Faith vs. Feeling

We have probably heard the story of David and Goliath numerous times, but it is a story that contains significant lessons for us today. I would like to focus on one aspect of this story—faith versus feeling. In the story, the Philistines were going to wage war against the Israelites. (See 1 Samuel 17.) The Israelites were on one mountain, and the Philistine army was on another mountain, with a valley between them. (Verse 3.) Goliath would come out of the Philistines’ camp and taunt the Israelites. He was a pretty good-sized man at “six cubits and a span.” (Verse 4.) There are different estimates of how tall he really was, but it was somewhere between 9 and 11 feet!


Goliath would taunt the Israelites by asking them to send one of their mightiest warriors down to him so they could fight. The challenge was, if I (Goliath) win, you are going to be our servants. If you win, the Philistines will be your servants. The devil had a definite purpose for this. The devil has always liked to ridicule God’s people, and if he could put them in servitude to the Philistines,he could use them as sport, ridicule them, and do whatever he wanted with them. Goliath said, “If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” Verses 9–11.

Put yourself in their position. How would you like to fight someone who was 11 feet tall, who had armor on from head to toe? If you shot an arrow at him, it would not penetrate through his armor. He had a helmet of brass, and there was no space upon him that was not covered. (Verses 5–7.) It would be a discouraging situation would it not? Israel was greatly afraid. Goliath challenged the Israelite nation for 40 days, every morning and evening, ridiculing and taunting them—Come on, just bring out your best warrior to fight me! Day in and day out he taunted them. (Verse 16.)

David Arrives

David was sent by his father, Jesse, to give food to the army. Jesse’s three eldest sons were fighting with Saul in this battle. So here comes David; he gives his food to the captain of their thousand, as his father bid him do. (Verses 17, 18.) Then he went out to the battle lines to see his brothers. As he approaches the scene, he hears the commotion. He sees the two armies lined up ready for battle. He sees Goliath step forward to taunt the Israelites again, and they all turn and run for cover. David discovers that Goliath has been taunting the Israelites for 40 days, and no one has yet answered the challenge. “For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard [them]. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.” Verses 21–24.

Saul had let it be known that if anyone wanted to challenge Goliath that he would give that person a lot of wealth. He said he would set their families free, and the soldier would have Saul’s daughter as a wife—great rewards for going out to do battle with Goliath! But the Bible says, “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Verse 26. David said, forget about the rewards,we want to take the reproach away from us. This Philistine is coming out here, and we are not even answering the challenge.

Goliath’s stature did not intimidate David as it did all of Israel. David could care less how big he was. So David began going around the camp of Israel saying, We need to take care of this guy. He’s defying Israel, so in essence he is defying the God of heaven. He is taunting and ridiculing us, and no one is answering the challenge. Not even Saul. Remember, Saul was head and shoulders above his brothers —he was a big man, too. (See 1 Samuel 9:2.) Saul should have been the one answering the challenge, since he was the biggest. He should have been out doing battle with this Philistine, but the Bible tells us that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and if we depart from the Spirit of the Lord, we have no courage of our own. That is what happened to Saul. Saul departed from the Spirit of the Lord and an evil spirit took control of him. Now he had no confidence that God would save him. (See 1 Samuel 16:14–16.)

David Accepts the Challenge

David continues talking to the camp of Israel, trying to get them to do something about Goliath. Word gets around to Saul that there is a shepherd boy making noise about taking care of this Philistine and that he would do it. Saul tells them to bring the shepherd boy to him. David comes up, with no armor on, and he says, “I will take care of this Philistine.”Saul said, “I do not think you understand who you are up against. This man is 11 feet tall, and you are nothing but a little shepherd boy.” David replies, “Yes, so what? I am going to take care of him. Who’s on my side?”

Notice David’s credentials: “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.” 1 Samuel 17:36, 37.

No Presumption

David is not being presumptuous here. He is not rushing into something of which he has no foreknowledge. An angel had appeared to David and told him he was going to win a battle. “David is not careful to explain to his [eldest] brother [Eliab] that he had come to the help of Israel; that God had sent him to slay Goliath. God had chosen him to be a ruler of Israel; and as the armies of the living God were in such peril, he had been directed by an angel to save Israel.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 371. David was not rushing headlong into something presumptuously; he was not being reckless. God had already told him this would happen and what he was to do.

But David, humble and unassuming, just said to Saul, I herd my father’s sheep, and when I am out in the field and a bear comes to take my lamb away, I chase that bear down and kill him and I take that lamb right out of his mouth. The same with the lion, but it is the Lord who helped me. You see, he had an experience with the Lord before, and now the Lord trusted him with something big like this.

