Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, the Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.
~ 1 Samuel, 17:36, 37
David remembered ...
when he smote the lion and the bear, he had nothing visible to rely upon, but simply trusted his God. He had in his hand no sharp weapon of iron with which to smite the wild beast to the heart. Careless as to weapons, he thought only of his God and rushed on the foe. He was as yet a young man...neither did he seem fit for such a venturous deed! But his God was Almighty and, reliant upon the Omnipotence of God, he thought nothing of his youth, but flung himself into the fray. What more in the way of help did he need, since God was with him? Oh, Brothers and Sisters, there were times, with some of us, when we commenced our work when our sole reliance was the unseen Lord! We were cast upon the invisible power of God and if that could fail us we must fail. Our attempts were such as carnal reason could not justify, such indeed as only Divine interposition could carry through! We were right enough if the Divine power could be calculated on, but apart from that, we were near insane! Glory be to God, He has been as good as His Word!... We dare not hide these things from the generation following... “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” Can it be true that now we have begun to coolly calculate means and to rely upon methods and plans, whereas once we looked to God, alone? Do we now trust in this friend and rely on that, and distrust the Lord if friends are few? Shame upon us if we do, for this is to leave the way of victory for the path of defeat, to come down from the heroic track to the common highway of carnal reasoning and so to fall into care, fretfulness, weakness and dishonor! Happy is the man who trusts in the Lord, alone, by unstaggering faith! He shall go from strength to strength, but he who chooses to walk by sight shall utterly decay.
David remembered... He did what his courage prompted, without waiting to consult a committee of lion-slayers and bear-trappers. His whole art was faith! This was his science and his skill. He consulted not with flesh and blood. He followed no precedents, imitated no noted hunters and encumbered himself with no rules. He did his best as his faith in God directed him. He threw his whole soul into the conflict and fought vigorously, for his faith did not make him sit still and expect the lion to die in a fit, or the bear to become insensible.
We are so apt to magnify our former selves and think of our early deeds as of something to be wondered at but not to be attempted now! We are fools for they were little enough in all conscience and ought to be outdone!
Oh, dear Brothers and Sisters, this resting on our oars will not do! We are drifting down with the tide. David did not say, “ I slew a lion and a bear so I have had my turn at such bouts. Let somebody else go and fight that Philistine!” Yet we have heard people say, “When I was a young man I taught in the Sunday school. I used to go out preaching in the villages and so on.” Oh, Brother, and why not do it now? I think you ought to be doing more instead of less! As God gives you more knowledge, more experience and more grace, surely your labors for Him ought to be more abundantthan they used to be, but, alas, you do not look on it as a parallel case, and so make excuses for yourself.
Too often in our spiritual work we fix our mind upon the differences rather than upon the similarities. For instance, David might have said, “I would not mind another lion. I can manage lions. I would not be afraid of half-a-dozen more bears, I am used to bears. But this Philistine is a new sort of monster.”
You have but to commit yourself to Him and out of the sevenfold adversity you shall come forth a sevenfold conqueror!
If you see before you a work by means of which you can glorify God and bless the Church, do not hesitate, but enter upon it in reliance upon your God! Do not stand stuttering and stammering and talking about qualifications and so on, but what your hand finds to do, do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus who has bought you with His Blood! Prove your qualifications by bringing Goliath’s head back with you and no further questions will be asked by anyone—or by yourself!
This seeking advice and following cowardly counsel is all too common! We know that some strenuous effort is needed and it is in our power, but we desire ease and, therefore, we employ other men to weave excuses for us. It would be more honest to say outright that we do not want to do any more. Were we more full of love to Jesus, this unworthy device would be scorned by us and in sacred manliness of mind we would scorn the counsel which tends to cowardice. Others cannot bear our responsibility—we must, each one, give an account of himself to God—why, then, yield to the judgement of men?
Oh, Brothers and Sisters, fling this folly to the winds! Obey the dictates of the Holy Spirit and close your ears to the advice of unbelief! Men or women consecrated to God, if the Lord impels you to do anything for Him, do not ask me, do not ask my fellow Church officers, but go and do it! If God has helped you in the past, draw a parallel and argue from it that He will help you in the present. Go, and the Lord go with you! Do not fall prey to that wicked unbelief which would rob you of your strength!
