“In this life we face many trials and troubles that lead us to cower in fear and discouragement. However, when we walk with the Lord and give our weaknesses to Him then it is possible to face any “giant” in our life”
It was a quiet morning in the valley of Elah. The dew was beginning to burn off as the heat from the morning sun grew more and more intense. Around the camp you could hear the usual bustle of soldiers as they prepared their morning meal, but apart from that there was an eerie silence that hovered over the valley. The warriors from Israel had been camped along the valley wall for about 40 days now.
As each one in the camp went silently about their duties, King Saul was in his tent with a troubled heart. He would walk back and forth wondering how to resolve the monumental task that faced him and his army. The answer had not come in the last 40 days and there seemed to be no hope in finding it that morning. Although Saul was a tall, handsome, stately, warrior of a man, he could not seem to find to courage to go out against the one who called from the other side of the valley.
Howls of the Infidel
Then it happened just like each day prior. The eerie silence of the new day was broken by the howling laughter and cursing taunts of the Philistine giant. Goliath of Gath walked from within the Philistine camp and made his way to the edge of the valley. His voice and words were as frightening as his appearance. To call him a giant seemed almost an understatement as he towered above the earth at 9′-9″.
It was amazing to behold the amount of armor that he wore. It was enough metal to cover three normal sized men, yet Goliath seemed to walk with ease. The morning sun glistened off of his highly-polished bronze helmet and armor. Rumor around the camp said that his armor weighed 126 pounds. An average man could not move in battle under that weight. And that’s not even counting his spear and javelin. His spear looked more like a weaver’s beam than a spear, and the head of his spear weighed 15 pounds by itself. What a horrible death that would bring.
Sadly, his menacing appearance was not the worst part. The vile things that flew from his mouth made the Israelites wonder why God Himself did not strike Goliath where he stood. Day after day he came and shouted curses and hateful things about God and the army of Saul. When Saul and his men heard Goliath, their blood felt chilled and their breath seemed stolen from their nostrils. Yes, even the mighty Saul trembled and became greatly afraid when Goliath roared from across the valley.
Oblivious to the Cause
Not everyone knew about the giant from Gath. Most of Israel had no idea that this Philistine had stood at the edge of the valley taunting the army of God for so many days. The young, shepherd boy, David was among them. David had gone home before the army marched to Elah because his elderly father needed him to help with the sheep from time to time. Normally, David was close by Saul to play the harp and soothe him when he called but not for the past 40 days.
Even though David was home, three of Jesse’s sons had followed Saul to battle. And it seemed the older Jesse got, the more he worried for his sons when they left to fight. Jesse longed to know how the battle was going so he decided to send young David to take some food and check on them. David was very courageous and he did not hesitate to run to Elah and check on his brothers.
Not What He Expected
As David arrived at the valley he saw the men of Israel forming into their battle positions and across the valley he could see the Philistines doing the same. He was excited to catch them just as they were readying to fight. David left his belongings with the baggage keeper and ran to the rear of the battle line. Just as he neared the line, he saw him. Goliath emerged from among the ranks of the Philistines and began his usual tirade of cursing and mocking the army and God of Israel. When Goliath stepped forth the army of Israel turned and ran. David was amazed at what he witnessed. Never in his life had he seen the armies of God turn and run for fear of one man. David knew the stories of how God had led His people into battle against the craziest of odds and those who stood with God always stood victorious.
In his bewilderment David asked the men about the reward for the one who could put an end to the ranting of the Philistine giant. He was told a man would receive great riches and the king’s daughter would be thrown in to boot. David was shocked that no one was stepping forward to squelch this matter. David even asked the question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” David could not figure out why the mighty men of Israel cowered in fear at the mere sight of Goliath.
Although some answered David, not everyone was happy with all the questions he raised. In fact, his eldest brother, Eliab, was real irritated with David and asked him why he was not back tending the sheep where he belonged. It was obvious David was used to holding his own around his seven brothers because he wasted no time in popping right back at his brother. David said, “I just asked a question. Is there any harm in just asking a question?”
