01-12-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Lam 3:40-41 (TEV). 40 Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. 41 Let us open our hearts to God in heaven and pray…

Famous New York Yankees catcher and coach, Yogi Berra, once said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Where are you going? Where will you end up? What new things is God doing for you? What is changing? We need to grab hold of these truths…

Nothing stays the same indefinitely. Change is inevitable. If you’re growing, you’re changing. If you’re aging, you’re changing. If you’re dying, you’re changing.

We are all changing in one direction or another—so we want to maximize those changes for good. We want to be proactive instead of reactive.

God wants to move us forward in his direction. He is making a way in the wilderness! He doesn’t want us to park alongside the road, sitting in a wayside rest. And he certainly doesn’t want us to slip backwards.

God wants to give us a fresh vision. A glimpse of the future. If you know where you’re going, you’ll have life. Hope. Purpose.

Prov 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV).

That is, without revelation from God, without direction or a word from God, the people go running off in all directions, without focus, without purpose, and without God’s anointing.

Prov 29:18 (NLT) When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.

That means two things:
(1) If we want fresh vision from God, we must slow down, clear our heads and hearts of all distractions, and learn to listen for God’s voice. But it also means
(2) that we must dare to act on what we hear. We must be bold and courageous. We must step out in faith!

I am absolutely convinced God is leading us and stretching us. He has put us here in this place at this time for a reason. We know God wants to have a vibrant, dynamic relationship with us (which we talked about last time), but God also has an assignment for us to do—probably many assignments.

An open heart means stepping out in faith. To go where God wants us to go and do what God wants us to do, we’re going to have to take a risk.

The Bible is full of examples of people who learned to trust God enough so they could take a risk:

  • Peter got out of the boat! Dare to get out of the boat and put your weight on the water. You’ll never walk on water if you stay in the boat!
  • The priests carrying the ark stepped into the Jordan. Dare to step into the river. You could drown—or the waters could stop flowing and you could cross on dry ground.
  • Gideon’s army made a ruckus even though they were outnumbered. They blew their trumpets and lifted their torches. Dare to blow your trumpet and lift your light.
  • Three Hebrews were told to bow to the idol—but they refused. Dare to stand when everyone else bows—even if it means a fiery furnace.

Faith—real faith—means risk is involved. You can’t “play it safe” if you’re going to live by faith.

People who live by faith will risk going where others hesitate.

…will risk trying something others only talk about.

…will risk being misunderstood …will risk taking on a fight …will risk making mistakes.

(New year’s resolution: I’m going to make mistakes—new mistakes different from last year’s mistakes. Why? “If you’re making mistakes, you’re doing something”—Neil Gaiman, author).

Heb 11:6 (NIV) “…without faith it is impossible to please God…”

Heb 11:1 ~Faith is what gives substance and reality to our hopes.

  • Faith stands as the evidence for the invisible things we cannot see.
  • Faith gives us the conviction that something is real and is coming—though we can’t see it yet beyond the horizon.

David’s story of standing by faith.

1 Sam 17:4-11,16 (NLT). 4 Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! 5 He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. 6 He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. 7 The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield.

8 Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! 9 If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! 10 I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!”

11  When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.

16 For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army.

David went to check on his brothers at the battle front and brought some roasted grain, loaves of bread, and cheeses (for the commander). He arrived just as the army was headed to the battlefield “with shouts and battle cries” (v 20). The two armies faced off against each other, and then out came Goliath, taunting the Israelites.

24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright.

It is normal to be intimidated by giants! Giants aren’t warm, fuzzy, cuddly creatures. They’re big and scary!

The threats, challenges, and problems that come storming into our lives are the things the devil wants to use to undermine our confidence and attack our faith.

The soldiers were intimidated by the giant—even though they knew anyone who dared to face him could win far more than a fight. The king had offered a huge reward to anyone who killed the giant—his own daughter for a wife and his family would never have to pay taxes again.

David couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Is that really true? He was amazed not only because of the reward but also because no one had yet taken the challenge.

His older brother, Eliab, questioned his motives. He thought David was full of himself—immature and a little too eager to see some action.

To people who are fearful, faith seems audacious. Presumptuous. Ridiculous. But word of David’s audacity got to the king, who sent for him.

32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

Saul was skeptical.

33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied.  “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

But David had more experience than Saul knew about. God had been building his faith and preparing him for this day for quite some time. Every time he trusted God to face a lion or a bear in order to protect his sheep, David grew in experience and in faith.

37 “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Which leads us to our next point…

You can build your faith over time. You don’t go from zero faith to moutain-moving faith in one huge leap. You go from one experience to another. We take “steps on our spiritual journey.”

So Saul gave in to David’s persistence. He wasn’t too confident about it, but David sure was! Still, if Saul was going to put his kingdom in the hands of this boy, then he at least wanted to hedge his bets. So he got out his own armor—the best they had to offer—and put it on David: a bronze helmet and a coat of mail.

39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again.

David knew it was better to go with what he knew from fighting bears and lions. He knew God would rescue him! He he didn’t know—and couldn’t trust—the king’s very best equipment.

Our best isn’t enough! Not to do God’s work! We should do our best and give our best—but don’t trust your best! Our trust must be in God, not in what we have to offer!

David picked up five smooth stones (archaeologists have found sling stones in that area nearly the size of a baseball), put them in his shepherd’s bag, and started off across the valley toward Goliath.

Imagine! The giant, covered in metal—looking like Ironman  or Robo-cop—squinted out from beneath his helmet at this kid with no armor and just a stick, and snorted in contempt. He started cursing and yelling at David, “Come here! I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals.”

David was young, but he had a lot of spunk! He shouted back at the giant:

45-47. 45 … “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

Goliath came with human strength (human resources and training). David came in the name of the Lord.

Goliath focused on himself (“Am I a dog?”). David focused on the Lord who, he said, would conquer the giant.

Goliath cursed David, calling on the Philistine gods. David said the whole world would soon know of the God in Israel…

47 “This is the Lord’s battle!” The battle belongs to the Lord. He owns this fight!

God fights for us! Far too often we think the battles we fight are our battles—we feel the heat; we feel the stress; we believe it is our battle to win or to lose.

The truth is God is fighting for us! If someone or something comes against you—if you go out in the name of the Lord, the battle is the Lord’s!

The trouble, the problem, the challenge is not ours to conquer! the battle already belongs to the Lord!

Can you see that? Can you believe that? There is no giant bigger than God. The battle is the Lord’s! He owns the fight with your giant!

So…what is your giant? What is the big, hairy, intimidating problem in your life? What challenge stands in front of you, dominating your horizon? What giant do you face in 2014?

  • What wants to suck the faith right out of your soul?
  • What threatens you?
  • What mocks your faith and rocks your world? What is it that defies your trust in God?
  • What is it that wants to utterly defeat you? What is undermining your confidence?

We have to remember: The battle is the Lord’s! He is with us to confront the giants in 2014!

Open hearts to step out in faith