Dust off Your David


 

 

We have all heard the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) whereby the Philistine and Israelite armies faced each other on opposite sides of a steep valley, ready to do battle, but knowing that the first army to charge would be at a disadvantage below the other one. To make matters worse for the Israelite army, the Philistines were led by a giant named Goliath, who was much bigger, stronger, and terrifying than the meanest, toughest, and largest football player we can think of. Goliath spent forty days mocking God and the Israelite army, challenging them to send their best warrior in a winner take all match. Saul, the King of Israel, and his entire army were terrified of this guy, and were practically paralyzed in fear and frustration, not knowing how to get out of this situation, much less ever dream of solving it.  In fact, Goliath seemed so much better, stronger, tougher, and bigger than they were, that it started to seem that the easiest thing to do was just give up an surrender. Have you ever faced a test, situation, problem, challenge, or bully that seemed unbeatable?  Were you sometimes tempted to just give up, thinking that it was easier to just run, hide, or avoid what was facing you?  Now you know how the Israelite army felt.

Well, David, the son of Jesse, was a shepherd, and his father sent him to the battleground to find out how his brother were doing. When David heard Goliath mock and defy God, and saw how scared the Israelite army was, he volunteered to fight Goliath himself, which must have made everyone on both sides laugh. After all, they all figured, a teenage shepherd armed with a slingshot and rocks would have to be crazy, stupid, delusional, arrogant, or all of the above to even think that he had any chance to beat a giant, experienced, mean, armed warrior like Goliath. What both sides did not realize was that David was none of these things; He just loved and trusted in God so much that he put all of his faith, efforts, and chances in God’s Hands. He knew that what he was doing was the right thing, and that was all that mattered. Sure, his opponents, and even people who were supposedly on his side, mocked and criticized him but, in the end, he knew that the only Judge, the only Referee, who mattered was God, and that as long as he was doing what God wanted, everything would be alright in the end.

Have you ever seen someone being mistreated, bullied, or made fun of?  Has someone ever tried to make you do something you knew was wrong, or go against what your parents and family have taught you? People who do and say bad things often want others to agree with them, and they will try to push and even force you to go along with them. Why do you think  David refused to think and act like the crowd wanted him to?

Do you know what an underdog is?  Have you ever been an underdog?  The dictionary tells us that an underdog is someone or a side which is expected to lose to an opponent which seems much better, more talented, prepared, or the popular choice of most people. There is that word again, “popularity”; popularity is like ice cream,  pizza, or macaroni and cheese; we all like it, but that does not always mean that it is the right thing for us. That is because what most people like, prefer, or would do is not necessarily what God wants us to do or be. Following God means listening and following God’s Word, His Commandments, and the examples of Jesus, Mary, and the saints.  Praying and coming to Church are very important, and God wants us to do these things, but it is not enough.  We have to go out and try our best to be like Jesus to others. What good is praying and coming to Church if we then go out and ignore or disobey what God wants us to do?  What are we doing if we call ourselves followers of Jesus and then go out and ignore, mistreat, bully, or expect special treatment without treating others as special?  Jesus taught us to love and serve others, to be unselfish not expecting everything for ourselves, to not always look at things from our interest or agenda, and to genuinely care and feel happy for others. If we are not doing these things, we are not following Jesus and obeying God, no matter how much we pretend we are, and we are certainly not being a good example to others either.

The world considers the story of David and Goliath the ultimate underdog story and, as a fan of the Mets and Jets, I know a thing or two about underdogs. However, the popular speaker and writer David Gladwell challenges us to see this story in a different way. The world, the popular view, is that David somehow managed to overcome great disadvantages to beat someone he should have lost to, but that is only looking  at things the way the world measures things.

By the world’s view, Goliath was an unbeatable, experienced, powerful, imposing, and popular opponent expected to win; and David, was a small, insignificant, foolish, punk daring to stand in Goliath’s way. However, Gladwell tells us that Goliath likely suffered from a disease that made him a giant, that he was slow, had bad vision, and was not the brightest person in the world.  We know that Goliath did not respect, credit, or obey God from his actions and words that day, and that he took all the credit for whatever went right. By Heaven’s view, David was a fast, creative, resourceful, intelligent, courageous expert in hitting a target 100 feet or more away with a slingshot and stone who used God’s gifts to maximize his performance. Above all, he loved, trusted, and believed in God above everything, and everyone else. History will tell us that he was certainly not perfect, and had many faults, as we all do, and he accepted the consequences of those faults, but it remains that he offered what he did on that valley that day to God, and humbly gave God all the glory, praise, and credit for it.  He did not seek glory, credit, fame, or any selfish interest for himself on tht day, but rather offered his God-given talents in the service of God.

The world today is Goliath. It  seems to have many advantages, to make a lot of sense, and to have all the answers. It pretends to know right from wrong, and is very happy to push us to follow its preferences on how to be more popular. It mocks and disrespects God and those who follow and love God often, and expects them to grow up, get a life, figure it out, and change to be more inclusive, more positive, and make people more comfortable. It is more concerned with its depiction of truth than what truth really is, and is increasingly intolerant, even while portraying itself as a champion of tolerance, of any views which oppose its version of truth.  It wants us to apologize for being Christians, to surrender our loyalty to God, and to give up trying to follow a poor Carpenter who ended up nailed to a cross for making the wrong people feel comfortable and the wrong people feel uncomfortable.

We can be the Israelite army, shaking in our boots, expecting to lose, apologizing for even being  around, preferring to run and hide, mocking those in our ranks who even try to follow Christ, and  forgetting that faith and belief in God always beats earthly fear and threats. Some people say Jesus was our First David, fighting evil for us on the cross, and they may be right. However, make no mistake about it. If Jesus was David for us, it is our turn to be David for Him.  We all have a David inside us; all we have to do is dust off our David, find the God-given talents God has given us to serve Him and others, take out our slingshot, and find the stones to do what God put us on this earth to do.

