Like every other child that grew up in the church, I’m very familiar with 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath.
It’s a tremendous story of the little guy getting the victory over his highly favored opponent. It’s used ceaselessly as an analogy in the sports world, when Louisiana-Monroe finds ways to beat SEC teams they have no business beating, or when the New York Giants beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. We use it in our own lives as an inspiring example of what can happen if we “just trust God.”
And that scares me, because while there’s some truth in the saying, “God can overcome your Goliath, too!” that’s not a complete picture of the God of the Bible.
Before you call me a heretic for apparently not believing that God can overcome any obstacle, hear me out: Sometimes God overcomes our obstacles the same way He overcame Israel’s obstacle in 1 Samuel 17. Example: You get diagnosed with cancer. Miraculously, you beat it. You praise God for the victory over cancer. And you should! That’s wonderful, glorious news!
But so is the testimony of a believer who dies at 30 due to cancer who remains faithful, trusting in and professing the gospel until their last breath. They did not experience defeat. They experienced victory, because they knew they already had their greatest victory in Christ.
Our greatest victory was won when Christ saved us. From that point on, the “victory” we should be seeking is growing in our faith, our confidence in Christ, our holiness, and God being glorified in our lives, no matter what happens. And that doesn’t always happen the way it did in 1 Samuel 17. Sometimes, our greatest victories in our relationship with God come through defeat here on Earth.
Indeed, the very victory that won our salvation was done by Christ, the Son of God, submitting to pain and suffering and death on a cross. Our greatest victory was won in what appeared to be defeat for God. It was in His Son’s pain, suffering and death that God secured our salvation.
We cannot take 1 Samuel 17 as a comprehensive, all-encompassing view of how God defeats our enemies and obstacles. The cross shows us that. The persecution of the church shows us that.
The bigger picture in 1 Samuel 17 is God saving His people from their enemy. In this particular instance, it was by military victory. But what was the goal of God delivering them from the Philistines? Surely it wasn’t just securing land and peace. God’s design for us is always for us to trust Him more and learn to walk with Him, and He can accomplish that in both “victory” and “defeat.” I put those words in quotation marks because if we grow in our faith, it is always a victory, no matter the circumstances of that growth.
So maybe you don’t make it out of your present trouble. Maybe you do get cancer. Maybe you do lose a job you don’t “deserve” to lose. Maybe your life doesn’t get better.
But if you have Jesus, you have more than enough. You can bank on Him, and know that even in your pain, even in your suffering, even in the obstacles, even when God seems to let “Goliath” get the upper hand, He still loves you, He is still at work in your life, He is still your Savior, and nothing can keep you from His love (Rom. 8).
Christian, your victory is in Christ. Your victory here is growing to trust, love, and resemble Him more, regardless of the outcome of the battles you may face. Pursue Christ. Trust Christ.
Lord, may we never forget that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. May we bank on your promises. May we realize, in good times and bad, our greatest good, our true victory, is found in you, and in knowing you more and being like you. May you finish the good work you started in us, however that may come.