May 6, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
On April of 1818, a businessman by the name of Henry Brooks opened up a clothing store on St. Catherine Street in Manhattan. Henry Brooks’ simple goal was trying to make clothes for businessmen. Money and businessmen were moving into lower Manhattan, and Henry Brooks found this as an opportunity. His simple goal was to design a suit that businessman could wear basically 5 days a week, basically like an everyday suit for all occasions, and he did well. -really well.
By 1833 he was ready to retire. He turned the company over to his 4 sons. He turned it over to Elisha, Daniel, Edward and John, and they ran the company until 1850, when they decided to change the name of the company to Brooks Brothers, America’s oldest, longest running men’s clothing store. The only reason I even know this story is because last month, just a few weeks ago, the New York Times did a piece on one of America’s oldest companies, and Brooks Brothers was a great success for a long time.
Then the economy got bad, and things got worse and generation after generation, the Brooks family did their best to try to hold on to the company, but eventually they just couldn’t hold onto it any longer. They sold the company to this international team of businessmen who led it for years, and the company started to tank. Literally in 2001, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, and an Italian businessman by the name of Mr. Claudio Del Vecchio decided that he would invest the money necessary to buy the company and to try to save this American icon.
In 2001, he purchased the Brooks Brothers stores and the Brooks Brothers business for 225 million dollars. It sounds like an astronomical amount of money until you consider that 13 years earlier, that company was worth almost 750 million dollars. It had tanked almost 3 times the amount of money that company was worth just 13 years earlier. And when Mr. Del Vecchio bought it, it was in bad shape and getting worse. He did a couple of things that you would normally try to do to turn the company around. He decided to restructure the company. He sold off some assets. He demanded better quality from his suppliers. It took a ton of hard work, and eventually the company got back into the black, but I’ll be honest with you; even the New York Times would say it was none of those business moves that made this company successful again.
What really changed things for the Brooks Brothers corporation was the new owner, Mr. Del Vecchio, because this man had a fire in his belly, and he refused to let this company fail, no matter what it took. Mr. Del Vecchio, when others were jumping ship and when others were running away, he rose to the occasion. He met the challenges, and he’s put the company back on strong footing. -one of America’s oldest companies, the Brooks Brothers clothing stores.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, so I want you to finish this phrase out loud: If you can’t stand the heat… (say the rest). That’s right. -Get out of the kitchen. You and I have heard that statement before, and it’s basically a warning to somebody, when the pressure gets high (and it’s going to get high), these are the moments that separate the men from the boys. These are the things that separate women from girls. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. -because when the pressure is on, when it gets intense, this is going to challenge you. This kind of stuff is going to really test what you’re made out of.
So, I’ve got a statement for us today before we start looking in the Bible. This statement is something that I want you to take home with you, and I want you to commit this to memory. In fact, I want you to really put it on your refrigerator door, because this is probably going to happen to you this week or this month. Here’s the truth: All of us get into these high pressure, intense situations in life, but not everybody responds the same way. Would you write this down?
The same sun that melts butter also bakes clay.
Now, I didn’t come up with this statement. I’m not smart enough to figure stuff like that out. Somebody else did. I don’t even remember where I got it. I read in a book somewhere one time. But the statement is absolutely true. This is a sermon series about taking risks. We’re looking at these moments in the Bible where men and women stepped forward and handled the heat and took some amazing risks. But I’d like to remind all of us, where there is great risk, there is always great fear. Great risk does lead to great reward. Yes, that it’s true. But great risk always comes with great fear.
I. Faith turns big challenges into big opportunities
And for some reason, when the fears get really high, some people just simply melt under the pressure and others, for whatever reason, they start to get stronger and they rise to the occasion. Today, we’re going to look at an example of somebody who was able to a handle the fear when everyone else around them was melting under the pressure around them. We’re going to look at one of the most famous battle scenes in the Bible. I’d like for you to write this down first: Faith makes the difference. Faith is the difference between those who melt like butter and those that get hard like clay, and faith turns challenges into opportunities. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunities.
