John Wesley Honors College

WARNING: You’re on the Training Ground

by Ren Martin, John Wesley Scholar, Class of 2014

“He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” – 2 Samuel 22:35


David sings this in praise to the Lord after he has been king a while. His training has been going on for a long time now. David has defeated giants and armies. It’s easy for us to read this psalm and only think about David’s military victories as a warrior king. But we would be looking at David’s life in reverse.

David didn’t know he was going through training while he was being trained. David started out as a little kid sitting around in fields with sheep by himself all day. This didn’t look like training, it looked like waiting.

God promised him a kingdom, but every morning he saw only sheep.

Finally, his father let him take food to his brothers who were fighting the Philistines. When David sees Goliath taunting Israel, he gets angry. The boy who has spent his life waiting around in fields volunteers to fight the giant. His request sounds naïve, and at first Saul doesn’t take the sheltered little shepherd boy seriously.

“And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” – 1 Samuel 17:33-37

Even though David might have felt like he had just been waiting in the fields for God to make him king, God was training him. David didn’t mope around doing nothing. He knew that for now his God-given goal was to protect his sheep. So he did that.

He didn’t know there was a giant coming.

He didn’t know that delivering food to his brothers would put him in a place to be used by the Lord.

The Lord trains our hands for battle even when we feel like we’re in a waiting place. Waiting places are the same thing as training places. David didn’t know when God would use him in big ways. He knew God had chosen him as king, but David didn’t study politics. He wasn’t even in the army. Saul points out that Goliath has trained himself for war since he was David’s age, while David has only been spending his time at home.

But God’s training programs are not always what we would have chosen. At home, David’s father asked him to tend the sheep, so David tended the sheep. His father asked him to deliver food, so David delivered food. David performed his everyday responsibilities with excellence while waiting on God. His responsibilities while waiting trained him how to deal with exceptional circumstances when they came into his life.

David didn’t plan his training program like Goliath did. He didn’t wake up every morning and wrestle bears before breakfast. Instead, lions and bears attacked unexpectedly. Things went wrong. David decided to respond with courage while he was alone in the field and no one was watching. David trusted God to be with him in situations nobody saw or cared about. As David trusted God there in the waiting place, God trained him to have courage in a doing place, when Israelites and Philistines were watching him, waiting for him to fail. But David did not falter. In the waiting place, God had trained his hands for war.

Do you feel like you’re in a waiting place?

Are you feeling discouraged because you don’t feel like God is using you?

If you are living in submission to God and pursuing him, God will call you to action. The time you are in now is not wasted. Even if you feel like you’re in the wrong major, or the wrong school, or the wrong country altogether, God is at work in your life. So when bears come into your life and upset your plans, respond with godliness. When no one’s watching and your work feels pointless, glorify God. Nothing in your life is wasted—no pain, no struggle, no responsibility, no stupid homework assignment. God is training your hands for war. Get ready to meet your giants.