The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“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.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” [Judges 6:11-16]
Last week, toward the end of the Global Leadership Summit I sat absolutely transfixed, with tears in my eyes while one of the last speakers of the two day event read aloud this ancient Bible story about Gideon. Maybe it was just the mental exhaustion of two full days of leadership training and Bible teaching I had just sat through. But as author Danielle Strickland, a senior officer of The Salvation Army, explained the story of how God appeared to Gideon while he was hiding from the Midianites and the transformation that occurred in his life as a result I started to see myself in Gideon and God’s words to him somehow became His words to me. As the tears started to run down my cheeks God put a bookend on the GLS and commissioned me to go out and do ministry.
Gideon was the youngest in his family. So am I. He had been told all his life that he was weak, that he could never do anything of significance for God or his fellow Israelites. When God found him he was hiding out in a winepress, most likely an underground wine cellar like the one shown, where an oppressive government couldn’t find him, trying to scrape out enough flour to survive. While my upbringing wasn’t exactly poor, and the messages I received from my family and community weren’t all negative I’ve never had my biggest dreams affirmed in a way that would give me enough confidence to go out and take on the world. Like Gideon, I have always had the tape running in the back of my head that says; “Who do you think you are? Just accept your lot in life and don’t rock the boat.”
When God appeared to Gideon and opened by call him a “mighty warrior”, Gideon understandably thought he had the wrong guy. I’ve questioned God’s wisdom in calling me to ministry too. I echo Gideon when I say to Him; “Pardon me Lord, but if you really want me to lead a ministry of financial reconciliation why have you allowed me to go bankrupt and struggle with my own finances for so long?”
God’s response to Gideon’s reservations is his response to mine as well. “Use the strength I have given you, it’s enough. I am sending you.”
Last week I wrote about my first impressions from the GLS and Bill Hybels opening remarks. Leadership is about moving from here to there, and as long as there exists, staying here is just not an option. This week it’s about strength and humility.
After she opened her talk with the story of Gideon, Strickland had us image a horizontal line and called it the continuum of true humility. The degree to which you are either insecure or arrogant is the degree to which you agree with God about who you truly are. Too far to either extreme and God may need to step in and bring you back to centre. I tend to swing wildly between extremes but at the end of the day I will usually settle somewhere on the side of insecurity.
She then had us image a vertical line and called it the continuum of true dependency. Strickland went on to explain that the degree to which we strive for self-sufficiency or co-dependency is the degree to which we agree with God about who He is. Our western society has sold us the lie that we must strive for more self-sufficiency and that depending on God, or anyone for that matter for help is a sign of weakness. But the truth is that we must carve out pockets of dependency in our lives in order for God to have the space He needs to show up and move in us.
I can’t tell you the number of times that people have quoted what they thought was a Bible verse as a way to show me, and others that it’s up to us to fix our own problems. “God helps those who help themselves,” is a popular mantra of self-sufficiency but it’s not in the Bible. The phrase is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin. There are a few comments made by King Solomon in Proverbs that promote the idea that God rewards initiative and some of the parables of Jesus, like the parable of the talents for example, show that God definitely wants us to work at things but the notion of God waiting for us to do something before he will bestow a blessing is just flat wrong. It’s those moments when we cannot help ourselves that God is able to step and move mountains.
Gideon’s encounter with God ends with him leading an army of just 300 men who defeat the Midianites without ever firing a single arrow or drawing a single sword. Gideon the “mighty warrior” is a case study in how God fights wars but that’s a discussion for another time…
God lives at the intersection of true humility and true dependency. The effectiveness of your mission depends on the degree to which you agree with God about who you are and who He is. When you step forward, in true humility and true dependency you step into God’s will, His peace and His righteousness and the Kingdom comes…