Last week my charge to you was to be an encourager. To comfort and exhort those people in your life you care about. Show them that you value them by contributing to their success.
Be like the prophet who came to Gideon, find a place where you know you can do good in the lives around you and begin encouraging others.
I remember when Margo and I were at the group home, we were challenged to say 4 positive statements to the kids before we said 1 negative statement.
That was “believed” to be the best possible atmosphere to develop in. And I totally agree. You catch a lot more flies with honey, right? When the time came to exhort the child, they were more receptive to it because they knew you still loved them.
For example: there once was “An elderly pastor who was searching his closet for a tie before church one Sunday morning.
In the back of the closet, he found a small box containing 3 eggs and 100--$1.00 bills.
He called his wife into the closet to ask her about the box and its contents. Embarrassed, she admitted having hidden the box for the entire 30 years of marriage.
Disappointed and hurt, the pastor asked her “why?”
The wife replied that she hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings.
He asked how the box could have hurt his feelings.
She said that every time during their marriage that he delivered a poor sermon, she placed an egg into the box.
The pastor felt that 3 poor sermons in 30 years was certainly nothing to feel bad about, so he asked what about the $100.00, what was that for?
She replied, “Each time I got a dozen eggs, I sold them to the neighbor for $1.00! (Hold up money) ouch…
What did his wife do wrong? Yeah... she did not encourage her husband by giving him feedback, and she took no time to encourage him by comforting him because he didn’t know there was a problem.
Well, the other reason I wanted to share that story was because my sermon for today was written over a two week time period... and in the first week, I had all the time in the world to study, whereas this past week, my time was much more limited and the distractions were all over the place.
And when I came across this pastor story, I thought to myself... man, this sermon I am writing... may not be any good either! I am going to bomb out!
I wish someone would just give me an egg - like as soon as I started - just so that I knew that it was OK to have a bad day…
You know, getting this egg reminds me, that I am not perfect. It also reminds me that some of my life’s best work does not come from what I consider my strengths, but rather from my weaknesses.
A christian life should not be an arrogant life, it is not about self sufficiency, but rather a humble realization that I need Christ to shine through my weaknesses, in every area of my life.
Like I said, I have never struggled through a sermon quite like this one. You see, I had pages of information written down far above any kind of time that should be allotted for me to speak.
I mean, if I were to give you the kind of sermon that I had put on paper... we would have been here for another 2 hours and yet, I wasn't convinced, that even if we had taken all that time, that any of that sermon... was what God would have you hear from me today.
I was feeling like a failure as I tried to write something that I thought you could digest, something that I thought... could give you spiritual growth in your life.
I got to this point in the lesson, right here... where we're looking at Judges 6:14 which reads...
14 “The Lord turned to him (That is Gideon) and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
On this verse, the verse that I was convinced we needed to talk about, I bogged down. Right here is where I spent most of my time just writing and rewriting and editing, and then hitting backspace, and deleting, and creating a new file, and creating a new document.
Yet none of those things was actually producing good fruit, where I felt at peace knowing that this is the “thing” that God would have me say to you in this moment.
And for this sermon, I felt so weak and helpless in writing it... I believed I was going to fail.
So... I just stopped… I got back down on my knees... and I just started praying my heart out...
“God, I know you've given me this awesome responsibility to do, and I am so humbled to be used by you. I know you've given me something to say to all these people I care about.
I know these people are coming to church with some general expectation that they're going to hear something of importance from you. Something that's going to breathe life... into their life.
And yet, I can't seem to get it on paper. I am starting to really think that I don’t know how to say it... tell me again… what would you have me say?
Refresh me with your spirit so I know that I am saying and doing what you want me to do! I desire for you to be praised”
Somehow, right there, as I was praying, I felt my words being the exact same words… that were written here in this chapter.
Where Gideon has been called out, to a purpose. To fulfill what God sees in him to do...
And Gideon is responding, “I can't wrap my mind around this! Why pick me? I am the weak link in your plan!
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
As I was applying Gideon’s story to my life…..
I found it interesting that Gideon reminds God that he is both from the smallest tribe and considered the least in his family… as if God didn’t know.
I mean was he sizing up his clan versus the other clans at some point? As if he was trying to size up the competition at the local field and track event?
Perhaps he was just told that, by another member in his family, that they were seemingly nobody among all the other tribes...
