Public speaking, terminal illness, coronavirus, flying, growing old, failing a test, facing a global shut-down. Someone just got afraid reading this list. As a boy I didn’t go to bed—I flew. That way I avoided the bad guy under the bed. I overcame that fear by the time I married Karen. Some fears hang around our whole life. The story of David and Goliath gives us some lessons on fear.
WHAT’S THIS GIANT OF FEAR LIKE?
Goliath measured in at nine feet. That means slam-dunking without leaving the ground. He wasn’t the friendly kind of giant: “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… Choose a man for yourselves…If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail…they you shall be our servants” (I Samuel 17:8,9). Response: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words…they were dismayed and greatly afraid (11).
Ignoring him didn’t work: “For forty days the Philistine came forward” (16). Fear unchallenged grows. Saul, the tallest in Israel, should have taken the challenge, but walking in disobedience brings fear, not faith.
WHAT EFFECT DOES THIS GIANT HAVE ON US?
Fear attacks at our most vulnerable point. The Philistines were perennial weeds in Israel’s garden patch. Fear reduces us to subjection, making us afraid to act, to fly, to talk, to lead, to believe.
Fear makes us flee. “All the men of Israel…fled from him and were much afraid” (24). God allows fear to grow faith. Fear is faith in reverse, believing the worst rather than the best. Fear produces a sinister imagination. The soldiers chose flight over fight, and fear increased exponentially.
Fear makes us fight—the wrong people. When David showed up at camp and expressed interest in taking on Goliath, his brother argued, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” (28). Anger proves a more respectable response than fear. When we feel like failures, we might go after those wanting to make a difference.
HOW DO WE STOP THE GIANT?
We face him. The longer we ignore fear, the deeper the roots grow. David didn’t give it a chance to take root. Some prefer living with fears to accepting the painful challenge of confronting them. The Bible tells us to flee fornication but face fear. We sometimes do the opposite.
We trust in the Lord. The soldiers compared themselves to the giant. David compared the giant to the Almighty: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (37). Past defeats can paralyze us, but past victories turn tests into testimonies. Affirmations of faith help trust to grow: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head” (46). Face it, fight it, faith it!
During seminary I developed some fears that immobilized me. Normal things like answering the phone or raising my hand in class proved difficult. I looked up scripture references on fear and quoted them out loud when the giant showed up. It took months of declarations, but the fears did subside. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Fear comes by hearing the word of Satan.
David didn’t go against Goliath because he thought he was a better fighter but because he learned with tests to upgrade his confidence in God. Worked for him. Trust leads to courage. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). You have good reason to be confident in the presence of this coronavirus, because “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).