The sun rises over the mountains, bathing the camp in a golden glow. The army has pitched their tents on a ridge in the foothills. Below them, a creek bed winds through the valley. For part of the year, it is overflowing. But today, there is not a trickle of water to be seen.
The camp should be stirring with men eager to get up and face the day. But instead, it appears deserted. The soldiers are nervously hiding in their tents, waiting.
In previous skirmishes with this enemy, only the king and his son had protective armour and proper weapons with which to fight. The rest of the men had make-shift weapons, which they fashioned from whatever materials they could find. Today, too, they are ill-equipped for battle. But mostly, they are afraid.
Across the valley, on the opposing ridge, the camp of the enemy is anything but quiet. Men move around, joking and laughing loudly with the ease of those who know that the victory is theirs. They have some of the best metal-smiths in the world at their disposal, and it shows. And they have a not-so-secret weapon—a man named Goliath.
Goliath is big. Over nine feet tall. He is virtually indestructible. His armour is thick and heavy, and his sword can easily pierce through even the strongest metal breastplate, let alone the flimsy homemade armour of the Israelites. He is a formidable opponent.
But the Israelites have an even bigger not-so-secret weapon—God. And yet, they cower in their tents, afraid that even the sound of their breathing will unleash the enemy upon them. Why?
Usually, when we read the story of David and Goliath, we focus on the part where David picks up those stones and kills Goliath. Today, when I read it, however, it was this first portion that caught my attention. I know all about fear. I know how paralyzing it can be. In fact, in the past, I was probably an expert in the field. So I read this story with one question in mind: How does an entire army of big, tough men become completely frozen with fear?
Lack of Prayer: According to scholars, the Israelites were situated above a creek bed, called a wadi, which was only dry part of the year. It was in this creek bed that the battle between David and Goliath took place. Throughout the Bible, water represents the Holy Spirit. Okay, so a dry creek bed might just be a dry creek bed. But to me, it emphasized the fact that the Israelites were very much not walking with the Spirit at that time. The Bible says to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Even when we go through spiritual dry seasons, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us. We do this by spending time in His presence.
Lack of Growth: According to scholars, the Israelites were short, averaging around five feet tall. Poor diet was one factor in their stunted growth. You know, sometimes it’s not so much that our enemies are big, but that we’re small. Hebrews 5:12 says that we shouldn’t subsist on a spiritual diet of milk. We need to dig deep into the Bible and let the Holy Spirit speak to us, convict us, and cause us to grow into tall, mighty men and women of faith.
Lack of Focus: The Israelites forgot that the invisible power of God is greater than the visible power of the enemy. They saw the strength of the enemy—large people with expertly made armour and sharp spears. They heard the voice of the enemy, loudly taunting them day in and day out. And they forgot just how huge God is. They forgot about the victories He had won for them in the past. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that we are to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. Jesus defeated every last enemy on the cross, so when we are facing an enemy, we need to keep our eyes on the One who holds victory in His hand.
Lack of prayer, lack of growth, and lack of focus—these are the things that the Israelites struggled with. These are the things that I’ve struggled with in my own life. These are the things that produce a mindset of fear. So there you have it. How to become a fearful person in three easy steps: don’t pray; don’t grow; and, whatever you do, don’t focus on how big God is or on the victory He has already won on your behalf!
I have to say that knowing what not to do makes it much easier to figure out what to do going forward, don’t you think?