Staying with the Stuff

Soldiers who stay behind to guard the camp get as much as those who go into battle.  – 1 Samuel 30:24 (CEV)

Life can turn on a dime.

David, better than anyone, knew this. 

In today’s reading, he and his men have returned from battle to discover Ziklag, where they’d settled with their families, burned to the ground, and everyone—women, children young, and old—taken captive, including David’s family. David’s men blamed him for their loss.

“But David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). 

“Shall I chase after this band of raiders?” he prayed.

“Yes,” God told him. “You will surely recover everything that was taken from you.”

Somehow David convinced his men, who were talking of stoning him, to join him in his pursuit. However, 200 of the 600 men who set out stayed behind, too exhausted to go on. David and his warriors surprised the enemy, recovered everything that had been taken, and came home with a sizable plunder purse.

Which they didn’t want to share with the 200 who hadn’t gone along.

“No, my brothers,” David said. “Don’t be selfish with what the LORD has given. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We will share and share alike—those who go into battle and those who guard the equipment.” 

I like the way the King James Version phrases that last statement: “so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff.”

Have you ever had to “tarry by the stuff” because you were too exhausted to go on, or because someone had to take care of things back home? 

One evening nine years ago during baseball practice, my 14-year-old grandson Brent suffered a compound fracture of the bone in his upper left arm in a violent collision with another player in center field. An ambulance transported him to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he underwent surgery the next morning. His parents spent the next three days with him in Pittsburgh. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Grandpa and I “tarried with the stuff” – two grandchildren, ages 6 and 10; Zoey, their 4-month-old Dogo Argentino; a couple dozen chickens, a goat, and a horse. We weren’t able to physically be with our loved ones during this crisis. But someone had to maintain the home front and what better someone than we who lived next door? 

As I pondered my role during my quiet time that week, 1 Samuel 30:24 came to mind. Both those who go forth to deal with the emergency and those who stay behind to guard the stuff have vital jobs in the battle of life. I not only got to spend precious time with my grandchildren and my “grand-dog,” bonding more with them, but also I was able to have Brent’s favorite meal waiting for them when they got home. 

Crises hit all of us. Sometimes it’s your job to go forth and fight. But if your role is to “stay with the stuff,” remember it’s just as important to guard the home front – with love, action, and prayer. 

Thank you, Lord, that we can find strength in You and turn to You for wisdom during crisis times, whether we go forth or stay with the stuff. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Samuel 30.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Dealing with the Subtle Sins

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Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. –Psalm 51:10 NIV

I should be ashamed to admit it, but dusting is just not something on my must-do list. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial (“It’s not that bad.”), call it whatever you want. In my opinion, it’s a futile activity, especially in the winter. Especially if you have a wood stove. Especially if your furnace has a blower. I could dust one day, and the next day it doesn’t even look like it.

The only time the thickening accumulation bothers me is when the sun is shining. Then, and only then, will the dust be dealt with. Unless there’s company coming, which is as rare as me dusting. And then I give it a lick and a promise.

Just as the dust accumulates in my house if I don’t deal with it, so sin accumulates in my heart. Call it laziness, call it setting priorities, call it avoidance, call it denial, call it what you will, but if not dealt with, it results in spiritual dryness, an empty prayer life, and stunted Christian growth.

Lent has always been a time for spiritual introspection, a time to clean my spiritual house and get rid of the hindrances, time to face the ugly things I’d rather keep hidden, for I’m ashamed they even exist in me.

Yet I’m an imperfect human being, struggling to live a godly life in an ungodly world. I don’t lie (outright), but is there any way I deceive others? I haven’t murdered anyone, but have I, by spreading gossip, murdered someone’s reputation? I claim to love others, but do I harbor bitterness or envy or unforgiveness in my heart?

For the next six weeks, we’re going to examine some of these subtle sins. Today we’ll start with envy.

Years ago I discussed unanswered prayer with a friend at church. I couldn’t understand why there seemed to be a roadblock to book publishing. My first novel was considered by the publishing committee at several houses only to be turned down again and again. In addition, speaking and teaching gigs had dried up.

He asked if there was unconfessed sin in my life. I told him I’d considered it, but didn’t really see anything. I prayed for God to show me, but He knew I wasn’t ready. I really didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know. God always brings us to a place of readiness first.

Then we started a two-week prayer and fasting time for a writers and speakers network I belonged to. Many needed breakthroughs, especially financial. The first devotional was about sin hindering prayer. Once again I prayed, “Lord, show me …”

And He did. The sin was envy. Not a strong presence (so I thought), but a grasping one. I don’t want to say “little,” because no sin is little in the eyes of God. But when others asked for prayer for favor for their book proposals, for book contracts or speaking engagements, the envy would stir. “I want that for me, too!” I’d cry silently. And I wouldn’t—I couldn’t—pray with a sincere heart.

If you couldn’t have it, why should they? Envy whispered.

For so long I either denied the envy I harbored or refused to acknowledge it was strong enough to affect me and make a difference. I was wrong.

Unlike dusting my house, cleaning the accumulated dirt in my heart is not futile. It’s vital.

Lord, pluck this envy out of my heart! Then spray the weed killer of Your Word to destroy any root left behind. Plant the seed of Your love to grow, spread, blossom, and give off a sweet fragrance. Envy has hidden in me for a long time, and I will have to be on my guard, watching for it in case it sprouts again. Never again will I underestimate the cost and the power of this deadly sin. Only through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, can I overcome this and live the life You have called me to live. I thank You for Your patience, steadfast love, and unending mercy and grace. In the name of Him Who died so that I might live, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord of my life. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 3:13–4:10

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.