Sometimes the most successful people in the world are those willing to do things differently.
Different isn’t always popular. Different can be risky. Different means going against the status quo. But it also means looking at the same problem in a new way. It means approaching something with a fresh attitude. And often that’s what it takes to make the next big step, to evolve into something MORE. Because when the old tried and true methods no longer work as well as they used to, or no longer work at all, it takes being different. Billy Beane was different. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball you know how different he was. Billy Beane is the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, and he threw nearly a century of “baseball wisdom” out the window to recruit a group of players largely unwanted by other teams. He adopted a style of scouting known as sabermetrics which involved using statistical analysis instead of the methods traditionally used by scouts to recruit players. He was ridiculed, criticized, and belittled in the press and among other baseball owners. People said it would never work. But under his leadership the Oakland A’s have been able to field a tough, competitive team with comparatively very little money. In 2002, the season that the movie Moneyball focused on, the A’s had the third lowest payroll in all of baseball with only $39.7 million. Yet they won an American League record of 20 consecutive games and tied for most wins in all of basebalMill that year with the New York Yankees whose payroll was more than three times that of the Oakland A’s. There are still some who cling to the old ways of scouting, but most teams today incorporate at least some of the principles that Beane adopted in managing their teams. The Boston Red Sox, who have won three World Series in the past decade, were among the first to use this system. Billy Beane was different.
Today, in our reading, we’re going to look at another person who did things differently.
That would be King David. Or David as he is simply known at this part of his story. If you have a Bible or Bible app on your phone, please go to 1 Samuel 17 beginning with 34. 1 Samuel 17:34. This is a story you are familiar with. Even if you’ve never read the Bible, you probably know about this event in David’s life. We’re going to read a portion of the story of David and Goliath. At the beginning of the story, the Israelites and the Philistines are gathering for war. The Israelites are on the top of one hill and the Philistines on another. And in the midst of this, a man named Goliath comes forward from the Philistine’s camp and issues a challenge to the Israelites. If one of them can best him in one-on-one combat, the Philistines will become the willful servants of the Israelites. But in turn if Goliath can beat the Israelites champion then they must become the willful servants of the Philistines. Probably neither side would just give up that easily, but Goliath’s taunt did exactly what he hoped for. It created fear in the hearts of the Israelites. Not a one of them thought they could go toe-to-toe with Goliath. As you know Goliath was one of the Philistine’s champions and he was HUGE! Guinness Book of World Records huge. Early manuscripts have him at about seven feet tall, but the Bible says he stood at 9’ 9” which would beat any other record by about a foot! So Goliath was an imposing figure. For forty days, Goliath came out and waited for someone from the Israelites to come challenge him. That’s where David comes in. Jesse sent David to the front lines to bring supplies to King Saul and to see how his sons were doing. When David gets there, he sees the Israelites in fear of Goliath and when he is brought before the king, David volunteers to fight Goliath. Saul tells David he doesn’t stand a chance and that’s where we pick up our story today. If you’ll please rise as we read from 1 Samuel 17:34-40 and 50-51. Hear now the Word of God.
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 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.
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. 51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
The Word of God for the people of God and the people said, “Thanks be to God.” Please be seated.
David did what was different.
David did what was different. But probably in a way you aren’t used to seeing it. We look at this story as an incredible testament to the faith that David had in God, and it is. It’s a story of great faith. Here is this young man with basically no training whatsoever who comes to the battlefield and decides to take on this nearly ten foot giant because he insulted the people of God. Now, everyone else in Saul’s army heard these same insults, but only David was moved enough to go out there and face Goliath. In all honesty, Saul probably thought this might be what was needed to motivate the troops, the death of a young Israelite at the hands of this giant. That maybe it would be enough to shame them into action and to find the bravery to face the Philistines. Or maybe he really did believe in David and that the hand of God was upon this young man. But either way, it was a testimony to David’s faith in God. But David did something else that is a lesson we need to hear, especially as our churches are in decline. Probably a lesson many of our churches need to hear and really take to heart. To make a difference, we have to do things differently. To make a difference, we have to do things differently. Take a look at this passage we just read and you can see that’s exactly what David did. David finally convinces Saul to let him face Goliath and after giving him his blessing, Saul gives David his very own tunic. Being the king, it was probably the best protection money could buy. He gave him armor and a helmet, but David told him, “I cannot go in these because I am not used to them.” Saul’s probably wondering what kind of protection David was going to wear then since he didn’t come into camp with any. As it is, David would NEED some kind of protection if he hoped to survive even the first blow that Goliath took at him. But David shed the armor and instead picked up a few stones and his slingshot and went into battle. And that’s it. Stones and a slingshot. Traditionally, men in one-on-one combat would bear down on each other in their armor and weapons and trade blows until one of them fell. It would be slow. Basically two tree trunks swinging wildly at each other. Which is why David should have needed the armor. The weight of the sword and the weight of the armor wouldn’t allow him to duck or dodge his enemies blows. He would need to withstand them. But instead David it differently. No armor meant he was extremely agile which he used to his advantage. He ran at his opponent, fired a stone at his head, the only part of his body not likely covered with some sort of protection, and killed Goliath. Had he been wearing the armor, he likely would have been so slow that Goliath could easily have defended himself and then killed David with a single blow. But instead David did it differently.