Called by the King
Eliab’s ears were not the only ones to hear David’s questioning. The report spread quickly to Saul’s tent and he sent for David. In the king’s tent, the air was thick with fear and doubt. Sensing the problem, David quickly said to the king, “Don’t worry. I’ll go out and fight the Philistine for you.” But at this point in his life Saul still liked David very much and he told him there was no way that he could prevail against the giant from Gath. But David pleaded his own defense and told the king how he had fought a bear and a lion while attending his father’s sheep and David promised that the Philistine would fall just like the animals whom he had fought before.
The King’s Armor
Reluctantly, Saul agreed to let David go out to meet the giant. Since Saul was not using his personal armor he took it and placed it on David. King Saul was no ordinary man when it came to physical size so the king’s armor swallowed David whole when it was draped upon him. David knew in an instant that Saul’s armor was not going to work at all. Instead of Saul’s armor David chose to wear the armor of the King of kings.
He left Saul’s tent, and David knelt down and chose 5 smooth stones from the brook that ran through the valley floor. With a sling in hand and God in his heart, David did something that no man had dared to do in over 40 days: he rushed out to meet Goliath on the field of battle.
The Dogs of War
Goliath was as arrogant as he was loud and large. When he saw David running out to meet him he could not believe his eyes. He called out and said, “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” Goliath then cursed David with a promise to tear him in pieces and leave him for the birds. Goliath’s taunting did not sway David in the least. He ran swifter than before and he called out to the giant, “You come with the weapons of war, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts and the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.”
In disbelief Goliath pushed back his helmet and waited for this little twerp from across the valley to approach within striking distance. As David ran forward he loaded one of the smooth stones in his sling and he began to twirl it above his head. After several rotations, David released one end of the sling and the stone went whistling through the air. It all happened so fast Goliath never knew what really happened. That stone smashed into his forehead with a cracking thud. Almost instantly the giant lost consciousness and the towering man of war crashed to the ground. The eerie silence from earlier in the day was suddenly back as both sides waited with hearts pounding wildly.
The Final Blow
David never missed a step. Even after the giant fell, David kept running toward his now crumpled body. When he reached the huge heap of a man David drew Goliath’s sword. With all his might he raised it above his head and brought it down across the giant’s neck. In one pass Goliath’s head fell from his body. The eerie silence was broken by the cry of war from the armies of Israel. The men of Israel charged across the valley in pursuit of the Philistines who turned and ran when they saw their champion fall. That day saw the fall of many Philistines and the restoration of glory to the God of Israel.
I know that none of us have ever faced a Philistine giant. It would probably be very safe to say that many of you have never even seen combat. However, I know that there are those among us who have faced the giants of war in their lives. Next week our country will close banks and government centers in honor of all who have served our great nation in both times of war and peace. I find it ironic that when we celebrate the lives of the men and women who have fought to give us our freedoms that we close businesses and throw sales at car dealerships and variety stores. I cannot see how any of that honors those brave souls. It seems much more appropriate to me to honor those who have given us our freedoms by living our lives in such as way as to say, “Thank you” for that freedom. Instead of closing banks, why not hold events that celebrate and promote the cause of freedom?
I know that any suggestions that I could offer here today that would better honor those who have served will likely go no further than wherever copies of this sermon may end up after the service today. But friends, what troubles me more than banks closing for Veteran’s Day is the fact that too many of us cower in fear when we face the giants in our lives. As I meet with people every day I see fear in their eyes. I see discouragement and I see heartache. I see so many people who are being pressured and taunted by the giants that they have to face.
Many Forms, Same God
Modern-day giants come in many forms. They come in the form of financial turmoil. They come in the form of unemployment. They come in the form of incurable disease and illness. They come in the form of broken marriages and unruly children. The giants we face today may look very different from the one from Gath, but they are no less formidable and they are no less frightening to God’s people. But friends, the same God who guided David’s stone that day is the same God who stands ready to slay the giants in your life. He is the same God who wants you to have peace knowing that He will take care of you. Friends, David was not the only one who knew how the Lord had led Israel in the past, but David was the only one who still believed that God was in control.
The Heart of God
David was a shepherd; not exactly the most noble of professions in his day. He likely smelled like the sheep and was apparently not cherished by his brothers. But despite all of that we are told in 1 Samuel 13:14 that the Lord wanted a man after His own heart and David was that man. To have the heart of God means to have a heart that is willing to trust God no matter what. It means trusting God when your finances seem to be failing. It means trusting God when your job is lost. It means trusting God when you are not healed from either physical or mental disease. Having the heart of God means that you trust God to slay the giants in your life.
