“14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’ 17 So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’
18 One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.’”
1 Samuel 16:14-18
In 1993, K. Anders Ericsson (with Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer) wrote a paper entitled, ‘The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.’ (Psychological Review 1993, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406) Their research focussed on three groups of highly proficient violinists, thirty in total, at varying ages and career stages. Ericsson’s research found that “by age 18…the best young violinists had accumulated an average of 7,410 hours of practice” and that “the amount of practice accumulated by the professional middle-aged violinists at age 18 [was] 7,336 hours.” So, now I know why I’m not a world-class violinist…
In 2008, the journalist Malcolm Gladwell picked up Ericsson’s research for his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success.’ Gladwell’s book is more of a pseudo-scientific reductive theory of success. Laying aside questions of natural aptitude and skill, of resources and opportunities, Gladwell suggested what has come to be known as “the 10,000 hour rule.” It has entered the popular consciousness as a belief that anyone can gain proficiency in anything if they are prepared to put in 10,000 hours of practice. And now I know why I have no Olympic medals…
Back to David.
Long before David’s first hour of performance in the royal court brought peace to King Saul, David had spent unknown and unquantified hours of practice with his lyre while watching sheep. Long before he played for a king, David had played for the King of Kings. In the Psalms we catch a glimpse of David’s compositional and musical talents, his “expert performance.” His success in the royal court was built on a foundation of thousands of hours of worship before the Audience of One, seen and heard only by a flock of sheep and by the King of Kings. The “Lord is with him” because of those hours. We can all attend and ‘perform’ adequately, with varying levels of expertise and with varying levels of impact on those around us, for an hour’s Sunday worship service. But can we put in the thousands of hours only the Lord sees and hears? It’s those thousands of hours for the Audience of One that mean our hour of Sunday worship won’t be an empty sham.
Long before David’s moment of triumph over Goliath, long before that slow-motion cinematic moment with the dramatic crescendo of epic music, David had spent unknown and unquantified hours of practice with his sling while watching the sheep. Long before he felled a giant, David had felled lions and bears. His success on the field of battle was built on a foundation of hours of preparation before the Audience of One, seen and heard only by a flock of sheep and by the King of Kings. The “Lord is with him” because of those hours. We’ll all face ‘giants’ and ‘lions’ and ‘bears’ at some point, with varying levels of courage and stoicism and ability. Have we put in the thousands of small victories only the Lord has seen and heard? It’s those thousands of hours for the Audience of One that mean our walk with the Lord becomes a story of success rather than a story of failure.
‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.’