by Bob Burridge ©2012
It’s dangerous business to live contrary to what pleases the one who blesses us. Even dogs know better than to bite the hand that feeds them. Yet people often deceive themselves into thinking that sin is only a minor problem.
Since people are not always stricken with diseases or sudden death when they sin, since God promises that he will not send truly redeemed believers to hell, some get the idea that doing what is right must not matter much.
In our imperfect understanding of things in this life, we may not be as keenly aware of our offensiveness toward God as we should be. To get our attention and to teach his children a better way, God may withhold blessings and enablements for a time. This is the Fatherly chastising or discipline which God will not neglect since he loves us.
This is clearly taught in Hebrews 12:5-6, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’ ”
In verses 10-11 in that same chapter speaking first of our earthly fathers it says, “For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Offending God can disrupt our lives in many ways. In loving discipline our Lord may lessen our awareness of his comfort, and our confidence in his assurances of hope. He may even take away our ability to do our job well by withdrawing the help of the Holy Spirit for a time.
King David had learned the horrible consequences of his moment of sin. In Psalm 51 he lamented over the offenses he had committed against God. He prayed that God would cleanse away his guilt and restore him to divine fellowship. He was concerned that there may be further consequences of his sin.
Psalm 51:11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
David was concerned that his sin would alienate him from God. He did not fear alienation from the physical presence of God. Since the Holy Spirit is God, he is Omnipresent. Even those who try to hide from God cannot. God is everywhere, always. He fills all space in the whole universe he created. This is clearly summarized in Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”
We can also be confident that David did not fear that God would take away his salvation. He had already shown his trust in a full atonement that turned away God’s wrath.
David did not fear that he would lose the Spirit’s indwelling. “Indwelling” is not a reference to the physical presence of the Lord in a believer. God, as we have seen, is always everywhere. Indwelling refers to the promised seal of the Holy Spirit upon us to enable us to spiritual life and to comfort us. Every redeemed person has this special presence of God and it cannot be taken away.
However, David evidently saw some threat to his relationship with God the Holy Spirit. To understand this, we need to remember where this Psalm fits in with biblical history. There had only been one King of Israel before David. That was King Saul. 1 Samuel 10 tells about the anointing of King Saul by Samuel.
1 Samuel 10:1, “Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?’ ”
Oil was used as a symbol of Holy Spirit to set aside prophets, priests, and kings. It represented their consecration to the calling of God as the Spirit enabled them.
The Spirit was promised to Saul to enable him with the skills he needed to rule Israel effectively on God’s behalf. He would even be able to act as God’s spokesman in special cases. Samuel said to him,
1 Samuel 10:6, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
1 Samuel 10:9, “So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.”
In that sense, Saul was enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit to be man of another kind, one chosen and equipped to be king over God’s people.
When Saul abandoned God’s ways and sinned grievously, he was left without God’s blessing. Chapter 13 of First Samuel records that tragic time when Saul was impatient and intruded upon the priest’s office. He made a burnt offering which he was forbidden to do. (13:9) Because of this horrible sin, the Kingdom was to be taken from him. His enemies would not be utterly destroyed (13:19), and the Holy Spirit’s enablement to rule well as king would be taken away from him.
1 Samuel 16:13-14, ” … the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1 Samuel 18:12 “Now Saul was afraid of David, for the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.”
After these events in Saul’s life he was never again a competent king.
It stands to reason that David would fear the same judgment as a result of his sins. He feared that God would choose another king to rule in his place, or that God would take away the gift of enablement for his vocation as had been done with Saul before him.
The Spirit’s presence enables us to accomplish our duties before the Lord. These enablements are often called the “fillings” of the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”
In this verse the durative form of the verb means “be being filled with the Spirit.” Throughout the book of Acts there are repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit, often to the same person. These fillings are associated with specific tasks or assignments from God. In the Bible these fillings enable believers to teach, to rule, to preach God’s Word, and so on.
The church has many members, each with his own task and ability from God (1 Corinthians 12). Each area of service in the Christian community needs the Spirit’s enablement.
Any success that honors God with our talent at being sales representatives, managers, teachers, parents, spouses, programmers, Deacons, Elders, students, builders, fixers, or servants, is provided to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
This is the loss which David feared. It should concern us when we do wrong. David knew he had sinned. He had seen God abandon King Saul before him. So David humbly offered this Psalm of confession and prayer.
Even among the heathen, their ability to keep order in society or in their homes is only possible by the restraining power of God to keep their depravity contained.
Every human ability is a gift of God and may be disrupted when God determines it best to do so. To the heathen, God brings down kings and kingdoms, and punishes all sorts of personal evil. The condemning tragedy of it all is that they fail to honor God with the abilities he gives them. To the Christian, God acts as a loving Father to withdraw his enablement at times to discipline them, sometimes strongly, so that they will wake up from their sin and turn to him in even greater humility and obedience.
A while ago, I was working on a notebook computer researching information for a sermon. I was searching the internet for some historical details behind a difficult text I was studying. Suddenly my internet program kept giving me errors when ever I tried to link to a web address. I became very frustrated and tried to connect again and again but with the same results. I was about to pick up the phone and call my internet provider to report that service to my area had been interrupted. Then I noticed that the lights on my VCR across the room were not on. Then I looked around my study and noticed that the numbers on my cable box were not lit. I looked down at my computer and noticed that it had switched over to battery power. The problem was not my internet provider. The electricity had gone off leaving my cable modem with no power. When the electricity came back on a few moments later, everything was fine again.
