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Failing Where it Really Matters

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 21, 2023 12:00 am

Failing Where it Really Matters

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 21, 2023 12:00 am

Your greatest legacy as a father will not be in a pulpit, a conference room, an office, or a mission field; it will be in your home. Are you succeeding where it matters most? (Judges 8)

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Let me read the words of an author who lived two centuries ago. He wrote, God has two ways of testing men, one in the furnace of affliction, the other in the refining pot of prosperity, and this is the harder test of the two. Self-reliance, self-satisfaction, self-will, and pride are prone to spring up with a rank luxuriousness.

The scriptures teach us the inability, listen to this, the inability of the human heart to drink a full cup of success without becoming intoxicated. As you think back over your life so far, you can probably identify several areas where you succeeded. You made the right decision, or you excelled at a particular task.

But there might also be an area or two where you fell short. Well, Stephen Davey has a message for you today called, Failing Where It Really Matters. He's talking about parents, and specifically fathers. Fathers must be involved in their children's lives and accept the position of being the primary role model for their children. Stay tuned, because Stephen will give you some practical tips for being a great father. Well this is Father's Day, when most of the long-distance calls are collect, from what I have read.

I ought to at least tell you one story I came across, and then you'll appreciate this. It seems that a little six-year-old Johnny was in trouble again with mom. Dad got home from work. Johnny was in the kitchen, and mom was giving him a command or two, and he was defiant. And just as dad walked into the kitchen, she told him again what to do. And a little six-year-old boy looked up at his mother, and he said, I will not do that. And he turned on his heel and left. And mom looked at dad with that look, you know. And so he turned and went upstairs and knocked on his son's door and went in.

And he looked down at his son, and he said, son, would you teach me how you do that? All right, well, you don't have to look very long or very far in the Word of God to find a biblical failure. They have been given to us for our warning, for our admonition, for our correction, for our encouragement as we walk with the Lord. And so I want to speak on the biography of a man who failed where it mattered the most, in his home and in his personal life. Would you take your Bibles and turn to the book of Judges and the biography of Gideon? To everyone around Gideon, he was nothing less than a great success, but to God he was a failure. And I want to remind you that your reputation and your character may be two entirely different things. Your reputation is what people think you are.

Your character is who God knows you to be. You're probably a little more familiar with chapter seven and eight, where he was going to lead 32,000 men into battle against the Midianites. And God, you remember, whittled it down and whittled it down and whittled it down because he didn't want the people to give the credit to the army of Israel. And so God, through a series of events, whittled it down to 300 men.

300 men went against an army of about 150,000 trained soldiers. They encamped about the Midianites with crude pitchers or lanterns and with their trumpets. And on cue, they broke those lanterns so the light just wildly waved about that camp and they blew on their trumpets and they shouted for the Lord and for Gideon. And there in the middle of the night, the Midianites were so confused and so routed that they basically killed one another.

Now what happens next, you would almost expect to see or to read happen to this fearless leader. Let's pick up the story at chapter eight and notice verse 22. When the men of Israel said to Gideon, rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian. Now you ought to understand the spiritual temperature of the people in that phrase alone. They were praising not God but Gideon. They refused even still to give God the credit.

So here they are thanking instead of God thanking Gideon. But at the same time, they tempt Gideon with something that would be very exciting and alluring. They said in effect here in this text, we want you to rule over us and your son and your son's son. In other words, start a dynasty and you can be the first king to rule over us and your home, your family, your sons can form this dynastic rule as long as your family exists.

What a wonderful thing for them to offer you a thing. I mean, but isn't that the way it works? This would be a natural perk of power. Gideon was brave and fearless and faithful and what better person to rule as king than he?

How flattering, how tempting and how alluring. In fact, I think it would be so tempting to him that probably the high point of his walk with God occurs in the very next verse. Look at verse 23. But Gideon said to them, I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you.

What a great answer. He is right on the money because God was king in this theocracy. The nation would be ruled by God through his spokesman, prophet and priest and judge, not a king.

