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The One Habit of Highly Effective People

Click here to read I Samuel 17 on BibleGateway.com

“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” – I Samuel 17:47

leaderBookstores are full of books on leading; biographies of great leaders, methods of leading, new approaches to leading, new terms for leading (hello “team management”), and so forth and so on. It seems that everyone has this desire to be one of the drivers instead of one of the oxen. Naturally, being the best book in the bookstore, the Bible has a thing or two to say about leadership, and manages to get right to the heart of the matter in a few sentences. Convenient.

One of the many great things about the Bible is the way in which multiple stories and points can be crammed into one little section. Obviously, the David and Goliath fight is the main point of the chapter today, but as always in the Bible, there’s more than the main point going on. We also get a glimpse of David’s older brother, Eliab, who makes a cameo or two in the preceding chapters.


So what do we know about Eliab (Can I call you Eli? No? Alright.)? He was the oldest in the family, the firstborn son of Jesse, and that in itself was a pretty big deal in the ancient world. Firstborns got the largest part of the inheritance, and were more or less seen as the successors to the father in the home (taking over the land, caring for the rest of the family if something happened to the father, etc). We also know he was tall and good looking; not a bad combination, or so I’ve heard.

So imagine one day, there you are being all attractive and not-short, and along comes Samuel, the most famous traveling preacher in all the land. He shows up at the house, and says “guess what, God sent me here because he’s picking a new king.” Don’t you think Eliab probably had a few thoughts running through his head? And then to hear “nope, not you, we’re going to go with your baby brother.” Had to be a mild letdown.

Jump ahead a bit, and now Eliab, being the man-of-the-house, is off fighting with Saul against the Philistines, taking his responsibility seriously; and here comes that little rascal again. David brings some sandwiches and soda to his brothers, and starts walking about the camp, asking “so, what you guys doin?” Imagine the thoughts running through Eliab’s head.


And yet David was the one who faced Goliath. Why? Why wasn’t it Eliab? He’d had his chances; forty days’ worth at least. He could have stepped up to Saul and volunteered. He could have had the victory and admiration and perhaps a little of the glory he craved.

But he didn’t. Instead he got angry with the one who was willing. His disappointment became frustration rather than inspiration; and that’s when you lose sight of Who you serve, and start focusing on what you “deserve.” And God rarely uses people like that.

Real leadership isn’t the one with the best look, the best degree, the best family. Many times, it’s not even in the one with the best training or experience, though that helps. It’s the one who steps up and says “I will trust God; I will take the chance; I will be risky.”


David recognized the real issue. This wasn’t a battle between the best men; it was a battle between men and God, and he already knew how that would turn out. Five times in a single response to Goliath he says “it is the LORD who will defeat you.” David was not seeking his own ambitions, or wealth, or even revenge. He was simply accepting to be the hands and feet of God.

That’s what leadership is. Not a seven-step plan, not a good “vision” of the future, not an MBA, not motivational speeches. Do you want to do great things for God? Learn to love the not-great things first. Leadership is knowing that you are first and foremost a servant of Christ; and being willing to do what he asks. That’s the kind of heart God is looking for. That’s what it takes to be a shepherd, or carry a meal, or face a giant.

That’s what it takes to be a king.

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