The Power of Promise
by Steve Smith
There was a time in Israel when there was no precedent for killing giants. Less than a generation earlier, Israel was paralyzed at the very thought of approaching a giant in hand-to-hand combat. 1 Samuel 17 describes Goliath as a giant of a man who stood over nine feet tall (v.4)!
Saul stood head and shoulders above the men of Israel (1 Sam. 9:2), yet in his own strength he cowered in fear. For weeks, the Israelites camping in the Valley of Elah followed Saul’s example, frozen with fear (1 Sam 17:10-11, 23-24). Each day Goliath taunted them. Each day they fled from the battle. They lived a lifestyle of fear and lack of faith.
When David saw this scene unfold he was appalled. David believed the promise that God would overcome this giant because he understood the heart of God. God had promised to give His people the land and to give them victory over their enemies. In David’s mind, it was Goliath against God. Goliath didn’t stand a chance.
What do you do when you have no precedent? All you have is a promise. The promise is enough!
What’s going through David’s mind? We are not told, but he begins to shout the promise out loud to the enemy:
“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts….” (1 Sam. 17:45, NASB)
Whether fear was creeping in to David’s heart or not, we don’t know. But his heart meditated on the promise of God in the face of the enemy.
The promise is enough
At the end of the day, if you have no precedent for a church-planting movement, and all you have is a promise, it is enough. David acted on the promise and became a giant killer. His example served as a precedent (model) for others to follow. What’s radical today is commonplace tomorrow.
Fifteen years ago, CPMs were only a dream. Today, CPMs are almost taken for granted in many places around the world. Why? That’s the power of precedent.
But when you don’t yet have a precedent, the promise of Scripture is still clear. God will harvest a great multitude from every people group and He will launch discipleship revolutions that will rock the world (e.g. Matt. 24:14, Rev. 7:9, John 4:35, Matt. 9:37-38, Mark 1:15-17, Matt. 13:23, Matt. 13:31-32, Mark 4:26-29; Acts 19:10). Live your life based on His promise. He wants to fulfill it in your place, at this time, through you!
Epilogue: Forgotten Precedent
Sometimes there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. CPMs are not simply a modern-day phenomenon. Throughout church history, there have been CPM-like movements.
Sometimes, there is precedent from history but we have forgotten it. Such was the case with the story of David and Goliath.
According to Joshua 15:14, 400 years earlier, Caleb, at the age of 85, drove out three giants from the mountain God had promised him. The ancient record indicates the race of giants Caleb defeated were even larger than those that David and his men encountered.
Forty years before that, Moses and his army defeated Og of Bashan (Num. 21:33-35). According to Scripture, Og was even bigger still. The Bible says Og slept in a 13-foot bed (Deut. 3:11); remember Goliath was only nine feet tall! Og was so frightening that God appeared to Moses personally to promise his deliverance, announcing:
Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon. (Num. 21:34, NASB)
Moses had a promise from God. And he had personal precedent on a smaller scale (Sihon). It was enough.
Did the army of Israel, camped in the Valley of Elah, taunted by the giant Goliath remember these stories?
If they did, they apparently dismissed them as irrelevant:
- That can’t happen here. Our situation is different.
- That can’t happen through us. Moses and Caleb were special.
- That can’t happen today. It’s ancient history; God no longer works that way.
If they had forgotten them, it was their loss. It was a precedent they could have used.
Did David know those stories? We don’t know. If so, then perhaps they inspired him as he ran toward the battle line. He had precedent.
If they were forgotten stories, stored in musty scrolls in a tabernacle, unavailable to a common shepherd boy, it didn’t matter. He knew his God. The promise was enough.
This article was adapted from the final chapter of Steve Smith with Ying Kai’s book T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Richmond: WIGTake Resources, 2011), the inside story of the world’s fastest growing church-planting movement. It was first published in Mission Frontiers Magazine.
About Steve Smith: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019
*CPM numbers have since grown.
Missed Part 1? Read it here: Part 1