This sermon is part of the sermon series "Broken". See series.
We all are going to face giants. We all are going to be on battlefields where we will face things bigger than we are, things we cannot defeat on our own. As we face these giants, many of us might freeze, not knowing what to do. Many of us might run away in terror. As we step onto the battlefields of life, many of us have no idea what to do. A giant can come in many shapes and sizes. We all are broken, and we live in a broken world. We need to meet our battles head on with faith. Because we are broken, living in a broken world, we all are going to die. We will have relationship problems. Some of us will struggle with addictions. Some of us will struggle with plans for the future. Our level of faith determines how we face our problems.
In my own life I have faced huge, overwhelming giants. When I was 12-years-old, I went to the doctor's office to have a battery of tests to find out what was wrong with my health. I remember thinking, I may not make it.
When I got married, I had not yet trusted my life to Christ. In the first year of our marriage, we had a crisis. I remember bringing up divorce, thinking, We are not going to make it. I can still remember the look on my wife's face when I brought up the option of divorce. An incredible amount of healing had to take place after that. The struggles we experienced were gigantic. I didn't think we could overcome them.
A few years into ministry I felt God impress on me in a unique way, "I want you to move, and I want you to plant a church." I had a wife and three children at this point, and I felt God calling me to leave my income, my house, and my furniture. My workplace at the time provided our house and furniture. I left my insurance and pension. With a handful of people, I stepped out with nothing and no income in order to plant a church. That was a giant I faced. I remember thinking, Okay, God, I know you've called me to do this. I don't know if you've called me to learn through failure or to be victorious, but I'll step out on this battlefield. I remember thinking, Maybe God wants to teach me a lesson. I've failed before, and maybe this was one of those situations. So I'll face this giant with God.
There are other giants that I have faced in ministry. About a year and a half ago, I received a call from Elmbrook Church: "Would you consider coming to Elmbrook?" I remember thinking, Wow, it's something I'm not up for. If God's not in this, I don't have what's needed. God needs to be with me in facing this next battle, this next giant.
By facing life's battles, I've learned three things about myself and three things about God. First, I've learned about total surrender, what it means to give everything to God, and what it means to find God's strength in the midst of my weakness. Secondly, I've learned that I become more confident as I face more giants. I'm not naturally a confident person. But God gives us confidence in him as we learn how to face life's giants and life's battles. Thirdly, I have learned that our God is a God of miracles. He is a God of power, and he can come through for us in great ways.
So what battlefields are you facing? What giants do you need to fight? We're going to look at 1 Samuel 17 to see how David faced his first battlefield experience. By looking at David, we will learn how God wants us to handle our own battles.
Listening to God's voice
The number one thing we need to keep in mind is this: On the battlefield of life, we need to listen to the right voice.
So here is the story. For 40 days, the Israelite and Philistine armies have been squared off, just staring at each other. For that entire time, Goliath, a champion from the Philistine camp, taunted the Israelites and challenged them to send out their best warrior to fight him. He set up a condition: If I defeat your best, then you will serve us. If your best defeats me, we will serve you.
He did this for 40 days. Jesse sent David, his youngest son, to the battlefield, to take food to his three oldest brothers. David shows up and he hears about the situation, the taunting, the challenge. And so David says in 1 Samuel 17:26, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
Notice what David says about the Israelite army: they are "the armies of the living God." This is the first time this claim is made in 1 Samuel 17. Up until this point, Goliath has been calling them Saul's army, and no one disagreed. But David has another perspective. He saw things differently.
Verse 27 says, "They repeated to David what they had been saying and told him, 'This is what will be done for the man who kills Goliath.'" King Saul said that if any man defeated this giant, he would receive three things as a reward: great wealth, his daughter's hand in marriage, and he and his family would be exempt from taxes for the rest of their lives. He offers an incredible incentive to fight. We don't know what his daughter looks like, but no one takes him up on the offer. The person who is most qualified to fight Goliath is King Saul. The Bible says he is a mighty warrior. He stood head and shoulders above everyone else. He is essentially the biggest guy in the Israelite army, and he's the one who should face Goliath. But he's a coward. He's terrified like everyone else. But not David. David is listening to a different voice.
Listen to what happens as David asks around about the situation. Verse 28 says,
When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, "Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle."