Ecclesiastes says “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
The trick is realizing when that time is up and when it’s time to do something different. The trick is realizing when that time is up and when it’s time to do something different. Because as the world around us changes, we need to change, too. We need to adapt. We need to adjust to new circumstances. That’s not always easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. Look at the example of David. Had he fought Goliath in the traditional way, he almost surely would have been killed. But because he did things differently, he found a way to triumph. Businesses do this all the time. They are always trying to find something even BETTER. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with what they’ve got, but just that in the competitive marketplace that is the world, failure to adapt and change often leads to the end of a company. Odds are its difficult to find any product the same way it was when you were a child. Even if the name is the same, it’s probably “new and improved.” Take for instance, the Milano cookie. I don’t know how many of you have tasted these delectable treats, but I love them. Crisp yet soft butter cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in between. Yum. Needless to say, Pepperidge Farm didn’t need to do anything to this product to stay ahead of the competition. Already, Milano’s are the fourth best selling cookie in the nation. But they couldn’t leave well enough alone. Now they have milk chocolate Milano, mint Milano, double chocolate Milano (if there wasn’t enough chocolate already for you), orange Milano, and raspberry Milano, not to mention Milano slices and Milano melts – all of which have THEIR own flavors, too. Now, not all of these will succeed, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to find the next great cookie.
In the same way, we need to examine where it is in our lives we might need to do things differently.
What isn’t working the way you hoped it would? And what do you need to do differently to make it work? Maybe it’s something simple like our food choices. Maybe it’s in how we relate to people. Maybe it’s the path that our career is taking us. Or maybe it’s where you feel God is calling you. Where do you feel God is leading you and are you doing all you can to get there? Or do you hide behind the comfort and security of the familiar? Are you doing all you can to follow where God is leading you in your life, or do you hide behind the comfort and security of the familiar? God is the ultimate “doing something different” type of person. Jesus took death on the cross and turned it into new life. He took the symbol of utter despair and hopelessness and turned it into a symbol for life and hope instead. When Jesus was resurrected, he showed the disciples and ultimately the world that death was only a new beginning. The Israelites thought that the savior of the world would come in triumph to destroy their enemies and lead them into a new existence. And he did. But not in the way they imagined. Jesus, like David, did something different. What will you do differently? What will you do differently? This is a question we need to ask ourselves personally and as a church. As we see our congregations growing smaller we should challenge ourselves to ask this question – what will we do differently? Because it’s not a matter of failure. We’ve talked about that already and how many, many successes our churches have had over the long tenure of their existence. Even if both churches closed tomorrow, our ministry would still have been considered a success. But we might ask instead, are we changing with the times? Are we changing as our community changes? What can we do to make a difference for God’s kingdom today? Our challenge then is to leave this place committed to trying something different both in our personal lives and the life of our church. Consider what it may be that we might need to do personally or together to make a difference in our church. Will that be inviting a friend or even a stranger to church? Will that be giving more of your time, talents, gifts, service, and witness? Will it be having an open mind about what the future may bring? Pray on those questions and then act on them. And then personally, do one thing different this week. Try a new vegetable. Exercise more. Eat a new food. It may make little difference or it may make a lot. But you won’t know unless you try to do something different. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.