A couple of weeks ago I went under duress to see the movie, Titanic. My daughter, Julie, came home from seeing the movie in tears. So, I assumed it was a tear jerking chick flick and really didn't care to see it. Well, I finally gave in and went to see it. And I have to say that I really enjoyed it. To say the least, those 2200 people on board the Titanic that April night faced a major crisis. What was interesting to me was to see how differently they each dealt with it. Some were panicking and hysterical, others were methodical in their attempts to escape and still others were calm and collected. How do you deal with a crisis situation?
Everybody likes to hear a good story of how people overcame a crisis situation. We like to cheer for the overcomers, but not many of us really enjoy being in a crisis situation. We like to watch people overcome tremendous obstacles, we just don't like to have to face the obstacles ourselves. Yet, it is inevitable that throughout our lives we will find ourselves in many situations where we will feel like we're in a major crisis and we don't see how we can possibly beat the odds. Maybe there are some of you here today in this very situation--the challenges are too great, the opposition is too strong, your resources are too limited, and there's seemingly no way to win.
There's a story in the Bible of a young man who found himself in this situation. Of course, you know the story-the story of David and Goliath. You all know how it ends, but today we're going to examine three elements of this story--the Crisis, the Critics, and the Contest--and David's response to each one. As we look at how David responded to each situation, we can learn much about how to deal with challenges in our own lives. First of all, notice...
1. THE CRISIS
Let me give you a little background to this story. The Israelites were at war with the Philistines. They had come to a standoff, and now Goliath was challenging the Israelites to fight him. Goliath was nine feet tall and all of the Israelites were scared to death. They were all cowering in fear. No one wanted to fight this mighty warrior. The Israelite army was in the midst of a crisis. They were facing a challenge that they did not believe they could win. Their crisis was, in many ways, like the crises we face in our lives. Let's consider the characteristics of the crisis. First of all...
The crisis seemed larger than life.
1 Samuel 17:4-7 (NKJV) And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. 7 Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.
Talk about indestructible! As far as the Israelite soldiers were concerned, Goliath was too big to be defeated. That is what we think about the "giants" that we face. Maybe the giant is a physical sickness, or a failing marriage, or financial problems--whatever it is, it seems bigger than we are. When we are in a problem situation, the problem always seems to be huge to us. Depending on our state of mind, a small problem can seem gigantic.
For many years the Soviet Union was considered to be the greatest threat to our national security. During this time there was a certain mystique to the USSR that fanned the flame of our paranoia. There were alarmists warning us that their military is more powerful and more prepared than ours; their people are more committed to Communism than ours are to freedom; their children are better educated than our children; their society is more intellectual than ours; and on and on. Even though we eventually discovered otherwise, for a time the Soviets seemed larger than life. Secondly...
The crisis defies our power.
1 Samuel 17:8-10 (NKJV) Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, "Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 "If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us." 10 And the Philistine said, "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together."
This is what problems often do to us. We try to make our lives as smooth as possible. We try to be in control of every detail, and then a crisis comes along and shows us how completely helpless we are. And the crisis doesn't have to be major. It can be a problem at work, or a problem at home, or the inability to defeat some bad habit, or any number of things--but it is always there to remind us that we are powerless. These problems often intimidate us just like Goliath was intimidating the Israelites. We are intimidated by our problems because we don't know what to do with them, we don't know how to handle them. Thirdly...
The crisis will not go away.
1 Samuel 17:16 (NKJV) And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.
The problem with a crisis is that it usually won't disappear. If you don't deal with it, it deals with you. It doesn't do any good to pretend it doesn't exist; it will continue to haunt you until you face it. The problem is, most crises are easy to ignore in the early stages. It is rare that a situation goes from "good" to "crisis level" overnight. Usually, there is a process of deterioration. There is a breakdown in communication for months--maybe years--before the marriage deteriorates. Financial problems are just an "inconvenience" for many months until they mushroom into unmanageability. There are often telltale warnings of health problems long before we face the zero hour. But, as much as we try to ignore the situation, it just won't go away.
So, in the midst of the crisis, David arrives at the scene. He sees Goliath make his challenge and he sees the Israelite army overcome with fear. And what is David's response?
1 Samuel 17:22-26 (NKJV) And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. 23 Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. 24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 25 So the men of Israel said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father's house exemption from taxes in Israel." 26 Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
David was able to put the crisis into proper perspective. We can learn much from his example. The best response to a crisis is God is bigger than any problem I will ever face.
Do you realize that? Didn't the Israelites know that? They should have. They had heard all that the Lord had done for their people. They knew about the Exodus, the parting of the Red Sea, and the battle of Jericho. They had seen God defeat enemies much larger than Goliath. They were focusing on their problem and forgetting about their God. Peter had this same problem. When he focused on the storm instead of his Lord, he began to sink.
