The Strength You Have
050-00739 Judges 6:1-16
I. Have you ever been faced with a situation that you weren’t sure you were up to?
A. New experiences are often times kind of frightening.
1. The first day in a new school.
2. Your first career job out of college.
3. Driving you wife and first child home from the hospital.
a) You know how to drive.
b) You have been driving for sometime without worries.
c) It’s not like the first time behind the wheel even.
d) It’s worse – you have the fate of this totally dependent new life in your hands.
4. Sometimes we are called upon to do things we never feel adequate doing.
a) Yesterday Barbara and I had to become recertified by the Red Cross in CPR, First Aid, and the use of an AED which is automated external defibrillation.
b) The CPR training we go through every year and this is the fourth time for us.
c) At the end of the day when we are filling out the questionnaire I can confidently say I know what to do in an emergency but I cannot say that I feel prepared to actually step into a situation and do what is necessary and right.
d) Why? Because the stakes are so high that I have an internal fear that even with training I am liable to make a critical error that results in disaster.
B. I have spoken with many very mature Christians who feel a similar kind of trepidation when it comes to serving as an Elder or a Deacon.
1. I truly believe that those who feel this way are actually the best qualified to serve because it is not the knowledge one brings to the office that counts.
2. It is something else altogether. And this something else can’t really exist if there isn’t a healthy sense of inadequacy.
3. What is this unique thing? I think Gideon gives us a significant clue.
II. The Call of Gideon.
A. Once again Israel acts in disobedience to God’s covenant with them.
1. Sometimes I get a little frustrated reading the same lines over and over again: “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
a) But my frustration comes from a judgmental attitude that places me above the Hebrews.
b) And as James points out to us: James 4:11 Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
2. So Israel has once again turned from loving God with all their hearts.
a) And God has once again brought discipline to Israel.
b) And Israel has once again cried out in their suffering.
c) And God has once again heard their cries and comes to them.
3. Recognize that there is one other element that is repeated in this pattern. And this time it shows up twice.
a) When God comes to his people, he brings up again that he is the God who delivered the Israelites from their oppression and slavery in Egypt.
(1) The story of the Exodus is the experience of salvation at the heart of the covenant of God.
(2) It is the foundation of their relationship with him.
(3) The might hand of God in deliverance is always the root of relationship with him. He is the first to act and his action is deliverance.
(4) This has not changed from the Old Testament to the New.
(5) It is salvation in Jesus Christ which is the foundation of all relationship with God. There is no other name by which we can be saved. There is no other way to approach God.
b) What is interesting here is that Gideon, the man chosen by God to be his instrument of deliverance in this situation already knows the lesson God is teaching Israel.
(1) He may not understand the nature of Israel’s sin and how that disobedience break the relationship.
(2) But he certainly understands that because of Egypt God has made certain promises to Israel.
B. But what is really important here is that Gideon does not feel adequate for the job to which he is called.
1. He sees that God has been the judge of Israel.
2. He recognizes that his clan is the weakest in Manasseh and that he is the most insignificant in his clan.
3. He cannot see that he has the ability to be and to do what God is calling him to be and to do.
4. And this is the key: God says, “Go in the strength you have.”
C. What is the strength that Gideon possesses?
1. It is not physical strength.
2. It is not numerical strength. The author points out that the eastern peoples came up like swarms of locusts. No one could count the number of people and their camels.
3. It is not bravery of courage.
a) Gideon does his work in hiding for fear of the Midianites.
b) Gideon doesn’t react to God’s call by jumping up with a gung-ho attitude.
4. Gideon’s strength is a strength that he doesn’t even see.
5. But the clue to his strength is found in the first words he says to God: Gideon trusts God shown by his wondering why his mighty God has allowed the situation as he has.
a) Gideon sees God as the ultimate ruler of all the world.
b) Gideon knows God as a deliverer, and that with a mighty hand.
c) And God confirms that he is Gideon’s strength: “I will be with you.”
6. Gideon’s strength lies in his weakness. Gideon’s strength is that he know that he is incapable of doing what God is calling him to do.
III. 1 Corinthians 1:27 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. 2 Corinthians 12:10 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.
A. I believe that Paul understood the strength of Gideon when he wrote these lines to the Corinthians.
1. I wonder if these lines are among the most difficult for us to swallow.
2. We are Americans. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We are the defenders of right and the founders of democracy. This is not only what we are taught from the first of our days. It is what confronts us every day of our lives.
