Father’s Day 2019
Let’s pray. Father, thank you for the way you walk with us through times that we would never have chosen to walk through. But you know what’s good for us. And you don’t just send us out, but you walk with us and transform us in ways we could not have predicted.
We ask that as we open your word now you would clarify some things, you would dispel fear, you would direct our hearts toward you, our faith in you. We thank you. Thank you for what you’re going to do now, in Jesus name, amen.
If you’ll turn to 1 Samuel 17, 1 Samuel 17. It’s page 240 if you’re using a seat Bible. And if you need an outline raise your hand so you can follow along.
Last fall I was reading through 1 Samuel in my quiet time, and the Lord really gripped me with a parenting principle in an unlikely location. I know 1 Samuel 17 is not about parenting. 1 Samuel 17 is about, the battle is the Lord’s. David said this in verse 47 you’ll notice, “and that all this assembly” (and this is when he’s speaking in the shadow of the giant), “that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” David spoke these words 3000 years ago in the Valley of Elah but they are just as true today. And ultimately whether God uses a sword or a spear or a sling or a stone or a cross, the battle is the Lord’s.
The question I want us to wrestle with in relation to the fact that the battle is the Lord’s, how did this young man, David, learn this? And by learn this, I don’t mean just in his head, but in his experience. He learned this and lived it in a way that prepared him for intense battle.
And this is where the parenting principle is embedded in the story. So let’s go back and tell a little bit of the story. David is standing before the king of Israel on the frontline of the battle, or right behind the line, and he had been sent, David had been sent. He’s the youngest of eight brothers (probably many sisters) but his father had sent David basically as the FedEx guy.
His job was to take supplies to his three older brothers (he had many older brothers, but three of them were fighting in the army) and to relay news back to his parents. Also I think he took some cheese and gifts for the officers. I’m not sure what that is, kind of paying off the officers above his brothers.
But in his transporting back and forth from the front line back to his parents, one time when he was near the line he overheard Goliath, this giant of the Philistines, threatening the people of Israel, challenging them to a one-on-one combat. Send whoever and whoever wins in this one-on-one battle will win for the whole army. It’s quite an efficient way to fight; saves a lot of lives. The only negative is the size of Goliath. He came in around 8-9′ tall. He wore about 125 pounds (that’s probably more than David weighs), he wore about 125 pounds of metal sewn on cloth, this ancient chain armor/chain mail. And he carried a big sword. He had this huge spear strapped to his back. He had a shield bearer out front with a big rectangular shield. He would be the modern equivalent of a tank coming toward you and challenging you to a battle.
And so when Saul and his men heard this threatening day after day, they were, verse 11, “dismayed and greatly afraid.” I think that’s an understatement. They were terrified and didn’t know what to do. They were paralyzed.
David was not. He was ticked. He’s like, “Who is this?” Look at look at verse 26. “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
Now don’t miss that. David’s whole view of everything that happens in the world (his world view) was God-centered. Who is God? And who are we in relation to God? And therefore who is this man who is defying the living God? What are you doing shaking in your boots? We’ve got to do something about this! And he immediately volunteers.
So he goes in for his interview. The job of “Giant Slayer” was currently unoccupied, and there was only one candidate who was interviewing. I would have loved to have been in that interview. King Saul who was remember, if you go back a little bit in the story, he was a head and shoulders above the average Israelite. So if anybody’s supposed to go out and fight it would be him.
But he’s in his tent interviewing candidates and this little teenage boy walks in, David. So as a good interviewer, Saul may have asked, “Tell me about some of the giants you’ve encountered and slain.” And David’s like: “Well I haven’t actually done that.”
“Well how about a battle where you fought and you took out someone?”
“Well I haven’t really done any battle. I brought some cheese, and I have a video game called ‘Giant Slayer.’ But I’ve never actually been in a battle. I’ve read about them.”
So the interview wasn’t going very well, but then all of a sudden David told a case study, and it’s quite remarkable. You’ll notice it there, (and this is the part we really want to focus on) in verse 34. And this is so important because, like any job interview, when you first get started it’s the chicken-egg syndrome. You need a job to get experience, you need experience to get a job. So David doesn’t know where to go. I haven’t fought a giant.
But notice his argument here, which is brilliant. This case study, verse 34,
“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, [this is the key to his argument] ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, [you got the job] and the Lord be with you!’”
And that did it! His argument is basically this, when the battle is the Lord’s, the size, shape, classification of human, mammal, whatever is irrelevant. When the battle is the Lord’s, just as he did it here, just as he did it here, he will do it here. He will give the victory. And whether the opponent has big paws or big hands, (it’s interesting, in the Hebrew it’s the same word), but whether he has big paws or big hands, whether he is covered with fur or covered with metal, it’s irrelevant when the battle is the Lord’s. And this is where the Spirit really spoke to my heart, because some of us may be tempted to think that David-like responses just appear out of nowhere. But God, in recording his Word, is careful to keep a lot of details which might appear to be irrelevant.
