Facing Our Giants

Facing Our Giants – 05.05.2019
[1 Samuel 17:1-15 and 1 Samuel 17: 41-47]

          In 2006, in Arizona, a bicyclist was run over by a Camaro, and trapped beneath the wheels. A man by the name of Tom Boyle Jr. saw what happened, went over and, with a rush of adrenaline, lifted the two front wheels off the ground and the bicyclist was pulled free. It’s a familiar story: the adrenaline rush lets human do impossible things to save someone. There are lots of stories like this one, with young mothers lifting cars, garage doors, etc – and the explanation is always: adrenaline rush can make you do amazing things. But the unique piece of the story of Tom Boyle of Arizona, with the Camaro and the cyclist, is that Tom was a weight lifter. He was well aware of his physical limitations. Vladimir Zatsiorsky is a biomechanics specialist at Penn State. He came up with a formula for something he calls the “Absolute Strength” of a person. The “absolute strength” is the theoretical maximum that your muscle fibers, tendons and bones can take. Regardless of adrenaline, there is a limit to how much your bones can take.

   Tom Boyle was a weight lifter who could, on a really good day, lift about 700 pounds. Now, with an infusion of adrenaline and the pressure of the moment, Vladimir Zatsiorsky calculated that his maximum strength was roughly 875 pounds. Tom Boyle’s muscles and bones couldn’t take much more than that. The world record for weight lifting is roughly 1,003 pounds. The article I was reading, from skeptoid.com, stated “No matter what inspiration, mental mode or adrenalin rush came over him, lifting much more than that would have resulted in structural failure, and the car would have fallen and crushed the young cyclist.” 875 pounds was Tom Boyle’s physical limit. The effort required to lift the front two wheels of a Camaro, like Tom did, was 3000 pounds. It was impossible. And yet, there is a cyclist alive today because of what Tom did. 3000 pounds. More than triple what the biomechanics specialist calculated was physically possible for his muscle fibers. Truly impossible.

          Now, I feel like we all know the story of David and Goliath. Even non-Christians and folks who haven’t seen the inside of a church in decades, know the story of David and Goliath. Small shepherd boy takes down a giant – it’s the greatest underdog metaphor ever written. But let’s back up a bit and set the stage to see just why David and Goliath was such a big deal. At this time in history, in this world – most cities had their very own deities. At this time, every city or nation had their own god. And the power of that God was demonstrated by victory in battle. Soldiers didn’t win battles. Kings didn’t win battles. Gods won battles. So defeating a neighboring country wasn’t about beating the humans – it was showing that my God beat your god up. Leaders would take their armies into ridiculous battle situations, if they believed their god was stronger than their enemies’ god. The Old Testament is full of stories of underdog armies, supported by God, defeating much bigger, stronger and better trained armies. So in our story, the battle lines are drawn, and Goliath comes out and it says, [read v.10-11]. Now remember, it’s not about the armies – it’s my God versus your god and so, the Israelites fear isn’t just recognizing the powerful enemy in front of them – it’s also a vote of no confidence in their God. King Saul, the very first king of Israel, had a habit of doubting God. When he was faced with difficulty, instead of trusting God, he ran away to other options.

