Among the characteristics we could cite, our forbearers in the faith had at least two qualities about them that enabled them to stand against great odds. These saints of the covenant had faith and courage.
There’s a lack in our day of both. More often than I care to think about, doubt and fear have won the day and left God’s saints in puddles of impotence and despair. I know this has been true of my own life. But this should never be the case for God’s people. Scripture offers us some encouraging examples of those who trusted God and were able to face seemingly insurmountable odds.
Example 1: Caleb
When Moses sent an expedition to Canaan to explore what awaited God’s children in the land of promise, the report confirmed all God had promised – it was lush and flowed with milk and honey, as advertised. But there was a catch. There was also a huge obstacle before them. In the land there were “giants” who made the Israelites seem like hobbits in a land of orcs. The report from the expedition team was, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).
But this pessimistic report was not shared by all. For in Numbers 13:30 we read,
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
Caleb had faith in God and his covenant promises, and therefore, could be as courageous as Frodo and Sam in the land of Mordor.
Example 2: David
David faced similar circumstances later in redemptive history, with a similar response. As the Israelites shook in their sandals before the great Goliath and the Philistine horde, the young shepherd boy looked on in bewilderment. In what seemed like arrogance at worst and naiveté at best, this “king-to-be” couldn’t understand why his people had not already taken the uncircumcised behemoth apart – especially in light of Goliath’s jeering and insolence before the living God. David queried,
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)
And so, like Caleb before him, David volunteered to take Goliath on. So what if he seemed like a grasshopper before this giant of a man, all nine feet of him. David drew courage from his faith in the One who had never failed him before.
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36-37)
The Foundation for Faith and Courage
With faith and courage David faced the giant, and the rest, as they say, is history. What was the foundation for such faith and courage in the lives of Caleb and David? We are told in Jeremiah 1:8 and 19.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Caleb and David knew in their day what God told Jeremiah in his. That is, God’s people will be opposed. That’s a given. We will seem like grasshoppers in comparison to our enemies. The “apparent” odds will be overwhelmingly against us. But God calls the weak, poor, small, seemingly insignificant hobbits of this world to serve as his subjects, his heralds, to advance his Kingdom, even in the face of the enemy (perhaps especially so).
Who Are Your Giants?
Philistines and other barbarians continue to surround God’s people today in a variety of ways. Yet we are called to stand firm in the face of such opposition because Caleb and David’s God is also our God. Is anything greater than the covenant-making, covenant-keeping Lord of Glory? It is this very God who promised never to forsake us. That alone is grounds for faith and courage in the midst of insurmountable odds.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Cor. 16:13)
- Who or what are some of the Philistines that face Christians in our culture today? How can you equip yourself and your church to stand firm and remain faithful against such opposition?
- On a more personal level, who (or what) are the giants in your life, opposing your walk with Christ? What is it about them that causes you to fear and turn the other way?
- What is a strategy you could start using today to help you face your giants with faith and courage?
- Of course, you should never travel alone. Who are two or three fellow Christians you could ask to pray for you, offer you wisdom, encourage you, and help hold you accountable? Ask them to join you today.
Sovereign God, the battle is yours. You call me to trust you and participate in the battle, but you have already declared victory. Why then do I, all too often, tuck tail and run? Give me, I humbly pray, the faith and courage of Caleb and David. Help me to fear others so little because I fear you so much. Fill me with your Spirit and enable me to know you are with me. Then, enable me to face the kingdom of darkness and wickedness with the confidence of being your child. Because, if you are for me, who can possibly be against me? In Christ I pray. Amen.