For the next few weeks in Youth Group, we will be looking at the life of David and the trials he faced with King Saul and as a King himself. David’s life was certainly a storied one, and so many of his struggles are ones that we can heavily relate to in modern life. For our first lesson, I wanted to start somewhere familiar: The story of David and Goliath. However, when I was preparing for the lesson, I wasn’t moved by the classic story of impossible triumph, but rather, I was drawn to David’s interaction with Saul.
In 1 Samuel 17: 38-40 we see a scene play out that is well know. In an attempt to help David, Saul adorns him with the best armor at his disposal. David attempts to move in the armor and finds it too cumbersome and instead opts to take only his trust in the Lord, a sword, and the classic sling/smooth stone combo. Of course, this proves to be the right move. David launched a stone that “sinks into [Goliath’s] head” (ouch) and then seals the deal with a beheading. David chose to trust in the Lord and victory was given to him.
That scene is so classic that even non-believers can tell you about it! But there is a moment in that story that I want to pay particular attention too. The part where Saul tries to give David armor. It is so easy to brush past this as Saul simply asserting his resources and tactical understanding, and while that is accurate, there is one point that needs to be realized. Saul is legitimately trying to help. He truly believes that his aid is the best option, and he earnestly wants to help his trusted employee. I couldn’t shake that. It seemed so simple and clear but I had never looked at it critically.
So why does that matter? What does Saul’s failed attempt to help David mean for us in 2018? In the context of the passage, David has a very literal Goliath to confront and conquer. In our modern world, we also are given a Goliath to face. Life itself. Society would have us believe that Life is an opponent that we must strive to defeat in pursuit of the ultimate prize: Happiness. To the secular mind, the best thing any person can achieve is a sense of personal happiness. This being the case, there are many well meaning people who have advice, “armor”, for us to use. People who truly care about us. Love us. Want what they think is best for us. Their words are kind and heartfelt and come from a good place, but is their advice good? Will being happy by our own personal human measures bring us closer to God? That is exactly the question I want you to ask yourself.
When I was younger, 13 to be exact, I was horribly unhappy. Years of being bullied by my classmates at my private Christian school had finally pushed me to rejecting the faith entirely. During this time, I had a group of older friends outside of school who were truly kind and loved me. They watched out for me, they supported me, and they genuinely wanted me to be happy. Their attempts to bring me happiness were, in hindsight, questionable at best. They encouraged me to develop several habits that might have been fun in moment, but only created fleeting feelings of “happiness”. I became self-possessed, dangerous, and often cruel to others if it meant coming out on top. These habits were in no way bringing me closer to God, and in fact, pushed me father away over the next few years.
There I was, seeking happiness. Trying to conquer life in my own personal way. Saul, with a heart full of care and love, had given me armor that I was not comfortable with and I charged forth towards my perceived enemy. I was destroyed. Utterly defeated. I was nowhere close to David.
See, when David moved in his gifted armor, he knew it would only bring him down. As a shepherd in the desert, David faced many dangers. Lions, wolves, bears, bandits, all things what would come between him and the safety of his sheep. David had trained with his sling and his staff. He could do more than hold his own; he was a deadly force. It was necessary for survival. Above all, David was devote in his faith in God. He knew that if God had wanted him to dawn the armor, than it would have fit and felt right. It didn’t.
In 1 John chapter 4 verse 1 we are told, “Dear friends, do not believe all spirits, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” When we come back to that question of being happy and how it will bring us closer to God, we would be smart to remember David. Not all nice advice is good advice. Not everyone who cares about you is actually helpful. Not all good people have God in the center of their worldview. Their words may sound sweet and sound, but they may be miles away from the path God would have us take. God loves it when we are happy, and so He offered us the immaculate unending Joy of his love and eternal life with him.
