The Survival Guide for Facing Giants

A Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Kristopher D. Adams

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:4)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When you think of fun summer reading, survival guides usually don’t come to mind. But one of the most enjoyable and ridiculous books I found a few years back is just that – a survival guide that helps one prepare for the unimaginable. What makes this survival guide stand out from the rest is its laughable premise: what if the zombie apocalypse really happened? What if the goofy plot of a whole host of silly horror movies actually came true? How would one survive? With humor and wit, the Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide soared in popularity and became a smash hit that no one expected to make the New York Times Bestseller List.

But Max Brooks’ fun read moved from fiction to reality. On the heels of his book’s popularity, the Center for Disease Control actually released its own zombie survival guide. This revelation sent some readers into full-blown panic. But the CDC was quick to explain its rationale. If one could adequately prepare for an imaginary zombie apocalypse, then one would certainly be ready to face any real-world horror that came along. The living dead took on new life as a fantastical illustration for the necessity of being prepared for the worst.

I like to think that the story of David and the Giant can be read in a similar way. This morning, I invite you to look at the story of David and Goliath not as a story you’ve heard time and again. With fresh ears and open hearts, let us hear this tale as a Survival Guide for Facing Giants to help us face the larger-than-life obstacles and difficulties that often stand before us.

Goliath is described as a living and breathing monstrosity. Around 9 feet tall, his armor alone weighed around 125 pounds. He carried both a sword and spear, with the spear’s tip boasting another 15 pounds of deadly force. This large and fearsome foe even had this own shield bearer to accompany him into battle. Goliath the Giant was a horror to behold who most certainly struck fear in the hearts of all who saw him.

David’s encounter with Goliath could teach us a lot about battling a giant. He opts for speed and agility over using the king’s armor. He wisely chooses to go at a monster with a huge reach using a projectile instead of hand-to-hand combat. But there’s a peculiar detail in our story that I would like to focus on this morning. It may be somewhat morbid, but I think the most important thing David’s story might teach us as a Survival Guide for Facing Giants revolves around how he actually defeats his foe.

Did you happen to notice how many times David slays Goliath at the end of our reading? First, he “prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him.” But David did not stop there. “There was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him.” Now, you would think that would be plenty, but David is relentless “then he cut off his head.” Three times David slays the giant, first with a sling, then with a stab, and finally with a slice that removes his head.

It seems that if we were to suggest what might be the most important step in battling a giant based on David’s legacy, it would be this: Make sure you finish the job. Everyone has seen a film in which the bad guy seems to be vanquished, and then somehow is revived with enough strength to still threaten the hero. While David never had access to the action and horror movies of today that use this recurring plot device for suspense, I’m sure that this theme was prevalent in the stories of David’s day as well. After all, David had fought lions and bears, which I’m sure do not go down easily either.

With this in mind, David did not rest once the stone dealt its fateful blow to Goliath. He charged forward and grabbed the giant’s sword and made sure he would not get up. And then for good measure, he took off the giant’s head, and ends up proudly toting this around for all to see. David was nothing if not thorough. With this in mind, I think it is safe to say that the secret to defeating a giant is this: make sure you finish the job. If contemporary writers and pathologists can imagine zombies as an illustration for the necessity of being prepared for the worst, then certainly David’s tale of defeating a giant illustrates the importance of finishing well.

Finishing well is a lost art. In an age of disposable commitment, it is second-nature to unfriend, unlike, or change a relationship status on Facebook without the slightest hesitation. Escaping meaningful vows and promises occurs all too frequently. When we face giants, when we stare upwards at huge and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that stand in our way, it is easy to bail out early when the going gets tough. It is difficult to stay the course, complete the job, or deal the final closing blow to finish off our metaphorical giants.

Just as David’s battle with his giant defined him, so too the larger-than-life obstacles and difficulties standing in our path will define us as well. As Paul might encourage us, we are meant to “fight the good fight” and “keep the faith.” Know that a key to David’s success over his adversarial giant was his resolve to not stop, his determination to sling, stab, and slice until the job was done. And in the end, his perseverance was vindicated and his giant was defeated. After reading this text, we must ask ourselves “How will we fare against our giants? Will we tremble at the taunts and threats our problems heave at us, or will we stand firm and finish well?”

Think of how the world would be different if we did not stop to rest until the giants of poverty and disease were defeated. Imagine never resting until the specter of racism that still haunts our society was vanquished. Envision what our own personal lives might look like if we courageously stood up to the seven deadly giant vices that plague us: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. With God as our strength, we can face these giants, Goliath or any other. May we all be emboldened by David’s story as we face the difficulties and obstacles set before us, and may God bless us with the courage to finish well.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.