When you choose the wrong river, God always throws you a lifeline. The question is, will you take it?



Happy Mother’s Day.  David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

This past summer, my family and I visited the headwaters of the Mississippi river in northern Minnesota.

It’s amazing to see this tiny stream coming out of this lake, knowing it’s eventually going to lead some place really far away…and change so much along the way.

It brought be back to 6th grade social studies class.

If you grew up in Minnesota, you probably remember learning MN History in 6th grade…as it was a state standard for a long time.

And I can remember learning that the explorers had such a hard time finding the source of the Mississippi River.

And as a 12-year old kid, I remember thinking, “What’s the problem?”

Just keep walking upstream until you run out of river!”

But of course, it’s more complicated than that. 

For instance, for many years, they thought Leech Lake was where the Mississippi started.

There are multiple little streams that flow out of leech lake…all taking you in a different direction…

This morning, I want to talk about two rivers that lead in 2 different directions.

One…the river of following God’s way.

And the other…the river of following the desires, often the sinful desires, of what we really want to do.

And maybe, if you were honest, you’d say, “I have no idea why anyone should really follow God’s ways.”

Maybe to you, like it certainly did to me once upon a time, it seems boring, or lifeless, and certainly no fun.

Can one really find life on a such a river?

Why would anyone seriously choose that river?

And I want to answer that question by looking at a true story in the Bible…of a man who changed his mind…and decided to travel God’s river instead.




We are continuing in our Monarchy series on the book of 1 Samuel today.

(Page 234)

(Renovation App)

We’ve been studying the life of a man who will one day be king:  David

He’s currently is on the run from the evil King Saul

And while David’s is out in hiding, an episode happens that will truly test his character and his willingness to trust in God’s path for him

 (1 Samuel 25:1-18) – NIV

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.[a] 2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite. 4 While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. 5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. 6 Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! 7 “‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’” 9 When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited. 10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” 12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies. 14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” 18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs[b] of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 

Okay, let’s pause there for a moment.

What’s happening??

David and his men are hiding out from King Saul and camping out in the wilderness…and they’re hungry.

Jimmy John’s does not deliver out here.  

Thankfully, Nabal, who’s incredibly rich, is sheering his sheep.

Often, during “Sheep-Sheering,” there would be a time of celebration, and it was customary for that wealthy person to share with those who were less fortunate during that time.

So David, who had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds from raiding bandits, thinks, surely Nabal could spare us some food!

He’s thinking: “One of the reasons Nabal has so much food is because I’ve been protecting his shepherds from Sir Swiper all along!”

But Nabal is greedy and mean and says, “David who?  No way”

And David…snaps.

He tells his men to get their swords because they’re going to kill Nabal and his men.

This is the same David, that throughout the rest of 1 Samuel, is in part famous because he’s the guy that DOESN’T give way to anger.

And yet, all of us have our breaking points.

Even the kindest of people can struggle with rage at times.

And there are some clues in the context.

David’s been on the run from Saul for a long time now…they don’t even have food…He’s spent from life.  

And on top of that, did you catch verse 1? 

David’s great mentor Samuel has just died. 

David is in mourning.

Worse yet, the end of this chapter is going to tell us that sometime recently, while David’s wife was still back at the capitol, King Saul has given her to another man. 

There’s a lot going on in David’s life.

And finally, he just snaps.




 Thankfully, Nabal’s wife Abigail is nothing like her husband.

She quickly gather’s up an enormous amount of food (validating how rich they really were) and brings it to David

The next few verses tell us that when she finds David and his men walking furiously towards her estate, she bows before David with her face to the ground.

She apologizes for her husband, humbles herself before David, and offers him the gift of food.   

And THEN…she begins to softly, yet wisely, speak truth into his life.

And she tells him that God is with Him…and that GOD will fight his battles…and to trust in God’s path…not this path that seems like it’ll help him feel better through revenge.  

And David…does what so many of us are so reluctant to do…he accepts correction.

