The intensity in a National Basketball Association playoff game is so much greater than in the regular season. Every moment before the game begins is filled with loud, flashing moments of high energy that builds until the national anthem is sung. In the 2003 series between the Portland Trailblazers and the Dallas Mavericks, the national anthem of game 4 was sung by a junior high school girl who won a contest. She began to sing strongly but then got lost suddenly- she had forgotten the words! The coach of the Trailblazers, Maurice Cheeks, strides over to her and begins to encourage her and gently sing along to her until she starts singing the anthem again.
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/591559/star spangled banner gone wrong/
This young person was saved in an act of heroism. Where did he get the courage to enter into that situation and redeem it with such gentle decisiveness, such kindness? It was a demonstration of weakness becoming strength, embarrassment becoming pride, vulnerability becoming invulnerability, and shame and humiliation being transformed into happiness!
When David walked across that Valley of Elah, the valley of the oaks, to fight the giant Goliath, he was clearly the underdog. Goliath said, “Bring me a man!” when the boy came walking toward him. We knew in advance that God saw greatness in David. In chapter 16, verse 7, we learned, “Men look at the eyes. God looks at the heart” when David was chosen for a special task. David knew that God saw him as so much more than he appeared. That was why he did not want Saul’s armor, and preferred instead to use only his sling when he faced the giant in battle.
Maybe you wonder if you can face the giant in your life. If you think you are inadequate or ill-equipped, remember that God has given you already exactly what you need to overcome this giant in your life that threatens and fills your life with fear. The good news is, you can face this giant, and win! Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “Now unto him who by the power which is at work within us, unto him who is able to do far more abundantly above and beyond everything we can ask or even begin to dream of, unto him be glory.” We may not understand God’s power or be able to comprehend it, but God is able to provide what is needed to overcome the giant. God is not going to leave us alone. God is going to fill our hearts with courage!
Boris Pasternek, the Russian poet, wrote, “It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but someone’s soul inspired and set ablaze by God.”
God knows that we do not have the armor, the size, or the strength to match that giant, but God leads us to the waters to pick up five smooth stones that we must trust. Then what happens next is in God’s hands, but God makes certain that the task that needs to happen is one that is practiced and available. What puts the stones in the sling and the sling into the air is trust that this can overcome that well- armored, much bigger, much stronger giant against all odds.
This month’s New Yorker magazine article “How David Beats Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell begins with a study of Vivek Ranadivé’s coaching strategy for his daughter’s basketball team. The team’s full court press brought success over much greater opponents. Gladwell uses this to illustrate what happens when weaker sides acknowledge their inadequacy and approach the challenge they face in unconventional ways: David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time…… What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”
The article went on to cite another instance of unconventional response to great odds. It told about a war games contest in which a computer analyzed the possibilities and finally came up with the strategy of using many PT boats. These little boats finally overcame all of the other fleets’ greater military might and the computer won the contest.
There is great trust in God when David fights Goliath. David remembered other moments when God had helped him in battle. He became filled with courage and inspired to stand tall. David remembered, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.”
Those were smaller victories, but they were telling. He used those times as concrete examples of God’s presence and power. Although he had never faced a giant before, he realized that he did have what it takes to win. Let us recall instances in our lives when God provided what was needed to win. Maybe we need to calm ourselves peacefully first. Sometimes the anxiety and fear of facing a giant makes us see only anxiety and fear. We quickly forget that God has provided the power beyond what we thought we could accomplish many times in the past. When we examine instances of God’s presence, we like David will recall the strength only God could have provided.
When I read the story of David and Goliath again, I am moved by David’s visit to the stream to choose the stones. That must have been a super -charged moment of spirituality- reaching into the water and picking up the smooth stones. Holding each of them and remembering how stones just like that have conquered lions, and now will conquer a giant. It must have been an important step in a series of courage building, calming acts of recollection.
Let us remember! It is time to center ourselves to focus upon God so we can face the giant in our lives. Sometimes when we feel outmatched, weak, inadequate, afraid, God’s power reminds us that we are not alone in the middle of the basketball court, or the battlefield of life. We walk with God.
Hear again these words of today’s Psalm 27,
“The LORD is my light and
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold
of my life–
of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house
of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty
of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in
he will hide me in the shelter
of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.”
It is time to face the giant in our lives, with God’s help, we can do it!