Facing Your Giants: Teen Edition
by Max Lucado
FACING YOUR GIANTS FOR TEENS By Max Lucado
The slender, beardless boy kneels by the brook. Mud moistens his knees. Bubbling water cools his hand. Were he to notice, he could study his handsome features in the water. Hair the color of copper. Tanned, sanguine skin and eyes that steal the breath of Hebrew maidens. He searches not for his reflection, however, but for rocks. Stones. Smooth stones. The kind that stack neatly in a shepherd's pouch, rest flush against a shepherd's leather sling. Flat rocks that balance heavy in the palm and missile with comet-crashing force into the head of a lion, a bear, or, in this case, a giant.
Goliath stares down from the hillside. Only disbelief keeps him from laughing. He and his Philistine herd have rendered their half of the valley into a forest of spears; a growling, bloodthirsty gang of hoodlums boasting do-rags, BO, and barbed-wire tattoos. Goliath towers above them all: nine feet nine inches tall in his stocking feet, wearing 125 pounds of armor and snarling like the main contender at the World Wrestling Federation championship. He wears a size 20 collar, a 10 1/2 hat, and a 56-inch belt. His biceps burst and his thigh muscles ripple. His boasts belch through the canyon. "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other" (1 Samuel 17:10 NIV). Who will go mano a mano conmigo? Give me your best shot.
No Hebrew volunteers. Until today. Until David.
David just showed up this morning. He clocked out of sheep watching to deliver bread and cheese to his brothers on the battlefront. That's where David hears Goliath defying God, and that's when David makes his decision. Then he takes his staff in his hand, and he chooses for himself five smooth stones from the brook. He puts them in a shepherd's pouch that he has, and his sling is in his hand. And he draws near to the Philistine (17:40).
Connor. Margaret. Cody. Sarah. Kyle. If you asked the five of them now when they first heard the David-and-Goliath story, they probably couldn't tell you. In a Bible stories picture book? In Sunday school? In encouraging words from Mom or Dad about how little didn't necessarily mean powerless? Possibly. Probably. Who could say?
For them it was the story that mattered. From the very first time, and every time since, any mention of David-the-Giant-Slayer had their wide-eyed attention. Little guy. Big enemy. Amazing victory. What's NOT to like?!
But it wasn't until their fourth-grade summer, when a teenage whirlwind swept in to take over their vacation Bible school class, that they began to see how much more there was to this shepherd-boy giant-slayer who grew up to be a king.
"Hi, I'm Cassie. And have I got a story for you!"
The dozen rambunctious nine-year-olds in the class went mouse-quiet. From Cody ... to Margaret ... to Sarah ... to Connor ... to Kyle ... and on through the class, glance met glance to send astonishment and speculation zipping around the room.
Cassie?! That Cassie? Who else could it be? Yes, it is ... Cassie Hamilton!
Cassie-whose flashing smile and copper-colored hair were impossible to miss.
Cassie-whose amusing chatter made it easy to pretend you didn't see that she had a-(Besides, it wasn't polite to stare.)
Cassie-who was something of an unlikely hero herself-was teaching their class!
THIS IS THEIR HERO?
This? ... THIS is their hero?! Not at all impressed by David, Goliath scoffs at the kid, nicknames him Squirt. "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" (1 Samuel 17:43 NASB). Skinny, scrawny David. Bulky, brutish Goliath. The toothpick versus the tornado. The minibike attacking the eighteen-wheeler. The toy poodle taking on the Rottweiler. What chance do you give David against his giant?
A better chance, maybe, than you give yourself against yours.
Your goliath doesn't carry sword or shield; he brandishes blades of discontent, anger, shame, or temptation. Your giant doesn't parade up and down the hills of Elah; he prances through your bedroom, your classroom, your mind. He brings expectations you can't meet, grades you can't make, people you can't please, forbidden things you can't resist, a family you can't escape, and a future you can't face.
You know well the roar of Goliath.
David faced one who foghorned his challenges morning and night. "For forty days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Philistine giant strutted in front of the Israelite army" (17:16 NLT). Yours does the same. First thought of the morning, last worry of the night; your goliath dominates your day and infuriates your joy.
How long has he stalked you? Goliath's family was an ancient foe of the Israelites. Joshua drove them out of the Promised Land three hundred years earlier. He destroyed everyone except the residents of three cities: Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. Gath and Ashdod bred giants like Yosemite grows sequoias. Guess where Goliath was raised. See the "G" on his letter jacket? Gath High School. His ancestors were to Hebrews what pirates were to Her Majesty's navy.