And he says:

You’re right.

Thank you for keeping me from bloodshed…for taking this into my own hands

Later, he even says, “Praise the Lord who kept me from doing wrong”

Nabal on the other hand, when he eventually hears of what happened, has something akin to a stroke…and ten days later...he dies. 

And in an interesting twist, David asks Abigail to be his wife…now that his wife has been given away.

The key part of the passage is really Abigail’s words to David.  Think about this:  

David is having a hard time…life has been exceedingly difficult.

And for a moment, he decides he’s not going to trust God’s ways.

“Whatever.  I don’t care anymore!”

Ever been there? 

David determines, like many of us do all the time, that it would just be better to do what we want to do, not what God wants us to do.

And many times we have this sense of, “And I don’t CARE about the consequences!  I’m going to do this because I want to!”

Which is almost always the case when we sin.

How else do we get ourselves to do what we, intellectually, know is not going to be good for us?

We throw consequences and the future to the wind, and we say, “But RIGHT NOW, this is what I want!”

But how did Abigail snap him out of it?

What did she say?

Well as I said, she was humble, she apologizes, she offers him gift, she says surely God is with you…

And then she also says this:

 (1 Samuel 25:30-31) – NIV

30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail paints a vision for David’s future.

She says, “David! God is calling you to something great!  You’re gonna be king!  Don’t spoil it in momentary rage and passion.  Trust in God’s guiding.  Don’t have this on your conscience.”

And she’s right.

If David had slaughtered Nabal and his household, it would forever be a black mark against David among the Israelites.

It might also seal his fate before Saul…who would now have a legitimate reason to hunt David as a true criminal.  

And so many of us need people like Abigail…because in the midst of our emotions…and our passions…we’re plagued with nearsightedness…and we can’t really see anything clearly that’s far away. 

Think again of the rivers.

Imagine there is this lake on the top of a hill, and let’s say that out of that lake flow down two rivers. 

Two rivers that start from the same place, but go to vastly different places.

One, let’s call the river of desire, temptation, sin…and that river looks so good…so enticing…so exciting.

It looks like you could go rafting on it, the scenery looks beautiful, it’s crystal blue!  It looks…AMAZING!

But what you cannot see…is that it ends in ruin.

In a devastating waterfall…that if you were still on the river at that time, it would certainly end in your death. 

But, there is a second river flowing down from that lake.

Let’s call it the river of Godliness.

It looks simple…plain…maybe even to your human eye, boring.     

But IT…leads to the greatest pleasure and satisfaction you’ll ever know.

It flows eventually to the most beautiful and satisfying paradise you could ever imagine.    

It’s just a metaphor, but the Bible fleshes out this idea constantly through its pages.

Would it feel better if you just socked your boss in the face sometime?

Yeah, maybe!

It might even feel better right up until he hits the ground

And right about as the thud is heard around the office, you realize, you’re on the wrong river…

You fell for the appeal of sin.

And its sneaky bargain of short-term gain for long-term pain

Would it feel better if you just looked at pornography again?

Would it feel better if you did just finally give into your desires and just cheat on your spouse?

Sure…you might feel pleasure…all the way up until you leave that hotel room, and realize that divorce is on its way…and ruin of your strong relationship w/ your on its way…and…….you’re on the wrong river. 

THAT’S what Abigail is saying to David          

“David, you may think this is what you want right now…but trust me, when all of those men are lying dead covered in their own blood, and your own path to the Kingship is now blocked by your terrible sin…you will know…it was the wrong river!”

It looked good!  It looked like it was going to feel really good!

But trust me, it’s not good! 

Where is this happening in your life?

Where are you on the wrong river?

It reminds me of a true story from WWII.

In 1945, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis was returning from a mission of delivering enriched uranium to allied forces in the Pacific.

It did not make it home. A Japanese torpedo hit the cruiser on its way back. It sank in minutes.

In only 12 minutes, 300 of the 1,200 men died.

900 men went into the water, enduring four days and five nights without food, without water, the blazing sun of the Pacific.

