And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33)
Giftedness cannot be measured by status. Higher does not always mean better. And further does not automatically mean greater.
But we assume that the executive of a Fortune 500 company is a better leader than the proprietor of our local hardware store. We assume that the finalist on the Voice is a better performer than a worship leader pining away in faithful obscurity. And, most personally, we assume that we are not as “gifted” as others who seem to have gone further in life.
It is true, giftedness is frequently a prerequisite to success wherever one finds themselves. For example, fourteen out of the last fifteen NCAA Men’s Championship teams have been led by seasoned high-profile coaches. So good coaching is obviously an asset to success in the NCAA. But the inverse, according to UConn ladies coach Geno Auriemma, is not always true.
In a recent interview, Auriemma shared his appreciation for the skill of many high school coaches he has witnessed over the years while on recruiting trips. When prodded on how someone of his stature could find appreciation for the skill of coaches far less “accomplished” then he, Auriemma said:
There are a lot of coaches in the Pros that are terrible. And there’s a lot of high school coaches that are really, really good. So I think, just because of where you coach, that doesn’t necessarily make you a good or great coach. One of the advantages I have is that I coached high school. So I know how to coach bad players. Cause when you’re coaching in high school, you’re coaching bad players. . . So you have to come up with all these different ways to make that bad player better.
In the Valley of Elah, the nation waited on a champion. One might have assumed that those higher in social status would step forward to battle a giant standing in the middle of the valley taunting their army and blaspheming their God. But they would be wrong. Men who had risen high in the ranks of the army, gone further in social recognition as warriors, even the king, commander and chief of the army, were unequiped for the challenge and unequal to the task. Status wasn’t everything. In fact, status was nothing, an incombrence as useless as unfitted armor.
David by contrast had no social standing, no street cred. No one wrote of how he had beaten back a bear or laid a lion out like a prize fighter(1 Sam 17:34-36). When the famous prophet Nathan had shown up at the family estate, even David’s own father overlooked him (1 Sam 16:11). Pining away with “those few sheep” he worked in faithful obscurity (1 Sam 17:28). But when he stood before Goliath, the nation learned that artificial human perceptions of status were utterly irrelevant when compared to one’s God-given abilities.
The gauntlet each of us run in this life is not made up of obstacles laid to prevent or stifle our success. It is simply preparation for what comes next, in this life and in the next. The bear and lion were only rehearsals for the real fight. The obscure service was proving ground where humility could be forged.
Through Jesus, God empowers his people to be change agents regardless of where they might find themselves in social hierarchies. This once unsung hero eventually wrote much of the Hebrew hymnal. And though he grew up undistinguished, God made him the standard by which all other kings would be judged.
Greatness cannot be measured by status. It is not where you are but how you “play” where you are which makes you a champion
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