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Series: The Survival Guide to Being Human

Sunday 14th August 2016 – Justus Swart

(John 1:14); 1 Sam.16:21-23; 1 Sam. 17:4-51; (Prov. 16:20); (Matt. 26:39)

What does it mean to be human? Every time we talk about the Church, we are not talking about a building or an institution, but we are talking about a collection of human beings. Church is far from being perfect and infallible. By the simple recognition that we are human beings comes the humbling subtext that we are at our very best creatures dependent on grace. This simple recognition is necessary if we are to be a people who are identified with the Church and the Cross of Jesus Christ. One thing that is still astonishing to me is that God wants to make something out of my life. God desires for my life to mean something. My little creaturely existence means everything to my Creator. This acknowledgement is incredibly important. If we do not know ourselves as humans we cannot know God as God.
My identification as a human becomes the primary way through which I can know God to be holy. “If we are to be human we are in the business to learn to die. That is what Christianity is about; for it is my deepest conviction that Christianity is training in how to be human” (Stanley Hauerwas: Approaching the End). Christianity is not about despising our humanity or praying it away; it is about embracing it and surrendering it fully to the purposes of God. You never leave humanity behind you when you become Christian. It is not traded in for some level of new existence; some ultra-spiritual problem-free life. If our claim that God’s sovereignty is true, it means that He loves what is real. Sovereignty is authority over what is, not over what could be, nor is it the power over potential. Your life as it is now is part of God’s sovereignty. God created us as human beings and Jesus Himself, God made flesh, came to share in our humanity (John 1:14).

We look at David who is literally the ultimate human being. He did amazing and incredible things but he also did some equally terrible and stupid things. Yet he loved God and God loved him as well. Early in David’s life he was very close to Saul and was in his service; he was his armour bearer and his personal musician (1 Sam. 16:21-23).

1.    1 Sam. 17:4-24 – As human beings we have to realise that we are going to face big problems. It is a sad but true fact of life and no one escapes it. Goliath was a really big problem and David just a young shepherd boy. We are inclined to believe that big problems are the result of poor decision making. Sometimes it may be the case but other times God may have chosen you to come and deal with the problem. You might be there because God wants you there and He wants you to be the one to deal with it. When we think our problems are bigger than we are, we have to fight against the impulse to turn back because we feel we took the wrong turn. We are not supposed to cruise on a super-spiritual high above the problems of everyday life. It is human to face problems and issues; it is part of the training. We have to accept that at some point we are going to feel like our problems are insurmountable, that they are too heavy. Problems are unique to each person and each person’s capacity determines how they respond to them. No-one has a problem free life.

2.    1 Sam. 17:26-31 – People will misunderstand you and you will feel misrepresented. David was convicted that what he was seeing was not right in the eyes of God but the people around him became angry because they thought he was being arrogant. His convictions made everyone around him feel uncomfortable. David was fully convinced of what needed to be done but was misunderstood by his own family (Eliab). We think that when God speaks to us everybody around us will support us. It is not the case. We cannot afford to become crowd-pleasers. We love to have the support of others because it is very a human desire. If we live by the praise of others, we will die by their criticism. If we are criticised we should not pack up and go home. We need to realise that other people are humans too. Some people learn to live with the problem and become complacent. That is the way Eliab and the Israelites learned to live with Goliath’s daily taunts. David’s conviction was highlighting Eliab’s complacency.

3.    1 Sam. 17:32-40 – The 3rd tip to being human is to be discerning when receiving advice. As soon as you are facing a problem, the people around you become experts on how to solve the problem. That is because everyone is human. Just like Saul, when we give advice, we try to protect with armour. Saul’s best effort to protect David was not the right fit. David knew it was not right. People give advice because they care, but you, as the main character in your own life, have to know when that advice is not in line with God’s heart. Proverbs talks about being open to the counsel of those around you, but you have to have a discerning heart (Prov. 16:20). You have to discern according to the will of God.

4.    1 Sam. 17:41-51 – David the young shepherd boy had defeated the most vicious soldier in the enemy camp. What was seemingly impossible was made possible in the most unconventional way. Our number one in the survival kit to making it is: always trust in God. Jesus went through the same process when He was going to the cross. He prayed for that cup to be taken from Him (Matt. 26:39). He was overwhelmed by what He was facing; the Pharisees misunderstood Him and the crowd voted for Barabbas instead of Him. He did not have the support of all the people. Jesus knew how to conform to the will of God. He trusted in God. If we place our trust in anything else, our problems can overwhelm us. If you have some problems that are facing you right now, put your trust in God. He will see you through this. The problems are not there to break you or to defeat you. You are brought there to face them, to deal with them. Do not despise your humanity and that you have problems in your life. God wants to use you in a mighty way, in the kind of way that only He can. If you are being misunderstood remember that Jesus was also misunderstood. Always remember that when God gives you a conviction, the complacent people in your life will get uncomfortable and will react like Eliab did, not because they are evil but because they too are human. If you are receiving advice from all sides, I pray that God will give you the discernment to know what is right.