Jim Elliot, martyred missionary of a generation ago, recorded these words in his personal journal,
We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are “harmless” and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are “sideliners” — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us; we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!”
God is looking for dangerous men; men who put their confidence in Christ and run to battle.
Most men like a good fight. They resonate with “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Men love movies like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. They watch Spike TV and ESPN. Men tell stories of past exploits and become legends in their own minds!
When my son was seventeen I asked him, “What’s your favorite movie fight scene?” I offered him three options: the first was the opening scene from The Run Down, starring the Rock; the second was the battle to the death between Maximus and Comidus in Gladiator and the third was the scene in The Patriot where Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, takes out 20 British soldiers with a tomahawk. He considered his choices and quickly made a decision. He is a man. He likes fights.
One of the reasons I love the Old Testament is it’s a man’s book. From Genesis to Malachi it is filled with great fights. If Hollywood were to make the Old Testament into a feature film, it wouldn’t be a Message in a Bottle or The Notebook–type movie. My favorite fight in the Old Testament is that between David and Goliath, and my favorite verse in the story is 1 Samuel 17:48, “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” Full of testosterone and faith, David ran all-out and killed Goliath in the Valley of Elah. David ran to battle while his fellow Israelites quaked in fear.
1 Samuel 17:10-11 says,
Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
“Dismayed and terrified.” Fear is the most debilitating emotion to any man’s masculinity. Fear can rob us of what we feel it means to be a man. When I was a senior in high school we had a very young football team. We lacked the confidence that comes from varsity game experience. In a game with the eventual league champs, we were playing way above our ability and at half-time the score was tied. The locker room was electric with the possibility of winning the game. When we came out for the second half, we stretched and tried to get mentally ready for the third quarter. The opposing team, however, lined up in two lines about ten yards apart and did a full tackling drill. “Pop-pop-pop!” You could hear the hitting echo throughout the whole stadium. As I looked around at my young teammates, I could see the hope of victory drain from their faces. “They are going to kill us” was the clear message. Psychologically we had already lost the game. Before the whistle blew for the second half to start, intimidation had defeated us. That is exactly what the men of Israel felt-intimidation. They were afraid. They encountered Goliath and he scared them to death.
Every man has a Goliath. Every man faces his giant. Every man can be dismayed by what he sees in the Valley of Elah.
As Goliath taunted Saul and the army of Israel, so our Goliath taunts us. The story of 1 Samuel 17, however, ends with a win for God. The score is David-1, Goliath-0. The story of David and Goliath gives every man hope that he can win his spiritual battles. Fear turned into faith as David faced Goliath through God’s strength.
Unlike all the soldiers of Israel, David looked at Goliath through a God-sized lens rather than looking at God through a Goliath-sized lens. David said, “The battle belongs to the Lord,” and he literally ran to meet Goliath. On my desk I have a rock taken from the Elah Valley in Israel. The inscription reads “…and David ran…” I want to be a man like David. I want to run to meet Goliath and defeat him. Victory is certain when we put our focus on Christ.
In high school, my son played football and wrestled. Wrestling is an individual sport with just you and your opponent on the mat. In my son’s league was a private Christian school, Calvary Chapel. For years, Calvary Chapel has been one of the best wrestling schools in the state of California. These young men are not only outstanding athletes but they are also dedicated Christians. During my son’s junior season, one of the wrestlers for Calvary Chapel was a returning California State Champ and eventual National Champion. On the night of their meet I sat in the stands with some other dads. Seeing a familiar face I asked, “Who is your son wrestling tonight?” In the corner of the gym was the eventual National Champion. He was a man-child with a massive neck and bulging biceps. He wore a shirt with bold black letters: JESUS. Responding to my question, the dad stammered, pointed to the corner of the gym and blurted out, “Jesus!” I laughed and said, “If your son is wrestling Jesus, then he is going to lose for sure.” That night, everyone’s focus was on Jesus.
We grow strong in our faith when we put our focus on Jesus. David looked at God rather than Goliath. He believed God could do everything He promised. David knew that the battle belonged to the Lord. When we focus on Jesus, Goliath looks small.
Whatever Goliaths you are facing, God is bigger! A dangerous man puts his confidence in Christ and runs to battle, just like David. Oh, by the way, remember when I asked my son about his favorite movie fight scene? He chose the Rock in The Rundown. My son is a man. He likes fights!