A mark of the distressing spirit of our age is self-seeking. People love themselves ….a lot. They love pleasure as well. Yet, they still want a form of godliness. This evil is not new. The Old Testament history book of 1 Samuel traces the life of Saul, Israel’s first king. He moves from a self-effacing, meek man to a self-seeking, envious man. While this occurs rather rapidly in the Scriptures, it certainly played out over a span of a several years.
Saul recognized that David was a strong and courageous leader after the famous confrontation with Goliath in the Valley of Elah. But as Israel celebrates David’s victory, they dance and chant: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18.7). This provokes an unstable Saul. He grows very angry and the saying displeases him very much. In short, Saul is envious. Verse 9 says, “So Saul eyed David from that day forward.”
You have to be on the lookout for envy. You have to realize the potential this evil has to become rooted in you. You must battle it by pleading with God to make you more like the Lord Jesus. Saul didn’t seek to know the Lord. He simply allowed envy to destroy him. He didn’t come to serve Israel but to be served by Israel. This brings us to verse 10 of 1 Samuel 18…
“And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.” (1 Samuel 18:10–11)
1 Samuel 16 tells us that the Spirit of the LORD came upon David, but the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul (vv. 13-14). Instead, a distressing spirit was sent from the LORD to trouble Saul (v. 14). Since Saul refuses to obey the LORD, the LORD withdraws His Spirit. This leaves Saul open to evil forces. The LORD may use even evil forces to accomplish His will.
Saul is prompted by the distressing spirit to pin David to the wall with a spear. Saul is not forced to obey the distressing spirit but provoked by that spirit. David played music to calm Saul. It is a solution worked out by Saul’s servants back in 1 Samuel 16.15-17. Once David plays the harp with his hand, Saul will be made well. They think they have it all worked out. But music therapy doesn’t work this time.
Who wants David dead? It is Saul because he is so envious and jealous of David. However, the distressing spirit encouraged the envy and paranoia. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear on at least two separate occasions but failed. The evil of envy will take you to a very dark and distressing place. James wrote,
“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:14–16)
The bad news is that envy still feeds the distressing spirit of our age:
- Envy and anger motivated the persecution of Jesus’ true followers in the first century (Acts 5.17).
- Envy keeps us from the clear light of day (Romans 13.13). We remain in the prison of sin.
- Envy characterizes carnal or fleshly Christians (1 Corinthians 3.3).
- Envy is linked to self-seeking. This keeps a divisive and distressing spirit alive. It spurs people to continue on in disobedience to God. People are driven by there own selfish ambition.
- Envy and self-seeking lead out to confusion. You find every evil thing in an atmosphere of envy.
The good news is that the Gospel frees us from the earthly, sensual, and demonic wisdom from below. It allows us to pursue the wisdom that is from above:
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17–18)
- Living a life of purity means cleaning house. We strive for no moral defect. We strive to live morally and ethically pure. This means our lives are unmixed by anything which would cause double-mindedness or instability.
- A peaceable life is trained by chastening. God-given wisdom yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Our goal is to demonstrate the righteousness given to us by God for His glory.
- A gentle spirit is forbearing, fair-minded, and not quarrelsome. It belongs to those who are truly humble. It is the ministry of pleading rather than coercion and manipulation.
- Those willing to yield are open to reason. They are not stubborn but compliant with their words and attitudes. We could say this is obedience in words and actions from the heart with a happy spirit.
- Those full of mercy and good fruits demonstrate mercy in action not just disposition. The good fruits are produced inwardly in order to be expressed outwardly. These come down from the Father of lights (James 1.17).
- A life without partiality is truly a non-partisan life.
- A life without hypocrisy is sincere and not a pretentious. A person who acts consistently toward all people (without partiality) is a person who is so with not just a select and favored few but with all.
Wisdom comes down from Heaven …down from our Father who is in Heaven. It is a gift we receive rather than choosing to manifest an earthly, fleshly wisdom. Sensual demonic wisdom is the default. It is the distressing spirit of our age.