Judges 6:12 (NIV): “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV): “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
James 4:10 (CSB): “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
GOD WORKS WITH THE HUMBLE
GIDEON — yes, that Gideon of the Bible — was not anyone’s idea of a gifted leader. Yet, we read that an angel of the LORD appeared to him one day and called him “mighty warrior.”
When Gideon heard this word of affirmation, he replied with that famous battle cry: “Pardon me, my lord.”
Not too commanding, was he?
“Pardon me, my lord” was the ancient world’s equivalent of our “Say what? You talkin’ to me?”
WATCHING GIDEON VACILLATE
LET’S GO BACK to the scene.
Our hero, Gideon, is busy with the post-harvest chore of separating the wheat from the chaff.
The best way the ancient world had for doing this was labor-intensive: the farmer stuck a pitchfork into the bale and threw it into the air, where the wind current would blow the lighter chaff away, thus separating it from the heavier wheat, which would fall into a heap.
Normally, this was done in a location where the wind currents were felt.
But Gideon was found in a winepress, which is a depression out of sight of those on the ground. The wind currents were not very strong there, but it afforded him sight protection from the enemy Midianites, who were prowling about.
Gideon no doubt feared if they saw him, they would run him through with a sword and take the wheat.
“I AM” IS SENDING YOU
HERE’S GIDEON HIDING from the Midianites, when an angel of the LORD comes down and sits under an oak tree. His greeting? “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”
At this point, Gideon chides the angel, reminding him that if the LORD were watching over Israel, if the LORD were doing His job the way Gideon thought He should, then why were the Israelites afraid for their lives. Heck, why was Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress?
Here’s the angel’s response: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of the Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Hold onto that question for a moment: “Am I not sending you?”
Where have we heard that one before?
Was it not Moses at the burning bush asking the LORD who should he say was sending him to free the Israelites from Egypt, and the LORD replied, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)
GOD’S COMMANDS AND GRACE
GOD’S COMMANDS to us are accompanied by His grace.
He never sends us out without promising to be with us.
The LORD requires us to speak, think, and act according to His will. Our job, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is to teach others that God has come into the world to save us from our rebellion, our hardness of heart, our human pride.
Then, we are to take the message of redemption and forgiveness to a broken world.
All the while, He promises this: “Remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (v. 20 GW)
Often we fail. Some of us, quite often. Even when we do the right thing(s), our hearts might be looking for our glory, not His. So we repent, He forgives, He toughens us up, and we grow. Next time around, we do better. We’re stronger … until, again, we fail. The process repeats itself until we’re in glory with our LORD.
How comforting to hear our LORD’s promise to sustain us. He will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) nor leave us as orphans (John 14:18). He tells us not to be afraid because He will hold us up (Isaiah 41:13). When He has commanded us to do something, He says He will be with us while we do it (Joshua 1:9).
Our faith is essential to this process (Hebrews 11:1) for without faith, we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
TRANSFORMING A WEAK MAN
GOD CAN TAKE a weak man like Gideon and turn him into a mighty warrior, a warrior mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). God’s will will prevail. His word goes out and accomplishes all that He has tasked it with. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).
Now, it becomes our turn to go, to be obedient, to share the Word of the LORD, to encourage others—in the name of Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. When the LORD asks whom shall He send, let us be like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).
Well, Gideon was no Isaiah, so he didn’t quite say, “Okay, I’m your man.” Instead, he said, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh [one of 12 Israeli tribes], and I am the least in my family.”
That is where many of us stay. We know there’s Kingdom work to be done, but too often we feel we’re just not qualified to do it. The Lord certainly knows our limitations.
Most of us, if pressed, could readily point to someone else to take our place, someone else whom we think is much better equipped to handle the task the LORD has laid on our shoulders. In fact, we’re very eager to supply names, e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers—just to help out. We can be very helpful that way.
STUDYING THE BIBLE’S LEADERS
WHEN WE LOOK to the Bible’s list of great leaders— Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, Paul—we find that each one of them was prepared by the LORD to handle the task he was given before the task was assigned.
It’s not our position or title in a group that makes us a leader — not any more than expensive sneakers makes us an NBA star or nifty skates takes us to the Stanley Cup.
What makes a leader is character, and character is developed over time, usually starting with a vision, then denting that vision with adversity, then wrapping the result around perseverance. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2-4)
Other examples of “leaders” were of lesser stuff. We think immediately of Barak, who would lead Israel into battle only if the female judge Deborah accompanied him.
Then, of course, there’s Gideon.
PREPARING GIDEON FOR BATTLE
THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT of Gideon’s transformation is an interesting story.
First, Gideon places God’s messenger under a variety of tests or “proofs” that he is, indeed, sent from God. Of course, the angel passes every test with ease.
Then the LORD tells Gideon to assemble an army. He adds a caveat that if Gideon wants further proof that he was anointed by God, he could sneak up on the Midianites’ compound. When Gideon does — with a companion, of course — he hears the Midianites proclaiming their fear of Gideon and his army!
Yes, there’s also the winnowing down of Gideon’s troops from 30,000 to 300 because God said He wanted Gideon and the Israelites to know that it was He, the God of the Israelites, that delivered the enemy over, not the might of the Israelite army. (Judges 7:2)
First, God let every man afraid to go into battle to leave — that dropped the total by two-thirds — then He wanted only the men who lapped water by scooping it up in their hands instead of sticking their faces in the drink — that whittled most of the rest of them.
With 300 men, Gideon was fodder for a slaughter … except that the LORD’s mighty sword was raised on behalf of His people. They “won” the skirmish without fighting. The Midianites slaughtered one another.
After the battle, the Israelites wanted to crown Gideon their king, but he would have none of it. Not only would he not rule over them, he said, but neither would his son. “The Lord will rule over you,” he said. (Judges 8:23 NIV)
That often happens, too, with leadership.
Once you take the reins for a time or two, the job is yours forever. People are quite content to let someone else handle the chores.
WE CAN ALL BE LEADERS
EACH ONE OF US can be a leader. To do that, we need to take ownership of our jobs. Of who we are and what we can do.
So, what is leadership?
Leadership is character. It is not about being the boss or having one’s way. Sometimes, leadership is nothing more than looking around and seeing what needs to be done … and then offering to do it.
A leader — or one who aspires to be a leader — must dig into areas of character, priorities, attitude, and vision.
A leader has to discipline himself not only to set the agenda but sometimes to set the table for others to succeed.
Leadership is not just about our own enhancement or our position or our glory. It is not about attaining our will. It’s about sacrificial service.
Remember our LORD at the Last Supper when he got up from the table, wrapped his cloak around his waist, filled the wash basin, and kneeled down to wash the feet of His disciples — including, we presume, the feet of the man who, within hours, would betray Him.
THE LORD’S CALL FOR US
WHAT IS THE CALL IN OUR LIVES?
Has the LORD been laying on your heart a task you think is too big for you, has He given you a word of encouragement that you’ve been hesitant to deliver, has He prepared you for a role in your life that He’s starting to unveil to you?
What does it take for you, for us, to take that first step of obedience?
John C. Maxwell, author of the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, tells us this:
1. There are never enough leaders.
2. Every leader needs development.
- Moses spent 40 years being educated in Pharaoh’s house, plus 40 years of tending sheep in the desert;
- Joseph spent years in servitude to the Egyptian hierarchy and many years in prison;
- Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Babylonian king;
- Paul was trained as a Pharisee before he was knocked to the ground by a bolt of light; and
- Jesus was … well, He had spent forever in the Trinity and then 40 days and nights being tempted by Satan.
Every leader needs encouragement, training, prayer, support. Are we giving each other that kind of encouragement? Are we coming alongside each of our brothers in prayer?
If we heed these lessons well, no one will end 2020 asking:
- “Where have all the good leaders gone?”
Instead, they’ll ask:
- “Where have all these good leaders come from,” and
- “How can I become one of them?”
- When the LORD calls on us, He will provide the margin of victory;
- We may well face opposition;
- We are called to leadership, even if it’s just ownership of ourselves;
- We need to have faith that it is the LORD calling. The test is:
- whether the request is biblical as to goal;
- whether the request is biblical as to means.
LORD, ALMIGHTY GOD, Creator of heaven and earth and all creation, we give You all the honor and praise; O LORD, we take joy in worshipping You. Forgive us weaknesses, Father God; forgive us our hesitation to spread the Gospel of redemption; forgive us when we fail to honor You with our words and our deeds … knowing, O Father God, that at the root of this is our failure to honor You in our hearts. Equip us, O LORD, to be mighty warriors for the Kingdom, knowing that You’ll part the waters for us, that You’ll give us the words to say, and that You’ll hold our hands through every task, every abuse, every questions, every prayer request, every plea for understanding and help. LORD, love on us so mightily that we will love on those you place in our way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen