20 June 2021


He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:40-41

Every young child has a fear.  Sometimes they are afraid of the dark.  Sometimes it may be acrophobia, which is the fear of heights.  Pteromerhanophobia is the fear of flying.  Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces.  Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces.  Astraphobia is the fear of loud, but natural noises, in the environment, like in thunderstorms.  Many times, we never truly get over a fear that we have had since childhood.  Other times, we develop new fears.  Sometimes we are afraid of catching a particular disease.  Fear can also cause us to do, or not do, many things.  As a child, we may not want to go to bed because we do not want to be in the dark alone.  Perhaps you needed to be sure you kept a light on all night so that you never had to be in complete darkness.

How do we respond to our fears?  When I was growing up, I had a mild fear of heights.  When I did climbing merit badge at Boy Scout camp, we had to climb up the climbing tower.  Climbing up was not the issue, but when I got up to the top, I had to come down.  They told us to come down by holding on to the rope we were attached to and slowly leaning backward until we were no longer standing on the top of the tower but had our feet back on the top of the wall.  It was hard to trust that rope, even though I knew it was sturdy.  The feeling of leaning backward when I knew that there was nothing below me for seventy-five feet was difficult to get used to.  After a few times, it became a bit easier.  I responded to that fear by eventually trusting the encouraging voices below, even though it may have taken five minutes before I did.  Without that encouragement, that fear would never have been conquered.

While I was never afraid of the dark, I have heard many encouraging stories from friends who were.  Sometimes their parents allowed them to sleep with them that night.  A parent’s mere presence helps to comfort a child.  Perhaps a parent had to check under the bed or in the closet to reassure a child that there was nothing that would harm them.  The patience that parents give their children to help to reassure them is remarkable, and it is needed to help them begin to move past some of their fears and to take bold steps into the world.  In order to become servants of God who are willing and able to step out into the world and make a difference, we cannot be afraid.  We need to be able to trust that we will be okay.  If we never had anyone to guide us, and be patient with us, we would be afraid to reach out to people.  Everyone has met a child who hides behind their caregiver until they see that their caregiver is not afraid of this person.  They watch and learn.  We watch and learn.  We watch other Christians and the faith that they have in this world, and we try to be inspired and encouraged by them.  In the same way, other Christians and non-Christians watch us.  If we are worried, it seems like God is not helping us to feel better.  When we trust God, they marvel at how we can be so calm when we have so much going on around us.

After Samuel anointed David as the new King that God had determined, the Lord left Saul, and Saul became occupied by evil spirits (1 Sam. 16:14).  His servants found him someone who could play the lyre to comfort him, and whenever the lyre was played, Saul was comforted.  The servants had heard that David played the lyre very well, so they had sent for him.  It is unclear how much time passed while this arrangement was set up before the next story is told in Chapter 17: The Philistines “gathered their armies for battle” and Saul gathered the Israelite armies to stand against them (1 Sam. 17:1-3).  (The Philistines were those who lived in the east and they fought often with the Israelites in the Old Testament.)  The strongest among the Philistines, who was known as Goliath, came out to challenge the Israelites to find one of their own who could match him in battle.  The young David volunteered, telling Saul that he knew that the Lord was with him, and that he would prevail.  Saul, who has been trying to seek the Lord’s forgiveness since the last time Samuel had left him, which we read last week, was ready to let the Lord fight this battle.  When Saul questioned David’s youthfulness and lack of warrior skills, David responded, “The Lord, who has saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37).  He had fought off these animals when he had been caring for his father’s sheep.  Saul gave him his blessing, and tried to support him in every way he could by giving him his armor.  But since the armor was too heavy for David, he went out to meet Goliath without it, armed only with his faith that God would see him through this challenge.  If God was on his side, anything was possible.

Because Saul was afraid to fight Goliath on his own, he offered a reward for anyone who would succeed against him: He promised wealth, marriage into his family, and exemption from taxes (1 Sam. 17:25).  He was afraid because God was not with him.  Even with his best armor, he needed someone else to go before the Philistine.  David is the unlikely volunteer, simply supplying the army with food as sent by his father Jesse (v.17-18), who heard Goliath defy God and the people of Israel and would not stand for it.  He wished to prove God’s reign on earth and among the Israelites, and even though David’s three eldest sons discouraged him from being near the battle (v.28), he ended kept talking about how this Philistine must be defeated.

