We ended last week with a question. It was a simple one. If you weren't here, here it is again:
What Would Surprise You to Hear God Say to You?
Think about it for a moment.
Maybe it's deeply loved. Some of you need to hear that. There are people who struggle with feelings of self-worth. You'd be surprised by the people you know who, outwardly, appear confident and put-together. But some of them, when you scratch beneath the surface, are dealing with feelings of low-self-worth. There are people who grew up in circumstances where nobody showed love for them. They were rejected. They were constantly criticized or put down. People they thought cared for them betrayed them. But God shows up in Jesus Christ and He says to them - He says to you - "I want you to understand how deeply loved you are." For God so loved you…You are deeply loved.
Perhaps you need to hear God say that you are a man of faith…a woman of faith. You're thinking, "God couldn't possibly be saying that about me." You look around, and you see others for whom that would apply, but not you. You don't deny you have strengths, but faith couldn't be one. You think to be called a person of faith, you have to be some kind of great spiritual warrior, rising above everyone else. But the Biblical truth is, God wants to change your little corner of His world through your faith.
If you don't think you can ever be a great person of faith, then you're the one who needs to hear God say it to you. You are a person of faith. Let's say that together:
I AM A PERSON OF FAITH.
God wants to work in your life.
Maybe you need to hear God say you are eternally forgiven. You look at your past and you think of the things you've done and the things you've said and the things you've felt, and you think there are far more people in this room right now who are far more deserving of forgiveness than you. As one of the leaders of "Broken Chains," Celebrate Recovery's ministry to motorcycle gang members, once said, "I realized I didn't have to be perfect to be a Christian." Before he became a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, he thought church was just a weekly inconvenience where "holy" people went to talk about how good they were and how bad everyone else was.
But we know that's not true. That's not who Covenant Church is. We know better than that. We know that no one in this room deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness is the gift given to us by Jesus Christ by what he did on the cross. And some of you need to hear that right now and accept his gift of forgiveness. And some of you need to hear it again because sometimes we begin to lose our grip on this essential truth of the Bible. We are eternally forgiven.
Gideon's greatness started with discovering his identity. Greatly loved. A person of faith. Forgiven.
Which leads us to:
2. DECIDE YOUR ACTIVITY
Once you know who you are, you have to decide what you are going to do about it. After God calls him mighty hero, here's Gideon's response:
"Sir," Gideon replied, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn't they say, 'The Lord brought us up out of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.'" Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!"
It all spills out. All of it. He rants about how God has let him and his country down. Nothing is working. Gideon is telling God how things have fallen apart and nothing is working and nothing will work. He does what we do. He complains. When things aren't working out…when our expectations aren't met the way we want them met…when things aren't like they used to be, we complain.
But here's the piece Gideon is missing. He's missing the fact that God wants to use him. God wants Gideon to be the solution to everything he's complaining about. How does the old cliché go? "If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." To put it another way, Albert Einstein once said, "Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution."
That's where God wants to move Gideon. From complainer to problem-solver. That's what God wants to do in each of our lives. God is always helping us to see solutions. All we need is eyes to see, ears to hear, and a desire to act.
That's what Gideon is learning.
Now, here's the simple lesson from Gideon. However you feel God is calling you to have a positive impact for Christ on the world around you, you do it in the strength God gives you. Remember, God doesn't call the equipped. God equips the called. You don't say, "God, I'm going to need this, this, and this before I can even think about launching out." "God, I know you're calling me to be a generous giver, and I'll start giving generously as soon as I win the lottery." No, you start with what you have now. Whatever God is placing on your heart to do, you trust Him to sustain you. "God, I know you want me to love all kinds of people, but first I need all kinds of people to pour love into my life." It doesn't work that way. If it's God's purpose, He will move you along. You just need to start.
If God was all about giving you more than you need, more than enough, then He would have already given it to you. But God is more interested in building your faith than in providing you with creature comforts. God wants to use you in spite of what you lack, because when He does, it's building your relationship with Him.
So you start where you are. Stop waiting for what you don't have. Start using what God has given you right now. That's how you pursue the promise God has put into your life.
3. DETERMINE YOUR CAPACITY
Where are you going to find the time? Where are you going to find the energy? Where are you going to find the money? Where are you going to find the resources to do what God is calling you to do?
Here's what you do. And it's counterintuitive. Instead of relying your perceived resources, you watch God use your weaknesses. There's great promise as God uses your weaknesses because that's when He gets the greatest glory.
Let's define weaknesses. Let's set the context. By weaknesses, I mean any place where it's evident to you that you don't have the resources to do what God is asking you to do. Covenant Church was birthed in a time of weakness. It could be a physical or emotional or spiritual handicap. Did you hear about the guy who while hiking tumbled off an embankment and broke his leg? Clean snapped it in two, right below the knee. No cell reception. Off the path and out of sight. It took him over a day to drag himself to a place where he could be seen and heard. He would drag himself a foot or two, making sure the floppy part of the break didn't turn into a compound fracture. That's finding strength in weakness. It could be a hurt from your past. It could be anxiety about your future. We all have something in our lives where we feel, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we don't have it in us to do it. And we think, if I can get rid of the weakness then God can do something big in my life.
But God says "No!" He can use you in weakness. He can use you through weakness. God shows the world how great He is as He does great things in our weakness.
Here's how Gideon got to that truth. God calls Gideon to lead his people against their enemies. He is about to go up against an army of 135,000, when he only has an army of 32,000. God says to him:
The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many warriors with you. If I let you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength."
That is hilarious. God is about to reduce Gideon's army from 32,000 down to 300. God is reducing it down to a level of total dependence. Why? Well, for one, to keep their pride in check. But most importantly, so they will know it's God who gives them the victory.
Here's what happens next:
Gideon divided the 300 men into 3 groups and he gave each man a ram's horn and a clay jar with a torch in it. And God said, "Here's what I want you to do. I want you to circle the enemy and you take the torch and put the clay jar over it and take the horn and at the signal that Gideon gives, break the jar so that the light shines out. Break the jar so that the torch shines out and blow the bugle so that it will seem to the army that they're immediately surrounded by a bigger army. I'll confuse them and they'll fight each other. And that's the way the victory is going to be won."
God can use us even in our weakness. That's what's so exciting about being a scrappy church. In a world of mega-everything, churches joined the trend. Over the past few decades, the numbers of mega-churches has skyrocketed. Scrappy churches have crawled out from under the mega-shadow, showing love and effectiveness in their little corners of God's world. It's a good thing.
Think about just a couple moments in the Bible where God did great things with what was small:
➢ In 1 Samuel 17, "So David defeated the Philistine with only a sling and a stone."➢ From the gospels, "'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go with so many?' Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish."➢ From the Book of Judges, "With these three hundred men I will rescue you and I will give you victory over the Midianites."
In order to live a significant life, you have to:
1. DISCOVER YOUR IDENTITY
2. DECIDE YOUR ACTIVITY
3. DETERMINE YOUR CAPACITY
These were the lessons from Gideon. He went from hiding in a winepress to defeating a huge army with only 300 men. It's all about how God wants to use our weakness to show His greatness. It doesn't matter where God finds us; if we let him, He will take us to some amazing places.
Here's the final point. You might want to write this down:
There is promise and potential even when I am hiding my weaknesses in the winepress.
What kind of conversation does God need to have with you right now? God wants to do great things in your life. What do you hear Him saying to you right now?
And Gideon said, "But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!" The Lord said to him, "I will be with you."
"I will be with you," God says to you. "I will be with you."