David's Keys to Victory: We Must Be Who We Are

1 Samuel 17:38-40 (NKJV) 38  So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39  David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. 40  Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

I want to look at another characteristic that enabled David to defeat Goliath.  In today’s verse we see that King Saul “clothed David” in his own armor.  David was between 17 and 19 years old.  Saul was a mature man.  He was said to be head and shoulders taller than any other man in Israel and that would include David.  He was not just tall.  He was bigger than everyone else as well. 

Not only was David too small to wear Saul’s armor but he was not a soldier.  He did not know how to use this kind of weaponry.  There would come a time in David’s life when he would be a great warrior and armor like Saul’s would be common to him.  He was not yet at that point in his life.

As I travel around the world working with Ministers and leaders in the body of Christ, one of the things I see all the time is the tendency to try and be like someone else.  There may be a preacher that has been a blessing in their life.  They will try and preach like they preach.  They walk like the person walks.  They imitate the style of preaching as well as what the other person has to say.  The problem is that they are not the other person. 

I went through this myself.  I listened to some people from Texas a great deal when I first started.  They blessed me greatly.  For some time when I f preached I would speak with a Texas accent.  I have never lived farther south or west than the southern tier of central NY.  It was ok for a while to imitate these people, but my ministry never really developed until I found my own voice, my own style and my own revelation from God.  I had to recognize who I was and not try to be someone else.

I use these things as an example.  I am not just talking about preachers.  I am talking about Christians who want to live victorious lives.  We must understand who we are and where we are in our development.  Some weapons that other people use will not work for us.  Some things will work for us that will not work for others.  I believe the principles of the Word of God work for everyone all the time.  How we apply those principles may be completely different from someone else.

Airplanes fly because people learned how to apply the principles of lift and thrust over a particularly shaped wing.  Those principles have not changed since the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk North Carolina on December 3, 1903.  How those principles are applied has changed.  We no longer use biplanes powered by small gasoline engines.  We use powerful turbo prop or jet engines.  The wings look very different but the wind flowing over them at a given speed coming from some method of thrust still produces lift that causes the plane to fly. 

The principles of God that produce victory in our lives are always the same.  They were the same when David fought Goliath and they are the same today.  In David’s day, the most common way to fight on the battlefield was with a sword, shield and armor.  However, that is not who David was at that time.  He was too small for armor and too unskilled to make it work.  He did know how to use a shepherd’s staff a sling shot, and small round stones.

I am sure that many looked at him and said, “That’s not how you fight a giant!”  Some might have ridiculed him.  Most probably thought he was a dead man walking.  Nevertheless, David knew his weaknesses as well as his strengths.  He knew he was at that point in his life.  He was not depending on his weapons.  He was depending on his covenant and his God.  The weapons did not really matter.

Who are you and what are your strengths and weaknesses?  It is important that we understand this before we try and fight a battle.  If we do not, the enemy will take advantage of your weakness.  Imagine if David had tried to fight Goliath with Saul’s armor.  First, he would have been too slow.  Second, he would have been completely unskilled in using a sword.  Goliath would have easily defeated him because David would have been leading with his weaknesses.  Instead David lead with his strength, the Lord anointed that strength and Goliath had no defense against it.

What are your strengths.  I cannot tell you that.  Some you already know, and others God can reveal.  I will say this.  Your greatest strength as you see it will often be your greatest weakness.  Submit your strength to God and let him adjust it as necessary.  We must also be willing to recognize our weaknesses.  We do not like to admit we have them but if we want to win, we must.  Most of the time pride keeps us from admitting we have weaknesses.  That is a trap of the devil. 

It does not mean you are weak if you admit to having weaknesses.  It is actually just the opposite.  Over my more than forty years in ministry I have had to understand this truth.  When I started my last church, I had come to the place of knowing what I could and could not do.  I did not try to do everything.  I found people who were stronger than me and released them to function where I was weak.  This meant that I had to carry the financial burden of paying them, but one of my strengths was believing for provision.  As we all worked together each of us covered the other’s weaknesses and our team was far stronger than I could ever be alone.

Another aspect of this is understanding that each of us is continually growing in God and in natural life.  David was not yet old or trained enough to fight like other soldiers fought.  He had to work within the limitations of his age and experience.  I have seen so many people who try to be more mature both in spirit and the natural than they really are.  You cannot win that way.  You need to recognize that you are still developing in God.  Where are you now?

This is particularly difficult for people who are born again later in life.  We should not discount their life experience but that does not mean they have the same level of spiritual experience.  Whatever age a person is when they are born again, all start out as babes in Christ.  They need to grow in the knowledge of the word.  They need to grow in their relationship with the Lord.  Everyone grows at their own rate.  It is not a weakness to be where you are in Christ.

