Fathers Need A Giant Sized Faith
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"Fathers Need A Giant Sized Faith"
(1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49)
A Sunday School teacher was telling the class the story of David and Goliath. He really got into it and told it with lots of gestures and movements and sound effects. He finished by telling how little David killed the giant Goliath with a rock from his sling. At the end of the story he asked the class what lesson they had learned. One of the little boys popped up and said: "Duck!"
Goliath should have ducked. The story of David and Goliath is probably the best known story from the Old Testament. Kids love it because it has the lure and power of a hero. The underdog; the quiet misunderstood kid; the one without any respect; wins over insurmountable odds. Preachers love David and Goliath because it's so easy to moralize about; making Goliath symbolize the problems of the world and David our faith. I like it because it's a really great adventure and faith story about a teenager living out his faith and coming to the rescue of a whole nation. For some reason, teenagers don't get a whole lot of good press. But here they do. Not only that, but I think David and his confrontation with Goliath can teach us some things about being good fathers.
We all know the story. Israel is at war with the Philistines. Saul and the Israelite army lined up on one side of the Elah River and the Philistine army lined up on the other. On the first day as they began sizing each other up. They all rattled their swords and shields and spears. They stomped and pounded the earth. Each one trying to out yell the other. Kind of like the pep rallies and marching bands at a college or high school football game. They were trying to psyche each other out and pump themselves up. The Israelites and the Philistines faced off.
But then the Philistines sent out their secret weapon. They'd come equipped with a ringer. As the two armies lined up, the ranks of the Philistines split and out came Goliath of Gath. The Israelites saw Goliath and their hearts sank. Their jaws dropped open in shock, their eyes popped out and the color drained out of the faces like the old cartoon characters. You could hear the collective gulp of fear from the Israelite army.
They sometimes did sort of a strange but noble thing back then when they fought. Each side chose a warrior and they faced off like the American Gladiators, in head to head competition. In this case, who ever won the battle, won the war. No wonder the Philistines chose Goliath, right?
Goliath. The name struck fear into the hearts of the Israelites. When they saw him towering over them like the big bad wolf, the Israelites became all huff and no puff. That was when the Philistines really starting hooting and taunting. They could see that the Israelites were scared. Shoot, they could hear their knees knocking. And ours would be, too. Goliath looked like a Sherman Tank. He was over nine and a half feet tall and weighed over four hundred pounds. He wore a bronze helmet. His coat of mail weighed a 110 pounds. His spear was the size of a small tree, the spearhead, alone, weighed over 13 pounds. This was one bad dude. He was King Kong and the Terminator rolled into one, only with an attitude. He made Shaquille O'Neil look like a little boy. No wonder the Israelites were shaking in their shoes.
Every morning for forty days, the Philistines came out and challenged the Israelites. "Where's YOUR champion? Where's YOUR warrior?" And then they'd laugh. The Israelites sat in their tents and shivered in fear. They remind me of a poem I heard on the old Dick Van Dyke show. The poem was entitled "FEET:" by Scoutmaster Allen. A Poem glorifying the pedal extremities.
You need feet to stand up straight with,
You need feet to kick your friends,
You need feet to keep your socks on,
And stop your legs from fraying at the ends.
You need feet to stand on tippy-toe,
Or to dance the hootchie-koo.
Yes, the whole world needs feet for something,
And I need feet to run away from you.
That's exactly how the Israelites felt every time they saw Goliath. Then one day this young man, David, showed up to bring his brothers bread and cheese. He heard all the commotion from Goliath. He heard the taunts and jeers, so he went to King Saul and said, "I'll fight him." Saul and his entourage just laughed. But David insisted. So they decked him out in the kings armor. But he couldn't move. He looked like a goofball and felt even goofier. He shucked the armor, took his staff, went down to the stream, fished around for a bit and came up with five smooth stones. It was there that David called on his secret weapon; one that no one else seemed to think of. While on his knees in wadi, fishing for stones, David sent his secret weapon on ahead. David prayed for God to prepare the way. Then he went and confronted the Philistine warrior, Goliath.
It was Gumby verses Godzilla. It was like MacCauley Culkin challenging Michael Jordan to a game of basketball for the NBA championship. Goliath was both amused and offended. There was Goliath decked out in all the armor of war, grim and forboding. There was David with his shepherds staff, a sling, a couple of smooth stones and a truckload of faith. Goliath cursed David for his audacity. David simply said, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of God. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down."
