What God can do with whatever you do well

Many of us often ask ourselves “What can I do to serve God?” but we’re less likely to combine that question with this one: “What do I love to do, and do well?” The narrative of 1 Samuel 17—one of the most commonly told and perhaps most commonly mis-told narratives in the Bible—brings those two questions together.

Usually the narrative of David and Goliath is told as though David’s killing of Goliath was the result of  an almost “impossible miracle” he expected and received from the hand of God. Now, I believe God sometimes does break in and do what seems to us to be almost impossible. However, I do not think this approach is a fair treatment of the narrative we all think we are so familiar with.

As Richard Bauckham says in his book Finding God in the Midst of Life, this event need not be seen as a “miracle” at all.  In fact, it seems pretty clear that David himself did not see it as an “impossible miracle.” There is actually nothing in this story that any of us—even an atheist—needs to find straining to the imagination. Malcolm Gladwell, in his May 11, 2009 article in THE NEW YORKER (“How David Beats Goliath: When underdogs break the rules”), suggests that what we see in 1 Samuel 17 is a young man who thinks outside the box—a young man who is not captive to “the expected.”

And, this is exactly how the narrative reads. David (probably about 16-17 years old) explains to Israel’s King Saul and his great general Abner that he is really good with his staff and sling. He has protected his family’s flock of sheep for years, and he has killed both a lion and a bear in the process—he’s quite confident that he knows how to use these weapons well.

Saul and Abner first tell David to forget it, then decide they might as well let him give it a try (undoubtedly, they expect him to die in the process). But, they at least want to make a show of preparing him to go, so they attempt to transform him into what is expected to be presented in such a situation—a warrior with armor and sword. Of course, David has neither the muscle nor the training to use either of these well. Thankfully, he was psychologically strong enough to just say, “No, that isn’t me; not my gift!” (Someday, it would be his gift and training, but he certainly doesn’t know that now.)

David then goes out, without armor or sword, to meet the tall and mighty Goliath. From all appearances, David plans to fight Goliath with a staff, which could be a pretty good weapon in ancient warfare but obviously would be a poor choice with Goliath’s advantage in both “wingspan” and strength. Goliath rightly surmises that he can take this youngster and his staff in minutes.

But the staff is really a camouflage hiding David’s real intent. David, probably out of a combination of youthful hormones, athleticism, and boredom while tending sheep alone, has learned to split a hair with a sling and a rock. He has loved practicing and he knows he is good. Suddenly, instead of bobbing and weaving as expected in an assault with a staff by an undersized warrior, David starts running directly at Goliath. And, in the middle of this surprising move, notches a rock in his sling, and aims it at Goliath’s one vulnerable spot  which is not covered with armor: between the eyes.

What does this have to do with you? Well, here is my question: What is there in your life that you love doing and know you do pretty well? (Remember, it may not seem “religious” at all.) Would you be willing to make that ability/gift available to God to see what God might do with it in the midst of the real, everyday world? God might teach you to act outside the box in a manner that blesses others in quite unexpected ways!

I once saw about 20 people become seekers of God because a man who loved to drum for dance classes and his dancer girlfriend began to think outside the box. I personally began to seek God through the influence of someone who loved playing basketball as much as I did. Do you love, and are you pretty good at, writing, blogging, facebooking, coaching, reading, PTA-ing, homeschooling, making money, driving, art, drinking beer or coffee and discussing hot topics, running, gardening, baking…? Would you tell the Lord that you love it, you are pretty good at it, and if God sees anyway to use it outside the expected boxes you are available?

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