The first voice David hears is that of his oldest brother. Last week we talked about the anointing of David as king. Samuel, the prophet, was sent by God to Jesse's house, and Samuel said, "Bring out all your sons. One of them is going to be the next king." So Jesse brought out his seven oldest boys. Samuel looked at the oldest, Eliab, and asks God: Is this the one? He's tall. He's handsome. He's strong. He looks like a mighty warrior.
But God says: No, not him. I've rejected him. Man looks on the outside, at appearance, but I look on the heart.
Ultimately, David was chosen because of his heart. Eliab is rejected because of his heart. Coincidentally, Eliab calls David a wicked-hearted, conceited guy. He's attacking David's character. Perhaps he knew that he was passed over from being anointed as king. He's trying to humiliate David, telling him he should be tending the sheep, not visiting the battlefield. Shepherding is for kids; war is for men. If David had listened to his brother, he would have dropped his head in shame and walked off the battlefield, never to return.
The voices we need to tune out the most are the ones that tell us to do something contrary to God's plan. And sometimes those voices come from our families. Sometimes our families pull us down instead of supporting us in our faith. Sometimes they tell us to run away instead of encouraging us to face the battles God has called us to fight.
It's not just Eliab's voice that David has to tune out. Verse 29 says, "'Now what have I done?' said David. 'Can't I even speak?' He then turned away to someone else." He didn't give Eliab any more time. Then, "He turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him" (17:30).
Now, Saul is eager to have someone go out there and face Goliath. Saul probably isn't going to say, "If our man is defeated, we are going to serve the Philistines." They are probably going to fight at that point. But he wants someone to face Goliath. He's eager for that.
In verse 31, David says to Saul, "Let no one loose heart on account of Goliath; your servant will go fight him." David calls himself Saul's servant. That is a big claim. After all, David has been anointed the next king of Israel, and Saul has been rejected. God chose David, and David still says he will serve Saul. David has a servant's heart. Notice what Saul says in verse 33: "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you're only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth."
The second voice David needs to tune out is King Saul's. Saul basically says: You're just a kid. He is a gladiator. Notice the belt that he is carrying. He has notches on his belt. Those notches represent the people he's killed. You want to be the next one in line? You're just a kid. Don't fight him. He's been fighting since he was a kid, and he's 20 years older than you. David, you don't need to face Goliath.
If David would have listened to Saul, he would have gone home. But he didn't. He was listening to a higher voice.
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 and 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 a lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God."
David basically says to Saul: These are the armies of the living God. They are not yours. You're cowering in fear. But this is God's army. This Philistine is defying God, not you.
David goes on to say, "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 then said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you."
Notice David's confidence and boldness. He's not cocky. He's confident. He's bold. He's sure God has been with him in the past and that God will be with him as he fights this next battle. God has been with him before; God will be with him again. He has a God-confidence that won't die away. And God wants us to have this kind of faith. He wants us to hear his voice, not the negative voices that surround us, that try to deter us from his calling. He wants us to live by faith. He wants us to understand that all things are possible with him. He wants us to understand that when he calls us to do something, he will empower us to do it.
David is focused on two things. First, he is focused on who he knows God to be in Scripture. God is all-powerful. God is present. God is all all-loving. Secondly, he is focused on applying the truth of Scripture to his own experiences. He knows that God is faithful. But he not only knows that God is faithful, he has seen God's faithfulness in his own life.
That's what God wants us to do. God wants us to listen to his voice. He doesn't want us just to have information in our heads. He wants us to apply our knowledge of him in our lives. He doesn't want us just to know the truth. He wants us to practice the truth. And as we do that, we will find him faithful. He will strengthen our faith. We will have victory when we face our giants.
Utilizing our gifts
The second thing we need to know as we face life's battles is this: We need to use what God has already given us. David didn't wait until he was older to fight Goliath. He didn't wait till he had more experience. He didn't wait till he was stronger. He didn't follow a workout plan to get into better shape before he faced Goliath. He used what he already had. And he wasn't about to use something he was unfamiliar with. Notice what verses 38 and 39 say:
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened his sword over the tunic and tried walking about, but he was not used to it. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off.
Ironically, David has been anointed king by Saul. Saul unwittingly dresses David in the king's garb. But David refuses it. He's essentially saying: I'm not going to be a king like you, Saul. I'm not going to wear what you wear. I'm not used to these. I'm not going to operate in them. I'm not going to wear them.
Then, verse 40: "He took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, [and] put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag." David is not going to face Goliath as a king. He is going to face him as a shepherd. Why did God choose David in the first place? He chose him because he had a shepherd's heart. And now he's facing Goliath with what he knows. It's what he did as he was tending the flock. He is using the same equipment that he had as a shepherd. He grabs his sling and approaches the Philistine. He refuses to dress like a king. Instead he faces Goliath as a shepherd.
