Lessons of Courage from the Old Testament 3
So You Want to Be a Giant Killer?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 17, 2005


Main Passage: 1 Samuel 17:1-51 (NLT)


What was to first song you ever learned to sing? If you grew up in a church, then you probably learned the same songs I did. Because the first songs I learned were old Sunday School choruses. Probably the very first song I learned was “Jesus Loves Me.” I suppose the second one I would have learned would have been “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” “Deep And Wide” and “The B-I-B-L-E” would have been right in there, too.

But I remember as I got a little older learning another one. If you know it, join in. It went like this:

“Only a boy named David, only a little sling.
Only a boy named David, but he could pray and sing.
Only a boy named David, only a rippling brook.
Only a boy named David, but five little stones he took.
And one little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round.
And one little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round.
And round, and round, and round, and round, and round, and round, and round.
And one little stone went up in the air, and the giant came tumbling down.”

Now that was a fun song. But you know, it’s more than just a cute Sunday School chorus... It’s a story… a true story… and it’s found in the Old Testament book of 1st Samuel chapter 17. We read part of it earlier this morning.

We saw how the Israelites were at war, and at this particular moment they were in a bit of a stand off. They were lined up on one side of a valley, and the Philistine army was lined up on the other side. Now, there’s something you need to understand. Wars back then were handled a little differently than they are today. One of the things they could do to determine the victor was this: each side could choose a warrior to fight for his side. These two warriors would meet in combat, and the winner would effectively win the war for his side.

The Philistine’s had chosen their man. Really, there was no debate about the matter. Goliath would represent them in battle. But the Israelites had a little trouble finding someone to represent them. Why? Because they were all terrified of Goliath. When they looked at Goliath, they saw a man who stood over nine feet tall wearing armor that by itself weighed over 150 pounds. It was an awesome sight they saw before them. What stood before them in all his glory was a giant who to them appeared unbeatable. And it didn’t matter how much strength they mustered, it didn’t matter who they sent out to meet him, this guy was not going to be beaten. That’s the way the Israelites felt. They were dismayed, and they were terrified.

What they needed was a giant killer. But where are you going to find a giant killer? They’re not exactly listed in the yellow pages… believe me, I checked! So where were they going to find a giant killer? Well, God was already preparing one, and he was going to send him to them. But would they recognize him? Would they know a Giant Killer when they saw one?

This morning, we’re going to identify six characteristics of a giant killer. So when we’re through here, you should be able to recognize a Giant Killer when you see one. And more importantly, you’ll be able to become a Giant Killer. How’s that sound? And in order to do all this, we’re going to look at this story and at the qualities found in David. Let’s go.


Characteristics of a Giant Killer:

1. Responsible in the little things of life.

If you want to be a giant killer you’ll be responsible in the little things of life. We read most of the story earlier, but let’s go back and read some of it again…

1 Samuel 17:17-20 (NLT)
One day Jesse said to David, “Take this half-bushel of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring me back a letter from them.”
David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines. So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts.

What do we learn about David here? Well, we learn that David was someone that his father could trust. Whether it was taking care of the sheep, getting someone to take care of them when he was gone, or delivering gifts and relaying messages between his father and his brothers, David could be counted on. If he was supposed to feed the dog, he fed the dog. If he was supposed to take out the garbage, he took out the garbage. Whether it was cleaning the dishes, mowing the lawn, or doing his homework, David could be counted on to take care of the little things.

Most days, David found himself in a place like this… [PowerPoint]… in a shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem taking care of sheep. Not a particularly glamorous job. At times a little dangerous, but never glamorous. And sometimes he found himself running errands for his father. That’s the case in this story. His father send his to deliver supplies to David’s brothers who were doing something important… serving in the king’s army.

David probably thought that the things he was involved in were pretty mundane. He probably didn’t think that what he was doing had any real significance. But I believe that God was watching David to see how he would handle these seemingly insignificant responsibilities, and He was decided whether or not David could be trusted to be taken to the next thing and then the next thing and then the next.

Jesus had something to say about this. He said that if you show yourself to be responsible in the little things of life, He will entrust you with greater and greater things.

