Good Advice for Great Leadership

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

This is the essence of the kind of leadership that God blesses: If you will position yourself to be a servant of the people, the people you serve will always serve you. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t grasp the brilliance of God’s logic. Humanistic thinking leads them to see the people as their servants, and once they attain power, their overriding effort is to retain it—on the backs of the people. Ultimately, that philosophy of leadership always fails—either in a shortened shelf life of that leader’s administration, or in the negative consequences of future administrations. Rare is the leader who understands that his or her divine mandate is public servant. When a leader truly understands that at an organic level, there you have the making of a leader for the ages.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 12:6-11

Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?” The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisors. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?” The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

What a contrast we find in this account between really good and really bad advice. Especially if you are a leader, or aspire to leadership, you ought to listen up on this one! What you will get here in just a few lines is better than anything you will get through years of education in the world’s best business schools—and a lot cheaper.

The story revolves around the transition of leadership from King Solomon to his son, Rehoboam. We don’t know for sure, but we can surmise that growing up in the luxurious living of his father’s kingdom had led to a sense of entitlement. His sense of reality was askew from all Solomon’s well-known kingly excesses—all the women and all the wealth. As the new king, Rehoboam wanted what his father had amassed, and them some, without doing any of the hard work to get it. But his father had gained much of his wealth on the backs of the Israelites; the people had paid heavy taxes, endured the conscription of their sons for the king’s army and the confiscation of their property for royal use. And now that Israel had reached an unprecedented level of security and success, the people rightly asked for a little relief from governmental demands as administrations changed hands.

When the request for relief was presented to the new king, he wisely asked for advice, first from his father’s experienced counselors, then from his untested friends. But he unwisely rejected the former and heeded the latter. In essence, his posses of spoiled friends advised him to double down on the demands his father had made of the people, and it turned out to be a mistake of epic proportions. Of course, the spiritual forces for a national rebellion had been seeded during Solomon’s backsliding, but Rehoboam didn’t help himself by following the bad advice of his tin-eared buddies. As a result, the nation split apart—the north broke from the south, and Israel never again existed as a unified nation.

So what is the leadership lesson we learn from Rehoboam? It comes from the rejected advice of the older counselors: “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.” (1 Kings 12:7). Don’t miss that—it is the essence of leadership that God blesses:

If you will position yourself to be a servant of the people, the people you serve will always serve you.

Unfortunately, most leaders don’t grasp the brilliance of God’s logic. Humanistic thinking leads them to see the people as their servants, and once they attain power, the overriding effort of their administration is to retain it—on the backs of the people. Ultimately, that philosophy of leadership always fails—either in a shortened shelf-life of that leader’s tenure, or in the negative consequences of future administrations. Rare is the leader who understands that his or her divine mandate is public servant. When a leader truly understands that at an organic level, there you have the making of a leader for the ages.

Are you a leader, or do you aspire to leadership? Serve your people, and your people will always serve you.

Going Deeper With God: Memorize the words of Jesus found in Mark 10:42-45, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Man Up!

ThanksLivingThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Gender is under assault in our culture: manhood is emasculated, femininity ridiculed or clownishly sexualized, and childhood obliterated. Christians need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female, and by giving our children the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood in loving, protecting, nurturing, stable homes where God’s Word is honored.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 2:1-4

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”

Most of the commentaries you read on 1 Kings 2:2 skip over the line, “act like a man.” There are likely many reasons for ignoring it, but in the modern era where great energy is expended and demands are made to neutralize gender difference, my guess is one of those reasons is that pastors and theologians want to avoid any hint of political incorrectness.

But if God is unchanging—which I believe, and the Word of God is true—which I believe, and if scripture speaks with relevance, sensitivity, grace and fairness to every age and culture, including ours—which I believe, then what about this line? Did God through King David just tell the king-elect, Solomon, to “man up”? Yes he did! The Apostle Paul said similarly in 1 Corinthians 16:13,

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.

Now if you use a modern thought-for-thought translation of the Bible, like the NIV or the NLT, which I think are wonderful options for reading God’s Word, they leave out the phrase, “act like a man.” As an aside, that is why it is not a bad idea when you study a passage to compare translations, like the ESV or the HCSB, which are excellent word-for-word translations (see https://www.biblegateway.com as an excellent online option for side-by-side Bible translations). But the point I want to make is that in the Greek text, the word for man is there—it is andridzomahee, which most definitely refers to masculinity.

