February 2, 2003
The battle lines were drawn in the sand — the Philistines on one side of the valley and the Israelites on the other. To understand what was going on, to understand the significance of the situation, we need to understand something. The Philistines hail from the western coast of Palestine. They had a corner on the iron market. I’m talking about shields, swords and chariots. In the modern day vernacular, we might say that they had some serious “bling-bling” going on. If you didn’t laugh, ask someone 25 years of age and under, and they will explain to you what I just talked about. The Israelites, though, were agricultural people.
Let’s get back to the battlefield. The Philistines would not chase the Israelites up into the hillsides because they would be sitting ducks because of their armor being so heavy. The Israelites, on the other hand, would not come down into the valley and tango with the Philistines because they were no match for the Philistine armor.
One day, the Bible says, the Philistines were causing problems in the tribe of Benjamin, one of the tribes of the Israelite people. King Saul and Abner, Saul’s commander-in-chief, rushed to the scene and they gathered together a makeshift army. This battle was unique. It was at a standstill because the great Philistine and fearsome warrior, Goliath, would walk out every morning and every evening and he would say something like this, “You pick a warrior and let’s fight. Whoever wins, dominates the others. Your guy beats me, we serve you. I beat your guy, you serve us.” That was the deal. And no one charged this nine foot, nine and a half inch 438 pound behemoth — the undefeated undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. No one messed with him.
Enter Jesse. Jesse was a father who had eight sons. Three of his sons were in this makeshift army: Eliab, Shammah and Abinadab. Those are great names, aren’t they? Next time you have a bouncing baby boy, don’t go to Barnes & Noble and waste your money buying a name-that-baby book. Just name him Eliab, Shammah or Abinadab. I can hear it now, “Touchdown by Abinadab Jones.”
Jesse tapped his youngest son on the shoulder. His youngest son was a shepherd boy, a guy out there tending his father’s flock. He said, “Hey, David, go to the front lines and give your brothers some supplies.”
David, being a teenager, was like, “Yeah, I’m there! I’m going to have a front row to the Goliath show!”
So, David cruised to the front lines. As he walked around the camp, he heard the soldiers talking about Goliath, “Did you see the size of his biceps? I hear his spear weighs 25 pounds. His armor weighs 200 pounds. This guy is scary, man.”
David said, “I could take him. I’ve taken out the lion and bear. I can take him.”
David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking. He said, “David, you are talking smack. What are you doing? You can’t take Goliath on. Go back to those couple of sheep. You only have got peach fuzz on your chin and this is a man’s deal. You are a boy. Get out of here.”
David turned away from his brother and began to talk to someone else. King Saul, the guy who should have fought Goliath, got word of this. King Saul was probably about 6’8”. The Bible says he stood head and shoulders above the rest. King Saul, I’m sure, had poor posture during this time. He was probably going, “Really, I’m not 6’8”; I am 5’8”. Because, you know, if he would have stood up straight he would have had to go out there and fight with Goliath.
King Saul heard that this little Hebrew hick, David, wanted to fight Goliath. He brought David into his tent and said, “David, have you lost your mind? Are you whack? What’s the deal with you, man? I can’t believe you.”
David said, “I’ve taken out the lion and I’ve taken out the bear. God will give me the victory.”
Saul said, “Well, here is my armor. Try it on.”
David said, “No, I have not tested that. I can take the giant out without your armor.”
Now, just for a second, put yourself in David’s sandals as he walked into the Valley of Elah that dusty hot afternoon. The Bible says he knelt down and picked up five smooth stones. David, a young man, a teenager, was ready to face this fierce Philistine with an unwavering resolve. Why? Because David was a man of character.
[Song by Vanessa]
David got about the distance between a pitcher and a catcher away from Goliath. He took the sling and began to twirl it over his head. The stone traveled 200 feet per second. David could split a hair at 30 feet. When he launched the rock, it hit Goliath right in the forehead with the power of a Colt 45. Goliath dropped to the desert floor, armor clanging. The Israelites were freaking, and the Philistines were riddled with fear. The Philistines dropped their weapons and ran. The Israelites chased them and secured an amazing victory.
What quality controlled David’s life? You could talk about discipline. You could talk about endurance. You could talk about courage. But the one quality that controlled him was vision. David was a man of vision.
What is vision? Vision is the God-given ability to see the unseen. It’s seeing the transparent through the apparent. God wants all of us to become great visionaries. In fact, if we could see the vision that God has for our lives individually and also as a team, we wouldn’t believe it. If we go to heaven right now, and God could unfold his vision out for you and for me, we would go, “What?! You have got that kind of vision for my life, that kind of vision for my marriage, for my dating relationship, for my career? I can’t believe it, God. This is unbelievable!”
How do we increase our vision? How do we get to know God’s vision? Those are good questions. That’s why I want to draw your attention to the book of 1 Samuel, Chapter 17. I want to walk you through this text and lift out some principles about vision that we desperately need to download into our lives. I’m talking about applying God’s vision into our lives as we do battle with our own giants.
The first principle and I’ll give you time to write it down, goes like this: vision takes hold, takes root in the obscure. Vision really happens, takes root, and takes power in the private areas. If you know about David, you know that David spent a lot of time by himself. David was a man that most scholars feel had an IQ of 150+ and had the military mind of a Norman Swartzkoff. In fact, they still study his military strategies today at West Point. He had the musical talent of a Chopin. Despite all of this, he was by himself tending a bunch of stinky, smelly, sheep. But, David didn’t whine.
David didn’t say, “God, what’s the deal? Why do you have me over here? I’m your man. I’m a genius, God. I’m the guy after your own heart. Why am I here?”
He didn’t do that. David knew God. He got to know God in an intimate way. He worshipped him. When the lion came to attack the flock, he killed the lion. No applause. He wasn’t written up in the Dallas Morning News or Sports Illustrated. When something else came to attack, he just killed it — the bear or whatever. He was by himself. God always gives us his vision for our lives in the obscure, in the private. He tests us with conflict in private. He tests us in private, and then he promotes the vision to a public arena.
A faith that has never been tested is a faith can that never be trusted. Here’s our problem. Our problem in this instamatic era is that we want everything to be quick. We want instamatic marital bliss. We want instamatic spiritual maturity. I want to be a multi-millionaire today. I want to run the company right now. David did not try to take a short cut from the pasture to the palace. But we like to do that.
We say, “No, I don’t want to face Goliath. I don’t want to pay my dues on the hillside. I don’t want to get to know God personally. God, that’s all fine and dandy, but I want the stuff now. Give it to me quick, God. I want it now.”
Maybe you are in the mailroom of the company and you are saying to yourself, “Surely no one knows I am here. Surely God doesn’t give a flying flip about me.”
Maybe you are saying, “I’m taking care of four toddlers. Surely, it doesn’t really matter. Surely I need to be doing something more than this.”
Maybe you are saying, “I’m an associate in this firm. I’m away and kind of pushed to the side. Surely, God does not have a plan for me or a vision for me.”
However, just the opposite is true. God has placed you where you are — in the obscure. He is hammering his vision into your life. If you remain faithful, stay humble, and if you understand it is by the grace of God, then he will take your vision and multiply it and promote you in a phenomenal way — by his timing and by his grace.
That’s why Jesus said this in Matthew 25:21, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. I’ll put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
To show you what I am talking about, look at my life. When I was 18 to 19 years of age, I was in a very obscure place in Tallahassee, FL. I didn’t realize it, but God was giving me the vision at that time for Fellowship Church. But I was clueless. I was faithful, not perfect, but faithful. I read the word regularly, knelt down in my dorm and prayed, kept a prayer journal, hung out with Christian friends (there were two or three at Florida State. 40,000 people total, but there were two or three Christians) and was involved in the church. Here is what happened to me: As I began to rub shoulders with hell-bound people, as I began to rub shoulders with people who were off the charts; skirt chasing, cocaine snorting, off the edge into another domain, closed about Christianity type people, I began to invite them to the church I was attending. I began to invite them and sit next to them during the services. Then I began to see church through their eyes. A strange thing happened.
I said to myself, “Wait a minute. This pastor is talking in a foreign language. He is using Christianese. I don’t understand. He’s boring. And the music is like from the 1800’s; and the words, thee’s and thou’s and stuff? I mean, my friends cannot connect with that. There are no illustrations from life — like Jesus used.”
So I thought, “What if there was a church where you could show up and understand what was happening, whether you were a Christian or a non-Christian; whether you were a seminary professor or clueless about Christianity? What if there was a church that did church like that? What if there was a church that did music with beats and stuff my friends could identify with, but words of worship straight from the Bible? What if there was a church that had that kind of structure? What if there was a church that loved people the way they are and that invited people and compelled itself to reach a community? What if there was a church like that?”
I didn’t think, “Oh, Fellowship Church! Yeah. One day, I’ll be a Senior Pastor.”
I didn’t think about that. I just knew in my spirit that God was saying something to me. I didn’t know what. I didn’t know what it looked like. I just knew it was there. That was in the private, in the obscure. It’s very important that we understand that.
Here’s another statement. Write this down. Vision and uncertainty are inseparably linked.
“Wait a minute, Ed. Vision and uncertainty? I understand vision and certainty, but did you say uncertainty? Is that a misprint?” No. Vision and uncertainty are inseparably linked. If you drive around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, you would have driven a car or maybe your motorcycle. When you drive at night, what do you do? You turn your lights on. Am I going too fast? You turn your lights on to see in front of you. The lights only illuminate a certain area in front of you. Here is the question? How do you see past where the lights illuminate? You drive. You drive. That’s the way God is with his vision. God turns the lights on. He shows us just enough to say, “Okay, here is where I want you to go with your family. Here is where I want you to go as a church. Here is where I want you to go as a company. But don’t put it in neutral. Don’t stop. Drive. You’ve got to drive. You’ve got to trust me. You’ve got to have faith in me.”
Do you think David knew when he was tending his father’s sheep that he would fight Goliath before the armies? Do you think David knew that he would do all the harp playing for Saul? Do you think that David knew that he and Saul’s son, Jonathan, would become best friends? Do you think David knew that he would hide from Saul because Saul went nuts? Do you think David knew that he would become King of Israel? David didn’t know those things. He didn’t know it. Uncertainty.
I look back at Fellowship Church. Every major decision we have ever made has been riddled with uncertainty. Yet, we were certain about some things. But there were many things we were uncertain about. Some of you remember this. Go back into our 13-year history. We started at MacArthur Commons Office Complex in a room that seated about 220 people. We were uncertain about the next step. “Where do we go next? Okay, there’s the Irving Fine Arts Center. It seats 700. How do we do that? How do we take care of childcare? How do we do Children’s Church? How about student activities? How about singles? How are we going to pay for it? How do we work with the Board from the Irving Arts Center? I’m uncertain. Do you know? I don’t know. Let’s just go ahead and drive the car.”
Then we move from there after four or five services across the street to MacArthur High School. What do we do there? When you take over a high school on the weekend, it stinks, there is trash everywhere. “Who is going to clean it up? How do we move all the stuff to set up Children’s Church and Nursery every single weekend? What a whip! How do we do that?”
“We have some land available. The Resolution Trust Corporation is offering 160 acres for 2.5 million dollars. We scrape up enough money and we put a down payment on this property.” We were uncertain about it. We owed $1.875 million on the property. We were uncertain about it. A year later, without a sign on the property, we sold 22 of the 160 for $1.875 million and we paid for the land with cash. Uncertainty.
We were uncertain about building this building. “This is weird. You mean a church without stained glass and a church with these theatre seats like Lazyboy recliners, a church with a coffee bar? What? A bookstore? Seems kind of strange. We have like different lights and stuff, red, blue lights? What is this, a concert? This is unique.”
We didn’t know it. We were uncertain. We didn’t plan all of this 15 years ago.
People ask me all the time, “Did you plan this deal?”
No. God did it. We worked hard. We followed him. We have driven the car and we have seen just enough ahead. But we don’t know where we are going to go next. Where do we go from here? We are at five services. What do we do, stop? We are not going to stop. We’ve got some options. Do we blow that wall out and add 5,000 more seats? I don’t know, maybe. I’m uncertain about it. Do we build another campus on the south part of our property and video stuff in and have live worship? I don’t know. What do you think? I don’t know. Uncertainty. Do we buy other campuses around Dallas/Ft. Worth area, one in north Dallas, one out there by Alliance Airport, one in south Dallas and do Fellowship there, too? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I am uncertain about that.
Uncertainty and vision is perfect because that is where God wants us to be. So, if you are a little bit uncertain, good for you. You are right where God wants you to be. Trust him because he is going to reveal himself to you through his word, through Christians, and through his spirit and anointed teaching.
Okay. Vision takes hold in the obscure. Vision and uncertainty are inseparably linked. In light of that fact, let me give you three quick things that we can do right now about vision.
First of all, we have got to be willing to diesel down vision vandals. Every time you have a vision, you are going to have a vision vandal. We talked about that last weekend just for second.
Joshua and Caleb had this incredible vision. What happened? The vision vandals began to come after them, attack them, and dis them. You have the same stuff in your life, and so do I. Whenever God gives you a vision, there is always going to be a vandal there. You might say, “David had a vandal?” Yes, he did. It was his oldest brother, Eliab.
Let’s check him out in 1 Samuel, 17:28, “When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here and with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert?’”
Does that sound like an older brother, “those few sheep? You no count. I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You came down only to watch the battle. You just want to see some blood and guts, man. Go back home.”
John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”
That’s what vision vandals do. They come to steal your vision, kill your vision and destroy your vision. The Bible says that when Eliab trash talked David and tried to vandalize his vision, David simply turned and began to talk to someone else. That’s a good word. Because here is where we mess up. Many of us, when someone challenges us, we go, “Okay, Eliab, man, put them up. Let’s go. Let’s get it on, man.”
That’s stupid. You are playing into the evil one’s hands.
“Ed, I have got to chase down my Eliab. I can change him. I can tweak him. I’ll just have these meetings with him or with her. They will see the vision.”
No, they won’t. Eliabs are Eliabs. They are not going to change. Only God can change them. You can’t change them, so why are you wasting your time messing around with Eliabs? Why? Life is too short. I’m not saying to be mean to them or ugly or cuss them out. Just love them and turn from them and move with the movers. Diesel down those vision vandals.
Here is something else. Great visionaries also have the ability to recognize their resources. God always puts resources in our vision, right before us. If we hear our vision and see our vision from God, we can discern the resources. If David had not been walking with God, he would not have understood how to really use the sling. He wouldn’t have picked up the five stones. He would have probably put on Saul’s armor. But, because he had the discernment, God provided the resources to carry out his vision. The resources are always there for you and for me to live the life of God’s vision.
Look at 1 Samuel 17:38, “Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.”
Look at verse 39, “And David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off.”
Here is what I have discovered about great visionaries and great leaders. Everyone here is a leader. Great visionaries or great leaders are great eliminators. You are not only measured by what you do but what you don’t do. Vision is not only who you hang out with. It’s also who you do not hang out with. If you are not regularly eliminating things from your life then your life will be too cluttered. As a mom, as a dad, as a husband, as a wife, as a CEO, as a teacher, as a coach, as a player, or as a student you need to eliminate things from your life. Your life is too busy. It’s two wheels off if you are always gathering stuff and adding stuff but never eliminating. Great leaders are great eliminators. So we have got to say, “I cannot walk with that,” like David. “I have not tested that.”
You have got to take it off. You must also do what the Bible says in the book of Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God.”
God does not dress us. We are big boys and girls in the Lord. We dress ourselves. We should clothe ourselves in righteousness. How many married guys do we have in the house? If you are a married guy, lift your hand. Here is something weird about marriage that I have discovered over the years. I have been married for 20 years. Before you were married, guys, you thought to yourself, “You know, I can really dress. I know how to put it together. I’m looking good, man.” I know, because I am a guy. Once you walk down that isle something strange happens. Suddenly, your wife begins to look at you and tell you in a nice way, “You don’t know how to dress. You’re fashion unconscious.” So, one day you find yourself sitting on the edge of your bed in your boxer shorts next to your son. You look over at your son and you say, “Man, we are going to be stylin’ today. Mommy is getting ready to dress us. She is going to have matching outfits for us.” It’s amazing how that happens. That is not the way it should be in the Christian life. We don’t say, “Okay, God, dress me.” We dress ourselves. We put on the vision. We live it out by the power of the Spirit of God.
Visionary’s diesel down vision vandals. They recognize their resources. They do something else too. They value their victories. What did David say to Saul?
“Hey, Saul. I took out the lion and the bear. I can take out this behemoth.”
He was remembering his victories. Whenever you have a great spiritual victory, keep a memento from the victory. Because you can use that to give yourself power, strength and confidence when you have those bouts with doubts you can use it in those times of testing when you don’t know which way to turn. That’s what David.
I’m going to read a verse to you that’s gross. If you are squeamish, get ready. It’s really gross. But it has a point.
After David shot the rock and hit Goliath in his big old forehead and after Goliath fell down, check out what David did. He cut Goliath’s head off. Look at 1 Samuel 17:54, “David took the Philistine’s head (that hamburger head, that watermelon head of Goliath) and brought it to Jerusalem.”
What did that look like? As he was carrying that big old head, I bet Goliath’s expression was like this [Ed makes a shocked expression], don’t you? Goliath was probably thinking, “I should have had a V-8.”
Then the Bible says, “He (David) put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.”
So he carried the weapons around with him in his own tent. I am sure David used those weapons and those things to give him power and strength during those dark valleys, during those times of testing. We need things like that. Many times in my life as a pastor, I go through periods of loneliness. I go through periods of saying, “God what are you saying to me?” Sometimes heaven feels like it is made of brass and I don’t feel like my prayers are getting through as they should. I just go through those times. It’s part of being a human being. I have mementos around me, trophies of God’s grace around me, to help me make it through those times.
I want to show you one of them. My wife took this picture. This picture means a lot to me because in April of 1998, that was the first Sunday that we walked into the doors of this brand new Worship facility. That’s Owen and I embracing in the parking lot. Owen and I were both crying. I had just pulled up. Owen met me there and Lisa took that picture. When I look at that picture I think back to the many battles, prayer sessions and uncertainties, and all those things that God took us through to bring us to this point. This building is a miracle from God. It’s unbelievable that we are even here. That picture has helped me in different circumstances and situations because I remember what God did. I remember God’s vision. His vision for this church.
Let me give you something else — one more statement about vision I want you to jot down, and then we will spur the horse to the barn. I can say that because I have my cowboy boots on today.
Vision is a contagious commodity. Have you guys had the flu yet? Man, the flu is in our house. I’m trying to stay well. It is scary how contagious it is. Vision is a contagious commodity, because once you get a vision like David did, there is no telling where the vision will go. Check out David, 1 Samuel 17:52, “Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.”
David had no idea when he got this little vision from God in an obscure place that it would go public and have this huge effect on the hearts and lives of people. He had no idea about that, but it did.
Vision is a contagious commodity. If God gives you a vision for your life, and you understand it and know it, then there is no telling how he will multiply that vision. God multiplies the vision relationally, corporately, emotionally and intellectually. The vision is contagious.
Maybe you are married and have kids. It’s contagious with your kids, their friends and others. It can affect your community and your neighborhood. It can affect the city, state and country. That’s how big, how huge, vision is. I truly believe that when we get to heaven that we are just going to be knocked off our feet concerning how deep and how indelible our lives have been with so many people. And it is all because this vision thing is such a contagious commodity.
When Saul and the Israelites looked at that battle situation, they saw everything from the external. They saw what they could do and what they couldn’t do. They saw Goliath, this undefeated warrior. David didn’t see that. David saw the unseen because David was a man of vision. That’s the kind of person that God wants us to be as well.
Father, as we leave this place, give us the ability to walk in your footsteps and to follow your vision. In Jesus’ name, amen.