Text: I Samuel 17
Message Theme: David utilized four leadership courage builders when faced with intimidation.

 I.      Research the controlling factors (vs.26)

There are three controlling factors

Goliath: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that is defying the Armies of the Living God?”

Saul: “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?”

II.    Rebuke the Naysayers

“Elab, David’s older brother . . . asked, “Why have you come down here? . . . I know how conceited you are . . .?” David then turned away to someone else.” (vv. 28-30)

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.” (v. 33)

Goliath said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (v. 43)

III.            Remember your past victories (v. 37)

“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.”

 IV.    Rearm for a long battle (v. 40)

“And David took five stones. . .”  Why five?


“No Fear”

Leadership in the face of Intimidation”


I have a confession to make. I love the Rocky movies, or I should say the Rocky genre ¾people who are risk takers and seem to have no fear. Our story today is one such story. David seems to have “No Fear!” In the story we have heard from our childhood, David, with just a slingshot and five stones slays a 9 foot giant who has totally terrorized the nation. Now David is not always fearless. There are times as he grows older that he cries out in great fear in some of the Psalms that his enemies are surrounding him. But this day—this time—this moment, DAVID HAS NO FEAR! What is it in this story that generates the strength in David to be a profile in courage?

Nearly half a century after then-Senator John F. Kennedy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, his masterful portrait of American heroes, the words “politician” and “courage” are rarely uttered in the same breath. But, as this celebration of modern political bravery amply demonstrates, there are countless examples of heroism among today’s elected officials. Profiles in Courage for Our Time pays tribute to 13 such heroes, each a recipient of the prestigious Profile in Courage award. The essays’ authors are as noteworthy as their subjects: Bob Woodward writes on former President Gerald Ford’s controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Richard Nixon and how it cost him the presidency, but saved the nation months, maybe even years, of political battles.

Caroline Kennedy, the editor of the book, says, “The Profiles in Courage Award seeks to honor those whose lives of service prove that politics can be a noble profession. We hope that Americans realize that there are men and women serving at all levels of our government who are legends of our time.”

 In our second message in leadership, we will examine a profile in courage—great courage in the face of intimidation and fear. Last week we looked at Solomon and how he lead a nation from prosperity into turbulent time. In two weeks we will look at five women and how they changed a nation, on our final session together we will look at John the Baptizer, who is in prison about to be baptized and he is scared—so much so that he doubts his salvation, his call, his effectiveness as a leader. But today let’s look at David.

David is such a story: He uses four courage builders to win this battle with fear.

And he (Goliath) stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

I.           Courage Builder One: Consider the Controlling Factors (vs.26)

 There are three controlling factors that David considers: Goliath, King Saul, and the Living God.

Yet, if we take seriously what the New Testament says, we are told by the apostle Paul that these stories happened to them as examples to us.  I love the Old Testament and these true stories. But they are more than historical characters. They are examples for us. But we must interpret these examples correctly.


 “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he is defying the Armies of the Living God?”

The story of David and Goliath is often misinterpreted to promise us false victories. A key to this story is that the giant was to be defeated, but no one could except David. The story emphasizes that we can have victory over anything that is enslaving us, such as fear and intimidation.  We are promised in the New Testament that “God has not given us a spirit of fear . . .” Fear is an enemy that needs to be defeated. Just as David freed Israel from the fear of the giant, God can also free us from our fears.

We all have giants in our lives — perhaps a habit, or a critical spirit, or some distressing, sin that you would like to be rid of — you have tried desperately to overcome it but just cannot find the way to freedom. Those are giants. We all fight giants.

There is an important lesson hereThe Philistines were trespassers. They were not supposed to be there. When we interpret the giant in our life, we must make sure that God wants that giant removed. It was obvious that the Philistines were occupying the land that belonged to Judah. God had given the land to the nation of Israel, and the Philistines had no right to invade. We need to recognize that this is true of all these invaders in our life, whatever they may be. They have no right to be there.

Try to identify a giant that you are facing right now. If it is a sin that is enslaving you, you can be confident that God wants to defeat giant. The giant might be fear itself. God has promised that we do not need to live in the spirit of fear, but of love and peace and a sound mind. It might be a relationship that you know you need to break off, but are enslaved by this relationship. But the one thing that is clear from this story is that this giant is a trespasser and had totally intimidated Israel and their King, Saul.

King Saul

David asks Saul: “What will be done for this man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?”

The second controlling factor was Saul. Saul doesn’t have a clue. Saul was the King of Israel; however, Saul was a basket case.

I have often wondered why David asked the question, “What will be done for the one who kills the Philistine?” It sort of takes away the spiritual motivation of David. It is as if he is negotiating a prize for doing something he knows he can do.