Some people may be able to stand on the promises of God in ways that you find difficult.  There is no problem with that.  We are part of a body.  Those who are more mature help those who are less mature.  It is no shame to need help.  Do not think you have to do things the way others do.  You be who you are where you are, and God will make the difference.

David could not fight Goliath with a sword and shield.  You may not have the knowledge of the sword of the spirit, the Word of God that some others do.  That does not mean you cannot win.  A sling was not a common weapon of war, but with God’s power behind it, it worked just fine.  Seek out council from those who may know more than you.  Find your own strengths and develop them.  Take your weaknesses before the Lord.  Yours will be different from mine.  In the end it is God’s power that matters.  Whatever you have and wherever you are at this point in life will be enough.

David's Keys to Victory: Altars

1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NKJV) 34  But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35  I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36  Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37  Moreover David said, “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.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

In our study of David’s battle with Goliath, we have seen that David had many things at work in his character that caused him to win this great victory.  If we allow God to develop these same traits in our lives, we will be able to defeat the Goliaths that we face as well.  Today I want us to take notice of the fact that these traits did not spring forth fully formed on the morning David came to the Israelite camp.  They were in him because of a pattern of behavior he cultivated throughout his life. 

When Saul questions David’s qualifications to face Goliath, David gives us an important insight into why he had the confidence to face a giant when everyone else in the camp, including the king himself, did not.  He reveals to Saul how God had been with him in the past.  He tells him that when he was watching the sheep for his father, both a lion and a bear had attacked the sheep.

When I looked it up these animals, I found that the bear was the same type of huge predator we might find in the US today.  I also found that lions like those in Africa could be found in the region of Israel as late as the 1400’s.  David did not face some less threatening animal.  He faced a lion and a bear.  The wording as David speaks to the king implies that he did this many times not once, so he killed lions and bears.

He was between 17 and 19 at the telling of the story in this chapter.  He would have been that age or younger when he faced these animals in defense of his father’s sheep.  David had no gun.  In his telling of the encounters he did not even use his sling.  David says he took the lamb out of the mouth of the attacker.  Then when the lion or bear turned on him, he says, “I grabbed it by the beard and struck it and killed it.”  That is quite a feat for a young man!  There was something about David that made the king believe him.

Let us take a closer look at what David says.  If he stopped after telling what he had done, it could be assumed that David was just bragging.  However, David says something else that shows us the real power behind what he said.  He tells the king, “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.”  David was not bragging.  He was not talking about himself at all.  He was talking about the power of God.

We cannot win all our battles in life with just our own strength or ability.  We may win some, but eventually we will face something that we cannot handle.  How are we going to stay in the fight when that happens?  We must do what David did and remember how God has been with us in the past.  God told Joshua to erect an altar on the west side of Jordan so that when you go by this place with your children you can remind them of what God has done. 

There are a number of types of altars in the Bible.  There are altars of repentance and altars of sacrifice.  The type in Joshua is an altar of remembrance.  It is for the purpose of reminding the people what God has done in the past so that we will remember what he can do today.  David was visiting some of his altars of remembrance when he told the king what he had done to the lion and the bear.  It was not David who would make the difference.  It was the Lord.  If God could empower David to kill the lion and the bear, he could empower David to kill a Giant.  Saul saw an invincible man of war when he saw Goliath.  David saw the power of God. 

We need to visit our own altars of remembrance.  If you have been saved any length of time, God has done something in your life.  If you face sickness, remember times when God has healed you in the past.  If you face financial difficulties, remember how God met your needs before.  Whatever the trial, there has been a time when God moved on your behalf. 

You may not have an altar that covers the same situation you face now, but God has done something in your life.  When we are faced with challenges, the tendency is to get so focused on the current problem that we forget what God has done in the past.  Many times, when faced with a financial setback my first reaction is to worry.  I must take hold of my thoughts and emotions and remember that God has cared for us for more than 40 years when it was often impossible.  He has met need after need.  He will not leave me now.  100 dollars is no different than 1,000,000 dollars to God.  By the same token the headache is no different to God than the cancer.  He can find a way in any situation, whether physical, emotional, familial or spiritual.  He has done it before, and he will do it again.

When I read what David said to Saul, it seems so matter of fact to him.  He is not trying to work up his faith.  He is speaking in faith that is already there.  We need to understand that we will not be successful if we just go back to our altars when we face the challenge.  We should certainly do that, but what made David’s faith so strong when he faced this battle was what he did in his lifestyle not what he did at that moment.

