Off and on throughout my life, I’ve found myself trying to be what someone else wanted me to be. Do you have that problem too? At this stage in my life it seems to hit me periodically and unexpectedly. Before I realize what’s happening, I’m comparing myself to others, wishing I were different, or trying to be what someone else thinks I should be.
Symptoms of this disease are an uneasiness in your spirit, feeling guilty about something but you’re not quite sure what, knots in your stomach, and a general sense of gloom and despair. Can you recognize some of these things in yourself? Maybe, like me, it hits you only occasionally, or you may indeed find yourself continually consumed with this disease of not being satisfied with who you are.
Not too long ago, when I was going through this temporary siege of being unhappy with my abilities—or lack of them—I was reminded by my very good friend of a man in the Bible who knew that he had to be himself and not try to be someone else. I found it a wonderful source of encouragement to me, and it pulled me right out of that wrong thinking. I want to share this encouragement with you.
It is from the story of David, the shepherd boy, who volunteered to go up against the giant, Goliath. Nobody else in the entire Israeli army had been willing to face this giant, not even the experienced fighters! After all, Goliath was over nine-feet tall, so you can hardly blame them.
The children of God were being held captive by this giant. Somebody had to defeat Goliath in order to have victory over their enemy, the Philistines, who would then become subjects to Israel and servants of Saul, the King.
David was on an errand to the fighting field to bring food to his brothers in the army. He heard Goliath make his daily challenge—a challenge which he had been giving for forty days, every morning and evening. Actually, Goliath was mocking Israel—goading and taunting them—because he was certain nobody would ever fight him.
When David heard Goliath’s challenge, he asked some questions: Why are we allowing this bully to stand there and make threats against the Lord’s army? Why hasn’t someone stood up to him? David couldn’t understand why Goliath’s challenge had not been taken.
His brother, Eliab, got very angry with David. He told him to go back where he came from and tend the sheep. He belittled David and insulted him, telling him he was conceited and wicked, and he only came to watch and comment on the battle. You get the feeling that Eliab didn’t want to be shown up by his baby brother.
David didn’t let Eliab intimidate him. He kept asking questions, and finally King Saul sent for him. Then David volunteered to go fight Goliath. Of course, Saul was reluctant to let him to do this, because David was only a boy and Goliath was a huge, experienced fighter. It would be folly to send David up against Goliath.
But David insisted and related to Saul his experience in killing a lion and a bear. He said, “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” (I Samuel 17:37).
Saul relented. After all, nobody else was willing to even try, so he might as well let David have a go at it. Then Saul tried to tell David how to do it—to put on his armor and take his sword. David tried, but he immediately recognized that he couldn’t use Saul’s armor. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them” (I Samuel 17:39). So, he took them off, found his five smooth stones, got his slingshot in his hand, and faced Goliath.
You know the story: He takes aim at Goliath’s head, hits him in the right place, and knocks him out. Then he cuts off Goliath’s head with his own sword, and claims victory.
How did David defeat Goliath? By using his own slingshot. That’s what he was good at; that’s how he had defeated the lion and the bear; that’s the gift God had given him and taught him how to use. If he had tried to defeat Goliath in Saul’s armor, with a sword, he would never have won. David was smart enough to realize that he would make a huge mistake to try to do what God wanted him to do in someone else’s armor.
Now, think about some lessons we can learn from this. Often we try to do God’s work to please people. We try to copy others and do what they’re doing. But when God has given you a gift, a skill, or an opportunity, don’t underestimate God’s power in you, doing it the way he’s gifted you.
Use your own slingshot. It may not be the conventional way to do things; others may tell you it won’t work. But if that’s how God is leading you, don’t be intimidated by what others think. Go with what God has given you.
So often I have to re-learn this lesson, because it’s so easy to look around and see other people who are successful and think, That’s what I should be doing. But God quietly teaches me again and again that he has given me certain gifts, while not giving me others, and that I should not look down on the gifts I have been given. I would say the same to you: Use what God has given you. Do what you do well. Trust God’s instincts within you. And don’t try to be someone else, suit someone else, or please someone else.
Any time I try to do the work God has given me to do in order to please people—do it their way—I end up making a fool out of myself or falling on my face. I must go with my own strengths and use my own slingshot.
Notice that David got creative. Everybody else thought that in order to defeat Goliath, a man would have to put on armor and defeat him in a face-to-face sword fight. Obviously it would have been impossible for any ordinary man to win against a nine-foot giant in that kind of fight. But David said, “There are other ways to skin a cat.”
God had put David in the fields taking care of the sheep and, in that most unlikely place, God taught David some wonderful skills—one of which was how to kill a lion and a bear. Also while there, David had plenty of time to perfect his skill as a marksman. He had worked with that slingshot until he was an expert. He also had time to sing, write poetry, and develop those incredible skills while he was there, all by himself, in that seemingly unimportant, going-no-place job of taking care of dumb sheep!
I look back on my life and realize that in those quiet times of my life, when it looked like nothing was happening—even in times when I wasn’t walking with the Lord—I was learning skills and doing things which equipped me to do what God has for me to do now. God is very efficient, and he knows how to prepare us for the job ahead.
David had to be able to kill Goliath because that was the deed which propelled him to eventually become the king. This victory made his reputation and paved the way for God’s plan for him. However, it all began in those lonely fields, shooting stones from a slingshot day in and day out, and learning how to kill big enemies in unconventional ways.
So, when facing Goliath, David was prepared for the job. He used his creative thinking and refused to try to do it Saul’s way, which would have meant defeat.
Where are you now? In the fields, all alone, being prepared by God for what is coming? You see, David didn’t know, when he was tending sheep, that God was preparing him to be king. He had no idea. But he did that job well and, while he was doing it, learned to do other things—like play a harp, write poetry, aim a slingshot really well, and tackle an enemy of overwhelming odds.
Maybe you’re on the battleground and Goliath is staring at you, taunting you. Are you tempted to fight in someone else’s armor? Remember, if God has brought you to that battlefield, he has a plan to make you victorious; but don’t limit God and don’t get “out of yourself.”
I’ve often heard great athletes interviewed and they’ll talk about “staying within themselves.” This means they have to play the game using their own strengths, do what they can do well, and not try to do what they can’t do. David knew how to “stay within himself” and not try to mimic others or be intimidated when others told him what he should do or how he should do it.
His brother told him to go home, but he didn’t listen. David knew that God had equipped him to be able to slay this giant, and he wasn’t afraid to try. It wasn’t a matter of pride or conceit; he just knew he had a skill from God that could defeat that giant. When others tell you you can’t do it, to quit, or they belittle you in some way, remember David. If he had allowed his brother’s remarks to get to him, he would have just turned around and gone back to the sheep. He never would have defeated Goliath. But he was willing to step out even in the face of his brother’s protests and bad-mouthing.
If God has told you to use a slingshot, then use it. Don’t let the “Sauls” in your life dictate how you are to attack your giant, if you know God has given you directions. Many times, well-meaning people will give us poor advice. Certainly Saul thought it would be best for David to wear all that armor, but David knew better. A conventional one-on-one sword battle would have wiped David out in a few seconds.
Have you noticed that usually God leads us to fight the giants in our lives in the most unusual ways? It almost always goes against human logic. We have to learn to walk by faith and trust the Holy Spirit within us to give us guidance, and then not doubt it when others say “That’s not the way to do it,” or “Nobody has ever done it that way before.” There are times when we should ignore what others tell us. If you remember when Jesus was going to heal Jairus’ daughter, someone from Jairus’ house came to him and said “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher anymore” (Luke 8:49). But Jesus ignored what he said and told Jairus “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Luke 8:50).
If you’re facing a giant in your life right now, use your own slingshot. Don’t try to wear someone else’s armor, and ignore those who would tell you otherwise.
Maybe the battle is over and you are victorious. Remember what David said before he fought Goliath: “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” (I Samuel 17:47). If you have been victorious, remember that it was the Lord’s battle. He gave you the skill, the talent, and the wisdom to know how to fight, and then he fought it for you. Give him all the glory!