Facing a Giant? You’re Not Alone!

photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc
photo credit: Fried Dough via photopin cc

A very real problem for all of us is that we tend to profess a depth of faith in God that we do not actually possess. Faith is easy on the mountaintop. The battlefield trenches of life are an entirely different matter. A football team may spend a lot of time practicing in preparation for the first game of the season against their arch rivals, but it isn’t until they step onto the field of play that their true abilities become evident.

All too often, our version of the gospel speaks only of God’s forgiveness in light of our sinfulness, of the efficacy of grace as opposed to our impotent works, of the glories of heaven compared to the pain of this world. All of these things are true, but they fail to present a complete picture. We even go so far as to portray the Old Testament Promised Land as an image of heaven. Do we actually believe that we will have to drive enemies out of heaven? No, each of us has a promised land, a favorable destiny, in this world.

photo credit: Monica's Dad via photopin cc
photo credit: Monica’s Dad via photopin cc

Why is it that every promised land has its share of giants? Why, when we seek that which we believe to be good, must we face health problems, a lack of finances, and all sorts of opposition—not only from others but also from within ourselves? And why, tell me, must these issues loom so large? There are times when a few miniature giants would do me just fine!

We sometimes fail to grasp that God saves us in order to restore us to His image (Romans 8:29), and that His image is that of the ultimate overcomer. God’s goal is never to save us for a sweet eternity only, but to transform us into champions of the faith. By definition, a champion is a person who defeats all opponents; the more formidable the opposition, the greater the champion. You would be unimpressed if I told you that I once knocked out every kid in my son’s fourth-grade class in a boxing tournament. But, if you saw me wearing an Olympic gold medal (that I had actually earned), you would immediately think of greatness. Until we face and overcome genuine giants, we are not true champions in the arena of life.

Our response to our personal giants reveals the true depths of our faith. The fact that we have sufficient faith in one area of life does not necessarily mean that we trust God in all areas. When fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and bitterness take root in our hearts, they indicate areas in which our faith is shallow. Thus, every giant is in a sense tailor-made to help us grow in these areas. Am I saying that God is responsible for raising opposition against us? Not necessarily! Our fallen world provides more than enough difficult challenges to our faith. I do know, however, that our loving Father will use even the largest obstacles for His sovereign purposes.

Like the ten doubting spies of Numbers 13, many of us tend to view our giants as signs that God has abandoned us. Very few have the heart of a Joshua or a Caleb. Later in time, only the shepherd boy David stood up against the Philistine champion Goliath, while Saul and all of his mighty men cowered in fear.

photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc
photo credit: saturn ♄ via photopin cc

How we respond to our giants will impact, not only our lives, but also the generations that follow. Sadly, David had to face Goliath only because Joshua’s generation failed to completely destroy their generation of behemoths. We can only imagine how Anak’s descendants tormented the nation of Israel for 400 years until a shepherd boy with David’s faith happened along. And not only did the kid fell that monster of a man, he used Goliath’s own sword to finish the job. God loves to show off by transforming our greatest weaknesses into our greatest strengths!

(This post is based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which is now available for sale through Amazon. Also, when our new SfMe Media website goes live, our blog posts will be switched our new ministry website, searchforme.info and this blog site will be phased out. You can subscribe to by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)

Paving the Pathway to Glory

Photo by runneralan2004 - CC BY 2.0

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst professional sports team over the past 20 years is now contending for 1st place in the Major League Baseball Central Division of the National League! The Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has done an amazing job with what seems to be an ever changing group of young athletes. Clint would certainly have my vote for Coach of the Year!

Have you ever wondered why every sports team has a coach? Probably not! It’s readily understood that every team needs coaches to instruct, motivate and organize its players. Having spent all of my life in the sports-rich area around Pittsburgh, I’ve come to clearly see the value of a skilled and effective coaching staff. The players realize the value as well. Many of them long for the constructive input they need to become champions in their sport.

But have you ever wondered why this type of input isn’t welcomed more in other arenas of life?

This summer we’re launching a new Bible study titled The Search for Wisdom. If all goes well, it may be in book form by this time next year. During this week’s study it became quite clear that insecurity can easily become an arch enemy of wisdom.

I define wisdom as the ability to see and live skillfully in such a way that I know and honor God, releasing His blessings for my life, my loved ones and my circumstances.

We all want the benefits of wisdom, but many of us are not teachable because even constructive criticism is often taken as an attack upon who we are. Why is this?

In part we’re conditioned by the massive amounts of cruel and uncaring criticism levied each and every day. From late night monologues to virtually any type of talk radio, our culture is consumed by our efforts to analyze and demean the weaknesses or shortcomings of others. But our problems reach further still!

Every person’s compulsion flows from the desire for personal glory apart from God. This glory is found by reaching for standards of perfection through what we do and how we look. Being less than perfect means that we are inglorious—something we simply cannot stomach. Hounded by the fear of the pain of imperfection, we jump ship from rational thought into the often irrational world of self-preservation. The fruit is not good!

Photo by ChickPhilA - CC BY 2.0

How do athletes tolerate constructive input? A wise athlete realizes that skillful instruction paves the path to glory.

I can’t help but wonder how much more glorious the Church would be if every local church environment embraced the ideal of wise input and discussion. How would our worship teams change? Would our church services captivate more hearts? Would we taste more of God’s glory?

Identity isn’t just another issue for us to navigate. In many ways it is the issue that has influenced human behavior since Adam & Eve ate from the tree.

Personally, I am really trying to swallow my pride so that I might see and live skillfully in such a way that I know and honor God, releasing His blessings for my life, my loved ones and my circumstances.

 How about you?

Position Yourself for Change

My son was a wrestler in high school. Wrestling is a grueling individual sport. When you’re out on the mat, there’s absolutely nobody to hide behind! If you’re skilled and well prepared, everybody knows it. If you are not, well, you know how that goes.

From day one wrestlers are taught about stance and positioning. Not only is it painful to have your head continually shoved into the mat, but there aren’t any moves a person can execute when he’s lying flat on his belly. In such circumstances the coach will continually yell, “Get to your base!” Only when he gets to all fours, will the wrestler be in a position for positive change.

I’ve made it clear that self-sufficiency is not the answer to our ills and that we cannot make ourselves to be better Christians. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is nothing we can do to help facilitate personal growth. The key is to learn to position ourselves for change.

Romans 5:17 is a passage that both inspires and challenges me:

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

What does Paul say is the requirement for reigning over sin’s power in this life? Receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness! It’s all very simple—and very powerful. So why don’t we see more fruit in the lives of professing Christians? We aren’t positioned to receive.

When the pride of self-sufficiency serves as our underlying motivation, we block the flow of God’s life-giving grace. When we constantly work to earn God’s favor, the gift of righteousness lies unclaimed. When we focus on our guilt and shortcomings, we allow the powers of darkness to shove our faces into the mat. When we fail to trust the promises of God, we lie powerless on our bellies.

If you want to see God move in your life, you’ve got to get to your base to position yourself to receive from God. How is this accomplished? It’s not complicated.

We begin by admitting our need. We don’t have what it takes to defeat our adversary, but surely our God is The Champion! Turning to God, we confess what we’ve just admitted.

But there is another essential factor that we simply cannot ignore—the Word of God. Without the Word we’re toast! This is one of the keys of daily Bible reading. It’s not about trying to be a good Christian or somehow trying to please God. A daily devotional life serves to help position us to receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. And as we read, we begin to learn the promises of God—especially those which apply to our circumstances.

So let’s imagine (for some this might not be too hard) that you’re at a bad place in life. Your circumstances stink. It seems as though the people around you either don’t understand or don’t care. Hope is fading as you’re nagged by the sinking feeling that even God has abandoned you. Or perhaps you’re facing a mountain that you simply can’t overcome. What do you do? Get to your base!

Go to God in prayer, surrender your will and confess your need. Then turn to the Scriptures and to His promises (Romans 8:26-39 might be a good place to begin). No matter what your circumstances seem to say, stand on His promises, believing that God is absolutely and totally faithful to His Word. Position yourself for change and then watch Him move on your behalf!