I love movies. I can dig up great movie quotes from just about any movie I’ve seen. It’s not a superpower like echoic memory; I just find some great wisdom in some movies. One particular one came to mind when I put this together, which is a moment from the movie Rocky IV. During his fight with Ivan Drago, Rocky cuts the face of the previously unbeatable Drago, hailed by his team to be “a machine”. While in his corner, his trainer, Duke, tells Rocky, “You see? He’s not a machine, he’s a man!” Rocky goes on to win the fight once he has the confidence that Drago isn’t invincible, a giant upset by the much smaller Rocky over the much larger and more powerful Drago.
Many people have heard the old saying that “life imitates art”, known as anti-mimesis. In this case, however, art imitated life, mimesis. In real life, there was once a man so big that he stood almost nine feet tall and weighed 489 lbs.! Who was this lumbering man? Why, he was none other than Robert Pershing Wadlow, who in 1940 measured 8’ 11.1” tall, as documented in Guinness World Records!
Ok, you thought I was thinking about a different nine feet tall giant, didn’t you? Well, I am. I just wanted to take a moment to illustrate that some folks out there think it was impossible for a Philistine to actually be nine feet tall. Well, Robert was from the U.S. of A. in the great state of Illinois. Out the window goes the idea that an Old Testament Philistine warrior couldn’t have been nine feet tall.
Yes, there was once a man, a warrior against Israel and the Israelites, that stood nine feet tall. His name was Goliath, and his name is synonymous with largeness in modern language. And, yes, he got his butt kicked by a young, skinny sheep herder named David. When the Philistine army met the Israeli army in Judah, out stepped Goliath with a challenge. In 1 Samuel 17:9-10, Goliath is quoted as having said:
“Why bother using your whole army? Am I not Philistine enough for you? And you’re all committed to Saul, aren’t you? So pick your best fighter and pit him against me. If he gets the upper hand and kills me, the Philistines will all become your slaves. But if I get the upper hand and kill him, you’ll all become our slaves and serve us. I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!”
The Israelites trembled in fear and lost their hope of winning. Then, along came David. David’s three older brothers were in the Israeli army, and their father had sent David to feed them and report back to their father on how things were going. When David learned of Goliath and his challenge, and the loss of hope of the army, he was stirred to action. He went to Saul, the King of Israel, who was at the battlefield. In verses 32-33, David said to Saul, “Master, don’t give up hope. I’m ready to go and fight this Philistine.” Saul replied, “You can’t go and fight this Philistine. You’re too young and inexperienced—and he’s been at this fighting business since before you were born.” Undeterred, David demanded to take the fight to Goliath, and Saul relented. Saul even tried to let David wear his armor, but it was too heavy for David to even walk in! David went down to a brook and grabbed five smooth stones. He confronted Goliath at the battle lines, where the following conversation ensued, from verses 43-47:
“’Am I a dog that you come after me with a stick?’ And he cursed him by his gods. ‘Come on,’ said the Philistine. ‘I’ll make roadkill of you for the buzzards. I’ll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice.’ David answered, ‘You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day GOD is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that GOD doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to GOD—he’s handing you to us on a platter!’”
And, that’s exactly what happened. As they rushed each other at the battle lines, David struck Goliath right between the eyes with a rock from his slingshot, and Goliath fell to the ground. Once there, David took Goliath’s sword and cut off Goliath’s head. The tide of the war turned immediately as the Philistines watched their champion soldier die at the hands of a shepherd. David later became King of Israel at 30 years old and ruled Israel for 40 years.
My son has studied martial arts for a couple of years now, and specifically studies Jujutsu, among other styles. His coach, “Coach Stefan”, told his class before a tournament that once they see their opponent as they come onto the mat, their opponent would begin a form of psychological warfare on them. Sometimes it would be through fighting words, and sometimes it would just be through looks. He also told them not to give any credence to the color of belt the opponent was wearing nor to the size of the opponent. He reassured them that only good technique would win a match. Does any of this sound familiar to you? It should; it’s the same thing Goliath tried to do to David and the Israelites. Shiny bronze armor, big stature, fighting words, the works. Good technique won that battle also, with the meager David having bested the giant Goliath with one good shot from his slingshot.
So, how does all this apply to you? Am I suggesting you become a professional fighter or warrior and go out and beat people? No. Here’s what I’m getting at: life will throw challenges at you that seem insurmountable. They will seem like machines that can’t be beaten, like giants that are invincible, and like martial artists that have an unforeseen upper-hand on you. The truth is that when you fight these challenges with God on your side, you will win because that is good technique. Now, I’m not suggesting you poke the bear; I tell my own child to avoid fighting at all costs and to never use martial arts for anything other than defense, never aggression. But life will throw challenges at you. Some of them will be in the form of circumstances, and some of them will be in the form of people. In fact, circumstances are created by people. What I’m saying, and what the story of David and Goliath tells us, is that going up against life’s challenges with God on your side as your technique will lead you to victory.
There is an old adage that says that if the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it. We should expect life to challenge us. With God on our side, however, we should never be afraid to face life’s challenges head-on. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the strength to push through fear to be successful. Whether your Goliath is a person, a circumstance, or something about yourself you must face, know that you will win, just as David did, with God on your side. Remember, the path to connection with God is through prayer, through Christ. Communicate with God, and give your heart and your life to him. Through God, all things are possible.
One last thing: what happened to the giant, Robert Wadlow? He was felled at the age of 22. Not by the brawn of another human being, but by a blister on his foot. Yes, really. It got infected and killed him. The tallest man recognized in Guinness World Records was died because he got a boo-boo on his foot. I can’t make this stuff up; Google it and read the story if you’re so inclined. Just remember: the bigger they are, the harder they fall. This is exactly how life’s challenges work.
May God bless you, now and always.