The Giants, Our Armor, & Freedom

1 Samuel 17:38-40,45,47,49 Then Saul gave David his own armor-a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine… David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies-the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled… And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!”…  Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

Mountain sunset

David was offered Saul’s armor when he went out to face Goliath, but the armor restricted him and didn’t allow him to move freely. He knew that he couldn’t go into battle wearing armor that was intended for someone else. He also knew that the only armor he needed was the protection of God. There are times in our lives that we face battles and we listen to how others faced a similar situation and try to do what they did and it doesn’t work for us. Sometimes we run to others for advice or counsel before we take our problems to God. David as a young man, walked with God and tended his flock of sheep. He had a close personal relationship with God and he knew the voice of his Lord. David knew better than to take on another man’s ill-fitting armor that would only encumber him in battle. Whose armor are we trying to wear instead of the armor that God has provided? David also knew that God would protect him and that he had found favor in his eyes. Have we not favor in our Father’s eyes? You may ask what is favor. Favor is an act of kindness beyond what is due, hmmm, that sounds like grace. Isn’t the fact that Jesus died on the cross favor and isn’t the fact that by grace we are saved, favor? Grace is easy and free, it isn’t encumbering and it doesn’t restrict us.  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:8-9

So, if there are giants (problems) in our lives, are we willing to go to God first and take on his counsel through the word and hear his voice by listening to the Holy Spirit and not run from one person to the other to seek advice? If we know and have confidence in the Word of God (Jesus Christ – John 1:1) that he has a plan for our life, then why are we looking for the advice of anyone but God? Of course, if it effects our spouse, we should discuss it with them. Another exception would be in ministerial fellowship, where it effects the direction of a church. Our counsel should still come from God, first and foremost and be directed by the Holy Spirit. The people in our life should be in tune with the Holy Spirit also; then they will hear the same message we hear or a very similar message. If we are not making wise decisions, perhaps we need to consider who our confidants are. When we know the ways of Jesus, the armor is easy and the burden is light, as he says in Matthew 11:28-30, which I especially like in The Message translation.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11:28-30
The plans of the mind and orderly thinking belong to man, but from the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart). Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. Proverbs 16:1-3

As we take on the armor of God, (Ephesians 6:10-18) which is all we need, we are fully prepared to defeat any opposition that rises against us, because we realize that our wisdom comes from God and that Jesus defeated the enemy on the cross. Nothing we put on will feel wrong or ill-fitting, it will feel right and we will feel free as we are intended to feel when our lives are lined up with the will of God. We have Liberty to walk in all that he has for us. We, who have accepted Jesus as our Savior, are victorious in our salvation and need to learn to live as victors instead of victims. We need to put away, the thinking of “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” and remember that we are “Joint heirs with Jesus Christ!” Just think how much there is in an inheritance when we forget the past and look forward to the future! This is a brighter outlook, this is worth getting out of bed for every day. Let’s be giant slayers, victory claimers, and know that no matter what battle we face, Jesus is on our side, because he already fought the battle and won! He never said we wouldn’t have trials, but he gives us a way out. He is there with us and he is For Us! 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. — Romans 8:31-34

 

 

Dousing the Fires that Destroy

We would be in a better frame of mind to remember when someone sets out to attempt to destroy us or assassinate our character because of envy, jealousy, or “perceived” offense, that it is our opportunity to shine. We are the only ones who can actually destroy ourselves by our re-Action to their tactics. They are exposing themselves and their own vulnerability and character by their attacks. They will eventually cause others to look at them more carefully and see their faults, if we keep a positive outlook, by focusing on who Jesus says we are and not others.

