1 Samuel 17: 8-11
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’ Then the Philistine said, ‘This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
So the battles lines are drawn. We have Goliath taunting the Israelites to send their best warrior to fight him.
Who should have been the one to go and fight Goliath? Who was the tallest and most impressive looking of all the Israelites? Saul. Remember what we read about Saul a few chapters before this:
“...Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites— a head taller than any of the others.” (9:2)
If anyone should have been stepping forward to take on Goliath it should have been Saul. But look at what it says:
“On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.”
FEAR AND INTIMIDATION ARE OUR GREATEST ENEMIES
Saul and all his men are shaking in their boots. They don’t know what to do. They are totally consumed and controlled by fear. Fear for themselves. Fear for their families. Fear for what will happen if they don’t win. Even the King, the leader, who should have at least been putting on a brave face in front of his men, is totally controlled by the emotion of fear.
Do you know what: Courage and Fear are both contagious, especially when coming from leadership.
When a leader steps up to show courage and bravery and faith – it makes everyone else step up and start to believe that they can win. But when the leader who should be brave is terrified and dismayed as it says here – everyone else’s courage disappears and fear takes over.
Saul should have been the one to rally and motivate the troops – He should have been the one reminding them that they were God’s people and to have faith in Him and to go out and fight in God’s strength. But Saul was so far from God by this stage, he was so wrapped up in himself and his own insecurities, that he was useless when it came to leading God’s people.
If there’s one thing the church needs it’s more leaders with boldness and faith and courage. I’m a little tired of hearing complaining church leaders telling us how bad things have got out there in the world and how it’s not like it used to be and how dark society is and how it’s only going to get worse. God hasn’t called his people to moan about the darkness, He’s called us to shine a light into the darkness. He hasn’t called us to criticize the world, but to win the world for Jesus. He hasn’t called us to go on about the good old days of the past – but to walk boldly into the future full of courage and hope and faith.
I believe the future is going to be better than the past. Honestly, for myself and for the church, I believe the best is yet to come. I have an optimistic eschatology. When I read the end of His book I find that I’m on the winning team. When I read His book the tomb is empty. When I read His book, God is still on his throne.
Look at verse 16:
“For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.”
Forty days, every single morning and evening, this giant stood there and mocked God’s people, and terrified them, and intimidated them. He was the first thing they heard in the morning and the last thing they heard at night.
Some giants are like that, aren’t they? They never go away. You wake up and they’re the first thing you think about. When you put your head on your pillow at night, they’re the last thing you think about. All day, there they are taunting you, reminding you of their power and your weakness, of what they can do to you, of what a failure you are, of how hopeless you are. Their voice is never far away.
The thing is: what had Goliath actually done at this stage? Who had he actually fought? Who had he beaten?
No one. He hadn’t done a thing.
It was all appearance and all words. That’s all it was. It was all just intimidation. So far there was nothing behind it.
In other words, Goliath’s power over the Israelites was all in their minds. If he could control their minds and their thinking – He could keep them passive and powerless. In their minds they were already beaten, they were already defeated – and therefore they didn’t stand a chance.
The greatest weapons of the Devil have always been fear and intimidation. Often it’s not what actually happens to us which controls us – but fear of what might happen. Or fear of what might not happen.
It’s the what if questions....
What if these results come back and it’s not good?
What if I never get a job?
What if my marriage can’t be healed?
What if I don’t get into the university I want?
What if I don’t get the grades I need?
What if I don’t get married in the next year or two?
What if this person breaks up with me?
What if I can’t control this sinful behaviour?
What if, what if, what if....
The battle is nearly always won or lost in our minds – before its won or lost out there. What we really believe, our controlling thoughts – always determine our behaviour.
Our actions follow our minds. And so Satan wants to get into your mind, he wants to control you with fear, lies and intimidation so that you begin to feel powerless and hopeless. If he can convince you that this is the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it – then he has won another victory. That’s what Goliath did with Israel.
I was with someone a while ago, someone who I care about dearly, and they have just had a scan for cancer, and even though the results aren’t back, there’s a voice in their heads telling them that it’s not going to be good, that this is it for them. Telling them to just lie down and give up. That is a lie.
We need to stop and ask ourselves: Is the thing I fear real or is it based on a lie that I have believed. Is it something that has actually happened, or has it just happened in my head? In the Bible Satan is called the ‘father of lies.’ His language is lies, it’s the only language he knows. And unless we fill our minds with truth and God’s word, we will keep believing the lies the devil tells us.
After 40 days of staring and focusing their minds on the giant taunting them – you know what Israel did?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
They just stood there and looked at him.
They became totally paralysed by fear. They became passive and did nothing.
What did they think would happen – that on day 41 Goliath would suddenly go away? That if they could just wait long enough, he would disappear?
Goliath wasn’t going away. There were only two options: surrender and just give up, or go and fight him. That was it. Doing nothing wasn’t an option, at least not in the long term. By doing nothing they were just giving him more power to intimidate and control them.
When faced with our own giants, the longer we do nothing – the more power we give the problem over us.
Everyone was waiting for someone else to step forward and fight Goliath. And yet nobody was moving.
There’s some battles that if you don’t fight, nobody else will. There’s some people if you don’t reach out to them, no one else will. There’s some job that if you don’t do them, no one else will. There’s some causes that if you don’t speak up for them, no one else will.
On that day thousands of men wore the uniform but nobody was a warrior. They got up every morning and put on their uniform, polished their belts, made sure their boots were nice and shiny – but they never actually went into battle.
That’s a picture of many Christians. We’ve got the uniform, we look the part, we’ve got all the right stuff – but we never do anything with it. We go to church on a Sunday, get our weekly fix, and for the next 167 hours until next Sunday we don’t do anything to advance the Kingdom of God. We just get on with our own lives and serve our own agendas. Others can fight those battles, others can take up those causes, others can do the God thing – I’ve my own thing to do.
Being a Christian isn’t just about what we believe or think or sing or say – it’s also about what we do. It’s about taking action.
When we stand before Jesus we never read that he says: 'Well thought good and faithful servant', or 'Well believed', or 'Well said' – it’s 'Well DONE good and faithful servant.' When you need to step up, then step up and don’t shrink back and wait for someone else to do what God is calling you to do.