What David Can Teach Us About Assuming Risk in Business
Consider the text of our story in this post from 1 Samuel 17. 12-24:
Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah w of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
David goes to check on his brothers as directed by his father, Jesse. Goliath has been challenging Israel for 40 days – twice each day. David arrives as they are going to their battle lines with a shout – which is just for show since Israel runs in fear when they hear Goliath’s shouts. We find that David is surprised that the army is putting up with Goliath’s rantings and is afraid of him. Including Saul, David is the only one with God’s perspective on Goliath, so David volunteers to fight him. Saul consents and David fights Goliath. God delivers Israel, not David.
God had prepared David for this moment back when he was tending sheep: God delivers David from the lion/bear, in which David learned faith, confidence and integrity. He was stretched into comfort zones and as he matures, God is constantly stretching him. Increasingly, God places David in a situation where he must demonstrate faith, confidence and integrity. It is true of all leaders who are developed by God: He asks leaders to live out publicly what He has taught them privately and asks them to serve through example.
Note also, that David wasn’t expecting this event when he started out that morning. But he was able to respond because he had been developed by God in Discerning the real issue, knowing God’s character, experiencing God’s deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin. As a result, David developed a Godly integrity which allowed him to take on increasing levels of responsibility for the Lord’s work.
What can we learn about assuming risk?
David took a real risk in this story by putting himself out in front as the person who would fight Goliath. So, what are the elements in this story that allowed David to take on this risk? I would submit to you that David took this risk because:
- He had God’s leading to do so
- He understood the core issues and elements from God’s perspective
- He had a clear plan for success that was both reasonable and attainable
- He was able to draw on his own experience and talent that had been previously developed
- The potential reward was worth the risk
When you’re facing a decision about whether or not to risk, the first thing you should not is if you have God’s clear leading to take on the risk. The other 4 points are moot if you don’t have God’s leading. But if you do have God’s leading, check yourself on the other four points. Usually God will supply sufficient resources in those four points that the assumption of the risk is a reasonable decision.
Bill English, CEO