Goliath growled and said, "You impudent little snot, I'll sock your face so far down into your oxfords that they'll call you puss in boots," and he charged. David whipped out his sling, loaded a stone, wound up and with a flick of his wrist brought Goliath tumbling to the ground. The ground shook like L.A. in and earthquake. And so did the Philistines. They watched as David stepped forward and decapitated Goliath with his Goliath's own sword.
That's a great story of faith over might. Might doesn't always make right. It shows that, occasionally, the little guy does win. And, I guess it just goes to show that with God on your side, you'll always get a head. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
I think the story does teach us a some very valuable lessons about faith and life and even about the kind of stuff it takes to be good Fathers. So let's look at three qualities which David had which Fathers need today.
I. POSITIVE ATTITUDE:
First of all, David had a positive attitude. What do I mean by that? Well, Everybody else looked at Goliath and thought he was too big to tangle with, too big to hit. But David looked at Goliath and thought he was too big to miss. We've all heard that a negative attitude can destroy us. A negative attitude builds upon fear and uncertainty. A positive attitude builds courage and determination. Courage isn't the absence of fear, courage is doing what needs to be done despite your fears. A positive attitude helps build courage and overcome fears. Fears on the other hand can cripple, whether it's an army, faith or a business project.
The legendary Knute Rockne knew the power of fear and used it to good advantage. Today we call it "psyching out your opponent." Notre Dame was facing a very critical football game against the vastly superior University of Southern California. So Rockne recruited every big, brawny, bulky student he could find at Notre Dame. He suited up about a hundred of these "HULKS" in the school uniform. On the day of the game the USC team ran out on the field first and awaited the visiting Fighting Irish. Then, out of the dressing room came an army of green giants who kept on coming and coming and coming. The USC team panicked. Their coach reminded them that Rockne could only play eleven men at a time, but the damage was done. USC lost that day. They didn't lose to the hundred men, Rockne didn't play any of them. They were beaten by their own fear. (1)
David didn't let his fears get the better of him. David saw Goliath and saw an opportunity for God to show just how mighty God could be. As fathers, as parents, we need that same kind of positive attitude in our lives, in our faith, in our homes. There is so much negative in the world. There are so many negative images and negative role models. Our children, our families, others in the world need to see and hear a positive message. We need to build up and not tear down. We need to strengthen our families, our church, our schools, our community with a positive attitude that helps and builds.
Moses didn't say, "I don't do rivers." Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks." David didn't say, "I don't do giants." Paul didn't say, "I don't do letters." Jesus didn't say, "I don't do crosses." They each did what God asked of them with a positive attitude. Parents, especially fathers, need a positive attitude.
II. REJECTED THE STATUS QUO:
The second thing we notice about David in this passage, is that David challenged the status quo. Everybody else compared Goliath's size to their own and that made Goliath awfully big. But David compared Goliath to God, which made Goliath awfully small. David rejected the status quo.
Now don't get me wrong, David didn't just arbitrarily decide that nothing was working. He didn't just dump all of tradition in the garbage. David was smart enough to realize that not all tradition is bad. But he certainly challenged those that were outdated and ludicrous.
It was expected that a warrior would wear armor for a big important battle like the one with Goliath. But Saul's armor made David look like an imbecile. It made him feel like a child playing pretend by wearing Daddy's shoes and hat. David knew he was supposed to wear that armor, it was tradition. But instead of following the status quo, he cast it aside. And it wasn't done foolheartedly, it was done in response to God's guidance and his faith in God.
So how does that translate into something viable for us today. There are some pretty strong myths about fatherhood which need to be challenged. Somewhere along the line, we've all bought into a bunch of them. Partly it's the influence of our parents and traditions about parenting which have been handed down from generation to generation. Some of it is influence from the media. Some of it is just not knowing what to do. Moms seem to be better at nurturing. That's made apparent in the book Dads Say the Dumbest Things. Sometimes Dads don't even know the words. Listen to this bedtime story.
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men had scrambled eggs for breakfast. Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who traded a cow for some beans and grew a beanstalk that was so big a giant almost ate him. So he cut down the beanstalk. And they all lived happily ever after - except for the giant.
OK, one last story. Once upon a time, something happened. Then everybody lived happily ever after. Now go to sleep! (2)
It might have been okay at one time to divide parental responsibilities. But we don't live in Leave It To Beaverland anymore. In today's society it nearly always takes both parents working to make ends meet. And it definitely takes both parents parenting to nurture an emotionally and spiritually healthy family. Somehow, guys have bought into the idea that Moms are the ones who are supposed to nurture the children. That it's the Moms who are supposed to teach them about faith and church and all that kind of stuff. All Dad's have to do is bring home the paycheck, keep the grass mowed and control the remote for the television.
