THE BEAUTIFUL BALANCE THAT GOD PROVIDES
I love the story of David and Goliath. While I know that the war stories in the Bible can be confusing and difficult to our New Covenant minds, I still find a great deal of inspiration and application in them — especially as I learn to bravely fight my own battles with the spiritual forces of evil.
But my other love for this story comes from the fact that the story of David starts with a teenager. And having spent 15 years as a youth pastor, I have a great affection for teenagers. I am not surprised by David’s boldness in wanting to step out and shoot down this brash bully. Rather, I am inspired and blessed by it. In general, and more than any group of adults I’ve ever worked with, I find teenagers willing to explore their faith deeply, happy — no, thrilled — to sleep on hard floors in hot buildings to spend hours serving others, and unashamed to sing and dance in worship to their Savior.
And like many teenagers I have known, David quickly evaluates the situation, peppers others with questions, and impulsively volunteers to face the giant. I have witnessed teenagers volunteer to do things with confidence without deliberation, delay, or preparation, relying on what they have been taught and what they know. Just like David the bear-wrestling, lion-slaying shepherd did. And remember, teenagers haven’t had the time to become jaded, worn down, or hotly pursued by our spiritual enemy. In their youth, they often and simply allow their passion for God to propel them in the right direction. And because David’s action was built on a heart sold out to God, it must have blessed God.
However, David’s story does not only include his years of youth. In the following years, we see the great wisdom of God. I am amazed by how God balances the passion of youth with the maturity of age and experience. Sometimes our naiveté keeps us driving forward, flying over life’s ever-higher speed bumps — yet our passion needs to be tempered with discernment and patience and perspective.
And so I appreciate what happens in David’s story after the early victory with Goliath, with 15 years between David’s anointing and his coronation. His amazing bravery and victorious feat in the face of Goliath’s arrogant bellowing did not fast-forward God’s timing. No, God kept the pace at a steady march instead. Why?
I think God was giving time for David’s humble heart to expand wider, for his God-dependence to be anchored more deeply, and his integrity to be tested and found true and reliable. To draw out and develop into his whole being, the character that was already planted in his heart. He was remarkable at 15 but he wasn’t ready. And in God’s grace, for the next decade and a half, he had many opportunities to be sharpened. How wise for God to develop David before he was given great responsibility in leadership!
God granted him favor and victory in battles not only with Goliath but later in other skirmishes with the Philistines, while also giving him an understanding of what it meant to be on the run from a persistent enemy. And his first leading experience wasn’t one with trained professional soldiers, but with a band of distressed, indebted, and discontented men.
What did God teach David in his fleeing and wandering? What did David learn in his desert strongholds, in the Cave of Adullam? I bet it was more powerful than what he could have been taught in the palace.
How important were the counsel of Samuel, the encouragement of Jonathan, and the intervention of Abigail during those days? Likely they were more helpful than the words of court officers currying favor.
How much more did David call out to God, seek God, wait on God, and learn about God while he waited for God’s purpose to be fulfilled? Not unlike the testing of the Israelites in the desert as God transformed slaves into a strong nation; and not unlike the testing of Jesus in the desert as He prepared for an extremely difficult and exhausting calling.
Can I suggest David learned restraint, dependence, trust, patience, respect, wisdom, humility, integrity, and more?
How does this apply to us?
First, we must be careful when we put young or untested people into positions of power quickly without letting God develop their character. There are examples of this all around us. There are young pastors with great passion and skills that are put into positions of power without the necessary character to sustain them. We celebrate quick-rising “minor Christian celebrities,” then we lament when they fall hard and mourn the damage they leave in their wake. But we should have seen it coming.
Second, we have an opportunity to mentor many people around us, especially those in the millennial generation. They have many wonderful talents, much intelligence, and often a holy passion that I believe will help them change the world for the better. But they swim in a pool of instant gratification due to the societal realities that have been present since their birth. Many want to excel quickly without understanding the benefit of the developing years. A fresh perspective on David’s years between anointing and coronation, between slaying a giant and leading a people, may do all of us some good.
What about us? Do we want to propel to the top of leadership before allowing God to test and prepare us? Do we trust not only God’s call, but also His timing? Do we value the situations He places us in in this moment — even when they are hard or monotonous — because they will ultimately be for our own good? Do we seek dependence on God in every humbling circumstance as well as in every victory? Do we base our courage and confidence in the Lord alone and not in our own gratified desires?
May God keep doing His good and gracious work in us. And may our eyes and ears be open to the perfect balance He orchestrates between (1) our beginnings full of a passionate and humble heart; and (2) our future full of maturity and wisdom that is born from time, experience, and relationships. Here’s to Godly character and to the prayer that it will be fully formed and rooted in each of our hearts, until no uncertainty can shake us, no trap can ensnare us, and no weapon can wound us.