WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: TIME FOR IMPROVEMENT

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise, I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t, I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes the answers are easy. Sometimes hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

Thanks for giving me a few moments of your time. Allow me to share with you some of the things God showed me recently  about the troubles we go through from time to time.

IT’S SOUL-IMPROVEMENT TIME

When things don’t pan out the way we thought they would, sometimes it’s a matter of chastening. Nothing’s working out right because God’s chastening us and trying to call our attention to the fact that we need to repent and get things right. Sometimes, the law of reaping and sowing is taking effect and we’re suffering the bad effects or results of the bad things that we’ve done.

Sometimes we haven’t done anything wrong and things still go wrong. You’re doing all the right things. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You haven’t messed up or misbehaved. Why is this happening to me, God? What the heck is going on?

If you really want to know, grab yourself a seat and sit down because this answer is gonna blow you away. Things are falling apart on you and going wrong because you haven’t done anything wrong! A genuine trial is in progress. What is a trial? A trial is a set of troubles or sufferings that God is using to build Christian character in you. It doesn’t mean you sinned or did something wrong. It simply means God wants to make you a better Christian. There’s always room for improvement. And that’s what a trial is. It’s what I call a soul-improvement time or opportunity.

James 1:2-4 puts it this way, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  (3)  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (4)  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

You see, trials have this purpose in mind: to make you a mature Christian and complete, not lacking anything. Complete? What does that mean? It means God made us Christians to have a whole bunch of things. Virtues. Character traits. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 contain a lot of these character traits. They’re important because they’re what Christians are supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be the heathens that we were before we got saved. Being a Christian is a transformation process—a type of personality change—where we become like Jesus. In fact, that’s one goal of the Christian life: we’re supposed to grow and get better and better until we become like Jesus.  He Himself told us in Luke 6:40, Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher. Jesus, brethren, wants us to become just like Him. This takes a lifetime of growth and learning. And trials are a crucial part of this transformation process.

When things aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to, get alone with God. Ask Him what’s going on. Did you do something wrong? Is He chastening you? What is He trying to teach you? If you haven’t done anything wrong and God hasn’t shown you anything wrong, chances are, God’s allowing these troubles in your life to improve you and make you a better Christian.

There are three things that you need to know about trials. (1) The first thing you need to know is God generally works on one thing at a time. Sometimes He picks your faith and goes to work on that: He uses your trial to teach you to trust Him and keep on trusting Him no matter what happens. Sometimes He singles out your anger and gives you a chance—not to be angry like usual, but a chance to not be angry and instead do the Christian thing and be nice, be kind, be sympathetic and understanding. Sometimes He picks on your patience. It seems to be in rather short supply lately, so He gives you lots of delays in traffic and people who move intolerably slow. You’re tempted to get frustrated and impatient. But the thing that you’ve got to remember is God put these slow-moving people and circumstances deliberately in your way so that you’ll use this opportunity to become patient. Do you see what I mean? A trial focuses on one thing at a time.

When things are going really troublesome for you, instead of blowing up right away and getting exasperated with God and people, take a deep breath, calm down, and ask God what good work He’s trying to do in you today. He’ll let you know if you don’t already know. Then cooperate with Him. Let God do that work of self-improvement in you.

And this brings me to the second thing you need to know about trials. (2) A trial doesn’t end until God finishes what He sets out to do in you. If you cooperate and make the change that God’s looking for, the trial ends quickly. Resist God’s work and the trial drags on. And on. And on. Friends, the trial will end when you’ve changed and improved. God works incrementally. He doesn’t expect 100% on the first go-round. Maturity and growth take time. It’s incremental. You don’t have to be perfect and be a complete angel before the trial gets done. If God sets out to do a 5% improvement in your compassion, that’s when the trial will end—when you’re 5% more compassionate than before. Do you see what I mean? A trial is designed to do one special thing and accomplish one special goal. And when you’ve accomplished God’s goal, that’s when the trial ends. So if the trial is still in progress, if it’s dragging on and on, it’s because God’s purposes haven’t been accomplished yet: you’ve still got some changing and improving to do.

And this brings me to the third and final thing you need to know about trials. (3) Every trial you go through will eventually come to an end. Sooner or later, you’ll fall in line with God’s plan, you’ll make the change, because you want the trial to end. God promised you your trial would end. He said, You will get it. You’ll have what you prayed for. So matter how painful or frustrating the trial may be, endure it with rejoicing just like James 1:2 tells you because you know the trial will eventually end one of these days. God gave you a promise and He will not lie. Believe and obey. And you’ll see God’s promise come true.

So what do you do when life doesn’t pan out and things just aren’t improving or getting any better? Ask God and learn what He’s wanting to do in your life—what areas of your personality, thoughts, or life He’s wanting to change or improve. Concentrate on making the change. The sooner you change, the sooner things pan out just the way God said they would. God bless you with His grace and ever-loving presence.

WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: WE LISTEN AND LEARN

DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT AND DISILLUSIONMENT

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having things go our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really, really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes the answers are easy. Sometimes, hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

I’m constantly amazed by how practical and relevant the Bible is to us in our day. As an example, here’s what I learned from the Scriptures when things didn’t pan out the way I thought they would.

