Insights from the Life of David – Part 2:
“Overcoming Giants: David & Goliath”
I Samuel 17:4-23
In case you hadn’t noticed I’m not the tallest person around. And really up until my freshman year in college in many ways my body hadn’t caught up with my age. I was a shrimp in middle school and even in high school to the point that when I went to get my driver’s permit after my sixteenth birthday the clerk told me to come back in a couple of years because I had to be sixteen. When I first started driving I had to take a pillow with me in the car to see over the steering wheel.
It may seem funny to those of you who’ve never had to deal with this problem but to those of us who are vertically challenged this is a serious dilemma.
At no time was my size more of an issue in my life than during the fifth grade. I may have told this story before, so if you remember it please bear with me. But this incident left an indelible impression on my mind.
I was enrolled at the YMCA’s 5th and 6th grade gym and swim where my peers all looked 2-3 years older than I did. On one particular evening after having gone through the painful practice of choosing up teams, of which I was the last to be chosen, we began a game of dodge ball in the gymnasium. Rather than going on the offense my strategy in the game was completely defensive. I attempted to avoid any confrontation and managed to stay away from the ball and away from any battles that were taking place. On this particular night my strategy worked. As I continued to stay away from the ball the other boys continued to battle it out. One by one my peers were hit with the ball and forced to sit down. Suddenly I realized that there were only three people left on the court and I was one of them. I’d never been in this situation before. To this day I don’t know how I survived that long but as I watched, the bully, who won every game, threw the ball at the other kid with all his force nailing him to the wall. But what he didn’t count on was the fact that the ball would ricochet off the wall in my direction. Suddenly I found myself standing with the ball in my hand facing my worst nightmare. I felt like David as he faced Goliath. Everyone knew that I couldn’t throw the ball anywhere near as accurately or forcefully as my opponent and everyone, including myself, knew that this kid could crush me like a tin can. With every ounce of strength I had I hurled the ball through the air and struck my opponent in the leg thereby winning the game! I won’t go into what happened in the locker room afterwards – let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight as the giant crushed the dwarf.
Regardless of the bruises I sustained in the locker room after the game I left the Y that night feeling like I was on top of the world. Little did I realize that the boy in the Y would be the smallest of many giants that I would encounter in life.
Our story this morning is a familiar story whether you were brought up in Sunday School or not. Most people know about David and Goliath. David as we discovered last week is a young boy when he enters the scene and is anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next King. In between last week’s reading and this week’s reading a couple of things occur. First of all following David’s anointing as the next King, he is recruited because of his ability to play the harp and he’s put to work in the King’s Court to comfort the King when ever he’s afflicted with what we’re told was an evil spirit. Now understand that King Saul had no idea that this was to be his successor.
And of great significance to us as we study the life of this man is the fact that in between the time he was appointed as King and this point he’s been going back and forth still tending to his father’s sheep. Now I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that since he had been anointed as the next King he would have deserved some sort of special treatment. At the very least one of his brothers should have taken over his shepherding responsibilities and David should have been assigned a more respective place in the family while he awaited his new calling. But David goes back and forth between the king’s court and his sheep until the day that his Father asks him to go to the battlefield to check up on his brothers and take them some food. You know the story. When David arrives on the battle field one of the Philistines, who’s name was Goliath was taunting the people of Israel challenging them to a one-on-one battle with their strongest man, a tactic that was commonly used in the Eastern World. Whoever won, his army won. And whoever lost, his whole army lost.
This Goliath was no ordinary fellow. The text tells us that Goliath was six cubits and a span. We don’t understand that description so let me put it in our lingo. This guy was somewhere near 9’ 9” tall! The NBA’s dream come true! If you add to his height the length of his arms when he would lift them up over his head you can imagine what an imposing creature he must have been. But it wasn’t just his size.
The story goes into great detail about his armor. He had on a coat of mail that was made of ringlets of bronze that went from shoulder to knee, and weighed between 175 to 200 pounds! That was just his armor.
He also had a bronze helmet, and bronze leggings and carried a bronze spear. The head of his spear weighed about 20 to 25 pounds alone.
In addition to the rest he had a “shield-carrier” who walked before him carrying a shield the size of a full-grown man to protect his body from the arrows of his enemy.
Pause for a moment and allow your mind to picture such an imposing sight. Imagine how frightening it would be to take on such a giant. Clearly the odds were stacked against anyone who was foolish enough to face him in battle. And no one wanted to. Everyday for forty days the Giant had been issuing the same challenge, but no one had volunteered until David showed up.
