For People with bishop Rob Wright

Defeating Giants

Bishop Rob Wright For People Album
For People
Defeating Giants

About the episode

Can faith like David’s still conquer the giants of our modern world? The story of David and Goliath is a story that reminds us of the giants we battle today, such as hate, poverty, and scarcity. These struggles are rooted in spiritual wickedness, and spiritual practices taught by Jesus can help us defeat these modern-day giants.

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about systemic evils and how radical inclusion and nonviolent activism can dismantle societal giants. They emphasize the need for bipartisan collaboration to achieve real progress. Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.


Bishop Wright: 0:00

The giant is hate. The giant is poverty. The giant is misogyny, the giant is homophobism. On and on and on. I’m not looking to defeat a person. You know, st Paul helps us. Right, we war not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness, right, in high places. Right, that’s what we’re against. So if I can come against that only using the spiritual heft that Jesus taught us, I can come against that only using the spiritual heft that Jesus taught us, his practices, his ways.

Melissa: 0:44

Welcome to Forr People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rau, and this is a conversation inspired by Bishop Wright’s For Faith weekly devotions, sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s episode and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Hey, hey, bishop.

Bishop Wright: 1:19

Hey, hey.

Melissa: 1:20

This week’s devotion is called Defeating Giants. It’s all about David and Goliath. Yep 1 Samuel 17, verses 1 through 49.

Bishop Wright: 1:31


Bishop Wright: 1:33

Better than Netflix.

Melissa: 1:34

Come on. Why this? Why now?

Bishop Wright: 1:37

I’m always trying at least to pay attention. I mean, I listen to people, lots of people in my life, lots of different kinds of people, people all over the place, and what I realize is people are, you know, people are always facing some giant, you know, and you know, as we read along and the scriptures that are appointed, you know, the stories pop up and you say, hey, here’s a fresh take on David that might be useful for us. A teenager, outpowered, outmanned, so to speak, outnumbered, even outskilled, and all he has is this robust faith in God and he has this silly confidence that the world does not give him and he thinks he can win. And as the story goes, beyond all odds, all odds, this little ruddy teenager defeats this career skilled behemoth of a man. And David does it because, basically, david doesn’t like what Goliath has to say about his family and his God. Goliath has to say about his family and his God. And so David says to the king hey, king.

Melissa: 2:54

I’ll do it, I’ll be your warrior, and off he goes. Well, okay. So this story is obviously one of the best stories. It’s one of the best stories ever told. Lots of people love it, right, and yet I just I kind of wonder, like lots of people love it right and yet I just I kind of wonder, like why this story? I think what do you think it is at the heart of this story that really hits people? Because you have some really awesome questions that you pose in your devotion about what it might mean for us. So I’m wondering if you want to dive into that a little bit.

Bishop Wright: 3:22

Yeah, I mean, I think that the itch that this scratches for us is that a lot of us feel outpowered, outnumbered, a lot of us feel sort of behind. We love a good underdog story. A lot of us, some of us, have been the underdog in situations and so we just love this. And because, also, it speaks to us now, because it helps us to remember that the impossible is possible with God, and I think that’s the centerpiece of faith With God all things are possible, and it won’t make sense on paper, but in God’s economy it makes sense.

Bishop Wright: 4:00

And so David and Goliath, as far as I’m concerned, is just as relevant, uh, now, uh, as it has ever been. And so, you know, we entitled the thing called defeating giants, and you know, it’s a little cheeky, a little fun. I always want to try to have some fun in the meditations. And so, you know, we remember that when, uh, you know boxers, uh, you know, after they have tremendous victories, you know someone shoves a microphone in their face and says, you know, tell us about this tremendous victory, you know what advice would you give to? You know, to listeners and to watchers? And so we took that approach. And so there are six things that, if I use my spiritual imagination in interviewing David after the victory over Goliath, that he would say to us and I think these are really transportable, transferable for us to today- and so David really, though he was defending right Got anything to say about that.

Bishop Wright: 4:58

I don’t, I don’t. I think that the land of Israel, palestine, has perpetually been in a family squabble or war, as far back as anybody can remember, and what’s tragic is it’s a family fight, and so obviously, whenever we go to the Old Testament and start looking at these narratives, that’s in the backdrop. So I’m not making any points about that. I’m really just trying to hold up David and Goliath really as paradigms and wondering, as you and I face our giants really hard giants. It could be health, it could be despair and hopelessness, it could be dislocation, disorientation, it could be marital strife, it could be lots of different things, the woes of parenting, it could be lots of things. So how do we handle when we are faced with giants and we feel that the odds are against us?

