HOW TO CONFRONT LIFE’S CHALLENGES
1ST SAMUEL 17
Last week I started a new sermon series on the life of David. We studied God’s
selection of David to be king of Israel in 1st Samuel 16. We learned that God selected
David because David had a heart for God! I challenged you to develop a heart for God.
Right after his selection to be the next king of Israel, David experienced a huge
challenge in his life. The challenge arose from a difficult person, a Philistine giant by the
name of Goliath.
In our lives, difficult people can present great challenges. Sometimes the most
difficult people are people we must see everyday! These might be family members,
people at work or school, or neighbors. Years ago Bill Adler compiled a list of letters
written by children to their pastors. I have two very brief letters I want to share with you:
Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but he has never met my sister. Arnold
Dear Pastor, We say grace at our house before every meal except at breakfast. Nobody
talks at breakfast. Sally
Many of us learned the story of David and Goliath in Sunday school. Though I
learned the story in Sunday school, I don’t recall learning the point of David’s victory
over Goliath. Perhaps you never learned it either. Here it is: we must confront life’s
challenges with the power of God. Confront life’s challenges with the power of God!
The Bible tells us that the Philistine army and the Israelite army faced each other
in the valley of Elah. The word “Elah” refers to a type of oak tree that occupied the
valley. A group of us from our church visited this valley several years ago on our trip to
Israel. It’s a beautiful valley, 15 miles southwest of Bethlehem that remains relatively
The Philistine champion, Goliath approached the Israelite army. Look in vs.8-10:
“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. 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.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel!
Give me a man and let us fight each other!”
In ancient times, Bedouin tribes often settled conflict by single champions
fighting each other.
The biblical author explains David’s whereabouts. While his three oldest brothers
faced the Philistines with King Saul, David remained in Bethlehem tending the sheep.
David’s father asked him to take grain, cheese and bread to his brothers and find out how
they were doing. David obeyed his father and traveled to the valley of Elah with the food.
David left the food with the officer in charge of supplies and joined his brothers in the
fields. Let’s pick up the story in vs.23: (read vs.23-28)
Eliab chastised David for leaving the sheep and traveling to watch the battle.
Eliab spoke to him like a typical older brother worried about his kid brother He accused
David of being prideful and wicked.
When we try to meet life’s challenges and deal with them face to face, there will
be those who will try to denigrate our efforts. It might be an older brother like Eliab,
older sister, a parent, grandparent, coach, teacher, even pastor!
Retired professional baseball player Brett Butler faced many challenges preparing
to play baseball. He never started for his high school baseball team and one evening at his
high school sports banquet, his coach announced publicly, “here’s Brett Butler getting his
varsity letter and he thinks he’s going to play at Arizona State when he couldn’t even
play for us”. Brett Butler went on to become one of the top 25 lead off hitters in the
history of professional baseball. He retired after the 1997 season with a lifetime batting
average of .290.
David did not let his older brother’s insults and contempt deter his determination
to fight Goliath. Let’s pick up the story again in vs.31-33: “ What David said was
overheard and reported to Saul and Saul sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no
one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him. Saul
replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are
only a boy and he has been a fighting man from his youth”.
While David’s older brother had challenged David’s motives, Saul questioned
David’s fighting prowess. David responded to King Saul in vs.34-37 (read)
So, Saul gave his permission for David to fight Goliath. We know the outcome,
how David defeated Goliath, which we will look at in a few moments. But let me return
to the basic point of the account: we must face life’s challenges with the power of God.
God’s power helps us:
1.Confront life’s challenges with an awareness of God’s faithfulness in the past.
Look again in vs.37:” The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion
and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine”.
David remembered that God had delivered him in the past from certain death as
he rescued sheep and lambs from the vicious attacks of deadly animals. David reasoned
that if God had faithfully rescued him in the past, wouldn’t he continue to do so? David
moved forward with confidence because he remembered God’s faithfulness in his past.
David had a track record with God! He had personally experienced God’s saving
grace. His determination to fight Goliath, the faith he exhibited in God’s power wasn’t an
inexperienced, or untested faith.
Sally and I have personally experienced God’s faithfulness in our past. After
graduating from seminary I didn’t have a job. But God provided a pastoral position four
months later. During the four months of unemployment I had time to take my dying
father-in-law to his cancer treatments. We had quality time with him that we never would
have had if I had been employed and living elsewhere.
God delivered our second child from death on two separate occasions. God led us
to this church family 24 years ago. God has sustained this church for the past 151 years.
After six long and frustrating years of litigation God provided the Conditional Use Permit
to build this facility. God has faithfully provided 90% of the funds to pay for this facility.
When David approached Goliath he relied on God’s faithfulness to him in the
past. He knew he could count on God’s awesome power to win the victory!! When we
experience God’s faithfulness with our challenges, we know we can count on God to help
us with our challenges!
2. Develop resources to confront life’s challenges.
Look in vs.38-44 (read)
David refused to wear Saul’s armor not because it didn’t fit but because he wasn’t
used to wearing armor. By the way, if David was so small as many Sunday school lessons
teach, do you suppose Saul would have even offered him his armor? I don’t think so!
David had been trained to be a shepherd, not a warrior. David preferred a shepherd’s
stick, slingshot and stones, weapons he used to fend off wild animals from his sheep.
David knew these weapons well and he chose to boldly confront the blasphemous Goliath
As we confront life’s challenges we too have armor at our disposal. Our armor
doesn’t consist of stones and slingshots but prayer, the Word of God, a right relationship
with God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul lists the armor of God in
Ephesians, chapter 6. We have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the
gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God. He ends the list by writing, “And pray in the Spirit on all
occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”
Last Sunday afternoon our elders met with presbytery representatives about
concerns we have with our denomination. Several of our prayer team members gathered
here at the church to pray for this two and a half hour long meeting. They prayed the
whole time while we were meeting. In evaluating the meeting the elders shared that they
felt the Holy Spirit’s presence during the meeting. We tackled that challenge with the
armor of God!
Perhaps you’re facing a challenge in your life today. Confront your challenge
with the resources, the armor that God provides.
3. Exercise faith in the power of God as you confront life’s challenges.
Read vs.45-47. What a great proclamation of faith! David confronted Goliath’s
challenge with great confidence in victory! David’s confidence didn’t rest in his own
human ability but in the power of God! David exercised faith in God’s power to confront
the challenge head-on and to overcome and defeat evil.
Veteran Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman confronted a major
challenge in his life this past year. His five year old daughter was killed when
accidentally hit by a vehicle driven by her older brother in the driveway of their home.
Last week Chapman won the Dove Awards artist of the year award. In receiving
the award Chapman said, “ In the past year we’ve been given an opportunity we never
would have signed up for to communicate the hope we have”.
What challenges are you facing this morning in your life? It might have to do with
your health or a loved one’s health. Or, your challenge might have to do with your job or
lack of work. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one recently. Your challenge might concern
someone you have to live with or deal with at work. It might be an addiction of some
kind. Your challenge might be paying off debt. Whatever challenge you face today, you
can face it like David confronted Goliath: with faith in the power of God! Remember
how God has been faithful to you in the past. Develop resources like prayer, bible study,
faith, truth and peace.
In a moment we will celebrate the sacrament of communion. We will do
something else in celebrating this sacrament. As you get up out of your seats to come and
receive communion, our elders and prayer team people will also be available for prayer
around the perimeter of the church. These church leaders would be happy to pray with
you about any challenge you might be experiencing in your life. Let me encourage you to
use this time to seek God’s help and power with your challenge!!