One of the most popular stories in The Bible is the story of David and Goliath. Found in 1 Samuel 17, not only is it an example of heroism and God’s favor, it is filled with life lessons. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here is a summary:
David was a young man that shepherded his father’s sheep and played the lyre for the first King of Israel, Saul. When a war got started between the Israelites and the Philistines, a giant named Goliath boasted that if any Israelite could fight and kill him, all of the Philistines would become the Israelites’ slaves. On the other hand, if he defeated that person, the Israelites would become their slaves. The Israelite army was afraid and King Saul promised that anyone that defeated Goliath would be given his daughter in marriage and their family would be exempted from taxes. Despite that, nobody appeared courageous enough to try.
Then David came along. Despite being seen as incapable of fighting Goliath, Saul allowed him to. With just his staff, sling, and five stones David approached Goliath declaring that God will deliver Goliath into his hands. As Goliath got closer, David reached into his bag, grabbed a stone, and slung it striking Goliath on the forehead. Goliath fell to the ground dead, where David took Goliath’s sword and cut off his head!Summary of David and Goliath
So what 5 life lessons can we learn from the amazing story of David and Goliath? They are:
- Don’t Underestimate Anyone, Including Yourself
- Confidence Is Built In Stages
- Remain Humble
- Use What You Have
- You Have To Face Your Fears To Progress
Let’s now look at each of these lessons in more detail.
Don’t Underestimate Anyone, Including Yourself
The first life lesson to learn from David and Goliath is Don’t Underestimate Anyone, Including Yourself. Throughout the story, there were a few times where David was underestimated.
David Was Underestimated Three Times
First, when his older brother Eliab saw that he was interested in what the reward was for killing Goliath, The Bible states that his brother “burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” (1 Samuel 17:28 NIV). His brother only saw him as fit enough to watch sheep.
The second time David was underestimated was when he told King Saul that he would fight Goliath. What was Saul’s reply? Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33 NIV).
The third time Goliath underestimated David. When David approached Goliath, The Bible states that Goliath “looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him” (1 Samuel 17:42 NIV).
David was underestimated three times by three different people. But in the end, he proved each of them wrong. Learning from this, in life, we should avoid underestimating people because of familiarity, age, appearance, or any other factor. Likewise, just because others make us feel incapable, we shouldn’t accept their opinions as truth. Everyone has potential and if we overlook others or ourselves we’ll miss out on opportunities to fulfill it.
Imagine if David had let his older brother’s comments discourage him, causing him to go back home to the sheep. What would have been the outcome of the war between the Philistines and the Israelites? Similarly, what if Saul insisted that David wasn’t capable of defeating Goliath and commanded him not to fight him? Chances are he would have missed out on solving the biggest problem on his hands.
Just as Saul saw that David didn’t look capable but gave him a chance, we should give people a chance even when they don’t seem like they can handle it. Just like David, whenever someone looks down on you, don’t let it stop you from moving forward. People’s opinions of you don’t have to be your reality.
Confidence Is Built In Stages
The second life lesson to learn from David and Goliath is Confidence Is Built In Stages. Have you ever wonder how young David had the courage to fight Goliath when “Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17:11 NIV)? The answer is found in David’s response to Saul when Saul told him he was not able to fight Goliath. David said:
Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.
The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NIV)
As you can see, David’s confidence in his ability to defeat Goliath came from his experience defending his father’s sheep from bears and lions. Now you may be thinking, how did David get to the point of defeating bears and lions? That doesn’t sound easy. On one hand, we must acknowledge what David acknowledged. That is, the Lord rescued him from those animals. On the other hand, we can’t ignore that something had to build his confidence up to where he could trust God and attempt to fight bears and lions in the first place. Each achievement David made, built his confidence for the next challenge.
In life, we may have the potential to accomplish great things, but our confidence now may lead us to believe we can’t accomplish those things. As we see with David, recognize that confidence is built in stages. The challenges you are facing now are preparing you for the greater challenges ahead.
Furthermore, like the parable of the talents, where the servants were given different amounts, “each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15 NIV), the only way to develop the confidence required to pursue greater things in life, is to take on the challenges that are before you.
The third life lesson to learn from David and Goliath is to Remain Humble. As I pointed out in the last section, when David explained to Saul why he was capable of defeating Goliath, he acknowledged that it wasn’t in his power alone, but that God rescued him from the bears and lions. Similarly, look at what David said when he approached Goliath:
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NIV)
In every sentence David uttered, he said “God” or “Lord”. He placed his ego aside and gave credit to God from the start.
