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“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, 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 … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.’” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Near the end of President George W. Bush’s speech to Congress and the nation a few days after 9/11, he said: “After all that has just passed – all the lives taken, and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them – it is natural to wonder if America’s future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.”
That is a profound and true thought: either we define our times, or they define us. In the familiar story of David and Goliath, we see that truth played out. Saul and Israel were allowing the Philistines to define them. David was a different kind of man, however; he intended to define his times through the grace and power of God.
David Defined His Enemy
David looked and saw a fierce foe. Goliath was an intimidating figure. He was nine and a half feet tall (v. 4). His armor weighed over 200 pounds, and his weapons were immense (vv. 5-7). Added to his physical appearance was this giant’s attitude. He stood in defiance against Israel (vv. 8-10). Not only was he defiant, but he also had complete disdain for God’s people. Put it all together, and David faced a fierce foe in Goliath.
But Goliath was not really the greatest giant David had to face that day. Goliath was a terrible enemy, but it was friendly fire that David would have to watch for most diligently. In every war, there are occasions when soldiers are accidentally killed by their own brothers. David was getting ready to face some friendly fire, but it was not all accidental. The real enemies of our life are more subtle than Goliath.
Consider four subtle enemies that David and you and I must face in life:
The Enemy of Past Carelessness and Failure – Goliath would not have been standing there in defiance against Israel if Israel had not failed to obey God in the past. Israel could and should have driven the Philistines from the land when they first entered it (Joshua 1:2-6; 3:9-10). More recently, Saul had led the people to fear the Philistines rather than God (1 Samuel 13). Saul failed miserably in obeying God and God’s prophet, Samuel. Because of his carelessness and failure, Saul’s army quickly dwindled from 3000 to 600.
Like Saul, many of our giants are the results of past carelessness and failure. Things we could have dealt with when they were small become giants that seem nearly impossible to drive out of our lives.
The Enemy of Criticism and Rejection – David also had to face the critical spirit of nearly everyone around him who claimed to belong to God. Saul had already allowed the people’s critical spirit to drive him into rebellion against God (1 Samuel 13:4, 8-13). Now David had to face the criticism of his own brothers. His eldest brother, Eliab, rebuked David and said, “”Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle” (v.28).
It is hard enough to face criticism of our actions, but when our motives are challenged, we often turn and run. David did not! David handled criticism by doing what God showed him to do.
Colonel Goethals received tremendous criticism throughout the planning and building of the Panama Canal. An assistant had all he could take of the criticism one day. He asked the Colonel, “Aren’t you going to do anything about all of this criticism?” “Yes I am,” was the Colonel’s calm reply. “What?” asked the assistant. The Colonel answered, “By finishing the Canal!”
Your greatest enemy is anything that stands between you and doing what God has called you to do. Defeat that enemy by doing what God called you to do!
The Enemy of Public Opinion – David also had to face the enemy of the majority. Everyone else in Israel had already given up in despair (vv. 11, 24). When David told Saul of his plans to fight Goliath, the King chided the young boy and said, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (v. 33).
Beware of following the majority. Public approval is a subtle enemy. As Mark Twain observed: “Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.” Unlike Saul, we cannot afford to let whatever one else thinks and says move us. We must remember the words of Jesus. He said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mark 10:28). In other words, concern yourself only with what God says and not man.
The Enemy of Selfish Ambition – This may be the hardest of all to see. David could easily have been swayed by the promises of reward and acclaim. “The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel” (v. 25). Had David gone out to fight Goliath for riches or the hand of a beautiful young woman, he would surely have failed.
We must learn this lesson along with David. We cannot even trust our own hearts when fighting the giants of life. Our most subtle and dangerous enemies are our own motives and hearts. I remember a man in one of the first churches I pastored. He often would tell me that God had told him to do things God hadn’t told anyone else. He would say, “I just follow my heart.” He needed to listen to Jeremiah, who said, “The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.”
David Was Secure in the Person of God
David sized up the problem and tackled it, secure in his knowledge of God. He saw the real focus of this attack while others did not. Goliath was not challenging David or Israel; he was challenging God. David knew that the real focus of Goliath’s attack was God Himself (v.36). Every giant you face is an attack on the person of God. Remember, a giant is anything that stands between you and where God wants you to be. The real battle is between God and Satan.
“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, 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’” (v. 45).
It is important to remember that this is God’s battle, not ours. When you are criticized for simply seeking to obey God, remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. When following God leads you against the stream of the majority, remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. Even when your own heart fails you, remember that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Because David saw the real focus of the attack, he rested his faith in God. He had faith in his past experiences with God. When a bear and lion attacked his father’s sheep, God was there (vv. 34-37). Has God been there for you before? Is He not the same yesterday, today, and forever? Surely, if God was there for you in the past, He is here with you now!
David’s faith also rested on proven weapons. Saul offered his armor and weapons, but David didn’t trust them. They had not been tested in battle (vv. 38-40). When you face the giants of life, do so with proven weapons. Look to the God who has always been true. Look to God’s people and Word.
David had faith in the providential oversight of God. In the end, he knew God was fighting this battle in and through him (vv.45-47). Do you have that same confidence in the strong name of the Lord? Christ is called the Captain of our Salvation in the Book of Hebrews.
Have you let the giants of criticism or rejection come between you and what God has called you to do? Have you let the giant of popular opinion silence the words God has given you to speak? Have you let the failings of your own heart come between you and obeying God? Do like David: look to the God who has always been there for you as a believer, use the weapons He has given you, and trust Him.