We need to challenge some of those traditions. If our kids are going to have the faith and fortitude it needs to survive in the world, we are going to have to make them morally and spiritually strong. And we can't do it like some of our fathers did by saying "Do what I say and not what I do." We have to teach by example.
Did you know that only about 25% of the children who go to church by themselves will continue in church when they become adults. About 50% of the children who go to church with Mom will go when they become adults. But if Mom and Dad both go, about 85% of those kids grow up to be active church goers. You can give your children an 85% chance of going to church when they are adults by setting the example and coming with them now.
A little boy was talking to his Dad and said, "But I don't want to go to Church." Dad told him he had to go. The boy objected and said, "Bet it won't do me any good either." Dad got up and the whole family went to Church together.
David challenged and rejected some of the status quo and tradition, not just because it was the status quo but because, like Saul's armor it didn't fit. Sometimes we wrap ourselves in traditions that make us look just as ridiculous as David in Saul's armor. We're called to look at everything through the eyes of faith and the eyes of God. Is our attitude or our tradition really what God would want? Does it build up or pull down? As fathers, as parents, we need to be constantly looking at our attitudes and traditions. We need to be good and faithful role models.
III. DEEP DEPENDANCE UPON GOD:
A. Finally, David had a positive attitude and was able to challenge the status quo because he had a deep dependence upon God. While everybody else was shaking in their shoes at the sight of Goliath, David was down at the wadi on his knees praying. David depended upon God for everything and God was with him.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could always say the same thing? David's heart was with God. David depended upon God. While Saul and all the others were depending upon the armor to protect David, David was down at the Wadi collecting stones. Scripture doesn't tell us how long he was gone or how long he was down on his knees looking for just the right stone. But you can bet that the whole time he was on his knees, he was praying.
It's like a certain father who listened as his son told him about his first serious conflict at school. He had been picked on by three bullies who punched him and knocked him off his bike as he was riding home. The bullies had made life difficult for the boy, and he told his father that they threatened to do more harm the next morning. The boy was scared and didn't know what to do.
That evening his father taught his son some basic techniques on how to defend himself. Together they explored all the possibilities, including the possibility that he might try to win them over as friends. Dad worked hard to build up his son's self-confidence. The next morning the father and son prayed together. And with a reassuring embrace and a handshake, the Dad smiled confidently and said, "You can do it, son. I know you'll make out all right."
With that assurance the boy got on his bike and rode off to school. What the son didn't know was that his father followed him in the car that day. He stayed just far enough behind to remain out of sight, but close enough to come to his son's assistance if needed. If there was trouble the father would be there. The son might have thought he was all alone, but his father was behind him all the way. (3)
Like that father and son, knowing that God is with us is a great comfort. People are able to face all sorts of giants when they know that God is with them. Like David, we need to depend fully upon God.
The story of David and Goliath was being taught in five-year-old Sunday School class one Sunday. In explaining the story to the children, the teacher asked, "What would YOU do if you were in David's shoes today?"
Without hesitation one of the boys spouted, "I'd call 911!" (4)
I wish that were the answer to all of our problems in the world but it's not. We can't pick up the phone and get rescued. But we can live the life of faith. Jesus Christ, the son of God, knows how hard life can be. He walked where we walk. He knows our needs before we ever even ask. At the Last Supper he told the disciples, "Look you're going to have all kinds of problems. You'll have good days and bad days all the rest of your life. It's not because of anything you did or didn't do. It's just a part of life. It happens to us all. The difference for YOU though, is me. I'll be with you every step of the way."
We need to remember that. God is with us. Fathers need a giant sized faith to live in today's world and like David, we need a positive attitude. We need to challenge the traditions: especially as it concerns what it means to be a father and we need to have a deep dependence upon God. Then when the Goliaths of life get in your face, when the giants are at your door, you can keep the faith and trust that God is with you.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. A. Philip Parham, LETTING GOD, (New York: Harper & Row).
2. Taken from Dads Say The Dumbest Things, by Bruce Lansky and K. L. Jones, published by Meadowbrook Press,Deephaven, Minnesota, 1989.
3. Tim Hansel. YOU GOTTA' KEEP DANCIN'. (Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1985), p. 135.
4. COUNTRY WOMAN Sep/Oct 1990 (Milwaukee, WI)