Perhaps he was told that he would never amount to anything-much because of his low position?
OR Did he try to do other noble things but nobody would listen because he was the runt of the litter?
We don’t really know… all we can do is assume that his human experience may have been similar to our human experience.
God said “Go in the strength you have” and Gideon was already limiting himself, already saying God, I will fail at this!
What about YOU?
When you grew up, where you a “kind of Gideon?” Where you someone who was not really encouraged to be someone great?
Where you the person others overlooked because you were the middle child, or you did not have grades, or status, or money, or athletic ability, so you became the “Gideon on the Bench.”
Perhaps you came to believe that you were just not as important as other people because great people came from great families.
Perhaps you found that your contribution was needed less than everyone else’s contribution?
I am sure that we all can relate. I am sure that somewhere in our biographies there are stories of feeling week, feeling scared, or we have experienced the fear of failure.
Church, what’s with God anyway?… Why did he choose Gideon? Why does God choose people in the Bible who are the weakest of the weak?
For example: Exodus 3:9 beginning in verse 9
9 “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you.”
Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah was commissioned and look what he said in Jeremiah 1:6
“I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Paul in Eph 3:7
7 “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,”
I’m scratching my head here… what’s going on?
Pastor J.T. Hamly tells us why... when he said, “out of the conscious weakness that these men knew that they had, these were the same men who were made strong for the work to which they had been called.
Gideon’s touching confession of his own insufficiency reminds us, that this spirit is the characteristic of the great men of the Bible.”
So why does God do that? Why is he so bent on choosing people who have a humble disposition?
Perhaps 1 Corinthians 1:27 says it best:
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,” WHY??” 29 so that no one may boast before him.”
So again when we look at our text in Judges 6 we can see that Gideon has the right heart, he has humility, and apparently this is the first requirement to be blessed by God.
I truly believe that… That humility is the first requirement to be blessed by God.
He continually chooses people who have a humble nature, to do his work.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that God does not use people who have clear strengths, but rather that this strength, in someone’s life, will only be used by God, after it has been made perfect…
It’s perfection comes from being born again and it comes from humility, when we have the right heart attitude towards God.
When we are using whatever gifts we have been given specifically in a way that gives God all the glory... and so keeping none of that glory for ourselves... then... we are ready to be used by God with the gifts he has given us.
Gideon had the right heart... he had humility, and therefore when it came to “how”.... God was saying use the gifts I gave you.
So... if your heart is right, then this morning I would also like to charge you, as the prophet charged Gideon, to go in the strengths you have.
God has given you a very special life. A life that has developed unlike any other life around you. He has given you talents and abilities and other spiritual gifts so that you can impact the world around you.
You are not just another blade of grass in the lawn that has no originality, no differences from those around you, ….no…. you are special. You were meant for great things. You were meant to be the salt of the earth giving flavor to life.
God has made you and designed you in such a way, that those whom you come in contact with should walk away feeling blessed.
He has also added you to this church because you have something that this family needs.
You have something that this church can use to spread the gospel message all over this place.
Today I want to show you how unique you are by explaining the spiritual gifts God has given you.
Charles Ryrie in his Basic Theology book writes, “that there exists three categories of gifts in every Christian's life.
“Number one. Natural abilities. God given at Birth, they include things like IQ, a measure of health and strength, musical talents, linguistic abilities, Mechanical Aptitude, etc…”
Number two. Acquired abilities. These include things like cooking, sewing, driving a car, learning a language, learning to play an instrument, etc... Although we may tend to take such skills for granted, many people in the world have few opportunities to acquire skills in these areas.”
“Number three. Spiritual gifts. Like Leadership, Service, Teaching, Mercy, and so on.”
Charles Ryrie goes on to say, “A Believer should inform himself of the total package of these various abilities that God has placed in his life. In other words, we should take inventory to know what stock we have available for the Lord's use. Just going through the process of taking inventory periodically may help the believer ascertain what areas of service he ought to explore.”
Romans 12:6-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.
8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Now, the reason why I chose Gideon was because I want you to also begin to think outside of the box when it comes to what you can do for God. You have weaknesses that are really strengths in the Lord.
You have skills and abilities that can be tapped into that perhaps you never even thought of before because you were too focused on your might, rather than on His might.
