David bent over and reached down into the brook that ran through the Valley of Elah. The water ran swiftly over the rocky bed of this seasonal creek. The water had already begun to dry up from the use of the two armies over the last 40 days and with the passage of spring into early summer. One by one, David carefully chose the smooth stones for his sling — five of them. He put all five into his shepherd's bag. He grabbed his sling in one hand and carried his staff in the other as he approached the giant of Philistia named Goliath.

This life-story out of Israel's past, part of the faith and family heritage of Jesus, is one of the most beloved in Scripture by people of all ages (1 Samuel 17:1-58). Courage conquers cowardice. Youthful idealism triumphs over complacent realism. Faith is victorious over fear. The little guy slays the giant. The nobody is wildly successful as warriors of note sit it out on the sidelines. David will be Israel's king: his faith and his fame will do publicly what God's choice had done privately through Samuel.

However, before David can slay Goliath, he had to first overcome another giant: his importance as a young man was discounted by everyone. David was the youngest of eight sons. He was not even considered important enough to invite to the consecration service with Samuel, Jesse, and his older seven brothers — he was off doing "boys work," tending the family sheep (1 Samuel 16:4-11). David came to the Valley of Elah, where his oldest three brothers were stationed with the army of Saul. He was simply the "gopher" — the boy bringing food to his brothers and their commanders. He was not even noticed until he inserted himself in the discussion.

David spoke of his shock at the blasphemous posturing of Goliath and his frustration with the lack of response from God's warriors.

"Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26)

Offended that his kid brother would say anything, David's oldest brother, Eliab, fired back a scathing and belittling flurry of words intended to shame David and put him in his place.

"Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle" (1 Samuel 18:28).

David's first giant was the giant of low expectations. In the eyes of pretty much all those around him, David was just a youth — a shepherd boy. He was just an idealistic kid-poet and solo-singer for a bunch of woolies in the wilderness. He didn't know how to wear armor, much less face the giants of "the real adult world." He was barely worthy to chase sheep and fetch the lunch of real warriors. He was not old enough or big enough to fight the real battles of God, faith, and real men — least not till Goliath lay dead in the Valley of Elah.

David's first giant was the giant of low expectations because he was young. This is not a giant found in the camp of the enemy, but a close to home giant. This giant often afflicts older generations as we look upon our young. Paul would warn Timothy centuries later to not let this happen to him (1 Timothy 4:12). Unfortunately, this same giant is found in many of our churches, parachurch organizations, and ministries today.

For some reason, people of faith often prefer to make the mistakes of complacency, delay, over-analysis, bad timing, and gridlock, rather than make the mistakes of youthful idealism. We would rather bore our young adults to death protecting them from the dangers of the adult world and leaving them without challenging examples of vibrant and risky faith. We would rather pander to their whims than challenge them to leave the kids table and join us at the adult table of faith, passion, decision, courage, and service.

For all the deficits that King Saul brought to the people of God in his later years, he made one very crucial and good decision. He gave David the opportunity to show his faith and lead God's people to victory. Saul showed his support by trying to outfit David for battle. He extended a public blessing on David as he went to face the giant. He risked the battle with real lives at stake to a young man without apparent experience. The real question is whether we will do the same with the young adult visionaries of our day?

Shouldn't Saul's words ring in our ears and challenge us to call our young adult believers forward in leadership?

I pray that our words will be, "Go, and the LORD be with you" and that we will do all we can to equip them to serve, and go with them to serve the Kingdom of God! (1 Samuel 17:37).

LIFE Questions:
These are questions designed for you to discuss with others in a small group, house church, friendship circle, or share with our Heartlight.org community on the blog. I'd love to hear from you: http://thephilfiles.com

Why do we expect so little spiritual maturity out of our young people when we see deep spiritual depth in young adults in Scripture like Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-56), Timothy (Acts 16:1-5;  1 Thessalonians 3:1-5;  Philippians 2:19-23;  1 Timothy 4:12), King Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-20;  2 Kings 23:1-3), as well as King David?

Why do we expect so little spiritual maturity out of our young people?
How do we include our young adults in the discussions about the future, leadership, and outreach to the lost of our culture?

  • Why is it so hard for us to let young adults step up to leadership roles in the work of the Kingdom?
  • Why is idealism often associated with youth and contrasted with the wise pragmatism of age?
  • How do we find a place for both of these in our work for the Kingdom?

Matthew's gospel talks about experiencing God as Immanuel through Jesus in four ways: (1) through Scripture centered on Jesus as its fulfillment (Matthew 1:23); (2) through radical community where confession, forgiveness, and accountability are practiced openly (Matthew 18:20); (3) through service to others in need (Matthew 25:40); and (4) through mission across cultures to walk along side people until they give their lives fully to Christ in obedient living (Matthew 28:18-20).

  • How can these four avenues of experiencing Jesus become an opportunity for our young believers in Jesus to grow and become ready for leadership?
  • Why is each of these important in different ways and in different stages of our discipleship journey?
  • Which of these is most important for our young believers in Christ right now?
  • Which of these are young adult believers in your circle of influence most ready to help lead the people of God today right now?