Also notice that David doesn't have super human skills. To be sure, he had some skills just like Goliath. He had skills other people had. Many people knew how to use a sling. For example, Judges 20:16 tells us about a group of soldiers that functioned like a Green Beret troop: "Among all these soldiers were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss." That's exactly what David was about to do. But guess what. These men were part of the Benjaminite clan. That was Saul's clan. He knew about them, and he should have had these kinds of skills. But David steps up. Chances are, that same clan, that same platoon, was lined up on the battlefield. But none of them are going to step up with a sling and a stone. Instead, David does.
God wants David to use what he already gave him. God doesn't want David to wait until he would know more or have more experience. He wants him to use what he already has. He wants him to step out in faith. The same is true for us. Some of us are thinking, Well, when I grow more or learn more or get more experience, then I can fight this giant that I'm facing. But God wants you to step out in faith. Apply what you know to be true. Use what you have, and let me work. Let me work through you. Let me work in your circumstances.
Staying focused on God
The third truth that we learn from David is we need to focus on the size of God, not on the size of our problems. Many of us focus on the size of our problems and we freeze. We get terrified and we don't budge. Instead, we need to focus on God.
I know what it's like to freeze in terror. During my sophomore year of high school I moved from Mississippi, where I was in a boarding school, to Oklahoma to live with my aunt and uncle. I attended a public high school in Tulsa. I was the nose guard on the football team. When wrestling season came around, they needed a heavyweight. I fit the qualifications. I still do. The coach came to me and said, "We need a heavyweight." I said, "I've never wrestled. I don't know how to wrestle." He responded, "I'll teach you. Don't worry about it. Just come out." And so I did. I went out there and got beat horribly. I got pinned every match, and I made a fool of myself. But I stayed the course. God taught me a lot of character lessons by being defeated so often.
My junior year I won half of my matches. My senior year I only lost to one guy. His name was Tank, and he outweighed me by about 80 pounds. He could bench press 500 pounds, and he looked like he was 30-years-old. I wrestled him three times my senior year. When I wrestled him, my goal wasn't to win. My goal was not to look stupid. I didn't want to get pinned in the first 15 seconds. I wanted to make a good showing, even though I knew I wouldn't win. I basically froze. I basically gave up. I never even considered whether I could beat him. I just went out there and tried not to look like a fool.
Unfortunately, I carried that fighting technique into my marriage. And when my marriage was on the rocks during our first year, my goal wasn't for God to heal our marriage. At that point, I hadn't even trusted in God. In fact, our marital difficulties were what eventually led me to trust in God later on. When we ran into this marital crisis, I felt alone. I just didn't want to look like a fool in front of my parents and my friends. I tried to save face. I tried to figure out how I could get out of my marriage in an easy way. That was my goal. I used the same technique I used in wrestling. All along, I was focused on the size of my problem, not on the size of God.
David never focuses on Goliath's size. The text says Goliath is a champion. He is over nine feet tall. The tallest NBA players are two feet shorter. The text goes on to say, "He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels." His coat of armor weighed 125 pounds. Some of you weigh 125 pounds. That's just his chain of armor. This guy is huge. He's intimidating. "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." That's 15 pounds. The tip of his spear alone was like a barbell.
And David says: I'll go out and fight the guy. But David doesn't focus on Goliath's size. Neither does he get out on the battlefield and think, Wow, I really misjudged this. Maybe I need to back up. He doesn't do that. First Samuel 17:41-44 says,
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, "I'll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!"
He's trash talking David. Would you be intimidated if a nine-foot champion wearing a chain coat weighing 125 pounds told you that he was going to feed your flesh to the birds of the air? I would be. But David isn't. Why? He's not focused on Goliath's size. He's focused on God.
David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come at you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
Relying on God, not our own abilities
The fourth thing we learn from David is that we need to rely on God's power, not our own. In verse 46, David says, "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." David comes back with his own trash talk. But it doesn't stop there. David also says, "And the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. And 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."
David is not out there for his own glory. He's not thinking, I want great wealth, Saul's daughter's hand in marriage, and my dad to be exempted from taxes. He's out there for God's glory.
