Sunday Service was led by Pastor Matt Price and the Sermon was titled “Facing Your Giants”.
And one thing I like about preaching this story of David and Goliath is really David and Goliath are two of the few names in scripture that really have currency even to people beyond the church, I would say. If you were to mention David and Goliath to even people who are unbelievers or are on church today, there would probably still be some things that would come to their mind. I imagine they’d probably think of an underdog winning against, you know, really big odds, fairly bad odds. You know, I put on the next slide some examples of, if you, this is actually if you Google the terms David and Goliath, what come up, some of these are actually kind of funny.
You might think of a time, that term gets used a lot in sports actually, David and Goliath, when you think about a sports team that had been losing, that wasn’t expected to win, coming from behind to take the victory. I actually saw that, you may remember this lady down there, Susan Boyle, who I actually was compared to David, She was just kind of this frumpy middle-aged Scottish woman who out of nowhere won this big talent competition on TV. She was compared to David and the judges on that show to Goliath in a story I saw. Of course, you might think of politicians who oftentimes like to compare themselves to David and their opponents to Goliath.
And they do that for a reason, because there’s something in all of us, I think, that really is drawn towards an underdog story. We like seeing somebody who’s not expected to win come from behind and win the victory over the big bad giant. And there’s something within all of us that relishes that. And so it’s no wonder that this story of David and Goliath has left an imprint on our minds as a culture.
And we like this story because in many ways it’s the classic underdog story. And yet as I read this story over the past week, I thought that the interesting thing I saw was that David, young David, who was probably just a teenager, he actually would not have seen himself as the underdog at all. He didn’t see himself that way. In fact, he’s nothing but confident of his victory the entire time.
The entire time he’s getting ready to face off against the Philistine giant, Goliath. And that’s not actually because he’s prideful. That’s not actually because deep down he knows what he’s capable of, knows he’s a really great person, is capable of– has a lot of wits and all that. The story tells us that David is confident because he isn’t focused on himself or focused on his own strength at all.
David’s insistent that the battle is not ultimately between him and the giant, instead it’s between the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel, and this mere creature who has dared defy God. And so David knows that his strength doesn’t come from himself, he’s not focused on his own skills or abilities, he’s focused on God, the God who gave him the strength to battle that giant. And when you look at the story in this light, it’s not really an underdog story, or really Goliath is the underdog here. Because Goliath is the one who is nothing more than a mere creature who has dared to oppose the Lord his God.
You don’t have to be an expert in scripture to know that that’s not going to end well when someone does this. And so it’s God who finally wins the victory in this famous story. And really there was never any doubt that God would lose this battle. And so what I’d like us to see today from this story of David and Goliath is how it both is and isn’t an underdog story.
And it’s all depending on how we look at it. Because in the world’s eyes, David certainly is the underdog here. No, David is an untrained, unarmored teenager who was squaring off with a heavily trained, heavily armored giant, the champion of the Philistines named Goliath. And everyone watching him that day expected to see him crushed.
And yet in God’s eyes, as I said, there was never any doubt who would win the victory that day. And that’s because David trusted in the Lord, his God, and he placed the victory in his hands. And so David’s attitude toward that giant, I think, has a lot to teach us about how we face the giants in our own lives. Whether those giants are addiction, or financial trouble, or divorce, or despair, this story teaches us that our God is bigger than anything the world or the devil can throw at us.
And even more, it tells us that the path to victory over our giants doesn’t come through focusing on our problems, focusing on how big the giant is, it comes through focusing on our God. the path to victory. I put up a quote from Max Lucado who wrote a whole book about this story called Facing Your Giants where he says if you focus on your giants you will fall but if you focus on God your giants will. So let’s look together here how this underdog David managed to bring down the mighty giant Goliath.
And it is worth stressing again just how totally ridiculous David would have looked on the battlefield that day. And the story actually goes out of its way to reinforce that. Because the whole first section of this Bible passage that Flo read goes out of its way not just to describe how tall Goliath is, which we all remember. It actually goes out of its way to describe the sheer amount of body armor that he’s wearing.
And it’s body armor we know was state of the art in its time. That’s one of the things the Philistines who were opposing Israel, that’s what they were known for. It says he had a helmet of bronze on his head and was armed with a coat of mail. It actually says the coat itself weighed more than 100 pounds.