Matthew 25:23 (NIV)
“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

Financial advisors will tell you that if you’re considering going into business with someone you need to observe how they handle the smallest details of life, because in your big business deals that may become important.

The little things are important because they are God’s subtle introductions to the bigger things ahead. So, how about you? Are you faithful in the little things you’re involved in right now? If you want to be a giant killer, you need to be.

Secondly, a Giant Killer is…


2. Jealous for God’s glory and God’s reputation.

Let me show you where all this took place. This is the Valley of Elah… [PowerPoint] Take out the road and buildings in the middle and it would have been pretty much the same three thousand years ago. The Israelite army would have lined up along the bottom of the picture, and the Philistines would have lined the hills at the top on the other side of the Valley. Here’s another shot from the Israelite perspective… [PowerPoint].

So from this vantage point, the Israelite army watched Goliath come out and shouted his challenge for forty days. Forty Days! And the Israelites couldn’t or wouldn’t do one thing about it. And then one day David arrived on the scene. David arrived with all the things his father sent him with, left them with the keeper of supplies – notice he didn’t just drop them… he was responsible with the little things – and then he went to greet his brothers. And he was just in time to hear Goliath come out and shout his usual defiance to the armies of Israel. How did he react? The Bible says that the Israelite army was afraid and ran away, but what about David? What did he do?

His first reaction was to ask…

1 Samuel 17:26 (NLT)
“What will a man get for killing this Philistine and putting an end to his abuse of Israel?”

But then it’s as if something clicked inside of David, and he realized that this giant wasn’t just challenging the Israelite army... he was challenging God. And he said…

1 Samuel 17:26 (NLT)
“Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

You’ll notice that he didn’t say “the armies of Saul” or “the armies of Israel.” It was “the armies of the living God.” You see, David had determined that God should be revered and honoured, and this giant stood in direct opposition to that. This giant’s defiance of God bothered David to the core of his spirit.

There’s a Jewish proverb that claims…

“If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.”
- Jewish Proverb. Quoted in Claud Cockburn’s “Cockburn Sums Up,” 1981

I think there’s some truth in that. Our society has lost respect for God. Some people scoff at the very possibility of God’s existence. But what scares me even more is how many people claim that they believe in God but they still have no reverence for Him and they give Him no place in their lives.

How about the way God’s title and God’s name are kicked around? Everyday I hear someone using God’s name in a way that is disrespectful and belittling to Him. And it bothers me to hear it, because it’s my God who’s being belittled. Rodney Dangerfield used to joke about being shown “no respect”. Well, in many ways God is shown no respect, and it’s no joking matter.

Remember what it says in the Lord’s Prayer? “Hallowed (or honoured) be Your name.” It’s not just an ordinary name... It’s God’s name. You can do whatever you want to my name. And believe me, some people have. But when you start messing with God’s name...

Or how about in the Ten Commandments? Remember the third one?

Exodus 20:7 (NLT)
Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

You know, misusing God’s name is just one of the ways that people rob from God’s glory and destroy His reputation. But it’s a very evident one today. And it bothers me when I hear it. But I’m not sure that it bothers me enough. I’ve become desensitized to it. And I need to regain that jealousy that protects the glory and the reputation of God. How about you?


3. Not destroyed by criticism.

Now, how many of you are greatly affected by criticism? I know that when someone criticizes me, if I let it, it will sap all the energy out of me. My knees may start to shake and my hands tremble. Why? Because that’s just what criticism does to me. Encouragement, on the other hand, does just the opposite. Encouragement can give me more energy than a whole jarful of Flintstone vitamins.

Encouragement can add to your momentum. Criticism can take away from it. But let me tell you something about a Giant Killer: A giant killer may be affected by criticism, but they will not be affected to the point of retreat. A Giant Killer is not destroyed by criticism.

Now you may be wondering, what does David have to do with criticism? Well, do you know what happened to David when his brothers found out he was asking questions about Goliath? Let me read it for you:

1 Samuel 17:28 (NLT)
But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and dishonesty. You just want to see the battle!”

