Life can get difficult for the Christian. It is a very rare person who can say that he is not constantly challenged by situations in his faith journey, or blocked by obstacles that seem unsurmountable. But for the Christian disciple, these challenges and obstacles need not be a cause for concern, because they give life some zing, and overcoming them brings about a wonderful sense of joy and satisfaction. As Joshua J. Marine said, ‘’Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.’’ Perspective makes a world of difference.
Scripture is replete with stories of people who faced gigantic challenges. There was Noah who had to build a huge ark with the help of just a few people and save humankind from total annihilation. There was the famous Moses who had to guide his people to the Promised Land after getting the arrogant Pharaoh to give them their freedom. There was Joshua who had to get into Jericho, a city whose walls were heavily fortified and guarded by a powerful army. There was Mary, who with her husband Joseph, had to safeguard her baby from a man determined to kill him and shelter him from much danger. And of course, there was a pantheon of other holy men and women who faced their own giants.
They all overcame. Each of them emerged victorious with a great story to tell. One of the most dramatic of these stories was the story of David and Goliath. It is a story that every Christian probably knows, but let us look at it again with fresh eyes and see how a shepherd boy managed to slay a giant and set a beleaguered nation free. You will find the complete story in 1 Samuel 17. Each of the Scripture verses highlighted below illustrates a point we wish to make.
King Saul and the Israelites are facing the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. Twice a day for 40 days, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, challenges the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to decide the outcome in single combat, but Saul is afraid.
David, who comes to deliver food to his elder brothers, hears of what is happening and of the reward Saul has promised to the one that defeats him. He says he will fight the giant. The King is not impressed and says to David: “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth” (v.33).
David replies, “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (v.36). Saul agrees and offers his armor, which David puts on, but then takes off finding it too uncomfortable.
Taking only his staff, sling, and five stones from a brook, he confronts the giant. They face off, Goliath with his armor and javelin, David with his staff and sling. The Philistine is upset to see David come to challenge him with “sticks” and curses him.
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.” (v.45-47).
David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might. It hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, and the giant falls on his face to the ground. Seeing their leader defeated the Philistines flee. David puts Goliath’s armor in his tent and takes the giant’s head to Jerusalem.
And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite” (v.58).
Nothing is Impossible
You might remember the story of Peter walking on water. It’s an amazing story of a man doing the impossible. The story, as narrated by the gospel writers, makes no mention of what the other apostles say when Peter decides to step out of the boat, but it is hard not to imagine that they tried to stop him. After all, who can walk on water?
In this story, Saul tries to dissuade the boy, because all he sees is, well, a boy! But one suspects that was not the only reason he tried to stop David from facing the giant. What an embarrassment to him and his entire army to have a young lad take on a challenge that none of them—all seasoned warriors—were prepared to face!
It is part of our corrupted nature that we don’t like others to succeed, which is why we are more likely to encounter discouragement instead of encouragement when we set about doing something, especially if it is something big. Part of the reason for this is if someone succeeds, they seem to make everyone else look a little smaller.
And if we don’t have people trying to dissuade us, we can count on the devil to do it, as he whispers how we are doomed to fail. Do what David did. Ignore the criticism. You know what you want; go for it. Besides you have Jesus’ assurance: “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
This advice holds good even when it comes to temptations, bondages, and other personal sin we struggle with. Don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot overcome them, especially not the devil who will constantly tell you he has you in his clutches. Remember: Nothing will be impossible for you!
Scripture declares: No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Have you ever realized how you might achieve victory after victory for weeks on end, but one little fall makes you feel like a total failure. This applies to everything, including our battle against temptation. We need to focus on the victories we have achieved—and these are many—and not on the few defeats we may have suffered.
That’s what David did. When the king tried to tell him that he was no match for the giant, who had trained as a warrior since he was little, David said to him, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it (1 Samuel 17:34‑35).
We tend to forget victories. The Israelites offer a wonderful example of how bad our memories can be about things that are really important. We all know the story of how they faced certain death when they found themselves sandwiched between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. Psalm 106 offers a wonderful precis of what happened: He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry; he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe, and delivered them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise (Psalm 106:9-12).
It was one of the greatest miracles the world has ever seen, one that you would imagine would be affixed in their hearts and minds forever, yet, incredibly this is what the next line in the Psalm says: But they soon forgot his works (Psalm 106:13).
We grow in faith when we remember the victories that God has won for us. And we continue to attain victories because we know that if he did it once before, then there is nothing to stop him doing it again. And again.
Don't be intimidated
Situations can seem intimidating. People can be even more so. And the devil, of course, is the king of bullies, and much of what we face at the hands of people or situations happens at his instigation. But all we need to do is stand our ground and refuse to be shaken.
In his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 6:10-17), Paul advises us at least four times to stand firm. Have you ever seen a face-off between the good guy and the bad guy in the final scene of a Western movie? It’s the last man standing who is the winner. Of course, the one who draws his gun faster is the last man standing, but in our spiritual journey, the bad guy doesn’t have any bullets in his gun! This is what Paul writes about Jesus and the devil: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:15).
We need to understand that the enemy has been rendered impotent and not be intimidated by his tactics. That’s what Goliath tried to do, and his size and his attitude frightened an entire army into helplessness. David, however, wasn’t intimidated. He knew the Lord was on his side. The Lord is on our side too. If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31).
Watch your words
Words have power. God spoke the world into creation. We are made in his image and likeness. What we say impacts our lives and the lives of others. Yet, we are so careless about the things that we say. We constantly speak negatively about ourselves and about others, including our own children, instead of making positive, life-giving declarations. What we should do is take a couple of pages out of David’s book and see how he spoke.
He told the king what he had done. He spoke of his faith in God. And when Goliath mocked him, he told the giant exactly what he was going to do to him.
Words from Scripture have added power because they are the words of God. Jesus showed their effectiveness when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. He was tempted three times. All three times he quoted verses from Scripture.
Paul advises us to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). It makes for a powerful weapon against the giants that stand in our path. (See Box: Defeating the Giants) and we can overcome many of them simply by declaring the things that God says.
Dress Right for battle
I have heard dozens of preachers telling people how they should lead their lives based on their experiences of what helped them succeed, not seeming to realize that what worked for them need not necessarily work for somebody else. Unfortunately, the people who follow their advice don’t seem to realize it either, with the result that a lot of people walk around saddled with burdens that they cannot handle, and try to do things they cannot do.
Saul meant well when he clothed David with his armor—it had after all, served the king well in countless battles—but David couldn’t even walk in it; it weighed him down to the point of being incapacitated. Fortunately, the young lad had the good sense to shed it—along with the heavy sword he had been given—and decided just to be himself, and use weapons he was familiar with, simple though they were.
We would do well to do likewise. Without totally undermining the value of good advice extended by well-meaning people, we need to remember to follow advice if it will work for us. Or, if you prefer, wear armor that fits us. One set of armor that does fit us is the armor Paul advises us to wear. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:11-17).
The Battle is the Lord's
And ultimately, the one thing to remember whenever we face huge challenges is that the battle belongs to the Lord. Every great warrior of God, from Joshua to Jehoshaphat has recognized this great truth, which is what gave them victory. When we place our trust in our own talents and our own abilities, we often run the risk of great failure, but when we depend on the Lord, we are sure to succeed.
David knew that, and acknowledged the hand of God in all the victories he had won, and in the victory he was going to win. To Saul, David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). And to the giant, David said, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. And all this assembly will know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45,47).
Let us also call on God and pray for his power as we attack the giants in our life. And he will give us the victory that we seek. Because no matter how big and great the giants we face are, our God is bigger and greater.