WE LISTEN AND LEARN 

God gave me a promise of healing and I take that very literally and seriously. After all, He wouldn’t have made me the promise if He didn’t mean it. If He meant something else.

I recently went through a bout with high blood pressure. It came right on the heels of my sister-in-law dying, which was a rather intense situation for all of us who knew her and loved her. Well, we thought that my  high blood pressure was connected to Doreen’s death. So it stood to reason that my blood pressure would return to normal after we laid Doreen’s body to rest and got on with life.

Several weeks later, my blood pressure remained high. I’m talking upwards of 178/98 with a pulse running between 95 and 115.  I’m talking rapid, loud, pounding heartbeats. The kind of beats that keep you up at night because you can’t hear or feel anything other than your heart racing and pounding like a car that’s careening out of control and seconds away from crashing.

Naturally, I prayed and ask God to heal me. I spoke words of life, health, healing, and peace upon my heart. I rested in bed. I honestly tried not to be worried or anxious. But after six weeks in this weakened condition, with no improvement whatsoever, I have to admit I got afraid. My pastor came and took me to a clinic. And from there I was ordered to the emergency room. My blood pressure was 225/125. My pulse was 116. I was on the verge of a massive heart attack or stroke.

Reluctantly, I went to the ER—not understanding why God hadn’t heard or answered my prayer. Yeah, I was afraid. But I wouldn’t have been afraid if He’d answered my prayer in the first place and brought my blood pressure back to normal several weeks ago. Why did He let the trial get out of hand? I was counting on Him to heal me. But He didn’t. Now it was up to the doctors to do that.

Like I said earlier, I’m a Christian. I’m a believer. And I wasn’t about to turn my back on God just because He didn’t heal me. God has His reasons. I didn’t know what His reasons were at the time. But He graciously preserved me for the six weeks that my heart was pounding and overworked. I was thankful for that much.

Not too long ago, the Lord showed me why He didn’t answer my prayer. It was because He wanted me to make some lifestyle changes. Dietary changes. Changes that would make me healthy and strong so that I can live longer and finish the work He gave me to do. If God had answered my prayer the first day of my trial, or shortly thereafter, I wouldn’t have made any life-prolonging, lifestyle changes. Why would I? I would have used His healing mercies to continue eating salt like it was going out of style. I wouldn’t be exercising on a daily or regular basis. I wouldn’t be concerned about the toxins that are poisoning our foods and our bodies.  Unanswered prayer was a wake-up call from God that effected an immediate, and on-going, change in my diet and lifestyle habits. It was a blessing in disguise. Something good came out of a bad, disillusioned experience. I learned to make the changes that God wanted me to make.

This reminds me of the familiar comfort of Romans 8:28, And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. God didn’t promise that everything that happens to us is good. What He promised was He would take everything that happens to us and make them work out for our good. No matter what happens to us, everything—including the bad things, the things that nearly got us killed, the things that caused us a lot of grief, misery, and pain—will turn out for our good. Of course, we’ve got to continue loving God in spite of all the suffering. But the comfort is something good is gonna come out of our trials and tears.

In my case, God didn’t heal me of my high blood pressure problems when I was going through them. That’s because He was doing something good, something better, for me. By not healing me at the time He was actually saving and prolonging my life! Wow! How neat is that! I would never have imagined that had God not shown me.

I could have chosen to be bitter and angry towards God. I could have criticized and rejected the promises of healing. Like many before me, I could have brazenly preached that trusting God doesn’t work. But I chose to be thankful and chose to continue believing God even when I didn’t understand. As a consequence, God made everything turn out good–actually, gobs better, for me.

Just so you know, my blood pressure’s back to normal now. I’m making the lifestyle and dietary changes that God wanted me to make. And God kept His healing promise after all. Just goes to show that God’s Word is true and He’s true to His Word. When it looks like things aren’t panning out the way God said they would, it’s because He’s got something good, something better, in mind for us. We just need to listen and learn.

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 8

OUR GOLIATHS SEEN NATURALLY

1 Samuel 17:4-11,  And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.  (5)  And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.  (6)  And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.  (7)  And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.  (8)  And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.  (9)  If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.  (10)  And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.  (11)  When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

 The Israelite army saw a giant, a champion. They saw a formidable foe against whom victory was impossible and against whom death and defeat were certain and imminent. No doubt, in the natural, all these things that they saw in Goliath were true. The circumstances that they were faced with were all real. They were not imaginary or make-believe. Goliath was very much real and the threat of death that he posed was very much real.

That’s the natural point of view. That’s what we see. And when we go by sight and appearances, when we’re governed by our present natural reality, we’ll cower in fear and defeat in our foxholes just like the Israelites because natural realities many times appear to be  invincible, unchangeable, unwinnable.

OUR GOLIATHS SEEN THRU FAITH

But that’s not how David saw Goliath. When David saw Goliath he never once saw the giant in terms of his size, strength, power, skill, armament, weapons, previous military experience and mighty, victorious feats or accomplishments.

