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Facing Your Giants, with Expanded Study Guide: God Still Does the Impossible
by Max Lucado
Learn More | Meet Max Lucado
Facing Your Giants
THE SLENDER, beardless boy kneels by the brook. Mud moistens his knees. Bubbling water cools his hand. Were he to notice, he could study his handsome features in the water. Hair the color of copper. Tanned, sanguine skin and eyes that steal the breath of Hebrew maidens. He searches not for his reflection, however, but for rocks. Stones. Smooth stones. The kind that stack neatly in a shepherd’s pouch, rest flush against a shepherd’s leather sling. Flat rocks that balance heavy on the palm and missile with comet-crashing force into the head of a lion, a bear, or, in this case, a giant.
Goliath stares down from the hillside. Only disbelief keeps him from laughing. He and his Philistine herd have rendered their half of the valley into a forest of spears; a growling, bloodthirsty gang of hoodlums boasting do-rags, BO, and barbed-wire tattoos. Goliath towers above them all: nine feet, nine inches tall in his stocking feet, wearing 125 pounds of armor, and snarling like the main contender at the World Wide Wrestling Federation championship night. He wears a size-20 collar, a 101/2 hat, and a 56-inch belt. His biceps burst, thigh muscles ripple, and boasts belch through the canyon. “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other” (1 Sam. 17:10 NIV). Who will go mano a mano conmigo? Give me your best shot.
No Hebrew volunteers. Until today. Until David.
David just showed up this morning. He clocked out of sheep watching to deliver bread and cheese to his brothers on the battle-front. That’s where David hears Goliath defying God, and that’s when David makes his decision. Then he takes his staff in his hand, and he chooses for himself five smooth stones from the brook and puts them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch that he has, and his sling is in his hand. And he draws near to the Philistine (17:40).1
Goliath scoffs at the kid, nicknames him Twiggy. “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (17:43 NASB). Skinny, scrawny David. Bulky, brutish Goliath. The toothpick versus the tornado. The minibike attacking the eighteen-wheeler. The toy poodle taking on the rottweiler. What odds do you give David against his giant?
Better odds, perhaps, than you give yourself against yours.
Your Goliath doesn’t carry sword or shield; he brandishes blades of unemployment, abandonment, sexual abuse, or depression. Your giant doesn’t parade up and down the hills of Elah; he prances through your office, your bedroom, your classroom. He brings bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, people you can’t please, whiskey you can’t resist, pornography you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake, and a future you can’t face.
You know well the roar of Goliath.
David faced one who foghorned his challenges morning and night. “For forty days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Philistine giant strutted in front of the Israelite army” (17:16 NLT). Yours does the same. First thought of the morning, last worry of the night—your Goliath dominates your day and infiltrates your joy.
How long has he stalked you? Goliath’s family was an ancient foe of the Israelites. Joshua drove them out of the Promised Land three hundred years earlier. He destroyed everyone except the residents of three cities: Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. Gath bred giants like Yosemite grows sequoias. Guess where Goliath was raised. See the G on his letter jacket? Gath High School. His ancestors were to Hebrews what pirates were to Her Majesty’s navy.
Saul’s soldiers saw Goliath and mumbled, “Not again. My dad fought his dad. My granddad fought his granddad.”
You’ve groaned similar words. “I’m becoming a workaholic, just like my father.” “Divorce streaks through our family tree like oak wilt.” “My mom couldn’t keep a friend either. Is this ever going to stop?”
Goliath: the long-standing bully of the valley. Tougher than a two-dollar steak. More snarls than twin Dobermans. He awaits you in the morning, torments you at night. He stalked your ancestors and now looms over you. He blocks the sun and leaves you standing in the shadow of a doubt. “When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope” (17:11 MSG).
But what am I telling you? You know Goliath. You recognize his walk and wince at his talk. You’ve seen your Godzilla. The question is, is he all you see? You know his voice—but is it all you hear? David saw and heard more. Read the first words he spoke, not just in the battle, but in the Bible: “David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” (17:26 NIV).
The question is, is he all you see?
David shows up discussing God. The soldiers mentioned nothing about him, the brothers never spoke his name, but David takes one step onto the stage and raises the subject of the living God. He does the same with King Saul: no chitchat about the battle or questions about the odds. Just a God-birthed announcement: “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (17:37).
He continues the theme with Goliath. When the giant mocks David, the shepherd boy replies:
You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands. (17:45–47 NIV)
No one else discusses God. David discusses no one else but God.
A subplot appears in the story. More than “David versus Goliath,” this is “God-focus versus giant-focus.”
David sees what others don’t and refuses to see what others do. All eyes, except David’s, fall on the brutal, hate-breathing hulk. All compasses, sans David’s, are set on the polestar of the Philistine. All journals, but David’s, describe day after day in the land of the Neanderthal. The people know his taunts, demands, size, and strut. They have majored in Goliath.
