All of us that are awed by current (William’s display at the US Open) and past events (9/11) this past week. All of us that are broken hearted and others that are full of joy. Take a risk for God in the upcoming week!
6 The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. So the LORD handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. 2 The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, 4 camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. 5 These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. 6 So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help.
7 When they cried out to the LORD because of Midian, 8 the LORD sent a prophet to the Israelites. He said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt. 9 I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you. I drove out your enemies and gave you their land. 10 I told you, ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
11 Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”
13 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
16 The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
A couple of days ago I called my family. After talking with my mom and Bill our conversation ended with the words “take care.” That same day I ran into Bill’s niece at McDonalds. She related to me that because of her high blood pressure she has been “taking care.” Even after working on this sermon I have caught myself more than once telling someone to “take care.”
Randy Gariss of College Heights Christian Church gave a sermon series a couple of years ago which he titled “How to ruin your life.” In his sermon titled “Always take the Safe Route” he tells how there are no normal people in the Bible. And that you do not see anyone in the Holy Bible taking the safe route. He goes on speaking about how the Christian life is not about what we did not do such as drinking, smoking, or what movies we did not go and see. Rather, the Christian life is about the risks we take such as reaching out to the single mother, providing some guidance in the life of a sixth grade boy, or standing in the gap of an abusive situation. His other three messages out of Judges were: “How to ruin your life: Embrace the Culture. How to ruin your life: Live in the Past. How to ruin your life: Crippled by Your Strength.” If I may borrow from Randy then I would put it this way, How to ruin your life: Always Take Care.
SOME WHO TOOK A RISK
Does the Holy Bible say anything about taking care? Did Noah take care when he was warned about things not yet seen? You remember the story of how God told him to build a boat where there was no water to float the boat. Can you hear Noah saying, “But Lord? I have never seen water that would float a boat?” However, someone willing to take risk would spend the better part of their life building that boat. Furthermore, Noah then brought two of every living animal into the boat along with his family. Can you hear Abraham saying, “But Lord? Kill my son Isaac, the son I love?” Someone that would be willing to take a risk for God would put a knife to his son’s throat. Building a boat where there is no water, being willing to slit Isaacs throat on the woodpile than at the last moment being told to hold back does this sound like taking care? By the way I think Isaac could have run away from his father; however, he chose obedience instead. Moses was in his eighties when God called him. If Moses was the sort of person that took care then he would have remained perfectly content working as a shepherd of livestock in a far off remote place with his wife and children. But instead of choosing to take life easy and retire he faced up to the greatest known ruler of the world at that time and said to Pharaoh “Let my people go!” Taking care certainly does not mean wandering the desert for the next forty years with about two million followers! It would have been easier for Joshua to remain on the east side of the Jordan River instead he chose to obey the Lord and take by force the Promised Land. I am sure that each of these people from the Holy Bible began their calling by saying, “But Lord? Build a boat, sacrifice my son, speak to Pharaoh, cross the river?” “But Lord?” Every one of these heroes of the faith can say that taking the risk for God was far greater then doing nothing at all.
There have been countless others outside of the Holy Bible that have taken a risk for God. Tertullian, a Christian thinker of the third century observed that the spilled blood of Christian martyrs is like “seed” that causes the church to spread and grow through the powerful example of a faith worth dying for.
Listen, what risk is the Lord asking us to take?
IN OUR CULTURE
It has been said that most people living in the United States of America today are three generations removed from the farm. Some people can not tell you where their milk comes from or what a heifer is. The growing indifference towards agricultural life can have serious implications such as the loss of land to non agricultural purposes which can then relate to the USA having to import the food we consume. Do you know how blessed we are to grow our own crops and raise our own animals? Think how a different kind of indifference relates to church culture. I bet every one of us can think of someone that is three generations removed from the church. For example: a friend of yours does not go to church, their parents did not go, and in some cases their grandparents did not go either. I know that there have been some that have imagined a world without God and his church. Do you know what kind of world this would be? It would become a world in which everyone does what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). Oh, we must take a risk for God. If we do not do something about the growing indifference towards God and his church in our culture then God is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah! God destroyed these two cities because they did what was right in their own eyes. I like to think the best of one another; however, societal degradation occurs when people choose to make their own decisions. How this must sadden our Father whom deeply desires us to be reconciled to him!
Think with me how Christ, a new believer, and Gideon impacted the culture in which they lived. How did Christ live on earth? He came as a servant that was willing to suffer for you and me so that through his death, burial and resurrection we have been made right in God’s sight. How has a new believer impacted their culture? In some parts of the world belief in Christ is not easy. For some that come from an Islamic, Hindu, or animistic background a commitment to Christ often comes along with being shunned by family and friends. Please pray for new believers in places like these whom are at this very moment undergoing severe persecution (John 15:20). Remember, the Christian martyr’s blood is like a “seed” that causes the church to spread and grow because it was a faith worth dieing for. How did Gideon impact his culture? Think back with me to how Gideon was hiding from his enemies before the Lord strengthened him (Judges 6:11). The rest of Gideon’s story is about how God gave him the victory to make a difference in his culture. When Gideon had brought together all his fighting men, God had him release all who were frightened. 22,000 of them went home; therefore, leaving 10,000 that were willing to fight. I imagine 22,000 going home and saying to their families, “I was praying that God would get me out of there and that he would allow me to go home and take care.” God would eventually cut Gideon’s army down to only 300 men. With only 300 men there was no way Gideon and his men would be able to defeat the Midianites. However, with the Lord’s help they did! Can you imagine what those 300 said to their families when they returned home? “Glory to God now and forevermore!” Anything in our lives that is worthwhile will take a risk. And like Gideon all of us including Christ have a “But Lord” nature to us. Jesus’ happened in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed to the Father “If you are willing take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Are you going to allow your culture to impact you as those 22,000 did or are you going to impact your culture as Gideon and the 300? If we are ready to take a risk for God then WHAT RISK IS THE LORD ASKING US TO TAKE?
Allow me to rephrase that question because we will never be ready to take a risk without the Lord’s help. Who in their right mind is actively willing to serve and suffer without the Lord’s help? Therefore, what risk is the Lord asking us to take?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
How might I be taking a risk? The Lord has asked me to give myself wholly to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and teaching. I have never done this before nor has anyone from my family that came before me. Furthermore, I am pursuing a master’s degree so that I can be a better spokesman for the Lord. Where I am weak God is strong!
If you are yet to repent and be baptized then I urge you to take that risk for God! And if you have already done so then Jesus asks, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This cross requires service and suffering but the promise of God’s help; therefore, with the Lord’s help take a risk for God! One more time, what risk is the Lord asking us to take? Two things: share your faith with someone that is preaching the Word unashamedly! And get actively involved in the local church. Find what you are good at and then give yourself fully to it. There is one more thing and that is God’s specific plan for your life. May we all give ourselves fully to it; therefore, praising God together by saying, “I thank Christ Jesus for considering me faithful; therefore, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy 1:12).