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Five Smooth Stones
By Glenn Harrell
David, the youth who would become king of Israel, faced Goliath with sling in hand and stones he selected to use as ammunition. What can we today use in handling the challenges and difficulties we come up against?
n the book of Acts we are told that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Why is it so important that we have tribulation in our life?
What is tribulation anyway? The word "tribulation" comes from the Greek word thlipsis, which means a "pressing, pressing together, pressure...oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits" (Strong's Online Concordance #2347). According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary "tribulation" means "distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; also a trying experience <the trials and tribulations of starting a new business>." It is through these trying experiences, these many trials, this pressure, that we draw closer to God and Christ, and that is why it is so important!
A giant of a trial
What do we do when we are faced with giant trials? There is a story in the Bible that illustrates the actions we need to take to reach a favorable conclusion to our major trials, and that is the story of David and Goliath. Through this story we can learn what we must do. We must...do our part, and leave the rest in God's hands!
Take a close look at the story of David and Goliath and see how David faced this giant trial and overcame it. The story is found in 1 Samuel 17:32-51. It is an impressive story, but I would like to focus on the main things that David did in preparing to face Goliath.
In verse 32, we see David's attitude towards this trial. It is a mindset that we need to have as we face our trials. "Let no man's heart fail because of him," David said, speaking of Goliath. As we face our trials, we must do so with courage, not fearing but being confident of the outcome (verses 33-36).
What David needed was not something that was man-made, but something that he had used before. It was tried and tested, and he knew it would be sufficient to get the job done. Next we see just what David did to prepare to face this giant trial in his life. "Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine" (verse 40). I would like to take a look at these five smooth stones (in a metaphorical sense) to see what they mean for us in helping us to face our trials today.
Considering David's example, let's take a look at "five smooth stones" that we can take up that will help us deal with our lives, circumstances and trials.
The first "stone" we should consider is prayer. Prayer is so very important in facing a trial. Prayer is an opportunity to take our problems to God and ask Him for His help. Notice the actions of King Hezekiah of Israel when he faced a giant trial. He had received a letter from another king indicating that Israel was about to be attacked and destroyed. We can read the story in 2 Kings 19:14-20:
"And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: 'O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.
"Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard."'"
We can see that Hezekiah took his problem and laid it before God, and God responded. Prayer is a way of communicating our problems to God. It shows that we recognize that we have a problem that we cannot handle on our own. We realize we need God's help. Prayer is our opportunity to humble ourselves before God and seek His help.
The second important "stone" is fasting. This stone offers another way to demonstrate humility and show God that we need Him in our lives. At times there are problems that take more than prayer to overcome. Notice these words of Christ after the disciples had attempted unsuccessfully to cast out a demon. After Christ rebuked the demon so that it came out of the young boy, the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, "Why could we not cast it out?" (Matthew 17:19). Jesus explained that "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
The third "stone" is Bible study. Every situation we face in life has already been faced by someone else. There is nothing new under the sun. The Bible tells us that Christ was tempted in all points, yet without sin. He faced all possible situations.
When we face trials, we can come up with all kinds of ways to solve the problems. But is our solution acceptable to both God and man? By diligently studying the Word of God, we can find the trial that we face and the solution to the trial, by reading the way the men and women of the Bible and Christ Himself faced their trials.
Studying the Word of God is not always easy. It's not just reading a passage and saying, "Ah, I have found the answer." No, "precept must be upon precept; precept upon precept: line upon line; line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10). Very seldom will we find everything about a given subject in only one passage of the Bible. Bible study is something that also must done prayerfully, asking God to guide us by His Spirit into understanding and seeing the truth about any given situation (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11). By studying the Bible, we prepare ourselves to face our trial, and we just may find the answer that we seek (2 Timothy 3:14-16).
What follows the use of the first three stones is the fourth "stone," meditation. This is not the type of meditation where one hums to try to take oneself into a spiritual consciousness. Rather, this is where one goes over a thought or idea again and again in one's mind, sort of like a ruminant animal. A ruminant animal is one that chews the cud. It takes the food into its mouth, chews it and gets nutrients from it, and swallows it into its first stomach. Later on in the day, it regurgitates it back up into its mouth in the form of the cud and chews it again. This way the animal gets all the nutrients from the food it takes in.
And finally, a fifth "stone" to consider is service. Christ told us that He came to serve and not to be served. Serving should be done in balance. Notice this statement regarding Martha: "But Martha was distracted with much serving" (Luke 10:40). Service is an opportunity for us to get our mind off of ourselves and our problems and focus on someone else and their problems. Often when we see the problems that others are facing, our problem seems to pale in comparison.
Notice Luke 14:12-14: Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
The purpose of service is to reflect your character before God. It is always "better to give than to receive" and that is one aspect of the righteous character that God wants to see in our lives.
The importance of God's help
Once the stone left the sling, after David had done his part, it was God who guided that stone through the air to hit its mark. Though the stone was aerodynamically sound, cutting through the air without much resistance, a shift in the wind or a sudden move by the giant might have caused it to miss. It was God who took down Goliath. David was just a tool in God's hand, and he realized it. Notice 1 Samuel 17:45-47:
We gain our victory for all the trials we face through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. He is the Stone that the builders rejected; he is our corner stone. Ultimately, we must take Christ into our lives to face our trials, and we will gain the victory over them, but we must do our part. So no matter what type of trial we face, we have a formula that will help us to face them. Pick up the five smooth stones of prayer, fasting, Bible study, meditation and service...and leave the rest in God's hands.
Copyright 2008 by United Church of God, an International Association All rights reserved.
Other Articles by Glenn Harrell
Origin of article "Five Smooth Stones"
Keywords: trials prayer Bible study fasting meditation, service Christian weapons