David and Goliath. We all know the story, right? By my account, I’ve preached it six times in my years of vocational ministry. That’s a lot, too, but, hey, it’s a great story. I really shouldn’t even call it a story. Calling it a story reduces it to the level of legend or myth. Perhaps I should use the word “encounter,” or “episode.” Gives more credence to the reality of the occurrence.
Either way, it certainly is more than a “story,” especially when one considers that this story has been retold times too numerous to count in books and movies and television shows. Yes, we’ve seen the story retold as football teams, big business vs. small business, bully vs. the new kid, etc. Everyone has a giant to face, and whenever, or wherever someone has faced overwhelming odds or obstacles, the metaphor of “David vs. Goliath” shows up. Even non-Christians are aware of the reference. Now, that makes it a powerful “story.”
And, let’s not even talk about how much we love an underdog story. There is something hopeful to be found for all of us when we see the underdog prevail. It’s makes us want to believe we can overcome, too. It gives us encouragement and determination. It gives us grit and perseverance. Yes, indeed, we love to hear this story retold, and we always like to believe we can identify as David, that whenever we face a giant in our life, that we’ll have the faith of David to fight through the circumstances and overcome. Hey? It happened once, it can happen again, right? You just gotta’ believe!
Looking for a Hero
I’ve preached the encounter that way, too! Yes, David is a hero. He becomes the hero for the nation of Israel after his defeat of Goliath. I’ll not recount the entire story for you here (to read it click here), but I will set the stage for you. A rather talented young shepherd boy by the name of David (the youngest son of a farmer named Jesse), has been clandestinely anointed king of Israel by a prophet named Samuel because God has rejected Israel’s first king (a man named Saul).
David soon finds his way into King Saul’s court because of David’s musical ability–David’s ability to play music soothes the mental instability of the King, so he splits time between the palace and the pasture of his father, Jesse. On one of his trips to his Father’s pastures, dad asks him to go check on his three older brothers who are serving in King Saul’s army, which has gone out to battle against the Philistines.
David’s journey to check on his brothers brings us to the Valley of Elah where for 40 days the giant Goliath has taunted Saul and his army, challenging them to send out a single man to do battle with him. No sense in an entire army perishing, right? Send out one man and we’ll settle this thing. Of course, not a single Israelite answers the challenge, lest of all the King himself.
David arrives to discover the cowardly nature of the nation’s army. He’ll rectify the situation. He’ll face the giant. He’ll defend God’s honor. He’ll become the hero. Oh, and he’ll win a bounty, and beauty (the King’s daughter for a wife) and an eternal tax exemption along the way.
We know how the story goes. David takes five smooth stones and heads to the battlefield. He encounters Goliath, employs his slingshot, lands a rock to Goliath’s forehead to disable him, advances and retrieves the giants own sword, kills him and cuts off his head. He slayed the giant! He overcame the great obstacle. He became the hero of a nation.
Now, all that remains is for me to learn the lessons of David and I can overcome the giants in my own life. I, too, can become a hero…a hero for God, even…if I can just develop the faith of David. I just want to be like David.
If I can be like David, I can face the giant of fear in my life. If I can be like David, I can overcome the worry in my life, or the doubt, or yes, even the sin in my life. I’ve heard this encounter preached this way. I’ve even preached it this way. It makes for great sermon material, too.
Lessons from David
We can learn some great lessons from David’s encounter with Goliath that make for great encouragement when we face those giants in our lives. One of those lessons comes very early on in the encounter. David arrives, and once he’s assessed the situation and determines that he can take on the Philistine, he’s immediately attacked by his own brother, Eliab. But, David doesn’t take the bait, he doesn’t let others distract him. He knows who the real enemy is. When others say he can’t, he knows he can. He knows where the real battle lies.
Yes, that’s right! I can’t be distracted by others who tell me I can never overcome the giants of fear, doubt, worry or division. I must know where the real battle lies. I must know who the real enemy is. No distractions, but sheer determination will help me to have the faith of David, and I too, can become the hero.
Another great lesson I learn is to recall God’s faithfulness. That’s what David does. When he is challenged by his brother and even King Saul concerning his capacity of overcome the giant, David recalls how God was with him when he kept his father’s sheep against lions and bears. He slew them all with a club. God was with him then, he’ll be with him as he defeats this Philistine.