In the same way, wherever we find ourselves in life, we should remain humble and acknowledge who or what made us possible. At the end of the day, God ultimately makes everything possible and like David, we should always acknowledge that. But if David went on giving credit to all the individuals that made it possible for him to defeat Goliath, he might have thanked his father and brothers for allowing him to take care of the sheep. Taking care of the sheep gave him the experience of fighting bears and lions. He could have thanked Saul, for ultimately giving his blessing to fight Goliath. To take it a step further, he could have even thanked Goliath for the challenge.
Other Examples of Remaining Humble
Joseph did a similar thing when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. When Pharaoh told Joseph he heard he could interpret dreams, Joseph said he could not do it, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16 NIV). Isaac Newton, who changed the way we understood the universe, said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”.
As we elevate in life, remain humble by not forgetting who or what made it possible. First God, who makes all things possible, and others who by the good or even bad they’ve done help us move our lives forward.
Use What You Have
The fourth life lesson to learn from David and Goliath is to Use What You Have. Beyond the fact that young David defeated Goliath, one of the amazing aspects of the story is with what David defeated him with. The Bible emphasized: “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:50 NIV).
If we could ask anyone from that time if they thought David could kill Goliath with just a sling and a stone, they probably would have laughed. We see that Saul thought David needed military gear when he offered David his own. Goliath himself indicated he was insulted by David’s weapons when he asked David “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks” (1 Samuel 17:43 NIV)? But in the end, they were all shocked, especially Goliath!
David saw the value in what he had. Though it appeared insignificant in a fight against Goliath, with all his weapons, it wasn’t. Learning from this, although we may feel like what we have isn’t enough, we should still use it. Through God, you might be surprised how much you achieve with it.
Complaining about what we don’t have is a waste of time and if we wait for everything we may never do anything. Although ambitious, when David saw that he was uncomfortable with Saul’s military gear, he could have concluded that he wasn’t ready, but he didn’t. Using what he had, he went forward. As simple as using your household oven to start a cookie baking business or using a camera phone to start creating movies, taking the time to think about what you already have that you can use could be an eye-opening experience.
You Have To Face Your Fears To Progress
The fifth life lesson to learn from David and Goliath builds off of the second lesson, and it is You Have To Face Your Fears To Progress. An interesting thing to note in the story of David and Goliath is what Saul asked David after he killed Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:58, he asked him: “Whose son are you, young man?”
This is interesting because, before that point, David was already working for Saul, playing the lyre. In fact, when Saul asked for someone to play the lyre, 1 Samuel 16:18 states that ‘One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him”’ (NIV). Now how is it that Saul was told about David but still asked him whose son was he? A reasonable argument is that Saul forgot. Another argument that satisfies the first, is that up until then David wasn’t that important to be remembered by Saul.
But that all changed by him killing Goliath. That accomplishment marked a new era in David’s life. 1 Samuel 18:2 states that “From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family” (NIV). David went on to successfully complete all the missions Saul sent him on, leading him to receive a high rank in the army.
David’s achievements after killing Goliath show that in life, we have to face our fears to progress. In parallel with confidence being built in stages, the second lesson, each fear we face corresponds to passing a stage that pushes our lives forward. If we don’t face them, we’ll keep coming back to the same challenges in our attempts to move forward.
We see how we can progress in life by facing our fears through David’s example. But a good biblical example of lack of progress by not facing your fears worth sharing is when the Israelites were told to conquer the land God promised them. Because of their fear, instead of attacking the inhabitants of the land and entering the promised land right away, they ended up in the desert for 40 years, most of them never entering it. (Numbers 13-14).
So don’t let fear keep you from progressing in life. We all can remember a point where we were afraid but still overcame. Just like you’re experiencing the more that was waiting for you on the other side back then, so is more waiting for you on the other side of conquering the fears you have now.
The story of David and Goliath is an amazing one. By applying the lessons it contains you’ll by no doubt live a more successful life. The lessons you learned were: Don’t Underestimate Anyone Including Yourself, Confidence Is Built In Stages, Remain Humble, Use What You Have, and You Have To Face Your Fears To Progress.
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- 3 Life Lessons From The Story of David and Bathsheba
- 3 Life Lessons From David and Saul