Matthew 14:29-30 (NKJV) So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"
Aren't we just like them? We have seen God's hand of care and provision over and over in our lives, and yet when trouble comes, we panic. We are very quick to take our eyes off of God and put them on our problem. We forget all that God has done for us.
The second thing we see in this story is...
2. THE CRITICS
If you aspire to do anything worthwhile in life, you will have to learn to endure criticism. If David had adopted the fearful attitude of the Israelite soldiers, if he had been willing to do nothing about the crisis, he would have been left alone. But as soon as he began to talk about the possibility of defeating the giant, he was met with a barrage of criticism.
David is not the only man of faith in the Bible who was criticized for trusting and following God. Noah, Moses, Joseph, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter, (and, of course, Jesus) were all criticized for attempting to do something great for God's glory. Criticism should not come as a surprise to anyone who wants to really trust God and go against the flow, but that doesn't change the fact that criticism is painful to endure. It's a little easier to endure if you recognize a characteristic of critical people. CRITICS BELIEVE THE WORST ABOUT PEOPLE.
1 Samuel 17:28 (NKJV) Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was aroused against David, and he said, "Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle."
David's brother Eliab is typical of most critics. Because David is willing to walk in faith, he is making all the rest of them look bad. So, they attack David in an effort to cover their cowardice.
George Bernard Shaw wrote, "Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated." The criticism of others serves as a smoke-screen to make it less obvious that those who criticize aren't accomplishing anything with their own lives.
Francis Asbury, an 18th century bishop in the Methodist movement, was once criticized by a woman for being unsophisticated in his method of evangelism. Asbury politely asked the lady how many she had led to Christ in her life. The lady answered that she had not personally led anyone to faith in Christ. Asbury's response was, "Ma'am, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."
You can count on the fact that when you step out in faith there will be many to criticize you.
During the news coverage of her death, Mother Teresa received some bad press. Newsweek published an unflattering editorial entitled "Unmasking the Mother." In addition, ABC hired Christopher Hitchens (author of Hell's Angel--a book attacking Mother Teresa) and allowed him to criticize her during the broadcast of her funeral. Can you believe there are people who spend their time and energy looking for things to criticize about Mother Teresa?
When Promise Keepers rallied together in Washington on October of 1997 for "Stand in the gap," there was a tremendous amount of opposition--from the National Organization of Women, Americans for the Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, and even many Christian groups criticized them. Even though PK challenges men to live lives of integrity and speaks out boldly for racial unity, many have found something to criticize in the movement.
There's a pattern here. It doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative, Catholic or Protestant, black or white--when you resolve to accomplish something worthwhile, you become the target of critics. They question your motives and they challenge your methods. When it happens, it is tempting to respond. If you do, you'll only become as side-tracked as they are.
About 2000 years ago, Paul faced the same problem. He dedicated his life to proclaiming the radical message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He preached spiritual renewal, racial reconciliation, family values, and social responsibility. In spite of all the good he accomplished, many opposed him. While Paul was busy saving souls, his critics watched him suspiciously. They challenged his theology, they questioned his integrity, and they celebrated his imprisonment.
But, take note: they didn't slow him down! In spite of opposition, Paul continued to do the work that God had called him to do. His attitude was..."Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)
The nature of criticism is that it seems to be much louder than praise. That's ok. If your heart is right with God, and you're seeking to do His will, criticism is confirmation that you're on the right track.
David's brother criticized him for wanting to defeat Goliath. He accused David of neglecting his responsibilities, he questioned David's motives, and he assaulted David's character. But David's brother never did anything about Goliath! Notice David's response to the criticism...
1 Samuel 17:29-30 (NKJV) And David said, "What have I done now? Is there not a cause?" 30 Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did.
David refused to be swayed by criticism. He recognized that the critics didn't know what they were talking about, and so he chose to disregard the criticism, but he wouldn't give up his dream of defeating Goliath.
You can be sure that if you try to accomplish anything great for God, you will be criticized by those who are doing nothing. The best response is to disregard the critics, but don't disregard your dream. Next, please notice...
3. THE CONTEST
Until David stepped on the battle field, he could be regarded as just a little kid with big ideas. But once he lined up against Goliath, it became obvious that he was a man to be taken seriously. Even if he lost the battle, David proved that he had more character, integrity and faith than any soldier in the king's army--or even the king himself. David won the contest just by his willingness to enter the contest. Let's look at David's strategy in the battle.
David established the terms of battle.
