Meeting Opposition

One of the reasons Christians often feel powerless in adverse conditions is that we do not understand the power and nature of the God we serve, nor do we understand our role in making the power and nature of God known in the world.

These days, we are fixed on a cookie-cutter concept of spiritual development. We have the process down to a science, but spiritual formation is not one-size-fits-all. God sends an exceptional person with incredible gifts hovering just under the surface among us, and all we see is a person who does not fit neatly into the mix. We see it as our duty to sort him out or show him out, but God has sent him to break down barriers and broaden our field of vision.

I am thinking of the story of David confronting Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17.

The Armies of Israel are pinned down and threatened when a little shepherd boy comes wondering in to visit with his brothers who are a part of the army. The gathering is facing an unassailable opponent who threatens them on an existential level. The little shepherd boy saunters up and says, “Let me handle that for you.”

Everybody laughs, but the king is so desperate, he is willing to consider sending the boy in. He asks him why he thinks he could handle the situation, and the boy replies, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” That roughly translates “I am used to facing giants who are stronger than I am, because when I do the will of God, God does the heavy lifting.”

Saul was willing to give it a shot because he was fresh out of options. So, we read, “Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.” The accepted, approved approach did not suit him.

“‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So, he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”

Because he had to do something, Saul sent David in. The giant handed down some trash talk, but David’s response was anything but that. Instead, it was a clear declaration of faith in God with a side order of righteous indignation. “David said to the Philistine, ‘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. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.’”

Life itself is spiritual formation if we see God as the Lord of all. There is no spiritual and secular, there is only the living-out of God’s holiness and the recognition of our lives as channels of God’s power to resist oppression and release grace into the world. That is the key to rushing past fear and meeting life’s giants head-on. The power is not in the tools in our hands. Rather, we are in the hands of Power, and our skill set is the collection of tools God will use to breach the lines of oppression if we are simply obedient.

There is armor, and there is a sword, but they are not designed by craftsmen or forged in natural fire. They are custom designed by our own Creator and fitted to us as we kneel in divine presence. They are invisible to our mortal enemies, but they shine out to demons, and send them scurrying for cover. Our natural weapon may be a simple stone and sling, but the Power behind us leaves nuclear armaments pale in comparison.  

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

1 Samuel 17, New International Version

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