Yesterday’s Sling and Stones aren’t Enough

Possibly the most well known biblical story is David and Goliath. David, a ruddy young shepherd’s boy fights a Philistine monster who from his youth had been trained in the art of war, his name sounds as threatening as his cruel, ruthless vocation…Goliath.

We know the story well, David fights on behalf of an entire Kingdom with nothing more than five stones selected from the location of the pending battle (this could be a sermon in itself) and his well-used sling. Despite the concern of others, David was extremely comfortable and confident with his chosen weapons –

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!  The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

We know how the story ends, the pivotal point…David cuts off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s own sword and suddenly momentum changes. The Israelite’s who were previously filled with fear are suddenly inspired with courage, they charge the Philistine army and the rest is history. David wins his fight.

But what about David’s next fight?

If life was all about one struggle, one conflict, one challenge then maybe we could live off the virtue of this one story, but life is not that simple. Life is made of a series of consecutive struggles, victories, and losses that do not relent, in fact, they tend to escalate in complexity and intimidation until we leave this Earth.

David’s next assignment rendered his sling and stone approach impotent.

Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. (1 Samuel 18:5)

Yesterday’s slings and stones won’t work for today’s assignment. They worked for David when confronted with the lion, the bear, and even Goliath but now there is a new assignment, an opportunity that David would never have even dreamed of stepping into. The verse preceding this tells of a covenant made between Jonathan and David and an interesting transfer that occurred.

Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. (1 Samuel 18:4)

In a single day, David had gone from a sling and five stones to acquiring the finest sword in the Philistine army, that of Goliath’s as well as one of the finest swords in the Israel armory, the sword belonging to the son of the King. Imagine the symbolism when David wore Jonathan’s tunic, clothes reserved for the heir to the throne! And from this place, he steps into his next assignment.

It is not written in the text but I can only assume that the process and discipline that allowed David to become efficient with his sling are the same virtues that made David efficient and skillful with his new armory.

Killing any Goliath is a moment worthy of celebration and honour…but what about the next battle. It is admirable that we became efficient with the skillset that made that initial victory possible…but there is the next fight to consider, a fight that more than likely requires new armory.

So put down that sling, to pick up that new sword and then apply the same discipline that made the past victory possible.

Yesterday’s sling and stones aren’t enough.

Armed with Burning Patience

Patience is not just a waiting game.

In 1971 Pablo Neruda quoted Arthur Rimbaud when he used these words as part of his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature –

“At dawn, armed with a burning patience we shall enter the splendid cities.”

Neruda’s vision of the splendid city differs radically from us who profess faith in Christ though one cannot help but be captivated by the language used to underscore this common pathway, this common quality or virtue demanded in any endeavour. Not just having patience, rather being,“…armed with a burning patience“.

As Jesus followers we live on the side of the Cross that points to and declares an empty tomb, the disarming of sin and death. This is the side where the power and grace of God’s Heavenly ‘Splendid City’ are ours and we are invited to appropriate and implement  these measures in our present world, this demands being ‘armed with a burning patience’.

It may help us to reconsider patience as not being passive, but being an extremely active virtue and asset of life.

Patience is firmly anchored in a captivating hope that empowers us to keep moving, to keep loving and to remain faithful even when we are not seeing runs being scored on the board. Patience is the essential quality that allows us to be the Church, (those who are ‘called out’ to look upon and consider the polis). Patience looks at the complexities, confusion and challenges of the regions we are called to, to hear its hearts cry, to observe its ebbs and flows and still believe that the Gospel works and is making a difference.

A burning patience empowers. It enables us to see and act for the ‘one’ among the masses and also empowers us to strive beyond the opposition that often comes from doing what is right and just.

John 5 recounts a story where this virtue is outworked. In this story Jesus leads his disciples to the pool of Bethesda. Now, ‘Bethesda’ is an interesting play on words, it literally means, ‘House of Mercy’ or ‘House of Grace’, yet because of the people and issues associated with it this place took on an alternate meaning. The words ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ were replaces with the words, ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’. Scripture tells us why –

John 5:3 (NLT)

Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 

Jesus leads His disciples to a place of misery.  Imagine a place of mess, smell and addictions. Imagine a crowd of people who by their mere existence shocked middle class sensibilities, well this is where Jesus took his disciples. Among this miserable collection of ailments and disease Jesus sees to a man who had been sick for 38 years, that is –

  • 38 years of being largely ignored.
  • 38 years of being seen as and treated as less than human.
  • 38 years of having ‘Imago-dei’ smeared, smudged and erased from his life.

Jesus demonstrates this virtue of ‘burning patience’ in a couple of ways –

  1. Out of the multitude He sees and heals only one (John 5:5).
  2. Jesus bypasses this mans poor understanding/theology of God to heal him – the man thought that in order to be healed God had a ‘first in, first served’ policy (John 5:7).

Possibly the most uncomfortable point of this story is seen in how inappropriate this man’s response was to receiving his healing. We’re familiar with Jesus healing people and there has been worship, praise to God and gratitude – that seems appropriate. In this story the tone is very different, instead of thanks this man betrays Jesus by running to the Jewish rulers to call Jesus out (John 5:15).