So does the Bible recognize gender differences? Yes—God made us male and female, and we are to celebrate God’s design. No matter what a our crazy culture insists on today (believe me, it will be different tomorrow, and worse!), God’s Word is unchanging, perfect in all its way, and will lead us to “prosper in all you do and wherever you go,” as David said to Solomon. God has built in to humanity differences that are existential. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with me while my little grandsons are at my home. Boys are very different, intrinsically, from the little girls my wife and I brought into this world.

But does the Bible promote male superiority? Not a chance. You will never find that in scripture, including here, and if you do, you are fundamentally misreading God’s Word—and that misreading is a grievous error. It just so happens that in the two instances I’ve quoted where men are told to “act like a man,” the conversations happen to be with men. If the speakers were talking to women, they would say, “now act like a woman.” Similarly in scripture, sometimes people that are being childish are called out for “acting like a child” or “acting like an infant.” Nothing more is meant to be read into the author’s words. Simply put, men are called to biblical manliness in the sense that they are to courageously and confidently pursue the mission that God has assigned them. That is what it means to “man up.”

So what were David and Paul saying to the male listeners standing before them at that moment? Simply this: the walk of faith to which you are called is not for the feint of heart, so be courageous; put on your big boy pants and do the right thing. If you do, God will bless you. If you don’t, you are going to get run over. If you won’t, then get out of the way.

We are at a time in our culture where maleness is being emasculated, femininity is either put down or clownishly sexualized and childhood is being obliterated. As Christians, we need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female and then giving us the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood through the process of childhood in loving, protecting, nurturing homes that honor God’s Word. We will be going against the grain if we live out this orthodoxy, but it will be the only way to save our kids and our culture. And it will take from us, male and female, what both David and Paul called forth:

Now man up!

Yes, man up, and put mature courage on display before a watching world!

Going Deeper With God: The best witness to God’s design in a culture that has “exchanged the glory of God” for caricatures of the divine design (Romans 1:23) is to display through your daily life God’s ideal for human beings. Today, with God’s help, being living proof of an all-wise Creator.

How To Be A Success

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If you are going to be a success before God, most importantly, and before man, what will be the key to that worthy achievement? Simply this: an attitude that is deeply and organically humble, a heart that is quickly and fully responsive, and a will that is entirely and lovingly submitted to God’s purposes.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 5:10 & 12

David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him…And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

After some twenty years since he was first anointed by the prophet Samuel to be Israel’s king, David is finally sitting firmly on the throne with the entire nation united under his leadership. And the nation is about to enter its golden era. Interesting, and quite instructively, if you were to compare this chapter to the ascension of Saul as King over Israel in 1 Samuel, you would notice quite a different approach these two kings took—and with drastically different outcomes. Here are several significant contrasts between David and Saul:

  1. David covenanted before the Lord to be a shepherd of his people. 2 Samuel 5:3 says, “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.” This stands in stark contrast to Saul, who often gave in to the pressures of the people, and at times, was led by them rather than the Lord. 1 Samuel 15:24 points out, “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”
  2. David inquired of the Lord for direction. 2 Samuel 5:19 says, “so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” On the other hand, Saul would sometimes go his own way first then ask the Lord what he thought after the fact, as is painfully pictured in 1 Samuel 13 and 15.
  3. David obeyed God’s direction. 2 Samuel 5: 25 tells us, “So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.” Saul’s leadership, on the other hand, was unfortunately characterized by disobedience: “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.” (1 Samuel 13:13)
  4. David gave God credit for his victories: “So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.” (2 Samuel 5:20) Sadly, Saul was addicted to his own glory: “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor.” (1 Samuel 15:12)

Not only were the leadership styles of these two kings diametrically different, so were the results of their respective reigns. David became greater because God was with him but Saul’s kingdom was taken away because God had left him. Both men started out their careers with a promise from God that he would be with them and bless their efforts. But one ended in success while the other ended in failure.

What was the difference? David approached his role as king with an attitude that was deeply humble, a heart that was fully responsive, and a will that was entirely submitted to God’s purposes. Saul, well he was sitting on his own throne, if you know what I mean.

That was the difference between success and failure—and what a difference that was.

Going Deeper With God: How are you doing in those vital areas: Humility of the spirit, responsiveness of the heart and submissiveness of the will? Maybe it’s time for a spiritual check up in those areas.

How To Get Promoted—God’s Way

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In your desire to advance professionally, just remember that God’s promotions come in God’s time and in God’s way—you don’t need to help him out by trying to hurry them along. Furthermore, it is never wise to build yourself up by putting others down—to showcase your strengths by exposing the weaknesses of others is not God’s way. Likewise, remember that when God destines you to be a leader, be a patient and genuine follower under present leadership—even if it is flawed. If God has put a desire for leadership in your heart, you can be sure that he has also planted the right moves inside you that will take you all the way to the top.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 3:36

All the people took note [of the way David transitioned royal power from King Saul] and they were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them.

