Attempting the Impossible for God
- Ken Burge
- 2012 26 Jul
Are you a fan of the 1960's hit series Gomer Pyle? I am. Do you remember Sergeant Carter's favorite word for Gomer when he systematically goofed-up an assignment? The technical term, I believe, was "knucklehead." I'm not exactly sure what that word means but I'm convinced it wasn't a complement.
I vividly recall an instance now more than thirty-years ago when I played the role of a knucklehead. My friend had recently acquired his drivers license. There were a few of us in the car drinking sodas and we threw our bottles simultaneously out the window when we had finished our beverage. I remember hearing a loud smashing noise as the bottles hit the pavement. This mindless event occurred approximately one-half mile away from our destination (to my friend's house).
Shortly after we reached our terminus I was in my buddy's backyard when he called to me saying there was a man at the front door with broken glass in his hands. Defiantly I went to take out my knife because I didn't know what to expect when I reached the front of the house. As long as I live I will never forget the admonition my friend gave to me when he observed that I was taking out my knife. He pleaded, "Kenny put away the knife, it will just make him mad."
Have you ever wondered what a big, burly mountain man might look like? Well, I was about to see face-to-face the biggest and wildest looking man in my life. This incident always makes me remember Moe's quote from the Three Stooges when he observed a colossal figure of a man. He quipped, "That's not a man, that's a committee!" No wonder why my compatriot in stupidity said, "Kenny, put away the knife, it will just make him mad."
Let me now take you back, not just over thirty-years ago, but three thousand years to the Valley of Elah. This valley located Southwest of Jerusalem had become an arena where one audacious looking character was "staring down" Israel's army under the leadership of another tall man who was head-and-shoulders above the average person.
Can you envision Saul, the commander-in chief, pacing the camp with his spear in hand pondering whether he should personally do battle with the gargantuan warrior from Gath? Perhaps one of the captains--after looking at the giant--said to the king, "Saul, put away the spear, it will just make him mad." Goliath is obviously Saul's foremost challenge. What is your number one conspicuous ministry obstruction?
We are living in an ever-changing world. How do you reach those individuals who are ethnically or culturally different? (I am a Caucasian minister who has observed my community change over thirty-years from predominantly Caucasian to a majority African-American, and now becoming predominantly Hispanic.) Perhaps you need additional staff at your church; however, where will the necessary funding come from in the midst of a declining economy? Feel free to fill-in-the blank to the following question. My greatest ministry challenge is _____________________.
The problem with Saul's army and our ministry can be one-and-the same: we are visually challenged. What is it that David understood that an entire army couldn't perceive? There are some vital ministry lessons to learn from David's encounter with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Let's "see" this account together that we might not be intimidated from attempting the impossible for God.
1. The enemy is enormous and intimidating
Goliath is appropriately called "a champion" in v. 4. The word literally means "the man between the two." This imposing "one man committee" is standing between the two armies looking for a duel. He is the Philistines "representative."
There are conceivably more details about Goliath's physical appearance than any other biblical character to show the behemoth's invincibility. He is approximately 9-feet 9-inches tall. (In modern times, Robert Pershing Wadlow was 8-feet 11-inches tall when he died at age twenty-two on July 15, 1940.) Wouldn't any NBA team love having a man whose head almost reaches the rim?
Goliath is not only as tall as a modern skyscraper but he is strong. The coat that he dons weighs approximately 125-pounds. Contrast that to a modern firefighter whose gear weighs 40-pounds. He easily wears more protective gear than an NHL hockey goalie. Even the poundage of his iron spearhead, which is shaped like a flame, weighs 15-pounds.
The challenge given by Goliath to Saul was his worst nightmare. You see, Israel and Saul have a similar problem: they walked by sight and not by faith. Israel wanted a king (whom they could see) to lead them like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:19-20). Saul fit the bill because 1 Sam. 10:23 reports that "he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward."
My friends, do you meet your ministerial challenges by faith or by sight? Getting ensnared by our physical senses isn't something new. Even Samuel, who had a spotless reputation, allowed his physical faculties to lead the way in choosing a king to replace Saul. When he "saw" Eliab, Jesse's oldest and perhaps tallest son, he declared in 1 Sam. 16:6, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him." This boo-boo in perception was immediately corrected by God who advised His seer in the very next verse, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature."
There will be no lack of deterrents in the believer's life. God might be leading you to further education but you can't visualize that possibility because currently there is too much month at the end of the money. Perhaps you feel the Spirit's tugging to begin a new ministry but you hesitate because the seemingly impossible barrier in front of you is a paralyzing fear (because you've tried it before and failed). Whatever your impediment, remember that the enemy is enormous and intimidating.
2. Engage the enemy with the eyes of faith
In 1 Samuel 17:12-22, David the son of Jesse, one of eight brothers, is dispatched by his father to bring his three older brothers who were in the army food and to check and see how the battle was going. David is now with the army when Goliath makes an appearance. 1 Samuel 17:24 states "And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid." Once again, sight ruled the day.
These same men ask David in the following verse, "Have you seen this man who has come up?" Despite the offer from the king to richly reward the man who could defeat this large nemesis, there are no takers among the enlisted men. Conversely, the civilian David who is more than willing to face the giant is brought to the king.
Saul asks David about his credentials to meet a proven champion. David confidently replies in vv. 36-37, "Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. 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 the Philistine." Clearly, David had his eyes upon the invisible God who had demonstrated His faithfulness to him in the past, while the Israelite army was awestruck with this hulk of a man.
How about you, do you engage the enemy with the eyes of faith or do you permit your sight to govern your heart? The great hymn writer Isaac Watts penned these words based upon Psalm 90, which are worthy of our consideration:
O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.
Faith can be defined as taking God at His Word and acting upon it. This is what the trembling king and his fearful army should have embraced. Deut. 33:26-27 offers, "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!'" Don't forget, whatever blockade is before you, engage the enemy with the eyes of faith.
3. Overcome the impossible for God's glory
Goliath has enough armament for a one-man army; David's weapons are non- conventional. Besides carrying his sling and five smooth stones, David approaches Goliath with a very different worldview. He states in v. 45, "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, whom you have defied."
The apostle Paul condones David's thinking when he writes in 2 Cor. 10:3-4, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds." Paul, like David, didn't trust in the things that he could see, but in the unseen God. This is the strategy that every child of God must employ.
David doesn't hesitate to tell Goliath that His God had already given him the victory and that his carcass was about to provide a large feast for the birds and wild animals (v.46). He next declares in v. 47 "Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands."
Our story climaxes in vv. 48-51 when David overcomes the impossible for the glory of God by sinking a stone into Goliath's forehead and then chopping off his head with the giant's own sword. David's faith should encourage us to ponder the marvelous victory that his greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ provided for us through His death and resurrection. Child of God, what should we fear knowing that our Lord has taken the sting out of death? In the context of resurrection, Paul proclaims in 1 Cor. 15:57, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." My friends, we don't fight for victory but from victory.
Who is he who triumphs over the world and how is the victory gained? 1 John 5:4 exclaims, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." We can never meet the blockades of life and ministry unless we engage them with the eyes of faith. The writer of Hebrews unequivocally avers, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).
In conclusion, you might be wondering what the outcome was with King Kong, Jr.? Thankfully, he graciously only gave us a much needed lecture. My prayer for you is that, although the enemy is enormous and intimidating, you will engage him with the eyes of faith and overcome the impossible for God's glory!