When I was 17 years old, with the help of my youth director, I was able to do what I thought would be impossible: I convinced my parents to let me buy a used motorcycle. It wasn’t a big bike, just a Honda 100 like this one, but it was a metallic gold color and it had a sissy bar and a luggage rack which made it look bigger. It was beautiful and I could hardly wait to get my motorcycle license so I could drive it around town and show it to all my friends.
So the day after I bought the bike I had my mom take me down to the DMV to take the test. I had studied the manual and knew it forwards and backwards. I felt very confident that I would score a 100% but, before I took the written exam, I had to take an eye exam, and as I peered into that little vision deal things were kind of blurry. I couldn’t make out the signs. I couldn’t read the letters on the bottom two lines or so. In short, I flunked the eye test and then had to wait two weeks until I could get an appointment to see an eye doctor and get glasses, before I could go back to the DMV to retake the test and get my motorcycle license. I was so disappointed. It was agony to see my bike parked in the driveway and not be able to ride it!
But I forgot all that disappointment two weeks later on the way home from getting my glasses. I mean, with those lenses in place it was as if an entirely new world was open to me. I could see details in trees I had never seen before. I remember the first time I went to the movies with my glasses on, I was able to see beads of sweat on Clint Eastwood’s forehead. Up until then I just assumed that Clint Eastwood never perspired! In short, everything looked different — better, once I had my vision corrected, which shows that good vision is VERY important.
I bring this all up because the same thing can be said when it comes to SPIRITUAL vision. Good “SPIRITUAL VISION” is important because it enables us to see God’s UPPER STORY better. We are better able to see God at work. This past week as we read through chapter 11 of The Story, we studied the life of King David, and his life underscores this principle.
But before we LOOK at David’s life, let’s do what we’ve done every week so far, let’s review. Last week we read about how the people of Israel wanted a king so they could be like other nations. God allowed this and they elected a good-looking tall guy named Saul as their first earthly ruler. Saul had a good start, but a tragic ending. In fact, Saul unknowingly uttered his own epitaph in 1 Samuel 26:21 when he said, “I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly…” which he did, numerous times. And, because of Saul’s foolish actions, his early victories are now all but forgotten, so today, when people think of King Saul, all they remember are the sad choices he made in the last part of his life. I don’t know about you but Saul reminds me of General Petraus and Joe Paterno in that his life shows the importance of ENDING WELL.
You should remember that Saul’s main problem was the fact that he proudly, refused to align his life with or rule the nation according to God’s guidelines. Saul was too immature, too spiritually BLIND to see and accept his role in the Upper Story. So God withdrew His Spirit from him and told Samuel it was time to find another king. God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and made it clear that one of Jesse’s sons would become Saul’s successor.
Jesse must have known something was up because Samuel invited both him and his sons to the sacrifice he offered to God when he arrived in town. So, Jesse and seven of his sons came, each in his best “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes.
Samuel knew he was there to anoint the next king but he didn’t know which son it would be so he was kind of playing the part of Simon Cowell at this point. Simon, I mean SAMUEL, had to judge who would become the next king of Israel. Well, Samuel looked at the first son and he thought his job was done. This guy’s resume was impeccable, plus he looked like a natural leader. So Samuel said, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed. If this isn’t it tell me who it is because this guy is impressive. Everything looks perfect. Send the rest of the applicants back out to the field. I found the guy.” (1 Samuel 16:6) But God said, “No.” And the same thing happened for each of the other brothers. Samuel would say, “This guy looks good. Surely he’s the one!” And God would say, “Nope, not him.” Then, after he had looked at the last of Jesse’s sons things got awkward. Samuel knew he was in the right house so in essence he asked Jesse, “Is there someone I haven’t seen?” And Jesse said, “Well, I do have one more son, but he’s the youngest. And as the youngest he has the lowest job on our farm. He’s out tending the sheep.” Now, the Hebrew word here for “youngest” literally means “runt.” So Jesse actually said, “Well, I’ve got one more boy but he’s the runt of the litter so he couldn’t be the next king.” This shows us that even David’s dad couldn’t SEE well enough to recognize his son’s potential! Samuel said, “Go get him.” And when David showed up sweaty, smelling like sheep, and wearing the opposite of “Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes,” God said, “Get your anointing oil out, Samuel. He’s the one.” David was anointed as the next king of Israel when he was no older than a freshman in high school. In fact, later he is described as having a “ruddy complexion” which literally means he had pimples.
Well, David’s selection proves that God’s vision is better than ours. You and I look at the outward appearance but God can see deeper. He sees the heart. In other words, God is able to see if an individual has the potential for giving God his or her all. Listen friends! God wants our hearts! He wants our all. He wants our priorities to be His priorities, our allegiance to be completely to Him. If you remember our study last week then you know this was part of Saul’s problem. He tried to “almost obey” God which never works because in God’s eyes partial obedience is disobedience. Almost is not enough! God wants ALL. He wants our hearts! Do you remember that verse from Deuteronomy that Bobby quotes all the time? It’s called “The Shema” and it’s where God says, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength.”
David was an “all heart” kind of guy. When he did something he went full out. For example as a shepherd there were two times when he risked his own life to protect his flock. With his bare hands he fought off a lion and a bear. Is that “full out” or what!? David put everything he had into shepherding, and this is the way he was with everything. God saw this, and it wasn’t too long before the people of Israel saw this as well. I mean, Jesse looked at his youngest and only saw a pimply-faced middle-school kid, someone suited for doing nothing more than watching sheep. But God saw so much more.
And at this point I need to stop and say that many times we are like Jesse in that our vision problems keep us from doing great things for and with God. For example, some people look at themselves and say, “I’m too old for God to use.” But God sees better than that. Remember Abraham and Sarah? Others look at themselves and say, “I’m too guilty for God to use. I’ve sinned too much.” But God sees better than that. Remember Rahab the harlot? Others examine themselves and say, “I’m too scared for God to use. I deal with anxiety big time.” But God sees better than that. Remember Gideon hiding from his enemies, the guy God called, “Mighty Warrior?” Some look at themselves and say, “My life is just too complicated. You cannot believe all I’ve gone through. Plus, my family is a mess!” But God sees better than that. Remember the story of Joseph? The fact is, from His Upper Story perspective God sees infinitely better than we do, and we need to learn to trust His vision!
Well, as I said it wasn’t too long before the people were able to see what God saw in young David. I’m referring to the battle that David is most known for. Open your Bible to 1 Samuel chapter 17. We don’t have time to read the entire chapter but keep your Bibles open to it. I want us to begin by looking at verses 1-3 where it says:
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
In Charles Swindoll’s commentary on this text he points out that the Valley of Elah was not a narrow ravine but rather a vast canyon about a mile wide. At the center of this canyon was a streambed that divided the canyon into two equal halves. On each side of this streambed there was a gradual slope of about a half-mile. Bivouacked on one slope was the army of Israel and on the other the army of the Philistines. Get that setting pictured in your mind’s eye. Now look at verses 4-7:
A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; On his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
This text helps us to understand why the name Goliath has become not just a NAME but an ADJECTIVE used to describe the giants of life because this guy was huge-about 9’9” tall! If you took his height and added to it 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. The NBA would love him. As you can see in this next slide, even Shaq would look UP to Goliath! But it wasn’t just his SIZE that made him seem so formidable. You see, he also was outfitted with the best ARMOR of the day. First, like his fellow Philistines, he wore a heavy canvas-like undergarment that was interlaced with overlapping ringlets of bronze. This coat of mail went from shoulder to knee and deflected arrows and sword thrusts. The Bible says it weighed 5000 shekels which would have been between 175 and 200 lbs. And that wasn’t all! Goliath also had a bronze helmet and bronze leggings to protect his head and shins. He also carried a bronze javelin or spear slung between his shoulders. The Bible says that the head of his spear alone weighed six hundred shekels or about 20-25 lbs. Can you imagine someone strong enough to throw that in battle?! PLUS Goliath stood behind his own personal “tank” powered by a shield bearer who walked before him carrying a shield that was the size of a full-grown man. Most Hebrew soldiers didn’t have any weaponry like this so with his size and his armor it was clear that the odds were stacked against anyone foolish enough to face Goliath in battle.
