I have a little clipping with this quote that I keep on my desk: “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’” It was given to me a few years ago by a church member, and it points to something about human nature and the root of our motivations. There’s a craving for significance, and a related fear of insignificance. What kind of legacy will we leave? Will my name and all of my work be forgotten in the larger span of time?
This issue came to mind as I was studying the aftermath of David’s victory over Goliath (in I Samuel 17:55-18:5). After the feat had been accomplished, the question came up about who would get the credit. The king was taking notice of who actually killed the menacing giant.
It follows an interesting sequence: King Saul couldn’t even remember David (17: 55-56,58a) in spite of all their previous interactions. David, in turn, avoided giving his name in specific when asked (17:58b), perhaps because he was fearful of what eventually happened: He was drafted into the king’s service and was not allowed to return to his family (18:2).
This reveals the danger of getting swallowed up by our accomplishments. They can take control our lives and dominate us. This is why Alexander Graham Bell once said to his wife, “I am sick of the Telephone… Don’t let me be bound hand and soul to the Telephone.” We should be careful about wanting success; it may become more than we can manage.
And this leads to another great truth: Popular acclaim isn’t always a great thing. In fact, in some cases it can be a really bad thing. (See Luke 6:26.) True significance in a legacy comes in other ways, namely…
Part of the reason for this is the collective witness that comes into play. The church is not the pastor, the building, or the piano, but the people who are gathered as followers of Christ. So the church is bigger than any one of us, and the wider church is bigger than any single congregation. And the power of God is working in and through all of us together – with the larger accomplishment being the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. So the glory all goes to God, not to any of us. And there is our significance.
God bless you.
Andrew McHenry, Pastor – First Congregational Church
“The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.” – Paul in II Corinthians 10:4a
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” – Paul in Colossians 3:2
The call of faith is to rely on what is unseen instead of what is seen (cf. Hebrews 11:1). But in spite of this great biblical advice, the world sees no small amount of frustration and disappointment from placing its hopes in things that are visible. Two examples came to mind when I was studying the account of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17…
We do so much better if we take our eyes off of the gauges of worldly evaluation and live instead by being faithful and trusting in the unseen power of God. This can happen in three ways…
The world has its own various kinds of beauty contests, but it’s good to break away from those standards. Some time back I read an essay about Alexander Cruden, the extremely odd 18th century man who put together a Bible concordance that is still in use to this day. His biographer made this great observation: “Ever since the days of St. Paul, the greatest missionaries have not feared being called madmen by the sane men who live in grooves. Indeed they may truly be mad. But this madness of theirs gives the spirit a wider range than can ever be dreamt of by groove-dwellers.”
God bless you,
Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
Sometimes we face really challenging stretches of life. Lingering problems persist; they don’t ever seem to go away.
This was the situation David and the people of Israel were facing in I Samuel 17. David came from an established family where he had a job tending sheep (vv. 12-15). But one day his father dispatched him to check on his brothers who were stationed at the battlefront (vv. 17-22). There he saw Goliath, the armed giant in front of the Philistine army. Goliath taunted the Israelites with his challenges in a way that was both a national and a religious insult. This had been going on for some time, and the people were paralyzed with fear (vv. 11,16,23-24).
Sometimes a major part of these problems are bad responses. You can get into a cycle where the same problems repeat themselves because the same failed solutions aren’t working.
It was well-known that King Saul had offered rewards for defeating Goliath (vv. 25,27), but no one was willing to act on them. It wasn’t going to solve the problem. The Israelites needed a different person with a different solution.
Doing something different means asking hard questions.
David was not afraid to ask the tough questions (v. 26). This can make people feel uncomfortable, but it’s still important to ask them. That’s the gist of the famous children’s story about the emperor that had no clothes on.
When you’re not afraid to do this, there are two things you’re sure to encounter…
These kinds of opposition come with the territory. Expect them. Don’t be surprised or upset when they happen. What matters most is not the critics or the skeptics, but those who are willing to do something.
Ultimately the challenges and taunts from Goliath yielded these responses…
God has a way of bringing in the right person at the right time.
Often this can come through unlikely sources. I would’ve looked to the most experienced military-man, not to the shepherd-boy who was doing errands as a courier. But God had other plans. Similarly, many people would’ve looked to a royal messiah born in a golden crib, not a manger. Many would’ve looked for a conquering messiah, not one who died on the cross. But God worked things out differently.
And God can use you to make a difference too – perhaps when it’s least expected.
God bless you… Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.