And Gideon is basically saying, God alone has the right to be your king. I refuse the appointment as flattering and alluring as it is. It would be wrong. It would be sin.

And so I won't do it. Now, if we could close our Bibles here, end of chapter, end of story, end of biography and go home and have lunch, it would be a wonderful end to the biography of Gideon. But in a strange twist, the very next verse begins what will be a downward spiral in the life of this one's faithful man. Look at verse 24. Yet Gideon said to them, I would request of you that each of you give me an earring from his spoil for the army that they had conquered. These men, these Ishmaelites had gold earrings and they said, we will surely give them.

In other words, that's the least that we can do. But to give you the booty, this loot. And so they they spread out this garment and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil.

And the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was seventeen hundred shekels of gold beside the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes, which were on the kings of Midian and besides the neck bands that were on their camel's necks. And you read that and you think, OK, he's he's gotten a little greedy, but, you know, he deserves it. This is the benefit of having done what he's done. This is payday. He ought to ask.

They ought to give it to him. But it really isn't greed. It's something different than that. Look at verse twenty seven. And Gideon made it into an ephod and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household. The word snare literally means to ruin or to trap. This ephod will ruin Gideon's life and it will bring a snare to his family. Why?

Why would that be so bad? Well, you need to understand before we look at the details of his downward spiral that an ephod was spiritually significant to Israelite worship. It was it was fashioned like an apron and worn by the high priest only. So what we have here is Gideon making an imitation ephod. In fact, it seems that he is assuming a priestly role that doesn't belong to him.

Power has gone to his head. Gideon will break three commands, according to Exodus Chapter 28. But first, Gideon was not qualified to wear the ephod. God had specifically said that only the descendants of Aaron could wear the ephod as they ministered for God among the people.

Gideon had no right to assume the office, no matter how victorious he was as a leader. Secondly, the ephod was constructed of the wrong material, which gives a little insight into their corrupt thinking. According to the Pentateuch, the ephod was to be constructed of simple blue cloth, but they made it out of gold thread.

Oh, man, it must have been beautiful, significant, impressive, but a counterfeit. God is not impressed by beauty. He is impressed by obedience. Beauty is related to your reputation.

Obedience is related to your character. Third error or sin. Perhaps the most significant was this.

The ephod was placed in the wrong location. Worship was to occur in Shiloh during this day, not Gideon's hometown of Ophrah. So what you have here is Gideon instituting a rival form of priesthood, a rival form of worship and a rival location for worship.

Would you notice the result again? Verse 27, the latter part, and all Israel played the harlot with it there. That's Old Testament language to speak of spiritual infidelity to God, to go after other gods and what the people praised then in Gideon for being, you know, no doubt, spiritually attentive. He could have done a lot of things, but he does something religious. You know, he's pandering after it seems the things of God, but when you dissect it, it is wrong.

And though people patted him on the back and said, oh, what a great leader. Look at it. He's building an ephod. He's instituting worship in his hometown. God condemned these acts and considered them here in this text, spiritual adultery. So look what God does about it. Verse 28, so Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for 40 years in the days of Gideon.

That's not what I would expect to read. Where is the bolt of lightning, immediate judgment on a man who is so presumed in his attempt to institute a rival form of worship that will lead the nation astray? No thunder. God must not be bothered. And we can learn the truth here that just because the heavens are silent doesn't mean God is not noticed or that God doesn't disapprove.

I've had many people over the years say to me, Steven, you say that I'm in sin, but God doesn't do anything about it. In fact, my life has never been better. I mean, imagine Gideon's story, 40 years of peace. Wouldn't it be great to have four days of peace undisturbed? He had 40 years undisturbed days of peace. And he and the people would assume God doesn't care.

There is no thunder. We haven't sinned. Let me read the words of an author who lived two centuries ago. He wrote, God has two ways of testing men, one in the furnace of affliction, the other in the refining pot of prosperity.