Then there was that time I was getting frustrated that the remote control for our cable box was not working as well at it should. It had given me trouble on and off for the past week so I figured there was a bad connection inside. I did the high tech thing, I started banging on it to get it to work. But nothing seemed to help. Before I got in the car to take it to the cable office for replacement, I thought to check the batteries. Sure enough, they were low on power. I changed them and the remote worked perfectly.
I’m sure that in our electronic age you have had similar experiences. You may seem to be doing everything right, but still things are not working quite right. I’ve even seen people believe something was broken only to discover they had failed to plug it into the wall socket. Without a source of power, even the most sophisticated piece of equipment will not work.
You may have great skills as a teacher, as a mechanic, as a father or mother, as a student, but if God withdraws the Spirit’s enablement, nothing seems to work right. Our failure often gets our attention back on the Lord, to ask humbly for his strength, and to remember to give him the glory in all that we aspire to think, say, and do.
How could we think that our loving Heavenly Father would let us sin as parents, children, students, teachers, doctors, mechanics, musicians, businessmen, or fishermen, and not remind us of our need to keep him first in all we do. He may withdraw our skill for a time, let us fail, to get our attention.
God calls us to every honorable job we have to do. He also enables us with every skill we need to complete the jobs he gives us. The original founders of Methodism were the Wesley brothers. Charles said, “If the Lord would give me wings, I’d fly.” John added, “If God bids me fly, I will trust him for the wings.”
David understood that very well. He feared what would happen if God took away his ability to rule Israel well. Would he become an ineffective leader as happened to Saul? Would he be replaced? This is why David begged that God would not abandon him and take away the Spirit’s filling.
Should we ever fear the loss of the Holy Spirit?
In one sense the answer is “No”. There should be no fear that we would lose the Spirit’s covenantal presence and ministry to us. We may not always be as aware of his presence and ministry, but it is always there for us as God’s covenant people. Yet that awareness and our enablement to our task or calling may be withdrawn to help us grow spiritually.
This happened even to the Apostle Peter late in his ministry when he should have known better. In Galatians 2:11-14 Paul tells us this sad story. “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”
The Jews were unsure of their new liberty in Christ. Peter was afraid of crossing them. He looked to his own wisdom instead of to the command of the Lord. He became an ineffective Apostle and encouraged hypocrisy among the Jews. Paul humbly had to rebuke him. When he did, God used that correction to turn the heart of Peter to see his foolishness.
Earlier, Peter had remembered to rest in God rather than in his own wisdom and skill. A man had been healed through him as God’s agent. Acts 3:12 explained, “So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: ‘Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?’ ”
God had permitted the lapse later in Peter’s life, and had it recorded here in Scripture so that we might learn from his error. God does at times withdraw a believer’s skills and success when he falls into temptation.
We need to remember to pray for and to rest upon this enablement of the Holy Spirit in whatever the Lord has called us to do, and not to rest in our own abilities.
Proverbs 3:5-8, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.”
David was pleading for God to restore the joy of his salvation.
Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”
He did not ask for his salvation to be restored. That cannot be taken away once it is truly ours. But he confessed that his sin had stirred God to remove the joy that salvation should bring. He begged to have his spirit maintained in its willingness to honor the Lord in all things.
What does God call upon us to do to preserve the enablement of the Spirit in our lives?
The answer is obvious and simple:
1. we are called upon to obey God’s principles which are lovingly revealed to us in his word.
2. we should never think we can obey on our own. We must always rest in God’s power to enable us.
It is entirely proper to pray as we begin our homework, cook a meal, teach a class, approach a customer, go to management meetings, discipline our children, work on our car, attend Sunday School class, or sit waiting to worship. In all these duties, and in all others, we must learn to rely upon God’s enablement.
But what should we do when we have dishonored God, as we all do quite regularly? There are four basic duties which we see in David’s example in Psalm 51. We must admit, repent, trust, and reform.
1. We need to admit our errors and sins quickly and humbly with no excuses.
2. We need to repent of our offense to our loving and holy Heavenly Father.
3. We must trust in God’s promises and enablement to whatever he calls us to do. This also means we trust in the work of Jesus Christ alone to cleanse us from the guilt of every sin.
4. We must sincerely reform our lives, reshaping them to conform to God’s ways, but relying upon our Savior’s enablement to do so.
The failure of King Saul shows how the unsaved deal with their sin and its horrible consequences. He rebelled against the ways God revealed as right and true. He persisted in his sin and refused to admit his corruption. He did not come to the Savior for cleansing.
He lost the Holy Spirit’s enablement to his divinely appointed task. His last days were days of agony, defeat, and horror. He died lost in the lonely darkness of the consequences of his sin.
What a contrast with King David’s way of dealing with his sin. At first, he too rebelled against what God said was right and good. But when confronted with his immoral behavior he confessed his corruption before God. He knew his guilt would be cleansed away by the work of a promised Savior. David suffered the agonizing outward consequences of his sin. He sought the Lord in diligent prayer and confession. He was restored to the blessings of God’s covenant forgiveness. David continued to serve as king. All his guilt was removed and his skills restored.
Our duty when we fear the removal of God’s enablement in what he calls us to do each day is clear. We must admit, repent, trust, and reform.
It is all done not based upon our own abilities, wisdom, or determination. It is accomplished with humble reliance upon God’s power, redemption, and his loving promises as our Heavenly Father who will not let us go.
As you begin each task, every day, remember that your success depends upon the Spirit’s enablement. Pray to be being filled with the skills that will enable you to do your best for Christ’s Kingdom and glory. When all is done, remember to give thanks to the one from whom all blessings flow.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)