I Samuel 17
By Mary Roberts
May 3, 2015
A Yale psychologist said we all have 6 common fears in life:
- we fear failure
- we fear commitment
- We are afraid to stand up for what we believe.
- We are afraid to trust others; their words, their truth.
- We fear speaking in public
- We fear being alone.
Our scripture today is about fear and about faith. It is a story that we have heard since we were young. If you went to church when you were young you probably heard about David and Goliath.
We understand this story better by understanding how battles were fought in ancient Israel. To avoid the high cost of battle you put your strongest warrior against the enemies' strongest warrior. Whoever won then that individual's army was victorious.
Goliath had been taunting the Israelites for 40 days to send down their best fighter.
The Israelites were afraid because when they saw how huge Goliath was, (scripture says 6 cubits and a span) which is about 9 ft. tall. We would probably be just as afraid as the Israelites were. Some of them ran away. And not one of the Israelites is willing to fight him; no one except a young shepherd boy named David.
Even King Saul saw just a boy; Goliath has been a warrior from his youth. And when David convinces Saul to let him fight Goliath, Saul decides that David must look like a soldier so he puts his armor, his helmet; everything he needs to fight a giant on him.
But David cannot walk with all this get up so he removes them. David takes up his staff and 5 smooth stones, and his sling in his hand.
Goliath makes fun of David. You send me this boy and he is not even equipped for battle. But David says something to Goliath we all need to hear. "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled.
This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. The Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hand."
There are many giants we will face in our own lives: there are evil ones who we know as bullies, child abusers, there are social giants (ageism, sexism, racism); there are many emotional and personal giants (death, divorce, poverty). We all face a giant at some time in our lives.
Sometimes the church has to take a stand against the giants of our society. I remember a good clergy friend of mine who served a small church in the South and he told me how he and members of his church were threatened because they took a stand against segregation.
Several years ago I remember reading how Hollywood United Methodist Church in California was one of the first Christian congregation to take an active part in helping, supporting and advocating for people with AIDS.
Last week I was visiting my daughter in Hollywood and we were walking around Grumman's Chinese Theater and in the near distance from that theater we saw Hollywood UMC with a giant red ribbon (much like the pink ribbon for breast cancer) on their tower overlooking Hollywood.
Now it took a lot of faith and courage from the congregation and the pastor to do this. Because several years ago individuals were afraid to be around people with AIDS. They did this because they wanted everyone to know that everyone was welcome to come and worship at their church. I was pleased to see that they were still doing this; that ribbon still stands on that tower.
One day the pastor of the church received a letter from a Michael Sugar, a person with HIV who wanted to let him know how much he appreciated the church's support. It is easy to feel neglected and alone when you have aids, especially if you are someone whose friends have died and you are living by yourself continuing to fight the battle. It is very lonely, but your church brings hope and peace, he wrote.
The church is a beacon of light which will not allow the weather or time to dim its commitment of love.
We all have fears to overcome. Every day it seems like someone or something makes us afraid: our spouse or parent or child has been diagnosed with a terrible disease; a family member loses a job, our child is bullied at school or over the internet; we are discriminated because of our sex, our race or our religion.
With all this confronting us it is not difficult to see how we can become overwhelmed with fear, loneliness and a sense of loss. And that will consume us if we let it. We must remember that the opposite of fear is faith.
If you want to handle fear you turn to your faith. You lean on the one who can handle any giant and who has been with you many times before.
It was God who sent David because God knew that David was use to fighting giants all his life and God knew David was not afraid of Goliath, because of his size, because His God was a giant fighter.
The Bible refers to our God as omnipotent - that means all powerful. God can accomplish anything. Do we have that kind of faith? That why the Bible reminds us that if we have problems believing this we need to ask God to help our unbelief.
The opposite of fear is faith. Not yet a man, David, the young child shepherd wasn't afraid. He had fought lions and bears. He knew then and he knew now that God would be with him for he said the battle was the Lord's.
The Bible says perfect love cast out fear. We replace our fear with faith; God's love will empower us with hope and peace and that is what we need to overcome our fears. We believe that God loves us and will take care of us for God is with us through the battles of life. We trust in the one who loves us and has demonstrated in the Bible that he will never leave us or forsake us.
If the battle is the Lord's I feel empowered and hopeful. I read scripture because it gives me hope when I need it most. I love the verse in Jeremiah where he reminds us that, " I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
If you have a concordance in your Bible look up the word fear and you will see how many times God says fear not: 365 times; one for each day of the year. When your fears seems to overwhelm you look up how often God says to you "fear not for I am with you." I will never leave you or forsake you.
We have scripture to help us and we also have hymns. One of my favorites is our opening hymn: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God.." Take any hymn in our hymnal and sing the words for they too remind us that God works for good in our lives and helps us overcome any fears that come our way.
We can let our fears consume us or we can overcome them with the promises of God. Is my life perfect; is every prayer answered the way I want it to be answered? No. But when I pray and open my fears to God I know God hears my prayers and I know that whatever the answer is it will always be God's will for me.
Giants will always be out there. We have new giants to face tomorrow. Fear can consume our lives if we let it and the giants win. But when we turn to God, there is hope, and we allow God to fight our battles with us knowing that whatever the outcome is God will be with me through it all and it is His presence that give me peace.
Let us pray....Bring us to our knees faithful God that we may become centered in your presence among us, and find courage to take a stand for whatever you call us to in a world filled with all kinds of giants. Be with each and every one of us and remind us to be faithful, to lift up our fears and our concerns knowing that you will help us to deal with them one step at a time. Remind us Lord, we do not fight our battles alone, that we are not playing by Goliath's rules but by your rules. And Lord, may we who are strong in you instill hope in those who fight battles every day. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen