There are Giants in the Path
A few years ago, my friends and I attended the midnight opening of the movie, 300. I noticed only one female in a packed theatre. Chick flick it was not! Why were men packing a theatre at midnight? Because most men like a good fight!
Men connect with the sights and sounds of battle; we feel it in our guts. We understand “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
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. In this scene, the Rock takes out the entire offensive line of a Super Bowl champion football team. The second was the battle to the death between Maximus and Comidus in Gladiator. In this climactic fight, Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, endures a mortal wound, and yet still manages to defeat Comidus. It’s a classic good guy verses bad guy battle. The third choice I gave him was the scene in The Patriot where Benjamin Martin, played by Mel Gibson, takes out 20 British soldiers with a rifle and a tomahawk! Considering his options, he reached a quick decision. He is a man he likes fights.
One of the reasons I love the Old Testament is because it’s a man’s book. If Hollywood were to make the Old Testament into a feature film, it would definitely not be a romantic comedy. From Genesis to Malachi it is filled with great fights. The Old Testament records the good, the bad and the ugly of real men; men who lived, fought, and died as men.
My favorite fight in the Old Testament is found in 1 Samuel 17; it’s the story of David and Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:48 reads, “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” Full of piss and vinegar, David ran balls-out and killed Goliath. David was a man who went after it. He knew God and He knew what God wanted Him to do. You can’t help but admire his confidence and faith. However, the battle didn’t start with David.
The battle began in the Valley of Elah. King Saul and the entire Israelite army gathered above this historic battleground. Arrayed in position opposite to them, were their generational enemies, the Philistines. Longtime rivals, the Israelites and the Philistines fought more battles than Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazer. As the commander of Israel’s army, Saul had a track record of being a fierce warrior. On this day, however, the Philistines used a different tactic to win the fight. Descending into the valley walked the largest man who ever lived. His name was Goliath. 1 Samuel 17: 3-7 says,
So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them. Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! 5 He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield. (New Living Translation)
At over nine feet tall, Goliath would make Shaq look like a pygmy! His armor alone weighed 125 pounds and the head of his spear weighed 15 pounds. As I write this, I weigh about 200 pounds (if my wife is reading this, I am exaggerating for literary purposes and am really a svelte 185 pounds!). That means that Goliath’s armor alone was more than half my body weight. He was, without a doubt, the scariest dude who ever lived.
In the opening scene of the movie Troy, Brad Pitt, playing the role of Achilles, fights a giant of a man named Boagrius. Boagrius bursts through the ranks of the Aegean army and literally fills the movie screen with his sheer size. Standing at least a head taller than the other warriors, he very much looks the part of the biggest, baddest fighter around. Nathan Jones, the actor who portrays Boagrius, is 7 ft. tall and weighs 350 pounds, convincingly a very big man. Goliath, however, was over nine feet tall! If Achilles’ challenger caused a hush in the Greek army, you can understand why complete terror rippled across the Israelite troops when Goliath stepped into the Elah Valley. 1 Samuel 17:8-11 says,
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
“…Dismayed and terrified.” There it is – fear. Fear is the most debilitating emotion to man’s masculinity. It robs us of what we feel it means to be a man.
The men of Israel were intimidated. They were afraid. A primal emotion gripped them from the core of their being. They encountered their giant and it scared them to death. Every man has a Goliath. Every man faces a giant during his journey. Every man stares down into the Elah valley. What they see staring back is terrifying. Every man has to contend with giants if he is going to press on and experience a life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
Your giant could be intellectual doubt. You want to believe in God. You want to live by faith and have confidence that God is real and in charge of your life. You understand how much simpler it would be to trust the Bible and the promises of Jesus. If you could believe in Heaven and a final judgment, then maybe all the evil around you could have some ultimate meaning. The message of the gospel seems compelling, but you just can’t commit yourself to believe it. You have unanswered questions and nagging doubts about whether it is true. If this is you, your giant is intellectual doubt.
Your giant could be fear. You are afraid of change; you have a fear of the unknown, a fear of being unloved, a fear of being found out or a fear of failure. You easily identify with the Israelite army. Fear has dominated your life. You are passive-aggressive, and try to stay under the radar because of your crippling fear. If this is you, your giant is fear.
Your giant could be pride. You love the fact that you are in control of your own life and you answer to no one. You know you’re not perfect, but inside you’re confident you’re better than most. Frank Sinatra’s, “I did it my way” is your personal theme song. You know you should be more humble, but you tend to believe your own press releases. You may have the worst kind of pride – religious pride. You think you are more spiritual than others. Though you would not admit it, you privately think, “God’s pretty lucky to have me on His side.” If this is you, your giant is pride.
Your giant could be lust. You find yourself fantasizing about every pretty girl you meet, and even some of the ugly ones! You want to be pure-minded, and if you’re married you want to be faithful to your wife, but at the same time you feel enslaved to sexual thoughts. You may carry a secret shame over a part of your life that is both repulsive and exciting at the same time. Moreover, if it’s not sexual lust, it’s just personal selfishness. You look out for number one! Self is deeply enthroned in your life. If this is you, your giant is lust.
Your giant could be anger. You get up every morning registering a 9+ on the ten point anger scale. Every frustration, blocked goal or personal inconvenience seems to send you over the edge. If you are not erupting like a volcano, then you are on a slow burn of passive-aggressive emotion. The people in your world behave as if they are walking on broken glass as they desperately seek not to fuel your volatility. If this is you, your giant could be anger.
Every man has a giant. Like Saul and the army of Israel, Goliath taunts us and challenges us every day. The story of David and Goliath, however, ends victoriously. This story gives us hope that we can win our spiritual battles and pursue the life God has planned for us as men. When David faced Goliath, fear was turned into faith through God’s strength. 1 Samuel 17:40-50,
40 Then he (David) took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.42 He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
48 as the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
Unlike Saul and 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 the giant. Verse 48, “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” That’s my favorite verse in this story. David ran at Goliath. David pursued God’s plan for his life. Don’t you love that?
On my desk, I have a little rock taken from the Elah Valley in Israel. The inscription reads “…and David ran…” David had his focus on God and it produced a confident faith.
I want to be a man like David. I want to run to meet the giants in my life and defeat them in the Lord’s strength. Every man can run to battle. Every man can pursue a relationship with Christ, but he must focus on God and His unlimited resources and not be defeated by his giants.
In the next few chapters we will look at the five main giants every man faces: intellectual doubt, fear, pride, lust and anger. We will see how these giants are obstacles to following Christ and experiencing spiritual victory. We will also discuss how to overcome these giants with the truth and power of the gospel. Armed with the truth, we will wrap up this book with a positive game plan for pursuing after Christ. But before we look at the specific giants we face, we are going to take a closer look at the Goliath behind all of our giants. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, hang in there, there is a victorious path to follow.
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!