Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 21-31, 1 Samuel 16:13, 1 Samuel 13:14, Joshua 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 27:14, Psalm 31:24, Proverbs 28:1, John 16:33, Ephesians 6:10-18, Psalm 112:7, Psalm 56:3-4, Psalm 27:1, 1 John 4:18, Matthew 10:28, Hebrews 13:5-6, Psalm 18:1-50.
Guiding Question: How can we have the courage to face the challenges before us?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in a short news article about a recent “death defying” feat. Ask students whether or not they would be willing to do the same thing. Why or why not? Ask students to share the scariest thing they have ever done or been asked to do (whether they did it or not). What did it feel like as they thought about doing the thing that terrified them? If they did it, what strategies did they use to get past their fears? If not, why did they decide to walk away?
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) Briefly review the stories of David from his anointment as future king to the point where he had to flee from Saul for his life. What thoughts and emotions must David have had as he fled from King Saul? What would most people choose to do if they were in a similar situation? David had several advantages that helped him face the adventures that were ahead of him. What advantages do you think he had?
First, we know from 1 Samuel 16:13 that David knew that God had said he would one day be the king of Israel. We also see that God gave David the gift of the Holy Spirit when Samuel anointed him. Today, all Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism, but in the Old Testament times, God only gave the Holy Spirit to some people for very specific purposes (like being King).
The Bible also tells us in 1 Samuel 13:14 that David was a man after God’s own heart. We don’t know everything that meant to God, but obviously trusting and obeying God was one of David’s top priorities. David had to trust that God would keep His promises to him and do the next right thing that God wanted him to do. But how would he face all of the challenges ahead with courage?
We don’t know for sure how long David ran from King Saul. We know it was more than a year and four months, because the Bible tells us he lived in the land of the Philistines for that long. We aren’t sure if the other adventures happened close to that time or were spread out over several years. Since the Bible tells us David was thirty years old when he began his reign, his flight from Saul probably lasted less than a decade.
Whether it was eighteen months or ten years, running from someone who wants to kill you is not fun. What are some challenges David may have faced? We find the first challenges he faced in 1 Samuel 21:1-9. What are the two things David asked the religious leader to provide him? Food is always a challenge when someone is on the run. Back then, there wasn’t a grocery store on every block. David also needed a weapon in case he had to go to battle against Saul or someone else. (Side note: Isn’t it interesting that the weapon he was given was the sword of Goliath, whom God had helped him defeat earlier!) Imagine the courage it took for David to come out in the open in search of food and a weapon! Every time David came out into the open to get supplies, he risked someone telling King Saul where he was. In fact pay close attention to verse seven.
Doeg, an Edomite who was Saul’s chief shepherd, happened to be there when David got the supplies from the religious leaders. We find out in the next chapter (22:9-19) that Doeg did indeed run to Saul and tell him what had happened. Saul slaughtered all, but one of the religious leaders. The person that survvived ran to David and told him what Saul had done. David felt guilty that others were murdered by Saul because they had helped him. He promised the survivor he would protect him from Saul and his men.
David’s adventures are only beginning though. He runs to Gath in Philistine territory. Why would David risk being killed by the Philistines because he (who had already killed thousands of them) was in their territory? For some reason, he believed he might be safer with them than in Israel. Yet, he soon overheard a conversation that made him rethink that decision. Read 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David must have been terrified! Now he had possibly the Philistines wanting to kill him, too!
What did David decide to do to get out of the situation? How much courage do you think David had to put that plan into action? His plan worked and David was able to get to a safer location. By that point, David’s family and men who were unhappy with their lives (and possibly King Saul) came out and joined David. What might having family and friends with him now done for David’s courage? Having family and friends to support and help us can make us more courageous when we face tough situations. Isolating ourselves from everyone can actually make us more fearful.
It’s easy to believe that perhaps now, David was just hanging out with his friends and family waiting for Saul to die. The Bible tells us that David used his time of waiting for God to do whatever He had planned by helping others. Read 1 Samuel 23:1-13. He continued to help others in Israel later when he lived with the Philistines (chapter 27) as he cleared Israel of some of its enemies.
David also maintained his close friendship with Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 23:14-18, Jonathan comes out to check on David and encourage him. In those days, Jonathan would have been considered within his rights to kill David as someone who might take the throne from his family. Yet, Jonathan loved David his entire life.
With extra people, came the need for more supplies – especially food. In 1 Samuel 25, we actually see the bravery of Abigail, as well as David. How did Abigail show courage in her interactions with her husband and with David? Abigail is a great example of how important it is to think carefully and strategically when we are in a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. Had she stayed in the flight or fight part of her brain, she would never have thought of the plan that ultimately saved them. Abigail was able to take a deep breath and get into the higher, strategic functions of her brain quickly. This allowed her to develop and execute the plan that helped David and saved Abigail and her servants.