   Now David was the runt of the family, the youngest, smallest, weakest brother. So he tended the sheep while his brothers were out fighting. And so one day he goes to bring food and supplies to his brothers.  [Read 1 Samuel 17:20-26] I love David’s response to the challenge. “Who IS this guy?” He’s just astounded that Goliath would say those things and go unchallenged. He says, Who is this guy who would defy the armies of the living God? Which is the next thing I want you to notice, Israel is not King Saul’s army, it’s the armies of the living God. David understands that this is God’s battle. But that’s one of the fundamental assumptions of this text. It’s God’s battle. David is completely unconcerned that the man is nine feet tall. Here’s the parallel: Life is God’s battle. Let me say that again – Life, everything we do, everything we are, every struggle we face, is God’s battle. God will fight for us, if we can just trust Him to do it.
   So then David came before Saul, he said, “I’ll do it. I will face the giant.” King Saul said, in verse 37 [verse 37-39]. Saul tries to outfit David with his armor. Your facing a giant, you’ve gotta use my armor – my solution. But here’s the thing – facing the giants in our lives is a unique adventure. What works for one man, doesn’t work for another. There is no cookie-cutter solution to every problem. I hear a lot of people, pastors and people in the congregation start conversations with, “Well, you know what the one problem with the church is?” Or “You know what they really need is to do this…” as if there was just one solution to the problem. There are thousands of problems with the church and no one solution is going to fix everything. Anytime starts talking like they have the silver bullet, or the one program or idea that will completely save the church – you should stop listening. Church life, just like the rest of life, is complicated and takes lots of solutions. David could not have beaten Goliath with Saul’s armor. He would have died. David came at Goliath from a different angle, one nobody else had thought of – and he defeated the giant.
      I tell this story a lot, because I think it really illustrates the point. There once was a man who lived in a valley. Now a storm was coming and the valley was going to flood. All the news-crews warned everyone to evacuate the valley – but the man said, “Nope, I don’t need to. I’ll just pray to God and God will save me.” So everyone else evacuated, and the rains began. The water began to rise and came up to the man’s window. A woman rode by in a canoe and she said, “Hop on in, I’ll bring you to safety.” The man said, “Nope, I’ll just pray to God and God will save me.” And he went back to praying. The rains kept coming and the water rose higher. The man moved to the second story of his house. A rescue boat came by and the rescue worker shouted, “Hop on in, I’ll bring you to safety.” But again the man said, “Nope, I’ll just pray to God and God will save me.” And he went back to praying. Well the rains kept coming and the water rose even higher – and the man moved up onto the roof of his house. A helicopter came by and the rescue worker used a megaphone to shout, “Climb the rope and we’ll bring you to safety.” The man shouted back, “Nope, I’ll just pray to God and God will save me.” As you can imagine – the man drowned. And when he got to heaven, he turned to God and said, “What’s the deal? Why didn’t you save me?” and God responded, “I sent two boats and a helicopter – what more did you want?” 
     The first thing we realize is that God will fight for us, because our life is God’s battle, but the second thing I want you to see in the text is that we have to be open to God using surprising methods. David, the shepherd boy, was a surprising method. No-one, literally no one, thought he could do it. Not his brothers, not the prophet Samuel, not the king, not even his own father. [verse 45-47] It would have been impossible for David to defeat Goliath. No, it WAS impossible for David to defeat the giant. He couldn’t do it. But God could, and God did.


      The good news this morning is that God fights for us. In the moments of our lives when we are facing a giant, facing an impossible obstacle – we cannot do it, but God can. God fights for us, and He loves to use unexpected, underdog methods to get it done. 

So the question we have now is: what are our giants? What are the things in your life that is shouting you down, telling you that you can’t do it. What problems are so huge that they are simply impossible to take down? We each have our unique struggles. Maybe for you it’s tithing, the giant of money troubles. Maybe when you put your budget together, it’s just impossible to make space for God in there. Maybe for you it’s prayer time or personal devotion. Maybe when you put your schedule together – it’s just impossible to make time to pray for others. Another personal giant is reading the bible every day. The bible is hard to understand, it’s boring, it’s really long, and I mean, every day? It’s just impossible. Other giants are more devastating in how they affect those around us. – addictions, struggles with honesty, adultery, anger, hate. Here’s one I know we like to ignore – gossip.

      When we don’t know how to handle something, and we are embarrassed to ask, we ignore it. We leave it in the corner and hope it goes away. But the giants in our lives feed on our fears. They are like rot, or mold. If you ignore them, they will grow and grow and grow. Think about this, when you notice ants in the kitchen, do you just give up and say, “Whelp, I guess they live here now forever. We’ll just have to move out or store our food somewhere else.” ? Or course not! You deal with the problem, clean up the kitchen and get rid of the ants. It’s the same with our life. Can you imagine if the Israelites had just decided to live with Goliath shouting at them every day? Well, I guess he’ll just yell mean things about us every day. Nothing we can do about it.
     But Pastor JJ, my personal giants are a much bigger deal than ants in the kitchen. It’s true – some issues in life are more difficult than others. But when we remember who is in charge, when we remember whose battle it is – when we remember that God fights for us, the problems level out. I don’t care if your sins, your struggles, your giants are teeny tiny or enormous – God can handle them. But Pastor JJ, my giants are impossible – I just can’t beat them. Good, you’ve recognized the first step. The first step to overcoming your giants is to realize that you can’t do it alone. But we are not alone, and to God, impossible is not even a word.        
   Step 1: Recognize how big the giants are. Step 2: Admit your struggles. I think more problems are created in the church because of embarrassment than anything else. This is supposed to be a place of invitation, mercy and grace – and yet we’ve got people afraid to admit they are struggling! This has two sides. First – we need to be open and admit our struggles. Second – we need to create space for others to be open and admit their struggles. Nobody can improve if they are afraid to admit something happened. Recognize how big your giants are, then admit your struggles and step 3: Face Your Giants. Do something about it. It is not enough to be able to list our weaknesses – we have to face them and tear them down.
          Beyond our personal struggles, there are things that we as a group have built up into giants. One of the biggest giants we face as a group are assumptions. There are things in our life that we simply accept with a shrug. Nothing we can do about it. I guess we will just listen to Goliath taunt us every day and do nothing about it. For example: the divorce rate in America has been statistically shown to hover right around 50% for years now. But the way we say it nowadays is to use it as a statement of fact. We don’t say, “Statistics show divorce rate is about 50%.” We say, “50% of marriages fail.” Like that’s just how it is and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. I say baloney. I say it is a Giant we have let taunt us for far too long. Like David with Goliath, it’s time for us to say, “Who IS this guy? He’s gotta go.” Are we going to sit by and shrug our shoulders while the divorce rate becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as people begin to enter that covenant with the expectation of a 50/50 chance? Absolutely not! There is so much we can do to tear down that giant – but that’s a whole different sermon.
       Another communal giant we struggle with is the Sabbath. More and more people are giving up on the idea of having a day of rest. They don’t have time for that. I see it a lot with Youth. The comment I hear constantly is: “Well, kids are just busier than they used to be.” I’ll say again – baloney. Sure, kids are busy and they’ve got a lot going on. Does that mean that God has to be the first thing off the schedule when times get busy? The idea of taking a day for rest and worship is not a polite suggestion. It’s a commandment! God is telling us, little humans, you need a break. Your body needs rest, your mind needs rest, your soul needs revitalizing. America is pulling away from God, and they are trying to fill that void with work and crazy schedules. Are we going to stand by and let them implode from exhaustion? Of course not! Let’s tear down that giant.
       What’s another one? Alcohol and sex. There’s one that nobody likes to talk about. People look at children getting absolutely trashed, and making just terrible choices in love and sex and they just say – “Well, that’s what you do in college. It’s that wild time in life.” And so a description of what some people do that has become a statement of fact. A giant we have let stand over us for far too long – so long that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what they say, and now this is what kids expect when they get to college. I’m here this morning to tell you that there is a better way. I say we tear down that giant.     [pause.]
     Maybe I freaked you out with all that, but I promise I’m not delusional. I know we cannot stop teen drinking and pregnancy by getting pumped up by one sermon about it. We’re not going to get rid of Sunday sports practices by next service – I know that. We’re not going to fix the divorce rate by the time we have our next wedding. But ignoring these things doesn’t help either. They’re not going to just go away. And I have no intention of letting these giants stay there. Step 1: Identify the Impossible, recognize how big the giants are. Step 2: Admit our Struggles. Step 3: Face Our Giants. One more thing – some giants will not come crumbling down instantly, no matter what stones we throw at it. Some giants have to be systematically torn apart, worn down before they can be eliminated. It can be frustrating – but lasting, sustainable change takes time. We will move forward in baby steps. But baby steps are still steps forward.
In 2006, Tom Boyle Jr. lifted a Camaro off a cyclist who was trapped. The lifting power was 3,000 pounds, which is calculated to be over three times the maximum weight that his muscles and bones could take. It was impossible. The website I was reading the story from concluding that the story had been mis-represented. They concluded that because it was impossible – someone must have exaggerated. Maybe the car was on an incline was balanced in a way that the weight load wasn’t as much as expected. And maybe. Maybe some of the stories are exaggerated. But as I scrolled through the stories, I saw time after time of individuals doing impossible things. A mom lifted a car off her son. A police officer lifted a truck out of the mud off a baby. A woman lifted a motorized garage door off a puppy. A man lifted a crashed helicopter off a friend. The list goes on. Somewhere in there, I believe the impossible happened. We all have our personal giants, we all have our communal giants. And there’s a reason we call them giants. They are big. They are scary. They are intimidating. And so I’ll leave you with this, May we remember that God fights for us, that the battle is the Lords. Our lives are God’s battle. That’s the moment trust is born. Once trust is born, confidence is renewed – and then we can face our giants. Amen.

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