1 Samuel 17:42-51 “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.”
Is it a sin to be afraid? Sometimes fear can be a healthy thing. About 15 years ago a man was fooling around with his children at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He saw a ledge just below the part of the rim where he was walking, pretended like he was losing his balance, and then intended to jump down and land on that ledge. Instead he missed the ledge and fell to his death. A healthy fear of the danger would have served him.
The difference between courage and cowardice is not the presence or absence of fear. Fear is appropriate where there is danger. The difference between courage and cowardice is the will or resolve to do the right thing in the face of fear and danger. And Christian courage is always the product of faith in the God who saves his people. That is what distinguished the future king David from so many of his countrymen when threatened by the giant Goliath.
David wasn’t throwing trash talk at Goliath. He knew the truth. He was absolutely convinced of the reality and power of our God. The God of the armies of Israel was the one who destroyed the chariots of Egypt and brought down the walls of Jericho without Israel having to fire a single shot or swing a single sword. This God could flick Goliath away like a fly with his fingers. He was as real and as present for David as any person sitting in the same room with you at this moment.
The God of the armies of Israel is the same God whose love and power have delivered us in way that makes all of this look tiny. Today we know him by the name Jesus. He has defeated giants such as the devil and all his demons. He canceled every one of our sins and destroyed death itself. In those battles we didn’t have to lift even a finger, for Jesus did it all for us by giving up his life for at the cross and taking his life back again in his resurrection.
This same Jesus is still present when we take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, out of its sheath and put it to use. Confronting sin and overcoming unbelief is not about our power. It’s not about our cleverness, our powers of persuasion, our skills in debate. It is about the power of Jesus Christ working in his word.
There is a time for the child of God to retreat when under attack. When the temptations that appeal to the lusts of our own sinful natures lure us, God’s word to us is “Flee!” That’s not the time to engage the temptation to see how long we can hang in there before we finally give in. That would be foolish, not faithful.
But David was facing an entirely different kind of situation here. The Giant Goliath had insulted God. He had called into question God’s power and grace. God’s reputation as the Deliverer of his people was at stake. And when God’s reputation suffers, so does the faith of his people. The real issue here was not the physical battle between an impetuous teenager and a godless giant. It was the spiritual attack on the hearts of God’s people. An entire army stood behind David. But their faith had been compromised by Goliath’s size and threats. That’s why they were behind David, not out meeting the challenge themselves. That meant that more than lives were at stake this day. Their very souls were in danger.
For that kind of battle you can’t get started fast enough. David ran to meet the giant. There is an appropriate sense of urgency for us to get going, to engage our spiritual battle with the world for the hearts of neighbors who don’t know Jesus or church members who are losing their grip on him. For this the signal is never “Flee!” but “Charge!” when we are acting on faith, not fear.