But as we recall from the story, David did not sit hiding in the tent. Saul had that taken care of and for 40 days that had not worked. Saul’s heart was filled doubt and fear because he knew that the Spirit of God had departed from him. He knew that if he ran out to meet Goliath that he would have to do it in his own might. His failure to follow God in the past kept him a prisoner within his own tent, and far too many of us do the same thing. We let Satan beat us down and constantly remind us of our past failures, but God wants us to turn away from evil and look forward to a brighter future. He wants us to be willing to stand up and fight when He calls us to do so.
A Very Personal Giant
As think back to times in my life when I have faced things that seemed impossible to overcome, I remember how lonely I felt. One of those time occurred when I was overseas in Iraq. As many of you have heard me say before I served as a chaplain’s assistant with the Army. You may not know that a chaplain’s assistant is required to carry a weapon. In fact, the only position in the Army that does not require carrying a weapon is that of the actual chaplain. When I joined the Army I had no qualms with bearing arms in the defense of my nation and my family. I always had the idea that I could not hide behind the freedoms that others had died to secure for me. So I enlisted as a combatant.
I excelled at my training and quickly caught the attention of my leadership. In fact, I was the top marksman within our headquarters detachment and I loved being a Soldier. When I got to Iraq I did my duties within the best of my ability to perform them. One day when my chaplain and I visited mortuary affairs so that my chaplain could have prayer over the body of a fallen U.S. Soldier, I stood just a few feet away waiting on my chaplain and was not really thinking about a whole lot. As I stood there the strangest thing happened to me. I could audibly hear within my head a voice say, “Throw down your weapon.” At first I was not sure what had just happened and then I heard it again.
To say that I was confused would be a huge understatement. I was very content with being a Soldier and I loved my job as a chaplain’s assistant. I was the last person I would have ever seen as a conscientious objector so I tried desperately to put it out of my mind. But it seemed that the harder I tried to forget about the incident the more it plagued me. I got to the point where I could not sleep and I could not eat. The internal struggle began to show in my physical appearance. My buddies asked me if I was feeling Ok and if I was alright. I told them to just give me so space and that I would be fine. This went on for about two weeks. I was miserable inside and I refused to listen to God.
The Stone of Prayer
Finally, I could not take it anymore and I decided to pray and give in to God. I knelt in the floor of my little room and I poured my heart out to God. I told the Lord that I did not want this for my life, but if He was calling me to put down my weapon then I would follow Him. My giant was not the enemy on the other side of the fence friends. My giant was my own selfishness. My giant was being more concerned with what others would think of me than doing what God wanted me to do. My giant was dreading the ridicule and scorn that I was sure to face from the other Soldiers who were there putting their lives on the line too. I am so happy to tell you today that my prayer of submission to God became the stone that took down my giant.
Were there some who caused my deepest fears to be realized? For sure there were. I was scorned and shunned by many of my buddies. There were some who refused to even shake my hand. But day after day I prayed and I asked God to help me be the very best chaplain’s assistant in the theater of operations. I prayed each day that the Lord would help me to reach at least one Soldier and to be a blessing to them. I praise God today that He answered that prayer and over time many who had initialed shunned me came around and restored their ties with me.
Not a Respecter of Persons
Friends, I am not going to stand here today and tell you that all of your giants will go away with just one prayer. Mine certainly didn’t. It took me being willing to run where the Lord led me before He took down my giants. All of my giants did not fall at one time. Some took longer than others to overcome, but one by one I kept giving them to God and He was always faithful to slay them for me.
And I know that the same God who helped me and who helped David is the same God who stands ready, willing, and able to help each of you today. Since I have been home from Iraq there have been a few more giants that the Lord has helped me overcome, and by His grace each giant that pokes its big, old, ugly head into my life will feel the swift hand of The Almighty come crashing against it. We are told in Acts 10:34 that God is no respecter of persons. So if He helped David, and He has helped me and countless thousands of others then He will help you as well. He may choose to help you in a way that you have not thought of and He may do it in different timing than you desire, but He will help you. If you fully trust in the Lord He will slay the giants that you and I face today and in the future.