WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
JANUARY 18, 2021
TOPIC: HANDLING DESERTION PROPERLY
BY T. O. BANSO
“He waited seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him to do, but Samuel still had not come to Gilgal. The people began to desert Saul” (1 Samuel 13:8 Good News Translation).
Have you ever experienced desertion? It could be desertion by a spouse, friends, relations, or staff? People desert others for different reasons. Most times, it could be because the persons they desert are going through difficult times, which they are not prepared to endure with them. They could also desert in reaction to certain things that they are against, which they’ve done or said, rightly or wrongly.
Whereas you should be careful not to deliberately do things that can cause desertion, you’re not responsible for how people behave. They can desert you for disagreeing with you for doing or planning to do the right thing. It will be wrong to avoid doing the right thing at the right time just because you don’t want people to leave you.
It is important to know how to handle desertion properly. Desertion is painful but it shouldn’t be your end, the end of your business, ministry, project, mission, etc. You shouldn’t give up because you’ve been deserted or take wrong steps that would further complicate your situation.
As powerful, compassionate, loving, all-knowing, and perfect as God is, people desert Him. The history of the children of Israel sufficiently shows this. The LORD said in Hosea 9:10b that Israel “deserted me for Baal-peor, giving themselves to that shameful idol. Soon they became as vile as the god they worshiped” (New Living Translation).
Israel’s desertion of the LORD pained Him, considering how much He loved them and chose them out of all the nations on the earth. “From among all the families on the earth, I chose you alone. That is why I must punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2(New Living Translation).
Nevertheless, there are consequences for the deserters, especially when their desertion is a wrong decision. Proverbs 27:8 says like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place. A deserter could become a rolling stone that gathers no moss.
Returning to their original place could sometimes be the only solution for some deserters. But God could also, in His mercy, intervene in the situations of some deserters after repentance and work all things together for His good. He could cause something beautiful to come out of their situations.
Talking about the Israelites and the consequences for deserting Him, the LORD said, “For they have deserted me and turned to worthless idols. They have stumbled off the ancient highways of good, and they walk the muddy paths of sin. Therefore, their land will become desolate, a monument to their stupidity. All who pass by will be astonished and shake their heads in amazement at its utter desolation. I will scatter my people before their enemies as the east wind scatters dust. And in all their trouble I will turn my back on them and refuse to notice their distress” (Jeremiah18:15b-17 New Living Translation).
In Hosea 2:13, the LORD said, “I will punish her for all the times she deserted me, when she burned incense to her images of Baal, put on her earrings and jewels, and went out looking for her lovers” (New Living Translation). Hosea 4:10 also talks about the consequences of Israel deserting the LORD: “They will eat and still be hungry. Though they do a big business as prostitutes, they will have no children, for they have deserted the LORD to worship other gods” (New Living Translation).
It is a dangerous thing to desert the LORD. The consequences are far more serious than deserting a human being. Again, with regard to the Israelites, the LORD said in Hosea 7:13, “How terrible it will be for my people who have deserted me! Let them die, for they have rebelled against me. I wanted to redeem them, but they have only spoken lies about me” (New Living Translation). Don’t desert the LORD. If you have, return to Him today. God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; Nahum 1:2). Nobody who deserts or leaves the LORD for any other god, or pursuit, will ever find fulfilment.
Jesus Christ also experienced desertion, so it won’t be strange if you do. His teaching that He was the bread of life was misconstrued. Therefore, many of His disciples turned away and deserted him (John 6:66). How did Jesus handle this desertion? We can learn from Him. Did he compromise? Did he dilute His message to avoid losing the other disciples? Did he abandon His ministry?
John 6:67-69 says, “Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, ‘Are you going to leave, too?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God’” (New Living Translation). Did you see that?
Desertion doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. It doesn’t always mean you should change your method, message or mission. It could sometimes mean that God is pruning you or allowing some people that are no more supposed to be with you to leave. It could mean God is testing you, especially your loyalty to Him. It could mean that God is building your character.
I’m not talking about people who are deserted because they have abandoned God, gone astray, and are pursuing ungodly causes. They must repent and return to God, not complain that people have deserted them. Neither am I talking about desertion in the armed forces or similar agencies.
John 12;10-11 says, “Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus” (New Living Translation). The people didn’t do any wrong deserting these priests. They should have behaved as John the Baptist did instead of trying to maintain the old order. John the Baptist showed the people Jesus was the Messiah. He told them, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 New King James Version). The old order must give way to the new.
