Sunday, 24 April 2016
My Story in God's Story ~ David and Goliath
Pastor Adam shows us that we need not be afraid because we have God on our side

4.24.16 My Story in God’s Story ~ David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17

“Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  I kept hearing these words all this past week as I prepared for this sermon.  I didn’t really understand though what God’s Spirit was saying to me.  I didn’t understand why these words were speaking into my heart and soul.  I DID understand why they were speaking in my head, because clearly these words, “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  is Jesus’ way of picking up on the same faith that David has when he stands before the giant Goliath.  So in my head I understand the connection.  I just didn’t understand it in my heart and soul until I finally wrote this sermon.

So to help you understand, we need to turn over to Mark 4, toward the end of that chapter in verse 35 we have this story of Jesus and the disciples out on a boat.  And God kept bringing this story to mind as I pondered what He wanted me to say to you about the David and Goliath story.

Now, in this story of Jesus and his disciples on the boat.  Jesus says to them, “Why are you afraid?  And have you still no faith?  This comes right at the moment when they are out on the water at night and a storm arises and they get afraid.  They are afraid for their lives, they are afraid they will be caught on the water, they are afraid of so many things.  And Jesus, if you remember the story, what is Jesus doing?  He is asleep.  Calm as can be during the storm.

Although, I kind of wonder if he really was asleep?  Like maybe he was just faking being asleep and letting the disciples freak out.  Kind of like I do when Calla wakes up about 2 am and I am awake, but I lie very still to see if Amy will move first.  And then I keep lying still until I get the smack.  Like maybe Jesus was just laying there, calmly, letting others around him try to figure this out.

But what we do know is that they are afraid.  And the disciples fear leads to anger.  They get upset with Jesus, they say to him “Teacher!  Do you not care that we are perishing?”  Now all of us know what this is like.  Because we too, in order to deal with our fears, to handle our anxieties, and worries, instead of confronting them head on, we lash out at others around us.  We get angry, we get grumpy, we start blaming others for a problem that is really ours to solve.  And so the disciples take out their fear by getting angry with Jesus.  Now Jesus can take it, so don’t worry about him, and, of course, like the brilliant teacher that he is, Jesus turns this into a teaching moment.

Jesus, will calm the storm, but first, he asks his disciples a question.  This is the teaching moment.  He pauses in the midst of the chaos and the anger and the fear and asks, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  And it is a question that is designed to get them to stop right there and think about it.  Actually it is a two part question that all of us need to think about.  Two parts that are equally important.

Let’s all stop right now.  Take a moment and think about what you are afraid of.  There are the big things like death, pain, finances.  Then there are other things like getting older, what your children are doing, how work is going, what this world is coming to.  Then there are even other things like, I’m afraid I don’t matter, or fear of letting some things go, fears about change, transition, crisis, disasters, maybe you are afraid of the zombie apocalypse?  Which, by the way, is not going to happen, but don’t you see that all the shows that are on TV these days about the end of the world, are almost always about zombies taking over, and it is our culture’s way of expressing their fears about the future, fears they don’t know how to name or describe, so these fears get projected onto nameless and dead zombies that seem to haunt all of our future hopes and dreams.

We need to stop and ask ourselves why are we so afraid?  What is it we are afraid of?  But we cannot stop with that first question.  We need to hear from Jesus this question as well:  have you still no faith?  Because faith is the answer to our fears.  Not more security, not more plans, not more fighting, not more political debates.  Faith has been, and always will be the answer to our fears.   And when we forget this, we get afraid.  The lack of faith, the forgetting of who God is, always, always leads to more and more fear.  But the remembering, the stopping for a moment, even in the midst of the storm and reminding ourselves that we have faith in a God through whom all things are possible and nothing gets in the way of God’s plan.  Reminding ourselves when we are facing giant bullies and insurmountable odds that we have a God who created the world in the first place and you can place your bet on Him no matter what.  Reminding ourselves that faith, even the smallest bit of faith can move mountains.  Reminding ourselves that there is something stronger than fear and what we faithful people do over and over and over again is remember that faith leads to hope, and that hope leads to love, and that love transforms our lives, our neighborhoods, our churches, our city, our state, our nation, our world, and maybe even our universe.

Do you have the ears to hear what Jesus is saying to you?  Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?

Today, if you want to know why the church has continued to read and talk about this story, the story of David and Goliath, it is because we need to be reminded of what it means to have faith when we are facing the huge problems in this life.  We need to be reminded of the strength that comes when we take a stand against fear itself.  Because that is what this story today is really about.  Yes it has this shepherd pretty boy named David and this Giant Goliath of Gath in it, but it is really about what we do when we are afraid and what it means to have the faith to face anything this life throws at us.  Let’s pray.

You did not bring us out this far to take us back again, you brought us out to take us into the promised land.  Though there be giants in that land we will not be afraid.  You brought us out to take us into the promised land.  Amen.

This past week I got very afraid.  And I know that is why God’s Spirit was speaking these words to me.  I am afraid that Jamestown, this city that I have grown to love, I’m afraid that Jamestown has given up hope.  I’m afraid that some of our leaders, political and otherwise, shake their heads at the problems of drugs, violence, declining neighborhoods and housing values, I’m afraid of the despair that says we can’t make it better and there is no way forward.

