Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Giant Problem, or That Stupid Sword Again

There are giants in the land.

Not Goliath, whom David slew, but that bad habit you can’t give up, and most of the time don’t really want to.

Somebody I know is fighting a giant. In his thinking, maybe 5% of the time he’s in a place where he makes an offhand remark about how he needs to go back to church, or how he needs to start reading his Bible again, or how he really needs God in his life. The rest of the time he’s just doing his thing like he’s always done it, and I suspect the will and character of God are the last things he’s thinking about. Life provides bucketloads of convenient distractions.

But can God work with 5%? I’d estimate he can. See, I’ve been there too.

When things are going wrong in your life, and when you also have to deal with the inconvenient reality of a ‘Christianized’ conscience — one that is informed about the truth of God in God’s own words, if only very slightly — a mere 5% can be extremely uncomfortable. It’s like a pebble in the boot on a long walk. You can ignore it for a while but if it sits in the same spot for long, it starts to really hurt. Finally it hurts so much that you can’t take a step without being persistently aware of it.

Now, if you really don’t want to go to the trouble of unlacing the boot and taking it off, I suppose you could just stop walking. But then of course you’d never get anywhere.

Any of this sound familiar?

The Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus told his disciples, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. That’s his job, and he’s very good at it. Yes, you have a specific problem. Yes, there is an objective standard of which you fall horribly short. Yes, you will account for it one day. Who knows? Maybe you’re already paying some kind of toll in this life for that broad road down which you’ve chosen to walk.

But a scripturally-informed conscience is like having the sword of Damocles hanging over you. Where the untaught worldling might wonder why he has this uncomfortable sense of generalized, free-floating guilt and start looking for wrong answers in weird places, the Spirit-informed conscience keeps saying, “Look up, idiot. It’s that stupid sword that’s the problem.”

So even if your conscience is only a David and your problem is a giant Philistine foaming at the mouth, there’s something there for the Lord to work with.

The stone that sinks into the giant’s forehead knocks him on his face, but to finish him off, you need a sword. David used Goliath’s. Circumstances may knock you off your pins temporarily and distract you from your issues, but a stunned giant can always get back up. Further, the truth you possess is more dangerous than the truth you don’t, and real victory is only achieved when the sword of the Spirit has its way with the problem. It is the word of God, accurately interpreted and honestly applied, that brings lasting conviction.

There are way too many metaphors going on here, so I’m going to stop before I add a few more. But it’s a lot more practical to stop and remove the pebble from your boot than to keep walking until you can’t walk anymore. And a sword in the hand beats a sword over the head any day.

And it REALLY beats having your head chopped off.


  1. This kind of topic has been, and frequently still is, also on my mind because to me it still represents a poorly understood (by me) reality of this world, a reality that is exemplified by the parable of the sower.

    "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

    From "

    Namely, to what extend is the 5% person responsible for only being a 5% person and what could and should have been the alternatives? Here is my train of thought. In the parable the sower plants good seed and it falls on good soil and, it seems, quite frequently also on poor soil and on the wrong spot so that it cannot grow as desired by the sower. Now, does this not raise the issue of responsibility concerning how the seed has been planted? Why would a farmer expect good results if the seed was distributed into wrong places to begin with? Should the result not be predictable and expected for an experienced farmer? In other words, to what extent can you blame the seed itself for the poor outcome assuming that the seed for starters was of fairly equal quality? Would the end result not imply that much of the seed was destined to fail? How could the poorly planted seed even have the chance of correcting its own situation? Does the responsibility for the outcome rest more with the farmer or the seed itself? What if you or I or anyone had fallen on the concrete sidewalk? What is one to think and do here?

    1. Interesting question, Q. I guess I think about the fairness of the farmer. He distributes the seed everywhere, giving everybody a chance.

      Of course it is always possible to strain imagery too far, and I think there's a danger of that here. No metaphor represents a real-life situation in every possible respect. The best it can do is describe some relevant aspect.

      So in this parable the seed falls on soil. Soil can only be what it is. It doesn't choose to be rocky, or riddled with weeds, or attract birds.

      In the real world, however, people choose how they want to respond to the word of God. Rocky soil sometimes becomes fertile soil, depending on the individual.

      It seems to me the Lord is saying to us, "Be the good soil," no? "Respond to the word."

  2. Yes. I would consider the soil to be the environment created by people. In that case, the ability to respond and the quality of the response of the newly scattered seed to the environment would be the differentiating factor in the outcome of life's situations for that seed. That ability then is present in all of us and with regard to quality responds to the influence of factors like conscience, intellect, attitude, temperament, insight, personal revelation, interaction, and supernatural assistance by the Holy Spirit with regard to character formation. In other words, regardless of the type of soil we landed in we have the potential to become the good seed helping to create the good soil. That obviously is even the assumption of our judicial system or we could get away with anything depending on our background. Thus, for some reason, possibly because of the Fall, possibly because we have to declare and establish who we are to each other and to God, the world presents a formative challenge to all seeds. Some have suggested that the world is simply a form of continuing education with the usual exams and tests and the possibility to pass or fail, i.e., it is growth.