I want to encourage you… like the prophet encouraged Gideon, to use every part of your life for God. To brush off those weaknesses and use them for God as well.
Let me show you what Gideon did.
We will see this in chapter 7 of Judges, I’d like to read part of this chapter with you...
Verse 1: “Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, OR Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’”
3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.”
8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. 9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.
10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”
19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled……”
Now, from our text we saw that God reduced the amount of men to 300 and likewise received all the glory, and again where was Gideon?
Did you see him riding a white horse with flashy chrome plated armor?
No… that would not be consistent with his gifts. What made Gideon special was that he was wearing “camouflage.” Yes Gideon developed camo… it’s true.
Growing up he learned how to hide in the clefts of the rocks in order to live, right?
He was dodging the bully by hiding in the “wine press cafeteria” to prepare his lunch, remember?
We didn’t take the time to look at it, but beginning in verse 25 of chapter 6 Gideon was obedient to God in destroying the town idol AND because he was afraid of the townspeople - he did it at night, like with night vision goggles where he could hide his intentions in the dark.
Then, when he is filled with the spirit and begins to fight the battle, he is again using the night as cover to hide - which makes the army turn on each other when they hear the trumpets and shouting.
The point is this… Gideon did go in the “strength he had”... he used his strength, the skill of “hiding,” to accomplish a great purpose that God had called him to.
In fact God honored his gift of hiding, by not asking him to change out of his camouflage, but rather commanded him to fight at night, which was what Gideon was good at, and we see that in verse 9.
Most importantly, God got ALL the glory, from the battle. Gideons strength or gift did not take away from God’s glory, it in fact brought glory to God, and that is the most important thing!
That is what the gifts of God do. They enable us to be strong in the Lord, rather than in ourselves.
Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
By way of application, think about your life… Can you see that God has already been working in your life?
God has been allowing difficulty, and trials, and people, and mentors into your life so that you will be able to do the things that he has called you to do.
He has lovingly and patiently allowed things into your life so that you can learn from them, so that you can begin to value what He values.
So think for a minute, what are your weaknesses?
Has God allowed you to be physically weak? Then use it as a strength, a gift from the Lord… maybe he is calling you to witness at the hospitals… think about it.
Has God allowed you to be poor? Than comfort those who are also poor.
Has God allowed your family to enter hardships, and discomforts? Than mentor someone who is still struggling, teach them how to face those trials…
Your biography can be used! It should be used! Don’t look to only the things you did well… look at all those things that were clear weaknesses to the outside world, and then boast of Christ... for getting you through it!
As we close then, let me encourage you, be like Paul and Gideon. If you are going to boast about something, boast about your weakness. Be humble before our God, and present your works in a way that gives glory to him.
Imagine if you will what could happen in this church if we all were committed to our God, by identifying our gifts and then using them to change the world we live in.
Imagine the blessing that this church could be in our community if we were brave enough to say things like: I was an addict for 23 years, but God freed me, let me help you.
Christ said to his disciples in luke 10:2 “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you.”
Look at your surroundings… please think about why you are where you are. Why has God placed you in Interlaken? Why has he given you time in hospitals? Why has he given you this specific kind of trial? Why?
Rusty Stevens, a Navigators director in Virginia Beach, Virginia, tells this story:
“As I feverishly pushed the lawn mower around our yard, I wondered if I’d finish before dinner. Mikey, our 6-year-old, walked up and, without even asking, stepped in front of me and placed his hands on the mower handle.
Knowing that he wanted to help me, I quit pushing. The mower quickly slowed to a stop. Chuckling inwardly at his struggles, I resisted the urge to say, “Get out of here, kid. You’re in my way,” and said instead, “Here, Son. I’ll help you.”
As I resumed pushing, I bowed my back and leaned forward, and walked spread-legged to avoid colliding with Mikey. The grass cutting continued, but more slowly, and less efficiently than before, because Mikey was “helping” me.
Suddenly, tears came to my eyes as it hit me: This is the way my heavenly Father allows me to “help” him build his kingdom!
I pictured my heavenly Father at work seeking, saving, and transforming the lost, and there I was, with my weak hands “helping.”
My Father could do the work himself, but he doesn’t. He chooses to stoop gracefully to allow me to co-labor with him.
For my sake, because he wants me to have the privilege of ministering WITH him.”