However, when we really understand the context of the story, we see why David asked the question. We often read the story of I Samuel 17 without understanding what has just happened in the previous chapter. Chapter 16 outlines two important events in David’s life before he faces the giant.

The first half of chapter 16 tells how David was anointed to be the new King in a private ceremony in the home of his father, Jesse. So David and his family knew that David, the shepherd would be the king.

But in the second half of the chapter we find out that David and Saul had already met. Look at the last verse of chapter 16. The writer says of Saul, “Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” Saul was a greatly troubled man and David knew this. How? In the verses that precede this story, we learn that Saul had so rejected God that the spirit of God that directed Saul in his leadership, had left Saul and an evil spirit filled that spot. Verse 14 says that Saul was tormented. Saul is not only tormented from the giant, he has his own evil spirit that he is dealing with. He asks his servants for help and one of them says that he has heard of a son of Jesse, who is a great musician and when he plays, people feel relaxed and motivated—the power of music. So David starts moonlighting as Saul’s personal musician—to play music for him. When David plays the harp and sings, Saul is comforted and the evil spirit leaves him. Bottom line, Saul has met David before. This gives us some insight as to why Saul is a little surprised when his musician wants to fight the Giant. It would sort of be like President Bush calling for the “flutists and the harpists to go after Osama Ben Ladin.

I really wonder if David, knowing that he would be king, wondered how a shepherd would become the king. He had one opportunity and that was playing and singing his songs for Saul. Now he looked at this opportunity and he decided to see what would be given for the victory. He found out that his family would never have to pay taxes (pretty good deal), and he would be given Saul’s daughter in marriage. (We don’t know if that was a good deal or not ¾ although marrying her might help put him in a place to become king.) Bottom line is that David knew Saul was an inept leader and had no control over the situation. He was losing his leadership position and he was floundering as a king. David saw this as an opportunity to step in by using his God given gifts—music and winning battles in the power of God.


 “ . . . the Living God?”

Verse 26:

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

But when David sees the third controlling factor, he really knows the power over fear.

“What right does this Philistine, this pagan, have to hold at bay the armies of the living God?” Do you see what David is doing? He is taking the first step in overthrowing the giants in the life — he reminds himself of the truth. And that is where we must begin. And that is where David began. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the living God’? How ridiculous!”

How you see God as the controlling factor?

Until May 7, 1984, the Rev. Benjamin Weir was little known outside Presbyterian Church circles and Lebanon, where he had served 30 years as a missionary. On that day he was seized near his apartment in Beirut by Shiite Muslim extremists. It was the beginning of 16 months spent as a hostage, 14 of them in solitary confinement. It was also the beginning of a time of acute agony for the Rev. Weir’s wife and four children, who knew – as did he – that he might be killed at any time.

It was particularly ironic that Benjamin Weir, and others like him who had chosen careers of service, were slated for kidnapping. He was as well loved as any American remaining in shattered Lebanon, a reminder of an earlier age when selfless American men and women traveled halfway around the world to teach and heal in the Middle East. Such efforts, over a period of 150 years, had created the greatest American cultural legacy in the Arab world, the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Benjamin Weir was held captive by terrorists in Lebanon for sixteen months. Fourteen of those months he was in solitary confinement, not knowing from day to day if he would be executed, freed or left for years. They took him into a room, a small room, and in the room there was a mattress on which he slept and one which he sat, because one arm was always handcuffed to the radiator. The window had Venetian blinds. There was no other furniture. Interesting enough there was an old stuffed bird sitting over in one corner, a poor example of taxidermy art. There were some cracks in the walls, and where there had been a chandelier in the ceiling, it had been taken away and there were three loose wires sticking down. This was all there was in the room.

Ben said, “I began to use what was there to remind myself of the love of God. Those three wires coming down—well, they reminded me of the way God’s hand comes down and touches the hand of Adam in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. You remember how the gift of life is given in such a way? This meant God’s gift of life.” He counted the various slats in the Venetian blinds, and he used the Venetian blind to remind himself that he was surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. The bird, though it was very old and dirty, he used to represent the Holy Spirit, sometimes symbolized in Scripture, as you know, by the dove.

The cracks in the wall, the places in the plaster that were marred—each and every one of them he identified with some promise in Scripture. He would repeat to himself each day passages which he had long ago hidden in his heart: “May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guide your heart and your mind into Christ Jesus;” “Call upon me and I will do great and wondrous things that you know of.”

He remembered all of these things, and out of this he kept hold of himself for fifteen months alone—a long look, a remembering and focusing upon the love of God.

