Everyone likes to pull for the underdog. From sports to romantic comedies to real life, something in our nature wants the weaker opponent to win. Perhaps we do so because, at some point or another, we’ve all been in situations where failure seemed guaranteed. One year, my high-school basketball team made it to the championship game of the region tournament. We had had a fairly successful season leading up to the tournament, but the team we were facing in the final round was taller, faster, and stronger. To an unbiased observer, it seemed there was no way we could win; we fully expected to lose. Despite the odds, we beat the undefeated Patriots at the buzzer. I will never forget that game or the way I felt after the final horn sounded for the rest of my life. They should have blown us out of the water, but we were the champions, and shocking everyone in that gym who had pinned us as the inferior team was an indescribable experience.
I said that we fully expected to lose that night, but that is not entirely true. We certainly did leading up to the game, but when we gathered in the locker room thirty minutes before warm-ups, our coach handed each of us a rock and read us the story of David and Goliath. Like most people, we had all heard this story many times, but it struck us in a new way that night. I won’t retell the entire story here, but I do want to focus on the attitudes of the key characters in their quest to overcome their giant opponent.
Goliath was able to defeat the Israelites with fear alone. He was between 8’5 and 9’2 tall, and his armor and weapons weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. Every day for forty days, he would mock the Israelites and challenge them to fight him. 1 Samuel 17:11 says, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Satan uses the same strategy against us. As we face our own “giants, he tries to make us feel afraid, inadequate, and defeated before we even begin our battles. However, as David shows us in this story, we have access to a supernatural boldness and confidence that will lead us to victory.
Saul’s reaction to Goliath’s taunting is very telling. At one point, Saul had been known as a fierce, successful military leader; he stood head and shoulders above the other men of Israel. When Goliath demanded that they send someone down to fight him, Saul was the logical choice, but when Saul heard Goliath’s words, he was terrified. In the previous chapter, we read that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. It is no coincidence that Saul’s bravery left him at the same time. The Holy Spirit gives us courage and confidence; without Him, we are weak, cowardly, fearful, and defeated before we begin.
David’s reaction to Goliath’s taunting is equally telling. In sharp contrast to Saul, this little shepherd boy is full of bold courage. This isn’t arrogant bravado; he doesn’t say, “I’m not scared of that giant; killing him will be no problem! Let me at him! Rather, his utmost concern is the Lord’s cause. He deems it as more important than his own personal safety, glory, and honor. David’s perspective and courage came from his genuine relationship with God. God was as real to him as Saul and Goliath, and His cause and honor were worth fighting for. Because of this, he said to Saul “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
David’s bold courage progresses as the story develops. Initially, he said someone should fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:26,29). Next, he said he would fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32). Finally, he said he will defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36). David had full confidence in the Lord. He recalled that God had saved him from lions and bears during his time as a shepherd, and he firmly believed that God would deliver him in the same manner against Goliath… and He did! He led David’s footsteps as he approached Goliath, He guided the stone through the air into Goliath’s forehead, and He enabled David to behead Goliath with his own sword. He didn’t use the thousands of Israelite soldiers who had been frozen in fear at the scene of the battle for forty days; he used David’s passion, bravery, and willingness to secure His victory.
Hearing these words and holding those rocks in our hands in the little locker room in Louisville, Georgia that night, my teammates and I felt emboldened to take on our giant. We knew we could accomplish what seemed impossible, and we did. God is not limited by our expectations or our doubts; He is infinitely greater and wiser than that. I don’t know what giants you are facing, but I do know that God is stronger. God may deliver you from trials or in the midst of trials, but He will deliver you if you are His child.
Some of our PAYH boys will have a chance to fight their own giants this summer as we kick off our 2017 Cycling Challenge. From July 17-22, they will cycle 500 miles across South Georgia and Central Florida. The days will be long, the heat will be intense, and the cramps will be nagging. Their mental and physical strength will be tested each minute of each day, and there will be moments when they are tempted to forget the months they have spent training and quit. But as they persevere, they will see that nothing compares to the satisfaction of setting a difficult goal and reaching it. By overcoming the challenge of this ride, our young men find the strength and endurance they never knew they had and learn that through Christ they can do all things (Philippians 4:13). Keep up with their journey as they learn to defeat their giants at www.payhbikeride.com.
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