“What have you come down here for, David? Who told you to come? We don’t need you here. You’ll get in the way, you’ll get in trouble, you’ll get hurt. You’re not wanted here, David. Get out of here. Just go home.” This is the type of thing that David was hearing from his big brother, and he was hearing it right in front of all of the other soldiers. How humiliating! His brother just tore him apart right there, and I’m sure there was something inside of David that just wanted to crawl up and go home. But what did David do?

1 Samuel 17:29-30 (NLT)
“What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing…

He shook off what his brother said, and kept asking the same questions. He was not destroyed by the criticism.

You know, criticism can be avoided. Let me tell you how: By saying nothing, by doing nothing, and by being nothing. But if you want to be a giant killer, you’re going to face it. It’s a physical law that motion causes friction. So if you’re going to do anything great for God, it’s going to cause some friction and you will face some criticism.

Physical Law: Motion causes Friction.

So what are you going to do when you face the Eliab in your life? When the critics try to destroy you? I suggest you decide now that you will pray to God, figure out who you are and who you belong to, and figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then move on. Eliab saw David as a conceited, wicked little brother. But God saw him as a king. And it’s how God sees you that’s important. So who are you in God’s eyes?


4. Confident in God’s ability.

King Saul had heard that David was going through the camp asking questions about Goliath, so he called for him. And when this young boy appeared before him and offered to go out to fight the giant, I’m sure there was a bit of a smile that crept up in the corners of Saul’s mouth. He probably felt like laughing.

I mean, think about it. David was a scrawny Israelite teenager. Let’s be generous and say he was 5’6”. And he was offering to take on Goliath? Remember, Goliath was over nine feet tall!

Let me give you a little perspective. A few years ago, Shera and I traveled out to Cavendish and went to the Ripley’s museum there. And if you’ve been there, you know that one of the exhibits features Robert Wadlow, who was supposedly the world’s tallest man at 8’11˝”. Here’s a picture of Shera standing next to the scale model of Robert Wadlow.


We know that Goliath was over 9 feet tall, so he’s at least a half inch taller than our friend Bobby here. And remember, he wasn’t just bigger vertically. He would have been bigger proportionally all over. So here’s another look at how David and Goliath would have compared…


So when David told King Saul that he was willing to take on Goliath, it’s no wonder that Saul objected…

1 Samuel 17:33 (NLT)
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There is no way you can go against this Philistine. You are only a boy, and he has been in the army since he was a boy!”

And you know what? He was right. There really was no way that David could take on Goliath all by himself and win. Thing is, David knew he wasn’t alone. He knew that God would be right there with him, and he was confident in God’s ability to conquer this Philistine. Let’s read on…

1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NLT)
But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and take the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!”
Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!”

There are all kinds of stories in the Bible about God doing incredible things through ordinary people… like David… just because they had confidence in Him. I mean, isn’t it a shame that nobody got around to Noah to inform him, “Listen, Noah, there’s no way you’re going to be able to build a boat large enough to house all the kinds of animals there are. And even if you do, that kind of boat just isn’t going to float.” It’s too bad nobody told Moses, stuttering stammering Moses, that there was no way that he could stand up against Pharaoh let alone the whole Egyptian army. Why, that’s ridiculous! Or how about Joshua? “Joshua, you can’t seriously believe that you can walk around Jericho and beat on some drums and blow some horns and the walls are going to fall down. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen.” Or to Daniel, “You can’t seriously expect to survive a night in a den of lions.” Or how about those early fishermen – the disciples. Isn’t it a shame that no one got around to telling them that they just weren’t the kind of material that God was going to use to change the world!

You see, a giant killer is confident in God’s ability. Not in their own, but in God’s. So don’t look at your own weaknesses or your fears that you will fail if you ever try to do anything great for God, because it doesn’t rest in your ability. What does the Bible say? It says that He will be greater in you than he that is in the world. It says that through Christ you can do all things. It says that He will do exceeding abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think. He’s the God that makes the impossible possible.

“He’s the God that makes the impossible possible.”

