Smoke billowed on the horizon. Smoke where there should be no smoke—at least, not a towering column like this one.

It couldn't be good.

Terrorists. What else could it be?

* * *

As we approached we could see a few flames licking at piles of rubble. Yet where there had been homes, streets, playgrounds, gardens . . . there was nothing at all. Smoke, ruin, ashes. Nothing more.

Shocked into immobility, we could do nothing but gape. Where were the homes? Where were the women and children?

We poured over the edge of the embankment—some sliding, some jumping, some running headlong, falling, getting up, and falling again. Each man ran to the area where his home had been, hoping against hope to see someone moving in the wreckage: a beloved face, a form staggering out of the devastation. But there was no one. And no sound but the dry crackle of flames, fanned by a lonely desert wind.

Where were the bodies? We saw none. The terrorists must have kidnapped every woman and child in the village!

We wept without shame. Some cursed; some called out names in their anguish. Muttering among themselves, clusters began to gather, glancing at one another, nodding, fingering their weapons. It was like the moment before a violent thunderstorm, when the air becomes taut and stifling.

That's when he collapsed on his knees and convulsed in agony. It's not as though his loved ones had been spared.

We couldn't help but watch. And as he poured out his sorrow, pleading for help and hope and direction, his body language began to change. Tension seemed to drain away from his shoulders. His hands unclenched, and he lifted his head as he prayed. Finally rising again to his feet, he wiped away his tears, squared his shoulders, and spoke with a steady voice.

* * *

Say what you will, something happened by that rock on the edge of total devastation. In those few moments, he had found strength, confidence, and fresh resolve. God must have given him a plan too, because it wasn't long before we set off like the wind on the trail of the invaders.

In that moment, we could believe again. And rising among us was the confidence that we would recover from the ashes of Ziklag all we had lost . . . and maybe even more.


My best friends are in the Bible. Let me introduce you to one of my closest:  David.

The two of you have already met? You did recognize him, didn't you? You probably know him better as King David, but when this incident took place (see 1 Samuel 30), he still had a long road ahead before he would take the throne of ancient Israel.

And that brings me to something truly remarkable.

David has been gone from this earth for more than three millennia. Yet he and I still meet weekly. He still teaches, he still speaks, he still encourages and trains.

By walking with David amid the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, I find help and strength for challenges that come my own way.

And he's not alone—he's among a choice community of top-flight instructors! Over the years I have sailed with Noah; I have trekked with Moses. Entering the world of the Bible to learn from my friends and heroes changes me.

Jeremiah saved my life. Nehemiah buoyed my faltering ministry. Through his
struggles with riches and greed, Solomon tutored me to be a person of excellence without opulence.

I have often heard young leaders decrying the scarcity of mentors. But we have been looking in the wrong places, for the greatest mentors will not be found among those currently on earth. They await us from another gallery.

When the student is ready, the mentors will appear. These heroes and legends
have been expecting you.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)