{1 Samuel 17:34-37, ESV}

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, Go, and the LORD be with you!

Before David was king of Israel, he was a warrior. Before he was a warrior, David was a shepherd. It was by taking care of his father’s sheep in the wilderness that David experienced God. I am certain that David was taught about God, that he knew the Law,  and that he knew what God expected from him. I also believe that it was during his time as a shepherd that God began to form David into a man of faith.

Why did David have the faith and courage to face Goliath? David’s courage did not come from a Bible study on the power of God, a class on martial arts, or an uplifting contemporary worship service.  Rather it flowed out of David’s real life experience of God’s power.

David experienced God’s power first hand through his confrontation with a bear and with a lion.  Through those encounters David knew the power of God to give him victory.  These experiences helped David to place his trust in God’s power, no matter what the challenge that was before him.  When David heard Goliath’s challenge, he knew God would give him victory.  David knew he didn’t have what it took to bring victory and vindication to Israel, but he knew that God did.  It was this recognition that enabled David to take the next step of faith: to face Goliath with courage and confidence.

The fear that paralyzes my life does not have its roots in a lack of knowledge of God’s love and power. I know what the Bible says, I have heard sermons on those subjects, and I have read books on God’s power and love. It seems to me that my fear has its roots in a lack of experience of God’s power.

This is usually due to the fact that I don’t take time to reflect on what God has done in my life.  That is one of the things David was great at doing, and we have the Psalms because of it.  Experiencing God’s power in my life requires me to recognize God’s handiwork.

It is also true that  I have failed to experience God’s power because I have been unwilling to step out in faith. I want to stay inside my comfort zone where I have everything managed (or so I tell myself). The result is that I don’t have very many bear or lion stories that I can look back on and say, “This is how God has come through for me in the past.”

I am also sad to admit that there are times when I lack the faith to believe that God will show up. Too often I think I have God figured out, so I don’t expect Him to act contrary to the box I have put Him in. If God happens to do something unexpected I write it off as luck, coincidence, or to my wonderful talent. By not expecting God to show up I miss the work He is doing in the world around me.

Sometimes what is missing from our lives and our faith is not a new Bible study, a different church family, or a certain book, but real life experience of God working in our lives. These experiences  help us learn that we can trust God with everything we have and everything we are.

I believe many Christians today miss out on true spiritual formation, because we are so busy learning about God that we don’t take time to experience God. Certainly study is important for our faith, but it is through experience that faith is grown.

Questions to consider:

  • How did David develop the faith to face Goliath?
  • How has experience helped you in your faith journey?
  • What is one thing you can do to cultivate an experience with God?
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