David majors in God. He sees the giant, mind you; he just sees God more so. Look carefully at David’s battle cry: “You come to me with a sword, 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” (17:45).
Note the plural noun—armies of Israel. Armies? The common observer sees only one army of Israel. Not David. He sees the Allies on D-day: platoons of angels and infantries of saints, the weapons of the wind and the forces of the earth. God could pellet the enemy with hail as he did for Moses, collapse walls as he did for Joshua, stir thunder as he did for Samuel.2
David sees the armies of God. And because he does, David hurries and runs toward the army to meet the Philistine (17:48).3
David’s brothers cover their eyes, both in fear and embarrassment. Saul sighs as the young Hebrew races to certain death. Goliath throws back his head in laughter, just enough to shift his helmet and expose a square inch of forehead flesh. David spots the target and seizes the moment. The sound of the swirling sling is the only sound in the valley. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. The stone torpedoes through the air and into the skull; Goliath’s eyes cross and legs buckle. He crumples to the ground and dies. David runs over and yanks Goliath’s sword from its sheath, shish-kebabs the Philistine, and cuts off his head.
You might say that David knew how to get a head of his giant.
When was the last time you did the same? How long since you ran toward your challenge? We tend to retreat, duck behind a desk of work or crawl into a nightclub of distraction or a bed of forbidden love. For a moment, a day, or a year, we feel safe, insulated, anesthetized, but then the work runs out, the liquor wears off, or the lover leaves, and we hear Goliath again. Booming. Bombastic.
Try a different tack. Rush your giant with a God-saturated soul. Giant of divorce, you aren’t entering my home! Giant of depression? It may take a lifetime, but you won’t conquer me. Giant of alcohol, bigotry, child abuse, insecurity . . . you’re going down. How long since you loaded your sling and took a swing at your giant?
Too long, you say? Then David is your model. God called him “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV). He gave the appellation to no one else. Not Abraham or Moses or Joseph. He called Paul an apostle, John his beloved, but neither was tagged a man after God’s own heart.
One might read David’s story and wonder what God saw in him. The fellow fell as often as he stood, stumbled as often as he conquered. He stared down Goliath, yet ogled at Bathsheba; defied God-mockers in the valley, yet joined them in the wilderness. An Eagle Scout one day. Chumming with the Mafia the next. He could lead armies but couldn’t manage a family. Raging David. Weeping David. Bloodthirsty. God-hungry. Eight wives. One God.
A man after God’s own heart? That God saw him as such gives hope to us all. David’s life has little to offer the unstained saint. Straight-A souls find David’s story disappointing. The rest of us find it reassuring. We ride the same roller coaster. We alternate between swan dives and belly flops, soufflés and burnt toast.
In David’s good moments, no one was better. In his bad moments, could one be worse? The heart God loved was a checkered one.
We need David’s story. Giants lurk in our neighborhoods. Rejection. Failure. Revenge. Remorse. Our struggles read like a prize-fighter’s itinerary:
- “In the main event, we have Joe the Decent Guy versus the fraternity from Animal House.”
- “Weighing in at 110 pounds, Elizabeth the Checkout Girl will go toe to toe with Jerks who Take and Break Her Heart.”
- “In this corner, the tenuous marriage of Jason and Patricia. In the opposing corner, the challenger from the state of confusion, the home breaker named Distrust.”
Giants. We must face them. Yet we need not face them alone. Focus first, and most, on God. The times David did, giants fell. The days he didn’t, David did.
Test this theory with an open Bible. Read 1 Samuel 17 and list the observations David made regarding Goliath.
I find only two. One statement to Saul about Goliath (v. 36). And one to Goliath’s face: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v. 26 NIV).
That’s it. Two Goliath-related comments (and tacky ones at that) and no questions. No inquiries about Goliath’s skill, age, social standing, or IQ. David asks nothing about the weight of the spear, the size of the shield, or the meaning of the skull and crossbones tattooed on the giant’s bicep. David gives no thought to the diplodocus on the hill. Zilch.
Yet we need not face them alone.
But he gives much thought to God. Read David’s words again, this time underlining his references to his Lord.
“The armies of the living God” (v. 26).
“The armies of the living God” (v. 36).
“The Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (v. 45).
“The Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (v. 46).
“The Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (v. 47).4
I count nine references. God-thoughts outnumber Goliath-thoughts nine to two. How does this ratio compare with yours? Do you ponder God’s grace four times as much as you ponder your guilt? Is your list of blessings four times as long as your list of complaints? Is your mental file of hope four times as thick as your mental file of dread? Are you four times as likely to describe the strength of God as you are the demands of your day?
No? Then David is your man.
Some note the absence of miracles in his story. No Red Sea openings, chariots flaming, or dead Lazaruses walking. No miracles.
But there is one. David is one. A rough-edged walking wonder of God who neon-lights this truth:
Focus on giants—you stumble.
Focus on God—your giants tumble.
Lift your eyes, giant-slayer. The God who made a miracle out of David stands ready to make one out of you.
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