And this is the harder test of the two. Affliction tends to humble and soften and subdue. But in prosperity, self-esteem, self-reliance, self-satisfaction, self-will and pride are prone to spring up with a rank luxuriousness. The scriptures teach us the inability, listen to this, the inability of the human heart to drink a full cup of success without becoming intoxicated. Gideon would enjoy 40 years of prosperity and his heart would become intoxicated and self-deceived. And you might think that the greatest danger in a wayward believer's life would be God thundering out his judgment. It would be that bolt of lightning bringing down misery and bankruptcy or disease or things that don't necessarily mean God is displeased. But surely God will thunder in some way. Listen, ladies and gentlemen, it may actually be a greater judgment to the wayward one for God not to speak at all. And for that one to go along believing that God must approve as life wastes away.

I want to give you several things to hang your hat on as we work through this biography. But let me give you several things that happened as Gideon lived out his life unaccountable to God and to God's word. Number one, his rival form of worship opened the door for national idolatry. Look down at verse 33, and it came about as soon as Gideon was dead that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals and they even went further this time. Look, and they made Baal beareth or beareth their God. It's as if the Israelites were waiting for this old judge, this old hypocrite to die. And as soon as he died, you know, we're already used to worshiping God in the wrong way, in the wrong place with the wrong priesthood. We're already on our way to word idolatry.

Why not go all the way? I mean, think about it. Baal was already in their blood. There are sons within Christian families today who are struggling with pornography, who have confided that they were introduced to it by their fathers unwittingly. Either they saw their fathers watching it or they came across some computer files and their fathers do not even know it. Just wait till we get away from home. Just wait till Dad, you know, passes off the scene.

And we will follow after Baal that Dad introduced us to. Like Gideon's 70 sons, they're playing lip service to God. They've got an ephod. They've got a priest. They've got worship.

But it's counterfeit. It simply masks their hypocrisy. And as soon as Gideon died, the nation turned his compromise into utter corruption. Secondly, Gideon's refusal to obey scripture opened the door to an ever-deepening life of personal sin. Just go back to verse 29. Then Jerab Baal, there's that nickname again, you know, the Baal conqueror, the son of Joash went and lived in his own house.

And it must have been a big house. Why? Because the text says that Gideon had 70 sons who were his direct descendants.

Why? Because he had many wives. Now he's a famous leader. You know, leaders should have more perks, right? This is a typical Canaanite perk of power. Even though earlier he said, I won't be the ruler, he begins to live and develop the king's harem.

This is the pagan perk of power. But was Gideon satisfied with his 70 sons and his wives? No, look at verse 31. And his concubine, who was in Shechem, also bore him a son. Concubine is a euphemism for mistress. Here he had 50 to 60 wives. Is he satisfied with that life?

No. He's got somebody on the side down there in Shechem, which by the way is a Canaanite city. She's a Canaanite girl.

She's openly pagan and idolatrous. And so he goes and he develops this immoral relationship with her and she bears him a son as well. And the thunderclouds of God are at this point beginning to gather. I came across a parable about a hunter who was hunting in the woods for bear. And a bear came around the corner of a tree and jumped on him and pinned him to the ground and said, what are you looking for? And the man said, I'm looking for a bear to kill so that I can have a fur coat. The bear said, I see. Well, I'm hungry.

Why don't we compromise? 30 minutes later, the bear ambles away and all that's left on the ground is the hunter's cap and his gun. And you're left to fill in the pieces, which you probably already have. The bear got his full stomach by eating the hunter and the hunter got his warm fur coat. Let me talk frankly with men today. Perhaps you have been running well, but maybe the words of Paul to the Galatians seems to fit where he said to them in this poignant phrase, you were running so well, who caused you to stop obeying the truth? Maybe the bear you're negotiating with comes in the form of business accounts or practices, you know, just stretching the truth here or cutting corners there.