He had a gigantic spear in his hand that weighed 15 pounds. He was committed to killing somebody that day. And so it’s no wonder that the armies of Israel at the beginning of this story, it says they were cowering in fear. They were wondering what in the world was gonna happen to them.
And even King Saul, who if you know his story, he was actually appointed king by God to rid the land of the Philistines. It says even he is dismayed and afraid, not knowing what in the world he should do to meet this threat. And the thing is, I think we all can empathize with the Israelites here. We all can empathize with King Saul.
‘Cause when I look sometimes out at the darkness in our world, if you look at the news just over the past week, sometimes that can make us very afraid and not know what to do. We wonder how God, how love, how the power of love could ever stand against the darkness we see in our world. The darkness just looks too strong so we can understand what’s going on here. Yet of course, the story tells us into this very tense standoff one day comes a shepherd boy whose name was David.
We know that David wasn’t trained in warfare. David wasn’t even a soldier at all. The only reason he’s walking into that military camp that day is because he was assigned by his father to take food rations to his three older brothers who actually were trained soldiers. But unfortunately for Goliath that day, David happened on to overhear just what Goliath was saying to the armies of Israel.
And specifically what David was saying about the Lord, his God. Goliath was cursing God, we’re told. It didn’t matter to David that he didn’t have any fancy body armor. And even the armor that Saul put on him that day didn’t fit him right.
It didn’t matter to David that he didn’t have a sword or spear because he says we have a God who doesn’t save by sword and spear. Instead, David says that no matter how big and bad Goliath looked that day, that we have a God who is bigger than that. We have a God who is stronger than Goliath. And as David cries out before he strikes the giant with the sling and the stone, He says, The battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.
So what we have to do here, I think, is notice where David’s focus is throughout this scene, because he is not focused on the giant who is attacking him. He is focused on God and what God is capable of. And in fact, if you read the whole chapter, it’s actually remarkable how little attention David pays to the giant. If you read his speeches throughout this whole chapter, First Samuel chapter 17, he mentions Goliath only two times but he mentions God nine times.
So over four times, he focuses on God rather than the giant Goliath. And that’s because David knew who was in control. And that tells us when we have a problem, when we have a giant facing us that’s threatening to bring us down, to cause us to despair, we have to put more focus, spend more time and energy praying, keeping our minds focused on God than we do on the problem that’s afflicting us. We know the one who is in control and David gave it all into his hands and trusted God with the victory that day, no matter what personally would happen to him.
So there’s the old spiritual that says, God’s got the, he’s got the whole world in his hands. Well, David knew that truth. He knew the battle was in the hand of God can trust God with whatever giants we’re facing, no matter how mean or scary they look. Now I’ll be honest that earlier this week when I was starting to think about this passage of scripture, I was looking forward to giving a happy sermon just focused on how we can always attack our giants and overcome them just like David did.
But as we’ve already mentioned in this service, we’ve got some bad news earlier in the week that kind of affected how I read this story of scripture because of course I woke up on Thursday, started reading about this terrible terrorist attack on this church where nine people were killed in a Bible study. It was a horrifying story that we’ve all been focused on. These people range in age from 26 to 87, those who were killed in this Bible study. And I don’t know if it’s because I, too, am a Methodist pastor or because I’m just sick of hearing about stuff like this happening, but this story stayed with me.
It caused me problems as I read this story of David and Goliath. I wondered why the same God who saved Goliath here couldn’t save these or didn’t save these people who were in a Bible study, studying the word of God. How could God refuse to help them? And how can we read this story of David and Goliath in light of what happened this past week? And it wasn’t until I happened to catch a recording of the pastor in the middle, he died in that shooting. He was a 41 year old pastor with two kids whose name was Clementa Pinckney.
I actually saw a video of him that helped remind me that perhaps this story is appropriate for this Sunday. ‘Cause on this recording, this man is talking about the history of his church, his African Methodist Episcopal Church. And he told about how since the very beginning of that church’s life in the 1800s, they faced numerous attacks from white terrorists who were determined to put that church out of business, who were upset about what that church stood for. They were attacked constantly.
