Surprising Victories

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 5/Proper 5
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13 and 1 Samuel 17: 32-49
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
1 Samuel 17: 45 (NIV)


We’re carrying on today with the story of David in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. Last week we saw how David was chosen among all of the sons of Jesse to be the next king of Israel. This was despite the fact that, at ten years of age, he was Jesse’s youngest son. He was also small and a shepherd which was just about the most lowly job you could have in those days. This kid just didn’t look like a king. And yet God chose him. Why? Because while people look at the outward appearance of someone, God looks at the heart. And while David may have been young and short and smelled like sheep, he had a king’s heart.

The story we are looking at today happens about five years after Samuel anointed David at Bethlehem. Saul is still king. Remember that it will be about twenty-five more years before David actually becomes king and God will use those twenty-five years to prepare David to be the kind of king God wants him to be. But that is all in the future. David is now about fifteen years old. His brothers are away from home fighting in King Saul’s army against the dreaded Philistines. And Jesse has sent David to the army camp to take some supplies to his brothers. It is while visiting his brothers, that David hears about a giant named Goliath. He has challenge every man in Israel to one on one combat and not a single soldier in Saul’s army has the courage to face him.

That brings us to 1 Samuel 17:32-33 (NIV) where we read, “David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’ Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’” Finally, Saul has someone who will face Goliath but he’s not too sure about this. Remember that Saul doesn’t know that David has been anointed king. He may have never heard of him before. But there he is, a teenage with no combat experience but ready, nonetheless, to fight the most feared Philistine on the planet. We can excuse King Saul if he sounds a tad skeptical. I think any of us would be.

But David has an answer for Saul. Listen to what he says in 1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NIV): “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Do you remember why God chose David to be the next king? Do you see the king’s heart coming out here? That’s exactly what is happening. David has more skills that are apparent at first glance. He might be a gangly teen but he’s already faced lions and bears and won. And even more than that, he trust God to be with him and guide him.

But King Saul still isn’t quite satisfied. The story goes on in 1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NIV): “Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’ [So far so good but…] Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. ‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.” Remember that David is not a big person and Saul is a full grown man of some stature. So Saul’s stuff is way too big so David takes it off.

What Saul is doing here is trying to give David an edge by providing for him what Saul himself would have used in a fight. But David is not Saul and God has not provided David with the same gifts and abilities that he gave to Saul. So if David is going to win this battle against Goliath, he is going to have to do it his own way. We find out what that is in 1 Samuel 17:40 (NIV): “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” There you have it. No armour. No sword. No shield. No helmet. Just five smooth stones and a slingshot.

Let’s read the rest of the story in 1 Samuel 17:41-49 NIV):

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

There you have it. I want to highlight a couple of things in this story. First Goliath under-estimated David. All he saw was a skinny teenager who he saw as no threat at all. What he didn’t see was what God saw – a young man with a king’s heart and a heart after God. Remember what we learned last week – that people look at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. Goliath’s mistake would be his undoing.

Second, all the way through this story, David acknowledges his need of God. It was not his battle; it was the Lord’s. Goliath might be going into battle with a sword, spear and javelin but David is going into battle in the name of the Lord Almighty. David knows that he can not win this fight on his own. It is only by trusting in God that he stands a chance against this giant.

And so, as Goliath approaches, rather than running away David runs towards him and as he runs reaches into his pouch and pulls out a smooth sharp stone from the stream, loads his sling and fires at Goliath smacking him right between the eyes. Goliath, stunned, falls flat on his face and in the next verse we learn that David takes Goliath’s own sword and finishes him off.


This is a surprising victory. No one expected David to win this fight. But it is the surprising victories that are often the sweetest. And I want to turn now to another surprising victory. It’s the victory that brought us here today. It is the victory against very long odds that allowed Fay and Roy to adopt Sierra into their family so that they could bring her here today to be baptized into the community of faith that we call the Church of Jesus Christ.

When you think about it, this is really quite remarkable. Fay has shared a bit of their story of how Sierra came to be with them. It was not the usual route one would take but it was the route God chose. As I listened again to Fay’s story, I was stuck by the sense of trust that she and Roy exhibited throughout this whole process. It is so hard sometimes to leave things in God’s hands especially when you want something so badly – like another child for your family. And yet you waited and you prepared. As it turned out, the room you prepared was a forerunner of the baby girl who would come into your lives and that’s an amazing story all by itself. But in the midst of that, you trusted God and were willing to accept whatever outcome there might be.

How many times do we need to be reminded of that? As often as we can be. We need to be reminded again that God is there and that God cares and that God wants the very best for his children even if we don’t always understand why things work out as they do. We see only a small glimpse but God sees the whole picture. All we see is the lower story, the things that are around us right now. But God’s perspective is from the upper story where all things are made clear and where there is a plan and a purpose for all of us and for everything that God directs and does.

The blessing is that time and time and time again, we are privileged to hear the stories of the saints that remind us of our need to be patient and to trust in God whose power and glory are greater than we could ever comprehend. In the end God wins. We see it in the surprising victories of those who call upon his name.


