by Ray Tetz—
The confrontation between David and Goliath is so exciting that almost all of our attention is on the moment of conflict—when David brought the giant down with nothing more than a stone flung from his shepherd’s sling. But take a look at the verse that just precedes the showdown with Goliath; what did David do just before he took his place in front of the mighty giant? “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:40, NIV).
From the swiftly running water of the stream, David chose five smooth stones. Stones that had been shaped by the elements into effective little missiles that would fly straight and hard when launched from his sling. Stones that were not too big to carry and not too small to have the desired impact. Exactly five—three might be too few (the fight might not be over with just a shot or two) and eight too many (the weight of the load might limit his effectiveness). Perhaps he chose a stone for the giant and each of his four brothers (they ran off, apparently).
Regardless, when it came right down to the battle with his giant, David had to leave everything else behind, and he went equipped with just five smooth stones—and with just one he brought the giant down and won the battle.
Imagine that every morning as you begin your day, you pick up your metaphorical shepherd’s bag and stock it with an equally metaphorical “five smooth stones,” the just-the-right-size to carry with you daily missiles that will help you win the battles against any giants you might encounter. (Yes, metaphorical giants. Stay with me here.)
What are your five smooth stones? Of all your choices from that babbling brook of values and beliefs and experiences and expectations, which ones do you prioritize as most important? Here are five I would choose.
The first stone is confidence in the goodness and graciousness of God. We know that we are loved by God and that we have freedom to approach God with the details of our lives. That confidence gives us courage and clarity in how we live out our faith.
The second stone is the belief that God takes an interest in our lives, which are important to Him. The details of our lives matter. Nothing falls outside God’s attention and care for us; we pursue our calling and our mission, including the development of our talents and gifts, in the power that God provides.
The third stone is the community that we are a part of as believers. God has intentional plans for His grace to transform our personal lives, our families, our communities, and the organizations and institutions that we cherish. We are each part of a community that loves us and helps to care for our needs—and also requires our love and service for all those “within our gates.”
The fourth stone is returning service. This means to take seriously the presence of God in our world, and to protect and value the quality of our lives and the world around us as an expression of our faith, and an act of direct service to God.
And the fifth stone, of course, is the gospel—the story of Jesus. Each day provides us with an opportunity to bear witness to God’s power and to proclaim the gospel message of restoration and redemption. This is the primary motivation in the benevolence of our churches, hospitals, and institutions; it means to serve as Christ served, for His sake. It has given life to a consistent witness of faithful and sacrificial service that is found in Adventism, expressed across a wide array of ministries.
So many stones in the brook! The way we live each day is ultimately the way we slay our own giants. The choices we make about what we will carry with us each day—the things that truly define our values, character, and behavior as we journey through the world—are no less important than the stones that David selected when called upon to face Goliath.
Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.