Before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, He said, among other things, that when He had been lifted up on the cross, the people would realize, “The one who sent me is with me — he has not deserted me. For I always do those things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29 New Living Translation). Indeed, when Jesus was arrested, all His “disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:55 New Living Translation). Mark 14:50 says a similar thing: “Meanwhile, all his disciples deserted him and ran away” (New Living Translation).
If you were in such a situation, will you feel betrayed by people you have been together for about three years? Will you feel bitter and dispirited? If your answer is negative, that is not the right way to handle desertion. You should rather look unto God, not man. Don’t even look at yourself. Focus on God. That was what Jesus did. Don’t engage in self-pity or play the victim.
If some people have or everyone has deserted you, keep looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Put your trust in Him. Draw strength from Him. Remain focused. Don’t be bitter. Learn whatever lessons you need to learn from the desertion and continue to work with those remaining with you or trust God for new people.
Don’t lower your godly standards or compromise to keep the rest or anyone on your team. Jesus didn’t do that. He even asked if the rest wanted to go (John 6:67). If they had answered in the positive, He wouldn’t have begged them. He would have released them and believed God for new disciples.
2 Samuel 20:2 says, “So every man of Israel deserted David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah, from the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king” (New King James Version). This happened after the quashing of Absalom’s revolt and David was returning to Jerusalem as the king. The men of Judah remained loyal to David. Work with those who are loyal to you. Don’t let the deserters break your focus or discourage you. Eventually, David put down Sheba’s revolt. You can’t rule out desertion.
Beware of making wrong decisions or taking wrong steps because people are leaving or deserting you. Saul made this mistake and lost the throne. “He waited seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him to do, but Samuel still had not come to Gilgal. The people began to desert Saul” (1 Samuel 13:8 Good News Translation).
In 1 Samuel 13:2, the Bible says Israel’s army consisted of 3,000 men out of whom 2,000 were with Saul in Michmash and in the mountains of Bethel, and 1,000 were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. Verses 5-7 say, “Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead” (New King James Version).
This was the terrible situation Israel was. The men with Saul saw they were in danger and distressed. Some were hiding in different places, while others fled. In fact, verse 15 says when Saul numbered the people present with him, they were only 600 men. If we go by the figure of 2,000 men with Saul initially, he had suffered devastating desertion. Compare this to the Philistines’ mighty army above (1 Samuel 13:5). Saul, therefore, did something wrong by offering sacrifice to God which he wasn’t qualified to offer. He also violated Samuel’s instruction to him.
Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:11-12 New King James Version).
What was Samuel’s response? “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:13-14 New King James Version).
What is the lesson in that scripture in the context of this message? Don’t let the people’s desertion make you disobey God. Even if there is no single person left with you and you’re in danger, obey God and leave God with the consequences of your obedience.
Handle desertion well. John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13). He returned for another missionary journey with them but his desertion was not well managed. It led to the separation of both (Acts 15:38-40). Demas deserted Paul. Instead of lamenting, Paul worked with those left with him and told Timothy to bring John Mark with him. Apparently, Paul and John had reconciled (2 Timothy 4:9-11).
The Christians in Asia, including Phygellus and Hermogenes, deserted Paul. However, Onesiphorus often visited and encouraged him (2 Timothy 1:15-18). That’s how God works. God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5). David said when his father and my mother forsook him, then the LORD would take care of him (Psalm 27:10).
Paul experienced desertion but God didn’t forsake Him. He said, “The first time I was brought before the judge, no one was with me. Everyone had abandoned me. I hope it will not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength, that I might preach the Good News in all its fullness for all the Gentiles to hear. And he saved me from certain death” (2 Timothy 4:16-17 New Living Translation).
Don’t be bitter about desertion; don’t walk in unforgiveness. If a deserter repents and wants to return, be led by the Holy Spirit before you take him/her back. Forgiveness is not the same as the restoration of relationships. Handle desertion properly and make sure you’re not guilty of deserting others when there is no biblically justified reason for it. Edom and Israel were close relatives but Edom deserted Israel and mistreated her when she was in trouble. The LORD punished Edom for it (Obadiah 10-16).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, thank You because You will never leave me or forsake me. Holy Spirit, help me to handle desertion properly; let me not do the wrong thing under pressure, compromise, or disobey You. I receive the grace not to be bitter but walk in love and forgiveness. I shall look unto You and not put my trust in man in Jesus’ name.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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