All David saw was an uncircumcised Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:26,  And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? All David saw was another uncircumcised heathen. And do you know what? HIS VIEW OR PERSPECTIVE OF GOLIATH NEVER WAVERED OR CHANGED! 

1 Samuel 17:32,  And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:36-37a,  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.  (37)  David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

All David ever saw, I am saying, was just another heathen fellow. He never saw Goliath in terms of his size or strength or power.

A PICTURE OF GOD THAT WE BEQUEATH TO THE WORLD

Israel’s army looked at the giant and trembled at what the giant could do: he  could  easily  kill anyone who dared go out and fight him. But  David  looked at the giant and saw him in terms of what the giant was doing as far as his mouth was concerned: he was defying the armies of God.

Now the word ‘defy’ in verses 26 and 36 means ‘to say sharp things’. It was a Hebrew way of saying that Goliath was taunting, teasing, dishonoring, or reproaching Israel’s army. Worse yet, Goliath was reproaching or making fun of Israel’s God, verse 45. He was telling the world that the God whom the Israelites served was a powerless God. God was no match for him. In the eyes of the world, the God of Israel is the God whom Goliath beat.

Clearly, in David’s eyes, Goliath simply couldn’t talk that way about the Israelite army and God  and not be punished for it. Goliath’s mouth had to be silenced! Why? Because under no circumstance must Goliath be allowed to bring dishonor upon the Name of Israel’s God. GOLIATH SIMPLY MUSTN’T BE ALLOWED TO GIVE THE WORLD A FALSE VIEW OR IMPRESSION OF GOD!

David, you see, was zealous for God’s glory and honor. He was consumed with one, and only one thing—that everyone in the Valley would know God for who He really was—a God of power and might.

1 Samuel 17:45-47,  Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  (46)  This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  (47)  And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

David believed God for help and victory in the battle. Do you know why? Because, by beating Goliath, the world would come to see the real God. The real God is not the god who, in the natural circumstance and reality, seemed utterly powerless to fight and defeat Goliath. The real God is in the unseen reality. And, by faith, David wanted that unseen reality to be seen so that all the world would know that there is a God in Israel.  (47)  And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands, 1 Samuel 17:46-47.

THE REAL GOD, YOU SEE, IS SEEN IN OUR FAITH AND IN OUR TRIALS AND BATTLES. Our trials are a stage, a theater, where God’s glory can be seen by all. Our battles are a battleground where the God of power and might could be seen by all.

OUR BATTLES AND TRIALS ARE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO SHOW THE WORLD WHO THE REAL GOD REALLY IS. THEY ARE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GOD TO SHOW ALL OF US HIS POWER AND LOVE WORKING MIGHTILY ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHO TRUST AND OBEY HIM.

The only thing of it is, THE WORLD’S CONCEPT OR VIEW OF GOD IS KNOWN BY WHAT WE BELIEVE AND DO. The world doesn’t read the Bible or go to church. They don’t know the first thing about God. The only God they know is the God we tell them or the God we show them. If, like the Israelites, we cower in fear in our foxholes and refuse to fight; then the world sees a god who cannot beat the Goliaths that we face in life. A god who can’t heal cancer. A god who can’t restore broken marriages and relationships. A god who can’t save our loved ones. A god who can’t prosper His people and get them out of debt. A god who can’t inspire His people with faith, hope, and courage. A god who can’t calm the storm-tossed seas. A god who can’t do anything to help us or save us. A god who can’t help a drunkard rise above the bottle. A god who can’t set a druggie free from his drugs. A god who can’t help a porno give up the cursed addiction. A god who can’t forgive our baddest, blackest sins. A god who can’t help us get rid of our resentments and unforgiveness. A god who can’t answer prayer. A god who can’t overcome or control the forces of nature. A god who can’t work miracles today. A god who can’t whop the Devil.

Brethren, is this the god you want this world to see and know? Is this the god you have? If so, I mean no disrespect, but you’ve got the wrong god! No wonder why the world doesn’t want, or need, God. If our god is no better or stronger than men; if our god can’t beat the Devil or thwart the worst things that Satan can do to us or throw at us; then I don’t want your god! And neither should you! We need a God who’s mightier than men and demons and nature. We need us a God who knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations (2 Peter 2:9). We need a God who can do the miraculous. The unscientific. The unnatural. The impossible!

Do you, like David, want the world to know who the real God is? The God of power, might, and miracles; the God of answered prayers; can be seen by your faith and by your willingness to go out there on the battlefields of life, fight the Goliaths you’re faced with, and whop them in Jesus’ Name and for Jesus’ glory.

What concept or view of God are you willing to give and bequeath to this world? What picture of God do you want to give to your children, your family, your friends, your world? Like David, be   zealous for God’s glory and honor. Let the whole world know who the real God really is! How do you do that? Get your faith out of the natural realm of sight and appearances. Place your faith in the God of miracles and wonders. Fight your Goliaths. Beat him. And by faith, let the glory of God be seen in your battlefield of life.