You know the rest of the story. David volunteered and not only did he fight the giant, but much to everyone’s surprise he killed Goliath.
There are some tremendous insights that can be gleaned from David’s encounter with Goliath but before we delve into them I want to stop for a moment and define a giant.
At a nursing home in Florida, a resident group was discussing ailments: “My arms are so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee,” said one. “Yes, I know, my cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee,” replied another. “I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck,” said a third, at which several others nodded weakly. “My blood pressure pills make me dizzy,” another went on. “I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old,” winced an old man. There was general agreement and a short moment of silence ensued. “Well, it’s not that bad,” said one woman cheerfully. “Thank God we can all still drive!”
From childhood bullies to physical ailments, from financial pressures to job security, from retirement to parenting teenagers, from heartbreak to loneliness, each of us at some point will face a person or thing that will look like a mountain and will cause us to feel small in the face of it.
Let me give you my definition of a giant and then we’re going to turn to Webster to see what he has to say. Here’s how I’ve defined a giant, it’s at the top of your outlines: A giant is “a person or thing of great size that stands in the way of us fulfilling God’s purposes.”
Now here’s what Webster has to say. The first the definition under the word giant comes from Greek mythology and is “Any of a race of huge beings of human form who war with the gods.” Isn’t it interesting that even Greek mythology recognized the battle between giants and gods?
As I’ve sought to live my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ one thing has been true over and over and over again: there always seems to be a giant in my way - someone or something that is trying to prevent me from fulfilling God’s purposes in my life. Whether I have a dream and there someone who tells me it can’t be done or I’m trying to be like Jesus and there’s a temptation that’s always getting in my way, there are giants looming around every corner standing in the way of me becoming the person God desires or accomplishing the things God wants me to be a part of.
I know I’m not alone in this. Each of us has giants. We don’t all share the same giants but the same principles that David used to overcome Goliath apply to our giants no matter who or what they are.
Principle number one is this: Giants do not make or break us; they simply show us who we already are. David did not become a hero the day he killed Goliath. The hero was simply exposed.
One of the most inspiring, heroic stories that has come out of the war during the last year happened to a local boy just two weeks ago. Corporal Jason Dunham was conducting a hasty vehicle check point near the city of Karbala on April 14, in response to a recent attack on a convoy, when an Iraqi hostile got out of the car, started to run, turned, and pulled the pin on a grenade. Cpl. Dunham put himself between the grenade and his fellow Marines” and later died from injuries sustained in the blast. The fact of the matter is Cpl. Dunham did not become a hero that day. The events on April 14th simply showed the world who he already was.
That’s the thing about giants. We don’t have an opportunity to become something that we weren’t already when we face a giant. Giants simply show us who we already are.
The second principle in overcoming giants relates to the first: Victories are first won in the training room not on the field.
Former Michigan State Football coach Duffy Daugherty tells a great story about a winning field goal kicked by a young man name Dave Kaiser against UCLA many years ago. The game was in Los Angeles and the field goal gave Michigan a 17-14 victory.
As Dave Kaiser came back to the bench to meet the roaring enthusiasm of his teammates, Coach Daugherty said: “Nice going, Dave, but I noticed you didn’t watch the ball after you kicked it. How come?”
Kaiser replied, “You’re right coach, I didn’t watch the ball. I was watching the referee to see how he would call it. You see, I forgot my contact lenses. They are back at the hotel. I couldn’t even see the goal posts!”
Daugherty was shocked and at first very angry that Kaiser had not told him about his contact lenses. But after he thought it over he changed his mind entirely. Why shouldn’t Kaiser kick without his contact lenses? Kaiser was a disciplined kicker and had practiced for long hours. He knew well the angle and the distance to the goal even though he couldn’t see it. The whole process of kicking the ball was programmed into his body and mind by the ongoing discipline of daily practice. In that moment, when the ball went through the goal posts, discipline paid off.
It’s foolish to believe that you can prepare to fight a giant at the last moment without having prepared ahead of time. Look at what the Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
In the same way as athletes prepare for competition well in advance of the event, so too we ought to be preparing ourselves spiritually before we face giants otherwise we won’t be ready to fight the battle when we find ourselves on the front line.
