David and Goliath is one of the best known stories in the entire Bible (1 Samuel 17:1-50). It is a classic example of what can be accomplished through one person who chooses to exercise the courage of faith. This story has served as one of the greatest inspirations for believers down through the centuries to see God give victory to his people against dramatically overwhelming odds. The New Testament exhorts us to live by faith; but this Old Testament chapter demonstrates to us what can happen when a person of faith chooses to put that faith into action.
In the ancient world, a typical tactic of warfare was that, when the battle lines were drawn, a champion from each side was chosen and they would fight together, just the two of them, on behalf of the entire army. It was a fight to the death, and the losing side would submit to the winning side. This was a way of preventing the terrible carnage of war. It also created some incredible individual champions. A champion would be selected not only for his ability to fight, but also for his impressive stature so that there was an intimidation factor to it all.
Saul was the King of Israel. He was the logical choice for the combat since he was a head taller than all the other Israelites, and was a rather impressive looking soldier. But compared to Goliath, Saul looked like a midget. The intimidation factor worked. Saul was downright afraid and was not about to put himself out there to face a giant.
The explanation for the two contrasting responses between David and Saul toward Goliath is simple: David was brave because of faith in God; Saul was fearful because he was not a man of faith in God. The opposite of faith is not unbelief; it is fear. As the muscle of faith grows and develops through trusting God in the daily stresses of life, fear begins to melt away. The development of faith is a process, and it takes much time. Through daily spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer; and, putting what we read into practice; the faith muscle begins to grow large and strong so that God is preparing us to face down some pretty big giants.
Men, in particular, need to confront two great fears: being found inadequate; and, being controlled by another person or circumstance. Those two fears were evident in Saul. He felt inadequate because he compared himself to Goliath. He felt controlled by the situation because the Philistines were picking a fight. So, he did nothing. There are many men who would rather do nothing in the church than be labelled as inadequate or controlled.
David, in contrast, had practice at facing down foes, the bear and the lion, who threatened the sheep. David was often out in the countryside all by himself as a shepherd, and his skills were developed in the place where no one was looking. So, the way to deal with our development of faith is to be assertive in owning our relationship with God on a daily basis, as well as stepping out and serving the local church with courage.
It was not just Saul that was intimidated by Goliath; the entire army of Israel was hiding behind the battle lines cringing in fear. In contrast, David discerned that there was no reason to avoid a big bullying blowhard. It appears that David was the only person able to see Goliath as he really was: a small person in comparison to a big God. By faith, David understood that Goliath is no match for God.
One person full of faith can accomplish the improbable while an army full of fear cannot accomplish a thing. We might have a tendency to think that everything in church ministry has to be large with a big splash to it. Somehow if we had an elaborate program with lots of people, then we could accomplish big things for God. Yet, we need to step out in courageous faith. Oftentimes we want an army of people because then we can still hide behind other people’s bravery while continuing to nurse our secret fears and insecurities.
Here is a reality check: No other person can do our faith and relational work for us. The Beaver Cleaver philosophy of life works something like this: if I get in trouble or in a pickle of some sort, I’ll just ignore it and hope it goes away. But Goliath is not going anywhere. He will still be there tomorrow. But if we will own the spiritual boot camp that God wants to put us through, then we will be prepared like David to take on the giant. The greatest single element every church needs is people full of faith who have the wisdom to confront the true problems it faces. Let that one sink into your forehead….