Who was David?  What did he do before he came to the battlefield?  We know that he was a shepherd who took care of his father’s sheep.  However, we know much more about David.  We know that he wrote most of the Psalms.  Some of those psalms were written when he was in the field with the sheep.  He spent a great deal of time with nothing to do but watch the sheep.  While he was watching them, he was singing songs to the Lord. 

Some of his songs we can read today, but many more we have never heard.  I am sure he sang of the encounters with the lion and the bear.  He sang of the goodness of God.  He sang of God’s faithfulness.  In his time with the sheep, he cultivated his relationship with God on an intimate level.  When the time to face Goliath came, he had spent many hours around his altars of remembrance.  He did not have to “work up” his faith for the battle.  His faith was already worked up in his private time with his God. 

I have heard a preacher use this illustration.  If you are not in good physical condition it will not help to go get your barbells when a thief breaks into the house.  It is too late at that point.  That is how we often approach faith in God.  A trial comes our way and we start looking for a promise.  At that point it may be too late.  We cannot see any way God can help us.  We forget what he has already done and sometimes collapse under the weight of current situation.

Whatever you are facing, take some time to visit your altars.  He saved you.  He filled you with the Holy Ghost.  He has healed you, touched a family member or provided for some need.  He has delivered you from danger or encouraged you in a time of despair.  You have altars.  Do not wait to visit them until you face the problem.  Visit them often.  Tell your children about them.  Remind yourself how good and faithful God is.  Go to God’s word and read about what God has done for others.  Find the promises in the Bible that you can stand on.  Then when trouble comes, like David, you will have stories of God’s faithfulness ready and your faith will flow naturally to give you victory.

David's Keys to Victory: Take up the Challenge for there is a Cause

1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NKJV) 32  Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:29 (NKJV) 29  And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?”

Today we are going to look at another characteristic in David’s life that put him in position for victory.  When Eliab criticizes David for his willingness to take on the giant, he asks a very important question.  “Is there not a cause?”  In today’s world I am afraid we have lost this idea, at least in the church.  Remember what David was about to do.  He was going to go against an enemy many times his size and many times his strength.  We will look at David’s source of confidence later, but that does not change the fact that he was human.  Viewed strictly in terms of the natural possibilities, David could not win.  The consequence for losing was not a mark in the loss column of life.  If he went against Goliath and lost, he would die!  There was no other possible outcome.  Yet he was willing to do it.  Why?  There was a cause!

In David’s time the cause was the preservation of Israel as a nation.  The long-term ramifications involved the birth of the Messiah that would save the world.  In David’s eyes, the reward of victory, both personal and historical, was worth the risk.  Is there such a cause to fight for today?  I believe there is. 

Our cause is the same and yet very different.  In David’s battle against Goliath, the opposition was right in front of him visible to all.  The objective was clear.  Defeat Goliath and give Israel victory over the invading Philistines.  When that is the case, it is easier to take up the cause and make the necessary sacrifices.  Today, at least in the western world, this is not the case.  The cause is not at all vague in the spirit nor in the Word.  However, it is not so clear in the natural.  We do not generally feel threatened personally.  We know that God wants to bring more of his children into his family.  We know that there are eternal consequences for those who do not receive Jesus as Lord and we know that we have been commissioned to take the gospel to them.  That said, there is no perceived threat to our own lives. 

David believed in the cause of God.  It is really the same cause for which we fight today.  In his case he was fighting for the manifestation of the cross.  He was working to bring the messiah into the world, though he had no idea that was the case.  We look back at the cross.  Jesus, the Messiah, has come.  He has died and been raised from the dead.  We have received him as our Lord and savior and because of this our future and our destiny is no longer under the control of the kingdom of darkness.  We will live forever in the presence of our glorious God and Savior.  There are countless billions of people in the world who have not received the salvation that those who are born again enjoy. 

What is our cause?  Jesus gave us the great commission.  It begins there.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

According to John 17, Jesus sent us into the world just as the Father sent him into the world.  Our cause is to make disciples out of every nation on earth.  It is to save people from being dominated by the kingdom of darkness in their current life and more importantly to rescue them from eternal separation from God.  This is very real and those who are truly saved by the blood of Jesus know it, but it is hard to see when life is just happening all around us and the concerns of our daily life seem so much more pressing.  That is why Jesus says what he does in Matthew Chapter 6.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) 31  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

There are those who seem to think actively believing God’s many promises that he will take care of us is somehow wrong or selfish.  On the contrary, it is necessary for us to believe his promises of provision. We need to know we will be taken care of when we seek first the Kingdom and its cause.

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) 18  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

This tells us the purpose of our cause and an important insight into how we are to fight for it.  Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to build his church on the rock of what Peter received by revelation.  That rock is not Peter himself.  It is the knowledge revealed by God that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Jesus makes a promise to his church.  He tells us the gates of hell cannot prevail against us.  To some this means we can live in protection against those gates.  That goes against the nature of what Gates do. 

