“Lessons from the Bench” (Part One)
Introduction: Though David was probably a very young man (a teen) when he was anointed king of Israel and told he would gain the crown, he did not actually receive that crown until age forty in 2 Samuel 5. On his best day he believed it was coming. During dark days he openly admitted that he lost hope. The first five chapters of this book find David learning the final lessons before God crowns him. The time between the promise of a great career and the first opportunity to live it – that is “BENCH TIME’.
By college, Michelle Akers had become an All-American soccer star, earning ESPN’s woman athlete of the year in 1985 – the same year the United States formed its first women’s national team, with Michelle a starter. In 1991 the U.S. team won the first-ever Women’s World Cup and Michelle scored 10 goals in five games, including the championship’s winner. She signed an endorsement deal and became the first woman soccer player to have a paid sponsor. She played professionally in Sweden. Michelle’s drive and tenacity were beginning to pay off. She even tried out as the place kicker for the Dallas Cowboys: her longest attempt reached 52 yards.
But just as her star was rising, Michelle’s health was declining. By 1993, the woman who used grit and determination to make life happen found her life unmanageable.
“Each day I felt like I had flown to Europe with no food or sleep, then flown right back and trained for hours,” Michelle says.She suffered from Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dystfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), a debilitating disease affecting more than a million adult Americans. “When it was really bad, I couldn’t sit up in a chair. The racking migraines stranded me at home, unable even to get up to brush my teeth or eat.”
For the first time, Michelle could no longer count on her old friends – strength and hard work. She had to find a new way to cope.”I couldn’t bear not to be the best in the world, not to be the one who could bounce back from an injury,” she says. “it was the only me I knew.” When her marriage of four years broke up in 1994, Michelle had reached the end of herself.
“I was so sick I couldn’t take a five-minute walk without needing two days on the couch to recover. I was forced to spend a lot of time thinking about who I was. I didn’t like what I saw.”
Michelle had put her trust in Christ as a high-school student, but ignored God in college and after graduation. Now sick and alone, Michelle, reluctantly accepted an invitation from a strength coach to attend his church, Northland Community Church in Longwood, Florida. Although she couldn’t atrticulate it at the time, in retrospect Michelle says she knew she “needed to get things right with God. Looking back,” she explains, “I think God was gently, patiently tapping me on the shoulder and calling my name for years. But I continously brushed him off, saying, ’Hey, I know what I am doing. I can make these decisions. Leave me alone.’ Then I think He finally said, ’Okay,’ crossed His arms and looked at me sadly – because He knew I was going to make a lot of mistakes by ignoring Him. He knew I would be hurting in the future. It took devastation before I would acquiesce and say, ’Okay, God. You can have my life. Please help me.’” (Christian Reader, March/April 2000)
Key Principle: Even when God has a great plan for you, you may not experience it until God has fully prepared you for it. Time for training and patience are essential to becoming what God desires you to be!
There are seven lessons we will observe in today’s lesson:
- Learn to deal with obedience to God’s commands (2 Samuel 1:1-12). This lesson was an observed lesson from Saul’s life. During the bench time, keep your eyes open and your heart keen to observe the people around you. What really brings happiness and holiness? Imitate that in your heart and life!
- Stick to your truth principles, even when abandoning truth for a season appears to be a great advantage (1:14). The people you must live with the rest of your life are you and the Lord, and you will both be disappointed if you compromise now!
In the first season of the popular TV show “24,” Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was a federal agent charged with protecting a presidential candidate from an assassination plot. He was given that responsibility because in the uncertain world of espionage he possessed that rare character trait of integrity. In the show’s first episode, Jack’s integrity was already put to the test. Because he turned in other federal agents for bribery, some of his own comrades turned against him. In particular, Jack’s immediate boss came down hard on him and tried to persuade Jack not to be so honest in his job. Jack has an explosive confrontation with his boss and would not budge on this point. Just after the confrontation, Jack bristles with intensity as he explains his actions to his closest partner.
“You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time. And pretty soon, that’s all you’re doing—compromising—because that’s how you think things are done. You know those guys I blew the whistle on? You think they were the bad guys? They weren’t the bad guys. They were just like you and me, except they compromised once.”
- Take time to acknowledge the good of the past before you forge ahead into the future with others (1:17-27). You are not more permanent than those who you follow, and it is wise to see yourself as part of the chain of life in your family, organization and community.
Most of us are much better at excusing our sins and failures than we are at confessing them. We’re quick to point out other peoples’ mistakes, but we have a hard time admitting when we’ve blown it. Here are some actual excerpts from insurance companies where individuals who had accidents explained what went wrong: Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree that I don’t own. The other guy was all over the road and I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him. I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident. The telephone pole approached my car at a rapid speed, as I swerved to get out of its way, it hit me. I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and drove over the embankment.
- Truly seek God’s direction for your next steps (2:1-4). Don’t just simply follow the circumstances and “lean into them” even if it looks like things are going the way you expected they would. Why should God hear any less from you when things are going as anticipated?
John Piper in “Let the Nations Be Glad” said, “Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of front-line forces, and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.”
- As God opens doors and leads you, use every opportunity to spread HOPE and encourage others, especially if things are changing uncomfortably around them (2:5-7).
In the book Stories for the Heart, Catherine Marshall tells this story. “There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace. Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
- Don’t attempt to control loyalties of everyone around you, especially loyalty to you! (2:8-32). Do right before God and allow others to find you through that alone.
- Watch God bless, and count that blessing daily. You may be on the bench, but there is a lot that God can be doing in your life to improve the coming days of service. (3:1-5). You should keep your focus on what God can do in you to help you become what He created you to be, nothing more and nothing less!
Years ago, Orel Hershiser was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They had just won the World Series. And Orel had been named the MVP. A clip during the series showed him in the dugout just before the 9th inning started. He was leaning against the wall. And his lips were moving.
When he was a guest on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson asked him what he had been saying. “I wasn’t saying anything,” Orel responded. “Well, then, tell us what you were doing.” Finally Orel replied, “I was singing.” Johnny said, “You were singing? I didn’t know you were a singer. Come on, let’s here it!” And Orel said, “Nah. I don’t want to.” And the audience clapped and said, “Yeah! Let’s hear it! Wooooh!!!!” Finally, Orel Hershiser started to sing: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise him above Ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen!” And Johnny Carson was speechless. The whole audience was dead silent. Then one person stood up and started clapping. And soon, the whole audience joined in applause.
This was Orel’s way of saying, “Lord, the only reason I’m a Most Valuable Player is because you’re a Most Valuable God. You’re the one who gave me my ability. You’re the reason why my life has been so blessed. And I respect you. And I love you.