Facing our giants: It is not if we will face them, but where, when, and how we will face them!
He is 7’4", weighs 520 lbs., and wears very large shoes. Andre the Giant, the unapologetic showman of the World Wrestling Federation, cuts a frightening figure. The sheer bulk of the man, his towering and overwhelming appearance, strikes terror into the hearts of anyone who dares him in the wrestling ring. Whether he is burying the Undertaker, drop kicking the Russian, or hammering the Junk Yard Dogs, Andre’s performance, as evidenced by his boisterous fan following, is great entertainment. And that’s all it is!
But the giants we face are real: philosophic, educational, financial, personal, or professional giants. They loom across our landscape, darken our vision, threaten our stability, and endanger our future.
The giants that challenge us
Consider some of the philosophic giants that challenge the way we think and live.
Secular humanism is one. It asserts that humanity is the creator and arbiter of its own destiny. It parades around our campuses in the guise of scientific objectivity. It says: “Let go of your religious presuppositions and accept the ‘indisputable’ outcomes of scientific empiricism. There is nothing supernatural about the world. Everything that we see can be explained by cause and effect.” At first this giant seems insurmountable to the Adventist student. After all, how do we challenge years of hard-core Darwinism with nothing more than an open Bible?
Another giant we face is moral relativism. This giant says, “Morality is whatever meets your needs. There’s no absolute moral code. Do whatever makes you happy.” This giant parades around university campuses in the guise of student discovery. Reinforced by the hedonism of the campus party circuit, it seduces the young and the restless, the lonely and the isolated.
Materialism is another oppressive giant. Students are led to see education not as a means of greater service, but as a means of material acquisition. The car, the house, the clothes–these make up “the good life.”
These are just a few of the giants we face in life, but the fact to remember is not if we will face them, but where, when, and how we will face them! Perhaps the story of David and his giant will give us some help.
David and his giant
David was just a shepherd boy, youngest in a family of eight sons. He knew his sheep. He knew his harp. He could sing. But he was hardly a match for Goliath—that giant who stood 9 feet tall, weighed possibly 850 pounds, was a fighter from his boyhood, and whose bellicose threats sent shivers of naked fear down the spines of the Israelite army. The bronze armor that Goliath wore weighed some 125 pounds—perhaps more than David’s body weight. Goliath loomed over Israel’s horizon like a man-mountain of fighting technology.
Sometimes we too must face our Goliaths. Yours might be the Goliath of an abused childhood. Or it might be the Goliath of an unhappy marriage, or a broken family. Or it might be the Goliath of a deteriorating financial situation, or the untimely loss of a parent, or worse yet, the death of a child! Goliath meets us when our challenges outstrip our resources—when we are outmatched and outgunned. Goliath is real!
In the name of the Lord
Goliath showed up every day. He was the symbol of the Philistine might against Israel. Every day, for 40 days, he stood on a hill overlooking the encampments of the Israelites, and shouted out his defiance. Israel stood helpless. So did her king Saul. The name of Yahweh was being blasphemed and defied.
David heard the blasphemy. He saw the giant. He proposed to Saul: “Who is this giant that defies the armies of the living God? I’ll take him on.” Saul could only pity the boy. But David had a résumé of courage. A lion. A bear. And above all, the Spirit of the Lord. “I can strike down this uncircumcised Philistine.”
David’s response tells us where to meet our giants—at the intersection of courage and competence. Courage is a leadership quality that we all need. Courage is the willingness to face our challenges without fear. Competence is the skill needed to overcome our giants. Courage without competence is bravado. Competence without courage is temerity. Facing our giants requires both. In the challenges that face us, we must be both bold and skilled. The giants of humanism, relativism, and materialism cannot overcome our personal experience with God! We must show the bankruptcy of these ideas, but that can only be done from the platform of a living Christian experience.
When David says, “I will go,” Saul dresses him in his kingly armor. But David says, “I cannot go in these . . . I am not used to them.” So he takes them off. He says, “I can only meet my giant in my own personality and style. I cannot be you, oh, king. I must be myself.” Here is revealed how we are to meet our giants—in secure self-confidence.
We should be secure about what we offer to the people that we serve. We are Seventh-day Adventists. This means we have a strong religious heritage that sets us apart from the larger society. While we must love our non-churched friends, we are not called to imitate them. The reality of our calling does not make us better than others; instead, it makes us more responsible than others. When we meet our fellow students, they know that we are Seventh-day Adventists and they expect that the signs, symbols, statements, and standards of our faith are distinguishable. In our fight against our giants, identity issues must be decisively resolved.
Back to the story. The moment arrives. Young David approaches the Philistine. Goliath hisses in disdain at David: “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” David replies: “You come at me with a sword and a spear. I come to you in the name of the Lord God Almighty.”
David’s statement reveals when to meet our giants. We must meet our giants only after we have the assurance that God is with us. When Goliath bolts from behind the Philistine lines brandishing all of his technology, our little David runs toward Goliath to meet him. This is our little David, who will later say, “I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.”
This is our David who will later sing, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers.”
This is our David who will later affirm, “I trust in the Lord” for “the Lord is my shepherd.”
With an assurance born of the presence of God, David runs toward Goliath. They meet in the center ring. Goliath lumbers forward, incredulous, vomiting out curses at our shepherd boy. Goliath curses David “by all the gods of his knowledge.”1 Things probably don’t look good for David. Many in the crowd have already planned David’s funeral.
But God has chosen David. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
David reaches into his satchel, grabs a sling stone, snaps out his leather sling, and advances toward the mighty giant. Goliath lifts his helmet in his white-hot rage. As he lifts his helmet, David releases that stone and it slices through the air, and bites into the forehead of the Philistine’s massive head. The Philistine lumbers forward, his whole body trembles, as if invaded by a hive of alien impulses. His convulsing body now stiffens as he falls to the ground. Is this the man that made the armies of Israel tremble? Is this the man that defied the armies of Israel? Yes, this is the man! Dead from a single shot of a shepherd’s sling. Suddenly a shout of victory explodes from the camp of Israel.
I will never forget how my now deceased mother faced her giant. I remember the day she told me the news. We had gathered at Oakwood College for my younger brother’s graduation. She asked me to take her for a ride to the park. When we arrived at the park, she said that there was something that she wanted to tell me. She said, “Les, I went to the doctor the other day and he told me that he had some news for me that was not good. He told me that the lump in my breast was cancerous. So take care of yourself, and look out for your younger brother.”
When I heard the word cancerous I could not contain myself. Sudden pain gripped my heart, welled up into my eyes, and rolled down my cheeks. And I will never forget what she said: “Les, don’t cry. You know that we did not come here to stay. The Lord has given me a good life. He’s told me that it will be all right. One day we will all meet in heaven, and then we will never part again.”
Ellen White tells of a vision. She saw the church as an old travel-weary ship, coming up a mighty iceberg. The night is cold, the iceberg is massive, the waters are murky, the travelers are frightened. Then a voice from heaven says, “Meet it!”2
That’s God’s word to you and me. Meet your giants at the intersection of courage, competence, and commitment. Meet them with security and self-confidence. Meet them after you have the assurance that God is with you.
Leslie N. Pollard (D. Min., Claremont School of Theology) is the vicepresident of the office of diversity at Loma Linda University. His address: Loma Linda University; Loma Linda 92354; California; U.S.A.
Notes and references
- Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publ. Assn., 1913), p. 647.
- White, Selected Messages (Nashville, Tenn: Southern Publ. Assn., 1958), book 1, p. 205.