1 Samuel 17:39-40 (NKJV) David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them." So David took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
Notice that Goliath was forced to fight David on David's terms--not with a sword and spear, but with five smooth stones. The king tried to get David to wear cumbersome battle armor, but David refused. He knew the only way to meet this challenge was by doing what he did best.
It is said that the main reason Muhammad Ali was practically unbeatable during his prime was that he always made his opponent "fight his fight." He would "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.", and he always managed to set the pace for the match. Beneath all the self-adoration lay a great boxer who knew what he could do best and stuck to it. No wonder he made many far more powerful fighters believe he was "the greatest."
During a young pastor's first pastorate, he was faced with the challenge of uniting a bickering church. When he visited the home of one of the feuding ladies, she tried to pull him into the battle by criticizing someone on the "other side." Instead, he told the woman about a kind remark someone on "the other side" had made about her. This disarmed the woman, and enabled her to take the first step toward unity. The pastor was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible because he didn't let anyone else establish the terms of battle. Secondly...
David refused to be intimidated.
Finally, David stood face to face with Goliath. You know the story. He had nothing but his slingshot and five smooth stones. When Goliath saw David approach, he tried to intimidate him.
1 Samuel 17:41-44 (NKJV) So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. 43 So the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!"
David refused to be intimidated. He responded by saying...
1 Samuel 17:45-46 (NKJV) Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 "This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
Can you imagine a teenage boy speaking with such boldness to an enemy warrior almost twice his size? David refused to be intimidated by Goliath; and he refused to run from the contest. Instead, he approached the contest with boldness. Some people are easily intimidated.
A man stepped into a crowded city crosswalk with two huge, panting Dobermans on heavy chains. Instantly the crowd parted, and everyone shot seething looks of hatred at the dog owner. No one said a word except for one elderly woman who stepped forward and commented "Whatsamatta? One ain't enough?"--New York Sunday News Magazine. She wasn't intimidated, though everyone else was.
Why was David so bold in this battle? Why didn't Goliath intimidate him? David had seen from prior experience that God is faithful in providing for him.
1 Samuel 17:37 (NKJV) Moreover David said, "The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!"
Think about the challenges in your life. How do you speak to your giants? What is your attitude toward the contest? Are you intimidated, or do you dare speak to the giant with words such as "I'm going to cut off your head!" Do you remember how God has delivered you in the past?
Our tendency is to be timid in the face of battle, but that is not the attitude we see in David. Instead, David approached Goliath with reckless abandon, because he knew that the result of the battle was not in his hands. Notice his words to Goliath...
1 Samuel 17:47 (NKJV) "Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands."
David's response to the contest can be summarized in the statement "The battle is the Lord's." Imagine how our attitude toward life's challenges would change if we believe those words. We need fear the contest no longer. In fact, we can now approach challenges with abandon, we can laugh in the face of the intimidator, because we know the battle is the Lord's. We see this principle over and over in Scripture.
As the children of Israel fled Egypt, they see Pharaoh and his armies coming after them and they were afraid. You would think that after all they had just seen as God delivered them from Egypt, that they would trust Him. Listen to what Moses said to the people as Pharaoh closed in on them...
Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV) And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 "The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."
Their problem looked huge, but God could and did easily deal with it. They didn't need to lift a finger against the Egyptians. God wiped them all out. Then, as they were about to enter the promise land, they were afraid of its inhabitance and Moses again tells them....
Deuteronomy 1:29-30 (NKJV) "Then I said to you, 'Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. 30 'The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
They had already forgotten that the battle was the Lord's. Boy, is this just like us or what? We are so often blinded by our problems and we forget that God is bigger than our problems.
When you read this story, one question comes to mind. What did David have that the soldiers of Israel didn't? Why was he able to destroy an enemy that older, more experienced warriors couldn't face?
The answer is not that David was brave and the soldiers of Israel were cowards. It has nothing to do with being a winner or loser. David could face Goliath because he had faith in God. God had delivered him in the past and He would deliver him against this enemy. Since God is in control and since the battle is His, the crisis cannot last, and the contest cannot be lost. Since the battle is the Lord's, the victory is sure. Our responsibility is to trust Him.
You may be facing a Goliath in your own life. Remember David's response to the crisis: God is bigger than my problems. Remember David's response to the critics: He ignored them. Remember David's response to the contest: The battle is the Lord's. David faced Goliath because he believed in God's goodness. Believing in God's goodness will give you the strength to face your Goliath, too.
How can we grow in our faith in God? If you want to grow in your trust of God, spend more time with Him. If you really know Him, you will trust Him. As you spend time reading your Bible, you will learn about God and His goodness. The more you learn of Him, the more you will trust Him. If you have trouble trusting Him, it is only because you don't know Him.