Melissa: 6:04

You remind us of a number of things, like when facing our giants. Let’s kind of unpack those a little bit. I’m going to jump right to the last one, though, because it’s kind of a big one. Victories achieved for God are not meant for private celebrations. They’re meant for the encouragement of God’s people. Can you nuance that a little bit? What does that mean? Who are God’s people? Can you nuance that a little bit? Like what does that mean? Who are God’s people?

Bishop Wright: 6:27

Well, we’re all God’s people. All of us, every single solitary one of us, are all made in the image of God, have value, worth and dignity, period, full stop, right. And so what we realize is that every good thing comes from God. And so if you and I have been part of some victory, of some gift, of some grace, of some wonderment, of some awe that it really is community property, I mean, it’s only when it comes to these sorts of things, conversations around spirituality, that we really get really kind of coy. But when we have a great meal, we don’t mind telling people See a great movie. We don’t mind telling people have a great trip. We don’t mind telling people have a great trip to Alaska, as you and your husband just had, you know, we don’t mind telling people all the wonder of the nature that we saw. We have no problem with that right. And so what would it be like? As gently as we could, without offending, trying to offend anybody and push any kind of agenda, just simply talk about the beauty of the sunrise and the sunset and how somehow my community has supported me as I’ve faced cancer down or got a terrible prognosis or diagnosis from the doctor, et cetera, et cetera, or have come through a very difficult storm in life. What would it be like in appropriate ways I’m not talking about sort of being the annoying guy or gal but what would it be, at appropriate times and appropriate ways, to share that, to offer that as community property to people, because you just never know who you’re talking to and the Holy Spirit. We can never account for the ways in which the Holy Spirit can use our authentic lives and our journeys. And so to share with people some victories that have been worked out, some understandings that have been worked out, some renewal in us that has happened which we just never would have imagined that could have happened, to share that for the encouragement of other people. You know, all that we have and all that we are right really is a gift from God. And so, you know, I feel like we give that back to the universe, we put that back out into the world, never understanding the ways in which that might catch you know, might you know? Sort of ride on a breeze to somebody’s ear.

Bishop Wright: 8:40

I mean, that’s sort of, in some ways, the hope with this podcast, right, I’m sitting in my office, you’re sitting in your office and we’re talking about these ancient stories from which we derive strength and guidance and courage. And I have no idea where these words are going. My hope and my heart is that they go to encourage someone. I mean, I share a little bit of myself, you share a little bit of yourself. We try to unpack as best we can with our finite knowledge, these texts and the hope is that God would add a measure of Holy Spirit favor to that and it’s somehow it would find somebody at the right time in their life, intersection in their life, and it would lift them, strengthen them, support them. And you know so.

Bishop Wright: 9:25

We do this and I do this, you know, not because it’s a good thing to do or not because a preacher ought to do that, but because I know how encouragement works right, and I have been encouraged by people, right and people. You know people tell me over the years, right, again and again. Do you remember when you said X to me and I’m like no, I don’t, you know, I have no idea. Or do you remember when you said this and I’m like no, yeah, but then people tell you that that was a, that was a turning point, or that gave them a clarity, or that gave them a push, or that was a bit of truth told to them that they needed to hear. And I, I, I, you know, I affirm all of that because people have done that for me, right, it’s been in a music lyric or a pat on the back or a kind note written. It’s been a laugh, it’s been a joke, it’s been a book recommended, I mean, and on, and on, and on and on again. But primarily it’s been people telling me their stories and offering themselves to me as credible witnesses that God is real. And that’s why I’m sitting here, my guess is, that’s why you’re sitting there.

Bishop Wright: 10:43

And so what is my part? What is my part? My part is to not frustrate the grace of God by hoarding that. My part is to at least come in. Now people say good Lord enough, or you know people, sort of. That’s deeply personal.