In many parts of the world people are forced to live behind walls and gates.  This is often because of crime and lawlessness.  When we are at our base in Kenya, there is a gate on the driveway to the compound.  There is a gate on the front porch.  There is a door to the house.  There is even a gate that separates the upstairs from the downstairs.  They are all locked and each must be opened and relocked every time we come or go.  What is the purpose of all these gates?  It is to keep people out.

The gates of hell are not offensive weapons.  The gates of hell are defensive weapons.  They are meant to keep the church of Jesus Christ out.  Out of where?  Out of the domains controlled by the kingdom of darkness.  This kingdom still controls the world and the people who have not been set free by the blood of Jesus.  People are behind those gates.  Your unsaved family members are behind those gates.  The people of your community are behind those gates.  Our cause is to storm those gates with prayer, worship, faith and our testimony so we can rescue as many as possible before our individual lives end and before Jesus comes again. 

There is a cause set before us.  There is a reason for your life and mine beyond simply living a good life.  There are risks to taking up the challenge, but the rewards are far greater than the risks.  If we know how to operate in our covenant by faith, the risks are negligent.  However, the risk of not taking up the challenge is that we will be eternally responsible for many people never coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

In the book of Acts, that was the most important thing in life.  In many parts of the world people are dying for taking up this challenge.  I thank God that we in the west are generally not facing physical death for preaching the gospel.  That does not make the cause any less real nor less important to our God and savior.  Ask God, “Am I taking up the challenge.  Do I really understand the cause?”  If the answer is no, do not give in to condemnation.  God will help you, but we need to make a decision today to be like David and take up the cause.  When he did many people followed him.  The same will happen when we take up the cause of Christ.

David's Keys to Victory: David Understood the Reward

1 Samuel 17:25-27 (NKJV) 25  So the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.” 26  Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27  And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”

Today we will get back to looking at David and how he was able to overcome the Goliath in his life.  I believe this battle is a type of the battles we must face and can help us learn how to be victorious no matter what comes against us.  We have seen two of the things David had working in his life that gave him victory.  First, he realized that he could not run from the battle.  Because he understood the God that was on his side, he ran to the conflict with Goliath, confident that God would give him victory.  It is human nature to want to avoid conflict, but many times we cannot.  This is particularly true when important things are at stake.

Second, we saw that David was submitted to the authorities over his life.  He was not just fighting on his own.  Because he was submitted to his father and was at the battle front under orders, he was in position to win the victory.  We must realize that in order to walk in authority we must be under authority. 

In today’s scripture we see that David was clear on the rewards of winning the battle.  On the surface it might seem that David is looking at this from a selfish point of view.  The king has promised that whoever defeats Goliath will receive a number of things as reward.  He will get the king’s daughter as his wife.  Marrying her would make this man part of the king’s family.  This opens up many doors to whoever could defeat Goliath.  On top of that, this man will receive great riches and his whole family of the man would be exempt from taxes.  On a personal level, this is a great reward.

I am not suggesting that we do what we do for the purpose of personal rewards.  That said, we need to know that when we fight for the Lord, God will take care of us.  The Bible is full of promises from God concerning what he will do for us.  He is a Father and it is his desire that his children be blessed and comfortable.  When we rise up in his will to fight the enemies of our faith, God promises to bless us.  We do not fight to be blessed, but we need to know that God will take care of us if we do fight.  If our motivations are selfish, God will not bless us.  If we are motivated by the will of God, he will give us victory and take care of us along the way.

No one sacrificed more for the kingdom of God than Jesus.  No one would say that his motivation was selfish.  Yet he went to the cross knowing that his victory would produce great personal joy. 

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Why did Jesus go to the cross?  He did it because he obeyed God’s will in all things.  Yet in this verse it is clear that he went “for the joy that was set before him.”  I know this is not talking about the kind of blessings David was asking about.  Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to endure the cross even though he despised the shame of it, because he knew that something wonderful would come to him in the end.  He was going to be raised from the dead.  He would be reunited with the Father for all eternity in heaven.  Most important, he would open the way for all of God’s children to be restored to relationship with God. 

On a personal level, the fact that Jesus would not stay in hell but would be raised to life again was what enabled him to endure the cross.  He knew that the cross and its shame was not the end of the story.  He knew that he had an everlasting future with God.  This enabled him to see his way through the terrible battle he had to fight.