It might come in the form of padding your expense account and it's a dangerous, hungry bear and you're in the process of negotiating a compromise. You are beginning to live a lifestyle that creates two different people, one that everyone knows you to be the other, the one that only you know to be. I have an older brother who is also a pastor in the ministry who told me about an incident in his seminary days that I have never forgotten. He attended a seminary in Minnesota and while a student during an exam in Greek class, he saw a friend of his cheat. You know, cheating never makes sense, but for somebody preparing to go into the ministry and on a Greek exam, it really seems a little odd, doesn't it? After class, he confronted him and the student admitted to it and confessed.

In fact, he, on his own volition, approached the professor and seemed to be repentant and apologized and made amends and did extra work and passed the class. They went through seminary together for several years and ironically enough, it was on graduation day that things fell apart. It seems that this guy had been living with a young lady all through seminary who was an unbeliever.

He had told her that he was a student in law school preparing to be an attorney studying for the bar and she believed him. But a few days before graduation, they'd had a fight and she decided enough was enough and she, while he was away, packed his things and was going to put him out on the porch. She came to the chest where he kept his books and she was packing them and noticed that they didn't seem to be law books, but books of theology, which were strange to her, Hebrew and Greek and doctrine.

Several of the books had the stamp of the seminary on the inside. She called the seminary and said, why does my boyfriend have books from your school? And they informed her that he was a student there and was planning to graduate that night. Two professors went to that home and with her began to unravel all of the lies, two lives in one body, and they waited for him to come home. And when he did, he was confronted and caught and on the day of graduation of all days, thunder from God was heard.

The charade was over. Think of wasted lives. Think of this girl who wasn't even a Christian and his own life down the drain exposed as tragic as this story is, and I will never forget it. The greater tragedy is of the one who never gets caught, who comes under the delusion that God doesn't really seem to be bothered. Life is undisturbed and there seems to be peace and he self-destructs and a wasted life of self-absorption and pride and unaccountability. No one knows the charade and will not be exposed until he stands exposed before God. I want you to notice quickly a third thing that happened in Gideon's failure to distinctively follow after God. His lifestyle eventually manifested open pride and ingratitude and eventually it does come out, ladies and gentlemen.

And that's what happened here. Look again at verse 31. And his concubine, who was in Shechem, also bore him a son and he named him Abimelech. Abimelech means my father is king.

Now, do you remember verse 23? Forty years earlier, the people said, Gideon, rule over us. Be our king. And he said, no, God is king alone. Now, 40 years later, my son, his father is a king.

Every time someone called Abimelech's name, Gideon received glory and praise as a king. And everyone begins to lose. This will become the last period, ladies and gentlemen, where there is peace. You'll never read again of the nation Israel unified in their worship beyond this chapter. The future judges of Israel will follow in the wake of Gideon's moral failure. In the very next chapter of Judges, it will literally drip with the blood of Gideon's 70 sons as Abimelech grows up and then slaughters them all. They will not be his rival to the throne and he wipes them out. Heaven will, in fact, thunder. What can we learn from this man who fell?

Let me give you several lessons very quickly. Number one, the descent of any believer into a lifestyle of sin never occurs without warning. In other words, spiritual collapse never happens overnight.

It never occurs without warning. In fact, did you know that there's no such thing as falling into sin? You don't fall into sin.

Nobody does. You walk into it with eyes wide open. You embrace it. You ask for it. You leave your phone number so sin can find you.

You leave your business card so it knows where you live and where you work. You take the first step toward it and every other step after that. It might be one small thing, one small step, and maybe nobody would say anything or think badly of you.

It's just one date or one lunch, just one bad check, just one magazine, just one phone call, just one bet, just one look. For Gideon it was, I think I'll have one more wife. I think I'll move worship to my village. I think I'll go find a girl among the pagans.

What will that hurt? You can never say, my friend, when you are stranded spiritually or bankrupt morally, I was never given a warning. The second lesson is this. Making a wise decision today does not guarantee wise decisions tomorrow. Gideon, become a ruler. No, I can't be your ruler. That belongs to God.