Okay, look at verses 8-9 and notice what Goliath did.
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”
What Goliath suggested here was a tactic commonly used in the Eastern world, a representative battle, a one-on-one fight. I think there was a fight like this at the beginning of the movie Troy. But here was the deal: Goliath would represent the Philistines and Israel would choose their own champion and whoever won, his army won and whoever lost, his army lost. This tactic saved both time and lives. Some think we should still use that tactic in today’s wars! But please note, Goliath didn’t issue this challenge one time and then leave. No, his challenge went on for 40 DAYS! Every morning and every evening for over a month he marched out there, flaunting his sized and strength and fighting gear, and dared someone to take him on.
Now, you and I don’t face literal giants, but we do face frightening, mountain-sized problems – GOLIATH like challenges – and like David’s Goliath ours don’t just come once.
No, they come every morning and evening, day after day, relentlessly trying to intimidate us. They never stop taunting us from across the “ravines” of our soul.
Well, meanwhile about ten or fifteen miles away, up in the Judean mountains in the little town of Bethlehem, David was back on the job keeping his father’s sheep. Unlike three of his older brothers, he was too young to fight but as the weeks dragged on Jesse became worried about his eldest sons. So he sent David to take them some food and check on them. Look at verses 17-19.
Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
Early the next morning David obeyed his dad. He left the sheep in the care of another shepherd, gathered the bread and the cheese, and headed out. Verse 20 says that he came up over the rise he caught sight of both armies spread out on the plain below him. It must have been both exciting and frightening at the same time for this young man who had spent all of his time on lonely hillsides caring for sheep. As David got near to the edge of the Israelite camp he saw the troops lining up in battle formation and he heard the war cry and he stood there to watch. Any kid would! Look at verses 22-24:
David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.
Picture this scene. David is standing there talking to his three brothers when all of a sudden he hears this loud cry from across the ravine. He looks and sees Goliath come marching across the streambed approaching the Hebrew army, totally unafraid! When he did all the Israelites took several steps back leaving David standing there alone. Apparently at first Goliath would only march out as far as the streambed that served as a boundary between the territory of both armies.
But as the days went and no one responded to his challenge he got bolder to the point that he actually walked right up to the Hebrew camp to issue his challenge. And I think that’s what happened when David arrived. He was talking to his brothers when suddenly he found himself standing alone at the foot of this HUGE soldier from the other side.
This part of David’s story should remind us that we can’t afford to tolerate a “goliath” in our own lives. If we do he’ll take over our territory. He’ll move into your “camp.” He’ll steal our joy. He’ll take our peace. He’ll take our thoughts, thoughts that ought to be on God, and put them on himself. This is why we can’t ignore the giants of life. No, we have to defeat them. We have to kill them. And of course that’s exactly what David did. You know the story. Verses 40-50 give us the familiar blow-by blow. Read them with me.
[David] took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.
He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!’ David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty the God of the armies of Israel, Whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give all of you into our hands.’ As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
(By the way, this was the perfect spot to hit Goliath since it was the only vulnerable spot he had thanks to all his armor). The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face-down on the ground. (dead…defeated!) So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
It is important that we learn from young David’s example here because we can’t become all we can for God if we allow the “goliaths” of life to defeat us. Jonathan Falwell once put it this way, “So many Christians never achieve the maximum potential in their lives because they never conquer the thing that they fear the most.” So, it is imperative that we learn how to defeat these huge foes that seem to tower over us, and David’s all-heart example shows us how our spiritual vision has to improve, if we want to win in our own GOLIATH-like struggles…
1.) First, David’s example shows that we need to learn to see GOD clearly.