Bishop Wright: 10:59

Well, there’s a part that is deeply personal and I understand that this is not about emotional hemorrhaging on people right over people, but this is about, in decent and right ways, affirming in your own way and ever so gently and always intention, with boldness, to say to people well, you know, I don’t have the answer to the climate question and I don’t know what the immigration solution will be. But this I do know I have known God’s grace and mercy in my own life and I have seen things happen that were to my good, and for that I thank God. Um, and so, david, you know, I would say, if we interviewed David, david would say to us, you know, celebrate the victories, um, because you never know who is down and out and who could just do, uh, with a word, uh, from you know, a word from our sponsor.

Melissa: 12:01

Well, I am curious. You say make sure the cause you’re fighting for is godly. Yeah, so how do we do that, bishop?

Bishop Wright: 12:15

Well, first of all, we don’t sit in our little you know, we sit in our love seat at home and decide that, you know, our cause is godly, right, that’s the first thing we do. So to what degree? If we’ve got a cause, for instance, do we as I happen to be a Christian do we locate whatever we say? Our cause is in the ministry life, death, teachings and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Right, that’s where I want to start. So I’m worried about people who want to say that Jesus is a partisan politician, for instance. Right, that they have wrangled Jesus into their particular political viewpoint, and that worries me, because what they’re doing is they’re making God in their image.

Bishop Wright: 12:52

Right, they may be taking one or two Bible verses and they made a whole big systematic theology about that Bible verses. And they made a whole big systematic theology about that. And one wonders is that really a righteous cause in Jesus’s eyes? Did Jesus actually teach that? And so what I’m saying is that if we want to maximize the defeat of giants, then we’ve got to join Jesus in Jesus’s cause and not try to enlist Jesus in my cause. That sounds like some preacher speak, but that’s what we’re really talking about. We are made in God’s image. We are not making God in our image right, and so we’ve got to be very careful about that. So if we are following Jesus, we know that we’ve got to purge ourselves of impulses to separate and impulses to superiority right.

Melissa: 13:43

Yeah, for sure.

Bishop Wright: 13:45

And we’ve got to give ourselves right to this radical notion that we are siblings period. And we’ve got to give ourselves to this radical notion that everybody has dignity and we’ve got to give ourselves to this notion that, in Jesus’s economy, that enemies are people deserving of prayer.

Melissa: 14:30

Yeah, I think it always makes it harder, though, too, bishop, when we talk about partisanship. There are Christian Democrats, there are Christian Republicans. So this is, this is both sides Right, and I think sometimes, I think most of the time both sides right. Of course, I think most of the time, both sides will co-op a message and then twist it, distort it and make it exclusive. I don’t know what to do about it other than pray, honestly.

Bishop Wright: 14:53

So to make it a godly cause. I’m not looking to defeat another political party, I’m looking to defeat hate. That’s the giant. The giant, for me, is not an opposing political party. The giant is hate. The giant is poverty, the giant, you know I mean. And on and on and on. The giant is misogyny. The giant is homophobism, on and on and on. I’m not looking to defeat a person.

Bishop Wright: 15:17

You know St Paul helps us. Right, we war not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness, right In high places. Right, that’s what we’re against. So if I can come against that, only using the spiritual heft that Jesus taught us his practices, his ways, his stories, my cause has a higher likelihood of being righteous. But if I’m trying to bring Jesus down and to defeat these people that I disagree with, one wonders if that’s going to actually have the spiritual heft of Jesus’s spirit in it. And I think not.

Bishop Wright: 15:53

Look, the greatest among us, the greatest teachers among us, spiritual teachers among us, have found ways to communicate this very thing. We see Desmond Tutu. Desmond Tutu hates apartheid, but he doesn’t hate PW Botha or FW DeKlerk, but he hurts the thing that is robbing the dignity of both the oppressed and the oppressor. His cause is righteous Right. King wants to change America, but he wants to do it nonviolently. His cause is righteous, and on and on and on and on Right. And so so we’ve got to ask ourselves if I’m going to be a giant defeater for God. Am I going to tell God who the giants are, or I’m going to let God tell me who the giants are, or I’m going to let God tell me who the giants are and then to pick the one that God has uniquely equipped me to take on? That’s the interesting part of this thing we just had on the podcast. As you know, the new oh he’s trying to defeat is food insecurity, and that’s a righteous cause. That’s a God cause. That in this wealthy country where we throw away tons of food, that people have food, that the working poor have resources, even though they’ve got two jobs and still can’t make ends meet, that they’ve got something. Or the lawyer who’s been on this podcast, who has given himself and his bright mind to defeating sexual trafficking and is taking on hotels that sit idly by and watch this happen in their hotel rooms and in their lobbies, et cetera, et cetera, right here in Atlanta. So those are godly causes, right? Not the defeat of some other political party right, or to watch some political opponent’s demise, you know, or see that demise.

