May 16, 2021
You may remember the hit reality TV show Survivor from many years ago. It’s the one where 20 people are stranded on a desert island, forced to live together, and eventually vote each other out all in pursuit of a million dollar prize Believe it or not, it’s still running today, some 40 seasons now later. And many recent seasons have a theme, something that adds to the drama and intrigue and distinguish one season from the next.
And in one of their most recent seasons, this standard primetime CBS show chose of all things a biblical classic to inspire their theme of David vs. Goliath. Two tribes, a David tribe of 10 underdogs who constantly have to overcome challenges in their everyday life and a Goliath tribe, 10 overachievers who have used their advantages in life to excel in their everyday life. And in a fitting end to that season, one consistent with the biblical account, a member of the David tribe won the entire game.
The story of David and Goliath is one of those stories that just about everyone knows, taking its place alongside other Old Testament classics such as Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Daniel and the Lions Den. And yet, the David and Goliath story may be the most famous and well known of all, it’s basic premise so familiar and its title so commonly used in popular culture today, by Christians and non-Christians alike.
And I think the reason why this story is so popular even to this day is rather simple: we love a good underdog story, one where the underdog defies the odds and plays the hero. And though, as good of a story that may be, it ends up simplifying the actual David and Goliath story down too far in a way that strips it of its true depth and meaning. In the end, this story isn’t simply meant to show us David’s greatness, though there’s certainly that element to it, but rather the greatness of God himself. David, you see points us to God at every single turn, points us to God. And hopefully that reveals itself as we walk through this story together.
Nevertheless, David is a shining example courage, and so before we dive into the story itself, let’s start with this personal question:
Where in your life right now do you need David sized courage? Typically, I would ask that kind of question later in the sermon, but as we go through this story this morning, I think having in mind that area or place in your life where you need courage as we walk through some of the key takeaways of the story will be helpful.
The possibilities of where we need David sized courage are endless, but for what it’s worth, here are a couple that might spark some ideas.
Sometimes we need courage in our relationships, particularly in moments of conflict. It often takes courage to have vulnerable conversations to face conflict head on, or speak hard truths.
There’s a classis scene from the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, where George, on the main characters, describes the tension of wanting to break up with his girlfriend, but yet not wanting to have the actual breakup conversation, George says, “I'd rather be unhappy for the rest of my life than go through something like that.” I’m sure that’s how we often feel about conflict in relationships too. We need courage in those moments too.
Another example of where we need David sized faith and courage, is when we or the ones we love are facing sickness or death, something I know many in our church family have experienced. It takes courage to confront our own mortality or to wrestle with the prospect of losing someone you love. It also takes faith and courage to begin a new chapter or consider what might be next after a spouse or loved one passes away.
Those are a couple places we need David sized faith and courage, finally, here’s one more. We need courage when facing and confronting the injustices of our day. Perhaps there’s no greater example of this in the past century or so, than the civil rights movement, where people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rose Parks, John Lewis demonstrated courage in midst of injustice and oppression. And though it may not be of that exact magnitude, maybe we need courage in facing injustice or standing up for what is right even when it’s unpopular.
Certainly that’s not an exhaustive list of where we need courage, but hopefully it’s a start. Friends, where you do need David sized courage in our life right now? Whatever it is, keep it in the back of your mind as we go through these courage principles. And if you can’t think of anything, no worries, maybe save these upcoming points for a rainy day.
So with all that said, let’s dive into the David and Goliath story itself by identifying three courage principles if you will, three principles for having David sized courage.
So here we go. Here’s the first.
Our Goliath’s often aren’t as daunting as we think
Here we’re using Goliath as a metaphor to describe the obstacles or challenges or circumstances we face in life where courage is needed.
The Goliath in our story today was understandably to be feared and not taken lightly. He was an absolute giant, over 9ft tall, a beast of a man, an intimidating figure to be sure. And the narrator here, goes into great detail to describe what the formidable opponent this Goliath was, in fact, we only read half of the entire David and Goliath story this morning, including many of the details surrounding Goliath’s physical prowess and stature. Based on a combination of strength and armor, he seemed invincible.
And we’re told that 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, [when the heard of the duel that Goliath was challenging them to], they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
However, Goliath, though he seemed invincible, in the end, wasn’t. He had a fatal flaw: a lack of mobility and agility. Though he was covered in body armor, able to deflect most every attack that came his way, his armor would have weighed 175-200 lbs. Even though he was stronger than all the rest, that armor was a disadvantage too when it came to David’s quickness and cunning and slingshot skills.
Last week, as we introduced David, we saw how “though mortals look at the stature or outward appearance, God looks at the heart.” All Saul and the Israelite army could see, as they focused on Goliath’s outward appearance was a menacing, debilitating giant.
In contrast, compare that to David. One commentary I read said, “that while men of Israel saw a fearsome giant who was reproaching Israel; David saw merely an uncircumcised Philistine who was defying the living God.” We sometimes make Goliath’s more daunting than they actually are.
Have you ever anticipated a difficult conversation and you let your mind run wild and anticipating the absolute worst case scenario? In my head, in the anticipation and fear alone, I’ll dial up a conversation to a 9.5 when in reality it’s probably more a 3 or 4.
Often times, our minds run wild with fear, we make things out to be worse than they actually are, we create doomsday, worst case scenario’s. Often times, Goliath’s aren’t as daunting as we might first think.
To grow in courage, think about yourself less and about God more.
For 40 days, Goliath took his stand and challenged an Israelite to fight him, but none did. Even more, Saul, who was still Israel’s King at the time, was the one who should have fought Goliath himself, but out of fear or cowardice or something else chose not to, instead he offered great rewards to any man who would challenge and defeat Goliath, and even still, no one answered the call. Certainly for all the Israelites in that moment and throughout those 40 days, they were likely focused on themselves, likely thinking, “I’m not good enough, I don’t have what it takes, I’m too small or weak. I don’t want to risk my life or put my life on the line.” They are likely overwhelmed and paralyzed by their own sense of inadequacy.
All of them, except for David. It’s noteworthy that there’s really no mention of God until David appears on the scene. As David considers the situation for himself, his focus is on God.
As David sees it, Goliath is ultimately challenging not them, but God: For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
When he’s persuading Saul that’s fit to take on Goliath, David focuses less on himself and more on God, saying, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”
And when David tells Goliath the purpose or intended outcome of their duel, he thinking not about his own greatness or prestige or honor coming his way, but rather the greatness of God: so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
The point is this, and somewhat counterintuitive: to grow in courage we don’t look inward but rather outward, Godward. If our search for courage starts by looking inward, we will often get overly focused on our own inadequacies, but yet, if we’re focused on God, on his power and promises, then we can move forward in faith.
Christian author Jon Bloom, when reflecting on this passage says, that while it’s true that David was courageous, and courage is not an autonomous, self-generated virtue. Rather, courage is a derivative virtue, produced by faith and for the Christian, a faith rooted in God.
If you’re struggling to muster up the courage, focus less on yourself, don’t whip yourself into an anxious frenzy overwhelmed by your own inadequacies, rather focus on how who God is, who he has promised to be and what he has promised to do.
We face our battles with spiritual power.
One of the most fascinating moments of this story comes right before the actual battle scene. David has pleaded his case with Saul that he’s qualified and experienced enough to take on Goliath, and eventually Saul, says sure, after all, no one else has stepped up, saying, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
And so with good intentions I’m sure, Saul gets David prepared for battle the best way he knows how. He clothes him with his armor and gives him his sword, which given that David was still a kid and Saul was a big guy himself, this must have been a moment of great comedy, like the visual of your kid trying on their parents clothes.
And yet, David quickly realizes this isn’t going to work. If he tries to match Goliath strength for strength, power for power, armor for armor, he’s got no chance, he’d be a dead man walking. Instead, he grabs some stones and a sling, a weapon, unlike the sword, he has likely held and experienced before.
Of course when Goliath sees this, he’s borderline insulted, here’s a kid, come to fight him, yet without the weapons of sword and shield you’d expect.
David says, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin," Weapons of this world, "but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel … ”
I love that. David faces his battle, he takes on Goliath, not with the weapons and resources of his day, not with his own strength and ability, but rather he takes on Goliath with a spiritual power and reliance and courageous faith that comes from the Lord.
Earlier I shared how one of the areas in our lives where we are often in need of courage is in midst of illness or death, whether in ourselves or in the ones we love. The other day, I was visiting, one of our older members, Inez Reynolds, who is currently grieving the recent loss of her son David, and no matter how old your kids may get, your kid is your kid is your kid, and though I can’t speak from personal experience, it must be especially difficult to have a son or daughter pass away before you.
The last time I was at her apartment, we read from her son’s bible, a big, beautiful King James bible, and after reading a passage today, Inez asked something to the effect of,
“How do people do this without the Lord? How do people handle seasons of grief and pain like this apart from the Lord?”
Of course, you can see what’s she getting at here. It’s a powerful reflection for sure. She knows from her own personal experience, that to endure and make it through episodes of grief and loss, we need the strength and hope and peace and courage that comes from the Lord.
Friends, when you’re up against the Goliath’s of the day, the battles we face, may we rely on the Lord, through his word, through prayer, through the comfort and community of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
David says, "Goliath, you come against me with sword and spear and javelin, "but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty,” I come facing this battle with spiritual power, a reliance on the Lord.
So there you have it. Three principles for having David sized courage –
Goliath’s often aren’t as daunting as we think
Focus less on yourself and more on God
Rely on the spiritual power of the Lord
So there you go. Just remember those three things and you’ll be set. That should solve all of our courage problems, should it not? You’ll be courageous for the rest of your life.
What do you think? Do you buy it? I’m a little skeptical for myself personally. Based on experiences past, I know I haven’t always shown David sized courage and faith and I fear I may not always in the future as well. To be honest, and maybe you’re with me on this one, the person I identify maybe the least with in this passage is David, and Lord knows, I certainly don’t want to be Goliath. Rather, I identify more with the average Israelite who is scared to death, who fails to step forward when the opportunity calls for it for I too often shrink back in fear in the very moments when courage is needed.
Ultimately, we are not David. Someone else is. Last week, I shared how David ultimately ought to point us to someone else, another boy who was born in Bethlehem, another King of Israel.
After all, what’s so interesting about this battle is that it’s a one on one duel. A practice known as representative warfare. Where rather than two armies slugging it out, and hundreds of thousands of lives being lost, each army would send their best. Whichever man, one would effectively win the war. They would bring victory to their entire people.
Of course, who does that remind you of? One person’s sacrifice, one person’s courage, a person willing to risk his very life in order to secure victory for the good of his people. If he wins, all his people do as well.
I’m sure the lights are flashing at this point. Of course, I’m talking about Jesus himself.
Ultimately the story of David and Goliath is more than 3 steps on how you and I can grow in courage and defeat the giants in our lives. It’s certainly that, but it’s more than too.
Ultimately, it’s a story about the Lord defeating the enemy of his people through his servant King.
Jesus defeated our greatest enemy, our greatest Goliath when he went to the cross, defeating sin and death and the Devil himself.
As pastor Jerry Vines puts it, that means that the Christian life is not fighting for victory, but rather fighting from it.
Friends, if you need courage, don’t hesitate to come back to this story, and look to David and be inspired.
But don’t forget Jesus too, for he’s won the greatest battle of all.