Iva Driggers notes that we face a similar enemy today.  The world taunts us and our belief in God, telling us that God cannot save us from this big and strong enemy that we face.  She writes, “The world scoffs with Goliath at the proposition of defeating the seemingly unbeatable giant with a single smooth stone, just as it scoffs at the proposition of defeating sin and death through a singular, incarnate love” (Iva Brent Driggers, New Proclamation, B.2.92).  This moment when David defeats Goliath proves that God is, in fact, with him, and that God’s will is working itself out even if it did not happen immediately.  David was not immediately made King, but he overcame all odds to prove that God had anointed him.  What will help us to believe that God is on our side today?  We may face all odds against the world today, but with God, can we overcome these powers?  What lesson can we take from the young David who went into the valley to defeat Goliath, knowing that God was on his side and that God would see him through to victory?  David told Goliath, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down … so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam. 17:45-46).

God desires leaders to seek after God’s own heart.  The prophet Amos prophesized, “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live”” (Amos 5:4).  In Proverbs, we read, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me” (Proverbs 8:17).  2 Chronicles 16:9 encourages us that anyone who seeks God will find strength: “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to God.”  David sought after God, even while his own strength would not win the battle.  Most of all, David trusted God.  David could have feared the Philistine as the whole army did, and as Saul did, yet he did not.  He turned directly to God, and told Saul with confidence that God would deliver Goliath into his hands.  A child learns to trust his or her parents in the same way.  He or she seeks after his mother or father, excited to be with her or him.  The best gift that a parent can give a child is the gift of quality time.  Is your heart true to God?  If you are truly seeking God, God will strengthen you.  If you find your peace in other things, you are relying on your own strength, strength which will not win against your own Goliath.

We have been seeking to learn more about the Holy Spirit and to be guided by this Spirit, so that we might have confidence in the Lord.  We start out with faith the size of a mustard seed, and we nurture its growth through prayer, through other Christians and friends who encourage us, and by reading the Bible as well.  If we do this well, the seed will continue to grow.  A seed, though, will not survive if we only give it water.  It needs sunlight and good soil as well.  Our seed of faith will not grow if we also do not give it all three of these things: Prayer, fellowship, and scripture.  These are the ways that we seek God’s heart and will.  When we seek God, God gives us the strength that we need.  When we celebrate David’s victory over Goliath, we also look forward to slaying our own Goliath’s, our own enemies that we have been trying to conquer for years or even decades.  With the faith that David shows us, we can call on God to do God’s will if we know that we are hearing God’s true will.  How do we know that?  Keep praying.  Keep reading.  Keep seeking.  Those who seek God diligently WILL find God (Proverbs 8:17).

We can choose whether we are to live in faith or in fear.  Will we allow fear to overcome us, or will be ask God to take this fear away?  The disciples on the boat on the Sea of Galilee did not know that Jesus could take that fear away with the power of God.  When a windstorm arose, and they thought that they would perish in the sea, they woke up Jesus, who was as calm as could be.  Shocked, they asked Jesus if he even cared that they might perish (Mark 4:38).  He knew that God was greater than this fear.  He compared their fear to the fact that they had little faith (Mark 4:40).  He rebuked the wind, and the disciples knew that they had befriended more than just an ordinary guy.

Just because you find yourself afraid from time to time, or even multiple times a day, does not mean that you have little faith.  It only means that your faith has room to grow.  We may never reach the point of a true lack of fear while we live within this world.  But if we keep seeking God diligently, we will get close.  Do not let the world distract you from seeking God; seek God even in the most trying and in the busiest moments.  We build our hope on nothing less.  If our anchor is in God, it will hold, and it will never give way.  David sought God above all else.  A child seeks a loving parent above all else.  Like a father comforts a son, God is always helping us to win our battles, and never wants us to lose our battle to the world.  Bring your rock with you to put in a prominent space, to remind yourself that the seed grows when you seek God.  These rocks, which David used to slay his Goliath, can be used to slay yours too.  In a busy moment, they remind you to pray.  They remind you that you are blessed.  They are exactly the distraction that you need.  God be with you, you who seek the will of God, as your seed grows.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
17:1a Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.
17:4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
17:5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.
17:6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.
17:7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him.
17:8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.
17:9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”
17:10 And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.”
17:11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
17:19 Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
17:20 David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry.
17:21 Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army.
17:22 David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers.
17:23 As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.
17:32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
17:33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
17:34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock,
17:35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it.
17:36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.”
17:37 David said, “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you!”
17:38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail.
17:39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.
17:40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
17:41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.
17:42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.
17:43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
17:44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”
17:45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
17:46 This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,
17:47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
17:48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.
17:49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Mark 4:35-41
4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
4:36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
4:37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
4:38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
4:39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
4:40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
4:41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

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