When I was in High School, Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California was the cutting edge church. By the early 1970s, they were attracting surfers, skateboarders, and people who would normally prefer sitting around a campfire with a guitar singing songs. Calvary Chapel was build on the Vans tennis shoes generation. They were one of the first legitimate churches to bring drums and electric guitars into Sunday morning worship. Calvary Chapel was a hip church before anyone knew a church could be hip.
Calvary Chapel put on huge events where people would talk about their Christian life…where they came from, what they were like before they were born again, and how God is using them now. They were superstars in the pantheon of disciples. Hearing their stories led one to wonder, "Were you really much of a Christian if you didn't have a story like that?" They made it seem like everybody should have a bigger-than-life story to tell.
I was then, and still am, an ordinary guy. I'll never make a name for myself. I'll never have a mesmerizing tale to tell. That's not my vision for a God-honoring life goal. I'll never be known beyond my little corner of God's world.
That's most of us. And that's a good thing. Because for most of us, following Jesus doesn't turn us into a big deal. Most of us, at best, will live our lives as little deals; at best, one level beyond our own families. And that is always a good thing.
A significant life isn't always the most noticed life or the biggest life. A significant life is a life lived for God. It is a meaningful life. The life of Gideon in the Old Testament teaches us some things about how to live a significant life.
For the next seven weeks we're going to look at the lesser known people in the Old Testament and what we can learn from them. When I ask you to think of some of the stories from the Old Testament, I'm sure most of you will mention the Big Three - Abraham, Moses, and David. Their shadows loom large over the Old Testament. But there are also a lot of other men and women we can learn from. Gideon is one of them.
Side note: Gideon is not the patron saint of hotel Bibles. Gideons International is an organization who named themselves after Gideon because they saw some things in is life that they wanted to emulate. They distribute Bibles, free of charge, throughout the world. Four years ago, they reached a milestone 2 billionth Bible. Clearly they learned a few lessons from a lesser known person in the Old Testament. There are some things in Gideon's life that point to a significant life.
The most promising news for us is Gideon was a man who struggled. Gideon wasn't a perfect guy. He struggled with insecurities. He spent his day doubting whether God would do what He promised. But even in the midst of all that, Gideon became a great leader.
Here are three things that will lead us well on our way to discovering the significant life.
1. DISCOVER YOUR IDENTITY
That's what Gideon needed to do. When we first meet him, Gideon doesn't have a clue about who he was.
That's where it starts. You begin discovering your identity. You have to know who you are before you can do what God made you to do. We all, at one time or another, go through a questioning process. Who am I? How am I facing life? What am I contributing to God's world? What do I expect God to do through my life? Questions like that.
Here's how it happened in Gideon's life. It's in Judges 6:
Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!"
Already, we see God gave Gideon an identity. "Mighty Hero." God is going to help Gideon discover his identity. That's what God does for us. As we discover this first piece, we're going to look at what works and what doesn't work when seeking to understand our identity.
Here's one thing that doesn't help you discover your identity. You look at your circumstances.
If you look at your circumstances to try to figure out who you are, it won't work. Gideon is a perfect example of that. He let his circumstances drive his perception of who he was. In fact, Gideon and the rest of the Israelites had been under seven years of oppression by the Midianites. Because the Midianites were bigger and stronger and had better weapons, they pushed Israel around. When the crops came in, they would forcibly take all the crops they wanted from the Israelites. This pushed Israel to the edge of famine.
So Israel was conquered, weak, and starving. That's why Gideon was in the winepress, secretly threshing out grain to hide from the Midianites. He hardly looked like a leader. He was hiding out in a winepress.
Keep in mind, the Israelites were a weak, starving people through all this. That's why Gideon was in the winepress…eking out a bit of food. Hardly the image of a heroic leader; skulking in the shadows, hiding from being found out.
Beyond the reality of the situation, there's a picture. A lot of us are working in the winepress. We're looking at where we are and what we have, distracting ourselves from some potential, some promise in our lives. Instead of the promise, all we can see are our circumstances.
Have you thought about what God wants to do in your life? Have you thought about the challenge? Have you considered the dream? Whatever it is…whether it's:
Committing to a group of people to study God's Word or
Volunteering at a para-church ministry or
Growing in your giving or
Working in the church nursery or
Sharing the Gospel with unbelievers or
Sending notes of encouragement to others or
You get the point.
There's a promise; there's a potential God is speaking into your life. You may not even know what it is yet. But you're never going to tap into it by toiling in the winepress.
But here' the grace and mercy of God. Even when we're distracted from His purpose by our circumstances, God shows up. God showed up to tell Gideon in the midst of the winepress that He wanted to do something in his life. How good is that?
Think for a moment about something you're hiding from. I just read an article on the tragic life of Judy Garland. She was a train wreck. She was hiding from God. She only lived for herself. That is an extreme example of moving in the opposite direction of where God wants a person to be.
For most of us, it's more about hiding from God's plan for our lives than hiding from God.
God will find you wherever you are. He will find you in your fear. There is no fear that will keep God from finding us.
The choice is still ultimately ours to make. But God calls fearful people. And when He does, there are two choices. Are you going to trust your fears or your Heavenly Father? It is one of the most important choices you'll make over-and-over again in your life. That choice drives the promise and potential for your life. Are you going to trust your fear or your Heavenly Father?
The wrong choice is trusting your circumstances. The wrong choice is staying in the winepress. Here's the right choice:
You listen to what God says about you!
It's really simple. If you let your circumstances tell you who you are you're going to be messed up because sometimes your circumstances are going to be good and sometimes your circumstances are going to be garbage. Here's something you might want to write down:
My circumstances will never convey to me the true promise of my life.
What you do instead is you listen to what God says about you. There was Gideon. For seven years he was just trying to survive. Nothing better. Nothing worse. Just trying to keep pace. And God showed up. God not only showed up, God called him mighty hero. Can you imagine?
God was talking about his potential. His potential. God was talking about what He wanted to do in Gideon's life. The thing is, God loves to do that. He does it all the time. Abraham. Old guy. Book of Genesis. God told him he was going to make his a father of nations. Abraham…old dude, no kids. God didn't invite Abraham to look at his circumstances. God gave Abraham a promise.
Jesus did it with a disciple named Simon. Jesus told Simon he was giving him a new name, Peter, which means the rock. You looked at Simon's circumstances, there was nothing solid there. There was nothing foundational there. But Jesus saw potential. Jesus saw the promise of what God was going to do.
Can you see the picture? God speaks great things into your life. When you woke up today, maybe you didn't have any expectation that God was going to say something to you about who you really are. Maybe that was the last thing on your mind as you were driving to church today. And get this. Even though we have barely scratched the surface of Gideon's story, you can already hear God calling you to a significant life. God will change you.
Here's where we're going to stop. I've got a question for you to ponder. For the next seven days, consider this:
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE YOU TO HEAR GOD SAY TO YOU?
Because when Gideon heard God say, "You're a mighty hero," that had to be a surprise.