I Can’t Do All Things Through Him Who Gives Me Strength

Over the last couple weeks, we have been working up to the battle between David and Goliath. We still won’t get there. Anticipation will build for one more week. Most of us are familiar enough with this story to know that David prevails over Goliath. At this point in the story, no one knows whether or not David will win. David doesn’t even know for sure. Yet he trusts God in the midst of the giant. God uses the presence of an unbeatable enemy to glorify His own name. Take a moment to think about your giants: anxiety, depression, family issues, enemies, persecutors, oppressors, addictions, sin, character traits, looks or anything else. If God works all things together, if He is truly providential, we don’t live in the midst of our giants on accident. Why do you think God has placed your giants in your life?

1 Samuel 7:31-38

When the words which David spoke were heard, they told them to Saul, and he sent for him.

David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”

Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor.

David’s words (v. 31)

When the words which David spoke were heard, they told them to Saul, and he sent for him.

David’s words, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (v. 26), made it through the ranks up to King Saul. David’s words were important because he challenged the status quo. People are focused on the giant and concerned about the reward awaiting the one who can defeat the giant. No one can, and no one is acknowledging God’s providential hand in this particular circumstance. When David mention’s God and is neither focussed on the giant nor concerned about the reward for defeating the giant, news about his different perspective gets to Saul. Saul instructs his men to bring David before him.

David’s inability (v. 32-33)

David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

David recognizes that every soldier’s heart has failed because every soldier present fears Goliath. They are disheartened and they are filled with anxiety. David implores the king not to let any man be disheartened; he offers to go and fight Goliath. Notice, David’s goal is not to overcome the giant. His goal is not to gain the kings reward. He is resolved simply to fight the giant at this point. He is interested in honoring God no matter what the results may be.

We know this because of David’s question in verse 26. Were the people really so shallow that they feared Goliath, who was nothing compared to God—who was working this together anyway? No matter which way God would work things, David trusts Him to deliver according to His own will.

Notice, also, that this fight is not David’s. The giant isn’t coming against David, particularly. David was not bound to face Goliath. He could deliver the goods and return home to his family’s flock and to his father. Yet, he intercedes for the army. In the same way, Christ intercedes for us when we are unable to overcome our unrighteousness and merit God’s reward. Jesus intercedes for His people because He is the only one who can overcome our unrighteousness and sin on our behalf. Jesus does this. He condescends, resists temptation and sin fulfilling all righteousness, suffers the consequence of sin in death, and claims victory over death. He does that interceding for His people.

Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.”

Saul is not wrong. If his military men cannot face Goliath, neither can this shepherd boy from Bethlehem—the youngest son in his family. Scripture has intentionally, up to this point in the story, made David’s inability to face Goliath evident. Let’s consider the evidence.

  • 1 Samuel 16:1-11; Eliab is the man of stature, and David is so unworthy he wasn’t even asked to come before Samuel.
  • 1 Samuel 16:11; David is a shepherd boy, not a warrior.
  • 1 Samuel 16:18, 23; David is a harpist.
  • 1 Samuel 17:14, 33; David is the youngest son and still a youth.
  • 1 Samuel 17:28; David’s oldest brother perceives him as a nuisance with an insolent and wicked heart.

David is only a youth. He lacks experience, particularly in battle. Goliath has been a warrior from his youth. He was made and trained for battle. David doesn’t stand a chance. That’s the whole point of this part in God’s story.

God’s power (v. 34-38)

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”

We often use this story to develop a false-perception of David and of ourselves. The whole point of the story is that David is not strong enough to defeat Goliath. In the same way, we do not have it in us to slay our own metaphorical giants. We do not have it in us to overcome our unrighteousness and sin and to merit eternal life. It is beyond our ability. David is the least of his brothers, and probably the least capable man in all Israel. That David (160 pounds) could kill a lion (420 pounds) or a bear (550 pounds) is near unbelievable. That David may kill this herculean giant (420 pounds) is inconceivable. There are more qualified soldiers. In fact, every Israelite man on the battlefield is more capable than David from a human perspective.