Even one of the church’s founders, who was a freed slave whose name was Denmark Vasey, he was actually murdered in the city of Charleston, South Carolina because he opposed slavery and did it at that church. Yet Reverend Pinckney said that no matter what, the church had kept going in spite of the attacks against them. And in spite of those attacks through the years, the church had kept on proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and the equality of all people in his eyes, no matter what the color of their skin. And I put this whole quote up here because I really liked it.
It says, That is what church is all about, freedom to worship and freedom from sin, freedom to be full of what God intends us to be and to have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you’ve got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vasey to do that. you may have to march, struggle, and be unpopular to do that.
Of course, this pastor would go on to give his life, just like Denmark Vasey, for standing up for the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I think, I believe that no matter what the world’s done to them, no matter what the devil has done to them, that that church is going to emerge stronger from the midst of that. And that’s because even though the world’s done its best to put out the gospel that is is preached there, the Holy Spirit is there. That same Holy Spirit that gave David the victory over Goliath is going to give that church the victory, even in the face of unstoppable, unbeatable odds.
And so you see what we realize today is that sometimes God gives His people victories that don’t look exactly like the victory of David over Goliath on the battlefield. Sometimes God’s victories will look more like the victory of His Son, Jesus Christ, who One, not by giving out violence to others, but by taking the world’s violence upon himself on the cross when he died for us. And that’s never gonna make sense to the world. Paul says the cross is foolishness to the world because the world thinks that victories only come through power and through guns and through violence.
But the gospel tells us a very different story. And we’re right to ask what kind of a God suffers violence rather than handing it out? what kind of a God dies on a cross rather than sending his enemies there. But I saw the kind of victory I’m talking about in another story about this church shooting, which was focused on the children of one of the women who died there, a woman named Sharonda Coleman Singleton. Those are actually her three kids that I saw a story on this past week.
And two of her children, the two on the outside, their names are Chris and Cameron, they were interviewed in the news, And they said that since their mother’s killing, they were actually overwhelmed with feelings of love, even for the killer. And Chris said that we already forgive him for what he’s done. There’s nothing but love from our side of the family. What that statement says to me is that it’s obvious that that church they belong to, that church that they said was their family that had surrounded them with love since their mother died, that church had trained them well in the true power of the gospel.
It had taught them well the message of the Apostle Paul, and said, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. That’s the gospel that they were proclaiming in their words. And so against the Goliath of violence and racism, and that’s done its best to wipe out their family and their church, they are triumphing just as much as David did that day. Although it just may look a little bit different than that.
So I think there’s a lot more that could be said about this terrible news story, as well as our scripture today. And as this news story has made abundantly clear, we still have a lot of work to do in really proclaiming what the gospel means, that it means all people are equal and loved, made in the image of God. We see that that’s not a popular viewpoint still in our country today. But really it’s up to us if that’s gonna change.
It’s up to us if we’re gonna do something about that. We have to decide, like those children, the children of Sharonda Coleman Singleton, like their pastor, Reverend Pinckney, We have to decide that as a church, we are gonna stand on the side of love, that we’re gonna stand on the side of God. We know that as we do so, we have a God who specializes in conquering giants, the giants that this world thinks are too strong to be defeated. But we have a God who actually bore the very worst this world had to offer.
He suffered death himself on a cross. But as Christians, we know that death didn’t have the last word. Thanks be to God. As Christians, we know that Jesus conquered death forever and triumphed over the grave.
And he offers us that same victory when we put our trust, put our faith in him. And so whatever giants we are facing in our lives, whatever giants we are facing as a church, whatever pain you’re feeling that you just can’t see a way out of, I pray that you take this scripture today and know that there is hope for you. I pray that you would receive strength to face down your giant, just like David did, and get the victory over it. May God give us a spirit, not of cowardice and fear, but of bravery and courage to face down our giants.
And as the old saying goes, Don’t tell God how big your storm is, but tell the storm how big your God is. We know that God loves us, and he proved that love by dying for us on a cross. And I wanna close today with words that have been such a comfort to God’s people throughout history during times of struggle, times of pain. They come from the prophet Isaiah.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, he who formed you, do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine. And when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel. May that same love that kept David, that kept those children I put up on the screen a moment ago, may that same love bless us and keep us now and always. Amen.