WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE – LESSONS FROM BIBLICAL TEENAGERS
One of the most pervasive things American children battle today is bullying, especially cyber bullying.
It is such a problem that the government has a website to deal with it: http://www.stopbullying.gov
The KidsHealth website also has plenty of information about bullying: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/cyberbullying.html
A school in Tampa, Fla., recently launched a digital citizenship program to help prevent cyber bullying: http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/pasco-schools-aim-to-prevent-cyberbullying-by-launching-digital-citizenship-program
Finally, there’s a website dedicated to statistical data about the problem: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html
It listed these alarming numbers about cyber bullying from the Cyberbullying Research Center:
- Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20% experience it regularly
- Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying
- Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims
- Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls
- Cyber bullying affects all races
- Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and to consider suicide
Although cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon in the 21st century, bullying is not. It has been around almost since the beginning of time, and there are numerous bullies chronicled in the Bible.
One of the most famous is Goliath, the Philistine giant. He bullied Israel’s entire army for 40 days (morning and evening), causing them to be overcome with paralyzing fear (1 Samuel 17). He challenged them to pick a champion to fight him, the Philistine champion warrior. Even Israel’s King Saul was too afraid to accept Goliath’s challenge.
On one of those days, a teenager named David visited his brothers on the battlefield and overheard Goliath’s taunts. David decided he would take on the giant to honor God. King Saul offered his armor to David, but David refused it. Instead David took five smooth stones, slipped one into his slingshot and went out to face Goliath. And in one shot, he knocked out the giant, and he then grabbed Goliath’s sword and cut off his head.
The Philistine army, seeing their champion lying dead, ran off in fear. The Israelite army, emboldened by David’s victory, chased after them and slaughtered many.
This isn’t just a story about David and Goliath. It’s a story about David and Saul. If you read chapters 15 and 16 in 1 Samuel, you will see that God rejected Saul as king and chose David to replace him. God used the David and Goliath story to present David to the Israelites.
David wasn’t as physically imposing as Saul (see 1 Samuel 9:1-2 and 1 Samuel 16:12), but as we saw in the battle with Goliath, David had a champion’s heart. And for God that’s what mattered most (1 Samuel 16:7).
So, let’s see what lessons we can draw from one of the Bible’s most well known stories.
Lesson 1: God’s honor comes first.
When David heard the giant bully’s taunts, he knew Goliath wasn’t only defying the Israelite army, but the God of Israel, the one true God. This got under David’s skin because he had a heart for God. “And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26 ESV) That’s when David decided to stand up to the bully on behalf of God, the Israelite army and his fellow Israelites. “When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:32 ESV) Personal application: Do you have a heart for God that results in righteous indignation when you hear Him being disrespected? Are you moved to action?
Lesson 2: Family members might misunderstand you when you decide to take a stand for God.
David’s oldest brother Eliab [whom God didn’t choose to replace Saul as King (1 Samuel 16:6-7)] accused him of being an annoying brat who was just looking for attention. He said in effect, “Go back and tend to your sheep, shepherd boy.” (1 Samuel 17:28) David didn’t understand his brother’s accusations (v. 29), but sometimes family members can jump to conclusions like that because of their own fears and insecurities. But don’t let that dissuade you from honoring God, as David did (v. 30). Personal application: Has someone in your family misunderstood you because you decided to take a stand for God? How did you respond? Did it change your mind about what you were going to do?
Lesson 3: Remember past victories when you decide to take a stand for God.
David recalled how God had protected him and enabled him to kill a lion and a bear when they attacked his flock of sheep. Because of what God had done for him while shepherding sheep, David expected God would do the same and protect him against the attack of this defiant giant. (1 Samuel 17:33-37) Personal application: When you are facing the giants in your life, do you remember what God has done for you in the past? Does that give you courage to face the situation?
Lesson 4: The Lord is with you because it’s His battle and not yours.
Whenever God is dishonored, God stands with the person who decides to do something about it (1 Samuel 17:45-47). God gives you the courage to stand because you are doing it for Him and it’s His honor that is at stake. Personal application: Do you sense God’s presence when you take a stand for Him?
Lesson 5: People will notice when you reveal your heart for God.
King Saul, the entire Israelite army and Goliath too recognized that David cared so deeply about respect for God that he was willing to put his own life on the line. And even though Goliath ridiculed and insulted David (1 Samuel 17:42-44), the giant bully soon discovered that David had the heart of a champion and skill on the battlefield. After David killed Goliath, King Saul rewarded him (1 Samuel 17:24-25), but David’s greatest reward came from God as noted in Acts 13:22 (NLT): … God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ Personal application: Do those around you know that you have a heart for God? How do you let them see it?
For further reading: David: A Man of Passion & Destiny, Charles R. Swindoll, Word Publishing, Copyright © 1997.
Next week: Mary: The Virgin with Song