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 7

BEFORE YOU FIGHT, GET RID OF FEAR

If you want the Devil to flee you’ve got to fight him. Fear, however, will keep you  from  fighting.  So  in  order  to  fight  the Devil, or before you fight the Devil, you’ve got to deal with the fear that’s got you paralyzed in the foxhole. So how do you get rid of fear?

                1. QUIT LOOKING AT THE GIANT. To get rid of fear you’ve got to get your eyes off of the giant. The sight of the giant is what makes you afraid. Brethren, as long as you’re looking at the giant, at the circumstances, at the symptoms; you’ll be afraid. YOU’VE GOT TO STOP LOOKING!

Instead of looking at Goliath you’ve got to look at God. If you read the narrative of Scripture very carefully you’ll notice that, until David came along, God was nowhere found in the Valley. That is, His name wasn’t mentioned or brought up by the Israelites. No one thought to call a prayer meeting. No one looked to God for help. God wasn’t on any one’s mind. All everybody could think of, and see, was this Incredible Hulk that stood in front of them. Shame on us, I say shame on us, if God isn’t on our mind, if we don’t bring Him into our Valley of Elah. WITHOUT GOD WE’RE DOOMED! NO WONDER WE’RE AFRAID!

To get rid of our fear we’ve got to get our eyes off of Goliath and get them focused on God. We’ve been going about this fight the wrong way. We’ve compared ourself to Goliath and we’ve come out the loser because we’re smaller, he’s bigger; we’re weaker, he’s stronger. Brethren, take your Goliath and compare him to God. Set him side by side with God. Now look. Look who’s a lot smaller and who’s a lot weaker. Goliath just doesn’t seem so big now, does he? He isn’t so invincible and unbeatable, is he?

Brethren, THE GOLIATH YOU FACE ISN’T A GOLIATH TO GOD! THE NAME, SIZE, OR SEVERITY OF YOUR BATTLES AND TRIALS DO NOT MATTER TO GOD.  They’re not any harder for God to heal or remedy. Nothing is too difficult for God, Jeremiah 32:17. Nothing. That includes your Goliath. He may be a giant to you, but HE’S NO GIANT TO GOD and don’t you ever forget that. A mosquito, yes. Maybe even as big as a cockroach. But a giant? You’ve got to be kidding me! Goliath doesn’t have a chance or a prayer against God! GET GOD INTO YOUR VALLEY AND IT’LL BE THE DEVIL’S TURN TO BE AFRAID!

                2. QUIT LISTENING TO THE GIANT! Goliath’s got some of you bound up with fear because everyday for the past forty days, morning and night, you’ve been listening to him.

*Friends, YOU DON’T GET FAITH BY LISTENING TO THE DEVIL. LISTENING TO HIM LEAVES YOU FAITHLESS AND DOUBTFUL. You get faith by listening to God’s Word, Romans 10:17, So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

*YOU DON’T GET COURAGE BY LISTENING TO THE DEVIL. LISTENING TO HIM MAKES YOU A COWARD. You get courage by looking at God. Psalm 27:14, Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

*YOU DON’T GET STRONGER BY LISTENING TO THE DEVIL. LISTENING TO HIM MAKES YOU WEAKER. You get strong by going to the Lord and letting Him fill you with His strength. Ephesians 6:10, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Friends, you know what Goliath’s said. You’ve listened to the doctor, lawyer, banker, and the judge. You’ve heard what the Devil’s told you. But God has His two bits to say. Are you listening? What’s He saying? He’s saying…

                3. THIS BATTLE—YOUR BATTLE—BELONGS TO THE LORD. 1 Samuel 17:47,  And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands. What does the Bible mean when it says, the battle is the Lord’s? It means  that  the  battle’s  outcome, the battle’s victory, belongs to the Lord. Not to anyone else. GOD ALONE DETERMINES WHO WILL WIN AND WHO WILL NOT. HE GIVES THE VICTORY TO WHOMSOEVER HE WILL.

Folks, stay with me. Keep focused. God’s got His bullhorn and He’s driving home a very important point here. Victory doesn’t belong to the biggest and baddest. The strongest and severest. The invincible and incurable. The inevitable and impossible. GOLIATH DOESN’T DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF YOUR BATTLE. NO GIANT OF A MAN, NO GIANT OF A DEMON, AND NO GIANT OF A TRIAL, DETERMINES WHO’S GOING TO WIN THIS FIGHT YOU’RE IN! THE VICTORY IS NOT THEIRS TO HAVE

The battle belongs to the Lord. And ONE THING’S FOR SURE: THE LORD ISN’T  GOING TO GIVE GOLIATH THE VICTORY! Goliath may be victorious for now over the cowards of Israel. But God will raise for Himself a shepherd boy of faith and God will once again prove to all that the battle is the Lord’s and He will deliver every Goliath into your hand—if you would but believe and fight. Psalm 60:12, Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is who shall tread down our enemies. Psalm 118:15, The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. Psalm 68:1, Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered. Hallelujah! Brethren, bring God into the battle and let the voice of rejoicing and salvation be heard in the tabernacles of the righteous!

