But There Are Giants in the Land!

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” ― Donald Miller

When’s the last time you came face to face with a giant? How did it make you feel? Afraid, uncertain, faithless, ready to run?

Giants come in all sorts of disguises.

  • Some rear their ugly heads, over and over, pushing back and preventing us from making important transitions to the next step.
  • There are monsters that seem to lurk very near. We believe lies about who we are and we carry around terrible and heavy baggage from the past.
  • Some giants are new and appear as we reach different passages in life like marriage, children, career, sickness and loss. They strike fear as we face our inadequacies and realize hidden dependence.

Facing big challenges is an unavoidable part of living. Children of God typically have two choices when confronted with giants – cower in fear or march headlong with that shield of faith. Where have you got your shield stored these days?

The little brother David (maybe as young as 15) said this when he marched out to face the nine-foot tall Goliath…

“You come to me carrying a sword and spear and javelin as your weapons, but I come armed with the name of the Eternal One, the Commander of heavenly armies, the True God of the armies of Israel, the One you have insulted. This very day, the Eternal One will give you into my hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-46 (The Voice)

In this life, there’s always going to be something in your way. It’s unrealistic to expect a life with an empty horizon. Please don’t saddle yourself with unnecessary guilt because you have to face dark monsters along your way. We all do. Just remember that when you come up against these big obstacles in your life, there’s never anything in God’s way.

David could conquer this nine-foot tall fear monger because he marched forward without looking, only believing. Go back and read his challenge again. The most important thing to remember is that the real giant that you and I face is our lack of faith. Faith is the most important building block that God uses to transform our lives.

 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” – Mark 5:34

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. – Ephesians 6:16

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” – Matthew 14:29-31

When the young shepherd David was anointed King of Israel in a private family ceremony, the Prophet Samuel addressed the family’s concerns with this deep truth: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

God is in the business of transforming what matters eternally. He’s always at work trying to get us to believe first and see last. That nine-foot tall Goliath had the entire army of Israel trembling in fear. He looked terrifying. He went down with just a little rock from the river bed. Who would have believed it?  “For we live by believing and not by seeing.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

The army of Israel was watching with their eyes and trembling in fear. David ran headlong into the conflict with only his belief to carry him to victory. How are you going to get past your giant? God’s not really worried about Goliath. His interest is focused on what’s happening deep inside your soul. He’s looking at your heart. Look around, there are little rocks all over the place. Pick up a few and put them in plain sight so you’ll remember how easy it is to knock down that giant. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Jesus, Mark 9:23)

“It is often in our weaknesses that God’s strength is most clearly perceived, and it is often in doing something the world sees as backwards that we are taking spiritual steps forward.” –Trevin Wax

Believing is Seeing

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Pity me that the heart
is slow to learn
what the swift mind
beholds at every turn

– Edna St. Vincent Milay

When you’re looking at the world and all its traffic racing past you every day, how do you tend to see things? What shapes your “definition of the situation” as you navigate through all of those opportunities and obstacles? What do you see when you get a glance of that mirror deep in your own heart? Is this who you thought you were going to be at this point in your life?

At the end of the day, are you being transformed – even your perceptions and all that excess baggage buried deep in the basement?

Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!  – Matthew 6:22-23

One clue to the state of your transformation is your eyesight. Our perception of reality is connected to how we think and feel. Attitudes shape perceptions. Perceptions shape attitudes. It’s usually easy to figure out how someone sees and thinks by listening to what comes out of their mouth. Have you spent much time listening to yourself lately? Real transformation effects the whole you.

…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  – Romans 12:2

I thought I would get there one day. That I’d finally cross all the bridges and arrive in that vast field of dreams.  I’d be there having learned the hard lessons and would be wise. What a bitter revelation now, to see that field so very far away, almost beyond reach. Transformation never stops, it keeps on working, rooting out all the stubborn holdouts that cling to this life. I guess it’s a good sign, that this essential work is still happening in my hardheaded soul. But of course, my pride is bruised and my ego is not a happy camper.  I still need to be saved, just about every single day, usually from myself.

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and the heart has turned to stone.”   ― Thomas Merton

Faith and Fatalism

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Americans like explanations. It’s an important part of our pragmatic culture.

I often notice that when we don’t know the reason why we often spit out some sort of fatalistic explanation. It doesn’t hold much theological water, but it makes us feel better in the midst of those storms of uncertainty.

  • “This just must be what God meant to happen.”
  • “Somehow it’s all going to work out in the end.”
  • “I trust that all these things that are happening to me are God’s will”

There are lots of problems with this kind of thinking and believing. Let me just present you with a few examples from the Bible that challenge us to be actively engaged in our life of faith and might perhaps help us understand why things don’t always work out the way we hoped…

James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Seeking forgiveness and praying for others produces results. It changes the way things are. Our spiritual activity can alter the course of our lives.

Mark 6:5-6 – And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.  Jesus is ministering in his own hometown and he can’t do what he wants to do – perform miracles, change people’s lives, show people how much God loves them. Why? Because they don’t believe. Our lack of faith can prevent God’s plans from happening.

Luke 18:1 – One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. This is the story about the persistent widow who badgered a mean and heathen judge day and night for justice. He finally gave in just because she was bothering him. Jesus says, So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! He concludes by warning that he fears he will return to earth and find that not many will have kept the faith. Justice comes as a result of our persistence. We are persistent because we have faith. We have faith because we put it to use by being persistent (??).

The Christian faith is not a fatalistic experience at all. Jesus taught that we are to be fully engaged in bringing about transformation in our own lives and in the lives of everyone around us. It happens because we have faith, faith that acts. And maybe it doesn’t happen, not because that’s the way it was meant to be…but because we didn’t have the faith.

If you’re praying for rain, then why aren’t you taking an umbrella with you each day?

 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? – James 2:14