What’s your Goliath?

My youngest son, B, is a huge football fan.  B has always been fascinated by linemen.  He likes to watch the guards and tackles pull and block…opening up holes for the running backs or protecting the quarterback.  He likes to think about these massive men as protectors.  Men that provide obstacles to the defense and keep the offense clicking smoothly.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have guards and tackles in our daily lives- instead we feel like we are being blocked and pushed around.  We are all burdened by obstacles.  Whether it is a real, physical challenge or something that’s in our head…and only we know about it.  These challenges are real for all of us.

It was a scary situation.  A rough group of Philistines had settled in across from the Israelite camp for a battle.  A nine-foot mountain of a man, Goliath, had come out and challenged God’s people to a fight.  For forty days straight Goliath had taunted and insulted the Israelite army and nation- and every soldier was terrified to take Goliath on in combat.  It took a young shepherd boy…David…to answer the challenge.  David was insulted by Goliath’s taunts and threats.  He volunteered for the challenge wearing no armor, and protected by only his shepherd’s staff, a sling and some stones.

We know the outcome.  David, acting on faith, defeated Goliath with one accurate fling of a stone.  One swing of the arm felled an armored, angry giant.

It’s not that easy for us, is it?  Work, relationships at home, physical or financial stress and other daily concerns can create giant obstacles for all of us.  And the giants seem to move around.  Once one Goliath is addressed, another (perhaps bigger) giant appears in our path.

We have been given guidance on dealing with our giants.  Let’s consider Paul, our great missionary from the first century church:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  II Corinthians 12: 7-10

Paul had a physical obstacle that he fought every day.  Paul also had to live with a horrible past- a past that included the physical torment of Christians.  But Paul found power in his challenges.  Christ’s power was “made perfect through weakness” in Paul’s life.  Weakness became a source of strength.  We have that same promise today.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1: 2-4

Giants create incredible stress, but we have been called to look at trials as opportunities to refine our faith.  We can re-focus and call upon God for strength to handle the challenge, and try to look past the battle for the lesson it can teach us.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17: 20 

May we all seek the ultimate source of power when dealing with the giants in our lives.

God bless.

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Lost sheep

peachtree

It’s been a wonderful July 4th holiday, as all of Hollianne’s family gathered in Atlanta for our annual family reunion.  Four siblings, their spouses, 10 nieces and nephews and Hollianne’s mother were in attendance for the celebration.  We always gather in Atlanta so we can run the annual Peachtree 10k (with 60,000 of our closest friends).  The run is a wonderful activity for Hollianne’s family.  All the siblings, their spouses and seven of the kids were scheduled to participate in the race this year.  The house is always filled with great stories about races from previous years and estimates on who will win the family “trophy” each year (it’s normally no surprise…as my sister-in-law, Susan, crushed us with her stamina, endurance and deft feet!).

While the race is the culminating event, the weekend truly focuses on family.  We cook, eat, laugh and hug all weekend. I’m so grateful to be a part of this loving family.

This year’s event was a little different- and stressful. Our daughter, Carson, had been away on a mission trip to inner-city New York and was set to fly in and join us late Thursday night.  Hurricane Arthur changed that plan- as it cancelled her flight and postponed her travel by 48 hours.  We couldn’t get her out of New York City for two whole days because of cancelled flights and booked planes.  While we were able to make adjustments for her and knew she would be safe, it was unsettling to Hollianne and me to have her so far away in a strange city.  What a beautiful reunion it was yesterday to finally get her in the same city.  We just felt better being able to have her in our presence….to be able to hug and talk to her in person.  We had a great reunion weekend, but there was an underlying uneasiness for us until we could get our child home.

Last night I reflected on the experience surrounding our daughter’s delayed plans.  While we were worried and anxious until Carson could join us, I just cannot fathom the depth and breadth of how much our heavenly Father is concerned for us.  He loves us beyond our own comprehension- and wants all of us to be with Him eternally.  Our earthly families are important, but as Christians we should realize that our broader, eternal family is the focus of our loving God- even with our flaws and imperfections.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15: 3-7

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  Matthew 18:12

We are loved, thank God.  Even with a world population of over 7 billion people, our Father cares for us INDIVIDUALLY…and loves us despite our actions and behaviors.  How comforting is it that God is concerned for us in a way that is unparalleled by any earthly relationship.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

While Hollianne and I could not rest and relax until Carson returned to us, the Lord is infinitely more concerned with our souls and our eternal destination.  God is a loving God, even giving up His son to bear the pain of our sin so that we can live with Him forever.

Thank. God.

I hope that your July 4th holiday was filled with family, fun, food and laughter.  I also hope that you were able to reflect on the love that our heavenly Father has for us.

God bless you.

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