I was recently discussing with some friends a “successful” regional ministry that collapsed. This ministry was a model for some and the source of jealousy for others. I am sure that it left many questioning their own church’s ministry and their effectiveness in serving Jesus. The sad reality is that that “successful” ministry collapsed recently.
I share this teaser not to drag another ministry through the mud (I was one that was grieved by what happened.) I share it to cause us to think about how we have Americanized our expectations for the local church. This past week in our “Summer of Faith Series,” where we have had visits from many of the individuals of Hebrews 11, Gideon was our guest.
I was reminded that Gideon, for all practical purposes, believed that God had forsaken the Israelites. He like many of us had let the culture determine his interpretation of circumstances rather than seeing things from God’s perspective. The Biblical account in Judges 6 begins with him receiving a visitor while he is threshing grain in a wine press to hide it from the enemy. The visitor, an angel of the Lord, says to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Gideon takes issue for the statement that God was with him. He responds, “If the Lord is with us then why has all this happened?” Just because things were bad does not mean that God is not with us. Even when the difficulties are part of our own doing like it was here, God had not forsaken his people. In fact the visit by the Angel of the Lord was God’s response to the cries of His people.
We also see that Gideon did not think very highly of himself or that God would use him. The Angel of the Lord did not respond to Gideon’s whining but admonished him to do something. “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; bdo not I send you?” To which Gideon responded, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, dmy clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” We recognize that these poor excuses reflect Gideon’s view of himself. He had again allowed cultural limits to define what God could do through him.
God also had to remind Gideon that numbers do not matter when God is involved. God would trim Gideon’s army from 32,000 soldiers down to 300 men. Now I can only imagine what Gideon is thinking when the first batch of 22,000 men takes God’s offer to not fight. And then when God further thins the numbers by dismissing 9,700. Yet God had reveals that He wanted everyone know that the victory came from the Lord, not their talents, abilities or numbers.
My take away from Gideon’s challenge to live by faith, is to look at myself and my ministry from God’s perspective. First, God is always with me even when things get tough. Second, there are no valid excuses for not serving God. And third, God can use me if I will let Him.