Don’t discount fear. It’s the same in both circumstances, but faith is the thing that makes the difference. We’re going to take a look at this famous battle, probably the most famous battle of all time in the Bible. It’s become a metaphor for any time some underdog steps up and faces incredible odds. It’s the story of David and Goliath, and the story of David and Goliath is found in 1st Samuel 17. We’re not even going to look at the battle today. That’s another sermon for another day. Today we’re going to look at what happens on the side of the mountain before the battle goes there, and you’re going to see from the Bible there’s obviously something different about this teenage boy, David, from everyone else on the battlefield. And our challenge today is to figure out, what makes this boy different? What makes him different from the rest of Israel’s army? What makes him different from his king? Here’s a good question: What makes him different from his brothers who are right on that battlefield with him? In 1st Samuel chapter 3, the story begins in what’s called the Valley of Elah:
1 Samuel 17:3-11
The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites were standing on another hill with a ravine between them. 4 Then a champion named Goliath, from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was nine feet, nine inches tall 5 and wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed one hundred twenty-five pounds. 6 There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze javelin was slung between his shoulders. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed fifteen pounds. In addition, a shield-bearer was walking in front of him. He stood and shouted to the Israelite battle formations: “Why do you come out to line up in battle formation?” He asked them, “Am I not a Philistine and are you not servants of Saul? Choose one of your men and have him come down against me. 9 If he wins in a fight against me and kills me, we will be your servants. But if I win against him and kill him, then you will be our servants and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words from the Philistine, they lost their courage and were terrified.
Now, in order to give you a little bit of Bible background, I heard Malcolm Gladwell not long ago talk about this region of Israel. This is called the Shephelah, This is where the Valley of Elah is. It’s a series of valleys. To the east is the Mediterranean Sea. This is where the Philistines comes from, because they are sea going people and when they settled in the region of Israel, this is the part of Israel that they settled. If you were to look to the west, you’d see the mountains of Israel. This is where Israel ended up after they entered the Promised Land, after they claimed the territory that God had been given them.
This isn’t the first time that Israel and Philistia have sided off against one another in battle. Go back and read the book of Judges. This has happened again and again and again. And by the way, every time this happens, it’s pretty predictable that the Philistines win, and Israel loses. If you pay attention to what you’re reading, Philistia has already invaded Israel. They’re already in Israel’s territory when this whole thing goes down, and it goes down in one of those valleys, what’s referred to today as the Valley of Elah, and this is all or nothing. Everything is at stake in this battle that’s about to take place.
Then Goliath calls for a common practice in biblical times. It’s called representative warfare. “Hey, let’s don’t put both armies in the middle of this valley and let them kill each other. Let’s just do this: You bring out your best warrior. We’ll bring out our best warrior. They’ll just fight each other, and we’ll agree to these terms. Whoever wins the fight, that nation will enslave the other nation.” Think about it like this (for all of you warriors): You are selected to go to Iran and fight against the entire nation of Iran on behalf of the United States. If you lose, the entire United States become servants to another nation. No pressure, right?
That’s what’s going on, but the Bible wants you to know just how intimidating this dude, Goliath, is. This guy is head and shoulders above everybody on the battlefield. This guy is terrifying. In fact, you’ve got to ask the question, why do I get so much detail about this guy in the Bible? -Because he’s so scary, and the more details that the Bible gives you, the more terrifying this man becomes, and everything about him is terrifying, not just to King Saul, but all of the men from the army of Israel. The Bible even makes this really quick comment: These Philistine have outnumbered Israel, and they have technology that Israel doesn’t have. Just the iron tip of that javelin that Goliath is caring is technology that Israel doesn’t have, and everything about this guy is intimidating.