More specifically, you and I have to be able to SEE our “goliath”- whatever it is – from the clear perspective of God’s limitless power. This perspective enables us to “see” that God is infinitely bigger than any “giant” we face. Think of it this way, to defeat the giants of life we need not self-confidence, but GOD-confidence. We need to be able to perceive reality through the “lenses” of our faith in His might, His wisdom, His love. It’s obvious that David had this kind of vision. He saw God more clearly than others and his picture of GOD is what led him to ask the other Hebrew soldiers, including King Saul, “Who is this un-circumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” But, his question is really a reprimand. He was saying to all the troops in earshot, “Open your eyes! You’re soldiers in GOD’S army! What are you guys doing cowering in fear?!” We need to be able to see the powerful truth that David was pointing to because you and me, WE are in the Lord’s army. When things appear bad, when GIANT problems come and we get scared we need to stop and remember, “Hey–I’m in GOD’S army! I’m HIS child! He’s bigger than my worries!”
David could see that in spite of his size and his armor Goliath was nothing compared to God. But the Israelites apparently didn’t have his superior eyesight. I mean, Goliath had been shouting his challenge for 40 days and there is no record of anyone else in the Hebrew army even mentioning God before, but this was practically David’s first thought! This tells me that the rest of the soldiers were spiritually blind. They LOOKED at Goliath and said, “Look how much bigger he is than us.” But David looked at him and said, “You guys need glasses! Look how much smaller he is than God.” They said, “He’s too big to hit.” David said, “Look again, he’s too big to miss.” As I picture it, David stood there and blinked his eyes and said, “What giant? The only giant in my life is God. This Goliath guy is a numby-headed dwarf!”
Well, to conquer the giants of life we need eyesight like this. We need to be able to “see” that 1 st John 4:4 is not a cliche but a statement of fact, that far “GREATER is He Who is in you than he who is in the world.” Our spiritual eyesight needs to be such that we can visualize our God as Isaiah 40:12 describes Him. Do you remember His perception of God? Isaiah says, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”
In his book, Believe and Belong, Bruce Larson 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 these 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 struggling 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 absolutely no effort, He is holding the world in one hand.
The fact is you must have this caliber of faith-fueled EYESIGHT in order to defeat the “giants” of life because giants have a way of seeming to be bigger than they really are. Evil has a way of deceiving us, much like those trick mirrors at the fair, so that when we look at the bad that is coming our way it looks bigger than it really is. This is why as Tozer says it is so important for us to have an accurate understanding of God’s nature and power. In fact I am convinced that the way we live is a direct consequence of our perception of the size of our God. Think about it.
When we wake up in the morning what happens if we believe in a “small” God?
- We live in a constant state of fear and anxiety because everything depends on us. We feel exposed and weak and vulnerable to the giants of life.
- If we believe in a small God, then when we have an opportunity to share our faith we don’t take it because we think that our success depends on us.
- If we believe in a small God, we won’t be generous in giving to people who need help because we believe our financial security depends on us.
We may try to get credit for something at work that does not belong to us because we don’t trust in a Big God Who sees in secret and will one day give reward.
John Ortberg writes, “When human beings shrink God, they offer prayer without faith, work without passion, service without joy, suffering without hope. It results in fear, retreat, loss of vision, and failure to persevere.”
As I said, David didn’t suffer from this form of myopia. No, he had the ability to see as God always sees so Goliath didn’t intimidate him in the least. He WAS a dwarf to David. That young shepherd boy could SEE that no matter how big the giant might be, God was BIGGER. And you know, I wish more of us had his vision. Think of the difference it would make in our individual lives and in our church as a whole, if we could see clearly enough to understand how BIG God is! In fact I pray that as Paul put it in Ephesians 3:18-19 we all, “…had the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-[I pray] that you may be filled to the measure of ALL the FULLNESS-[the BIGNESS] of God.”
Remember fellow Christian, we must never look at our present circumstances and conclude that what we SEE is all there is to reality. No matter what life looks like presently, no matter how much it appears that evil is winning, humans don’t have the last word. Our almighty God does!
And it is a word of hope, peace, and victory to those who love Him and who are walking in His will. Here’s a second way we need to improve our vision if we are to defeat the giants of life.
2.) We need to be able to see the PAST clearly.
Think of it this way. You not only have to have good SIGHT. You have to have good hindsight.