Prepared for Battle

Saul brought out his entire armor, which probably weighed over 100 pounds, and put it on David, this little shepherd boy. Can you imagine the sight? His sword was probably dragging the ground; the coat was down past his knees, and the helmet was over his eyes. As David walks out of Saul’s tent, all of the curious spectators are watching him go out to do battle with Goliath. David thinks about how he had just told Saul that it was the Lord that had delivered him from the lion and the bear. I cannot use this stuff, he says to himself. I have not even tested it; I do not know if it even works. How can I fight with the weight of all of this armor on me? So he turns and begins to retrace his steps. (Verses 38, 39.)

The curious spectators are sure that David has become afraid and changed his mind, but that was not the thoughts of David. He returned to the king and humbly said, “Saul, I have never worn armor before; I want to take it off.” So he laid off the armor, and with a staff in one hand and a sling in the other, he walked down to the brook and picked up five smooth stones. He put the stones in his shepherd’s bag and went out to meet Goliath. Verse 42 tells us that when the Philistine saw David he disdained him because he was but a youth. Goliath was insulted. He was expecting to see the greatest warrior of Israel come out against him with all of his armor on, and here is a little shepherd boy with a staff in his hand standing before him. Goliath said, “[Am] I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?” Verse 43. “What are you going to do,” Goliath bellowed, “herd me around like you do your dog or your sheep?” He was ready to do battle, and here was a little shepherd boy.

“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” Verses 45, 46.

David is standing in the valley, and there are thousands of spectators, on either side of the valley, from the armies of Israel and Philistine. The whole, entire assembly heard what David said. He was not only going to take Goliath, he said, but the entire Philistine army would be defeated that day. “And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle [is] the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.” Verse 47.

“There was a ring of fearlessness in his [David’s] tone, a look of triumph and rejoicing upon his fair countenance. This speech, given in a clear, musical voice, rang out on the air, and was distinctly heard by the listening thousands marshaled for war. The anger of Goliath was roused to the very highest heat. In his rage he pushed up the helmet that protected his forehead and rushed forward to wreak vengeance upon his opponent. The son of Jesse was preparing for his foe.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 648.

Goliath was so furious he started coming for David. Instead of turning to run, David ran right for Goliath, and while he was running he took one of the five smooth stones from his bag. He put the stone in his sling; he flipped that sling, and the stone flew through the air and imbedded itself right in the forehead of Goliath. Immediately Goliath’s hands flew up as if groping in darkness; blindness overtook him, and he stood there wavering as the thousands of the two armies looked on. All of a sudden this big giant fell, as though he was a mighty oak struck by lightning. David wasted no time. He jumped upon Goliath, drew Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Israel was ready to fight—now that the giant was gone! They chased the Philistines all the way to Ekron. (Verses 48–52.)

Lessons for us

What lessons can we learn from this story? I see a man of faith here—a little shepherd boy. “The mind should be educated to exercise faith rather than to cherish doubt, suspicion, and jealously. We are too prone to regard obstacles as impossibilities.” Review and Herald, March 17, 1910. Is that not what we are prone to do? We see something ahead of us, and we always say it is too big. We do not have enough money; we do not have enough resources, etc., etc. God expects us to use our minds, of course, but we are too prone to look at obstacles as impossibilities.

Govern the Circumstances

Let us look at our characters for a moment. We look at defects in our character, and they appear as big mountains in front of us, but we should never cherish doubt in our minds of what can happen. Ellen White says that we are too prone to look at obstacles as impossibilities. Just like Israel. That giant probably looked twice as big to them because of their doubt. “To have faith in the promises of God, to go forward by faith, pressing on without being governed by circumstances is a lesson hard to learn. Yet it is a positive necessity that every child of God should learn this lesson.” Ibid. What does it say? To walk forward by faith, pressing on without being governed by circumstances—how many of us allow the circumstances around us to govern us instead of us governing the circumstances and trusting in the Lord?

This is a lesson that is hard to learn, Mrs. White says, but it is absolutely necessary that we learn it; that we do not allow the circumstances to govern us, no matter what they are. We must learn to trust the Word of God explicitly, just like David did. He had been warned that morning by an angel that he was to fight a battle that day for the Lord. When God tells us to do something, we often stall in doing it. What does the devil do then? He creates circumstances where we will not be able to fulfill the duty. If we do not act, the devil is going to act for us, and when God tells us to do something, we had better act, instead of allowing the circumstances to govern us. “Faith is simple in its operation and powerful in its results.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 322. Did God defeat Goliath with something very simple? A sling and a stone! Very simple. Faith is simply taking what God’s Word says and acting upon it. But many times we are like Israel of old—we allow the circumstances to govern us. What happens then? We have wrong feelings. Oh, they were afraid; they were dismayed. How often does that happen to us? We begin to be governed by our feelings instead of by faith.

