Why You Got David and Goliath Wrong

David-and-Goliath

We love the story of David and Goliath. But,we do not understand the story. We see the narrative as a great example of how we can save ourselves from the giants of adversity through good analysis, elbow-grease, and ingenuity. The famous columnist Malcolm Gladwell said the story of David and Goliath reveals that the underdog status empowers people to realize that “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” For example, Goliath’s size which appeared unconquerable ended up being his undoing because he could not dodge a little stone. We all want to be David and craft our story of “greatness and beauty” overcoming our Goliaths of depression, bad bosses, anxiety, disease, and divorce.

But the author of 1 Samuel never intended for us to identify with David. He wanted us to see ourselves as the nation of Israel. Goliath did not challenge David. He challenged the armies of Israel. The text of 1 Samuel 17:10-11 reports that Goliath said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day.” And in verse 25, the army of Israel understood that Goliath has challenged them. They reported that Goliath, “has come up to defy Israel.” Goliath was picking on the army, an army that did not include David. He was simply visiting his brothers for the weekend.  If we have a Goliath in our life defying our God, we are not David, we are the nation of Israel. Goliath is not David’s giant; he is our giant.

When David began to take an interest in fighting Goliath, he understood that Goliath was not his problem. In verses 26 and 36, he clearly stated that the uncircumcised Philistine was defying the “armies of the living God.” David did not have a personal beef with Goliath. The Philistine warrior was not mocking David or his daddy. This fight was not indicative a David overcoming, his pride, depression, or unemployment. As Andrew Willet noted, “it was the honor of God and the reproach of the people of God that moved David to act.” David is overcoming someoneelse’s giant; David is overcoming our giant. David is not a type of you and me. He is a type of Christ, a type of savior. David is not a picture of you and I overcoming the obstacles in our life. He is a picture of “Christ (the true David)” who conquered the greatest giant of all, sin and death.

The point of David and Goliath was not that we turn the impossible odds of our puny lives into spectacular triumphs. The point of David and Goliath is that the savior will save all who trust him. We are not called to fight the giant. We should not run get some stones of personal improvement. We are called to trust our great shield and defender who has already conquered death for us.

The next time we face a giant who wears the armor of insecurity, poverty, depression, broken relationships, and hate, we are to lean into Christ. We are to remember that God has already cut off the head of the snake by living the perfect life we were supposed to live, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead on the third day (Col 2:9-14).

He disarmed the rules and authorities and put them to open shame, triumphing over them in him (Col. 2:15).

We cry out to the savior because he promised that the same power that raised Christ will give us victory in this life (Col 2:12). We stop working to overcome our giants because we know, “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14b-15).”

God saves those who cannot save themselves. This was the point of David and Goliath. This is the beauty of the gospel. This uss the hope of those who face giants. 

Are you ready to give up your savior complex? Are you ready to embrace the story of David and Goliath for what it really is? Are you ready to stop pretending that you are David?

Do I Need To Win My Child To Christ?

paul-bence-221565Are we responsible for the salvation of our toddler who just jammed an entire waffle into her mouth and the teenager who just texted us that she might have hit a pole when backing up? Will God find fault with us if we fail to usher our children into the kingdom of God before trade in their pig tails for a college I.D. card?

Some pastors would say, “Yes.” Paul proclaimed, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them to Christ” (I Corinthians 9:19). As the following verses make clear Paul did anything and everything he could to win people to Christ. He suffered all kinds of hardships; he argued the gospel from all kinds or perspectives. He worked hard to win many to Christ. “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some, ” he reported (I Corinthians 9:22b).

Paul appears to be implying that parents must work hard to win their children to the Lord. We parents seem to be responsible for making sure little Johnny walks the aisle and for making sure little Sarah gets baptized. We must talk, persuade, and influence our kids until they are willing to accept the Christian life. We must win them for the Lord while the day is young.

While such thinking is pervasive in SBC circles and in evangelicalism in general, such thinking is not ultimately biblical thinking. Flip back to 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:1. Paul tackles the Corinthians’ boastful thinking by reminding them that God does all the work. God saves sinners as the apostles preached (1 Corinthians 1:21). God chose those whom would believe (I Corinthians 1:27,28, 31). Paul clearly did not believe that his sermons, his evangelism strategies, and his programs caused people to repent and believe.

He wrote in I Corinthians 2:1-2 these words:

And I, when I came you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and hum crucified.

Paul saved no one.

We will save no one. Even if we get junior to repeat a prayer after us, we have saved not saved Junior. We are not responsible for winning our children to Christ. We do not have to play the right music, leverage the right amount of guilt, or seize the perfect moment when our kid is both still and awake. Nor do we have to hold our kid hostage in a spiritual timeout, suspending our family movie night until our girl repents and believes.

We can save no one with our passion, sincerity, and skill.  Only God brings dead souls to life through his Word (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering face and let it make it’s proper impact on us. – J.I. Packer

We do not have to worry about saving our children. We are not called to win them or anyone else to Christ. We are called to proclaim the gospel. As Mark Dever cautions us, “Evangelism must not be confused with the fruit of evangelism.”

We can rest assured that our job is only to teach our kids about the gospel. We can be like Paul and share the gospel with the son who thinks he can work his way to heaven by obeying his parents’ rules. We can evangelize our daughter who believes she can find joy apart from obedience to Christ through self-fulfillment via sex. We can point our son to Christ as he grieves his latest break up; we can point our daughter to Christ as she mourns her rejection from her top college of choice. We can at all times and in all circumstances point our children to Christ.

To be a soul winner is to be a parent who sacrifices all for the chance to share Christ with their children.

