Mark Griffiths believes you need to persevere - you could be on the cusp of something really exciting


I have a concern. It will undo us. It’s about how long people stay involved in ministry with children, young people and families. Volunteers stay for twelve to 24 months, those we pay who do it as a job do three to five years. It’s not long enough. It’s not supposed to be a job, it’s a vocation; dare I say, it’s a calling! And we tend to lose our volunteers and great leaders when things go wrong.

So I wanted to dedicate a few words on sticking in there. Of getting back up. Because I have an absolute belief that most people give up just before the miracle happens. But let me show it to you through the life of King David – before he was king. Let me take you to Ziklag!

David had been journeying long and hard. He had led his men valiantly. He had lived with incredible standards of integrity and righteous. He had always done the right thing. Yet he had just returned from a journey, hoping to come back to his wife and children, hoping for a time of rest and relaxation before he would continue on. Then suddenly as he rode into camp he saw smoke billowing high into the air. It was his camp. Ziklag was on fire. His possessions were in flames. As he came closer the enormity of the situation hit him. Not only were all his possessions on fire, his wife and children and everything he and his men owned were gone.

And, as if the situation couldn’t get any worse, his friends – those he had helped, those he had encouraged when they were downcast and depressed, those whom he had carried when they couldn’t support themselves – those self-same men now wanted to kill him, they wanted to stone their leader to death. If you have been a leader for long enough you’ll understand this scene.

David was facing one of his bleakest moments, he had entered a dark time – a time that we are not immune from, a defining moment in his life. Several weeks after this episode David would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and would be crowned king. He would prove to be the greatest king Israel would ever have outside of King Jesus himself. But before he gets to Jerusalem, he must get through Ziklag.

Ziklag is that defining moment which enables us to move onto that level way above average or it can be the moment when we decide that mediocrity is where we will live our lives. It is the central base around which all else hinges. But most people give up before the miracle happens. It is David’s final test before kingship. If he passes this test then he will walk on into triumph and glory, if he fails this test the shepherd boy will at best return to his sheep, at worse will die.

David’s past was incredibly exciting. He had been anointed king by Samuel the prophet, he had defeated Goliath. He had gathered to himself men and women who were depressed, discouraged, in debt and desperate and David had made them great. But now he faces the defining moment.

We all come there. We must. Anyone worth anything in God’s kingdom must pass the Ziklag test. They must prove faithful under intense pressure, they must be made of sufficient metal that they don’t shrink away at the first sign of opposition. Allow me to make some general observations on David’s predicament that may help us also: 

  1. The decision was his – God willed for him to get up and sort the situation, but he would never override his special gift to humankind, he would never override free will. The decision here was David’s and David’s alone.
  2. He was on his own, nobody was going to help him up:
  • He had no physical support - his men were not going to support or help him, on the contrary they wanted to kill him.
  • He had no material support - all his material possessions had been taken.
  • He had no emotional support - his wife and children had been taken away, his emotional shelter was gone.

It so happens that there’s not always someone there to help you up, and sometimes God designs it that way. Stripped of everything, what will David do?

Those he had worked with, those he had strengthened and encouraged now wanted to stone him. I’ve certainly been there a few times. 

I genuinely believe that we must all face that place of Ziklag, that place where two different futures open up before us. And for everyone who comes through to be a king I wonder how many return to being shepherds. Having destiny is not enough; being prophesied over is not enough. Many people have destiny but may never see it fulfilled.

It would be true to say that 90 percent of our life is governed by our decisions and only ten percent by unforeseen circumstances. However, I think it is our response and our decision process within the ten percent that defines us, that decision in the unforeseen circumstance, that decision when we feel devoid of everything, that decision in the Ziklag time that makes the difference.

The times when nobody wants to support our vision to reach children, young people and families for Jesus, the times when nobody wants to work with us, the times when we are physically and emotionally drained. Dragging ourselves out week after week, through those cold autumnal evenings and those depressing winter nights to do what we are convinced God called us to do. And to learn that in those times it is God himself who destines us to be devoid of support and those who would encourage us does not help. He needs people who don’t give up before the miracle.

And David was always going to prove himself at Ziklag. Sun Tze, the ninth-century Chinese general commented in his book The Art of War that victories are won before the battles begin. And David had been through many tests that prepared him for Ziklag. At the time the other tests must have seemed difficult, but they all prepared the man of God for the next rung of the ladder. So let’s see what we can learn from David:

1.He had an open and honest relationship with God

David wasn’t just praying liturgical prayers that he had memorised; David had cultivated an open and honest relationship with the creator of the universe. He told God how he felt.

2. He knew about the power of praise

Psychologists are only just beginning to realise the potential of music to change our moods and emotions, David knew more than this. He knew that God himself inhabited the praise of his people and through praise he could lift his feelings, his emotions and his spirit and position himself to overcome in every situation.

3. He knew how to draw power from outside himself

New-age gurus talk of our need to draw power from within, to draw strength from something mystical inside us. (It is almost certainly a distortion of the Ecclesiastes teaching that eternity has been hidden in our hearts.) But David knew that it wasn’t mystical power from within that he needed, but instead supernatural power from without. He needed to draw strength from his God as he had done so many times in the past.

If we can build these principles very firmly into our lives before the battle, then we will always be successful and live our lives on a level way above average. Let us remember the sobering thought that for every person who goes on to be king there are many who return to being a shepherd. To change this generation of children, young people and families we desperately need some people who will operate on a level way above average. I believe that God is raising those people up right now. But they must pass through Ziklag. We so desperately need people who will stay in this ministry for the long term. People who ensure long enough to see miracle after miracle of lives transformed.