In the ways and means of God’s kingdom, there is a right way and a wrong way to assume power. David’s rise to kingship is a textbook case of the right way—he was a man who made all the right moves on his way to the top.

The old king, Saul, was dead, and now nothing stood in the way of David’s ascendency to the throne of Israel. He was the rightful king of God’s people since the Lord, through the prophet Samuel, has called and anointed David as leader. Furthermore, in all of those difficult years in which King Saul had tried to eliminate the upstart shepherd boy, God had been training David how to “king it”, and now, at long last, he was throne-ready.

You will notice in these opening chapters of 2 Samuel, however, that even though King Saul, the last obstacle standing in the way of David’s prophetic rise to power, was now dead, still David did not seize the opportunity to thrust himself upon Israel as its new leader. Rather, he waited for a Divine opening of those doors critical to his assumption of the throne. Likewise, David demonstrated an uncanny leadership savvy in this delicate political situation by refusing to be opportunistic. You will see particularly in 2 Samuel 1 how David’s response to the news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathon distinguished the king-in-waiting as a different kind of leader than King Saul had been:

In reading this account, one can’t help but be moved by David’s authentic grief at the news of Saul’s death. (2 Samuel 1:11-12) Rather than rejoicing that their tormentor was dead, David and his men tore their clothes, mourned and fasted until evening. David empathized with a grieving nation at this time of loss—the loss of a king, a prince and an army. At this moment, David was not the king-to-be; he was first and foremost an Israelite who personally felt this national tragedy. He had lost a king and a father-in-law, and he had lost a brother-in-law in Prince Jonathan who happened also to be the closest friend he had ever known—and it hurt deeply. Furthermore, regardless of Saul’s ungodly and ineffective leadership, David still viewed Saul as the Lord’s anointed, and since “the anointed” had been killed in battle, that alone was reason for grief.

Furthermore, David distanced himself from a power-grabbing promotion to kingship. (2 Samuel 1:13-16) Instead of proclaiming himself to be the new king, he pulled away from the suggestion proffered in the presentation of the dead King Saul’s crown that it was now rightfully his. Indeed, in passing a death sentence on the Amalekite who had delivered the news and offered the crown to him, David still spoke of Saul as “the Lord’s anointed.” (2 Samuel 1:14,16)

Chapter one ends with a classy move on David’s part: He immortalized King Saul in song. (2 Samuel 1:17-27) In a heartfelt outpouring of David’s heart, this lament paid tribute to Saul and Jonathan as a source of pride, strength and inspiration to Israel.

Now we can learn a great deal from David’s approach to promotion in these chapters that would serve us well in our own journey toward advancement in life. For one thing, David shows us that God’s promotions come in God’s time and in God’s way—and we don’t need to help God out by trying to hurry them along. Furthermore, we learn from David that it is never wise to build ourselves up by putting others down—to showcase our strengths by exposing the weaknesses of others is not God’s way. And finally, when God destines you to be a leader, be a patient and genuine follower under present leadership—even if it is flawed.

If God has put a desire for leadership in your heart, you can be sure that he has also planted the right moves inside you that will take you all the way to the top. So as God brings the opportunities and opens the doors before you, be sure you are making all the right moves!

Going Deeper With God: There are three indispensable requirements if God is calling you to a leadership role: One, patience, two, patience, and three, more patience. Your assignment today is to practice patience. The good news is, since it is a fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will be there to help you.

Courage!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

It is precisely out of the darkest of times when someone steps forward to attempt the heroic that the courage of one lifts the hearts of the many. Courage! Every age, including this one, needs men and women of courage who will be sold out to certain convictions that drive them to act, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives, but because it is the right thing to do. That is courage, and in itself, it is victory.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 11:11-13

But when the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their mighty warriors traveled through the night to Beth-shan and took the bodies of Saul and his sons down from the wall. They brought them to Jabesh, where they burned the bodies. Then they took their bones and buried them beneath the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.

Courage! Nelson Mandela, a man of remarkable courage himself, wrote, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Perhaps Mandela was describing the brave warriors of Jabesh-gilead.

