Church Leadership

The Clenched Jaw

Sweat dripped everywhere. Day after day the men sat in the summer heat cooled by the gentle breeze sweeping through the empty valley. But Saul and David’s brothers stayed in their tent, no breeze, sweating.

They were afraid. They dared not go outside. As the sun beat down on their tent they paced, hoping a solution would rise out of the stench of that tent. Yet, day after day, the hours were counted by the drops of sweat running across their faces and onto the tent’s dirt floor.

They were afraid that their men would see their fear. So they hid from their armies. 

Each morning the giant came out to taunt them. “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” Meanwhile, Saul contemplated his options. Apparently, the best idea was a series of suicide missions. They’d promise each man a king’s ransom to go out to be slaughtered by the giant. They must have thought that after a number of these skirmishes they could wear the Philistine down. Each of them wanted to win, knew that Israel must win, but none of the leaders dared to challenge the giant.

The giants daily taunts petrified them in the forest of this tents poles. Too afraid to go home, too afraid to move forward. They were stuck– defined by a single voice.

To their dismay none of their subordinates would step up to the task. And so the summer of waiting, frustration, and sweat continued on those hills. The Philistines, with their giant, knew it was just a matter of time before the Israelites gave up. They knew that if they could sweat it out– fear would get the best of the Israelites and they’d become Philistine slaves. 

Late one morning, as the sun rose towards noon bringing silence across the camp, the escalating misery of the tents rising temperature was broken by murmurs from the camp. Someone was stirring up the men who had found their shade and breezy resting places for the long afternoon of desert napping heat.

One brother poked his head out of the tent to see that his kid brother David had arrived.

With anger directed at the lazing men David said, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?

All ears heard David. And all eyes shifted to the sweating, hiding tent of their leaders.

No doubt, David had said what every Israeli soldier knew but dared not speak. Their leaders hid from their reality like a child hiding from his father’s punishment. They’d rather hide in that sweltering tent than lead their men into a battle they might lose.

David’s brothers were pissed. How dare their kid brother come and call them wimps in front of their men? Who does he think he is? How dare he break ranks? He hasn’t even been here. He’s been out watching daddy’s sheep.

So the scared brothers did what their ancestors had always done. As with Joseph they set up David to be killed. They pulled David into Saul’s Tent of Fear and piled on the heat and weight of their doubt. Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you” as he sent his baby rival off to die.

And with a clenched jaw David shouted across the valley,

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

And that day, in that valley, the men of Israel found their leader. One man clenched his jaw and lead where others dared not. David might not have acquired the title of king yet, but every man in that army knew who their leader was.

Friends, fear will make you stupid. Whatever tent you are hiding in, whatever sweat pours off your brow, whatever hand wringing you do with your brothers in private… know that fear does not come from the Lord. 

Clench your jaw and lead this week. The same Savior who has brought you this far will carry you across the valley you face today. When has He ever left you before? 

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Fearing the right things

Franklin D. RooseveltContrary to popular belief– I do have fears.

Every day I ride my bike to work, I’m fearful of getting hit by a car.

When I’m out bodyboarding, I’m fearful of getting killed by a shark.

When my kids are late coming out of school, I’m fearful that something happened to them.

I have the same fears as everyone else. I recognize that there are things with which it is healthy to have fear.

But I refuse to be defined by my fears

Fears are often irrational. I’ve got a pretty slim chance of getting hit by a car, or killed by a shark, or that my kids will be kidnapped from their school.

That’s the rational reality.

So, I chose to not have my life defined by paralyzing fear of those things.

I have no fear of opportunity

The lens of fear is the wrong lens to judge an opportunity. You can’t worry about failure. You can’t worry about getting emotionally hurt. You can’t worry if people will like you. And you can’t worry about what people will think if you say yes or say no.

You need a better lens than that. You need a level head to determine whether an opportunity is good for you or not.

I often say no to ideas presented to me. But I never allow fear to be a part of the equation.


Deep down I know that I shouldn’t fear what could happen if something goes wrong. Instead, I fear what could happen if I don’t try.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, standing before the world on his inauguration day. With everything to fear– from wars on two continents looming, a depression lasting nearly a decade, and even his private battle with paralysis:

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. listen