On another level Jesus understood that he was fighting for something that would make a real difference in the future of all people.  He had a destiny.  The way to fulfill that destiny was through the cross.  As long as he knew that his destiny was waiting at the end of the battle, he could and did endure to the end.  Both the personal joy and the final victory helped him endure to the end. 

David did not fight Goliath for what he could get out of it.  However, David understood that if he fought for God, he would win.  He wanted to be clear what the promise for winning meant.  We do not fight our battles just for what we can get out of it.  We do need to know that God has given us promises.  If we fight the good fight of faith, those promises are there for us.  If we live Godly lives, there is a reward due us.  It is not selfish to believe God will do what he himself has promised. 

Knowing that God will take care of us when we do battle is important.  Sometimes we need to go through some things, but in the end, we will see the reward God promises.  However, that is not all there is to what we need to believe in order to be willing to fight.  We must know that when we win, it is extending the kingdom of God.  We are fighting for the souls of men and women, boys and girls.  It is not just about us, it is about winning the war against darkness.

How does my winning battles against sin or sickness or poverty, help win the war against darkness?  How does my choosing to live according to Godly principles affect the world.  First, we need to understand that people are always watching us.  When we live Godly lives, when we have joy in the midst of trial and when we have what we need in the face of economic or emotional impossibility, we show those around us that God is real.  We show them that he cares for his children.  When they ask how we can have victory when it seems no one else does, we can introduce them to the source of victory.  However, there is something else God showed me.

Generals do not win battles.  Soldiers win battles.  Generals can make plans and move the pieces of the army to the right place on the board.  They can have brilliant plans and schemes and because of that, we say they win the battle.  However, the generals simply put the soldiers in position to win.  It is the soldiers who fight.  In the end one soldier must stand in front of another soldier, resist him and push him back.  When that happens, ground is taken.  If it does not happen, all the plans in the world are useless.

Every time you and I choose God’s way instead of the world’s, we resist the devil and take ground in the spirit.  Every time we choose holiness instead of sin, we push back darkness around us.  Every time we rise above our emotions and take hold of joy when we should be depressed or faith when we should give up, we take ground from the kingdom of darkness.  Every time we stand by faith and receive the healing, provision or deliverance the Word of God says is ours, we take spiritual ground from the devil.

Your victories count in the war against the kingdom of darkness.  You count in God’s army.  No one is unimportant.  You have a reason to fight.  On the personal level, God will take care of you.  In the grand scheme of things, your victories are important.  They are important to God, to those around you and to the outcome of this great conflict between darkness and light. 

You will win.  God is on your side.  You do not fight alone.  All of the body of Christ is with you.  The Holy Spirit is in you.  Do not quit.  Jesus was able to endure the cross because he knew that was not the end of his story.  You may be in a difficult or even impossible situation.  However, remember that your story is not over yet either.  God is for you so who can succeed against you.  Take down you Goliath!

The Weapon of Thanksgiving

Luke 17:17-19 (KJV) 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

(We are going to take a moment from our study of David and warfare to think about what thanksgiving really means especially to a believer.)

As we take time this year to give thanks to God, we need to remember that being thankful is not just a response for a believer. Giving thanks to God is also a causal force. We do not only respond to the good things God brings to our lives by giving thanks, but giving thanks actually draws good things to us. It changes things in the spirit. As such, thanksgiving is one of the spiritual weapons we must use to win the war for the soul of our world.

A continuing theme for me recently has been the simple truth that Christianity is a radical lifestyle. In the sermon on the mount Jesus said many times, “You have heard it said …..But I say.” The revelation here is that the world operates one way but the body of Christ must operate in a very different manner. When we talk about weapons and warfare, we must understand that our weapons and our warfare are also completely different from the way it would be in the world.

We would never see giving thanks as a weapon in the natural world. When we are threatened, we do not give thanks. We fight back. However, when we give thanks to God in every circumstance we are fighting warfare in the spirit with weapons against which the devil has no defense.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There was a teaching many years ago, that said we should give thanks for all things because anything that happens to us must be the will of God for our lives. This is not what the verse says. It tells us to give thanks in all things. Rejoicing always, praying without ceasing and giving thanks are the will of God for you no matter what you are going through. When we do these things, the devil cannot defeat us.

I want to look at this story from Luke’s Gospel. Earlier in this chapter, we see 10 lepers who come to Jesus and cry out for him to heal them. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests. To understand what is happening here we need to know the social ramifications of this disease.

I have seen leprosy and it is not a pretty sight. In the days of Jesus, this was similar to what Aids is today in that it was incurable and carried a severe stigma. The person with leprosy was literally eaten alive by the disease. Noses might be eaten away. Often the person would be without fingers or toes. They believed it was also highly contagious.