Then the Bible makes it clear for us (I’m not going to read it in verse 16 from 1st Samuel 17) but not once, but for 40 days, Goliath leaves the Philistine camp, comes across the valley, stands at the base of the Israelite side of the mountain, and he defies the God of Israel. He challenges the army of Israel, and for 40 days, every man in Israel’s army, their hearts melt with fear, and you would too. This is just a normal, rational reaction when you see that incredibly imposing man and you’re being invited to go to hand to hand warfare against this guy. All of us would say, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to win this battle,” if you look at it from a normal perspective. But, if you look at it through the eyes of God, if you factor Jesus into this equation, all of a sudden, the math is different. If you remember that there’s one that goes before you and one that stands behind you, and he would go with you onto that battlefield, then you and I have nothing to worry about. The outcome is no longer in your hands. Now it’s in his hands.
If we can just be honest with each other for a second, most of us would have to say, sometimes we get intimidated by the wrong things. Sometimes we get impressed by the wrong things. Sometimes we see a guy or a lady who looks like she has everything going for her. She’s got it all put together, and we get impressed by that, and we don’t get a chance to see what God can see, because he can look deep in the heart, and he sees somebody who’s falling apart at the seams and she’s just barely keeping it all together. From our perspective, it looks like she’s got it all figured out, when in reality, she doesn’t, and she’s freaking out on the inside, just putting a good face on the outside. Sometimes we get intimidated by the wrong things, and we face this mountain of obstacles, this giant of challenges in front of us, and it’s scary. We allow the fear to become overwhelming when in reality, for God, this isn’t a challenge at all. In fact, for God, this is just an opportunity to show off his power, and that, I think, is what we’re seeing here in 1st Samuel 17.
The challenge for all of us, like the challenge for Israel, is to stop looking at your circumstances from a normal perspective and start looking at it through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the eyes of the living God, realizing that he’s got you in the palm of his hand, and he handles whatever happens next.
II. Fight the fire of adversity with faith
That’s the back story on the Valley of Elah in 1st Samuel 17. I want you to see what happens next, because now we’re about ready to fight, and when you fight the fire of adversity, when the challenges, when the giants of obstacles get really intense, the thing that you use to fight that battle is not courage. Listen to me. It’s faith that you use to fight those kinds of battles. In 1st Samuel 17 (we’re going to jump down to verse 24 now), 1st Samuel 17:24 makes this clear. Saul is the king of Israel. Saul is the one who rightly should be going out to defend Israel and to fight for his land, but he is terrified, and he’s ready to pay somebody to go fight for him and that’s what we read. David shows up on the scene. David starts to ask some questions, and here’s what they tell him:
1 Samuel 17:24-25
When all the Israelite men saw Goliath, they retreated from him terrified. 25 Previously, an Israelite man had declared: “Do you see this man who keeps coming out? He comes to defy Israel. The king will make the man who kills him very rich and will give him his daughter. The king will also make the family of that man’s father exempt from paying taxes in Israel.”
If taxes in Israel were anything like they are in the United States, that alone is worth going to fight this guy for right there, and I want you to picture this for just a second, because you have to imagine that you’re David and you have 3 brothers who are serving in the army. You’ve been taking care of your father’s sheep. Your father wants to do something. You’re going to provide some supplies for your brothers, so your father tells you, “Hey, go take these supplies to the army. Go take them to your brother. Make sure that they’ve got everything that they need to fight this battle.” David is just going along doing his thing, and he comes over the ridge into the Valley of Elah. You have to imagine what David just saw and what he just heard because all of the Israelites, all of the Israeli army is lined up on this ridge, and on the opposite side of this valley is a huge mountain range with an impressive army. Their shields and their helmets are all glittering in the sun, and every day, the most important imposing warrior from the Philistine army gets up from that ridge, walks across the valley, comes to the base of the mountain, and he taunts Israel. He is striking fear in them.
Now David just shows up not hearing any of this, not knowing any of this is going on, and when David shows up, David hears this Philistine making these threats, and something is different inside this guy, David. So, David starts to ask some questions. “Hey, I see that the king isn’t going out to fight this guy. I see that nobody else from Israel’s going out to fight this guy. What’s the king going to do for the guy who does go out and fight?” And they say, “Hey, to get this responsibility off of his shoulders, the king will make you filthy rich. He will make you royalty, whatever it takes. You want us to forgive your family’s taxes? We’ll do whatever we’ve got to do. Just somebody else get up and go fight that battle.”
