On Sunday night I went out to the OSU turf field to play some football. Only a couple other people in the usual football came so we joined in with another couple groups. Our team was outwardly outclassed. The other team had 6″ to 1′ of height on each of us, about 50 pounds on each of us, and much more physically built. Yet we won both games 5-3 and 5-2. The key to victory appeared to come from inappropriate use of swagger. One of the other team members gave me that insight when he said that we should be prepared to win because their collective egos would get in the way (though not all of them had ego issues).
Thinking about the football game had me consider the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was by far the superior physically and carried a lot of ego driven swagger. David also had swagger, but his was based in God. Consider the conversation as they met on the field of battle (1 Samuel 17:42-47):
And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
I think that Paul’s description of his labor is an excellent example of “spiritual swagger”. in 1 Corinthians 15:10 he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Paul wrote about half of the New Testament, saved many people, raised up churches, and much more. He labored hard. Yet, he kept the credit pointed to the grace of God (and not in that pseudo-spiritual, false-humility, “glory be to God” statements that we Christians sometimes make) as the power source and reason for the “success” of his labor. Paul was not overly self-effacing nor boasting beyond his measure. He demonstrates, as David did against Goliath, some real spiritual swagger.