Friday 14 July
"It's time to pick a fight!" Owen Crane is the pastor of CFC in East Belfast. He spoke at the final celebration of #Sligo17. Here's a summary of what he had to say.
I can hear the sound of heavy rain but it has got stronger and stronger this week. After Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, the skies were blue! Seven times, he sent his servant to look for the rain. Eventually the servant saw a cloud the size of a fist. And the rain came.
This island of ours has been dry for so long but now something is happening. Somebody challenged me about expectations. Over the years, people have said to me, “Don’t get people’s hopes up.” I serve the living God who spoke the universe into existence. Jesus says that by faith if we speak to a mountain, it will throw itself into the sea
God desires that NONE should perish on this island. There is no one outside His power or desire to reach. Why would my vision be any smaller than God's? And honestly, why would yours?
1 Samuel 17 - King Saul is king over Israel but a Philistine army has arrived in the land. The two armies stand opposed to one another on two ridges. Then a figure breaks rank from the Philistine army and comes down the valley and a gasp goes up from the Israelite army. He is a giant.
He shouts a challenge, defying the armies of Israel. Terror and fear breaks out in the Israelite camp. Nobody wants to fight Goliath. Nobody was brave enough . He hurls insults at the army and at Saul.
The next day, the giant walks down and issues the same challenge again. For 40 days, this continues. Goliath defies the army of Saul. And then, a 15 or 16-year-old shepherd boy arrives - the most unlikely hero of the piece. David's father had sent him with bread and cheese for his brothers. He goes to the front line and he hears Goliath’s challenge.
David says, “Who is that uncircumcised Philistine who dares to defy the army of the living God?” He is told that the person who kills Goliath will be greatly rewarded. Immediately, his oldest brother Eliab begins criticising David, questioning his character, his motives and his integrity. David’s response is, “What have I done now?”
David walks through the battle lines and discovers that nobody has stepped up. Saul says to David, “You are a youth and Goliath is a warrior.” So David tells stories of how he has killed the lion and the bear. Saul was desperate. For 40 days, Goliath has been hammering Saul and his army.
Eventually Saul says, if you are going to do it, you need to do it my way. He puts his armour onto David. But David refuses the heavy armour and walks out into the valley with his stick and his sling. He picks up five stones in a stream. The Israelite army must be looking at each other and saying, “Really?” Goliath’s response is, “Is this the best you’ve got?” David replies, “How dare you defy the army of the living God.” He takes off running, throws the first slingshot, fells the giant and cuts off his head.
David had to overcome three things even to get into the valley.
- The voice of the enemy
- The voice of his family
- The voice of the king (the leadership)
Do you know whose voice is absent from this story? God’s voice. So how on earth did David overcome all the voices of opposition to take out the giant? David didn’t have a voice, he had a promise. David said, “I will remove this reproach from Israel. I will remove this offence to our God.”
The key is in the word “uncircumcised.” Circumcision was an outward sign of the covenant between God and His people. A covenant is a promise that is sealed in blood. David realises that Goliath does not have the covenant. So David stands on the mountainside knowing the promises God has given to Him. So many Christians are waiting for a word from God before they do something. They are waiting for a “sparkly” moment. We need to act because we already have the promise!
David is sure of his ground. He knows what God has promised and by taking down the giant, he frees his whole nation.
There are giants in your life that have been calling you out for years. Every time you face a particular problem, you hear the voice of the giant defying and mocking you. That has to change. You need to be free.
The devil has been calling the church out. I’m sick and tired of it. I’m picking a fight. I will remove this reproach from the people of God. We need to understand something really clearly. We are in a war. Whether we like it or not, there is an enemy trying to steal, kill and destroy you.
One of the giants is comfort - It is really insidious. It says, “If you just settle down, if you lower your expectations. If you just look forward to the next holiday, then I will leave you alone.” It is a lie. The payoff for our comfort is the destruction of our island!
A Christian in a part of the world where there is persecution said, “Please do not pray that the persecution stops because if that happens, we might become comfortable like the western church.”
God’s desire is the salvation of this island but I think He is more patient that we are. He will wait for a generation that will pay the price . What I want to know is, “Are we that generation?” Things are going to happen. The enemy is on the move, more violently than we have seen. The darkness is increasing. We have a choice as the church. How do we respond?
We have not helped ourselves. There have been too many “older brothers” in the church who have poured scorn on the younger ones (like David). The job of the older brother is to lift up the younger brother, to encourage and inspire. If you are here tonight and you’ve been like Eliab, you need to repent. I’m a church leader. I have to watch myself when the young David’s coming through.
I think God is bringing heavy rain to our island again but I want to have a people who are ready to start taking out these giants. People who won't wait for somebody to give them permission.
A few years later (1 Chronicles 13) in a barley field (Pas Dammin), the Philistine army came. The rest of the troops ran away and the only ones left were David and Eleazar. They took their stand and defeated the Philistines. Pas Dammin was the same place where David had killed Goliath. In David’s victory over Goliath, he paved the way for Eleazar’s victory in that barley field.
There are people in your life who are waiting for you to kill the giant. God has anointed you. You have a promise from God. He can work all things together for those who love Him.
In our city (Belfast) there are giants of sectarianism, the comfort of Christians, the lack of self esteem in the young people. I want to pick a fight. I want to kill these giants.
I want you to make a decision that you will no longer tolerate the giants that are defying the living God. Church leaders - there are giants in your church and you have been tolerating them. You need to kill the giant. Some of you are scared about what that will do. You are afraid that people will leave the church. Let them. Your people are waiting for you to set them free. It's time to pick a fight.