This is part two of a two-part series on how and when to fight the good fight with particular attention to David’s decisive battle against Goliath described in 1 Samuel 17.
I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight having faith and a good conscience (1 Tim 1:18-19).
Last week we looked at five of the lessons about when and how to take a stand drawn from David’s clash with the bullying giant, Goliath. Those lessons were as follows:
1. Faithful service is the only reason that we should be on the field of battle. If you are not there to help, why are you there?
2. Be clear on the issues before taking your stand. Is it about God’s will or your pride?
3. Be true to your convictions. What do you believe is the right thing to do beyond your feelings?
4. Be true to your experience. How has the Lord led you through threatening trials in the past?
5. Never let someone else put their armor on you! Will you trust the Lord to equip you for the fight?
This week, we travel back with David to the battlefield where he faced off with the giant. The time for planning was past. On the field of combat, execution is everything. The lessons continue . . . .
6. Kneel before you stand in battle. How else will you know what to do? This is the most important point of all. “David, took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine” (1 Sam 17:40). There is no direct mention of prayer in the story, but think about what physical position would be necessary to pick up five suitable stones out of a creek bed, knowing your life would depend on their accuracy. Kneeling is the most likely position and kneeling is the attitude of prayer.
Conflicts confront us with well-equipped, dominant foes and we have no knowledge of what it will take to get through them, let alone emerge victorious. Where did Jesus go when his trial and death on the cross was imminent? “He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done’” (Luke 22:39-41).
Only the Lord knows which stone will bring down the giant. We must ask him to lead us to it.
7. State your mission. Are you focused on what you want to accomplish in this battle?
If we don’t know our mission, we have no business on the field of battle. Without a reason, conflict is just an indulgence of bloodlust. Armies and navies relentlessly train and retrain for combat preparedness. The focus on mission must be maintained in the chaos and stress of battle so every move is directed to fulfilling the mission.
Your mission shouldn’t be complicated. In World War II, General George S. Patton trained his troops to be able to state their mission in one simple phrase.
It is easy to be distracted from mission. Goliath met David with insults and contempt intended to draw the young man into rash and foolish reactions. David knew he wasn’t there for himself, kept calm, and stated his mission in response:
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 Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the world will know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand (1 Sam 17:45-47, emphasis added).
God is glorified by our fidelity to mission in the worst moments. David knew this and so must we.
8. Relying on God’s wisdom and strength, do what you need to do to win. Are you committed to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission?
David’s bold declaration of mission caused Goliath to come at him, but David ran at him, “put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine in the forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground” (1 Sam 17:48-49).
If you must take your shot, shoot straight and true. Conflict is prolonged and suffering is increased by bluster, equivocation and cowardice. When we are in a confrontation that cannot be avoided, whether in words or actions, we need to do what is necessary to prevail, no more or no less. As the Apostle James wrote, temptation will defeat us when we are “double-minded” about what we should do (S 1:5-8). Dealing with conflict requires prompt, decisive action.
9. Finish the job. How will you have a testimony if the story isn’t complete?
David’s sling had killed Goliath, but David left no doubt. He took Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head (1 Sam 17:50-51). The Philistines ran away when they saw their champion beheaded, and the troops of Israel pursued them and won a great victory. David took the head and stripped Goliath of his armor and left the field of battle.
Some of the most disheartening situations that I have ever witnessed are the defenses offered by followers of leaders who have betrayed their trust by sexual predation or theft. More than once, I have seen the victims shunned and demonized while the perpetrators have been lauded for their kindness and good works and excused for their “mistakes.” Often, the perpetrator is reassigned to some new and unsuspecting group and the problem continues. Those who prey upon the innocent and the vulnerable, and any of God’s children for that matter, must be stopped. Anything less is dishonorable.
It is the same with our entrenched sins. It is a false mercy to try to excuse those choices of the flesh that bring us down from what God intended for us. Those battles belong to the Lord as well and we must take everything we possess including those things that possess us and take them to the foot of the cross and leave them there where Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It takes two free hands and an unswerving commitment to victory to cut the head off of the Goliath who has tormented us. Anything less leaves the job undone and keeps alive the potential for further struggles.
10. Leave the field as a servant. When it’s over will you wait for the Lord’s next command or will you charge out looking for more Goliath’s to conquer?
“On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite” (1 Sam 17:57-58). David had come to serve. The pride of his victory did not cause him to forget his core identity.
Nothing can defeat us like success. God calls us as we are, uses us as we are and who we are. When we claim an identity apart from him in the pride of accomplishment, we are in great danger. If we go looking for new Goliaths to conquer to prove our worth and win greater approval, we are addicts, not servants and we are being driven by the wrong motives.
No child of God should go out spoiling for a fight. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). We are called to “be strong in the Lord and the strength of his power” by standing firm on the ground that he has won for us. He gives us his armor to withstand, not to charge off on offensives of our own (Eph 6:10-17). The battle belongs to the Lord and so does the victory. Let him be the commander but stick close to him.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
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The Lord is the strength of his people;