Bishop Wright: 17:57

No, this is silliness and it doesn’t yield anything a great good for the culture. I mean, look where we are. We’re in this terrible spiraling downward spin of division upon division, and I think maybe the problem is it’s easier to fight with one another than it is to take on the actual giants. And when I think of bipartisan, I think what would it be like to use all of the bright minds of these men and women on both sides of the issues to take on these things in a way that has real integrity, that we’re solving lots of the problems in this culture. So I think that’s one, but I think also what gives us sort of a run at this is for us to understand that we have to use the strengths and practices that we have and that we trust. These are the gifts that have been given to us, as you remember in the story. Trust, these are the gifts that have been given to us.

Bishop Wright: 19:04

You know, as you remember in the story, uh, david tried to put on, you know, the armor of saul. He tried to use all of saul’s equipment and it really. I mean, you can just imagine it was a clanking failure. You know, he’s just so. This sort of teenager with a teenager’s frame who’s got this you know grown man warriors outfit on? He’s all dressed up, he can’t barely move and he says no, I tell you what I’ll just trust the slingshot. The slingshot’s brought me this far and I’ll just go with that. And I think that’s a word to us, that we’ve got to take a real good, clear look about the strengths that you and I already have, all of them gifts from God. And then how can I bring my strengths and my practices and my experiences to bear? I don’t have to be somebody else, I don’t have to talk like anybody else. I can just be me and understand that I’m a gifted instrument in the hand of God, appointed at those things that would frustrate God’s grace and offend God.

Melissa: 20:06

Yeah, and I love that. That fourth reminder use the instruments, strengths and practices that you trust. There are gifts. I think that’s a message that our church in general needs to hear, bishop, because many of our churches are fearing Our giant right now is, I think, financial sustainability. Churches are fearing are giant right now is, I think, financial sustainability, and I think so many churches feel like utterly defeated that we just need more money and gosh. I think that’s so false. So I’m sorry I didn’t mean to bring up that thing, but nothing is impossible with God who strengthens us, I think is truly, first and foremost, a reality.

Bishop Wright: 20:41

You know, I think if I was able to sort of, you was able to go back at that a little bit. I’m not sure that the giant is really financial instability. I wonder about the other giant. We’re looking at churches, mainstream denominational churches declining all around. They’re a shadow of what they were in the 1950s and 1960s in terms of attendance and in terms of resources right, and in terms of relevance, right. And so decline is real and I don’t want to delegitimize that at all and I don’t want to sort of poo-poo. The strain and the struggle that a lot of sort of great people are dealing with day-to-day trying to sort of keep a roof over these congregations’ heads et cetera, I know it full well. In fact it’s been my work for every day for the last 13 years. I understand it so well and yet I wonder if the giant isn’t really not decline.

Bishop Wright: 21:39

It’s being the church not decline being the church. Yeah Well, I think the real giant is living out the ministry and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s what I think it is, and so one of the things that David’s ministry proves is that you can be small, but you can be mighty right. And so I would rather have a small church that is betting big on God than a big church that looks more like an empire expression, that has high spires and beautiful windows but doesn’t have the stuff of the Christian faith. I think that’s what I’d rather say is the giant. And so how do we defeat that? Well, we invite people to double down on a relationship with Jesus Christ. We invite people to take up the basic practices of the faith. We invite people to get really clear about who’s at the center of what it means to be Christians, and it’s not the nation state, it’s not the bishop, it’s not the priest or the deacon, it’s an abiding, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, lived in community one with the other.

Melissa: 22:50

And that’s all she wrote.

Bishop Wright: 22:53

And that just gets you in the fight with the giant right. And all of that it doesn’t win the day because we know that David was able to get it done in a couple of days and you and I we’re talking a lifetime here.

Melissa: 23:04

Yeah, that’s right. Well, thanks be to God for that work, bishop, and thank you, and thank you, listeners, for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.