Faith · Sermons · Talks · Testimony

“So He Took Them Off” SHV Youth Talk 05.24.2017

Do you ever go back and look at old pictures of yourself and say, “What the heck was I thinking?” I changed these styles, and my attitudes, in order to seem cool. In high school I bounced between friend groups, trying to find a place where I fit in. This often meant trying to grow out my hair or wearing certain things in order to match the outward appearance of my peers. It also lead to more negative, less objectively noticeable things. I started treating certain groups of people differently. I used phrases that, while I didn’t necessarily know what it meant, I knew that it sounded cool when I used it. Things like, “Hey girl, wazzup? You wanna chillax later and watch that movie with Brangelina?”  

Eventually in college I found “my look”, but I still hadn’t found who I was as a person
. I thought that to fit in, I needed to drink and smoke. So I drank, and I drank, and I drank, only toning it back when I noticed that it was having a noticeable affect on my school performance, my work performance, and my friendships. I was ashamed to say no, because it felt like saying no would make me uncool. 

 I began developing relationships with women where I found it hard to see them just as friends, but all as potential partners and seeing these women more as objects than people. I would do things to make myself look “cooler” to them, hoping that maybe we could start something. I smoked, I drank more than I ever have, I pretended to like things because I knew they would like it, I even went to the gym in hopes of seeing them. This led to many destroyed relationships and the inability for years to develop any lasting friendships with women.

All of these changes seemed cool and exciting at the time, but left me feeling lost and empty at the end of the day. None of them helped me with the challenges I faced, going to school, working, cultivating relationships with friends and family members.
They prevented me from being who I had been created to be in God’s eyes, and prevented me from following Jesus the way I knew I should have been.  

I grew up in the church, learning how to be a good Christian, so when I changed myself for others, I knew it was wrong, but I still did it because I valued the acceptance of my friends and peers more than the love of Jesus, and in changing myself I took away part of me. I gave up following Jesus with a genuine love and compassion, put God on the backburner, and focused on myself instead. I felt shame talking about my faith because not only was I not living in it, but bringing it up reminded me of my sins and how I was failing to live my life for Jesus.
The biggest thing I took away from all of this is that when we change ourselves to fit in, away from how God created us to be, we find loneliness and a lack of hope, when we realign ourselves towards how He created us, we not only find joy and success, but peace.  

Sometimes we find ourselves facing these challenges that, at one point or another, seem insurmountable. It could be that test we know will give us trouble, it could be we ended things with our first significant other, or maybe we are moving to a different city, a different school, a different household.

In the old testament, the Israelites found themselves in a similar situation. They were at war with the Philistines and didn’t have a king who trusted in God’s will. The Philistines and the Israelites met on the field of battle in the desert and the Philistines sent out a champion, someone who would fight in the name of the Philistines in order to resolve the conflict. If this champion won, not only would it signify a defeat for the Israelites, but they believed it would show that who the Philistines worshiped would be stronger than the God of the Israelites. 

 The Philistines’ champion was named Goliath.
Goliath was nearly seven feet tall, wore heavy bronze armor, and cast an enormous presence on the battlefield. Even by todays’ standards, he was intimidating. Imagine me facing up against Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it wouldn’t be pretty. It makes sense then that the Israelites would be worried. Even King Saul, their strongest warrior, was afraid to fight him. For forty days, Goliath taunted the Israelites, showing off his strength and asking who would be brave and strong enough to defeat him.  

It is at these times where we are at our lowest, or at our most afraid, that we should turn to God for help.
The shepherd David was the youngest of eight brothers. He had several brothers at the Israelite camp serving King Saul, while being the youngest he had to stay and tend to the flock. Being a shepherd, David faced lions and bears to defend his flock. He was young and strong, and one day would become King of Israel. One day, David’s father Jesse asked him to take some food to his brothers in order to check and bring back something that showed they were still alright, and David agreed. 

David knew that God had a plan for him.
 He gave himself fully to God, and followed him authentically and thoroughly, allowing him to praise God in his interactions, his actions, and his thoughts. This trust allowed him to turn towards God for help in those dire moments, where all hope seemed lost. David trusted in God and knew God would carry him through it, unlike King Saul, who trusted only in himself and had set himself up to fail. This meant that when he saw Goliath mocking the Israelites and, in turn, God himself, David knew he had to do something about it. So he approached Saul and said that he would kill Goliath  

So sometimes we see something coming at us head on and we think that we need to change ourselves to overcome it, maybe a friendship is failing and we think that if we were just this way, that friendship would succeed, or maybe we are told by someone with influence over us that we need to change ourselves in order to succeed.
This is what happened with David. After convincing Saul that he could fight Goliath, Saul immediately began dressing David in his armor making him unable to move comfortably as it was so big. I like the visual in Veggie Tales of Junior the Asparagus dressed in Saul’s armor before falling over.  