We don’t know their names. We don’t know anything about them really. But the one thing we do know is what will cause them to admired as men for the ages: they were courageous. Risking all that they possessed—their homes, their families, their very lives—to invade the much larger and more powerful Philistine territory, they put their sacred honor on the line to honor God. They mustered the courage to rescue the abused bodies of King Saul and his sons, marching through the night straight into the enemy-occupied city of Beth-shan and through whatever resistance the Philistine guard may have mounted. Once they had retrieved them, they gave King Saul, Jonathan and the other brothers a proper burial. Moreover, they secured a moral victory in an otherwise dark time for the nation of Israel.

There is not much to cheer in 1 Samuel 31, just this courageous act. Israel is at a low ebb, and the prospects for brighter days is exceedingly dim. There has been no coronation of David as Israel’s new king yet—in fact, that is several years off. Furthermore, at this point, as far as anyone might know, David has sided with the Philistines. This is a dark time indeed for God’s people. But that is what makes what the warriors of Jabesh-gilead did so much more spectacular. It is precisely out of the darkest of times when someone steps forward to attempt the heroic that the courage of one lifts the hearts of the many.

Courage! Every age, including this one, needs men and women of courage. I want to be one, how about you? But where does it come from? Like the men of Jabesh-Gilead, it arise from three intertwined sources:

  1. Principle: They were sold out to certain convictions that drove them to act. N.D. Wilson wrote, “Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.” It was the right thing to do, so they did it.
  2. Compassion: They cared deeply for what had been done to the people of Israel; they cared out of deep loyalty the royal family, and they cared deeply about the reputation of God. As Lao Tzu said, “From caring comes courage.”
  3. Anger: They were mad. They were morally offended. Their sense of godly pride had been challenged, and they had to respond. Much of the sacrifice to achieve a worthy cause comes from righteous indignation, and the men of Jabesh-gilead were that, fighting mad. Eric Hoffer rightly observed, “Anger is the prelude to courage.”

Courage! To paraphrase from Cicero, people of faith must be people of courage—unassailable principle, deep concern, and righteous indignation. May that be true of you and me.

Going Deeper With God: What is causing you to shrink back in fear? In the face of fear, step forth and do what is right. That is called courage, and not many people exhibit it.

Cave Time

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Cave time—everyone gets it. The cave always reveals just how much work God still has to do to get you ready for great things. In the cave of Adullam, God revealed to David that his good looks, musical skill and winsome personality weren’t enough for the kind of king Israel needed. Saul had that—looks, skill, charisma—but he didn’t have the kind of depth with God that the leader of God’s people needed. David needed more of God; the testing of the cave clearly revealed that.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 22:1

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there.

If you are like me, you want to live in the never-ending summer of God’s blessing—the sunshine of his grace—where you’ll flourish and enjoy a fruitful life. But to get from here to that land of spiritual fruitfulness, you will have to first endure some “cave-time”.

The cave is core curriculum in the school of spirituality. Call it whatever you want: the pit (Joseph’s “cave”), the desert (Moses’ “cave”), the prison (Paul’s “cave”), the wilderness (Jesus’ “cave”), the cave is to Christians what Camp Pendleton is to marines: Boot camp! It’s basic training for believers. Every believer gets cave-time!

The cave is the place of testing. It’s the blast furnace for moral fiber—where your mettle gets tested! Put a person in the cave of distress, discouragement, doubt or delayed hopes and true character is revealed. The cave always reveals just how much work God still has to do to get you ready for great things. In the cave of Adullam, God revealed to David that his good looks, musical skill and winsome personality weren’t enough for the kind of king Israel needed. Saul had that—looks, skill, charisma—but he didn’t have the kind of depth with God that the leader of God’s people needed. David needed more of God; the testing of the cave clearly revealed that.

The cave is also a place of learning. David recognized that he needed “cave time” so he could “learn what God will do for me.” (I Samuel 22:3) In the cave, David learned what it meant to fully depend on God, because God stripped him of all his misplaced dependencies: his position (David went from fair haired boy to fugitive overnight), his friends (David was separated from his best friend, Jonathon), his spiritual mentor (Samuel died while David was in the cave) and even his dignity (he actually had to feign insanity to escape the Philistines). These were all good things in David’s life, yet God knew that they were a barrier to the great things he had in store for David. So God removed them.

The cave was perhaps the most frustrating period in David’s life—but in hindsight, it turned out to be the most fruitful. That’s because the cave is also the place of forging. As an unknown poet said, the cave is where you are, “pressed into knowing no helper but God.” And that’s exactly what happened to David in the cave of Adullam. Through the discipline of that place, David came into a profound experience with God, and that is the one thing David would need to be a great king.

That’s what God does in the cave. And by the way, God does some of his best work when we are experiencing “cave time”. It was there in the cave of Adullam that David wrote three of his most moving psalms—Psalms 34, 57 & 142.