Unfortunately, some live a life of attempting to attack those around them who don’t cater to their every whim. We must allow them to self-destruct, however painful it might be. Jealousy, envy, and name-calling are at the root of a very bitter person. These behaviors are antithetical to a life led by the Holy Spirit. When a life is led by Jesus, it is full of the fruits of the Spirit; which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gossip is the opposite of these and one of the most insidious, because it entraps people and entices people to participate.  There are different forms of gossip also, as explained here: Proverbs 6:16-19 The definition of gossip is idle talk or rumors about the personal affairs of others; hearsay, scandal, and usually gossip isn’t a firsthand account, although there are those who gather evidence to use against you, posing as friends. Psalm 41:6 Many will try to disguise gossip and think it’s innocent to tell of another’s ‘troubles’ in a caring manner, but it isn’t and some don’t stop at caring; they do it out of vindictiveness. Gossip is a wildfire that must be put out – Don’t give an ear to its licking flames, don’t listen! Stop those who want to tell you the latest about others. When we shut our ears; by not listening; we are stopping those who want to share a ‘Bless their heart’ story. We are throwing water on the flames. If all of us did this, there wouldn’t even be a cinder left to ignite the flames.

I am reminded of an incident when I was a child about nine years of age. I grew up on my grandparents’ 80 acre pecan farm, with plenty of room to roam, and I loved it. One crisp, clear, cool fall afternoon, I piled up leaves about 30 feet from the back of our house to make a fort, which I was able to stack a couple of feet high. It was high enough that I could hide behind the walls if I scrunched down. I had plenty of material of twigs and dead leaves. The leaves were damp, so they stacked well. I had an active imagination and I was the youngest of three, much younger than my two older brothers, who usually couldn’t be bothered with a little sister. This allowed me to make up stories and play alone. But after I built the fort, sitting there became a bit boring and I wanted more excitement! I started to pretend an enemy had crossed the moat (our ditch) and set my fort on fire! But even then it wasn’t enough; I wanted to make it realistic. I knew we had matches in the house, because we had a gas range, which my mother needed the matches to light. Although I was forbidden to play with matches, I snuck in the back door, through our utility room, which led to the kitchen and waited patiently for my opportunity. I snatched a few from the box while my mother wasn’t looking. I ran back out and lit one on our concrete cellar and tried to catch my ‘fort’ on fire, but it wouldn’t spark right away, so I kept trying. I was on my last match when my father stuck his head out the back door to tell me dinner was ready. Knowing I shouldn’t be playing with matches, I dropped the match and ran for the house, forgetting the match was lit.
lit match
About 15 minutes into dinner, my father said, “I smell smoke! I wonder who’s burning today?” as he looked at my mother, he asked if any of the other farms had gathered their brushfires yet, and she replied that she didn’t know. Our closest neighbor was a quarter mile away. Suddenly it dawned on me how I’d dropped the match, so I jumped up and peeked through the dining room drapes to look. Just as I was about to be scolded for getting up from the table, I yelled, in a panic stricken voice, “My fort’s on fire!!” and pulled open the drapes. Everyone jumped up from the table to see, and my father barked out orders on what to do to put out the fire. We had to keep from burning all the leaves on the 80 acres, and I stood frozen there staring, then burst into tears. The fire was spreading quickly, even though the leaves were wet. I wasn’t thinking about the farm, I was thinking about all the work I’d done in building that fort for hours. Finally, I went outside and watched — the hose from the front yard was now hooked up to the back spigot, and my fort was almost gone, as I stood watching in horror! Then, I realized I had started this pandemonium with one small careless match. I snapped out of my remorse as I heard my father yelling about the pecan orchard, because I helped my grandfather on the farm all the time and realized the bigger picture. It wasn’t about a fort, it was about an orchard! I pitched in and all five of us worked with water and gunny sacks to put out the fire. Obviously, I was in trouble with my parents for playing with matches and starting a fire, but thankfully, it had only spread about an acre. About the time we had it almost out, my grandparents drove up to see why smoke was coming from our house, because from their vantage point it looked like our house was on fire. I don’t remember what my punishment was, because I was in so much remorse with what could have happened that my parents must have decided I had learned my lesson. But they weren’t easy on chastisement, so I must have had to do or go without something. 

