Facing the Giant Facing the Christian

Goliath.  A massive man I’d rather have on my side in any dispute, yet for Israel he stood on the other side.  And he would stand there daily, hurling the usual taunts to the Israelites who perhaps were glad that’s all he would hurl.  Someone would need to face this giant, yet everyone was terrified, the fear gripping the king, Saul, and trickling down through the troops.  No one would come forward.  Until David, of course.  (See 1st Samuel 17 for the full story)

In my fifteen years of being a pastor I have come to realise that there is a giant facing the typical Canadian Christian today.  It is something that strikes fear to the young and old alike.  It causes trembling even among Christians more mature in their faith.  That giant is evangelism.  Yes, the thought that we can verbally share our faith, speaking with others about Jesus, fills many with terror.  So much so that it is rationalised away as being someone else’s responsibility, or as something that does not belong in our pluralistic nation.  David and Goliath have something to teach us about facing this giant facing the Christian.

  1. We face the giant with an anointing.  If we back up one chapter we will find that David is anointed by Samuel to be the future king.  He is not just a shepherd, when he faces Goliath, he is the one chosen by God to someday lead the nation.  Goliath is his opportunity to show his courage and leadership which contrasts sharply with Saul’s.  Also in contrast to Saul, David is able to see the big picture.  Where Saul saw a giant facing ordinary men, David saw a Philistine who would dare to “defy the armies of the living God” (1st Samuel 17:26).  Where Saul saw danger, David saw the protective hand of God (verse 37).  We have an anointing as we face this giant called evangelism: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV).  Do we see the opportunities and hand of God?  Knowing this anointing let us show the courage and leadership of David as we help others come to know the love Lordship of Christ.
  2. The anointing for evangelism is despite appearances. David did not appear to be the best pick for facing Goliath.  There is a reason he was the one left behind with the sheep while his brothers went off to battle.  But David did not appear to be the best pick for being king either.  In chapter 16 Samuel knew that the Lord had chosen one of Jesse’s sons as future king, but as each son passed by, each seeming fit for the job, the Lord passed on them.  Coming to David God made his choice clear.  The unlikely one.  Feel an unlikely candidate for being an evangelist?  Not cut out for the task? Join the club.  Your anointing for evangelism is not based on what you appear to be cut out for.
  3. One must be genuine to face a giant.  Saul offered David his armour, which David dutifully tried on.  However, David knew that it simply was not going to work.  He will face Goliath not as a warrior in armour, but as a shepherd boy with a sling and a stick.  We all know how that turned out.  Do you know how many Billy Grahams there are in the world?  One.  And you are not he!  We cannot face the giant of evangelism as anything but who we are and who we are genuinely becoming in Christ. We must be authentic when we help others find faith.  Trying to be someone we are not is uncomfortable and leaves us ineffective.  Let us find the style and words that fit us.
  4. The anointing will be lost through disobedience.  Before David met Goliath he was anointed to be king.  Before David was anointed to be king, Saul was rejected as king.  Why?  He was disobedient (see chapter 15).  He thought it better to act as king than act as servant to God.  If we will not make ourselves available to God to reach others, if we will not be passionate about those He is passionate about, he will find someone who is.  I believe entire churches lose their anointing for evangelism.  If a church will not reach people for Christ, God will find one that will.  And so as a friend once said, “the mainline church of Canada has become the sidelined church of Canada.”  Let us not shrink back in fear.  Let us face this giant with confidence in and obedience to the One who has anointed us to serve Him and the world He loves.

What We’re For

It was a wonderful puff of smoke that brought about a great silence.  The motor had evidently called it quits and I had to admit that I was glad.  Glad also, that I had kept one of the sails up so that we could continue sailing straight into dock (I don’t think we even lost any speed!).   And the motor’s death meant that I could continue with my passion for sailing.  My parents had bought it for my sailboat, more for my Mum’s peace of mind at the thought of a pre-teen getting stuck in the middle of the lake, than because I actually needed it.  Problem was it was heavy.  It was especially heavy since it seemed to come with 180 lbs of big brother attached.  With the addition of a motor my sailboat suddenly became interesting to my brother which was great, except that he wasn’t really interested in sailing so much as motoring.  I was missing sailing and so was quietly glad that the motor went quiet.  Now don’t get me wrong, it is not that I was against motors (or didn’t like my brother!).  It is that I was passionate about sailing.

Unfortunately as Christians we are often known for what we are against that what we are for.  Here is one example that I have chosen to focus on simply from its prevalence.   We are known for being against sex before marriage.  Many would call our lifting up of celibacy before marriage as out of touch with society and old fashioned.  It is definitely out of touch with today’s society, yes.  I completely understand when a couple comes to me wanting to be married, and they are in fact already living together.  They are doing what seems pretty normal in society and is portrayed as very normal in the media.  But is waiting for marriage for sex simply old fashioned?  Should the church cave in on this one and not bother to teach otherwise like we used to?  When we only approach it negatively as a “thou shall not” it does come across as old fashioned.  The response is “why shall I not” and many have trouble articulating the ‘why not’.  But let’s take a look at what we are actually doing by remaining celibate instead of focussing on what we are not doing as we normally do.

