Are you a fan of the 1960’s hit series “Gomer Pyle”? I am. Do you remember Sergeant Carter’s favorite word for Gomer when he systematically goofed-up an assignment? The technical term, I believe, was knucklehead. I’m not exactly sure what that word means, but I’m convinced it wasn’t a compliment.
I vividly recall an instance more than 30 years ago when I played the role of a knucklehead. My friend had acquired his drivers license. There were a few of us in the car drinking sodas, and we threw our bottles simultaneously out the window when we had finished our beverages. I remember hearing a loud smashing noise as the bottles hit the pavement. This mindless event occurred approximately one-half mile away from our destination (to my friend’s house).
Shortly after we reached our terminus, I was in my buddy’s backyard when he called to me saying there was a man at the front door with broken glass in his hands. Defiantly, I went to take out my knife because I didn’t know what to expect when I reached the front of the house. As long as I live, I will never forget the admonition my friend gave to me when he observed I was taking out my knife. He pleaded, “Kenny, put away the knife; it will just make him mad.”
Have you ever wondered how a big, burly mountain man might look? Well, I was about to see face-to-face the biggest and wildest looking man in my life. This incident always makes me remember Moe’s quote from the “Three Stooges” when he observed a colossal figure of a man. He quipped, “That’s not a man; that’s a committee!” No wonder my compatriot in stupidity said, “Kenny, put away the knife; it will just make him mad.”
Let me now take you back, not to 30 years ago, but 3,000 years to the Valley of Elah. This valley located Southwest of Jerusalem had become an arena where one audacious looking character was staring down Israel’s army under the leadership of another tall man who was head-and-shoulders above the average person.
Can you envision Saul, the commander in chief, pacing the camp with his spear in hand pondering whether he should personally do battle with the gargantuan warrior from Gath? Perhaps one of the captains—after looking at the giant—said to the king, “Saul, put away the spear; it will just make him mad.” Goliath is obviously Saul’s foremost challenge. What is your number one conspicuous ministry obstruction?
We are living in an ever-changing world. How do you reach those individuals who are ethnically or culturally different? (I am a Caucasian minister who has observed my community change more than 30 years from predominantly Caucasian to a majority African-American, and now becoming predominantly Hispanic.) Perhaps you need additional staff at your church; however, where will the necessary funding come from in the midst of a declining economy? Feel free to fill-in-the blank to the following question. My greatest ministry challenge is _____________________.
The problem with Saul’s army and our ministry can be one and the same: We are visually challenged. What is it that David understood that an entire army couldn’t perceive? There are some vital ministry lessons to learn from David’s encounter with Goliath in
1. The enemy is enormous and intimidating.
Goliath is appropriately called a champion in v. 4. The word literally means “the man between the two.” This imposing one-man committee was standing between the two armies looking for a duel. He was the Philistines representative.
There are conceivably more details about Goliath’s physical appearance than any other biblical character to show the behemoth’s invincibility. He was approximately 9-feet 9-inches tall. (In modern times, Robert Pershing Wadlow was 8-feet 11-inches tall when he died at age 22 on July 15, 1940.) Wouldn’t any NBA team love having a man whose head almost reaches the rim?
Goliath not only was tall as a modern skyscraper, but he was strong. The coat he wore weighed approximately 125 pounds. Contrast that to a modern firefighter whose gear weighs 40-pounds. He easily wore more protective gear than an NHL hockey goalie. Even the poundage of his iron spearhead, which was shaped like a flame, weighed 15 pounds.
The challenge given by Goliath to Saul was his worst nightmare. You see, Israel and Saul had a similar problem: They walked by sight, not by faith. Israel wanted a king (who could be seen) to lead them as the other nations (
My friends, do you meet your ministerial challenges by faith or by sight? Getting ensnared by our physical senses isn’t something new. Even Samuel, who had a spotless reputation, allowed his physical faculties to lead the way in choosing a king to replace Saul. When he saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest and perhaps tallest son, he declared in
There will be no lack of deterrents in the believer’s life. God might be leading you to further education but you can’t visualize that possibility because currently there is too much month at the end of the money. Perhaps you feel the Spirit’s tugging to begin a new ministry but you hesitate because the seemingly impossible barrier in front of you is a paralyzing fear (because you’ve tried it before and failed). Whatever your impediment, remember that the enemy is enormous and intimidating.
2. Engage the enemy with the eyes of faith.
In 1 Samuel 17:12-22, David the son of Jesse, one of eight brothers, was dispatched by his father to bring his three older brothers who were in the army food and to check and see how the battle was going. David is now with the army when Goliath makes an appearance. 1 Samuel 17:24 states, “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.” Once again, sight ruled the day.
These same men asked David in the following verse, “Have you seen this man who has come up?” Despite the offer from the king to richly reward the man who could defeat this large nemesis, there are no takers among the enlisted men. Conversely, the civilian David who is more than willing to face the giant is brought to the king.
Saul asked David about his credentials to meet a proven champion. David confidently replies in vv. 36-37, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. 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 the Philistine.” Clearly, David had his eyes upon the invisible God who had demonstrated His faithfulness to him in the past, while the Israelite army was awestruck with this hulk of a man.
How about you—Do you engage the enemy with the eyes of faith or do you permit your sight to govern your heart? The great hymn writer Isaac Watts penned these words based upon
“O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home!
“Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.”
Faith can be defined as taking God at His Word and acting upon it. This is what the trembling king and his fearful army should have embraced.
3. Overcome the impossible for God’s glory.
Goliath has enough armament for a one-man army; David’s weapons are unconventional. Besides carrying his sling and five smooth stones, David approached Goliath with a very different worldview. He said in verse 45, “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.”
The apostle Paul condoned David’s thinking when he wrote in
David didn’t hesitate to tell Goliath that His God had already given him the victory and that his carcass was about to provide a large feast for the birds and wild animals (v.46). He next declared in verse 47, “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.”
Our story climaxes in vv. 48-51 when David overcomes the impossible for the glory of God by sinking a stone into Goliath’s forehead and then chopping off his head with the giant’s own sword. David’s faith should encourage us to ponder the marvelous victory that his greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ provided for us through His death and resurrection. Child of God, what should we fear, knowing our Lord has taken the sting out of death? In the context of resurrection, Paul proclaimed in
Who is he who triumphs over the world and how is the victory gained?
In conclusion, you might be wondering what the outcome was with King Kong Jr.? Thankfully, he graciously only gave us a much needed lecture. My prayer for you is that, although the enemy is enormous and intimidating, you will engage him with the eyes of faith and overcome the impossible for God’s glory!