We have to be willing to skip our favorite T.V. show, mess up our vacation plans, and lose money on non-refundable tickets. We have to be willing to play with dump trucks and rub a sore knee, and do everything in between. We have to be willing to be all things to our children. J.I. Packer said,

The truth is that personal evangelism is very costly, just because it demands of us a really personal relationship with the other person.

Do we have personal relationships with our children? Are we sacrificing all to get to know our children so that we can love them, train them, and point them to the gospel? Or are we just the bank, the shuttle driver, and the tutor? Do we know the kids sleeping under our roof?

We should know our kids. But, we do not have to add ‘salvation’ to our list of parental responsibilities. To be a soul winner is to be a preacher of the gospel. We can do this.  Moreover, we must do this as our own obedience and the vitality of our faith is directly tied to us sharing Christ with our children (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6).

Thankfully, many of our kids are open and receptive to hearing the gospel from our lips. Some eighty-six percent of Americans today claim that their family influenced their identity. How you respond to your kids’ angry bat toss, their perfect report card, and their completion of their driver exam will shape them for better or for worse.

What are will telling our kids? Are we sharing the gospel with them?

Hope Begins With Hopelessness

hopelessOxymoron is not usually the first that comes to mind when we mention things like te gospel, evangelism, and salvation. Yet at its core, the gospel is an oxymoron. The hope filled gospel begins by saying there is no hope. To get to hope, we have to become hopeless. Oxymoron.

In Mark 10:17-22, we watch in disappointment as the Rich Younger Ruler approaches Jesus for salvation only to walk away “sorrowful.” But to fully grasp the magnitude what the story means, we need to put ourselves in the apostles’ shoes. The apostles thought that the Rich Young Ruler was the most ideal candidate for salvation. When they thought about rich people, their minds did not drift to the abuses of the poor that we see on our T.V. screens from the all four corners of our nation. They did not envision morally destitute celebrities or crooked business men pocketing other people’s money. Their minds would have been filled with images of Abraham, David and Solomon, godly men who gained wealth because of their obedience. In other words, they thought that wealth equaled godliness. They fully expected Jesus to welcome the young man with open arms. They could not imagine a moral ideal candidate for salvation. If you had one rose left on the bacheloret, you would give it to this guy every time. The disciples are expected this guy to be the one.

But he is not. The rose is withheld. And now like a bunch of high school girls, the disciples are dumfounded. There whole world is falling apart.  They do not know what to say.

Thankful Jesus does. He turns to his disciples and tells them:

“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Though the disciples saw wealth as an advantage. Jesus saw it as a hindrance. Often those who are wealthy can insulate themselves from the problems and cares that destroy the poor. The rich can afford good housing, medical care, and food. They tend to think of themselves as being self-sufficient. They can mistake the physical wealth for spiritual blessing. Money can blind people to their own sin.

Even more striking than the condemnation of money is Jesus’ condemnation of those who have money. The people we think are most primed for heaven are actually separated from heaven by an impassable gulf. And to make sure the disciples and all of us know that there is no way for the good people of this world to make it to heaven, Christ gives us the analogy of a camel going through the eye of a needle. He says that it is easier for an animal that weighs between 661-882 lbs to walk through a gap millimeters wide than for a rich man to work his way to heaven. Salvation by works alone is impossible.

Now in recent years, some pastors have tried to equate the needle with the needle gate. They claim that a camel stripped of his baggage could walk through the tiny needle gate if it were willing to humbly crawl through the small door. But this is not Christ’s point. The disciples respond in horror, saying “Then who can be saved.” The context of this passage reveals, that Jesus is communicating that no one can work through way into heaven.  He is not saying that salvation is barely possible. He is not saying that salvation will be possible for those who pray a magical prayer or for those who walk down front. He is saying that it is impossible for anyone to save himself. No one can come to Jesus in their own strength. No amount of church attendance, of gifts to our wives, or donations to our church can get us to heaven.

We cannot save any person. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot come up with any method of praying or prayers that get us and others to Jesus. We cannot reach Jesus in our own strength and power. As the Pastor Matt Chandler said,

You cannot scare anyone in heaven….it’s a place for those who love God. You can scare people into coming to your church, you can scare people into trying to be good, you can scare people into giving money, you can even scare them into walking down an aisle and praying a certain prayer, but you cannot scare people into loving God. You just can’t do it.

We cannot do anything to save ourselves or others. Even our church services and revivals have no power to save people from their sins.

So then why do it? Why have church services? Why preach? Why witness? If the wordily people closest to God cannot reach God, then surely there is not hope for the rest of us.

As the disciples have the exact some question, saying, “Then who can be saved?”

A whole bunch of people. Notice verse 27. “With man it is impossible, but not with God for all things are possible with God.” Ah what glorious news. We do not save. We cannot save nor come up with the perfect program, sermon series, or social media platform that will bring the next revival. We cannot do any of those things. But hope is not lost because God saves.

When can tell our lost sister about Jesus for the 100th time, we can encourage the drug addict to repent and believe, we can tell the serial adulterer to repent and expect change to happen because God works. God does not save the self-righteous. He does not save those who think, they have no need of a savior. But, he does save. He saves the most unlikely men and women. He saves the lost cause. He saves the person that society writes off as a failure.

When the rest of our families loses hope, we can and should keep praying because nothing is impossible with God. God can touch the heart and bring life in the twinkling of the eye. In a second, years of death can be transformed into life. Things can and do move past our control and influence. But no person can run away from God. If God can turn murdering Paul into an apostle, he can surely redeem us and our sons daughter, neighbors, and coworkers. Do not lose hope. Nothing is impossible with God.

The great oxymoron of the gospel is that the hopeless have true hope because God saves. God saves those who trust in him for salvation. He saves those who have realized that they cannot save themselves. Hopelessness begets hope.