Saul's soldiers saw Goliath and mumbled, "Not again. My dad fought his dad. My granddad fought his granddad."
You've groaned similar words. "I'm becoming a braggart just like my father." "My sister couldn't keep a friend, either. Why do I keep messing up? Is this ever going to stop?"
Goliath: the longstanding bully of the valley. Tougher than a two-dollar steak. More snarls than twin Dobermans. He awaits you in the morning, torments you at night. He stalked your ancestors and now looms over you. He blocks the sun and leaves you standing in the shadow of a doubt. "When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine's challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope" (17:11 MSG).
But what am I telling you? You know Goliath. You recognize his walk and wince at his talk. You've seen your godzilla; the question is, is he all you see? You know his voice, but is it all you hear? David saw and heard more.
Cassie did, too. The flabbergasted nine-year-olds all knew Cassie's big story, but none in that long-ago vacation Bible school class had any idea how much more there was to discover about her-and their hero David. Cassie was well acquainted with a giant of her own, but first she had to get their attention where she wanted it-instead of where it was.
Cassie's smile swept the room like a searchlight. "I know," she said, "you were expecting Mrs. Martin. But she's broken her hip. And you've got me. But before we discuss David and the fine art of giant-slaying, let's get rid of the elephant in the room."
Elephant? Here? Where?!
Cassie chuckled as a dozen pairs of eyes scanned the room. "Relax," she said, "no peanuts required. This elephant is just a figure of speech for something too big to ignore that everybody's afraid to talk about. Something like this."
Then Cassie bent down, rolled up the right leg of her jeans, and tapped a resounding THUNK on the metal-and-plastic contraption that replaced the flesh and bone of her leg from the knee down. "Go ahead," invited the eighteen-year-old former track star for whom everyone used to predict Olympic glory. "Take a look."
There was a long silence, which nobody wanted to break. Except, of course, Connor, who never could resist being the center of attention. "Wow! That is a seriously high-tech pros ... pros ..."
"Prosthesis," supplied Margaret with, as usual, the absolutely correct answer.
"Well, of course, Margaret," huffed Connor, reclaiming his place in the spotlight. "Everyone knows that's what you call it!"
Cassie smiled to herself at the look Margaret sent Connor over the rims of her glasses. "Actually," she told them, "I call it Liz."
"Your leg has a name? Why? And why Liz?" That was Cody, in hot pursuit of one of his favorite things-any mystery.
"Well," said Cassie, "I had to call it something, and leg didn't seem personal enough for something that makes me so much more than I was before."
More? What more? How more? Cassie smiled at her puzzled class. Now she had them!
"Ah," she explained, "this kind of more is an extra something that can change ordinary into special. It can change you not just on the outside like my Liz, but on the inside like David's `more'."
"Bible David?" asked Sarah, who always liked to keep the facts straight, which Kyle almost missed because he'd started wondering how much a missing leg would slow him down.
"That's right," came Cassie's answer. "When David went out to face Goliath, he had a lot more going for him than just five smooth stones and a lot of attitude. And it was that `more' that made all the difference. That same kind of `more' can make a difference for you, too."
"A secret weapon!" breathed an awe-struck Connor.
"Better than that," Cassie said. "A not-so-secret weapon that anyone can use ... if they choose to."
YOUR CLUE TO THE "MORE"
You'll find your clue to the "more" that powered David in the first words he spoke, not just in the battle, but in the Bible. "David asked the men standing near him, `What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?'" (1 Samuel 17:26 NIV).
David shows up discussing God. The soldiers mentioned nothing about him, the brothers never spoke his name, but David takes one step onto the stage and raises the subject of the living God. He does the same with King Saul: no chitchat about the battle or questions about the odds. Just a God-birthed announcement: "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 this Philistine" (17:37).
He continues the theme with Goliath. When the giant mocks David, the shepherd boy replies:
"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 hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, 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."-17:45-47 NIV
No one else discusses God. David discusses no one else but God.
A subplot appears in the story. More than "David vs. Goliath," this is "God-focus vs. giant-focus."
David sees what others don't and refuses to see what others do. All eyes, except David's, fall on the brutal, hate-breathing hulk. All compasses, except David's, are set on the polestar of the Philistine. All journals, but David's, describe day after day in the land of the Neanderthal. The people know his taunts, demands, size, and strut. They majored in Goliath.