You notice the actual battle is super short. But there’s so much, so many details that are recorded. Who cares that you were a shepherd? Why do you record about the interview and what went on, what was discussed by David? I fought this animal and I fought this. We don’t care about lions and tigers and bears, oh my! That is not relevant. We’re talking about a giant here. But God records so many details in these stories because our lives are in the details, and our faith is fertilized in the details of life. Our faith is fertilized in the often difficult details of life.
Now true, David was anointed king. Last chapter, God’s hand is on him.
Obviously he has a unique calling. But the question I think that’s important for us to wrestle with, especially on this Father’s Day, is to think of this story from a father’s perspective. Would David have been prepared to fight Goliath, to see God give him a victory with Goliath, if he had not faced a lion or a bear? There was training preparing the way. There were smaller battles that led to a bigger battle. There was risk involved. There was a father who showed a son how to do something that may have at the moment, and was, seemed very mundane. Shepherding back then was nothing; that was like a kid going to school today. Everybody did it. It seemed meaningless. But somebody learned something and then stood the test in the smaller battles that prepared for the bigger battle.
So when God called him, he stepped up with confidence. And don’t minimize the risk here. For a father to entrust his son to fight a lion or a bear, there’s a lot of risk there! Lions and bears generally take out shepherd boys, at least in my experience. The odds are not generally good.
But look at verse 37 again, the key of the argument: “The Lord who delivered me.” The Lord who delivered me. Look where David’s confidence is. Look where the smaller battles, through his confidence, knowing, I’m not big enough to fight a lion. I’m not big enough to fight a bear. I’m not big enough to fight a giant. But God delivered me here, he delivered me here, and he will deliver me here. That’s the progression. So we see here, within the bigger story, (the main point is the battle is the Lord’s) but within that we see a discipling, training, preparing going on. God calls us to trust him in the smaller battles so we will be ready to trust him in the bigger battles. Let’s take some time to reflect on this in our own lives.
A couple of questions that may help us: What are some lesser/greater deliverance stories in your life? What are some lesser/greater deliverance stories? Stories where you would say, God delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, he will deliver from [blank]. There’s a place in your notes you can begin working on that right now, responding to his Word. “The Lord, who delivered me from…” I had to write vertically to get all of these. And let me admonish some of you not to minimize small battles, because at first I came up blank because I haven’t fought any giants lately like Goliath. But as I began to reflect on, oh yeah, I remember where my heart was with such rebellion. I hated God. I wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted my life to go my own way. I had it all planned. And he delivered me from my rebellion. He delivered me from fear of man. He delivered me from the intense selfishness that consumed my marriage early on. He’s delivered me from lust and pride and fear and greed. And yes, those battles keep coming, and yes, he is continuing to deliver me, but his deliverance energizes me to trust him for what I will face or am facing.
What are your paw of the lion, paw of the bear deliverance stories? And I believe some of you who are coming up blank right now, need to set aside maybe that one area that you feel like, “hey we haven’t seen victory yet.” And to energize you to trust God in that one area, look at some other areas where you’ve forgotten. It is one of the benefits of journaling; it helps you remember the little victories. God has delivered you and he’s energizing you to trust him for the battle you may be facing right now, that you wonder if there is a victory in store, or the battle that you will face.
Remember, battles are different today. God is not calling Christians to put on armor and grab weapons and go take out people in the name of Jesus. That’s not it. 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh.” They are spiritual weapons, spiritual battles. Therefore the victories will be different, but they are just as vital, just as significant. So I would encourage you now and this afternoon, this week, to take time to rehearse these victories and ask God, “Lord, don’t let me forget these!”
David’s whole argument standing before Saul was he remembered past victories which gave him confidence to trust God for future victories. And if you come up completely empty, it may be the Spirit saying, “Come to me. Come to me.” He may be drawing you, saying, “you’ve played around Christianity long enough. Come to me, I want a relationship with you. Trust me. The battle is mine.” The battle is the Lord’s.
Now as parents, let’s talk about this for a few minutes from a parental perspective because as parents, we instinctively want to protect our kids. The thought of our kids being in danger, experiencing pain, risk, struggle, doubt, fear, anxiety, all of that, is repulsive to us as parents. Because of that we can tend to pamper and protect. And if we do that obviously too much, we end up with a child, a son, or a daughter growing up who has paw of the bear stories, paw of the lion stories that sound like this: my mother delivered me from the paw of the bear. My father delivered me from the paw of the lion. My mom delivered me from the “paw of the teacher” and the “paw of the principal” and the “paw of the chores” and the “paw of the pain and the illness.” I’m so thankful for my parents because I know they’re going to bail me out of jail, too. They’re going to always be there for me.