3. In the past 110 years, it is this very belief that has drawn us into the conflicts of the world with the assurance and confidence that we have the answers to the problems others face.
a) WW I; WW II; Korea; Vietnam; Iraq; Israel and Palestine; Croatia; Communism; Socialism; Fascism; South America; Africa; you name the evil and you name the place.
b) Our underlying philosophy has been stated many times and many ways, but maybe no more clear than when Teddy Roosevelt quoted a west African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
B. How different it is to read Paul. And how different it is to hear Christ: Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
1. Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when he said anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child?
2. I’m pretty sure he did not mean that we are to be childish.
3. But what does he mean by “little child.”
4. I think Jesus is talking here about faith. But I think he is also presenting us with a picture of faith that we are not really used to thinking about.
C. What is faith, really?
1. When I think about faith, I generally assume that faith is knowing, accepting, and trusting in some truth as presented in a statement.
a) For instance, when I think about the Christian faith, I most often begin to think about what things a person needs to know and believe about God and Jesus in order to truly be considered a Christian.
(1) In other words, I think about what theologies one needs to accept to be saved and to be orthodox.
(2) Let’s see, you have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, that he was raised from the dead. Is that enough?
b) As I reflect on it all, I suspect that this defining of faith has been a problem in two ways.
(1) First, it minimizes what salvation really is. So you know you are saved if you have the right understanding of the right truths and come to some degree of acceptance of these truths.
(a) If I can know I am saved by this test, I can also know you are saved because we agree on the same right truths.
(b) But then I believe in eternal salvation so I somehow have to conclude that once I say I believe the right things, I am saved forever no matter what I do or how much I doubt later on.
(c) The practical result of this has been that evangelism is about closing the deal; convincing someone to accept certain truths and praying the “believer’s prayer.” Salvation becomes a matter of the Roman Road or the 4 Spiritual Laws or some other evangelistic program that can be packaged and sold.
(2) But such an approach to faith also has resulted in huge debates, arguments, and very unchristian behaviors when it comes to deciding exactly what the list of right truths one has to believe in order to become saved.
(a) So. For example, most Christians throughout the centuries have felt that the basic standard is the Apostles’ Creed. Yet there are major differences when interpreting “born of the virgin Mary,” and “he descended to hell.”
(b) We have traditionally, in the Christian Reformed Church practiced that one could not profess faith until they had been taught the Heidelberg Catechism and accepted the truths taught there. In fact, that is what all catechisms have become, tests of orthodox faith.
c) Now I don’t want to give the impression that I think correct knowledge and acceptance of theological truth is unimportant or irrelevant to faith.
(1) I’m just not sure that this is what the sum total of what faith really is.
(2) I wonder that if such an understanding is really necessary to true faith, where does that leave those who cannot know theology because they are not capable of comprehending it all.
(3) How old does a child have to be to know and understand enough to have faith?
(4) How well developed to the mind have to be to comprehend enough to be saved?
(5) There is no definitive answer to these questions – if that is what faith is really all about.
2. Now we believe the Bible teaches that to enter the kingdom of God one must be saved and to be saved one must have faith. But Jesus gives us a picture of a little child having the kind of faith necessary for entrance into the kingdom.
a) What the term “Little Child” means is infant or one of undeveloped understanding.
b) So what is faith in one who is unable to understand?
c) Think about an infant for a moment.
(1) What is the most dominant characteristic of an infant?
(2) Could it be that an infant is totally and absolutely dependent upon another for all of its life needs?
(3) Could it be that a baby is incapable of providing for itself anything it needs to survive?
(4) Could it be that babies, all babies, enter this world with a fundamental trust that when it cries out it will receive what is necessary? Dry clothes; milk; touch and comfort.
(5) Could it be that the greatest faith in all the world is the faith lived and expressed by an infant who knows nothing else?
d) What did Jesus mean when he said we have to be born again?
e) What did he mean when he said we should let babies alone enough to be free to reach out to him?
f) What does a baby know other than need?
3. What is faith?
a) I believe that faith in its most basic and truest form is a dependence that requires an absolute trust for whatever is needed for life.
b) And if this is right, then the weakness of a little defenseless and helpless infant is the very weakness that is our greatest strength.
IV. Go in the strength you have.
A. But I have no strength.
B. Exactly. I will be with you.