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The Underdog's Secret

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2015 6:00 am

The Underdog's Secret

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Charles Stanley

Well, if you have your Bibles this weekend, I would invite you to take them out right now and open them to the Book of Judges, Chapter 7.

At all of our campuses, we are on our second week of this very fascinating and somewhat enigmatic and maybe inspiring figure known as Gideon in our series called Broken Saviors to the Book of Judges. As you're turning there, Americans love a good underdog story. I feel, I think it's because we see ourselves as the result of an underdog victory against Great Britain, but this week, right before I got on a flight from Atlanta, I tweeted out, what's the greatest underdog story of all time?

When I landed and checked my phone again, I had about 3,000 responses to that question. There was, of course, the usuals, Rudy, the Karate Kid, a lot of people referenced the greatest movie franchise of all time, the Rocky Balboa story, with the exception of Rocky 5. No one ever really needs to talk about that one. Of course, the miracle US hockey team of the 1980 Olympics that beat the Soviet Union, essentially, is a bunch of college students.

One person even said, you marrying Veronica was the greatest underdog story of all time, which I would tend to agree with that. Perhaps the most significant underdog story, at least for us around here, would be the 1983 National Championship by the cardiac Wolfpack team led by the late Jimmy Valvano. If you are not from here, this is an important piece of North Carolina history that you need to know just to appreciate the place where you are. North Carolina State, 1983, went into the ACC tournament that year, ranked number four in the ACC. Not number four in the nation, number four in the ACC. They won their three ACC tournament games by a margin of 11 points. Not each game by 11, but a total of 11 points. That's all that they won by. One game was decided in overtime, one was decided by only one point.

That's where they got the name, by the way, Cardiac Pack, because every single one of their games, they won, they trailed the whole game until the last minute. The NCAA tournament, the very first game, they went against the very lowly Pepperdine University. No offense if you are from Pepperdine, but they had to win that one in overtime.

By the way, not one overtime, but two overtimes, and they barely squeaked out a win. Two days later, they beat the heavily favored UNLV by a single point, scored in the very last minute. Against great odds, they made it all the way to the championship game, where they faced Houston, which were the heavy favorites that year to win the whole thing.

Their nickname was Thigh Slamma Jamma. On that team, there were two future NBA Hall of Famers, Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. They had steamrolled absolutely everyone that season up to the final game, winning by double digits. They were undefeated.

They were somewhat like Kentucky this year, which they say that the second five, the second string will be ranked in the AP Top 10. Tennessee State managed to stick around during that game. 44 seconds left, they got the ball. They ended up, in those 44 seconds, running one of the worst plays anyone had ever seen, and forcing up the ugliest shot probably ever recorded in NCAA history. It missed, not just by a little bit, it missed by like a foot and a half, and a guy named Lorenzo Charles caught it like it was a pass and dunked it as time expired. By the way, just to underscore how much of an upset this was, when they chose an MVP from the tournament that year, they chose a player from Houston, which never happens.

You always choose one from the winning team, but they chose one from Houston. Anyway, I share that story for two reasons. Number one, I just want to give something to you NC State fans out there.

I know that it's been a rough year. Number two, I say that because you might be tempted to see the story that we're going to look at this weekend of Gideon going up against the Midianites. This is not a lesser army as an underdog story, but it is so far beyond an underdog story, it's not even funny. This is not a lesser army going up against a stronger army. This is the story of a powerless people going up against the mightiest force in the region. This would not be like Wake Forest taking on Duke.

This would be like a JV Middle School team taking on Kentucky this year, okay? That's how you need to read this. Judges 6 is where we were last week, and we saw that God had sent the Midianites into Israel. To chasten them because of their disobedience, but when Israel cried out in pain, God had compassion on them, and he raised up a deliverer for them, a deliverer named Gideon. Well, Gideon was not, as I explained, your typical hero. When we first encounter Gideon, he is cowering in fear in a hole. But God turns him into a man of bravery by assuring him of his presence with him. And that might have been the most important lesson we learned last week, is that God does not call us because we're brave. He makes brave those he calls. I told you that God doesn't call you because of something in you.

He equips you after he calls you. So you might be a person who is timid. You might not have that much courage. You're the very one God wants to use, because God makes brave those that he calls. Well, at the end of chapter 6, God tells Gideon to go and mount a resistance against the massive we now call the fleece test.

Remember the famous fleece test? God make the washcloth wet when the ground's dry, make the ground dry and whatever, you know, and it gets into it twice. And so Gideon finally gets the courage that God will give him the victory.

That's where we begin in chapter 7, verse 1. By the way, you're not hearing something. There is something wrong with my voice. I am a little sick. I will not be hanging out after the service.

I'll be back in my green room drinking hot tea because I'm not feeling that well. So anyway, chapter 7, verse 1. It literally in Hebrew means bale, tail whooper. Jerabail and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was just north of them. Verse 2, the Lord said to Gideon, the people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying my own hand has saved me. You ought really to marinate on that verse. It's one of my favorite Old Testament verses.

The people with you are too many because if now they get victory, they're going to say that they did this. You can learn so much about how God works in your life through that statement. Verse 3, now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people saying, whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead. I wonder if Gideon tried to go in that number.

He was like, hey, I'm just going to kind of, you know, God's like, not you, Gideon. I'm talking about other people. Now you might actually make the argument that this may have been a smart move. 10,000 brave soldiers, you might argue, are better than 32,000 when two thirds of them are wimps. That would have made an underdog story for sure. But what you are going to see next makes absolutely no sense.

And it's what takes this so far beyond an underdog story. Verse 4, the Lord then said to Gideon, the people are still too many. So take them down to the water and everyone who lapsed the water with his tongue as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, everyone who kneels down to drink and the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouth and laughing like a dog was 300 men because who does that?

Verse 7, the Lord said to Gideon, with those 300 men who laughed, I will save you and I will give the Midianites into your hand and let all the others go, every man back to his home. You say, what's the symbolism of keeping the ones who lapped like a dog? Does this prove that God loves dogs more than cats? Well, first that doesn't need proving. It is inherently obvious in nature. Okay. But no, there is absolutely no symbolism at all in what happened.

It's just a random test designed to get rid of 97% of the army. And it worked. I want you to think about this because it's really important. God intentionally weakened Gideon's army. There is so much for you to do. To learn about how God works in your life through that.

Here it is. Number one, when God wants to use us, he often will first weaken us. When God wants to use us, a lot of times he will first weaken us. Now, God never delights in hurting us, but God wants us to trust him. He wants us to depend on him. According to him, that's the most important thing we can ever learn in life. So God will sometimes reduce the size of our army. No choice but to trust him. He said, what do you mean by reduce the size of our army? I mean, your health suddenly goes bad.

You lose your job or maybe you take a reduction in pay. It might even be that your marriage goes through rocky times. I'm not saying that God is the one doing any of those things directly. I'm just saying that God's sovereign purpose in allowing them to happen might be teaching you to lean into him like you never have before. For you to marinate on, I've given you this, but I think it's so important.

Just sort of write it somewhere and think about it all the time. If dependence is the objective, then weakness becomes an advantage. If dependence is the objective, the objective, then weaknesses can be an advantage.

You say, well, how could weakness ever be an advantage? If it makes you lean into Jesus, where the real power is, that's when it becomes an advantage. You see, for some of you, it was when your husband failed you that you learned that you could rely on your heavenly father. It was when you got laid off that you learned that you could trust your heavenly supplier.

It's when you were alone and lonely. That's when you learn that God would be the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Weakness can force you to lean into God and there, and sometimes only there, can you learn the four words that will absolutely transform your life. God is always faithful. Sometimes we say you will never know that God is all you need until he's all you have. You might sing it with the rest of us, but you'll never know it here until he's all that you have. And then you say, now I know God is always faithful and that he is all that I need.

Here's how the apostle Paul would say it. Therefore, he said, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. Brag about your weaknesses.

Who does that? Here's another place I'm subpar. Here's another place I have failed miserably. Here's another place you can't depend on me. Right? Paul says I share these things and I do it gladly.

I might do it out of duty because I know that I'm supposed to. Why would Paul just get his jollies off of sharing about his weaknesses? Because it was there he was able to put on display Christ's power and not his own. You see, if I stand up here and brag on my strengths, or if Paul stood up here and bragged on his strengths, you might sit out there and say, man, I wish I were more like him. Then you hang your head and say, but I can't be. But if I brag on my weaknesses and I tell you about what Christ's power has done through them, then maybe you'll sit out there and you'll say, wow, I've got access to what he has access to. Effective preaching I've often told you is just one beggar telling a bunch of other beggars where they can find bread. And so maybe the best thing I can help you toward that end is to make you understand that I'm a beggar too. And to say it's not that you need to be like me or need to be like Paul or need to be like Gideon. You just need to understand that we're all a bunch of beggars who have found bread and living water at a place that is very accessible to you. It is faith in Jesus Christ.

Or let me show it to you from another place. Peter, 1 Peter 1.7 says that your faith, that is your confidence in God's goodness and grace, your faith is more precious than gold. And whatever battle you're in, what is the greatest asset that you have?

Well, certainly you would say in a battle, it's gonna be my army. God says, nope, the greatest assets you can have in any situation is your confidence in me. In the battle to provide for yourself, what would be your greatest asset? Well, in Peter's day, it would have been gold. And Peter said, nope, that's not your greatest asset. The greatest asset you can have in any situation is never your ability, never your provision.

It's always your faith in what God, his goodness, and what he is willing to do. Elise Fitzpatrick, who's going to be speaking here on a couple months with me here on Mother's Day, she wrote a book called Give Them Grace, which I would very much commend to you parents. But it's a book on parenting. And she said, you know the problem, she applies this principle to parenting. And she says, you know the problem with most Christian books on parenting is they essentially imply that if you do steps one through five, then your kids are gonna turn out fine.

That this is how you, it's like you plug in these variables and out come these fine kids. She said the problem with that is twofold. She said, number one, the first problem is God was a perfect parent, and the only two humans that he created directly, and a third of the angels rebelled against him. She said, do you really feel like you're going to out technique God?

Probably not. She said the second problem and the more insidious problem is that this kind of teaching implies, implies, or excuse me, this kind of teaching keeps you from the one thing you most need as a parent, and that is hope and the grace of God for your children. It is not your technique that's going to produce hearts that love God, it's going to be God's mercy and grace. And sometimes your strength as a parent can keep you from the hope and the one thing that your kids desperately need. I'm not saying that you don't master the principles of parenting, you most certainly should. I'm just saying at the end of the day, my hope for my kids should not be in my ability to be a good parent, it's in the mercy of God for them. And God wants you to learn that, it's your most valuable asset. What keeps us from the riches of God's power is not our weaknesses, it's that we feel like we have our own riches and we don't need God. This is one of the most important spiritual truths I could ever teach you.

Your strengths are more dangerous to you than your weaknesses. Because your strengths keep you from hoping in God's mercy. To be saved, to be saved, to begin the Christian life means you come to a point where you know you can't save yourself and you fall, you fall in desperation on the mercy of God.

You are utterly unrighteous and you realize that, utterly hopeless, and He does it all. To be used by God from that point forward means repeating the same process. You come to a point where you realize how absolutely impotent you are and you fall in hope on God's mercy. So sometimes God will weaken us to bring us to that point, maybe write it down this way, A.W.

Tozer. It is doubtful, Tozer says, whether God can bless a man greatly until He has first hurt him very deeply. Sometimes to get you to lean into His power, He has to reduce your army, so He lets you fail. Two of the most growing seasons in my life, three, all came from failure.

One was a failure in something I was trying to do, one was a failure in a very key relationship, and one was a failure in courage, a failure in character. And I look back and I see that it was during those times that God forced me to lean into Him and filled me with His power instead of my own. So listen to me, I want you this weekend to rethink what God might be doing in your life. Maybe you're experiencing an army reduction right now, and I want you to be open to the essential lesson, the life-giving lesson that God is trying to teach you in it.

He's trying to teach you to lean into Him. As I was thinking through this this week, I was reminded of a story that I've told you before, but I could not remember how long it's been since I've told you. I feel like it's been about two years, it might've been six weeks, I don't know, it all kinds of runs together, so I hope that you haven't heard this recently. But it was the story I've told you of the little bird that was flying south for the winter. The little bird here, remember this? The little bird got a late start, and he missed his friends had already left, and so because he got a late start, it got colder than he was planning for, and on the way in the air, his wings froze, and he crash landed. And there he is on the cold ground with his wings frozen, thinking, great, now I'm going to freeze to death, when along by comes a cow. And the cow drops manure on him, and the bird thinks, well, this just went from bad to worse, not only do I have to die of freezing to death, I gotta die with a stench of manure in my nostrils.

Ah, but the manure was warm, and the manure thawed his wings, and the little bird said, I can use my wings now, and he got excited, and he began to shake the manure off, and he began to chirp and sing, and that attracted a cat who came by and ate him. And I told you that there are three essential lessons for you to learn from that story. Lesson number one, not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy. Number two, not everyone who digs you out is your friend. Lesson number three, when you are in manure, sometimes it's helpful for you to keep your little chirper shut, because God might be doing something amazing at that very moment. Lesson number four is, cats are evil, okay?

That's obvious. Hudson Taylor says it this way. Listen, Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence upon him. And if God's gotta reduce your army to teach you that, then you will call it a blessing. The second thing that God is trying to teach us is the reduction of Gideon's army, and this is another common theme we've looked at in Judges.

Number two, God would send salvation not through human might, he would send salvation to the weakness of humble obedience. This is also something I've explained to you, but not only is each story in the book of Judges teaching us a lesson, the book of Judges as a whole has a message for us. You see, a rather odd and counterintuitive trajectory has been established in the book of Judges. The book of Judges, I explained, opens up with Joshua, who was a mighty general in charge of a strong Israelite army. But right on his heels, we have Ahud, who is a left-handed crippled leader, and then following him, you have Deborah, who is a female judge, who teams up with the other heroine of the story, Jael, who is a housewife, essentially with a frying pan. After that, you have Gideon, whose army God whittles down to 300. You see, if Gideon had gone in with 32,000, we might be tempted to put him in the category with Joshua. But God doesn't want that happening, God wants us going from strength to weakness, so at the end of the book of Judges, we're gonna encounter Samson, and Samson's gonna fight all by himself. The Israelite army's not even gonna help. And then we're gonna come in the very next book, 1 Samuel, to a guy named David, who was a scrawny little shepherd boy who writes poems, and ends up defeating the giant, Goliath, while all the Israelite army stands on the sidelines in fear and just watches. And that is pointing us to the most important point in the whole Bible, right? Well, what's the trajectory?

Make sure you get this. The trajectory is from strength to weakness, isn't it? I had a business mentor one time tell me, anytime you're presenting stuff to business people, always do it in the form of a graph that goes up. Business people like graphs that go up.

This graph is not going up, this graph is going down. Why are we seeing a reduction from strength to weakness? And here's why, because the main point of the Bible is that God's not gonna send salvation into the world through a king who conquers the world's armies by a superior army. He's going to send salvation by one who would lay down his life in service and humility and obedience. So time and time again in Jesus's life, we are confronted with the weakness of Jesus. Now hear me when I say Jesus is the son of God. I mean, but all we see throughout the gospel is we see his weakness before Jesus's trial. We find him washing the disciples feet, the activity of the lowest of the lowest of servants. During Jesus's trial, he is maligned, mocked, spit upon, seemingly unable to defend himself. He's so weak, he can't even carry his cross to the place of crucifixion. The other prisoners seem to be able to, but Jesus is so weak, he can't even do that. Jesus will die with his hands stretched out, the ultimate picture of powerlessness and weakness, yet through that, God brings a resurrection. See, that's how it happens. You humbly obey in weakness often and God brings power.

It's the same for you. You faithfully obey in weakness. You keep sharing Christ with the people that are throwing it in your face. You keep parenting your child and you keep praying. You refuse to give up praying for your lost son. You endure the scorn and the pain of injustice without getting retribution and you feel weak because you wanna get retribution and you could get retribution, but you refuse to and you sit there and suffer in weakness and God sends a miracle. God does not send his miracles through human might.

He sends them through faith and humble obedience. Here's another bird story for you. I've told you this one, I think it's been a while though. It's the woodpecker who, the faithful woodpecker who's just tapping away at a telephone pole, da da da da da da da, not doing anything except make a noise, right? Make a little tiny hole in there when all of a sudden it gets struck with lightning. Splits the tree in two and the little woodpecker's like, kind of goes back and is like, dang.

Go flies off and goes and gets his buddies and brings them back and says, there she is boys. Look at what I did. Woodpecker didn't do that.

Woodpecker wouldn't even be able to make a small indentation and only make a small indentation in the pole. God sent the lightning and that's a picture of what God does as you and I faithfully obey. It's not our abilities as a parent.

It's not my ability to provide. It's not my ability as a preacher to stand up here. I just faithfully obey and God sends the lightning bolt because that's always how it works. He saves not the human power but humble obedience. Well, God finally gets Gideon's army down to the size that he needs it. Verse nine, that same night the Lord said to him, arise Gideon and go down against the camp for I've given it into your hand.

But if you are afraid, that's a given, go down to the camp with Purah your servant first. So Gideon takes Purah and they sneak down to the Midianite camp. The Midianites are along the valley like locusts in abundance, they're camels without number like the sand that's on the seashore.

Imagine that, I mean just so much that you can't even count them. Verse 13, Gideon sneaks into the camp and behold as he comes close to a tent, he overhears a man telling a dream to his comrade. And the man says, behold, I dreamed a dream. And behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat. And his comrade answered, this is none other than the sword of Gideon. God has given into his hand Midian and all our camp.

Now, do not miss the humor. The picture of Gideon is not of a spear, it's not of a hurricane, it's not even of a hurled rock. He is a tumbling piece of bread.

What team chooses that for their mascot? You know, we're the biscuits. You know, it's like, yet this biscuit flattens a mighty tent.

No, I'm not much of a camper and if you threw a piece of bread at a tent I set up, it might fall down, but not for a soldier. And Gideon recognizes in this that God is reassuring him, though insulting him, reassuring him. Verse 15, as soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said arise, arise for the Lord has given the host of Midian into our hands. The third thing we learn from this story is God patiently deals with faltering faith.

This is a very sweet lesson to me. I find it really comforting in this story that God takes such time and such patience to reassure Gideon. You see, we often picture God as this one sitting up in heaven saying, if you don't have absolute confidence in me all the time, then I will reject you.

But that's not what you see here, is it? No, you see a God who is taking time to cultivate faith, a God who is sympathetic with fear and doubt, reminded me of the man who came to Jesus in Mark 9 with a very sick son, and says to Jesus, what has to be considered blasphemy? He says to Jesus, Jesus, my son is very sick.

If you're able, could you do something? I would expect Jesus to respond with, if I'm able, do you know who I am? Jesus doesn't say that, he said everything is possible to the one who believes. He gives him a very tender invitation to believe. And how does the man respond to Jesus' invitation? The man says, Lord, I believe, kind of. Help my unbelief. In other words, I'm 60, 40 on this, God. Maybe 40, 60, I don't really know.

I'm not really sure. What does Jesus say back to him? If I had been Jesus, I would have said, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Why don't you go home, memorize some scripture, and come back when you're ready to go all in?

That's what I would have said. Thankfully, I'm not Jesus. Jesus says, well, you don't always say anything, he just heals the boy.

What are you seeing there? God's okay with your doubt. God's okay with you coming to him with your questions. He knows your fear, he's okay with you asking them. If you doubt here this weekend, listen to me, it's okay. It's okay, God's not scared of your question, just ask them, ask God to reveal his faithfulness to you. God is tender, and he's compassionate with developing your faith, but you also gotta consider point number four, and that is that at some point, you're gonna have to take the risk.

Think for a minute about what's going on in this scene. Gideon's afraid, and so to reassure Gideon, God tells Gideon to go down into the Midianite camp at night. If I had been Gideon, I would have said, God, I'm not sure if this came through or not, but I'm afraid, I'm afraid.

I don't want to be sneaking down into the Midianite sleeping chambers at night. Can we do the fleece test again? God, I've got the fleece right here.

Right, I'll turn my back, count to 10, and maybe you can fold it up into an origami structure, and then I'll know that you're really with me. God, that's what I would have asked for. Why did God make Gideon go down into the camp into the place of danger to get reassurance? It is to teach us this lesson, that if you want God to develop your faith, it means that you've gotta take some steps of faith of your own. You see, here's how it works. Here's how faith works. God reveals a little, you take a step. God reveals a little more, you take another step. The way Scripture says this is draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Picture, if you will, two men on the stage behind me, each one at opposite sides. It's as if one takes a step, and then the other one takes a step. That's how God develops our faith. That's not to imply that you're gonna work your way to God. All that it's saying is this is how God develops faith.

You draw near to him, and he draws near to you. Where Scripture in another place says that your word, God, is a lamp to my feet. I've always thought that verse was a little odd because I don't want a lamp for my feet, I want a spotlight. I wanna see what's at the end of this road.

And God says, you don't get headlights, you get a lamp. You get enough for the next step, but you take that step and I'll show you the next step. You see, that means that if you're here this weekend waiting on God to answer all of your questions before you will follow him, you're never gonna get there.

What God does is he gives you enough to take a step, and then you take the next step, and then he reveals a little more, and then you take the next step, and God cultivates your faith as you go. You need to take that step, some of you. What does that mean? For some of you, that means that you need to begin to read your Bible.

Read it with the person who invited you this week. What I mean is you guys read the Bible, and then you come back once a week and you talk about what you're learning. That would be your step of faith. Maybe you need to become a regular member here, a regular attender here as you ask these questions.

Maybe you need to take the step of talking to your campus pastor, maybe coming and talking to me. God develops our faith by making us take faith risk of our own. We've all heard of the third little bird story. Birds that teach their young to fly by pushing them out of the nest.

Well, we've all known that, right? I remember the first time when I would hear that as a kid, I would always think about it from the perspective of the little bird. Little bird's like, Mom, what are you doing? You know, like, what? But the mom knows the bird can fly, and the mom knows the bird's never gonna fly till she gets him into a place where he has to do that.

That's what God is doing with you is he's inviting you to take these steps of faith. So Gideon divides the men into three companies of 100 each. He gives each man a trumpet, a jar, and a torch. What is one of the things that's missing from that list?

How about a sword, a slingshot, an RPG, whatever, but none of that. He tells each of the men, light your torch and put it in a jar. Then we're gonna line the valley wall all around the Midianites, up on the mountain. When I blow my trumpet, each of you are going to blow your trumpet, and then you're gonna smash your jar and raise your torch. Well, they waited, verse 19, until the beginning of the middle watch, that's gonna be important, after they just set the watch. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in the right hands, they blew the trumpets. And they cried out, a sword for the Lord and for Gideon.

The irony is, nobody has a sword. Verse 21, every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. All the Midianites cried out and fled, and the Lord set every man's sword against his comrade and against all the army.

Here's how this worked. Usually a torch and a trumpet signified an entire battalion. You've got 300 torches and 300 trumpets around the valley. The smashing of the jars, think about what that would have sounded like, would have sounded like the clash of hundreds of thousands or maybe tens of thousands of swords being raised at once.

Right? So now you've got what looks like 300 battalions, the sound of tens of thousands of swords. You've got the trumpets, and on top of all that, the middle watch means it's about 3 a.m. The first watch of soldiers, a third of the army, has been out watching.

They're coming back in. They're dead tired, ready to get some sleep. The second watch has just gotten up. They're all groggy, and the third watch is fast asleep. You wake up to the sound of swords and trumpets and this fearful scene, and on top of all that, now you've got an army marching back into your camp. You don't realize in the dark that it's your army, so everybody pulls out their sword and starts to fight and they all kill each other. The end. That's the end of the battle, and they all live happily ever after, except for the Midianites. All right? Let me point out something here, and I hope I'm not stretching too much here, but let me point out something I think that's really awesome that that's teaching us. Watch this. Number five, God can turn weakness itself into strength.

You know what's really cool about this situation to me? God never tells Gideon how to do this. Gideon seems to have come up with that plan of his own cowardly noggin, yet it was his weakness that forced him into that ingenuity. God's reduction of Gideon's army forced him to come up with a new plan, and it was a better plan, because that plan resulted in victory without a single Israelite casualty.

Not one. If Gideon had gone with 32,000, even if he'd have gotten the victory, some of them would have died. Now he does it in a way that fixes the whole thing, and nobody dies. Gideon's weakness actually became the source of his strength. Often in weakness, God will reorganize not just one part of your life, he'll reorganize the whole thing. He'll turn that weakness into one of the greatest blessings in your life. Give you an example.

Take this out of up here and kind of put it. I remember hearing the story at one time of a man who when he had three kids, when his oldest daughter turned 13, he began to get very concerned about her because like many parents are fearful of, his daughter started to hang out with the wrong crowd, and she started walking around with this bored, sullen look on her face all the time, and she'd sit through church and look bored, and at home she just kind of distanced herself from her parents. She started to date this boy that was bad news. He was like two years older than her.

He was 15 years old, and she started to dress just in a way that he didn't want to see her dressing, and wore dark makeup and dressed all goth and everything, and he was just not what he wanted to see from his little girl. So he goes to the pastor and he said, Pastor, we've done everything right. We come to church, we're pretty regular here, and I just don't understand. The more I talk to my daughter, we just get into arguments, and the pastor said, well, if you'll let me be really bold with you in this moment, I want to tell you that the problem is that your family is just a spectator at church.

Yes, you guys are here a lot, but all you do is sit on the sidelines. You're not involved in ministry at all, and the problem is is that the world that your daughter lives in is telling her a better story than you are telling her. The world is giving her adventure.

You're just basically presenting God as somebody who lectures her on the weekend, and the world is more enticing to her. He says, if you're gonna win your daughter's heart, in part, you're gonna have to tell a better story. So the dad, he makes sense to him, so he goes home, does a little research. He gets his family involved in the church and ministry. They volunteer and they get involved in a local ministry, and he also adopts an overseas orphanage as kind of their project.

He takes his family and he says, to his three kids, we're going to own this as ours, so I need some ideas of what we can do. The kids begin to contribute ideas, and they begin to execute those ideas. The guy says that over the next few months, his daughter even began to give some ideas and begin to lead out on her own. The dad said, over the next 18 months, I watched the most remarkable thing happen.

Without me commenting on any of these things, they all disappeared. She said she began to change her wardrobe. She broke up with a boy. She began to bring a Bible and a notebook to church, and it all came because we got off the sidelines and got into ministry. Now, why do I share that with you? He had a weakness with his daughter, but God used that to transform his entire family and get them off the sidelines and into the game, which not only affected her, it affected everybody. You realize that in certain situations, what God is doing with you is he's using one point to transform your whole life. You might be here because you need God's help with X, Y, and Z, and God says, you know what? I want to help with X, Y, and Z, but we're gonna have to go back with A through X, Y, and Z.

We need to go back to the beginning, and I need to go to work there. Maybe what you came in for this week is not what God wants to do in your life. Maybe he wants to turn that point of weakness into something that will transform your entire life. Here's number six, the final one that Gideon teaches us. Success is joining Jesus wherever he is. That's what Gideon's life teaches.

I would summarize Gideon's life in one statement. Join Jesus where he is, because it is better to be with Jesus before the most impossible odds than to have the odds in your favor and be without Jesus. Christian maturity, listen, Christian maturity is when you learn to say, I'll go anywhere with Jesus, and I would not want to be anywhere with any size army at my back without him. The mature Christian knows, you see, that Jesus plus nothing equals everything, and the mature Christian knows that Jesus, or everything without Jesus equals nothing. A mature Christian says, in Christ, I can give up all that I have, because in Christ I've already got all that I need.

So the question is not, what do I prefer? The question is not, what do I feel capable for? The question is simply, what does Jesus want from me? Because wherever he is, that's where I want to be. And when God shows up to me in the Judges, chapter six of my life, and I'm afraid, and I don't want this, I'll go where you are, because where you are is where success is, as you define success. The question for the mature Christian is only, God, where do you want me?

I just want to be with you. Hudson Taylor, the missionary, again, who opened up China, said it this way, I love it. All God's giants, all of them, have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.

That's it. Hudson Taylor says there's three stages to any work that God does in the world. Impossible, difficult, done. You are in a situation, some of you, where you are up against what feels like it is impossible, and that is divinely ordained. Do you want to see God begin to work in your life?

If you go from impossible to done, then get yourself in a posture of weakness and confess your need of God and begin to obey him and go where he is, that's the whole point. That's what he's been trying to teach you from the very beginning of your life. Success is joining him. I'd love to put a period right there and say thus ends the story of Gideon, but unfortunately, I cannot. Gideon's story does not end well. You're gonna see, you're gonna see that at the end of his life, Gideon gets proud. His power and success goes to his head. He starts reading his own press releases. He starts using this position for personal vendettas.

He makes an idol, commemorating his victories, and the Israelites start to worship that idol. To hear that story, you're gonna have to come back next week, but for right now, I just want to say something that really pertains to what we've talked about today. The danger, the danger in your life is never a Midianite army of any kind. The danger is you losing that posture of weakness. That's the only danger for the Christian. The only danger that can destroy your life, the only one, it's not sickness, it's not poverty, it's not losing your job, it's not even your marriage breaking up. The danger that will destroy your life is for you to get proud and lose your sense of dependence upon God.

Christians more often than not will pass the test of adversity, but they will most often fail the test of prosperity. When you get strong, when you begin to think to yourself, I have all that I need, that's when you fall apart. Never forget where you were when God found you. Never forget the grace He showed to you and how much you owe to that grace. You see, I'm talking to some of you that are not dependent on God. At one point in your life you were because He broke you and you got dependent on God, but you can't remember the last time you had a meaningful conversation with God. And the reason you don't pray, the reason you don't cling to God daily, the reason you don't get up and the first impulse is, I've got to talk to my Heavenly Father, is because you're not dependent on Him. You've gotten puffed up with what God's provision has been and God's provision has turned into a curse to you.

Your danger is never the Midianites, it's your heart. God helps the weak, it is the strong who become independent that leave Him. That's what will destroy you. You need to beware that after the greatest spiritual victories you can slide right back down into the hole from which you came. Christianity begins with this statement.

I'm not righteous enough to save myself. I'm utterly hopeless, I'm utterly unrighteous. Lord Jesus, you have to do it all.

It continues every step from that point forward with this statement. God, I am utterly impotent to do what you want me to do. I need your power for every good thing in my life, every good thing. Could I ask you to spend a few moments with the Holy Spirit on this? What's He saying?

Where have you gotten proud? Where is He breaking you down? Why don't you bow your heads at all of our campuses?

Would you think through this? Listen, bow your heads. When I have you bow your heads, when I have you bow your heads and I give you words, I'm not trying to, I don't know what the Holy Spirit is saying to you, sometimes I try to guess. He might be saying something to you totally different, more important than what I'm saying. But has God brought you to a point of weakness this weekend?

Is that what He's saying? Is right now He's saying to you, I want you to know, listen, I'll be your security. I'll be your ever faithful companion. I'll be your justification. I'll be your glory.

I will be the lifter of your head. Maybe you've gotten proud. And maybe what God's saying to you is, my son, my daughter, wake up. Don't make me do something drastic.

Get back in that posture of dependence before I do something drastic. Maybe you've never begun this journey. Maybe you've never realized how hopeless you are without God. Listen, with your heads bowed, there are two things that you can never overcome, sin and death. The curse of sin, you could not escape.

The power of death, you could not break. So Jesus did both of those things for you. He suffered the curse of your sin and your place.

He shattered the power of death in your life by raising from the dead. To be saved, to be saved, to begin this journey means that you confess your inability to save yourself from sin and death, and you acknowledge that He alone is able to do it, and you receive it like a gift. Have you ever received that for yourself? Would you like to? Would you like to? Then you could voice a prayer to Jesus that sounds like this. These are not magic words, but if they come from your heart, Jesus will hear them. Jesus, Jesus, I confess, I cannot save myself. You must do it. I give my whole life to you. Jesus, I confess, I cannot save myself. You alone can do it. I give my whole life to you. So if you've been in church for a long time, you've never really begun a relationship with Jesus, and today is the day that you will, because right now, you're saying that to Him from your heart. I cannot save myself. You gotta do it.

I want you to remain seated at your campus. I want you to remain in a posture of prayer, and I want you to let the Holy Spirit work in your heart. In just a minute, our worship teams at all of our campuses are gonna come, and they're gonna lead us in the taking of the Lord's table. What a beautiful picture of our inability and how God provided when we had nothing. So with heads bowed, you just let the Holy Spirit work on you for a few moments, and then our worship teams will come.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 06:00:42 / 2023-09-04 06:20:00 / 19

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