This is what God wants to do in our battles. God says: I want to be glorified in your hurting marriage. I want to be lifted up in your relationships and in your addictions so that people can see me working in your life. I want to be glorified in how you handle crises. As you handle it my way, as you hear my words and apply them, I will be lifted up, and others will know that I am alive and that I am good and that I can step into their situations, too. This is why David is doing what he's doing. David said to Goliath, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name,"—name basically means power—"of the Lord Almighty."
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. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 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." (1 Samuel 17:48-50)
David is facing this giant, fighting this battle, empowered by God. That's how God wants us to face the giants in our lives. He wants to empower us. He wants to give us boldness and confidence. He wants us to know that all things are possible with Christ. And with him, we are more than conquerors. He wants us to live our lives knowing that he is with us.
So how did David get his confidence? The end of 2 Samuel tells us why David was so confident. Second Samuel 22 records a psalm of David. In that psalm, David talks about the strength he had in battle and in life. He says, "In my distress I called to the Lord. I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice." So what does David do as he faces this nine-foot giant? He calls out to the Lord. He is in constant prayer. In his distress, he calls out to God, saying: I need you to help me! I need you to be a part of this.
"He rescued me," David goes on to write, "from my powerful enemy." Perhaps he was referring to Goliath. "From my foes, who were too strong for me." Certainly Goliath was too strong for him, but not too strong for God. God was with David. "They confronted me in the day of my disaster." Are you in a day of disaster? "But the Lord was my support." David gives us a glimpse into his prayer life, into his confidence, into the hope that he has as he steps out in faith to face giants. He gives us that hope.
Unfortunately, many of us, even if we've entrusted our lives to Christ, live with the eyes of our hearts shut. Instead of having boldness and confidence of heart, we often respond in fear and shut down. Our goal is simply not to look stupid. As a result, we don't have the boldness and the confidence God wants us to have in order to face life's battles properly. This is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 1:18-20:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
Paul is essentially saying: I'm praying that the eyes of your heart would be open, that you come to know the hope and know the power that is available as you face giants in life.
Some of us don't yet know that hope and power because the eyes of our hearts haven't been fully opened. We're still facing giants in our own strength, and we're still focusing on the circumstances instead of focusing on God. And we're still listening to other voices, not God's.
So how do we make the transition from knowing something in our head to knowing it in our heart? The answer is in the word know that Paul uses in Ephesians 1:18. He says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart would be open so that you might know." The Greek word for know is eidō, meaning "to experience." Paul is saying he wants us to experience the hope and power to which God has called us. Paul wants us to apply the information we have received. He wants our knowledge to impact the way we live. We can't just go to church, hear truth, and not apply it. We've got to put it into practice. And as we apply the truth that we know, as we step out in faith and practice it in our situations in obedience to God, we will see God's faithfulness. The eyes of our hearts will be enlightened, and we will know that we have hope. We will know that God's power is guiding us.
When I was in my late 20s, I was called to start a church in Texas, to leave everything I had—my insurance, my pension, my salary, my house, and my furniture. I had a wife and three kids, but I had no income. I had no idea what I was going to do. My wife and I would sit down, and we both felt convinced that God was calling us to do this. So she wrote down on a sheet of paper all of the things that we needed. We needed a refrigerator. We had enough savings to stay somewhere for a month, but we didn't have anything else. We needed a washing machine, a down payment for a house, a bed, and so forth. We knew that God had called us to start a church with only a handful of people. We got phone calls out of the blue. People would say, "I don't know why, but I was praying, and God wants me to give you a refrigerator. When can I drop it off?" One man said, "My mom died, and I want to tithe ten percent of the 30,000 dollars she left me. I've been praying about where to give it, and I felt like God told me to give it to you. I don't know why. So here it is." We used that money, 3,000 dollars, to put a down payment on a house. Everything just fell in place.
God told us, "I want you to obey. I want you to step out in faith. I'll take care of the details." I didn't know if God was calling me to learn through failure or to be victorious. It ended up being victorious. But God was calling me to step out on the battlefield.
What giants are you facing? What battles are you in? Are you facing something overwhelming? Are you facing something bigger than you? Maybe it's a health issue. Maybe it's an addiction. Maybe it's a relationship issue. Maybe it's a financial issue. Maybe it's an emotional issue. I pray that God would open your eyes, that you would focus on God, not on the size or power of your addiction, problem, health issue, financial issue, marital issue, or relationship issue. May you hear God's voice. Let Scripture inform the way you live. Surrender completely to God and know that he will be strong in your weakness.
Philip Griffin is the Senior Pastor of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.