I know your response. What about that verse I see on Instagram all the time, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”? That’s Philippians 4:13 and it has a cotext. Paul will make that claim in the midst of circumstances he cannot overcome. To do all things is to endure all things, to be content in all things as God works them together—including prosperity, poverty, hunger, satisfaction, abundance, and suffering. Paul’s statement will be a statement of contentment, not empowerment. Don’t believe me? Simply go read all of Philippians 4:10-14 and stop plucking verses from their literary context and interpreting them however you want or however you have seen them misrepresented. Paul even praises the Philippians for sharing with him in his affliction, which is out of his control and which he cannot overcome because it is beyond his ability. I will say it again. Scripture is never about us slaying our giants. It is about God’s providence and our contentment in the circumstances He works together for His own glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

David recognizes his own insufficiency. David realizes how God has taken the least of all people and used him in mighty ways. God did it this way so that His glory would be unmistakable and no human person could boast. God is david’s deliverer. David does not claim to be his own deliverer. David trusts that God will deliver him from the enormous, technologically advanced, and socially progressive Philistine.

I want to boast about my own weaknesses for a moment. I am very shy. I am an introvert. Being an introvert isn’t what many people think it is. I’m not antisocial. Being around people simply makes me very tired. I gather energy when I am by myself. I am very sensitive about what people say. It doesn’t take much to hurt my feelings. These characteristics are written into my DNA. I’ve tried to change them, but have not been able to. I realized God designed me specifically according to His will. I’ve stopped trying to change these things. I was a great sinner. I was lazy. I would rather have spent my time and money on me. My life was saturated with lust. At the beginning of my preaching ministry, I cared more about promoting Andrew Cannon than about honoring God. I thought church was a joke. I perceived people in the church as being know-it-all people pretending to be perfect. I was going to forsake the church like the rest of my generation. Like David, I recognize that I have no power and am completely unqualified to do what I do. I have nothing to offer. Every step, for me, is a step trusting that God is really working all things together. If you don’t realize it, God called a shy, narcissistic, cynical, womanizing, insecure, condemning liar to preach His word and love people sacrificially and unconditionally. Though I have grown more mature, that is who you have before you teaching God’s word. God’s grace is beyond me. I become more and more convinced each day that God called me in order to show His sufficiency—not because I was somehow qualified. From a human perspective, I’m the worst man for the job. That’s why I’m here. God’s ways are not ours. He will have all glory. So, he called me to preach.

God elects people who cannot contribute to their own salvation for the same reason. He gives each of us a place in His kingdom for the same reason. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul will write, 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, he will write, 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

God works things together in such a way that no one can boast in his or her salvation, sanctification, skills, spiritual gifts, or places of ministry. God’s holistic work in our lives is monergistic, not synergistic. It’s all God by God’s own word. If anyone claims he must contribute to his salvation, sanctification, or ministry, he undermines God’s glory and teaches a false Gospel. David recognizes this and trusts God with the outcome despite his insufficiencies.

And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor.

In verse 33, Saul pointed out that David wasn’t able. David agreed with him and replied, “God is!” Saul concedes, “May God be with you.” After conceding to David, Saul places his own armor on David as if he is going to increase David’s chances against Goliath. If David is entirely insufficient, no suit of armor will help him. If we are entirely insufficient, no human method, morality, religion, or philosophy can guard us or deliver us. Like Saul, people often disguise the ways of the world as godly. We preach moralistic sermons to keep people from sinning. We try to build Christ’s kingdom by attracting people to a church building. We try to force those people and things we don’t agree with into submission. That’s a teaser. More on that next week when we continue reading God’s story.

Do we recognize that God is the providential one, here? Do we realize life isn’t about our overcoming our giants? Do we realize we are unable to merit God’s reward in salvation, sanctification, or ministry? Are we content in the midst of our giants, knowing that God has providentially placed those giants in our lives for His good purpose? Christianity is about our contentment in light of God’s glory. When we think only of our empowerment or merit, we claim God’s place for ourselves. That is blasphemy. Are we honoring God or promoting ourselves? Is God’s grace sufficient for us? After all, that’s the reason our giants come against us—to show us that God is sufficient and we have no power. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians,

…to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10).

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