Many of you know that I and many others in this church have been walking the neighborhood right around us.  Going North on Spring street, over to Prendergast and back.  It takes maybe 15 minutes.  I have walked it dozens of times.  Every time I think we walk it, it is a test of our faith.  Because it doesn’t look good out there in this neighborhood.  This neighborhood which God has put us in, is run down.  It is kind of scary.  It is lost.  And I am afraid it is going to only get worse, and I am afraid that there are few who know or are even trying to do much about it, and I’m afraid that the same decline we see in our own neighborhood right here and maybe you see in your neighborhood, or if not in yours probably in the neighborhood just a couple of blocks away, I’m afraid that Jamestown is going down.  I’m afraid.

First of all let me say that I quickly recognized that my fear for Jamestown stems out of a love that has grown in me for you and for this city.  I would NOT be afraid of Jamestown’s decline, if I didn’t love it.  If I didn’t love you and this city, why would I care enough to be afraid for it?

But secondly, let me say, that the other reason I had become afraid was because I had forgotten and misplaced my faith.  I had been placing faith in the city to turn things around, faith in neighborhood organizations, faith in the renaissance center, faith in revitalizing downtown, faith in the new comedy center.  And all of these things are good and part of the answer, but they are not the answer.  They are not the solution.  Putting faith in any and all of them will eventually lead to fear.  They are all good things, but they are not THE good thing.

I am here this morning to remind you to remember that it is God in whom we have faith and it is God who prospers our plans and it is God who provides for us and it is God who empowers us.  And when we remember that we can build, strategize, plan, scheme, and organize, but unless God builds it our labors are in vain, it is then, when faith in God is what drives everything in our lives and in our city, it is then, that we find our fear is gone.

Let me tell you, we put our faith into so many other things that we think will save us, and they all just lead to fear.  The only thing that you can put your faith in that will lead to hope, and that hope will lead to love, is God.

Now, I’m not making this up.  This is all right here in 1 Samuel 17, our story for today.  The story of David and Goliath.  It starts out by telling us just how big this giant of a problem is.  Just how frightening, just how overwhelming.  This guy was a giant among giants.  There are four whole verses to just describing him, how big and what he looked like and what he was wearing.  All of this is designed to show us the problem.  And guess what?  This giant problem named Goliath had a mouth on him too.  He mocked the people of God, he taunted and challenged them to come after him.  And when they heard his taunt, we are told this, in verse 11, “Saul and all of Israel heard these words and they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”

That right there my friends is the heart of this story.  The fear we face, even the best of us, when we are up against a giant of a problem.  The fear that drives away and makes us forget our faith.  The fear that we are gonners, that we are done for, that our problems cannot be fixed.  Goliath is merely a character in this story about our very human fear.  Then comes David.  Our hero.  He is set up as the opposite of a warrior.  He is a small lad, a servant and the youngest of the family, a shepherd, a musician who likes poetry and playing the harp.  Someone who doesn’t fit into warrior’s garb, cannot even come close to standing up physically to Goliath.  Carries with him no sword but only a slingshot and five smooth stones.  David is so not intimidating, so not fear inducing, that Goliath laughs when he sees him.

But David has the one thing that everyone else lacks.  He has a faith in God that drives out all his fear of anything that would stand in God’s way.  And David KNOWS it.  He lives by this faith.  He knows that the God of angel armies is on his side.  He knows that without God he would be done, but with God Goliath is the one who is going to be done.  He knows it so deeply within him that no one can convince him otherwise.  And so he walks out to the battle field to face this giant of a problem named Goliath and he, yes, goes out there with his sling and stone, but here is what David says to the giant and it is all about God.

David says, “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.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.  This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  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.”

Can it be any clearer?

Is it not obvious?  David’s faith and lack of fear is because he knows the LORD!

And then, the giant charges.  David slings a stone, and the giant is done.  It is over.  The Lord wins.

And now the Philistines run in fear, and Israel rejoices.  The tides have turned, the giant problem is gone.  Or is it?  Because remember the problem never really was with Goliath it was with the fear of Goliath.  It was with the lack of faith that caused the people to fear.  And that same problem keeps coming back to bother us.  Problems with the storms in life that make us afraid and lose faith.  Worries and anxieties that things cannot be turned around, that life can’t be different, that neighborhoods are lost, that people are goners, that storms will overtake us and worst of all that our Lord and our savior Jesus doesn’t even care.  These fears are real, of course they are, but they are NOT more powerful than faith.  That is what the people of God need to hear today, just like they needed to hear it back then, and we need to keep hearing it over and over and over again.  Our fears?  They are not more persuasive thnt God.  They are not to lead us into despair and being ready to run, but instead they lead us to courageously stand and face whatever it is that lies before us and having faith that by the power of the Lord we will overcome.

Now I know we get afraid, but ay we, God’s people, never be overcome by fear, but instead with faith that leads to hope which drives us to love, may we face head on any challenges that come our way and with God’s help we will be victorious.

Remember that God loves you and I love you too.  Amen.