Jesus Kingdom act of healing this man results in an inappropriate response by this man which in turn results in this –

John 5:16-18 (NLT)

So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

Talk about doing the right thing, a just thing, restoring dignity and worth on a man who had been dehumanised for 38 years and instead of a ‘thank you’, the man betrays you and now your life is on the line. This is where being ‘armed with a burning patience’, really kicks in. Jesus keeps moving towards the cross, undeterred and absolutely resolute is His missional posture and journey.

Scripture lets us know that Kingdom endeavours can result in negative consequences. Bad things can happen when we do the right things but being armed with a burning patience  keeps us moving forward, believing for the best, loving and remaining faithful.

A burning patience is necessary if we are to continue in our vocation as the resolute prophetic Church of Jesus that seeks to be a liberating agent of the Spirit of God in our world, a true sign of God’s Kingdom as God’s reign breaks in and among us.

Patience is not just a waiting game…it is an armament in life and being armed with burning patience will enable us to see with our own eyes this most beautiful, splendid Heavenly City that our faith promises us.

I wonder if secrecy is becoming a lost art?

Jesus, of course, was a master of knowing when to go public and when to be hidden.  Jesus first miracle of turning water into wine is a great example of this. The story is recorded for us in John 2 where an intriguing and unexpected conclusion is added to help us grapple with what Jesus has just done.

John 2:11 (NLT)

‘This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.’

This is the first time Jesus reveals His glory or ‘uncloaks’ Himself to show His nature. His ultimate glory is the resurrection but how interesting that a wedding party is the first time He decides to show or reveal something of His glory.

The setting for this miracle is strange –

  • Weddings in the ancient Near East were incredibly important occasions for families and individuals—just as they are in modern times.
  • A successful event would have brought honour to the groom, his family, and the village where he lived.
  • Running out of wine would have dishonored the guests and brought shame on all those involved.

Jesus very first miracle is not healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the poor or even restoring a person back into the community,  this wedding party is occurring in the context of community.

Jesus very first miracle is purposed to bring a halt to shame that was about to fall like an avalanche on a groom and a family who seemingly miscalculated and were unprepared for a significant social occasion.

Shame is an epidemic that has no prejudice, it permeates every generation, every culture, and social class. It seemingly has no limits until Jesus steps in.

Anthropologist Ruth Benedict made an interesting observation in regards to the distinction between a guilt and shame culture –

“In a guilt culture, you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture, you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you.”

Jesus first miracle opens an invitation for every one of His followers to get involved in bringing a halt to Shame falling on people, families, and communities.

Notice how this miracle is outworked in this setting-

John 2:9 (NLT)

9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over.

If the miracle was purposed to just fix the problem of running out of wine then there would be no need for this verse, but Jesus is doing more than just turning water into wine. He is apprehending the road train of shame and dishonour that is about to befall a groom and his family in this community. This would have been a tragic way for this couple to begin their life together.

It is for this reason that the ‘Art of Secrecy’ is deployed. Significant people at this party had no idea what had just happened, they may not have even been aware that there was a problem in the first place. However a few hidden people in the story knew exactly what had just occurred, the scripture says, ‘…though, of course, the servants knew’.

How challenging it is for us living in this social media hungry world to deploy secrecy when everyone around us is broadcasting everything and I mean everything publically? We display, we post, we market and promote our achievements to the world, yet Jesus very first miracle was done in secret because he was addressing the very real, transcendent, pressing issue that was at stake at this wedding – putting a halt to shame.

But that is not where the story ends, Jesus doesn’t just bring a halt to shame falling on this groom and his family He does something so spectacular –

John 2:9-10 (NLT)

9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

Instead of having to endure shame, the groom was publicly honored for his over-the-top hospitality—and for saving the good wine for last (John 2:10). The groom receives undeserved honour and Jesus doesn’t appear to take exception to it. He seems to be very content with undeserving people receiving unearned honor and praise…sound familiar?


I’d be the first to admit that this story rattles me, yet our life as followers of Jesus is not just to be shaped and conformed into the image of Jesus, there is also an expectation that we would follow and push forward His mission in our world today (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21).

The Kingdom act of bringing a halt to shame befalling on people demands the Art of Secrecy, this may read like a simple task but I am convinced it is one of the greatest challenges we are facing today in the Church.

Just be Present

So we up and away in bringing 12 Buckets to Grovelands Primary School, you can watch the interview here.

I’m pretty excited on a few levels. Firstly what an amazing expression of the Church with “12 Buckets”, “Initiate Australia” and “New Spring Church” all coming together to serve a local school community.

On another level, this is an outworking Gospel Mission. The ‘Ministry of Presence’, as some would put it or simply being prepared to be present in an area or region long enough to see God’s Kingdom planted, established and then growing is something we are to commit to as believers. Church campaigns are great but committing to a place for an extended period of time is better.

I think there is definitely life application here, the willingness to stick it out until something happens, the ability to put your foot in the Jordan river and have nothing happen initially and still keep your stance until the waters start to move and a path is made clear is something to aspire towards.

A few years ago someone asked me, “What is the greatest leadership lesson you have learned Dave?”, I was surprised with what came out of my mouth, “Not flinching”, was my answer.  In other words, when you make the right decision and you don’t flinch, take a backward or sidestep because things don’t change or move immediately, well that takes courage, resilience, and conviction.