A Tale of Two Kings

Posted: January 31, 2014 in Christian, Leadership
Tags: , , ,

The Biblical story of David and Goliath is well known.  We often see the story of Goliath used as a metaphor for the little person taking on seemingly insurmountable odds.  We see it used to describe little organizations taking on big behemoth competitors.

While these are appropriate uses of the metaphoric relations between “Davids” and “Goliaths”, the story of Goliath is much more than just the individual competition between he and David.

The story of Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17, is an excellent leadership lesson, a contrast in leadership so to speak.  What we see in the story of Goliath is a tale of two kings.

Before we dive into the leadership lessons, we need to first back to 1 Samuel 9.  In 1 Samuel 9:16, we see God told Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel’s King.

1 Samuel 9:16 – “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.” (NKJV)

So, what brings us to the leadership crisis we find a few pages later in 1 Samuel 17?  Saul was in a position of leadership, but lost focus on his purpose, in leading.  Basically, Saul forgot God’s promises and the purpose he was to lead.  When Saul lost focus on his purpose, he committed some common leadership mistakes.  Comparing Saul’s mistakes with David’s responses shows a stark contrast in leadership.

Leadership Vacuum – When a person in a position of leadership fails to lead with purpose, a leadership vacuum results.  Leadership abhors a vacuum.  In a vacuum nothing happens.  When leaders create a leadership vacuum, no true leadership happens.  What we see in the first eleven verses of chapter 17, Saul created a leadership vacuum when he backed away from his purpose to lead Israel over the Philistines.  A leadership vacuum will continue to suck the life out of leadership until something happens to fill the vacuum.  When David heard the mocking challenge of Goliath, he was moved to fill the leadership vacuum (v. 26).

Leadership Focus – One of the reasons leaders fail to lead with purpose is because they are focused incorrectly.  Saul’s focus was on his own weaknesses (v.11).  When we become focused on weaknesses, we tend to magnify the weakness beyond its ability to cause failure.  When he ignored his purpose and God’s promise, Saul focused on his own weaknesses and by default his inadequacies for the leadership tasks.  David, in contrast, chose to focus on his strengths (v. 34-37) to compete against and overcome the challenge.

Leadership Problems – Leaders face and solve problems.  Without problems/challenges, leadership is not necessary.  However, when leaders fail to lead with purpose, when leaders allow a leadership vacuum, when leaders lose focus then leaders become incapacitated by problems.  Saul became more focused on his problem (v.11, 25) and as a result lost sight of his strengths.  David focused on his strengths (v. 40-47); in doing so he realized he was more than prepared to meet the challenge.  Problems, if allowed, will become paralyzing to leadership.

Leadership Challenge – Challenges to our leadership will either make us better or bitter.  When leaders face challenges in their strengths, the challenge sharpens their skills and hones their strength.  When we work on our strengths, our strengths become stronger.  Saul chose to run from the challenge (v. 11, 25), resulting in his own bitterness.  David chose to run toward the challenge (v. 48).  In facing big challenges (lion, bear, now Goliath) from his strengths, David became stronger in the areas of his own strengths and better prepared for greater challenges.

Leadership Reversal – When leaders fail to lead with purpose, create a leadership vacuum, focus on the wrong things and allow themselves to be debilitated by problems and challenges the result often is a reversal of leadership.  When David faced the challenge and defeated Goliath, he emboldened the army to follow him (v. 51-53) overcoming the competing army.  When leadership reversal occurs, positional leaders are often left with an awkward and unpalatable decision, to allow the team to follow a new leader or to jump on board and try to regain the leadership of the team.  Saul found himself in just that conundrum (v. 55-56) as he chose to follow David with the army to defeat the Philistines, the surge he himself was supposed to lead.

In the story of Goliath, I believe, we see the beginning of David’s public ascension to the throne of Israel.  We also see the beginning of Saul’s public downfall.

What has Goliath taught us?

  1. Big challenges present big opportunities for reward, growth and future preparation.
  2. Problem focus can be paralyzing, while challenge focus is capitalizing.
  3. Facing big challenges requires moving out of our comfort zone.  To overcome each problem discussed, David decided to move out of his comfort zone into his strength zone.  Saul preferred the implied security of remaining in his comfort zone.
  4. Focusing on our strengths grows our strengths.  Focusing on weaknesses does not necessarily turn a weakness to strength.  Focusing on a weakness often magnifies our perception of the weakness.
  5. God’s promises are always and all ways valid.  However, God’s promises are only valid for us when we operate within those promises.

Every one of us will face our own “Goliath” moment in life and leadership.  Some will face the challenge like David.  Others will face the problem like Saul.  The choice is up to us.  It sounds cliché, but the old adage is true.

“For now the choice is mine to take, yet in the end it is me the choice will make.”

How can we best face challenges and opportunities to grow our leadership?

What recommendations can you share for leading in extraordinary challenges?

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