June 24, 2018: Facing Giants
Scripture Used: 1 Samuel 17
How many people can name all Ten Commandments without looking them up? It’s harder than you would think, I would bet. Some biblical passages – even those we think we know well – are hard to remember in full. I would imagine, though, that many of you knew the basic outline of David and Goliath before I recited it. It’s one of those stories that sticks with us.
Its sticking power is so good, because it is relatable. The Bible is not the only book to carry a story about a hero facing off against what seems to be an impossible challenge. It’s not even the first. Many stories of the ancient world exist of heroic epics like this one. It’s what helps the Bible maintain a certain timeliness – it carries stories that have spoken to people for centuries.
We even have modern tellings of this kind of story in our modern lives: almost every movie follows this same basic narrative: you have a character that must get through a hard situation, usually involving other people who help the hero, harm the hero, or a little of both. Whether Star Wars where a single fighter craft takes out a huge battle station or Casablanca where a man must choose between love and honor. Much of the drama of life is about overcoming something, so stories where the main challenger can be brought down to a single, opposing character offers a story that everyone can grab on to.
One of the first such stories that spoke to my inner sense of heroes and challengers was 1994’s The Lion King. A young prince must find his way to overcome the challenge of losing his father, his position, and his home and face the challenger to his throne: his uncle. Unlike Goliath, Simba’s uncle Scar is not a dominating presence but his army of hyenas makes him a formidable opponent. David is unlike Simba in that he does not seem to show much doubt in himself and does not require exile to find himself. But both stories share one very important point: it takes faith to overcome the challenge. For Simba, faith in himself. For David, faith in God.
I spoke on carrying your faith with you a couple of weeks ago, and I found, digging through what the word means to various people, that faith is very difficult to explain well. But, given the stories about faith offered to us in the Bible and in the universal experience of people living in this world, faith is about knowing that there is more, for lack of a better word, stuff going on in any given moment than we realize.
Allow me to explain: when Simba faces Scar, they are literally surrounded. By hyenas, the other lions in the pride, by Simba’s newfound friends Timun and Pumba, and loyal servant-parrot Zazu. But the battle between good and evil comes into focus when Simba realizes that not only are those who support him physically around him, he carries with him the presence of his father Mufasa.
Faith is something that surrounds us. It is the hope that something greater than yourself is on your side.
Faith exists all around us. It exists in the realms of both good and evil. While David has faith in God’s power, Goliath has faith that his superior size made him a superior warrior. And thus far, he’s not wrong. That same faith in power is shared by the Israelites and their own anointed king Saul. Had they had faith in God to overcome, it would not come down to the young shepherd to win the battle. And again, up until this point, that has been correct. So we are forced to ask ourselves the question: What do I put my faith in when I must overcome?
Even those who claim faith in God don’t always put their faith in God. We put our faith in ourselves, and when we find we can’t handle it, instead of giving it to God we get anxious or down on ourselves. When we are faced with crisis, we put our faith in other people, our families; as a society in governments and leaders. We may pray to God; we may even try to serve in some small capacity. But deep down, we still expect the most powerful, the best fighter to win. Even today, the story ends and triumph is found because the hero kills the enemy.
And that’s the lesson we learn if we don’t pay attention to the parts before it.
What makes David and Simba and Luke Skywalker heroes is not destroying their enemy, it’s that they were willing to do the impossible because they had faith in something greater than themselves. Had any of them compromised and put only part of their heart in the mission and the other part of their heart in doubt, it would have failed. Had David used any of Saul’s armor, he would have greatly decreased his odds of penetrating Goliath’s helmet. Had Simba tried to recruit his own army, he would have risked causing war in the land, and had Luke not used the Force… bum bum bum ba-ba-dum ba-ba-dum
And we Christians have a unique mission from Christ: to follow our mission of making disciples not by killing off our enemies but instead by loving God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as if they were our own selves, our own family. Which may be the greatest giant of all, because we would much rather be like Saul – claiming our status as God’s leaders but choosing faith in something other than God, than to be vulnerable and out in the open like David.
God made you just as you are to face giants. You don’t need to be a warrior or a savior or a king. All you need is to believe that, even if you don’t think you are worthwhile, God does. God made you, and God hopes every day that you will choose to live for him – to live a life of courage in love. And when you do, you will begin to have faith in yourself, in God’s ability to provide, and to see that every single person has a purpose in the transformation of the lives of others and the whole creation.
This morning, Brayden Moody and Thomas Harris were baptized into our church family. Adam Harris will be baptized in a few moments, and their respective moms Jobeth and April will join the church as transfers. All of these folks received one promise today: that as they continue to put their faith in God, they too will be able to face every challenge because God is with them.
The peace of knowing God is with us has very real impact. If you put your faith in God, there is nothing to worry about, because God is caring for you. Your job is to embrace that love and share it wherever you go. Or, as you might have heard it:
Hakuna matata, what a wonderful phrase, hakuna matata, ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna matata.
Put your faith in God and you will have nothing to worry about. Because God is there when you are facing your giants.