Of the 900 that went into the water, only 316 survived the lack of water and the sharks.

One of those who survived was the chief medical officer who recorded his own experience. Here’s what he wrote:

“There was nothing I could do, nothing I could do but give advice, bury the dead at sea, save the lifejackets, and mostly, try to keep the men from drinking the salt water.

When the hot sun came out, and we were in this crystal clear ocean, we were so thirsty. You could not believe the salt water wasn't good enough to drink.

I had a really hard time convincing the men they shouldn't drink.

If you take away their hope, you take away their water and food, so many just drank the salt water and they would die… fast. I can remember striking them who were drinking the salt water to try to stop them. But they were so dehydrated, they were becoming maniacal.”     

It’s a good description of the of the two rivers.

This what temptation is all about, right?

OF COURSE it looks good at the outset! 

Otherwise, you’d never start down the river

It looks SO GOOD you forgot there even was another river!

Listen, if you could clearly see where sin was going to take you (that it leads to a crushing waterfall or that the salt water would absolutely kill you), you’d never in a million years start on that path

And that’s why we so often need to trust other people…who aren’t, at the moment, nearsighted from emotions.   

Like that medic, we sometimes need someone even to hit us over the head.

Other times, we need someone like Abigail to come to us, ever so gently, and speak wisdom to us.

But we need people.




And let me tell you something about God.

He will ALWAYS send you people like this.

And if not people, something else.

This is a Biblical Truth

(1 Corinthians 10:13) – NIV

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

God always provides a way out.

God always sends a lifeline.

So when you start making the wrong decisions..

And you’re acting…off of your desires…off of what feels right RIGHT now…or feels like it’ll make it better RIGHT now…

And you start wading down that the wrong river…

God ALWAYS sends a lifeline.

A boat…with a rope…and a line to pull you back.

Back to moving with Him…on the right river.

Sometimes, it’s an Abigail.

It’s a person.

Maybe you’re starting to drift away from church…or your House Group…or even God.

And a friend reaches out to you…asking if you’re okay…asking you to come back.

God’s throwing you a lifeline!

Sometimes God just uses situations.

Maybe you were furious at your spouse because of an argument you had

You said the toilet paper should come from over the top, and when they said it should hang from behind & underneath…you couldn’t figure out how you could be married to such a person…

But seriously, let’s say…you had a real fight…and you leave your house in a rage.

An hour later, you return with your verbal guns loaded…ready to unload on them and tell them how stupid they really are. 

But right before you returned, utterly exhausted from your previous argument, your spouse had fallen asleep. 

And God’s thrown you a lifeline.

Rather than escalating your fight and worsening your marriage, He’s given you a way out.

A way to calm down for now and try again later.

I mentioned last week how I struggled a lot with anger when I was younger.

I can think of stories in my own life where I heard something really negative that someone said about me.

So I decided that right then & there, I would write a scathing email to that person and tell them what I REALLY thought of them.

But I can tell you about situations where when I went to grab my computer to write it, the battery was a dead. 

God always throws a lifeline.    

A way out.

THE PROBLEM IS…so often you and I…we refuse God’s lifeline and we keep wading right down the river of sin.

Yeah, your spouse is sleeping, but so what, you wake them up.

Yeah, your computer is dead, but so what, you’ll type a long, scathing email on your phone…T9 keyboard and all!  (JKL!)

And that’s where we have such a great example from David in the Bible.

God clearly throws him a lifeline with Abigail…and he actually takes it!

And he’s able to take the long term view and get back on God’s river rather than yielding to his immediate impulses.

And our story today from the Old Testament is a great example of what the everyday Christian life is like

Walking with God is an everyday experiment of: “Am I going to trust that God’s river is actually better today?”

And when you don’t trust it, and God graciously throws you a lifeline anyway…will you let him tug you back onto his course?

Listen friends, if God is throwing you a lifeline this week…this morning…take it!!