David’s defeat of Goliath also did something else in that it provided an opportunity. The opportunity was that it allowed the people of Israel to see David as God saw him. It allowed them to see past his outward appearance and to catch of glimpse of his heart, the heart that God had been looking at all the time, the heart of a king. It would take years before David would be crowned king but this is the point at which the people began to accept him and see his potential. That’s significant.

Sierra’s baptism has also provided an opportunity. It has provided an opportunity for us to engage with the first nations people who live in our midst. To be honest, while there are people who take a keen interest in those issues, we really haven’t done very much with them here at Cottam United Church. Maybe it’s time to reconsider. I know that there are mixed feelings about first nations issues but I’m also pretty sure that some of those mixed feelings are because we have not really taken the time to understand what those issues are and where they came from.

Here’s our reality. We now have at least two people who can legitimately be considered first nations in our congregations. They are Sierra and Shad both of whom are valued parts of this church. So my question to you is this: don’t you think that understanding their heritage and their backgrounds will enable us to better minister to them and also to people like them?

I think it will and here’s why. I believe that we now have the opportunity to see our first nations brothers and sisters the way God sees them. We have the opportunity to look past their physical appearance and our stereotypes to look into their hearts as God does and to see what’s there. And in the meantime, it challenges each of us to look into our own hearts to see if there are any places that might need a bit of work.

And maybe, just maybe if we take this opportunity we might just find another surprising victory that we never even considered. That’s because every time we learn about our sisters and brothers of any racial, ethnic or cultural background, we understand one another better and when we understand one another better we all win.


God of Earth and Heaven, your Spirit rings and fills Creation with the sound of laughter. What joy we experience when we come to you totally and without reserve. You are a Great and Holy God, the only God who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We give you thanks for your gracious presence among us.

We offer our thanks for those who are graduating this month from elementary school, high school and even post secondary education. Thank you for committed teachers and hard working students. May they all get a summer’s rest and continue on with your purpose for them in the fall.

Be with us, O God, as we look at significant changes in the life and work of this congregation. Encourage us in our discernment to seek your way and your will. We remember, especially, the opportunity to hire a child and youth minister, and also the plan to enter into a shared ministry arrangement with Wheatley United Church. May we know you will, O God, and then have the courage to fulfill it.

We lift up in prayer, the sick of our congregation and community. We remember, especially, Sharon, Larry, John, Helen, Oswald, Lyle and David. Touch them and others with your Healing and Holy Spirit. Grant the wholeness that only you can give.

We also lift up in prayer the family and friends of Gary Garrod whose funeral was this week. Bless them, O God, with an indwelling sense of your Spirit.

We come to you, Our Father, with the products of our lives. They are our offerings, given for the work of your Realm. We come to you seeking your guidance and peace. We do not know what the future holds but we are confident that, regardless of what life brings our way, you are there. We come to you in search of the fuller life that is ours in Jesus Christ. Even in the darkest days, you are there shining light into the shadows and chasing away our fears. Speak to our hearts as you continue to walk by our sides. Our prayers are lifted up in humility and hope in Jesus’ name. Amen.


June 24, 2018 / Pentecost 4 / Proper 7


1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20; Mark 4:35-41; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13


ONE:   With our whole hearts, we give thanks to you, O God!

ALL:   Come to our hearts, Lord Jesus!

ONE:   Give us a heart for justice and peace!

ALL:   Come to our hearts, Lord Jesus!

ONE:   Our hearts rejoice and sing praises to you!

ALL:   Come to our hearts, Lord Jesus.


We gather to worship. We gather to praise. We gather to lift up on high your great and holy name. It is such a comfort to know that you sit with us, sing with us and pray with us. May our ears and our minds be attuned to your grace and strength. It is such a comfort to know that we are important to you. We rest in your promise that you have a purpose for our lives. Help us to perceive and understand your leadership and direction in every moment of every day. In this time of worship strengthen us to follow you regardless of circumstances or situations, for your love is real and promises true. Amen.


Merciful God, you made us good at the dawn of Creation but sometimes we don’t live up to your expectation. Thank you for understanding when we make mistakes. You have made the wonderful provision for us to confess our sins and be forgiven without continuing condemnation or guilt. Help us never to take that provision for granted, or harden our hearts with stubbornness. Enable us to look to you in all things. We lay our lives before you, offering our confessions, seeking your forgiveness so freely given in Jesus name. Amen.


When we find ourselves in the pits of sin, there is one who pulls us out. God reaches down with ever-loving arms to lift us out of our despair and set our feet upon the path of hope. Confession is the beginning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the beginning of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the beginning of peace with our neighbours and with our God, through Jesus Christ our Risen Saviour.


You have blesses us with abundance, O God of Creation. We bless you with the fruit of our labour trusting that you will give us the wisdom to use our resources to further you holy kingdom. Amen.


We have come together for worship. Together now we go. The doors are open and we are called to walk out into the streets to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is a Gospel for the whole world. It is our gift to share.

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