Doyle Smith – The Cause – 2023

1 Samuel 17 – David came to the battlefield where Goliath was. Everyone was afraid, including King Saul, who had been in many battles along the way.

Fear spread like wildfire, from one heart to the next heart. We have to be careful that we’re not any part of something like that. We can promote faith, or we can promote fear.

When this epidemic came to the heart of a young man called David, everything stopped. David wasn’t afraid. His older brother was angry with him for coming to the battlefield and for asking the questions he did. His judgment was in haste and so it was harsh. He accused David falsely. David said in verse 29 – “Is there not a cause?” Is it not a matter of importance? David asked a good question and he asked with understanding. There are things that are important and things that are not important. Things that are worth fighting for and things not worth fighting for.

Such wisdom in such a young heart. Young people who are full of faith and wisdom, making very good, Spirit-led decisions in life, you have an opportunity that the rest of us don’t have, an especially impressive light that shines forth from young lives.

David asked what he had done. It’s a hard thing to be misunderstood. If anything provokes us to be a little self-centered, it’s when we’re being misunderstood in a negative way. David wasn’t motivated to fight the less-important battle of defending himself. He saw the real battle. There was a great big 9-ft. tall enemy who was a threat to the kingdom. He was defying the name of the living God. There are a lot of causes that are way more important than fighting for ourselves or defending ourselves.

David went and found five smooth stones and put them in his bag. Five stones and a sling and most importantly, faith in the living God. Goliath didn’t stand a chance. He was on the wrong side. “You have to know how to choose your battles.” There are all kinds of battles that you could get stirred up about, but some aren’t worth fighting. If we choose too many battles, we miss the most important cause. What John shared this morning, there are a lot of people protesting, but not a lot of people praying. What is the most important cause you could ever involve your heart in? Fighting the battle on our knees, accessing all the power of the living God. That is the battle that produces real results. When we find the most important cause and we put our heart into that and set ourselves aside, that is where our efforts result in the sweetest victories. The God of heaven is anxious to be a part of those battles.

There are a lot of unfair things happening in the world. It could seem so legitimate to get involved. When we find the kingdom’s cause and carry the blessing of God into the battlefield, that’s where the purpose of life becomes so rich. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – “(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

I appreciate Paul’s very definite, confident language. Spiritual weapons. The kind of weapon we choose has everything to do with our strategy for fighting the battle. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The Spirit of God, the word of God, they are such powerful weapons. They can cast down imaginations and bring thoughts into captivity to the will of God. When we involve God in the battle, He chooses the weapons that we go forth to fight with. Weapons that we pick up in the place of prayer. The battle becomes so effective.

Goliath never had a chance. David fought the battle with the presence of God, with faith in the living God. The devil himself doesn’t have an answer to a weapon so powerful as the word and the Spirit of God. Carnal weapons – I suppose the list could go on and on forever, but some of the words that come to my mind the quickest when I think about a carnal weapon – impatience, unkindness, anger – that little tiny weapon we pick up, sometimes called anger. There’s a little voice that says to me sometimes, “Whatever do you hope to accomplish by fighting the battle like you’re fighting? What will your anger produce?” Things like anger and impatience and unkindness and sharp words, we just know they’re there. They’re not a weapon that God would ever put into our hearts.

We know by our experience that they never make worthwhile contributions to the cause of seeking real victory. A mind can be a very difficult thing to change. Opinions are set like cement sometimes. Sometimes they’re set by centuries of traditions, cemented by deceitful influences, very difficult experiences.

The word of God has an incredible capacity to change our thoughts. We thank God for every way we’ve experienced that. There is nothing that affects my mind like just thinking about Jesus. The incredible effect that his quiet, patient spirit had on the lives of people. “Now I see again, I’m refreshed, concerning what really is important and what real victory is about.”

There are people who have never thought to use anything but a carnal weapon. They feel victorious because they have squelched people. Aren’t we thankful that we can look at Jesus and know that is not what real victory is about? Fighting the battle on our knees. Ephesians 6:12 – the armor we need if we’re going to fight the battle like we need to. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It really helps when we just settle it that the enemy is never people. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. The battle we’re fighting is against a much greater enemy than people, than our brother. We’re fighting against the devil himself. David didn’t decide to start a battle with his brother. He looked out on the battlefield and saw a much bigger enemy, and that’s the battle he chose to fight. On a completely different level.

There is an enemy, an adversary who is responsible for every wrong choice people have made, for every heart that is hardened, every sin that is committed. That is who the real culprit is. That’s the enemy we have to be concerned with. When it becomes clear who the real enemy is, then it becomes clear that these little carnal weapons we are so quick to pick up sometimes will never be effective. What we need to fight this battle is the Spirit of God, the grace and wisdom of the living God. The armor that we need to put on to fight this kind of battle are our loins girt with truth, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit – these are all things that God provides. No one finds these things in himself. We’re fighting this battle against spiritual wickedness in high places. It could almost sound like an impossible battle, but there are weapons that are more powerful.

We know it’s true by what we see in Jesus. Jesus being tempted. Three times he responded, “It is written…” He resisted three times and the enemy departed from him. He knew he was no match for faith in the living God. We do have access to that kind of power, but it’s not carnal. It’s spiritual. The last piece of armor, the sword of the Spirit – is the word of God. The first weapon that the Spirit thinks to pick up is the word of God. The word of God is what gives people life and changes minds, softens hearts. John 14, 15, 16 – those wonderful promises Jesus gives us concerning what the Comforter will do for us when He comes – Jesus told His disciples when the Comforter comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will remind you of everything that I’ve taught you. He won’t speak of Himself, He’ll be a humble influence that glorifies me. That’s how you’ll know the voice of the Spirit when you hear it, it will always be the voice that says that everything Jesus said is right and true and important. The voice that discounts the word of God is not the Spirit of God. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. I like how Paul presents that to us. It’s the Spirit.

Jesus said, the Comforter will glorify me. He won’t speak for himself. It won’t come to you in the form of a proud man that’s seeking his own glory or behaving in a way that lifts himself up. That’s not what the Spirit of God ever produces in a life. But the Spirit recognizes that the greatest cause we could ever live for is glorifying God. Sometimes I get frustrated with just how automatic it is to pick up a carnal weapon in the heat of the moment, having never once in my life proved that a carnal weapon produces anything called real victory. And you wonder, why does that happen? I think I’m just kind of speaking for myself now, one problem is that I have too much training using carnal weapons. It’s such an instinctive thing. That is the adversary. I’m trying to be careful this afternoon to use the word adversary and not enemy so much because sometimes the adversary is our brother, isn’t he, and most certainly our brother isn’t our enemy. It’s so easy when the adversary is using a carnal weapon to decide that that strategy has to be responded to in kind, but that’s just a basic human instinct. There’s nothing like anger to inflame anger, and we don’t want to be on either side of that equation.

We can’t ever afford to let the adversary dictate the terms, the way we fight the battle. Goliath had a great big sword and he had armor. Saul offered David his armor. David said, I haven’t proved that, and he set it aside. I don’t have any experience proving that that is the way you get victory. He knew that he could trust God and he didn’t let Goliath dictate how he fought the battle. We don’t have to fight anger with anger or impatience with impatience, and so on.

Peter, just before he went to the garden where Jesus gathered that last night of His life with His disciples, picked up a sword and he strapped it on his side. Of all the things to take with you to the place of prayer, take the sword. It didn’t express, obviously, to God that he was there because he needed the help of heaven and he knew that God was his only hope. I have nothing carnal to contribute, I only need the help of heaven.

Maybe Peter didn’t give it much thought. He must have had the passing thought that he might need that sword. Someone else might have one and he might need it. When he cut off the servant’s ear, he must have felt that what he was doing was so legitimate. He was defending Jesus, the Son of God, but he didn’t choose the right weapon. Peter would tell us, if he was speaking in the meeting this afternoon, remembering Jesus praying in the garden three times, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” that the time he had spent strapping on the sword, he would have spent praying if he could do it over. Jesus never responded by picking up a carnal weapon. His spirit was perfect, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He knew that the Spirit of God had tremendous power to soften their hearts.

Maybe the moment when we’re tempted the most to pick up a carnal weapon is when we’ve tried to use the Spirit of God and the word of God. Not even the perfect Jesus succeeded in changing every heart. He never let the adversary dictate the weapon He would use in the battle. He knew that the most powerful weapon He could ever pick up was a right spirit. Mocked and spit on, completely misunderstood and disrespected. How could anyone ever find the capacity to respond so opposite? But Jesus never lost sight of the fact that the greatest cause we could ever live for is a love of souls. He couldn’t bear the thought that what they were doing would cost them a lost eternity.

May God help us to keep our hearts fixed on the most important cause.