I Samuel 17:32-50

One day in a Rice University philosophy class the professor tells the students to bring blue books for a test the next day.  On the test day, he instructs them to write on the topic,  “What is courage?”

One young man in the class thinks for about five minutes, writes down two words, and turned in his test.  Most students take the full hour and filled the pages of their blue book, answering the question, “What is courage?”

That evening the professor telephones the young man who turned in the two words on his test.  The professor informs him he has given him an A+ on the test, and he would like to get to know him better.

I know you are dying to know the students’s answer.  The two words the student wrote in answer to the question, “What is courage?” were “This Is.”

This is.  You see, what so impressed the professor is that the student chose not to define courage.  Instead, he demonstrate it and his bravery won him an A+.

King David of the Old Testament didn’t just define courage—he demonstrated it.  Time and time again David demonstrated uncommon valor as he grew from a mere shepherd boy to become the greatest king in the history of Israel.  A poet, a shepherd, a musician, a warrior and a king, the handsome David was a Renaissance man before the Renaissance—he could apparently do it all.  And he did do it all, including some things that were not so good in the sight of the Lord.

That’s why David has been called the greatest saint and greatest sinner in the Old Testament. And that’s why we are so attracted to him—he’s a mixture of good and bad, just like we are.

The story of  David and Goliath is one of the great stories of all literature.  You remember the details.  Saul, the first king over Israel, has recently fallen out of favor with God because of flagrant disobedience.  Still, he is attempting to rule over Israel without God’s blessing.

The affairs of state aren’t going particularly well, especially since the Philistines decide to challenge Israel in the southern part of Judah.  The Israelites and Philistines come to a face-off in a valley.  Neither side is willing to give up its tactical advantage and descend into the valley to fight.

However, one Philistine named Goliath walks down into the valley every morning and every evening, offering to settle the whole dispute, man-to-man.  Of course, Goliath doesn’t think there are any men in Israel. As far as he is concerned they are just a bunch of lily-livered runts, boys pretending to be men.  Every day his taunting, intimidating message is the same—“I defy the ranks of Israel:  give me a man (if you’ve got one), that we might fight together.”

Unfortunately, Goliath has plenty of brawn to back up his big mouth.  Picture, if you will, a man who combines the features of Shaquille O’Neil and Arnold Schwarzenegger, then add three feet in height, and you’ve got Goliath.  Protecting this giant of a body is 150 pounds of armor.  The head of Goliath’s spear alone weighs 19 pounds.  Goliath is a ten-foot tall killing machine.  And the Israelites want no part of him.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jesse sends his youngest son, David to the front lines to deliver food to three older sons fighting for the cause.  When David arrives at the battlefield, he is scandalized that no one is standing up to this uncircumcised brute who defies God so brazenly.  David’s older brothers tell him to get lost and go back home to Mama where he belongs.

But David hangs around and talks trash about Goliath, until finally he is summoned to meet with King Saul.  In no time, David volunteers to take on the giant.  Saul laughs and says,  “Thanks for the offer kid, but you’re no match for Goliath.”  But David perseveres, and finally persuades Saul to let him do battle with Goliath.

Saul generously offers David his armor.  But its way too big, and David looks like a buffoon wobbling under its weight. So he sheds the armor, picks up his trusty slingshot and five smooth stones and heads out to the battlefield.

Goliath can barely contain his laughter when he sees a kid who hasn’t even learned to shave approach him on the battlefield  “Is this the best Israel can do?” he taunts.  “This kid will be dog meat in no time.”

But before Goliath has a chance to launch his spear, David hurls a stone an estimated 100 miles per hour towards Goliath, and hits him squarely in the forehead.  It would be like getting hit by a Roger Clemen’s pitch in the head without a batting helmet.  The stone stuns Goliath, and he drops to the ground like a sack of potatoes.  David grabs Goliaths’ sword and cuts off his head.

You remember the rest of the story.  David immediately becomes a national hero, and Saul immediately becomes jealous.  Saul tries to have David killed, and David is forced to flee to safety.  Eventually, Saul comes unraveled and is killed in battle.  David assumes the throne of Israel, and the rest is history.

David and Goliath – Their story is high drama and fascinating history.  But it’s more—lots more.  The story reveals a lot about folks in general and God in particular.

For example:  We are reminded in this story that appearances are truly deceiving.  When Israel’s chief prophet, Samuel, went to Jesse and told him he needed to check out his boys because one of them might be king, Jesse paraded all his sons before Samuel except David. It never occurred to Jesse that his youngest, smallest boy could be king, but that’s because appearances can be deceiving.

We are slow learners in these United States.  We are so image and appearance-conscious that we easily forget that “All that glitters is not gold.”  On the other hand, we also forget that what appears to be weak and foolish and hopeless can in fact be powerful in God’s hands. Could a blue-collar fisherman be the first head of the Church?  Nahhh.  Could the son of a carpenter become the Son of God?  Nahhh.

