All of us have some level of comfort with risk. Maybe your coaching style is to push the boundaries of what’s considered a safe strategy. Or perhaps you’re more of a “by the book” coach. In this series of devotions, we’re looking at David’s life in 1 Samuel and considering what it means to be someone after God’s own heart – a description used of David in 1 Sam. 13:14. Here’s one thing we find: to be a coach after God’s own heart, you must be willing to take risks.
In 1 Sam. 23, David faces a situation in which he must decide whether to do something risky or to play it safe. The context: Though God has made it clear that David is the one he’s chosen to be king of Israel, Saul still holds the position of king – and he’s not at all pleased that David is waiting in the wings. So Saul makes it his mission to kill David. David is on the run for his life, and a group of men who support David are with him.
Then David learns that Keilah, an Israelite town near the border of Philistia, is being threatened by raiding parties of Philistines. Keilah needs help so David asks the Lord if he and his men should go and attack the Philistines. The Lord responds, “Yes, go and save Keilah” (1 Sam. 23:2). David’s men, however, are not so sure: “But David’s men said, ‘We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!’” (v. 3)
The concerns of David’s men are legitimate. They’re already on the run from Saul. If they come to Keilah’s aid, they’re risking defeat at the hands of the Philistine army – and they’re risking the possibility that this will make it easier for Saul to find and destroy them. Sure, it would be nice to help the people of Keilah. But maybe David and his men just need to take care of themselves rather than taking risks for the sake of others. What should David do: play it safe, or do something risky for the people of Keilah’s sake?
David asks God again, and again God makes it clear that David should trust him and come to Keilah’s aid (v. 4). The Lord wants David to share God’s heart for others, even when this feels risky. David follows the Lord, and he and his men rescue Keilah. Saul hears about this and sends his army to trap David in Keilah. The potential danger seems to be materializing. But the Lord enables David to escape Saul’s efforts.
Coach, you will face similar choices in your context if you want to share God’s heart for others. Will you put yourself out there for that troubled kid with marginal talent on your team – or will you only do this for the “safe” players who can clearly help you succeed? Will you truly love your players even though they will likely disappoint you at times – or will you play it safe and keep them at arm’s length? Will you make your faith in Christ central to how you approach coaching your players – or will you take the safe route of keeping your faith private and out of the coaching arena?
To be a coach after God’s own heart includes taking steps that feel risky because you share his heart for others. Like what David experienced from his men, there will be pressure to play it safe in order to protect yourself. In those moments, remember the words of our Lord Jesus in Matt. 16:24-25: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” As recipients of Jesus’ ultimate risky action of laying his life down in order to rescue us, let’s be willing to love him through loving others – even when this feels risky.
For reflection: What risks is the Lord directing you to take in order to share his heart for others – especially as you coach? Ask him for his grace and strength to enable you to trust him and take these steps that feel risky.