Psalm 142 shows us that David learned to talk openly and honestly with God—and that God could handle David’s raw emotion. David got brutally honest with God in the cave, and it was great therapy: “I cry aloud to the Lord…I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:1-2)

Psalm 52 shows us that David learned to toughen up in the cave, because God was training him how to “king it!” That’s why David said of his “cave time” experience, “I cry out to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

Finally, Psalm 34 shows us that David learned to look for God in the cave. It was there David found that God was his all-in-all, and out of experience he penned Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

So here’s the deal: If you are in a cave right now, I want to remind you of some good news: You are not alone—God is with you. And furthermore, God understands all about caves. He’s been there! You see, the son of David, Jesus, was stripped of everything, too. He lost his position as a spiritual leader. His own family criticized him. His friends ran away. He lost the adoration of the cheering crowds. He suffered the mockery of a trial and the humiliation of a cross. And when he died, they buried his lifeless body in a cave, and it looked like it was over!

But God does his best work in caves, because it’s where he resurrects dead stuff! That cave was where a dead Messiah became a Risen Savior…and your cave is where your dead dreams, or maybe your dead ministry, or perhaps your dead career or even your dead marriage will take on resurrection life.

Your cave may be very deep and dark and devastating, but here’s the thing you need to know: God works in caves! So stay patient, pliable and trusting—your resurrection is coming!

Going Deeper With God: What a great reminder, that, as Spurgeon said, “Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” Perhaps it would be a good idea right now to thank God in advance for the grandeur that he is forging from your “cave time”!

If Past Performance Is Any Indicator…

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Ever wonder where David got his courage to fight Goliath? Was he just a naturally brave warrior, experienced in battle, skillful in hand-to-hand combat and just spoiling for a fight with an oversized blowhard, or was there something else? There was something else! David, though just a young man, had walked with God in an unusually intimate way. That, more than anything, qualified him as a giant–slayer.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 17:32-37

David told Saul, “Don’t worry about this Philistine, I’ll go fight him!” Saul replied, “Don’t be ridiculous! 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.” But David persisted, “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats. When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Ever wonder where David got his courage to fight Goliath? Was he just a naturally brave warrior, experienced in battle, skillful in hand-to-hand combat and just spoiling for a fight with an oversized blowhard, or was there something else?

There was something else! David, though he was just a young man, had walked with God in an unusually intimate way. Prior to facing the Philistine giant, David had spent countless hours in the quiet and solitude of the wilderness watching over his father’s sheep. Hour after monotonous hour of herding sheep, passing the time by plinking Coke bottles with his slingshot—well, maybe he had other targets—writing songs of worship and talking to God, were interspersed with moments of sheer danger when wild animals would attack the flock. In those heart-pounding moments, the only thing standing between the vicious animals and the decimation of his father’s livelihood was David—and God!

David’s time as a shepherd turned out to be a critical period of preparation for what was to come, because it was then that David had come to experience the continual presence and faithfulness of God. In those moments of distress and danger, the strong help of the Almighty had never failed; time and again, God stood by David, helped him, saved him, and the young shepherd had come to know in the depth of his being that the One who walked with him was a covenantly faithful God.

So why was David so courageous when he stood before Goliath? He was simply drawing upon the reservoir of God-confidence that had piled up in his heart. He just knew that he knew that the same God who delivered him from every past danger would deliver him from this present one. God’s past performance was a surefire indicator of what was about to happen. How could it be any other way?

So, have you got a Goliath in your life? I’ll bet you do—a big, hairy, intimidating problem breathing down your neck! You see, Goliath is still around, though he comes in a variety of forms: an impossible financial situation, a nasty boss or a threatening co-worker, a rebellious child or belligerent spouse, a physical problem or a helpless sick loved one. All of us face Goliaths, and the natural thing to do is what the Israelites did: shrink back in depression, cower in fear and run from the battle.

But that would be to live way beneath the level of confidence, joy and victory that God has willed for his people. So learn a lesson from David—Goliath may still be around, but so is God. He hasn’t changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And he is still a covenantly faithful God—he can’t help himself.

Has he helped you in the past? Has he provided for you? Healed you? Protected and delivered you? Has he brought you this far? Why would he not do today, and tomorrow, what he has done in the past?

He will! So put your confidence in him. Get your eye off Goliath and on to God, because the One who delivered you from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver you from that nasty old Philistine. It’s just what God does!

Going Deeper With God: What is your current Goliath? Spend a moment reflecting how God has taken care of your past giants. Then…go find five smooth stones!