The intention is not to work through these twenty verses of scripture but to extract the general message contained in them. That general theme is what I first identified in a message I wrote in 1984 – ‘Preparation for Prosperity’. Just as with Old Testament Israel, God is always moving us from the narrowness of Egyptian bandage to the increase, broadness and expanded fullness of His promised inheritance. What we find is that the real test of our hearts is not the journey into that prosperity but the prosperity itself. The particular danger we face is arrogance and pride manifested in forgetfulness of God and the setting forth of self as the means whereby we arrived in that place of blessing.
My proposal in that 1984 message was that the only thing that prepares us to properly handle God’s promised prosperity is the discipline built into the journey designed by God to get us there. This is the message/warning of Deut.8:2;‘You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness…testing you, to know what was in your heart…’
There are two vital truths set forth in this text. Working from the second to the first they are:1) The wilderness is designed to reveal what is in the heart; 2) If we forget the lessons of the wilderness – the lessons of how our God led us – we will not know how to steward the prosperity of what we are coming into.
In 1925 the wife of Charles E. Cowman compiled 365 short devotional writings, one for each day of the year. She called her small book, Streams in the Desert. The copy I have in my hand this morning was printed in 1950, the 33rd. printing of the book. I was one year old. Let me reference the forward to the book.
Backing up to 1984 – in fact Sunday, February 24th. of that year, a friend placed a copy of that book in my hand (which was the 112th. reprint of the work). He suggested that I read the devotion for Saturday, February 23rd..
(Relate the story of the homicide).
That devotion was headed by five words from Scripture: ‘And there came a lion…’ These were taken from 1Sam.17:34; part of the story of David and Goliath. Based on that story and reflecting the warnings of the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy I want to speak on this theme:‘Lions, Bears, Giants, Fallen Leaders and Your Prophetic Destiny’.
Regardless of the “theologies of denial” we hear in the church it remains that we make this journey of faith in the presence of lions, bears, giants and fallen leaders and we need to interpret their presence in relation to our prophetic destiny. That explanation cannot centre in what the devil is up to but what God is up to.
Paul referred to the ‘good fight of faith’, meaning that whatever else faith may be it is a fight. In the context of David’s life that fight is defined by lions, bears, giants and fallen leaders.
Let me remind you of some of the highlights of that ancient story of David and Goliath. David is sent by his father to see after the welfare of three older brothers and to bring provisions to them. They have been drafted into King Saul’s army. That army was engaged in a terrific conflict with the Philistines. Upon entering the battle zone he becomes aware of Goliath and his big mouth challenge. David answers that challenge, insisting that the real issue is the reputation of Jehovah God and the respect of His people. David knew that the physical advantages of Goliath were meaningless when compared against the power and might of the God he had challenged. He knew Goliath was in a no-win position because in the end it was not David nor Israel he was fighting but Israel’s God and that the battle was the Lord’s.
That’s the first fact we need to know this morning in moving forward – our enemy is in a no-win position because Jesus Christ crushed his head, and beyond that the real fight is not with us but with the God who created us, redeemed us and claimed for His own.
But what does all of this have to do with the statement: ‘And there came a lion.’? David made this statement in response to Saul’s argument that because of his youth and inexperience in warfare he had no qualifications to deal with Goliath. In essence Saul is asking: “What are your qualifications?”
David reaches into his past – looks over his shoulder – and drawing upon his memory reveals a critical truth essential to the building of our faith; it is simple but profound: That which qualified him to fight Goliath in the present was God’s faithfulness in his past. Your past is not about the past. It’s about this present moment and the future beyond this present moment. Your life is not about where you have been but about where you are and where God is taking you. The lesson is that without that past you can never be prepared for that future. The final argument to support my claim to victory in this present battle is the past faithfulness of God in giving me victory over the lion and the bear.
For He who has started a good work in you shall perform it unto the day of Christ. Christ has committed Himself to perfectly completing what He has started in you.
The most asked question when the lion shows up is one word: WHY? On February 23, 1984when faced with lions and bears here is what the Holy Spirit spoke to me: ‘We will never understand or appreciate God’s purpose in the lion until we meet Goliath. Then all of those past battles and victories will testify to us of the faithfulness of God which in turn will become our strength and courage in dealing with the present Goliath.’
This also means that we will never properly understand those past encounters with lions and bears until we face Goliath. At that moment we will know that the past prepared us for this moment and this moment interprets that past. When we meet Goliath we will actually thank God for the past battles with lions and bears.
David was not untrained when he met Goliath. He had been carefully schooled by the lion and the bear. The bear prepared him for the lion, the lion for Goliath, Goliath for a jealous king and all of this together prepared him for his prophetic destiny. (last week’s message on Romans 8: 28)
To understand the presence of bears, lions, giants and jealous leaders you have to go back before any of them showed up in your life. For David that meant going back to about the age of twelve and an event that took place then. An aged man named Samuel, the Lord’s prophet, called him in from the fields and there in the presence of seven scowling older brothers he poured oil over the head of this kid. While the oil ran down over the head of David the prophet prophesied of his set destiny. In his future were a throne, kingship, authority and government.
He was prophetically destined for success, power, prestige, privilege, wealth and prosperity. Once in that place he was to glorify God by using all of his advantages in the service of the King who put him there. The greatest test we’ll ever face is not adversity but prosperity, and the only thing that can properly prepare us to rightly steward that season of prosperity is the background of adversity.
Despite David’s many mistakes and sins the fact remains that success and prosperity could not finally destroy him because his character had been forged out of the imposed disciplines of lions, bears, giants and hateful leaders. When faced with the temptations that come with prosperity David would understand the past battles and give thanks to God for all the way in which the Lord his God had led him. That’s the message of Deuteronomy 8. Ask David why there were bears, lions, giants and a leader like Saul in his past and he will tell you they were nothing more than points of discipline in the journey to prepare him for the possession of his appointed and prophesied destiny.
Is there a bear in your way right now – a lion in your path, a foul mouthed giant mocking you? Is there a javelin-throwing leader who has targeted you? It is not easy but I believe God is telling us to see all of these things as confirming signs of our prophetic destiny; disciplines preparing our character for the fullness of Kingdom purpose.
CONCLUSION: London, July 24, 1725 a baby boy was born into the world. He was given the name John. Seven years later his mother would pass away. For those seven years she prayed constantly and with many tears that her only child would know God and serve him in the ministry of the church. Instead, John became a sailor, and true to the culture of the setting indulged in all wickedness and blasphemy. He captained a ship used in the slave trade.
One night while caught in a life threatening storm at sea he recalled the prayers of his mother – recalled her faith and her God. He bowed his knee and yielded fully to his mother’s God. He prepared for and entered the ministry of the church and there served God all the days of his life.
John Newton did not say – ‘And there came a lion.’ But he declared the same principle and truth when he wrote: ‘Through many dangers and toils and snares I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far. And grace will lead me home.’ (SHOW LAST 2 SLIDES)