                4. THE FIGHT YOU FIGHT IS WINNABLE!  In order for you to get rid of fear you’ve got to understand in your heart of hearts that the fight you fight is winnable. Lamentably, when you consider the size and strength of the Philistine giant that stands before you, there is little cause for optimism. This is how the Israelite army saw it. IT WAS THIS NOTION OF AN UNWINNABLE WAR THAT KEPT THE ARMY IN FEAR AND IN THE FOXHOLE.

But THE NOTION THAT THE ISRAELITES WERE IN AN UNWINNABLE WAR WAS SIMPLY NOT TRUE! David came along and proved them wrong. Friends, let this be a lesson. You can be so utterly convinced about how this battle or trial is going to end. As far as you’re concerned, the fight you’re in leaves no room for survival, victory, or miracle. You’re a goner. You haven’t got a hope or a prayer. You’re as good as dead. But as convinced as you are about the outcome of the fight, YOU CAN BE WRONG ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SO SURE AND CONVINCED ABOUT. The faith and God of a shepherd boy proves you’re wrong.

Brethren, WITH GOD THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LOSING BATTLE. AS AN UNWINNABLE FIGHT. AN UNDEFEATABLE FOE. A HOPELESS CASE. GOD WINS EVERY FIGHT HE’S IN! Hallelujah! He hasn’t lost a fight yet and He isn’t going to start losing now.

                5. YOU CAN FIGHT GOLIATH AND WIN! To get rid of fear you’ve got to get rid of the notion that you can’t possibly fight your Goliath and win. That’s what every Israelite soldier in the valley thought—that’s why none of them went out to fight Goliath. He bluffed, fooled, and convinced them they couldn’t fight and win.

But David came along. And when the Philistine army saw him hold up the severed head of the giant, they fled in fear. 1 Samuel 17:52 reads,  And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.

When the Israelites saw David’s awe-inspiring victory and saw the Philistines running in terror, the once-frightened Israelites were instantly invigorated with faith and courage.  They got out of the foxholes and went on the attack. And when it was all said and done, the battlefields between Elah and Ekron were littered with the dead bodies of once-invincible, once-formidable, once undefeatable, Philistine giants and warriors.

Do you see what I mean? THE ISRAELITES WHO ONCE THOUGHT THEY COULDN’T FIGHT AGAINST ONE GOLIATH AND WIN WENT OUT AND FOUGHT HUNDREDS OF OTHER GOLIATHS AND WON! THEY DID SOMETHAT THAT, FOR FORTY DAYS, THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD NEVER DO. THEY FOUGHT AGAINST GIANTS AND WON!

Learn the lesson, dear friends. YOU CAN DO WHAT GOLIATH SAYS YOU CAN’T. You can fight him and beat him. He isn’t invincible to God. Get rid of fear. Bring God into the Valley. Let faith arise. Then get out of the hole you’re in and put the giant in his. With God’s help, you can! God bless you and give you the courage and faith to fight. And win!

Coming Up On My Next Blog, the conclusion of these faith-inspiring messages. Don’t miss it!

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 6

The following post is a continuation of Fighting Our Goliaths Part 5. I’m dealing with the things we can do to cultivate a habit of courage and faith.

3. DAVID FOUGHT BECAUSE OF WHAT HE WAS FIGHTING FOR. Instead of doing what comes naturally and instinctively to human nature when one’s life is being threatened—that is, run; David chose to stay and fight. Why? Because, like a true shepherd, DAVID CARED FOR THE SHEEP.

What’s even more astounding is the fact that DAVID WASN’T WILLING TO LOSE SO MUCH AS ONE LAMB. Count it. One lamb! Look at verses 34 and 35 again, And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: {35} And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. One lamb mattered to David and he wasn’t willing to lose so much as one lamb among many.

Now some of us would choose to stand our ground and fight a hungry, angry lion or bear for the sake of our sheep—as long as we could do it from a distance with the help of a powerful, semi automatic gun and scope. David did that with his sling. He wasn’t foolish. He fought from a distance with his sling. That’s what it was for and he fought wisely and responsibly.

But on this particular occasion, the wounded beast turned on David and David found himself in close, hand-to-hand combat with a lion. How many of you would volunteer to wrestle with a wounded, angry lion? David did it and, with God’s help, he managed to kill that crazed, murderous beast. We call that kind of wrestling crazy, stupid, and senseless! We could have gotten killed!

But, in the interest of saving one lamb, David looked to his God, then went on the attack, and came out victorious with his one lamb intact and alive. DAVID’S LOVE FOR HIS SHEEP, I’M SAYING, WAS WHAT PROMPTED HIM TO TUSSLE WITH THE LION AND THE BEAR.

