In 1 Samuel 17 we read the historical account of David as he met Goliath in battle. Before David faced down this Philistine giant of a man, the Israelites had to listen to him daily berate them as well as the Lord their God. We read that as he came and trash-talked them day after day they became discouraged. Each day they would approach the battle site – and each day they would retreat from it when he would come and demand someone to fight him. By the time that David came to the camp to learn of the condition of his brothers who fought with Israel, it had been 40 days that they experienced this scenario. Needless to say, their discouragement was great.
What exactly is discouragement? Well, honestly, the word itself is little more than the word courage with the prefix dis- attached to it. Dis- simply means the lack of something or the opposite of it. They had lost their courage. They no longer had any courage when it came to their circumstances on that battlefield. A massive man – a professional warrior – was asking for a single person to come and fight him. Even the king, Saul, who stood head and shoulders above anyone else in Israel, had his courage leave him at the thought of a man-on-man fight with this guy.
But something happened when David walked into the camp. He came to the front lines that day and saw the same thing all the other soldiers saw. He heard the same thing all the other soldiers heard. But there was one thing David did see on that day that all the others had lost sight of in their minds. David still saw God – and – God was bigger than Goliath!
We have a principle at work here! If you want to be discouraged – keep looking at your problems. This has a corollary as well – if your problem seems very large – continue mentioning how big it is over and over again. If you do NOT want to be discouraged – keep your eyes, your focus on God. Compared to Goliath David was a runt. I mean no disrespect towards David in saying this. When David came out to fight him without any armor – without a sword or a spear. When he came out with a shepherd’s sling and a bag filled with 5 stones, (1 for Goliath – and four for his ugly brothers if they came too) Goliath was pretty ticked off and considered his very appearance an insult to him.
David had fought other giants in his day. He fought a hairy one that took one of his father’s sheep in a very bear-like fashion because, in fact he was a bear. He also faced another monster that took one of his father’s sheep. Some think this thief didn’t walk in the truth – but that was just because he was a lion. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself) Both times David looked to God and saw that through Him he could rescue his father’s sheep. He killed both the lion and the bear and rescued his father’s sheep from them. All this current situation was to David was another one in which his Father’s sheep were in danger because of another bear/lion like predator that was seeking to take them. Just as God helped him with his father’s enemies, the lion and the bear – so God would help him as he fought his heavenly Father’s adversaries as well.
Was David experiencing some fear or trepidation when he went to battle? It doesn’t seem like it. But that was because he wasn’t looking at the giant who cast a shadow over him – he was looking at the faithful God who cast an infinite shadow over the tiny giant before him. Where did David get this kind of perspective?
David was a Jewish boy. As such he had heard the history of his people as it was read by the priests and repeated by his parents. He knew of a nation of slaves who defeated the mightiest military of their day by looking at God rather than focusing on them. He knew of a leader who did not cower before a mighty walled city named Jericho. That leader focused on the God who told him to march around the city until they were good and tired. Then they were to shout and blow trumpets at the city. Those God-directed actions allowed them to see, not the walls, but the Wall-smasher. Over and over again David had heard of those who didn’t look at their situation, but who looked at their God. Those who did this – were “couraged.” I know that is not an actual word – but I hope it speaks to you. When you look at your circumstances and make much of them – your courage will be taken. You will be discouraged. But when you face obstacles that loom before you and you choose instead to see the infinitely powerful, infinitely mighty, infinitely great, infinitely wise God instead, you will be “couraged.”
How do we do this? We do it by daily seeking God’s face. We do it by daily pursuing an appointment in the presence of our God. We do it by seeking first His kingdom and His glory – and He adds to us the things that we need in life. We don’t let tomorrow (or today for that matter) to dominate our field of view. Such, there are things in many of our tomorrows that are HUGE! There are many things in a perceived future moment that seem bigger than what we can handle. There are things that send our emotions into a frenzied panic – making us want to run and hide. But here is a truth you should write down somewhere.
“You don’t have to act how you feel.”
Too many people today think that they are controlled by how they feel. They think this way so much that their “feels” make them blind to anything else in life. “Don’t confuse me with facts,” they say, “this is how I feel!” To suggest to them that they don’t have to act how they feel is an insult to them – for to them they are their feelings. “To not act how I feel would be to act like a phony,” they say.
The truth is that we have the ability to say no to our feelings and choose to act another way. This is not being phony. It is being responsible. When one gives in to the false logic that says one HAS to act according to their feelings – they will find a multitude of things that will discourage them. Their courage will be robbed from them as they tremble at their circumstances and difficulties, hoping that someone, anyone will come along and deliver them from their feelings.
We overcome this slavery to feelings by turning to God in our need. With our focus no longer on the problem or the feelings it engenders, we begin looking to God and listening to Him. He tells us to “take courage” for He has overcome the world. The more we look to Him and what He has said and promised, the more we experience encouragement. It is then that we can overcome discouragement. We do it by looking to Him – listening to Him – and responding to Him and what He says. We no longer live by our “feels” but by a responsibility to obey God. We respond to God who tells us our responsibility to do what He says. Thus, we learn that we don’t have to act how we feel – we act according to our responsibility. We act according to what it means to be a responsible child of God. We act according to what it means to be a responsible servant of God. That allows us to be a responsible parent, a responsible child, a responsible employer or employee, and any other role or task that God calls us to be responsible to do. We’re just responsible.
So, the next time you face a situation where your feelings try to dominate you and lead you to discouragement, look past your situation to your God. Focus on Him and you will no longer be discouraged. To the contrary – you will be very “couraged.”