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Faithful in the Little Things
I did not grow up going to Sunday School and church worship. Except for the high holidays (Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day), our family stayed home on Sundays. My older sister had a bad experience in her first grade class one Sunday morning. The next Sunday, using crocodile tears as her weapon of choice, she pleaded with my parents for our family to go to the park instead of church. They acquiesced, claiming this was only for this particular Sunday. The next Sunday I joined my sister in our appeal for anything-but-church. Pretty soon a pattern was set, and so I grew up missing the great stories and lessons of the Bible.
Nonetheless, even in my lack of exposure to Biblical teaching, I knew the story of David and Goliath. I’m not sure when exactly I heard or read the story of the young, future king of Israel bravely facing the giant warrior of the Philistines, but I do remember loving this story and the young hero it highlights. Who doesn’t delight in an obstacle-overcoming, brave-hearted underdog winning a great victory against an arrogant, loud-mouthed bully?
With the armies of each nation gathered on opposite hillsides, David fearlessly strode into the valley of Elah and defeated this giant nemesis of the Israelites. The spotlight shone brightly on him as he expertly slung the stone and buried it into the forehead of his adversary. The crowd behind him cheered as he pulled the sword from Goliath’s sheath and removed the head of the now-former taunter of Israel. It’s easy to imagine David turning and facing the Israelite army and, with a broad grin on his face, holding high the head of Goliath. The soldiers collectively let out a deafening cheer, then chase down the fleeing Philistines, winning a great victory for Israel.
It’s such a great story. It’s exciting, moving, and incredibly memorable. Even those who’ve never opened a Bible know the basic plot of this account. David and Goliath has become an expression for any scenario where the little guy wins a great victory over the stronger competition. It’s a wonderful, timeless tale with invaluable lessons on the danger of pride and power of faith.
However, it’s not the whole story.
David, the Pizza Delivery Guy
The events of that day didn’t happen in a vacuum. David didn’t simply materialize out of thin air and suddenly appear before Saul in the Israeli camp. His slingshot wasn’t a magical weapon bestowed upon him by his fairy godmother. The fatal stone wasn’t a heat-seeking rock developed by the genius head of research, “Q” from the James Bond series. The backstory of David’s life is critical in understanding the events of that day.
The account of David and Goliath is found in I Samuel 17. After describing the battle scene and the 10 foot tall Philistine soldier, the setting shifts to the home of Jesse, father of David. Neither were at the battle. Jesse, presumably, was too old. David was too young and was needed by his father to tend the sheep and help with other duties on the farm. However, Jesse wanted to contribute to the war efforts and hear about the status of his other sons. Here is what we read:
Jesse said to his son David, “Get at least half a bushel of grain that has been cooked. Also get ten loaves of bread. Take all of it to your brothers. Hurry to their camp. Take along these ten chunks of cheese to the commander of their military group. Find out how your brothers are doing. Bring me back some word about them.
As we read these words, we must keep in mind that Jesse’s directive to his youngest son happened in the shadow of I Samuel 16, where David was anointed to be the next king of Israel. While this was a not-yet-realized reality in his life, he was nonetheless the heir to the throne of Israel. Jesse gave to his regal son the task of carrying bread and cheese to the battlefront. This one who was now royalty was ordered, essentially, to deliver pizza to his brothers.
One could easily imagine David saying to his father, “You’ve got to be kidding me! This is ridiculous! I’m the future king of Israel, and you want me to put a Domino’s sign on my donkey and deliver pizza to my brothers? That’s not a job for royalty!” If this were a Disney production of
David’s life, he’d then break out into song with, I Just Can’t Wait to be King.
However, that’s not how the story goes. David obeys his father’s instructions. David dutifully transports the bread and cheese to his brothers… at the battlefront. He delivers pizza to the very place where he would face Goliath, where he would have his moment in the spotlight, and where his actions would cause the name of David to be on the lips of everyone in Israel.
Had David refused to carry food to his brothers; had David felt this task to be beneath him; had David asserted his rights and refused to serve his father and brothers in this manner, he never would’ve had the opportunity to face Goliath. It was his faithfulness in the menial job of food delivery that led him to his moment of greatness.
God’s Preparation in the Mundane
Notice as well how David won the battle against this giant. Sure, we like David’s words of bravery and faith. The last words Goliath ever heard began with, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty….” (I Samuel 17:45, NIV).
They are wonderful, inspirational, stirring words. It has all the qualities of Mel Gibson’s fiery speech before his troops went into battle against the English army in Braveheart. It has the emotional, memorable nature of Tom Cruise declaring to Renee Zellwegger, “You complete me.”
These words of David prepare our hearts for the big, miraculous, God-intervening-and-guiding-the-next-events kind of moment.
However, was a miracle really needed? Was David’s bullseye shot only possible through God’s providential action? Did the unseen angel Gabriel suddenly swoop down, grab the stone, and then carefully insert this rock into the dead center of Goliath’s forehead? Or, perhaps, was there a more logical reason David had the aim of a SWAT team sniper with that slingshot?
