Have you ever felt like Peter in Matthew 26, when he loudly and proudly proclaimed to Jesus that even if everyone else fell away, he would remain loyal — that even if faced with death, he would never deny his Lord? We all know the rest of that story. Peter not only denied Jesus three times, as Christ had predicted, but even cursed to make his point.
How much we trust our ability to take care of ourselves versus how much we trust God with our lives, our well-being, is a significant part of the cost of discipleship.
Peter faced a dangerous situation and reacted out of fear, rather than faith. Another biblical character did the same.
A shepherd boy faced a giant almost nine feet tall. He was the same giant who had sent Israel’s great army back to their tents, quaking in fear. Yet this young shepherd assured Saul that the same God who had protected him and his flocks from the bear and lion would protect him against the giant. Shunning the defensive gear that Saul offered, David took his slingshot and five stones and approached Goliath.
In response to Goliath’s taunting, young David said, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted” (1 Samuel 17:45). No fear is evidenced here — only a simple and complete faith in God to protect him.
Later, David again showed his confidence in following the Lord’s will as he was being pursued by Saul, intent on killing him. David, fully knowing that God had chosen him to succeed Saul on the throne, continued to recognize Saul’s kingship and refused to harm him in any way. The Lord had placed Saul on the throne, and David trusted God to remove him at the appropriate time. Offered several opportunities to take Saul’s life, David refused — even while Saul was doing all in his power to destroy David. Such trust during incredibly difficult and dangerous times!
Yet once David was firmly enthroned as king, that trust and obedience began to fade, as in the story of Bathsheba. Such a contrast to those two earlier episodes in David’s life. Now with riches beyond measure, David looked out one day and saw the beautiful Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. Rather than his previously strong desire to please the Lord, lust filled his thoughts and he determined to have her. Later, when Bathsheba sent a messenger to tell David she was expecting his child, his thoughts still didn’t turn to God. Instead, he schemed about how to cover up this sinful deed.
Uriah, though, was more intent on serving the Lord and his king. He refused to comply with David’s plan to have him sleep with his own wife to cover David’s transgressions. When that plot failed, David basically sentenced Uriah to death by ordering his commander to send him to the front lines of battle, then retreat. Even after Uriah’s death, David did not indicate that he felt any remorse over his various acts of disobedience (2 Samuel 11).
David, the one God himself described as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), had committed both adultery and murder. How does God’s description of David align with the actions described above? Let’s look more deeply at David’s heart.
At the end of 2 Samuel 11, Bathsheba mourned the death of her husband before David sent for her to come to him to become his wife. One can’t help but wonder if, at this point, David thought he had gotten away with his actions. If so, he was sadly mistaken, since the chapter ends with the words “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord” (v. 27).
I love how God handled this situation with David. He didn’t send the prophet Nathan to shake his finger at David and condemn him. Rather, Nathan shared a story that touched David deeply and caused him to think seriously, reflectively, about his own actions.
It isn’t hard to imagine David’s face as Nathan related the story. A rich man took his poor neighbor’s one lamb to slaughter and serve to his unexpected guest, rather than choosing one of his own many lambs. Can’t you just see the shock and anger build on David’s face as he hears about this outrage? He was ready to execute the guilty party for this egregious act (12:1-6).
Now picture how his countenance fell when Nathan proclaimed, “You are the man!” (v. 7, emphasis mine). David must have thought What? How can that be? I haven’t taken anyone else’s lambs! What are you talking about? Then the Lord, through Nathan, reminded David of all He had given to him:
“It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!” (vv. 7, 8).
“How much did you want, David?” the Lord seemed to be asking. And then, considering how much David loved the Lord, Nathan delivered the gut-wrenching blow with this question: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight?” (v. 9).
Could any word be more hurtful for David than to accuse him of despising the word of the Lord? I can almost see his head hanging in shame as he realized what Nathan was referring to. This wasn’t about sheep; this was about him and his willful, selfish actions with Bathsheba and Uriah — sinful actions that amounted to despising God’s word and God himself (v. 10).
But what sets David apart from so many others who sinned is his response: “I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13). It’s a simple, heartfelt answer that is contrite and repentant. No excuses. No arguments. No self-serving explanations.
David and discipleship
David’s example is good for us to follow. Being the Lord’s disciple is a complete commitment to His truth, not despising it. But that doesn’t mean we never fall short of that truth. It does mean that we own up to those errors and humbly ask for God’s forgiveness. Peter wept bitterly when he realized that he had, indeed, denied his Lord — not once but the three times Jesus predicted (Matthew 26:75).
David, too, found repentance for his sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 51 is the record of his powerful prayer (see sidebar).
The cost of discipleship is a full trust in our Lord, absolute dependence on Him and His Word — and a heartfelt confession when we fail in that dependency. We are called to a life of faith in God’s protection and provision. He will fight our battles and lead us in His truth.
When we maintain, as Peter and David did, an unwavering confidence in and honesty before the God of our salvation, then He forgives our failures. They become an occasion to lead others to not despise but rejoice in God’s truth: “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You” (v. 13).