Leadership Lessons – Part VI: David Fights Goliath – Part III

Being Yourself in Your Calling

Reading from 1 Samuel 17.15-40:

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

In this study on the leadership lessons that God taught David as he was preparing to be King of a nation, David had learned:

The lesson of being underestimated: People may underestimate what a leader can accomplish based on any number of factors.

The lesson of submission: In order to be a good leader, one must first be a good follower

The lesson of knowing when to risk: Leaders take risk in order to lead. Knowing when to assume risk and when to demur from risk is essential for good leadership

The Lesson of Authenticity: Being Yourself in Your Calling

After David had learned what Goliath was doing day after day – defying Israel and the Lord Himself, David inquires about the reward for the man who would take out Goliath. One wonders if David hadn’t already decided in his heart to go fight, but was asking this question in almost as a sidebar. David’s larger motivation, it seems, is to defend the name of the Lord and defeat a rather annoying and arrogant person in the process: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

His own brother’s “despised” him. The text doesn’t tell us why, so we are left to speculation. It seems to me that they despised him because, in part, he was showing a faith in God and a confidence that (in their minds) bordered on arrogance. There is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance and those who are not walking closely with God often get the two confused. David learns that those who most oppose you as you move out for God may be those who are closest to you. And we also learn that it is not unbiblical to be motivated by rewards – cf. Matt 6.19-24.

So David volunteers to fight Goliath. He is probably around 20 at this point. When he is taken to Saul, the King, who himself is terrified of Goliath, Saul discounts David to his face. He tells him he is too Young to fight and that he lacks the proper experience to handle a difficult situation like this. Doesn’t David know that Goliath is older, wiser, and more experienced at fighting? It is so often true that those in leadership who demonstrate an inability to solve tough problems will still discount those who think they can. Saul is portrayed as a man hanging onto a no-win situation – something that leaders who move projects, teams, organizations or countries forward – cannot afford to do. And we learn that those who have deep faith in God never find themselves in a no-win situation because with God, all things are possible.

So David gives his resume to Saul. He has killed lion and bear and besides, God will kill Goliath for His own glory. David couches this in terms of rescue: God will rescue me from Goliath. The only possible way that God could do this without bringing shame on His name is to ensure that David kills Goliath.

Consenting to this seemingly foolish plan, Saul nevertheless wants to give David every chance possible to win. So, Saul dresses David in His armor. Now, remember that Israel didn’t have swords and spears for every fighting man. Only Saul had such weapons. In this context, a sword was the latest and greatest weapon of warfare. The Philistines had them – the Israelites did not. The present day analogies are clear: To be successful, one must adopt the latest techniques and technologies. So, do this ministry this way and you’ll be successful using our methods and our tools and our philosophies. But David is right to throw off such things: If the present leader’s methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader (in this case, Saul) impotent to lead a nation against a Goliath (or any seemingly insurmountable problem), why would those who believe that Goliath can be defeated depend on that leader’s ways? If the leader’s dependence on the latest techniques and technologies, methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader unable to act, why would we adopt those elements if we intend to win? Saul is the picture of a leader who is paralyzed by the belief that there is no winnable solution. And this is because he lacks faith and confidence in the power of God.

David rejects the armor and will kill Goliath as he had the lion and bear – with the King’s armor. David will trust God for deliverance. So he goes to the brook and picks up five stones , though he will need only one. David approaches Goliath alone. Note the contrast: Goliath – big, bold and bombastic – has a shield bearer in front of him. David – confident and swift – comes alone. David predicts victory and gives the glory to God before it happens: This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

David “ran quickly” toward Goliath. Note the contrast: Israel “ran” from Goliath while David “ran” toward him. We learn from this that Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively. David slings his stone and kills Goliath, who falls face down, just as Dagon had fallen earlier (5.1-5). For those who don’t walk with the Lord (both unsaved and carnal Christians), God’s way seems foolish to them. Yet, often, God’s way is one of comparative loneliness and risk. David didn’t ask Saul to “back him up” – David had the Lord and that was enough for him.

This victory defied natural explanations. David didn’t use conventional techniques or the latest technologies. Yet this victory brought to each nation what they needed: Israel needed to see God at work and the Philistines needed to know that God exists and is more powerful than any of their gods. America is such a stunningly unbelieving nation: we search high and low for natural explanations for miracles. We defy faith, unless it is faith in ourselves. And some Christians make it worse: they are only interested in miracles of healing or other “cool” stuff that provides immediate excitement but little long-term glory to God. But if you want to see the full power of God at work, then consider this: the greatest miracle that God ever performs is a life changed because God has regenerated them and given them a new heart and a new nature (cf 2 Corinthians 4).

At the end, the writer doesn’t tell us that Saul thanks David or is pleased with David’s faith and what God accomplished through him, instead, Saul appears to not know who David’s father is and is most concerned about having him join his court. Saul is the picture of a leader who has the form of Godliness but lacks its’ real power. Saul is the picture of a self-centered leader who intended to follow God but who really doesn’t. The church has many such leaders.

Learning the lesson of Authenticity:

  • Being faithful to the experiences that God has given you
  • Being faithful with the gifts that God has given you
  • Being true to the methods you feel comfortable with and which have stood the test of time

What we learn from David’s route of Goliath is this:

  • Don’t be surprised if opposition to your ministry efforts come from those closest to you
  • Rewards are sometimes a proper motivation
  • Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively
  • Greatest miracle is a life changed because God has regenerated them
  • Godly leaders factor in God’s presence and power: Ungodly leaders do the opposite
  • Faith in God plus your willingness to follow God is a greater combination than anything the world can throw at you

Bill English, CEO


One thought on “Leadership Lessons – Part VI: David Fights Goliath – Part III”

  1. It is hard at times to take a Biblical stand; But we don’t know how many people that are whcnaitg us; We have a testimony to uphold; and yet even if know one is looking we have to live with ourselves I work at a Christian Drug and Alcohol Center; I don’t except a drink that someone else will give me.

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