And so we often need people to help us get back on the right river…but we ALL need someone to get us on the right river in the first place.

Because the river of sin…has consequences more serious than just in this life.

(James 1:15) – NIV

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

This is a really common idea in the Bible.

That the result of sin…is eventually death.

Not just your physical death…but spiritual death.

That the river of sin…leads to a deadly waterfall.

So what does that mean?

It means that because of our sin…we are separated from a holy God.

Even the Mother Theresa’s and the Billy Graham’s fall vastly short of perfection

And God, because He is Holy & just, must administer justice because our sins.

And that judgment…is the waterfall that leads to death. 

It’s separation.

It’s an eternal hell. 

It’s impossible to EARN your way to God.

We are way too sinful.

But the answer is found in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Who dies on the cross in our place…for our sins.

(Romans 3:23-25) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.  (End here)

And so, you can be forgiven of everything you’ve ever done by putting your faith in Jesus Christ by believing HE DIED ON THE CROSS FOR YOU.

By committing your life to follow Him in faith.

Jesus, in a sense, is your Abigail.

If you continue on the river of your own desires and sin…I assure you it will lead to separation from God when you die.

I was on this path myself for much of my life.

Each year…getting deeper and deeper into sin…and farther and farther away from God. 

And Jesus is the only way out. 

No one else can make you right. 

And He stands in front of you right now…just like Abigail did for David…

And He says, “Wait!  Stop.  Where you’re going…it won’t work.

“And it certainly won’t work when you die. 

“Follow me.  Believe in me.  I can radically change your life. 

“I can put you on a different path. 

“One that leads to life…both here and when you die!

“I’m giving you…a lifeline.” 

“I can save you from your sins.  I can forgive all of them and set you on a different path.”

Will you follow Him?

And I tell you what…many hear that plea from Jesus…every year…and they ignore it.

They take his lifeline rope…and push it back.

Thinking, “No…not yet.  Maybe later” 

But I want to tell you…later is not guaranteed.

This is a difficult Mother’s Day for me.

About 10 days ago, I found out that my mother has stage 3 cancer

The doctors have operated and removed much of the cancer, and she’ll begin chemotherapy…and it’s certainly a challenging road ahead.  

I’d appreciate your prayers.

I do have people around me supporting me.

This is why it’s so great, and I’m so thankful I’m in a House Group…to have people there for me.

But I tell you what, when it’s your own family…mortality hits you differently.

We didn’t “see this coming”

And listen, God can do anything…and I don’t know what He’ll do. 

But what I do know…is that in your life…not even tomorrow is guaranteed. 

Goodness, a man was just killed a mile from here this weekend…39 years old…just walking on the sidewalk, when a car, driving too fast around a corner, hit him. 

So listen, if you know…you need to be forgiven…that you need to start following Jesus.

Then do it today.

Believe that He died for you and start to follow.

In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want to give you an opportunity…right now…to decide to grab Jesus’ lifeline…to be forgiven.   

If you want to do this …in just a moment, if you’re ready to believe in Jesus Christ…to give your life to him for the first time…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.

It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am.  I’m grabbing your line”

NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!).  This is about you and God. 

I just want to give you an opportunity to get off of the sidelines of indecision…and make, what will be, the best decision of your life.  

So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.

If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real.  That means…it’s TIME.   If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God.  Accept His forgiveness.  Start a new life with Him.  It’s amazing!

If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?

It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths. 

So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me

IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe. 

So, let’s all say it together with these new believers. 

Repeat after me

Dear God

I confess to you, that I have sinned against you. 

But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place

And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins. 

And now I commit, to following you, with my life.  

(you can keep your eyes closed)

If you are standing, I need you to do one more thing for me.

It will only take 2 minutes, but it’s 2 of the most important minutes of your life.  

Our follow-up team is back there by the blue rectangle to give you some extremely important resources to get started on the most important journey in your life.

So head back there…it’ll only take 2 minutes…and you’ll be able to sneak back to your seat.

Let me pray (You can go back)

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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