And everyone else in the Israelite army is terrified to get up and walk down that hill, but there’s something different inside of David. Listen, when everyone else is melting with fear, even his three brothers, there is something that’s making him stronger and tougher, and David is willing to do something that nobody else on the side of that hill is willing to do. David, who’s probably 13, 15, 16 years old, is willing to get up and to go down that hill and to square off against this giant of a man and defend Israel.
I want to ask you: Do you think that David is afraid when he sees this man when he walks down the hill? Yes. Of course David is afraid. It’s terrifying to see this man and have to think that you’re going to go down there and on behalf of your entire nation, you’re going to have to defend your country and your way of life, and it’s imminent; there’s no getting out of this. Somebody’s going to have to go down there and fight, and certainly David is terrified, just like everybody else is terrified, but when the rest of them are melting with fear, David gets stronger; David gets tougher. David is willing to face the fears anyway and walk down that hill and to go face that giant.
I had a conversation just about a week and a half ago with the lady from CSU [Columbus State University] at the Student Center I should tell you about because it was really frustrating and very disappointing for me. It’s a lady who has come to our church a couple of times, and she’s been very clear about this: She is not a Christian. She’s just here exploring Christianity. So, I sat down at the Student Center at lunchtime, and I started to have a conversation with her, and I was just hoping to share my faith with her. Every time that I tried to bring Jesus into the conversation, she didn’t want anything to do with it. In fact, every approach that I used, she was ready for it, and she shut me down before I even got it out of my mouth. I mean, like, every approach that I tried, this woman was already defensive and already ready with a response before I could even finish saying it. I was so frustrated, and I was so disappointed.
It’s been 10 years since I’ve had to speak to somebody that was that resistant to the Gospel, and when I was driving away from that CSU campus, coming back to my office, I was thinking, “God, I feel like I’ve disappointed you. I feel like I’ve done something wrong.” And then he had to remind me, “Jeff, you can’t change that woman’s soul. You can’t change anybody’s soul. That’s not in your hands. That’s in my hands.” And I started to think, “Well, what could I have said that would have helped just allow this woman to at least listen honestly to who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for me and how he could do the same thing for her?” And the Lord reminded me of something. “Jeff, she is under the bondage [I would call it this spiritual stronghold] of religion, and it has prepared her well to defend her against hearing honestly about Jesus.” And then, y’all, I went from disappointed to angry. I got angry at these systems of religion that we’ve set up that set these rules that instead of helping somebody get to God, they really hinder somebody from even honestly listening to how they can get to God. I started to get very angry with these man-made religions that prevent somebody from having a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, and I needed the Holy Spirit to remind me, “Jeff, this isn’t in your hands. You’re in a spiritual battle, and your job is to just simply be faithful.”
Let me remind you, Jesus handed his mission to you, and he expects you to continue to do his mission until he comes back, and sometimes the battle is going to go easy; sometimes it’s going to be hard. Sometimes it’s going to be scary, and no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, the challenge for us is just be faithful.
So, when the pressure gets high and when the fears start to mount, when the obstacles seem overwhelming, I want to remind you, courage is not the opposite of fear. Faith is. I’m going to say this one more time in case you missed it. The opposite of fear is not courage. The opposite of fear is faith. Fear says, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I’m scared of what the circumstances in front of me. I don’t know what to do next.” And faith says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m going to step forward and step onto that battlefield, no matter what happens next.” It’s not courage. David was afraid, but when everyone else was melting under the fear, he was getting stronger and tougher and willing to step forward and to face this giant.
