An Unlikely Courage
There was this one time in elementary school when my teacher had come up with a brilliant lesson to teach the importance of following directions. She had handed out a list of directions and told us to read through them and then do what they say. Now, if I had read through the list of directions completely, I would have ended up just sitting in my desk, quietly. But, like the rest of my classmates (with the exception of one or two kids), I followed the crowd and did all the silly things on her list.
One part of it made it obvious that you didn't listen to her directions. It instructed us to go up to the chalkboard and write our name. I remember watching in confusion as other kids began to catch their mistake and they would go up and try to erase their names off of the board. It was at that moment, the teacher stopped the lesson to point out how much work it was to not follow directions and how much work we could have saved ourselves by reading through the directions before acting.
For me, it was a bigger lesson in following the crowd and how the crowd isn't always right.
I heard another story of a man and his son who went to the movie theater. They pulled up to the line and the line was so long, it went forever. They looked at the front of the line and saw two windows open, but the line only went to one window. He and his son bypassed the rest of the line to approach the second window where he asks the woman behind the window, "Is this line for a special purpose or can we purchase our tickets here?" She responds that she was there for everyone, but for some reason, no one was coming to her line. The crowd dictated which window to go to and only this man and his son stepped away from the crowd to discover that they didn't have to wait in the long line.
Do you ever think about how easy it is to follow the crowd? I mean, if you pull up to a movie theater and see a long line, chances are you'll end up waiting at the end, assuming that the crowd knows more than you do. But what if they don't?
It takes courage to step away from the crowd and to do something different.
Read 1 Samuel 17
When I read this chapter, the thing that strikes me is that David didn't go along with the crowd. He pulls up to the battlefield, hears the champion's challenge, and responds. The crowd, the Israelite army, had stood there listening and cowering at the champion's challenge. They lacked the courage that David possessed.
Here's the thing, the Israelites were being led by a man who had rejected God and who had been rejected by God to lead His people. Have you ever noticed how crowds follow leaders? Sometimes leaders lead well, other times they lead people astray. In King Saul's case, he was leading them astray. He didn't value God above everything, he valued his own self instead. As a result, the people he was leading didn't value God above everything, they valued their own selves instead.
Read 1 Samuel 16:7
God looks at the heart.
David was different. He valued God above himself. He valued God over his very life. In fact, without a guarantee that he would survive the battle, David still volunteered to fight Goliath. Not only that, but he RAN. (1 Sam 17:48) He behaved fearlessly. He stood up for his God, knowing that God was worth it all. His heart was dramatically different than Saul's heart. Do you see that?
Here's what David teaches me about courage:
David was set apart to lead. In 1 Samuel 16, we read about how David had been anointed to be king. Anointing means to set apart and in this case, David was set apart for the office of king. But here's what we should lean in and hear, being a follower of Christ sets us apart, too. We're charged to live our lives in a way that reflects the gospel and points to Jesus (Philippians 1:27). David's obedience to God's voice to fight led the army to fight, too. David defeated the champion, then he continued to pursue the Philistines (with the Israelite army) until they had won the victory. You and I, we're set apart to lead the crowd and not to follow it. We're set apart to introduce the crowd to Jesus. We're set apart to be His hands and His feet to this world.
David heard the challenge. In 1 Samuel 17:23, we see the turning point in this battle. The champion had come out and spoken against God and His army for 40 days, but this was the first that David had heard the challenge with his own ears. David sees the fear in God's army (verse 24), he hears how Goliath defied the army of God (verse 26), and he is ready to act. He's fired up to defend his God. He's probably appalled by the lack of courage by God's army, too. Could you blame him? They had seen God do amazing things, they had heard the stories passed down through the generations, but now they look at this giant and they don't believe that God would have the victory in this battle. Is it any wonder that God would choose youthful David to teach the experienced army about God's power? David heard the giant's challenge, but he had also heard the stories of God's power. David knew that God would have the victory.
David wasn't discouraged by the naysayers. In the midst of seeing the fear of the army and being angry at Goliath's challenge, he also had to deal with his brother's anger against him. Eliab's anger didn't discourage David from the battle that God was calling him to.
David ran to Goliath and not away from him. When the Israelite army cowered at Goliath's challenge, David stepped up in confidence, faith, and trust in God. David went out onto the battlefield and at one point, he RAN to Goliath. He RAN!!! Does your faith in God allow you to run towards conflict or away from it? Does it encourage you to act in obedience or shy away in disobedience?
David valued God over his own life. Whether or not God would have the victory in David's battle with Goliath, David could not stand to listen to someone speak against his God like Goliath did. He would fight the giant and win, or he'd die trying. David laid it all out at God's feet, no matter the outcome. Do you have that much trust in God?
Against the Odds: An Unlikely Courage
When I think of courage, I think about how unlikely it was that David went against the crowd. He went against their values, their courage, their earthly king to follow God and His call on David's life. David's courage won the victory against the Goliath and it put an end to the fear that the army felt. David's courage led the army to gain courage, too.
This unlikely courage started with a strong relationship with God.
David's relationship with God had been strong before he stepped out onto that battlefield. It informed his faith and complete trust in God.
When we're facing our own battlefields in life, trust God. Invest in that relationship 24/7! Soon you'll be able to RUN towards the battlefield instead of away from it!