If you want to do anything great for God, it means taking a risk. It means attempting something beyond your ability, because you know it’s not beyond God’s. Besides, as Eloise said…

“A safe life is a useless life.”
(from Eloise – Get Out of the Boat at www.churchmedialink.com, shown earlier in the service)


5. Not a clone, a copy, or a ditto.

1 Samuel 17:38-40 (CEV)
Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear. David strapped on a sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things.
“I can't move with all this stuff on,” David said. “I'm just not used to it.”
David took off the armor and picked up his shepherd's stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath.

Saul conceded and agreed to allow David to go and fight Goliath. He even offered for David to wear his own armor for the battle. But the armor didn’t fit, and David just wasn’t used to it. So he decided to take on Goliath his own way. And taking only his slingshot and five smooth stones, he set out to fight the giant.

Here’s the stream where David would have found the stones… [PowerPoint]. Now, you may have noticed in the reading that David picked up how many stones? Five. Why five? I mean, didn’t we just talk about how confident David was in God’s ability? If he was really that confident, wouldn’t he have only taken one stone? Well, maybe he didn’t want to be over-confident. Or maybe he was worried about the other four Philistine giants mentioned in 2 Samuel 21… at least one of whom was related to Goliath! Whatever the reason, it’s remarkable that he took only the five stones and a sling. He could have taken state-of-the-art weaponry, but he chose the only weapon he was familiar with… a slingshot.

I wonder if anyone scoffed at David when they saw him marching out to face Goliath without any armor and without carrying a sword and shield. I wonder if they laughed at him. I wonder if his brothers tried to stop him. I wonder if they tried to convince him to at least wear some armor. But even if they had tried, I don’t think it would have made any difference. Because David was not going to be a clone, a copy or a ditto. He wasn’t going to pretend to be something he wasn’t. He knew who he was and who he belonged to, and that was enough for him.

God has made each one of us unique. And you’re unique for a reason. He gives everyone specific talents and passions and desires and interests. All the people who believe in him and follow Him have been give spiritual gifts that equip them for ministry. Not everyone is equipped to lead a small group. Not everyone should become a pastor. Not everyone is going to sing in a worship team. Everyone’s designed uniquely, according to God’s design and grace. He’s made us all unique so we can all make an impact in our own individual way.

God made you special. And he made you the way He made you for a reason. So you don’t need to pretend to be someone you’re not. You don’t need to put on masks and conceal who you really are. Simply be yourself, develop and use the gifts that God has given you, and don’t worry so much about the gifts and abilities you don’t have.


6. Knows that within himself he can’t win, but in God he can’t lose.

Let’s pick up the story with David going out to face Goliath.

1 Samuel 17:41-50 (NLT)
Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.
David shouted in reply, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty--the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 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! And everyone will know that the LORD does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The LORD will give you to us!”
As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it from his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face downward to the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine giant with only a stone and sling.

What reason did David give for believing he would win the fight? Did he say he would win because his stone was shinier than Goliath’s spear? Did he claim he would win because he was better with a sling than Goliath was with a sword? No, he claimed he would win because he was fighting in the name of the Lord Almighty. God was on his side. And with God on his side, there was no way he was going to lose. Through the whole ordeal, David knew that the outcome wasn’t dependent on him but on God.

“Victory over giants is not dependent on my ability but on God’s.”

What giant are you facing in your life? Is it financial? Is it your future? Is it your school? Is it dealing with your past? Is it a habit or a sin that you just can’t seem to lick? Is it a relationship? Is it medical? There are all kinds of giants out there ready to take you on, but you need to know that with God you can have the victory.


David was nothing special. He was just a shepherd boy. He had no status or position, he had no extraordinary talents. He was just a boy who made himself available to be used by God.

As we finish up, let me just say this: you cannot even begin to imagine what God can and will do through you, if you let Him. If you make yourself available to His plan. If you don’t allow your fears and comfort to get in the way. With God on your side, you can conquer giants!


Application Questions:

  1. What personal giants are you facing? Financial, relational, vocational?

  2. What spiritual giants are you facing? Sinful habits, doubts, fears?

  3. Are you trying to conquer them on your own, or are you trusting in God’s ability?

  4. Read 1 John 4:4; Philippians 4:13; and Ephesians 3:20. What do these verses mean to you?


[Much of this message adapted from material by Dwight Robertson]




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