The journey of faith is full of mystery and paradox. One of my favourite scenes from Scripture is in 1 Samuel when an exhausted David, on the run from the murderous King Saul, finds himself holed up in a dark cave at Adullam. It’s here that David composes Psalm 142, which ends with these desperate but hopeful words: “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”

God always hears and answers our prayers, but not always in the way we expect Him to. David receives one of these unexpected answers to his prayer. We’re told in 1 Samuel 22:2 that: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.” David inherits a rag-tag bunch, which Eugene Peterson describes as those “who were down on their luck—losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts.” I doubt this is what David meant when he prayed that the “righteous” would join him. But this rabble became David’s Mighty Men, a group that became famous throughout Israel for their courage. What a beautiful scene and how typical of God!

Last Sunday I spoke about the frustration we often feel when God colours outside the lines we draw for him, working outside of our plans and timeframes. But the reality is that we follow the One who created the cosmos and everything in it—the One who sees the bigger picture and knows what lies ahead. Like David’s prayer in the Cave of Adullam, God often brings answers out of unexpected places so that we might know that He is God and find new reasons to believe. And like those ‘down-and-out’ guys who were transformed into an invincible fighting unit, we often find our purpose and answer “on the way.” Not stuck in a world of sustained introspection, but as we courageously step out into serving God and others.

One of the mysteries and paradoxes of our faith is that God often meets our needs out of our own generosity. But that inevitably takes courage! When Jesus first announced his ministry, he held up an obscure widow from the Old Testament as an example of faith. She and her son were on the brink of starvation when the prophet Elijah asked for her last ounce of oil and flour. Imagine how hard it must’ve been to give that last meal to a stranger instead of her own son! Yet out of her courageous generosity, God miraculously fed her family during three years of drought.

As a pastor, I’m most inspired by the stories of people at St Paul’s who respond creatively, courageously and generously out of their own needs. You never know, just like David in that dark cave, your needs may end up being a blessing to countless others. So where is God inviting you to see your places of lack as an opportunity to be “strong and very courageous” today?

Rev Jonny Grant