In the spiritual realm, we are faced with all sorts of menacing lions called demons who are out to forcibly and defiantly rob us of what is ours. Our faith in God. Our fear of God. Our desire and commitment to obey God. Our moral purity. Our loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Our love for an uncompromised Word. Our discernment. Our spiritual hunger for  the  things of  the Lord.  Our presence  and participation in the local church. Our witness and testimony to this world of an omnipotent, faithful, promise-keeping, soul-saving, body-healing, family-preserving, God. The Devil is out to rob us of our spouse. Our children. Our marriage. Brethren, these are our lambs. They are the lambs that God has called us to shepherd, nurture and protect.

If we don’t love our lambs enough, if we’re more concerned about saving our life instead of saving our lambs; then we’re going to end up losing a whole lot of lambs because the Devil isn’t going to stop with one lamb. He isn’t going to be satisfied with taking two or three of our lambs. THE DEVIL’S AFTER THE WHOLE FLOCK! And he’s going to keep on attacking, robbing, afflicting, inflicting, and devouring until he’s gotten everything that we’re willing to let him have.

WHAT LAMBS ARE YOU WILLING TO LOSE, BRETHREN? HOW MANY OF YOUR LAMBS ARE YOU WILLING TO FORFEIT AND GIVE INTO THE JAWS OF THE LION OR THE BEAR? Will you give the Devil your lamb of faith? Your lamb of purity? Commitment? Love? Obedience? What fruit of the Spirit, what Christian virtue, are you willing to lose and live without? Friends, you’ve got to hold on to every one of your lambs! You can’t afford to let the Devil have any one of them! Like David, love your lambs enough. Then go out there in the Name and the strength of the Lord, tussle with the lion and bear, and GET YOUR LAMBS BACK! DON’T SETTLE FOR LOSING SO MUCH AS ONE OF YOUR LAMBS!  

4. THE MORE DAVID FOUGHT, THE BETTER HE GOT.  David’s tussles with the lion and bear prepared him for his tussle with Goliath. Each fight helped him develop good fighting skills with the staff, the sling, and the knife. HE GOT BETTER WITH EACH FIGHT. AND EACH FIGHT PREPARED HIM FOR THE NEXT. THE SMALLER ONES PREPARED HIM FOR THE BIGGER ONES. And the bigger ones prepared him for the lone  Goliath that now stood before him in the Valley of Elah. BY THE TIME DAVID MET UP WITH HIS GOLIATH DAVID WAS TRAINED, PREPARED, AND EQUIPPED TO FIGHT BECAUSE HE MADE IT HIS LIFE’S HABIT TO STAY AND FIGHT AND WIN!

Best of all, THROUGH ALL OF HIS TRIALS AND EXPERIENCES AS A SHEPHERD DAVID LEARNED TO LOOK TO GOD AND TRUST HIM FOR PRESERVATION AND VICTORY NO MATTER WHO OR WHAT HE WAS UP AGAINST. His confidence of the victory, or his knowledge of how the fight would end, wasn’t based on his skills or his fearlessness. It wasn’t about David. For him, it was all about God and what God would do for him. Look at verse 37, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

WITH EACH FIGHT FOUGHT, WITH EACH FIGHT WON, DAVID LEARNED IN A RESOLUTE, IRREVOCABLE, UNWAVERING MANNER THAT GOD WAS FAITHFUL IN EVERY FIGHT. His power to deliver was not limited by the size or strength of the foe. By the name or severity of the battle. By the destructiveness or winsome way of the enemy. DAVID LEARNED THAT IN EVERY FIGHT, IN EVERY VALLEY, GOD WOULD SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON DAVID’S BEHALF AND DELIVER EVERY FOE INTO HIS HAND EVERY TIME.

Brethren, YOUR LIFE’S BATTLES AND TRIALS, LIKE DAVID’S, ARE MEANT TO FILL YOU WITH COURAGE AND FAITH. They’re meant to teach you to look to God and trust Him for the help, the wisdom, and the victory. To show you God’s faithfulness,  power,  and   glory   in   the midst of overwhelming odds and circumstances. To strengthen you even more in faith. To make you a fighter who’s not hampered by fear, or worry, or despair. To teach you that the battles and trials you face in the present are no different from all the others you faced in the past: God brought you through those trials and He’ll bring you through these ones as well! He will not fail or forsake you! To convince you in a resolute and irrevocable faith that God is Victor in every valley, He’s faithful in every fight, He’s triumphant in every trial, He’s powerful over every Philistine, He’s greater  than  any Goliath.  Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!  Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  Nothing is too hard or difficult for Him to do. The battle belongs to the Lord. He will deliver Goliath into your hand!

Brethren, just as God granted David the victory in every trial despite the severity and ferocity of the trial; so this same God is willing to do the same for every David today who’s willing to trust Him and stay put, stand his ground, and fight in the Lord’s Name for the Lord’s glory. God is no respecter of persons. What He did yesteryear He will do today. But, like David, you’ve got to look to the Lord and fight your battles with the resolute faith and determination that the battle can end one, and only one, way—in victory for you and in defeat for your foe. May God bless you with the will, the courage, and the faith to believe!  And fight! And win!

