1 Samuel 17:33-37 “Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “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 delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
David often used his eloquence to successfully defend his contrary position, like Daniel who would come after him (Daniel 1:8-13). Saul could not refuse such an powerful request such convincing determination. However it’s one thing stating the case, doing the job is something completely different. But when a man speaks like this in these kinds of circumstances it is never without a real, underlying courage.
The kind of courage David displayed is the kind we are in desperate need of. Fortitude, CS Lewis calls it; it’s the kind of courage that endures.
Fortitude taught him not only to defend and care, but also to see himself as defended and cared for. And David’s fortitude taught him how and when to speak out to define his courage and what he intends to do with it. What would we do without David’s Psalm written by a shepherd, but from the point of view of a sheep (Psalm 23).
I believe that this kind of courage does not come from some deep seated understanding of self, but it comes from a contextual understanding of who you are in Christ.
If you know who you are in Him, there is nothing for which you will not have enough courage. In every act of courage from David, Daniel, Peter, Joseph, Jesus, John, James and Paul, their courage came from their relative identity in Christ, not from within themselves or even their community. “Know thyself”, yes, but not thy isolated self. Alone your self will work against you as either fear or bravado; but “Know thyself ” (in Christ), as the New Testament is so often encouraging us to do; there you will find courage to spare; there you will find real men.
We seem to have a disproportionate excess of fake courage, of bravado. The kind of stuff you see on choreographed wrestling shows, those testosterone soap operas. The boring tirade of threats and insults mark the words of bravado as distinct from the disarming clarity of real courage. Fortitude speaks with an irresistible authority.
Faced with real danger bravado either runs or gets killed, it can give no account of it’s words or its actions. Its words are meaningless and its actions are foolishness.
My brother-in-law believes that the two most dangerous words in the world are “hey dude…” because they are usually followed by some cockamamie plan which ends with a visit to the hospital or from the sheriff’s office; or both. But there are “hey dude” moments in scripture which are conceived in real courage and suggested with Churchillian fortitude.
1Samuel 14:1 “One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armor, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.”
A “hey dude” moment if ever there was one. But one born not out of bravado but out of real courage. They knew the odds, yet God took the faith of His own inspiration in these two men, and defeated an army with it. It’s quite something to realize that they only had one sword between them (1 Samuel 13:22).
Courage, David teaches us, is a learned skill, and it is not rooted in bravado, prowess or an abundance of testosterone; but in love. Love for the ones your courage protects. It’s amazing how well we get to know the enemy we have prevailed over after a long battle.
Short, easy battles teach us very little; and although we need to be able to produce courage in an instant we often look back and realize that it was a measure of instinct, providence and adrenaline that got us through. The commodity God is committed to installing in us is fortitude; it’s a big install that uses a lot of resources, but it is a killer app.
1. What has God used in your life to teach you fortitude? What is He using now?
2. Don’t give up to easily, and when it comes to relationships never give up at all.
3. It’s simple to be intimidated but it takes practice to think clearly and speak directly when everyone in panicking.
4. Practice obedience, finding courage in your position in Christ.
Jesus did the same:
Jesus was not afraid to take on the religious leaders, scholars and teachers where they were wrong. He was not afraid of 40 days in the wilderness with no provision and Satan as company, nor was he afraid of the storm which terrified the disciples. Jesus wrestled Himself into submission in order to face the cold cruelty of the cross, and He overcame.
His 30 years had given Him courage, He knew who He was.
There is very little reason to disbelieve the biblical account of the first kings of Israel. It is one of those things which has been subject to the minutest scrutiny and the broadest publication. Archaeological findings merely serve to prove the existence of Saul and David and the accuracy of the biblical record of their lives on earth.
In his wonderful book, ‘The Gift of the Jews’, Thomas Cahill makes the point that from Abraham’s story a new kind of record keeping was born, vastly different from the records of the kings and kingdoms of it’s day, which were notoriously unreliable – they serve as literature, not as history. The Jewish emphasis was always on accuracy, not on the pseudo-greatness of the individual being recorded. It is worth saying again that archeology has proven the biblical record again and again as a reliable historical record, the very first and oldest reliable historical record.
Nonetheless there is a worldwide secular attempt to discredit the bible. It is reliant on assumption on the one hand and and on religion on the other.
The secular, atheist assumes that God does not exist and therefore approaches the text convinced already of it’s inaccuracy. You will hear people say things like, “well you do know of course that the Israelites leaving Egypt were probably just a handful of families and their stories were passed on word of mouth and so became legendary… that’s what people did in those days.”
These kinds of statements are remarkably unscientific coming from those who suggest that Science has replaced the need for God.
The religious attempt to discredit the bible is a humanist approach that wants very much to dilute God into the human condition.