Let’s begin with the beauty of marriage.  Most would agree that being faithful to one’s covenant partner, to one’s spouse is not old fashioned. It is beautiful.  But when should that faithfulness begin?  Does it begin on the wedding day?  Does it begin the day of engagement?  Does it begin when a couple starts dating?  When should we expect faithfulness to begin?  Faithfulness to one’s marriage partner is a lifelong commitment that begins at birth.  What a beautiful moment in a wedding ceremony when each partner speaks of their commitment to faithfulness to each other ’till death do us part’.  It is even more beautiful when the couple knows that this faithfulness has already been practised ‘since I was born’.  That kind and level of faithfulness is not old fashioned, it is beautiful.  You might even call it romantic.

But some will say that faithfulness itself is old fashioned.  That having thrown off much Christian ethic, society should throw off faithfulness as something no longer needed or desirable, that extra-marital sex is now ‘ok’.  But what if faithfulness is not important to God?  Our marriage covenant is often used in the Bible to describe what God’s relationship with the Church is like, and God’s relationship with the Church is used to describe what marriage is like (see especially Ephesians 5:21-33).  Both are covenant relationships.  Not contracts, which are normally drawn up because you want something from the other partner in the contract.  But covenants, drawn up because you want to give yourself to your partner.  That is the kind of covenant God has with us as described so often and in that verse quoted so often: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV John 3:16).  Now what if God had given Himself to us in His wonderful grace and mercy, but then changed His mind?  His covenant faithfulness to us is not old fashioned, it is beautiful and it is something we desperately need!  And so too is faithfulness to our marriage partner something that is beautiful.  Society may turn its back on faithfulness within marriage, though I suspect most people won’t, but in the church we never can.  It is too beautiful, we must be for it.

And so it is with many of the things we are known for being against.  Dig deeper and you can often find out what we are actually for and why it matters.  Do people get a sense from being around us that we against everything?  That we are holier-than-thou? I’ve met Christians that give me that impression.  Or do people get a sense that our passion for holiness has led us to become really beautiful people?  Not a ‘you make me dislike holier-than-thou-people’ type of person, but a ‘you inspire me to be more holy’ type of person.  Thankfully, I’ve met many Christians that give me that impression!

The Great Strawberry Misconception

There was once I time I disliked strawberries.  Actually, dislike is not a strong enough word, better to say loathed.  The texture on the surface looked odd to me.  What other fruit-like food has its seeds on the outside?  At least with an apple you can avoid them, tucked into the core as they are.  And the consistency of them.  I imagined that biting into a strawberry would be rather like biting into the back end of a rather large spider.  No wonder people dip them in chocolate as I cannot imagine any other way to get a spider down.  But now that I am older I like strawberries.  You might guess when it is that I started to like them, especially if you are a mum or a dad.  Yes, I started to like them when  I actually tried one.  I won’t put a date on when that was out of embarrassment for being so silly for so long.  But yes, turns out Mum was right, they are good.

And as it turns out, my greatest problems with the strawberry were not the seeds on the outside, nor the consistency.  My greatest problems with the strawberry were my own misconceptions.  I really had no idea what they were all about.  This happens more than we know with Canadians and Jesus.  A great too many people choose their faith and world-view (or sometimes fall into it without much conscious choosing) based on misconceptions.  Somewhere along the way they have heard that Christians believe this, that, or the other thing, and with this, that, or the other thing not seeming reasonable in any way, they reject Christianity altogether.  Baby Jesus gets thrown out with the bath water.

One does not need to go far to find the misconceptions.  That when we die, we will sprout wings and learn to play harp is one.  I’ve heard it pointed out that having had a good look around space thanks to modern technology, no one has been able to find God “up there” where we expected him to be.  I’ve heard of a mortician who would say to his students during an autopsy, “I can’t find the soul.”  And on it goes.  Heaven, hell, ethics, history, and on it goes into the myriad of misconceptions as to what Christianity is about or what Christians believe.  I read a book by an author who, not being friendly to the classic doctrines of the Christian faith, took the time to convince me that many of the things I do not believe are not true.  Strange, but true.  Personally I could not make the connection as to why, this or that being untrue, I should give up my faith in Jesus.  Far better to keep disbelieving the misconceptions.

We tend to think that all Canadians have heard the gospel, that they have had the opportunity to make an informed choice on whether their world-view will be Christian or not.  And so the activity of evangelism takes a back seat to the activity of lament.  I tend to think that there are a great many Canadians who have neither accepted nor rejected Jesus. After all, they have not come close enough to Jesus to actually know who it is they are to accept or reject.  But they have for now rejected Christianity, or rather what they think Christianity is all about.  As Christians we can be encouraged that a good many people we assume are closed to the gospel of Jesus may not be, they may just be riding along with the misconceptions and would be happy to consider Jesus if someone would just help them.   They’ve looked at, studied, assumed and imagined, but never tried the strawberry.  As the Bible points out “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8a NIV)

Strawberry anyone?