Yeah,  well tell that to Simon Peter and Jesus Christ.

Another observation prompted by this story is:  all of us have Goliaths in our lives.  Our giants may not be ten-foot tall warriors, but they are intimidating , nevertheless.

In his book, Slaying the Giants of Life,  David Jeremiah suggests the following list of threatening giants that cause us to cower in our corners—fear, discouragement, loneliness, worry, guilt, temptation, anger, resentment, doubt, procrastination, failure and jealousy.  We could add to that list challenges at work, marriage problems, family problems, illness and addiction.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everybody within the sound of my voice has at least one giant in their lives that is scaring them to death even as I speak.

A man was once asked why he always ran from a fight.  He replied, “I’d rather have them say, ‘Man, can’t he run!’ instead of ‘Doesn’t he look SCARED!'”

The word “coward” comes from the Latin, “cauda” meaning “tail”, a not so subtle allusion to the animal that runs off with its tail tucked between its legs.  We can, of course, react with cowardice in the face of our giants, and we often do.

Once, King Saul might have risen to the occasion to take on Goliath.  But chronic disobedience and distant relationship with God robbed Saul of confidence and strength.  Now, he lived within the confining prison of realism which flatly said, “This can be done and this can’t be done, and if it can’t be done, you’d better not try it.”  Based on this brand of fear-driven realism, you don’t try to slay your Goliaths—ever.  You just tuck your tail, and run the other way—always.

David displays a different response to his giant—courage, driven by faith.  David doesn’t just face Goliath with bravado—he understands that he is no match for this giant.  He goes, instead, with what Ken Chafin calls  “holy boldness”, or the belief that the same God who helped him defend his sheep from the lion and the bear will help him defend Israel from Goliath.

Notice, too, that as David takes on Goliath, he uses his own armor.  After Saul agrees to let David fight Goliath, he offers him his armor.  David has never worn armor in his life.  Besides that, Saul’s armor is about eight sizes too large for David.  And if you’ve ever seen movies of folks in armor for too big and heavy, falling down and unable to get up, you get the picture of David here.

Very wisely, David chooses to forego the armor of someone else.  Instead, he relies upon his own tools of the trade.  He’s never handled sword and shield  But he is deadly with a slingshot and stones.  With Saul’s armor, David doesn’t stand a chance, with his own regalia, he reigns supreme.

One of the great occupational hazards of the ministry is that in order to succeed, we preachers try to imitate others.  That is, we try to wage our battles with someone else’s armor.  (You know, if I could just preach like Billy Graham, our church could grow.)  And before you know it, I’m trying to slay the giant by being everybody but myself.

There’s just one small problem with this approach—it won’t work.  Ray Spigner can admire Billy Graham, but I can’t be Billy Graham.  Because God created him to be somebody else, with different armor.  We may fight the same war, but we each have to fight with our own individual armor of gifts and talents.  Whatever giants you’re facing these days, friends, remember this principle:  It’s okay to be you, because that’s the way God made you.  Study other people, learn all the approaches, but when it comes to fight, do so with your own armor.

And what is the key to slaying the giant?  Precisely this—you must have a heart after God.

I love the story of the mouse, who was in constant distress because of it’s fear of the cat.  A magician took pity on the mouse and turned it into a cat, but it became afraid of the dog.  So the magician turned it into a panther.  Whereupon it was full of fear of the hunter, at this point the magician gave up.  He turned it into a mouse again, saying, “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.”

The heart of the matter is always our heart. But more important than having the heart of a panther is to have a heart after God.

The key to I Samuel 17 actually lies in I Samuel 13.  There, Samuel informs Saul that he will not be king much longer because God has selected another man, “after His own heart,” namely David.  In other words, God picked David because what David wanted more than anything else in this world was to obey his Lord, and serve Him at all cost.

How could David walk out onto the battlefield with Goliath?  I can tell you he didn’t rely on the power of positive thinking.  No, his power came from within, from a heart driven to serve God. His sole purpose was not to glorify David, but GOD.  “I”m gonna take you down today, Goliath,” he said, “So that all the people of this world will know that there is a God in Israel.”  David’s confidence flowed not from his own battle prowess but from the Lord.  Sword and spear meant nothing, for this battle belonged to the Lord.

You see David would be the first to admit that God is the real hero of his story, not David.  And David succeeds to the extent that his is a heart after God.  And so for that matter, will you and I?  And so, for that matter will our ministry.

What will OBM become if our hearts are first and foremost after God?

I don’t have time to tell you about my giants, but I can share with you one  verse that has helped me tremendously as I face my Goliath—Joshua 1: 9.  I urge you to read this verse, memorize this verse, and repeat it to yourself every time you feel yourself wilt before your Goliath—“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified.  Do not be discouraged.  For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What would you do differently, if you really believed Joshua 1: 9?  What would our ministry become if we really believed it?