Giants

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David and Goliath. One of the best-known stories of the Bible.  A story of good versus evil in the face of impossible odds.  We learn so much from David here. Faith. Determination. Confidence. Preparation. Fearlessness. All very good lessons. But I saw something in this story that I’d never noticed before and I think it’s a very powerful lesson we need to learn.

When David visited the battle site he discovered that the Israelite army was at a standstill. They were paralyzed with fear and he soon saw why. “Goliath, the Philistine champion stepped out from the lines and shouted his usual defiance” (1 Samuel 17:23). His usual defiance was to belittle them, challenge them, threaten them, and thoroughly intimidate them. He said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel!” (8-10). They were “dismayed and terrified” (v. 11). I imagine so! Goliath was over nine feet tall, wore 125 pounds of armor, and carried a spear with an iron point that weighed 15 pounds (4-7). “When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear” (v. 24). And this went had gone on for forty days – twice a day (16). The Israelites had given up hope.

David saw the same enemy and heard the same schpiel. But he saw it much differently. David demanded, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (26). He realized that the Israelites 1) forgot whose they were, and 2) they were afraid – of words.

You and I have an enemy who looks like a giant in our eyes and all day long he berates us and accuses us and tells us we are worthless. He tells us we’re going down. And we listen – day-after-day-after-day – until we start to believe it.  Because we forget whose we are – that we are the sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Christ. Because we are afraid – of words.

Here’s what the Lord impressed on my heart: Giants must be defeated – not feared.

If you are in Christ, satan’s only weapon against you is words. That’s it. But you have the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Stand your ground, Beloved. You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:38).

The Art of Spiritual Warfare: Know Yourself

A couple of days ago I shared a quote by Sun Tzu, who is credited with writing The Art of War. His premise is that victory in war comes when you know your enemy and know yourself.  From that we explored scripture about knowing our enemy the devil, but more importantly, knowing God. Several of you asked for more on “knowing yourself.” Honestly, I purposely skipped that part of Tzu’s quote because, in the current “Christian” marketplace, there is a glut of music, books, studies, and messages that are heavily self-focused. I believe it is an unhealthy trend. The church has forgotten Jesus’ call.  It’s really hard to “deny yourselves” (Luke 9:23) when you’re always thinking about yourself. But I digress.

There is a biblical directive to “know yourself” – especially in the face of spiritual warfare. The enemy loves to attack your heart. When he says, “God could never love you,” you need to know that He has promised to love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  When he says you are worthless you need to know that God purchased you at a very high price – not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19). When satan says God has forgotten you, be assured that you are engraved on the palm of God’s hand (Isaiah 49:16). Your Father says that  “you are precious and honored in my sight” (Isaiah 43:4). You are redeemed (Galatians 3:13). You are sons [and daughters] of God (Galatians 4:6). You are chosen (Ephesians 1:4).

But there’s another kind of war that your enemy wages You need to know who you are when temptation hits – and you need to know who you are not. Paul said you used to be a slave to wickedness, “but now you have been set free from sin (Romans 6:19-22). You once were dead in your sins but now you are alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Then he added, “Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

Over and over Paul drives home the point – you used to love sin – BUT THAT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE NOW. (Yes I’m shouting – I want you to get this.) You are “more than conquerors” in this battle (Romans 8:37). That, Beloved, is what you need to know about yourself.

Little by Little

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

I am leaving this morning with a group of ladies to a Christian Women’s Conference, with a powerful and godly speaker and a wonderful worship music.  Two days of Christian fellowship, singing, hearing the Word, and no kid or hubby.  I am looking forward to this like a thirsty man in a desert looks forward to a refreshing spring.  I have been blessed to attend many of these conferences over the years, but I confess I have not always gotten what I had hoped out of them.

For many years I approached every conference with the same thought, “This one will change me for good!”  I would go with my journal ready to write down some life-altering truth that would finally “fix” everything in me that was broken.  I knew I would come home so filled with the Spirit that my family, friends, co-workers, even my cat would notice the new me.  And I did hear powerful truths and receive wonderful messages from the Lord.  The praise and worship music would wash over me and cleanse so much of the bitterness and anxiety from my heart.

But I eventually had to come home and before too long, the “old me” would show her snarling face again.  What happened to my life-changing experience?  Can I go back and pick up that new spirit again?  It was the same with the many books I read – surely this book will have the answer to all my struggles and I will be changed when I close the cover.

I bet you can relate on some level.  Sunday after Sunday we go to church with the hope that the Pastor will say something today that will put all our broken pieces back in place.  There are those rare and blessed times that a word spoken or read does produce a life-changing effect, but for most of us, that is not the case.  And I think I am beginning to understand why.

Look back at our key verse and you will see that the transformation we seek is an ongoing work, it is a process, one that won’t be fully completed until we are face to face with the One who began the work.  Look at verse 9 where Paul prays “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Do you see the progression and growth in his words?  Again Paul says, “…that you may become blameless and pure,” (Phil. 2:15, emphasis added), and in Colossians 1:10 – “growing in the knowledge of God.”   Paul also said that “we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).  Being-an action word that denotes an ongoing process.

In our society that glorifies the instant, we struggle with those things that come at a slower pace.   God does not rush us through to spiritual maturity.  A tree that grows rapidly often has a weak root system that cannot anchor it during a storm.

In the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God lead them into a land of promise and blessing, a land that was inhabited by strong, wicked people who were not keen on giving up their homes.  Exodus 23: 28-30 is the Lord’s promise to drive them out – but not in one fell swoop.  Listen to verse 30-“Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”  You see God knew that they would be overwhelmed by the task of settling the land, so He promised to open it up to them “little by little” as they became a stronger nation and could successfully take possession of it.

God has a wonderful possession for you, His child.  He has a legacy of spiritual maturity that He is building in your life and witness, but He will not rush you.  He has a plan, and a timeline for accomplishing that plan.  He desires to build you into a believer with “deeper roots” -roots that will enable you to stand against the storms of life.  He wants to make your life a beautiful offering to His glory.

Do not get discouraged because you are not “there yet,” or because you struggle in your walk.  God sees your heart. He knows you desire to live a victorious Christian life; and the truth is, in His eyes “you are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you” (Rom. 8:37, adapted).

 Holy Father, help me, day by day, to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom. 12:2) and to allow you to work in me to bring me to maturity; a strong tree with deep roots in You.  Amen