I mean you have to be able to look BACK and REMEMBER all the ways that God has been faithful in the past to slay your giants. You see, HINDSIGHT gives us a lot of INSIGHT. David looked back and saw the giants God had enabled him to defeat in the past. This gave him the faith, the confidence, to know God could more than handle Goliath.
1 Samuel records the fact that Saul heard of David’s vow to kill Goliath and he called for him.
Look at verse 33 and following. Saul shows his own poor eyesight here when he says,
“Son, you are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this un-circumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
So often when facing our own giants, like Saul does here, we forget what God has done for us in the past. I know I’m that way. Whenever I face a “goliath,” and let me tell you, I face several of them every week. In fact, I’ve decided that “giant-killing” is just part of every pastor’s job description. But whenever a “goliath” marches into my office, or calls me on the phone, or sends me an e-mail, or implants a thought in my head that causes me fear, at first my mind sort of overloads and the breaker switch on my memory circuit pops. And when it does I forget all the giants that God helped me to slay in the past. I go kind of numb and get afraid and don’t know what to do. Here’s an embarrassing example: Experience has taught me that in order to get my sermon done each week I must have a fairly firm outline and introduction by Monday night.
And every Monday I worry about this weekly “sermonic goliath” that I face. Many times God responds by patiently telling me to walk over to the closet in my office where there are two huge filing cabinets full of over six hundred of my sermons, each of them a “Goliath” that God helped me to defeat on a Monday in the past. Now, before you point a finger at me for this mental weakness let me put you through a brief test to see if you suffer from it as well. I will ask you a few questions and you say out loud the first answer that comes to mind. The tree that grows from an ACORN is an OAK. The vapor that rises from FIRE is called SMOKE. The sound a FROG makes is called a CROAK. The white of an EGG is called the YOLK. If you didn’t say “yolk” I guess you’re memory breaker switch is in better shape than mine! But seriously, to defeat the giants of life, we need good memories. We need to be able to look back and see that God has been faithful to us in the past, because that hindsight will help us to have the insight we need to believe that He will do the same in the future.
In C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, one of the children comes upon Aslan, the Christ-figure of the Narnia stories, after a prolonged absence. She says, “Aslan, you’re bigger.” “That’s because you’re older little one.” Aslan answered. “Not because you are?” she said. “I am not.” replied Aslan, “But every year you grow, you will find me to be bigger.” It’s the same with us and God. The more experience we have with God defeating our Giants and the better we remember them, the bigger God becomes. And the more we begin to obey Deuteronomy 20:3b-4 where it says, “Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic for the Lord your God is the One Who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
There’s one more way our vision must change if we’re to defeat the giants of life.
3.) We must learn to trust God even when we cannot see the FUTURE clearly.
It was nearly 15 years from David’s anointing until he was finally crowned king. That’s a long time to wait. Many of those years David spent on the run, being hunted like a wild animal by a jealous King Saul, who had learned that David would one day take his throne. During these years David hid in caves and the like, but he was constantly singing of the greatness of God. In Psalm 27 he sang, “Take courage and wait on the Lord.” And it does take courage to wait on God. It takes maturity to believe that even though you can’t see it, you believe that somewhere in the future God will use the difficulty you are going through. It takes the foresight of faith to believe that God will use that scary diagnosis, or prognosis, that He will use your being laid off from your job, that He will use that family difficulty or heartbreak. It takes foresight to give God all your heart even when you can’t see how He is at work in your difficulty for your good.
One of my favorite songs is “Trust His Heart.” It’s lyrics underscore this truth. I’d like to close by reading them to you.
All things work for our good though sometimes we can’t SEE how they could. Struggles that break our hearts in two sometimes BLIND us to the truth.
Our Father knows what’s best for us; His ways are not our own. So, when your pathway grows dim, and you just can’t SEE Him, Remember He’s still on the throne. God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. He sees the Master plan. He holds the future in His hands. So don’t live as those who have no hope. All our hope is found in Him.
We walk in present knowledge, but He SEES the first and the last. And like a tapestry, He’s weaving you and me to someday be just like Him. God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t SEE His plan, When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.
LET US PRAY