Stages in the Journey
1 Samuel 17:1a-49

This may seem a bit like I’m only talking to the men and boys of the congregation today, but I’m talking to the mum’s, Grandma’s, wives and girlfriends too.  We are all on a journey through our lives, and we’re all at different points along that path.  I reckon any help we get along the way is beneficial, so I hope you will indulge me.

Today’s readings are great stories, the kind of thing you would expect in a Boy’s Own annual or something like that.  But these are in the best selling book of all time, and maybe the least read in Western society.  Today we get a gruesome and gory battle story and then follow it up with one about a huge storm being told to settle down and be still and it did!  I don’t know about you but I enjoy adventure stories.

Over the last few years we’ve started to avoid anything that might have a hint of blood and guts or anything that might be a bit hard to deal with emotionally.  We’ve been cleaning up society wherever possible, or at least many people have been trying to. 

Last week I even skipped over the bit where all of Pharaoh’s army and horses were drowned in the Red Sea because it might be a bit hard to explain.  But reading about David taking on Goliath this week has made me has reminded me again about what I’ve been reading in the Wild at Heart books and the need for men to be allowed to be men, especially in the presence of God and in relationship with him.

According to John Eldredge us blokes need to go on a particular journey, we need to progress from being boys, through all the stages as we mature as men and Christians, and someone needs to walk with us along the journey.

Eldredge uses David as an example, he began life as a shepherd boy, not the cute little depiction we get at Christmastime of little kids dressed up with their tea towel around their head, but a young man living in the field with the sheep, fighting off bears and lions and truly protecting the sheep from anything that came their way, putting his life on the line for their sake.

In today’s story David makes the transition from shepherd to warrior, at first he was running errands back and forth from the battlefield for his father, leaving the sheep for a time with a keeper and then returning.  But on this occasion as Saul and the whole army are afraid of this huge Philistine named Goliath David heard his challenge to fight.  David wanted to know what the reward would be to defeat Goliath, and when he found out he went to Saul to offer his services even though his brothers told him to go back to caring for the sheep.

Saul told him he was too small and inexperienced to take the risk, but David insisted, saying that he had experience in fighting off bears and lions,  and that the Lord had saved him when he did so, he believed that the Lord would protect him now as well.

Saul gave David all sorts of armour to put on to go into battle, but David was so small he couldn’t even move in it.  So he took it all off and took his staff, some rocks and his sling and went out to take on the giant.  When Goliath laughed at him and cursed at him David proclaimed that he came in the name of the Lord and that the Lord would deliver him and through this would show the world that the God of Israel is the only true God.  He declared that the battle was the Lord’s and not his.

And sure enough, with just one stone from his sling, he killed Goliath.

Thus began David’s journey as a warrior, which in time was to take him on the journey to being King over all of Israel.  On the way he also experienced the Lover stage.  We all immediately think of his indiscretion with Bathsheba, but the lover stage also reflects a love for music and poetry, David as we know wrote many Psalms and King Saul loved to hear David play his harp for him.

Throughout his life even in his time of great sin, David still called on the name of the Lord who loved him and protected him.  And David knew that even after all the great triumphs and struggles of life he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, his relationship with God intact.

We all go through stages in our lives where we face challenges, maybe not as daunting as going into battle with a giant Philistine, but challenges that can seem insurmountable.  When we try to go through them alone, they remain that way, but when we learn from David and go into them with the Lord as our protector and guide, as our Father, he does protect us and teach us as we learn and grow and win some battles along the way.

We shouldn’t expect life to be all beer and skittles, we’ve got plenty of examples in the Bible of God’s people who are faced with challenges, but where God is with them to get them through.

Remember Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego?  God protected them in the fiery furnace, you might notice that he didn’t stop them having to enter the fiery furnace but he did protect them!

The story of Jesus calming the storm is another example.  Jesus was lying in the stern of the boat asleep while all around him a storm was raging.  His friends were VERY afraid, they didn’t know what to do and they thought that they were all going to die.  But Jesus simply woke up and told the wind and the waves to be still, it was as simple as that, “Peace, be still” and it was all over.

Jesus didn’t stop the storm from coming, that was part of the learning and growing experience for the disciples.  But he did protect them to show them of his love for them and that he had power over all things, even the wind and the waves.

The natural thing to do when these ‘challenges’ come our way is to try to avoid them, or to blame God for them.  But really we should be taking them on, prayerfully and with God’s help.  Rather than shying away from them we should go through them and learn from them.  Have you ever noticed that after a difficult and trying time in your life that you can look back and see where you now look at life differently and have grown through your experience.

The 19 year old who died in a car accident near Dandenong in the early hours of Thursday morning was an Ice Hockey player.  His mother was on the radio that day asking that other young drivers learn from the tragedy and slow down.  The Ice Hockey association also put that message through to all of its members via email.  Even in tragedy there is opportunity for others to learn and grow and stay safe.  Everyone involved is still mourning, some might even be blaming God, but we don’t really know all the circumstances involved or who is to blame, but we can ask God to give us and the family peace beyond understanding.

Throughout our journeys we need to learn to trust in God, to keep the relationship and communication channels open, to talk to God and ask for his help and guidance, to learn from whatever life throws at us, and to help others to learn along their journeys too.

Everyone needs to know the love of God, to hear his word of forgiveness spoken to them, so that just like David, shepherd, warrior and king, they may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Amen.