By Kevin Freeman
(Editor’s note: Courage for Crisis is a series of devotionals by Kevin Freeman, associate pastor at Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland.)
Watch enough sports championships and you’ll become familiar with a certain look in players’ eyes toward the end of the game: defeat. Unless it’s a nail-biter match, the game crosses a threshold at some point, where we-can-still-come-from-behind becomes there’s-no-way-we-can-win. I most remember seeing this look in The Super Bowl. When five minutes remain in a game with a three-score margin, those cameras begin looking for faces of the soon-to-be-defeated team. A close shot lingers on the face of the losing team’s running back, revealing a deadpan, almost vacant expression. That look of defeat does not lead to come-from-behind victories. It paralyzes.
Maybe one day the screen will show a convenient side-by-side pair of shots of that player before and after the game. The guy who had fire in the belly before the game who now has indigestion. Before the game he was boisterous; now he is subdued. This about-face happened to King Saul. One wonders how Saul carried himself when he led Israel to encamp across the valley from the Philistines. Surely he had some swagger, some bravado. He was the king who routed the surrounding peoples in sound military victories (1 Samuel 14:47-48). If anyone had the hot hand, it was Saul. So why did young David find his king quailing before the enemy?
It was because of one man. The king who had notched several victories over entire armies now quaked in his armor. Goliath had tamed the mighty Saul. Aside from being huge, Goliath had a couple of other things going for him. He had a booming voice and the guy could sure layout some killer taunts. Some people are all mouth with nothing to back it up. Others can back up what they say, but their voice still gets lost in a crowd. Goliath was the total package. This killing machine came equipped with a trash-talking amplifier. Words really can build up or destroy.
And then there’s David. This youngling could be written off as an over-eager puppy. He basically was. His brother Eliab was peeved that David was running his mouth and tried to call him out as an attention-seeker. Since brothers exist mainly to frustrate each other, we could chalk this up to sibling rivalry, but Saul also tries to shut down David’s attempted bravado. Saul had heard through the rumor mill that some brave warrior actually wanted to go toe-to-toe with the giant. Who could this experienced, muscular titan of a warrior be? David’s appearance must have underwhelmed Saul. His response to David was basically, “Beat it, kid!”
David, however, would not be so easily turned away. He shared how he protected his sheep by killing a lion and a bear. This fun-sized Philistine was behaving like those beasts and would end up like them, too. David’s reasoning won the day. He did not brag about his own abilities. He declared God to be the deliverer. In this, he agreed with Saul’s point. He was just a kid. This kid had seen God’s power to protect and bring victory. A person who has seen God’s power at work is able to trust God for the next obstacle. He also cannot bear to see someone disparage God. David’s fortifying words convinced his king and he received permission to face his opponent.
God looks for the zealous. In a crisis, God wants people who will be devoted to him. David learned about God through his experiences in a pasture, but those experiences translated directly to the battlefield. That zeal had to convince even the supposed God-fearers to trust God. There is a reckless quality to zeal. The zealous are ready to sacrifice everything for their cause. If your cause is God, then going all-in is your best move.
When the crisis comes, you get to choose where to turn. Maybe you have a fallout shelter. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper. Perhaps your investments bring you consolation. If your trust is in these, they cannot deliver you in a real crisis. An entire army was subdued by the taunts of one abnormally large man. It was David’s zeal for God that allowed him to move against the current. He was not about to allow anyone to speak about his God like that!
David’s trust could not be partially on God and partially on human efforts. Saul’s armor taught him that. The best human protection hindered the protection God offered him. David rejected any armor in favor of the ability to freely fight and trust in God. When David went up against this Philistine, it was poetic beauty. I’m not talking about the slung stone which encountered Goliath’s skull. I mean the trash talk. David saw that Goliath was all bluster, and he dished the talk right back to this shrinking giant.
In his speech, David exposed Goliath’s weapons for the harmless toys they were against God. He remembered the truth that we so often forget. An omnipotent God stands at the ready to provide strength to those who follow him. Let me inject a quick dose of reality. Many have sacrificed themselves while making the same kind of stand which David did. When we invoke God, it does not oblige him to rescue us from our own recklessness. Yet God clearly exalts those who are reckless for him, whether in this life or the next.
Are you willing to take a reckless stand for God? Will you be the one who stands out when all hope is seemingly lost? David’s example reminds us to put our zeal for God in front of all other concerns.
- Why do you think David was able to have the confidence to stand up against Goliath?
- What might have happened had David not determined to face the Philistine giant?
- When challenges arrive, are you more often timid and worrying or bold and zealous?
- How does David’s example motivate you toward greater boldness?
- King Saul had seen great military success but now was fearful. When have you lost confidence and instead became timid?
- What is one “giant” you are facing right now? List any current obstacle or source of fear or worry?
- How can you respond to this giant with an attitude of confidence in God?
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
- Bring encouragement to someone who needs a reminder of God’s power.
- Share a 2-minute version of this story with someone who does not know Christ.
- Memorize 2 Timothy 1:7
Confident zeal is rooted in God’s strength, not ours.
- David’s first words to Saul were, “Let no man’s heart fail,” because of the Philistine giant. When have you seen a crisis cause a group of people to fall into despair?
- Although David had no standing, his bravery and zeal for God, instilled tremendous confidence and faith in God. Why do you think his attitude was different from the defeatist attitude of the Israelite army?
- Zeal for God rather than personal glory was David’s motivation. How does this inform our own stand for a cause?
- Pray together, asking God that confident zeal for his glory would motivate you to action.