He vies for an intimate, personal one-on-one bedside position, hoping to be the first voice we hear as we wake up in the morning. He covers our waking thoughts, those early, vulnerable pillow-borne emotions. He wakes us with words and thoughts of worry, and distress, stirs us with overwhelming thoughts of fatigue for the coming day. If we dread our day before we begin the day, the giant has been at bedside.
And he is just getting warmed up as he breathes down our neck when we eat our breakfast, whispers in our ears as we walk out the door, shadows our steps and sticks us in the hip. He checks our calendar, reads the mail and talks more trash than players in an inner-city basketball league on the streets of the ghetto. "You just don't have what it takes." "You come from a long line of losers." "Fold the cards and leave the table. You have been dealt a bad hand."
He is our giant, our personal Goliath, our menace in life. He is the devil personified. Given half a chance, he will turn our day into his threatening call at Elah, taunting, teasing, boasting and echoing claims from one hillside to the other. Do we recall how Goliath misbehaved? "For forty days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Philistine giant strutted in front of the Israelite army" I Samuel 17: 16.
Goliaths still roam our world. Debt, Disaster, Dialysis, Danger, Chemo-therapy, Varied illnesses and afflictions. Deceit, Disease, Depression, all supersized challenges that still swagger and strut, still pilfer sleep and embezzle peace and joy. But none of these can dominate us if we do not permit them eminence in our lives. We must learn as believers in Christ bed determined to deal with them. We face menacing giants by facing our God first.
Focus on giants and we stumble.
Focus on God and giants tumble!
We must know what David knew and do what David did. We pick up five stones and we make five decisions. Do we ever wonder why David took five stones into battle? Why not two or twenty? Rereading God's relation to us in Scripture of the account, we find five answers. We can use our five fingers to remind us of the five stones we need to face down the Goliaths in our lives. Our thumb should remind us of...
The stones of the past. Goliath jogged David's memory. The valley David encountered him in was repeat of the past. While everyone else quivered, David remembered. God gave him the strength to wrestle a lion and strong-arm a bear. Wouldn't our heavenly Father do the same thing with the giant now?
David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it turned on me, I caught it by its beard and struck it and killed it! 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" 1 Samuel 17: 34 - 36.
A good memory makes heroes. A bad memory transforms us into wimps. Amnesia makes a weakling of us when we do not remember the love, the power and the concern of our heavenly Father for each of us. We can permit worry to escalate in our hearts and minds. We have to keep our focus on the power of God, not our own limited physical or mental ability. In my own particular circumstances, as the shepherd of this flock, I was momentarily distracted when I came to this parish, seeing the few people, the meager resources, with the thought in the forefront of my mind from the bishop who assigned me with the mandate: "Build a church and unite the parish." Opposition and disagreement almost awoke me in my sleep with ridicule. Was I out of my mind? Would we be able to raise the necessary funds? The economy isn't as good as it ought to be. People are stressed. We may not be able to raise enough money to buy one brick! Goliath had me running for a short time to the trees until I came to my senses. I remembered all that our God has done for us in the life of his Body, our blessed Church and I recalled David and the great odds against him. In his family he was the nine to two odds, the lion and the bear opposed him, but he overcame it. Then, in the greatest obstacle he would face, because of the assistive strengthening of God, he overcame the challenge of Goliath. I spent sometime looking at God's victories and concluded that what He had done for others, He certainly could do for us, small even though we are. Since then, I am confirmed in my trust of God's provision. Good souls came forth to assist. Plans continue to be made and progressing, although too slowly for my human comprehension, nevertheless are advancing steadily. God has done this before. We too can hang a stuffed lion's head in the vestibule of our parish center when it is built. We can raise up a taxidermied bear in the foyer to remind us of the obstacles we faced at one time. Our small parish family is working hard, praying even harder and devoting itself to God's glory. Miracles can happen. Miracles do happen if we but have faith and believe in God's power working in and with us. "Remember his marvelous works which he has done" 1 Chronicles 16: 12. After cataloging God's successes, I began to mentally keep a reference of God's successes and a list of his world records. Has He not walked us through high waters? Does He not prove himself to be faithful? Do we not know his provision? None of us goes to bed hungry even though we have increased our offerings. We do not wake up in the cold. God has made a roadkill of our opposition and our enemies, all the bad thinking that came before. Anymore, I write today's worries and concerns in sand and chisel yesterday's victories in stone.
We have to continue picking up stones in the creek as did David. And as we do, note the valley between the thumb and forefinger. To pass from one to the next we must go through it. It can remind us of David's descent. Before going high, he went low; before ascending to fight, David had to bend down and prepare. He did not face his giant without first praying and calling upon our heavenly Father for help and assistance. We too must continue to dedicate time to prayer. St. Paul the Apostle wrote, "Prayer is essential in this on going warfare. Pray hard and long" Ephesians 6: 18.