What God? I'm a king. Third, no matter how much you acquire in fame and fortune, position and power, it'll never be enough. We know that's true, don't we?

It's never enough. I have just finished reading the book of Ecclesiastes in my own private study and it's a book that every man ought to read once or twice a year. Solomon and Gideon, it struck me as I was studying Judges 8 and 9, are a lot alike. Wealth, women, power, achievement, reputation, and absolutely unsatisfied with everything.

They both began well but ended in ruin. And I find it tragically ironic in the book of Ecclesiastes that there Solomon is listing all of his accomplishments and all of his achievements, in fact all of his building projects, and he says they're all folly, they're all vanity, they're all vapor, they're all empty. As he lists, as he catalogs the achievements of his life, and never yet once does he mention the temple. The temple. That was his crowning achievement.

This massive architectural beauty, brilliant, majestic, stunning architecture, most of it covered in gold. He never mentioned it. It didn't matter to him.

It just didn't matter. That's how far he had fallen. One commentator put David's life and Solomon's life on a graph, and David's life was a roller coaster. Walking with God, sin. Repentance, walking with God, sin. Repentance, walking with God, sin. Repentance. But Solomon's life, a sheer cliff, walking with God, sin. Both of these men will end their lives in moral collapse.

Gideon's illegitimate son, which he named out of his deepened obstinate pride is going to grow up and kill the family, and the nation will follow after Baal. One more lesson. The time to walk with God is not yesterday.

It isn't even tomorrow. The time to walk with God is today. Let me tell you this in closing. John Walford served for 50 years as the president and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and I had the privilege of attending Dallas when he was in leadership. Marcia and I still have the letter that he wrote to our twin boys when they were born that they would grow up later and read, which we framed. I remember riding in the car with him on his last visit here. I was driving him back to the airport to catch a flight back to Dallas, and we were talking about ministry in general and our own lives as ministers of the Gospel. In the course of our conversation, I remember this aged warrior of God saying something almost off to the side. In fact, I remember looking over at him, and he was looking out the window of the passenger's side when he said it, almost as if he were talking to himself. He said, you know, I just want to finish well.

He was in his 80s and concerned about finishing well, and he did, by the way, and so can you, and so can I. If we will learn not by experience but by acceptance, which is a far better teacher. Here they are once more, realize the descent of any believer into a lifestyle of sin never comes without warning. So be alert to the warning. Listen to the warning.

Watch for gathering clouds. Recognize, secondly, wise decisions today do not guarantee wise decisions tomorrow, so get up every day determined to walk with God, and then remember the time to walk with him is not yesterday. No matter how great it was, no matter what the accomplishments, no matter what the achievements, it isn't enough to talk of God yesterday. Walk with God today. If you're a father, I hope Stephen's lesson today encouraged and challenged you regarding that role. If you're not a dad, I encourage you to take a moment and share this lesson with some men who are. It's an opportunity for you to share this practical teaching with the fathers you know.

This is Wisdom for the Heart. The best way for you to share this content is to visit our website. You'll find us at Each of our lessons has a quick and easy share option.

You can share a message by email or on social media. And while you're at the website, be sure and click the link that says prayer. From the very beginning of this ministry, Stephen has said that we are empowered by prayer.

We're convinced that's true. Our desire is to provide biblical teaching resources that are faithful to scripture. As the word of God goes forth, the Spirit of God takes the truth of his word and uses it to bring about true and lasting change. I invite you to join our global prayer team and pray for us. You'll find information about the global prayer team at forward slash prayer. We post updates on specific ways that you can pray for Wisdom International. I also want you to know that we pray for you. We have a team of people who pray for every request that comes in. That website includes a way for you to send your prayer needs to us. Learn more about this at forward slash prayer. And then join us next time as we bring you more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-21 04:06:51 / 2023-06-21 04:17:46 / 11

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