[I’ve got two more soul-stirring, faith-inspiring posts on Fighting Our Goliaths. Lord willing, I’ll be posting them sometime around the 1st of June. In these final two posts I deal with some practical things we can do to get rid of fear and revive faith in our heart. If you have a problem with fear, like most of us do, you’ll definitely want to drop by around June 1 and get spiritually renewed to bring this giant down. With God’s help you can do it! See you then!]

FIGHTING OUR GOLIATHS PART 5

CULTIVATING A HABIT OF COURAGE AND FAITH

God’s talking to us today about cultivating a habit of courage and faith. IF WE’RE GOING TO FIGHT OUR GOLIATHS AND WIN, WE NEED TO BE ARMED  WITH COURAGE AND FAITH. Why?

Because IT’S GOING TO TAKE COURAGE AND FAITH TO GET OUT OF THE FOXHOLES, FIGHT THE GIANT, AND WIN.

So how do we go about cultivating a habit of courage and faith? There are four things that I’d like for you to see in the way David conducted himself in his day to day life as a shepherd.

1. DAVID STAYED AND FOUGHT HIS FIGHTS. Getting into a tussle with a hungry lion or bear is no light matter. People have been killed and eaten in that horrible way. Many, if not all, of us would have run. But David chose to stay and fight! HE DETERMINED FROM THE VERY START TO FIGHT LIFE’S TRIALS AND BATTLES, NOT SHIRK THEM OR AVOID THEM.

Nobody likes trials. Most of all me. I don’t like them and I don’t volunteer to go through them. But I’ve learned that YOU DON’T GAIN ANYTHING BY SHIRKING YOUR TRIALS. IN FACT, YOU DO YOURSELF MORE HARM THAN GOOD WHEN YOU RUN FROM YOUR TRIALS!

(A) For one thing, whenever you shirk your battles and refuse to fight them you’re making a coward out of yourself. You’re reinforcing and strengthening the grip that fear and unbelief have on you. It’s as if you’re building a prison cell around you that will keep you locked in in the prison of fear and unbelief.

WHENEVER YOU GIVE UP FAITH AND DON’T ENDURE YOUR TRIALS YOU’RE MAKING IT HARDER AND HARDER FOR YOU TO BELIEVE AND ENDURE THE NEXT TIME AROUND.

You see, there’s no doubting the fact that there will be more fights, more trials, more wars up ahead. For David, the  lion and  the  bear were not  the last or  the end of  his  trials. There was a Goliath after that. And even after Goliath, David had his fights and wars as Israel’s king. So you’ve got to recognize the fact that you’re going to have more trials down the road.

Now when you choose not to believe God for the promises and choose not to endure your trials you’re making it less and less likely that you’ll stay around and fight the next fight. You’re cultivating a habit of fear and faithlessness that makes it harder for you to stand up to the Devil, resist him, and drive him and his minions out of the Valley.

(B) Moreover, WHEN YOU SHIRK YOUR TRIALS YOU’RE ONLY ASKING FOR MORE! Stop and think about it for a moment. Who does a bully pick fights with? With those he knows he can push around and beat. Who does a criminal attack? Those who are vulnerable, weak and unarmed. When you read the text of Scripture you see who Goliath haunted and taunted for forty days and forty nights. He haunted the cowards in the foxholes. Those who were much smaller and weaker than him. Those whom he was confident of beating.

Brethren, WHEN YOU REMAIN IN THE FOXHOLES AND REFUSE TO COME OUT AND FIGHT YOUR BATTLES–BE IT WITH THE LION, THE BEAR, OR THE GIANT–YOU’RE ONLY ASKING THE LION, THE BEAR, AND THE GIANT TO KEEP ON COMING BACK, TIME AFTER TIME, TO ROB YOU OF YOUR SHEEP AND TO ROB YOU OF YOUR FAITH. You see, THE TRIAL WITH THE LION, THE BEAR, AND THE GIANT, DIDN’T END UNTIL DAVID PUT IT TO AN END. It took a courageous, faith—filled shepherd boy to bring the trial to an end.

AS  LONG AS YOU REFUSE TO FIGHT THE DEVIL, THE DEVIL WILL KEEP FIGHTING YOU, TAUNTING YOU, AFFLICTING YOU, ROBBING YOU–BECAUSE HE KNOWS HE CAN DO IT AND GET AWAY WITH IT. HE KNOWS YOU WON’T STOP HIM FROM DOING IT. SO HE KEEPS ON DOING IT UNTIL HE’S TAKEN EVERYTHING AWAY FROM YOU. YOUR FAITH. YOUR MORALS. YOUR LIFE. YOUR SOUL.

2. THE THOUGHT OR DESIRE FOR SELF PRESERVATION DIDN’T STOP DAVID FROM FIGHTING. How many of you would like to get into a tussle with a lion or bear? Have you ever seen a lion or bear who was hungry and angry? Our first reaction would be to run and keep a lot of distance between ourselves and that rampaging beast.  Naturally, we wouldn’t enjoy seeing our lambs and sheep get killed. But better the lambs instead of us! As far as we’re concerned, saving the lambs is not worth getting ourselves killed! Father would rather have dead lambs and a live son instead of a dead son and dead lambs. Our first instinct, I am saying, would be for our own personal safety and life. It’s called self-preservation and the desire to stay alive.

