Lessons in Leadership: #4 David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17
Facing Your Giants. Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
When I was growing up, my parents had a Children’s Picture Bible. They would read me stories as I looked at the pictures. One of my favorite Bible stories growing up was the story of David and Goliath, the story of a small teenage boy taking on a huge warrior soldier and beating him with a slingshot. I wanted a slingshot just like David. After all, my middle name was David, and I wanted to be just like him slaying the giants. Wisely, my parents decided that a slingshot was not a good idea.
It’s a great story, isn’t it? David faced Lions. David faced Bears. David faced Giants. He beat them all. Lions, Bears, Giants- was David a part of the NFC North? He must have been a Green Bay Packer fan because they always beat the Lions, the Bears and the Giants. Just think about it. His father told him to pack provisions and take them to his brothers fighting in the army. He even had him pack ten cheeses for the army commanders. The word cheese only occurs three times in the Bible, and two of them are in the David stories. David was definitely a Cheesehead.
How does a teenage boy face a giant armed to the teeth with the latest high-tech weapons? The story gives us a clue. When David was telling the King why he could take on Goliath, he made this argument: “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…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 had faced many challenges in his life, and God had helped him through them all. Now that he faced this giant, his faith in God was going to help him once again. The whole Israelite army cowered in fear before Goliath. No one thought David stood a chance- no one, except David. David’s mind was not focused on Goliath and his might. David’s mind was filled with God’s power. Listen again to what he said to Goliath. “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, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand… so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all… may 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.” Where does faith like that come from?
People who study faith development say that it starts as infants. When parents attend to a baby’s needs on a timely and consistent basis, that baby begins to learn that life is trustworthy. The opposite is also true. When a baby is ignored or abused, that baby bears scars that will last a lifetime. As children grow, they take baby steps and learn how to walk. Each new challenge they face gives them more and more confidence. And if parents and the church can help them see that God is a part of this process, they grow in faith and confidence in God. This is what happened in David’s life. God helped him with small challenges, then bigger challenges, growing in faith and confidence until he was ready to meet this giant. “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 met the giant full of faith in God.
Have you ever faced a giant in your life? Giants come in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes your giant is ill health, a disease like cancer. Sometimes your giant can be an addiction you have struggled with over and over. Sometimes your giant can be the death of a loved one, or the fear of your own impending death. A giant can be a horrible boss or an abusive neighbor or a bully at school.
Here’s what giants do. They come to us and intimidate us. They bully us. They put us down. They try to convince us that we are no good, that we are failures, that we would be better off dead instead of taking up room on the planet. Bullies try to silence our voices. They buy our silence or threaten us with violence. Do you know any giants like that? Have you ever heard their voices speaking in your head? Have you ever come face to face with a giant?
How do we face our giants? We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it with our own power. We need help. We need God’s help. David saturated his mind with God’s perspective. He didn’t focus on Goliath’s size and power. He focused on God. He filled his mind with God. His heart was full of faith, not fear. Remember what he said to Goliath? “This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand… so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all… may 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.” The battle is the Lord’s.
Have you ever seen these Olympic athletes just before they compete? What are they doing? They aren’t watching the competition. They are often listening in headphones to music or to a motivational speaker. They are filling their minds with what gives them confidence and gets them motivated to do their best. The battle is often won in their heads and their hearts even before they compete.
Jesus faced his giants the same way. He filled his mind and heart with God’s Word. He didn’t face the giants with a slingshot. Jesus’ weapons were different. Jesus resisted the powers that be, but without violence. Jesus’ weapons were love and forgiveness. He spoke the truth to power and it got him killed. His resurrection shows us that his is the way that God wants us to walk. This is the way we face our giants, not with violence, but with truth, with justice and with love.
We’ve had some high-profile suicides recently in our country. Suicide is often the result of people who have no hope, who can’t envision a better future, who only listen to the voices that say they would be better off dead. Isn’t that exactly what the giants want us to believe? You know, if ever there was “fake news,” this is it. Fake news is propaganda meant to belittle and defeat. When we hear those voices of fake news speaking in our head, that’s when we need to fill our minds with the Word of God, just like David did. “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” We are children of God. We have been claimed by God in the waters of baptism, marked with the cross of Christ on our forehead. We are royalty, children of the King of Kings. We will not believe lies about ourselves. We will follow our leader, Jesus the Messiah. We will do the things that Jesus did and live by the values that Jesus taught. And eventually those giants will be defeated, for the battle is the Lord’s. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”