1 Samuel 17:38–40 (NLT) — 38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.
I remember a story Naomi Dowdy told of a young pastor who was being examined for promotion. Naomi is an avid golfer and would often take visiting ministers and guests out to play golf. The young pastor she had her eye on as her possible replacement would often accompany them, but this young pastor caused a little concern. It seemed that when on the course with the guests, the pastor’s game would change. If the guests were long ball hitters, the young pastor would switch to try to become a long ball hitter. The only problem was that he was not a long ball hitter and it affected his game. Naomi would pull the young pastor aside and tell him “play your own game”. After several attempts at trying to play another’s man’s game, , the young pastor caught on and began to play his own game. Naomi then realized he was ready to step into the new position.
Why is it that we attempt to play another man’s game? For the young pastor, he did not want to appear to be less powerful or effective as the guest playing. But, he was placing himself in a situation that revealed his weaknesses rather than his strengths. Golfers will understand this story I am about to tell. I had the privilege today to play golf with a young rising college freshman who is certainly destined for pro-Golf. She drives the ball about 300+ yards and her scores are nearly perfect. When we made plans to play, I immediately began to get a little intimidated, thinking of how ill equipped I am to play with such a high caliber of player. However, I remembered what Naomi said to the young pastor, “just play your own game”. So, the young golfer played from the white tees which are about 20-50 yards further back than my green tees and she consistently hit the ball 30-60 yards further than I hit my ball. Her ball was right in the middle of the fairway and she was often very close to the green on her second shot. All you golfers will understand what I just said. But I never gave it a thought when I had to pull out a much longer club on my second shot than she did. The goal was to get to the green in two, regardless of the club required to get there. When the ball is lying on the green, no one knows which club it took to get it there, only that it’s where it’s supposed to be.
God has given to each of us a journey to travel and often we will look at how another has chosen to travel his or her journey and feel intimidated when our journey does not look the same. When someone else is seemingly successful, or holds a high position, we may look to them and desire to travel the path they have traveled to accomplish our own personal journey. But, what we don’t realize is that on someone else’s path our weaknesses will be revealed rather than our strength.
David was angry that the Philistine Goliath had disrespected the God of the nation of Israel and the Israelites were all shaking in their sandals. David had a call from God to take down the giant and David had a decision to make. Would he use the same tools that King Saul had used? After all he was wanting to impress the King who offered such a lucrative reward for felling the giant. Or, would he follow the path God had place him upon? Saul was a mighty warrior, but Saul’s methods were not to be David’s. David had the wisdom to lay down that which Saul had used and pick up what God had trained him in. The Scripture tells us that David “picked up five smooth stones”. In the Hebrew, the word “picked up” means to choose with careful consideration. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) goes further to indicate “the word is used to express that choosing which has ultimate and eternal significance” (TWOT #231 בָּחַר (bāḥar))
David was not just fighting a battle to destroy a loud mouth giant. Nor was he really fighting only for the reward Saul was offering. David was fighting a battle that had eternal significance and David had to follow the path God chose. With one smooth stone, David miraculously took down the huge giant. Only God could have directed that stone to hit in the perfect place to destroy the giant. Now David could proclaim “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand” (I Sam. 17:46-47). David knew his skill set and he knew his experience with God. “1 Sam. 17: 37 and David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David knew where his confidence lie and it was not in another man’s tools or methods. David knew his skill and ability and he knew the God who had been there for him preparing him for this time.
When we begin to get off the path God has chosen for us, our strengths become secondary to our weaknesses and we begin to move in our own strength, rather than God’s. When we are on the right path, what we could not do in the natural, God begins to do and “eternal significance” happens. There is nothing wasted in life if we will allow God to work through us. David’s preparation to fight Goliath occurred in his ordinary, everyday life as a shepherd. Lions and bears would come (probably sent by God) to hone David’s skills and confidence in himself and God. The same God that was present in the pasture, was present on the battle field. And, the same tools David used in the pasture were used in the battlefield. I tell people aspiring for ministry to not misunderstand the significance of what is happening in their everyday life. The lions and bears (enemy) may be only preparation for the Goliaths that are coming. God is giving us our own individual, personal pathway that is complete with a tool bag for success. It’s time to quit trying on what others are wearing. Seek Eternal Significance in all you do…God will direct!