I can think of so many parallels between gossip, responsibility, and carelessness from this story. I had to sneak into the house to get the matches. I was doing something that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, but I went ahead, and when I got caught, I didn’t confess, I dropped the tiny lit fire. In starting the fire, I could have destroyed a whole orchard, think how many lives are destroyed by gossip. Also, when the fire caused the smoke, it caused panic and alarm, even bringing my grandparents hightailing through the farm to come to our aid. But some people don’t think of all the consequences of their actions. If I had thought about that lit match, I don’t I would have dropped it, but maybe I would so I wouldn’t get caught. Do you know people who even in the midst of telling gossip in front of the person they’re talking about, will quickly tell the story quietly? Gossip doesn’t stop with telling stories, relating facts, because sometimes the facts you know shouldn’t be shared and become misconstrued. If you ever played the game “Rumors” as a child, where you whisper a sentence in the ear of the person next to you and then it’s repeated and whispered through the ears of even just ten people, by that time it’s a completely different sentence. With gossip, the story is usually embellished, and every person has to add his or her own perception, that’s when the fire starts. Once the fire starts, it’s hard to put out, even if there are wet leaves (those who won’t listen) because there are a few dry leaves (those who will listen), so eventually you get a spark and then a smolder. Sometimes it takes a while for the smolder to linger, before the fire rages, like my fort fire. Then there’s damage and everyone comes running to put out what just one person started by being disobedient. This is why we must control our mouths and control our perceptions, we should never make presumptions or speculate. We cannot read other people’s minds or feel their feelings, those are theirs alone. It is best to contain a fire, by never allowing it to ignite. We should mind our own business and contain the fires. We should stop the fires that others want to start. 

People who shrug off deliberate deceptions,  saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,” Are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires. When you run out of wood, the fire goes out;  when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. – Proverbs 26:18-20

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. – James 3:5-6

 

Facing the Unexpected 

Jesus had just healed many people and the disciples had witnessed these events. Afterwards, they got in a boat and SUDDENLY a storm came up and they woke Jesus up because they were frightened. But Jesus was right there with them!! After all the miracles they witnessed, they were worried about the storm! Jesus rebuked the storm. Again, SUDDENLY, while Jesus was in their presence or they were in His, everything calmed. 


 After Peter denied Jesus three times, before his crucifixion, SUDDENLY, he remembered the prophecy spoken over him and he was convicted. But Jesus had already forgiven him.

When the news of Jesus birth was being announced to the shepherds, an angel SUDDENLY appeared, but the angel reassured them that everything was okay.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to two of the disciples on the road to Emmaeus. Even not knowing who he was, they begged him to stay with them and he accepted. When he broke the bread, SUDDENLY, they recognized him. Later, Jesus SUDDENLY appeared to the disciples and frightened them, he offered them the comfort of the Holy Spirit. 

In another story on the lake, the disciples SUDDENLY saw Jesus walking on the water, and they were frightened. He told them to have peace and remain calm.

When Saul (later Paul) was on the road to Damascus, he SUDDENLY saw a light so bright it knocked him to the ground and a voice spoke to him. That voice was Jesus, who asked him to quit persecuting him. Saul was blinded by the light, but was at peace and still walked the rest of the way with guidance. Jesus was with him in spirit! His sight was returned when he believed.

After Paul survived the shipwreck, he came to an island and built a fire. A poisonous snake bit him and the islanders expected him to SUDDENLY die. When he didn’t, they thought he was a god, but he actually had Jesus with him, protecting him. 
In each of these stories, people were frightened. Sometimes it was those who already believed and some were non-believers, but Jesus was ALWAYS PRESENT during the SUDDENLY times, which interpreted from the Greek, means the UNEXPECTED TIMES. What unexpected things have happened in your life lately that have thrown a wrench in your plans or may have frightened you? Has it been financial, your health, a legal dispute, or a family situation? Or perhaps it’s been all of them and more. Just because they’ve happened, doesn’t mean that Jesus is not right there beside us. When we forget to recognize Jesus and rely on him, we let our fears and emotions overtake us. 

Personally, we’ve had many trials in our lives this year in each of the areas I mentioned and multiple times in many scenarios. Thankfully, we’ve had the wisdom to hold onto ktnowing that none of this means God doesn’t love and care for us. It doesn’t mean he has forgotten us and because of all these calamities, we’ve grown. 

Hopefully we can say after having endured, what Paul told the Corinthians, May Jesus give us Paul’s outlook and viewpoint as we press forward. Holy Spirit, work this heart in us, during the unexpected and sudden trials. 

2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (excerpt) We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry… we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind… endured sleepless nights … We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten [with words]… Our hearts ache, but we always have joy… we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.