David majored in God. He sees the giant, mind you; he just sees God more so. Look carefully at David's battle cry. "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" (17:45).
Note the plural noun-armies of Israel. Armies? The common observer sees only one army of Israel. Not David. He sees the Allies on D-day: platoons of angels and infantries of saints, the weapons of the wind and the forces of the earth. God could pellet the enemy with hail as he did for Moses, collapse walls as he did for Joshua, stir thunder as he did for Samuel.
David sees the armies of God. And because he does, "David [hurries and runs] toward the army to meet the Philistine" (17:48).
David's brothers cover their eyes, both in fear and embarrassment. King Saul sighs as the young shepherd boy races to certain death. Goliath throws back his head in laughter, just enough to shift his helmet and expose a square inch of forehead. David spots the target and seizes the moment. The sound of his swirling sling is the only sound in the valley. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. The stone torpedoes into the skull, Goliath's eyes cross, and his legs buckle. He crumples to the ground and dies. David runs over and yanks Goliath's sword from its sheath, shish-kebabs the Philistine, and cuts off his head.
You might say that David knew how to get a head of his giant.
When was the last time you did the same? How long since you ran toward your challenge? Or did you log in to a chat room, fire up your iPod, or head for the mall instead? For a moment, a day, or a year, we feel safe, insulated, anesthetized. But then the challenges return and we hear Goliath again. Booming. Bombastic. Impossible to ignore.
When you're only nine your personal monsters don't always come in giant economy-size like David's Goliath. But they're still pretty hard to ignore.
That midnight rustling in your closet ... or under your bed! The kid who picks on you at school. Being so afraid of making a mistake that you never try anything. That icky nickname you can't shake. Monsters, every one of them. But they shrink right down once you realize that you never, ever have to face them alone!
"God will get you through it ... whatever it is," Cassie told them. "He did it for David. He did it for me." Then, with an embarrassed shrug, "Of course, I didn't make it easy for him, especially in those first months after my accident. But once I decided to be 'David' and invited God in, he gave me the courage to face my giant."
The more Cassie's kids came to understand how David's power came from his trust in God to stand by him, the more they began to see the possibilities for themselves. Of course, as you grow, the bigger your giants grow, too. "The David Five"-as Connor, Margaret, Sarah, Cody, and Kyle had taken to calling themselves-would soon be facing their own giants.
But long after that vacation Bible school was over, the things they learned about David's amazing power source would see them through ... as long as they never forgot that it was God who had their backs when giants showed up.
Just to make sure they wouldn't forget, Cassie had one more surprise up her sleeve....
YOUR GIANT IS CALLING!
Next time your giant comes calling, try a different tactic. Rush your giant with a God-saturated soul. Amplify God and minimize Goliath. Download some of heaven's unsquashable resolve. Giant of rebellion, you aren't entering my home! Giant of unkindness, it might take a lifetime, but you won't conquer me. Giant of anger, conceit, insecurity ... you're going down. How long since you loaded your slingshot and took a swing at your giant?
Too long? Hardly ever? Never? Then David is your model. God called him "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22 NIV). He gave the appellation to no one else. Not Abraham or Moses or Joseph. He called Paul an apostle, John his beloved, but neither was tagged "a man after my own heart."
One might read the rest of David's story and wonder what God saw in him. The fellow fell as often as he stood; stumbled as often as he conquered. He stared down Goliath, yet stared at Bathsheba; defied God-mockers in the valley, yet joined them in the wilderness. An Eagle Scout one day. Chumming with the Mafia the next. He could lead armies but couldn't manage a family. Raging David. Weeping David. Bloodthirsty. God-hungry.
A man after God's own heart? That God saw him as such gives hope to us all. David's life has little to offer the unstained saint. Straight-A souls find David's story disappointing. The rest of us find it reassuring. We ride the same roller coaster. We alternate between swan dives and belly flops, soufflés and burnt toast.
In David's good moments, no one was better. In his bad moments, could one be worse? The heart God loved was a checkered one.
We need David's story. Giants lurk in our neighborhoods, too. Rejection. Failure. Revenge. Remorse. We must face them. Yet we need not face them alone. Focus first, and foremost, on God. The times David did, giants fell. The days he didn't, David fell.
Test this theory with an open Bible. Read 1 Samuel 17 and make a list of the observations David made regarding Goliath.
I find only one statement to Saul about Goliath (17:36) and one to Goliath's face: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (17:26 NIV).