which was exactly what David was about to do.
David crept up unnoticed but as he's creeping up on King Saul, something dawns on him, "I am about to make my mess, messier . . . I'm about to assassinate my king. I am about to kill my father-in-law. I am about to kill my wife's daddy and my children's granddaddy. What am I thinking? If I murder the king, this will be my story forever."
This is where we get trapped. Was that justified? "Yes, absolutely. He's trying to kill you." Is it what everybody expected him to do? Absolutely. Was it the virtuous thing? Absolutely not.
And that's our tension. And that's our dilemma because every mess comes with some bad options.
Then David crept up unnoticed, but instead of killing Saul, he cuts off a corner of Saul's robe and then sneaks back into the cave. And when he gets back he was bothered by his conscience because attacking anything a king owned was like attacking the king himself.
So, he said to his men, "Guys, God put him in place and I have no business replacing what God put in place. I don't want to become king by murdering the king."
Well, when he said this, the men around him said, "Well, you may feel bad about it. We don't feel bad about it. Let us do it.”
But with these words, David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul, and Saul left the cave and went his way.
And as he is about to leave, David appears in the mouth of the cave and says, "Yoo-hoo” And immediately, everybody in Saul's army knew what had just not happened.
David gives a little speech, "This day, you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands. Some of my guys urged me to kill you, but I spared you. Not only did I not kill you, I kept my men from killing you because you are the Lord's anointed. You may not be acting like the Lord's anointed, you may be a sorry example of the Lord's anointed, but you are the Lord's anointed, and I'm not going replace what God put in place."
And then he says something that is so important, "May the Lord judge between you and me”.
In other words, I’m not going to make this mess, messier. I’m going trust God to resolve the mess. I’m opting for virtue and integrity over what looks to be the easy fix.
So, Saul says back to David essentially, "Today, it's evident to all of us that you are a better man than me." And Saul turns around and heads back to Jerusalem. And seven chapters later, a random Philistine arrow pierces Saul's armor and he dies, and David becomes the king of Israel.
This is what I want to make sure you don't miss today. Every mess comes with a pre-packaged list of bad options and if you choose a bad option, you will make your mess messier.
And here's the thing . . . this season of your life that you would say, "This is the most painful, complicated, horrible season of my life." The day will come when this entire season will be reduced to one or two sentences; I got a divorce. I was addicted. I went bankrupt. I was arrested. I flunked out of school.
You see, the story isn’t your mess . . . the mess is just the mess. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t go back and relive history. The real story is the response to the mess. That’s the part that becomes a permanent part of the story of your life.
Which brings us to the question I want you to ask. It’s the same question David asked himself in the cave that day . . . what story do I want to tell? When people ask me, "David, how did you become the King of Israel?" What story do I want to tell?
Do I want to tell the story that I took matters into my own hands, choosing an option that would have just made the mess messier or a story about how I leaned heavily into God and trusted him to get me through this mess?
- When people hear that you went through a divorce, what story do you want to tell coming out of that divorce?
- When people discover that you had to declare bankruptcy, what is the story you want tell as a result of the option you chose coming out of bankruptcy?
- Sure, you dropped out of school, but the question is, what is the story? What did you do as a result? Which option did you opt for?
- Yeah, you got caught, yeah you got busted, but what was your response?
Because your response to your mess is the permanent part of the story of your life.
This whole sermon series has been hinging on the most famous verse in scripture, John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, the messy world, the messy people of the world, that he sent his son to Address the Mess.
And when Jesus came and walked among us, he didn’t just offer quick fixes, instead he told people, “Follow me and I’ll lead you out. And if you follow me through your mess, we’re going to walk around a whole bunch of options, that a whole bunch of people would opt for.”
And one day, when you talk about your mess and you sum it up in two sentences, when you talk about your response to your mess, you won't have to be ashamed or make up a story.
Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will leverage your mess to become a message because I redeem bad things. I make beautiful things out of ugly things. I bring triumph to the context of tragedy, because your mess will simply be the context for the real story, the story of your life and your life will become a living example of who I am.”
What story do you want to tell?