Do not let Feelings Control

Feelings take control, and faith is out the window. “Faith and feeling are as distinct as the east is from the west. Faith is not dependent on feeling. We must earnestly cry to God in faith, feeling or no feeling, and then live our prayers.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1073. Do not wait for a certain feeling. It does not make any difference; we need to move forward by faith.

“Faith is not dependent on feeling. Daily we should dedicate ourselves to God and believe that Christ understands and accepts the sacrifice, without examining ourselves to see if we have that degree of feeling that we think should correspond with our faith. Have we not the assurance that our heavenly Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him in faith than parents are to give good gifts to their children? We should go forward as if to every prayer that we send to the throne of God we heard the response from the One whose promises never fail.” Our High Calling, 120.

We are to move forward as though that prayer is lodged at the throne of heaven and has already been answered. Too many times we allow our feelings to get in the way. We want to have some feeling to know that we are right with God, that our sins are forgiven. We want to have some degree of feeling, but faith is not dependent upon what we feel. Faith simply takes what God’s Word says and acts upon it. (See The Signs of the Times, September 9, 1889.) When we pray we are to pray as though that prayer is already lodged at the throne of heaven and has already been answered. Move forward!

“Genuine faith is founded on the Scriptures; but Satan uses so many devices to wrest the Scriptures and bring in error, that great care is needed if one would know what they really do teach. It is one of the great delusions of this time to dwell upon feeling.” Review and Herald, November 25, 1884. One of the greatest delusions of Satan is to get us to dwell upon our feelings. How many of us go on what we feel instead of what God’s Word says? We need to increase our faith, should we not? Just like the disciples, we need to pray, Increase our faith, Lord.

“Feelings, whether encouraging or discouraging, should not be made the test of the spiritual condition. [Whether you are depressed, like the Israelite nation, or elated, does not make any difference; move by faith.] By God’s Word we are to determine our true standing before him. Many are bewildered on this point. When they are happy and joyous, they think that they are accepted by God. When a change comes, and they feel depressed, they think that God has forsaken them.” Ibid., February 28, 1907.

How many of us have gone through that experience? Perhaps we have gone through some depressing times, and automatically we think that God has forsaken us. In such a case we need to claim Hebrews 13:5: ” . . . For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We need to have such promises in store, because if we ever feel depressed and feel that the Lord has forsaken us, we can point to these promises and say, Lord you promised you would never forsake us. We are to determine our standing with God by studying His Word and by seeing what our true standing is before Him. If there is correction that needs to be made, we need to make that correction, but never are we to rely upon our feelings.

Here is another startling statement.

“Faith is not feeling. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ [Hebrews 11:1.] The religion that takes the position of secluded enjoyment, that is satisfied to contemplate the religion of Jesus Christ, and that keeps its possessor from an experimental knowledge of its saving power, is a deception.” The Youth’s Instructor, February 10, 1898.

Increase Faith

How can we have our faith increased? If you had been in a hospital bed for three or four weeks,do you think you would feel strong? What happens to the muscles? They begin to weaken and to lose their tone. Our faith is no different. If we do not exercise faith, we are going to be spiritually weak. Every day we have an opportunity to exercise our faith. It must be exercised from day to day. Just read the story of David and let it encourage your heart. God will fight for His people. The battle is not ours; it is the Lord’s, but we need to cooperate with Him just as David did, not by backing down, but going forward, meeting the circumstances as they are and not allowing them to shake us.

Faith becomes strong by coming into conflict with doubts and opposing them. What is the counsel? You have today to exercise your faith. If we begin doubting and allow darkness to fill our hearts and we become discouraged, it is then time to lift up a prayer unto the Lord and sing a melody unto Him. That is what David did. He took out his harp and began playing praises to the Lord on his harp. The longer we allow our feelings of discouragement to take control of us, the worse we will become. We cannot allow it.

I know it is easy to say, but this is the only way that our faith will grow. When we are faced with these discouraging situations and we are full of doubt, then is the time to exercise faith! “The experience gained in these trials is of more value than the most costly jewels.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 555. We will have our reward in heaven, but faith is what is going to be needed to endure until the end. If we do not have it, we are not going to make it.

Do you want to have David’s experience—moving forward, not allowing the circumstances to govern you, taking control of the circumstances through the arm of the Lord? Remember the story of David and Goliath. The more we dwell upon our problems, the bigger they get, like Goliath; but the faster we exercise faith and trust in the Lord, those doubts and discouragements are going to vanish away.

We can lift one another up; we can come together and edify one another; we can build one another up in faith, but this is an individual experience between you and God. First of all you must learn not to trust yourself. All trust in self must be eradicated from the life before you can have true faith. “By faith—faith that renounces all self-trust—the needy suppliant is to lay hold upon infinite power.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 159.

Mike Bauler pastors the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. He may be contacted by e-mail at