Now I’m not minimizing the role of parenting and trying to turn us into passive or irresponsible parents. Yes, we have a calling to protect our children. Yes, we have a calling to age-appropriately lead them and love them. And we’re not to cast them out and put them in danger. Don’t misinterpret anything I’m saying. But in an age-appropriate way, to lovingly disciple/train so that their spiritual muscles are growing.
If you carry your children physically their whole life, they have no legs or muscles. If you carry them spiritually they have no muscles — spiritual muscles. So in an age-appropriate way it takes tremendous degrees of wisdom, and moving in and pulling back and moving in and pulling back, and trusting God. Because that’s the biggest battle, is the fear in our own hearts. And when things don’t go well, the enemy is quick to flood us with blame so that we beat ourselves with, “If I had only, and what if I…” And it’s torturous.
I asked some college kids this week in our church to write out some paw of the bear, paw of the lion stories. Times when their parents couldn’t, would have loved to, but couldn’t bail them out of something, help them through something totally. I mean they may have been there, but it was something they had to trust God with. And they wrote out some remarkable things. These are college students who are maybe just a little older than where David was and are just transitioning from being a youth to an adult.
I can’t give the whole stories because many of them are very personal. But let me show you some of the categories of things they wrote about: intense illness and injury, new school, no friends, rejection, a variety of forms of rejection, loss, deep grief, loss of loved ones, overwhelming opportunities. What they meant by that was being called into academic opportunities or athletic opportunities or ministry opportunities that felt way more than they felt qualified to do. And it threw them on the Lord. Lord, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this. Sharing the gospel in a foreign country, following Jesus when family does not, deep financial need, facing emotional and spiritual brokenness. And they shared stories of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.
Now some of these are the very things that we pray our kids will never have to face, right? When you look at your little kid it’s like, “God, please don’t let them have to….” It’s just interesting to read these stories of college students who said those things that we as parents might have most longed that our kids would not have to face were the very things that God used to stretch their faith and grow their confidence in God.
You say, what difference does that make from a parent perspective? I think it makes a huge difference. And again, it’s not that I’m going to be irresponsible or want my child to suffer. But it changes the way I think about that suffering, the way I respond, the way I walk with my children through it, and not try to be a savior but try to point them to a Savior. That is a huge difference. Not thinking that Mommy or Daddy is going to be there for the rest of their lives, but God is going to be there the rest of their lives. And the greatest thing I can do as a parent is to point my son or daughter to the one who made them and loved them and gave his Son for them, who loves them way more than we love them.
And that’s really hard when it involves suffering. It’s way worse to watch our kids suffer than for us to suffer. I fear, (and I could give you a lot of data on this, I’m not going to) but I fear that our culture has a lot of unspoken assumptions about parenting that lead parents to live under this guilt and this pressure that your job as a parent is to deliver your children from unreasonable teachers. You know those teachers that make demands of your kids and are horrible. Your job as a parent is to protect your children from uncomfortable situations, difficult jobs, painful illnesses, devastating loss, sweat producing challenges, discouraging conflicts. Your job is to shield them from all of that, which first of all is impossible, and secondly is not healthy. Faith is fertilized in the details of life and often faith is fertilized in the difficult details of life.
Think about the way Jesus trained his disciples. There was a rhythm to the way he moved near them, loved them, encouraged them, taught them, protected them and then the way he sent them out, even at times before they were completely ready. They struggled, failed. Remember when they couldn’t cast a demon out, the unclean spirit out of the boy. They’re helpless and they come back to Jesus, and he continues their training. It’s on-the-job training, age-appropriate. He’s there for them, but he’s strengthening their spiritual muscles, sending them out, bringing them back. And there’s a rhythm there until when finally he looks at them and says, “I’m out; I’m going to go. I’m going to send the Spirit.” It’s a beautiful picture of parenting, discipling, responsible training.
So here’s the question: parents, are you willing to pray for your children to experience age-appropriate struggles that grow their confidence in God? And when I say pray for, I’m not saying, obviously we’re not seeking struggle. But as we pray for this, with a disciple-prayer kind of mindset, “our Father in heaven hallowed be your name.” That’s what I want most for my child. “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” in my son, my daughter’s life. I’m praying those big prayers. Yes, provide, they need the daily bread, forgiveness, protection. But all of that is shaped by this huge view of our Father and his name being hallowed, his kingdom coming, his will being done. And those kinds of prayers are going to lead to a different interpretation of difficult and what God might be up to when he calls our children to walk through hard things, which he will, because he is a loving father and he knows what’s good for us.