Soldiers of the Cross, if you feel that you can do this, be not slow to put it into practice! Throw yourselves wholly into the Lord’s service! Consecrate yourselves and your substance to the grand end of glorifying Christ, fighting against error and plucking souls from destruction!
David’s next step was to put himself into the same condition as on former occasions, by divesting himself of everything that hampered him. He had fought the lion with nature’s weapons and so would he meet the Philistine. Off went that glittering royal helmet which, no doubt, made his head ache with its weight! Off went the cumbersome armor in which he found it very hard to move! In such a metallic prison he did not feel like David a bit and, therefore, he put all aside and wore only his shepherd’s frock! As for that magnificent sword which he had just strapped by his side, he felt that it would be more ornament than use—and so he laid it aside with the rest of the trappings. He put on his pouch and took nothing with him but his sling and stones.
This was the old style and he did well to keep to it, for the Lord saves not with sword and spear! We are all too apt to get into a fine harness and tie ourselves up with rules and methods. The art of getting rid of all baggage is a noble one, but few have learned it. Look at our Churches! Look at the Church at large—is there not enough red tape about to strangle a nation? Have we not committees enough to sink a ship with their weight?
We are organized into strait waistcoats! The vessel of the Church has such an awful lot of top-hamper that I wonder how she can be navigated at all! And if a tempest were to come on she would have to cut herself free from nearly all of it.
But the Churches are locked up in irons which they call armor.
When shall we get at the work? If there should ever come a day when Brothers will go forth preaching the Gospel, simply resting in faith upon the Lord alone, I, for one, expect to see grand results! But at present, Saul’s armor is everywhere! When we get rid of formality in preaching, we shall see great results!
Let us serve God with all our hearts and preach Jesus Christ to sinners with our whole souls... Preaching up Christ—is the way of wisdom! We must preach, not after the manner of doctors of divinity, but after the manner of those unlearned and ignorant men in the olden time who had been with Jesus and learned of Him! Brothers, some of you have too much armor on! Take it off! Be simple, be natural, be artless, be plain-spoken, be trustful in the living God and you will succeed! Less of the artificer’s brass and more of Heaven-anointed manhood is needed! More sanctified naturalness and less of studied artificialness! O Lord, send us this, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
The ultimate result was that the young champion came back with Goliath’s head in his hand! And equally sure triumphs await every one of you if you rely on the Lord and act in simple earnestness. If for Christ, my Sister, you will go forward in His work, resting upon Him, you shall see souls converted by your instrumentality. If, my Brother, you will but venture everything for Christ’s glory and depend, alone, on Him, what men call fanaticism shall be considered by God to be only sacred consecration and He will send you the reward which He always gives to a full, thorough, simple, unselfish faith in Himself.
If the result of my preaching this sermon should be to stir up half a dozen workers to some venturesome zeal for God, I shall greatly rejoice. I remember when I commenced this work in London, God being with me, I said if He would only give me half a dozen good men and women, a work would be done, but that if I had half a dozen thousand sleepy people nothing would be accomplished. At this time I am always afraid of our falling into a lethargic condition. This Church numbers nearly 5,000 members, but if you are only 5,000 cowards, the battle will bring no glory to God! If we have one David among us, that one hero will do wonders! But think what an army would be if all the soldiers were Davids—it would be an ill case with the Philistines, then!
Jesus Christ, the true David, has plucked some of us like lambs from between the jaws of the devil. Many of us were carried captive by sin. Transgression had so encompassed us about that we were unable to escape. But our great Lord delivered us! Sinner, why can He not deliver you? If you cannot fight the lion of the pit, HE can! Do you ask me, What are you to do? Well, call for His help as loudly as you can. If you are like a lamb, bleat to Him, and the bleating of the lamb will attract the shepherd’s ear. Cry mightily unto the Lord for salvation and trust, alone, in the Lord Jesus! He will save you! If you were between the jaws of Hell, yet, if you believed in Him, He would surely pluck you out of destruction. God grant you may find it so, for Christ’s sake. Amen