This morning I preached from 1 Samuel 17 where we find the well known story of David vs. Goliath. During the research I learned that not only did the soldiers of Israel refuse to face Goliath because of fear, but started running away whenever he showed himself (1Samuel 17:24). They more I thought about that response the more it bothered me. Why would warriors who had received military training since childhood run and hide in their tents like little boys?
Though fear of man like Goliath who was at least nine feet tall would easily turn the strongest person into a coward in my opinion there’s another reason for their turn and run response. They were following the example of their leader King Saul who almost always chose comfort or the easy road instead of the Lords Will for his life which could lead to pain and suffering. A clear example of this is when Saul’s son Jonathan attacks the Philistine army which greatly outnumbers the Jews and every soldier of Israel comes to him for direction (1 Samuel 13:2-4). Instead of rallying the troops with a motivational speech and updated military strategy we next find the King hiding underneath a Pomegranate tree with six hundred soldiers (14:1-2).
Why is Saul under a tree instead of leading his men to battle? Because it was easier to stay in a place of safety than face a huge army which would almost certainly defeat you. This habit of choosing comfort illustrates itself in his allowing the king Amalek to live when God had clearly commanded he should die (1 Samuel 15:1-9) and offering a sacrifice himself instead of waiting for Samuel the Prophet of God (1 Samuel 13:8-12). These and other choices instilled in his men a love of comfort or choosing the safe easy road. So when faced with the giant Goliath they reverted back to what they did by nature, running to the comfort of their safe tents.
As I prayed about this message the Lord reminded me that the choices we make in life develop habits or responses that cause us to rely on ourselves instead of His strength. Though none of us are going to face a nine foot tall Philistine warrior today there are places of comfort we all run to whenever faced with a great challenge.
For me that comfortable response involved self-pity, hours of television, and a huge amount of french fries that had been cooked until extra crispy. At first it was a conscious choice I made (comfort food and tv makes you forget the bad day at work) but eventually it became an automatic response to any pain, fear. or discouragement. When I failed at something instead of immediately thinking about what the Lord wanted me to learn from it my mind turned to eating comfort food and forgetting it ever happened. It wasn’t until years later that I realised how foolish my responses to these painful experiences were. Thats not to say we can’t enjoy a night of rest and relaxation, but when crashing on the couch for hours is my response to fear there is a problem.
The warriors of Israel didn’t become cowards overnight, their choosing the comfort of a tent over fighting Goliath had been ingrained in them by the choices of Saul. Their story is a reminder that our choosing comfort over courage becomes a habitual way of life that results in running away from the Will of God instead of embracing it.