For nearly 20 years Al Janssen worked closely with Brother Andrew, the Founder of Open Doors. Together they traveled to Muslim countries, wrote six books, met with political leaders and spoke to ministry donors. This blog tells the story of their friendship and some of the many lessons Al learned from this beloved mission leader.
‘This is the weapon David might have used!’
In our time and travels together, Brother Andrew and I had a lot of fun studying, debating, and teaching the Bible. We weren’t irreverent, but there was always a thrill when we gained a fresh insight into a Scripture passage.
I remember working on a devotional based on I Samuel 17—the story of David’s confrontation with Goliath. Andrew surprised me one morning when he presented me with a hand-woven sling, similar to what David may have used against the giant, based on how Scripture describes it.
The sling was a slender item woven together with untreated wool. Brother Andrew said it was a gift to him from a herdsman in Afghanistan. “This doesn’t look like much,” he admitted, “but in the hands of an expert, it can deliver a powerful punch.”
After we finished writing the devotional No Guts, No Glory!, we had a chance to do a presentation for our staff in the Netherlands. I read slowly through I Samuel 17. Brother Andrew provided commentary. For example, I read: “Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh…”
“WAIT!” Brother Andrew shouted suddenly. “What were the Philistines doing in Socoh? They had no business being just nine miles from Jerusalem. This was Israel’s land. God gave it to them.”
Of course, I asked, “So why were the Philistines where they didn’t belong?”
“Very simply, because Israel was weak. It was their own fault. God had given them everything they needed to live securely within their borders, yet they continually ignored God and His resources.”
But young David did not ignore God or His promises. Later in I Samuel 17, we learn why David was the only Israelite willing to step up and fight Goliath. Because he had experience caring for his father’s sheep. David told King Saul that when a lion or bear stole a lamb from his flock, “I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth.”
The same God who gave him power over the lion and the bear would conquer the giant.
In Brother Andrew’s imagination, he viewed the scene in which a mountain lion dashed into the midst of the flock. The animals started to scatter as the predator grabbed a lamb by the scruff of the neck. Instantly, David, perhaps not yet a teenager, dashed after the wild marauder. “
’It so happened that Ishmael, a friend of David’s father, was passing by and witnessed the drama,” Andrew told me. “He reached into his robe, pulled out his mobile phone and speed-dialed his close friend.”
I resisted a laugh—Brother Andrew never uses a mobile phone.
“Jesse, it’s Ishmael! I just saw a lion grab one of your sheep.”
“What? Where is my son? David’s supposed to be taking care of my flock.”
“That’s why I called you. Your son is chasing the lion now.”
“Oh, you had me worried for a minute.”
“Jesse, he’s going to get hurt. Oh … hold on!”
“Ishmael was suddenly silent.”
“What’s going on?” Jesse shouted into his ear.
“Your son has attacked the lion. He’s trying to pull the lamb out of its mouth. Jesse, I’ve got to stop him. That’s too dangerous.”
“No! Leave him alone!”
“Jesse, he’s fighting the lion to save a worthless little lamb.”
“But David could get himself killed. You don’t want your son to die.”
“Let him die! I sent David to take care of my sheep. That’s what he’s doing.”
Dramatic pause. With a grin, Andrew said, “Certainly a responsible parent would never knowingly put his or her child in such danger. Would they? We don’t know explicitly what Jesse’s instructions were to his son. But we do know how seriously David took his responsibility to care for the sheep.”
Brother Andrew continued: “Here’s another thing. We know our heavenly Father sent His Son to die for His sheep. Responsibility! Let Him die! Think about that for a minute in this context.”
Then Andrew returned to his story.
“Ishmael said, ‘My dear Jesse, don’t you think you are being a little reckless?’
“Not at all,” David’s father replied.
“Ishmael paused, then said, ‘I don’t believe it.’”
“What’s happening?” Jesse asked.
“Your son … he just pried the jaws of the lion off the lamb! The lamb is running away.”
“All right, David. That’s my boy!”
“That’s incredible! Your son just killed the lion with his bare hands!”
“See! There was no reason to worry. My son was doing his job.”
David and Goliath. Is it just a nice children’s story? Encouragement for an underdog sports team or a tech startup competing against Microsoft? Not for Brother Andrew—and not for me.
It’s a challenge to us to enter the battle, believing God has equipped us with the resources we need. It may only be a flimsy hand-woven sling, but in God’s Kingdom through His power and promises, it’s a mighty powerful weapon!
Photo: Hand-woven sling presented as a gift to Brother Andrew from a herdsman in Afghanistan (a weapon similar to what David may have used to kill Goliath).
Read the first five posts in this weekly series: