WELCOME TO GIDEON’S ARMY
Judges chapters 6 through 8 records the story of Gideon and how the Lord called and used him to accomplish His will. I’m always drawn to this familiar story when faced with long odds and dwindling numbers because it reminds me how God often works in such circumstances.
When the Lord called Gideon, He said to him, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian. I am sending you!” God told Gideon that he already had all the strength he would need because God Almighty was the One sending him.
Looking solely at his own strength and background, though, Gideon objected, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s family.” Gideon missed the point, so the Lord reminded him, “But I will be with you. You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.” Yes, the Lord told Gideon to go in the strength he had, but He didn’t say that Gideon would go alone. The Lord would be with him and would display His power through Gideon’s weakness.
This is precisely why we later see the Lord commanding Gideon to use a smaller army to defeat the Midianites. “You have too many troops for me to hand the Midianites over to them, or else Israel might elevate themselves over me and say, ‘My own strength saved me.’ Now announce to the troops: ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’”
With such a large army, it would be far too easy for the people of Israel to think it was their own strength and skill in battle that allowed them to drive out their oppressors. So all those who were fearful and didn’t trust the Lord were sent back home. God wanted to make it unmistakably clear that He alone would provide the victory as His people relied on and obeyed Him.
Once the army of more than 30,000 was reduced to 300 men and the time came for their attack, Gideon was able to boldly declare to his men, “Get up, for the Lord has handed the Midianite camp over to you.” Gideon and each of these men knew that the Lord had already won the battle, all they had to do was go fight it according to the directions God had already given them. So Gideon “divided the three hundred men into three companies and gave each of the men a trumpet in one hand and an empty pitcher with a torch inside it in the other hand.” As a result of their courage and faithfulness, the people of Israel enjoyed a stunning victory that day.
When I look around First Baptist Church today, I see the same opportunity before us. We’re smaller in number than we used to be — both in staff and membership. But I believe that God is at work within our fellowship to do something mighty that could only come from His hand. He is preparing to accomplish something that is beyond even our collective capacity, but He’s still calling each of us to step out in faith and do what He’s already told us to do.
With an army that small — relying on God’s strength — every single one of Gideon’s warriors had to do his part. And with a church our size and the scope of ministry we currently have, this means that each of us within First Baptist Church must do our part. To switch metaphors, we need those who’ve been spectators to move out of the stands and down onto the field. Stop watching the game and join the team!
In Luke 16:10, Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much…” How we pray and speak and give and serve during a time like this reveals our faithfulness or lack thereof. If we’re content to simply watch others do all of the work and wait for a new pastor or someone else to fix everything, then we have no reason to expect God to move or bless. But if we’ll be obedient and faithful with what we’ve already been given, then we can be confident that God will be with us and will use us to accomplish great things for His name’s sake. First Baptist Church, the Lord is sending you! Get up!