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The Battle of Giants
As a child, I viewed the story of David and Goliath as one held at a far-off distance. While I believed and still believe it to be true, it seemed like a fairy tale more than something I would see happening in my own town. A man over nine feet tall, for example, is something my mind could comprehend but never imagine.
By the time I was five, I believed that giants were eating peas, wearing my coat when it was uncomfortable, and listening to my parents when I would rather not. Being scared of the boogeyman under my bed was a bonus.
At ten, giants were mean girls on the playground, teachers that scared me to death, and jumping into the deep end of the pool. Their faces grew names.
At fourteen, giants grew much more complicated, disguising themselves as family affairs, distorted views of health, and an insatiable quest for beauty. I never knew giants could feel so heavy.
Today, giants appear as questions I do not have the answers to, job stressors, fears of the future, and anxiety and depression that come as frequently as waves on the ocean. And while they are not as simplistic as my childhood fears, they are every bit as scary and intimidating. Because the older you get, the more your fears become demons in the night that haunt you by day and giants that call you by name.
As a child, you do not realize that giants are real, though they may not look like the ones in the Bible. In reality, they look a lot less Goliath in physical stature but match his psychological hostility. So how do we handle these Goliaths?
The Physical Giant
In 1 Samuel chapter 17, Goliath challenges the Israelites to send a warrior worthy of his defeat. He is looking for a man strong enough to put up a fight but weak enough that he can still defeat him, and no one wants to accept the challenge except the small shepherd boy everyone doubts.
Physically, Goliah was very intimidating. 1 Samuel 17:4-7 tells us that Goliath was over nine feet, nine inches tall. He wore bronze armor weighing over one-hundred and twenty-five pounds and had a shield-bearer ahead of him.
“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him” (1 Samuel 17:4-7, New International Version).
Many of us face physical giants today. There are people in our lives that are cruel and chronic illnesses of the body that wreak havoc. We long for Heavenly bodies that will not wear and tear. And I think these giants can come across the same way.
Because physical giants threaten us, tell us lies, and taunt us that if we do not defeat them, we will be their slaves (and many of us are). But what about the giants that go beneath the skin, the ones that attack our character and core?
The Mental Giant
1 Samuel 17:8-11 highlights Goliath’s taunts and threats not only as a purely physical battle but a mental and spiritual one as well.
“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 have 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” (1 Samuel 17:8-11, New International Version).
1 Samuel 17:12-58 also displays Goliath’s psychological attacks when David learns of his previous attacks, successes, and verbal abuse of the Israelites.
When David went to battle Goliath, for instance, it is clear that Goliath was not only physically intimidating but psychologically insulting and abusive. “Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals” (1 Samuel 17:41-44, New International Version)! And the way we respond to both physical and psychological giants matters!
Perhaps more so than physical giants, maybe you face mental giants that many know nothing about. Because as much as I tell people I struggle with anxiety and depression, and they try to show empathy, I believe the only person who really knows what you are going through is you and God. We can seek to understand those haunted by and facing physical and mental giants, but we will never know the exact extent of their battle, and that is why it is so crucial that we know how to fight.
This is How I Fight My Battles
So how do we fight our giants, big or small, physical, mental, social, emotional, or spiritual?
For myself, my giants are kings and queens at speaking lies of perfection and deceit. They turn relationships into religion and freedom into rules. And if I am honest, it is exhausting. Like Saul and the Israelite army, I often feel terrified and deeply shaken.
And for forty days, Goliath taunted those most fearful of him. I know I have heard and listened to those voices for more than forty days.
By the thoughts and voices that tell me I cannot go outside because my allergies are bad, and if I do, I will get sick and miss work.
By the lies that tell me I have no worth if I do not have a six-pack.
By the distortions that trick me into believing religion is of more value than relationship.
By the memories and reminders and jealousy that wants to eat typical food, but has dietary allergies and restrictions. Because before I did, I deprived myself of those foods, and now that I want to, I cannot, or I know they will come at the expense of acne, stomach pain, and rashes.
Giants sure are ugly and scary! Saul and David knew that well.
“Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (1 Samuel 17:24-32, New International Version).
But in order to fight our giants, it begins with being willing to fight.
- Be Willing to Fight
- In 1 Samuel 17:33, David was willing to place his life on the line for his people. Psalm 110 reminds us that he who was once a shepherd boy would become a great, powerful, and successful king. But at the time of his mission, he could not see that future with certainty. All he knew, was that he needed to be willing to fight despite the terror because he cared that deeply for those suffering around him.
- When we are in the thick of battle, it can be difficult to see beyond our own circumstances and despair. But David teaches us that if we are willing to fight for ourselves and others and trust God amid them, He will deliver us.
- “Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you”(1 Samuel 17:33-37, New International Version).
- Fight with What You Have
- It is apparent that David was not the best and most likely candidate for this battle. Saul, his fellow Israelites, and even his own father Jesse doubted that David would be able to defeat Goliath. Have you ever had people suspect your ability to do something? Have you ever questioned your own skill and perseverance?
- David knew that if he had God on his side, it did not matter what would stand against him, no matter the size and stature of the giant. Like David, the youngest son of Jesse, God is in the business of using the most unlikely people for the most significant challenges. And if we are willing to fight, all He calls us to do is use what we have and what He has given us. The armor we fight with is not of sword or shield, but truth and spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
- “Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:38-40, New International Version).
No Matter the Battle, Fight Anyways
Many days we will feel inferior fighting our battles. We get discouraged, beaten down, and lose hope. But God will use us in these hardships.
Those around you may seem like David’s brothers and companions, other people who are older and more equipped for the battle. Anyone and everyone except you.
But like David, stand your ground and be willing to fight anyways. Look the giant and giants in the eye (including those who doubt your ability), and rest confidently in who Christ equipped you to be.
Today, we do not need to be like the world around us to fight these battles. We do not have to feel or look strong when we feel like we are not. We just need to be who we are in Christ and use what He has given us.
David used what he knew as a shepherd boy (a sling and a stone) and relied on who he knew (the power of God) to do the rest. In our own battles, may we learn to do the same? We do not fight alone. But we do stand in the courage of Christ, and allow Him to fight our battles through, for, and in us.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, King James Version).
“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword” (1 Samuel 17:45-51, New International Version).