But David didn’t think that way! The welfare of the flock was placed directly in his hands and he would not stand idly by and watch his family’s lambs served raw as lamb chops  for some wild beast of the field. Whatever thoughts and desires David might have had about running and saving his own skin, he didn’t let them dissuade him from tangling with a lion or bear. The desire to stay alive and not get killed didn’t stop David from fighting what was, in the natural, a life and death trial. It didn’t stop him from fighting what most of us would have considered a doomed and suicidal fight that was certain to end in defeat and death.

Could David have been killed in his tangle with the lion and bear? Well, there are two ways of looking at anything in life. From a natural point of view, yes, David could have been killed by the lion and the bear. In the natural, a brother or sister who’s going through a severe trial could end up dying. Death is always a possibility—if not a very real likelihood—whenever a Goliath is involved. That’s the natural point of view.

But God’s wanting to teach us a new way of thinking or looking at things. He’s wants us to see things from a spiritual point of view. The spiritual point of view is this. When you’re walking with the Lord and trusting Him and His Word, then IT’S YOU WHO DETERMINES HOW THE BATTLE IS GOING TO END. NOT THE LION, NOT THE BEAR, NOT THE GIANT, NOT THE TRIAL. NOT THE DEVIL. WHEN YOU BRING GOD, THE PROMISES, AND FAITH INTO THE TRIAL, BRETHREN, YOU’LL KNOW HOW THE TRIAL IS GOING TO END.

Look again at verses 36 and 37: Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.  (37)  David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

DAVID KNEW HOW THE BATTLE WAS GOING TO END BEFORE HE EVEN GOT ON THE BATTLEFIELD! What’s even more astounding is, when David walked out on the battlefield, he got even bolder and stronger in faith! And he wasn’t afraid to speak or confess what he was believing would happen.

David made very specific predictions about how the fight was going to end and he even told Goliath what these predictions were. Look at verse 46, This day [this is what’s going to happen today. Not tomorrow. Not some unknown time in the future. But today.] will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand [Goliath, you’re going to lose this fight]; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee [Goliath, you’re going to lose your head today. David is getting very specific here about how he’s going to kill Goliath. And the thing of it is, David doesn’t even have a sword. All he has is his shepherd’s staff, a sling and 5 stones. So how is he going to cut Goliath’s head off?]; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth [David puts God in a position of doing even more and greater miracles for him. Not only is David going to kill Goliath, but he’s going to kill a lot more Philistines today, so that by the time this day is over, the battlefield is going to be littered with Philistine carcasses]; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

David, I am saying, knew how the battle was going to end before the first stone was even slung. How did he know that? He knew it because he was trusting God to do the same thing to the Philistine that He helped him do to the lion and bear. By faith, David knew that what God did yesterday He will do today. The miracle that God did yesterday He will do today. Today is no exception. This fight, this trial, this giant, is no exception. God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He saved yesterday. He will save today.

Brethren, WHEN YOU’RE BELIEVING GOD, WHEN YOU’RE BELIEVING HIS PROMISES, YOU’LL KNOW SOME THINGS BEFORE YOU EXPERIENCE THEM. BEFORE THEY EVEN COME TO PASS. You may not know everything about how it’s going to end. You may not  know all the details. But you’ll at least know how it’s going to end because, by faith, it’s you who determines how the fight is going to end.

David knew how the fight was going to end.  That’s why he wasn’t afraid to fight. That’s why his desire to stay alive and not get killed didn’t stop him from fighting Goliath. He already knew how the fight was going to end.

We all want to live in safety, in health, and in peace.  We do not savor the thought of dying a horrible death in combat or trial. It’s natural  to  want  to  stay  alive. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH WANTING TO STAY ALIVE AND KEEP OUT OF HARM’S WAY OR OUT OF DEATH’S REACH.

But WHEN YOU LET THE DESIRE FOR SELF-PRESERVATION KEEP YOU IN THE FOXHOLES, WHEN YOU LET IT STOP YOU FROM FIGHTING YOUR GOLIATHS; THEN THAT’S WHERE THE DESIRE FOR SELF-PRESERVATION BECOMES A VERY DETRIMENTAL THING FOR YOU.

Why detrimental? BECAUSE IT’S STOPPING YOU FROM BELIEVING AND FIGHTING. AND WHENEVER YOU REFUSE TO BELIEVE AND FIGHT YOU’RE ASKING THE DEVIL TO KEEP COMING BACK AND TAKING MORE LAMBS FROM THE FLOCK.

Brethren, YOU CAN’T FIGHT YOUR GOLIATHS AS LONG AS YOU’RE GOVERNED BY THE DESIRE TO STAY ALIVE! The desire to stay alive will keep you in the foxholes of life. It’ll keep you defeated, demoralized, and dispirited. It’ll keep the Devil coming back.

Coming Up On My Next Blog, Part 6. A continuing look at how David cultivated courage and faith in his day-to-day life as a shepherd.