The psalmist even went so far as saying in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” That’s easy to read in the Psalms, and it’s really hard when it’s happening to your kid. Psalm 66:10,
“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”
And when you read that from a father’s perspective, wow!
Finally, for all of us, what challenge or trial is God placing before you that you might be tempted to pull back from? Right now some of you are in the middle of big battles, and everything inside of you wants out. What open door is God placing before you? Do you remember a few weeks ago, when studying the seven churches, we were in the Church of Philadelphia and Jesus said, “I’ve placed an open door before you that no one is able to shut?” That open door doesn’t mean it’s an easy way. But I find in myself as a “good ol’ American” a tendency to move toward what is comfortable and secure.
And God is saying that is not a safe place. He is calling us to follow his Son, which means we’re going to make decisions that at times even in ministry, that are going to feel incredibly messy and painful and insecure. What open door is he placing before you that you say, “Lord I’m not super excited about this. This is going to really mess up this secure situation I have. But it seems your calling.” Again, I’m not trying to be masochistic. We’re not just purposely seeking pain. We’re seeking Christ and if you follow the way of Christ he will lead you toward hurting people. He will lead you toward hard situations. And as you walk through that, he will lock your trust in on him in a way that comfort will not do.
1 Peter 4:1 says,
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves.” [Arm yourselves. Do you want to prepare for battle? Prepare for battle] “with the same way of thinking,” [that Christ did] “for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
He goes on to say, 1 Peter 4:12,
“Loved ones,” [because I love you, I am warning you] not to “be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,” [God’s school of discipleship has tests] “as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
And this verse, these two verses, are getting really close, I think, to the heart of what was happening in 1 Samuel. The point of 1 Samuel 17 is not for all of us to go away trying to drum up enough courage to be a David-like “giant-slayer.” The big picture is, (even though there are a little parenting principles and trust God principles throughout that story). Here’s the big picture: the greater David, the seed of David, Jesus Christ, is the ultimate “giant-slayer.” He defeated sin and death at the cross.
We are not daily being called to be David. We are being called to be the armies of Israel who in verse 52 of 1 Samuel 17 were shouting and pursuing Philistines because the battle had been won. Jesus has defeated the giant; the enemy has no power over us. We are on the winning side, and we are called to look to Jesus and to take on this same mindset of Christ and to share in his sufferings and difficulty and struggle so that we will share in the glory that is his, because the victory’s been won.
1 Corinthians 1:28, “God chose what is low and despised in the world.” Stop there for a second. Think about David, this little teenager, comes walking into Saul’s tent. “I’d like the giant-slaying job.” Eliab, his older brother, mocked him. “What are you doing here, you jerk? You’re so presumptuous. Snotty-nosed little brother, get back to the sheep.” All of that rejection! And you’ll notice in that story, Saul kept forgetting David’s name. “Who’s his dad? What family?” Wait, he was just playing the instrument for you. You forgot him already? But the point of the story is, you’ve got a no-name who’s being called to defeat the undefeatable foe.
“God chose what is low and despised in the world.” So when Jesus was born he did not come as a mighty warrior, he came as a little baby, and he lived a life of vulnerability, and he died naked and ashamed on a cross as a criminal on our behalf so that, “even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
It is through weakness that the battle is the Lord’s. And so today if you feel like even hearing this message about parenting or hearing this message about battles that we face, and you just feel like “Oh, I’m overwhelmed,” that’s the point. The battle is the Lord’s! The battle is the Lord’s.
And just like he gave David paw of the lion, paw of the bear victories to prepare him to embrace this paw of the giant, he is doing the same thing for us today. So our calling is not to muster something up from within, but to look to Christ, the giant-slayer.
Father, we thank you that you have won the victory. Our brains are so busy trying to figure out how we can give our kids a secure future and how we can protect them, and how we ourselves can live a secure, comfortable life. And that leads to so much anxiety and so much insecurity and so much fear. But we are no longer slaves to fear, Lord. We are your children. So let us be like David, who when he came to the battle, he saw the whole battle through your eyes. “How can we let this Philistine defy the living God, the armies of the living God?” Lord, do that work in us today.
I pray specifically for dads. What a calling to be able to train young “Davids” to do what might seem like mundane things — fling a sling, protect sheep, run errands, be faithful in the little things. But Lord, let us do this parenting, even in the little things, with an eye toward seeing you grow their confidence in you. Because we’re not going to be with them in every battle, but you will be.
So Lord let us go out from here today with a song of praise in our hearts that you are the God who delivers, because the battle is yours. So let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man glory in His might. Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let the one who boasts boast in this: that we understand and know you, and that you are the One who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things you delight. Send us out with your presence and your power. We pray in Jesus name, amen.