Is it not a curious thing that whenever God means to make a man great, He always first breaks him in pieces? There was a man whom the Lord meant to make into a prince. How did He do it? Why, He met him one night and wrestled with him! You always hear about Jacob’s wrestling. Well, I dare say he did, but it was not Jacob who was the principal wres- tler—“There wrestled a man with Him until the breaking of the day.” God touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and put it out of joint before He called him “Israel,” that is, “a Prince of God.” The wrestling was to take all his strength out of him and when his strength was gone, then God called him a prince. Now, David was to be king over all Israel. What was the way to Jerusalem for David? What was the way to the throne? Well, it was round by the cave of Adullam. He must go there and be an outlaw and an outcast, for that was the way by which he would be made king. Have none of you ever no- ticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working! He makes you hungry before He feeds you! He strips you before He robes you! He makes nothing of you before He makes something of you! This was the way with David. He is to be king in Jerusalem, but He must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to Heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness? Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave. Why is that?
It is, first, because if God would make you greatly useful, He must teach you how to pray! The man who is a great preacher and yet cannot pray, will come to a bad end. A woman who cannot pray and yet is noted for the conducting of Bible classes, has already come to a bad end. If you can be great without prayer, your greatness will be your ruin! If God means to bless you greatly, He will make you pray greatly, as He does David who says in this part of his preparation for coming to his throne, “I cried unto the Lord with my voice: with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.”
Next, the man whom God would greatly honor must always believe in God when he is at his wits’ end. “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.” Are you never at your wits’ end? God has not sent you to do business in great waters, for, if He has, you will reel to and fro and be at your wits’ end, in a great storm, before long! Oh, it is easy to trust when you can trust yourself, but when you cannot trust yourself—when you are dead beat, when your spirit sinks below zero in the chill of utter despair—then is the time to trust in God. If that is your case, you have the marks of a man who can lead God’s people and be a comforter of others.
Next, in order to greater usefulness, many a man of God must be taught to stand alone. “I looked on my right hand, and behold, but there was no man that would know me.” If you need men to help you, you may make a very decent fol- lower. But if you need no man and can stand alone, God being your Helper, you shall be helped to be a leader. Oh, it was a grand thing when Luther stepped out from the ranks of Rome! There were many good men round him who said, “Be quiet, Martin. You will get burnt if you do not hold your tongue! Let us keep where we are, in the Church of Rome, even if we have to swallow down great lumps of dirt. We can believe the Gospel and still remain where we are.” But Luther knew that he must defy Antichrist and declare the pure Gospel of the blessed God! And he must stand alone for the Truth of God even if there were as many devils against him as there were tiles on the housetops at Worms! That is the kind of man whom God blesses! I would to God that many a young man here might have the courage to feel, in his particular position, “I can stand alone, if need be. I am glad to have my master and my fellow workmen with me, but if nobody will go to Heaven with me, I will say farewell to them and go to Heaven alone through the Grace of God’s dear Son.”
Once more, the man whom God will bless must be the man who delights in God alone. David says, “I cried unto You, O Lord: I said, You are my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.” Oh, to have God as our refuge and to make God our portion! “You will lose your job! You will lose your income. You will lose the approbation of your fellow men.” “Ah,” says the Believer, “but I shall not lose my Portion, for God is my Portion! He is job, and income, and every- thing to me—and I will hold by Him, come what may.” If you have learned to “delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.” Now you are come into such a state that God can use you and make much of you—but until you make much of God, He never will make much of you! God deliver us from having our portion in this life, for, if we have, we are not among His people at all!
He whom God would use must be taught sympathy with God’s poor people. Hence we get these words of David, in the sixth verse, “I am brought very low.” Mr. Greatheart, though he must be strong to kill Giant Grim and any others of the giants that infest the Pilgrim path, must be a man who has gone that road himself if he is to be a leader of others. If the Lord means to bless you, my Brother, and to make you very useful in His Church, depend upon it, He will try you. Half, perhaps nine-tenths of the trials of God’s ministers are not sent to them on their own account. They are sent for the good of other people. Many a child of God who goes very smoothly to Heaven, does very little for others. But another of the Lord’s children who has all the ins and outs and changes of an experienced Believer’s life, has them only that he may be better fitted to help others! That he may be able to sit down and weep with them that weep, or to stand up and rejoice with them that rejoice.
So then, dear Brothers who have got into the cave, and you, my Sisters, who have deep spiritual exercises, I want to comfort you by showing you that this is God’s way of making something of you. He is digging you out! You are like an old ditch—you cannot hold any more—and God is digging you out to make more room for more Grace. That spade will cut sharply and dig up sod after sod, and throw it to one side. The very thing you would like to keep shall be cast away and you shall be hollowed out, and dug out, that the word of Elisha may be fulfilled, “Make this valley full of ditches. For thus says the Lord, You shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water.” You are to be tried, my Friend, that God may be glorified in you!
Lastly, if God means to use you, you must get to be full of praise. Listen to what David says, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name: the righteous shall compass me about; for You shall deal bountifully with me.” May God give to my Brothers and Sisters here, who are being tried for their good and afflicted for their promotion, Grace to begin to praise Him! It is the singers that go before—they who can praise best shall be fit to lead others in the work. Do not set me to follow a gloomy leader. Oh, no, dear Sirs, we cannot work to the tune of “The Dead March in Saul”! Our soldiers would never have won Waterloo if that had been the music for the day of battle! No, no! Give us a rejoicer—“Sing unto the Lord who has triumphed gloriously; praise His great name again and again.” Draw the sword and strike home! If you are of a cheerful spirit, glad in the Lord and joyous after all your trials and afflictions, and if you can rejoice more because you have been brought so low, then God is making something of you and He will yet use you to lead His people to greater works of Grace!
-C.H. Spurgeon Sermon, 2282. David’s Prayer in the Cave