A person with leprosy was legally and religiously unclean. He or she would have to stay away from everyone who did not have the disease. If they went out in public at all, they had to cry out, “Unclean!” This was so that people would know to stay away from them. They would be segregated in “leper colonies” away from their friends and family. It did not matter how rich they might be or even what their position was in life, if they were a leper, everyone rejected them and left them to die.

If by some medicine or miracle a leper was cured of the disease, the only way they could go back into society was to show the priest proof they were no longer leprous. If they went to the priest and were not free of the leprosy, they risked possible death because those who were unclean could not approach anything holy. This is why the 10 cried out from “far off.” (Vs. 13)

When Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, it took faith for them to go. They had not yet been healed. However, they obeyed Jesus and as they went, God touched their bodies and they were no longer leprous. All ten of them had faith. All ten of them were healed. Nine of them continued on to the priests to reclaim their lives. That is what Jesus told them to do.

We cannot say that the nine did anything wrong. The fact that they obeyed and went to show themselves to the priest proved their faith in Jesus. However, one of them simply could not continue on his way when he saw that he was healed. I am sure the others were grateful, but this man’s heart of thanksgiving would not allow him to take one more step until he went back to thank God for what had been done to him.

The one so moved with thanks to God was a Samaritan, a hated foreigner. I want you to see something about thanksgiving in this story. All ten were healed. All ten had faith. This one man responded with radical thanksgiving. The impact of his thanksgiving did not end with the response. Because he came back and gave thanks to Jesus, the Lord says that he was made whole. The thanksgiving was not just a response to good things it was a cause of something that was an even greater good!

I do not know exactly what Jesus meant when he said the man was made whole. I think it could mean that things the leprosy had eaten away were restored to his body. Imagine seeing his nose made whole in an instant. That would be something to see. This disease can eat away fingers, toes and even hands. It would be wonderful to be free of the leprosy but how much greater would it be to have your body complete again.

I think being made whole also means restoration from the spiritual and psychological effects of the disease. What would it do to someone to be taken from his or her family and friends? How damaging would it be to have to cry out “unclean” as you walked down the street? I think to be made whole would mean healing in those areas as well.

Faith connects us to God and the realm of the spirit. I believe it bridges the gap between the natural and the supernatural. Faith is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal. However, as important as faith is, when it is coupled with active and radical thanksgiving there is a completely new level of power that is released. Faith healed ten and made them clean. Adding the weapon of thanksgiving to his arsenal caused the Samaritan to be made whole.

Find something to give thanks for today. Add this powerful force to your spiritual arsenal. When we are going through difficulties, it can be hard to be thankful. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. If there is something God has done for you, stop where you are and thank him. Thank him for your job, your family and your friends. Most of all thank him for salvation. You will never see a day in hell because of what Jesus did for you.

Your attitude of thanksgiving will change the spiritual atmosphere around you. It will cause people to be drawn to you and you will be able to share the gospel in a much more effective way. Good things will be drawn to your life as you actively and radically give thanks to the Lord.

David’s Keys to Victory: Submission to Authrity

David: Keys to Victory
November 21, 2019

1 Samuel 17:17-19 (NKJV) 17  Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. 18  And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” 19  Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.

We are looking at the story of David and Goliath in light of what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8-9.  We live in a world that is also occupied by and adversary.  This means we are a people at war, and we need to know how to win.  In our last post, we looked at the first thing David showed in his battle with Goliath that produced victory.  David ran to the battle not away from it.  We cannot avoid the war between darkness and light.  We must “run to the battle” as David did, knowing our God, our covenant and our weapons.  Now I want to begin to look at some more things in Davids life that enabled him to win a battle against seemingly insurmountable odds.

In today’s scripture we see something that may not seem important, but it is.  David’s father sent him on a mission to the battle front.  He was not there because he wanted to see the fight.  He was there under the authority of his father.  Submission to the authorities in our lives puts us into position to win battles.  Even Jesus understood this principle.

John 5:30 (NKJV) 30  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

The man Jesus was God manifested in the flesh.  The emphasis on he was God.  Yet in this verse we see that, as a man, he only did the will of the Father who sent him.  He could not do anything in himself.  This is hard to understand.  How could God in the flesh be limited in anyway?  Nevertheless, Jesus himself says he was limited.  The reason is made clear in another familiar scripture.

Matthew 8:9 (NKJV) 9  For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The Roman Centurion speaking in this verse had come to Jesus with a request that he heal his servant.  Jesus consented and said he would come to the centurion’s house.  The centurion understood a principle that most of us do not.  He understood how power and authority worked.  He was a Roman military officer.  As such he represented the power and authority of the whole Roman state.  When he gave an order, it was followed because it was Rome that gave the order.  This centurion recognized the same quality in Jesus. 