Principle number 3 is this: Practice faith in the lesser battles of life. Where do you think David’s unwavering confidence in God came from? The answer is simple. He got it from the same source we get it from today. He had seen God work to vanquish lesser adversaries in his life. Listen to what David said in verse 37 of our story today, “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.” David’s faith had sustained him and strengthened him in the lesser battles of life preparing him for the day he would meet Goliath.
Nobody just goes out without any experience and challenges a giant. Faith doesn’t work that way. But as challenges come up in the everyday affairs of life and we trust God to help us overcome them and we see God come through, our faith grows.
The faith to fight giants is developed by everyday faithfulness to the challenges that come upon us. People flunk out in facing giants in their lives because they do not fight the lesser battles of their lives.
When we fail to defeat giants we don’t realize that our defeat was predetermined by our faithlessness in little things. Jeremiah spoke to the people of his day who were failing for this same reason. He told them this: “If you have raced against others on foot, and they have tired you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in open country, how can you live in the jungle along the Jordan River?”
Until we become faithful in the little things in life we’ll never be ready for the big issues when they come.
Principle #4 is this: Everyone who’s never killed a giant will say it can’t be done. When David began asking about this giant the first opposition he met wasn’t the enemy but his own brother Eliab. Now don’t forget who Eliab really is. He was the first so to walk before Samuel in our story last week, you know the one God rejected as King. He was probably standing their as the horn of oil had been emptied over his little brother’s head something which had to have been hard for the older brother to handle.
Eliab turns to his little brother and says “Why did you really come?” Then he asks another question designed to humiliate David: “Hey, David, where’d you leave the sheep.” Then he gets down right ugly, “I know the wickedness of your heart. You’re just here for the excitement.”
I didn’t have an older brother but I’ve got a feeling that if I had and he had spoken to me in that tone, this would have been the point when I would have rolled up my sleeves and used all my energy to punch his lights out. But not David, he basically says, “All I did was ask a question” and turns to what’s really important the giant.
Here’s what’s key: David knew in the word of Kenny Rogers “when to fight and when to run”. He chose his battles wisely. There was something much big and much more important to deal with and rather than allowing his jealous brother, who by the way, as far as we know, had never killed a giant, to get in the way.
It never fails: if you have a dream or vision of something that you believe God is calling you to there will be somebody who’s never done it telling you it can’t be done. And chances are that somebody will be a fellow member of the family of God.
If you’re not a giant slayer, make sure you don’t stand in the way of those who wish to be.
Principle #5 says: Never adopt the enemy’s methods. What happened when David approached King Saul? The King dressed him in his own armor. Why? To prepare him for battle. We’ve already heard about Goliath’s armor. Wouldn’t it make sense for David to dress appropriately for battle? But by refusing to fight the battle with the enemy’s methods, he had a great chance to be a witness of God’s amazing power.
As we approach battles in our own lives it’s crucial that we understand this same principle and that we comprehend what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 when he said “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.” Paul goes on to say that the only way to win the battle is by putting on the armor of God which include truth, righghteousness, peace faith, salvation, and the Word of God.
When you put on God’s armor and use it in the same way David used that sling, you’ll begin to see giants fall!
The last principle is this: Remember the size of your God. The reason that Israelites had been so afraid was because they were comparing Goliath’s size to their own size. From that perspective, they were outclassed. But David was comparing Goliath’s size with God’s size. What a different perspective!
The only way to defeat giants in our life is to look at the size and power of God. Remember the words of I John 4:4 “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!” and of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
It’s easy to say those things but no believe them. And it’s that lack of belief, that lack of faith that defeats us. A giant killer has got to be a man or woman of giant faith.
Bruce Larson, in his book “Believe and Belong” tells of how he helped people who were struggling to defeat the giants in their lives. He writes, “For many years, I worked in New York City, and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with situations. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a perfectly proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under his burden. ‘Now that’s one way you can live,’ I would point out, ‘trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now, come across the street with me.’ On the other side of Fifth Avenue is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and there behind the altar is a statue of Jesus as a boy, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort, he is holding the world in one hand.”
The truth is, we have a choice, and we are faced with a question: who are we relying on to defeat our giants? Who are we counting on to carry our burdens? The secret to overcoming giants is understanding what David understood, The battle belongs to the Lord!
You see as a child of God, those giants become dwarfs when compared to the surpassing power that is at work within each and everyone of us. When we live by the principles that we’ve just discovered and surrender the battle to God the giants that have been towering over us will come tumbling down.