Yes, that’s right! I just have to stop and recall all the times in my past when God was with me and brought me through overwhelming circumstances. I know. It’s hard to see them in the moment, but we all know how it is to look back and wonder how we ever came through a challenging time. It’s only when we look back that we see God’s faithfulness. Simply recall the positive, the victories and the challenges, and I’ll have the faith of David. I’ll face every giant with confidence, and I’ll become the hero!
Those are not the only lessons I learn, either. I can be encouraged in learning that I am called and gifted by God to do great things. All of us are, right? Certainly, David understood that he had to be himself, to use his gifts for God’s glory. King Saul tried to give David Saul’s own armor to go to the battle. David put it on, and it only took him a few steps to realize that he couldn’t wear another’s armor. He had to fight with the weapons he know. He knew rocks and slingshots. That’s what he would use.
It is such an encouragement to know that God has made each of us as unique individuals, and that He gives us permission to be ourselves. As a matter of fact, He takes all our gifts and past experiences to mold us for every battle that lies ahead of us. If I can simply master my gifts and employ them in God’s service, if I can find my “sweet spot,” then I can develop the faith of David and slay the giants in my path. I’ll be a hero on the battlefield!
Missing the Point
Those are all lies, though. At least they have been in my life. Yup! I still fight fear and worry and doubt, and every time I do, I seem to lose, no matter how much I remember these lessons from David. I can never seem to have his faith in the times I need it most. Some hero I turn out to be. Yet, I still believe the lies the preachers told me when they preached that I needed David’s faith. I believed it so much that I preached it myself…more than once!
Though I believed the lies of my own preaching, I have come to realize that David actually points me to the truth I need to discover–that the battle belongs to the Lord. That’s what David tells the Israelites, and thus he points to the real hero of the encounter. The only problem is that the Israelites miss the point. They still make David the hero. And, we still do, too.
We think if we can just be like David, if we can just have enough faith, we won’t be intimidated by the giants we face in life. Oh, yes we will! That’s because there will always be a bigger giant to face. If we were to read back further in 1 Samuel, we’d discover the nation wanted a king. Every other nation around had a king, why couldn’t Israel have a king, too? The nation rejected the Lord in favor of the tallest and best looking guy around (Saul). Saul, as their king, would fight their battles for them. He was great…until he wasn’t. He was the best of the best, until Goliath. There will always be a bigger something to face.
David pointed to that which was beyond himself–and, we know he was pointing us to Jesus Christ, who was the Lord’s anointed. David pointed out the fact that it would be God who was glorified in the victory. For the disciple of Jesus Christ, our lives are lived for His glory. Our lives are not about us overcoming our giants. That makes us the hero. It’s not about me overcoming my giants. If I overcome them, that makes me the hero, and I’m no hero. On my best day, I’m a cowering, sniveling sinner. I need Jesus!
Finding Our Hero
We are not David in the story, and our fear, worry, doubts, etc., are not our giants. They might be our idols, but not our giants. The giant in my life is SIN, and I simply cannot defeat it. Yes, David slew Goliath, but David was pointing Israel (and us) to Jesus. See, David couldn’t slay the giant of his own sin. Bathsheba lay in his future (no pun intended). David, giant slayer that he was, needed Jesus, too.
The whole episode was a foreshadowing of the greatest battle ever fought–the battle between Jesus and Satan on the cross of Calvary. It was the final battle between good and evil, between life and death, and Jesus defeated Satan once and for all. Jesus is the hero. He’s my hero. He’s our hero. What do you think he meant when he uttered the words, “It is finished” with his dying breath (John 19:30)?
Without Jesus, the battle we fight with our sin is a battle we will always lose. With Jesus, it is a battle we can never lose.
How do we win the battle? Surrender! Surrender to Jesus. That is the paradox of our faith–we win through surrender. Jesus won by the surrender of Himself to the Father’s will…to the cross. How do I slay my giants? Surrender them to Jesus. Surrender myself to Jesus.
My fear? Surrender it to Jesus. My worry? Surrender it to Jesus. My doubt? Surrender it to Jesus. My guilt? My shame? My sin? Myself? Surrender all to Jesus. He’s the hero! He’s my hero! Is He yours?
Until next time, keep looking up…