III. Your faith is forged in your daily routine
I want to remind you, it’s not these epic moments in life where your faith really gets stronger; it’s actually in the day-to-day routine of life. It’s actually this week when you have the perfect opportunity to cheat on a final exam, and you don’t do it. It’s this week when you get that medical test back or when you’re struggling with the family or with finances, and you really, really don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Exercising the muscle of faith today makes it strong when you’re going to need a lot of faith in the future. Here’s how this story goes. 1st Samuel 17. We’ll pick up at verse 31:
1 Samuel 17:31-37
What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, so he had David brought to him. 32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” 33 But Saul replied, “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young.” 34 David answered Saul: “Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Then David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
“Yeah, I’m freaking out with fear right now, but the God who goes before me, the God who stands behind me, he will go down this mountain with me.” And notice what Saul says. He probably breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, “ Thank you, God.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
David goes down that valley with no javelin, no sword, no helmet, no shield, no body armor. He goes down that valley with just simply a sling and a couple of stones. Now, don’t let this miss your attention. This is a common practice in warfare in David’s day. In fact, it’s so common, go back and read this verse in the Bible: Judges chapter 20, verse 16. The tribe of Benjamin had 700 men who were left-handed. They were so good with slings that they could sling a stone (I’m not making this up; the Bible really says this), they could sling a stone at a hair and not miss it. And I mean human hair, not rabbit. Saul knows this because Saul is from the tribe of Benjamin.
Now, Saul may not be able to swing a stone. He may not even be left-handed. He may not be able to swing a stone like those men can, but Saul knows about this, and Saul knows he can go down that battlefield just like David. He can sling a stone just like David, but Saul’s heart is melting with fear and so is everyone else’s around him, to include David’s 3 brothers. But when everyone else is melting under the fear, there is something else welling up inside of David, and he starts to get angry. When he goes down that mountain, he’s going down that mountain to defend everything that he holds dear.
Listen to me. This battle is imminent. Somebody’s going to have to fight it, and David knows that, but so does everybody else on that mountain. So, what’s the difference between David and the rest of those guys? 1st Samuel 17 says it this way: This is not a battle between Israel and Philistia. This is a battle between good and evil. David puts it this way: That man who just defied the armies of the living God, he’s an uncircumcised Philistine. He is a pagan, false idol worshipper, and we follow the God of the universe. How are we going to allow him to stand up and to taunt our God? This isn’t about us anymore. This isn’t about Israel. This is now about a false idol and the God of the universe, and David decides to do something that no one else is willing to do because this man just defied God himself. David believes that God will go down into that valley with him, and God will give David the victory.
In fact, David even says that. “I will fight this guy. I’ll even say it to his face. God is going to be the one who gets the victory today. -Not me, not Israel.” David’s a guy who has practiced his faith not once, but over and over again, and he did it just in the everyday routine of taking care of his daddy’s sheep on a hillside, and when a lion came and attacked those sheep, David defended him with his own hands. When a bear came, David grabbed that bear and wrestled that bear to the ground and rescued a sheep from his mouth. David is saying, “If God can do that for me during the everyday challenges of life, certainly he can help me out during these gigantic crises of life.”
David works hard, trains hard during the normal routine of life, and it pays off in the biggest moments of life. Go back and read 1st Samuel 17. There are 47 verses, literally, that tell you about the exchange on the side of the mountain, and 4 verses that tell you what happened in the valley. In the Bible, it’s almost as if this is a foregone conclusion. We know how this is going to turn out before David even goes down there, because David has proved God again and again and again in the routine of life on his father’s field, taking care of his daddy’s sheep. So, when he shows up to this epic, gigantic moment in life, David’s ready. And when everyone else is melting with fear, David’s getting stronger, and he’s getting tougher.
• I took the first step of faith today by surrendering my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve let my faith slip a little lately. Pray that I will build it strong again each day this week.
+ I will face my challenges with faith this week.
- Do you know someone who has “lost his or her faith” because of a life crisis?
- Why do some people seem to get stronger during adversity while others seem to get weaker?
- What was different about David from the rest of Israel in the national crisis?
- Reread 1 Samuel 17:9. What will happen to Israel if David doesn’t go out to fight?
- Does David or Goliath’s size matter in a spiritual fight? (Hint: What factor did God play in this encounter?)
- Have you ever stood up to a bully? (If so, explain the outcome.)
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you live out simple faith in the small things this week.