Soldiers don’t learn to fight in the classroom. They learn about fighting in the classroom.
Learning about fighting is crucial to successful fighting, which is why soldiers’ training always includes class time. But learning about fighting is not the same thing as fighting. Soldiers never really learn to fight until they are forced to actually do it. And when they do, they discover the actual, concrete experience of fighting looks and feels very different than the abstract idea of fighting.
Disciples of Jesus don’t learn to walk by faith — to fight the good fight of faith — in the classroom. They learn aboutfaith in the classroom — sermons, conferences, books, articles, videos. Learning about faith is crucial to successful walking by faith, which is why disciples’ training always includes class time. But learning about walking by faith is not the same thing as walking by faith.
Disciples never really learn to walk by faith until they are forced to actually do it. And when they do, they discover the actual, concrete experience of walking by faith looks and feels very different than the abstract idea of walking by faith.
Teach Me Your Way
When we pray with David, “teach me your way, O Lord” (Psalm [27:11]), God answers. And his answers often look and feel very different from what we thought we were asking for.
He often takes us out of the classroom — where we thought we understood things — into the chaotic, disorienting, disturbing, desperate violence of the field of spiritual battle, where we encounter internal and external enemies too powerful for us. He brings us up against obstacles too big for us, problems too complex and difficult for us, and burdens so far beyond our strength that we at times despair of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8).
And it is in these desperate places that we, like David, learn what walking by faith really means, where God teaches us his way.
How God Taught David
In those first heady months after Samuel anointed David the future king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16), how do you think David imagined his future? The Bible doesn’t tell us.
But the Bible does provide us a significant record of David’s inner life throughout his life in the psalms he wrote. And it’s clear from this record that from the day Saul began hunting him down until well into his old age, David was a man of troubles and acquainted with desperation. Most of his psalms are desperate prayers for God’s deliverance from assassination and spiritual depression — or songs of praise after being delivered from such desperate situations.
Is this how he envisioned his life as king? Did he expect to live most of his life with a target on his back among members of his own household, treacherous countrymen, as well as surrounding hostile nations? Did he expect to plead with God so often for his very survival (Psalm 86:2)? Did he expect to feel at times forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1)? Did he expect to weep so much (Psalm 6:6–7)?
The bewilderment, fear, and sorrow David expressed in many of his psalms lead me to think that trusting God proved far harder than he expected.