Remember David’s profession before his job change led him into the “kinging” career? David served as a shepherd, spending hours watching and tending to sheep. In those long, boring, mundane days, he practiced using a rod to defend those sheep against predators. As well, he learned how to become an expert marksman with a slingshot. I imagine him slinging rock after rock at the skinniest tree in the field, methodically backing up from the target and improving his accuracy at longer and longer distances. Eventually, from 10, 50, and even 100 feet away, he was striking that narrow trunk every time.
It wasn’t that God suddenly invaded the body of David that day on the battlefield and miraculously bestowed upon him the ability to fire that stone at his intended target.
God prepared David in the mundane, menial task of shepherding for this great moment in his life. David’s faithfulness in the little things, in doing what God called him to in his younger years is what gave David the necessary skills for this later task. He became deadly accurate with the slingshot through his long days of tending sheep.God prepared David in the mundane, menial task of shepherding for this great moment in his life. David’s faithfulness in the little things, in doing what God called him to in his younger years is what gave David the necessary skills for this later task.
Demanding and Entitled
While this is certainly a generalization and not applicable across the board, the Millennial generation has been given the dual labels of “demanding” and “entitled.” Of course, who can blame them? Their parents and coaches bestowed upon them participation trophies in every sport they played, regardless of their individual or team’s performance. By the sheer act of their parents paying a registration fee, they were given this reward. And it’s their fault that they now act entitled?
Moreover, they grew up in a world where music, movies, and television shows were accessed instantly. They never knew a time when you had to adjust your schedule to be sure you were home by 8PM on Thursday to watch The Cosby Show. They’ve never had to wait for a tape to rewind in order to listen to one’s favorite song. These entertainment avenues, in their lifetimes, have been available at will. How can we now blame them, then, for being demanding?
Regardless of the reasons, though, there is great danger in these attitudes. The cliche image of a Millennial is the student who graduates from college and expects to have the boss’s job and corner office on day one of their employment.
Of course, it just doesn’t work this way. There are many important lessons to be learned before taking the head seat at the boardroom table. Faithfully adhering to those seemingly lesser duties lays the groundwork for the later, bigger moments. Showing up, working hard, learning from mistakes, and a willingness to do whatever it takes provides the needed skills to later have the spotlight moments.
Like David in the field or carrying bread and cheese to his brothers, faithfulness in the little tasks is what leads us to serve well on the larger stages of life.
Heeding the Little Foxes
This ancient proverb speaks loudly to our lives today: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15, NIV). It’s not a tornado, an invading army, or the boll weevil ruining the vineyards. The grapes weren’t destroyed in a sudden, dramatic manner. It was inattention to the slow and incremental consumption of these small foxes. It wasn’t going to happen overnight; yet, without addressing this issue, the vineyard would, nonetheless, eventually be no more.
So often we give our attention only to the obvious, seemingly momentous issues of life and fail to be faithful in the little things.
Marriages rarely (if ever) go from blissfully happy to miserable in a 24-hour span. There are little things, small foxes, that over time eat away at the relationship. Faithfulness in the mundane, everyday aspects of life are what build the foundation for a marriage that can go the distance. It takes work and effort. It requires attention to the smaller details of life.
Earlier this year, my husband and I wrote a book together, Why Toothpaste Matters, which included a workbook component. We designed this for couples to use over a six-week period as a way to communicate about their expectations on a wide array of topics, from grand dreams for the future to how the after-dinner dishes should be cleaned. We’ve discovered that the greatest enemy of our marriage is unmet expectations — both in the larger issues of life and in the smallest of details. We’ve fought just as hard over the placement of a piece of furniture as we have about the purchase of a home. Communicating our expectations to one another helps to protect and grow our relationship, as well paint a gospel-picture for others through our marriage just as God intended. Faithfulness in catching our little foxes will save the vineyard of our marriage.
Last summer my husband had a similar epiphany regarding our children. As our older two have entered the “tweenage” years, we’ve both had an elevated awareness of the need to shepherd their hearts. Our children will not simply wake up one day and become faithful, committed followers of Christ. Restricting them from the big sins of life isn’t enough. We realized we needed to be much more intentional, both in the big events of life as well as the little, more mundane moments. My husband decided to meet with our two tweenagers each evening before bed and read through the book of Proverbs with them. At some point during his day, he would read a passage, write out some thoughts, and create questions for our two. Eventually he wrote out this devotional guide, naming it Wisdom for Tweens. Prayerfully, hopefully, using it a few moments each day will make a big impact on their lives.
I’m sure that as he sat under the Middle Eastern sun watching his sheep graze, David couldn’t imagine the future battle he would face against the colossal Philistine. Even as he packed the food supplies for his brothers and journeyed to the battlefront, he had no idea what incredible moment awaited him. All he knew was that God had called him to be faithful in the little things.
So that’s exactly what he did.
Bio of guest writer Katie Mills
Katie Mills is a wife, mom of four (bio and adopted) kiddos, and pastor’s wife in Georgia. She is also a Christian blogger at www.thejoyfullyimperfect.com, where she writes about faith, family and lifestyle topics. Katie and her husband have a newly published marriage book available Why Toothpaste Matters, as well as an e-devotional for tweens, Wisdom for Tweens.