A few months into joining Mergon we decided to start an exceptionally ambitious initiative called Nation Builder. This was to equip and inspire the business community to engage in social change projects in a redemptive manner that would exponentially better the socio-economic landscape in South Africa.
Pieter Faure, CEO of Mergon, walked into our office with a word of encouragement for our tiny team of two, who were tackling the giant of responsible social investment in the most unequal society in the world. I remember the moment so clearly as he recounted the story of David and Goliath, emphasising that a simple shepherd boy had the courage to use the skills he’d gained in other spheres of society to slay a giant that would impact the trajectory of the nation of Israel.
This story has been a source of encouragement and courage throughout my journey at Mergon, where I have found myself in the shoes of David – realising that there is a Goliath to slay that God has given me the courage and conviction to stand against.
We all know this story too well from our children’s church days but have possibly not unpacked the organisational lessons we can learn from it. Here is where I believe we can find our story in this classic tale.
- He didn’t fit the mould: David was not a soldier, didn’t have the formal training for battle, was much smaller in physique than Goliath and still a youth. At face value, David was the worst person to send into battle against Goliath and bet the nation’s future on.
How often do we as business leaders feel like the unconventional fit for the Goliath we need to tackle?
- He didn’t succumb to the expectations of others: Once David had convinced Saul that Goliath would be no match for him, Saul equipped him as best he knew – with his robe, armour and swords. Grateful for the gesture David tries on the protective gear for the task, however, realises that the armour would hinder more than aid in defeating Goliath, as it was not something he had been trained to wear.
Sound familiar? How often are we tempted to wear other people’s armour – their approaches and tools – to defeat the Goliath’s we are called to slay? David tried on the armour to see the fit, but when it didn’t feel right, he chose to trust in God’s protection rather than the wisdom of man and believe that God had given him the skill needed for the task.
- The judgement of others didn’t change his course: A young shepherd with no armour, sword or experience going out to face a giant to determine the future of each solider, their families and the nation of Israel must have seemed like a bad dream. Despite the lack of confidence in his ability from others, he didn’t second guess himself or go back and fetch the armour, but stood firm in his conviction that God would protect him and had given him the skill he required as a shepherd to defeat Goliath.
Probably the toughest part of business is when those closest to you, or who are more experienced than you, are not confident in you being able to defeat Goliath – yet your faith in God’s provision and protection are your bedrock.
- All glory could only be given to God: David was such an unlikely victor, that his unconventional victory could only be attributed to God who had prepared him and given him the courage to stand against the giant with a strategy that could defeat him. A highly skilled soldier with superior armour and protection may have beaten Goliath if he had the courage to stand against him, but much of the glory would have gone to his skill rather than the divine plan of God.
That is always the cherry on the top of these ‘David moments’ – when there is no shadow of a doubt that God was the orchestrator of the victory and no clever plan or skill of man.
- He was either desperate or deeply discerning: Saul must have been ecstatic to hear that someone was asking about the reward to kill Goliath – especially after 40 days of watching his soldiers flee from the battle lines when Goliath spoke. When a youthful, unskilled – yet confident – shepherd walked in to speak about Goliath, his heart must have sunk. Saul’s first observation was that he was too young to fight a skilled worrier like Goliath, yet, after some convincing from David he gave his blessing to a very unconventional candidate to carry the future of the nation with him onto the battlefield.
Saul’s are just as important as David’s in business. If Saul didn’t give his blessing to David, he would not have been able to enter the battlefield to fight Goliath.
- He trusted David’s approach: Saul who was esteemed for his knowledge in battle (known as the Warrior-King) offered the best protection and equipment he could to David. David tried it on but declined as he was not used to this approach in fighting lions and bears. Saul didn’t insist on using what he knew to be best for fighting but trusted that David did have the skill to defeat Goliath in a different manner. If Saul had insisted David would most likely have been defeated due to the weight of the armour inhibiting the use of the slingshot and leaving him as a shepherd to try and defeat a skilled warrior with his sword.
Knowledge and experience are invaluable, however, for some giants the norm is not going to lead to victory and therefore require exceptionally discerning Saul’s that will trust their David’s to use different means in fighting Goliath.
Our journey at Mergon is a collection of ‘David moments’ where we have done things counter-culturally, backed the unconventional candidate and had a ‘Saul’ to give their blessing to a ‘David’ who goes on to shape the future of Mergon.
We definitely don’t always get this right. But when I look back at the significant moments that have shaped our Mergon story, every single one has a David, a Saul and an unexpected solution that would bring all the glory to God and not man.
I pray that as we grow in skill and stature as an organisation we will not rely on the skill, size and power of our ‘armies’, but to always remain attentive and discerning to the David moments and Saul backing where we trust God for His protection and the perfect provision, over those of the world and spectators, to conquer the Goliaths He has given us courage to slay.
Established in 2008, Nation Builder is a Ziwani ecosystem player that inspires and equips the business community to lead in effective social impact.