In college, I took a World Missions class as an elective. Once, we were assigned to read a book called “Peace Child” by missionary Don Richardson. It is the true story of how Don and his wife, Carol, shared the gospel with a remote tribe in New Guinea. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to and I’ll try not to spoil the story here. In a nutshell, though, it’s a great lesson on how ministry doesn’t always look like what we think it’s going to and how, even though doing things this way has worked in the past it doesn’t always mean it’s going to work that way in every situation. We might have to try something different.
I was reading the story of David and Goliath the other night. It’s a story I’ve read and heard a thousand times throughout my life, but even still, the other night I grasped something new. You know the story, probably. Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior, terrorized the Israelites for 40 days looking for an Israelite to fight him. No one was brave enough until David. While visiting with his older brothers, the young shepherd boy heard Goliath’s threats and he quickly volunteered to fight the giant. King Saul told him he was too young and untrained to fight such a warrior, but David soon convinced him to let him try.
Before David set out to fight Goliath, King Saul attempted to prepare David for the battle. 1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NIV) says:
“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them…”
I imagine that it would have been considered a great honor for a king to offer you his own armor. And certainly suiting up in this kind of armor would have been the logical thing to do before going to face one’s enemy in battle, especially one the size of Goliath. King Saul no doubt used his armor often in battles and it surely protected him and served him well in defeating many enemies in previous fights.
But David wasn’t used to it. He wasn’t trained in using any of it. When he had gone up against lions and bears when tending to the sheep at home, he used other methods and came out victoriously. So the story goes, he took off these garments and weapons and instead took up his slingshot and 5 stones and faced the giant Philistine, claiming victory soon after.
How many times have I rejected something or someone as ungodly or wrong simply because it didn’t look like what I thought it should? Perhaps a pastor preached a sermon this way, but I didn’t like his style of preaching, so I automatically declassified him as a man of God. Maybe the way this artist sings or plays music goes against what I like or what I’ve always thought of as Christ-like, so I automatically snubbed them as wrong or ungodly.
The thing is, we absolutely DO have to use discernment when we listen to sermons or music or view different ministries. We should ALWAYS make sure that whatever is being taught or sung or practiced aligns with the Word of God, even when we think the individual preaching it, singing it, or doing it is an amazing individual. This is something we should practice daily.
But too often, we dismiss others for the simple fact that they’re “not our style.” We reject others for doing things differently than we like or prefer. If it takes us out of our comfort zone at all, we are quick to dismiss it without further observation, prayer, or guidance from God and unfortunately, we attempt to stifle individuals from freely flowing in their own talents and gifts from God.
In this story from 1 Samuel, it’s important to understand that King Saul wasn’t wrong in what he was doing. He was trying to prepare David as any soldier would prepare and in the past, King Saul had been triumphant handling battles in this way. But David decided to approach the situation differently, much differently than any one else had ever done. To many, it probably seemed absurd. Yet, we see that David, given the opportunity to flow from his own talents, came out victorious. Had King Saul forced David to do it the way he would have personally chosen to do it, would David have been successful? We’ll never know, but the point is, he was successful doing it differently than others thought he should have.
Let us be cautious, then, in being quick to judge others as wrong, based solely on our opinions or preferences. Perhaps God has blessed you and your ministry of choice as you’ve done things one way, but do not think for one second that just because someone else does ministry different than you, that they have not been called by God and that they are not being used by God. Let us not confuse our personal comfort levels, Friends, with the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.