Unconventional Training

Have you ever found yourself wondering, How exactly did I end up here and why? Will my circumstances ever change? Will I ever get to the place where I thought I was supposed to be? I get it. I’m right there with you, but I want to let you in on a little secret about God. Often times, His ways are not exactly categorized as conventional training methods.

If you don’t believe me, take a gander through the pages of Scripture. Would you handpick a prostitute to be in your perfect Son’s lineage? Would you choose a bunch of misfits ranging from uneducated fishermen to a hated IRS agent to carry out your mission of sharing your story with all of mankind? There are countless other examples which make their ways across the pages of Scripture, and this is one of those great arguments for the authenticity of God’s Word. Why else would men dare to share their shortcomings with such transparency if they could have painted their place in history in a better light?

It’s actually in such examples that we can find some answers to our own questions about where we are in life. Just look at the predicament in which King Saul and his men find themselves in 1 Samuel 17 when Saul decides that he isn’t going to allow another Philistine invasion of their nation (vs 2 The Voice).  [Cue up “We’re Not Gonna Take It” music by 80’s rock band Twisted Sister.] So here they are looking across a valley at their opponents when a beast of a man (to the tune of 9-feet tall) emerges with the challenge: Why have you come to fight us? Am I not a Philistine, a warrior for a powerful empire? And don’t you serve Saul, your so-called king? Choose yourselves a champion, and send him out to me. If he kills me when we fight, then we will serve you; but if I defeat him and kill him, then you will serve us. Today I challenge the entire army of Israel: send me someone to fight! (vs 8-10 The Voice) 

They could tell the big goon to pick on someone his own size, but no one in Israel is in the same ballpark. Saul would actually be the closest in stature, but he has no desire to go head-to-belly button with this mighty warrior. Needless to say, he finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He hasn’t been trained for this. As a matter of fact, when the prophet Samuel was ready to annoint him as King of Israel, Saul tried to hide in the luggage (1 Samuel 10), not exactly a bold or bright move on his part. Anyway you look at it, he isn’t  exactly their best choice. His warriors were certainly trained for battle, but mono-a-mono match-ups with giants wasn’t a course they had offered at the academy. Even if they had, there was a lot riding on this challenge, and no one, including Saul, wanted to be the scapegoat.

Earlier on, one of Saul’s servants described David as one “who plays skillfully and who is a man of courage, a warrior, sensible in what he says, and handsome; and the Eternal One is surely with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). To which Saul basically says, Sign him up! He instructs Jesse to cut loose his youngest son from the sheep pastures and let him come serve the king, even making David his armor-bearer (vs 21). So, David is at the king’s service but for some reason does not go to battle with Saul when he decides to face the Philistines. Back to the pastures David goes to use his skills on the sheep instead of the king. Fast forward 40 days when David’s father sends him with some supplies for his brothers in addition to seeking an update from the front lines.

While Saul’s soldiers had trained for battle and seemed equipped with the proper tools of the trade, David was off tending sheep. Even though you would think that King Saul himself or the soldiers were the ones who would have been equipped to go to battle against Goliath, it was actually the young shepherd boy whom God was preparing. God had David in a place where his faith was growing in God as His source of strength and protection. He wasn’t jaded by his life experiences or by the influence of others; rather, he was learning to find his identity in God alone. As a result, David was the one who was most offended by Goliath’s mistreatment of and disrespect toward God. Although he would have been familiar with Saul’s armor, he confidently walked into battle without it or the common tools of warfare. Instead, he clutched his sling and a pouch full of stones and emerged on the other side victorious and credited God with the win.

In a sense, maybe you feel as though you’ve been out in the sheep pastures. But through it all, God could be trying to teach you about the beauty of humble service. Maybe you want to do more at times, but know that God’s timing is perfect and be open to the lessons that He has for you along the way. Believe it or not, God sees the big picture and though his training methods may not be conventional, they really are best. Just ask David.


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