Gabriel Garnica,  2014.

 

 

 

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David vs. Goliath Revisted


Like most people, I assumed that I had looked at the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) completely, discerning that it reminded us of the power of faith and, above all, the power of God. Recent readings and study, however, have given me a new perspective. The popular author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell argues that David was not the quintessential underdog that we make him out to be. As a skilled user of the sling possessing great accuracy and technique, David could launch a stone faster than the best major league fastball with pinpoint accuracy.  That skill, of course, came to David through God’s Grace and Will as applied to David’s background and experiences.  David was no experienced warrior in the traditional sense when he brought Goliath down with a well-placed stone to the forehead. He merely used a God-given gift in the service of God to bring God greater glory. That, in a nutshell, is our mission in this life.  Now it happens that, since Christ taught us that our purpose in this life is to love God above all else and serve others in love as Christ did, more often than not, the most effective use of our God-given gifts in the service of bringing greater glory to God is in the service of god through serving others.  Therefore, our primary mission in life should be to discover and apply our God-given talents in the service of God through the example of Jesus Christ.

Many folks point out that David refused to confront Goliath on his own terms, in full armor in suicidal one-on-one combat. Such an approach would have been foolish because it would have played to Goliath’s apparent strengths of size, strength, and experience in hand to  hand combat. Others argue, with valid points, that David so refused, not out of fear but, rather, out of respect for and comfort with his own skills, experience, and gifts.  The lesson here is that we do not have to apply our skills as others would prefer we do but, rather, as is most fitting and effective to our unique style, temperament, and individuality.  God provides the gifts, but He leaves the way we will apply those gifts to serve others up to us.  Interestingly, there is no indication that Goliath knew a thing about slings, nor that he could hit the broad side of a mountain with one.  David, then, attacked his obstacle on his own terms, using what God-given skills he had in the manner most effective and fitting for him. That is the crux of free will in the service of God.  God gives us the ingredients of eternal greatness. It is up to us to prepare the soup using our own recipe which, however, must  include Christ’s example and teaching as the key ingredient.  As Catholics, of course, we can also include what we have learned from the examples of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints as well.

The story goes that David volunteered to confront Goliath upon seeing his disrespect and blasphemy against the people of God and, as well, the reluctance and fear to confront Goliath by the Israelite soldiers given his apparent strength and great size.  God does not force us to apply our skills to serve God. He merely provides us with the tools which, in the course of time, will find opportunities for use. It is up to each of us to seize upon those opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives while serving and bringing glory to God. Obviously, if we use our gifts and those opportunities for self-gain, we will be corrupting the purpose of those gifts and will have to answer to God when the time comes to render accounts for what we have done with our talents.

Gladwell also argues that Goliath likely suffered from acromegaly and the poor vision often seen in people so afflicted.  He bases his views on his own research and study plus Scriptural passages indicating that Goliath did not initially nor effectively assess David’s approach and may have even believed David to be carrying more than one stick, or staff, as he did.  The lesson here, in my opinion, is that those apart from God will always have poor vision for what truly matters, and that will be one of their great vulnerabilities.  By contrast, those who follow and serve God will have a greater vision of what matters to eternal salvation, and will be expected to use that greater vision to help others improve their “in” sight.  Again, we see God reminding us to use any advantages He has given us to serve others rather than to crush them.

Many may argue that David was not exactly serving Goliath when he smashed him with a stone and cut off his head but, actually, he was serving God’s Will and God’s chosen people, the Israelites. This reminds us that we must serve God and God’s Will above all else, and that in the course of serving others we may, in fact, dis-serve others who oppose those we serve.  Simply put, it may be practically impossible to serve everyone as everyone may wish, and that should not be our proper objective.  Every teacher and leader knows that he or she who tries to please everyone is looking for disaster, and mayhem.

Finally, we should note that David did not compromise, dilute, twist, betray, or alter  his purpose, mission, agenda, or actions in order to “reach out” or meet Goliath halfway.  There was no settlement or tie here. God does not deal in ties or across-the-board equality as many clueless people argue a loving God should.  God does not have weekend followers, sort-of followers, or appeasing followers.  Ties and compromises are the work of the feeble who, lacking in the faith of their convictions and brimming with twisted notions of peace, play not to lose rather than to win for God at all  costs and at all times.  True service to God, and the eternal salvation which is promised through that service, is not for the faint of heart, the wishy-washy, or the ambivalent.  John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, and Christ Himself did not play it safe.  The true follower of Christ does not play prevent defense, kick field goals or burn the clock.  He or she goes all out in the faith that God will always be there when needed.  He or she knows that, as Gladwell puts it, sometimes our instinct or perception of where power comes from is wrong…if we do not refine and sharpen our instincts toward God rather than this world.  Gladwell also reminds us that much beauty and power comes from adversity and struggle, and that those who appear to have no advantage by this world’s standards may actually be much more powerful than they appear to be. The implication, of course, is that God is the Ultimate Game-Changer, turning apparent earthly defeat into transcendent eternal triumph.

Now, I no longer see David as the patron figure of underdogs who overachieve or surprise against greater foes.  Rather, I see a David in all of us, just waiting for the chance to overcome obstacles, achieve great things, transform lives, serve and love others, follow Christ and, above all else,  place the gifts and talents God has given us at His Feet, knowing that we have used those gifts as tools, even weapons, of mass salvation!

Copyright, 2014.  Gabriel Garnica.  All rights reserved.