Saul tried to make these changes to David, because he believed that to be a skilled warrior, they needed to wear the biggest and best armor, have the mightiest sword, and carry a strong shield.
And David probably felt the same way at first, right? He had seen Goliath. He knew how big he was and what a challenge that would be to face. So why wouldn’t he have worn the armor? Sometimes that’s how it feels when we change who we are in order to try and succeed. We end up stumbling around, knowing that something is not right, knowing that it is shameful to be living how we live, but often times we don’t understand what is wrong until it is too late, not understanding what it is in our life that we need to make changes too.  

When we turn back towards who God created us, sometimes we will face resistance.
In the case of David, after putting on Saul’s armor, he decided not to wear it as it wasn’t what he was used to. I imagine him looking at himself in the mirror and kinda cringing, going, “This isn’t me. This isn’t who I am. I look ridiculous.” He crossed the battle lines to fight Goliath in his normal clothes with a sling and five smooth stones, and for that he was mocked by Goliath. In our lives, it may mean that friendships we had built during our period of change end. It could mean that people who we used to hang out don’t want to talk to us anymore.  Maybe you were dating someone, and your relationship was physical, and when you returned to yourself and distance yourself from that physical aspect of the relationship realize that there isn’t much substance there and end it.

 For me, realizing that going out and drinking every night to a point where I couldn’t remember how I got home wasn’t who God had created me to be. So I stopped. I removed that part of my life, because it was taking a toll on who I was created to be. On who I knew in God that I was. It affected a lot of my “friendships”, these friendships based solely on who I was in that situation. Often times, these changes can be the hardest to accept and to find peace in, but don’t worry. When we accept who we are in God’s eyes and humble ourselves before Him, being that person in everything we do, we find that there is no challenge we cannot overcome.  

Following his taunting, David replied to Goliath, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands.’”(1Samuel 17: 45-47).  He pulled out his sling and threw a stone at Goliath. David struck Goliath in the forehead with the stone and, using Goliath’s own sword, cut off his head to prove that the battle was won for the Israelites.  

So what does this look like in our lives? How does giving ourselves to Jesus and authentically following him in whatever we do affect how we talk about Him to others? How we interact with people in our lives?
I know for me making the choice to be open and honest about my faith led to losing some friends. Losing those friends may have felt like the worst thing in the world at that time, but trust me, its for the better. That’s because instead of thinking I needed to act a certain way around them, laugh when they make mean comments about people, drink a lot, try and pick people up when we went out, I was able to be authentic in how I felt. Let me tell you, this authenticity is freeing. How I stopped finding what they said funny, because I knew it wasn’t right to criticize others when I had my own faults to deal with, when I knew that getting wasted wasn’t getting me anywhere and how it had lasting effects on my life.
How the way they would treat women was not how God intended, was not following the example set before us in the Old Testament about successful relationships and interactions.  

It made me willing to speak out about my faith, not wanting to hide it.
Now this doesn’t mean that we have to shove Jesus down the throat of everyone we meet. It doesn’t mean that we condemn those we see doing wrong in the eyes of God. It means that we don’t have to behave a certain way at church, then another way around our nonchurch friends.  It means that in everything we do, we remember that our actions reflect who we are in Christ and that His love and compassion for others should be noticeable through our words and actions, whether at work, at youth, amongst friends, or interacting with a stranger on the side of the street. 

So how does it all turn out? David physically removed Saul’s armor, putting his full trust in the Lord and defeated Goliath. For me, removing the bulky armor of changing myself and behaving contrary to what God commands has done wonders in my own life.  No longer do I worry about the obstacles that come up in my life, for I know that God is with me and will protect me, giving me what I need. I’m able now to develop genuine friendships with people, especially women, without worrying about how that relationship would benefit me socially, physically, or professionally. I now feel no shame in saying no to things that aren’t healthy in my life, knowing that who I am in the eyes of God is not dependent on whether I have five drinks with my friends, or in judging those who have made negative decisions in their lives, but in who I act around everyone I meet.  

Remember this, when we move ourselves towards who we were created to be, we will find peace.
Think about how this looks in your life. What armor have you put on, or had put on you that prevents you from being who God created you to be? How does it prevent you from putting your full trust in Jesus when things seem daunting, when you don’t know what to do? And think about what it would take to remove that armor weighing you down, and instead put your faith in the Lord. 

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