For many years I read this scripture incorrectly.  I thought the centurion said, “I am also a man in authority” and that was why the soldiers under him obeyed.  However, it says that the centurion’s claim was that he was under authority.  His submission to the authority over him was what gave him power.  He saw that Jesus was a man under authority and therefore, could operate in authority.  The power of Rome stood behind the centurion’s word.  The power of the Kingdom of God stood behind the words and actions of Jesus.

Why is this so important?  The kingdom of God is a kingdom of order.  It is a kingdom based on submission.  The kingdom of Satan was born in rebellion.  Satan, then called Lucifer, rebelled against God in heaven.  He led the heavenly worship.  There came a time when he began to believe he was worthy of the worship that was going to God.

Isaiah 14:12-13 (NKJV) 12  “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13  For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;

Satan rebelled against God.  His rebellion did not last very long.  He was cast out of heaven and condemned to an eternity in what the Bible calls “the lake of fire.”  Since Satan’s rule was born out of rebellion, all rebellion makes us vulnerable to his influence.  Submission to proper authorities eliminates that vulnerability and opens our heart to the influence of the God to whom we ultimately submit.

It is no secret that this kind of thinking has been abused.  In the guise of submitting to God, unscrupulous leaders have dominated people and led them away from God instead of to him.  That does not change the principle.  What we must do is understand how to safeguard ourselves from the false while walking in the true.  There are some things that will help us do that.  I want to look at two.

First of all, we must understand that the only one to whom we submit unconditionally is God.  We are not required to submit to anything that leads us to do something that is contrary to the will and/or nature of God.  Even if the person asking us to, is someone we have trusted and been submitted to in the past, we cannot submit to anything that is against what God teaches.  Sometimes even good leaders make mistakes.  If they are Godly, they will be open to honest questions.  If they are not, they are not acting in a godly manner in that area and you are not required to submit.

How can we know if someone is asking us to do something we should not submit to?  We must know the Word of God.  Any leader who does not confirm what he is asking by God’s word should not be submitted to.  I am not just talking about giving a chapter and verse to confirm what he is saying.  That is part of it.  However, it is just as important to look at the lifestyle and history of this leader.  Is he or she living according to the principles in the Word?  Have they demonstrated submission to the Word of God in their personal life?  Is what they are asking something you could see Jesus asking or would it be out of character with the Jesus you know. 

If any of these things are true you must respectfully ask for a biblical explanation.  If the leader is unable or unwilling to give it, you must respectfully decline to obey until they can.  If this becomes a pattern, you might need to find another leader that you can submit to more comfortably.  This is never something you do lightly or quickly.  Not only do leaders make mistakes, but sometimes they may know things you do not.  If they are honest, approachable, kind and gentle, give them some time.  If they are not, this could indicate something is wrong. 

The other thing we must look at in the lives of our leaders, is do they pass the centurion’s test.  Are they leading from under authority?  Are they accountable to someone or are they a “lone ranger” who answers to no one?  My ministry became far more effective when I found a leader to whom I could submit my life and ministry.  I did not always agree with him.  Many times, he would give me counsel that we had to talk about so we both would have a better understanding.  In the end I decided to be under authority and receive his counsel.  When I did, I found that people had very little problem submitting to me.

David went to the battle front under authority.  When it came time for him to stand against Goliath, he went to the King who was the authority over the army.  By the time he faced Goliath, his lifestyle of submission and righteousness had put him into position where he could not lose. 

Examine your life.  Are you under authority?  Be careful to whom you submit.  Nevertheless, find a situation that will cause you to pass the centurion’s test.  This will position you to win the battles of life that face you today.

David: Run to the Battle

1 Samuel 17:48 (NKJV) 48  So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

Yesterday we looked at the last character besides David in the story of David and Goliath.  No study of this story would be complete without taking a closer look at the man who won the battle, David.  We began a few weeks ago by looking at 1 Peter 5:8-11.  Peter tells us that we must be sober and vigilant because our adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion. 

We have an adversary.  His primary purpose is to hurt God by keeping his children separated from him by sin.  His secondary purpose is to steal, kill and destroy any human being whether they are born again or not.  This will also hurt God.  Those who are born again must remember that this adversary exists.  He is a defeated foe but not one who is ready to give up the fight.  He is taking many people, both Christians and those who do not know Jesus, down as he continues to oppose God.  The battle between David and Goliath is a type of every battle we fight while on the earth.  What we see in David can give us keys that will enable us to win every time, both for ourselves and those around us.