Finally, David had two unique opportunities in the time he was fleeing Saul. He had two opportunities to kill Saul and get away without being hurt himself. (chapters 24 and 26) Yet, he chose to spare Saul’s life both times. David knew that God had a plan for transitioning the throne from Saul to David and it would not include David murdering Saul. In a situation where it seemed to David’s men that violence would solve the problem, the greater courage was actually in David walking away without hurting Saul.
God wants His people to live a courageous life. Yet at the same time living in a fallen world and doing everything God wants us to do in the world can be frightening. It’s important to take a closer look at how we can be more like David in how we courageously face life.
“Fear not” is actually the most frequent command in the Bible, being given more than 200 times! Most of those verse go beyond just saying, “Fear not”. They give us reasons and strategies for living a life that is not consumed with fear. Read the following verses and identify the extra information they give us about living without fear.
- Joshua 1:9 – Remember the Lord is with you wherever you go
- 2 Timothy 1:7 – God has given us not a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control
- Psalm 27:14 and 31:24 – Wait for the Lord
- Proverbs 28:1 – Righteous are as bold as a lion
- John 16:33 – Remember Jesus has overcome the world
- Ephesians 6:10-18 – Put on the armor of God
- Psalm 112:7 – Heart is firm trusting in the Lord
- Psalm 56:3-4, Psalm 27:1 – Put our trust in God
- 1 John 4:18 – Perfect love casts out fear
- Hebrews 13:5-6 – The Lord is our helper
- Matthew 10:28 – Don’t fear those who can only hurt the body, but God who can hurt both soul and body
That last verse is interesting. Notice it says we shouldn’t fear people, but we should fear God. Does God want us to live every day quaking in fear of Him? What does He mean by we should fear Him? Read the following verses and identify how God wants us to fear Him.
- Proverbs 8:13 – Hatred of evil
- Job 28:28 – Wisdom (from God)
- Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Keeping God’s commands
- Psalm 33:8 – Awe of who God is
- Deuteronomy 10:12 – Walk in God’s ways, love God, Serve Him with all of your heart and soul
- Proverbs 3:7 – Not being wise in our own eyes (not thinking we are smarter than God)
It’s interesting that David wrote a Psalm after Saul died. Read Psalm 18. What other information does it give you about how David was able to be courageous during those tough times of running from King Saul?
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Man says courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the willingness to do something in spite of our fears. God changes that popular bit of wisdom a bit. Fear is an emotion that comes from our brain and body preparing us to protect ourselves from something our brain has determined is scary. What scares us will be different from person to person.
What isn’t different is what God tells us about our fears. God tells us that to push that fear aside and be truly courageous, we have to trust in Him. We need to believe He loves us and cares for us and is beside us in whatever we have to face. God can give us the courage to do what needs to be done – especially if it is within God’s plans for our lives.
It’s important to remember, fear can have a helpful purpose. It keeps us from jumping off a tall building or wrestling with a grizzly bear. That sort of fear keeps us alive and is healthy. The fears we are discussing are the fears that keep us from doing what God wants us to do. If you are afraid of flying and God wants you to go on a mission trip to another country, you will need to overcome that fear. Or if God has given you an opportunity to share your faith with someone, but you are too afraid to say anything, because of how they might react. God wants you to overcome that fear. Or if you are so afraid of something that you are frozen – unable to do anything except focus on your fear. God wants you to erase those fears.
So what are some strategies we can use when we find ourselves feeling fearful? Have students create a fighting fear document on paper or in their phones that they can pull out and refer to whenever they are feeling fearful. Students should be encouraged to suggest strategies based on the stories from the life of David and other scriptures they have studied. They may also have more secular appearing ideas for fighting fear. Point out that God created our bodies and that taking good care of them in ways that fight fear and stress are a part of his design.
Note: Some students may mention taking medication for anxiety. This topic should be handled carefully. It’s important not to send students seeking medication who may not need it. On the other hand, if a student has been placed on anti-anxiety medicines by a doctor, it is not appropriate to imply the instructions of the doctor should not be followed. If you or students have concerns about students self medicating or being over medicated, go with the students to have a private conversation with the student’s parents to lovingly share any concerns others have expressed.
Some strategies for developing courage may include:
- Name your fear
- Pray (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Read Psalms
- Read Bible stories where people needed to be courageous
- Talk to a parent or Christian mentor
- Decide if there is something concrete you can do to minimize or face teh fear. For example, if you are afraid of an upcoming test, putting in extra study time can easy the fear.
- Don’t dwell on the possible worst case scenario. If it doesn’t come to pass, you have but yourself through unnecessary pain. If the worst does happen, you will then live through it by worrying and then in real life – doubling the pain.
- Develop healthy strategies for working off the stress chemicals your body produces when afraid – exercise, distraction, eating healthy, learning something new, talking to a mentor, etc.
Application Challenge: What makes you fearful? How do you normally react when something frightens you? What strategies used by David or learned from the other verses you studied help you be more courageous? Make a point to use these strategies the next time you feel yourself becoming fearful.