Sometimes big problems prompt us to focus on ourselves as the centre of things. Jesus challenges us to take a broader view.
1 Samuel 17:1-11
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
Life is not perfect. It is a constant roller coaster of highs and lows, including some that we, quite frankly, have little control over! And sometimes, we tend to feel a little sick of the constant drops. We might get passed up for a job or a relationship turns sour. The road gets bumpy and we are faced with a problem that requires a solution. And so we pull our vision into tight focus, centering our view on each little bump. We start to see life as a series of hills and valleys – a high or low – one at a time. We start to see the Christian life as a way to get out of the current valley and onto the next hill. We start to see God as someone whose main job is to help us solve our problems. We call out to God to give us victory in our tight-focus life of day-by-day highs and lows.
In the passage, we see Israel in a rather difficult situation. Across the valley, they’re faced with an enemy who seems overwhelming. Who will face the giant champion Goliath, who is quite literally exceptional? Clearly not Saul, the king, tall and mighty as he is. Saul is terrified. Yet, as we’ll see in a day or two, the boy David achieves a remarkable victory with underpowered weaponry, all in the name of God.
What are we to make of this? It’s easy to conclude that we can slay the “giants” in our lives – our problems – by faith. And it’s true that God, our loving Father, cares about each part of our lives. But this interpretation betrays the same tight-focus thinking that the Israelites had. They asked for a king to be like the other nations, to solve their immediate problems, to get them out of each sticky situation. They forgot that God had called them to be a set-apart people, to show his love to each other in their society, and to shine out to the nations around. They forgot that God was their treasure. It would take a much bigger king – Jesus – to embody all of that.
Likewise, we should look at our whole lives through the lens of Jesus and his purposes in the world – a much broader focus than the “right here, right now” tight focus of our current problem or joy. By all means, let’s give him thanks or petition for each thing we experience. But let’s first put it all into the bigger picture with Jesus – and his vision – at the center.
Head: Do you frequently look at your relationship with God through the tight-focus lens of what good or bad things are happening in your life right now?
Heart: When you are in the tight-focus mode of looking at life, who tends to be at the centre of your thoughts?
Hands: How can you use your actions and example to encourage your growth group members, or other Christians you know, when their focus gets pulled in a bit too tight? (But be compassionate to their immediate needs and feelings too!)
Prayer: Father, please help us not to focus on our situation so tightly that we neglect the bigger picture of your purposes for us, our church family, and the world. Please help us to see everything in light of Jesus and his creation, redemption and rule of us and the world. Amen.
A song to listen to: This Life I Live
Geoff Pryde and Maddie Pryde- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina