August 9, 2010
The story is told that Andrew Jackson’s boyhood friends just couldn’t understand how he became a famous general and then the president of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson’s friends said, “Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now.” Another friend responded, “How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn’t they usually say three times and out?” “Sure, they were supposed to,” the first fellow responded, “but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat — he would never stay ‘throwed.’ Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner.”
Picking up on that idea, someone has said, “The thing that counts is not how many times you are ‘throwed,’ but whether you are willing to stay throwed.” If you ignore the bad grammar, there is a powerful lesson to be learned here, and there are perhaps few in the Bible better than David to illustrate that lesson. He was a man who knew what it meant to be throwed, but never what it meant to be defeated.
Absalom worked for four years to win the hearts of the nation away from his father, King David. The Bible says that Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” He stood in the city gate and whenever anyone came with a lawsuit, a grievance that they needed to bring to King David for a decision, Absalom would intercept them, hear their story, and always take their side. When David heard that his son Absalom had amassed an army against him, he fled from Jerusalem with his faithful remnant, all of them weeping as they left their beloved home, not knowing if they would ever return. David fled the city, but he did not abandon his responsibilities as king, though he was tempted. He wrote a psalm during this event and lamented in one line, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”
Have you been there? Have you found yourself in the middle of a struggle that you would just as soon not have to go through? Warren Wiersbe said, “When we find ourselves in the midst of trouble, our first thought is, ‘How can I get out of this?’ But the dedicated believer needs to ask, ‘What can I get out of this?’”
David’s desire to hightail it and escape conflict was the honest response of a real person. Had David followed through on that desire, however, he would have left the people of God without a leader. That’s often the result when men and women throw in the towel during tough times. They walk away from their post, and perhaps find temporary relief from the immediate demands of leadership, but the price is too high. There is always something precious lost when leaders fail to lead. Always.
Where does the courage to stay in the fight come from? God. He had put David in many trials before this one, and David had learned perseverance. Each time he was tested, David had learned that his only hope was in God. He had learned that leaders are not the strongest, the smartest, or even the bravest. Leaders are those who have simply learned to follow God, no matter the cost. Leaders are those who, though often throwed, never stay throwed.