“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:32-33
Goliath had challenged the Israelite Army to send one man to fight him – winner take all. The stakes were high. No one wanted the responsibility that would come with fighting Goliath. No one had the confidence they could defeat Goliath. And this included King Saul. After all, the warrior who lost that battle would not only lose his life, but doom all of Israel to be the slaves of the Philistines.
But along came David, a shepherd boy. You can put the emphasis on both “shepherd” and “boy.” Notice the lack of warrior in his curriculum vitae. Yes, he claimed to have killed bears and lions in defense of his sheep, but who could be sure? He was only a boy. He was only a shepherd. So why did King Saul allow David to fight Goliath? If David were to lose, the entire Israelite nation would be in bondage to the Philistines. Certainly it would be irresponsible of a leader to empower a youth who had been untested in battle to take on such responsibility.
We are often encumbered with concerns about the qualifications of others in the service of Christ. We are often afraid to empower the called. Perhaps we don’t trust their calling. Or just maybe we want others to conform to our preconceived ideas of how to slay the giants in our lives, our churches, our communities. Even when Saul had decided to empower David to fight Goliath he gave him the traditional warrior’s garb. But David shed it quickly in favor of his own garb in which God had empowered him to fight lions and bears, and on this day, Goliath himself.
How quickly we are to judge the aptitude of others for service based upon the tools we think are needed to accomplish the task. But the only aptitude anyone needs to serve in God’s church is to be called by God. We are too often enamored with the tools people possess to slay the giant in our midst to even recognize whether or not they are called to the task at hand. If God can use David to slay the giant, he can use anyone He calls to perform any task He chooses. We focus on talent and giants. God focuses on the heart where His call will find residence. Perhaps if we were to learn to recognize God’s call in our own lives, we would recognize it in the lives of those around us. Perhaps our questions of one another seeking to serve in God’s army would focus on the call in our hearts rather than the talent in our heads.
I don’t know why Saul allowed David to fight Goliath. I suspect he was not focused on David’s call from God. But whatever the reason, it was the right decision and one for us to prayerfully consider as we seek to empower others in God’s service. May we always remember the lessons from this battle between David and Goliath. May we remember that battles are won by God through us as He empowers us to use the tools that we already possess. That is why spiritual gifts are fundamentally different from talents. The soldiers in Saul’s army had plenty of talent with all of the right tools. But it took a shepherd boy who knew God’s voice and responded to His call to slay the giant.
Israel didn’t learn the lesson inherent in the victory that day, which doomed them to defeat after defeat. But we don’t have to repeat history. We can learn the lesson. We can seek to know God’s voice, hear His calling, and allow Him to defeat the giants in our own lives. And then when He calls us to slay even bigger giants in the world around us, we will be ready with our sling shots and pebbles.