The verse above is one small statement but it says a great deal about what caused David to be victorious.  It says that David ran to meet the Philistine in battle.  We know Goliath was a massive man, somewhere in the around 9 feet tall.  We know David was young, but we do not know his size.  We do know he was smaller than Saul who was probably more than 2 feet smaller than Goliath.  David wore no armor, he had no weapons that would be considered suitable for war.  Yet he ran toward the enemy not away from him.  This tells us that David was confident he would defeat this mountain of a man. 

We have talked about where David’s confidence was placed.  It was not in his skill, his size or his weapons.  David was confident that God was with him.  He was confident that he was fighting in the power of the God of Israel.  He understood that everything else was irrelevant.  If God was for him no one, not even a 9-foot giant could succeed against him.

What is your battle against?  We know it is against the devil, our adversary.  However, he manifests in many ways.  It could be health, family or financial.  It could be emotional or job related.  No matter the opponent, if God is on your side there is nothing that can keep you from winning except you.  If you quit, you lose.  If you separate yourself from the Body of Christ, you will likely lose.  If you do not give time and self to the God of the Bible and the Word itself, you will have no strength.  David did those things in the context of his life and won.  David ran to the battle.

One of the devil’s favorite tactics is to keep us from fighting at all.  We have seen that was Goliath’s purpose in the battle.  He intimidated the Army of Israel until they hid in their camp and refused to come out.  David would not give in to that intimidation.  He understood who he was in God and who God was in him.  He also understood that the choice was to fight or submit to slavery.  There may be many reasons we are not inclined to fight.  It may not be our personality.  We may have been defeated before or we may be too lazy to fight.  Nevertheless, there will be battles.  We will have to choose between bondage of some kind and fighting for what God has given us. 

David ran to the battle.  All of us would rather avoid the battles of life.  That will not make them go away.  There will be battles.  If the battle is inevitable, do not try to avoid it.  You will not be able to hide from the battle.  Until you show yourself and the enemy that his tactics will not work, he will continue to do the same things.  Until you prove to yourself that Christ in you can win the victory, you will continue to fall in the same traps.  David ran to the battle with Goliath.

Sometimes we think that if we just do not “rock the boat” the devil will leave us alone.  He will not.  He will do all he can to keep you in the condition you are in.  I imagine that very few people ran toward Goliath in a fight.  He was used to seeing them run away.  What a shock it must have been when this young man with no armor and no weapons ran toward him.  So it is with the devil.  He expects you to run away.  When you do not, he is not sure what to do. 

James 4:7 (NKJV) 7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

This is a promise from God and exactly what David did.  He was submitted to God.  He believed in his power and promise.  That is one of the ways we submit to God.  We believe he told the truth.  We believe his Word.  When we do that, we can resist the devil.  David ran to his battle with Goliath.  When he defeated him, the rest of the Philistine Army ran away from him.  Sometimes we are going to have to defeat giants in our lives and circumstances.  When we do, the real enemy, the devil will flee from us.

There have been many times in my life that I have had to fight difficult battles.  There were times when I just wanted it all to be over.  I knew that if I quit, I would not find real peace but some type of bondage.  I would never possess the land God wanted me to possess unless I fought through.  It was in one of these times that God said to me, “I thought you were competitive.”  I realized that God was right.  I like to win.  I do not like to win if there is no competition.  I admitted to God that I was.  He said, “Than why don’t you see this battle as a competition.”  I realized that he was telling me to run to the battle.

You may not be as competitive as I am, but you have nothing to lose by trusting God in your situation.  Go to His word and find a promise that applies to you.  Meditate on that promise.  Speak it over your life.  Find a way you can act on what you believe.  Many of our battles have been financial.  When we were facing lack, we often took the last bit of money we had and gave it to God or someone in need.  Inevitably we saw God move on our behalf.  We ran to the battle instead of away from it. 

You may be facing something like depression or some emotional struggle.  These are some of the most difficult battles I have ever faced.  They are very real.  We want to run away and hide or retreat into ourselves.  That will not help.  Find someone to talk to.  You are not alone and there is no condemnation for feeling the things you feel.  Go to the Word of God and let God breathe life into your emotions.  He really is there.  The action you can do is revealed in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:12 (NKJV) 12  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,

How do we do that?  He tells us in the next chapter.

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) 15  Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Praise is a powerful thing.  It is not just emotional, but it works through our emotions.  Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Praise releases the inner joy that is ours in Christ.

One more thing about running to the battle.  God has given us mighty armor with which to fight.  We read about it in Ephesians 6.  When we read about it, we find that all of the armor faces front.  There is no protection on the back side of the armor.  God will cover our back, but the armor he gives us is designed for frontal assaults.  Running to the battle seemed like foolishness to David.  In the end it was one of the keys to victory.  It will be for you as well.  Run to the battle not from it.