Dear FEBA supporters,

A well-known life coach, Tony Robbins, once asked an aging Dale Carnegie what his greatest personal breakthrough in life was. Carnegie was famous for his book, How to win friends and influence people.  Without thinking twice, he answered that it waswhen he learned to think correctly about problems. Most people think that something went wrong when problems arise and that they shouldn’t have them at all. However, without the challenges of life, we’ll never develop into powerful, resilient individuals. It is critical for success to learn this mindset of embracing life’s seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Against this background, I would like us to look at how David’s wilderness experiences prepared him to be the future king of Israel. He spent most of his youth in the wilderness tending his father’s flocks. Years later, he again had to roam the deserts of Judea for three years, continually narrowly escaping King Saul’s relentless efforts to kill him.

David’s early years as a shepherd in the wilderness taught him valuable skills that he would later use as a king. As a shepherd, he learned about responsibility; how to lead and care for his flock. He also learned about love and how to care for others. He learned patience, perseverance, and humility. After all, there’s nothing glamorous about being a shepherd! He also spent countless hours honing his fighting skills; practicing to be accurate with his sling and stones until he could kill any living thing dozens of meters away.

He doubtlessly became proficient with the sword, spear as well as bow and arrow – the standard weapons of that time. And his skills were severely tested. Having to kill a lion, a bear, and other wild animals with those primitive weapons required great courage indeed (1 Sam. 17:34-37)! Reading the Psalms, we realize that it was his time alone in the desert that developed his relationship with God. It was there, all by himself – surrounded by his sheep, the cloudless skies, and the great empty expanse of barren desert rocks – that he took up his harp and learned to worship God from his heart. And so, he became ‘the man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13:22)!

The years of David’s youth developed all the fundamental aspects of his character which were needed to become king. The experiences of the wilderness in his youth prepared him to defeat Goliath (1 Sam. 17), the giant Philistine champion warrior, and be catapulted into great fame. We read, “They danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’(1 Sam 18:7).It was not entirely beneficial to a young teenager’s psychological development to witness that!

But David’s wilderness experience did not end there. Many years later he was forced back into the deserts of Judea, fleeing from the murderous, jealous King Saul. He was living in ravines, caves, and even with the sworn enemies of Israel, the Philistines. During this time, David had to face the searing pain of ridicule, rejection, and hatred from his people. Continual war, hunger, thirst, and hardship were his portion during this time. It was here that God taught David many lessons, not least the ability to collaborate with people. The lessons learned while leading sheep were now applied to leading men. David now had to master skills like leadership, diplomacy, conflict resolution, negotiation, motivation, and ‘generalship’ – wisdom. It was during this time of maturing that David learned to value God’s timing and processes in his life. He knew he was to become king, but trusted God to let it happen. He developed such a respect for God’s will that he flatly refused to kill Saul on at least two occasions. Now, that’s a man God can trust; it speaks of character!  

David’s first wilderness experience taught him to lead sheep; develop skills and confidence in his weapons, and the courage to use them; as well as the basics of faith in God. The second experience developed his ability to lead people; wage war; learn the art of diplomacy; and most difficult of all, wait for God’s perfect time in bringing his promises to fruition. It’s important to learn the following from David’s life in the wilderness: God was not a spectator from the outside, making notes and clinically evaluating David’s performance. No, he was with David in the wilderness – encouraging, strengthening, and preparing him for his future greatness.

The greatest truth to be learned in all our wilderness wanderings is very simple – it’s absolute surrender manifested as unshakeable trust in an unfailing God. What would have become of David if not for the wilderness, Goliath, and the murderous King Saul? Without these serious challenges, he would have been a vastly different man indeed. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. If David only defeated a normal Philistine soldier, no one would have danced and sang about his victories. But, because he defeated a terrifying giant, his reward was proportionally large. Let us take heart as we read David’s graphic story. Let us learn to surrender all to God and become faithful, resilient, courageous, humble men and women of faith who truly trust in God – in his goodness, wisdom, protection, timing, and provision in our lives, no matter how bleak our surroundings or giant our adversaries!

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’ (Acts 13:22).

God bless you richly.
Dr Jurie Vermeulen

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