The first courage builder in the center of intimidating fear is to refocus from the source of your fear to the power and love of God. Susie and I had a friend in her mid-thirties about 15 years ago who was losing her husband to cancer. It was a very terrible death and we would visit her in the hospital. In talking to Sharon, she would find incredible strength in reading the Psalms. One day she told us that the reason she found strength in the Psalms was that she had studied them so much in Bible Study Fellowship. She said something that I will never forget. She said, “Tom, when you are facing the greatest time of fear in your life, this is not the time to try and figure out what those Psalms mean. It is time to reflect on what the Psalms mean because you have searched them out before.”

That is great advice. When times are good, we often forget to get to know God in such a deep way that we can recall his promises when times become turbulent.

 II.      Rebuke the Critics

In this text we see that David had three critics: His brother, Saul and finally Goliath himself. What is interesting is that David uses three different methods to deal with his critics.

The first was his older brother: How many of you are older brothers? — Shame on you. How many times have we who are older brothers have been the critics of the younger members of our family. This seems to be the case often. We perhaps become jealous of their potential or success when we are not accomplishing all that we thought we could.

How does David face him — he ignores him. Sometimes we have to ignore our critics and let them go–especially when they are family. But he doesn’t kill him.

David faces the second and third critics by using the next two courage builders.

III. Revisit Your Lions and Bears (v. 37)

Saul the critic says to David, “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.” (v. 33)

Look how David replies to Saul, “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.”

David not only answers his critic, but he also encourages his own heart as he basically says,

“Goliath is just like any other animal I’ve faced in my past. God will deliver me.” Do you see what he is doing? He is reminding himself of past victories in his life.

Recall the lions and bears in your lives. Susie and I were sharing a few weeks back about the down turn in the economy, how it has affected our business and how it affects those who work for us. It is not easy and you can become discouraged and feel the stress of the kinds of decisions you make. We had one of our Lion and Bear meetings. I love Lion and Bear meetings. It is when you recall similar times and how God defeated the Lions and Bears then.

We recalled when we moved to Denver and Susie felt the call of God to be a high school English teacher and there were 10,000 teachers in Denver who did not have jobs. On the day I registered for Seminary, Susie got one of the few positions. We also recalled how when she was a teaching assistant at California State University, Sacramento, and a position opened up for her—just before our kids went off to college—to get a ten-year track full-professorship position at the University. It was a miracle.

Have you had a Lion and Bear meeting lately? Let me encourage you to recall the miracles of God in your life.

The last courage builder that we see this morning is the way that David handled his third critic.

 Pick Five Stones (v. 40)

Goliath said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (v. 43)

 David says,

       “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted, this is day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.”

      “And David took five stones . . .” Why five?

You might wonder why David chose five stones. Some think that Goliath had four brothers, and David was going to take them all. This is true, but using some sanctified imagination I like to think that David had no guarantee that this was going to be an easy fight. He had no idea that Goliath was going to be so confident that he would leave the face guard up and expose an easy target—a forehead of a giant. Some must of thought that this giant is just too big to fight. David must have thought that this giant is too big to miss.

I have spent most of my life studying the lives and characteristics of great leaders. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are organized, some seem disorganized. Some have clean desks and some have messy desks. Some are always on time and some are late. Some are outgoing and talkative while others are quiet and reserved. But there is one characteristic that all leaders have. There has never been a great leader who did not have this characteristic. And that characteristic is resilience.

Resilience – leaders are resilient. They get up when fallen.

I use to love to teach our boys, when they were small, principles by telling stories. I use to tell stories about two brothers named Mark and Billy, who happened to be about the same age as our boys. One evening I told them about Mark and Billy climbing up the mountain and it was windy, stormy and they were tempted to quit. But they kept saying to each other, “Keep on, Keep on, keep on.” We would march around the room together chanting, “keep on, keep on, keep on.” The next day, Jonathan came home from kindergarten at noon. Susie was teaching and I was in seminary, so Jonathan and I would have lunch together everyday and then play a game. We played hide and go seek. I had hidden in a really great place and he couldn’t find me. Now most kids give up in about one or two minutes. But Jonathan kept looking and looking. From my hiding place I could hear him whispering beneath his breath, “keep on, keep on, keep on.” For those of you who know Jonathan you know that Jonathan is resilient. In his early 30’s now, he has worked hard in youth ministry and kept up when many others would have quit.

Notice what happened when David did this. The entire nation was mobilized.  What they needed was a leader who was not afraid to face the giant. David had no fear because he used these four courage builders: And we can be sure of the same. As you face the giant in your life, call upon God to . . .

  1. Consider the controlling factors. Where does God fit into the controlling factor?
  2. Challenge your critics. Maybe you just need to ignore them.
  3. Recall the past miracles in your life. Tell those stories to your critics and yourself.
  4. Pick up five stones, knowing it can be a long battle. But “keep on.”

Read more about Tom McKee on his web page:


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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