July 10, 2015

Winning those gigantic battles

1 Samuel 17:1–58, James 5:1–12, Psalm 119:153–176

How do Christians deal with huge problems? In my experience and observations, several ways come to mind, each depending totally on God for their effectiveness.

Most often, Christians pray that the problem goes away. If sick, we ask for healing. If unemployed, we ask for a job. If we suffer loss, we ask God to fill in the gaps and replace what is missing. In other words, the solution is that God will remove the problem.

Sometimes we ask for strength to fight the problem. This includes wisdom and good doctors, direction for the best job interview. We want it solved and want God to help us solve it, giving us the wisdom, strength, and wherewithal to do it.

Another way is how David dealt with the problem of Goliath. He met it head on, in the name of the Lord. He wanted the rest of God’s people to know that God fights our battles and He does not need us to be strong in order for Him to defeat whatever comes against us.

David said to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and 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.” (1 Samuel 17:45–47)

This story inspires God’s people. It is often used to illustrate our need to take the bull by the horns in the name of the Lord. However, it suggests something else. David is a type of Christ, and Goliath seems like a type of those colossal and overwhelming attacks of the tempter, the evil one who seeks to destroy me. He defies me and I become immobilized by his threats if I look at my own inabilities and past failures.

Yet it is true that I cannot defeat any sin by relying on the armies of my own strength, but Jesus can. He came in the name of God to show us that the Lord does not need might or power to defeat sin. He did it in weakness and death. He wants me to see that being ill-equipped to battle my spiritual enemy is not a hindrance; David did it with a mere sling and a stone. I don’t need anything more than whatever the Lord puts in my hands and my heart.

The NT adds another important part of winning such a battle. It says that when in duress, patience is also important. God may not remove or defeat the problem immediately. He may have a purpose for it, using it to teach me endurance for instance.

As an example, in one long-lasting battle, I’ve learned how to focus on what the Lord has done for me already, and to be thankful for that, rather than chaffing under the repeated attacks against me. He has also taught me to persist in praise for His goodness and what He has given me, instead of grumbling about what is missing.

“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10–11)

Long ago, the psalmist also understood how to win those big battles. He was relentlessly persecuted and prayed this way: “Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!  . . . . Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules . . . . Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments. My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.” (Psalm 119:154, 156, 165–168)

Through these words, God adds more instruction. These verses remind me how vital it is to remember the will of God and to be obedient. As James says, submission to God precedes the ability to resist the devil. If I am fighting God, I’ve no hope of defeating the real danger that opposes me. 

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