Antoine Yates, a resident of Harlem New York, said his ownership of exotic pets was his way to escape the “hell on earth” environment of Harlem. His passion for exotic pets seemed strange, at the best, and illegal, at the worst, until one day he was attacked by his pet tiger. Amazingly, Antoine survived, and checked into the hospital for “dog bites”.
For a split-second, I wanted to feel bad for Antoine. But I also thought what most sane people are thinking right now, “Why would anyone have a pet tiger?”
Here are the series of events that led to a man in Harlem down the path to owning a 500-pound Bengal tiger: Antoine bought his pet tiger, Ming, when it was a just a small tiger cub. No doubt, the furry little cub was small and playful, entertaining, and very endearing. Antoine even suggested that he and Ming began to form a “bond”.
Then Ming grew up. The cute and cuddly tiger cub became a 500-pound predator. And this predator eventually did what it was created to do—attack. Antoine is fortunate to have survived.
It’s not much different with our giants—the habits, behaviors, and the same old broken ways we’re accommodating in our lives. Our giants start out as cute, cuddly habits. They’re harmless, small, and easily manageable (or so we think). But these same pet sins have a tendency to grow.
The day will come (if it hasn’t already) when they show their true colors, and they will no longer be cute and cuddly. They will become giants in our lives—savage killers that threaten our testimony for Christ and seek to enslave us—just like the renowned Philistine in the valley of Elah.
IDENTIFY YOUR GIANT
Here’s the dangerous thing about our sin: some of us have yet to realize the threat it poses to our life. Our bond with our sin has clouded our judgment.
I think that’s one of the mistakes Israel made with the Philistines: God had told them to wipe out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, but they disobeyed Him. Maybe they were scared to fight the advanced military of the Philistines or maybe they thought that they were a contained threat. Regardless of their motive, they still disobeyed God’s command, and their freedom as a nation now hung in the balance.
Regardless of where you’re at in your walk with Christ, chances are that there is a giant that is seeking to enslave you. There is a sin that you are tolerating in your life that, left unchecked, will destroy you. We do well to take heed to 3 principles to help us identify our giant:
YOUR GIANT IS AFTER GOD’S TERRITORY
The Philistines already had strongholds in Judah by the time 1 Samuel 17 took place. Naturally, they weren’t satisfied with the ground they already had, and they were seeking after more. Their battle in the Valley of Elah would have put them one step closer to securing key cities in the Southern part of Israel: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Here’s the problem with what they were doing: they were taking ground that belonged to God! God had already set the boundaries for His people, and any external threats against that were threats directly against Him.
Whatever sin you struggle with, it is after territory that already belongs to God. The giant of discontentment calls you hoard more when God says that we should live with enough. The giant of lust wants you to seek sexual gratification outside the boundaries of marriage when God has already established the boundaries for that territory. The giant of fear wants you to worry about what may be, causing you to totally disregard the trust and faith you ought to have in God’s sovereignty. The giant of approval wants you to find approval in how you dress, how you act, and in what people think of you on social media, when the Bible has already spoken that Christ has “made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). No matter your giant, it is after God’s territory.
What if you struggle with more than one of these sins? How do you identify your giant?
YOUR GIANT IS THE ONE SIN THAT THREATENS YOU ABOVE THE REST
I find it interesting how most Biblical accounts of war are very careful to note the size of the two competing armies, yet Samuel’s attention in 1 Samuel 17 pivots toward the single behemoth that challenged God’s people. Goliath’s height of 9 feet, his 125-pound coat of mail that covered his vital organs, his 10-foot spear with a 20-pound brass head, and his massive shield carried by his armor-bearer would have been enough to frighten the most battle-tested soldiers in Israel. The same army that had their swords drawn, ready to fight the entire army of the Philistines (v. 2), was now cowering in fear at the sight of just one Philistine.
I identify with the fear of the Philistines. Like you, I struggle with many sins, but I know that there is one sin that threatens me above the rest. It’s the sin I most often confess on my knees to God, and it’s the sin that seems to haunt me with guilt more than all the others. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about: you find yourself intimidated by the power of that one sin that seems to have a unique grip in your life, and you’re not sure how to get rid of it.
YOUR GIANT IS THE ONE SIN YOU’D RATHER RUN FROM THAN FIGHT
In the valley of Elah that day, Goliath issued a challenge: a one-on-one fight where the winner would literally win the war for their country. The stakes were high, and the reward from King Saul was even higher to the man who could successfully defeat Goliath. Despite the incredible rewards, nobody dared step down into the valley to challenge Goliath. Rather than fight Goliath, they decided they’d rather camp out for 40 days, hoping that somebody else might take care of the Giant. At the sight of their giant, they went from being in battle array to camping out on the safe side of valley.
I’ve found that my giant is the sin that I’d rather run from than fight. It’s not that I have forgotten the importance of the battle: I just can get discouraged because it’s been so long since I’ve tasted victory. Consequently, I run. I try to do whatever I can to avoid confronting this sin, and I eventually begin to wonder, “Maybe a life enslaved to my giant isn’t so bad, after all. Maybe this is just a part of living in a fallen world. I guess I’ll just have to wait until heaven to be done with this battle.”
Don’t believe the lies of Satan! Your giant may be big, but it’s not more powerful than Jesus! Your giant may be a product of your own disobedience, but that also means a life of obedience, empowered by the grace of God, is all it will take to rid your life of this giant. You. Can. Live. Free!
I hope to explain in two future posts how 1 Samuel 17 gives us principles to help us defeat our own Giant. Until then, don’t give up. The freedom God offers is far greater than the life enslaved to your giant.
*There are some messages we hear that we can’t help but allow to shape our life-long perspective of the passage they were based upon. While many of the thoughts in this post and the message it’s based upon are my own, some of the wording and principles were shaped by a powerful message from Wayne Hardy at a men’s conference I attended years ago. I can only hope that my attempt to preach this passage provided the same kind of help I received from it back in 2012.*