The story of Gideon offers scriptural guidance for times when the odds are overwhelming and defeat seems imminent. No matter what your challenges are, the Lord is able to demonstrate His awesome power and deliver you.
The Lord knows the best classroom is a place of utter helplessness.
God uses difficulty to build faith. Gideon was willing to believe God and go up against an army four times larger than his own. Trusting the Lord is a process that must be learned through experience. At times God takes the people He plans to use and places them in impossible situations—in that way, they discover He is faithful. We may prefer to acquire faith by reading a book, but the Lord knows the best classroom is a place of utter helplessness.
God may require us to do what seems unreasonable. The Israelites were already outnumbered, but the Lord instructed Gideon to reduce the army to a mere 300 men. That made the odds 450 to one! Although God’s ways may seem illogical to us, His wisdom and power are far greater than ours, and His plan can be trusted.
God leads us to do that which brings Him glory. Gideon’s army was so small that its men could in no way take credit for the victory. The Lord delights in demonstrating His awesome power and glory through our weakness and inadequacy.
Think of life’s challenges as opportunities for the Lord to build your faith and prepare you for ministry. He uses those who are willing to obey Him even when the task seems illogical or impossible. And He takes pleasure in showing His faithfulness to those who trust in Him regardless of the situation.
Signs on the highway show us many different sorts of things. Speed limits. Animal crossings. How to find a rest stop or avoid a construction site. Similarly, all of creation is a sign communicating God’s message to us. He speaks to us through a full moon, waves crashing against rocks, or a vividly colored aspen tree. As we look upon the wonders of nature, something inside us resonates with the glory, power, love, and beauty of the Creator.
The Lord expresses His message in still another way that may initially be hard for us to comprehend as love: through the fall of man. You might wonder, If God loves us, then why would He let the first couple sin, spoiling the perfection they enjoyed in the garden and breaking the fellowship they had with Him?
The connection between God’s love and man’s sin is freedom. In giving Adam and Eve the option to obey or disobey, God demonstrated that He has not created us as robots, incapable of making choices. His love does not restrict our freedom to do right or wrong—even if that involves our saying “no” to the God who created us. However, having the freedom to choose means we will make mistakes and disobey the God who loves us.
But the wonderful news is that God expresses His love toward those who have rebelled against Him, through His gracious offer of salvation and forgiveness. Jesus Christ, who paid our sin debt on the cross, is the ultimate expression of divine love.
Like Paul, we are called to live a crucified life—one in which we make the Lord first in our thinking, attitudes, and actions. Such a life includes learning how to walk by faith and stand firm against temptation. While we are unable to do this in our own strength, it is possible through the Holy Spirit. He empowers us to let go of self-centered ways and replace them with godly ones.
Paul’s faith and commitment to the Lord were integral parts of his thinking, conversation, and work. His passionate faith kept him moving forward, even in times of great adversity. The apostle knew that salvation brought forgiveness of the past and a way to live victoriously in the future.
Have you ever gone to the grocery on an empty stomach? You’re a sitting duck when you do. You buy everything you don’t need. Doesn’t matter if it’s good for you—you just want to fill your tummy!
When you’re lonely, you do the same in life–pulling stuff off the shelf, not because you need it, but because you’re hungry for love. Why do we do it?
Because we fear facing life alone. For fear of not fitting in, we take the drugs. For fear of standing out, we wear the latest trend in clothes. For fear of appearing small, we go into debt and buy the big house. For fear of sleeping alone, we sleep with anyone. For fear of not being loved, we search for love in all the wrong places.
But all that changes when we discover God’s perfect love. 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” You are not alone!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
A vague, bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.
This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?
Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful.
The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.
So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Not 95%, but 100%. (Matthew 22:37)
Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Be as eager for things to go well for him as you are for things to go well for you. (Matthew 22:39)
Do all things without grumbling. No grumbling—inside or outside. (Philippians 2:14)
Cast all your anxieties on him—so you are not being weighed down by it anymore. (1 Peter 5:7)
Only say things that give grace to others—especially those closest to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
Redeem the time. Don’t fritter or dawdle. (Ephesians 5:16)
But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded.
I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer. (“Put to death what is earthly in you,” Colossians 3:5; “Put to death the deeds of the body,” Romans 8:13.)
In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Peace rises.
Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.
Before I moved from Florida I had the opportunity to lead a divorce recovery group for my church. This group of people had experienced a significant loss in their life through divorce. Everyone, including myself, at one time went through a personal inventory to try and determine why the divorce happened as well as asking ourselves the age old question, “What did I do wrong?”
The divorce recovery group was in a setting that offered privacy, understanding and no condemnation. Throughout the meetings the participants discovered they were carrying a load of guilt. Their immediate guilt stemmed from the divorce but upon further reflection and prayer each individual realized they were dragging around spiritual baggage from the past that affected their lives without them fully realizing it.
If our spiritual baggage were visible, do you know what you would see? Suitcases of guilt, bulging with binges, blowups, and compromises. All of the participants had serious regrets about their divorce and wanted so badly to fix things but realized they couldn’t until such time as they became more stable in their own lives. Until that happened they carried around a bag of paralyzing guilt.
What were the keys among the group members to reestablishing a sense of worthiness and peace? Accepting the truth about themselves and through prayer and repentance making lasting changes in how they deal with friends and loved ones. What does God’s word say about all of this?
In Psalm 23:3 David said it like this, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” The path of righteousness is a narrow, winding trail up a steep hill. At the top is a cross. At the base of the cross are bags, countless bags full of innumerable sins. Calvary is the compost pile for guilt. Would you like to leave yours there as well?
We’re all human and make mistakes. God knows this and gives us the opportunity to change with His help. If God spoke to you, you’d probably hear Him say something like, “I love you and you can do this.” Our God is a loving God and heavenly Father. The next time you find yourself in a situation like we’ve described above or situations dealing with family or friends, take it to your Father in heaven who knows exactly what you need. His guidance is priceless!
As believers, we want to follow God’s will for our life, but sometimes we don’t know which way to go. Perhaps we’re standing at a crossroads, wondering which pathway is the Lord’s. Or maybe after making good progress, we suddenly encounter a closed door. What are we to do when the path we want to travel is blocked?
The costs of disobedience are always higher than the benefits
Imagine yourself standing at one of these doors. First, you try the knob, but it won’t budge. So you pull out your keys and look for one that fits. When that fails, you call your friends to ask if they know how to open it. Finally, in frustration, you grab a crowbar and pry the door open. The problem with all these methods is that they won’t get you where the heavenly Father wants you to go.
King Saul found this out when he pried open a door the Lord had closed. He should have waited for Samuel, as only the priests were allowed to offer sacrifices. But Saul looked around at the circumstances, became frightened, and took matters into his own hands. Instead of standing at the door, trusting in the Lord, and waiting for Him to open it at the right time, Saul forced his way in, and as a result, lost his kingdom.
The costs of disobedience are always higher than the benefits of pushing through a closed door. If the Lord has sealed off an entry, it’s for your protection. The right response is to wait patiently and be faithful in your present situation. In time, He’ll either open the door or redirect you to the path that leads to His will.