It is prayer that spawned the success of David. His wisdom grew out of the moment he "...strengthened himself in the Lord his God" 1 Samuel 30: 6. When Saul's soldiers later tried to capture him, he turned to God. "You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble" Psalms 59: 16.
When David soaked his mind in God, he was able to stand. When he did not, he fell abysmally. Do you think he spent any time in prayer the evening he seduced Bathsheba? Did he write a psalm the day he murdered Uriah? Doubtful.
We must mark well the promise: "God will keep in perfect peace all who trust in God, whose thoughts are fixed on God" Isaiah 26: 3. God promises not just peace, but perfect peace. To whom? To those who are "fixed" on God. Forget the occasional glances,. dismiss random ponderings. Peace is promised to the one who fixes his thoughts and desires and heart and soul on the eternal King. So before we face any problems in our lives, we must invite and depend on God's help. Pick up the first stone of prayer. But we cannot neglect...
The stone of priority. Our longest finger can remind us of our highest priority: God's reputation and his sovereignty. David jealously guarded it. No one was going to defame the Lord. David fought so that "all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle belongs to the Lord" 1 Samuel 17: 46, 47.
David saw Goliath as an opportunity for God to manifest his heavenly strength. Did David know he would exit the battle alive? Certainly not! But he was willing to give his life for the reputation of God!
What if we saw our giant in the same manner? Our sickness placed on our shoulders as an opportunity for God to do away with it because of our devotion, faith and belief that He can! Rather than begrudge him, instead welcome him! We can overcome the problem, the deficiencies a stroke has brought about, stop the advancement of cancer or tumors, the ongoing problem with arthritis is a challenge for God to flex his healing muscles. Our sin is God's opportunity to showcase heavenly forgiveness and grace. Our struggling marriage can billboard God's miraculous power. Look at the struggle that faces you as God's canvas. On it He will paint his multicolored supremacy. Announce God's name as you enter the fighting arena and then reach for...
The stone of passion. "As Goliath moved closer to attack, David ran quickly out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd's bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it from his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in and Goliath stumbled and fell face down to the ground" 1 Samuel 17: 48, 49.
David then ran, not away from, but toward the giant in his life. On the one side of the battlefield, Saul and his cowardly army gulped. On the other, Goliath and his skull-splitters scoffed. In the middle, the shepherd boy ran on his skinny legs. Do you think anyone placed a bet on David? Who would put money on the kid from Bethlehem? Not the Philistines, not the Hebrews, not even David's siblings or his king. BUT GOD DID!
And since our heavenly Father did, and David knew God did, the runt from the simple shepherd family became a blur of pumping knees and swirling sling. He ran toward the giant.
We can do the same. Avoiding our problems will not solve them. What good has problempondering and thinking gotten us? We too stare so long we can number the hairs on the chest of Goliath. Has it helped?
Listing our hurts and the offenses others create in our lives will not heal them. Thinking about the misery of our pain does not help us. Itemizing the difficulties we must face will not solve them. Categorizing rejections in the past will not remove them. David lobotomized the giant because he emphasised the Lord and his heavenly power. Let our ring finger remind us we can take up the stone of passion. We can become as excited about solving our problems and sicknesses as our God.
One more stone and finger remains:
The stone of persistence.
David did not think one rock would do. He knew Goliath had four huge behemoth relatives for he was a "...descendant of the giants; his bronze spearhead weighed more than seven pounds" 2 Samuel 21: 16. "There was a giant there with six fingers on his hands and six toes on his feet - twenty four fingers and toes! He was another of those descended from Rapha... 2 Samuel 18: 20, 22. For all David knew, they would come running over the hill to defend their kin. David was ready to empty the chamber of whatever it took.
So tonight, let us imitate him, each day of the rest of our lies, let us imitate what happened on that fateful day. We must never give up. One prayer may not be enough, so let us never stop praying. Each day I continue to pray that God will bless our efforts with bold success in our parish building program. Each day let us continue to pray that whatever ails us, whatever is deficient in the perfect body God gave us is removed. One apology for our sinful bodily neglect may not be enough if it is not sincere and heart-felt, so let us tray another, and another, and another. Let us arouse within ourselves repentance for all the impurities that we have allowed in our lives. One day or one month might not be enough. That is why we continually have these healing services, that whatever lingers, whatever is deficient may be overcome. We come over and again, trusting in our God that He will make up for whatever is lacking. Yes, we may get knocked down a few times, we may fall and stumble in our efforts, but we never give up. We fall down and we get up again, we do not quit. We keep loading the rocks in our slings and we keep swinging the sling in the right direction.
David took five stones and made five decisions; let us do likewise. Think of our past, prayer continually, make a priority of overcoming whatever be sets us. Have the passion of God in our soul to overcome. Be persistent until God finally sees the purity of our purpose and answers us.
Next time the devil in the person of Goliath awakens you, reach for a stone. Yell out loudly, "Satan be gone!" as did Christ in the desert. Odds are, he will be out of the room before your can load your sling!