When we are given “armor” in this life, we need to be careful not to call it good on face value alone. In all things, we must strive to look at our lives through the lens of scripture. We must seek to be discerning and careful. Will we fail? Of course! But there is no failure God does not forgive, so never let fear keep you from turning to the Lord when you have a misstep. My goal for this series is not only to show the Youth of Christ Church how David’s life is full of problems we can all relate to today, but to also teach them how to use scripture as a guide when we face those problems. Just as God anointed David, He anointed each of us who believe to be his representatives in this world. And when the going gets tough, remember, His word and love is all of the armor we need.
Follow Up Questions
Please consider asking these questions to your children, family, and loved ones.
We’re Teaching This:
Have you ever been overcome with awkwardness or embarrassment? Sometimes the whole idea of God can make us feel that way. We’re afraid of what God really thinks of us or how He will feel when we mess up. So we avoid going to church, praying, or getting closer to God to keep ourselves from feeling uncomfortable. And it kind of makes you wonder, Is this how following God is supposed to be? This week we’ll look back at some of the things Jesus shared in the book of John about who He is. As we do, we’ll realize that our relationship with Jesus doesn’t have to be shaped by embarrassment, judgment, or insecurity. In fact, because He is leading, guiding, and shepherding us, we can rest knowing that our lives are in good hands.
Just like your teenager is still developing physically and mentally, their belief system is still under construction as well. As a result, from time to time, they may say something surprising or something that conflicts with what you believe. Don’t freak out. While it’s appropriate to guide and direct your student to what’s best for them, sometimes there’s something better. Become a professional question asker— not nagger, lawyer, or annoyer—but someone who asks questions in order to better connect. Then patiently listen as they process through their own faith and beliefs.
Responding with curiosity toward your teenager will always go further than responding with defensiveness. Ask a question or two from the list below and see where the conversation goes. Remember, do more listening than teaching, and don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t exactly reflect your beliefs. Their belief system is growing and changing, and the ultimate goal is for them to develop a faith of their own.
We’re Teaching This:
How do you normally introduce yourself? Maybe you start with, “Hi. I’m (insert your name here).” But what comes after that? Sure, you can talk about where you go to school, or what hobbies you’re into, but that doesn’t really introduce anyone to you, just facts about you. When Jesus talked about Himself, He would make statements like, “I am the Good Shepherd” and, “I am the bread of life.” As strange as they sound, these statements give us a better picture of who Jesus is. Because if He is a shepherd, then we are His sheep. And if He is the bread of life, then we can be satisfied in Him. In this series, we’ll discover that the way Jesus described Himself, give us a clue into who we are as well.
Think About This:
Every family has a belief system. Even if your family isn’t particularly religious, chances are there are certain things that you believe about the world and certain values that you want to pass on to your children. It’s natural. And, as our students develop into adults, it’s normal for them to think about, question, and maybe even try on other beliefs they may have been exposed to outside our home. If it hasn’t happened already, there will probably come a day when your student makes a statement or asks a question that feels like it flies in the face of all you’ve taught them. And while it’s unsettling and uncomfortable for us, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, questioning can be good. It means they’re growing.
At moments like these, it’s important to remember that, just as our students’ bodies and minds are developing, their faith and beliefs are developing too. They may go through stages or seasons of faith that look different, but that doesn’t mean it is where they will ultimately land.
One way we can help our students navigate this tricky time is to be authentic about our own faith journey. Religious or not, we all have questions and doubts we wrestle with from time to time. We all have moments that leave us feeling a little confused or unsettled about our beliefs. And the same things that have helped us through those times may be helpful for our students as well.
Maybe it’s been a while since you really wrestled with a tough question about life or maybe you weren’t sure what to do with it. That’s okay. Here are four strategies you may find helpful when you don’t have all the answers.
The Great Commission and the Legacy of Jesus
This past Sunday night, we looked at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.
We spoke about Jesus' last instructions to His disciples to carry on His legacy here on earth, to "go and make disciples." We asked the questions "What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be remembered for?"
Here are two resources from Sunday night's lesson: