Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg
Around the year 1000 BC., two middle eastern armies gathered for war against each other. On one side of the Valley of Elah camped the Israelite army, and on the other side was the Philistine army. The Philistines had, what seems to me, an excellent idea. They wanted to send out their best warrior to fight on the behalf of the entire army. This warrior would challenge the Israelites to send out their best man for a one-on-one battle to the death. The army of the dead loser would then become the subjects of the victors and serve them. I can see a lot of merit in this idea. Only one life would be lost in this arrangement. What a great idea! Perhaps the Philistines came up with this because they had what they felt to be a "sure thing". They had a warrior named Goliath.
Goliath was over nine feet tall. Now let's think about that for a minute. Most ceilings in modern American houses are eight feet high and Goliath's head was a foot higher than that. Some of today's tallest professional basketball players are seven feet tall. Goliath was two feet taller than them. In fact, he could dunk a basketball standing still on the floor. Just think of the trouble he would have buying clothes to fit today, even in a "Big and Tall" shop. He wore a coat of scale armor made of 125 pounds of bronze. He had a bronze helmet and leggings. Try to imagine the massiveness of a man who could wage battle wearing that kind of outfit. His spear had a 15 pound iron point on it. That is about the weight of a bowling ball. Whatever Goliath hit with this thing would certainly never be the same.
Goliath, "Mr. Big Britches", was a little arrogant if you ask me. He went to the valley everyday for forty days and shouted, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." On hearing these words day after day, all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. No one volunteered.
No one reading this book has probably ever faced a nine foot tall war trained killer. But, we all face crisis and problems that are much bigger than we are. These "Goliath size" challenges often threaten our nation, companies, health, families, and, sometimes, even our very existence. There are times in all our lives when things don't look good. This book is for those going through tough times. But, often, we all need encouragement and motivation to press on. The principles discussed in this book can help anyone as much as they have helped me over the past 25 years.
As I started writing this chapter, a national Teamsters Union strike was in its 17th day. Negotiations were slowly proceeding in Washington, D.C. 70,000 union employees were living on strike pay and 22 freight companies were basically shut down. In some of the companies, the non-union employees had taken dramatic cuts in pay. Everyone wondered what would happen if the strike continued much longer. One company had shut its doors permanently, putting 2000 people out of work. As an employee of a freight company, it sounded like Goliath was shouting from the valley for a fight.
Many people experience the loss of their job and income, while feeding a family, making a house payment, and trying to educate and raise their children. Sometimes the weather destroys a farmer's cash crop and wipes out his annual income even though there are still a mortgage note and other bills to pay. There are many single parents in our society struggling to raise their children alone. The American dream of owning your own business often ends in financial ruin for those who try. Often, Goliath shouts from the valley.
On September 21, 1989, my family and I lived in Summerville, South Carolina, just inland from Charleston. The city was evacuated on that day because Hurricane Hugo was predicted to make landfall that night. Hugo produced 135 mile per hour winds, an 18 foot tidal wave, and spawned 27 tornadoes in the area as it rolled through the state directly over Charleston and Summerville. My family and I spent the night in a house that felt the full force of the hurricane, the eerie calm of the eye, and the blast of the opposite force after the eye passed over us. Part of the roof of the house we were in was blown off. The pine forest around us looked like tossed salad. The roads were impassable. Electricity and water flow ceased. Goliath had thundered through the valley!
My wife and I work in the jail ministry in our local county detention center. She teaches the women and I teach the men. We get locked up with groups of people whose lives are at a real low point. Many of them are on their way to the state penitentiary. We hear some of the most heart wrenching stories and see the torment and anxiety some of these folks experience. Some inmates become suicidal. Families are broken up. Many young lives are ruined. Many of these inmates are truly seeking a better way to live. For most of these folks, their Goliaths have the upper hand.
The American family and society are under attack. When I consider the rise in immorality, divorce rates, violent crime, drug usage, and suicide, things don't look good. Modern psychology is "revealing" to the world the effects of their less-than-ideal childhoods. Churches sponsor therapy. Individuals and couples go in for "counseling". Many people end up on anti-depressants, stress drugs and still fight through sleepless nights. Thousands of dollars are spent on psychologists and prescribed drugs. Relationships between some parents and children struggle to survive. Some people have a real problem just living with themselves. Sometimes, Goliath is the face in mirror, or a memory from the past.
God is being systematically removed from government and school. The Bible based principles that this country was founded on are being covered up, overlooked, or removed from our society. Even churches are sometimes getting sluggish, numbed or even dead. In many places, church attendance is down. But even worse, many people are losing their spiritual "in-touchness" with God. Even those that "attend" sometimes are just filling space and "doing their duty" so they can claim they are "present" and counted "faithful", even though their hearts are far from God. Many Christians have lost sight of the Great Commission our Lord gave us and have become complacent with the status quo. Ninety percent of the work of the church is done by the "tried, tired and true" ten percent. And Goliath laughs as his opposition retreats.
Yes, I believe Goliath-sized challenges stand in our personal "Valley of Elah"s today. They shout at us to come fight. They challenge our courage, faith and existence. Often, we are like the Israelites who were "dismayed and terrified." We shrink back in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. You have your own stories in your family, company, church, or life. And it is for you, who are facing tough times, that I am writing this book. This is a message of encouragement and direction. I wish to help you by sharing six principles that apply to your spiritual, family, personal, business and sports lives.
Chapters two through seven deal with each of these.
I have learned these principles throughout my life and have seen them work their positive effects on me and those around me. They are nothing new. I did not invent them. Every one of them is a Bible principle that works. I have seen it. I have experienced it. I first experienced it in high school in 1970.
I went through my "formative years" (13 through 18 years old) in Las Vegas, Nevada, graduating from Western High School in 1971. I started playing little league football in the fifth grade in Oklahoma City and ended up playing for the Western High School Warriors. I learned much from the Warriors, the game, Coach Foster and Coach Grovenburg (my dad).
The Western Warriors of 1970 were a scrappy crew. Small and feisty, we always played teams larger than us. Our real weights were never in the printed program. No one was under 150 pounds "in the printed program", but I weighed 130 pounds all year and I was a first string offensive guard. David "Scrappy" Laman, weighing in at 120, was our middle line backer. The other offensive guard, Louis Jaramillo, weighed 160. We were indeed small compared to the 180-190 pound guys we faced in competition. We became known as "ankle biters". An ankle biter blocks and tackles around the tops of the big guys' shoes. If you hit the big guys low enough, they will fall down. Often they fall on you. But when you're scrappy, that doesn't matter.
In 1970 the Western Warriors had a rather good team and a fairly good year. Going into the last week of the season we had five wins and three losses. (Not bad for a group of ankle biters.) Of course we all yearned for a state championship our senior year. We had tremendous spirit and drive, but with a 5-3 record, the state championship was beyond our reach.
Coach Foster was always an inspiration to me personally. He was a medium-build man with a polio damaged leg that left him with a noticeable limp. He could get up in your face in a 110 degree summer practice, with a chew of tobacco in his jaw, and really motivate you. He had two henchmen, Coach Jim Awohi and Coach Horace Smith (some called him "Horse"). These two guys were in the six-foot-four club and together nearly outweighed our whole first string. They were not mild mannered individuals either, but I'd rather have one of them on my case than Coach Foster. No one wanted a state championship more than Coach Foster. He did not just want it for himself. He wanted it for us. We never won the state championship, but we got something far better.
Our last game was with the Clark High School Chargers. They were the most successful team in the conference that year and were on their way to Reno to the state championship. The Chargers had a large front line, several experienced seniors, great speed and an excellent record. Because of a tremendous size, speed and experience advantage over the Western Warriors, this game promised to be rather lopsided. With the odds against us, an interesting thing happened in the week before this game.
Due to our lack of depth we had several players who played both offense and defense. They were very talented individuals, but a number of them made a choice about playing this last game against the Clark High School Chargers. It has now been over 25 years since that time and I can not honestly recall the details of why this happened, but I can vividly recall losing half of our first string in a mass resignation five days before the last battle of the Western Warriors. On Monday, they turned in their equipment and the season was over for them.
You may have experienced something like this in your life. Just when the odds were stacked up against you, someone you counted on walked out. Just when you thought things could not get any worse, they did. In your time of need, your friends turned away, your girl dumped you, your dog ran off, your fish died, you got laid off or abandoned. Whew! Stuff like that really happens, doesn't it? Life sometimes hands us lemons.
The Apostle Paul was a dedicated, hard working, traveling evangelist in the first century. He was led by the Spirit to take the Gospel into hostile territory. He preached, performed miracles, got beat up, thrown in jail, and ran out of town on many occasions. He once sat in stocks after a beating in a Philippian jail. He had been handed a lemon. He converted his jailer. He made lemonade. He sang and rejoiced.
Half the first string of the Western Warriors quit five days
before the last game of the season. Where did that leave the rest of
ON THE FIRST STRING ! That's where it left us! We made lemonade.
I had not played much defense in high school. I was an offensive guard. I wore athletic glasses that got sweaty and dirty so that I could not see very well. That was not much of a problem on the offensive line. Without my glasses, I was nearly blind. With my glasses, I was looking through mud and nearly blind. I played the entire last game against Clark high school at offensive guard and outside linebacker with "Scrappy" Laman yelling directions at me the whole game. Our quarterback, Lyle Jensen, played the entire game at quarterback and defensive safety. Lyle and I did not play much defense that season until we met the Clark Chargers. There are other examples too, but you know a team is hurting when they play their quarterback on defense and put a 130 pound blind guy at outside linebacker and a 120 pound middle linebacker telling them both where to line up most of the game.
This ridiculous lopsided situation may be the story of your life. Only you may be facing much greater consequences. I, too, have faced much higher stakes than a football game. The same principles that were used in this last week of my football career have a direct and powerful application to many other areas of life. The spirit of the Western Warriors has served me well through the years and it is that spirit that I value far greater than any state championship. I am now going to share the principles with whoever will read my words or hear my voice. Our youth need it. Our businesses, schools and churches need it.
The message of this book is my suggested response to that challenge.
Copyright © 1996 Wayne Grovenburg
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