Read: 1 Samuel 17
We all know the story of David and Goliath, but do you know how you can kill the giants you may be facing, giants like sin, discouragement, fear? The answer is, by faith!
Most of us can’t remember the first time we heard the story of David and Goliath, but none of us will ever forget it — the menacing figure of boastful Goliath, the heroic courage of young David, the drama building up to their encounter in the valley, and the thrilling conclusion as young David fires his sling, fells the giant, and wins a great victory for the people of God.
But what I’d like you to think about is how to kill a giant for yourself. All of us face them during the course of our lives. They might come in the form of accident or sickness, job loss, family problems, perhaps spiritual doubts or difficulties, or our own stubborn sins; all these things can leave us facing what Bunyan called, “The Giant Despair.” We all will need to face a giant at some time, which gives each of us a personal interest in understanding just how David won his victory over Goliath.
The Key to David’s Victory
So let’s go back to look at the familiar story. The Philistine army has marched into Israelite territory. The armies have pitched camp on opposite sides of a valley, separated by a steep ravine and a dry creek bed running down its middle. The Philistines are supremely confident. After all, they have an invincible weapon in their camp, in the form of a gigantic warrior named Goliath.
Goliath presents a terrifying sight: fully armed he’s nine-feet tall, covered from head to toe in gleaming bronze. His body armor weighs 150 lbs, the head of his spear nearly 20. Thus armored, Goliath comes out every day to taunt the men of Israel. He mocks them and their God, and challenges them to send a champion of their own out to meet him in single combat.
Saul should have been the one to go meet Goliath — it was his place as king to do so. He too was tall and strong; he had armor not unlike the giant’s, and once he had led Israel to great victories. But Saul has lost his faith, and with it his courage, and so he looks for some other brave man to go in his place, promising huge rewards to the one who can defeat the enemy. Perhaps he believed he would never have to pay off.
Then one day young David visits Israel’s camp. He’s only bringing some treats from home to his older brothers who are on active duty with the army. But David hears the heathen Philistine insults, and he bristles with righteous indignation. He accepts the challenge, and eventually goes out to meet Goliath alone, with only his shepherd’s staff and sling. As David comes forward to meet the giant, Goliath can’t believe what he sees. He laughs, he mocks the boy; then he curses and threatens. He moves forward with disdain, thinking to squash David like a bug. But God has determined a very different outcome, and moments later Goliath lies dead on the field. The Lord used David as his instrument to win a great victory, not just for David individually, but for all the people of God.
So what’s the key to this victory? What is it that set David apart from all the rest of the soldiers of Israel? It wasn’t just his courage. Others in Israel’s army had proved their bravery, most notably Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend. Nor was it David’s natural strength and skill. David wasn’t the only young man with a sling at his side, we may be sure; there were hundreds more like him in the army of Israel. Nor was David the only good shot; many, I think, could have matched him stone for stone. No, it was something else that set David apart — it was his faith in the Lord.
Faith, according to the writer of Hebrews, means having a sure conviction about things we can’t prove by seeing; specifically, it’s being sure about God and his Word. And God was real to David — that’s what made him different. The brilliant mathematician and Christian writer Blaise Pascal wrote, “We all believe in that dead word God; but there is only one here and another there who really and truly believes in the living, ever-present God.” David was one of those. He wasn’t confident that he could defeat Goliath himself; he was confident that the Lord would defeat Goliath through him. It was David’s unshakable faith in God that lead to victory. Here is how the writer to Hebrews explains it:
David . . . through faith . . . escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32ff)
Faith in God produces boldness for God, and boldness for God produces victory through God. That’s David’s lesson.
The Keys to David’s Faith
But maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all very well and good, but how could I ever hope to have that kind of faith?” But giant-killing faith is within reach for every Christian. Let me describe some of the qualities it has. First, such faith is based on the nature of God. Listen to what David says to Goliath,
You come with sword and spear, but I come . . . in the name of the Lord of hosts. (v. 45)
The name of the Lord. In the Bible, that means the nature of God. It refers to his power, sovereignty, grace, and holiness — and everything else that makes God God. So David is basing his faith on God’s character. Moreover, he invokes one specific name — the Lord of hosts — that calls attention to one specific aspect of God’s nature.
When the Allies were preparing to invade Europe in World War II, they gave overall authority to one man, Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom they named Supreme Commander of Allied Forces. Well, that’s exactly what “Lord of Hosts” means — God is the Supreme Commander of all forces, both physical and spiritual, in the whole universe.
The key to having great faith is to believe in a great God. Your faith is only as good as the God you put it in. We believe in the living God, the Lord of Hosts. If you want greater faith, get to know him better, study his Word, meditate on his nature.
Here’s a second key: Our faith is strengthened by our past experiences with God (vv. 34-36). When King Saul expressed doubt about David’s ability to fight, David told him about the times God had delivered him in the past from attacks of wild animals as he guarded his father’s sheep in the wilderness. “The Lord who delivered me from the bear and the lion will deliver me from this Philistine,” says David confidently.
Faith grows through trial and experience. Writing to his young friend Timothy about his various trials before the Roman authorities, the apostle Paul said, “The Lord stood by me . . . so I was rescued . . . and the Lord will rescue me and save me” (2 Timothy 4:17). Like Paul, David’s faith wasn’t flabby; it was ready to face the great test because he had been exercising it all along.
Because of God’s character, our faith can argue from past help to future deliverance. Believers can be confident that what God has done he will do again. You know, the world can’t do that. A football team can’t say, “Because we won last game, we’re going to win the next one too.” There are simply too many variables that affect the outcome. But a believer can say, “Since God delivered me the last time, I can trust that he will deliver me the next time, because in the midst of all life’s variables the Lord is an unchanging constant.” So faith grows from past experience.
Here’s another key to David’s victorious faith: he was completely devoted to the glory of God in what he attempted to do (v. 46). You see, David had only one motive in engaging Goliath; not the hope of a reward from Saul, not to win glory for himself, not even the patriotic desire to save his country. David himself explains why he fought. He would defeat Goliath, he says, so that “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” Faith like that, which doesn’t care anything about self-glory but cares everything for God’s glory, is the sort of faith that can kill a giant.
And finally, this last key to explain David’s faith: he trusted absolutely in the sovereignty of God, that God was in control, and God would guide and govern the outcome (v. 47). “The battle is the Lord’s,” David proclaimed, and he believed it. This was David’s unwavering conviction.
The whole story of David and Goliath from one angle looks like a remarkable series of coincidences: by chance Jesse decides to send David to see how his brothers are doing, by chance David happens to arrive just as Goliath is uttering his challenge, by chance Saul hears of David’s brave words against the giant and agrees to let him fight. So David goes out alone and virtually unarmed and by chance the only unprotected part of Goliath is his forehead, and then again by chance that’s exactly the spot David’s stone strikes. By chance? Hardly! David knows the secret, you see, and he confidently announces it to Goliath beforehand:
This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand. (vv. 46-47)
That’s great faith, faith in a great God, faith that is grown and developed out of our past experiences. Faith that cares only about God’s glory, faith that rests in God’s sovereignty.
Talking of faith, what about yours? David’s faith was magnificent, wasn’t it? But it can’t help you. You need your own. There is no such thing as faith by proxy. Your friends and family can do many things for you, but they can’t believe in God or trust in Christ for you. You need to do that yourself. So when you face the giants, you will have to rely on own faith. Is it there?
About the Author
Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.